Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Park And Pride

I am not one for using public transport, it's usually less reliable and more expensive; but for my weekly trips into college I have overcome my dislike of, well, mixing with the public and have taken to using the 'park and ride' facility. 

However, after last weeks experience I wasn't sure if this was the right thing for me to be doing. I got on, and as I am carrying a decent sized 'satchel' and laptop I plonked them on the seat by the window and sat next to them.  I should point out the bus was barely occupied, I'm not completely uninitiated in 'bus etiquette' and was well aware that should the bus become full I would have to budge up and.......heaven forbid, sit next to someone.
Imagine then my reaction to an overheard conversation, that is the one thing I do like, the opportunity to eaves drop. I heard one man tell of purchases of over 20 t-shirts! 'They were only £1, well who wouldn't?' who wouldn't indeed? I thought, but said nothing. I am discovering that unless people are travelling together no one talks on the bus, which I like; I don't want to sit next to strangers let alone talk to them!
But it wasn't that I overheard which shocked me.  As I said, I was sat on the fairly empty bus next to my bags when I overheard a lady behind me say loudly to her friend " someone there's taking up two seats!"  I was incensed for I assumed it was me she was referring to, I looked around to double check, yep, definitely plenty of free seats still, I am not being selfish or thoughtless!  I did everything in my power to prevent my head from spinning around and glaring at her and asking if she was looking for an extra seat and would she like me to vacate mine? I refrained and played oblivious looking out of the window and occasionally at my phone, how very dare she! I couldn't help doubting myself though and wondering if I'd got the whole 'bus' thing wrong? Are you supposed to sit by the window leaving the adjacent seat free?
In our Sunday services at church we have been following the 'fruitfulness on the frontline' series, looking at how we can live out our Christian faith in our everyday lives, at work, school, with friends, at the shops etc. particularly how we show our faith in our actions to our non-Christian colleagues, friends and people we meet.  Each week on my drive to the park and ride I pray that if I can show God's love in any way either on the bus or on my short walk through town to college that my eyes and heart will be open and that I will see the opportunity.

After last weeks fail, today I thought I'd play by the rules, I got on the bus and it was a little busier than it's been before but still enough seats for everyone, I dutifully placed my satchel and laptop between my feet and sat at the seat near the window leaving the seat next to me free.

I watched as each passenger made their way towards me, then it happened; she sat next to me.  Don't panic I thought, it's only a short ride, just be polite it'll be over before you know it.  I felt hemmed in, I was by the window and had a person between me and the aisle, my exits were blocked this wasn't good.  In the past I have suffered from anxiety and although I am fine now part of me still needs that security of having an escape route, which is one of the reasons I don't like public transport because it leaves me in the hands of someone else, I have no control of when or where we stop, how fast we go, who travels with me. 

I looked at my travel partner and smiled, "good morning", this appeared to shock her; remember people don't talk to each other on the bus unless they're travelling together.  She smiled and greeted me back, an awkward minute or so passed while I guess we both wondered where this new relationship was going to take us, then she kicked it off with a query about the varying stops into town, buses are noisy things and I struggled to hear her quiet voice but I think she told me she was travelling in to the hospital each week to see her husband, here's my 'in' I thought, I'll tell her I'm at college at the church, she'll see what a lovely person I am and ask a bit about it, I'll explain she really should 'know Jesus' and hey presto, one more for the Kingdom!

Well as it happened God had put me next to another Christian! We had a lovely old chat about our 'church' backgrounds and whiled away the ride discussing all sorts of theology and doctrine, then before we new it our 10 minutes were up and we had reached town!  We exchanged names as we parted and I felt good about having shared my seat with someone, and even though Carol was already a Christian, maybe the earwiggers behind us might have heard something of interest in our conversation!

This evening, with my new found 'bus buddy' confidence I thought I'd make my seat available again, and it worked a second time! I got sat next to, I smiled a cheery 'hello' and sat and waited for the conversation to flow.....and waited.....

See, the thing is, Carol started the conversation this morning and that is where I fall flat; I'm no good at small talk, I just didn't know where to start so I spent the bus ride back feeling incredibly awkward and uncomfortable while I read the man in fronts Facebook posts over his shoulder - he also had a nasty cut on his head, I wonder how he did that?

I hope I see Carol again next week, I'll be praying for her and her husband if I heard right that he's in hospital.....

Friday, 18 September 2015

Who'd Have Thought It? Me? A Student!

When I started this blog the tag line said something like.....

"I'm not Theologically trained, but I've read some books and listened to the odd podcast......"

I was coming towards the end of a messy period in my life spiritually and mentally, and was always searching online for answers; some of which I found among blogs I still follow today and which inspired me to start this one.

However, my searching over the last few years has now led me to a place where next week I start a BA in Theology and Mission, so all being well in three years time I will be able to say 'I'm Theologically trained!'

It's funny how God calls us and directs us to things we feel very unqualified for.  Having pretty much flunked my GCSEs 20 odd years ago, it never once occurred to me I could go into higher education.  Growing up my experience of church and Christianity couldn't have been more dull and meaningless, yet here I am looking to learn how to grow Gods Kingdom and reach out missionally to my community!

Change is good, but there have been ups and downs along the way as we adjusted as a family to help me make this transition from self employed to student. Little things like 'who's going to make dinner?' To bigger things like 'can we survive on a student loan?' But already in the journey I have known Gods hand in the details and His answer to prayer constantly. So when I have my meltdowns of doubt wondering what on earth I have done, I remind myself that this is Gods plan for me and I am following His lead so although I may feel I'm out of my depth, I know I'm not following something I decided on a whim, I am answering Gods call to step out in faith and trust that He knows I can do it even if I don't!

One of the verses that has stuck with me from before I went to my first open day earlier in the year is:

Judges 6:14
The Lord turned to him and said "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand.  Am I not sending you?"

Gideon felt unqualified and weak and made excuses.  And I too have felt like that many times, but I know it is God who is sending me and therefore I have to trust that God can use me with the strength and knowledge I have, even if I don't feel it's enough, God does!

So as I embark on this journey of lie-ins, daytime tv..... ahem, I mean study, I am praying that God will open my heart and mind, that I will meet some wonderful people, that I will be involved in growing my home church and that my student discount card will be accepted in Costa. Amen.

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!

Friday, 8 May 2015

What Do We Want? A New Voting System!

The country has awoken in uproar (well, mild grumbling) at the electing of a Conservative government - which is odd, because apparently we elected them!

Maybe I should've kept the views I was brought up with and that is 'Christians shouldn't vote' but I didn't, I got involved, I went to the hustings, I emailed candidates, I watched the Trews, and because I invested, I am now upset that the vote I cast wasn't a winning one.

But where are the jubilant voters who have done this to our Country? Not surprisingly, today on Facebook and Twitter a lot of people are upset, in fact I have only come across two voters who are happy with the result: Katy Hopkins, the lady who says drowning people (immigrants) are cockroaches, and a farcebook friend who works in education - unfathomable!  Everyone else who voted Tory is keeping their head well and truly below the parapet.

Of course if my vote had been a winning one, (which it never could be in my constituancy) many others would now be feeling upset and let down by the system, you can't please all of the people all of the time, only some of the people some of the time. (Who said that?)

I went to bed last night praying for change, hoping to wake to something new & exciting, a fresh start....turns out it's still Friday & I have to go to Asda.  Which, incidentally was a lot quieter than usual, perhaps their clientele have assessed the situation and taken their custom to Aldi, which is marginally preferable to a Food bank.

But enough of the doom and gloom, as Christians now, if this was not the result we wanted, we need to rise above it with prayer and petition, with responding to need as we see it, and being thankful that we have a voting system, albeit a pants one.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Noah 8 Track Experiment

I came across a group that are looking at different ways of studying and reading the Bible by doing various experiments.  One that particularly attracted my attention was the 8 track experiment where you look at a Bible story and pick up to 8 music tracks to tell that story.

I thought I'd have a go at the story of Noah, mainly because I know the story well and thought it would be a simple one to start with.  I went about it by picking songs I thought were suitable based on what I already knew, it soon became apparent as I read the story that I had ingrained interpretations that weren't necessarily accurate, and so some of my song choices had to go!

Here's my playlist! Why not take part yourself, it was good fun if you're into music, and it definitely makes you think about what you're reading while you're picking the music!


Thursday, 5 March 2015

Throwback Thursday: A Post From The Past

Today's post from the past is a book review in honour of World Book Day.  I chose this review in light of the recent retraction from Alex Malarkey about his trip to Heaven, and because Colton's story was made into a film last year. This post was initially written on 14/12/2011 

Colton Burpo is not quite four, when he has an emergency appendectomy.  In the months that follow, he starts to tell his parents about how while he was being operated on he was in Heaven with Jesus, and the Angels sang to him.
If you are a non-believer you could probably say this is a clever book of fiction by a Pastor with Biblical knowledge.

I am a Christian and I believe Heaven is for real, but I don't know why I find it hard to accept that Jesus would let a child visit Him in Heaven and tell us of his experiences.  It's not that I disbelieved Colton's story, I just suppose it's so supernatural it's hard to get your head around - imagine how his parents coped as he casually told them about meeting his mis-carried sister!

The story naturally unravels without coming across as overly sentimental or cheesy.

Colton's Pastor dad backs up his accounts with scripture references, and the end of book poses questions to make you think further beyond what you have read.

Heaven is for real? Yes it is. 

Did Colton Burpo visit Heaven? Why not?

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.