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! 🙂

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…