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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Consumer Culture and the Church


This post was written as a guest post for The Alethiophile blog a few weeks back.... So if you have some time do go check out his blog...




Consumerism:
1: The protection or promotion of the interests of consumers
2: The preoccupation of society with the acquisition of consumer goods

‘Consumer Church’ seems to be a bit of a buzz phrase in Christian circles at the moment and not in a positive way. So what on earth is it and is it really all that bad? Well, in simple terms it means that people treat church like any other area of their life -  as consumers. I rather like definition No.1 above, but can we as the church, be seen to be protecting or promoting the interests of our consumers? or are we, like everyone else, more on No.2: preoccupied with the acquisition of consumer goods, or more like the acquisition of consumers as far as the church is concerned!

Let’s face it, we live in a consumer-led age. Much of what we see or encounter daily, is designed to feed our ‘inner consumer’. Our culture teaches us that we need ‘stuff’ and there’s no avoiding it. Modern marketing is so clever isn’t it? It’s gone way beyond TV ads appealing to our personal desires, you know: ‘you can be the perfect Mum if you buy this brand of nappy’, or ‘you will be the best date if you buy our brand of aftershave’. Ever noticed how ads on Facebook & other sites pop up related to a website you have just looked at? spooky, huh? Not really, it’s just very clever marketing. 

Of course, it’s not only ‘stuff’ that we consume. We consume information at a rate faster than any generation has experienced before. At the click of a button, we can find out pretty much anything we want. We can communicate with people in the remotest areas of the world just with a few simple taps on our phones. 

Our lives revolve around what we need, what we can get and when we can get it. Sounds a bit negative maybe? Well just ask yourself, how often do you buy online rather than going to the local shop? How often do you get frustrated that you can’t get an appointment at the doctors as soon as you’d like? How often do you get annoyed with being on hold for more than 20 seconds? or when you don’t get an instant reply to a text or email?

My first job was the glamorous world (not) of Superdrug on a Saturday. The manager told me on my first day ‘the customer is always right, even when they’re not’. This has really stuck with me, but recently I’ve begun to wonder if we, as a society, haven’t taken that to the absolute extreme. We have created a world that we expect to serve us, and not only that but we want to be served and we have got used to it.

So then, why should we be surprised when people take the same attitude to church? As church leaders we find it frustrating when people don’t ‘join in’, when they regularly attend without giving anything back. But in a way we have made a rod for own backs, as the more contemporary forms of church have developed, so have people’s desires for different ways of doing church. Many have become disgruntled with their local church and have searched out more - because they can, and, because that’s what society teaches them to do. Just as once, people might have complained about the local grocers not having the brand of pickle they prefer and instead driving to the big supermarket out of town, now, we have arrived at consumer church. We go where we feel we fit, where we feel we get what we need, where we can choose the brand of Gospel that we prefer. Because, we can.

So what are we all complaining about? If people are consumers, what’s the problem? Clearly, the message Jesus brought was about being the server, not the servee and if we go through life expecting things put on a plate for us then we are not giving a great example of who Jesus was, are we? But I would suggest that the fact is we do live in a consumer age so how can we make that work for us as the church? It’s a tough call to get people to walk against an existing and all encompassing way of life, so what can we do to embrace consumerism in a Godly way?

Well if you think about it, don’t we want people to ‘consume’ God’s word? Don’t we want people to take on board what we are preaching? Don’t we want to bless people with the services we put on? Many of the more successful churches are those that embrace consumerism and work it, for example using podcasts and video clips circulated online, so people can access them as and when they need; social media is used as a way of getting information out to people at their convenience; online communities, chatrooms and even interactive web-based church services make a place that is accessible to all; prayer rooms that are open 24/7 means people can find a place of worship to attend at any hour of the day or night; God TV and other channels provide all manner of teaching, worship and prayer at the click of a button, when we want it.

So I ask you to consider, in this era of one-click-consumption, is consumer culture in the church all bad? or should we be making it work for us? It is an ongoing issue in the church and one that is not likely to go away any time soon, so it’s about time we started thinking about it!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

bad day....


'Sidewalk Stencil: Crying is OK here' photo (c) 2006, Franco Folini - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Ugh, just had one of those days today....

You know when you need to rant, shout, get angry at God and then consume vast amounts of chocolate, wine, or better, both.

These days don't happen often. In fact it's funny because today we were discussing a 'strengths test' we had done for work and my top strength was 'positivity'... yeah well not today. Today is a shout, drink wine and eat chocolate day.

And I'm not one of those people who will post a cryptic 'need chocolate' or 'crappy day' status on Facebook in order to gain sympathy or get people wondering. Come on, everyone has FB friends who do that and I've got to say it's soooo annoying, and often not to mention, not particularly Christian in it's content either. But on the other hand I feel the need to express my irritation and frustration, so I'm blogging it. You might say that's not much better than FB, and perhaps that's true, but I kind of see my blog as an outlet where I've always been open and honest and it is a way of expressing myself when I need to. I've never written in order to gain followers, sympathy or friends, I've always written for me, because I need to, so I am not going to stop now because I am worried about being one of those FB people...

And what makes it worse of course, is that I can't actually say anything about why I'm feeling crappy and nor can I even post it on the relevant day (so by the time you read this, it may have been some time past...), so by just saying I am feeling pants leaves me in exactly the position of said FB users that I have just criticised.... oh the irony....

So, anyway today I feel pants. I am angry with God. Something I prayed about just yesterday (at length I should add!) and felt so enthused and excited about, is clearly not going to happen. I feel let down, I feel angry and I feel, yet again, like God is holding all the cards and not showing me a single one of them. In fact more than that I feel like he's allowed me to believe I know what some of the cards are, even when he knows I am completely wrong, like some kind of divine card trick.

I chatted to my husband earlier and he started trying to placate me, I said "don't try and make me feel better, don't tell me it will be ok, just tell me,' I agree it's all crap' and then I'll be ok"... so he did. Sometimes in the heat of feeling pants you just need someone to stand next to you, rather than someone trying to get you out of it...



So there we go.

Pants pants pants pants.....


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

My first Wednesday HodgePodge


So I've been looking around at new blogs in the last few weeks. Followed a link to one, then on to another and so on and so on, and I came across this Wednesday Hodge Podge idea so I thought I'd give it a go... You answer some questions, share them and then see what others are answering...  These are this weeks questions and you can find out more here...


1. Picture postcards were first printed back in the mid-1800's and deltiology is the official name for postcard collecting. When did you last send a postcard?  Receive one? Do you save postcards sent to you? Do you collect and/or send postcards when you travel?
Hmm. As a child I collected postcards (encouraged by my mother who collected lots of random things like milk bottles with adverts on, stamps and yes, postcards, to name a few). They were never that exciting or that old and the only ones I kept long term were of VW Beetles (which I still love - the cars not the postcards which have long gone). Every birthday when my husband asks me what I'd like, I say an old bug... Anyway digressing... A friend who is a writer has had some short stories published on postcards and I've received a few of those recently which is kind of cool. Send some to grannies on hols but otherwise not really. Just thinking though, maybe it's an idea that could be reinvented... put thinking cap on....



2. What treat do you most like to indulge in while on vacation?
Just doing nothing... that simple. Maybe read a trashy book or two...  oh and a bit of red wine maybe... Oh and playing guitar with my hubs. He plays all the time, I don't really have the time except on hols.



3. Are you good at hiding your feelings?
Sometimes. Well I say that, but then I did manage to blub whilst leading the service at church on Sunday which was sooo not what I had planned, so I guess not... 


4. Does your town/city/county still deliver telephone books to your home? Do you check the yellow pages when searching for a local business number or has the internet replaced the phone book in your home?
Yes they do and the last 3 are still in the cupboard in the plastic wrapping! Google is the way forward for everything in our house... 



5. Would you rather be first or last?
Depends. First in the queue for chips or for the toilets at gigs when the queue is huge. Last when it's for the dentist or worse... (what could be worse...?)




6. July is National Park and Recreation Month (in America, but everyone can still play along)...where and when were you last in a park?  Did you participate in any recreational activities while you were there?
Different kind of park, but today. We live in a village and the local park is the hub of the village especially for those with kids. We go whenever we can, after school, weekends for a kick about and so on. Today we ate ice cream and chatted to an artist selling her wares...



7.  What was one of your worst ideas?
I'm a real ideas person so there have been many bad ones over the years and many that never got further than me telling my husband... I am going to be the next T-shirt designer (never got past 2 pages of sketches), I'm going to start a ladies cricket team (this I did), I'm going to go into business (and this also), I'm giving up my job (did that too),  I'm starting a charity (actually I did do this quite recently with some friends but not the original idea), I want a cat (yes), let's get lots of animals and have a mini farm (never really happened), let's not book a holiday and go for something last minute (the latest current dilemma), let's be spontaneous (result = one daughter)... 

Not sure what the worst ever idea would be. My husband would say it was me whacking a great big hole in the wall of our old house as I was convinced there was a fire place underneath. There wasn't... But I made my husband fit a fake one anyway!



8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I'm meeting a friend tomorrow to chat in Spanish. I haven't spoken Spanish for years but really want to brush up on it. I'm wondering if I'm going to make an idiot of myself or if it will all come back to me. Also thinking where on earth is the Spanish dictionary and why am I doing this? and should I look some things up tonight and thinking what is 'baking' in Spanish... and so on... oooh perhaps I should write a blog in spanish...




Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Work of the Holy Spirit // Preach 7th July 2013

As usual am posting the notes from my talk today, and as always I will say they are my notes so may not make 100% sense!!


The Work of the Holy Spirit


I am one of those people who get very excited about the Holy Spirit. I was excited to be given this title today. I love Holy spirit led ministry, and you know we talk about the exciting, supernatural HS stuff, receiving power form the HS to go out and share with people, to see people healed, to see lives transformed and so on. 

But I think for some people that is a bit scary isn’t it? we like our safe lives where we don’t have to be afraid of anything crazy going on, we don’t want to be challenged or put in positions where God might ask us to do something a bit radical. Thats how some of us see it isn’t it? The HS is scary, wacky, outrageous. So what happens is, people shy away from that and think, well that kind of life, being led by the HS is not for me, I’m not confident enough, or I’m not gifted as an evangelist, or I’m called to something else...

Which is fine to one extent, of course we do all have different gifts and callings. BUT, and this is what I think we can learn from the passage today  - the Holy Spirit is there for ALL of us regardless of where we’re at or what our personality is or what gifts we have. IF THERES ONE THING YOU TAKE AWAY TODAY, TAKE AWAY THIS. THE HS IS FOR ALL!

The truth is, none of us can ‘do life’ without the HS and none of us are supposed to. 
The HS was sent to us, intentionally, as a gift for ALL of us. and whether you are a crazy out there, go up to people in the street kind of Christian, or a quiet contemplative, or someone who just interceeds for others, or maybe you’re just someone who comes to church on a Sunday. Whatever it is, whoever you are - you need the HS in your life! GOD is a trinity of people Father, Son and HS, and we need all 3!!


So.... this passage shows us specifically 4 things we can learn about the HS(and I’m going to go into this more but in a nutshell)

- that he is an intentional gift from God for us all (and therefore a very necessary part of our lives)
- That the HS convicts people of their need of God
- HE reveals to us the kingdom of God - ie: all truth
- and, and possibly this one could encompass all the others, he Brings glory to God


So this is not a let’s get excited about HS fire and people speaking in tongues, and wind howling kind of passage is it? so those of you who find that hard can breathe out now!
And yet it’s one of the few places that Jesus himself talks about the work of the HS, and so if this is what Jesus teaches directly, on the work of the HS, we need to take note, these are defining words.


So just to back up a little. This whole series has been about Jesus preparing his disciples for his death and therefore for their future without him. Don’t forget we are still on one evening, the same evening where he washed their feet, where be broke bread with them,  he’s predicted Judas’ betrayal and his own subsequent death. This all happened on that evening, they shared a meal and were hanging out together. And here still, he is still preparing them for what is to come. 

On the one hand Jesus is telling them of what is to come and what awful things that can expect, and yet at the same time he’s trying to comfort them, he’s saying its ok, Im not going to be here but this other thing, this advocate, its far better, and you’re going to do so much more with him guiding you...

So he is warning them:

1 "All this I have told you so that you will not fall away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me. 4 I have told you this, so that when their hour comes you will remember that I warned you about them.

they WILL be persecuted, they WILL be put out of the synagogue, in fact their lives will be in danger.

 I mean that’s not really what you want to hear is it? Yeah, so Im going away, and you’re going to have to deal with all this without me. And he says he’s warning them so that when these things happen they will already know. They will not ‘go astray’ or as it says here ‘fall away’, but they will know because Jesus himself has told them what will happen, like some kind of macabre comfort in a way. When they see these terrible things happening, that they will be reminded, ok well Jesus told us this would happen so we’re just going to deal with it. They can stand firm in the knowledge that he forewarned them with. 

And then he says to them, and this is the key bit

 it is for your good that I am going away. 

I do love that line - It is for your good? I am going to die, horribly and you will be persecuted, and at risk of death yourselves but, you know it’s for your own good.
How many of you remember your parents saying that to you as a child?  like when your mum makes you eat all your broad beans - it’s for your own good?  or you have been grounded, it’s for your own good, you won’t learn otherwise.... 
And as adults we can look back and think well actually my Mum was right, broad beans were good for me, being grounded because I had done something very stupid and likely to put myself at risk, was absolutely for my own good. And just like I was, the disciples are struggling to see how it can possibly be for their own good that he is going away. and Jesus can see this when he says ‘ you are filled with grief because I have said these things.’.... BUT he says:


 7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you...

Jesus knows of course the awesome power of the HS and how it is not only for their good, but as we see here it is necessary that the HS comes to them. The HS is not a replacement for Jesus, he is a necessary Advocate, someone to plead Jesus’ cause, a partner if you like, someone who can continue the work Jesus has been doing, through them, and through us...

THE WORK OF THE HS...
And so we see, then he begins to tell them of the work of the HS. It’s kind of in 2 parts. almost, the first part is about the HS working in non-believers and the second part is for them, and for those who believe.

CONVICTING PEOPLE

8 When he comes, he will prove (or in some versions convict) the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.

It’s 3 fold about sin, righteousness and judgment. In David Guziks commentary of the bible, he sums it up like this:

Sin is the truth about man, righteousness is the truth about God, judgment is the inevitable combination of these two truths. 


a very simple summary... I like this because it’s simple and because it refers to truth and Jesus has already and will refer to the HS as a spirit of truth.

In NIV it uses the word CONVICT. I like the word better. someone who is convicted in a legal sense is ‘found guilty of a criminal offense  or a convict is: ‘a person found guilty of a criminal offense and serving a sentence of imprisonment.’ which if you look at it in spiritual terms you might say

a convict:
‘A person found guilty of sin and serving a sentence of living enslaved to sin.’

which is exactly what we are before we have made a commitment to the Lord, enslaved sentenced, if you like, to live a life of sin.

So man alone cannot understand his sinfulness apart from the HS. Those who are unbelievers do not recognise their lack of faith as a sin. But it is the root of all sin. Without that belief we are misguided in our life choices. And of course even as believers we make wrong choices, but at least we know we are sinners.

For many I think the truth about a lack of faith is more about an unwillingness to want to face ones own failings. People think coming to church they will get judged and the truth is they will, but not by us, by God, through the HS. 
Its not nice is it? do we want to have our sins, our faults, our failings shown to us and to be convicted of them?  If you look at kids you can see that kind of unwillingness to see their faults. you ask them about something that has gone wrong and they say ‘it wasn’t me’ or ‘I didn’t’. Once we found blue crayon all over the inside of our wardrobe door. all 3 children denied it totally, even though it had to have been one of them. even when you know that is was them, they don’t like to face it, because they are afraid of the punishment, But for us the truth is that we don’t have to face the punishment, it’s almost back to front isn’t it. If we accept our faults we get rewarded! Its when we don’t that we’re in trouble...

It's really interesting I think that Jesus says in vs 2-3;

They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, the hour is coming when those who kill you will think they are offering a service to God. 3 They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me.

People will do these dreadful things, because they have not known God. And it’s dire, but a few verses later he says, almost, it’s ok because the HS will come and convince, not just them but the world of their sin.

It is common, on receiving Christ for the first time to be utterly aware of ones own sin and wretchedness, of how unworthy we are in the face of God.  Some people have really defining experiences of that. Have you ever had a moment like that?

For me personally, it was not an instant thing but gradual. There were things that were instant, like I stopped swearing overnight  and I used to swear like  trooper. But for the most part it was a gradual process and even now, and though I know I am forgiven I look back at some of the things I did in the past and I feel such shame at my actions. And I know that is the conviction of the HS. I didn’t think I was doing anything wrong back then, I was just living my life as I wanted to live it. And sometimes I feel like God remind me of those times just to remind me of who I was and of who I am without him. 
ME EXAMPLE: Anger....

 and that's a minor example but for some real radical transformations take place. Robbie Dawkins, in the Father of Lights film talks about drug dealers being convicted - spiritually not legally! and handing in guns and all sorts.

1 Sam example:

1 Samuel 10 - Samuel gives Saul a message from God - the spirit of the Lord will come upon you in power and you will prophesy with them, and you will be changed into a different person.

the HS POWER to CHANGE people. whatever you are facing...

the HS is not nasty, not wanting us to be covered in shame and guilt, but we need to be convicted of this in order to truly know God. It is conviction through love. And in realising that, being convicted of that we come to know God - the God of all righteousness


and in regard to righteousness...

Because Jesus is going to the Father where they will no longer see him. The only truly righteous person, without sin or guilt, is Jesus. The perfect lamb without defect, sinless, without blame, pure. 

If you think ‘well I’m doing ok thank you very much’, think you’re living a reasonably righteous life, try this from Isaiah 64:6

All of us have become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

Because the truth is that in the face of Jesus righteousness, his sin-less-ness, his purity, we are like filthy rags...  It’s pretty stern stuff I know, but, and this is the truth of salvation:

in Isaiah 61:10-11 says this:

I delight greatly in the Lord;
    my soul rejoices in my God.
For he has clothed me with garments of salvation
 
   and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness,
as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest,
    and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
11 
For as the soil makes the sprout come up
    and a garden causes seeds to grow,
so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness
    and praise spring up before all nations.


How beautiful is that! We and our filthy rags he will clothe in his righteousness - a robe of righteousness. We don’t deserve it, we are not worthy of it, but he will clothe us with it. Though we are convicted of guilt, the sentence is that we get to choose to receive the robe of righteousness. So which do we choose? the robe of condemnation and guilt or the choice that gives us freedom: the robe of righteousness?

CHOICE/JUDGMENT...
and that’s it there is a choice, of course. We will be judged according to our choices, just as the devil, or as named here, the Prince of this World, ‘now stands condemned’. vs 8 he will prove the word to be wrong about.. judgment. The prince of this world, the one who condemns us, himself now stands condemned in the face of what Jesus is about to do.

He is condemned as the HS pours conviction on us, the conviction for the the devil, for evil, is that he will be condemned. His sentence: to spend eternity in hell or as Matthew 25 says, ‘in the eternal fire prepared for the devil and all his angels.’

I know we don’t often like to think about the consequences of making the other choice, but it’s there, not as a condemnation or a threat, and it’s not where God wants us - he wants us to be with him! And he gives us every opportunity to make that choice. He has sent the HS in order to do just that, so that we will be convicted, so that we will know, we will experience the truth of who God is....

TRUTH
and what is the truth? as we look at this second part, this is for believers. So first the HS will convict people of their need for a Saviour and then, he will guide them into all truth;
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.

We could get all philosophical and start talking about ‘what is truth?’  It is a question philosophers have discussed for centuries, isn’t it? The bible mentions truth many times.. for example:

John 18:37 great scripture.. Jesus with Pilate before his death.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
the age old question..

In a Christian perspective, Jesus stands for Truth, he says I testify to the truth, he testifies on behalf of God. He also says ‘I am the Way and the truth and the life...’

I think a good way to look at it is like this:

The revelation of truth, (or as the passage says: HS will guide you into all truth) means the revelation of God - ie: the fullness of the kingdom of God. If we equate truth, or the ultimate truth being God himself, then revealing truth is revealing the kingdom of God.

So when the spirit of Truth comes (the HS/advocate etc)  ‘he will guide you into all truth’

he will reveal the kingdom of God, more of God, more of the truth.


just as Jesus did the work of the Father, so does the HS...


He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.


John 5
19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.
he will reveal what he hears from the Father. Prophecy...

and lastly: v14
4 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.

Thats the ultimate really isn’t it? the work of the HS is to glorify God... and through us, as he works through us we give the glory to God. That almost sums up everything else has has said doesn’t it....



SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US TODAY?

I believe, what this passage tells us is that we cannot live without the Holy Spirit. It’s a bit like having your spiritual satnav turned off. The HS brings power and life into all we do.

I can stand up here and preach the best sermon ever heard but it won’t make any difference if the HS is not in it. The worship team can play the best set they have ever played but if the HS is not within what they are doing, we won’t be encountering God through it. 
You can tell your friends about Jesus but nothing will convict them of their sin and need for a Saviour without the HS resting on all what we say.
You can read the bible all you like, you can pray all you like but without the HS guiding you, it won’t guide you into the truth...

You can pray for people to be healed as much as you like, but if the HS is not going with you, not one will be healed.

ME..
And believe me I know! because for many years we lived without the HS in our lives. We went to church for years without knowing the truth, without fully knowing the truth of who Jesus is and without the HS.

I describe that time as being like having a jigsaw puzzle with lots of the pieces missing. I could see a general picture, I knew roughly what it would be like but I couldn’t see the details, the reality if you like.  And the truth is, now with the HS its not just that I can see the picture, but it’s like a movie! the reality of what is there for all of us is just so staggering I can’t believe I put up with just part of the picture before!

END
We all need to know the HS is part of Gods great plan, Jesus going and then God will send the HS. It’s not a substitute, or a replacement because they can’t yet be with God the Father, or because Jesus, the son, is going away, no it is intentional, a gift from God and not just to the disciples but to us all.

The HS is not just there for those who want to be doing crazy stuff, it’s for all of us. It’s what convinces us of the truth, convinces us that we need Jesus, convinces us that there is another way, a better way, that there’s a God who loves us more than we deserve.

Are you convicted of who you are in the sight of God? are you convicted of who God is? Are you being guided into all truth? These are questions this passage is prompting us with today. 



Thursday, 4 July 2013

Relying on God alone...

So this weekend our Pastor preached on the Vine and being pruned (John 15). I've got to be honest and say that I wasn't massively enthusiastic about the subject, I rather arrogantly thought 'I've heard the whole pruning talk before' and actually I think I've even heard him preach it before, and on top of that I've very recently been through a season of pruning and I know what it's all about. Well, as our God likes to, turns out I was humbled, it was actually a great talk and it seems, very timely for me...

As most of you reading this will know, I am now working for the church, before beginning ministry training in September. This is most definitely a steep learning curve and there isn't a day when I don't think, 'man, I am so not equipped for this', and 'why God?' and 'really there must be better people for this than me' and so on...

Two years ago I was asked to come on board and so some voluntary work in the church. At the time I wasn't working and I was really excited at the prospect. It was a great year, I learned a lot, in fact I learned soooo much. I gave my first preach, led services and ran groups. Then I was offered a paid post. I jumped at this, I had known I really needed to get back to earning some money and yet I wanted to stay in the church, it was an absolute answer to prayer.

And then it all changed. Then, the person I was working most closely with left (I knew this was going to happen when I started), then 2 other colleagues left in quick succession, all with good reasons. And suddenly I was left feeling rather isolated. Not that my other colleagues weren't great - they are, but I think these were the people I felt that I gelled with most and I had learned so much from them. I guess I had this picture of what life in this job would be like and then all of a sudden it wasn't like that at all...

It took me a while to get my head around this and in fact it was a word from my husband that got me to pull my head out and get on with what God wanted me to do. So then I thought I had a handle on what I was doing, where God was taking me...

And then.... we started a process of looking at the future vision for our church which has been, well pretty tough to be honest. Exciting, necessary and inspired, but hard too. So then it took me a while longer to think about where God was taking me. Just got my head around that and then....

I had some, well..., trouble, with choosing which college to study at (see previous posts...) and on top of that, a friend I had hoped to go to college with, didn't get selected. And, so, again I was thinking, what is it you want me to do Lord....?  It was like just when I got a handle on where I was headed and with whom, just starting to feel comfortable, then the rug was pulled from under my feet. 

I know now and I knew then that it was a season of learning about trusting God and I do feel more peaceful and calm because of it. But it was pretty hard all the same.

Then just a few weeks back we learned that some very close friends were moving away from the area. These are people who we love dearly and see pretty much daily. I knew it was going to be tough. But I don't think I realised until last Sunday just how tough. On Sunday, I was leading the service and the Vicar came up to say thanks to these friends who were leaving and to pray for them. All of a sudden it hit me how much we were going to miss them and how much they mean to us and, here's the biggie, how much I still had no idea what God's plans are for me. It's like the key people in my life in this season, were gradually leaving, and this was the toughest by a longshot.

So then a little while later the Pastor began his talk on pruning. I wanted to shout at God, 'I don't like this any more, I don't want to be pruned any more'... It's funny because I've always been an independent type, always thought I would be fine on my own, I can stand up for myself, I don't need anyone else, and yet over the last few years I have really come to rely on people, to love people and to want to share life with these people and gradually one by one they are being removed from our lives. Now, don't get me wrong, I know I am not being abandoned, I'm not having a woe-is-me moment, actually none of this is really about me at all. People have their own lives and reasons for moving on but it has been a really tough season and in all of it I realise that still, I haven't got a clue where God is taking me. And I think what I realised on Sunday is that, I think probably that will never change, and I'm not sure yet how I feel about that.

There have been a few tears this week that's for sure and of course that is partly about our friends leaving, but largely it has been about being in a place of huge uncertainty. And yet at the same time there are many certainties and but one most important certainty, that wherever I go and whoever with, the only one I really need to know is there, is my God. And if I'm totally honest I'm not sure that I'm ready yet, to be in the place of just relying on him alone...