Saturday, 9 November 2013

The Gate in Swindon


The Gate in Swindon town Centre (near Iceland) is a new charity shop, being run by Dawn Prosser who also runs the Gateway Furniture Project with her husband Kevin. (gatewaychurchswindon.org.uk/gateway-furniture). The building is shared with Healthy Planet (healthyplanet.org), an organisation that gives books away for free to save them from landfill.

It's much more than a charity shop though. It's set out really well. On the ground floor are the free books (you can take three at a time) and some furniture for sale, as well as adult clothes and shoes. Upstairs is a well thought-out baby/toddler play area as well as children's books and toys. There is also a cafe area, where you can have free tea or coffee. Yes, free!

It's a welcoming place and the volunteers are always friendly and ready to chat. Currently there are 17 volunteers who help out, but more are needed. If you don't have much spare time but can bake, why not bake some cakes for the shop? Please contact Dawn if you can help.

All sorts of people from different backgrounds use the shop and it serves the community of Swindon well. There is a steady stream of people visiting throughout the day. When I called in there were clients of many different ages and backgrounds - from mums with babies looking forward to putting their feet up with a free cuppa to pensioners looking for a bargain or a free book.

Dawn has had the opportunity to pray for someone almost every day, and a few people are planning to visit Gateway Church after their trip to The Gate.

Children in Need is on Friday 15 November and The Gate will be hosting a Pudsey-themed cake competition: bake and decorate a cake and have it judged between 10:00-11:00 on the day. Entry forms are available from the shop as well as Gateway Church. There is an entrance fee of £2 - all proceeds to Children in Need. There will also be a Pudsey photo booth (£1 per go) with local photographer Sabine Coe.

Or come along on Saturday 16 November for more Children in Need fun. You can take part in the live cupcake decorating competition at 12:00.

Dawn is looking for a face-painter (or anyone who can offer some silly skills) to volunteer on Saturday- please contact her if you can help.

It's great to see somewhere that's focussed on community and is caring so well for the people of Swindon. Opening times are Monday, Thursday and Friday 10-3pm and Saturday 10-1pm.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Hard life

We live in such an entitlement culture here in the UK. Whether that's moaning about what benefits we are entitled to; knowing our rights (but not always our responsibilities); or feeling sorry for ourselves that our lives aren't as shiny as the next person's.

It's easy to get sucked into this 'poor me' mentality. Now I'm not having a go at people on benefits, I get some myself and am very grateful to the government for them. In South Africa where I was born, if you lost your job you went hungry, unless your family or church provided for you. And you could have 10 kids- the govt. certainly wouldn't give you any tax credits for them. Also you pay for school in SA. I don't think that many British people would be too happy with that over here. Anyway...

Meet Murray Hambro. He is 33 years old and used to serve in the Second Royal Tank Regiment in Afghanistan. One day his tank drove over a roadside IED. He was sent 40 feet into the air and sustained broken feet and pelvis, crushed vertebrae and damaged liver and spleen amongst other injuries.

His feet were so damaged that he had to have a double amputation. The story could end there, but it doesn't. Instead of feeling sorry for himself and going around telling people about how hard his life was, he just got on with it. He quickly learned to use his new prosthetics, and took his first steps on new legs three months after being injured.

He decided to follow his love of motorbike racing, now that a career on the front lines wasn't an option. He got a specially adapted bike that meant he could race seriously. He joined True Heroes Racing and now takes part in the British Superbike Championship.

If this man can follow his dreams, then so can you and I. Stop blaming other people, difficult circumstances or a tough childhood and just get on with it.


http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/motorsport/22265878

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b03hd21y/Remembrance_Week_Series_4_Episode_5/

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Living with a baby

Lying in bed at night

with the light on,

reading.

Baby's in her own room now

so I'm allowed to do this.

It feels so decadent.

 

Having a soak in the bath.

Not having to rush

'cos my husband's at home.

It's a good thing

but it feels kinda selfish.

 

Church on a Sunday.

praying

she won't cry too loudly

or annoy anybody.

Breastfeeding-

not about 'look at me',

I'm just feeding my baby.

Don't get me wrong-

I love it-

a real blessing from God

but I don't like feeding

her in the toilet.

 

Date nights and cinema trips

almost unheard of-

at least for the moment.

Can't go out baby-free

without special arrangements

and asking for favours-

mostly from Grandparents

or church friends.

What would I do

if they lived far away?

I'd hardly ever get a break.

Raising a child is not meant

for just one or two-

it's all about community.

 

Not much sleep most nights

though it's not too bad this time.

Thanking God whenever

I get six hours in a row.

I'm not complaining,

just saying.

Being tired is boring

and I'll try not to bore you.

 

Taking the pushchair

wherever we go.

Can't always fit on the bus

or through the aisles

in the shops.

It seems to annoy some strangers

that I have to transport my baby.

Having to say loudly

'excuse me' (politely).

Sorry.

 

Cuddles and giggles

first thing in the morning.

Love at first sight

and for all of my life.

Nothing in the world like it.

Parenting-

demanding and tiring

but always rewarding.

This is my job and I love it.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Are you important?

Do you sit at the back of church?
Do you serve, but not in a very visible or exciting area?
Would you never be asked to preach on a Sunday?
Do you think that if you stopped going to church, probably no-one would notice?

I want to remind you that you are just as important as the most famous preacher. God loves you just as much as that person in church who you think has it all together (besides, they don't).
Jesus died on the cross for you just as much as he died for those who see themselves as important. In fact, even if you were the only person in the world, he still would have died for you.

In a world of pride and achievements and celebrities (including Christian ones) it can be easy to forget that those aren't the important things. The most important thing in your life is your relationship with God and how he sees you. Don't worry about other people's opinions- they are changeable, biased and, if not Biblical and loving, then probably not even true.


I love this parable from Luke 14:

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”


That isn't to say that you shouldn't respect those in positions of authority- God has put them there and they deserve respect.

Remember, though, that  it's about you and God. And he says that you are very important.


Ephesians 2

In the past all of us lived like that, trying to please our sinful selves. We did all the things our bodies and minds wanted. Like everyone else in the world, we deserved to suffer God’s anger just because of the way we were.
But God is rich in mercy, and he loved us very much. We were spiritually dead because of all we had done against him. But he gave us new life together with Christ. (You have been saved by God’s grace.) Yes, it is because we are a part of Christ Jesus that God raised us from death and seated us together with him in the heavenly places.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bible Challenge day 32

So it's been a month already. I have enjoyed the challenge, and managed to take my Bible out with me most of the time, except for a few times when I forgot.

One thing I learned is that when I am feeling grumpy and don't want to read my Bible, that is the best time to do it. The other day I read when I didn't feel like it, and found this great verse:

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

I didn't have anyone asking me why I was carrying my Bible around, which is a shame, but I guess it's still a good witness. The more people see something, the more normal it becomes, and I would love for Bible reading in public to be more normal.

I probably enjoyed reading my Bible the most on the bus, so I think I will still take it out with me on public transport. Also it was cool having it at church for the first time in years.

Hopefully my co-challengees  also enjoyed their task. :)



Be the change you want to see.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Bible challenge day 19


My Bible challenge has inspired me to talk to people more often. As I said in my last blog, I believe that I am becoming more sympathetic to others, and wanting to chat to strangers is part of that. Previously I would never have spoken to anyone that I didn't know. Now I find myself talking to people on the bus and shop workers and mums at the school.

I believe that God has prompted me to speak to specific people a couple of times over the last week. I'm not sure why, as I haven't actually got round to mentioning the gospel yet, but I do feel that being more friendly is part of this process. I did tell a nice old lady the other day that I have some friends who are living in India for a while, but didn't get the chance to say why. Maybe I'll see her again, I don't know. It has been good practicing being more obedient to God though.

I forgot to take my Bible when I went out today, but I did have the chance to talk about my church to two people who previously didn't know that I was a Christian. It helps that our church is so involved in the community! If Gateway church was a Sunday club then that wouldn't be a good witness to non-Christians.

I am now reading 1 Corinthians and this passage jumped out at me:

1 Corinthians 22-25

Jews demanded miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom , and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

This passage makes me think of the intelligent people who disdain and mock Christianity because of thinking that God has to fit into human limitations (e.g. he has to have been born at some point or he has to follow the rules of science.) I can see how some people would think that believing in God is crazy, but that's because they don't have the wisdom of God nor understand that God made the laws of science, maths, time etc.  
When you are saved, I believe that the Holy Spirit is given to you, and with that some of the wisdom of God. Of course we still have comparatively little understanding or wisdom of God, at least until we meet him in Heaven one day.  Having a good knowledge of the Bible helps as it's the word of God.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Bible challenge day 13

I have found a good way to carry my Bible around when I go for a walk - on my daughter's pram. I took it to the local shops this week. Sometimes I don't bother with a shopping basket so I was pushing around my Bible and some brioche. That sounds a bit middle class doesn't it? :/ I did get a couple of funny looks but everyone is too polite to say anything.

I have become a fan of reading it on the bus and have done so a few times this week. Two things that I have noticed over the past 13 days are:

1) I am generally in a better frame of mind.
2) I am more sympathetic.

I really wouldn't have expected this from the challenge, but there you go. I believe that point one comes from reading my Bible more often (simply because it's to hand) and point two is more due to reading in public.

I wonder how my fellow challengees are doing? It was good to see another Bible being placed on the table alongside mine at lunch this week. I really should get a smaller one; mine is so heavy!

I must remember to take it to church tomorrow.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Conkers


The wind blows hard

And the conkers fall

With a plop plop plop

They drop drop drop

At my feet onto

A crunchy bed of

Yellow, orange, red.

 

Conkers conkers conkers,

Shiny brown and smooth.

 

I hunt around,

Find them on the ground,

Pick some up and

Put them in my pocket.

A boy has a

Blue jumper-full.

He hands me some:

One, two, three.

 

I take them home;

Count them out

On the carpet:

Sixty-one in all.

 

Conkers conkers conkers,

Shiny brown and smooth.

 

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Bible Challenge - day 9


Something strange happened to me while I was reading my Bible on the bus yesterday.

I started looking at people's faces as they were getting on; wondering who they were and what they were like. I actually felt fond of them- strangers on public transport that I would usually ignore or tolerate. There were some old ladies, teenage lads,  a girl with bright red lipstick and another lady with a baby. As I read about the early church in Acts and then looked at these people, it's like I made a connection between Jesus' love for people in the Bible and his right-now love for some travellers on a bus in Swindon. Because it's exactly the same. This is something I knew in my head before very well, but now I know it in my heart. And that's completely different.

God cares about these people. He loves these people. He wants these people to be saved. Just like us- we're nothing special. God didn't choose us because we are somehow better than non-Christians. What a joke! God rescued us while we were still dead in our sins, not because we were good or nice.

Have you ever spoken to someone and it's obvious that they are not really interested or have something else on their mind or don't really like you? It's happened to me a lot. Sorry if you thought that you were getting away with it, but you're not. I guess in the same way, if we go out telling people about the gospel or doing good deeds out of a sense of duty or wanting to look good then people are going to know. They are going to see that there's something false about the whole thing. And if you can't love them or even like them, then why would God?

Our job as Christians is to reflect God's love to others; not to tell them about their sins or how much better we are than them. If you are judging then you are not loving. You won't be fruitful for God's kingdom if you are constantly looking to yourself. You need to look to God.  

And that's why I think reading the Bible more and in public is helping me to love people more, because it means that I am looking to God first. After all, loving each other is the second commandment, so it's quite important.

-

You know the feeling when you smell freshly washed clothes that have been out in the sun all day?

Or when you jump into an outdoor pool or lake?

That's the feeling that I get when I read my Bible. Clean, pure, good.

When I travel to London, it's fun and exciting and different. But I can feel a layer of grime on my skin from being there. When I leave and get back to Swindon, I look at the trees and the sky and the familiar roads and I think "I'm home." It's such a good feeling to be out of the concrete and noise and pollution.

I think the world adds a thin layer of grime to our minds. Newspapers and websites and TV and games are all fun, but consume too much and you start to feel cynical, pessimistic and weary. Reading the Bible is an antidote to that because it's full of truth and light and love. We need to constantly remind ourselves of God's goodness because we have short memories.

Don't let the world wear you down. Read your Bible.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Bible challenge day 8

I have been carrying my Bible around with me pretty much everywhere since last Monday. It's going well, although the one time I did forget to take it along with me was when I was to church on Sunday. Ironic. Maybe that's the place that I almost need it least as there are fewer non-Christians there to witness to? Maybe.

I haven't bothered taking my Bible to church for years as they put the words up on the screen during the preach anyway. Yes I know that this is lazy. Yesterday was the first time in a long time that I missed having my Bible around actually.

I read it waiting for the bus and on the bus today, for the first time ever I think. I enjoyed that, and I noticed at least one person looking at me. It does make you think about how you act though; if you are carrying a Bible then you are aware that people are watching you and know or at least suspect that you are Christian. It's a bit like driving a company vehicle with a logo on I guess- you need to behave!

I finished Acts today and there was something about reading what the first church got up to, in public rather than hidden away in your house or church building. It makes you wonder what you would do if you were one of the disciples with Paul. He spent a lot of his ministry in jail, preaching to the prisoners and guards. Some people hated the early Christians and the disciples were persecuted for their faith. Today in the Western world we can go to church, read our Bibles in public and generally be Christian without too much fear of arrest. That' s a privilege that we shouldn't take for granted.

One time that I haven't been taking my Bible out is when I go for a walk, simply because it's too big to carry around conveniently, and hiding it away in my bag doesn't seem good enough. I'm going to see if I can be brave enough to carry my Bible around in my hand next time I go for a walk. We'll see.




Tuesday, 1 October 2013

100 word story


I wake up. What was that noise? I look around, but can't see anything unusual. There was definitely a strange sound, coming from outside. It's dark so I can't see what it is. I stretch and yawn. I begin to drift back to sleep.  

I hear terrible shrieking. Is this real? My heart starts to race and I feel sick. Something is wrong. My head is hurting. I feel scared.

A whoosh of cold air and a terrible noise. I screw up my eyes against the sudden bright lights.

It's all too much for me.

I scream.

'It's a girl.'

Monday, 30 September 2013

Bible Challenge

I was thinking this morning about how many people look at their phone as soon as they wake up, whenever they have 5 minutes to spare during the day (or just want to look busy) and last thing at night.

I wondered what it would be like if Christians, instead of looking at their phones, read their Bibles at these times.

It seems like such a small thing, but if we all did it, I think it would make a big difference. For a start, people would be more aware of Christians in society, and also our Biblical knowledge would be better. And you never know, it could lead to some interesting conversations.

So I have challenged myself to carry my Bible around whenever I go out, and to look at it (or at least have it visible) whenever I would usually have my mobile out. For example, on the table at a coffee shop. And having a Bible app just doesn't cut it. That would be too easy and would be no witness as no-one else would physically see a Bible.

So the first place I took my Bible today was to the doctor's surgery, I got it out and read it instead of the old magazines in the waiting room. I read a couple of chapters of Acts. It was good. No-one screamed and threw me out.

At Starbucks today, I was too busy talking to actually read it, but it was sitting next to my mobile on the table, visible to anyone who happened to pass.

I am hoping that one day someone will notice and ask me about it, but for the moment I am happy to spend a bit more of my time thinking about God and less time simply wasting time.

I wonder if anyone else would like to join me on my challenge?



Be the change you want to see.

Friday, 13 September 2013

September


You pick an apple off the tree.

It's green with rosy cheeks.

Take a bite

and some juice runs down your chin.

You grin

and lick it off.

 

The nights are drawing in.

Summer's gone

and the leaves are starting to turn

rusty.

We went blackberry picking

and got purple hands-

like zombie blood you said-

but it tasted good.

 

Days full of grey

and rain,

but when the sun comes out

it's like an unexpected gift.

The smell of wood smoke in the air

and digging out old jumpers.

 

September is here.

Saturday, 7 September 2013

First world baby problems

1: My wipes are too cold.

Seriously Mummy, couldn't you get a wipe-warmer or something? My poor delicate bottom is feeling the chill.

2: I'm unfashionable

I've been given hand-me-downs to wear. They are So last season!

3: I'm gender-confused

I'm getting mixed messages here. My nursery is all pink and my outfits are floral, yet I have a Thomas the Tank Engine potty that used to be my brother's. It's blue. It's meant for boys. But I'm a girl, right? I bet North West never has these issues.

4: My first birthday party

It involved pass-the-parcel; crisps and a cake made by Grandma. This may have been acceptable when you were young, Daddy, but that was like 100 years ago.

Next year I expect ponies, a bouncy castle (for the retro vibe) and glittery cupcakes. Ok?

5: I don't have a passport

My only Summer holiday was in Weston. That went down like a lead balloon at baby yoga. What's wrong with Florida?

6: I have pram envy

Mummy, why can't I have an iCandy? I know they're chic 'cos they have an 'i' at the front.

7: I'm teething

Grandma bought me a delightful book of fairy tales. I can't read it, but it does taste delicious. I know that I shouldn't chomp on literature, but I just can't help myself.

8: I'm too little to drink a babychino

They don't come in sippy-cups. :(

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Parenting myths


Warning: You may be offended. Look away now if of a nervous disposition.

Nothing brings out the self-righteous judgemental side in a person quite so much as having a baby.

Sometimes I feel myself slipping into some of these ways of thinking, and have to give myself a mental slap in the face.  Here follows some parenting myths that I would like to dispel.

Myth #1: You are a better parent if you...

breastfed for a year/ used only washable nappies/ feed your children only organic food fed by mountain streams and farmed by virgins by moonlight/ would never give your kids sweets.

If you harp on about these things (delighting in your own self-righteousness and thereby condemning all  'imperfect' parents to the scrap heap of failure) all the time then you need to know two things.

1: You are boring.

2: If the last 2 examples apply, your kids will be the ones who fill up on ice-cream and sweets at friends' and granny's house.

Have you ever been to a job interview when the potential employer asked how long you were breastfed for? No? Me neither. Neither have I been asked about my nappies of choice. Guess it doesn't matter that much then.

(Note: breastfeeding is very good for your baby, I do it and think it's great. I just don't feel superior about it.)

 

Myth #2: Your baby is more intelligent if...

He walked at 8 months/ potty trained at 18 months/ went to baby music, yoga and novel writing classes.

We should celebrate our children's achievements, of course. And that's great that your baby was an early developer. But that doesn't mean that they will be the next Einstein; every kid grows at their own pace and they get there in the end. Competing with other parents over these sorts of things is not nice or attractive.

 

Myth #3: Your child is more important than anyone else because...

Some children have learning difficulties. Some have physical disabilities. Some are great at sport. Some are maths geniuses. Some are pretty. Some like eating mud pies.

None of these things make your child more important than anyone else's. All children deserve love and respect and have their own strengths and weaknesses. File under 'Normal'.

 

Myth #4: Your child is not a miracle.

All children are miracles. Your child might be the result of a drunken one-night stand. This doesn't make her less of a blessing than the offspring of a couple who have been trying to conceive for 15 years and had IVF.

If your parents didn't plan or want you, that doesn't make you less important than someone whose parents were happily married and lived on a farm with ponies and who hosted wine-tasting and bridge-playing parties.

God doesn't love one type of child more than another. He loves us all equally and without prejudice.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Sea Park



 
We can hear the sea

whoosh and swish

as the waves break

on the beach.

There are a million stars.

The sand is still warm

between my toes.

I scrunch them up-

it crunches satisfyingly.

Gramps is fishing.

We are the only ones here.

Just us, the sea and the stars.

The air is warm and salty.

 

'Got one!'

His arms strain

as he reels the fish in.

I can just make it out

by the starlight-

wriggling and squirming,

a flash of silver scales.

It lands with a thump on the soft sand.

'Grunter.' says Gramps.

 

 

Its yellow eye stares at me,

pleadingly.

Its lips open and close

like its trying to tell me

a secret.

It falls suddenly still,

and its scales fade to grey.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Electric blue


Electric blue

he zooms

never resting for more than a second

always on the move.
 

He skips over the water

like a war plane on manoeuvres

Eyes wide open -

danger is everywhere.

 

A fish lurks beneath the surface

watching his every move.

He zips

he darts

he flies away.

Today he won't be fish-food.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Sod the size!


I am going to be brave/ foolish and admit it. At the moment I am wearing trousers 2 dress sizes above my normal size. This is because I had a baby a month ago, so I have a bit of a tummy. And you know what? That's ok. When I was pregnant, I ate what I wanted to (mostly cake and dairy) and consoled myself with the thought that I would eat healthily after I had given birth. I don't mean go on a low-fat low-carb diet (I have managed never to go on a diet so far in my life, and don't plan to start now - with the exception of when I had PND and didn't eat much at all. I was miserable but skinny. Result.) I just mean eat three healthy, good-sized meals every day, just not snack in-between.

 But I can't be bothered. Like every woman, I have been bombarded with the message that I need to be thinner (no matter what my actual size at the time), and I'm fed up with it. I feel like rebelling. I'm happy, I have a wonderful loving family and never allowing myself treats will just make me hungrier and a bit sadder, not happier. I'm not saying that from now on I will eat every chocolate bar and bag of crisps that I see, just that I will allow myself to have a snack sometimes (ok, a few times a day - I can't help it, I'm a hungry person). I will still eat mostly healthy meals, and keep doing gentle exercises every so often; I don't want to get diabetes or heart failure just yet.

I'm saying this, and still there's a little voice at the back of my mind saying 'but you could do with losing a bit of weight...' Honestly, I don't think it will ever completely shut up - I am just another victim of my culture - that, as a woman, I am just too fat. Women's rights have come so far, but I don't think they'll ever go far enough to empower us to be whatever size that they naturally are - whether that's skinny or curvy. But that doesn't mean that we have to listen to the little voice. The problem is that you will never be skinny enough for that little voice. You will never be perfect enough for our societies' ridiculous picture of womanhood. It's an unattainable target.

That's the problem with focussing so much energy and angst on yourself - it's lose/lose. We were made to worship God, not our bodies or what goes into them.

The real reason that I am rebelling is my children. They have to grow up in a crappy enough world without me adding to their problems. At least if I have a healthy self-image, they have a chance of having a healthy self-image too. If not, the tide of body dismorphia that is everywhere could just overwhelm them. And I do not want my kids to hate themselves. I do not want my kids to have eating disorders. No thank you.

That's easier said than done, of course. But if you are criticising yourself, your children will pick up on it, and from a very young age. And boys will too, this isn't just a girl's problem anymore. I know because my son (aged 7) is already aware of his size- he is so skinny and yet sometimes makes comments about his tummy. It's scary, and I am partly to blame. I hate that.

This is a very good article:


 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Average Joe


Joe is an average guy. He works hard, has a family that he loves, and likes football. He is not a Christian, but he is a good person. He's never killed anyone or stolen anything, and he pays his taxes. He doesn't think about what happens when he dies, but he assumes there must be some sort of god out there who will look after him when he does, because he's had a good life. Or maybe there's nothing? Either way, he tries to find happiness - whether through family holidays or gadgets or a pint down the pub. He's all right, basically.

But one day he goes to church with Bob, a friend of his, only because he's been asking him to go for a while and he's run out of excuses. Something happens that Joe wasn't expecting - he has an encounter with the Holy Spirit and suddenly realises that he needs God in his life.

Joe becomes born again and chooses to live his life for God from now on. It's no longer Joe as boss, it's Jesus. His life doesn't look that different - he still goes to work, loves his family and watches football, but something has changed radically. He has surrendered his life to God.

So what's the big deal? Well, Joe is now a new person. His old life was leading one way only - death. Why? Because he was a sinner. He may have thought of himself as a good person, but in reality, he was living with himself as god, and this meant that he was rebelling against God his creator's plan. He was heading for hell. Why? Because he had chosen to reject God. And God can't force anyone to accept him, therefore wouldn't force anyone to live with him forever in Heaven when they die. Hell is such a terrible place because God and his goodness aren't there.

But when Joe was born again, he was washed free of sin. He said sorry to God for his old sinful ways and put his faith in Jesus, who died on a cross to set him free of sin and death. He didn't have to do anything scary to receive the eternal life that God intended for him. He just had to apologise, believe that Jesus died for him, and choose to put God first in his life.

Now that Joe is saved, will his life be perfect and problem-free? Nope. Jesus never promised that. In fact, he said that you have to die to your old ways, and choose to follow God every day.

 

 

Mark  8:34-35

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

Losing your old selfish life involves pain, sacrifice and submission. It's not a crutch, or for the weak. It can be really hard, and it's a constant battle between your old sinful nature ('I will do whatever I like.') and your new Spirit-filled self ('I will do whatever God wants.')

That's why Jesus calls it a cross. He obeyed his Father and died on the cross, and we have to die to our old ways if we want a loving relationship with our Father God, both in this life and the next.

Now that Joe is a Christian, God may ask him to give some money to his local church; or move to a different country; or befriend someone who he wouldn't usually touch with a bargepole. He might put Joe in a difficult situation to see if he really trusts him. Joe might find this hard, but he would hopefully trust God, that his plan for Joe's life is so much better and bigger than he would ever have expected.

 

 When you are born again, you give your life to God. That means giving up your old life where you were god and did whatever you wanted to, and putting God in control of your life and doing what he wants for you. This is no easy task. We are born selfish- in our society this includes wanting to be as wealthy as possible; only having friends that are like us and won't be a burden; and getting our own way.

Yet God wants something radically different for us. He wants us to submit our lives to him- to surrender our selfish ambitions. Why? Well, because he knows that this is best for us, that we are made to worship him, and will ultimately be happiest following him.

If we don't get everything in life that we feel we deserve, we feel sorry for ourselves. If you've ever said 'why me?' when something unplanned happened, you know what I mean. I have said 'why me?' about lots of things. We are taught that we are entitled to health, wealth, and easy life, but this is a lie. Every day that we live is a gift from God, and we certainly didn't do anything to deserve it.

Romans 8:6-7

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

Submission to God is so counter-cultural that you are probably offended by it. I would be if I didn't understand that this is the best choice that I can make, because it's what I was made for. Anything else would be second-best, and would lead to death.

 

Luke 22:41-42

He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’

Even Jesus, the son of God, submitted his life to God's plan. He begged God to take away the responsibility of dying on a cross from him.  Yet still he obeyed and trusted God . He is in a human body,  and felt pain and fear just like we do.  Of course he could have refused to die, and not followed God's will, but he loved us so much that he put himself through the torture. Have you ever said that you would do anything for your kids, even die for them? That's exactly what Jesus did for us. He died in the most excruciating way that humans have devised, mocked as a criminal and a liar.

If submitting to God's will is good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me. That doesn't mean that it's easy, but it will be so worth it in the end.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Waiting


It's such a strange feeling,

this waiting,

not knowing

when things will change.

And they will change -

for good,

forever.

No going back.

 

Will it be today?

Could it come tomorrow?

Or do I have longer to wait?

 

I just don't know.

It's exciting,

daunting

and breathtaking,

this feeling.

 

It will happen in God's time

so there's nothing for me to worry about.

It will hurt,

I know it will hurt,

but will soon be over.

Another chalk-up to experience.

Another story to tell.

 

But for now, I wait.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Brave

If you have seen the movie 'Brave' then you will know that the heroine Merida is no typical Disney princess. She is fairly normal-looking (with wild red hair) and instead of marrying a nice boy like her parents were trying to force her to, she took charge of her life and won her freedom.

It's a good movie, especially for young girls who need to know that they don't need to be ultra-skinny, trendy or submissive. Also they don't need a boyfriend or husband to give their life purpose- they can just be themselves.

But it seems that Disney scored an own goal recently by changing her appearance into a tiny-waisted, prettier and sexier version. They also got rid of her bow and arrow (symbolic of her strong and free personality), to have her standing in the come-hither pose of hands on hips. Girls really don't need another reminder that to be happy they have to be sexy.

Anyway, a petition was started up to get Merida's original image back - https://www.change.org/petitions/disney-say-no-to-the-merida-makeover-keep-our-hero-brave
which you can still sign. 234000 people already have.

And it looks like it has worked already- Disney have removed the sexy version from their site and reverted to the original.

http://uk.movies.yahoo.com/disney-pulls-new-version-of-brave-s-princess-merida-from-its-website-062618593.html

This is a little victory for people-power. It might seem like a storm in a teacup, but it is one small win against the increasing sexualisation of children.

Let's hope that there are more heroines like Merida in the future.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Departure


I'm waiting to go on holiday

in the airport departure lounge.

I've been to the country before,

but it was a long time ago.

I wonder if it's changed?

It could be a very different place.
 

 

I'm fed up with waiting

in the airport departure lounge.

My bum is numb from the chairs

and it feels like I've been here

forever.

I've read all my magazines

and drunk all the coffee I can handle.

 

I'll admit,

I'm not looking forward to the flight.

I'm not afraid of flying - but...

It's got to be done I guess.

 

I'm fed up with waiting

in the airport departure lounge.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

May flash fiction contest

 http://elizabethfrattaroli.wordpress.com/

You are watching someone or something. Describe what you see and how it makes you feel.

Mummy is sore. She says she's ok but I can see on her face that it hurts. Really really hurts. She bends over to her knees and moans- a bit like that cow that we saw at the farm last Summer. Moooo! She stands up and walks around the room for a bit, then leans over the dining room table and moos again.

'Mummy, are you ok?'

'Yes honey, I am fine. I just have a sore tummy.'

'Do you need some medicine?'

When I have a bad tummy, Mummy always gives me some medicine.

'No,' she laughs. 'I think I'm going to have a baby soon.'

She bends over again, her face all creasy.

'A baby! Why is the baby hurting you?'

I would never hurt Mummy. I hope baby isn't a bully.

'Baby isn't hurting me darling, it's just my body getting ready to push her out.'

Oh. Once I did a huge poo that really hurt. Maybe that's what having a baby is like.

'Mummy, should I call an ambulance?'

I saw on telly once that a boy called the ambulance when his Mum was ill.

Mummy has a drink of water and breathes slowly in and out, in and out.

'No, that's ok. I have called Daddy and he's on his way. You are going to have a special treat and stay at Grandma's house tonight.'

'Yay!'

I love Grandma. She always lets me have ice-cream, and reads me lots of bedtime stories.

Mummy sits down and calls me over. She gives me a big hug.

'You are going to be a big brother soon. Will you help Daddy and me once the baby is born? I might be a bit tired and grumpy for a few days.'

'Yes Mummy, of course. I will help look after the baby.'

Mummy smiles and gives me a big kiss.

I jump down off her lap and start playing with my cars. I feel a little bit scared about being a big brother. What if I do it wrong? I've never looked after a baby before. I might have to change poo-ey nappies. Gross.

 The front door opens and Dad runs in, looking frowny.

'Are you ok?'

He runs up to Mummy and looks into her face.

'Do you need a drink? How far apart are the contractions? Should I run a bath?'

Mummy can't answer because she is mooing again. I wonder if the baby will pop out of her tummy in a minute, like a bag of crisps when you squeeze too hard. Bang! And the bag bursts and there are crisps everywhere.

'Every five minutes.' Says Mummy.

'Oh my goodness! We need to get you to hospital. Have you phoned your midwife? Have you phoned your Mum yet?' Daddy runs around holding his phone.

Babies cause a lot of trouble.

It's not


It's not something that can be explained

with words or reasoned out.

It can't be understood through books

or comprehended when discussed.

It's something you have to do

to understand.

Or not do,

and never truly know.