Transition: Coffee, Study and Books

biblereadingWhat does a staff worker do all day?

Drink Coffee.
Study the bible with students (Christian and those seeking)
And read copious amounts of books…

There is more to it then that, but in a tight nutshell, you could boil the years as a staff worker down to those things and throw in the travel that goes between them.

It has been a privilege to have the time and space to do those things. To spend hours preparing a bible study that will help my students gaze upon Jesus. Looking intently at scripture, opening commentaries and praying for insight as we prep notes and ideas to help students engage with the text. I love the fact that my job is to read the bible…

Now drinking coffee is important. It has to be good coffee. It’s the only way to get through the day, especially the afternoon. Coffee shops became my office and my students knew it! If I asked to meet up with them, they knew it was going to be in a certain coffee shop in town… Welcome to my office. It got to the point where I would walk into the coffee shop and they would know my order before I even asked! Coffee is indeed, a pleasing aroma…

I don’t know how many books I have read over the years, but I have a whole bookcase of books that have been generously given to me and most of them I haven’t read yet! But its been wonderful to have the space to sit and read and get into good theological books, making my brain hurt and fuelling good conversations with friends. Some of my favourite books over the years have been:

  • The Good God – Mike Reeves
  • Serving without Sinking – John Hindley
  • A New Name – Emma Scrivener
  • Popologetics – Ted Turnau
  • Desiring the Kingdom – James K A Smith

Wonderful books that have challenged me, shaped me and it was part of my job to read them! Although none of these things need to stop next year, I just wanted to share my appreciation of having this opportunity and also all the free books. Thanks IVP!

 

The Man Upstairs in the Lego Movie

the_lego_movieLast week my husband and I went to the cinema and watched the Lego movie. And everything was awesome…

To be honest it ticked all of my inner geek boxes. With references from star trek, wars, gate and lord of the rings to super heroes and super nobodies. On the whole, I enjoyed it very much.

*Some spoiler alerts ahead*

But I was equally interested about the portrayal of the “man upstairs”. The one who gives the rules and enters into the Lego world as President Business. There are two types of people in the Lego world, the ones who follow President Business and live under his rules. They are boring, uncreative, unimaginative and stuck.Then there are other Lego people who don’t follow the rules and they are creative, wonderful and superheroes trying to escape and be free from the rules of president Business.

We meet Emmett. He is a rule keeper, who follows the instructions very closely and lives life in the system. It isn’t until he meets some super creative people, that at some point in the movie he realises that he needs to stop following the instructions and start believing in himself.

As Mariah Carey belts out:

“Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe”

Emmett just needs to believe in himself. And the man upstairs needs to recognise that people need creative freedom and not rules. And he doesn’t have to be such a control freak!

PresidentBusinessThe temptation at this point, for the Christian, is to try to defend this rule giving God. Saying, even though this rule giving God gives out instructions – they are for our good and they don’t trample on our creativity but they free us…

Except we know that being a Christian isn’t about keeping rules or even following instructions. If we do, we enslave ourselves and become a curse. (Galatians 3:10).The rules don’t free us or enable us to have creativity. Instead they bind us and stick us to the floor so we can’t move for fear of displeasing this rule giving god. The rules (law) given to the Israelites were good instructions but they were never going to free or save them. Furthermore those laws were for a specific time, people and purpose.

We are right to reject President Business and the man upstairs with his rule book. And the Lego movie is right – following rules and instructions to find purpose and meaning in life will just destroy us. And so Emmett needs to be free from the rule-giving man upstairs. But how?

Well the problem is, Emmett believes the lie that he needs to look inside himself to find the truth. That somewhere in his inner being, he just needs to believe in himself. (Queue Mariah Carey).

The mantra in our society is to believe in yourself. To look within and find meaning, truth and hope.That if you are a boring nobody, you just need more belief so you can be a somebody.

coffeeandlegomovieBut the reality is, there is nothing in you that can help you. You can’t help yourself. Our hearts are corrupt and following after desires that aren’t good for us.

Instead the answer is outside of ourselves. To someone who gives life, who bore the curse of the law so you don’t have to, who accepts you even if you are an ordinary person or a superhero.

True Freedom and life is only ever found in Jesus.

This is true for Emmett and for us. It cannot be found in following the instructions nor can it be found inside of ourselves.

The man upstairs, our Father, is not standing there with a glue gun ready to paralyse us under his instructions. Instead he is a Father who sends his Son into the world, to give us life and freedom because he knows that we can’t keep the rules and we can’t find freedom within ourselves and we can’t solve this mess we are in, only he can. The man upstairs, is nothing like the one in Lego Movie, he is far better.

First Monday Morning

coffee_morningThe first Monday back after the holidays always feels like the hardest. I think someone may have put weights on my feet in the night which stop me from getting out of bed! Especially when its the first Monday of the new year, everything is riding on these next few hours. It feels like the trajectory of the year is hinged on these very moments as I get out of bed bleary eyed and inject caffeine into my veins.

It’s the first day of work for us. Husband has already left at the crack of dawn to inspire some little people as I attempt to boil an egg and try not to get too much shell on my toast (this was unsuccessful). Soon I will be whizzing up the M5 to the North (everything is North above Devon) to some remote place near Birmingham where there is no signal or people for miles and miles. At least we are not camping!!

A new year has arrived and I wonder how it will go? I never make resolutions because I can’t keep them and I dont want to feel like a failure before I have even started!But I do ask myself:

I wonder what trials will come and what happiness?

What changes will there be and how will that affect our lives?

How will I be different this time next year?

This year marks 10 years as a Christian. If 10 years ago I hadn’t been told about Jesus then I think my life would look very different. I wouldn’t be where I am now or in this job or indeed married to my husband. It’s strange to think that isn’t it? The choices you make now really do impact your future. I wonder what choices I make this year that will impact me in the next 10 years?

I am glad that I don’t have to do this alone. Having a husband to walk this road with me, having an amazing church that supports us and new friends here in the city to laugh and cry with! The Lord gives all of these days and people as a gift to us and some days I will waste them and some days I will make the most of them, enjoying the hours and friendships more fully.

Perhaps I do have a resolution?

I kinda want this year to be about making the most of the opportunities I have. To seek more time in prayer and delighting in Jesus. To be able to spend more time with friends who are local and opening up our home more. To make the most of every day and hour, either filled with work, friends or rest. But not in idleness which always seems to creep up on me and pin me to the sofa! Urg.

Yet everyday is a new day, which is a relief. This year doesn’t hinge on today or any day for that matter. This year hinges already on what Jesus has done and what he is going to do.

And this is good news that I need to remember everyday.

Supporting Local Coffee Shops

I have recently changed coffee shops. That may sound odd, but in my job I use coffee shops like an office and as my Relays and students enter my office they will be hit by the aroma of coffee beans and the sound of whirling milk. It’s important to be in the right coffee shop, one with light, comfortable seating and space. But most importantly the quality of the coffee is what keeps me coming back. Coffee that is freshly made and isn’t burnt, a cappuccino that is creamy and frothy with flakes of chocolate on top. Now you may be asking why I have changed coffee shops? I was going to a well known coffee shop in the UK and the coffee is rather nice, but across the road a new coffee shop opened up and I thought I would have a go. The staff were friendly, the coffee was good and it felt a comfortable place to work or meet students. It’s also an independent coffee shop. This swayed my opinion to move coffee shops. Going to independent coffee shops means supporting local businesses and local people. I like that. I like that when I go in they are getting use to who I am and I can start to have a conversation. I like that I am putting back into the community through something I love to do. I like that they make good coffee too.

Recently in Totness they have had a petition to stop Costa coming to their town due to their reputation of having so many independent coffee shops. It seems that Totness won, Costa has pulled out! I am so pleased for them. A coffee giant doesn’t need to be there, their quirky, local business and people are doing a fantastic job at providing the people of Totness and Devon with good coffee. Wonderful stuff!

So let me share with you some local coffee shops in Plymouth, when you next visit then do check them out or if you live in the area then pop along – don’t always go to the well-known brands. Try something new:

    1. Coffee Bean Central  – My new favourite coffee shop. Great coffee, lots of space to work and friendly staff!
    2. Monty’s Bistro – A lovely Bistro on the Barbican, they do great lunches as well as good coffee.
    3. Chocaccino – A small coffee shop, but their coffee and hot chocolate is wonderful! They also make yummy treats and cakes!
    4. The Canadian muffin – This place is easy to miss, but their muffins are very yummy and their coffee is good. Their staff is very friendly.
    5. ArtFrame Gallery – A quirky café that’s also an art gallery, so there is plenty to look at when drinking coffee. This local café has art from local artists so it supports the local community on many levels!

How about you? What coffee shops do you like going to in your area or in the Plymouth area?

Collection of Webs (17)

Imonk writes a really great post on this whole masculine christianity going around – he calls it Esau Christianity. Have a read a be a bit surprised!

As you know, I love drinking coffee. I also like to read blog about coffee and I found an interesting article about how to make coffee and there are 22 ways of doing it! Check it out here.

Glen write about how there is “nothing adult about porn” which was a very interesting article and he linked to another post on women and porn written on the conversational theology blog:

“First, and I want to say this first because I really don’t think anyone else is saying it at all, chicklit and chick flicks are not pornography for women, pornography is pornography for women. There is a myth which the church seems to have bought into completely that women are not interested in pornography. That this sin is exclusively a male sin. Women are instructed not to listen when a preacher addresses the men in the church about this issue. For a long time, I believed this lie too. And then I discovered the internet.”

Labels

Labels. Society has them everywhere: Liberal, Chav, fundamentalist, working class, conservative, disabled, asylum seeker, gypsy…etc Those are only some labels the media throws out…

And labels can be a way of defining things and they can also be unhelpful. I was watching an interesting twitter conversation where someone mentioned that they belonged to a certain group of churches and that the label of this church was often unhelpful because it doesn’t define them.

Do labels define people? Or do we define labels?

It made me think about this. When we mention certain groups within Christianity there is a label attached to it and often we have made our mind up about that person before getting to know them.

I wonder what you might think if someone said to you that they were/or were from:

Anglican, Baptist, Calvinist, Catholic, Arminian, Newfrontiers, vineyard, soul survivor, Mars Hill…etc

Sure you may say that these labels are attached to many different kinds of people. But I reckon there are so many other labels and stigmas that stick to these ones above, depending which one you are coming from, which one you have had experience from and which one you have had negative experience from. And those things stick and make us look at those people differently. We all look at things through the lenses of our experience, the challenge is putting the Gospel in front of that to change the lens.

It has challenged me to think about how I treat people when thinking of people who may belong or say they are something from the labels above because I am not sure that really defines them. People are complicated and messy and every single person is different and just because they are a part of some label, doesn’t mean they embody everything you liked/disliked about that said label.

For example. I work with UCCF. Now that label there may bring about different reactions depending on your experience or what you have heard. You may like or dislike UCCF. You may think I am a clone of UCCF and somehow embody all that is UCCF. I got a bit of opposition from some people when I wanted to do Relay and then the hope of staff work. One of the reasons being was the fear that I would somehow morph into a clone of a UCCF worker…except there is a huge problem with that, for anyone that has worked with UCCF will have noticed that UCCF is made up of many different, strange, wonderful amazing people… all different.

UCCF is made up of Anglicans, new frontiers, Baptists, tea drinkers, ballroom dancers, lovers of blogging, haters of blogging, lovers of good ale, single, married, have families, female speakers, male speakers, female evangelists, male evangelists, musicians, gardeners, bike riders, surfers, Lady Ga Ga fans, Mozart fans, grew up in a christian family, grew up in an atheist family, a footballers wife, authors, poets, artists, illustrators, photographers, philosophers, enjoys flag waving in worship, enjoys hymns, theologians (male and female), dancers, coffee drinkers, agree with women speakers in church, don’t agree with women speakers in church, computer geeks, sci-fi fanatics, Man U supporters, Kath Kidson fans and so much more.

I am afraid I don’t embody nearly half of that and its wonderful. It’s so great working with such diverse and talented people. The one thing we agree on is that Jesus and the Cross is central and students at university need to hear about him.

I have no doubt that this is the case for those labels above. Newfrontiers people are all different and don’t always think the same thing on every issue. Same with Anglicans. I have some wonderful Anglican friends, and its great to support them and get to know them.

I guess the challenge for myself and maybe you – is not to always judge someone by their label. But get to know them individually first. They might surprise you. They might not be what you expect. Enjoy getting to know them.