Fellowship fun

Just to ease us all back into the life of Relay this week was set aside for time of study. While usually this will take up only 8 hours of the week, we had the privilege of spending a whole four days reflecting more on the heart of the cross and considering the church and mission. Whilst initially I was slightly worried about the fact that eight of us relays would be together 24/7, with the expectation of us studying, this week has been most delightful.

It becomes so easy to see the study that we get to do as part of Relay as just another thing we need to tick of the list (yes even after 4 months) but this week, with surprisingly few distractions, I really felt like a lot of what we have been taught really started to click in my head. Not that i now think by any means that i have grasped it all, that would just be stupid.

Towards the end of last term I’d begun to have a few doubts as to why on earth I was doing Relay. I was feeling really messy and so incapable, and then thinking onto next year with the possibility of doing similar work I was like, I’m not good enough. Thankfully a lovely friend pointed out to me, how small are you making God? I really needed to hear this! As I’ve had the opportunity to get really stuck into the cross this week my mind has been blown with just what was being achieved through Christ. I’ve been reminded of not only what a big and great God I serve but also how it’s so not about me! Not in anyway! I’ll write more about this in the coming weeks, otherwise this will make for one huge blog.

This week has also been fab because of my fellow brothers and sisters. Not only have we had time of “banter”, which was great, but it has been awesome really getting to know them some more, chatting through what God is teaching us and having the opportunity to serve one another through preparing food and tea. It really felt like a little family and to quote a fellow relay worker, “it would be nice if we could always live together”. Ahhhhh!

After a week of crazy sugar highs, stormy walks, copious amounts of tea, lots of games and not to forget the piecing together of our karaoke entry for relay 2, this week has been brilliant.

Very thankful to God for each and every one of the north east relays. Even those on their honeymoon ūüôā

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Looking back and looking forwards

So with only a few minutes of the first day of the year left I thought I’d try and get back into this blogging business.

2011 – amazing year and lots to be thankful to God for. It’s flown by and so much has happened. From writing a dissertation, sitting my finals, making some great friends and yet having distance put between so many of them as God has taken us all in new directions. Finishing as a student and becoming a relay worker with all the joys and challenges that has brung. Visiting FIji again and even receiving a proposal from a king (true story). I feel really blessed as I look back and whilst not all of it has been easy I have been so thankful for the one constant thing in my life, Jesus. The same yesterday, today and tomorrow. The assurance of salvation and my relationship with him can never be taken away because he paid the price to secure me my inheritance and I don’t even deserve it! Such love!

2012 – I’m sure will hold so much more excitement. The diary is already looking pretty epic.

My prayer is this year (as I suppose it should be each year) that i will allow God to be the big God that he is, recognising him as the potter and myself as clay, and trust in him for all things offering my life for his service.

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The Red cups are back!

So i should probably emphasise first my major dislike of the fact that each year christmas creeps further and further into the autumn months rather than staying in its nice tidy box of December.

However, on a crisp day when there is all the excitement of the red cups at Starbucks, and the fact they are buy one get one free, well i gave in! The gingerbread latte caught me off guard and it did make me very excited for all things christmassy!

Mulled wine, ginger bread and cinnamon lattes. mince pies, carols and lots of scrummy food. But most of all the fact that it is probably one of few times when talking about Jesus is expected. Very excited to see how the CU will use this as a way to highlight the real meaning of Christmas for their friends and others on campus.

All in all, a lovely mug of christmas and some wonderful company.

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Hands together, eyes closed

Tonight being a Wednesday i headed off to house group, a group of people from church who meet mid-week to encourage one another in prayer and studying scripture. Since having been encouraged by a friend in my final year of uni to get involved in said group i have been so blessed. They are wonderfully welcoming, generous and so supportive of me in my faith and the work i am involved in. It’s also been so wonderful to see their love of the Lord and their eagerness to want to reach out to their community through maintaining relationships with their neighbours through various events. Truly beautiful and an absolute privilege to be part of.

In particular tonight we had a guy come to speak on prayer, which he would admit is something he has grappled with and is still getting his head around. It was a really thought-provoking evening and made me marvel at how natural prayer should be and what an awesome thing it is that we can at any time communicate with the creator of the entire universe – mind-blowing!

To begin with we were asked to select, from a list of twelve, the top three words we thought best described prayer. These were : communing, meditating, listening, watching, waiting, asking, moaning, demanding, pleading, talking, claiming and thinking.

While i chose communing, listening and asking i couldn’t help but feel that often my prayers can be clouded with moaning and full of me just talking.This then was a challenge, and really helpful, when we then went on to think this through.

The one particular encouragement i took away from the evening was this focus on prayer being us, God’s children, fellowshipping (real word?) with our Father. The guy described prayer as being as natural as us taking each breathe. We often don’t think about it, it just happens. Similarly then so should be our prayer life. As we spend time communicating with God, whether this is during our quite time, or a quick arrow prayer or even listening to God as He prompts us through the day, then we begin to realise how prayer can come naturally rather than forced or as another thing to tick of the Christian to do list.

A challenge then from the evening was the fact that often, despite the amazing privilege it is to talk to God and the fact that Jesus himself saw it as important, prayer meetings are the least attended within the church. Having served as prayer sec during my time at uni i can definitely identify with this. No matter how much you try to encourage others there just doesn’t seem to be a flocking to prayer meetings, unless there is maybe a one-off event. I found this really frustrating at the time but this evening i was challenged as to whether we go about prayer meetings right. Not that the thought in itself is bad at all but maybe the way we go about it. Often we turn up and there is a list of things to pray for or people to pray for. The challenge though was presented when the guy talked about the difference between this kind of prayer meeting, where we are told what to pray for, and the times when nobody needs to tell us to pray but rather we are driven to pray as our hearts are full of compassion. When God has moved us to pray for a certain situation or person.

This left me with a few questions. Why aren’t we as compassionate about coming to pray at the weekly prayer meeting? If there are times when God moves us to pray are we then not responding to God in this particular situation? Or do we just have to accept that people will only come to prayer meetings when they feel moved to do so and those leading the prayer meetings can rest in that?

A thought-provoking evening, still loads to think through but my prayer off the back of this is that of the disciples, Father, teach me to pray.

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I love my job!

Growing up I always longed for a job that would mean i was top of my game, bringing in loads of money and where at 5 o’clock i’d be able to have a social life. talk about living the dream!

Currently i find myself in a job that doesn’t have a competitive side to it where you can progress as such and gain better pay. In fact it’s a voluntary position which means that i am reliant on the support of other christians for my income. Often referred to as living by faith, which means i trust that God will provide for me financially as i do His work. I guess really you couldn’t get much further away from what i had hoped my life would look like as i entered the “grown up” world after finishing a degree.

Yet i couldn’t ask for a better job!

This morning i had the privlege of meeting up with three lovely ladies for tea and to discuss a great book “Out of the Saltshaker and into the world” by Rebecca Manley Pippert. We were looking at evangelism being a lifestyle rather than one of occasions where we speak the gospel to people in four easy steps. Having maybe only over the last two years or so starting to realise sharing my faith and sharing Jesus is just about being honest and sharing my life with those around me i’ve found evangelism has taken on a whole new meaning. Now it is about living out life, enjoying things that interest me with friends, really getting to know people for who they are and then praying and seeking for open doors in which i can speak to them about Jesus.

As we shared our fears and worries about evangelism it was such a joy to see these girls just have a real hunger to want to see evangelism as an everyday living out of the truth that they have received. I’m really excited to see how God is going to use these ladies and work in their own lives as they reach out and love their friends this year.

And all this i get to call work!! AMAZING! I actually still, two months down the line, can’t believe this is where God has put me. In a job where i get to study God’s word, spend time pointing other towards Jesus and learning to depend on Him more and more. Praise God!

Looking forward to now going off to Uncover Jesus, meet with the exec and then attend the Christian union weekly meeting.Get in!

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Walking the streets

So today consisted of me sitting in the upper-hall at church for 8 hours! As¬†I’m sure you can sympathise the thought of getting up and being out of the house by 8.45 on my day off was by no means attractive!

However, having made a commitment to serve alongside Stockton town pastors (read more about them here) it was necessary for me to receive the training in order to be more informed of my role and to have a better grasp of how practically this is worked out.

While initially not being all that excited at the prospect of being stuck in a room for pretty much the whole day,¬†I’ve¬†come away with a completely different view of what town pastors are involved in and have been blessed through spending time with a whole variety of people who want to show the compassion of Christ out in their communities.

Here are three observations i made of the day.

1. One of the first things that struck me today was the diverse group of¬†people who God has drawn into this particular ministry. Considering that the hours of a street pastor range between 10pm until 3am it was a shock to learn that the eldest member of the team has just turned 80! Yet what a heart this lovely lady has for going out and loving her community where it is needed. The added beauty of this great bunch was the range of denominations represented and the heart they each shared for showing the gospel in action. It was a real reminder to me that despite our differences we all have the same head of the church, Jesus. Sat at the back of the room¬†i¬†couldn’t help but smile, as looking at this group was just a little glimpse of the great multitude that will be worshiping God in heaven.

2. I was challenged by the reality and responsibility of street¬†pastoring. By nature I’m¬†probably more of a “doer” and like to practically help people as much as possible. Sometimes this leaves me rather frustrated as being human there isn’t often a lot¬†i¬†can do! Listening¬†in¬†to those who gave testimony of street¬†pastoring and the vulnerable people they have met it dawned on me how possibly street pastoring¬†could be more frustrating and trying than¬†I’d¬†expected. While not wanting by any means to tarnish everyone with the same brush, it is likely that some of the people we meet are out on the town as a way to “escape” as it were from their realities. From hearing stories from current town pastors it seems that on occasion they find themselves being the ones who these people choose to disclose things to or share their worries with. The frustration for me then will occur when actually there is not much¬†i¬†can do to practically help them. My immediate reaction is to want to “fix people” and solve all their problems. Ultimately¬†i¬†know that only Jesus can really heal and fix the real hurts of these people’s lives and as such this puts us in a great position. Whilst initially we can offer assistance and signpost these people to some great organisations who are specialised we can also lift them up to our heavenly father, whether this be on request from an individual or in the quiet of our hearts, who cares so much more for these people.

3. There was lots of yummy food and plenty of tea breaks! (Always a win!)

Overall: Challenged and excited to get out on the streets along with my fellow pastors and see Him move.

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Lost now found?

Life. You only get one so why not live it and live it to the full. Live hard play hard!

At one point i would have so agreed with this. Life is about living, being successful, popular and to do with as you please. Some people make better choices than others and well at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. You only get one life so live it!

I was very much content with this philosophy of mine. As far as i could tell at the age of 15 i was ticking all the boxes.Heading for high grades at GCSE with ambitions of graduating in law. I had a great group of friends and as far as morals, well i was a good person.

I’d have been alright with this philosophy until a friend of mine invited me along to her youth group. A little suspicious i enquired a little more as to what this youth group was all about. From what i could gather they did some pretty interesting stuff and from the crowd she described they seemed like a nice bunch. Having agreed to go along the following week i began to get a nagging feeling at the back of my mind. Christians? Am i really going to go and hang out with some religious people who will probably talk and talk at me until they’re blue in the face about me needing to believe in God or i was going to burn in hell? Not so appealing hey!¬†Reluctantly off i went, expecting to meet with some really unfashionable backward thinking individuals. It’s just one evening i reminded myself. Little was i to know that walking through the doors of that church was going to totally transform the rest of my life….

Quite the opposite! NORMAL! Actually rather fashionable and to top that friendly! Nobody even mentioned God or the bible and they weren’t all that keen to know if i went to church. they just spent time getting to know me and genuinely showed interest in who i was and my ambitions in life. My preconceptions were absolutely shattered. Despite this, and wanting to return to the youth group, i very clearly said to myself i’m not going to believe what they have to say. During the bible study i’ll just stay quiet and think about other things.

This wasn’t so. Each week it seemed as if the part of the bible they were looking at was written just for me. How did they know? Who did they think they were? Whilst a little angry and a little uncomfortable at points i kind of liked some of the teachings. They did make a lot of sense and well, why wouldn’t you want to love your neighbour?¬†So it began. I started to think about how i could implement some of these things in my life. Stop swearing, stop getting drunk with my friends and try to be nicer to people. Simple! Or NOT! No matter how hard i tried these things just weren’t all that easy. Why should i stop them anyway? I liked doing these things and everyone else i knew was doing it so why not? Easy, i’ll have this life with these friends and then i’ll try to make sure i don’t slip up in front of the christians, it was only a few hours a week it had to be easier.

It wasn’t enough though and going along to a youth event confirmed this to me. I can’t explain to this day what moved me so much but i just remember my eyes filling with tears. Had anyone seen me? I didn’t think so, but i knew that there was more to this bible stuff and i should maybe try to understand a little more. As it happened we began a course as a youth group called Christianity explored. We began to look at the life of Jesus and what the bible told us about his time on earth and suddenly i had loads of questions and wanted to get to grips with this intriguing person.I even started to think about these things outside of youth group!

After a good year or so of exploring Christianity and the person Jesus claimed to be i came to a point where i’d happily say i believed it all, i was convinced it was true and became happy to be associated with Christian things. Yet i hadn’t quiet understood that just knowing it was right wasn’t really it. Not until a particular youth event when i distinctly remember being surrounded by 60ish youths all singing their hearts out in worship to God. I saw how it wasn’t just the excitement, they seemed to actually believe with all their heart what they were singing.

“I live fixed on you” (meaning on jesus)

I so wanted this. In my heart i’d begun to see that my friends in youth and the leaders themselves had so much joy in knowing Jesus. Not just knowing about Him but actually intimately knowing Him and speaking to Him through praying. I WANT THAT! Having tiptoed around the fact i was maybe interested i was invited to meet with Janet who challenged me as to where i was at. She clearly explained how all i had to do was to accept Jesus into my life and be truly sorry for my disobedience to God ¬†and to let Him guide my life from now on. I guess in the hope that i’d pray a prayer to that effect she then went on to pray for me. Silence. No matter how much i wanted it, and i really did, i still held back. The problem? I couldn’t deal with the fact that by accepting this wonderful loving relationship with Christ and the forgiveness and hope of heaven found in that wouldn’t be extended to my family. How could i leave them behind?

Restless, that same night at home i prayed. Probably the most scatty prayer ever, but it was from my heart. I knew that a relationship with Jesus was what i was designed for, what in the depths of my heart i really longed for and from what i could tell, being a holy and powerful God, i could trust Him as far as my family were concerned.

So what now? Well i still love Jesus! As relationships deepen so has mine with Christ. I’ve grown to understand Him that little bit better, and the more i start to grasp what the cross really is all about i can’t help but think wow! I’m by no means “a perfect christian”, i don’t think they exist! But ¬†by His spirit and His word God is gently moulding me to be more like himself. I don’t find this easy, it often means that i am challenged in my thinking and the idols of my heart are revealed. It makes me vulnerable and identifies me as weak, but in His power and strength i know i can face each and every day.

Lost? Once i was, as the bible describes, an enemy of God. Out of a relationship with Him.

Found? Now, i am reconciled because of Christ. He paid the price in order that i may be bought back into a loving relationship with my heavenly father.

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