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! 🙂

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.