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Coining a phrase, by Lucy Mills

9 Aug

This week on God 52, we’re thinking about intentional friendship. In this guest post, writer Lucy Mills considers how true friendship can be measured…

lucy millsWe call it carpet snorting.

Which sounds weird, and perhaps a little dodgy. Is this some new drug?

No. When we say carpet, we mean carpet. That stuff people use to cover floors with, you know?

I suppose I’d better explain.

When I was studying for my degree, I made some very close friends. Friends who knew more about me than most. Friends with whom I snuffled with laughter and sniffled with tears.

And then there was the carpet snorter. Let’s call her Sarah, because that is her name.

Sarah and I did our fair bit of snuffling and sniffling. It was quite obvious from the beginning that this friendship would be marked by a lot of hilarity, as well as honest tears.  (We even bellow with laughter about the bad bits in life. It makes them slightly more manageable.)

We would laugh so hard it crippled us; other students would find us hanging from the railings on the college staircase, unable to continue our upward (or indeed downward) journey because laughter had stolen our ability to use our legs.

(Sarah was not the only friend with whom I collapsed under the weight of joy; there were others – dear Susan, with whom I was bundled down the fire escape, because our mirth was too big for one library. The memory still gets me a-snuffling.)

One day, Sarah and I were laughing. About what? Who knows. We laughed so hard we ended up lying on the floor. And then, through splutters, one of us said: “I just snorted carpet up my nose!”

I think it was Sarah, but it might have been me. In the moments of laughter we merged into one giggling entity.

But the phrase was coined, and thus it is how we measure a friendship.

“I’ve made a new friend, but I don’t know if she is carpet snorting material,” one tells the other.

“I really need to meet a carpet snorter,” says one, on moving into a new neighbourhood.

I’m moving in the autumn. New area, new church, new neighbours. I really hope there’s a carpet snorter there somewhere.  It will be a challenge in making new friends but also in maintaining old ones. I’ll need to work at keeping friendships alive.

Because even (or especially) carpet snorting friends aren’t made automatically; we need to invest, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. Both laughter and tears come from a place of vulnerability. Being ourselves, whatever the world thinks. Challenging one another to find shared joy where there was only individual sadness.

We call it carpet snorting.

Lucy Mills is a freelance writer and member of the Magnet editorial team – an ecumenical Christian resources magazine.  Her website and blog can be found at www.lucy-mills.com.  She tweets as @lucymills. Her big passion is the book she’s writing, called ‘Forgetful Heart’ – looking at what it means to remember God in our daily lives, and confessing she’s not very good at it.

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Some thoughts on submission, by Tania Vaughan

31 Jul

This week’s challenge is all about submission – but that word might not quite mean what you think (or fear) it means… Here, Tania Vaughan writes about how Peter’s struggle to submit to God, sometimes mirrors her own…

Tania Vaughan2As disciplines go, this is probably the one I find most difficult; giving control over and submitting to God is probably my biggest struggle and I see some of that struggle in the life of Peter.

A refusal of cleansing. In John 13:8 Peter refused Jesus washing His feet, he was refusing the love and service that Jesus wanted to give Him. There are times when I refuse God’s correction, discipline, cleansing or care because I feel I’m not worthy of having His love and grace poured over me. Jesus told Peter that without this act He could have no part with Him and when I refuse to let God in to cleanse me it puts a strain on my relationship with Him.

The fear of getting it wrong. Matthew 14:28-29 is often used as a wonderful example of stepping out in faith but it also reminds me, that sometimes I think that if I take control the it’s less likely to go wrong.  When I see/hear God I step out in faith just like Peter stepped out of the boat, but then thinking I see the plan I start rushing forward without being prepared, I take my eyes off of Jesus and then things start going wrong, like Peter, I start sinking. Submitting isn’t about jumping in feet first, there is a submission in being quiet and still, waiting on God, listening and allowing Him to prepare me for the next step.

A plan that makes no sense. I like to know where I’m going, what I’m doing and every step in between, God doesn’t! God shows the next step, no final destination and no big plan laid out. Sometimes the next step makes no sense whatsoever! Like Peter in Matthew 16:22 I find myself having a word with God about what He thinks He’s doing and pointing out that this next step He seems to be focused on is pointless and unnecessary. When we focus on what makes sense in the here and now, we can miss out on a vital step to something great that God wants to do; we become our own stumbling block.

Stepping forward. At times we need to refuse, we need to fail and to fear, all so that we can learn that actually to truly move forward we have to submit. Submission is not about giving up or giving in, it’s about moving into a deeper relationship and accepting what God wants to give. Peter did all of these things and he learned and he grew and then he went out and fulfilled his God given ministry.

Tania Vaughan is a wife, mother, writer, speaker and “above all else a cherished child of God just trying to be faithful in a mixed up world to the call to share and encourage others in their walk”. Tania blogs at www.taniavaughan.com; follow her on Twitter @TaniaJVaughan 

Some reflections on… reflection by Nick Parish

8 Jul

Writing in response to our recent challenge on reflection, Nick Parish looks forward and back, and risks encouraging his inner eeyore…

eeyoreWhat a perfect invitation. “This week we’re going to invite you to make a new half-year resolution – and get back on the God52 wagon…”

Last week’s amnesty was good (though in all honesty, I could do with a couple more weeks of amnesty…) and a chance to reassess. So this week’s invitation to recommit was timely.  Because it reminds me that being a Christian and living for Christ doesn’t simply require one decision. It requires daily choices being made.  It asks me to commit myself through words and actions day after day after day. In the week that Andy Murray won Wimbledon, it’s also worth remembering that the daily commitment to something, whilst demanding, can also bring rewards. We are doing these weekly challenges not just for the sake of it, but to draw closer to God.

And so I have devoted some time to reflecting.  Looking back and looking forward. In the process of reflecting, I wrote two headings:  “Stuff I’ve achieved” and “Stuff to come”. I wrote a couple of things down under each heading, glanced back at the challenge and realised my mistake (one I make all too easily). The challenge wasn’t, in fact, to chart my personal successes over the first six months of the year, it was to consider “what God has done in your life”. So I rewrote the first heading and had another crack at reflecting on it.  The fact of the matter is, the best things I achieve tend to be the ones that God and I work on together. Raising my boys (which is my main role) is the greatest thing we’ve worked on together. I often don’t get it right, but that doesn’t mean I give up, it just requires recommitting to it. The last six months have been one quarter of Luke’s entire life. That’s hugely significant for him, surely. But only in reflecting on the last six months has that been brought home to me.

As I continued to reflect, there was the ongoing danger of seeing my life through Eeyore’s eyes. With this sort of exercise, I find myself more likely to take a gloomy approach than a cheery one. But God has been working in my life over the last few months, and taking time to notice where is such a valuable exercise. It reminds me that I am not alone. It reminds me that my personal triumphs are not the be-all and end-all; life is bigger than that. Reflecting also excites me about the future. The coming six months will have some challenges, without a doubt. But they’ll have plenty of opportunity to grow closer to Him, to serve Him through the things that I prioritise. There will be a direct link between my commitment and my growth. This may or may not be visible in the coming months, but by taking time to reflect, I’m reminded that God has been good, and will be good in the future. Some things never change.

Nick Parish is a stay at home Dad who’s slowly learning that this fact doesn’t need to be justified by adding things like, ‘I’m writing a book’, and ‘I’m a Special Constable with Derbyshire Police’ (though both these facts are true…)  He is married to Anna, who runs the boarding house in which they live, and they have two boys, Joshua and Luke. Check out his blog and catch him on Twitter.

May God go before us – an anonymous guest post

10 Jun

In this anonymous guest post, written in response to our latest challenge, a writer shares her story…

So this week’s challenge to keep going with something that’s difficult came at an interesting time for me. There’s been a series of major incidents happening to or involving people around me of late. People I have a lot of emotional investment in have all been grappling with big life stuff just in the last two weeks!

Some of that stuff has involved church, and to be more specific, relationships within our church. God’s calling for his people to be in community with each other sounds like a lovely, warm, friendly way to do life. Until you actually start working with people! Because we’re all broken, each of us has our own unique brokenness, and when you put people together: really together, that brokenness can clash and get painful.

Our situation involves our church leadership. I felt challenged to do what seems to be a VERY difficult thing and confront my church leaders. I say it’s a very difficult thing, and yet it shouldn’t really be. Surely where we feel injustice is happening in church life really we ought to be able to challenge it, and leaders ought to encourage those in the wider leadership team (as I am), if not the body of the church to do just that. But it’s difficult, for many reasons!

So more than two weeks ago I went to the church leader to try to make my response to a specific situation that is still ongoing. I came out of that conversation feeling as though I hadn’t actually said the thing I wanted to say and he hadn’t really understood even what I had said. And I decided that I wouldn’t try again, thinking: I’m too close to my friend (also involved in the leadership) who is being hurt; I’m too emotional to be able to put my point across clearly and without tears. Maybe it’s not up to me, I thought, I’ll leave it to God.

Two weeks later, after much prayer, many tears, truly pleading with, and then really listening to God I went back to the same church leader. I hadn’t prepared what to say; I hadn’t necessarily intended to try to ‘sort out’ the situation. I didn’t want to wade into a situation that really might not need me. But I was able to say ‘This is unjust’; he heard me; and I walked away with a lighter step and hope in my heart that this relationship might be reconciled.

My prayer all of last week (apart from God will you just DO SOMETHING!) was:

May God go before us and come behind us.

And do you know what? He really did.

The Perfect translation? by Eddie Arthur

29 May

We’re thinking about the Bible on God52 at the moment, as you’ll find if you read this week’s challenge. In this guest blog, Wycliffe UK’s Eddie Arthur encourages us to consider what our view on the best Bible translation says about us.

Eddie Talking 2If you ever feel like starting an online argument; just ask people what their favourite version of the Bible is. People get really excited about this one and start chucking terms like paraphrase and dynamic equivalence around like hand grenades. Some people love to argue about Bible translations!

Can I let you into a secret? Almost all of the English translations are really good. The NIV, ESV, NLT and a host of other three letter acronyms are all worth reading. They have their strengths and weaknesses and some are more suitable in some situations than others; but they are all good translations. Oh, did I mention that I’m a Bible translator?

To be frank, I don’t care which translation of the Bible you read as long as you read it. Far better to read a version of the Bible that isn’t perfect than to have the world’s greatest translation sitting on your shelves unopened. Get into the Word and don’t get paranoid about finding the perfect translation.

Meanwhile, as English speakers get all heated up about which translation they should read, there are about 210,000,000 people who don’t have a single word of the Bible in their language. That’s right, while we have shelves of versions to choose from, there are about 2,000 languages without a verse of Scripture.

Just imagine trying to plant a church or to help Christians grow without being able to open a Bible and show people what God was saying to them. How about your own Christian life? How would you get along if you didn’t have a Bible or if you had to read it in French or Spanish?

But it goes deeper than this. Think about what it must mean to have a language that is so obscure that even God doesn’t seem to speak it. The people who don’t have a Bible in their language are among the most marginalised in the world. If there is Bible, there is probably no other literature either; nothing written down. If you don’t have a Bible in your language, your educational and political options will be limited and child mortality rates will be higher.

Years ago, it was Christians who pioneered education in the UK; so that everyone could read the Bible. This story is being repeated around the world today as Bible translators and others reach out to the most marginalised.

Eddie Arthur is the Executive Director of Wycliffe UK. Follow him on Twitter @Kouya, or find out more about Wycliffe at www.wycliffe.org.uk

Smiling: a basic social skill, by Lynn McCann

10 May

Writing in response to this week’s friendliness challengeLynnMcann, Lynn McCann asks: what’s in a smile?

I must admit that this week’s God52 challenge made me smile… well that’s what we’re being asked to do!

I work with children who have autism.  It is a social disability.  Some of them have missed out on the early development of social skills that most of us take for granted.  Therefore I spend a lot of time assessing children’s social skill ability and putting teaching programmes in place that teach the basic social skills step by step.  Children without autism learn these things naturally through interaction with their parents, carers and other children.

So what is in a smile?

We usually begin by giving eye contact, our facial muscles form the smile and we pause long enough to wait for a reaction by the other person. If we are feeling confident we might add a greeting. We then pause ever-so-briefly again to wait for a reply.  If all goes well you and the other person can then comfortably move on or start an extended interaction that might develop into full-blown conversation.

What has happened is a two-way communication. Maybe it is something you take for granted and that comes very naturally to you. Maybe you feel a little awkward but can make yourself do it if you think about it. Maybe you’ve just got out of the habit.

What we as humans receive from a smile is a message that says, “I acknowledge you. I am taking my focus away from myself for a moment and giving my attention to you. You have significance and I am showing pleasure in connecting with you.”

However brief this may be, the person on the receiving end can be built up, drawn out of loneliness or sadness. They may smile back, and that can release endorphins in the brain that lifts a mood. A smile can be quite powerful.

One of the joys of my work is receiving a smile from a child with autism that is purposely directed at me. It may be in response to something I’ve given them, something we did together or even better, in response to seeing me. It makes my heart sing.

When we smile at others we are sharing a reflection of our heavenly Father. God smiles down on his people because Jesus has dealt with all our sins and now we can enter into a wonderful relationship with him.  If we want others to know how much God loves them…then a smile can reflect his thoughts, open hearts and lead to great communication.

Lynn McCann is a wife, mum to two teenagers, and an ASD teacher who loves Jesus with all her heart. She blogs at http://includedbygrace.wordpress.com about faith, life, and sharing the gospel with people with learning disabilties and ASD.

The problem of consistency, by Ryan Cartwright

28 Apr

A second guest blog on this week’s challenge subject – praying consistently – from web developer and cartoonist (hence the avatar) Ryan Cartwright.

stewI was once told that sport is about consistency. Apparently to achieve greatness at a sport you need more than talent, you need to produce that talent time after time. My dictionary says consistency is “Reliability of successive results or events” and here is my problem with consistency when applied to prayer. If consistency is about achievement, if consistency is measuring results against each other then how can it apply to prayer? What is an achievement or result in prayer? How do we measure prayer and therefore how can prayer be consistent?

As it happens, my prayer life is consistent. It’s a consistent struggle, it always has been and I have come to terms with the fact that it always be. I’ve done the snoring-at-the-sunrise quiet time, I’ve read the books, tried the plans and my personal prayer-life remains like an engine that needs new spark plugs: it refuses to start. Through all this, that scripture has nagged at me: “Pray without ceasing”. I’ve always known it didn’t mean every sentence I said needed to end with “Amen” but still felt the pressure to pray every day. I often feel there’s too much emphasis on prayer. We make it sound like everything God does depends on something we usually forget to do.

The truth is we can’t measure prayer anymore than we can define what makes a good tune and of course God doesn’t depend on prayer: he cares that we do it but it is we who have made it a necessity. If we free prayer from the shackles of duty and measurement we are free to pray. Realising this changed my life. I am able to tell people I will pray for them without feeling guilty for a start. That’s because I am no longer promising a stream of regular incantations but offering to remember them to God. I find I best do this by bringing God into my thoughts when I suddenly remember them. This can happen at any time of day, at the traffic lights, in the bath, walking the dog, watching a movie. Yes I try (and fail) to spend dedicated time with God most days but I no longer put such an emphasis on it because I know I can stay in touch with him through the day. Funnily enough I realised recently that this is something I can be consistent at.

Ryan Cartwright is a web developer and cartoonist who has been blogging since before the term was invented. A Father of two and youth worker based in Essex, he has a passion for freedom and a weakness for Haribo. You can find him at http://www.crimperman.org and @crimperman

Carefully and Thoughfully Attentive, by Tim Bechervaise

28 Apr

Writing in response to this week’s challenge, this guest blogger reflects on the struggle and the joy of regular, disciplined prayer.

timmybechEver since I became a Christian, the discipline of prayer, particularly in the morning, has been encouraged by my church, the example of my parents and, of course, Jesus (Mark 1:35). Initially, seeing it as boring and simply another ‘religious’ exercise, I was a reluctant follower, but gradually I have come to treasure the 10-15 minutes I spend praying each morning – sometimes a little wearily. Normally I wake-up and proceed to have a shower, get changed and eat breakfast with a myriad of anxious, rushed and tired thoughts – ‘Oh no, I need to do that today / How will I get everything done?’ But at that moment of stillness, I have come to realise that Jesus sits with me, not only hearing my requests, but also prompting me to hear from Him through the Bible or directing my prayers in a way that my focus turns from me and onto Him.

As time wears on, however, I have found it easy to get lost in the demands of the day, to the extent that I sometimes forget about the prayers offered and thus lose an appreciation of how God has answered them.

So, at the end of each day, I am now attempting to sit on my bed for a few minutes (I used to pray lying down in bed, but too often I never finished my prayers, something which I am sure God smiles at) and recall those early morning prayers. And what’s amazing is the way I realise the way in which God has been so carefully and thoughtfully attentive to the cries of my heart.

I prayed God would open my eyes to the needs of others. I now recall bumping into the same person three times today. Perhaps God wants me to pray for/reach out to them in some way.

I prayed God would help me have a hospitable attitude. I now recall a few people came and spoke to me whilst I was working. Perhaps God is prompting me to be hospitable when I least expect or want to.

I prayed God would make me aware of His love for me. I now recall the quiet walk I enjoyed earlier in the sun and the coffee my colleague bought me. Perhaps God was showing His love for me, not through grand gestures, but in life’s small details.

Whilst I understand that some answers to prayer aren’t always as straightforward, reflecting on the answers I can see reminds me that each day has been held together by Jesus, who was carefully and thoughtfully attentive to the cries of my heart. And for that, I am very thankful.

The discipline can be hard, but catching a glimpse of its effect in my life each night inspires me to begin the next day in prayer.

Tim Bechervaise is 26 years old, works in the finance industry and heads up his local church’s 18-30s group. He is passionate about coffee, doughnuts and Spurs. He is even more passionate about Jesus. He tweets at @TimmyBech

Just open the door, by Robin Peake

21 Apr

This week’s God52 challenge is all about loving your community. But if you’re finding it too hard, charity worker Robin Peake has discovered a way to cheat…

Robin PeakeDo you want to know how to cheat on this challenge?

Nicky and Nancy are a unique couple with whom my wife and I struck up a friendship through our local church. Now in their 50s, they met on a Monday and got married on the Friday almost 24 years ago.

We love them, and their lives are absolute chaos sometimes.

They knocked on our door one time to ask to borrow some money as they’d run out and were waiting for another payment to come through.

We asked how much they needed and gave them £90 or whatever it was.

When they got money at the start of the next month, they paid us back without prompting. But by the end of the month they’d run out again and asked to borrow some more.

This went on for five or six months. They were happy to need to borrow less and less without being at the mercy of payday lenders; we were happy to be presented with a need that we could meet that was costing us nothing.

It was a way to show God’s love in our local area.

But we didn’t find it.

It knocked on our door.

Here’s what I think.

Build relationships with people in your community.

Then you’ll find out what their needs are.

Then you’ll know the ways to show God’s love in ways that will meet their needs.

No more finding, just opening the door or answering the phone.

And who said cheating wasn’t fun.

Robin Peake loves seeing lives change through local mission. He volunteers with Thrive (www.thriveteam.wordpress.com) and tweets as @robin_peake

Loving by listening, by Dave Pickett

19 Apr

Student Dave responds to this week’s love-your-community challenge with a simple but innovative idea…

davepickettShowing the love of God in our local area is something that’s been on my ‘to-do’ list for a while. If I’m honest it’s probably been something that’s quite low down on that list to, with the extensive list of emails to write, people to see, things to do…

But, little did I know that this week God would put it back up the agenda in a big way. I was sat in my office on Monday afternoon planning our next youth event and decided to poke my head out the door as I had heard Chris Duffet (Baptist President) was running some kind of evangelism workshop in the Church hall and, having met him at a conference a few weeks back, thought it would be good to say hello again. Accompanied by another team member we decided to sit in, observe and grab a coffee after a day’s planning.

An hour later I find myself sat on a bench we had moved from Church outside McDonalds equipped with only a blackboard inscribed with ‘I Will Listen’. Once my team member and I had settled into our seats, (a bench is only so comfortable!) the flow of people began. An hour later we had spoken with over 30 people, mainly young people, about life, the universe and everything in it and about it. Wow. People asked why anyone would give up their time just to listen to people on the streets and we replied that we just wanted to show people that their was someone out there who cared and loved them.

I’ve been thinking up new ideas, adapting old thoughts on showing the love of God to my local area for a while but nothing has clicked like this did – this was it.

I had got caught up in trying to over think showing God’s love when all it took was a bit of chalk and a blackboard; planned in under 10 minutes. Simplicity, showing the love of God doesn’t need to start with a lengthy strategic plan.

Back to the office to plan for our week of prayer, I’m filled with a new passion to show the love of God in my local area and am thankful for having experienced how simple it can be.

Dave Pickett is the Youth Director of Change Youth (@changeyouthuk) & a Geography student with a heart for seeing young people grow deeper and being equipped and a Church engaged in local mission. He enjoys playing music, designing stuff and running. You can follow his twitter: @dspickett