About Me

Monday, 17 December 2012

My Story

So, three years ago yesterday I gave my life to God. That one decision has shaped my entire life since. Not just shaped but utterly transformed/changed/turned upside ,by the love of God. I look back now and I can’t believe I ever lived without Jesus in my life. But I did, and many of the decisions I made back then clearly show that! It’s not that I never believed in God, I did, think I always have in some way – you know that sort of feeling close to something spiritual out in the countryside, or for me it was at the beach, I always felt close to God by the sea. And I was brought up going to church too, but I guess I never really got it for myself. So at this time of year I like to remember what life was like before and to be so thankful to God for all he has done in our lives. You see at the same time, in fact it’s 3 years ago today for my husband, he also committed his life to God.
I have published my testimony (the story of how I found God) before but being our anniversary and being the time of year that it is, I thought I’d do it again, and this is a new blog and all, and has a different readership, so if you are interested this is what happened to us. It’s a pretty long read (and this is just the basic version!) but there you go….

My Story
I was brought up in a Christian family. From a young age we went to church and Sunday School and my father was involved in various roles at the church. I was baptised and later confirmed at age 14. A few years later I started going to a youth group with a friend at another church and I think this was the beginning of my journey with God, I certainly had questions and I wanted to know more (although the boys at the youth group had a certain pull too and in fact one of them is now my husband…!)

At 19 I went travelling and didn’t go to church for some years. I did the typical teenage thing of ‘going off the rails’ and got into all sorts of things that I am not proud of. That said, those things have made me the person I am today and if I hadn’t been there maybe I wouldn’t now be following God. We are all the sum of our lives so far and I know the things I went though in those years have made me the person I am today. So, anyway, I gave up my uni place and went travelling. Although God was often in the back of my mind I pretty much ignored him during this time. I did lots of very stupid things (drugs, sleeping with people, generally being very careless and foolish) and looking back it makes me shudder to think of the path I was on. I don’t want to make this seem worse than it was, I wasn’t an addict and certainly wasn’t at deaths door but I was on a destructive path, I didn’t really care about myself. I was very insecure and had issues with not eating too, which didn’t help.

To cut this long part of the story short, I ended up pregnant, a long way from home. Despite my situation I knew I could not have an abortion, I just wouldn’t even consider it – from the very second I found out I was pregnant I knew I would have the child. Looking back I think that it was meant to be, and considering the many factors surrounding both our relationship and how we lived, it is a miracle I even got pregnant and a miracle the baby was born healthy and happy.
I actually ended up coming home and settling near my family, who despite initial reservations (that’s a bit of an understatement…) were very supportive. I started to go back to church and actually got involved a bit with it, everyone there was very helpful and lovely. But still I think I felt I ought to go and not that I wanted to because of any belief.

A few years later I got together with an old friend, we fell in love, subsequently got married and had more kids. We continued at the same church and even got involved helping out, but my heart wasn’t in it and we rarely, if ever, talked about our faith. As I look back I’m not sure why or what I even believed over this time – I think I had some small measure of faith then but I was and continued to be plagued by doubts.

So finally, about 5 years ago I made the decision to stop going to church. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had been confused for so long and the final straw was the thought that my children would go through the same as me – constantly wondering whether God was real or what to believe. That had plagued my life and I didn’t want them to go through that too.

On top of that we were actually going through a really tough time in our relationship too. That year was not a good year for us! I felt we were drifting apart, I couldn’t see us apart but we certainly weren’t together. Neither of us could see any way out of the situation unless something changed, and yet nothing could change.

I had been going to yoga for about 10 years and after effectively ‘giving up’ on a Christian God I started to ask my yoga teacher about going on yoga retreats, doing meditations etc, generally I guess I was looking for answers elsewhere. I began to embrace this and having always thought of myself as a ‘bit bohemian’ and being rather arty I felt comfortable that it fitted with me and my lifestyle.

…and that is when God showed up!

At this time we were planning an extension on our house and we became friendly with most of the builders, one in particular. I remember one day him saying he would tell me his story when we had time. A few days later (and the timing was totally lousy – the house was really at its worst point with stuff everywhere, my son was ill, I was due to leave imminently to drop him at my mums etc) he started sharing his testimony with me.

It’s fair to say, this changed my life. It was totally full on, right from the word go. I had never heard this kind of Christian testimony before, a real warts and all approach with such amazing experiences. I was completely blown away. Over the next few days and weeks he spoke to me more about his faith and what he had experienced. Some of it was really hard to believe, real ‘supernatural’ stuff and talk of Satan, the force of evil, demons and so on. In all the years I had been to church I had never heard anything vaguely approaching this. I wasn’t even sure I believed in hell. But I needed to hear this – My approach to anything in life is not to do anything by halves, I want to know everything about a subject and do tasks with my all. Now, I was totally overwhelmed but couldn’t get enough at the same time. Prior to this I was one of those who thought that if I lived a good life and did the ‘right’ thing I would be going to heaven. How wrong I was! I didn’t even really know that the only way to God was through Jesus. I had always been confused about God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit and all I needed was someone to explain it to me really!

Anyway I can’t remember how long this went on for (but a few weeks I guess) and I gradually started asking more questions – things I had always had difficulty with or things I wanted to ask more about. I know at times I must have been a right pain in the butt, just asking all these questions and often not accepting his answers, disputing things, but during this time a few things started to happen to make me think more about it all. There were way too many ‘coincidences’ for me not to believe. Eventually he just said to me ‘I think we should pray together’ and that’s when I said the Sinners Prayer (a dedicating of ones life to God) on 16th December and gave my life to Jesus, surrounded by chaos, screaming kids and the clutter of life – but it was perfect – that is what my life is like anyway and God knows that! Then the very next day I led my husband in the sinners prayer too, and shortly after that we started attending a local church – but this time one that is perfect for us. At the time I wrote this:
‘I know that I am saved. That I am starting a relationship with God, that I have a new life, I am reborn. I don’t recognise myself most of the time but it is the most awesome feeling! I know that my life has purpose, in fact I almost feel a bit smug some days that I know this great secret that others don’t know. I wish everyone could know it, if only it were so simple…’
……………………………………………………………………………………………..
And the thing is, it IS simple! And amazing and wonderful and transforming and overwhelming, and sometimes hard, but I hope I will never look back, never walk any other path than this one because it is absolutely the best!

If you are reading this and have questions I am more than happy to answer them, please leave me a comment or tweet me @redjules or if you know me personally just collar me when you see me!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tears for a stranger

The blog world is a funny place isn't it. You can read something written by someone you have never heard of and feel an instant affinity with them; you can hear of someones plight and want to reach out and help; and requests for prayer via twitter always make me stop for  a quiet moment. Today, now, I am crying tears for a little boy I don’t know and will never meet. I was writing the previous post about women bloggers and so I usually check out each blog when I do this and today I came across Lynns post at ‘Help I work with Children’ about 6 year old Caden Beggan who tragically lost his life to meningitis just over a week ago. I don’t know Lynn and I don’t know Caden but via her blog I followed a link to his parents Facebook page on which they had been documenting his fight for life. Something about the way they write with such love and grace made me read on.

The tragedy of a child dying is always heartbreaking, but there is something about their posts, something so raw and yet so loving, something that seems to refuse to be angry or to give in to the downward spiral of self tormenting grief, that offers hope. I don’t know these people at all, and I am sure there are moments when they will be so overwhelmed they can’t breathe, but right now I feel so inspired by what they have written I wanted to share it. If you want to see for yourself, the page is
here.

Anyway, this family in their pain and suffering want to do something in Caden's memory and they have released a single that you can download. It costs just 79p and the proceeds will be going to the hospital where Caden was cared for, so if you feel moved by their story why not download it
here.




Women Blogger Rankings// December 2012// Religion & Belief

December's e-buzzing rankings for Women bloggers in the Religion and Belief category are below, these are blogs written by women, in the top 100 blogs under the religion category. There is still much debate about the use and validity of these rankings so next year I will probably publish them very quarter instead of every month, but would love to hear others thoughts on this.

Blog Title Rating Change Position
iBenedictines 5 1
Lay Anglicana 10 2
The Vicar's Wife 27 3
Revising Reform 36 4
Learning from Sophie 40 5
Living Stones 41 6
A Reader in Writing 42 7
Talking christian  43 8
LLM Calling 52 9
Looking Deeper 55 10
Seeker 56 11
RevRuth 59 12
Living To Please God 60 13
Dreaming beneath the spires 62 14
Significant Truths 70 →← 15
Help I work with children 73 16
Apples of Gold 87 17
Tracing Rainbows 88 18

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Social media and the church guide


this is some info put together for a seminar I am doing on communication in the digital age for the church. Thought it might be useful info...


Using online/social media in the church
These tips below are based on my own thoughts, put together through experience of using social and digital media. I am not an expert and they are not a regimented guide but just some general pointers. If you want more info or advice I am happy to discuss further and my contact details are at the end of the handout.

1)         What do you want to do online?
Think about why you want to use online media, what is your purpose? Is it to share personal information, or that of your church. Do you want to communicate a message? Who do you want to reach – your church community or further afield? Do you want to network with others in the same areas of interest as you?
Also think about your time, resources and giftings.  For example:
Time:  if you are very busy and do not envisage being able to find much spare time, stick to something easy that can be updated quickly and easily (eg: facebook/twitter) don’t attempt a blog which requires much time and thought and might be frustrating if you can’t find the time to use it.
Resources: Do you have a computer/ipad/smart phone? If you only want to use your phone to access online media, then also stick to things that require less time and typing.
Giftings: are you naturally savvy online? If not and this is all very new to you, again stick to the simple. If necessary ask someone to help or show you how to use online media! Or are you a gifted writer or have a particular area of expertise? Do you have some ideas to share – think about a blog.

2) What is available?
There is so much out there it can be a minefield! Maybe you don’t know where to start. This list gives a quick rundown on what is out there. I have divided this list into social media/professional contact/image or video/Blog to make it easier.
Most of these require you to set up an account, which means providing a user name and password which you then use to log in each time. As far as I am aware all of these below are free although a couple do offer an upgrade for a fee.

Social Media:
Facebook: www.facebook.com
personal or professional use, but usually more personal. Businesses do use it but more for marketing than anything else.  Can be updated quickly and on your phone.
Twitter: www.twitter.com
personal or professional. Can be very useful for networking and marketing. Only 140 characters per post so very quick and easy. Can be used on your phone.
Google+ :  plus.google.com
launched about 18 mths ago still gaining support. Supposed to rival facebook but has more functions and enables you to group people in social circles. Has a lot of functionality but personally I think it’s too complicated. Can be accessed on your phone but I would suggest easier on a computer.


MySpace: www.myspace.com
Less popular these days. Social networking site for sharing ideas, used a lot for music. Available on your phone.

Professional Contact:
    Linked In:  www.linkedin.com
      Professional use, good for networking and job hunting.


Image/Video  youtube: www.youtube.com
Used for sharing of videos. Personal or professional use. Less social and less chat. Although users can comment on videos. Accessible via phone if you have an up to date phone with enough memory!

 pinterest: www. pinterest.com
Sharing images, mostly personal use, accessible via phone

Instagram: www.instagram.com
Sharing images, mostly personal use, accessible via phone


Flickr: www.flickr.comSharing images, mostly personal use, accessible via phone. Also useful for finding images for blogs

Blogging:

All of these below, provide a free platform to write a blog (or web log). Enabling you to both follow others blogs and/or write your own. Personal preference as to which is best. I use both blogger and wordpress. Blogger seems to be simpler and easier for beginners but wordpress has more options and good for those who have knowledge of html.Blogger: www.blogger.com


Wordpress: www.wordpress.com 
Tumblr: www.tumblr.com



General Tips:
1: Be yourself online. Unless you are going to create an anonymous identity (avatar) you are likely to interact with a whole variety of people, from different areas of your life, and potentially further afield online. Trying to be someone you are not will only end you up in trouble.
2: Start simple. Don’t join everything at once, you will find it hard to keep up and also follow the various different set ups/protocols.  Decide what you want to do and why and then go from there.
3: Etiquette: As in life, do communicate with people with respect and love. Seems obvious but you would be amazed at how many people click enter on something that they would never have said to someones face or in real life.
Different sites also have unwritten rules of etiquette like not posting hundreds of posts a day, not retweeting loads of tweets for example. Get to know your medium.
4: Select your medium appropriately: Choose what you want to use depending on your needs, as mentioned on page 1. Some forms of social media lend themselves better to professional use and others to personal. And all have different set up/uses. Many can be used in conjunction with each other, so for example if you post something on one it will post on another automatically.
 
5: Get out of your comfort zone:
If you want to just be friends/follow people you already know in life, you won’t get as much benefit from using online media as you could. Yes Facebook and Twitter are great for keeping up with family and friends but what about networking, sharing ideas, sharing the gospel, debating with others. There is a whole world out there!
For those that get really in to it there are all sorts of ways of taking this further, from ‘tweet ups’ meeting people via twitter in real life, or going events such as CNMAC (Christian New Media Awards & Conference) to learn more and to network.
6: Don’t be shy : On many forms of social media, people are really happy to interact with those they don’t actually know, for example celebs/well known people. Some will engage in conversation/answer queries etc.  If you don’t ask you won’t get…

7: The lure of Stats: It can be useful to know how many people are following your posts or interacting with you and there are various websites that can help with this. However it’s very easy to get hung up on numbers and forget why you are doing it in the first place! Try to remain focused on what you are doing and not how much influence you are having. If God wants you to be a big influencer you won’t have to make it happen.


ministry . . .
I believe it’s impossible in this day and age to ignore the digital world in ministry. The internet is no respecter of age, gender or societal position. Most people have access to a computer or the internet via mobile phone. Think about how often you communicate with people. Other than talking fact to face, what do you use most? Phone/mobile/text/email etc
Who are you reaching? . . .
Who is your target audience? Are you in a small parish? Is it multi benefice? Who do you need to reach and with what?
How much time is spent communicating information and how effective is it?
All questions that really need addressing. You can put on the most amazing event but if no one knows about it all the work will be wasted. For example think about how many events are attended solely by those in your congregation?
Marketing can be a dirty word in the church but I think it is key. After all we are called to preach the gospel to all people so what’s the best way to reach people? In a way we are PR men and women for Jesus.
You cannot own a business these days and ignore the power of online marketing. Firstly it’s free. Secondly it’s available to anyone with a computer or web enabled phone. Thirdly you cannot underestimate how much impact it can have and how far it can go. And as a church we need to embrace this too! Some areas of the church are really cottoning on to this but as a whole we need to go further. It is not going to go away.
What are you saying? . . .
Once you know who you are reaching out to, you can focus what you are saying. Is it plain and simple event marketing – service times etc or are you communicating the gospel directly? Tailor your message to your medium (or vice versa…)
Using the internet . . .
Some ways of using online resources in the church:
Marketing – your church/website/Christian business
Evangelising – friends/family/far further afield
Sharing – sharing ideas/knowledge, tips, events etc
Personal - get inspired/get prayer/pray for others/



Watch Out . . .
Be careful what you write:
It’s very easy to forget that although people can’t see you personally when you communicate online they still know it’s you. The written word can be so easily misconstrued, so be careful what you write. Being in ministry is a public role, and you are therefore much more ‘visible’ than other people.  The internet is not the place to air dirty laundry or put up endless status posts about your private life. It might seem obvious, but if you allow people access to your Facebook etc, they will read it and undoubtedly tell others. Watch your words!
Safeguarding:
You can protect yourself by limiting what you allow others to see and choosing your online medium wisely. Keep your security settings tight, do not allow others to see your profile if you don’t want them to. And even then, be careful. Mathew tells us if we have conflict to go and see that person to sort it out as a first port of call, good advice!
Trolls:
Trolls are people who trawl social media sites for people they can wind up/insult and generally bring down. Terrible as it sounds it does happen. Thankfully many of the online social media sites are getting to grips with this and you can report people for offensive behaviour. However you can block people/don’t have to follow them etc. As in life you don’t have to ‘take’ the offense.  But do be aware of this. If someone seems deliberately provocative, they are probably doing so for a reason. I make it a point not to get involved with lengthy online discussions with people I don’t know. You know what they say ‘you can’t argue anyone into the kingdom...’

Community:
Online communities are great but they are no substitute for the real thing. The danger in being enthusiastic about digital media is that you give it too much emphasis and therefore not enough on personal contact.
Sometimes face to face or picking up  the phone are the right ways to communicate with people. Also be aware that some people will believe there are correct ways of doing things. Take into account others feelings. It may be easier for you to send an email or a text but is this appropriate? People from different generations and different walks of life may feel very differently to you.



Some good links . . .

Lots of useful links in here..

Wylio.com  -  images for blogs free of copyright.

http://steverholmes.org.uk/blog/?p=6763   - brill 3 articles on the church and social media – very inciteful/useful…
http://stevetilley.blogspot.co.uk/?spref=tw  - a brilliant observation on different perspectives on the use of social media. @s1eve

http://vickybeeching.com/  loads of useful info and insights.  Also @vickybeeching