"Somewhere Under the Rainbow" - reflections by Colin Sutton
I wonder what the Lord would say?
If we could have the opportunity to speak directly to God, to ask for his advice on our problems and plans, and ask him to act in certain areas, wouldn’t that be just great! To sit down and be counseled by Jesus! I wonder what advice he would give us and how we would feel being face to face with God. I wonder if we did have direct access to God, would we use it or would we try to battle it out on our own?
Isn’t it a fact that if we buy something like a lawnmower, we would most probably read the instructions to find out what mixture of petrol and oil to use and how to care for the mower? And if we didn’t use the right mixture we would more than likely burn out the motor and not have it working as the manufacturer intended. In case of trouble we could refer back to the instructions and the manual. If there was still trouble we could go back to the maker and, if he was genuine, he would be glad to see us to help us get the mower going again as he designed it to go.
Our maker is genuine. He’s interested. More than that, He loves us and wants us to OPERATE properly. He has also given us a manual, the handmaker’s manual. It is a living manual, a living word. Though written many years ago, it seems up-to-date. Many things written 2000 years ago or two years ago, have been superseded by new theories, but our Maker’s word is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow---just as His son Jesus our Lord, is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. His word soothes, instructs, mends, heals, corrects. ….. And, of course, we can go to the Maker to receive guidance, love, and help. We are all welcome at all times; He is very pleased when we go to Him.
How often have we tried every alternative, sought all kinds of advice and still been no better off, only going to the Lord when all else has failed. Why do we seem to take the long course when we actually have a Maker who is pleased when we come to Him with ALL, not just the desperate, needs with all problems and joys, small and large, all praises and requests.
Jesus, His son, shared His life with us. He actually prayed to His Father that we might have the same relationship with Him as He has to Him, a rather mind-shattering invitation. That’s the point, it’s an invitation. God in his wisdom gave us a free will, so we are given the choice, God’s way or ours. His plan if we choose to follow it will lead us to our Father. As we make Him the center of our life, learning to depend on Him, He will unfold His plan to us. What an invitation! To be a part of God’s plan, to involve ourselves in His kingdom--- here, right now.
You could say; “What’s new about that? What’s all that got to do with the Charismatic Renewal.” If I DID understand or believe it before my Renewal involvement, I sure didn’t do it. From what I understand, Jesus wants us to help and care for one another. He gave us that great commandment to ‘love one another as I have loved you’. Now Jesus certainly appeared to love more than some of us do. It’s a pretty hard act to follow. Jesus also said we would do even greater things than He. He went around healing people and performing miracles. Is this what He wants us to do? He did these things because He loved us. He still does love us and He wants us to love one another. Now we come to the Renewal, or the prayer meeting---a love cell, and a community where the Father draws His children …where we can support one another, by sharing our praise, joy, love and pain/problems. People have said, as I did when I first went to a prayer meeting.”You could feel the love and peace. There was a presence of the Lord, people were witnessing what the Lord was doing in their lives, or how they had seen the Lord working in a situation. You could actually hear/see what the Lord was doing and learn by that testimony. There’s nothing like talking with someone who has just been touched by the Lord.”
The Charismatic Renewal is just one way the Lord is bringing His people together where they are sharing prayer and love, where God is manifesting Himself, and strengthening them with His Holy Spirit, so that with His gifts we can follow the plan, spreading the Good News so that His children can be drawn closer to Him.
Let’s draw on God’s Holy Spirit. His spirit can help us go in the right direction; it can guide, mould and lead us.
What is God saying to YOU right now? Isn’t He saying: “There’s more, so much more. Don’t stop now. You have just begun”?
Whatever stage we’re at, we are all children in Gods eyes. He wants to unfold His plan to us, step by step. Some of us have large vision, but most of us advance one step at a time. I know God doesn’t have favourites. We are all called. I heard that call in loving support of other people, children being called by their Father together in love to hear His word, to receive his love and instruction and through the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the community of shared prayer. There I learnt that Jesus loved me, with all my problems, good and bad points, and that He had a plan for me, that He wants mercy not sacrifice.
He has a plan for us; He is inviting us to accept if we wish.
My life was changing.
Writing the last two sections has been memorable for me. It has reminded me of an incredible time in my life, a time that came like a thunder bolt from heaven. It may sound strange, or even childish, but this was a stage I was going through, this was actually happening. Could you understand how all this was changing me? So many didn’t. I’m not all that sure that I even knew myself.
I realize how strange this must have been for our children and I pray that the Lord would continue to bless them.
We started to lose our friends. I think we were some kind of an embarrassment, and many kept away from us.
Of course, all this tended to draw us closer to others who were having the same experience.
I firmly believe I was going through a conversion experience that, in hindsight, could have been handled better. But I was on fire. I found myself reading the Bible at every opportunity, reading it from cover to cover many times. The words were jumping out of the pages. I think I read it for about five years before I started reading other Christian books. I simply couldn’t put it down. How faithful and gentle the Lord is. Yes I was being changed but it was going to take many years, I was impatient, and maybe started running ahead of the Lord. A big mistake.
At this time I was working as General Manager for the sales company of Long Industries homebuilders, so my career was rocking along. Every morning I drove past Parramatta Jail on my way to the office. The thought often came: What would be the possibility of having a prayer meeting for the inmates? Some months later, one night Val and I were having coffee with a nun at Pymble in the convent where DOJ was to have its first gathering. I shared with her the Parramatta Jail thoughts. Her response strongly encouraged me to act. She explained how, for many years, she had been concerned for the inmates who had spent many years of their life in jail. Some had gone from reform centers to jail, not ever having experienced normal life. She in fact was corresponding with some of these men.
Encouraged by her, I agreed to do something. Next morning driving to the office, I took my usual route, stopping at traffic lights opposite the jail. There it was in front of me. ‘Here’s my opportunity! Do I take it or once again chicken out?’ As previously mentioned I was eating Bibles and carried one wherever I went. I had one on the car seat, the traffic lights were red, the jail was over the road, I picked up the Bible and asked the Lord for a word of confirmation, opened it at random and the words about Paul’s imprisonment leaped out at me! Wow! The lights changed and off I went to the office.
Nervous excitement (a companion that was coming regularly these days, sometimes so badly that I felt sick) stimulated my thinking process. How was I going to go about this? I couldn’t see myself knocking on the jail door to see if they wanted a prayer meeting. My sales and business training had taught me better skills than that. Scripture talks about being cunning as a serpent and gentle as a dove. I remembered the Chaplain at Long Bay jail, Fr. Bill Meachem who was previously assistant priest at Waitara where he used to refer to me as Charismatic Col.
I phoned him and, after some small talk, asked him the name of the Warden at Parramatta. He asked why I wanted to know. In a stumbling way I told him what I had in mind. He was polite and doubted it would happen. I pushed for the name, and he gave it to me. Next, I phoned the Warden saying I had been talking wit Fr. Meacham who gave me his name. Could I please have an appointment to come and see him? He asked what I wanted to see him about. I stalled, not wanting to talk about it over the phone. He kept pushing. So, I told him about the prayer meeting.
He said it was impossible.
I kept talking. “Warden, I really want to see you.” Finally he said I could see the Superintendent. We made a time.
Gulp! I was on my way to jail. Where was all my charismatic faith? Off I went. On my arrival, a large steel door with a smaller insert door confronted me. I rang the bell. When the door opened, I asked for the Super. I was ushered into a room with a large, high-style desk. Everything looked old and strange. A large man entered and introduced himself as the superintendent. I introduced myself.
“Oh! You’re the fellow who wants to start a prayer meeting in the jail!” he said, this with a strange smile on his face. I felt embarrassed. My faith was on shaky ground, but I managed to reply in the affirmative. He shook his head telling me that, no, this was impossible. Somehow, I gained some confidence and started to present my case strongly. The expression on his face changed and he challenged me with the question: “You’re not going to tell me God sent you, are you?”
Well here goes, I thought.“Yes, I think that maybe He did”. I don’t know how convinced I sounded but his next comment rocked me and I went weak at the knees.“ So you think that God told you to come here. Well maybe he did. Why shouldn’t He? If we believe in God, then why shouldn’t He work through us?”
He went on to explain that he was a member of the Uniting Church, and the inmates jokingly referred to him as, I think he said the, ‘bishop’. At this stage I was overcome and feeling a resurgence of faith. However, the best was yet to come. He went on to explain how impossible this all was, saying that he had let another group in and the inmates had lied and conned them badly. I kept pushing. He looked at me in a strange way and speaking quietly said, “ This is amazing. The Catholic chaplain, who is a lovely man, is really suffering about the situation here. He has tried so hard but feels he is getting nowhere. Yesterday I was talking with the Salvation Army and the Uniting church chaplains about the situation and told them that what we needed here was a prayer meeting! And the next day, you turn up!” I went very quiet, sensing that something very special was happening.
I asked who the Catholic Priest was and where his parish was. When he told me, I went even quieter. Remember when I stopped at traffic lights and opened the Bible for a confirmation? Well, those lights were right outside the church of that holy priest. I have often wondered if he was in the church praying at that specific time.
God our Father does communicate with us. He is not a silent God but does speak to us in many ways, through the teachings and doctrines of the Church, the lives of the saints, Holy Scripture, prophetic word…
Moving on, and hopefully learning.
I am finding that as I look at the past I am once again affected and fired up. Oh how easy it is to forget and grow cold to what God was, is, and wants to do.
Faith in some ways can be a dark walk as we tentatively place one foot at a time into the unknown. This surely was where I have spent much time, so when reading this please remember that it is a record of a learning experience where I zig-zagged my way through the narrow, rocky path that I pray will lead me to the Kingdom of Heaven. I was now firmly entrenched in a leadership role in the CCR where we had an office in Polding House.
I spent time travelling to various prayer groups in Sydney and country NSW where we ran conferences and Renewal days.
Contacts and relationships were being made with other churches and denominations, which seemed to be something of a groundbreaking experience in ecumenism. There was great joy and excitement in these associations, though many of the clergy and bishops were not quite as enthusiastic.
It appeared that we all had something to offer. The Pentecostals/Protestants had a grace of fellowship and celebration. They broke open the Scriptures in a way that made them come alive, exciting and understandable. It was hard to tell the difference between their clergy and laity. They appeared not only to be open to the Spirit but eager to be filled. They were ready, open and willing. They actually expected things to happen. I think that we caught some of their faith. One would need to ask them what we had to offer.
I have to admit that, in later years, I was somewhat disillusioned that we all withdrew into our comfort zones and the ecumenical coming together cooled. There were many reasons for this. Many young Catholics, some of them being quite negative, left the Catholic Church.
I need to come back to this subject as my story advances in the coming years.
Back to my journal 13-8-78.
I have been thinking of what stage I am at with the Lord. Where has all the joy and enthusiasm gone? Has it been replaced with a burden? The love message that meant so much before, is it still there? What blesses people when they first accept Jesus as Lord is the realisation that Jesus loves them. Maybe I should remind myself of this daily. There could be little of more importance in my life than to realize that Jesus loves me and if, I’m not affected by the magnitude of this, then maybe I’m off the tracks and getting out of touch with Jesus.
I am conscious of the complications people in the Renewal are creating that could be making unnecessary burdens for the people. If it’s from Jesus then there should be peace and joy. The people should be flocking to hear the word; they should be being changed, healed, full of joy and peace. I believe that this would naturally draw people together when, upon acceptance of Jesus as our Lord, we would then accept one another as brothers and sisters and Jesus would create in us a caring heart. Jesus is the creator; it is Jesus who must draw us together; it is Jesus who will change our heart. Could I be forgetting this while trying to do the work of Jesus? He will do His part if I do mine. Mine is to love my brothers and sisters; ours is to praise God, to open ourselves up so Jesus can do with us as He wants.
If we are burdened and find the whole thing too much effort or creating too much strain on us or our families, then maybe there is too much of us and not enough of Jesus.
How can this kind of thing happen? I still love Jesus and know that he is Lord. Can I say that He is letting me down? I hear people say: “Lord, why are you doing this to me?” Some where along the line, we may have got out of touch and, after having previously been close to the Lord, we now feel lonely and lost without this close and personal relationship.
Dependence alone doesn’t seem the answer, because making ourselves dependent has meant we have cut some of the old, independent ways we used to solve our problems before. Now, they don’t seem to work and it seems that Jesus isn’t doing anything either, so we appear to be worse off than before. It would appear to be an oversimplification to say that we have to get closer to God, because the more we say, or try, only serves to make the situation worse. However I think this is the answer.
We can become closer in several ways. One is with deepening our personal prayer life. What may have been enough once may not be enough now. Jesus may wish to change us more, and this could take some saturating prayer. Another is to love the people Jesus puts in front of us; this is an area into which I am starting to enter.
The next day after recording this in my journal I made the following entry which I thought may have been a word from the Lord. (I share this insight with trepidation and concern as to its validity, but you don’t have to believe it.) “ Are you listening? —You are expecting too much. You must be more patient. My timing is not the same as yours. I have a plan in mind. I have told you that many times before. It is good that you are anxious for this plan to be unfolded, but you must wait for me to unfold it to you and the others who are involved in it. Keep listening to me and be obedient. Can’t you see I am changing you? This must be done slowly or it will hurt you too much. I want you to love your family more.
Please understand I am trying to be faithful to where I was at at THAT time, where I was on my journey THEN, not now. I see the wandering path I have walked, with me often straying off the path. I hope that this may prove that, without God’s grace, we can do nothing but with it, He can do something with us. Sure I am aware of the many mistakes I made and repent to those whom I hurt or misinformed on this journey. But if I may be so bold to say: I did try to have a go, I did try to walk in faith and, please God, this I will continue to do.
I believed I was being pulled out of the comfortable pew and called into action. Yes, this excited me; a whole new life was being opened up for me. Maybe this was what it meant to be Born Again. I was seeing and experiencing new life.
Why does God need people to tell him how great He is? He doesn’t need it, but we need to do it. God knows His greatness, but we are still learning about it. When we praise Him for all He has done for us, it does something inside us, and we see more of His greatness than we did before. The Holy Spirit within us joins in our praises and we are lifted up higher and higher. An unforgiving heart cannot be a heart of praise.
I had been asked a few times if I would work full-time for the Renewal which at that time had an office in Polding House. So in February I started praying and asked the Lord for a decision within three months. I received this reading from John 16:11.
But when the spirit of truth comes
He will lead you to the complete truth,
since he will not be speaking as from Himself
but will say only what he has learnt;
and He will tell you of all the things to come.
A few early activities.
25-4-1979. Anzac day and I’m getting ready to go to Armidale next weekend with Fr. Luke and Sr. Elizabeth. I still don’t know if we are giving talks or not.
Lord, I hope I never take for granted the love you have offered me, the wonderful things in which you have allowed me be involved, all the conferences, prayer meetings, renewal days, and the many experiences I have had where I have felt your presence. It seems that we can forget so easily all these things and allow them to be crowded out of our lives by the worries of the world. I think it is good to record important events in our lives so we can remind ourselves of your goodness. It also points out to me that we should be on a growth pattern.
As Jesus gives us the gifts and blessings, then He expects us to use them for the body. Thank you Lord for the gifts you have given me. Please always remind me to use them and not hide my light.
Ephesians 3: Paul was a servant of the Gospel; he was Christ’s captive. He said we shouldn’t be faint-hearted and, if we are, we have no place among the Christians. Paul described himself as the least among all the saints- so our opinion of ourselves has no bearing on God’s wanting to use us. What Paul did was to respond. He says he has been entrusted with the graces that God meant for you (or us). Our experiences could be likened to Paul’s Damascus. If at the time they happened we felt the presence of God then, basically, they were the same types of experience.
Sometimes I feel like a captive and unfortunately I seem to sense it as a feeling of despair, but it should be one of joy to realize that Jesus has made me a captive. He wants my hidden (spiritual) self to grow strong and for my outer (earthly) decline. There seems to be a natural reluctance on my behalf to let this outer self-decline. I’m quite happy to want the hidden self to grow. Maybe one must die to allow the other to grow, and that means if the outer self grows, the inner self-dies. So in that case would we be prepared to die within ourselves so that we may grow in Jesus? I say ‘yes’, and have confidence in Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit and ask you, Jesus, to live in my heart.
After having written the above we went off to Armidale to conduct a Renewal weekend. I don’t remember much of what happened. However, I do remember that we drove in a large circle around Armidale praying for the town. It was very cloudy and raining, and by the time we completed the circle, it had stopped raining, the clouds cleared, and the moon was shining. We were excited. At one stage of the weekend we commenced praying for some of the participants. There was one young, crippled man in a wheelchair. Fr. Luke told me to pray for him, so I commenced praying. After a while Luke told me to tell the young man to get up and walk! All of a sudden my knees went weak and my faith went on a downhill slide. I timidly looked at Luke expecting this man of faith to come over to assist. But no such luck. He had his hands full, so he repeated the message with a little more authority. OK, here goes! I asked him to get out of the chair and walk over to me, a distance of about 10 feet. He raised himself out of the chair and slowly walked toward me. I can’t remember much more than that, other than he sat down again.
What I want to say here is that Luke’s faith was greater than mine was but, through Luke, I had the courage to move past my faith barrier. Do we have faith barriers? Do we limit God’s power by our lack of faith? I did. I could think up all the intelligent reasons why I shouldn’t have asked that young man to get up. But as it was I didn’t embarrass or mislead him. I simply asked him to get up and walk and he had enough faith to do it, praise God. What a lesson for me!
As would be expected, my life was very busy. I was working in leasing for Westfield and had been asked to concentrate on buying sites for new centres.
Healing Masses were operating. I was involved in one at Manly. As a family we were having a family night on Monday. This was quite significant as we asked all our children to put this night aside so that we could all be together. We had many interesting nights, as I’m sure our children could testify to. We were now running youth weekends. This may all seem a bit old hat today but, in those days, it was new.
I previously mentioned the impact of the Bible on my life. As a Catholic there had not been much influence on my life from the Bible, though I’m sure the Church would have encouraged me to read it.
With the Baptism of the Spirit I became an avid reader, so much so that I read little else. This went on for many years and I still to this day love to read the scriptures.
In May 1979, I prayed that the Lord would enlighten me so I could receive His Word believing it was going to be more and more important for teaching---and when He sent me away.
22-5-79.' I want you to read My scriptures. I want you to be prepared, for a time is coming when I will be using you to teach My people. I am bringing forth My Word into the world; I want My Word proclaimed more. There are many that don’t know the joy of My Word. Read these scriptures every chance you get, allow My Word to instruct your inner most self, saturate yourself in My Word, take refuge in My Word. It will guide you in troubled times. It is the teaching aid I give to all my disciples. I will not send you out without telling you what to say. Through My Word people will know that it is I speaking. I want My people to be joyful; to be a people of hope filled with My joy, which I want you to share with them. They will be filled with My peace. That is why I came: to give peace to all men. My Word will bring peace so keep reading it every chance you get'.
This word was followed up on 5-6-79. 'I have told you to use My Holy Scriptures. They hold the key to eternal life, and they provide the teaching that is necessary to help you live in the Kingdom. I want My people to live My scriptures. They are used to nourish My Spirit that lives within them, and together with My sacraments they provide the food that is necessary for them to walk in the Kingdom. This will be the light that shines through that will attract other people to Me. You don’t have to worry about anything. Just allow me to minister to you through the scripture and the sacraments, and I will walk with you and lead you into areas where I want you. Unfortunately some will not accept this but do not let that worry you. Be guided by your spirit which is Me living in you, and you will have eternal life'.
This was during a time, which continued for many years, when I awoke in the night with a word in my head and had to get up and write it down. Whilst I didn’t tell any-one what was happening, I did hope in faith that the message was from God.
As you will see, if you continue to read this work, I tried to follow these suggestions seeing them as a strategy from the Lord. I did however always seek discernment and found that the word I received was never corrective or something outside of the teaching of the church. I was still very timid and fragile in my faith concerning these experiences and I’m sure some would call me a fundamentalist. But I could do no more than submit myself to the Church something I found to be very liberating. I found it interesting that Catholics would call me a fundamentalist. I mentioned earlier, the huge faith step I had to make in accepting the Eucharist, which seemed to me to be something like a fundamentalist interpretation of scripture. I suppose the theologians could give me a great discourse on this.
I Think the Lord is moving me on.
The nighttime vigils are becoming frequent. In June’ 79, I began my move by stepping down from the core group of the Waitara prayer group in order to concentrate on my role as the leader of Sydney and the National Service Committee. It was now that my vision broadened to Sydney and NSW and I continued to ask the Lord to show me the areas He wanted me to go to. I seemed to be receiving constant words of encouragement urging me to step out more in faith, but always in good order and accountability.
BELIEVE – TRUST – ACT.
13-7-79 I recorded the following---- Thank you, Lord, for the gift of faith. Thank you for asking me to believe in You, to have confidence and trust in You, to depend on You, to make you the center of my life.—For assuring me that it is by trusting and believing in You that we are saved, not by good deeds that we do. Jesus, I seem to have to do an awful lot of reading before I can retain only a little. It all seems to sift through my mind and I’m usually left with a very simple, uncomplicated message like: “By trusting in You we are saved”. I think it would be good if I had a more retentive memory. Could I ask You, Jesus, that you help me to remember all the wonderful things that You reveal to me?
“ I want you to tell the people My word, I want the people to trust me. I have given My son, Jesus, to be your brother. I want you to tell the people that one of the great sins of the world is not believing in Me. To not believe in Me is to commit evil. This is the great sin of the world, and other sins come from this. Teach them to believe. I will give the gifts to do this, but they must believe to be saved. By believing in My son Jesus they will be saved. This lack of complete belief is causing blockages in My body. When there is a body without blockages then you will see and feel My power and peace, and when you are bound together you, will be raised up as a shining beacon for the rest of the world to see. If they will not believe then find some who will and attach yourself to them and I will bless you all.”
I then had this confirmation from scripture.
Romans 10-14:17. “But they will not ask his help unless they believe in him, and they will not believe in him unless they have of him, and they will not hear of him unless they get a preacher, and they will never have a preacher unless one is sent, but as scripture says; The footsteps of those who bring good news is a welcome sound.” Not everyone, of course, listens to the Good News.
Was the Lord moving me on? And if so, how was I to respond?
At this time in the Renewal the conference trend was in full swing. Many thousands were turning up to hear overseas speakers. There was a flood of charismatic books on the market. It was all new and exciting; peoples’ lives were being touched by God, healing took place. Many were joining prayer groups, and many were leaving.
I remember having a meeting with Cardinal Gilroy where we were discussing a big conference that was being planned for Sydney, when he said, “What are you going to do when you have had your biggest conference? What comes next?”
It appeared that there was a ‘following’ of conferences; people were going from one conference to the next. I am not wanting to downplay the value of conferences but somehow there seemed to be a danger of their becoming a kind of spiritual entertainment, which of course is wonderful. But I believed that the Renewal was more than conferences, more than a healing ministry.
The second Vatican Council spoke about the needs of the Church; it presented a vision for growth that would bring about changes in the Church to enable it to serve the people, God’s people. Yes, the mighty Catholic Church was changing to meet the needs of the world. This change was slow for some and too quick for others. Something as big as the Church takes time to change. A big ocean liner takes a lot longer to stop or change direction than a small boat.
As I have previously mentioned the, CCR came out of 2nd Vatican Council; its purpose I believe was to be a Renewal movement in the Church. The Lord made available the power of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to bring this about; these gifts were to be used for the building up of the body, the building of the church. It was meant to be bigger than the establishment of another group but more as a newness of the spirit to help bring about evangelization---to be something of a new flavour to herald the coming of the new springtime in the Church.
In those days I saw the church as missionary. We, the laity, were being asked by God to do something other than take up the collection or sing in the choir. I, and a lot of others, got fired up. I was looking for my sword and white horse to go charging against the enemy. We wanted to be used.
Surely God was doing a mighty work, He was, I believe, wanting to build something, He had a plan. Could we, as the CCR, move with this vision?
Next: Trying to co-operate with God's plans