Painting of Ross and Kathryn playing the guitar and piano

House of Miracles

Often during Lent I either give up something or take up a new practice. One year I gave up sugar in my coffee and never took it up again. One year Ross and I gave up TV – a habit we resumed very quickly as soon as Lent was over. Then there was the year that I took up decluttering – well that lasted about 3 days! When Lent 2020 began we had no idea what was ahead of us. We had heard of Covid-19 but couldn’t even have imagined the lockdown that would happen in the weeks ahead. Timothy’s health was steady and we had no idea that it would change so quickly.

New Songs

For Lent 2020 I decided to share songs that had been meaningful to me in the past. Songs are so deeply connected to past experience and memory. They’re a big part of the story of how God has been at work in the life of our family and particularly throughout Timothy’s illness. As I shared some of these songs that had been significant in the past God also brought new songs to my attention. Some of them now stand out as being significant during the 2020 Spring Lockdown and Timothy’s relapse. One of the ways that I got through that first lockdown and those difficult days was to play the piano. I really enjoyed picking out the tune of new songs or songs that hadn’t been played before on the piano and singing loudly. It was one of my coping mechanisms. Our piano was played more than it had been played in years including worshipping with others online during Living Room Worship.

Last week, I realised that I hadn’t come across any new worship songs for a while. To be honest it wasn’t the best week. The news was getting me down and the thought of lockdown going on and on and on was not welcome. So I decided to have a search to see if there was any new worship music available online. This was the first song that I played (loudly on the smart speaker in our kitchen) and honestly it nearly brought me to my knees. Have a listen…

The Ideal Man!

This is one of those songs that feels like it was written about our life together as a family. As a teenager I remember conversations with friends about the characteristics we were looking for in our ideal man. I always said that I wanted to marry a musician who was a worshipper so that we could play music and lead worship together. Ross and I have been leading worship in various shapes and forms now for almost 25 years! In recent years we have missed leading worship with larger groups of people. We love that our church family love to worship. We look forward to being able to lead with the young (and not so young) musicians when the pandemic passes. We don’t come with perfectionism (watch here to see the reality of life in the Harte family!) or any particularly special musical talent. But we come with a heart and enthusiasm. We have always longed to be a house of worship.

This is a house of worship
This is a place of praise
Where every demon trembles
Where we proclaim Your name

Online Worship

This time last year we could never have imagined that the only way that we would be able to gather for worship, for weeks and months on end, would be via online platforms. God prompted us to give leading worship from our living room a go on Easter Sunday 2020 and it has continued, albeit with smaller numbers than the early weeks of the Spring 2020 lockdown. Leading people in worship via Facebook live in the middle of a pandemic took us by surprise! It has been so significant in these last 9 months. Our house has become a house of worship. We believe that as we have worshipped over these months that God has changed our hearts, the atmosphere of our home, maybe even our street and community… but just because we are the ones who play the piano and guitar, and mostly pick the songs, and chatter on too long doesn’t mean that our house is THE house of worship! The amazing thing is that every house that joins in becomes a house of worship too (the writer of the song talks about this in the live version of the song)! I wonder what God is doing as people worship in homes all over the country?

Worship and Mission

In one of our previous stations we had the privilege of joining with what God was up to through sharing life with The Kitchen Community. Ross reminded me last week that it all started with worship. We met another couple who also had a heart for worship and we starting meeting every Friday night in our living room, initially the four of us and then a few others, to simply worship and pray. Perhaps as we worshipped, the demons trembled. The Kitchen Community was birthed in worship, prayer and mission as we got to know some wonderful people in Newcastle who did not have a church family to call home. We formed new friendships through our various connections in the community in Newcastle, at the school gate, through craft groups and at the pub. The Kitchen Community was for us an expression of Christian community where we lived as “family on mission”(read more about “family on mission” in this post). It remains our heart to see churches functions as networks of “family on mission” who grow as followers of Jesus together in smaller groups at the same time as bringing healing, hope and wholeness to those that they encounter day by day.

Over the last four or more years we haven’t been able to throw open the doors the way that we would have liked to, or spend time with others in their homes. This has been a real source of frustration for us. In the early days of the pandemic I rolled my eyes at Ross when he started talking about technical equipment or what shape online worship would take, convinced that above all else what really matters is the quality of our relationships, rather than online perfection. It’s clear now though that God is at work through online platforms. I sense that there is more to this for us but don’t know what that “more” is yet. As a family we have been so restricted in how we can gather with others in the physical sense, but yet we have no limits (well maybe a few) in the online world. I don’t mean that God is asking us to put on a good online show (again, we lack the talent for that!)… I’m wondering how we can listen to God in the online spaces where community is forming (or already present) so that we can sense what God is inviting us to be part of and then respond by joining in.

This is a house of healing
Our hearts are full of faith
You have our full attention
You have the final say

Come alive in the name of Jesus
Come alive in the name of Jesus
This is a house of miracles
We bring everything to the feet of Jesus
Everything in the name of Jesus
This is a house of miracles

There’s resurrection power
Your blood runs through our veins
Your Kingdom triumphs over
Even the coldest grave

Praying for healing from a distance

When Timothy was in hospital last May he was very unwell. It was so painful and difficult that we could not invite people in to the hospital to pray and when he was home we could not ask people to come and lay hands on him asking God to heal. Yet, I couldn’t believe that a God who knows and loves us, and wants the best for Timothy, would be limited by physical constraints. God showed us this very clearly as friends and family found ways to pray despite not being able to be physically present. Some prayed at Timothy’s hospital window and hundreds of people prayed from home.

I remember so clearly the day that was the turning point for Timothy that week. One afternoon a friend prayed for Timothy via video call at the same time as one of our church family who worked in the hospital stood in a circle on the grass outside Timothy’s hospital window with some colleagues (I didn’t know they were there) and prayed for him too. He hadn’t eaten in days, and had been quite sleepy and confused, but about 10 minutes after the video call ended Timothy woke up, was much brighter and started asking for food. I have no doubt that God can heal while we worship despite physical distance and that there have been many mini miracles along the way. The fact that Timothy is doing so well now confirms that for me.

I still believe You’re moving
I still believe You’re speaking
God, I believe You’re working
All things for good
I fix my eyes on Heaven
God, I receive Your vision
God, I believe You’re working

Lent 2021

In some ways it’s daunting to find ourselves in the middle of lockdown as we enter Lent again not knowing what the months ahead hold, but the same God who was with us during the difficulties of Lent 2020 (and the months following Easter) is with us now still moving, still speaking, still working things for good. During Lent 2021 I don’t plan to share songs (well, you never know…) or give anything up. All of my motivation and willpower is spent on balancing family life, work and ministry. I think God is ok with that. As a family we have been praying together every (well, almost!) night since the start of lockdown and we’ll keep that up as best we can. Maybe I’ll take up running again (just a small maybe!).

Rather, I bring this song with me as a statement of intent and a heartfelt prayer. My hope for Lent 2021 is that we can continue to be a house of worship and healing, along with so many others, as God invites us to partner with him in being bringers of life, whatever that may look like.

Come alive in the name of Jesus
Come alive in the name of Jesus
This is a house of miracles
We bring everything to the feet of Jesus
Everything in the name of Jesus
This is a house of miracles

Living Room Worship takes place on the first and third Sunday of the month on Facebook and YouTube. I’m guessing this song will be on our playlist!

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