Tag Archives: challenge

30by30 number 19 – Climbing Winchester Cathedral Tower

So last week I wrote about my idea of listing 30 things I wanted to do by the time I turn thirty next autumn, and today I’m excited to tell you about the first thing I’ve ticked off the list. I feel the need, however, to reassure those who may have been concerned about me – I’m not actually having a quarter-life crisis, and I’m not at all disappointed in the way my life has turned out so far, and I’m not upset that I’m not married and don’t have kids yet. I know those things are in my future and I know that they will be worth the wait. I trust in God’s timing, and my faith is probably the strongest it has ever been right now.

The nature of reaching significant age milestones means that people do stop and take stock of their life. I get the same nearly every New Years and whenever someone younger than me achieves something newsworthy like releasing a number 1 album or winning a sports tournament. It doesn’t mean that I wish I had won a sports tournament, it just makes me stop and reflect on whether my life is on a good course. When I started thinking about turning thirty next year, I realised that a lot of the things that I thought I would have done by then, like getting married, haven’t happened. That doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with my life, but I still want to celebrate turning thirty, not to be scared of it.

Hopefully as we go through the year, you will see from some of the challenges on the list that this is really an excuse to have fun, and make sure I enjoy my final year of my twenties. I’ve just about finalised the list, and it’s quite a mix of things, so I hope you enjoy reading about them as much as I will enjoy doing them. I should also explain that I’m not attempting the items in any particular order, they are listed in the order I thought of them, which is why the first one I’ve done is number 19 on the list…

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Climbing Winchester Cathedral Tower

One of the perks of working for a local council is that you sometimes get to do fun excursions within the city to learn about its history and tell everyone how awesome a place it is. I was given such an opportunity last week. I was born in Winchester and have lived near it most of my life, and I have been working there for the last two years. I eat my lunch outside the Cathedral nearly everyday, so I jumped at the chance to go up to the top of the Cathedral tower and learn a bit more about its history and that of the city.

There were several sets of very narrow winding staircases, with a total of 213 steps, so my legs were very sore by the end of it. But it was so worth it for the view from the top! I also learnt lots of fun facts…

For example, the last time the cathedral bells were recast was in 1936. The tradition is that the name of the reigning monarch is carved on the inside of the tenor bell (the biggest of the bells) when the bells are recast, which in 1936 was Edward VIII. By the time the bells were returned to the cathedral, however, he had abdicated. The workmen who were putting the bells back into their places decided that they did not want the abdicator’s name on their bell, so they got out their chisels and crossed out Edward VIII, carving ‘Now George VI’ (in Latin) instead.

So, if you are ever in Winchester, the cathedral is a great place to visit and the staff and volunteers are very knowledgeable about the history of the city. If you are in good health and aren’t claustrophobic or afraid of heights, a trip to the top of the tower is definitely recommended.

Here are a few photos:

(the chair is a memorial to those who would sit inside the roof of the cathedral to watch for bombs during WWII)

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30by30 – a new personal challenge

I turned 29 last Monday. My second realisation of the day (the first being that I’d booked leave so I didn’t have to go to work) was that it was now only a year until my 30th birthday. This stopped me short, momentarily, because if you’d asked me when I was twenty what I thought my life would be like by the time I was thirty, this was not exactly what I had in mind. I expected I would be married with a couple of kids, settled into a career which I loved and probably either owning the place I lived (at least in part) or even living in a different country.

No, don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret where I am in my life or the decisions that brought me here. My life may not have gone as expected but it has been good so far. I have done some things that I probably wouldn’t have been able to do if I’d had the responsibility of kids, a house and a husband (i.e. quitting a job with nothing lined up, or funding myself through a Masters).

But realising that at least some of what I had imagined for 30-year-old me wasn’t going to come true (although, I guess, theoretically I do still have time to get married by my 30th birthday if there are any offers 😉) I decided I could be proactive. There are many things that I want to do that I haven’t got around to doing yet, so I am drafting a list of 30 things I want to have done by my 30th birthday (or soon after, as one of them is finishing my Masters and my dissertation due date is about two weeks after my birthday).

I will take photos when I accomplish each item and write a short post about each. I’m giving myself about a month to finalise the list, and there are a couple of gaps so if you have suggestions, please let me know! You can comment below, tweet me or post on my Facebook page – everything is called mayibethemoon… Also, let me know if you have ever tried a similar challenge, and how you got on!

I’ve already ticked one thing off on the list, but I think I will leave that for another post…

Book Review – ‘Girls With Swords’ by Lisa Bevere


I finished reading this book this week, and I must confess I read it a bit too quickly. I intend to read it again more slowly and thoroughly in the future and I’m sure I will get a lot more from it.

I’m just starting my research for my Masters dissertation, for which I have picked the topic of Feminist Theology. As I have had a bit of a break from studying over the summer, I picked up this book to try to give myself a gentler reintroduction to academic reading, which may be why I rushed it as I was feeling guilty that I wasn’t reading something meatier…

I loved the imagery of the sword used throughout, especially the word play of God Sword/God’s Word. Most of the time it was helpful, although occasionally I lost the thread of the point Bevere was trying to make in between all of the fencing terms. I also struggled to find the practical take-aways in what she was saying, but both of these things may have been where I was rushing a bit to read it.

It did make me reflect on my reasons for writing about feminist theology. My starting point for research is that some of the traditional teaching of the church has been a factor in the oppression, or at the very least, the marginalisation of women both within the church and in wider society. We have been told that only certain types of women are pleasing to God, i.e. the silent submissive kind. This has left women open to attack in all sorts of ways, and ill-prepared to defend themselves. But there are so many examples in the Bible and in church history of women taking the lead, making a stand, teaching, preaching and bringing people closer to God. (One small criticism of the book is that Bevere mainly uses male biblical characters as examples to make her points. Though I understand why given the points she is making, and I’m happy to have male role models, I can’t help feeling that the awesome women of God in the Bible should be getting more airtime, especially from female writers).

Girls With Swords is a call to women to equip themselves with the Word of God and to speak out, in love, mercy, forgiveness and against injustice. It is a reminder that we are daughters of the King, and he has entrusted each of us with a mission. I know my rushed reading didn’t do it justice, and I intend to reread it, and also to recommend it to women everywhere who need to recognise that they are people of power too.

My favourite chapter was about the flame-bladed sword, or the sword of song. Last week a friend a church prayed that I would find a new song, and this chapter was about how when we sing praise to God it strengthens us and brings His kingdom that bit closer. One of my favourite verses in the Bible is Zephaniah 3:17, which tells us that God delights in us and sings with joy over us. The day after I read the chapter about the singing sword, I was half listening to a song on the radio when I felt suddenly sure that I needed to note the name of the band and look the song up when I got home. I don’t know if the songwriters have a faith or what the song means to them, but for me it is the song God is singing over me, and, honestly, it just makes me feel epic. It’s called Warrior Daughter and the band is Wildwood Kin, please use the link below to see the video (I’m typing this on the iPad so I’m not sure how to embed the video, sorry! I promise it is worth the click!)

https://youtu.be/SPjWuQBaUNo

Taking up, not giving up…

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season, as we wait and prepare for Easter. Traditionally, it is a season of repentence, when Christians give up luxuries and distractions to focus on God and recommit their lives to him.

I love this season, and I have given things up in the past (one year I gave up tea and chocolate – my friends will tell you, it was not pretty). I haven’t observed lent for a couple of years (mainly as I’ve been on a diet for the last three), but this year I felt I wanted to mark it somehow. But how?

Then a friend gave me the book “642 tiny things to write about” and it gave me idea.

You see, one of my life goals is to be a published writer, and if you read this blog regularly you may remember that one of my five year goals is to complete the first draft of a novel. You may also remember that this has been on the back burner while I’m studying for my masters.

I have to do a lot of writing for my masters, and I love it, but it is all so serious! I miss creative writing.

I may not have time right now to focus on novel drafting, but I realised last week at a “meet the author” event that I should still be practising imaginative writing.

So for lent, I plan to pick at random one of the 642 tiny things and write. Each one should only take up one page of an A5 notebook. I just finished today’s, and it was so much fun!

If it goes well, I will stick with it after lent. If any of them are any good, I may even type them up and post them on here. 🙂

 

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Book Review: Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer

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I bought this book for my brother for Christmas several years ago. He’s a filmmaker with a background in animation who had always enjoyed VeggieTales, so I thought he’s be interested in the story behind it. Unfortunately, he was travelling a lot at the time and the book languished on his bookshelf for a while. Then I thought – if he isn’t going to read it, I will! So it ended up on my bookshelf for a while… But I’m a firm believer that books come to us at the time we need them most. Knowing we would be visiting my brother last week, I decided to take the book with me to read, so I could pass it on to him when I was done. I’m really glad I did.

I grew up with VeggieTales. I remember the excitement each time a new video came out. I remember as a teenager helping with the kids club at church, how we would insist on VeggieTales every time a video week was suggested. I loved the stories, the songs, and the characters. I had no idea, even until reading this book now, what had been going on behind the scenes.

The book takes a little while to get going. Vischer’s style of writing is more suited to scripts or picture books for children than to non-fiction for adults (something he admits to himself). But it is engaging. The first hundred pages or so included a lot of technical information that I didn’t really understand, but which my brother would find fascinating I’m sure… but once he gets to the story of producing the first couple of videos, the book picks up pace.

I couldn’t put the book down all through the rapid growth of Vicsher’s company, Big Idea, trying to fit the timeline of the book to my memories of the videos coming out. Vischer hints throughout at what is to come, trying to emphasise where he went wrong with the business to show what lead to its collapse. I would have been very sad had the book ended there, but this was not the story of a company making videos starring vegetables – it is the story of one man’s relationship with God.

After outlining what he learned about business through his successes and failures with Big Idea, Vischer gets to the heart of the matter. What ultimately went wrong was that Vischer was so focused on his dream that he lost sight of God, the dream-giver. The last couple of chapters of the book are so powerful, as Vischer comes to terms with God not saving his company, his dream, because He wanted to save him, the man, the relationship. Vischer draws parallels between his story and characters from the Bible and from literature, as he learns that God wants to be the most important thing in our lives, and we may have to sacrifice our dreams for that. One passage really jumped out at me:

‘As this truth sunk in, I found myself facing a God I had never heard about in Sunday School – a God who, it appeared, wanted me to let go of my dreams. But why? Why would God want us to let go of our dreams? Because anything I am unwilling to let go of is an idol, and I am in sin. The more I thought about my intense drive to build Big Idea and change the world, the more I realized I had let my “good work” become an idol that defined me. Rather than finding my identity in my relationship with God, I was finding it in my drive to do “good work”.’

I found this last part of the book really challenging, as I know I am prone to this. It can become all too easy to focus so much on the work that we are doing for God that we lose sight of God Himself. And He never wants that. This was a timely reminder for me, as I head into the second year of my theology course, that my focus always needs to be on my relationship with God not on my studies, or my future, or my dreams. I need Him more than I need any of those things. And I think this may be something that I’ve lost sight of over the last couple of years, may be why I have struggled to write this summer. I got too busy, too distracted and forgot to meet with God everyday.

It is okay to have dreams, to have plans. But I know now I need to hold onto them loosely, but cling onto God tightly. Time with Him is fuel for everything He calls me to do, and if I lose sight of Him, I risk losing everything. But if I focus on Him, He will give me everything I need.

As I came to the end of the book, a song from my childhood (not even a VeggieTales song!) came into me head. It is based on a couple of verses from Matthew 6:

‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God

And His righteousness

And all these things will be added unto you

Allelu, Alleluia.’

(P.S. the book has now been returned to my brother, with a few heavy hints that he should read it soon)

Leaving a Legacy

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I went to a funeral last week, of someone I had known all my life, a good friend of my parents, who had died unexpectedly a few weeks ago.

I find funerals strange occasions. There is such a mix of emotions, especially when the mourned and mourners are Christians. There is a sudden hole in your life that you know nothing will be able to fill, but you have to keep going. Yet there is always that knowledge, that hope, that you cling to that you will see that person again, and that they are in a much better place.

As I was a few stages removed from the family of the deceased, due to the distance that time and space brings, my grief on this occasion was secondary – I felt compassion for their sadness over their loss, and it brought back memories of when I lost grandparents, and created imaginings of how I would feel at the loss of my parents. I also seem to automatically cry when I see others in tears.

My own sentiment, and I hope you’ll not think me callous, was one of celebration of a life lived well. Testament to this was the number squeezed into the tiny church hall, overflowing into the lobby where there was a video link. The stories of remembrance were full of humour and light, memories of a man with a generous heart and ready wit, who always knew how many days it was until Christmas.

We sung some of his favourite hymns, which mostly had references to being received into glory, and I could imagine him gleefully running to join the cloud of witnesses, being reunited with his relatives, and smiling down on us and giggling at the irony of what we were singing.

The service got me thinking about legacy – what do we leave behind us when we go? Hearing the testimony of this man’s life – how he came to faith through the love and wisdom of his grandfather and in turn passed this onto his own grandchildren; how his strong work ethic and sense of humour made him a shining light in his workplace – I could see the fruits of his years of faithfulness to Christ and the beauty of that legacy. I thought about those, including this gentle-man, who have had an impact on my life and wondered: what trace am I leaving on the lives of those around me?

In the last year or so I have become more aware of my own mortality. I would not say I am afraid of death or believe that it is coming soon for me, I have just been struck by the realisation that people my age and younger can die just as easily as those who are getting on in years (there’s a cheery thought!) I am more conscious of not wasting time, and of focusing on all I want to achieve in life. I am also driving more carefully!

I want my life to be positive. I want to make a difference to others. I don’t need a big stage or a large following, but I do want to be faithful to what I have been called to do. I want to make the most of the gifts I have been given and the opportunities set out in front of me.

I felt God’s whisper as I listened to the funeral service. He has given me words, and my words will be my legacy. My words will remain long after I have gone. This is a great encouragement to me as I sit down to write and is also a reminder to be prayerful in my writing – whether in this blog, in my poetry or in my novelistic ambitions – to seek God’s purposes in the word-craft, in the stories I am trying to tell.

But it meant more than just writing to me. Like most people, I speak everyday. I talk to people, and they listen (usually). I converse with colleagues, have deep chats with friends, I instant message people all over the world. Those words have an impact too. Most of it may be forgetten, but some of the words we speak, positive and negative, leave our mouths and go straight to people’s hearts.

In the Bible, James compares the tongue to a fire that can burn down a whole forest. He says it is like the rudder of a ship, that can turn it and direct its route. I have done a bit of sailing in the past, and I know that if you let go of the tiller, the rudder turns the boat into the wind and you are at the mercy of the weather. We need to watch what we say, because our words have potential to heal or to hurt, every single time we open our mouths.

I hope I remember these lessons I’m learning along the way. I am determined to be more careful with my words – both written and spoken. I pray that I may leave as positive a legacy as that of the man we said farewell to this week.

And it is 116 days until Christmas.

My Awesome God

My awesome God!

Beyond anything I can understand

More than minds can comprehend

Showing us things unseen

Making the unbelievable believable

We’re waiting for You

Hungry for You

Crying out for You

And boy do You turn up

and turn everything upside down

Defying explanations

Exceeding expectations

Stretching imaginations

So we see more

and want more

and seek more

More of You

This is a poem I wrote on Sunday 4th December, 2010, after an amazing evening at church where some pretty exciting things happened. I’ve moved on from that particular church now, and but I love rereading this poem and remembering all the amazing things that God has done in my life.

Recently I’ve been studying the Exodus and certain aspects of the Law given to the Israelites at the dawn of their nation. I used to get really frustrated at the Israelites and how quickly they forgot what God had done for them in bringing them out of Egypt. Throughout the Law books in the Bible, one phrase is repeated over and over: ‘I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt’ – the Israelites are meant to keep the Law as an appropriate response to what God has done for them.

I say I used to get frustrated, because one day I realised I do the same thing – we so easily forget the good things that happen in our lives as soon as the next crisis comes along. This is why testimony is so important – sharing what God has done is encouragement to others and keeps it more firmly in our memories.

This was an instruction to the Israelites too. One of my favourite brief passages in the Old Testament law texts is this section from Deuteronomy (6v4-9): ‘“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.’

So find ways to remember what God has done for you. Write it down, tell a friend. Keep His words and promises at the forefront of your mind by leaving yourself notes, putting up posters, setting a reminder on your phone… If you have other suggestions please comment!

It is so important to keep reminding ourselves of all that God has done for us, to keep us trusting when the tougher times comes, and to keep us celebrating His love for us. The God we serve is awesome indeed.