I’m Not Alone…

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.” – Psalm 40:1-2

Loneliness is hard.

Fortunately, we have a God who loves. A God who cares. A God who comforts.

It was great to be reminded of this on Monday. After the weekly CU prayer meeting, I had a 2-hour gap before my first lecture. So I decided to head to the Costa opposite, and someone else from CU came and sat with me. We had a cup of tea and chatted. And I admitted that this time of year I find particularly difficult.

And then she said exactly what I needed to hear. I needed to be reassured. To be comforted. And to be challenged.

Challenged to trust. But not only that. Challenged to escape the vicious cycle of worry, lack of trust, and feelings of worthlessness. We are weak, but God is strong.

One of the things I love about CU is that, at your lowest point, someone will be around to pick you up. But more than that. Everyone recognises that they are not strong enough to pick you up. But instead they point to God – the one whose grace, mercy and love is strong enough.

I listened to a series of talks recently, and one of the things that struck me was when the speaker described us being designed for relationships. And how a relationship with God is the only one that truly satisfies. But how good that it’s offered!

Events Week!

“All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendour of your kingdom.” – Psalm 145:10-12

This is probably going to be quite a short post, because burnout is real and I don’t want it to happen!

Anyway, this is a very exciting week of events that the CU is running and… I may have volunteered to help for a fair amount of it, and may have somehow got involved with some of the dramas we’re doing, and I may have helped to lead a prayer meeting on Tuesday morning, and I may have actually stood up and invited a whole seminar group to the event today…

As you can tell, it’s a pretty mad week. So many people have come along to events; it’s been such an encouragement, and such a blessing, to see that people are coming along and engaging and hearing the Gospel. God is so good!

It’s been a great week so far, and my prayers at the moment are that it would continue to be a great week. There are so many people on campus to reach, and all of them should know of God’s might, glory and love.

In short: I am excited. I am tired. I am stupidly busy. But God is great!

The best sort of encouragement :D

There are some people in CU who consistently amaze me. They amaze me with their ability to talk to people, with just how empathetic they are. With just how faithful they are in praying for every single person they meet.

One of our college group leaders (CReps) is exactly like that. Like me, she was a Day STYC during Freshers Week. One of our responsibilities was running a “brunch club” (that is, serving people who came into the common room with breakfast bars, pastries etc.) and to be honest, much of the time nothing really happened. A few people came in, took some food, and left.

And then one day one of the college administrators came in. He said that there was a girl who was coming in later who was 17, who had been pressured to drink by her STYCs, who was isolated, lonely and in need of some help. Her name is Laura.

To the surprise of nobody, our CRep took Laura under her wing, went out for coffee with her, and invited her along to events where slightly less drinking would be going on. Many of these were CU events.

Since then, Laura has come along to most of our College CU meetings, signed up to be part of a CU family, made loads of Christian friends (some of whom she’ll be living with next year). She’s also participating in and contributing to our Bible studies, and has even been to Church.

How great is our God! Putting everything in place so that someone at their most desperate can hear the Gospel and get to know His love.

The End of Term… Already

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. A weekend away with CU, a group presentation to prepare and give, and somehow my body decided to go a little bit into shutdown and hide in my bed for far longer (but still somehow not long enough…)

Anyway. In 3 days I’ll have made it to the end of term. And what a term it’s been. A few mad moments, a great house, lots of work, and lots of CU. But it’s what’s still to come that’s most exciting.

We’ve got a carol service at York Minster. For the first time. In previous years, it was on campus. In a less than ideal location. But the two universities in York are teaming up to put it on in the Minster. And it’s so exciting because it’s such a great opportunity to invite people to hear about Jesus. They can go for free into York’s biggest tourist attraction, experience a really traditional carol service, get free refreshments, feel really Christmassy…

And it’s tomorrow. So we’ll have made it to December. Just. We’ll be even further into Advent. Our ridiculously short terms won’t hold us back!

I’ve got a few carol services coming up this year. When I get back home for Christmas, I’ll be doing the service at my home church. And then the day after, my old school will be having their one at Church. Which I might go to.

It’s a mad time of term and it’s a mad time of year. But that’s what makes it so fun 🙂

Our House – Our Family

You are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” – Ephesians 2:19b

The house I’m living in this year is great.

We often invite friends over, for food, games, even just chatting. And one in particular has commented more than once on the atmosphere in our house; how communal it is, how friendly.

It helps that all of us want the benefits of communal living. We searched in particular for a house with a dining table. We found a house with a dining table, living area, large kitchen (all open-plan) and I love it. I spend far less money on food (as we shop and cook together), and I spend the time I need to with others. I can always retreat to my room if I’m people-d out!

But I think what helps more is the one thing that brought us together in the first place: Our faith.

We are all Christians; we are all a part of God’s Church, God’s family. I know I’ve used the verse at the top before. But I think it perfectly sums up our house. I think the notion of family helps to create the atmosphere that our friend commented on.

We have come from completely different walks of life. We met through CU. We are all adopted in God’s family; we can be like family at uni.

It saddens me that other houses don’t live communally. It saddens me even more that most other houses don’t know of the Gospel. But CU exists to “give every student on campus the opportunity to hear and respond to the Gospel”. So that they, too, may know the love that God has for us and that we have for each other.

Prayer Meetings, or, Why I Get Up On Monday Mornings

Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18

Prayer meetings are great. There’s something so powerful, so refreshing, so equipping to have people praying together at 8am on a Monday morning. Leading prayer meetings is a bit more of a challenge (especially as a quieter person), but nonetheless rewarding.

I really enjoyed leading our CU prayer meeting today, especially planning it. Digging out the right Bible passages, deciding how we were praying and what we were praying for. Creating something that people could take away and pray on over the week.

We started with worship – I know many of my friends find that worship helps them concentrate on prayer, and we don’t often start a prayer meeting with worship. So I decided to start by singing. Worshipping God together is such a joyful activity!

The running theme of the prayer meetings this term is the Lord’s Prayer. We’re looking at it line-by-line, and so I was given “Give us this day our daily bread”. It’s hugely important to remember that God provides for us. God is gracious and giving. We can receive spiritual nourishment from the Bible, but God also provides us with more practical things. The first example that comes to mind is the house I’m currently living in. One of my housemates said at one point, and I definitely agree, “God put our house together.” I’ll probably explain that in a sentimental post when I’m moving out.

Anyway. This line also reminds us that all things come from God, and so we should give thanks for them. I found a great part of Deuteronomy that unfortunately we didn’t get time to read in the prayer meeting, but it was a great reminder of how good God is and how much we have to thank Him for.

I chose to do this section as one big group so that, in thanking God for His goodness, we could hear exactly how great He is. It was great to have so many people thanking God for so many things.

One of the things I took away from Forum was the importance of prayer. Just how amazing it is that we can talk with God and know that He will answer our prayers. And that it’s so important to keep on praying. So it was important to me that there was something to take away. Something to remind us during the week to keep praying. And, indeed, what to pray for. Taking half a minute before praying to write down our prayer points on a piece of paper (divided into sections so we know what we’re praying for!) turned out to be a useful focus during the meeting, and it created a take-away that people can pray for over the course of the week.

When I was younger I hated prayers. They seemed so boring, so long. Every “Amen” was said in hope that it was the last one. But now I love prayers. It’s definitely a duty to pray. But it’s also a real privilege.

Toasties: Thoughts, Trust and Encouragement

God is so good.

The first few weeks of term have been so encouraging from a CU point of view. We’ve had freshers turn up who are enthusiastic about sharing the Gospel. We’ve had freshers turn up who desperately needed the Gospel and are beginning to find it. And then we had tonight.

I really should be in bed right now – it’s been a fairly long day and it’s already gone midnight. But I have to get this into writing before bed. Then I feel I can properly reflect on, and thank God for, such a wonderful evening.

The day passed off normally. I went to the Church Bible study, then had a couple of seminars, and then started setting up for the café we have at CU. In everything we do at CU, we aim to love, to serve, and to spread the Gospel. The café is our way of loving and serving, and hopefully the Gospel shines through that – we don’t want it to be too evangelistic, but we want to build up a healthy relationship with the college so that our evangelism can be more effective.

After the café we had a Bible study. There were over 20 of us there. We started in prayer and worship. The passage was from John, and the study was interesting and I feel like I got a lot out of it. We concluded in prayer and, excited after the Bible study, started to prepare for Toasties.

We got, relative to other weeks, a lot of orders. There were a lot of questions. Thankfully there was a lot of people on hand to answer them. And from those half-baked questions that just came up in discussion with flatmates, we were able to have some fantastic conversations. There were questions about misogyny, LGBT, and even about dinosaurs (although I doubt that was a serious question, and was just an excuse to have a toastie…)

And from those conversations it was hugely encouraging to see some genuine interest. I’ll talk in a later article about someone who wanted to know more.

As we were setting down, we realised there were a lot of flyers for our event tomorrow left over, so we figured it would be a good idea to put them into as many postboxes as we could this evening. I managed to get round about 10 houses before I got to a house where there were people smoking outside. I explained that I was delivering flyers for the CU, and they seemed interested. I had a long conversation about music with someone, and invited them to CU.

Thinking back about earlier on in the day, it had seemed so normal. But little things happened during the day. As part of my French seminar, I had to explain the relevance of the birth of Jesus to Christianity (it was in comparison to the importance of the French Revolution in the history of Republican France, although naturally Jesus is far more important than revolutionary Frenchpeople. No offence to the French, bien sûr!). I was pretty excited that I was asked that particular question. And then things improved immeasurably at CU.

One of the things that I really felt made a difference was our attitude. Our College Reps were stressed, dealing with life and work, and so it felt like we were putting more and more in God’s hands. It is something we try to do anyway, but it is often so hard to let go and put our trust completely in God.

This week, I feel, we left so much up to God. The questions we got asked were not easy questions to answer. But we spent time in prayer, with faith that God would speak through us and that we might sow seeds in people’s minds, that we might intrigue and inspire them to know God a little more.

And I am so glad we did.

Today was better than I could have ever hoped. I will probably be crying tonight as I thank God for all His power, His love, His goodness. I will be praying for every person I met. Every person who has heard some of the Gospel tonight. Anyone who still wishes to learn more, or who didn’t have the confidence to ask this week. For those people considering coming to the lunchbar. For everyone that God used in whatever way.

Tonight was so special. I pray that we could continue to trust in God, and continue to be a blessing to the members of our college. I pray that we could continue to answer questions thoughtfully, prayerfully and in a Bible- and Gospel-focussed way. I pray that we could continue to form relationships with our college, so that many more may come to know His glory.

Perhaps the Lord…