Sharing Life at Uni

We were singing this song at church the other morning and it immediately reminded me of this video – a video that stirs my heart and bring tears to my eyes every time I watch it. And whilst singing I looked around and saw students getting alongside each other and praying together.

This was just one reminder of how much I love working with students.

University is front line stuff. You’re thrown into an environment where everyone is away from home; many for the first time. And you’re living, working, eating, drinking, socialising together. You can’t escape each other’s lives and the influence that those lives might have on you.

Maybe this is why Christian students are so quick to get alongside each other. To support each other, encourage each other and build each other up. To have those crazy nights indoors or even out under the stars when others are out drinking, to have those people to share those really quiet campus moments with on a Sunday morning on the way to church and to be with when you just feel like a complete failure and need the reminder of the hope and grace in Jesus.

There’s no other time in life when you’re living like this, so close to many different people.

I know coming to uni, meeting so many new people and in that becoming good friends with a lot of Christians my age that were really serious about their faith was a brand new experience and I think a pretty unique one in life too.

It was amazing to have other people around to build me up and point me to Jesus. I loved the prayer and worship times we had together and the endless deep conversations of many questions late into the night. And you can probably guess who was asking all the questions! It was great to truly do life with these people, through the so many ups and downs that uni throws at you.

I’m also really grateful for the closeness I felt we had as a year on my degree. Day after day, class after class, needing the support from each other through the emotional, physical and mental drain that you feel in a dance degree.

University is never boring. I had friends I could go to whenever, so many houses I could just walk into. I was never stuck for something or someone to call on.

Everyone helped me in some way and I just want to emphasise the influence and impact that an environment as special as this, with people living so close and truly sharing lives together can have.

I want to encourage the Christian students I know (and those I don’t) to see this uni experience as such an exciting opportunity! To share your lives with those friends that know Jesus, but also to share them just as much with those that don’t. There’s something special about seeing the full life of someone, what they love, what they struggle with, what makes them tick, what keeps them going. Why do they live the way that they do?

Don’t underestimate the effect you can have on others around by living differently and inviting people into that. Support each other as followers of Jesus, but don’t retreat into a ‘Christian bubble’, fully share your lives with many others around. You’ll be surprised of the impact you can have and actually how open people are when you’re so open with them!

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My Relay Year

For my last relay conference we had to do a 3 minute presentation on our year, I decided to write a poem, so here it is…

RELAY
What can I say?
A full 10 months condensed into 3 minutes of a day
The highlights
The lowlights
The bits in between
A bit of an up and down year it would seem.

But here I am looking back at it all
Knowing that it was God’s call
I’ve studied pretty hard
Learning so much doctrine
Thinking how great is grace and how deep is sin

I’ve met up with students
Ones that are all pretty keen
Building them up and together as a team
We point each other to Jesus
Looking into his word
From Genesis to John and the Holy Spirit as a bird

Falmouth events are always quite fun
Especially out on the beach sat in the sun
With endless free meals
Open mics and lunch bars
I feel equipped to make small talk with even people from Mars

The constant question of “Why does God kill?”
Through ‘text a’ events
With people looking at issues through a search on Google
That verse in 1 Samuel, Exodus, Joshua even
I can recite in my sleep a reason for wiping out a nation

I think one of the things I’m going to most miss
Is weekly supervision
Despite it’s challenges
That person that can see right to your core
Pushing things further when you don’t think there’s more
I’m incredibly grateful for those challenging times
Shaping you and moulding you, and something else that rhymes
I loved many hours spent in cafes
Chatting and studying and drinking lattes
I’ll miss my staff worker and how much she was there
Through questions and excitement and times I couldn’t bare.

Falmouth CU are such a great bunch
Some look up to me, some after me, some even cook me lunch
They want to share Jesus
And put on events
Making my life easier with no bribery attempts

I love deep conversations and questions and thoughts
And thinking through what Jesus says about arts and sports

I think that’s actually a big thing that I will take away
That there’s no subject where Jesus has nothing to say
He has dominion over the earth and the sky
Caring about everything from the lowest to the high
He came down into our filth
Bringing us hope and new life
He sets us free from our sins and trouble and strife

I’ve learnt a lot about God’s divinity
And obviously can go in depth on the doctrine of the trinity
The Father, Son and Holy Spirit in one
These amazing truths we’ve got to think on
We’re invited into the perfect family
Of overflowing love and life and full security
We’re covered by grace
By the blood of the lamb
And this I will take away when Relay is gone

These everlasting truths
I pray won’t leave my heart
That they’ll lift me and assure me on each day I start

And when I begin to think it’s something I’ve done
I’ll come back to the cross
And look at the Son.

Those Techie Guys

At most churches every week you see those tech guys in the corner/at the back/hidden away – you don’t really know what they do, you don’t hear any difference when they turn a knob or move a fader, you don’t realise that it has often meant turning up first, setting it all up, fighting with cables, thinking through a hundred different options of what could be wrong when something doesn’t work, line checking, sound checking, eq-ing each instrument, balancing the whole mix, trying to make the musicians happy as well as the pastor and the congregation and themselves (an impossible task btw) then probably being the last to leave after packing down all their work, when they’d maybe just about got happy with it. And with all this in mind and more, it’s no wonder people call it a thankless task. (Although I do have to say that I experience many thanks at my church!)

And even though there’s all these hidden tasks, I love it. And I think if you speak to most tech guys (getting over the fact that a lot of them do speak a different language) I think you’ll find they love it too.

There is something seriously satisfying about making an instrument sound exactly how you want it. Mixing instruments and vocals together to get just the right balance. And obviously, I have to admit, having the control to just mute everyone and everything if you so wished.

There’s something just really great about being part of creating an environment that people can worship in. Yeah people may often not notice what you’ve done, but that often means you’ve succeeded!

Looking round and seeing people worshipping and you being part of enabling that in the best way is amazing. Now I know you don’t need PA to worship God, he’ll meet with you wherever through whatever means but having gifted musicians to lead you in sung worship as a congregation is something special and PA really helps us to do that!

It lifts up the gifts of the musicians, lifts up the opportunity for others to be led by them and lifts up God himself by serving him and his church.

And all ‘jobs’ in the church can be seen like this, they’re all serving so worshipping God in that way but they’re also enabling and helping others to encounter God, which I think is one of the greatest privileges someone can have. Whether it’s putting the chairs out, serving tea and coffee, welcoming on the door, chatting with someone new, praying with someone, doing the visuals – (a massive enabler!) cleaning the toilets, directing people on a car park, picking up rubbish… The list is endless, they are all great forms of worship and all just as valuable in creating that environment for people to come into. And the fact that the list is endless is really exciting. There are endless ways to serve, which means there’s a place for absolutely everyone to worship God in that way and to add to the creation of the environment where people can come and spend time with God.

I do really enjoy serving and believe it or not I even enjoy coiling cables!

And what a picture of our God it is if we all serve him in whatever way we can. As we serve him, we serve the church, we serve one another – we put others before ourselves, just as the Father, Son and Spirit have eternally done. It’s an incredible picture of the outwardly loving God we serve.

And Jesus died for his church.  If it was worth dying for, surely it’s worth us putting some chairs out or picking up some rubbish for?

So get involved with your church, wherever you can. Join in this great opportunity to serve God and others in this way! And enjoy how you become a part of creating a great environment for people to come into. I know I love it and I’m sure you will too!

Changing the Channel

I’ve been looking at popculture for my elective study the past few months and thinking through it’s impact on us. It really is fascinating! We can’t live in the world without being exposed to and influenced by popculture in some way or another. Even if you shut yourself in a room with blank walls and never left, there is still a designer out there somewhere that designed that room…

In being more aware as to the place that popculture has in people’s lives and thinking how I approach and consume it in my own, thinking about how I can reflect on certain films and articles and stories and fashion etc, I’ve been trying to expand my range of what I watch and read. Trying to watch different films that I wouldn’t ordinarily pick up off the shelf.

But then I’ve been left thinking, how far do I go with this? What is ok to let myself be exposed to? And where do I draw the line and let myself walk away from a film when I am finding it actually not that nice to watch? We are so drawn in by stories and characters and get tied up in emotions and the lives of the people we are watching. I don’t know whether this applies more to females than males, but I regularly get shivers through my whole body when something amazing happens to someone in a film or tv programme, when they acheve something or reach for a dream or when someone’s life is transformed by a certain act. And on the other end of the spectrum I am sensitive to crime and murder and affairs and things that mess up people’s lives.

When watching new things, I’ve not always been able to watch them all the way through. For instance, the new series Fargo, I couldn’t even get through the first episode. Here was a story where one guy had practically made it seem to someone else that it was ok to kill someone, that they deserved it and he seemed to show no feelings from that murder at all. Three quarters of the way through, 3 murders later, I turned it off knowing I just couldn’t watch it anymore. I didn’t want to know what would happen next because I just couldn’t see it getting any better and I was distressed enough!

Also watching the film Arbitrage the other week, I had to fight the urge to not just walk out from it. I found it really difficult to watch and if I had been on my own would have turned it off. Certain issues I find really hard to continue watching. Yet it was great to discuss these with others afterwards and see how we felt differently towards what outcome we desired when watching the film and give our reasons for each.

I’ve been learning how to step back from something I have watched and think it through. What is the storyline? How does it bring people in? What themes in it did I struggle with? Did I get drawn in by characters that I don’t actually share moral ground with? Why? How? What felt right and what didn’t? And where does the gospel fit in this? How does a gospel perspective fit on this story? Film writers write films as they have something to say. They’re not to be approached as if they have no power or moral content, but approached knowing that there are many people and views and ideas behind the writing and making of the film.

However, even with being able to step back and think through these things, I think there’s still a line to be drawn between what you watch and don’t watch. And that line will be different for everyone.

Ted Turnau in his book Popologetics,talks about this and gives 3 very useful outlines for engaging with popular culture ‘without undermining spiritual purity and wounding our own consciences’.

1. Know your limits.

We each know our own heart and where we fall down. So don’t put temptation in your way, don’t watch the things that aren’t hepful to you, that hit you where you’re weak and could lead you astray.

2. Know what offends and degrades.

If something is just down right degrading then just walk away from it. As Ted Ternau puts it ‘It’s hard to be a child of the light if you allow yourself to get dragged into the dark.’

And we all have different standards of dark and light so we need to respect that, let’s not drag other people into darkness who don’t have as high a tolerance level.

3. Know the emotional price tag.

I found this the most interesting to think about. Even if something isn’t degrading in itself or doesn’t appear to be dark at first glance, if you watch many series of one thing, how much are you getting drawn into life through the eyes of a certain character that you have become attached to? It might not tempt or degrade but ‘it still carries an emotional core that can have a powerful impact.’

I’m sure it’s not just me that has become so absorbed in a character that their life on screen or in a book effects how you feel in your own life? I remember clearly when Dobby died in Harry Potter, I cried for hours. I couldn’t leave my room to face anyone as I felt genuine grief. I had to continue reading and finish the book, as at that time it felt like the only thing I could hold onto as part of Dobby’s life. And this was a house elf, not even a real person!

Ted Ternau again puts this really well ‘Living vicariously in someone else’s head and seeing through their eyes can be a profoundly moving experience, especially if it continues for hours.’

These 3 points have really helped me further think about engaging with popular culture. I’m still happy exposing myself to new things and have got better at letting myself be immersed but then stepping back afterwards. Yet, these 3 points have helped me one step further in knowing that it’s ok to not watch something at all or to turn something off part way through if I just can’t deal with it. I think I’d got to the point of thinking I should be able to look at anything when then stepping back and putting a gospel perspective on it, but actually I know the importance of still guarding my heart and my mind and not being worried to actually stick to my boundaries.

 

(I would really recomment Ted Ternau’s book Popologetics which you can get here!)

 

Scary Steps

I’ve been feeling pretty scared about finishing Relay and moving out of Falmouth recently. Definitely letting it stress me out too much. But when it comes to leaving practically everything you’ve known for the past 4 years, it’s not going to be easy.

Moving away from home and uni is always a growth time for anyone. (Although you definitely seem to go backwards at uni as you’re meant to be growing up! … The days of inventing the sport of rolling up hills definitely showed me that…)
It’s an enormous step into life and the world, whether that’s forward our backwards, and it feels absolutely ages ago that I took it.

So much has changed and it’s been a major time of growing in my faith and my understanding of who God is and my relationship with him and how that effects my life too. This is something I could not have anticipated as I was choosing uni. I definitely wasn’t at that point asking God where he wanted me, but I can say for sure now that Falmouth is where I was meant to be.

From starting uni, having experienced God but not really walking with him or fully understanding what it meant to know him, to being asked to be a Small Group leader (so finally picking up my bible) to then getting baptised, leading the CU for a year, going away with OM for 4 months as part of my degree and then staying to do Relay, I could never have anticipated the plans that God had for me.

As I look back there have been so many people placed in my life and so many opportunities that have lead me to where I am now. I am so grateful for the amount of people that have invested in me and helped me along.

And as I look forward, I can’t help but be scared. The unknown is scary. And even scarier knowing I’ll be away from everything and everyone that has helped me in my walk with God while I’ve known Him.

But actually it’s really comforting thinking back over the past 4 years seeing how one thing has lead to another and how I know in another 4 years I will be able to do the same. I could never have planned the last 4 years out!

I don’t know the next step and I don’t know where it will take me. But I know God has brought me this far and he’s not about to abandon me now. Other people might not be there, but He still is. Whether I’m in a big life transition or just walking down the street He’s with me every step of the way. (He’ll even carry me on those days I’m too frozen to take a step.)

I need to stop holding on to the fear that I’m stuck in right now. Need to give up denying that life is going to change. And embrace that just as Jesus had great plans for me these past 4 years, even greater plans are to come. Everything else may be changing but I can rest in the one who doesn’t change. The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end.

I can surrender all to Him, the one who knew me before I was born. The one who knows my paths and walks them with me.

And that’s not easy. I like to have control. I want to know what is next. But I know I can trust the one who created the whole universe and still cares about me. And, thankfully, He will help me in that.

Could you, would you, should you, leave your phone at home?

This video has gone viral over the past few days – showing the amount people are on social media. Totally backing up what it is about.

But if I leave my phone, on the shelf when I go out – who am I connected with? Who can I find is about? Gone have the days when we all arrange meet ups months in advance (and then stick to them).

I do think this video is worth a watch. I think it’s got some really great points. I’ve seen people sit in cafes on their phones not talking, I’ve been at station platforms with everyone glued to a screen. I’ve been what I feel ignored when I really want a proper conversation and I’ve probably done the same to others too. I am one of them people who pulls out my phone when I don’t know what to do.

Yet in this social media savvy world, aren’t you disconnecting yourself by turning your phone off?

It does scare me at times, thinking about the presence and place social media has. Why is it so prominent in so many people’s lives? What is it about it that draws us in? And keeps us in?

Yes it can take us away from the people we’re currently present with, but it can also bring us to them.

I’m really torn. I know theirs truths in this video, but I think smart phones and social media is life right now and rather than us switching them off, we need to learn how to do life with them well.

As I said, this video has gone viral over the last few days. And what does that show about the impact social media can have? Many people all over the world, coming together to watch one video. Conversations on and offline will and have come through it.

We’ll never be able to 100% weigh up the positive and negative effects of social media. But we can’t escape that this is the world. I’m glad people are thinking about it and that this video will have provoked a lot of people to do so. We need to be aware of the effect technology is having on us. We do need to step back and look at it.

And then we need to think, where can we go from here?

I doubt there will be many that will watch and share this video then delete their fb account…

Technology. Social media. Smart phones. They are life right now. So how do we best do life with them?

Home.

“Home is where the heart is…”

“Home… Where our story begins”

“Home sweet home”

What is home? Where is home? Why do we even want a place to call home?

 

I woke up this morning and the sudden realisation that today was the last time I will leave Falmouth knowing I am to return, hit me slap bang in the face.

And I sobbed my heart out.

I felt like a small child, crying and crying but not knowing what to do. The only thing I could do was cry out to God asking for help. I didn’t know what I needed help with, and still don’t. But I know I couldn’t continue to feel that way.

I hate transitions. Arriving in places is fine, I know I’ll be ok. But leaving places – that doesn’t get any easier.

Now it’s not like I’ve been jet setting around the world all my life. But in that past 4 years I’ve moved about a fair amount. And even if I hadn’t, I don’t think the university to home transition gets any easier.

You’re settled, completely absorbed in one life. Then suddenly uprooted, thrown into another life. And not really sure which one is real.

Of course they’re both real, as much as you try to convince yourself that they don’t continue without you, everything is still happening, but (obviously) you can’t be in two places at once.

But why do we have this craving of ‘home’?

I think for me, home is the place I can always go back to and be welcomed. My family, my church, my friends (no matter where in the world they are). The places where things will have changed but arms are still open wide.
Yet I think the inherent desire we have for home is something more than that.

As C.S Lewis says
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”

We do not belong to this earth. We are made for something – someone else.

‘But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Saviour’ (Philippians 3:20 NLT)

Our home is found in Jesus. In the promises that one day there will be no more tears or pain or longing. We will be back where we belong. It’s in Jesus I can find my refuge. I can rest in him. I can know that wherever I go, he is upholding me, he is leading the way. And if I stray away, he will always welcome me.

‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.’ (John 14:2-3 NIV)

Jesus is preparing an eternal home for those that are in him. A place where we can find ultimate rest. A place where we are completely, utterly and unconditionally loved. Where arms are always wide open. A place that we can forever call home.