Thursday, 26 February 2015

Throwback Thursday: A Post From The Past

A post about my first experience as a leader on a youth weekend; I've been true to my word at the end and am repeating the experience! This was posted in Feb 2013

I've just returned from my first weekend away as a youth group leader, I use the term 'leader' loosely because I'm not sure I always lead in the right direction, and am often accused by the kids of being a bigger kid than them!

Although I grew up in Christian surroundings I wasn't one of those kids who lived for the camps - in fact the only two I remember going on as a kid didn't leave me with great memories, I came home from one infested with head-lice, and the other one I spent a whole day in tears and didn't really know why!

Funnily enough it was to be at the same place I spent a week and a tear soaked day as a child, that we were to return to with the youth group from our church, so I wasn't sure what emotions it might evoke. 

We went across to Woodcroft Christian Centre which is only about 30 mins drive from where we are, which is a bonus for whoever has to drive the minibus, because listening to the onslaught of vocal renditions ranging from S Club 7 to Queen, or various entire Monty Python sketches being recited word for word by a large group of teenagers is a lot to ask of anyone; so top tip for booking a youth weekend away......go local!

The theme for the weekend was 'trust' and we covered all angles, from trusting God and our faith to trusting peoples advice, and of course how we recover from broken trust. 

I hope and pray the kids got something out of it, I think they did, we'll find out more over the coming weeks in our group together.  But I know I got something out of it.  My slot was to cover trusting God, and in my preparation I was reminded of a verse I had come to a long time ago while praying during a desperate situation:

Psalm 28:7(NIV)

The Lord is my strength and my shield,

my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.

My heart leaps for joy,

    and with my song I praise him.

It was so good to be reminded of this verse again and find the trust in God that I needed to for my present situation.
Aside from worship and talks and a couple of workshops, there was time for the kids to have one to one talks with leaders. I don't know if as a teenager I would've opened up to an adult about certain situations, but I know as an adult I wish I had, so I think it's great that we can build those relationships and provide the environment for them to talk - only if they wanted to of course, it was all very relaxed.
Both nights two other leaders and myself stayed up till 1am for 'late night chat'. The first night was great, a few testimonies were shared which was very moving and I feel privileged to have heard them, and some theological questions asked, and it was wonderful to see just how seriously these youngsters take their understanding of the Bible and they want to talk and ask their peers their understanding of certain texts.
Night two and we thought we'd try and spice it up a bit by allowing an anonymous questions bag, improvisationaly provided in the form of a wash bag and some post it notes! I'm not sure who managed to lower the tone more - the kids or the leaders; the best question was.....oops no, sorry, what gets said in 'late night chat' stays in 'late night chat', the weekend was based on 'trust' after all!
We finished up the weekend with Christmas dinner and Secret Santa gifts (I know, it's February, don't ask!) and I have to say I was more than chuffed with my gift, I don't know who it was from, but it was a book I have wanted for a little while now, Heaven: It's not the end of the world by David Lawrence (maybe I'll get him to sign it next time he speaks at our church!)

So, I survived my first weekend away with 18 teenagers as a leader! Would I go again? Definitely!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Fun Weekend Ahead!

I have an extremely exciting weekend coming up, and I'm actually really buzzing for it!

It's our church youth weekend away; we're taking 15 teenagers and 6 leaders, and we're
going to be looking at the life of Joseph; the one with the coat, not the carpenter.

This will be my 3rd year doing this trip, but I don't know why this year I'm so up for it?  Maybe it's because I think we've got a good subject, maybe because my daughter is one of the kids coming, maybe I've just grown more into the role of a youth leader and am feeling more comfortable in taking part in these things? Who knows?

The talk I've been tasked with is 'temptation', looking at how Potiphars wife attempted to seduce Joseph.  Other talks will be looking at families, the pits, power, forgiveness and redemption.

Our weekend will typically be full of teaching but plenty of fun, we do a murder mystery, which this year is written around the 'X Factor', I'm really hoping Mel B gets it!  At the moment all the kids are really into the Jimmy Fallon lip sync battles, so I'm sure there'll be some of that going on, late night chats where we can go deep into the meaning of life the universe and everything, or we can just throw Doritos at each other whilst playing mafia, and why not?  

There's bound to be a game of Ninja; this is a game I just cannot get into, I have no idea who's s'posed to be slapping who, or who's turn it is, so I always refuse to play, which doesn't always go down to well with our Youth Pastor!

Of course there will also be the tracking down of who has smuggled in contraband alcohol and where can I get some? And that's just from the leaders dorms. #jokingnotjoking.

All in all, I'm praying that the weekend will be a huge blessing to all involved, and that we come away with a deeper understanding of God and who he is to all of us, and how by looking at the lives of characters like Joseph from thousands of years ago there is so much to apply to our lives today, thousands of years on!

Friday, 20 February 2015

Junk Food Kids: Who's To Blame?

I caught up with an extremely disturbing programme today which was on Chanel 4 last night, Junk Food Kids. It wasn't billed as being about child abuse, but I strongly feel it was, and that the appropriate authorities should be stepping in and dealing with the perpetrators; namely the parent/carers, or better still educating them on how to care for their children before they reach this sorry state, because clearly they have no clue!

Mum of four year old Tallulah, allows her to eat pretty much whatever she likes, "because it's easier" she felt no guilt at missing an appointment at a dental clinic to educate her on how to brush her daughters teeth, because "who needs to be shown how to brush their teeth in circles, she doesn't want to brush her teeth when she could be watching TV"!

It's not often I shout at the TV, well, not that often, but my heart was breaking for these kids, who were being badly let down and ending up in surgery having almost all of their milk teeth removed!

The professionals were laying the blame firmly with the parents, albeit not to their faces, but lets face it, a four year old is not responsible for the weekly shop, and although she may accompany Mum, she shouldn't ultimately dictate what goes in the trolley.  Sadly the Mum kept trotting out lines like, "you do it for a quiet life" and "it's easier to just let her have it".

Yes, yes it is easier to opt for the quiet life and pander to your child's every whim, but don't you want better for them than a life of obesity, and laying on an operating table at the age of 4?

Apparently this is child abuse:                                         But this isn't: 
Maybe the child that turns up with bruises, acquired them because Mum wanted 'the easy life', because the threat of a smack keeps that child quiet in much the same way that a bag of sweets keeps another child quiet. And if the beaten child needed surgery because of those injuries there would be uproar; neglect, abuse, we would shout, social services would be in and there would be all sorts of questions to answer.  The same with a malnourished child, that would be completely wrong and professionals such as teachers or nursery workers are aware of looking for signs of malnutrition, physical abuse or neglect etc.

So how do we live in a Country where it is ok to overfeed your child? When does an obese child become a victim of abuse?

Should there be more restrictions on food and fast food?  I'm partial to the odd McDonald's and I like a glass of Diet Coke so I don't necessarily want to see these banned, but how do we control the intake of such sugary goodness?
I am not a perfect parent, I have made many poor decisions, and I was mortified when one of my children needed a filling. We also eat our fair share of rubbish, because sometimes life's hectic and you do want to go for the quick fix. I also believe there are perfectly well looked after and loved children out there, who for one reason or another have needed dental surgery or are overweight, so to scream "I blame the parents!" helps no one.  But some of these parents do need to take responsibility for their lack of care towards their children, and somewhere it needs picking up that they need educating on how to properly do this.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Throwback Thursday: A Post From The Past

Thought I'd have a little fun and resurface an old post occasionally. This was originally written on 26/2/13.

We're half way through Lent now, and I've seen the usual facebook posts and heard from friends who are missing chocolate or caffeine or whatever it is they've given up.

I asked my husband if I should give up tea, to which he replied "no way, it'll be too hard......for me".  It's true I don't move from HQ (my bed) until I've had a cuppa, but I kind of thought the whole point of Lent was to forego the things we would miss, and at the point we're about to combust because we haven't had our sugar rush or caffeine fix or whatever it might be, we turn to God and spend that time in thankful prayer! 

I've never given anything up for Lent, so thought it would just be silly to start this year (I don't think God minds!)

But I heard an interesting Lent story this week about a man who had given up 'fear of people' for Lent! He had decided that throughout Lent, whatever he felt led by the Holy Spirit to do, he would step out and do it without fear!  My first thought was I'd get to day 40 and sheepishly glance upwards and wonder why I hadn't been asked to do anything!

One thing this guy did was to go to the cinema and see Les Mis, he really felt he had a message for the people who would be there and had been prompted by God to step out of his comfort zone and face his fears, so before the film started he announced to the audience, "this film is about forgiveness and redemption and if you want to know true forgiveness you really should meet Jesus!" Ballsy or what?!

It made me wonder if I'd missed a trick when I went to see Die-Hard, should I have perhaps stood in front of the whole cinema and announced "this film is about.......well who cares really, but there's a great car chase, lots of shoot outs and Bruce Willis dangles from a jeep which dangles from a helicopter, falls about 100 feet through many plate glass windows and lives! But if you want to know true eternal life, you have to meet with Jesus! Yippee ki yay!"

Monday, 16 February 2015

Do You 'Do' Lent?

Lent starts this week, and I confess, I have never given anything up for Lent. My daughter and her colleagues decided to draw foods out of a hat, and they would give up whichever food they drew. I don't think they actually put the food in the hat, it wouldn't be big enough for a start; actually I'm not sure they even had a hat?

One year I thought I might give up bread, but I forgot and bought myself a Greggs for lunch, and it was only the first day.  What sort of hopeless Christian am I? When I challenge myself to live without bread for 40 days and I can't even walk past a Greggs on day one?

I'll tell you what sort of Christian I am. One who is forgiven daily for saying the wrong things, behaving the wrong way and hurting the Lord I love. This is why I need a Saviour who can overcome temptation. If I'd been in the desert and was hungry and tired and Satan had said to me "tell these stones to become bread" If I had the power to do so, I'd have said, "don't mind if I do - in fact better than that, I've got a Greggs card, d'you fancy a Cajun chicken bap?"  Thank God that Jesus went through that temptation and was able to think straight, even though He was starving, and answer the Devil by saying "Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" He didn't need the quick fix of the 'food' the Devil was offering, He knew all He needed was provided for Him by God.

Of course there's nothing wrong with eating bread, even for Jesus I don't think it would've been wrong for him to eat, but he had gone into the desert to fast and the Devil was tempting Jesus with a short cut solution to his problem.

Often this is how temptation works, it's not something that's necessarily bad for us we end up being tempted with, perhaps just something at the wrong time for the wrong reasons.

Maybe that year I failed at giving up bread was because I hadn't really prepared myself, I hadn't set about it with the right mindset, it was just a fad thought that I'd give it a try because everyone seemed to be talking about what they were giving up, and I felt I might be missing out, so inevitably when the temptation arose, I didn't even give a seconds thought to the 'commitment' I'd made.

Do you do Lent? If I do it this year, I'm going to try to make sure I go into it with the right heartset, because I want to put more focus on God and not because I want to keep up with what others are doing, although I'm still not sure it's something I'll follow through on! Me, I'm all about the pancakes.


Wednesday, 24 December 2014

It's Just One Day

It's just one day, people the globe over are going mad buying in provisions that would last a small army a month, but just for one day.  It's not even substantial food, aside from a good roast dinner we are filling our fridges and cupboards with Pringles and pork pies, trifles and truffles, spending hundreds, only to realise by the day after boxing day there'll be nothing to cook for dinner, unless you count heating up a scotch egg and steaming some celery. All this food just for one day.

And the gift shopping, it can't be done in one trip. No, you have to keep returning, because despite having had 12 months to think about what to buy people, you're convinced that if you just leave it and return in a couple of days one of two things will have happened; either, you will have  become a present buying genius and will walk straight to your shop of choice, pick up the perfect gift that actually turns out to be priced lower than your budget and take it straight to a queue-less till, or..... the shops will have stopped selling over-priced tat, which clouds your judgement and sends you into the panic impulse buy of a 'potty putter', yes, the
gift every household needs, something to entertain you whilst on the loo.  What the designer of this magnificent gift hasn't taken into account, is that on this one day most household occupancy doubles, therefore so does the loo queue, and you have now sold me something that is going to encourage Uncle Fred to stay in the bathroom longer than required, while little nephew Jonny jumps up and down outside the door with his legs crossed, but no, he can't hold it, so while Fred's having the time of his life taking a dump whilst playing pitch and putt, I'm outside cleaning up wee and finding spare clothes and all because I thought I could complete my Christmas shopping in one day, for just one day.

And the relentless TV adverts that think they can sell us happiness, which, it appears comes in ice cream shaped like a champagne bottle or a toy penguin, depending on your persuasion. For just one day.

But what is this one day, that draws people in all over the world? From the strongest atheist to the most humble God botherer, we are all taking part in the preparation and stress and fun and for some sorrow that leads us to this one day. The day that in history can change your future. Jesus was born to bring a peace and hope to a world that without Him would be in a far worse state than it is in now, and for some of us that's hard to imagine as the world does seem pretty screwed up. But we know that through Him all things can be made new, even this mixed up imperfect planet and even more so ourselves.  Imagine if retailers and advertisers and shoppers all led to this one day with just one person in mind: Jesus. How different would the experience be? Quite incredible I think and probably very enjoyable! Knowing that you were going to hit the shops and be treated with the integrity and humility and love and patience and presence of Jesus, beautiful.

I pray you have a blessed and peaceful Christmas, filled with love and joy and hope that Jesus Christ our Saviour brings!

Friday, 10 October 2014

It's Good To Talk....Just Maybe Not To Me

Today is World Mental Health Day where many charities and organisations are trying to raise awareness of different mental health conditions and quash the stigmas that surround many of them.

It seems to me the recurring theme of advice surrounding mental health of a family or friend is 'have a conversation, ask them how they're doing, sit down with them with a cuppa' after all as the old BT ad used to say 'it's good to talk', I think they may have been on to something there......

Sometimes though it's not easy to talk, especially to those we are closest to; that's my experience anyway. We worry about what they might think of us, will we disappoint them, what if they can't take what I want to say? Maybe we blame those close to us for the way we are feeling, so in no way will we want to open up to them.

Looking back to when I was a teenager I think I felt that way, I learned to keep my feelings in and some things that I would've done good to talk about got bottled up and hidden away for years, the trouble with that is eventually they find a way out, no matter how well you think you've tidied them away and moved on with your life.

I suppose I may have started to think about this a bit when our children were younger, around the time you start imparting your wisdom to them and letting them know everything you think they need to know, whether they're interested or not. I said to each one of our four children the usual, "you know you can always tell me anything," and I always followed it with "but if you can't talk to me, it's okay for you to talk to someone else who you feel you can talk to." I know I was just stressing to them the importance of not bottling things up but recognising that I may not be the one they want to open up to, and that's okay; I won't be jealous, I won't feel offended, I will just be glad that they are talking to someone about what's on their mind.

I believe this could possibly the best advice I gave my children, they are now older and I know they have taken this on board and although I think our relationship and communication together is excellent, I also know that sometimes if they feel they need to they will find someone who isn't me, who isn't their Mum, to have a heat to heart with, and that's okay!

So on this World Mental Health Day, I would say yes, absolutely try to have a conversation with whoever you are concerned about, but also give your blessing for them to have that conversation with someone else if they want to.