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Friday, 28 September 2012

A fantastic RE lesson!

As I walked into my sons school yesterday to pick him up, this is what I saw! These pics do not really do it justice, but the entire playground was a riot of colour and praise, glorifying God, his love and his power. My son was telling me that they had been learning about Gods power in RE and their teacher thought this would be a great way to share what they had learned with the rest of the school. I think its an awesome idea! everyone coming into the school was stopping to look and see what they had drawn and written.

I love doing chalk stuff with my kids and in the summer our patio regularly becomes a canvas for their creations. It's great because it lasts long enough to be admired and then gets washed off in the rain! I shall defintiely be filing this idea away for future street evangelism!!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Being Inspired

A friend just sent me this link to an interview Matt & Beth Redman did with Nicky Gumbel, at HTB last Sunday and I would recommend it to you all!

Before listening I didn't know anything about either of their backgrounds or upbringing, which is strange seeing as they have strong links with our church, having been involved in planting it in the first place, and I personally have some links with their family. So it was quite an eye opener, and so humbling to hear how God has turned their lives around and rescued them both from pain and suffering.

If you are a worship leader, Matt also talks about his heart for worship and how he didn't want to be a worship leader originally, but that he just loved worshipping God.

Society is obsessed with celebrity and fame, and to some extent the modern church is too, we put leaders, worship leaders and pastors on a pedestal. So often we glorify them and not God. So it's really great to hear these two talk so genuinely and honestly about their lives, their love of God, of each other and their family in such an inspiring way.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Be right back....

So I haven't blogged much here recently, mostly because I have started a new blog over here at 'The Year'  about this year before I go to college. Needless to say it has taken be a bit longer than I thought it would to get it up and running and to find my way around wordpress. I have no intention of canning this blog as the two are very different (or hopefully will be!)
 So if you are interested head over there. Otherwise I will 'be right back' !

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Year Ahead...

So, I have a year before I go to college for ordination training. It was my choice, I have blogged about that before. But I feel that I have been given this year by God and above all I don’t want to fill it with my own crap, but just with what he is asking me to do.
Last year I worked voluntarily and part time for my church and it was great. Great in that I learned a lot but great in that it allowed me space to spend time seeking God, to grow my relationship with him, to find out where I was going and what I was supposed to be doing. Most days when I wasn’t working I had plenty of time to seek him in prayer him each day. Such an amazing  luxury and I know I didn’t use it all as best as I could, but it was just wonderful to have that time. Now, I know that this year (Sept 2012-Sept 2013) is the last time I will have some ‘free time’ for a while. Next September I will embark on studying for ordained ministry and once that begins, I will be pretty busy. There will be 3 years training, then 4 years curacy, then into full time ministry (well that’s the plan but of course it may all go out the window, which knowing God would not surprise me in the least…) But all being well it seems like it might be some years and I just won’t have the time that I have had to be seeking God and exploring ideas as I can at the moment.  So I want to make the most of this time. And most of all, I love Jesus and I just want to know him more, I want to see more of his kingdom, to see more people coming to know him and see people’s lives being transformed like ours were – freely we have received now freely I want to give...

I’ve prayed so much about this year. And it’s funny because it’s so unlike me not to want to get on with studying right away, not to want to throw myself into it immediately, but I feel so peaceful about that the decision to have this year out, that I know it’s of God. A friend asked me this week if a little bit of me didn’t wish I was starting right now, but no, actually it doesn’t!

In reality this isn’t just about a year, it’s decisions for life, but I know I have a year before I start college to really focus on some of these things so that’s where I’m starting. Who knows at the end of the year God may have other plans for me, but for now I start with this year. The year before college.

So what will it entail...?

There have been so many things that have come up in prayer but above all I feel ‘it’s time to get serious’. It’s all being well thinking and talking about wanting to see more of God, but sometimes you just have to shut up,  step out and get on with it. And that’s what I intend to do. A dear friend of ours left our church recently and he was someone I felt inspired and led by. He had a big impact on my life and I have so much to thank him for. My life will not be the same having worked and spent time with him. But the last few months I have felt like I’ve floundered a bit. (Other things have happened too, which I have blogged about elsewhere). I’ve been wondering who to turn to now for advice and for spiritual guidance. I’ve felt a bit lost as to what my purpose is in my role at work, and in my life but still so hungry to know more of God and so desperate to be in his presence and led by his Holy Spirit . So, last week I shared all this with my husband. And in a total reversal of our usual relationship (must be God...) he just cut to the heart of it all and said something like this: Jules you have been put in a position of leadership, you need to lead. You are more than capable of doing that and doing it well. What is there to stop you? He is also now doing some work for the church and as he pointed out we are both now in a position of being able to see the things we desire actually come about. It was like the skies had parted and the sun came out! Suddenly I knew what it was I should be doing. And the thing is I knew it all along I just was being fearful. Well I’m probably still fearful but I know that God will equip me. I know he has put me here for such a time as this, for his purposes and I just have to step into them! He has made the path ahead for me...

As a Christian we all have a calling to be Jesus to those around us. For each of us that looks very different, for some it is a quiet behind the scenes serving and loving, for others it’s standing on a street corner preaching the gospel, for some it’s being a Christian at work and making the right moral decisions, and for others it’s a more out there, defiant, in your face kind of thing – well that’s me anyway ;) and right now I know that for me I need to be that, an ‘out there’ kind of Christian, not afraid of my faith, but so secure in the knowledge and love of God that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. I know I do not need to fear man, I just need to get serious and get on with what he’s asking me to do!!

In my prayer time I have felt 3 scriptures being given to me for this year and they are:

 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Hebrews 12:1-4 the Message

 Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Luke 12:32 NKJV

 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Mathew 10:7-8

These excite me so much!! I have prayed about this a lot and this is what I think this year looks like to me:

1: Seeking God daily. In prayer and quiet time.  For me but also for the world around me

- I will just spend time in his presence, just to know him more... I can’t wait!

- My daily questions will be, ‘what do you want me to do today? What opportunity have you got for me today?’

- I will always offer to pray for the sick. I will not turn down an opportunity that God gives me (help...!) I will be a blessing to those around me.

- I want to be Jesus to those around me. To be an ENCOURAGER.

2. My family

Jesus is and will be at the heart of our home. We will, as a family love him together and show that love to others. I will love them, encourage them, pray with them and nurture them.

3. In relation to ministry, I want to seek out people doing all kinds of more contemporary ministry. I want to get ideas, look at what others are doing, learn from them, get prayed for by them!

- I want to seek out people who have amazing spirit led ministries and go where the Holy spirit is leading.

- I want to gather others who are hungry for God and seek him together. And in those that aren’t I want to fan the flame. In reality I don’t need the above, we can seek the Holy Spirit together but it’s good to get inspired!!

We had a hashtag last year and this I will continue to use #thereismore because there is SO much more to Gods kingdom than I have experienced and that is what I long for…
I will see more of Gods kingdom this year!! On earth as it is in heaven… And I will be all that God has made me to be….

Just on a last note I will also be blogging this journey, but to avoid confusion (mainly in my part) I will be doing that elsewhere - I will post the address once its finalised...)



Monday, 10 September 2012

Making a prayer box...

So some time ago I made myself a prayer box, there were so many people, so many situations to prayer for, I just couldn't do them all every day! So I got a nice box and put in things and people I wanted to pray for on slips of paper. Now each day, I take 3 a day out of the box and pray for them.

At bedtime each day I pray with my kids and they often go blank about what to pray for and they wanted to use my prayer box, which was nice but a bit difficult as some of the situations and people were just too difficult to explain! then they wanted to put things into my box, and then they wanted to make their own, which was probably the best idea! So yesterday we sat down and they made their own prayer box. I love that this was something they wanted to do and I think it will be a great way to encourage them to pray for situations and people around them. I want them to be prayer warriors! and to recognise both the importance of and the effectiveness of prayer.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Sponsoring a child with Compassion

So this month I am taking part in the Compassion Blog Month. This is a promotion by Compassion US and includes prizes, (which I am telling you so that you don't think I am being dishonest, but as I'm in the UK it's unlikely I will be winning those prizes!). And either way that is not why I'm taking part, I'm doing so because I think Compassion is a great organisation and I would love to help them see more kids sponsored.

Compassion UK has a similar drive this month to see 2000 extra kids sponsored during September. (just to clarify they are part of the same organisation, just the UK/US divisions).

So as part of blog month this weeks task is to send people over to the Sponsor a child page and I'm also including the UK counterpart because if you are in the UK and dont want to pay in dollars you need to go here...

Anyway, So I want to introduce to our new compassion adoptee: Nidjenska. She is 6 years old (almost 7) and lives in the north of Haiti.

This is what we know about her so far: She lives with her parents, and is an only child. Her home duties include gardening/farming, making beds, cleaning and helping out in the kitchen. This was a bit of an eye opener to my 6 year old... whose home duties include maing a mess and not clearing it up...
However Nidjenska also likes playing with dolls, playing hide and seek, and drawing - this was more understandable to our daughter! We also know that she attends school, where her performance is above average.

Our daughter is particulalry excited about us sponsoring Nidjenska and is already planning things to send her - which has required some explanation as to why we can't send her a shoe box full of stuff!

Nidjenska lives in an area of massive poverty, where most are unemployed but if lucky enough, a farmer can earn around £15 a month. The Compassion info tells us that this area needs schools, teachers and employment opportunities, much like the rest of Haiti.

This little girl is the same age as my youngest and yet the differences between their lives are so striking. And there are so many young kids like her who need our support and help. We live in the very affluent west and I think it's our responsibility to help those who live in areas that are less affluent. Compassion is an amazing organisation, making a difference to thousands of kids all over the world and if you haven't sponsored one yet, why not think about it today?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

God is magic isn't he...?

So my youngest daughter, age 6, is slightly obsessed with fairy stories. These tend to have the same banal plot and unfortunately the current series seems to be infinite. I am increasingly grateful for the fact that she can now read them herself...

Of course this kind of book includes many references to magic. I will not tell her not to read them, for the same reason my son has been allowed to read Harry Potter. For a start if one is not 'in the world' one cannot possibly understand the ways of the world, so avoiding all things slightly contraversial is not all that helpful in my opinion. Anyway if I tell them they can't read them they will jst want to even more and probably do so behind my back. And above all I want them to be informed, I want them to know that whilst these are stories, there is an element of truth in the talk of magic and spells, and to be aware of what that means.

But with that approach comes the endless questions, especially from no.3 who is very spiritual and always asking questions about Jesus, heaven, angels etc. One of these that has come up before (and again today) is how Jesus can heal or perform miracles.. todays conversation something like this:

 -Mum, God is magic, right?'
- Well, erm no actually darling... (thinking 'oh no have I got time for this conversation')
- But how did he heal the blind man then? (uh-oh here we go...)
- well, because he is all powerful and in authority over all things..
- but not magic...  (help me Lord...)
- well the thing is when we talk about magic it reminds us of things that God doesn't like, like witchcraft and sorcery ...
- why not?

Anyway the conversation went on... covering OT sacrifice according to a 6 year old (she was spot on actually), world leaders, obeying God because we love him, why Jesus died and various miracles...

I am exhausted! (but very happy..)

One of my difficulties here is that in the books my kids read, magic is a force for good and explaining why it isn't good is not always easy. Todays conversation was actually really interesting, we talked about everything being under Gods authority so when he commands something to be healed, it is. It has to obey. Sadly we don't always use this authority in the right way or as God would want, so we don't always see people healed when we pray.

I love that my daughter has all these questions but sometimes (well quite often...) I just can't explain the answer because I just don't know! I love our conversations because I love that she wants to know more; and I love them because so often she challenges me in what she asks; and I love that in our family it is perfectly normal to ask about this kind of thing, something that many adults would struggle to even consider.

So, in answer to her question, God isn't magic but he is very powerful. I think this is the short answer...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Good Customer Service - something for the church...?

Ok a bit off the usual path... but is it just me or is good customer service really going out the window? it seems to me in the age of choice and the free market, companies don't value their customers as they once did, I wonder if some of the larger ones just think that if they loose one customer they will just gain another somewhere else...?

This rant is of course prompted by something that happened and I won't go into details because I don't think that would be right or fair, but to give some background, I am fed up with my grocery shopping not arriving as it should... and prior to that there were some dealings with a communications company... and further prior to that some insurance affairs to be sorted out...

When I got my first job, a Saturday job at Superdrug (oh so glam...) the manager said to me on my first day 'remember the customer is always right... even when they are not'. That has stayed with me, and when serving the public I have always sought to be reasonable, polite and helpful. Partly I think that's just being nice and being a well-brought up young lady that's the kind of thing I think one should do ;) but partly there was an element of being proud of ones job, or ones workplace and wanting to aspire to something more.Now, so often people don't seem to be that bothered about the customer, nor their job nor their place of work. It's a means to an end, something that just has to be endured to fund life.

If a company is not doing what they should, not offering a good service or even making a mistake, it would be nice to hear an apology, an 'I'm sorry Madam, it will not happen again' or even a respectful level of understanding. Not an 'it was your fault (it wasn't, for the record, in any of these instances!) so we're not doing anything...' Then there's the incessant hold music, press 9 for help, or perhaps I misheard was it hell? or 'no we can't possibly call you we can only receive incoming calls'. Why is to so hard to actually talk to a company that you would think actually want your business. One could be mistaken on that front....

It was amusing that this afternoon I received one of those automated emails asking you to rate your experience. A 'were you happy with your experience' email.... sadly for them it came at the wrong time. I was not at all happy with my experience as I calmly wrote down in the little box. Then  I clicked on submit only to receive an error message telling me that my syntax field was wrong.  Oh the irony of it all....

I write not to have a moan (well maybe a little bit...) but because despite my frustration I was not actually hugely surprised at any of this. We seem to have arrived in a world where it is normal to complain, to get cross and to make endless phone calls, just to get a good service. And that is not right. I don't want to be someone who has to do this. I don't like getting cross or having to complain and neither do I want to have to deal with companies who should be able to give a much better service and actually care about it too. And it's funny because I realised in all this the church is one of these places too. Well actually it's not at all funny is it? For many there is a choice of church and if we get fed up we just move to another (rather consumeristically if you ask me). But as leaders or ministers or stewards of Gods church, should we not also be offering good 'customer service'? Because if people get fed up with church they often get fed up with God too and that is not something that can be solved by a 10 minute call on hold and a request for compensation... Although I'd like to think God has a good line in compensation packages...

And I don't mean that we give the 'customer' everything they want, I do not want a consumer led church (perhaps that's for another post) but equally, I get so fed up of hearing peoples 'bad church' stories, it's just the same as peoples bad customer service stories - they affect others too. You know how it is, you tell a friend, they are upset for you, 'well I'll never shop there again', 'that's the last time I visit that church' (or any...)... 'that vicar, said this to me....'  it happens so easily. Churches are rarely never going to be perfect but we have to try, even when the customer is wrong, or damaged, or broken, or rude, or cross, or angry becasue they feel they haven't received what they should. People can be both fickle and fragile, but we have to love them anyway. We have to show them Jesus and not just let them walk out the door...
..and I rather wish the same went for supermarkets too.... (and insurance companies, and phone companies and......)

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Women Blogger Rankings in Religion & Belief // September

It's that time again... Latest ebuzzing ratings out so here are the top women bloggers in the religion and belief category. A few seem to have totally disappeared from the list and lots of movement generally. It's still a mystery to me how they work our their algorithm, but well done to those who have gone up! Those on the list are those that I know to be written by women and are ranked in the religion and belief category via ebuzzing. If you would like to be added to the list do let me know - or if I've missed anything obvious...

Well done particularly to Rev Ruth who was 81 last month and has shot up to 38! Also to Laura at Lay Anglicana, up from 24 to 8, Revising Reform from 72 to 48, and A Reader in Writing from 49 to 31.

Blog Title september rating Progress Position
iBenedictines 5 1
Lay Anglicana 8 2
Cyber Soul (Vicky Beeching) 25 3
Dreaming beneath the spires 26 4
A Reader in Writing 31 5
LLM Calling 37 6
RevRuth 38 7
Looking Deeper 46 8
Revising Reform 48 9
Learning from Sophie 59 10
Living To Please God 60 11
Living Stones 62 12
The Vicar's Wife 73 13
Seeker 74 14
Significant Truths 80 15
Apples of Gold 82 16
Help I Work with Children 85 17
Tracing Rainbows 91 18
Currently unrated:
Read through the Bible with Anita
Anchor and Chaplain
Lesley's Blog
Vicky Beeching (Religion, Ethics and Rock and Roll): faith, ethics and culture
Maggi dawn
Talking christian 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Tutu vs Blair...

It will be of no surprise to those of you who read this blog that I am not a politician. Thats not to say that I am not interested in politics, but I guess I have become quite cynnical over the years about how much difference politics or politicians can make. We seem to live in a very middle of the road society where extremes are excluded and therefore our political system is pretty bland. Are there actually many real differences between the main parties? I'm not really sure there are anymore. No one wants to offend a potential voter so they all stick to middle of the road policies...

As a teenager and in my 20s I was pretty fired up about social issues and went on various marches and ranted to all my friends about issues I believed in. I guess that all blurred when I had kids. Not much time to be a radical when you are changing nappies... Now of course I have more time and I see plenty to get uppity about but not much changing. I think now I prefer to stick to things where I feel I can actually make a difference.

All that said, I find this whole debate with Desmond Tutu and Tony Blair rather interesting. If you haven't read it, Tutu wrote a piece in the Guardian saying Blair should be facing war crimes charges at The Hague, Blair responded politely but in no uncertain terms saying he was flogging a dead horse...

I'm not actually sure what or why Tutu is saying, I mean wasn't this whole WMD thing put to bed years ago? and if not is it really likely that Blair is going to get dragged to the Hague? Regardless of what people think of Tony Blair and the decisions he made when in office, haven't we all moved on?

We have become fans of the West Wing this year having bought the box set for Christmas. Now I am not professing to know anything about politics, American or British simply in relation to a TV show. BUT what it did make me think about is what life is like for a polticial leader in the west. Thatcher was famously said to survive on 4 hours sleep a night, and one can quite believe it if the West Wing is anything to go by. Frankly I'm amazed that the President or Prime Minister are allowed any time off at all, I wonder how many decisions are made by underlings when the PM is on hols or even asleep...  As I have written about I suffered from exhaustion (or CFS) after an illness, and running my own buisness - working very long hours for a couple of years. If that made me ill after a short time, and not working nearly as many hours as the PM, then how can they function and make important decisions wisely? Ok so not everyone suffers from fatigue, but it starts slowly, you don't just suddenly feel exhuasted,  you forget things, you mix your words up, you get a bit clumsy, your eye twitches (that one might be just me...!), you get confused...  I just wonder how easy it is for anyone in such a postition of leadership to be physically and mentally able to make such important decisions and I imagine often at short notice. (perhaps that's a whole 'nother debate). Now I am not a Tony Blair fan, but I do feel a certain level of witch-huntery here. Do we actually believe that a leader of our country would actively choose to go to war with another country without serious consideration, and advice? We might not agree with how it was done or why, and perhaps they got their info wrong, but why do we have to demonise him? I don't think Tony Blair is a bad man, I think he did the best he could with the info he had at the time. I might have made a different decision, as would many others, but we have a democratic system in this country that allows someone to be elected at a vote. We are not at risk of fraudulent elections (as far as I know!) and neither are we threatened about how we vote. We choose to accept our democratic system and allow the person elected to do the job they were elected for. Of course the very nature of this system means that not everyone will get the person they voted for as leader, but that's the way it is. It's a fair enough system and it's the one we've got.

So, am I saying that I disagree with Tutu? Well not entirely. He is an amazing man, and someone I respect hugely. It's very true, as he says that the middle east, if not the entire world, has been forever changed by the Iraqi conflict.
And he says:
On what grounds do we decide that Robert Mugabe should go the International Criminal Court, Tony Blair should join the international speakers' circuit, bin Laden should be assassinated, but Iraq should be invaded, not because it possesses weapons of mass destruction, as Mr Bush's chief supporter, Mr Blair, confessed last week, but in order to get rid of Saddam Hussein?

Indeed. by what right? what grounds do we decide who gets to do what? Well because we live in western democratic society. It might not be perfect but it's a lot better than other systems around the world. I agree I find it incredibly hard to believe that we were prepared to go into Iraq and yet Mugabe is still wrecking his country from the top down. We all know or suspect that was because of oil and western society is not hugely affected by what's going on in Zimbabwe, so we aren't that bothered, right? So in that case decisions are made on what affects us. Financially mostly. I might think that is not morally right but how would it be if our leaders made decisions based on what is morally right? who would make the decisions on what is morally right anyway? the lawyers? the politicians? the church? 

This is becoming a bit of a rant I'm afraid and possibly not entirely coherent... I guess I think we can all throw stones at others who we disgaree with, that's easy, but that doesn't really help matters does it? Clearly at the time Tutu did his best to affect the situation for which I admire him and would think nothing less of him, but is it helpful to still be going on about it now?

Atheist Prayer experiment

So I have to admit I’m not an avid Premier radio listener, however I came across this via twitter (@UnbelievableJB) and it looks kinda interesting.

The Atheist Prayer Experiment is being run by Premier Radio and is based on the paper by Oxford philosopher Tim Mawson titled Praying to Stop Being an Atheist. They say:

‘In it Mawson argues that, on balance, it is in the interests of those atheists who don't think it's absolutely impossible that there's a God to investigate the issue of whether or not he exists by 'the experimental method' - trying to ask him’

So basically they are asking atheists to ask God to reveal himself to them by praying for 2 or 3 minutes a day for 40 days. This is a really interesting idea. On the one hand I think it’s great and actually gives people permission to try it out, to seek God but with a safety net of an experiment, if you like. On the other hand, I wonder if this is not putting God to the test. I believe that people become Christians, or experience God when the Holy Spirit touches them. Obviously this happens in a wide variety of ways, but is this kind of experiment a bit like forcing the Holy Spirit into a corner? Kind of saying ‘Come on God, if you’re real show yourself....’ Is that how we should encourage people to seek God? I’m not sure.

But that said I will be suggesting to a couple of my most avid atheist friends that they give this a go... Because, in my experience, often the reason people call themselves atheists is because of a bad experience with the church or someone religious; or that they haven’t actually explored the possibility of faith or Christianity (or any other religion) themselves.  At least by taking part in this one could say at the end of it, either way I gave it a go!

I will be watching the results with interest!

For more info click here