This Time Two Years Ago

A-Level students in the UK have been getting their results today. Two years ago I was in the same situation, getting my results and then getting geared up for uni. Now I’m effectively getting ready to start uni again. My expectations are in many ways different to then though.

As with two years ago, one of my first important priorities (oh dear, thinking tools I learned in year 7 are still ruining me…) is finding a Church. Although what I’m looking for in a Church has also shifted slightly. Two years ago I was looking for a welcoming, traditional Church that I could get involved in, with getting involved probably one of the most important aspects. Now, I don’t really know what to expect when I walk into a French Church. I know for a fact I won’t know any of the music (which is part of what I appreciated on my first Sunday at my uni Church) and I know that the more traditional Churches in France are likely to be Catholic rather than Protestant. So I’m looking now for a welcoming Church, ideally with a small group I can join.

Two years ago I knew exactly what societies I was going to join. I was going to join the Brass Band to continue the music I’d enjoyed so much up to that point, and I was going to join the CU mostly to make some Christian friends who wouldn’t judge me for not drinking or going out. Now I’ve barely even looked at what societies are available. I know I’m going to join the GBU – and in the two years I’ve been at uni, serving and talking to fellow students about the Gospel is something I’m growing to love. If I can continue to do that in France – excellent! And I’ll make some Christian friends as well.

My worries about starting uni are essentially the same, but larger, because I have to do all that again but in a different language. Although I could say the same about my prayer life.

In my first two years of uni I learnt a lot about Linguistics. I learnt a lot about French. I learnt even more about God. Hopefully that will continue in my third year.

And to any A-Level students (or indeed anyone on the way to university): Congratulations, good luck, and enjoy! ūüôā

Hymns: Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
¬†¬†¬†¬†great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22-23

As I so often seem to do, I’m coming back to the theme of God’s enduring faithfulness.

I know some people who don’t particularly like this hymn. Those who find it too slow or too long, or those for whom it was ruined in school (there are two that I absolutely hate for that exact reason, so I can’t exactly complain…)

But I have my reasons.

Firstly, the words. It’s full-on praise. Lamentations is a pretty dark book (for a summary, The Bible Project is amazing) and yet from there – from that expression of grief – comes the wonderful bit of hope. And the hymn takes that hope and is almost defiant in reminding us of it!

The music is interesting, with a whole load of chromatic movement, and works pretty well peacefully or in exuberant joy. I think I prefer the exuberant joy – it fits better with the themes of praise and hope, even in the little things.

Hymnary.org says that the hymn “is inspired by the simple realisation that God is at work in our lives on a daily basis”. I’ve certainly come to that realisation more than a few times myself, and Great is Thy Faithfulness is a great reminder of that.

Ways to Pray: Prayer Tree

“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” – Jeremiah 17:8

Trees are a useful metaphor. Jeremiah is using this idea here to describe one who “trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in Him”.

I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: I find it really useful to use something creative in prayer. It generally helps me to focus, and having something physical to keep means I’m more likely to keep coming back to it and keep praying.

This is fairly similar to the paper chain, in that it can be easily added to and is a pretty visual way of doing things. It does require a little more effort but it’s also super easy to add to.

I used a simple tree outline (stretched horizontally to fit A4), copied it a few times and then put the three parts together to make a self-standing tree (with instructions here, of all places, about slotting them together). And then used a printout of a simple leaf to pin on.

Reasons I like using this:

  • It’s easy to look back on everything I’ve prayed for/given thanks for
  • It’s easy to update – just adding a new leaf
  • It’s quite compact but also nice to look at
  • I actually really like the visual metaphor – being rooted in God and seeing more of His goodness every day.

This last point reminds me of John 15 – Jesus being the true vine, how we only bear fruit when rooted in Him, but we must also be continually “pruned” in order to produce more and better fruit. It’s a wonderful bit of scripture. I could go on about it for a while…

Hymns: I Will Sing The Wondrous Story

There is a worrying amount to do before September. It’s very tempting to just stick my head in the sand but I’ve done that enough already. When I finally dare to take my head out of the sand I always worry that I’ll be surrounded by paperwork. Fortunately, it’s mostly under control. But try telling that to the part of my brain that likes to panic…

So how good it is to have a hymn that reminds me of the wondrous story – the story of Christ, who died for me.

In the version I’m currently looking at (different versions seem to split the verses up differently), verse 2 is probably my favourite:

“I was lost, but Jesus found me,
found the sheep that went astray,
raised me up and gently led me
back into the narrow way.
Days of darkness still may meet me,
sorrow’s path I oft may tread;
but His presence still is with me,
by His guiding hand I’m led”

It’s a reminder that God’s always been there. A reminder that Jesus reaches out to help – He is not distant. And a reminder that He will always lead me, no matter what the circumstance.

The beginning of Isaiah 43 sums this up pretty well. It starts off, in verse 1, saying Do not fear, for I have redeemed¬†you;¬†I have summoned you by name;¬†you are mine.”¬†This links very well with the line “I was lost, but Jesus found me”.¬†And then Isaiah 43:2-3 sums up the rest of the verse pretty well.

But of course I enjoy the whole hymn. The wonder expressed in the repeated lines of “Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story/Of the Christ who died for me” helps to remind me of my salvation. And my privilege to share that with others.

To Your […] Add […]

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;¬†and to knowledge, self-control;¬†and to self-control, perseverance;¬†and to perseverance, godliness;¬†and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” – 2 Peter 1:5-7

Another occasion here where I’ve ended up looking at something pretty hard-hitting in the pursuit of making cushions. With a little bit of wider context, this is Peter’s challenge to Christians – to help us grow “active and effective in [our] knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ”. And that’s pretty important to Peter. By verses 12-15, he’s making plans to keep reminding those he’s writing to about this, even once he’s dead.

This is a particularly challenging passage for me. Peter is reminding us that despite God’s grace, and His gift of faith, we can’t just rest on our laurels. And Paul makes that point several times as well, including in Philippians 3:14 (“I press on¬†toward the goal to win the prize¬†for which God has called¬†me heavenward in Christ Jesus”) and 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 (“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?¬†Run¬†in such a way as to get the prize.¬†Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown¬†that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever”) – even in just these two examples, we can see that Paul is urging us to continue striving, rather than just staying put.

Making a cushion with a Bible verse on it is probably not the best way of following Peter’s advice. That said, I hope it will prove useful when I need to be reminded of it. Especially when I’ve pushed it to the bottom of the agenda because of things that don’t really matter.

Friends and Fears

Yet I always stay close to you,
¬†¬†¬†¬†and you hold me by the hand.” – Psalm 73:23

This past year has been so special. To be able to live and grow with four wonderful people has been such a privilege and blessing. I am definitely going to miss it. But I had a minor panic recently. It was about next year. Would I end up with friends? How hard is it to get to know people in a foreign country? Would I find a good Church? How easy would it be to get involved in the GBU (the French equivalent of CU)? Would I be able to make and develop the relationships that will sustain me throughout my time in France?

Knowing that God is faithful and has already blessed me with so many good friends should give me much more confidence about next year. But it’s all too easy to forget this and rely on my own strength rather than God.

I have a lot of very good, very close friends here at uni. And in the middle of my recent panic, I wondered exactly how I managed to end up with them. And then I came to my senses and realised: I have a great number of great friends, and it was nothing to do with me. And that’s hugely reassuring.

 

Song: O Praise The Name (An√°stasis)

This choice might be surprising. My general preference for hymns and songs is that they are traditional. And most usually don’t have choruses. And most aren’t written by Hillsong.

To be fair, this song has a lot of what makes a good hymn or song. Words that speak of the Gospel. A song through which we can praise and worship God. A strong tune and harmony that is more interesting than many modern worship songs (*ducks*)

There are four verses. The first tells of Jesus’ death. The second of the dark days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The third is perhaps my favourite; after the darkness and pain of Jesus’ death, it tells of His glorious resurrection. It probably helps that the tune is transposed up in this verse, which just helps to add to the joy. The final verse hopes for Jesus’ return. And in between, a chorus of praise.

On reflection, I think this is a worship song I prefer to listen to. And I don’t mean to say I don’t enjoy singing it; I just think that whilst it’s an excellent song, I prefer singing other things. But I could listen to it on repeat for days, using it as a tool to worship God.