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Friday, 28 February 2014

Do Christians Really Change?

So, recently I've been thinking about how we change, partly because I had to write a report looking at moral transformation, which if you follow me on Twitter, you will know has been a lengthy and somewhat difficult process… Plus in January's Christianity magazine Jeff Lucas wrote an article entitled: 'Nearly four decades of pastoral leadership has taught me this unpalatable truth: people rarely change'. And on top of that I preached a few weeks back from Philippians and looked a bit at how we change when we become Christians and how God uses that. So here's a few slightly rambling thoughts…

I think we can assume that as we grow older we change. I always find it funny when people say, as an insult, 'ooh she's changed', I mean after all, I'm not sure any of us want to be the same person we were at 16 do we? Of course we change! We grow, we have experiences, life happens and gradually (and sometimes not so gradually) we change.

So what about for Christians? I don't believe that we radically change in terms of our make up/ traits etc, when we become a Christian. I believe that when we are conceived, or created that we have within us all that God wants us to be. So then when we come to know Him He takes all of that and uses it to its full potential for His kingdom. For example Saul, passionate, dedicated zealot, becomes Paul, passionate and dedicated - for God's kingdom instead of persecuting it.

As Christians our aim has to be, surely, to become more Christ like throughout our lives. Our lives are a journey, and through that journey we come to know more of God, more of his plans for us, more of his character. I mean just as I have no desire to be the same person I was at 16, I wouldn't expect to be in the same place with God in 10 years time as I am now. So then if our aim is to be more Christ like, then we are surely being morally transformed in this way, by our experiences and by life in general.

Jeff Lucas suggests that for many Christians life has become comfortable, got a bit boring and so we just plod on without any intention of changing. Which is rather a depressing thought isn't it? I mean even if I weren't a Christian I would hope that I would be shaped by life experiences - you know the old saying, we learn from our mistakes? Lucas says: 'having tamed the bigger beasts, we settle down and wait for the sound of a trumpet, when everything will be changed in a moment.' Can that really be the case that for some after the initial big bang, they just carry on as normal? I wonder then, if those people are getting the right teaching, or the right encouragement! 

I was having a chat along these lines with a friend after a particularly challenging ethics class, who suggested that if we believe that we become more christ like, does that not imply we have a better view of ourselves, than say, Joe Bloggs on the street? Can we say that we are a better person than we once were? The answer is I think, that we can and do change, but we only do so by God's grace.

So then I wonder do we actually change or are we simply becoming more of who God has already intended us to be? When we are 'changed' by experience is that because of a deliberate choice to respond to experience? One of the books we looked at for my ethics module this term is  Virtue Reborn by Tom Wright, where he suggests that ones character is formed from a deliberate choice of action:

 ‘Character is transformed by three things. First you have to aim at the right goal. Second you have to figure out the right steps you need to get to that goal. Third, those steps have to become habitual, a matter of second nature’
 Is a deliberate choice to change the key thing here? or will God shape us in this way no matter what? As with my report I find I am still left with questions… love to know others thoughts!









Sunday, 23 February 2014

Book Review 'Raising Children in a Digital Age' by Dr Bex Lewis

Great book - note the number of post-its for me to go back to!
Plus my new fave mug which matches the cover of the book ;)

I have three kids aged from 8-18, all of whom use the internet and have various tech devices. Likewise my husband and I are both pretty digitally savvy too so I wasn't sure what this book would bring to us. However after an incident a few weeks ago (which I'm not up for writing about now but might in the future), I realised I needed some advice in this area. Great coincidence then that this book has just been released, I ordered it and devoured in within a few days! Obviously I was specifically reading it with this incident in mind but it opened my eyes to so many things we hadn't even considered about the internet and allowing our kids to use it. Even if you think you know it all/are doing it all already, I encourage you to read it!

Dr Bex Lewis is a research fellow at CODEC (Centre for Christian Communication in a Digital Age)  based at Durham Uni. The book is a result of her research, including input via a questionnaire from parents and those involved in childcare. Bex says the book is intended to give you confidence to allow your children to engage digitally, whilst also giving practical advice and also looks at specific areas of digital use too.

The book starts off by challenging some of the oft-quoted fears surrounding children and the internet, creating a healthy balance between scare stories and the real issues. Helpfully Bex intersperses her writing with quotes from the questionnaire about peoples own fears and experiences. It is great to realise you are not the only one worrying about this or that someone else has the same issues with their kids and their tech!

She also covers some great positives around usage of the internet. After all, we live in the 21st century and there is no avoiding the digital age, whether we like it or not! If you were worried about your kids and all the tech they have access to, then this will really help you put some of those fears to rest.

The book is full of practical advice and points to other places to look for further info and advice too. As I said, I am pretty well up on the internet & digital technology but there are several things that Bex raises that I hadn't even thought of. My oldest child is 18 and so she has grown up with the internet, and it growing with her in a way. It was difficult to put in rules and regulations when she first got online, as while she grew so much was changing so fast, from Club Penguin to Bebo, to Facebook, to who knows. Now, she is pretty sensible and I trust her, but some of the issues kids face as they come into this world we are only just beginning to realise. For older teens and young people they have been the guinea pigs who have learned through their usage of the internet. Mistakes have been made that have enabled others not to make those same mistakes. We are not just entering this age of technology, we are well and truly in it, and any parent or adult bringing up kids in this age needs to be fully aware of both the benefits and the pitfalls. So much of that is covered in this helpful book. 

This is really where we are at with our younger kids. We are aware of the pitfalls, the issues and the dangers and now we need to put in place a structure for our younger kids that the oldest one didn't have. Equally if you have no idea where to start, then Bex gives some great pointers on this, from basics like making sure you know your kids passwords, to more in-depth stuff around security and safety online. 

A friend of mine allows her 3 year old to use the iPad unattended to watch Peppa pig. At 3 she can find her way around youtube to find all the Peppa videos she can find. This worries me as I think of all kinds of stuff that can pop up on youtube when you are not expecting it. But then I imagine her thinking is - why should I worry? - after all, as far as she is aware her daughter is just watching Peppa. But this is exactly the kind of issue parents need to think about these days. I realised after reading the book that my iPad has no protection software on it, because it's mine and I don't need it, I hadn't thought about the odd time my kids use it…

The book is written in an easy to read style, complete with a jargon buster for those who don't know half the things that are mentioned! Chapters are short and focussed, interspersed with relevant comments and quotes so you don't feel like you are wading through a big tome, more a friendly guide. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone with their own kids or those who work with kids and young people. In fact, I would say you need to read it!



Raising Children in a Digital Age is available here from Amazon.

Friday, 21 February 2014

A foray into Morning Prayer

Just because it's traditional doesn't mean it can't
be modern too - Morning Prayer on the iPad.
Some while back I was encouraged to do daily prayer (an Anglican set of specific liturgy/prayers for set times of the day). I ignored that suggestion. For a while I followed the Celtic daily prayer from the Northumbria community but didn't manage to stick to it. The thing is, I like being spontaneous in prayer, I'm not really good at following the same old thing every day. I'm at a Charismatic church (a CofE Fresh Expression) and we don't really 'do' liturgy. It's just 'not my thing'.

Anyway, last September I started at Vicar School and thought I really should give it a go. Enough people had nudged me in that direction and finally I thought, well at least if I do it I can tell them I've tried and that it's not for me. So I committed to doing Morning Prayer (just one of the set liturgy for each day) for a term. One term. I thought, I can manage that and then give up and go back to my usual, slightly more chaotic, way of praying.

So, how has it been? Well for the first few weeks I hated it. And I mean really hated it. I like to pray first thing and time is limited so doing morning prayer meant I couldn't do anything else prayer wise (at that time of day). I found it restrictive, boring, and if anything I felt further from God. I felt like I was doing this under sufferance, although it was only me making myself do it. 

Then there was a glimmer of light… 

Daily Prayer isn't really designed to be done individually, it's supposed to be done in company. I found people tweeting every now and then with the hashtag #MP and I noticed bits of scripture or lines of liturgy that I had read too. It made me feel part of something larger, and that is half the point. 

Then, I found that I was appreciating the fact that I was reading a wider range of the bible, as readings are set daily and so I was reading more, outside what I had been reading anyway.

However I was really struggling. It felt so false - like it wasn't even me praying. I know to some, having prescribed liturgy is really helpful and meaningful. To some, the language is beautiful and descriptive. To me it was just words. Words I had to repeat daily as some kind of ridiculous challenge I had given myself. I guess I was viewing it as an act of obedience: If I am going into the Church of England, this is expected of me, well 'required' actually but I know plenty of Priests who don't do it, so 'expected' will do. But still, I need to try and be obedient at least.

Then my spiritual director  (she's very wise and lovely) said something to me, so simple that I should have been doing it anyway. She said, why don't you ask God to speak to you through it? before you start, just ask him to be with you and draw you closer to him through the prayer time? Now why didn't I think of this myself…?

So that's what I began doing and there was an almost instant transformation! Instead of thinking, 'right how quickly can I get through this?' I began to expect God to speak to me through the prayer time. There were days when lines of liturgy that I had read every day for weeks suddenly stood out, and I thought, 'have I even read this before? why did I not notice the significance of this line?'. Things like:

'As we rejoice in the gift of this new day, so may the light of your presence, O God, set our hearts in fire with love for you; now and forever'.

I love that line. A line that wouldn't be out of place in my own church setting - 'set our hearts on fire?' - YES LORD!

It's amazing how that happens, when you read the same thing day in, day out and then all of a sudden it's like a few words just jump off the page. If that isn't God speaking to me I don't know what is.

And since then I've noticed daily how God really reaches out to me through Morning Prayer. Some days the Psalm could very much be my own thoughts. Or sometimes the prayer of thanksgiving is so appropriate for where I am at. Or the collect of the day really touches me in some way.

This last week has been tough for a few reasons which I won't go into now, and the prayer time each day has just been totally amazing. I mean really, it's like everything was written for me, as a reassurance, an encouragement, a comfort. Right now I am actually waking up and looking forward to Morning Prayer (God, what have you done with the real Jules? perhaps you could bring her back now?!).

There are days when I just oversleep and miss it - our mornings are on a very tight schedule, and if I don't pray first thing then it just doesn't happen. I mean obviously I pray throughout the day, but not in the same way - it's more snatched or relevant to what's going on in my day. So when I miss morning prayer I really feel like something is missing, it's like I have forgotten something vital - you know when you leave your phone at home or forget something for work - it actually feels like that. And I feel less peaceful too if I haven't had that prayer time.

So here I am now in my second term of doing Morning Prayer and so far no end in sight. I really am enjoying it and what's more I feel that I am really meeting with God through it. Who knows where this unlikely love affair will end, if at all, but for now it's going just great.



Monday, 17 February 2014

Talk // 16th Feb 2014 // Believe, Trust, Share // Philippians 1:12-26

Talk given at The Point church // Sun 16th Feb

as always these are form my prep notes so sorry for typos/inconsistencies etc!



So we are in the middle of our series on Philippians and as a reminder, we know that Paul is ‘in chains’, in prison of some sort, probably in Rome. We cannot be exactly sure what being ‘in chains’ means. It could be some sort of house arrest, (as mentioned in Acts) but either way one can imagine how much fun that would be - let’s face it, the Romans were not best known for their hospitality to criminals. This passage refers to the palace guard - we  know he was being kept with the Praetorian Guard, a sort of elite force, the bodyguards of the emperor.
 So for Paul, he is in chains, with this elite guard, awaiting some form of trial and here he is writing to the church at Philippi, perhaps his ‘favourite’ church.

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Paul gets a bit of a bad press sometimes, but you know I rather like him! He is a real hero of the faith. And let’s face it I don’t think you can be such an avid and successful church planter, as he was, without being a bit controversial. But truly he is an example to us of the level of confidence and trust he had in Christ throughout his entire Christian life.

This quote is attributed to the Bishop of Rome, Pope Clement at the time, saying of Paul:

Seven times he wore fetters (chains), he was exiled, he was stoned, he was a herald both in the east and in the west, he gained the noble renown of his faith, he taught righteousness throughout the whole world and having reached the limit of the west (probably a ref to where he finished his travels, either in spain or rome) he bore testimony before the rulers, and so departed from the world and was taken up into the holy place – the greatest example of endurance.


The greatest example of endurance? and how did he become this example? Not in his own strength but in the strength of Christ within him. How did he put up with being arrested, exiled, stoned, persecuted for all that time? Well here in this passage we get a little glimpse into how that happened. His strength comes through the amazing belief, or faith that he has in the Lord. That faith breeds an unshakeable trust in Jesus, which in turn shapes his life with one purpose, to share the gospel.
He believes, he trusts, he shares.

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This part of the passage is the beginning of the letter proper, the previous 11 verses are the introduction, pleasantries, greeting if you like. Now he’s getting into it. And what’s the first thing he says?  - we know that he’s in chains, probably not having the best time of his life, but what is his first ‘point’ ?

‘I want you to know that what has happened to me has advanced the gospel.’

That's the first thing, his focus. He wants them to know that the gospel is being advanced, this is his heart, that wherever he is, to evangelise. His zeal for the kingdom of God is unceasing, even in the face of adversity.


If we look back to where Paul came from, we see before his conversion, he was then known as Saul, a man referred to as zealous for the Jewish faith, (devoted to, passionate)  so zealous/passionate in fact, that he persecuted those who dared to come against it.  He threatened, persecuted, murdered. In Galatians he refers to himself as ‘intently persecuting the church of God, even  trying to destroy it’. He had such an unshakeable desire to see Christianity wiped out – as he says to destroy the church of God.

And yet in Paul we see the power of God, the power of his hand, completely turning the tables. 

Some years ago God gave me the phrase 'volta face' – which was becoming so obvious in our own lives, derived from Latin, and literally means turn and go the other way – an about turn or a U-turn if you like. This is exactly what God does with Saul. And it’s not that he turns Saul into a different person, no he just inhabits his life in a way that takes all that Saul was and turns it for his good (Romans 8:28)

When we become Christians we don’t suddenly become someone else, no I believe we are all created in Christ, in Gods image, and sometimes we go astray, for whatever reason, or circumstances. So when we do come to him, he uses all that we are, all that he created us to be, for Him. So Paul as he becomes known, is still as zealous, or passionate, devoted as he was before but now it is for God’s purposes.  And how powerful is that?



There is so much in this passage, but I want to focus on these three words: believe, trust, share.


We know that Paul is a believer, obviously, his faith is strong. And through that he trusts in God for all his needs. And because of that trust he can share the gospel in all confidence and all circumstances. He believes, he trusts and he shares. What an amazing witness to those around him, even here in prison, that despite being in chains, for some years we know, he can still share the love of God, even with his guards! And as I said we’re not just talking about prison guards, these are the ultimate guards, thought in some cases to be more influential than the emperor himself and yet, Paul is not intimidated, or put off, he still continues to fulfill his calling.

How many of us could do the same? How many of us get bogged down by the difficult stuff and then our confidence wavers? When something happens that we don’t understand, or think why would God allow that? When God’s plans for our lives don’t seem to be going the way we thought? Can we still stand up and say I trust in my God? That is what we can learn from Paul here – to trust and have confidence in all situations.




The whole book of Philippians has a theme of joy as Will has touched on already. In fact I think joy or rejoicing is mentioned 16 times in just these 4 chapters! But that seems so contrary to the situation doesn’t it? Prison, no sign of a release date. In fact it was quite common for prisoners that were political or perhaps a ‘hot potato’ as one book refers to Paul, to be kept locked up for some time to allow things to calm down a bit.  And yet Paul rejoices! That joy comes from a belief and a complete trust in Jesus.



So here he is, in chains and yet he’s telling the church at Philippi, it’s ok because I am still spreading the gospel! I wonder if they were concerned, after all he had been locked up for a while, were they worrying where this would end? Paul their founder, great missionary, inspiration? What would happen if he were to be executed? I wonder if there were concerns for the faith – how many would continue to follow if they knew Paul, this great leader, had been ‘abandoned by his God’, so is he reassuring them here?

He is showing them the difference between the kingdom view and the worldly view… And it’s important to remember that whilst we view Paul as some kind of hero, this is a letter to an ordinary church, one could say like ours. All Pauls letters are written to ordinary churches, yes they might have been set up by him, but they are getting on with the day to day, this is a letter of encouragement to an ordinary church…

An ordinary church which has a few issues, I mean most of his letters give words of correction or advice to the churches. Here it seems some are preaching the gospel with the wrong motive – vs 15-17. It is thought that some other followers of the way were perhaps making the most of the fact that their most well know leader was in prison. He was quite a controversial character and perhaps their intentions were to gain some notoriety for themselves while Paul is out of the way.

And his response? He says:
What does it matter? Just so long as Christ is preached?

Now, I don’t think he means that it doesn’t matter to God, I think he is just making the point that even though their hearts may be slightly off track, they are still spreading the gospel and to Paul that is the most important thing. And he is maintaining humility rather than anger. Which is not as he always is, we know in some of his letters he really does tick people off, but in this case, perhaps he recognises that as with his situation here, God can use all things for good. After all as Christians we are not perfect are we? We all make mistakes and I am sure we have all acted out of the wrong motives some times, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t still trusting in God. And for Paul, he has come from a place of persecuting Christians, so the very fact that people are now preaching the gospel, if not quite with the right heart, is a matter of confidence in the God that he has been preaching.


So here he is in chains, still just persisting with his whole heart that the message be shared. Believing, trusting and sharing.

You know, I think Paul is just so full of Jesus that he can’t help but tell people about him! The joy just overflows out of him. We know that Pauls mission is to preach the gospel, he is an evangelist. In Acts 9:15, where we see God asking Ananias to go to see Saul, who has been blinded, he says this:


 “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.
And God keeps his word. Paul proclaims the name of the Lord wherever he goes! Even locked up!  Confident not just in his God but in what he is there to do.
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So, what has God called you to do ? 
If we step into what God is calling us to do, we can be confident in him. That no matter what, he is beside us, every step. We can have the same confidence that Paul had.
I am involved with a charity in Haiti called Hope House, which has an orphanage and a school for the poorest of Haitian kids. Life is hard for them, and they rely on God for everything, literally everything. But the leaders out there have an amazing confidence and trust in him, because they know they are there to do what he has called them to do. And when there is hardship – which there is often, they trust in him all the more.
One of the trustees from the charity goes out each year and the area they are in is very dangerous and people have been kidnapped before. But her view is that if you are where God wants you, then it’s the safest place in the world. In fact last year when they went out, their pick up was late and they had to stand outside the airport for an hour and wait. Now this is a place where white people have been kidnapped before and in fact the foreign office had advised people not to travel. They were waiting outside the airport, two unaccompanied white women, and a man came up to them and said to them: “Do not be afraid, Haiti is your land”. Although he didn’t recognize them it turned out this man knew Yvrose who runs Hope House and was the same man who had picked them up in previous years. They were subsequently picked up and later found out that 2 white Americans had been murdered on the very spot in which they stood just the week before.
But they had felt completely safe. And as a result they have come back and shared that situation with many who don’t know the Lord. That even in one of the most dangerous places in the world, God has protected them. They believed, trusted and shared.
So you see if we are where God wants us to be, in whatever circumstances we can have confidence in the one we believe in.
Believe in him, trust in him  and share him


Paul goes on to say that often quoted scripture:
‘for to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’.
It’s like he’s saying, I have such confidence in my God that whether I live or die, it doesn’t matter. He goes on, ‘if I stay on this earth, I get to continue the good work, but hey if I don’t, I get to be with him in heaven.
Message translation is brilliant here: Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose…
There is such freedom in that sentiment. I mean if he can live in a way that says life’s circumstances will not divert me from this truth, this trust, this confidence in God, then what can man do to me?
In 2 Cor 4:8
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.

It reminds me of the film Braveheart – I’m sure many of you have seen it. That famous speech where Mel Gibson – William Wallace is rallying his army, where defeat is likely. He says to his troops, you are freemen and the famous line:
they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!"


That’s what we need to say in the face of life’s circumstances, when the chips are down, when the enemy would have us in chains – whatever it may be for you, for some addiction, for some unforgiveness, for some anger, whatever it is, we need to stand and declare that Freedom that we have in Christ…

We are free! That’s the truth the Jesus gives us – if we believe in him, if we trust in him, then with confidence we can share all that he has done for us, and say ‘you cannot take my freedom’…

Listen no one ever said following Christ would make life easy and it certainly isn’t for Paul – Acts 9.15 – he will suffer… when God calls him carry his name to the gentiles, he also says, I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.

That isn’t to say that we will all suffer greatly for the name of Jesus, but the point is that here Paul, despite knowing that his suffering is part of his calling, still rejoices in confidence that the gospel is preached.

Can we rejoice in confidence in all life’s situations?

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I sometimes think that the gospel is a bit like a James Bond movie – and don’t shoot me for heresy yet, let me explain. In the movies, in every one I think, at some point the villain always has James Bond captured, tied up, hanging over a pool of sharks or with a laser pointed at him, or a bomb strapped to him or some other ridiculous method of killing him. The end seems imminent, the villain has won. And yet without fail in the nick of time James Bond escapes. It’s a volta face isn’t it? Where the enemy or villain thinks he’s won the day, when the opposite is true. Just as I’m sure the enemy must have thought that Paul being in prison would be a triumph, to stop him sharing the gospel, but actually it is turned on its head completely…
In the message version Paul this:
I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered.
 It’s the opposite effect! The enemy is defeated! The victory is won.
And we have to remember that. Even in life’s trials, however big or however small, that the victory is won! We can have amazing confidence in the one who has won that battle for each and every one of us.
Freedom!
Victory!
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So what does this mean for us here? What is Paul saying for us?
I know for some the thought of sharing ones faith openly is a big deal, the word evangelism strikes fear into your hearts! But it can so simple. We are all called to share the gospel, but we are not all called to be out on the street corner sharing it or be in prison for our faith…  So for example
Do your friends know you are a Christian? Do people know you go to church?
When a colleague asks you about what you did at the weekend – do you say ‘well I went to church’. Or I played in the band at church, or I served by making coffee at church… Sometimes it’s those things that plant seeds that means people know where to come when they want to know more.
I want to tell you about a friend of mine who some years ago sent me a text saying that her dad was very ill in hospital. We had only really just come to true faith. I wanted to reply and send her some words of encouragement and I remember sitting there for ages thinking do I say 'I’ll be praying for you', or do I say 'I’ll be thinking of you'… I literally spent 10 minutes deciding on that one word! In the end I thought, well I will be praying so I will tell her. As a result she responded that she really appreciated it. Sadly he died but subsequently we had many conversations, I told her about my testimony, how we came to know Jesus and the long and the short is that she ended up doing an Alpha course and came to know Jesus. All that came from one word in a text! Now most of you know that I am really open about my faith now, and my friends know that I am training for ministry and that often results in conversations about big issues and what I believe and so on. But back then, it took a lot of courage to put that one word – praying – in a text. And look at the results! Sometimes that’s all it takes!
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So I want to challenge you this week to be courageous, believe, trust and share. You don’t have to run into your office yelling about Jesus, but a little word, or reveal that you go to church. It doesn’t have to be difficult.
For some of you, it’s not hard to share your faith, so I challenge you to ask God to reveal someone to you who needs to know about Jesus, or who needs to hear your story.
For all of you, ask God for opportunities to share the gospel in your own way.
Above all we believe in the most amazing God, we can totally and truly trust in him and if we can trust in him in all circumstances then we can trust him to show us how to share the gospel in a way that works for us.
So believe – ask God for an opportunity. TRUST – trust that he will equip you – and then go for it! SHARE what God has done for you.

Believe, trust, share…

Finish with quote:
French philosopher and writer: Albert Camus. He was not a Christian and not all than fond of religion either, but in true volta face fashion I offer it because God can use all things for his purposes! He said:
In the midst of winter I finally learned there was in me an invincible summer,

And in each of us there is an invincible summer – in any cicrumstances, even the midst of winter, an invincible light – so go, Let it shine!

Believe, trust, share...

Amen

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Sharing some love...


Before Christmas I was involved in the 'Share the Hope' project, a sort of Advent Calendar with a difference. People signed up to get an email each day or see the posts via Facebook & Twitter. Each post had a bit of the Christmas story, from scripture and a reflection on the theme of Hope, which were given by a host of different people. Anyway we're looking at repeating it this year, but I thought it would be good to do the odd post throughout the year to keep people thinking. So this week, the theme is Share the Love - as it's Valentines Day obviously! I thought I'd repost it here - there's lots of challenges you can do to share some love this week and it's certainly got us thinking. 

 

Today we left a gift of a bunch of flowers for a stranger to find. We sat in a coffee shop looking for a suitable place to hide them without being seen, eventually we decided the bus stop was a good place, and it wasn't long before someone picked them up. We left a note and inside wrote a card explaining why they were there… I hope someone was blessed by them.

If you decide to do any of our 'Valentine's Shares', I'd love to know how you got on...

'Loving Your Neighbour' - a Valentine's Reflection
 

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped your notice that the shops are full of pink and red again, the price of flowers has gone up and the local garage has got slightly old chocolates at half price. Yes, Valentine's day is just around the corner, so this week we thought we'd send you a little reflection on love.
Valentine's Day - the season of luuurrvvveeee… or not, as the case may be. Whether you are a big romantic and like nothing better than stocking up on all the heart shaped tat you can find, or you’re a 'bah-humbug, it’s just a commercial nightmare' type then here’s something to think about as Valentine's Day draws near…
So, what is love really all about?  The bible tells us that  ‘God is Love’ and Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to love God, the second to love your neighbour as yourself. So this week we are encouraging you to think about what ‘loving your neighbour’ means to you.  It doesn’t have to be the man 2 doors down, more, just your fellow human beings. So whilst that might be your actual next door neighbour, it could also be the chap who gets the same train as you each day, or the woman you sometimes see in the library, or perhaps it’s the person behind the till at Tesco, or the group of people sat on the park bench with their special brew. These are all our neighbours. How often do we consider these neighbours, on the fringes of our lives? How often do we walk past someone in need without a second thought?
So this Valentine's Day we want to encourage you to get sharing again. This time we're suggesting you share some love (and a bit of hope too!) with your neighbour. What can you do to brighten someone else’s door and show some love this Valentine's Day?
We've put together a list of 14 suggestions below (or you can come up with your own brilliant ideas) and the challenge is to do as many as you can before the end of Friday. And we’d love to hear how you got on, so do email, Facebook or tweet us!


1. If  you are a regular commuter or train user, offer your seat (if you’re lucky enough to get one!) to someone else.
2. Buy a bunch of flowers and leave them somewhere anonymously with a note, for the first person to find them (you can tweet/FB us a photo with #sharethehope if you want to give a clue as where they can be found).
3. Give a compliment to a stranger - you might just makes someone's day!
4. Leave a nice cheery note for the milkman/postman/window cleaner (or all of them!)
5. Make a cake for your colleagues at work (or buy them - if you can’t cook that’s no excuse!)
6. Write a thank you letter to someone who has inspired you in your life - perhaps an old teacher, friend or colleague, I am sure they would love to hear how you appreciated them
7. Invite someone who you know will not enjoy Valentine's Day round for a bite or a cuppa and a chat
8. Offer a hug to someone who needs it 
9. Share a bag of sweets with someone you don’t know - you might make  a new friend!
10. Visit someone who is housebound
11. Text/Tweet or Facebook a friend to tell them you value them
12. Take a gift round to an 'actual' neighbour and say hello. If you’ve never met your neighbours, now is the chance!
13. Say hello to the person at the bus stop and ask them how they are doing.
14. Greet the first 5 people you see on your way to work with a cheery ‘hello, good morning’.