This whole Lent thing…

At Christmas time, I joined our Senior Section on a ferris wheel once again to make a promise. Part of that promise was to develop my beliefs.

They are constantly evolving.

I think it’s easy to assume that as a Christian, that I signed up to a set of beliefs and religious rules and rituals and committed to keeping them. But truth is, as I see the world, learn more, study the bible, converse with friends, strangers and God – I’m always questioning, always considering, always trying to work things out.

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There are parts of the Christian festivals that I struggle with. Pancake Day though is a ritual I love and try to stick to. I’ll be honest, my incentive often has more to do with fun traditions of making pancakes and tossing them than God. But at the same time the tradition marks a moment to start Lent – preparing for Easter and the fear, mourning, confusion and celebrating that came with in the space of three days many, many years ago.

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Last night I gathered with some Jesus freak friends (I say that with love…!) and we had a time of prayer as we always do on the first Tuesday of each month. We then ripped apart round loaf of olive bread, shared glasses of wine (grape juice for me) to do what is known as communion before making pancakes. For those of you who don’t know, Jesus shared a meal in a home just before he was arrested – and asked his disciples to routinely break bread and share wine together in remembrance of Him and His sacrifice. These days, many churches mark it in a service with a shot glass and a teeny bits of bread. I won’t lie – it makes me a wee bit angry that they do it like that because I think it’s a bit of an insult to Jesus really. There is something far more real about a good chunk of bread and a generous glass of wine to symbolise it all!

There is much chat that has gone on this week amongst Christians bemoaning people giving up things for Lent and what they are giving up for Lent. Personally I think you should do or not do what you feel is right. If you want to use this season to abstain from something – go ahead. I don’t mind you using this season to do that. Perhaps it isn’t what God really cares about – but I don’t honestly know.

Over the years I’ve done different things. My uni friends still recall the year I gave up straightening my hair for Lent. It was much tougher than I care to admit. It says a lot about my vanity, and I never considered myself as one of those girls who are obsessed with their looks. Other years I’ve given up things that weren’t that tough to give up. One year I took up doing random acts of kindness each day when we did The Art of Joy. Last year I didn’t do or give up anything.

These last few months, I feel challenged – whether by God or otherwise – to consider how I spend my money and where I spend my money. I’ve been wrestling with whether I should go to the cheap places like Primark or Aldi so I can save money, and maybe make it seem better by giving the money saved to charity? Or do I spend more by supporting local businesses, that are perhaps running more ethical practices, and maybe benefitting the vibrancy of the economy? Do I go to the big corporate cinema showing the trashy blockbusters, or do I go to the independent one that is showing films “where stuff actually happens” (to quote from Lupita Nyong’o) and telling important stories that matter? Do I focus my time more carefully so I’m not running into the many local ‘metro’ supermarkets that are undercutting small businesses on my way to and form work by bringing a reusable flask of water from home, or maybe going into the little corner shop or health food shop instead?

And is it ok to have a greater focus on doing this during Lent? Is it even something God cares about?

I don’t know that I have the answer,  but I’m going to try it anyway – and not necessarily stop after Lent but perhaps as a friend of a friend put it on facebook

 “I am thinking that giving up chocolate for 40 days, but being a complete a55hole about everything else is not exactly what God has(d) in mind. So in honour of Lent, and regardless of your religious or non-religious leanings, let’s all just try to suck a little less. We can all use it.”

That sounds good to me. A start at the very least. :)

The mystery of the blue camper van…

Remember last summer I told you about my nutty almost sending myself to the psych ward moment when I thought God was telling me to look for a blue camper van and told me to buy a shoulderbag?

Turns out, it wasn’t quite so nutty after all. A couple of weeks ago, we discovered where the blue van was – a tale told by my friend over on the Soul Surfers blog today.

Turns out the blue van was right in front of us all along…

(Silly people who painted Davina all green… ;) )

Listening to the still small voice (that makes you seem nuts)…

I was at my friend’s birthday party the other week, and  I ended up talking to this lady who goes to Central, and halfway through our conversation she commented ‘You really do a lot of praying, don’t you?‘.

Um. Yes. Yes I guess I do.

However, recently, God has been reminding me that just talking at Him is not really being a woman of faith. And I think he noticed that I wrote on my blog that I hoped getting a tattoo would end the nuttiness. *insert sound of God laughing here*. He’s been testing my faith and my ability to listen to Him with the small things in life and in the last two weeks my friends have laughed with me as I’ve shared these two mundane stories…

It all starts with a camper van. Actually. That’s not true. It really began 4 years ago with some toys, 2 cards, a camera, good food, sunshine which led to giddiness, hilarity and conversation

So it actually wasn’t long after that, my friends Brisaac & Lady V began Soul Surfers. We had a few beach days, got involved in some Surfers Against Sewage beach cleans and this camper van called Davina started making an occasional appearance. We fell in love with Davina – which is a big thing since my love of VW had to compete with my in built dislike of things that are Hibs/Celtic colours.

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The main dude behind Davina, a man named Steve, went off to become a Pastor of a church in the west, and poor Davina was left without people to help fulfil her purpose in life.  However, her owners very kindly agreed to let Soul Surfers use her whenever we wanted. Granted, she’s spent some time in the garage because she needed a part and it was tough to find so we couldn’t take her out for a while, but still. We’re now able to use her, and she’s taken our ‘stoke to broke’ friend and others out for picnics and hopefully she’ll be making a trip to Dunbar for a beach day soon.

My friends had asked me to pray because they really want to do what Steve used to use Davina for. They asked other friends to pray too. And then, when we heard Davina was being put up for sale, they asked us all to pray about whether or not they should buy Davina.

Of course! I said. Praying was what I apparently do a lot of after all.

And so, one day a few weeks ago, sitting on the top deck of the airlink bus, I chatted to God about it all. And text my friend about what I thought God was saying to me. I did not text her the second part of what I thought God was saying to me, because I thought ‘that’s a bit weird, and it’s probably my subconsious dislike of green and white‘.

What did I hear in my head that I didn’t share with my friend?

Look out for the blue van‘.

Aye. Whatever God. There’s no blue van.

And so God and I (in my head) argued back and forth about sharing this second part with my friend. By this time I was off the bus and walking up Cockburn Street. I told myself I was hearing things. But the little voice persisted. Look for the blue, look for the blue. I seriously questioned my sanity.

Until, out the corner of my eye I saw something in a shop window. A blue camper van. In bag form.

blue van bag

I stopped and stared, laughed, and took a step to walk on, but I just heard this voice again. You need to buy that bag. I sighed, and went in and asked the lady in the shop

Hi, can I ask you how much that bag in the window is?

She went and checked – it was £38. Ok. It was £37.99. But still. For a bag?!

I walked around the shop to see if I could find a blue camper van magnet, mug or something you know…cheaper. I got the feeling that I was to buy some kind of ‘souvenir’ for my friends in relation to their camper van dream and thought surely a keyring would do just as well. I couldn’t see anything. Which was weird, because I’m sure that shop normally has a whole section of VW stuff! I was about to walk out, really knowing deep down that my gut instinct was telling me (ok, God was telling me) to buy that bag for my friends. But why? Surely God would want me to give money to the homeless? Build a school in Kenya or Haiti? Not buy a overpriced bag that looks like a blue VW Camper van.

And I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but I’m the girl who can’t afford to rent a flat or keep a car. The last bag I bought was a small rucksack that cost about £11 because my old one was literally disintegrating. I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than £25 on a bag. A suitcase, yes. A bag, no.

Sorry God, I don’t really have the money to buy that bag

I started making my way out the shop, and stopped dead in my tracks when God responded

Do you  really think that I can’t provide you with the £38 to buy that handbag? If you don’t have faith that I can provide for that handbag, why do you believe I can provide your friends with a camper van?

Ouch. Game, set and match to God.

And so after wandering in another circle for another second, I went back up to the counter.

Hi, I’m really sorry, I’m not sure if I need a psych ward or a church, but I think God is telling me to buy that camper van bag for my friends. Could I please buy it?

And continued waffling to the girl about how it was weird I was praying about my friends who had asked me to pray about this camper van, and then I thought I heard a voice telling me about a blue van, and then 30 seconds later I saw this bag in the window…

The girl laughed awkwardly. I’m pretty sure she thought I was off my rocker.

I don’t really blame her.

I later texted my friend to say…um…I have something to give you. Will explain later.

I’ll be honest folks, I have no idea why I was to buy that bag. I think it was to show some kind of trust and faith and to remind us to have faith for Him to provide for their camper van vision.

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But oh, the little voice stories didn’t end there. A couple of weeks later, I was leaving church. I had planned to stay in the city centre to run some errands and meet up with my friends from high school. The night before one friend had cancelled and I hadn’t heard from the rest. As I walked into town, I was grumpy and thought about just jumping on a bus at the West End and going home instead. But that little voice spoke to me again – and told me I should stay in town.

I was still grumping as I walked down the road. As I reached Princes Street some other friends text me  to say they were heading to the beach – did I want to join them? Joining my friends at the beach sounded much more fun than staying in town on my own. But even as I text back with my ‘yes’ I had that nagging feeling that I should stay in town.

I ignored it.

It was past 1 p.m. by this time, and I was hungry, so after running my errand, I decided to get some food. I had the choice of running to Subway – on my way to my meeting point with them, or walk further along to Marks & Spencer. I was about to decided on M&S and ask my friends if they wanted me to get something, but again that wee voice said ‘don’t text’. I did my phone in pocket, phone back out of pocket dance, and decided they probably would say ‘No, we’re fine’ and it would take me longer anyway. So I obeyed the small voice this time and went to Subway.

And as I was standing in the queue, I looked up and realised the woman in front of me looked vaguely familiar.

It was my baby sister (my 22 year old baby sister). Who I hadn’t seen in a year. Who’s boyfriend’s plans had made her cancel on our scheduled dinner 2 days before when she let me know she was back in the UK (I hadn’t been too chuffed about that).

After commenting on ‘how freaky’ it was, I got on the phone to my friends and asked them if they’d didn’t mind me not coming to the beach after all (I apologised later for saying yes in the first place). They were lovely about it, and I spent a few hours with my sister where she told me she was moving to a country in the continent of Africa.

As I went home, I understood why that still small voice was telling me not to go home quite yet… :)

That is how I’ve been challenged recently – to listen to the ‘still small voice’. Because really, something that seems trivial could turn into something greater for all I know. You think I would have learned by now that obeying and listening – even when it seems strange (like seeing visions of women dressed in red and hearing words in other languages I don’t understand) – could lead to more than I think it will.

I’m still learning that lesson though.

The Guide Promise

A few months ago, I began a new journey as I worked hard to get a Senior Section Unit up and running. Because Girlguiding UK took SOOOOOO long to get me registered with them, it has created a number of obstaclesBut, it has all been worth it to give a place to encourage 6 fantastic Girlguiding members who had felt they’d outgrown Guides but still wanted to be part of Girlguiding in some way.

For our first term we floundered just trying to help the girls work out what being part of Senior Section meant – it has changed so much since I was a Ranger & Young Leader and gotten way more complicated because EVERYTHING is on a computer (which isn’t too helpful). But one thing was for sure, the girls wanted to remake their promise. And so after finding some activities that ‘looked’ at the promise, from week one we faced a number of challenges as a group because the girls were not happy with the wording, and did not want to make a promise they didn’t believe in.

The UK Girlguiding Senior Section promise is:

I promise I will do my best
To love my God
To serve the Queen and my country
To help other people
To keep the Guide Law and
Be of service to the community.

We had a lot of chat about what it means to do your best, serve the Queen & Country (which brought up debates about the royal family and Scottish independence), serve your community and to love a God. We had a lot of chat about different faiths and beliefs, and it was through this the girls discovered I was a Christian. As someone who grew up not believing in God and was able to study the bible with fresh eyes that hadn’t been tinged with religious add-ons (it’s amazing what church cultures add and make people believe is in bible) I’m a firm believer in letting people choose whether or not they want to believe or worship God. I believe forcing people to make promises in the name of God is offensive to God and quite frankly abusive to people. After a number of meetings with lengthy discussion, I actually told the girls that they could change the sentence about promising ‘to love my God’ as long as it was something that kept the principle of that part of the Guide promise. Some chose to say ‘to respect others beliefs’ or ‘to respect my right to choose what I believe’ and I was okay with that. I realise now that maybe Girlguiding UK would not be happy that I let them do that, but I do not think we were untrue to the core of Girlguiding and its promise, nor did I like the idea of the girls being uncomfortable about essentially lying to their fellow Guides. I also couldn’t understand why as an adult leader I wasn’t to say the added bit about ‘serving the community’ because I believe that’s a huge part of being a Guiding leader.

The announcement of the Promise Consultation has come at the perfect time. When our unit heard, we joked about whether they’d been a fly on the wall at our meetings last term! I believe, like a fellow Christian Guider over at Kelloggsville, that it would be better to take ‘God’ out the promise. I do believe it is important to still have something about respect for beliefs or developing spiritually as one of the cores in guiding, but I think it has to be more encompassing and inclusive so that girls and women can be true to the promise they are making. And I am glad that they are spending time consulting all members of guiding, the parents and outsiders. Knowing now that people have apparently decided not to make the promise or become a member of Scouts & Guides because of the ‘God’ part of the promise makes me sad so it’s important to see what people would be comfortable with if they decided to become part of the Guiding movement.

Some Guide Associations in other countries have already updated their promise. My favourite is Australia’s…

I promise that I will do my best
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve my community and Australia
And live by the Guide Law.

And I also like Canada’s, though I’m not fond of the wording they’ve chosen.

I promise to do my best,
To be true to myself, my beliefs and Canada.
I will take action for a better world
And respect the Guiding Law

You can see a whole selection of variations on the Scout & Guide promise used by associations in countries all around the world here. I love the use of words like ‘On my honour’. I do wish some of the female members of the royal family were still more prominently seen as Guiding volunteers [insert my usual rant about the Scouts always getting more attention here], as I think perhaps then some wouldn’t have a big hissy fit about serving ‘Queen and Country’. Anyways.

The consultation goes on until Sunday 4th March, and then we’ll wait to find out what the outcome is.

It’s a small world…

My friends often like to joke that I apparently know ‘everyone‘. Here’s the truth: I really don’t. But I do seem to have some kind of cosmic gift of networking. Or I just seem to notice the way that a big world can turn into a small world for things to happen in a community.

Last year, I left the church I’d called home since I came to Edinburgh in May 2007. However, I remained very good friends with the original members of my smallgroup there – all of us bloggers that some of you might remember from back in ’08! In fact, I’m willing to bet that you might feel like you already know a few of them – namely my friends Brisaac, Lady V and their kids – Miss Sweetroot & the Mini Kahuna! No words could explain what their friendship means to me, and I often joke that I’m an honourary member of their clan. :)

All of our smallgroup liked to dream big. But our dreams were very different because we are very different people. But I loved that they were all down to earth people who didn’t make up weird Christian terms which seem to have become part of life on what my friend and I call ‘Planet Christian‘ (I have suggested we do a blog series on ‘Planet Christian’ because you just gotta laugh sometimes at the ridiculousness of it all).

One of those dreams was what has become known as ‘Soul Surfers‘. Building community around the beach (and protecting our waves and beaches)!

Ok. So. That was going on and I’ve been semi-connected to that through my lovely friends.

Let’s move over to the other family you might feel you know through this blog. My friends, Carrie & Andy and their kids – Elastatoddler & Mr Teapot. These last few years Andy has been training up to be a Minister, which means that I’ve been facing the upcoming challenge of trying to be a godmother to a minister’s kid! (And you might remember how that’s been going…particularly when Elastatoddler has asked me to read bible stories with him about baby Jesus and Noah & the ark. At least I’ve helped him learn about healthy eating). I was so excited when they ‘coincidentally’ ended up doing Andy’s probation year at the church where Brisaac’s good friend ‘the Rev’ is the minister. But as probation time came to an end, I started to get nervous…where would my friends end up when they had to find their own parish?

My main prayer was “God, you know, whatever is best but…well…um……PLEASE DON’T SEND MY FRIENDS TO A REMOTE ISLAND!! But you know, I trust you (read: I trust you realise that I will seriously consider never praying again if you send my friends to a place where ferry is the only mode of transport) to do whatever is best God“.

My friends shared with me 5 or 6 places they were considering applying to. One was on an island. Another was in the back of beyond – far, far away. But one I was super excited to hear about because it was the location of one of the good surf spots (and prettiest beaches) on the East Coast of Scotland.

My friend then gave me a heart attack when he said something about a church they’d been invited to preach at. They weren’t allowed to say anything. The way my friends spoke about it made me think it was the middle of nowhere one.

And then I found out…it was the one on the East Coast.

I immediately thought of Soul Surfers and how…FINALLY…this might bring my 2 sets of close friends together to do something really cool. With surfboards and camper vans of course!

And then, I got another surprise. Last week I reconnected with my smallgroup leaders from Holy Trinity (church I started going to last summer). A few days later, one of them came up to me and said ‘Oh, you’ve got to pray for [her husband]‘s Mum’s church. They think they’ve finally found a minister but they’ve got to vote on it’. Oh cool I replied. ‘Where is the church?

Eyemouth

8O

Cue her husband running through to the kitchen as he realised that the ‘Carrie and Andy’ I’d spoken about to them, was the same Andy who might become the minister at his mother’s church.

We then shared stories – and let’s just say it became really clear that a lot has gone on behind the scenes over the last few years that now makes perfect sense! For me it was another connection. I always wondered why I was at HT. Now I think this was one of the reasons.

On Sunday, I got the text to say that the decision had been made – my friends were moving to Eyemouth (next door to my friend’s Mum no less!) so they can minister to the parish of Eyemouth & Coldingham.

In a way – one journey has finished. But a new one is about to begin. And I’m pretty sure sand, sea, surf and BBQ (and of course blueberries and chocolate cake) will be involved. :)

And as I said on facebook, as one of my friends finishes training, the very next day another friend started her training at ‘vicar school’. It’s like going full circle!

The story behind the ink…

I realise a few people have not pieced together the what or why of my tattoo. On Tuesday evening I was at my friends’ home having dinner and we were reflecting on where life has taken us over the last 5 years. We were talking about the tattoo, as I had shown my friends Kathy & Vicky the design on my birthday. They know the journey because they were my sisters who supported me through it.

It all began 3 years ago.

I was down at a church in Watford with about 300 others to get our training and team building for going to South Africa a few months later. At the time, I had an infection in my gum which was causing my jaw to freeze or click out of place a lot. Near the end of the day, a guy felt God was saying to him that a few of us needed to be specially commissioned to for our trip, and one of those people had a problem with their jaw, and it had stemmed from a gum infection on bottom left molar.

Pretty specific. And no way I could deny I fitted the description.

I went forward, and some women prayed for me, and as soon as they begun praying I fell back onto the floor. No one pushed me, I hadn’t fainted and I hadn’t done it voluntarily!

While on the floor I had a vision of a woman wearing red, I sensed she was south African, and heard a word. I assumed it was a name at the time. (I later googled it, but I’d spelled it wrongly!)

Over the next few months, every obstacle believable stopped me from getting South Africa. To the point where my Mum said to me ‘There’s so much going wrong, maybe it’s a sign you shouldn’t be going, maybe if you go you’re going to get killed or raped or something’. 

To list the ones I remember: My passport application being denied 3 times (because of the photos), my payment not going through as my references got lost in transit, almost being denied a place because of food allergies, my team host getting ill so my original team had nowhere to go, getting a sinus infection and not  being able to get my second set of vaccines when I was supposed to, extra bills and debts…Even the day before we departed there had been a terrorist alert and Edinburgh airport had been shut for several hours. Oh, yeah, and finding out that my Dad was in court and could go to prison while I was in South Africa.

But I got there. And it turned out God had reasons for some of it.

On our second day while in the minibus during our orientation, I asked Calvin (an intern in the church) and Ntuks (a young pastor) if they knew anyone in with this name or if it was a word they knew.

Do you mean themba?‘ they asked

I said I guess that’s what I meant.

It’s a Zulu word – it means faith or hope or love’.

I was floored.

On Day 7 I injured my knee, and on Day 8 I was hopping around the Seed of Hope centre and was struggling to join in as we taught a song that became the kids favourite. The premise of the song is based around the story of Noah and the ark, and how to show God’s promised convenant with his people he puts a rainbow across the sky.

That day we came out, to find a rainbow across Bhekuwandle.

The next day, I met my woman in red.

At the time the blog readers who knew the story from March were leaving me tweets and comments about whether I’d met ‘the woman in red’ yet. So I was relieved she did exist! And that what I shared with her was an answer to something she had been praying about for a while.

After that, I wanted to remember what God did that year. Not only in asking me to trust Him that I was meant to go to South Africa, but the fact that I have no other explanation how a woman who had no knowledge of Zulu language could fall the ground, hear a random word, it turn out to be quite  a poignant meaning and in Zulu and be told something and see someone in a vision who she’d never met before then meet her 4 months later in another country.

It was bizarre.

And I wanted to remember.

Because there are days when I question my beliefs and think I’m totally mad. There are days when I wonder if God exists, then where the heck is He? (I actually think Kevin Bridges theory on this at 8:16 is more accurate than he maybe realises). Shitty things happen in life and I have no answers for why one person dies tragically and someone else experiences a medical miracle or by chance ends up not being in the plane they should have been on that crashed.

I just know there is always, always hope that good will come out of the crap.

I trust in that.

An extra bit to this story that made me feel a little bit emotional when I went to get my inking done is that on Tuesday evening, a friend of mine – in fact one of the people who supported me in getting to South Africa those years ago – text me to say that her friend’s daughter had died very suddenly with no explanation to why.

It’s difficult to trust in faith, hope or love when you hear news like that.

But I’ve seen the resilience that themba brings to people who have faced unimaginable pain and heartbreak.

And so now, I’ll always be reminded.

Even when I don’t want to be reminded – it’ll still be there.

Inked on my skin.

Trust. Hope. Faith. Love.

Themba.

 

Inking Day approaches…

Someone asked me last month whether I ever got the tattoo I talked about 2 years ago.

The answer was no.

There were a few reasons for this.

1) I wasn’t sure how I wanted it to look, and I wanted to think carefully about where it would go. I didn’t want it to be deemed a ‘slagtag’ or ‘tramp stamp’. I also think there are places on girls where tattoos look cheap and tacky. I know that tattoos offend people, and while I don’t have much patience for the easily offended, I don’t want to be disrespectful either. Especially as I’m involved in youth work.

2) My mother hates tattoos. I wanted time for her to get used to the idea that her daughter might be getting one. I am an adult but I also don’t want to totally disrespect her. It took her a long time to stop going on about the second set of holes in my ears. :)

3) I wanted to make sure that it was something God wanted me to do. A number of my Christian friends were slightly shocked when I mentioned I was thinking getting a tattoo. My mother was horrified (and will be upset with me). I spent a long time questioning if it went against my beliefs. I really spent a long time asking God about it. I specifically asked him on New Year’s Day to give me a sign to tell me yes or no. I was driving down to Dunbar when the brightest, clearest rainbow went across the sky. The rainbow is very connected to why I felt I should get a tattoo. I could sense that whisper of a voice I’ve come to recognise as being my heavenly Dad saying ‘Yes, I want you to always remember…

4) After 3 years, what I wanted has not changed. This gives me confidence that it is not going to be something I’ll regret having in permanent ink for the rest of my life!

Since then, I’ve spent time looking at designs and thinking carefully about placing of it. I’ve actually changed the planned location of the tattoo so that my Mum will not be so unhappy about it.

Last week, I went with my friend – who has had 2 tattoos done – to a body art place that I know to be reputable and spoke to an artist who has done several friends’ tattoos for them. An appointment has been booked for Wednesday, which my friend will be coming along with me.

I am nervous about it. But I’m confident that I am in good hands.

All going well, I’ll have some pictures to show you after inking day!

The wall: crying out to God

Of all the books in the bible, the two near the middle are my favourites. The Book of Proverbs for it’s straight up wisdom and common sense, and the Book of Psalms for it’s rawness, comfort and honesty.

Most of the time in the Psalms, it starts off positive, laments in the middle and ends with a resolve to remember the bigger picture.

I’m sure for some of my readers, you might think those verses are a little bit nutty. But over the last 4 years they’ve meant a great deal to me, and they went on my wall with another excerpt from Psalms…which is also on my wall but apparently I forgot to include it in my picture taking. Anyway, it says:

O Lord, hear me as I pray
Pay attention to my groaning
Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you.
Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord.
Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly

Psalm 5:1-3

What I love about the Psalms, is that there is no pretending. Sometimes I think Christians make out to other Christians that we should be joyfully taking all that is put against us. The Psalms tell me different. The Psalms say ‘be honest with how you feel’.

Let those emotions out.

It’s ok to feel whatever you’re feeling.

It’s what you do with what you’re feeling that counts.

 I’ve learned over the years that there are a lot of things that could happen in my life that would make fears realised. Bad things happen. People get sick. People die. People get taken away from us in other ways. Sometimes we struggle, we fear, we are desperate, it can seem like there is no hope. This thing we call life can lose it’s purpose and all seem totally pointless. Why bother trying to do good when it seems like there is so much evil, so much disaster that we can’t explain ‘why’.

In all of it, I’ve had to put my faith in God. I know that’s not going to stop the bad stuff.

It’s going to help me get through the bad stuff.

Sometimes I’m crawling through to the other side, rather than walking with my head high. It’s having peace to stay calm to get through the scary and tough times.

It’s getting through to the other side that counts.

That takes grit and courage and strength and encouragement.

My Jesuversary

I didn’t realise until I was writing the date numerous times in our call log book at work that today is the 8th February.

8th February is special to me, because it’s the day that I got ‘born again’ as they say.

It’s the day I realised that

1. I did believe in God

and

2. I could be a Christian even though I’d had an abortion (due to religious pro life campaigners, I believed that you weren’t allowed to be a Christian if you’d had an abortion).

and

3. Asked God to take all the crap in my life and turn it into something good.

Someone asked me today how I could remember that date.

Well, all I can say is – if you can remember the date you started going out with your partner, I can certainly the remember the date I started ‘going out’ with God. ;)

The last 10 years since I made that decision have not been easy. I’ve faced friends pushing me out their lives. I’ve been teased and ridiculed. I’ve had people mistrust me because they’ve made assumptions on what my values and beliefs are about other things because they know I believe in God and go to church.

But I know how much I’ve been saved. I know what I’ve been saved from. I know how much my faith and my God has helped me. I know that though not easy, it’s also been so fulfilling to live life for God instead of for me.

It freed me from my past, and it freed me from an addiction to cutting myself. It made me a calmer person.

I’ll never forget that night.

And I’m glad that I have this picture (above) as a memento from that evening – this was taken at crazy o’clock in the morning after I’d got back from a night of rocking out to metal music in the student union, when I told my friend (pictured) that I’d decided I did believe in God. :) She’d been praying that I’d become a Christian for quite a number of months by this point so she was pretty excited. Tee hee.

8th February 2002 was the day I made the best decision of my life.

Happy Jesus-versary to me! :P (as Stacey wished me earlier!)

and Happy birthday to my lovely friend Rebecca! (please head over to her blog to wish her Happy birthday. She’s 23 today, and I realised she’ll be 23 when she goes to Australia just like I was. 23 was my favourite age!)

They will know us by our love

I along with a lot of others watched in horror yesterday evening – I couldn’t believe what was coming up on the BBC news website yesterday – a bomb blast in Oslo? The idea that anyone would want to terrorise Norway was just inconceivable to me. But it got worse – a man dressed as a policeman who went out to a youth camp and started purposefully shooting teenagers and those working at the camp. One news site was giving live camera feed from a helicopter over the island of Utøya and quickly cut away – but not before I saw people in the water.

People trying to swim to safety.

I was not surprised to see Fox News (and several other ‘news’ sites) immediately jumping onto the Islamic terrorist bandwagon.

How to explain then as we discover the shooter (and possibly the one who planted the car bomb in Oslo) was a right-wing conservative Christian?

They will know us by our love

Words I know to be true. I don’t think that’s the exact words used in the New Testament, but certainly I can testify that what drew me to think maybe this fairytale sounding nonsense they called the bible had some truth to it was seeing the church really loving one another.

Not 24 hours before the heinous events in Norway started to unravel did I have a friend say to me how she was jealous of Christians and the community we had with each other.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard those words spoken to me. When I first discussed the idea of moving away from Edinburgh earlier this year, my friend talked about how much easier it would be for me to establish community no matter where I might move to. In my final year of university my peers commented on the family I had around me – it was most noticeable to them when I caught mumps near the end of our first semester and they saw love in action as my friends took care of me, encouraged me when I was fighting through coursework despite my hamster-like features and hideous fatigue.

I’ve seen Christians getting annoyed about the proclamation of this ‘suspect’ in Norway being a ‘fundamentalist Christian’. I can understand that. Certainly it makes me think again of how many of my muslim friends have told me they feel when they hear about ‘Islamic fundamentalists’. Perhaps that’s why I get annoyed when people label me as ‘religious’. Because I do think that insitutionalised religion has done a lot of damage to our world.

I just don’t think God has.

One person can do an awful lot of damage . Can have a great deal of negative influence on other people.

But one person can do an awful lot of good. And can have a great deal of positive influence on other people.

I hope that I can be the latter rather than the former. I hope that you, my lovely readers, can be the latter too.

There will probably always be the people who use God’s name in vain for actions that He would never endorse. I’m sure you can think of examples you’ve seen on the news, heard of on twitter and read about in newspapers and magazines. They may misrepresent Christ, but they can’t change who God is.

Sometimes I misrepresent the God I believe in too. I’m sorry for that. But that doesn’t stop me from having the ability to love.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

- Romans 12:21

Wise words from the apostle Paul, that I remembered so many times while re-reading some of the Harry Potter series before I saw the last film on Tuesday.

Love is so much more powerful that evil. But it can sometimes take great courage to keep fighting evil with love.

And to my brothers and sisters in Norway (for we all human beings) – I am thinking of you as you grieve and mourn over the coming days. I truly believe that you will rebuild, you will restore and that the lives lost will never be forgotten.

Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.