Transition: Mission Weeks

PlymCUMission weeks or events week are where the CU puts on a week of events that give everyone on campus the opportunity to hear about Jesus. It is an intense week. You spend most of the year planning for it, making sure you have speakers, venues, themes, talk titles and fliers.

I think I have been involved in about 12 mission weeks since being a student. This includes going as a student, staff worker and going along as a guest to a mission week in another Uni. It is a hard week and you end up really tired but it is totally worth it. Here are some reasons why I love it:

  • Seeing students really step out in faith and invite their friends along to hear about Jesus
  • Hearing great talks from mission speakers
  • Meeting to pray every morning and seeing prayers answered
  • Seeing students accept Jesus for the first time
  • Reaching people who may of never have come across a Christian or CU or church before
  • The energy from the students
  • The way the students work together in unity to achieve a week of events
  • Watching things go wrong but then discover that the Lord has used it for good
  • Fliering in the rain… (ok that isn’t one of my favourites…)

I think University provides a great platform for events week and it has been wonderful to be a part of these weeks. I remember it was during a mission week that I led a student to Christ – it was amazing and such an exciting time. I learnt so much through that.

It is strange to think that I won’t really be a part of that process any more, but it is probably a good thing as I don’t think that kind of pattern of ministry is sustainable for the whole life of the church. The model works well at University where terms are short, it’s a quick fire paced life and people are living in very close quarters.

But church is a much slower pace, inviting people in from all walks of life and backgrounds, different situations and questions. The whole CU model of mission couldn’t be mapped on to church life, some of it would, but not all of it and I am looking forward to a different pace of life, with different people, rhythms and questions.

I have learnt so much through mission weeks and I have seen the goodness of the Lord where he has sustained me and provided when we have been in need. If you ever get a chance to be a guest in one, then do – it will open your eyes to some exciting student mission that the CU’s are doing across the UK and the world!

Unapologetic: Francis Spufford

unapologeticI finally got my hands on this book at a discount price. It has had mix reviews and I must admit as I read the book, I had mix feelings about it. On the one hand, his honesty and plain speaking was really refreshing, it is raw and feels unedited and I think it works. But then it seems to lose its edge half way through and it slightly lost its way. There were lots that I didn’t agree with but there was also lots that I could resonate with.

The other thing that people pick up on is the swearing. I am not sure where I stand with this, I don’t know if the swearing added any value to what he was trying to say. I personally think some of it was making a point, it made the reader take note and listen but at other times I felt like it subtracted from what he was saying and he didn’t need to have it there.

I don’t want this to be a negative book review, but I wanted to be honest that most of the way through I just wasn’t sure if I liked it. On the other hand there were bits that were helpful, so I thought I would share with you 5 things that I appreciated about the book:

  1. The first couple of chapters are really helpful. It felt like his thoughts were spilling on the page and helping the reader to see that Christianity make sense, at least to him.
  2. He identifies the deep longings that we have as humans and the way that the world tries to offer us stuff, but it always lets us down.
  3. His chapter on suffering and all that’s wrong with the world was really insightful and helpful. It is down to earth and sometimes its something you need to hear – it is the less fluffy version.
  4. He explores what is wrong at the heart of humanity and the truth that we all mess up. He isn’t afraid to say that we all mess up, we all have a problem and we need a solution.
  5. If you want to read something that is just really honest when it comes to the deep longing and suffering questions then I think this book is worth reading.

Those are just some of my thoughts. It probably isn’t a book I would read again or even recommend to my friends. However there are bits in it that are worth quoting and worth using for illustrations. So all in all, this book and this review is rather mixed!

Would love to hear what you thought of the book – what did you enjoy? What didn’t you enjoy?

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?

Frozen: True Love

frozen When I was a kid watching Disney films was a real treat. I grew up with the magic of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Jungle Book. Singing along and enjoying the classic boy meets girl story. I have written before about how Disney gets the heart of the universal story that we all ache for.

A prince rescuing a princess.

*Spoilers Alert

But the other day I watched the film Frozen, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike most other Disney films, Frozen captured more of the Gospel story then ever before.

Salvation plays a big part in the stories we tell. Go to the movies and you will find the story is telling you that salvation is necessary – to be rescued, to be taken from poverty, ugliness, captivity into riches, beauty and freedom. And there is always a saviour, whether that is prince charming or some inner person/ courage in your heart that you just have to find. With salvation, true love is not far behind.

For Disney, salvation is true love. And that true love must be shown as a kiss.

  • trueloveskissAriel’s salvation from being captured in the prison of silence was broken by a true love’s kiss.
  • Snow white is awoken and saved from eternal sleep by true love’s kiss.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the beast is free from eternal hairiness by true love’s kiss.

Disney is right, only true love can save. Love does indeed win.

However it is not through a kiss that true love is shown:

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8,10)

True love is sacrifice. It is through death and giving up ones life for another. The bible tells us that in order for us to be rescued, Christ stooped down and died for us (while we hated him), saving us and reconciling us to His Father.

Death is far more powerful than a kiss and it brings a better salvation. 

In the film Frozen, Disney shows this reality. Salvation doesn’t come through a True Love’s kiss but through a True Love’s sacrifice.

Elsa has magical powers (she can freeze people) and it causes relationships to break, she feels guilty and she runs away ashamed. She wraps herself in her own castle of ice and tries to hide, pushing everyone away.

Her sister Anna pursues her. She doesn’t give up.

This is a Hosea moment.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

Anna pursues and woos her.

Later on there comes a moment where Elsa has to die, but Anna steps out and takes her place. Anna sacrifices herself for Elsa and Elsa is saved because of the death of another has taken her place.

Then Anna is resurrected, showing the strength and power of her love.

As with anything, of course it isn’t a perfect representation of the Gospel – but it is a glimpse and a better glimpse then a kiss.

This film would be a good one to explain what true love really is, the cost of true freedom and the love that Christ has for us.

Word Alive: 10 Highlights

crazypeopleThis week my husband and I went to Word Alive to serve on the International Track. Here is a snapshot of our time there:

1. Being on the International Student Team and working with a group of people that are very talented and have a heart for the nations.

2. Sunshine and the feeling that spring has arrived

3. Sharing with Josh and Jo – like-minded crazy people who love coffee!

4. Being on the logistics team and doing behind the scenes work so that everything works together.

5. 3 Year Wedding Anniversary

6. Romans 8 and seeing small groups in many different languages getting to grips with God’s Word

7. Coffee catch ups with Kristi Mair

8. Helping to cook Thai Curry for 80 international students

9. Seeing old friends

10. Having non-Christian International groups doing a bible study and asking questions about how they can know God.

It was a really fun week and the last time I will go as a staff worker. But if we were to go back, then serving on the International Team is where our heart is!

Thanks Word Alive for a Great Week!

Ender’s Game: Loving the Enemy

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy, understand him well enough to defeat him, then in that very moment I also love him”

*Spoilers alert

endersgameEnder is no typical teenager. He has been selected to save the world from a deadly race of aliens. We journey with him as he trains, trying to get the balance between anger and compassion.

When we reach the film’s end, we find Ender in a computer simulator, practising war tactics in various complicated scenarios. When his graduation finally arrives, he enters his last simulation and if he wins this, then he can go out to war for real.

Everything goes well. In fact he doesn’t just beat his enemy, he totally annihilates them – destroying a planet of aliens which seem to consist of the entire species – now every last one of them is up in smoke. Earth won.

There is silence. Then applause. Victory over the enemy is accomplished! Ender won the game.

And yet we discover that this was no simulation. This was in fact the real war and it dawns on Ender that he has totally wiped out an entire civilisation. What bothers him, it seems, is that he didn’t get a chance to understand them better. He wanted to dialogue with them, find out what makes them tick, find out why they came to earth in the first place and give them a chance. But he can’t do that. He had no chance to love his enemy.

It was quite a striking ending, normally as a viewer we would be satisfied with a victory like this. The enemy is crushed! However Enders reaction makes us feel uncomfortable. We suddenly feel that perhaps these aliens were never the enemy in the first place, but actually we were the enemy all along.

How we deal with our enemies illustrates something of our heart.

Jesus says: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

ender-wigginEnder found that the heart of this project was all about annihilation and winning a game, being in victory and being the strongest. And Ender didn’t like that, he saw the corrupt nature of the heart and felt tricked in following their rules. What if he had a chance to talk to the aliens? To understand them? Perhaps he would have loved them?

Jesus deals with his enemies in a startling way.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

While we were still enemies, hating God, waging war against him. He stooped down and loved us, died for us and brought peace. Jesus treats his enemies with great love, beckoning them to come to him for refuge, offering them time and time again a chance for peace.

How we treat our enemies shows the inner workings of our hearts.

Perhaps the people we think who are our enemies, are actually not. Perhaps we need time to understand them, get to know them, find out what makes their heart tick and perhaps we will come to love them. Like Jesus, who understands our inner most being, who saw our hatred towards him and yet he still loved us, loved us to the point of death.

Those people out there that we may class as enemies, those who think differently to us, belong to a different tribe, have a different lifestyle are all enemies of Christ. Just like you and me. Yet Christ is filled with compassion towards them, as he does towards us.

Suddenly we find ourselves side by side with our enemies, feeling a little uncomfortable because we have realised that perhaps we are also the enemy.

And yet Christ is not tricked like Ender, he doesn’t annihilate us. Instead he understand us, loves us and calls us to him for salvation.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

JesusNothingEverythingThis catchy book title was written by Tullian Tchividjian. This is a book about the Gospel and what Jesus has done for us. It is a refreshing book to read as it sits on the bookshelf amongst books that mostly tell you how to be a better Christian, leader, minister, pop star etc. I found it helpful to have my eyes cast away from myself and come back to Jesus. Tullian explains the heart of what it means to follow Jesus and what Jesus did on the cross was enough not just for salvation but for living as a Christian, every day.

Let me tell you 3 things I learnt / enjoyed about this book:

1. The Gospel isn’t just for non/new Christians. The Gospel is for the Christian, every single day. It is for the Christian that has been following Christ for 30 years, 30 days or 30 mins. The truth of the Gospel, what Jesus has done on the cross is something we need to hear and sink into our hearts everyday. It is too easy for me as I walk this road with Jesus to think that I now need to move on to “higher” and “better” things after I have grasped the basics of the Gospel, yet it seems that these basics are what I most need to hear because I easily forget them.

2. Your works can’t add to what Jesus has done. It seems we often believe the lie that the Gospel is enough for salvation but after that happens, we then need to work really hard to keep God happy or to stay in salvation. This is a lie. What Jesus has done on the cross is enough – we can’t add to it and we don’t “work hard” to pay back God. We rest in his salvation and when we do that, with our hearts being changed, we begin to produce fruit and good works.

We can rest in assurance that this equation is really true: Jesus + Nothing = Everything

3. Focus on what Christ has done for you, rather than looking inwards all the time: “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism” 

I would really recommend this book as it provides a great reminder of who we are in Christ and most importantly what Christ has done for us. It is a short read and really accessible for any reader.