Thursday, 20 August 2015

My Love/Hate Relationship With Soul Survivor

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; as I sit here, clean, on a comfy chair, drinking a nice glass of Red, I am reflecting on my time at Soul Survivor week B.

Having got home and into bed at 2:45 am this morning, I am tired and weary from packing up tents in the rain and then having to unpack and dry them out again today, I think I've decided I love and hate Soul Survivor in equal measure:

I love worshipping and celebrating God with 9000 other people - I hate sharing showers and toilets with 9000 other people.

I love to sleep - I hate sleeping in a freezing cold tent on a pump bed.

I love staying up till 1:30am pretending to be sensible and in charge, whilst cracking up at what the kids are getting up to - I hate packing up and travelling home at 1:30am.

I love listening to inspiring, humorous, Spirit led, Bible teaching - I hate sitting on the floor to do so.

I love seeing the young people respond to the presence of Jesus - I hate seeing the pain some of them are carrying.

But, it is a real privilege to go on this journey of faith with them, some of them who have never been to church before, some who are really committed Christians - all of them grow and learn something about themselves before they leave.

The challenge now as part of a youth work team is how to keep that momentum of growth going? How to bring Soul Survivor style worship to our own church?  How to present our youth group sessions with the style and humour that Mike Pilavachi does?  Or maybe, the challenge is for them to realise that something as grand as that can't exactly be recreated in their church, but the worship team will have a darn good go at learning the new songs, and we won't be presenting our talks as Mike or Andy do, because we are not them but what we have to say if it's from God will be as valuable and relevant to them and they can still learn from it!

Ultimately I find it helps us bond, the kids naturally open up more as to how they see this Christian thing in a way that they don't generally do in a normal youth group session, they have a taste of the Holy Spirit and they want more and I want them to have more, because with it comes freedom and release from the rubbish that a lot of them are holding onto and every one of the young people that attend Soul Survivor deserve what God has promised them, a life worth living to the full.
 Will I go again? Of course I will, love wins doesn't it?

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Soul Survivor

This weekend I'm heading off to Soul Survivor as one of the leaders for our church youth group, plus some other teenagers who are tagging along with us.  Last year was my first time and as I arrived home and crawled through the front door at around 2am, lugging my baggage behind me, I tiredly voiced the words "never again" like some sort of half paralysed zombie who'd only just made it out alive from the apocalypse.

Yet, here I am, about to 'do it again', and I can't wait! So what's calling me back? The quagmire we pitch our tents in? The sanitary towel wallpapered shower blocks? The return journey home in the middle of the night?

As a Christian I had felt the presence of the Holy Spirit personally in my life before and seen it in others, but I hadn't been anywhere to witness the movement on a grand scale, and I must admit last year I was a bit apprehensive as to what would occur and how much of it would be real and how much would be teenage hype.  I'd heard the stories of the place erupting in hysterical laughter and people collapsing left, right and centre and it all seemed a bit weird and unnecessary to me.

So I started the week trying to stay very much in control and to not allow myself to be caught up in what was going on, but was just observing and taking it in and wondering if I would be able to resist if I felt myself being drawn in, I was also conscious of the fact I was there as a youth leader and felt I needed to be in control at all times to look after them!  I needn't have worried about remaining in control, I only needed to leave that to the Holy Spirit, yes there was laughter and tears and collapsing but it was in His control and being in the midst of it didn't feel weird at all, it was a privilege.

As each day goes by the momentum of the presence of the Holy Spirit just fills the place and you sing the songs with more feeling, you pray more earnestly and you believe more than you've ever believed before and by the end of the week no matter how much you've resisted, you find yourself surrendering to the power of the Holy Spirit and having the most amazing experience because of it!

So of course I want to go back! Who wouldn't want to see the power of Jesus move amongst His children like that?
Oh, and the worship is pretty cool too!

Monday, 27 July 2015

Guardians Of Ancora: Review

Premier Childrens Work magazine this month had an interesting article on a new game launched by Scripture Union.  It's called Guardians Of Ancora and is aimed at 8-11 yr olds, I thought it looked pretty cool but being in the wrong demographic I encouraged my 11 yr old daughter to download it onto her tablet and let me know what she thought.

Although we are a church going family and she attends Sunday School, she is not, how can I put this, a keen Biblical scholar.  There was an embarrassing episode a while back in church where she volunteered to go to the front and take part in a quiz, it became awkward when the quiz master started to get the congregation to shout up the answers to her while I slowly sunk down in my chair amazed at just how little she was able to to answer!  It was all taken in good humour though and a few heckles were thrown about how the Sunday School teachers were obviously not doing their job.

But there the point was perhaps made that if church going kids aren't taking in Bible stories, how on earth do we expect non-churched kids to have a clue who David was and why his story is important today?
And this is where Scripture Union did their research and hit upon designing a game that can be downloaded for free onto a tablet, to engage children from all walks of life and bring the Bible alive, whether they're church attendees or not, and Guardians of Ancora was the result.

I had actually forgotten I'd suggested it to my daughter and I honestly thought she'd be put off by it being Bible based, but after about a week she came up to me and said "that game you told me to download, it's actually pretty good!"  She even told me that she didn't know the story of Jesus filling Andrew and Peter's nets with fish and now she did! 

I mean, come on! Eleven years of Sunday School and they haven't covered that story?! Nearer to the truth it's probable they've told that story dozens of times but she just hadn't taken it in, we certainly are living in an era where children engage with the world differently, we are the immigrants and they are the natives of this digital age!

The game is in its infancy so could do with a few glitches tweaking, occasionally your character can get 'stuck' in the graphics and you have to exit and start again, and I personally found it almost impossible to get the timing of the characters jumps right, meaning it got very frustrating and repetitive, the advantage being you don't lose lives, so the jumps could be attempted until you crossed the gap or threw the tablet in frustration, whichever came soonest; but as my daughter pointed out, I struggled to play it because I'm not 11!

Having said that, the graphics are great, the story's easy to follow and there are lots of extras like quizzes, missions, audio stories and places for you to make your own notes and drawings which can be shared with other players or kept private.

Also at the moment there are only 2 playable quests, which she has now completed, hopefully the others will be unlocked soon or the game may lose momentum for its early players.

I think my daughter is looking forward to the next quest. (And I must admit, I am a little bit too!) 

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Prayer Course: Review

Pete Greig says in the opening session of The Prayer Course that after the six weeks we will be "better at hearing Gods voice, experiencing more of his prescence, have processed our dissapointments and struggles with prayer and will possibly even be witnessing more miracles having unlocked the power of prayer!"

Johnny Hughes responds with "I'm in!" and that was how I felt too!  Which Christian amongst us wouldn't want that?  Although I was uncertain it would 'work' for me so to speak.

Along with so many other Christians I have found prayer so difficult, sometimes boring and
even pointless; I have gone through phases of praying for everything to refusing to pray for anything, but I knew I had to get this prayer part of my life in some sort of order so I suggested to our home group that we followed The Prayer Course.

Taking the process of prayer step by step following the Lord's prayer as a guideline, it was an interesting, thought provoking and sometimes heart wrenching journey through adoration, petition, intercession, perseverence, listening and warfare.

I can honestly say that having completed the course about a month ago now and taken the time to let what I learned settle, I have had answeres to prayers that have been ongoing for many years, been able to sense Gods leading and presence in guiding me through some big life decisions I have been working with over the last year, and I have seen a miracle in our financial circumstances in that the life change I am undertaking means giving up my job and being funded by the government, the grant offer is the same amount as my wages!

I feel a lot more in touch with my prayer life now, there is more meaning and understanding behind it, I'm not just randomly waffling away to the thin air (well I kind of am, but I fully believe there's more than just thin air there!)

If you are part of a small group I would recommend it as a course to follow but I'm certain even as an individual you would get something out of watching the short video clips! 

Try it and let me know how you get on!

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Throwback Thursday - A Post From The Past

This post was first published on 26/3/13. Quite apt to choose it now as I will be blogging shortly on The Prayer Course that our homegroup have just completed.

It's often said God gives three answers to prayer - "yes", "no" or "wait".......we seem to be getting the bulk of the "no" answers at the moment and it really does make me think 'why am I even praying?' I thought I'd be really clever and prove my point by specifically not praying and then if what I would've prayed for went the right way - case proved - circumstantial!

Don't misunderstand me and think I am losing my faith, I completely know God is there and loves me and cares about what I need, but I am starting to think what happens to us in this life is very much down to our own control and circumstances, the thing is..........I can't not pray!

I have developed such a relationship that even if the answer is going to be "no" I still find peace in having had the conversation and I know I will look back at this period of time in the future and make sense of the "no's"!

So I still pray, but avoid the specific subject of our want/need at the moment! I know many of my friends are praying for the same thing for us so I leave it in their hands! Pressure!

I have found recently the easiest way for me to pray is to elaborate on the Lord's Prayer something like this:

"Father, you are the one true God,
the only God who deserves all my praise & worship.
I pray that your world will be filled with people who follow you,
& every day your work will be done.
Thank you for all you've provided & continue to provide for me & my family.
Please forgive me for the things I've said & done that've hurt you & others,
help me to think before I act & help me to forgive others who hurt me.
Help me to not be tempted by things that are not good for me
& keep me safe from things that can harm me.
In your son's precious name. Amen"

Why pray? Because Jesus taught us to, and whether we believe it or not and even when it seems like God's not there, He is, and He's listening and it'll all be alright in the end, and if it's not alright, it's not the end!

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Big Lunch and Benefits Street

I totally didn't go on the bouncy castle after church this morning, well not until I'd intimidated the little kids off of it first; I was only thinking of them I wouldn't have wanted to land on them.

Our church hosted a Big Lunch where we invited the families from the toddler group and coffee shop to join us, and after the service we had face painting, pool tournament, balloon modelling, loom bands and the aforementioned bouncy castle!

The idea behind it is to build community and for neighbours to get together with each other in their streets and share lunch together and bond I guess!  It's true not many neighbourhoods do this, I know in our street we had a shindig for the Queens jubilee as did most of the country, but aside from that I can probably count on one hand the times since then I've had a conversation with any of my neighbours.

This was highlighted to me last week as I watched the final episode of Benefits Street, seen by some as 'poverty porn', to me I saw people who cared about each other and looked out for one another and actually knew their neighbours and their needs.  None more so than Julie's friend Sue, who went door to door collecting loose change from the residents to pay for Santa and his reindeer to visit Kingston Road, and in particular Julie's severely disabled son Regan. Remember, this is Benefits Street, most of the people featured were unemployed, scraping money together to feed metres, but they were more than happy to donate to see Regan's dream realised, because they knew him and they cared.

It may be because they aren't rushing off to work each morning that they are able to forge these bonds, but I started to feel sad that in my street would I be aware of someone genuinely in need, and if I was would I do something about it?

It's somewhat easy to offer hospitality to the community from the security of our church and that's definitely a good thing to do, but how can we, if we live in a street where most head off to work daily, build a rapport with our neighbours in which we can understand their needs and offer that hospitality where needed?

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Trauma Of Pet Loss

What a traumatic weekend!  Which culminated this morning with all four of us hugging and crying while the worship team played "I'm desperate for you, I'm lost without you"...... I'm sure anyone standing nearby just assumed we'd been overcome by the Holy Spirit, but sadly, we were mourning the loss of our pet rabbit, Silk.  

Well, the kids were mourning the rabbit, I was mourning the £60 we'd spent at the vets on medicine that clearly hadn't worked!

Poor Silk, she lost her friend, our other pet rabbit Snowball, to a fox last Spring and since that tragic night I'd always felt worried Silk would meet the same fate.  

My husband came home from work on Friday night and chased a cat out of the garden and found her hiding, petrified, he brought her in and could immediately tell not only was she terrified but she was unwell and decided to summon me.

I was watching a film with our youngest two and thought it best we finish the film before we broke the news to them, it was going to be traumatic enough to discover their pet was dying, they didn't need the added trauma of delaying the climax of the film; some kids had been going into unused mine shafts looking for a ghoul who had kidnapped their friends and it was getting to the dark bit where we were sure the ghoul was going to grab one of the main characters and the tension was really building, we wanted to see this ghoul get got!

When we all got up Saturday morning we were amazed to see Silk was still fighting on but obviously not well and although we're not hugely sentimental 'pet people', neither are we heartless, we didn't want to just leave her to get worse and worse so off to the vets we went.

Apparently there was something wrong with her gut and she was in a lot of pain, so an injection for the pain, some medicine for her gut, and £60 thank you very much and she was given a 50/50 chance, turns out they weren't great odds.

Our daughters dutifully attempted to give her her medicine every half hour or so but on our last attempt, she went all floppy while my daughter was holding her, we turned her every way trying to find a heart beat, my daughter wondered how to do CPR and attempted a few chest pumps but we both agreed we weren't going anywhere near mouth to mouth. We both breathed a sigh of relief when we could feel a very faint beat, but it was short lived and she had gone.

Both girls were very brave and although teary, they held themselves together very well, gave her a last cuddle and then we buried her.

I thought they coped with losing their pet extremely well and I had been amazed at how composed they had kept themselves.....until this morning in church.  I'd said to my daughter before we left I was hoping for some really good worship, well we certainly got it because it was singing that song that opened the floodgates for all the emotions to come out!