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! 🙂

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.

 

Trust, or, When Things Seem to Go Wrong

It was my housemate’s birthday on Friday. So on Saturday we decided to do Go Ape. (Go Ape is so much fun, in particular the zip lines at the end of each section. I would definitely recommend doing it, or similar).

Whilst there are about a thousand metaphors to take from having to trust simply ropes and carabiners to prevent a drop from up to 35m (at its highest point), this was actually not what I intended to write about.

In fact, in finishing the course, the need to trust got (unintentionally) much greater. There were only two buses that we could get back home, and the first was in about 20 minutes. There was no way we could possibly get that. The last bus was approximately two hours later. Plenty of time, right?

Not when you miss the path you were supposed to take, walk quite a way further down the road, convince yourselves you were a lot more on course than you actually were, and then find yourself lost in the middle of the countryside with very little in the way of internet connection or mobile signal.

To cut a long story short, we walked a lot further than we should have done (including over a barbed wire fence because we couldn’t face going back through the field to get back on track), got soaked through to the skin as it had been raining earlier, and missed the last bus home by quite a way.

Whilst we were walking we decided to stop and pray for a bit. This served multiple purposes. To collect our thoughts. To make sure we stayed joyful. To make sure we trusted God rather than a pathetic internet connection.

When we got phone signal we called people from Church and somebody came to pick us up. But it was quite difficult. None of us like to be needy. Especially not to the level of “there are 6 of us in the countryside about an hour away…”. And by that time we were all tired and soaking wet. We may or may not have been laughing hysterically at our predicament.

But through the whole evening there was an implicit trust that we could get home – be it that day or the next, be it by bus or by getting a lift.

I think my point here is: even in the little things, keep trusting. God is faithful. And whether things are going right, or you end up lost in the middle of nowhere, keep praying. Keep rejoicing. God is good.

Reasons to Praise God

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8

Sometimes I find it really easy to praise God. Other times I just need a little reminder. So I decided to leave this as a reminder of why God is so amazing 🙂

  • He is compassionate
  • He is faithful
  • He is forgiving
  • He is generous
  • He is glorious
  • He is good
  • He is gracious
  • He is kind
  • He is loving
  • He is merciful
  • He is patient
  • He is powerful
  • He is unchanging

Whilst all of these are important reasons to praise God, at the moment I’m particularly remembering the last one. As I write votes are being counted in the UK General Election. With Brexit talks due to start in a matter of days, the real possibility of a hung parliament or a “coalition of chaos” headed by the person who described herself as “strong and stable” – an exit poll that shows the cat well and truly among the pigeons…

It’s great to be able to praise a God who is constant through everything that goes on. Whilst I pray for the best result for the country and for the world, I should also remember to praise God for everything He is and everything He has done, including His steadfast love and faithfulness, how His hand has guided us up until now, and that we can count on His continued and constant grace and mercy.

So. Much. Paperwork.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:33-34

#thesarcasmisstrongwiththisone

Paperwork is great. I love paperwork. Everything seems to make so much sense and I really enjoy filling in form after form with very similar information, when I have exams on. It doesn’t stress me out at all that I have 2 exams next week, plus coursework due in, plus the application for next year to sort out. And I didn’t freak out at all because I had a speaking exam earlier this week.

Apologies. Most of my inner emotions work their way out through the medium of sarcasm. It’s probably not the best way of communicating though…

There have been times in the past week I’ve really struggled. Depending on the day you ask, I’ve either been fine, or panicking. Would I finish in time? Would the application go fine? Would I manage to avoid ending up a sobbing mess on the floor?

There was a prayer meeting on Friday evening, where there was also a time of worship. I realised that I probably wouldn’t go. Then the worship team asked the PA team if anyone could do PA. Being on the PA team, and realising that I probably should go, I volunteered. So it forced me to go.

The need to step away from what I was doing. The need to spend time with God. It was so good to spend that time with others. And to pray for them, and for them to pray for me. And God is so faithful.

One of my friends recently shared this, which I think perfectly sums up my feelings right now. It’s a good reminder of God’s faithfulness.

May every cry, “I can’t,”
When yet, in fact, “I must,”
Become by grace, “He can,”
And then, in Him, “I trust.” – John Piper

The context for the quote at the top is wonderful. It’s a great reminder that God knows our needs, and so we don’t need to worry about them. We should instead “seek his kingdom and his righteousness” – this changes our priorities. In fact it completely turns them on their head. It’s such a reassuring and yet massively challenging upheaval.

What’s the weather like?

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:31-34
One CU last year, one of the leaders (who is now one of my housemates) came up with an idea. We went round the group, and all of us described our situations, our worries, our stresses, and our hopes in terms of the weather.
Lots of people disliked this idea. It seemed to make very little sense, and was a little too vague and analogy-like.
But I for one found it pretty useful.
I often have difficulty expressing my emotions. Quite often I can describe my feelings but it’s not that clear-cut. For example, deadlines often make me quite stressed. But not super stressed, just enough that I have to make some progress to relieve the stress, but literally one minute I can be panicking that I haven’t got enough time and the next minute relaxing because I’ve got plenty of time.
Trying to explain that in normal terms, as you’ve just seen, is not that effective.
It just makes a lot of sense to me when putting it in terms of storm clouds, which are threatening to rain but will probably hold off and clear.
On the way back from a (different) CU meeting, my housemate asked how I was feeling about next year. I struggled. She suggested putting it in terms of how the weather was. I responded something along the lines of “mostly sunny, but with some pretty threatening storm clouds on the horizon. Like I’m quite worried about the storm clouds but it’s also a pretty good situation overall.”. She responded simply by reminding me who had the umbrella.
Yes, I’ve got a whole load of stuff to do before I go away in September. I’ve got a whole load of paperwork, plus normal assignments and exams. And no doubt that will be stressful.
But the verse at the top offers a wonderful challenge. Don’t worry about all of that. Because God knows about it. Instead, be searching for Him and His kingdom. Look to glorify Him and seek His grace, mercy and righteousness.
There’s a wonderful quote from someone (attributed to Francis de Sales) that goes something along the lines of “Every Christian needs half an hour of prayer every day, except when he is busy, then he needs an hour.” This, for me, sums up this article. There may be storm clouds on the horizon, or looming overhead, but God is faithful, and we are able to cast our worries onto Him. Our own umbrellas won’t be able to deal with those storms. How reassuring, then, that we don’t need to use our own umbrellas.