I dare to be different!

“Lord renew my mind
As Your will unfolds in my life
In living every day
by the power of Your love.”

So this weekend i went away for the weekend with the West Scotland Divisional Youth Band of the Salvation Army (which is quite a mouthful!). Basically, it is a brass band made up of (currently) around 50 young people aged 12-30ish, who all go to church at the Salvation Army across the West of Scotland. We travelled down to the West Midlands to do 3 concerts, a march and some playing outside in what the SA calls an open air. I couldn’t get Saturday off work so i got the train down on Saturday evening, and i’m so so glad i made the effort to go down and join them!! I won’t lie, i had been dreading it for weeks for numerous reasons, so it turned out to be a weekend far beyond my expectations.

I’ll probably write another post later in the week about how the weekend impacted me faith and God wise, so i’ll keep it brief for now. If you’ve read any previous posts you’ll know i’ve been confused about it all lately, but i was reminded on Sunday that i’m not the only one doubting. There are dozens of people just within that band who have the same doubts and questions as i do, and i’m certainly not alone in it. I was reminded that there will be challenges in life, lots of them, but it’s how we respond to those challenges, with God’s help, that matters. I had multiple spine-tingly moments on Sunday, particularly during the congregational songs randomly enough! The words to Power of your Love and in Christ Alone had me close to tears, as did I’m goin up a yonder. Playing Day of the Lord however was just something else..very special and spine tingly indeed! It can easily come across, even from Facebook status’ after the weekend, that the only thing important to us was how the band played and the banter on the bus. But that simply was not the case at all this weekend. God was certainly, 100% at the heart of it. And i think pretty much every member of the band would testify to that.

The rest of what i’m about to write sort of relates to what my last couple of posts have been about. It is so, so easy, in any kind of church i’m sure, to concentrate all of our energies on the wrong things. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, but in a very negative light. I’ve been complaining to anyone who’ll listen that in the Salvation Army we focus too much on the trivial things – what are the band playing, where’s my songster(choir) music, why do you have nail varnish on with your uniform etc. etc. – and when people moan that my hair is touching my collar i’ve been biting back with “Jesus wouldn’t mind”. I still stand by this – I’m inclined to think that Jesus would not mind if i forget to take my earrings out or nail varnish off before church, but would be more delighted with the fact that i was there, worshipping him. (how ridiculous does that earrings thing sound when you read it like that?!! It sounds like there’s a set of rules to follow before getting through the door!). I am however trying to be less negative about it, and more constructive. I’d sort of been moaning just for the sake of moaning (something I’m sure my nearest and dearest would confirm that i’m unfortunately pretty good at!!), and though i’d been saying that we were missing the whole point of it, i wasn’t really up for all of the God stuff that was involved in the ‘real reason’ we bother going to church.

Yesterday however, during the open air and the march especially, i was very aware of how much attention we were creating. There was a large, constant crowd of onlookers during both, and by the looks of it, many passers by were taking photos or videos. And that’s partly when it hit me. We were doing what the SA was set up to do. We were witnessing, sharing the message of God’s love. “Save souls, grow saints and serve suffering humanity” – isn’t that the mission statement of the army in the UK? I’m not sure that’s exactly what we were doing, or that i particularly like that terminology or even get what it means, but i definitely think we were out there trying to let people know about God and his immense love. And it was such a buzz! I’ve always been used to looking for God in the quiet, serene moments in church, so it was new to me to see him so clearly right there, immersed in the buzz and excitement of what we were doing, and in such a public way. The people leading the open air were so enthusiastic and made all the God stuff really light and relatable, which i was really impressed with. Plus the fact they bothered to put the effort in to march and have outside ministry like that was commendable in itself, i think. We can get so lazy and caught up in the week to week, menial tasks of church that we forget the real reasons we do it. It should be fun, and we should be excited to tell other people about God and Jesus. Not complaining or fussing about the little things.

And of course, this was made an extra special band weekend away because literally nearly all of my best and closest friends were there. From good chats and strengthening friendships, to chicken noises and singing at 2 in the morning, to having my ‘little sister’ use me as a pillow the whole journey home, to loud unwanted wake up calls, it was full of all the fun band weekends usually entail, with all of my favourite people. I’m grateful for every member of that band and the different things they bring to it. It’s such a wonderful group of people – its lovely to be surrounded by so so many kind, caring individuals.

Basically, it was a great weekend and i’m already looking forward to the next one, wherever and whenever that may be. God is in control, and He is at the heart of everything we do!!

“I dare to live the life of faith,
The life of challenge God has planned:
Of holiness and victory,
For truth and righteousness to stand.

i dare to be different, i dare to believe.
i dare to be different, God’s spirit receive.
i dare to be different, my life sacrificed.
i dare to be different by living like Christ.”