This is an article I wrote for the Baptist Times last week:
I spend a day a month walking and praying. Five minutes into last month’s seeking God adventure, and I thought about an idea for Palm Sunday that made my heart pound. I contemplated doing something that would make me feel way out of my depth. Yet I decided that on the Sunday morning of Palm Sunday I would offer to do free palm cross readings.
I shared this idea with a colleague from The Light Project who would be helping me on Sunday morning and we reasoned that if three or four people had a go throughout the morning and I was able to speak to them and seek to bring a prophetic word, then that would be a success. So I timidly set up a simple stall. I soon had a queue.
Around 40 people wanted to have a ‘reading’. I explained to each one that I would simply write a message on the palm cross which I believed to be from God’s heart to theirs. This, I said, would be a message that would encourage, comfort and strengthen them.
One lady after receiving the message insisted that her husband have a ‘reading’. ‘I didn’t tell him anything and look at what he’s written!’ she declared. She was gobsmacked at the words.
People appreciated the simple messages that I wrote for them. Sometimes I wrote verses from the Bible on them that I thought were specific to the people I was talking to. For around half the people who sat for a palm cross reading I felt that I had a word of knowledge for them. This was usually something very simple which I hoped would connect with the people I was talking to.
For example one girl asked for a reading and I wrote among other things: ‘God says it’s OK to help.’ I asked her if she was thinking about helping out in a care home but was worried that her friends would think she was an idiot. She had been thinking of doing exactly that but was concerned about what her friends would say.
Alongside this stall we had also set up an idea to pass on hope at Easter. People of all ages hunted for an Easter egg in a ‘dip’ which contained a chocolate egg and a message of hope. They then in turn make two eggs and bury them in the dip with their own messages of hope. The extraordinary thing was that most people who engaged with the idea where able to write a message of hope to pass on. These messages ranged from the cute to the profound. ‘Smile today because you are wonderful!’ To ‘Jesus is love and he loves you today,’ written by a drunk person who was homeless.
As people received these messages of hope some appeared to be quite touched by the words. People commented on how much they appreciated the Easter gesture of passing on hope and some were interested to hear for the first time of the first Easter where hope was lavished upon the world through the sacrifice of Jesus.
A man who explained that he was a Hindu took time to compliment my colleague Ben on what he was doing in letting others know something of his faith. He shared with him how impressed he was to see a ‘young man’ (Ben is 21) explaining it so diligently. In all his life he hadn’t seen anyone do that before.
Faith comes through hearing and for this Hindu man he had yet to hear anything about the relevance of the Easter story. Not only did he hear something yesterday he thought long and hard about how he could pass it on.
Palm Sundays for me will never be the same. I can’t wait to do something like this again. Yes, it’s a risk. Yes, my heart was racing. Yes, I could have been misunderstood.
But yes, God seemed to take this odd way of palm reading to convey something of his thoughts to people who have yet to become fully acquainted with him.