A great man
On Monday, it was Dr Martin Luther King day – for my American friends it was a time to reflect on the legacy of a great man. It was also the day, here in Sheffield we said goodbye to our good friend Ray Booth who recently passed – also a great man. I listened to the service broadcast from the local church where Ray and I were both members together for many years. (I was not able to attend due to lockdown) and I listened to his wife, Jean, his family, his children and grandchildren all talk and give thanks about a man that I also knew but nothing like as well as they did.
I felt encouraged
What struck me was how often the word ‘ an encourager’ was used.
I remember this myself, many years ago when I felt completely useless for anything. I was just recovering from a minor breakdown, at the end of a tough time in the junior leadership of the church we were in. In reality, I should not have been left in that tough position for so long, but at the end of that I was exhausted and I had lost hope.
In the middle of that, Ray asked me to travel with him on a trip to Denmark. I’ll leave the full details out for today – but the trip, Ray’s encouragement of me as a person, and the circumstances of that trip moved me from feeling useless to useful, and opened up a door to some major parts of what I now do in the church.
In that trip, he introduced me to Frank and Elisabeth, and soon after Kim and Sus. – great friends and a great church. It’s true to stay that Livets Kilde was pivotal and primary in Merle and I understanding our ministry and purpose. Frank and the team there encouraged me in hearing God and seeing that as something I was called to, gave me space, encouraged me to start writing books, did my first ever translation of a book into another language… I could go on.
One of Ray’s daughters – I think – in the service quoted Maya Angelou :
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”Maya Angelou
Ray made me feel useful again. He gave me hope in that trip that all was not lost for me.
A Voice of Wisdom for 25 years
I realised as I listened – that whilst I didn’t spend a lot of time with Ray, compared to others – there were several critical moments where Ray’s advice changed my life.
“a wise man listens to advice”,Proverbe 12:15
In Proverbs 12:15, it says “a wise man listens to advice”, and I always sought Ray’s advice when having to plot some of myself and Merle’s ‘big moves’ in life, such as :
- Starting my business
- Changing leadership roles in church
- Joining Meadowhead Christian Fellowship
- Expanding my travelling to what it is now
- Helping to found Wellspring Church Sheffield
- Becoming part of the team here at The Well
For all of these – and other – major events – I consulted and listened to Ray for over 25 years. Let me just briefly mention one story. Once, I was struggling on a leadership team and wondering what to do with my life and my ministry. I wanted to serve but didn’t fit in. I’ve learnt now to see that fitting in is just a way of being driven by man’s praise – God has made me unique for a reason- but then I didn’t understand that. I felt pulled in so many directions. At that time Ray gave me the best piece of advice I think I have ever received, which I have used myself as advice many many times – even this week 20 years later on a coaching call with an executive at BP I used the story below and I was thanked for the ‘wonderful story and advice’ – Ray’s ‘wonderful story and advice’….
Where are the solid floorboards?
He talked about the time he would renovate a house, the first thing he would do when he looked around at the mess and see all the things that were wrong, was to look for the solid floorboards you could stand on. From there you could build more floorboards and then get to most of the places in the house.
“Ian”, he said, “in your current situation what are the rock-solid floorboards that you have that you can stand on?”Ray Booth
I knew the answer to this question – it was the house of the Lord had just allowed Merle and me to buy. As I thought about this ‘solid floorboard’, I found it easy to make the decision to move churches and start a long association with Meadowhead Christian Fellowship and Jonathan Dunning the leader there. We stayed at MCF for 13 years and our children grew up in that lovely church.
I am incredibly thankful for the open door Ray, along with Jean gave us, and the encouragement of Merle and myself, when others didn’t. With so little of his time, he made such a big impact in my life and wonder how many others can say the same – probably thousands? It is no hyperbole to say that like Dr King, Ray leaves behind a huge legacy for us all to be thankful for. We pray for Jean and the family.
My friend, co-worker and Pastor of Life Changing Church, Uganda has just messaged me with information that he has been diagnosed with Covid in his home. He has struggled to throw off what he thought was tiphod only to be diagnosed today.
I am full of emotions. I guess I am honestly concerned for my close brother. I am also sure he is in our Father’s loving arms.
I will write more tomorrow, but wanted to ask all our friends and family to pray for a loving friend and father, whom I believe is significant in God’s plans for his country.
The Lord will always hold you close – that’s HIS way – no matter how YOU feel about itIan
“Sprit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me.”‘Hillsong
I sat shaking on the beach looking at the waves in front of me. I could feel my heart beating – even in my ears. My adrenaline was still coursing through my veins. I was in shock. I started the regular breathing needed to calm my body down. I had just experienced the worst five minutes of my life. I had threatened the safety of my five years old son through my stupidity and I was about to have the strongest personal encounter with God I would ever experience.
What started only 30 minutes before as great fun had teetered so near to disaster I felt physically sick. My five yrs old son, Joshua was running back to his Mum and little brother to tell of the great fun we had just had in the water, but I was trying to hide my emotions, hide the shaking in my arms and legs, hide the terror I had felt.
It was a beautiful day in Cornwall, UK where we staying on holiday. We had decided as a family to go to one of the wonderful nearby beaches for a day trip. This beach was particularly popular. A perfect cove with wonderful bright green and blue colours, seaside smells and regular crashing waves. Sea, Sand and Sounds.
You could close your eyes and breath in creation.
On one edge were some rocks to watch out for. In low tide you could see them, but when the tide was high they were hidden just under to surface and they were jagged. I pad no attention to them as we started – they would mean everything to me later.
After settling in on the very crowded beach, Joshua, asked to play in the water. In the UK it’s considered good parenting and safety to make sure your children can swim a little, so Joshua had had some swimming lessons since a baby and was perfectly confident. The confidence of every 5 year old boy when he has his Dad next to him.
It was a lovely warm day. Hundreds of people were on the beach. I took Joshua out into the water to splash and play.
After a while Joshua wanted to go deeper into the water and bounce in the waves. It was a very flat beach so I decided to put little Joshua on my shoulders and walk out into the rolling waves for some fun. Joshua was holding onto one finger of each of my hands with his entire little hands. I can remember even now – 20 years later the wonderful heat, the reassuring waves and Joshua’s giggles of delight at of the waves which cane about every 20 seconds
We settled on a depth that meant as each waves approached I would say ‘Oh no – here comes a big big wave!” and I would then jump in the air with Joshua on my shoulders as the wave arrived to stop the water rushing over us. I would even bend my knees before each wave came to add to the excitement. We did this for about 10 minutes, with Joshua calling out ‘Deeper, deeper!” with each wave. Slowly – each wave – to get more of a thrill I stepped deeper.
It was idyllic and great fun – little did I know what was about to unfold.
I realised that with each wave, I had slowly, inadvertently, moved more and more towards the rocks that were at the left side of the bay. I decided we would have to start ‘hopping’ deliberately away from the rocks as we jumped with each wave.
Having seen how near the jagged rocks had become, I then looked out to sea.
Suddenly I saw a huge wave coming towards us. this wave was not like the others – it was so high, it would engulf me and Joshua who was sitting on my shoulders, we would be pushed off our feet and be out of control.
All parents know this feeling – the terror of emotions that fill you when you realise that your child is not safe.
We were trapped – a parent’s carelessness. I only had seconds to think. My instinct was to protect Joshua.
I realised that the best way to ensure Joshua was safe was to put him in the water wrapped in my arms and shield him from the wave. If we fell over – if we lost control and hit the rocks – I would use my body to shield his – I would be hit first.
I couldn’t do that whilst Joshua was holding my two index fingers in his little hands, so I had to do something that in the surface would have alarmed Joshua. I broke Joshua’s grips on my fingers so I was ready to hold him. Just as the wave hit us, I shouted, “Hold your breath”, grabbed his mid area and pushed him down under the water but wrapped in my arms. I pushed away from the rocks as much as I could.
The wave hit us.
Everything went into slow motion for a few seconds. The power of the wave hit me quite hard and knocked my breath out. I had curled up into a ball and it felt like the wave turned me over so my head was near the sea floor and rocks. I was still holding Joshua very tightly, but he was pushing and struggling to get away and get some air.
I didn’t mind if I got injured – I prayed to the Lord – I thought, ‘Even if I get injured – Lord, at least let me stay conscious enough to keep Joshua safe’. That’s what I was thinking, but all I say in my mind was one word ……. ‘Joshua’.
I waited for my body to naturally rotate in the water for a few seconds and then pushed my legs out. I found the floor, and stood up. I was still out of my depth, but I changed my grip of Joshua and pushed him up in the air so he could reach air and breath. After around 29 seconds in total the wave subsided and I too started to get air.
As soon as I could, I pulled Joshua down and checked him for scars and blood – nothing.
I turned immediately and started running as much as I could toward the shore line. It was exhausting, and after around 30 seconds we reached the shore and I put Joshua down in the shallow water and we walked out of the water into the beach and sand.
As we sat there, three things happened. First I was full of an overwhelming urge to hug Joshua forever. After a few seconds , I started shaking and third, Joshua said, “That was FUN – let’s do it again”.
Strangely, that moment of tumbling in the sea, with my baby son wrapped tightly in my arms, that moment where time slowed down, where I had my heart cry for my son, was still not the most memorable encounter of the day.
It was there at that moment, on the beach, that the Lord spoke to me and gave me the most significant and most important lesson I needed for my entire life and Identity. There on a crowded beach …..
Why did you break Joshua’s grip on your hands?
Because I realised what mattered was not how strong he could hold me, but how strongly I could hold him. I am the strong one.
Why did you wrap him in your arms?
To reassure him and protect him from the rocks. I would hit first – he was safe
Why did you tell him to hold his breath?
Because I could see what was coming and I needed to prepare him for what to do
Why did you want to hug him forever?
To show him how much I really loved him and that that love was the most important thing in the world to me
Now, instead of you holding Joshua, picture me holding you. I am your Father….. I will always hold on to you. I will always protect you. No matter how tightly you hold on to me, When it looks like I break your grip of me, it’s only because I want to hold you. I can hold on to you much better than you can hold on to me, Ian Sometime when you struggle, and feel I’m not giving you freedom, it’s because I am protecting you. Even if you can’t see it – I can see it. All I ever want to do is hug you and watch you grow.
That was fifteen years ago, and I honestly can look back at that day, as the day my feelings towards my Spiritual Father, and my view of our relationship was completely settled. I have sometimes struggled with other relationships in my life, but not with this one.
Last year, as I wandered around a market in Africa looking for a present for my wife, I was recognised from a nearby conference I was speaking at, and a crowd started to form round me asking for healing prayer. The first lady was pleading for prayer for her ovarian cancer. The crowd and situation was nearly overwhelming. As I prepared to pray, the Lord reminded me of that day and the waves, and I felt wrapped in his arms….
I’m not telling you that story to point at me, but to show that inside me, all things point to him and knowing your sonship is everything.
As I finish this first chapter, can I challenge you? At some time in your life, you and the Lord need to settle your relationship and identity in a way that is fundamental and foundational.
It becomes something in you that is as certain to you as breathing. That doesn’t meant you don’t have ups and downs, doubt, occasional fear, but at no time in these, have I questioned who my father is and who I am. As one of my friends says…
“You need to now WHO you are (your identity) and WHOSE you are (his identity)
A great man
I felt encouraged
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
A Voice of Wisdom for 25 years
Starting my business
Leaving City Church Sheffield leadership
Leaving City Church Sheffield,
Joining Meadowhead Christian Fellowship
Expanding my travelling to what it is now
Moving on from Meadowhead Christian Fellowship 15 years later
Helping to found Wellspring Church Sheffield
Moving on from Wellspring Church
Becoming part of the team here at The Well
Where are the solid floorboards?
I have been asked why we chose “Flowers in Every Wilderness” as the title for our Uganda adventure. There are actually 2 answers to that. (At least!)
The first is that the phrase comes from the end of a prophetic word given to us at Woodseats Baptist Church by a very prophetic lady called Isabel Allum. The full text of that prophecy to Merle and me is as follows:
Father, I thank you for this couple, Lord, and I thank you for the uniqueness of their journey. There is the word “uniqueness” in your lives.
God is saying he is bringing a new set of wings on your back for the two of you, for a greater identity of who you are.There have been many that have been influenced by a spirit of rejection against you, for there has been an outside spirit of rejection standing against you and influencing other people in how they respond to you.
Many people have been unkind at different times in your journey, but I hear the Lord saying he is coming to remove the lions and tigers and the bears, for there have been many of those that have come unexpectedly. The Lord is coming now to remove them completely.I hear the Lord saying you are going to eat the honeycomb from the lion’s mouth. You are going to enter into that place, for you are going to say, “It is well with myself – look what the Lord has done.” You have something to show for it, but they are just scars of war, but you will have spoils as well, and you will say this is what you have.
Brother, I saw you writing. The Lord is saying he created a writing gift and anointing within you. Greater inspiration is going to come out of that – greater insight is coming for you.The Lord is going to visit with you as well, for I heard the Lord say we will spend time seeking him, and there is going to be quite a reality of the atmosphere you are in that is going to cause fellowship with the Trinity coming for you in a greater way.
I heard the Lord saying that at times there has been loneliness in your heart. The Lord is saying he is coming to deal with that now, once and for all. Loneliness is going to disappear from your heart, but sometimes the enemy comes and sprinkles some of that within you. But the Lord says encouragement is coming.Scripture says, “Even though sorrow comes in the night, a shout of joy comes in the morning.” I heard the Lord say you are very close to that morning shout – it is about 3 o’clock in the morning now.
The Lord is moving you further and further. For I heard the Lord saying there has been delays in your life and journey, but delay does not mean denial, and this is the amazing thing – God has not changed his mind about you guys.I hear the Lord saying there is going to be relocation coming for you. God is moving you to another place, and he is coming to plant your tree in another field – the Lord is saying his hand is upon it. He will be the one who is planting you and is re-potting you so you can grow and grow and grow, without restrictions in your life.
There is a restoration of relationships coming in your lives as well – these restorations are going to manifest, but you are also going to see new relationships coming for you.I saw a spiritual father coming into your lives. I hear the Lord saying just like Timothy had Paul, Elisha had Elijah. God is bringing someone like that into your lives; he is going to bring a lot of healing into your hearts, and he is going to teach you how to become a Paul and an Elijah to Timothies and Elishas who will come to you seeking the same refuge, for the same support, for the same instruction.
Your journeys is the the tool belt that you will create for all your tools. All the tools are from out of your journey, and you will be able to say, “Look at this tool we can use. We can us it here in this situation. Remember that experience we had then. Well, now we can build this.”And it is time now to see the other side, and God is going to show you how to find the flowers in every wilderness.
We don’t mind anyone seeing this word – it was given in public. As you can see, the final sentence includes the very poetic phrase, “Flowers in Every Wilderness”.
As well as being in that word, the phrase also resonated with Merle and me as the kind of special phrase that God would use to talk to us – in other words, it meant something to us… specially.
The second is that it seems to us that part of what God wants us to do in the future is plant flowers in every wilderness.
The third is that we go to Uganda with a word brewing that Merle’s passion for gardening and growing food will become useful in the long term for our friends and the people we love here in Uganda.
Ian and Merle live and work in Sheffield, with their sons (Josh and Matt) and dog (Susy). Ian is a christian author and blogs at ianbanner.com.
In the dream I saw the city of Sheffield like a map, from above. The city was in darkness. I could see that all over the city were these little lights. Almost like sparks going off. They would flare up for a few seconds, then die down. Flashes of light. I looked a little closer and saw that these lights were in buildings. Sometimes the lights were as big or bigger than the buildings. Sometimes the buildings were big, like towers, but the sparks were small.I realised that the buildings were churches in Sheffield and the light represented the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of saints. I could see that some big buildings had little of the real presence of the Spirit, and this made me sad. The Lord said to me, “In some of the churches, my people are more interested in arguing than desiring my presence. In some, they are so proud of how big they are, I can’t get in. It’s not how big they are – it’s how proud they are. I oppose the proud.”Then he said, “Watch how I am coming,” and I saw what looked like a wave of energy rising up from between the cracks in the ground. It started to rise up. As it did, the small sparks that earlier had been going on, then off, instead of going off, started to grow and spread across the city – almost fuelled by the energy. Instead of going out, these little sparks started to grow and grow. And as they grew, they started to meet each other. Whilst I saw this happen slowly so I could understand, I sensed in the Lord that it happened very quickly. I felt the Lord say, “Transformation happens slowly and then suddenly – I am waking up my church.” I said, “Lord, wake me up inside – bring me back to life.” As I said these words, I felt that I was one of the sparks that was being energised by God.The Lord took me back up in the air and I could see that the city was no longer dark, but light. The light came from the ground up, and the whole map could not be seen, for the land was overtaken by brightness. The only thing I could see were towers that still were not covered in brightness. Then I felt the Lord say, “This is how it will be when my wave comes; I won’t choose one church over another. I have no favourites – I will come to all.”As the dream finished I heard myself say again, “Lord, wake me up inside – bring me back to life.”
There has been a series of prophetic words from many people, including Isobel Alum, who visited WBC earlier in the year, many of the people in the church, and other sources in the UK and beyond, that we should move on for the next level of our training in heart and character. Also, great thanks to whomever placed an anonymous letter in my daybook with some wonderfully accurate words for me, which I found at just the right time.
On top of all these prophetic words are our own words and pictures from listening for ourselves and praying to the Lord over the last few months. The debate has always been about timing.
As Ben gets on with the task of creating the new WBC, we feel the right thing to do is create the space for this and look for the next adventure for Merle and myself. We have asked Ben to release us from WBC, and initially Ben wanted to do this at a Sunday morning service but quickly decided the right way would be at the next family weekend in September.
One of my favourite sayings is, “The Christian life consists of two simple things: learning to hear God clearly and developing the courage to do what he tells you” This, I think, is from Bill Hybels. It is advice we are now following.
We have had a great year as part of the church and leave behind many great memories, including:
– our trip to Uganda together (Ben and I)
– our trip to Canada
– praying for Ben when he was very ill and unable to breathe, and seeing the breakthrough we needed
– all the wonderful stories of what God has been doing to change people and prepare them for the coming revival.
For the Kingdom
Ian and Merle
I have been asked by several over the last few months to publish the words that Merle and I have had. Whilst many are still private and some are only on scraps of paper (but these are very important!), here are the key ones that are in electronic format.
Before you read these, you should know the emotions that these words and others like these create in Merle and me. I think that if you got prophetic words like this, they would provoke similar emotions in you.
They provoke wonder – that God would care so much for us.
They provoke amazement – since they contain words that resonate and match other words we have received from different sources.
They provoke trepidation – that God has so much planned for people who are not ready or up to the job.
They provoke commitment – that it is time to get serious with God and become the person he wants you to be, a person with a heart and character that glorifies him.
Father, I thank you for this couple, Lord, and I thank you for the uniqueness of their journey. There is the word “uniqueness” in your lives. God is saying he is bringing a new set of wings on your back for the two of you for a greater identity of who you are.There have been many that have been influenced by a spirit of rejection against you, for there has been an outside spirit of rejection standing against you and influencing other people in how they respond to you.Many people have been unkind at different times in your journey, but I hear the Lord saying he is coming to remove the lions and tigers and the bears, for there have been many of those that have come unexpectedly. The Lord is coming now to remove them completely.I hear the Lord saying you are going to remove the honeycomb from the lion’s mouth. You are going to enter into that place, for you are going to say, “It is well with myself – look what the Lord has done.” You have something to show for it, but they are just scars of war, but you will have spoils as well, and you will say, “This is what you have.”Brother, I saw you writing. The Lord is saying he created a writing gift and anointing within you. Greater inspiration is going to come out of that – greater insight is coming for you.The Lord is going to visit with you as well, for I heard the Lord say we will spend time seeking him, and there is going to be quite a reality of the atmosphere you are in that is going to cause fellowship with the Trinity coming for you in a greater way.I heard the Lord saying that at times there has been loneliness in your heart. The Lord is saying he is coming to deal with that now, once and for all. Loneliness is going to disappear form your heart, but sometimes the enemy comes and sprinkles some of that within you. But the Lord says encouragement is coming.Scripture says, “Even though sorrow comes in the night – a shout of Joy comes in the morning.” I heard the Lord say you are very close to that morning shout – it is about 3 o’clock in the morning now.The Lord is moving you further and further. For I heard the Lord saying there has been delays in your life and journey, but delay does not mean denial, and this is the amazing thing – God has not changed his mind about you guys.I hear the Lord saying there is going to be relocation coming for you, and he is coming to plant your tree in another field – the lord is saying his hand is upon it. He will be the one who is planting you and is re-potting you so you can grow and grow and grow without restrictions in your life.There is a restoration of relationships coming in your lives as well – these restorations are going to manifest, but you are also going to see new relationships coming for you.I saw a spiritual father coming into your lives. I hear the Lord saying, just like Timothy had Paul, Elisha had Elijah, God is bringing someone like that into your lives; he is going to bring a lot of healing into your hearts, and he is going to teach you how to become a Paul and an Elijah to Timothies and Elishas who will come to you seeking the same refuge, for the same support, for the same instruction.Your journey is the the tool belt that you will create for all your tools. All the tools are from out of your journey, and you will be able to say, “Look at this tool we can use; we can use it here in this situation. Remember that experience we had then; well, now we can build this.”And God is going to show you how to find the flowers in every wilderness.
I saw a picture of you both at a shooting range. And you are both shooting, and I hear the announcer shouting, “Bullseye… bullseye,” so the Lord is helping you to do the bullseye thing in 2015. Whatever you point and minister at, it will be bullseye. All bullseye.
What that means, too, is that you are right on. You are right on your destiny, your calling, right on your privileges because you are born-again blood, saved, sanctified sons and daughters of the living God.
The Lord wants you to meditate Isaiah 43, and you have a tremendous prophetic word for 2015. Awesome. You two are so encouraged together, and you will be binding together more in mindset and heartset.
I saw you both mountain climbing, and God is giving you a mountain to take, and he brought me to Psalm 2 v 7–8. You are my son … ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance… I feel like you have been ready, and you have been YES in your spirit. A big Yes to the Lord, and you are willing to go into those hard places, and I feel that God is giving you the ground that your feet are walking on, and he is giving you the mountain. He is giving you the mountain, and the Lord wants you to know he is the one seated on the mountain. So you are able to enter into the Seat of Rest in him because he is actually on that mountain, and he is inviting you to come and be seated in that seat of rest, and he is going to give you that mountain; it is already yours.He has given you both a willing heart.