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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Photo update - Graduation

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Gonna fix my eyes on Jesus and just keep a-walking

I've had serious pangs of what Jess and I have affectionately termed 'the fear' as regards Relay over the past couple days, more so than I ever have up until now! Mainly finances, and all the stuff I need/want to do before Relay starts.

Isn't it great how God reassures you just when you need it? Last night some friends gave me a donation from their church. Not from them, from their church! A church I've been to oh let me think, erm...twice! Once for their daughter's baptisms and once for their oldest daughter's 'commissioning service' before her year working for Careforce in London. I don't know them, but they want to give me money. I can't think about why or my head will explode. Pretty much like what happens when I try to understand grace.

And then later on in the evening as we retired from the garden into the warm house and dad and Jeff played away on piano and guitar, they played this song. I don't know the name of the writer, so my apologies for that. If you know please tell me! Anyway, it goes like this:

"Though I feel afraid of territory unknown,
I know that I can say that I do not stand alone.
For Jesus you have promised you presence in my heart;
I cannot see the ending, but it's here that I must start.

And all I know
is you have called me,
and that I will follow is all I can say.
I will go where you will send me
and your fire lights my way.

What lies across the waves may cause my heart to fear;
will I survive the day,
must I leave what's known and dear?
A ship that's in the harbour is still and safe from harm
But it was not meant to be there,
it was built for wind and storm."

How true is that?! I don't know what the coming year will bring. I don't know what the years after that will bring. But then, I didn't know what uni would bring and look how great that turned out to be.

I could ramble on for ages but the bottom line is that I don't need to know. I need to only remember (and make sure that I always) am following Jesus. I am simply going where He leads me and follow Him always. Because I can trust Him.

And then just now I was flicking through some of dad's songs and came across these words in one of them:

"Walking on the water is impossible to do
unless I look up from the waves and focus in on You.
Lord Jesus you are calling me to come and walk Your way
to leave the safety of my boat and follow You today."

So I need to day at a time, each day with my eyes fixed on Jesus. It's actually quite exciting. "Good morning, Lord. So what you got planned for me today then? Let's find out together!"


Church, sin, Relay, prayer, work, "evangelism", money/giving, grace...

All these things being pondered by my brain at the moment. Mainly church. Kinda. And for various reasons. Maybe I'll blog summat in a couple days.

But gonna talk to God about it first! ;-)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

God of everything

Heard this song last night. Lovin' it.
"God of the moon and stars,
God of the near and far,
God of the fragile hearts we are
I come to you.

God of our history,
God of the future that will be.
What will you make of me?
I come to you.

God of the meek and mild,
God of the reckless and the wild
I come to you.

God of our life and death,
God of our secrets, unconfessed,
God of our every living breath
I come to you.

God of the rich and poor,
God of the princess and the whore,
God of the ever open door
I come to you.

God of the unborn child,
God of the pure and undefiled,
God of the outcast and reviled
I come to you.

God of the war and peace,
God of the junkie and the priest,
God of the greatest and the least
I come to you.

God of the refugee,
God of the prisoner and the free,
God of my doubt and certainty
I come to you.

God of our joy and grief,
God of the lawyer and the thief,
God of our faith and unbelief
I come to you.

God of the wounds we bear,
God of the deepest dreams we share,
God of our unspoken prayer
I come to you.

God of a world that’s lost,
God of a lonely cross,
God who has come to us
we come to you."
Paul Field

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Cheesy but true

I've just finished the second coat of paint on our bathroom ceiling. Reckon it's gonna need a 3rd but I'm starting to get a bit of pain so I decided to leave it for the night, in gratitude to God for giving me the energy to do this much and in recognition of my new limits. Wow, I'm learning :-)

Anyway, please excuse the cheesiness that is about to follow but I couldn't help but share it.

I'd finished the first coat of paint (white) and stood back to survey my work (and my clothes!). It looked pretty good. And besides, I thought this was only the undercoat so hadn't bothered too much. Then mam told me no, actually she wanted the ceiling white, not some other colour like I thought. OK, thought I, seeing as it's ridiculously hot so the paint's drying quickly and despite the ridiculous heat I feel pretty good, I'll have a bash at another coat.

By this point the sun was getting lower and less light was coming in through the window so on went the bathroom light. And suddenly the results of my first attempt didn't look so grand. And even the second coat, with the light on - it just doesn't look finished.

Kinda got me thinking. Anyone else (who's not a professional!) probably woulda thought it looked ok too if they'd just glanced at it. But with the light on, when you examine that ceiling, it just doesn't cut it. Yet.

And I just don't cut it. Yet. I mean, I can paint over the smudges and the cracks...but just how many coats do I need to cover up my sin? An immeasurable amount!

Sure, I can pass for looking shiny and grand...I can look in the mirror and convince myself I'm ok, I can convince others, especially if they don't look that closely.

But when God shines His light on me all the imperfections show up. Nothing I have can cover up the sin in my heart. It permeates right through every coat I try to cover it up with. I can use some super paint too, like Christian jargon or legalism or doing stuff...but God's light, His Holy Spirit, is so unbelieveably bright that it cuts through them all like an xray.

But that's pretty cool. Coz, when I had the light on I could see all the imperfections. I could see which bits needed a bit more paint and I could see the bits I'd missed...and now that ceiling is on its way to looking good!

And wow how much do I want God to do that in me! I want Him to shine His light on my life, into my heart. I want him to root out the imperfections, and I want Him to paint over them by His Spirit, changing me bit by bit each day until one day, one glorious day, I'm perfect.

Jesus' blood is the super one-coat stuff (if I can put it like that) that covers up my sin. One stroke and it's gone. Hallelujah.

This could all have been expressed a lot more coherently, and for that you have my apologies. But I hope it makes some sense and I hope it conveys what I want it to. Didn't really think about it too much, just wrote. Sometimes that's the best way. Whatever, basically God is good, He has saved me, and He's changing me and perfecting me. Wow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Like I said, Jack Bauer for President

Ok maybe not but this is fun for all you 24 fans out there. (And this breaks it up from blogosphere Neighbours talk. As much as I love Neighbours. Although I think with 'Cam' on the scene it looks like some of the cast's days are numbered. Which makes it like 24. Kinda.)
Oh, and if you're not a fan of 24 then you should be. Jack said so.

The city of Los Angeles once named a street after Jack Bauer in gratitude for his saving the city several times. They had to rename it after people kept dying when they tried to cross the street. No one crosses Jack Bauer and lives.
Only Jack Bauer can fly a plane from the luggage compartment.
My husband doesn't wish he was Jack Bauer. He wishes I was Jack Bauer.
Passed out, surrounded by terrorists and nerve gas, and handcuffed to a table leg, Jack Bauer laughed to himself and said, "I have them right where I want them."
Jack Bauer doesn't need to eat, sleep, or use the bathroom because his organs are afraid of making him angry.
Going to China is all part of Jack Bauer's master plan to rid the world of Communism.
If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he'd shoot Nina twice.
Once, someone tried to tell Jack Bauer a "knock knock" joke. Jack Bauer found out who was there, who they worked for, and where the bomb was.
Jack Bauer is the only human in the world with the ability to make Chloe O'Brien drop the personality disorder and patch him through.
If everyone on "24" followed Jack Bauer's instructions, it would be called "12".
Jack Bauers calender goes from March 31st to April 2nd, no one fools Jack Bauer.
If Jack Bauer's gun jams, it's because he wanted to beat you with it.
Upon hearing that he was played by Kiefer Sutherland, Jack Bauer killed Sutherland. Jack Bauer gets played by no man.
There have been no terrorist attacks in United States since Jack Bauer has appeared on television.
Jack Bauer once forgot where he put his keys. He then spent the next half-hour torturing himself until he gave up the location of the keys.
The state of California plans to reduce violent crime by changing the method of capital punishment from lethal injection to Jack Bauer.
1.6 billion Chinese are angry with Jack Bauer. Sounds like a fair fight.
If you wake up in the morning, it's because Jack Bauer spared your life.
Superman wears Jack Bauer pajamas.
When Kim Bauer lost her virginity, Jack Bauer found it and put it back.
When life gave Jack Bauer lemons, he used them to kill terrorists. Jack Bauer hates lemonade.
If it tastes like chicken, looks like chicken, and feels like chicken, but Jack Bauer says its beef. Then it's beef.
A standard deck now contains 48 cards. Too many people were getting hurt for trying to play Jack.
Jack Bauer sleeps with a pillow under his gun.
Lets get one thing straight, the only reason you are conscious right now is because Jack Bauer does not feel like carrying you.
American Idol is only popular because it has a commercial for 24.
Jack Bauer played Russian Roulette with a fully loaded gun and won.
Jack Bauer could strangle you with a cordless phone.
It's no use crying over spilt milk... Unless that was Jack Bauer's milk. Oh you are so screwed.
Jack Bauer once won a game of Connect 4 in 3 moves.
Jack Bauer was never addicted to heroin. Heroin was addicted to Jack Bauer.
On a high school math test, Jack Bauer put down "Violence" as every one of the answers. He got an A+ on the test because Jack Bauer solves all his problems with Violence.
Jack Bauer is the leading cause of death in Middle Eastern men.
Jack Bauer set an ordinary flash memory card to self-destruct. Don't ask how he did it, he's Jack Bauer.
Jack doesn't believe in Murphy's Law, only Bauer's Law: "Whatever CAN go wrong, WILL be resolved in a period of 24 hours."
In order to control illegal immigration in the United States, the president installed cardboard cutouts of Jack Bauer along the US/Mexico border.
If Rosa Parks was in Jack Bauer's seat, she'd move to the back of the bus.
There is the right way, the wrong way, and the Jack Bauer way. It's basically the right way but faster and more deaths.
Killing Jack Bauer doesn't make him dead. It just makes him angry.
Tony was once shot in the neck, rushed to the hospital, underwent emergency surgery and was back on the job in just a few hours. Jack Bauer still can't believe that pussy went to the hospital first.
RIP Edgar If you see this give it a 10. Just cuz it's what Edgar would have wanted.
Superman's only weakness is Kryptonite. Jack Bauer laughs at Superman for having a weakness.
In 96 hours, Jack Bauer has killed 93 people and saved the world 4 times. What have you done with your life?
Jack Bauer doesn't miss. If he didn't hit you it's because he was shooting at another terrorist twelve miles away.
Jack Bauer doesn't have a firewall on his PC. He has a Bauerwall. It's basically just a JPEG of Jack Bauer. No virus has ever attacked Jack Bauer's PC. Ever.
Jack Bauer doesn't speak any foreign languages, but he can make any foreigner speak English in a matter of minutes.
The only reason the Chinese kept Jack alive is so that he could bring down the population.
Jack Bauer doesn't take fingerprints, he takes fingers.
When someone asks him how his day is going, Jack replies, "Previously, on 24..."
The truth may hurt, but it doesn't hurt as much as Jack Bauer.
Jack Bauer arm once wrestled Superman. The stipulations were the loser had to wear his underwear on the outside of his pants.
Osama bin Laden's recent proposal for truce is a direct result of him finding out that Jack Bauer is, in fact, still alive.
When Jack Bauer goes to the airport and the metal detector doesn't go off, security gives him a gun.
Jack Bauer's favorite color is severe terror alert red. His second favorite color is violet, but just because it sounds like violent.
Jack Bauer wasn't born, he was unleashed.
Don't ever ask Jack Bauer what is going on. He'll explain in the car.
Sun Tzu once wrote, "If your enemy is weaker, conquer him. If he is stronger, join him. If he is Jack Bauer, you're dead."
Simon Says should be renamed to Jack Bauer Says because if Jack Bauer says something then you better do it.
Never use the phrase, "I feel half dead," around Jack Bauer; he never leaves a job unfinished.
When Google can't find something, it asks Jack Bauer for help.
Every mathematical inequality officially ends with "< Jack Bauer".
Jack Bauer once killed so many terrorists that at one point, the #5 CIA Most Wanted fugitive was an 18-year-old teenager in Malaysia who downloaded the movie Dodgeball.
Don't beg Jack Bauer to shoot you. He will simply shoot your wife. No man tells Jack Bauer what to do.
In the 18 months where Jack Bauer was presumed dead, Tony Almeida was put in a coma, Michelle and David Palmer were killed, a major hurricane raveged the Gulf Coast, and Rob Schneider made another movie. See what happens when Bauer isn't around?
In high school Jack Bauer was voted "Most Likely to Kill the Foreign Kid"... and "Best Eyes."
Jack Bauer killed 93 people in just 4 days time. Wait, that is a real fact.
Jack Bauer teaches a course at Harvard entitled: "Time Management: Making the Most Out Of Each Day."
If you have the ability to read, thank a teacher. If you have the freedom to read, thank the veterans of WW2. If you're alive to read, thank Jack Bauer.
If Jack Bauer was in a room with Hitler, Stalin, and Nina Meyers, and he had a gun with 2 bullets, he'd shoot Stalin and Hitler so they wouldn't have to bear witness to what he'd do to Nina.
When President Palmer quit to start doing Allstate commercials, it took him 43 takes before he could stop saying, "You're in good hands with Jack Bauer".
You know Jack Bauer loves Audrey when he willingly gives up the opportunity to torture her.
There are three leading causes of death among terrorists. They are all Jack Bauer.
Jack Bauer was able to eliminate Bird Flu playing Duck Hunt.
If Jack Bauer saw a terrorist reaching for a bomb to blow himself up, Jack would shoot the bomb first. Nobody steals a kill from Jack Bauer.
Jack needed a well-earned holiday after season 5. Drugged, captured, beaten and tortured in a cargo hold surrounded by Chinese agents eager for revenge is just his preferred method of travel - otherwise he tends to get bored on long trips.
Let's face it, Jack's carrying bag makes Batman's utility belt look like a piece of rope.
When Jack Bauer was a child, he made his mother finish his vegetables.
When Batman is in trouble, he turns on the Jack Bauer signal.
People with amnesia still remember Jack Bauer.
Explosions do not kill Jack Bauer, they just get stuff out of his way.
Quetin Tarantino was asked to direct a biography about Jack Bauer. He passed. It was too violent.
Jack Bauer removed the "Escape" button from his keyboard. Jack Bauer never needs to escape.
Jack Bauer can get McDonald's breakfast after 10:30.
Chase Edmunds waited until he was sure Jack Bauer was dead before he dumped Kim.
Once Jack Bauer becomes governor of California, Mexico will have an immigration problem.
Jack Bauer is the 'i' in team.
It is a known fact that when Time magazine awards "The Man of Year*", there is fine print on the bottom of the cover that says, " *besides Jack Bauer."
When the boogie man goes to sleep, he checks his closet for Jack Bauer.
The answer is Jack Bauer, the question doesn't matter.
Due to Jack Bauer, no one looks forward to the weekend anymore, they look forward to the weekend being over, and watching 24 on Monday.
During the commercials, Jack Bauer calls the CSI detectives and solves their crimes.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Jack Bauer for President. And other thoughts.

I should be in bed and it's taking a lot of strength to muster some thoughts together but now I'm sat at the computer I'd better post something or it'll be at least another week before I do.

So last week I had Thursday and Friday off work because, basically, I just couldn't cope. Guess I'm not as well as I thought I was. Deep down I knew it but I never thought three days work would tire me out that much. And it's made me so tired even my motivation for blogging has been seriously lacking. Wow.

But praise God that I'm working for Christians and they're being supportive and helpful.

On Thursday, after three days of work, I just crashed. Had wanted to help mam and dad with the massive house/garden sort-out/redecorate that they're undertaking but, y'know, listen to your body and all that. So I watched I think the last 7 episodes of 24 Series 5. Yeah.

Friday - managed to potter around the house a bit and then went down to meet up with Tim in Cardiff. Good times. And then Hayley and James' wedding on Saturday. Driving through the thunderstorm was interesting. The look on Ben and Jonny's faces when I showed them my auntie's very nice car that I was driving was priceless. The wedding was beautiful. Kat's auntie and uncle (who we stayed with) were absolutely lovely. Her cousins were very cute. Driving through Kington Langley (where I spent many a summer day with family when little) was nostalgic. Lunch with family in Brecon on Sunday was nice. Playing with Analia in the park was exhausting but fun. And through it all, knowing God was with me (us) and that he loves me (us) and I am saved by grace and that living for Him is just the best way even in the hard times and tired times was keeping me going.

So now I'm back in work till Wednesday - I really can't manage a full week. Which is hard. And it's making me very scared about Relay and all I can think about is how much I'm not gonna be able to do that I want to do. But y'know, God is soveriegn. He loves me. That's enough.

"Yet I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever."
Psalm 73:23-26

I will lie down and sleep in peace.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ever felt like this?

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small

Cause when I take a look around
Everybody seems so strong
I know they'll soon discover
That I don't belong

So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
So with a painted grin, I play the part again
So everyone will see me the way that I see them

Are we happy plastic people
Under shiny plastic steeples
With walls around our weakness
And smiles to hide our pain
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone who's been there
Are there any hands to raise
Am I the only one who's traded
In the altar for a stage

The performance is convincing
And we know every line by heart
Only when no one is watching
Can we really fall apart

But would it set me free
If I dared to let you see
The truth behind the person
That you imagine me to be

Would your arms be open
Or would you walk away
Would the love of Jesus
Be enough to make you stay
But if the invitation's open
To every heart that has been broken
Maybe then we close the curtain on our stained glass masquerade

Is there anyone that fails
Is there anyone that falls
Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small
"Stained Glass Masquerade" - Casting Crowns

One of the great things about driving into work is getting to listen to quality Christian music. One of the great things about driving into work with my brother Nathan is getting to listen to quality Christian music that I haven't heard before!

I love Casting Crowns because they don't mince their words in the slightest! And that's why I love this song. Too often we feel like this (I know I can't be the only one...can I?!)

It's challenging. It challenges me to be more honest and open, and not put up a front of everything being fine in my walk with God. It's funny the timing of things. Last night I spoke to Kat and she asked how I was...and I wanted to say "Well, actually Kat, I've been struggling with quiet times recently and I feel a lot of the time I'm just paying God lip-service, y'know?" But what I said was "Yeah, I'm good, just very tired after the weekend" (Or words to that effect). Now, she let me get away with it for a while. And then she said "So - how about God time?"

Bam. No escape! But I was glad of it. Glad because I knew she wouldn't judge me, glad because it means she's gonna keep onto me which is what I need, glad because it shows how much she cares.

And then there's the other challenge from that song. "Would the love of Jesus be enough to make you stay?"

The challenge to me is this: Am I showing people enough through my words and actions that I wouldn't judge them? Am I open enough that people are comfortable to come to me when they're struggling? I need to be if I'm gonna be any good at Relay - if I'm to be any use to God in life full stop.

And am I ready to ask people the hard questions, because I care? Am I pointing people back to God's grace? Am I letting myself be pointed back there?

Convicted today that I need to remember people are not perfect; I need to remember that I am just as bad if not a worse sinner than the person standing next to me - Christian or not; I need to not put other Christians on some sort of pedastol; I need to be more honest about my struggles; I need to listen more; I need to judge less; I need to love more; I need to be more full of grace.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Lesson 11: The main thing – I am saved

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5
Lesson 6
Lesson 7
Lesson 8
Lesson 9
Lesson 10

Nothing beats that. I am a child of God. Whatever happens in this life I need to remember the main thing. And praise God for it. Hallelujah Jesus.

Lesson 10: The ultimate security

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5
Lesson 6
Lesson 7
Lesson 8
Lesson 9

It's horrible when you feel so utterly shaken. When you realise that nothing in this world – nothing in you – can provide any security whatsoever. When you realise that you placed your security in things without even realising it till they're shaken and they don't hold up.
But it's wonderful when you realise afresh just how secure you are in God. Totally, utterly, 100% secure. Nothing can shake Him. And nothing can separate us from His love.
That's kinda nice.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Conversations with experience

Dad has some cousins living in a little place just off the M4 between Reading and home so we often pop in to see them on our journeys to/from Reading.
This couple are amazing. They are both in their 60s, have five children and four grandchildren. Healthwise, they've not had a great year of it with both of them being quite seriously ill. But they're still smiling.

This couple epitomise to me the joy of serving the Lord. I don't know much about their life but I know that whenever I'm with them they radiate such a joy in their salvation. I remember many occasions staying with them when I was younger and always looking forward to it not just coz I got to see Pug (Paul, their youngest son) and the others again; not just coz we got to ride our bikes up and down the lanes of Kington Langley or climbed the trees in their back garden or swung from the climbing frame or learnt how to make paper aeroplanes or got to see Tim's iguana...but because they always made us feel so at home and because there was always a joy in their faces which I now know was the joy of salvation.

Sylvia, Dad's cousin, is an amazing woman. As a couple, they are hospitable. But Sylvia will get up at the crack of dawn, or before, to do the housework, make breakfast and/or food to last the day so that when you are up she has time to chat to you. Colin, her husband, is happy in charge of the kettle and keeps the cuppas coming and the conversation flowing.

They have built churches (physically), run holiday camps, pastored churches, evangelised gypsies, done street evangelism, door-to-door evangelism. They have known, and still know, the heartache of seeing their own children turn away from the Lord. They have known, and still know, the joy of seeing their own children become eager to serve Him.

And above all, they know what it is to live with little (by the world's standards). They've lived 'by faith' pretty much their whole lives and with five children this has sometimes taken its toll, I'm sure. But they remain self-sacrificing.

And it was with this background to their lives – as little as I know of it – that I sat and relished the conversation I had with them on my last day at uni about doing Relay. I talked to them about how I'm excited about seeing how God will provide for me – but mainly scared. How I want to trust God more. And they talked about how living in such a way strengthens your faith. About how God is always with you. About desiring the spreading of the gospel and His kingdom. We talked about the exciting opportunities there are to reach out to students. And we just chatted about Jesus.

They never gave examples from their own experience. They didn't need to. They simply needed to say “God will provide”. The weight in those words coming from this couple was immense. What was more immense was the confidence with which they were spoken.

I thank God for them, and I pray that I may be more like them. Humble, hospitable, joyful, talking about Jesus at every given opportunity, longing to serve Him whatever the cost – counting all things as loss compared to knowing Him – and emanating that in my words and character and life. Praise the Lord for the family He has given us and for the way we can learn from each other. Hallelujah.

Lesson 9: Give good advice! But sometimes, you just need to be there

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5
Lesson 6
Lesson 7
Lesson 8

As much as I've appreciated the advice people have given me over the time I've been ill, I've also greatly appreciated people just being there, or just asking how I am.
It's made me think about how I've been in situations when people were ill and/or struggling. Especially when Helen was ill...was I showing her enough that I cared? Was I always looking for the right thing to say or was I just happy to be there and chat in a normal way?

I know that when people are struggling – with illness or anything, really – I often feel this pressure to say the right thing that's gonna fix all their problems and concerns. I know when I went to see Abi, I felt that having just come through similar effects of illness I should have some wise and wonderful words to give her. But I didn't – nothing that she didn't already know or hadn't already been told hundreds of times. But I did know how she felt – to a large extent – and because of that I could just be there and relax and just let her just be.

Needing to say the right thing is a pressure I no doubt place on myself. But apart from the fact that I'm not wise or clever enough to always come up with the right thing...I now realise that often, it's just not needed. What's needed is to just be there. Be concerned, be natural. Pray that God would give you the words you need and that if something needs to be said, you'll say it. Then just relax and let God do the work...and know that it may not be through you. Know that that person may just need a friend, may just need a laugh, may just need to feel 'normal'.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What are we fighting for?

"I've got a friend, he's a pure-bred killing machine,
He says he's waited his whole damn life for this,
I knew him well when he was seventeen,
Now he's a man; he'll be dead by Christmas.
Everybody's gone to war,
But we don't know what we're fighting for,
Don't tell me it's a worthy cause,
No cause could be so worthy.
If love is a drug, then I guess we're all sober,
If hope is a song then I guess it's all over,
How to have faith, when faith is a crime?
I don't want to die...
If God's on our side, then God is a joker,
Asleep on the job, his children fall over,
Out through the door and straight to the sky,
I don't want to die...!
For every man who wants to rule the world,
There'll be a man who just wants to be free,
What do we learn but what should not be learnt?
Too late to find a cure for this disease. "
Everybody's gone to war - Nina Pallot

So on our way to the cinema last nite to see Pirates, this song came on the radio. Nathan's response, "Ahh I don't like this song". I'd never listened to words. Now that I have, there's a lot I could say about them! But first thing that struck me was the bit I've put in bold...what seems to unfortunately be many people's response to God - that if he exists at all then He's not in control etc etc. What struck me was that we need to be getting out and telling people more about the hope that we have - hope isn't a song it's a certain hope based on Jesus.

What also struck me was that, with current affairs being as they are, with songs like this on the radio, and with Nathan getting closer by the day to signing up to the British Army, I really need to spend some time investigating and sorting out in my head exactly what the Bible says about war, what my response should be as a Christian, and what I really think about Christians in the army.

Watch this space. (Oh, and if anyone has any helpful hints for where to start, I'd be grateful!)

Lesson 8: Take (good) advice!

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5
Lesson 6
Lesson 7

I'm concerned that I may have offended some people with lesson 1. I really hope and pray that's not the case. I value – more than I can put into words – everyone who prayed for me, text me, emailed, rang, and visited me while I was ill and I value the fact that they were there with examples from experience. I especially value the fact that they kept my feet firmly on the ground when I was liable to get annoyed, frustrated, or ignore the pain and carry on regardless.
It's hard to take advice sometimes. Especially when you don't want to hear it. But we have to remember the Lord uses our friends to give us a wake up call sometimes. Unfortunately, sometimes people will get it wrong which is why we should always weigh up what others say against the Bible, and even if in doubt the counsel of other wise and trusted Christian friends. But if the only reason we're rejecting what someone says is simply coz we're stubborn or we do'nt like it, then we need to own up to that and ask God to change our hearts.

Lesson 7: All for His glory

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5
Lesson 6

However frustrating being ill was, however boring, however hard, however painful...I know that God works all things out for my good and His glory. What's mindblowing is that it's not just for His glory but my good too.
But back to His glory, coz that's the most important bit. The bigger picture. I only want God's glory. He has saved me...what more could I want. I want to live totaslly for His glory in all things. Instead of complaining about a situation I don't like or find hard, I want to offer it to Him in prayer and seek His will. All for His glory – nothing less will do.

Mind. Blown. Wow.

Wrote this last night just before I went to bed...

I just don't get it.

Like, really, 100% just do not get it. I have just completed my education and have a degree and yet that doesn't help me one jot. My brain just wants to shut down because it cannot at all handle what just happened..

So on a day when I'm fighting with my sin and I'm fighting with this cloud of apathy that has been hanging over me and I'm fighting to grasp hold of God and I'm straining towards Him and I'm longing for Him to give me the faith to trust Him completely and I think I'm starting to once again get a handle on grace..I'd lost the little handle I did have over the past couple days...He goes and says “uh-uh Ceryn, you don't know the half of it”.

And he surprises me again. I'm not complaining. I like surprises. (Nice ones.) And this was a nice one.

Maybe I should tell you what I'm talking about. Basically, a couple in church handed mam a card at the church prayer meeting tonight (which I missed, ahem) with a cheque in it for Relay – a very generous cheque. Much like my degree result I had to keep checking it then handing it to mam, taking it back, handing it to dad, taking it back...

I do not understand their generosity, let alone God's grace and provision.

And is it any coincidence that I open this card just as mam is telling me that great uncle Clive is very ill and her and dad have had to go up there tonight and call the doctor? Or is it any coincidence that this has happened on a day when I'm fighting to trust God over my auntie's health, my brothers' futures, my health, my youngest brother's dismissal of God, difficulties in church, Abi's health, mam's health, finances for Relay, my parents finances – after four years of uni can they afford to support me through another year? Should I really be doing Relay, is this really what God wants me to do? Can I do it?

All these things have been swirling round in my head all day and I've been fighting to let God take them. I think they've been floating round in my head for a while, I just haven't let them come to the surface, which means I haven't laid them at Jesus' feet. Today I wanted to do that but was finding it hard.

And then I had to ask mam and dad if I could borrow the money for the deposit on my house, coz really need to pay it but haven't got the money, and really really didn't want to ask them but it really needs to be paid this I ask, and they oblige, but it leaves me feeling awful.

Coincidence that while all this is messing with my brain I get a gift like that? I think not.

When I opened that card, I opened my hands and let everything fall. The God who can provide for me in that way at the start of the year will continue to provide for me throughout the year. The God who will continue to provide for me throughout the year will take care of everything and everyone else I've just listed. Dad's reaction? “I knew I should have said I wouldn't lend you the money.”

He said that coz deep down He knew God would provide. (Turns out in fact that he hadn't transferred the money into my account yet.)

But here's the part I don't get – God provides for me - me, a sinner. Me, someone who has turned her back on God – this amazing God. Me – a person who too readily doubts God's ability, too easily forgets His faithfulness and too slowly trusts Him.

I just do not get it.

But I cry out thankyou Father, hallelujah Jesus, and change me, Holy Spirit. Fill me anew, use me, take my burdens so that I am free to serve you in whatever way you choose. Holy and amazing God, I am yours.

And now I will lie down and sleep in peace. Wow.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Funny that

OK, so whilst on a break from blogging, two great friends and fellow bloggers have been stealing my thoughts! (That's getting to be a bit of a blogging phrase, Ed!)

Or at least, they've blogged on stuff that kinda made me stop blogging in the first place. I'm not making sense am I. Let me explain properly...

Firstly, Anna's done two posts - "Food, food and more food" and "Ouch" which I could really identify with, challenged and encouraged me. Firstly, the food one - reminded me how much more I need, and indeed want, to get into the Bible. When times are hard or when I'm struggling with doubt I may not feel so much like I want to, but that doesn't negate the need.

In her other post, Anna talks about craving to know more of God. That was something I was experiencing but instead of delighting in the fact that I know the basics - I am saved - and God will reveal more to me as and when I'm ready and as and when He chooses, I got caught up in the fact that there's just so much to learn. There's so much to study. Coupled with my tiredness it all seemed too much and I sunk into apathy, the killer of the soul.

Secondly, Ed posted on honesty. Read it, it's a great post, and well needed. And it's funny that Ed posted on something I was already thinking about - guess you got your own back there mate!

I was going through a bit of a funny time in my relationship with God - I was at war with apathy and I knew that I could say all the right things, and to a large extent meant them, but that didn't mean I was focused on my relationship with Him. I was struggling - mainly due to tiredness and not enough time eating the Word. And certainly due to focusing on myself and my limitations. But nevertheless, I was aware that my blog could become a place where I pretended everything was fine because I desperately want to use this blog to encourage people and for the Lord's glory.
But here's the thing - it is not to God's glory if I am not honest about how I'm feeling. And as Ed said, the most encouraging thing can often be to hear that other Christians are struggling as you are - and what is encouraging is that God brings them through it. So that's why I stopped blogging for a bit. I needed to get my relationship with God back on track. I didn't want to blog about how things were at that time because the other thing I've noticed is that I often can use this blog as my prayer time. I know that sounds ridiculous. It sounds so because it is.

I was struck by how often I will post something - something I genuinely feel about how great God is - but I will post it before even sitting down and thanking Him for it. And then because I've just written a post about what God's taught me or something He's done or stuff I've learnt, I almost feel like I've spent time talking it over with God as well and so then I go about my merry way. I'm shocked and ashamed at myself for doing so. I'm hoping I'm the only one silly enough to do so but thought I'd mention it as a danger! And praise God for revealing it to me and getting me to change my ways.

I didn't want it to be the other way round, where I just blogged my mess of thoughts that wouldn't make any sense until I'd sat down with God and prayed about them.

Praise the Lord that I'm still filled with a passion to know Him more, learn more, speak more, do more. But praise Him for reminding me - through prayer and reading the Bible - that I am not a pharisee and knowledge isn't everything. That I am not God, and therefore I will get tired and I will not know everything. That I am saved by grace, and not by how much I know, or how much I tell people about Jesus, or how much I read the Bible or anything other than grace.

Oh that I may continue to be amazed by grace.

Well, there's honesty for you! I hope it's an encouragement. If anything, it's something I can look back to if I ever get to that point again. I pray I won't. But let's keep rejoicing in our weaknesses, not letting them get us down, or letting our limitations stop us from embracing God. For when we are weak, He is strong. As if the past couple months hadn't taught me anything, I need to recognise more and more just how weak I am and just how much that doesn't matter, because God is strong, and He holds me. So when I'm struggling with something why oh why do I try to solve it by myself?! Or when I feel guilty about that, why oh why do I sink into legalism and trying to earn my way back to God? I don't need to. He has done everything. My salvation is accomplished, and so I need only fall on my knees in thanks and spend my days enjoying the fact that I am forgiven. Hallelujah!

Lesson 6: A different kind of rest

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Lesson 5

Whilst I fully, FULLY understand people telling me to rest while I've been ill and whilst it was needed, and whilst I'd do the the same time, it wasn't just physical rest I needed. I'm not sure if I'm going to explain this one very well but I'll try!

You may remember (if not – point number two of this will remind you!) that just before I became ill I'd had a very busy stretch of about 10 days. Now, many people think that's why I got ill. I still dispute that! And I don't think it's coz I'm being stubborn. It's coz I know me.

A friend commented about a year ago something along the lines of me needing to do less because I'd always be stressed. I replied that whilst I may always be very busy, I was very rarely stressed. She replied that no, if I was always busy, then I must always be stressed. At which point another friend interjected that no, they'd noticed that whilst I always seemed busy, I wasn't stressed. There's a difference.

And there is. I know in myself that the only times when being busy makes me stressed is when I'm not giving it over to God. Being busy sometimes makes me tired, but that's different. Being busy all the time has only ever been a problem when I've ignored God telling me to rest (which, despite popular belief, is rarely) or not asked Him for the strength or not given everything over to Him and put Him first. For the most part I thrive on being busy – but that's only when I'm being busy in His strength. Everyone is different, and some people just get exhausted doing half of what I used to do...I'm not saying I'm special, just that everyone is different.

Anyway, back to the point at which I became ill. Whilst I was ridiculously busy, I was no busier than I have been on previous occasions. The difference was that I know my heart wasn't right before God. I was struggling through and letting the burdens of various circumstances weigh me down. And I wasn't putting God first. That's what exhausted me. It's a different type of exhaustion but it can and often does result in physical exhaustion.

If anything was 'the cause' of the infection that brought me to a very abrupt halt then it was that. Though I'm still not sure of the theology behind saying God caused me to be ill so much as saying God was in control of it. That's a whole other post. Maybe.

The point is that whilst I needed to rest physically, there was a deeper rest I needed – and I would have needed this rest whether I'd had that infection or not. My soul needed rest. I needed to come back home, to let my spirit be refreshed by His and lay all my burdens at His feet, letting Him take the load and letting me rest.

That's a deeper kind of rest, it's the rest we often ignore because physical rest is more obvious. But it's the rest we all need. Often. And not just when we're forced by physical tiredness, but (perhaps especially) when we're flying through life and feeling great. Because that won't continue if we don't learn to let go and let our souls don't find rest in Him.

Lesson 5: Not because of what I've done

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4

One thing I found especially hard about being ill was not being able to support cell in the ways I had been. Not just actually running the cell group, but meeting up with people outside of cell, inviting people round to dinner, just chilling with them and being there for them and building a sense of community. I couldn't do any of that and when cell just folded I felt guilty. I felt guilty that I hadn't supported Isaac as he took over, I felt it was my fault that people stopped going to cell coz I wasn't there for them, wasn't encouraging them.

But as much as it was important that I supported the cell members and got the cell going and gave my all to didn't happen because of me. God is totally in control and He knows the needs of individuals in cell way more than me. He is concerned for their good and His glory and nothing I do or don't do is going to affect that. And He knew that I'd be ill and unable to do the things I had been doing.

Praise the Lord that people don't come into His kingdom on the basis of me. Praise the Lord that whilst He uses us – hallelujah – it's not about us. And whilst I should be eager to care for people and tell them about Jesus, sometimes I just won't be physically able to. And that's ok.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


I felt up to doing some unpacking again earlier, so I did; accompanied by Tim Hughes blasting out the speakers in my room.

I needed the words of the songs and I sang them with all my heart, so that at first the unpacking stopped and then when it started again, it was going a lot quicker, I had a whole new burst of energy!

God is so good. That's all I wanted to say in this post really. Somehow I've said a lot more. Empty words. All that matters, is that



Give me the song and I'll sing it like I mean it

“Christians don't lie, they just sing hymns”.

My minister quoted this last Sunday – I forget who said it I'm afraid. But it struck me.
How often do we just sing the words to the songs in church, and how often do we really sing them like we mean them. There's a danger I've certainly noticed in my own life – especially with songs I know well – to just sing them without really thinking about the words. Or to sing them without really meaning them. That's awful.

Some songs, if you really think about the words, are really hard to sing because if you mean the words, then they demand a change in you. But we need to sing them like we mean them. No, scrap that, not like we do, but really meaning them.

Lesson 4: Not because of who I am

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2
Lesson 3

The astonishing thing I found about being ill was how much it affected every single aspect of me. It wasn't just that I was physically ill. I found myself even analysing who I was. I thought I'd established that! But as fragile as I felt physically, I felt that fragile in every aspect – my personality, my emotions, my self-confidence...everything.

I love being around people, I love chatting, and I've never found it a problem to get up in front of a big group of people and talk, or chat in smaller groups. But during the time I was ill – and even still now to a certain extent – I couldn't just chat to people.

I saw Kat pretty much every day I was ill so things with her were fine, and Issy and Becky. If people came to visit me it was a little easier because I felt secure in my room. But take me out of that environment and even with really good friends, who I missed and desperately wanted to talk to, I felt like I wanted to cry and/or run away! I couldn't even talk to people without really praying before, and during, the conversation. I can't explain why I found it so hard, but it was bizarre.

But it reminded me – perhaps showed me fully for the first time – that nothing in this life is about me. It's all entirely about God. My security is in Him alone, not in any way shape or form in anything else.

I don't think I'd ever realised that so fully before. When you realise that you can rely on nothing at all about yourself, you fully realise your need to rely on God totally. Even things that I hadn't realised before that I might place my confidence in – I didn't realise I placed my confidence there – even just a little bit – until I couldn't. Until it let me down.

God will never let me down!

Lesson 3: Not by might

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1
Lesson 2

I can do nothing in my strength. Even when I'm fully fit, I need to remember how I have been the past 4/5 months. And I need to remember that the only way to do anything – anything at all – is in God's power and strength and by His Spirit.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Lest we forget

I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing that day, as clearly as I remember watching the events of 9/11 unfold on a TV screen in front of my eyes, or waking up to the news that Princess Diana had died...and other, more personal, events in between.
Of course, this week has seen the anniversary of the London bombs. I watched the BBC coverage in the morning and an interview with a London Ambulance Service paramedic. He said, “We saw the best and the worst of humanity on that day”.
His words reminded me of another day, the events of which are recorded in the Bible, where we saw the worst of humanity. The day when Jesus was beaten, mocked, disowned and crucified (Mark 15, for example).
But the worst bit wasn't necessarily the way Jesus was treated physically – but that this was a manifestation of the people's rejection of God. And the worst bit of 7/7, or 9/11, or the holocaust, or murder is not necessarily that we destroy each other – but that we do this because we have rejected God. Humanity at its worst gets to that point because of its rejection of its Creator, its rejection of Truth, its rejection of Love, and its rejection of the best it can be. Our worst is sin.
When we say we see the 'best' of humanity, what do we mean? That we see people being willing to care for each other, sacrificing themselves in another's place, putting themselves in danger to save another?
Isn't that what we see in Jesus? And isn't that the ultimate? The best in our humanity is a shadow. The reality is God. We can to some extent display the best that He has placed in us. But we need to recognise that it is not of ourselves. We love because He first loved us.And we need to be displaying God's best. We need to be walking in line with His Word and demonstrating His love to those around us.
Let's not forget the events of history. And let's certainly not forget what Jesus did on the cross, and everything that it means, everything that it achieved. And let's not forget that our best can only come from Him.

Lesson 2: Don't be a people-pleaser

Introduction to the lessons
Lesson 1

In Lesson 1 I talked about finding it hard to know who to listen to, finding it hard to distinguish God's voice in amongst all the advice people were giving me. I think the main reason for this was me trying to be a bit of a people pleaser. I desperately wanted to take advice on board, because I valued so highly the care which people were taking over me. And I wanted to get better. And I wanted people to know that I was taking their advice and looking after myself. I always felt like people didn't trust me when I said I was resting or that people didn't really believe me when I said I knew my limits. So I was desperate to prove that, in fact, I was trying to look after myself.
An example might illustrate this better. One day I was out and needed to go home before going somewhere else later in the afternoon. I knew I needed a nap, but it was lunchtime. Now, I didn't have time to go home, eat lunch and sleep before being where I needed to be. I also knew that I was shattered but that preparing lunch would wake me up. But I let slip to a friend that I was gonna go home and sleep. “I hope you're going to eat” came the well-meant reply. Another friend, who hadn't heard this conversation, told me to go home and sleep. By the time I got home I knew within myself that I wasn't hungry and all I needed was sleep, a meal later would suffice (being ill had seriously damaged my appetite). But I knew that if I saw those people again later they were going to ask me if I'd slept and eaten. So I tried to do both. But eating when you're not hungry is not a good thing, it just makes you feel worse. And making food woke me up sufficiently that when I tried to sleep I couldn't. I ended up trying to force myself to sleep, getting about 10 minutes before I had to leave again, which made me feel worse.
It's a silly example. It certainly demonstrates my silliness! The advice given to me in both cases was good but I was trying to follow it all for the wrong reasons. Instead of listening to my body I was trying desperately hard to please those around me. Of course, that can work the other way when we push ourselves beyond our limits trying to please everyone by trying to fit everything in.
Bottom line – in all areas of life, we need to be seeking to please God first, not others. And whilst God knows us better than we know ourselves, we know our own limits better than others. We may need to be reminded of them by others at times – to a certain extent that's where accountability comes in. God's given us limits. Let's stick to them.

Lesson 1: Distinguishing God's Voice

See: Introduction to the lessons

One thing I've learnt over the time I've been ill is that people love to give advice! I know I'm the same. The advice I've had from people – mainly Christians – over the time I've been ill has mostly been fantastic and this post is not meant to be a dig in any way shape or form so please don't be offended! But here's the thing: the advice has sometimes varied. My wonderful, and well meaning, Christian friends have been ready with words of wisdom. But this has ranged from the (dubious) “God is smiting you” to “God's telling you to rest” to “God's in control, just trust that” and shades in between. More specifically, I've been told to eat properly, sleep lots, do nothing when I'm not sleeping, use the time for God's glory.

As I've said, this has all come from well meaning friends who just want to help, a desire to help that I know is borne out of a concern for me. I am humbled by that and extremely thankful to God for it. But. (Knew that was coming didn't you...?!)

But I found it hard in all this to distinguish what God was actually trying to say to me because sometimes the advice was different...and sometimes it contradicted what I felt to be the case. And so I guess the main lesson here is that whilst advice must be valued and good advice must be taken, I need to be listening first and foremost to God.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Commercial Break

No adverts for you, but I am back in Commercial Street and it is likely to be a while before I blog again. Not that long, maybe a week or two. Partly due to, well, sheer laziness. Partly due to limited internet access (which I've decided is a Good Thing - for the moment at least). But mainly because I have lots I want to blog about, but I'm still mulling it over - 'composing the prose' (to steal Ed's words) - as it were. So for the next week or two I'll be doing just that. And no doubt finding more stuff to blog about. I'm looking forward to it.

PS. Like my funky new blog? Bish's mastery strikes again...