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I want to introduce you to Mrs Jellyby…well, Dickens does. If you pick up a copy of Bleakhouse, (that’s if you can lift the 900 pages of it) you’l find her in Chapter 4. Callous, and fanciful, her eyes are fixed on things afar. Her family crumble beneath her, and her children, hungry and half-clothed, are as wild and neglected as she believes the natives of Borrioboola-Gha, (on the banks of the Niger) to be. Her husband has been driven to bankruptcy and the “furnished lodging” in which her family reside is littered and squalid.

The chapter is entitled ‘Telescopic Philanthropy’ for the very reason that Mrs Jellyby’s burning, all consuming desire is invested in her philanthropic efforts. These efforts do however come at her cost; her pre-occupation may be foreign, but the need is domestic. Her “rapacious benevolence” is at the dispense of her household and her neighbourhood.

After musing over Mrs Jellyby’s condition in my latest essay it got me thinking that despite Dickens’ somewhat satirical portrayal of the situation, he is making a definite point. We, and I’m pointing the finger at myself more than anyone, can become so caught up in looking beyond, that we forget the desperate need on our doorsteps.

I, funnily enough, like Mrs Jellyby have a real passion for Africa and am currently seeking God’s heart as to my future. But, until God takes me there, or whatever he has planned for my life, I have a purpose here. Right here in London. I mean this city is garnished with need, and i often forget that in letting my mind run riot with foreign thinking, and as a result neglect my nation.

How about your neighbours?Are they doing okay? Well, In a 2009 study conducted by the Pew Research Centre, only 19% of people polled said they knew all of their neighbours’ names, and only 24% said they knew most of them. We live less than five feet or so away from them yet we know nothing about them. They need Jesus too. The child who faintly tinkles his recorder at five in the afternoon, he needs Jesus. The troubled teen with the bass cranked up sitting in the drive, he needs Jesus. The couple arguing all day, everyday, they need Jesus. And, i am the harvester of God’s great light…”the anointed one to preach the news to the nations”…do they know?

Six or so years ago, we had a new set of neighbours move next door to us, a Taiwanese family I believe. One sunny day a few weeks after the move in; I looked outside from my bedroom window to see the Dad cutting the lawn with a pair of shears. Yes, the whole lawn. I mean, it wasn’t a huge lawn, but it was lawn enough to enable me to see a visible sweat breaking on his brow. While he was sweating, a few feet away sat a lawn mower in my shed, most probably crying out to be used. I watched him almost til the final snip through the very slight opening of my curtains, which just about hid my guilt for each time he severed another green blade, and my stomach sank as it urged me to offer him what sat inside our shed.

I mean, if i can’t even offer him a lawn mower, then i have no chance of telling him about Jesus. And no, I can’t blame this English reserve, and, how ever many times i try to bring justice to my own poorly constructed actions I only have my self to blame for the fear which so often cripples us.

In the three years in which we shared that patch of territory, the only contact we ever had directly with them was the awkward glances over the inappropriately low fence when either party was hanging out washing, or, the hand salutes which would pass as we’d offer each other the car parking space when we happened to turn into the drive at the same time, or, the trading of goods at the fence when they had somehow managed to find themselves on the wrong side.

Three years. THREE YEARS! We didn’t even know their names, and they probably didn’t even know that I had a relationship with Jesus. I mean, we sing about it on a Sunday…about shining a light to let the whole world see, yet, we can’t even let that light permeate through the half hearted attempt at a garden fence because we’ve never bothered or tried to have a conversation to allow it to.

It’s not even about ulterior motives or a conversion count. It’s not about offering them a bible and in under a minute giving them the tour of Christianity, and for the finale, the alter call. It’s about serving, serving selflessly. Serving that asks for nothing in return so we can reflect that little bit of Jesus into their lives and letting that power alone burst forth into something almighty.

We can’t sit and wait for the world to come to us, that’s a little silly. If God had done that then we would have a pretty hopeless future, He came down to us as a baby, and in turn God commands us to “Go OUT into the world…”. Go out and make a conscious effort to make something good of your day. Get to know your neighbours, drop round an extra batch of cookies, stop to chat, invite them to a service, take their bins round, sweep their side of the wall. Whatever it is, SERVE because Jesus served first. 

This is as much a test to me as well as you, DON’T you worry. I’ve just moved into a new house, and apart from introducing myself to the neighbours when i first moved in, it has once again failed to get much further than that.

God calls us to live lives defined by love, God commands us to love our neighbours and he wishes for us to live a life full of service to others.

Esther Summerson, the voice of reason in Bleak house, and quite the opposite of Mrs Jellyby, sums up my closing point pretty perfectly: “I thought it best to be as useful as I could, and to render what kind services I could to those immediately about me, and to try to let that circle of duty gradually and naturally expand itself.”

It starts here. It starts at the house adjoining, and it spreads down the street and THEN it conquers the town, city and nation.

I dare you. I dare you to love your community and live radical lives of love and to then reap the harvest of blessing when God’s voice echoes from heaven ‘well done, good and faithful servant’.

 

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Matthew 18: 3- And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Caring for Life

After boxing up our home last September and travelling 186 miles Northwards to Leeds in response to God’s calling, we have found our dwelling place here..

..Two miles up the road is a farm oozing with the very tangible presence of God, its foundation prayer and its currency faith.  It is a charity with the wish to share Jesus with as many people they know, especially homeless and vulnerable adults. Its promise to care for life is much like the Saviour’s promise to us. No matter how downcast, beyond hope, or help these people are, no matter how old or able, there will always be love and support for them. I can’t even begin to explain the beauty of everything i’ve seen here.

I have been working on the farm when I am back from University and have had the chance of building relationships, and soaking up the precious nature of these people. The prayers they send heavenwards in the morning when we eat breakfast together are simple, yet laced with trust. Plea’s towards Jesus through broken speech, stutters, and mis-phrased sentences make their wishes so honest and true, much how God intended them to be. For many, Jesus has become  their comforter and their knowledge of a true Father aside from many earthly Father’s they have been hurt by in the past. It is clear to see what years of physical abuse, mental abuse, mistreatment, sleeping rough and so on, have done to these people but, their hope in Jesus means they are new creations.

I had the delight of sitting down with one guy the other week and on discussing Christmas he also happily proclaimed that he was soon to be baptised. I don’t know much about his past, but it is clear to see how his past has conditioned much of who he is today. As he spoke, and spoke so happily about the date, time, plans, feelings etc., i stopped him part way through his next thoughts as i had lost track of who he was speaking about as it sounded as if he’d changed conversation and was speaking about a friend. When I then questioned him as to who he was talking about, he simply answered ‘Jesus of course.’

I thought over this discussion for the next few days. The way he spoke about Jesus was like he was seated just next to Him. He spoke with such abandon, largely unaware of a world view of Jesus and simply making Jesus his own. Joy scorched his face as he discussed the reasons which had led him to decide to be baptised.

We are called to have this faith yet it is suffocated amongst our facades and forgery. We often come before God, i know I have before, and in the presence of others, like the pompous Pharisee. We come with measured speech, and altered tone addressing God as ‘Father’ and ‘Most precious Jesus’, whilst being unable to befriend Him day to day in amidst our busy lives. I’ve before prayed what I think to be right rather than pouring forth the reserves of my heart. I’ve covered up shame with praises, and pinned my problems to other people’s pleas.

These people here, through the brokenness of their pasts, cling to Jesus trusting simply in Him. Many can’t even read the bible, many don’t know bible verses off by heart, how many wives King David had or where the Lords prayer is to be found, but, they do know about a man coming down to earth as a baby to save their sins many years ago. This is the crux of Christianity, not anything we, a 21st century society has made it to be. Their faith is simple but in no way diminished. God has welcomed them into His Kingdom with arms wide open, and the angels I’m sure are rejoicing.

Jesus said Himself, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven, and this, what i see at the farm, is childlike nature at it’s best. Jesus doesn’t call us to be false, he calls us to be free. He asks for humility instead of pride and trust instead of hesitancy.

A few final things. I had the privilege of spending Christmas day at the farm this year with many people in the Charity’s care. I had the joy of picking up two ladies in the morning who lived in Leeds to drive them to Church before we went to the farm, one of the ladies i picked up is on the photo above. She is 46 yet has the spirit of a child no more than 8. Every day is Christmas really, and as i knocked on her door on Christmas morning her face brought me such joy. Her enthusiasm is unquenchable and her presence is without blemish. As i stood next to her in the church service as she belted out mumbled words along to ‘Hark the Herald angels sing’ with her arm wrapped round my waist, i had only but to thank God for his wonderful Christmas gift. Jesus came for the lowly, the downcast and the down trodden as well as the privileged, and well-polished. His merciful eyes favour not one more than the other, yet his call for us to come as children is clear.

In my below par musings, i have no where near done this charity justice, so please get to know a little bit about them yourselves and have a look at their website.

http://www.caringforlife.co.uk/index.html

Bastille are top dogs. They’ve been behind the scenes for a while, and it’s only now they’re on the verge/are, taking the music world by storm. Numerous elements collide to create genre defying, and magical music, making this cover a serious rival to the original.

Earlier this year Bastille released a great mix tape called ‘Other People’s Heartache’, a series of covers ranging from OutKast’s ‘Ms. Jackson’ to ‘Rhythm is a Dancer.’ Get ya hands on it hasty.

They’re set to be your ‘new favourite band’ if they aren’t already.

 

As Paul opens Thessalonians: ‘Brothers pray for us’ so we need a similar request and plea. In a few weeks time Freshers kicks off. Thousands of new students will pour through the doors of Goldsmiths to start being educated, some with a belief in God, some with none.

We know we can’t go into this next term of CU leadership without God as our strength, so here is what’s going on and here is what we’d love, and appreciate prayer for.

Just on a side note, i had written this blog post last week, an hours worth of musings and thoughts. THEN SOMEEEEEHOW, i lost it. It’s taken me all these days to bring myself back to the drawing board and re-write it, so bare with me, and apologies for the more than poor conveyance..i’m still a little bitter hah.

Pray that God will be softening hearts right now. Goldsmiths is already known for it’s diversity, and so, we will be welcoming people of different sexuality, faith, culture etc. God can move even the hardest of hearts, and break the tightest of chains. Pray for receptiveness in the people that we meet. Ears open to God and His power.

We have such a story of freedom. Being liberated from the grips of sin and instead given the promise of eternal life. Yet we struggle so much to tell of God’s amazing love to others. Pray for a confidence in Christ in each of us here, free us from shame, and give us a desperation to tell of God’s name all around our university.

God is able to do more than we could immeasurably think or ask. This is comforting yet i often undermine God. Pray that we’l be expectant and in tune for what He is wanting to do here. Pray that He will free the broken, and bring new life to people who have been searching for empty fulfilment for so long. Pray that God’s Kingdom will come in this small part of South East London.

Pray for the Christian’s who will be starting university. I know that although i was excited to come to university i was also very afraid. Afraid of what others would think of me, whether i’d make any friends, how people would respond to me being a Christian, how i would cope away from home…and this was just a few. In our modern culture, Christianity is not the norm. Pray for boldness. Also pray that they will trust in God more than ever and though temptations will come that they’l focus on God alone.

Also pray for Christian leaders to be sent to Goldsmiths. We will finish our year in CU leadership in December and want people who love Jesus and have a vision for Goldsmiths to take over from us. We will also need worship leaders for next term, please pray that God will bring us people with musical talents or spout them out of no where….(I’d love to play the guitar!)

Please pray for us as a leadership team. We knew from the beginning that it wouldn’t be any easy job, and however much we love doing it, it is tough. I know last year i put more energy into CU than my school work, so pray for the gift of organisation. Pray for wisdom, encouragement and a faith and trust in God which surpasses anything.

It’s also easy for us to organise talks we think would benefit others and not look at our own lives and think what we need from God.  Pray that we will surround everything with prayer. That God would transform us and mould us and shape us into his likeness. That He will fill us with the fruits of the spirit so we then can go out and fill others with the love He has shown us.

We have lots of events happening in Freshers, and after we have a student alpha starting. All these events require resources, energy and time, please pray for provision.

 

That is quite a list i apologise.

Thank you.

 

Jesus tent.

I have just returned home from a truly spirit filled week at momentum.

There was so much power in joining with thousands of others praising Jesus, seeing Him move, and hearing stories of how faithful He is, and has been.

After the olympics finished a few weeks ago i truly felt incomplete. My thrilling entertainment for 14 days had come to an end. I’d no longer be able to cry with pride at team GB’s achievements, i would no longer feel enthused to go for a run, no more Tom Daley or Usain Bolt on my screen, and even though i would have my evenings back…what would i do with them?!

This feeling of deflation is common, and i have felt this before after many Christian events. We go, have a mountaintop experience, dance before Jesus, raise our hands in the air, pray audacious prayers,  throw ourselves into reading the bible, and not surprisingly, we come away feeling in awe, invincible and closer to Jesus than ever.. perhaps? We go home and we tell all our friends how great God is, that he heals, restores, and saves, BUT then, a few weeks later we slowly crawl back into our shells. We take our worship hats off, and sink back into the mundane lull of life. We get carried along by the crowd, and it’s not until next year, when Momentum comes around again, (or a similar event) that we repeat this process.

God doesn’t want us to be like this. He is to be our first love all year round. We are to lift our hands in adoration daily, not yearly. It is of course easier said than done, i know- but we will stifle our relationship with Jesus and remain stagnant if we do not continually seek him.

Many of you reading this probably haven’t even been to momentum but I’m sure you know the feeling I’m talking about, and hopefully what i’l say next may help!

Routine is key.

My week away from electronic devices made me realise what a time waster i really am. i can easily spend two hours on the computer faffing about, and then when it comes to reading my bible or praying i make excuses why i can only give God ten or twenty minutes of my time. We have time, we all have time, and we all have time to full fill everything in God’s plan for us.

So, before you go back to wasting your time googling pictures of Harry styles, learning the lyrics to ‘I want it that way’ by the Backstreet Boys, or, watching countless episodes of ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen’ (I have done all these in the past). Ask yourself, have you prayed today? Have you thanked God today? What have you done for His glory today?

We can achieve so much if we start as we mean to go on, and get into a routine before we lose sight once more. Set aside time each day, write a prayer list etc. etc.  It takes 21 days to form a habit so gather focus and do it! You will soon see the benefits of spending and emerging yourself in the word, and instead of a feeling of deflation you can maintain a feeling of fulfilment in God.

Experience God in new ways.

We all experience God in different ways. Gary Thomas has written a great book called ‘Sacred Pathways’ where he speaks and defines a range of different ways in which people can feel connected to or experience God. Some find reading a struggle, and so spending hours reading Christian books would not be beneficial, but placing them in the midst of God’s creation may make them feel especially close to God. Some people love mornings, and like to start the day off by spending time with God then, others prefer the evenings. Find what suits you best and make this into your routine. God is not an addition, he should be at the centre of our lives.

Make yourself accountable to someone.

Proverbs 27:17 reads- ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ We have family and friends surrounding us to help build us each other up and encourage us. I was accountable to someone this past year, and it really did make so much difference. You feel let down if you don’t keep your word, I didn’t trust only my own judgement but had advice from another. Accountability helps protect us from sin, pride, isolation, and can prevent us from giving into temptation.  Proverbs 28:26 says that ‘he who trusts in himself is a fool’. It’s true. If you worry you won’t be able to keep to a bible reading plan, or that you struggle to remember to pray etc. Tell someone else your plans and help them to encourage you to stay hungry for God.

Have a purpose.

I have found over the past few years that if there is a purpose to my time with God I am far more productive. For instance Friday is specifically prayer for my Family and Friends, Wednesdays for the World, Tuesday for Thanksgiving, and Thursday for Thirsts etc. I work best with structure, some of you may not however! Bible readings help me to tackle manageable chunks of the bible with a thought instead of feeling out of my depth and aimlessly finding a place to start reading each day. Having a journal for thoughts, verses, words etc really helps.

Purpose for me is production.

Be honest with God.

I had spent so many years hiding my heart away from God and not baring all to him. Last year i felt a huge freedom in letting him into every aspect of my life through prayer. God know’s us better than we know ourselves, so there is no shame in this. We are failed human beings at the end of the day, but if we come to God with a thirst for Him, He will fills us.

John Bunyan wrote: “In prayer, it is better to have heart without words, than words without heart. Prayer will make a man cease from sin, or sin entice a man to cease from prayer. The spirit of prayer is more precious than treasures of gold and silver. Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge for Satan.”

So, let’s make Jesus our first love forever on.

I’m ashamed to admit i was one of those kids who genuinely believed i’d be married at 18….my hopes were pinned on the perfect man, the perfect wedding, and not soon after being a stay at home mum with my beautiful children kitted head to toe in floral prints and, brewing soups over the stove for when my husband returned home from his well paid job.

How dumb of me.

Well I’m twenty, nearly twenty one, and I don’t even have a boyfriend let alone a husband, so my dreams were soon crushed. Don’t worry, I’m not sobbing on my bed, i haven’t signed up to numerous dating websites, and I’m not pouncing on every single male i see. In fact, quite the opposite. God has changed my attitudes, opinions, and thoughts so drastically over this past year, and i thank Him for showing me that being single may be a season, or it may be a destination, whatever it is, it’s not in my hands and nothing i can do can change His plans.

From my early to late teens i was in relationships, relationships so consuming that God became my last love instead of my first. I was blinded and deaf to his promptings. I was defiant that I was where God intended me to be and that being unequally yoked didn’t matter all that much. I was confident that God didn’t have better for me, and i kidded myself that i was truly fulfilled. I was so afraid of being single and alone, as i had for so long put my hopes and relied on other people and not on God. Through much prayer and trust, God has filled a void and taken His rightful position once again in my life. Believing a person alone can full fill our desires is dangerous. Only God is able to do this. He is ALL we need, He alone is enough, and He will never let us down. This is still something I’m learning, its hard to see singleness as a blessing and not a burden, but when we do, it gives us room to  grow in a deeper relationship with God,  and, singleness can communicate a message about Gods own superiority and sufficiency.

There’s plenty more i could say, but until next time I’l leave you with this number…