Hymns: Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

Then a very strong wind blew until it caused the mountains to fall apart and large rocks to break in front of the Lord. But the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind, there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake, there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. After the fire, there was a quiet, gentle sound.” – 1 Kings 19:11b-12

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind is another of my favourite hymns. It takes the form of a prayer. First, it asks God for forgiveness. Then it calls us to follow God. And then it asks for peace.

The fourth verse is particularly encouraging for me. Whilst asking for peace, it also seems to be calling us to show God’s way to others: “And let our ordered lives confess/The beauty of thy peace.” God does not just give us this peace; we are to share it. To let others know that we are all loved by God, and this is what can happen.

The final verse refers back to the verse at the top, 1 Kings 19:11b-12. This comes as Elijah is scared for his life, and has wandered to Mount Sinai. God then speaks to Elijah, telling him He is going to pass by. And through all the earthquake, the wind, and the fire, whilst God is there, He is not in them. Instead He is in the still small voice.

This gives me a lot of hope. Through everything that is going on, through all the chaos and uncertainty, God is there. He is not necessarily in the chaos and uncertainty, but in the peace. And whilst we may not be able to discern Him, He still remains faithful to us.

And as with In Christ Alone, a beautiful tune is another reason why this hymn is one of my favourites.

The EU Referendum: Taking Stock

But the Spirit produces the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. There is no law that says these things are wrong. ” – Galatians 5:22-23

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

^My reaction on discovering that the Leave campaign had won.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the UK held a referendum yesterday on whether or not to remain a member of the European Union. I’ll try to leave politics out of it, despite my despair at the result.

Turns out I’m not the only one. The pound has fallen to ridiculously low levels, the Prime Minister has resigned, and everyone seems pretty angry about Farage. It’s easy to look at everything and feel an impending sense of doom. (In fact, this gif pretty much sums up my Facebook news feed at the moment…)

But now, more than ever, we need to take stock and remember that God is in control. It’s certainly not the result the I had expected or hoped for. But I will be praying today.

I will be praying for love. That rifts between us could be healed. That we can stop the name-calling, insults and blame game that seem to be following, and stand united in love.

I will be praying for joy. That we may be able to rejoice in what the Lord has done for us, and as such give us hope for His future blessings.

I will be praying for peace. That whatever happens, we can be thankful that the referendum passed generally peacefully*, and for continued peace between supporters of each campaign.

I will be praying for patience. That we remain patient with others, and patient whilst whatever has to happen, happens.

I will be praying for kindness. That we may be loving and gentle in our attitudes towards each other, neither blaming nor hurting each other given the results.

I will be praying for goodness. That we may show goodness to each other despite everything.

I will be praying for faithfulness. That those who trust in God would remain faithful to Him, and continue to trust Him for what we need.

I will be praying for gentleness. That we don’t turn to insults or tempers. That we can humbly put aside our differences and calmly get on with things.

I will be praying for self control. It’s hard. A lot of people are angry, frustrated, and simply don’t know what to do next. I’ve lacked self control over this matter, and I’m sure many others have as well.

Though as a nation we have woken up in a state of uncertainty, worry, and division, we must remember that we do have hope. Not in a ‘Brexit’. Not in politicians, or ideals. But in Jesus. He is steadfast. He is certain. Perhaps the only thing we really know right now.

*Of course it hasn’t been entirely peaceful; the horrific murder of Jo Cox MP last week attests to that. However, we are fortunate that we live in a country where we have open and fair referendums and campaigns free from large-scale violence.

A time to say goodbye

There is a time for everything, and everything on earth has its special season.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

This means there is a time to leave. A time to say goodbye. A time to move on.

It’s been a long couple of days. Packing everything, making sure I’d packed for the next 10 days separately, cleaning out my kitchen cupboards, travelling back home…

I’ve not quite moved completely out of my accommodation for this year – that will happen later when my parents have free time to drive up to York to collect my stuff with me. But I have essentially left for the year. I’ve said goodbye to so many people over the past week. Of course, most of them I just said “Have a great summer” and then left, with a hug if appropriate.

But then there are some who I probably won’t see again. People like Ricky and Gina – our Relay and Staff workers respectively – who have really helped this year. Gina stayed with me for the whole of events week, which was really encouraging for me. It helped me to ingrain certain habits which I’d become somewhat apathetic towards. Such as praying. Praying every morning that week, and praying just before bed. Little things like that which mean I now pray far more regularly than I used to.

People like Lara, who in the past year has become a really good friend, but will be going back to Brazil to continue studying.

And of course, all the final years who are moving on to new and exciting things.

The phrase “See you in heaven, if not before!” came up several times over the past week.

There are now 14 weeks before university starts again. 11 until I meet up with CU people again at Forum. That’s a long time. But that also means that I have a lot of time spare. And now I am not focussed on studying, that’s time I can use for, well, everything else.

Hymns: In Christ Alone

Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

This is the beginning of an occasional series on my favourite hymns and songs.

One of my all-time favourites, one to which I return time and time again, is In Christ Alone.

It is a reminder of the Gospel – in fact, the 2nd and 3rd verses are the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection condensed into 16 lines. The first verse affirms our strength in Jesus, with the final verse attesting to the nature of our life with Him.

My favourite verse is no doubt the final one:

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand”

This reminds me of the passage at the top – Romans 8:38-39. It is a wonderful message of God’s absolute love for us, and is also a fantastic reminder that whatever we’re doing, wherever we are, God is there for us. He is in control.

I often sing this to remind me that God is always there for me, when I realise I’m on the verge of getting so caught up in life and other things and need reminding that He should be the basis, the foundation, for everything I do.

Add this to a beautiful tune (and an even more wonderful descant that I can’t find anywhere…) and that is why I love In Christ Alone so much.

Toasties: How would Jesus vote in the EU referendum?

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”” – Matthew 4:4

Toasties: How would Jesus vote in the EU referendum?

Or, to rephrase the question, what is the link between the EU referedum, addiction, and the feeding of the 5000?

The simple answer to the first question is “We don’t know”. Even if Jesus were eligible to vote in the referendum, which given that he wasn’t British he probably wouldn’t have been. What we do know, however, is that God is sovereign. And whilst each one of us has our own opinion on what is best for the UK (i.e. whether we are better off in our out of Europe), we can’t know the whole story. But what we can do is pray. Not necessarily for the outcome that we desire the most. I mean, we may inadvertently be praying for it, but that’s not important.

We pray for the best outcome.

I’ll admit to losing interest in the Lord’s Prayer. It’s the one thing that I’ve repeated every single week pretty much since I could speak, and for a very long time it’s not really had that much meaning for me. It’s just… well, the Lord’s Prayer.

But reflecting on that a little more. It’s the Lord’s Prayer. It’s how we are taught, in the book of Matthew, to pray. It’s an incredibly important example of prayer. And there’s one line that’s particularly pertinent to this:

“Your will be done”

Instead of praying to leave or remain in the EU, according to our own preferences, surely we should be praying that whatever the outcome, God’s will is being done. God is sovereign, God is in control.

So to answer the second question.

My college group runs text-a-toastie every week. It’s a good way of serving the college and spreading the Gospel. And it’s really fun to do as well.

There is one house who have texted in every single week. In fact, it will be very weird next year when they’ve moved out of uni accommodation and are no longer texting in every week. And they ask fairly awkward questions. But that’s fine. We’re there to answer them as best we can. And in discussing them, I’ve learned quite a lot.

One of the other great things about toasties is the opportunity it gives us to really get to know our college and have really good conversations with them.

After answering the question, we invited them to an event that we’re hosting on Friday. They invited us to their event as well, and for some reason we started talking about wine. I joked that I’d been drinking once a month since Year 8, and since moving to uni had upped that to once a week. Then someone mentioned that that’s a sign of becoming addicted. And then someone mentioned that they might be addicted to toasties.

This made us think: Where would the toastie addiction lead them next? The answer: A whole block of cheese, sandwiched between two loaves of bread. And then somehow put in a toastie machine.

The image of two loaves of bread and a block of cheese reminded me of the image of Jesus feeding the 5000 with not much more. OK, so you’d need to substitute the cheese for a couple of fish. But you get my drift. This, I feel, led into a much better discussion of the Gospel, of Jesus providing for people, of Matthew 4:4 (“Man shall not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”).

So that’s the link between the EU referendum, addiction and the feeding of the 5000.

And that’s also probably my last Toasties of the year. There probably will be toasties next week, but I probably won’t be there. So I’ll start writing more about Toasties properly once the Autumn Term starts!

Adventures on a bike

The deepest places on earth are his,
and the highest mountains belong to him.
The sea is his because he made it,
and he created the land with his own hands.” – Psalm 95:4-5

Recently one of our CU leaders sent out a questionnaire. The idea was to find out our “Spiritual Pathway”. To be honest, I was a little sceptical. I often am with this kind of thing. The results are often interesting but I don’t tend to focus on them that much. And I know that they’ll probably change the next time I do the questionnaire. And I can rarely answer questions like that without trying to fit in a number that’s not on the integer scale the questionnaire is using.

On a seemingly unrelated note, me and some friends went out cycling on Monday. This was only a few days after falling off my bike, so I was a little hesitant at first. But I knew that I really needed to get back on my bike; I enjoy cycling and I like to think I’m not that much of a wimp. We cycled further than I expected – it came out at about 37 miles. Maybe to some people it’s not that far, but I don’t think I’ve cycled that far in a long time, if ever.

A great thing about my university is its proximity not only to the city, but to the countryside. We are literally on the outskirts of the city, and as soon as we left our college we were on a small, winding country lane. We went through several small villages, stopped for a wander in some nature reserves, had lunch near a beautiful little church. Whilst we were tired by the end of the day, it was nonetheless fantastic.

I remember times spent like that very fondly. I hate to admit the number of times I’ve complained about being tired, not wanting to go for a walk, not wanting to go out in the rain. I’m most definitely a fair-weather outdoors person. But in those times, when I’m surrounded by God’s beautiful creation, I feel like I get a better sense of what He’s done.

Being relatively alone also gives me more confidence to sing God’s praises. I know I should probably do that wherever I am. But the joy I get from being with a small group of friends in beautiful surroundings is immense, and I love to express that joy through singing. Especially when it’s a song my friendship group are very familiar with, and we’re all cycling through the countryside singing 10,000 Reasons at the tops of our voices…

Which brings me back to the beginning. When I did that questionnaire, cynically and a little begrudgingly, it said I connected best to God in worship and in nature. Reflecting back on Monday, those are the things that gave me so much joy. And why I want to do something like that more often.