Transition: Conferences

NWA1I remember my first real conference. A conference where I was a punter but also part of the team. I was a relay worker and was about to embark on a two-week conference. Lanyards were around our necks, instant coffee was steaming in the corner, nervousness was filling the air. Good times.

Conferences are a strange place. People who look like each other gather together to listen to talks and buy books and drink bad coffee. Sometimes people camp together and it nearly always rains.

I haven’t always enjoyed the conferences I have been to over the years, but the Lord has certainly taught me a lot through them. I have met amazing people and I have heard amazing people speak. I remember listening to Mike Reeves talk about the Trinity for the first time at Forum and I thought my world had collapsed. It was amazing.

I have been a part of the team that serves behind the scenes or in yellow jackets telling herding Christians where to sit and being rather surprised by how angry and rude they are when they can’t sit where they want. The heart spills out, eh? I have also been on a planning committee, working out how a conference should fit together, how best to serve the people, how to problem solve and praying that the Lord would change hearts. I learnt that conferences take a lot of time and effort.

I have been a speaker, opening the bible with people and sharing Jesus, doing group work and seminars. Spending months in prep and prayer. I loved having that opportunity.

nextleadersI have loved conferences where I can meet up with fellow staff workers and chat and pray together, sometimes not seeing each other until the next conference which is months away. I love the randomness, the sharing of rooms and the cake eating.

I love it when students come to Forum or ForumSW and they encounter Jesus. They start to see afresh what the CU is about, they start to catch the vision and then they start planning.

Also conferences are a chance to say goodbye. It is currently Relay 3 as I write this and the relay workers are saying goodbye right now. I remember that and the reality of not staying in touch with people afterwards, but glad of the opportunity to say goodbye. On staff we have final team days next week, a time to say goodbye and thank you. It is good to have time and space for that.

Conferences are a strange bubble. I often find it hard being away and being so close to people that you can’t find any time to just be alone. But conferences have been a huge part of my life over these 6 years and I am glad I have been to them. So thank you for that opportunity.

Mad Men – The Shell of Happiness

“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.”

madmenDonDon Draper has it all.

Wife, kids, job, house and a nice car. He works in advertising bringing people happiness in the shape of a product. He has a nice suit, slick hair and poetic words that drip from his tongue.

Everyone wants to be Don Draper.

But cracks begin to show. The layers begin to strip off and you start to see that this happiness is a shell. You find out quickly in the show Mad Men, that Don draper is extremely unhappy, living a lie on many levels and trying to sell people an empty happiness, a happiness that leaves you feeling cold.

But he does what we all do. He reflects our human propensity to hide. To cover up and plunge ourselves in a hole. To find fig leaves large enough to cover our shame and our longing.

We ache, sensing that there is something wrong and so we go on a rampage to fill the gap. We seek temporary happiness to gloss us over, sucking in the lies of the adverts that promise us that a certain product will make us feel better, make us feel complete and as Don says whatever it is to “scream with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.”

You are OK, right? Why then, is there always that sense of feeling vacant? After a shopping spree or a night drinking or going from one partner to another, there is a void that keeps tickling the edge of your conscience.

There must be more than this, right?

In John’s Gospel we meet a woman. She is collecting water in the middle of the day from a well where Jesus starts to talk to her and her story begins to unfold.

She was going from one man to another, not really finding happiness. Searching but not finding. Resulting in being an outcast, collecting water at the hottest part of the day and being alone.

Jesus knew the cycle she was in and offered her something better:

“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

madmenJesus says he offers something better than what the world offers. The world offers empty promises, shells and shadows of truth.

Jesus offers the real thing and gives it freely. He gives himself freely and says that if you take this offer, you will never be thirsty again. He is the fountain in the wilderness.

Don Draper sells a lie and he knows it. He wraps himself in affairs and nice suits, but we see glimpses of a man who is deeply unhappy and unsatisfied. That is what the world can offer. Shells and suits. Flings and broken wells.

But Jesus offers life and belonging. Redemption and family. Hope and living water.

The woman at the well was seeking this and took it.
Don Draper desperately needs this but doesn’t take it.

But what about us? What will we do?

Transition: Students

coffeemundaneThe best part of my job has been working with students. I think University is certainly a unique time in someones life where they are encapsulated in a bubble. A bubble that is made up of a diverse community where you live, eat and sleep in close proximity to each other.

Life on the other side of this bubble has taught me that you can never replicate your time at Uni, the 4 hours of lectures, the midnight feasts with friends in the same hall, the tesco trips in your PJs. This is where the CU has an outstanding opportunity to really live for Jesus, it is impossible to hide the lamp under the lamp stand because someone will find you out and you will need to explain yourself.

Over my time as a student worker I have come across some extraordinary students. 18-21 year olds who really love Jesus and really want to introduce Him to their friends even though they are so overwhelmingly scared and unsure how to do that, but yet still they want to give it a go. It is crazy to think how much responsibility they have been given – to lead a mission team on campus, to organise events, to turn up to those events and invite people. Sometimes it is messy and they make mistakes, but mostly its a wonderful thing to see.

My highlights are the individuals that I have met up with over the last 6 years, the ones where I have sat with every week opening scripture, praying together, chatting through problems and seeing them wonderfully grow in their love for Jesus.

I have seen a shy student coming to their first small group meeting unsure why they were there and if they were cut out for it, to then going on to being president of the CU a year later.

I have seen a president grasp the idea of what CU is and decided they didn’t want it to be a social club and started a Food for Thought event and invited their friends to hear about Jesus.

The next president decided she wanted a carol service which has never been done by the CU before. I have also seen her grasp who Jesus really is and enjoy reading the bible even more.

I have enjoyed seeing this journey. A journey of faith and growth. A journey of weakness and seeking help.

That’s what I love about student work most of all – investing time with students on a 121 bases. Chatting about Jesus over coffee. Opening the bible. Planning and dreaming together. Watching them grow. Getting to know them and having a laugh.

Wonderful.

Transition: Where it all Began

It all began 10 years ago.

Stepping onto campus as a fresher, stuffing all my things in my room, putting the pot plants on the side knowing they will die in a few days. Bringing hundreds of pots and pans for cooking like everyone else and trying to work out how it was all going to fit in the kitchen.

Freshers week was a mixture of working out what kind of person I was going to be and how I was going to use this fresh new start.

I had heard of the CU but only through a little leaflet that came in my freshers pack advertising their events. I missed most of their meetings that week. It wasn’t until someone in our halls invited me to the CU meeting on a Thursday night that I actually went along and worked out whether I wanted to be a part of this strange group.

I didn’t know that 10 years later I would have invested my life into campus student ministry. It is crazy to think that. I came to Uni wanting to do a computing degree and get a good job and earn money, but the Lord had other plans.

As I look back on those 10 years its hard to imagine what it would have been like if I never went to that CU meeting – I imagine that life would be very different for me.

It makes me so thankful for my time as a student in CU. Thankful for opportunities to serve on committee, to organise a mission week that gave me a flavour and ideas for reaching the campus.

I am thankful for my staff worker willing to meet up with me and answer all of my questions. I am thankful for the friends I made in CU and on my course. Thankful for those years of forming my theology as a young Christian and placing in my heart a high priority to reach the lost.

I am thankful to my church who loved CU and supported me through my time at Uni. I am thankful for the relay workers who spent time serving us and guiding us. I am thankful for the training I got through UCCF and thankful for the people I met.

I am thankful that my staff worker put me in touch with a geeky guy from Reading who was on committee at the same time as me, which resulted in the geeky guy becoming my husband.

Those 4 years of serving in CU, where it all began, where so formative for me. I made so many mistakes, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing and yet I was allowed to have a go and develop skills and convictions and passions.

It was near the end of my degree that I realised I wanted to serve in CU for longer and that led me on to the journey as a relay worker in the UK and then in Peru and then as staff worker in the UK.

I really treasure my time as a student in CU and I know it wasn’t perfect, but the Lord used it to change me and form me and I am thankful for all those that invested in me, helped me, corrected me and walked with me on this journey.

A Loving Life – Paul Miller

Loving lifeA loving life is a short book looking at the story of Ruth. I decided to read this book because several people told me it was good and it turned out to be a book I really needed to read. Sometimes you get those books that just hit the spot and spiritually nourish you, this was certainly one of those books for me.

Here are 5 reasons why I enjoyed A Loving Life:

1) Paul Miller unpacks the story of Ruth – If you have never studied or read the book of Ruth, then this little book is a great place to start. Miller goes through the story step by step and pretty much does a bible study through the book. Its engaging and interesting and it helped me get to grips with the story.

2) Love is not just a feeling – Miller really hits home that we are in a culture that regards feelings and how we feel when in love as our top priority. But he remarks that love is deeper, not just an emotion that quickly changes from one moment to the next. And in a broken world like ours, love needs to be deeper then just an emotion.

3) Love is about dying to yourself – Miller calls this Hesed love, which is written throughout his book. He highlights in Ruth the remarkable sacrifices she makes in the name of love. True love is about sacrifice and dying to yourself, which is so counter cultural where we see love as what we can get out of people and how that person can suit our needs.

4) God is gracious to Naomi – I loved how Miller highlighted Gods mercy and kindness to Naomi who was bitter about the events in her life. It reminds me that the Lord is really with us in every situation and is so kind to us even if we can’t see through the mist of life’s craziness.

5) Encouraging and Challenging – I was encouraged by how God uses each person in the story for an amazing outcome that benefited the whole of the human race (Jesus), I am encouraged by the Lords kindness and his working through each person in the story. I am challenged by Ruth’s sacrificial love, where she died to herself for the sake of Naomi, she never put herself first. I find this hard and it challenges me about what true love is and how to show true love.

I would recommend this book to you if you want to dig into Ruth, if you want to be challenged and encouraged by what true love is and if you want something that will nourish you.

You can buy the book at IVP here.

Transition

flowersI am about to enter a huge transition phase of my life. Things for me are changing, two of which are fairly huge – leaving my job and moving house.

Last year a friend of mine did several transition posts which helped her reflect on her time as a UCCF Staff Worker and also process what is happening next. I thought I would do the same. I am going to look at it all in three areas: past, present and future while thinking through some of the highlights and challenges that I have been through and some that I will face in the future.

What Ali wrote in her post was really helpful and I will use that as a template:

Things past….(think back on your time)
What have you done? Who have you met? What are you thankful for? Do you have any regrets? What have you learned? How have you grown and changed personally and spiritually? What have you loved? What have you struggled with?

 Things present…(think about the months left )
What people, places, situations do you need to say goodbye to? Who will you keep in touch with and how? What do you need to hold on to? What do you need to let go of? What will you miss? How are you feeling about leaving?

Things yet to come…(think about life after)
What are the next steps? What do you need to do before then? What things will be different? What will be the same? What are the uncertainties? What are your fears? Hopes?

My hope is that it will help me process and celebrate this transition and it will also give you an insight into the life of a UCCF staff worker as well as help you process things, incase you are also going through a time of change as well.

So over the next few months I will putting these posts up in and around other posts I will be writing. I very much welcome comments as I write these posts. Thank you!

Summer Making Projects

I just wanted to flag up some projects that you may be interested in making (esp if you have kids). My husband has been creating rockets and rocket launchers as well as cool stuff with Crayons. Have a look at his video’s and if you decide to make them then please do let us know how it goes!

1. How to make a PVC bottle rocket launcher:

2. Bottle Rocket Test:

3. How to make melted crayon room signs:

Enjoy!