Thursday, 8 November 2012

Don't email God.

Sorry for my lack of bloggage, no major reason, just haven't, I'm sure you've coped somehow. 
Anyway, just a little thought today - at least it's supposed to be, but you know how I ramble on sometimes.

So for quite a while now, I've been feeling frustrated in my faith. It's not that I've been doubting or straying but I just haven't felt like I'm really growing. In my time at university, I grew so much in my love for Jesus and my understanding of the Bible, but sometimes I feel like now I've just stopped.

Yesterday, I had a thought. I wasn't being uber spiritual at the time, my Bible wasn't even in the same city as me, but the thought struck me as important. I was actually in a meeting at work, and one of the items on the agenda was the sometimes somewhat strained relationship between two departments. A key point that came up was good communication. I hadn't really thought about it before, but several people said that we're far more likely to get helpful and friendly email responses, if we already know the person at the other end. An easy way to tackle this is to not be afraid to pick up the phone, or meet in person where possible, and actually talk - not electronically. This struck me as wonderfully simple but effective (though I must admit that using the phone in work still terrifies me a little).

Then I got thinking. Maybe this is how I've been relating to God. I've been surviving on the quick fixes and need to know information but not really investing much time in what should be my most important relationship. It's no wonder that I can feel like God's messages are similar to those emails of a few choice words that may as well be written in capitals given the way they come across. It can seem like all God wants to do is sap up your time and make you feel guilty. But if only I spent time reflecting on the way Jesus has demonstrated his love for me, or examining Bible passages to see what I can understand about the character of God, or talking about God more with my friends who already love Jesus and those who don't, then my relationship with God would surely start to blossom.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Jewish shelters?

I would like to tell you a little story. So please make sure you are sitting comfortably.

Our story begins about a month ago, I took my turn on the tea and coffee rota at church for the first time. This was quite exciting and it gave an excellent opportunity to get to know the lady I was doing it with better. We chitted and chatted about various things, but this was about the time when people in church were starting to make plans for our Harvest Festival and this lady was organising the decorating of the church. The idea was that different groups would create different displays; the Brownies, the ladies' group etc. and she wondered whether the youth group would be up for doing something. I said I was sure we could think of something. We started to talk about different things we could make, I suggested something like bunting or paper chains that we could add to little by little each week as we don't actually have that much time together as a group in which to create something. With that, and not a single word uttered between the former and what I'm about to share, she replied, 'Yes, what a good idea, like Jewish shelters'!

I can't tell you how I kept a straight face - perhaps I didn't and the look of horror was plain to see. For one thing, that didn't sound an awful lot like bunting, for another, it sounded much harder to assemble and for another, surely I'd need to do a fair bit of research into the appearance, reasoning and significance of these structures in order to do them justice at all. Call it a cop-out, but I eventually responded by saying, 'Hmm, yes that's a possibility, I tell you what, I'll ask the young people and see what they come up with'.

This may have been my downfall. The young people came up with the idea of creating papier mache vegetables. Sounds so simple in theory, but in practice, it is difficult to make papier mache look anything but a mess (especially when the night you start you discover your glue has been stolen and you have to improvise using flour and water). Week one we pasted, week two we painted, week three we were thoroughly disheartened by how awful our creations looked. We gave them one last flourish of paint and then decided we'd make a big paper chain anyway as a reserve and if in doubt, we'd say that the Toddler Group made them.

Then on Saturday, to our utter amazement, once dried and placed in a pretty basket, our 'creations'  were transformed from odd and ugly, to rustic and recognisable as vegetables!

A swede, pumpkin, squash, cabbage, red onion and a few potatoes!

So whatever happened to those Jewish shelters we dismissed so quickly, I hear you ask. Well, Sunday's reading came from Deuteronomy, chapter 16, verses 13-17, an Old Testament passage which describes how once a year, the Jews were to abandon all their luxuries and live the simple life in shelters made out of foliage and stuff! The idea behind this is that this would help them realise how many things God really blessed them with and take time giving thanks to him for it. We had a go at making these in the service too:


Two Bethans in our makeshift shelter!
So how's about it? Those Jewish Shelters turned out to be pretty cool, we had lots of fun imitating our Creator with (less than perfect) creations and we got to have lunch together as a church family and give lots of food to the local Foodbank and Soup Run. So I am LOVING harvest - it's not quite happily ever after, but I have definitely found lots to thank God for.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Blunt

My good friends will know that I'm not too worried about just saying things how they are. I mean, why use fifty words when four will make the message clear? 'That film was rubbish', 'Get on with it' or 'I don't want to' for example. Some people might think it impolite to be so direct, but sometimes I think it can be just as unhelpful to scoot around the edges and never really say anything. So I was encouraged the other day when I read in Mark 8:32, 'He spoke plainly about this'. Jesus also got straight to the point. For someone known for (among other things) being a great teacher, Jesus wasn't all that eloquent. He didn't use fancy language and complexly constructed sentences, instead he used everyday words and pictures and made his points clearly.

But I was also challenged, because in this particular context, Jesus was speaking plainly about being rejected and killed before rising again. How ready am I to speak bluntly about what I believe to be the most important message of all? Will I scoot round the fact that Jesus didn't promise an easy ride as a Christian, but  instead asked us to daily die to ourselves and our sinful nature? What about repentance - do I pretend that we don't need to change, when actually Jesus thought sin mattered enough to die for it?

I'm not saying don't be sensitive and compassionate as you share the gospel, but I for one want to be able to share with Paul as he said to Timothy, 'But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth'. (2Timothy4:17), where the 'lion's mouth' is not speaking up about Jesus. How glorious it would be to stand before the throne with that confidence.

Friday, 24 August 2012

'Thank God for' Friday!

It's been a while and as always, there is much to thank God for but today (tonight) I am going to take this opportunity to thank God for...

...Figgesses!

'What? Who? Huh?' I hear you say. They are not a kind of Morris-dance or a fish with big eyes, they are actually my family! My Mum's maiden name is actually Figgess and her family are all pretty legendary. And today, very excitingly, the youngest and last Figgess has come to stay, my cousin Kate. When we were younger we used to visit each other several times a year but since we all started leaving home and growing up it's been much less frequent, in fact she said it was 8 years since she'd crossed the border into beautiful Wales. 

Figgesses and family in general are just brilliant, because there is so much shared; in blood and experience and relations, and it has been so fun and so funny to reminisce over various anecdotes and memories. Things that you couldn't understand the full hilarity of unless you knew and loved the people in question as family, like (in a Yorkshire accent), 'Bethan, you can't use that, that's my Dad's flannel!' More than that, there is genuine interest in how you are doing now and what your hopes for the future are, regardless of how long it's been since you've caught up. So thank God very much for Figgesses, we're well enjoying having Kate here so far.

I also can't help but think, as I reflect on family, how marvellous it is that in God's great masterplan for his people, he didn't create a society or a club or a profession, but a family. A people where everyone is accepted as a brother or sister and united by a completely loving Father, each with a unique role to play, but loved regardless of what they do. The best thing is that it is a totally elastic family, and there is always space for one more. Jesus promised, 'My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.'  (John 14:2-3) How I look forward to being there with all my brothers and sisters.

Thank God for family.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

A foretaste

Just a quick blog today. Inspired by the human body and the 2012 Olympics.

On Tuesday at aerobics I was struck by something. No, not the person next to me getting too enthusiastic with their jumping jacks, but a thought. This thought was further cemented in watching Olympians compete this week and the way they power through their events.

The thought was this...

As I was on round 5 or 6 of abdominal exercises and I was really starting to feel the burn, but still wanted to carry on right through it, I was just amazed by the capacity of the human body. Just when you think all the reserves are gone, you can be surprised by how much more your body can do. Then it occurred to me that this is like a tiny foretaste, a hint, an image, of what God's grace to us is like. Just when we think we have experienced the fullness of his love, the extent of his forgiveness, the greatness of  his  power, the intimacy of knowing  him personally, his grace goes further. He shows us that he actually delights to give us more. What's more, unlike our mortal bodies which will eventually reach their limit, God's grace will never run out. However big we think he is, he's bigger. Thank you God.


'The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.' 
Words of the apostle Paul to his young friend Timothy in his first letter, chapter 1, verse 14. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Real Post

Everybody loves getting 'real' post. It seems to me to be a fact of life. Even the most disinterested of people can't help perking up just a bit when someone has bothered to write to them or send them something in the post. Even the post we kind of send for ourselves, like if we've ordered something to be delivered. That end of suspense when you can rip open (or carefully unseal if you're one of those types) the packaging and what lies within is revealed. Everyone loves post.

Today I received 4 hand written letters in the post - well one was a postcard that was addressed to both my Mum and I but I think it still counts. It was very exciting! Another contained some CDs and a DVD from a friend and some scribbles to update me on her life. Another was a lovely sprawled letter of joy which couldn't contain itself on the card and spilled over onto both sides of a piece of paper as well. The other was very thoughtful but a bit too personal to blog about. But it was so great to feel connected to those people even though we can't be in the same place at the same time. Yes I think connection is a big part of why we love post so much, that despite the busyness of life, we can 'be' with people who aren't closeby. Whether we were expecting it or it was a total surprise, those moments are worth cherishing.

My post quota has gone up in general recently too because I have tried to get into the habit of writing to people regularly. I decided to do this after a wonderful holiday just before Easter where I saw lots of people I wouldn't normally see and I so enjoyed hearing what was new or important in their lives and updating them on mine. With letters, you do exactly the same; you invest time in the person, show them they're special and you care about them, keep in touch with the things that matter. Moreover, there is the space and time in a letter to think through your words, much more so than electronic communication, to make what you say count and be coherent or encouraging or supportive or funny. 

Most of the New Testament in the Bible is made up of letters. Mostly written by a man named Paul to churches or individuals. It must have been so exciting to receive such a letter from this guy who God was using so powerfully at the time. It's helpful to remember as we read these letters or epistles that they were written with that kind of thoughtfulness and intent and a desire to share God's love - even the ones which sound like a telling off. And through some marvellous work of the Holy Spirit, those words are like 'real post' to us today from God Himself. He has something to say to us and has given us a way of 'being' with him even  though we can't see him, and if we let it, that something might encourage or excite or challenge or change us.

If you would like some 'real post' from me, then let me know your address and I would be all too happy to write to you, whoever you are. If you would just like some 'real post' period, then check out one of the letters in the New Testament and see what God might have to say to you personally, because he loves you and he desires to have that connection with you.

Friday, 13 July 2012

'Thank God for' Friday

So I start writing this at 23.35 on Friday - just in case typing takes a while, this is still a legitimate TGFF post!

This week I have been feeling a bit rubbish and emotional. No major reasons, just a combination of being a girl, being really really tired and having too many so far unprocessed thoughts in my head I think. So that's all the more reason to stop looking in on myself and look up to God and thank him for the good things he has given me. This week I am going to say:

Thank God for Focus.

Not as in photography, or the car, but as in Focus, the 20s/30s group at church. We meet on the 1st and 3rd Wednesdays of each month which aren't school holidays and study the Bible/explore our faith together. We also meet up socially - as we did tonight for drinks and a curry.

I am thankful for Focus because, firstly, it is such a welcoming group of people. When I came home from uni, I literally had no friends left in Cardiff but this group of people are amazing because they seem to be able to pick up new people and not make them feel awkward or like the odd one out but totally welcome and like they're pleased you're there. They're just normal and fun and interested, it's ace.

Secondly, I am thankful because it's a group where no matter how long people have known Jesus for, they are seeking to know him more. We've had some really good Bible studies together this year from the book of Ruth in the Bible and great discussions about issues of faith and how we practically live as Christians day to day. We also pray together and generally look out for each other. I could mention each person at this point and describe why they're great - but it's now 23.51 so it might have to wait for another time. 

Going to Focus is always a highlight of my week, I feel like I am blessed and can be a blessing, encouraged and able to encourage, supported and able to support. So thank you God, very much, for Focus.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Adventures

So I haven't posted in a while as I've been having exciting adventures! These adventures have involved:-

Inappropriately named ice-cream flavours
                Germans
Almost crying when hearing a children's story
Mud
                                 A picnic-less picnic 
                                                               Sleeping on a church hall floor
Travelling through the night on buses
                                                                               Korean dancing                                  
                            An amazing Miniature Wonderland


Not necessarily in that order.
I've had a brilliant week with some of my favourite people. 
If you would like to hear about any of those items in more detail then feel free to ask and I will post about them specifically but for now I think I need to get some sleep and attempt to catch up with myself before work tomorrow!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Over to you...

So I suddenly realised that although my next choir concert is still two weeks away, I'm away most of next week and hence I am calling upon your help. I am the choir's usual solo spot (I qualified for this role by being under 55) and so I need to rustle up a few items. The remit is that it mustn't require too much practice for me to sing and play the piano for myself and it should be pretty audience friendly, I tend to go for songs from the shows/old american songbook types. Therefore, I thought I would just go with some of my golden oldies but I would spice it up a little by letting cyber space decide! One item is already up my sleeve and I'm very excited about it although I'm under strict instructions to keep it secret. I reckon I'll need another item for the first half and then two for the second half. Here are your choices ladies and gents...

As long as he needs me - from Oliver
Adelaide's Lament - from Guys and Dolls
Luck be a Lady - also G&D
It's a Fine Fine Line - from Avenue Q
The Sound of Music - no prizes for guessing what that's from
I Have Confidence - also from the Sound of Music
Anything else you've heard me sing before (except 'It Don't Mean a Thing' because we do that as a choir)
Something from a hymn book

So it's over to you! I'll update the post if I remember anything else I can pull out of my musical hat. And if you have any ideas of things which would be fun to sing in the future, please suggest because I'm always looking to bulk out my repertoire!

Thanks blog buddies!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Busy-bee-ness

So as a student, I was pretty much busy all the time, but since returning to Cardiff it's taken quite a while to establish an outside-of-work life for myself. Think I'm starting to get there now though, and it really excites me. I'm the type of person who generally thrives on being busy and seeing lots of people and spending quality time with them. This week I have enjoyed that in bucket loads!

Last Saturday: Pottered about with my Mum in the afternoon and then went for dinner with my super lovely friends Alex and Sarah in Bridgend in the evening. A condition of me going was that I took games with me, so I did, and I even threw in some individual Baileys and Chocolate Cheesecakes that I made for good measure. We had an ace time and played a very intense game of Chinese Checkers - which Alex was shocked not to win, hehe!

Sunday: Church followed by lunch with friends at a lovely lady called Aunty Jenny's house. Lots of laughs and tasty food. Then in the evening I run a little Youth Group, last week my friend Meg talked to us about her recent trip to Israel and Palestine and the situation there which was very enlightening. And we played cards too which is always fun!

Monday: I unexpectedly got to meet up with an old friend from school. She comes from Norway so I really don't see her often, in fact, the last time I saw her may have been in Norway, and I went there in 2007, eek! Anyway, we met up for food and had a lovely catch up and then she joined me and Meg for a dance class which was really fun.

Tuesday: Mum and I went to see my godmother for her birthday but she wasn't there so we just left a plant outside her house! Then onto choir and the sheer fun of singing "I'm gonna wash that man right outta my hair" in barbershop style with 28 ladies I love very much!

Wednesday: Step aerobic-ing followed by a 'nice barbecue'. Well, it was nice, but it wasn't a barbecue, since the sky decided to start emptying just as we were meeting. Instead we had a nice of beanbags, burgers on the floor and big discussions! Oh, and I find out that apparently I'm scary, is it true?

Thursday: Just went to the gym, no biggy!

Friday: Went out to a 'Ceroc Freestyle' with my best friend Clare, which is potentially one of the funnest things you can do, period.

Today: Adventure on a rickshaw followed by Wagamamas, what more could you want?

Buzzing.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Joy - as taught by Mr P.Nutini


I love this song, so I thought I'd take the 'Pencil full of lead' test for contentment levels, why not try it yourself? - 

1, 2, 3, 4     
I got a sheet for my bed,    Got
And a pillow for my head    Tick
I got a pencil full of lead,   Free stationery at work
And some water for my throat    In abundance
I've got buttons for my coat;     And zips
and sails on my boat       Not got
So much more than I needed before
I got money in the meter and a two bar heater    General central heating
Now it's getting hotter;     I live in Wales, but I like rain too
Oh it's only getting sweeter    I made some cheesecake on the weekend
I got legs on my chairs and a head full of hear      Tick tick
Pot and a pan    Got got
And some shoes on my feet;    Not right now, but I'm inside
I got a shelf full of books       Love it
and most of my teeth    it's true
A few pairs of socks     and tights
and a door with a lock     I do
I got food in my belly     Mum just made me tea
and a license for my telly     Though I'd rather not watch it
And nothing's going to bring me down     No sir-reee
I got a nice guitar    I don't, but a piano and flute are pretty good
and tyres on my car     4 of them
I got most of the means;    eh?
and scripts for the scenes     I've got the Bible
I'm out and about,      Every night so far this week
so I'm in with a shout     Me? Loud?
I got a fair bit of chat but better than that    Me? Cheeky?
Food in my belly and a license for my telly    As above
And nothing's going to bring me down     
Nothing's going to bring me down


But best of all (best of all)

I've got my baby      I don't, but I dont want one right now
She's mighty fine and says she's all mine     I'm sure she is Mr N, enjoy her.  
And nothing's going to bring me down



Life's pretty sweet!

And what really struck me when pondering the words is the following:

Joy is when what you have got is more important to you than what you haven't.
Truest joy is when having Jesus is more important to you than anything else you have or haven't got.

Thanks Paolo :)




Friday, 15 June 2012

Pet Peeves {2}

So I am breaking with tradition today, and sharing a 'Pet Peeve'* with the blogosphere, even though it's 'Thank God For' Friday! Shocked? Trust me, this post is about to get more shocking.

I only feel that it is safe to vent my frustrations at the subject of today's rant now that most of the Queen's Jubilee celebrations are over. Now you're probably thinking, 'Oh no! She hates the Queen or street parties or ... dun dun duh ... worse still, tea!' But fear not, I like all those things an appropriate amount. What I really can't stand though, and they're just about everywhere at the moment, are those 'Keep Calm and blah blah blah' posters/mugs/umbrellas/pencil cases/coasters/some other rip off.

At this point I was going to insert a picture example, but looking through them I got so cross with their ridiculous pointlessness that I couldn't bring myself to share one. Sorry.

You might be a big fan of this nostalgic bric-a-brac, and pretty shocked that anyone might not be taken with them too, but I'm going to try and convey why I dislike them so intently. So why do these things get on my nerves? Well, for one, as I said, they're everywhere! And there's nothing less likely to make me calm down, than being bombarded with commands to keep calm! Quite frankly, I was calm, I was fine, I was in no danger of being anything but calm, on the verge of what you might call 'serene' even, but when I see these slogans (i.e. all the time) I become frustrated and annoyed at this ethereal voice telling me what to do with these somewhat less than subliminal messages.

What I don't have a problem with, is the original purpose of the original poster. It was designed to keep morale up in early WW2, when there actually was a situation worth worrying over. They didn't end up being distributed in great numbers but that's by the by. The point is that even suggesting that to 'Keep Calm and Buy Stuff' or similar is totally disrespectful to the people the poster was originally intended for. Britons in WW2 were facing town bombings, young men going off to fight in their tens of thousands, children being evacuated to strangers' homes miles from home, extreme rationings and so much more. OK, our country's not perfect today, but what have we got to 'keep calm' about that really compares to that?

So there, I've said it, I can't stand them, they're annoying, insensitive and manipulative. I know they're popular at the moment and I'm sorry if I've offended you because you own some of this memorabilia but frankly, they get on my toot!

*If you're new to the blog, I am not a super angry person honest! But Pet Peeves is just an occasional spot where I vent my frustrations on something I find annoying :)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Treasure

Some words that speak into my thoughts at the moment:

'For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.'

If you want to read around them, then check out the verse 21, chapter 6, book of Matthew, the Bible.

Now just in case you thought treasure was just for pirates, it can take many forms. It might be totting up those pounds in the bank, or padding out the wardrobe with pretty things, or getting a highscore on a game you're hooked on, or being appreciated or successful or attractive. There are even plenty of things most would consider good which can gain the status of treasure; working hard, doing charity or church work, fighting for worthwhile causes, finding a spouse and starting a family. 

So where's the issue? Those things all sound pretty peachy right? Maybe we should go back to the example of pirates, think of all the things they might sacrifice or set aside in order to find that treasure; families at home, legal and moral standards, each other! Simply in the hope that finding buried treasure would satisfy all their deepest longings. Yet the reality is, that the treasure they searched for probably doesn't exist, or at the very least not in the form they imagined it to. Furthermore, even if it did, there is no 'treasure' in the world that can truly satisfy all the desires and frustrations of a human heart.

At this point, it's easy to say, 'Oh those silly pirates, what were they thinking?' But the truth is, I am a silly pirate too! Now I might not have a silly hat or eye-patch or wooden leg or parrot but hear me out. I find it way too easy to find myself preoccupied with things that I suppose would make me happy; buying a house, finding a husband, being the best dancer in the world to name but a few. I think to myself, if I just had 'insert treasure here' then I would be so happy and a much better person and I'd tell people about Jesus all the time. But would I?

Well, only if I set my mind on one treasure particular, that being the very One who said the words quoted at the start. The more I get to know Jesus, the more I appreciate the massive lengths he went for me so that I could call him my big brother and his father my Father, the more I fill my mind with all the promises that he eternally keeps, the more I meditate on the facets of his marvellous character, then the more I will discover how satisfying real treasure is and find fulfilment in living the way he knows is best for me. 

So I need to daily abandon the treasures I store up here on earth and find myself delighted as I dwell on the true treasure who is in Heaven.

What about you?
Do you find yourself treasuring things which can't fully satisfy?
How do you make Jesus a treasure in your life?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

'Thank God for' Friday!


It's that time of the week again to take a step back and think of things which have God to thank for. This Friday is a particularly good friday as it is the beginning of a whole four days worth of weekend. I have been getting more excited by the day about this weekend as I am going to Brum to visit my very good friend, Miss Rebekah Tubbs.

So this Friday I am going to thank God for Bekah Tubbs!!!

Thanks for your photo Tubes, and credit to Ro for taking the photo. Aren't we so cool in our matching coats?!
It was her amazingly expressive faces just like the one above (she's on the right if you're not familiar with her) that first impressed me. She has the kind of face which can express any complex emotion you might dare to suggest without a single word, e.g. 'I can't believe you don't know how amazing goats are, I love them and they're like soooo much better than sheep' or 'I'm confused, I thought you really wanted to play Scrabble, I got my massive dictionary out and everything'. It's hard to believe until you've seen it but it is a genuine talent.

Another thing I love about Tubbs is her amazing, uncontrollable laugh and her incredible sense of humour. I only have to hear the word 'Frosties' and I know I'll be hardcore laughing for hours.

So how does a nincompoop like myself come to know such a cool character and have the privelege of being able to call her one of my best friends? Well, we were in university together, both in the same halls and also both members of the Christian Union. The CU had a system set up called Prayer Squads where you met up in small groups and prayed together, both for the CU and for each other. Our 'squad' consisted of the two of us, and another girl called Fisayo, who is very lovely, but also pretty disorganised, so mostly it was just the two of us. This meant that our friendship, right from the off, was all centred on Jesus. And we had such amazing prayer times where our eyes and hearts were opened to how amazing our God is and how He fits into our lives.

We kept up this prayer partnership even after we moved out of halls. We got to know so much about each other, and encourage each other with words from the Bible, and actually let ourselves be vulnerable enough to share the burdens as well as the joys in our lives. Then, for our third year, we shared a lovely little house with another lovely girl called Rosie (I'm sure I'll do a TGFF about her sometime). That house was A-MA-ZING! I loved living there, we got to know each other inside out, played a LOT of board games, baked/cooked lots of yummy things and watched a fair amount of period dramas! On a bad day, I only had to go downstairs to find someone who would help me feel better, share advice, pray for me or just share in something fun. Or on a good day, we might decide to do something fun all together like play on the beach or practise acoustic versions of Little Mermaid songs! Bekah was also brilliant whenever I had some difficult question about faith, imparting lots of godly wisdom and insightful Bible passages. We discussed everything from playing the piano to boys to ambitions to sharing the gospel with friends to disney movies, and always she would point me straight to what God had to say about it.

Bekah Tubbs is a very sensitive, persevering, talented, creative, funny, thoughtful, wise, encouraging, facially expressive, helpful, beautiful young woman and I thank God that she is my friend. She has taught me loads and supported me loads and I've had so many fun times and adventures with her. So I am incredibly excited that I get to enjoy her company from Friday evening right through to Tuesday evening this weekend.

Thank God for Rebekah Tubbs.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Exercise Schmexercise


I’ve been thinking about posting about my slightly dysfunctional relationship with exercise for a while and a combination of seeing the Olympic Torch last Friday and recently returning to dancing on a Monday night clinched it.

Now I promise I'm writing this as a useless sportswoman and gym-phobic so don’t worry about me coming down all high and mighty on you!

So many people begin a bad relationship with physical activity at school, myself included (it's a bit of a bugbear). It could be because, like me, they’re a total klutz, so no matter how much enthusiasm they have for the ball to be thrown their way in the playground, likelihood is they’ll get scared and duck and it’ll go straight through their legs. Or it could be that the P.E uniform at school was the horrendous combination that is a huge pair of bright blue gym knickers to wear with a fairly see-through white polo shirt (yowch). It could also be that they weren’t one of the cool kids who made it onto a sports team so consequently they were an object of scorn to their peers and invisible to the P.E teachers. Or all of the above?

My personal way of coping was to have a permanent ‘Music Rehearsal’ during all sports activities from the age of 14 onwards. Potentially not the most positive way of dealing with the reality that is physical activity.

Bizarrely, as a person of exactly the background described above, God, rather ironically, led me to take a year out working at an Adventure Centre before university. “A-ha!” you say, “It turns out she’s more of an outdoor type who enjoys being left to her own devices and making great treks.” Nope, absolutely not,  pretty much everything there terrified me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not scared of heights or of water, but more of my own ability. I get scared that I won’t be able to achieve what I set out to, or that I’ll hold everyone back and annoy them in the process. I’ve a feeling I’m not on my own in these sentiments either right?

Here's a big but.
BUT.

But, what can you do, as an uncoordinated, unmotivated, unconfident, uncompetitive person, to get fit and healthy? Too many of us feel we are not fit enough to go to the gym, or cool enough to join a team, or bothered enough to leave the house. In my experience, the answer is, ‘Get over yourself’. OK, I’ll try and express it with a little bit more compassion, ‘Just do something’, whether it’s getting in the habit of going for a walk after tea, or joining a dance class, or finding a friend to go to the gym with. Everyone is capable of something, don’t worry about what other people are doing around you or what clothes you’re wearing or about turning up on your own, don’t worry if you have to take the pace down to a slow walk and glug back loads of water, just get yourself and keep yourself moving. The endorphin rush is worth it - yes, correct, those happy hormones found in chocolate.

For me, the something was going to classes at the gym. I felt that I needed someone to tell me what to do so that I knew I was doing something that was really working, but at least in a class I could hide in the middle of lots of other people. Now it turns out that I LOVE going. I get a real buzz from pushing that little bit harder when I think I’ve no energy left, from seeing the progress as things get easier and moves click in my brain so I can try the next step up. I especially love Step Aerobics, but that’s just because I’m a bit of a nutter!

The Olympic Flame is relaying right across our country, as a symbol that we are an Olympic nation, and sport is not just for the elite. And on a personal note, I want to enjoy my body because I believe it is marvellously made by an awesome God. Why not join in the action? ;)

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Thus sings my dearest jewel...

Something you may or may not know about me.
I sing in a choir.
A lovely ladies choir who I love to pieces and they love me. It's more like going to sing with 28 aunties every Tuesday evening - I am frequently reminded that they knew me since before I was born! We sing a massive variety of music probably ranging about 7 centuries (when the choir was originally formed back in the 60s it was called The Gwent Elizabethan Singers) and at the moment I am particularly enjoying a Madrigal we're learning. Madrigals are funny because none of them are really much alike and they often have quite silly words. Some might have been pretty explicit at the time of writing (see 'A kiss is a harmless pleasure' below)! I like the words and the (very) old fashioned romance of this one but also the honesty and common sense in matters of love, check it out:

Thus sings my dearest jewel;
In love delay is cruel,
Or come and kiss me quickly,
Or say thou dost not love me.
Fa la la...

Now sings my lovely treasure,
In love a kiss is a harmless pleasure,
Fa la la...

Like it?
Are you into any unusual music?
Is this your idea of romance?


Friday, 4 May 2012

'Thank God for' Friday

A twofold thankfulness session this week:

Thank God for ...

my job

and democracy.

Work has been getting a little tedious lately, the excitement of doing something new has worn off. The easy bits are boring, the hard bits are frustrating, the holidays are few. BUT, that is just me having a rubbish attitude. There are so many people my age, many that I know, who are unemployed or employed in jobs which don't fit their skillset. I have a job which requires a mathematical degree. I work with lovely people, in a successful but friendly company doing something that I'm pretty well suited to. This is surely worth thanking God for.

Moreover, the work I do, somewhere further down the line ends up with safe and effective drugs being brought to market that can save or improve lives. So it's not just some pointless, demotivating, life-draining exercise. It is worthwhile. Just in all the number crunching and excel spreadsheet completing I had forgotten that. 

Further still, as a child of God I am designed to work. He is creator and sustainer of all the universe, if that's not a full-time job then what is? I am made in His image to reflect Him, so work is a way of getting closer to Him, bringing order out of chaos, creating something and making a positive impact. The first thing God did after creating man was to give him a job, God clearly thinks work is great*. There are also loads of people at work who haven't heard or don't yet understand how amazing Jesus is and I have a fantastic opportunity to share that with them, through my life and my words.

And democracy? Well, I voted this morning in my local election, no-one holding a gun to my head over who I voted for, didn't need to burn my bra on the way, and even if who I voted for doesn't gain power, I can have confidence that the way they got their was fair. We moan a lot and it's not perfect, but our country is still a pretty great place to live :)

Thank God.


*Some of my favourite verses from the Bible about work:
1 Corinthians 10:31 'So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.'

Colossians 3:12-17 '
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.'



Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Happy and Joyful

I was in a bit of a grump today, but for the following reasons I am now feeling happy:

  • Shared in a lot of laughter this evening with Focus (will explain what this is in another post sometime)
  • Walked home in the rain (this is actually a good thing in my book) and it was warm and it was beautiful and I saw a frog close up.
  • My Mum made an amazing beef pie for tea.

And for the following reasons I am full of joy:

  • Listened to an excellent sermon on my way home from work about washing up which was a really good reminder of gospel truth but also really practical and inspiring.
  • The words from this Rend Collective Expermint song ring so true:
                            'We've been oceans apart,
                             But You part oceans to be with me'
  • God is reminding me of my purpose where I had forgotten it.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Pet Peeves {1}

It seems only fair, that if I am to write about the happenings of my life, that I shouldn't gloss over the less than perfect parts of myself and my life. So as a little insight into this crazy mind of mine, I thought I would make an occasional - I don't rant that often I promise - feature of my pet peeves. You know, those things that always get you going; sometimes completely irrational, sometimes justified, sometimes tiny, sometimes bigger, sometimes totally pointless, sometimes with righteous motives. 

Anyway, without further ado, I thought I'd start with one which is actually pretty important and not just silly (watch this space, there will be ridiculous ones to come). So the prize for pet peeve of the moment goes to ... .... ...

Lying.

I thought I'd put it over there and in green because I dislike it so much. I fervently, passionately, intensely hate, detest and despise the act of lying. This includes deceit, half-truth, white-lies, avoidance of truth, dishonest dealings etc etc etc.

For example, I have a dress in my wardrobe that I have never worn and don't really envisage myself wearing anytime. It still has the label on but I bought it ages ago and I haven't got a receipt. A friend suggested I take it back to the shop claiming it was a present and see whether I could get a refund. Harmless really? Except it wasn't a present, so that's a lie, and it's a lie I'm not going to tell. Another example, we got our Christmas turkey from Asda. Grandad came to us for Christmas this year and he doesn't like supermarket meat, so Mum told him it came from a butcher's. Harmless really? Well, not exactly I don't think.

To start with, lying makes things so complicated. One lie always leads to more lies and ends up in a tangled web which is never without consequences of some kind or another. It seems to me, that it is always simpler to just share whatever the truth was and live with whatever consequences of embarrassment or admonishing there might be. The likelihood being that if you really want something to be hidden that much, it probably ought to be out in the open. I heard in a sermon recently that it's a pretty good measure of whether you should be doing something or not, if you consider whether you would want anyone to know about it or not.  That seemed to ring scarily true in my own heart, I wonder whether you would agree.

More importantly, as a Christian, I desire to share the good news of Jesus with those who do not yet know it. If I have a tendency to be sparing with the truth in the little things, then that is no foundation for sharing what I believe is the ultimate truth. Why should someone believe me when I tell them that Jesus died for their sins, if they know I am not to be trusted when sharing what I did on the weekend? Why should someone accept my invitation to come along to church with me, if I have promised to meet up for coffee several times and never turned up? Why should a child believe me when I tell them that Jesus walked on water, when I also told them that Santa exists and flies through the sky on Christmas eve on a sleigh pulled by reindeer?* It's a matter of integrity really.

Now of course, as in everything, we are only human and will never get this 100% right 100% of the time and I will be as guilty of this as anyone else. But when we slip up, we have the opportunity to add to our integrity by admitting our responsibility and genuinely apologising without excuses. I also know that if you thought hard enough about it, you could probably come up with instances where lying is actually justifiable (the classic being people who hid Jews in the second world war in order that their lives might be saved). But these are the exceptions rather than the rule. The principle remains, that wherever possible, honesty is the best policy. 

That's it, rant over. Let me know if you agree/disagree or if there's something similar which really 'gets your goat' or if you have an example of a lie you've needed to tell. I'd be really interested to hear what you have to say.




*No I don't believe that all people who tell children about Santa are terrible people, I just don't think my personal conviction would allow me to.

Friday, 27 April 2012

I {heart} my bank

Probably not a sentence you hear often. More like something such as, "It's all the Bankers' fault" or "The bank are robbing my money again" or "Did you hear the size of that banker's bonus?". Well, ladies and gentlemen, there is good news a-coming, just read on!

So up until August I had accounts with HSBC (other corrupt banks are available) because my Dad worked for them until he retired a year or so ago. But I was eager that once family loyalty was not an issue, and there was no danger that if I changed banks my student loan would get lost in cyber space, that I would choose a bank for myself. I'd heard good things about the Co-operative bank so they were my first port of call for a current account and regular kind of banking. The man I spoke to was super helpful and not at all patronising when I asked {lots of} questions which were probably really obvious and it was all done rather quickly really. Now, I like the Co-op because not only are they nice in person but they're nice in principle, they have a negative ethical poilcy, which means that they withold investment from any company or body that it or its customers deem unethical. This is pretty counter-normal as most banks routinely invest in the arms trade, blood diamonds etc etc. They also have a pro-community policy so they are proactive in doing things and investing in things which have a positive impact, so that's nice!

So I am pretty happy with the Co-op for all my day to day doings, but, seeing as I am a total geek, who really enjoys hunting around for the best savings accounts, researching tax policies etc, I did want to look elsewhere for somewhere to save money as the Co-op's rates aren't the best at the moment (because they're not investing in those nasty things I mentioned above). I was very close to saving with the Post Office, because I thought they sounded trustworthy and they offered a pretty good deal, but then I found this AMAZING bank called Triodos. They are similar to Co-op in that they won't invest in anything they think has a negative impact on our society or our world, but they go a step further by only investing in businesses which make a positive impact. They also offer some pretty good rates for a small bank and they are super transparent about how they run as a bank and the projects they invest in. They invite every account holder to General Meetings so you can hear what's going on and send you a really cool magazine called The Colour of Money with good news about what the bank is up to. You get to hear about these cool little cafes, education trusts and development projects which Triodos is investing in and every quarter it puts a smile on my face and determination in my gut to live as ethically as possible.

In conclusion, here's a couple of little questions and challenges:

1. Do you know where your money goes?
2. Why not check out the super cool, lovely and money-savvy guys at Triodos?
(There are like a gazillion links on this page to do so - ok, like 5)
3. What issues of justice, social action and responsible living really get you going?

I . LOVE . MY . BANK 

Friday, 20 April 2012

'Thank God for' Friday!

I thought I'd start a weekly tradition of having a 'Thank God for' post at the end of each working week. It's really easy to get bogged down into whatever is going on at a particular time and just slogging through, so this will be a chance to give God the credit He's due for and the amazing things He does all the time. 

I'm going to start with one that is well cheesy and cliche, but I pretty much always forget to thank God for it and without it I'd soon realise how important it is.

Thank God for my health.

This comes to mind at the moment for a few reasons. Firstly, I had a pretty nasty bump to the head on Tuesday morning which really really hurt, but apart from a weird little line on my forehead there's no major damage; no dizziness or headaches or massive bruise or cut. Pretty amazing, the way God made us with body parts like skin and bones that have natural resilence and protection, even against stupid things like jumping onto a cupboard instead of your pillow. Secondly, I have quite a few people around me who are suffering with illness and it's so difficult, I thank God that he is still faithful even through those hard situations and pray that I can show his love to those who really need to see it right now. Finally, there are just so many things that without my health and mobility I wouldn't be able to do, like jump around like a crazy thing at aerobics, or drive myself to Swansea every day or walk to church or tons more. So thanks God, health is a gift, and you are so good for giving it to me.

P.S. If you liked this you might like 'Five Fact Friday's over at Rachel's blog :)

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Oops I did it again

I'm not an obsessive Britney fan honestly, just thought it was a pretty kitchy name for a second post! And it does have a point, honestly, which I will get to later, I promise. In fact, I did once own the 'Oops I did it Again' album, but there was a pretty nasty incident where I left it in my brother's CD player after practising routines in his room without asking, he was pretty cross and shattered said album into several pieces. It hasn't happened again since, we're really a very loving family, honest!

So I was driving home from work today, and my ipod kindly picked a song which helped me gather my thoughts for this 'awkward second post'. See, I'd been thinking that I wanted to do a post straight-off about what I believe and what my faith means to me but I didn't want it to sound like some 'Vision and Values' page off some university prospectus. Then I heard the words of this chorus and I love them because they're so honest and heartfelt and unpretentious (is that a word?):

" 'Cause I get so clumsy
And I get so foolish
I get so stupid
And then I feel so useless
But You’re sayin’ You love me
And You’re still gonna hold me
And that You wanna be near me
‘Cause You’re makin’ me holy
You’re still makin’ me holy "

I thought to myself, 'Yeh, that is exactly what being a Christian is like'. It's definitely not about being perfect because I'd never make the cut when God looks into my heart. Often I get frustrated and feel 'foolish', 'stupid' and 'useless' when I fall into the same weaknesses I have before. But God has proven how much He loves me by His creation, incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection and the gift of His Holy Spirit to dwell in everyone who trusts Jesus. So now I can know Him and feel Him and with each little step on the journey to seeing God face to face one day, He is making me closer to the person He made me to be, that's what it means to be holy.

So yes, quite frequently I could say 'Oops I did it again' but God still loves me and looks at me like His child and nothing could separate me from Him. And that's why I love Him.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

New kid on the block


Hello there virtual world!

You're probably wondering why I'm here.

Well, I've been considering this whole blog malarky for a while and I couldn't make up my mind.

On the one hand:
Who cares about my silly little thoughts anyway?
Will I even manage to keep posting regularly without getting bored/busy/rubbish?

On the other hand:
I imagine it would be quite helpful to put my thoughts into words and sentences, instead of being just a big mush in my head.
I would feel less like a stalker when reading other people's blogs.
I actually really enjoy reading what people have to say, so who knows, someone might actually enjoy this.

So the other hand won. And here I am. I'm a bit unsure how to go about things so if you have any hints about writing posts/blog design/techytechy stuff like photos etc (gasp)/why you like to blog, they would be most welcome. Although I appreciate that few, if any, people will be reading this/even know it exists.

That's all for now folks. Hello goodbye!