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.