Tag Archives: challenge

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. 🙂

 

image

Book Review: Me, Myself and Bob by Phil Vischer

2321833

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

987109_19_006

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.

The precious words of God

Psalm 12

In my personal Bible studies I am still sloooowly working my way through the Psalms. There is so much to love in those pages that I am taking my time and dwelling on each one. I make detailed notes, which I have been using to write some of these posts. If you followed my old blog, you may have noticed that these jumped about all over the place, and when I moved to WordPress I decided to be a bit more systematic: starting from the beginning of the Psalms and working my way through. I don’t manage to read and reflect on Scripture everyday, but I am working on this as I think it is vital when studying theology not to forget the point – which is to love God with my whole mind as well as my heart, soul and strength. My notes have got a few Psalms ahead of my blogs, so this week I have been looking back at my reflections on Psalm 12.

If I could meet any Bible character to sit down and have a chat, David would be pretty high on my list. He is such an interesting person – a warrior poet, a shepherd king, a messed-up man after God’s own heart. I often find the Psalms resonate with my experiences today, and Psalm 12 is no different.

In this Psalm, David feels isolated, like he is the only person around who is faithful to God (and this is actually quite common for Bible characters – Noah and Elijah, to name a couple, felt similarly isolated in their faith). David feels like he is surrounded by deceitful people, those who boast and flatter, and he wants God to bring truth to the situation.

The Psalm seems to take a jump here, to God speaking up on behalf of the poor and needy – but one thing I’ve realised as I’ve been looking more into issues of social justice is that deceit is a big part of the mechanisms of injustice, whether it is to trick someone into slavery, to cover up a crime or to keep someone trapped in a life they haven’t chosen. God sees all of this and He is a God of justice who will act – often through us – to free the oppressed. He keeps His promises to us, and He will protect those who seek His help.

Sometimes trying to live God’s way is a lonely and isolating experience, especially in a culture that is increasingly at odds with what we believe, but God is always with us and strengthens us to live for Him. Sometimes those around us will deceive us, and sometimes our culture and the media will try to convince us that we are idiots for wanting to believe in God and live a way that honours Him. Instead we need to listen to what God says – primarily in His Word, the Bible, but also through Christian friends and older, wiser people in our churches. Because, as David says, “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace” (v6) – they are true, clear and precious, and He will not lead us astray.

Book review: The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggemann

I have been intending for a while to post book reviews on here, particularly of books that I would like to encourage others to read… I just don’t seem to have got around to it yet.

Take this book, for example, I actually read this book in the summer, and wrote the review then, I just forgot to post it… So here it is… [I hope you like it, I don’t know when there might be another one]

51lwS3yYdxL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

The Prophetic Imagination by Walter Brueggeman.

This book is an excellent text exploring the role of the prophetic in the Bible and how it relates to our lives today. I would recommend it to people who have already had some experience of prophetic ministry in church, as it is quite dense in places, but it will greatly increase the reader’s understanding of the purpose of prophecy.

The aim of the book is to use the example of the Old Testment prophets to help us to challenge the consumer culture that surrounds us today and has begun to seep into the church. The first couple of chapters establish the role of the prophets in the Old Testament – first Moses as a voice against the oppression of the Pharoah, then the later prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah who spoke against the corrupt Kings of Israel and Judah. They were not just telling the future, but explaining what that meant for the present. They had two main purposes: they were trying to counter the numbness and apathy of the people by bringing to expression the fear and grief the people should be feeling over the state of their nation and their future, and they were presenting an alternative new world promised by God to free the people from their hopelessness. The second half of the book explains how these two tasks were fulfilled and continued in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus – the criticism of the current system and the energising power of the new Kingdom that was emerging. The final chapter gave more detail on how this relates to our situation in the present day and its impact on our prophetic ministry.

This book has been inspiring and also quite challenging for me. It has helped my understanding of the Old Testament context and purpose of the prophets and how their situation relates to our society today. I have been struck by Brueggemann’s explanation of the Kingship of Solomon not as a fulfilment of the Promised Land, but instead as a return for the Israelites to their situation in Egypt under the Pharaohs – a time of affluence for the few which led to complacency, oppressive social policy and “the establishment of a controlled, static religion in which the sovereignty of God is fully subordinated to the purpose of the king”[1] – where people are numb to experience and devoid of hope that things can change. In many ways it is easy to see the parallels with modern society, where wealth determines who is ‘in’ or ‘out’ and there is much hopelessness. Unfortunately, this also seems to be the situation of the Western Church, where the comfort of its members, the protection of tradition and maintenance of the status quo often seem to have taken precedence over love or justice. This has led to the consumerist culture invading the church, with it becoming more about what the individual wants than a community worshipping God. I wonder if one reason many people leave the church is its unwillingness to change, its protection of “the royal consciousness” to use Brueggemann’s term[2] – the status quo that tell us that nothing can or should change. In this situation, as in ancient times, we need prophets to remind us of the faithfulness of God and the reality of our situation, and to help us hope for a better world, because bringing that world into reality begins with our imagining it.

On a personal level, I became more aware of areas in my own life where I was falling prey to the royal consciousness – lacking hope and thinking that having more things could satisfy my need for God. I also have become more hungry again for the touch of the prophetic in my life, and have started to seek out more opportunities to receive prayer but also to prayer and prophesy over people to bless them too. It has also fed my passion to see a better world than what we currently experience, and to take opportunities to speak out for the oppressed, those suffering under the royal consciousness, and to encourage others to wake up to the truth of their situation and the newness that will come and is coming with God’s Kingdom. More practically, the book has helped me to get back into reading more Christian books, and reading them more deeply. I really wanted to spend time over this book and remember and reflect on what I was reading, so I decided to make detailed notes and copy down my favourite quotes from each chapter to help the book stay with me. This meant that I took longer to read the book than I would usually spend reading a novel, for instance, but that meant the joy of reading it lasted longer. It is definitely a book that I will return to and reread many times in the future. It is a deep text, but so worth persevering with, and will greatly enrich anyone’s understanding of the prophetic and help them towards a more spiritual life.

[1] Brueggemann, Walter, The Prophetic Imagination, 2nd Ed., Fortress Press (Minneapolis, 2001) p28

[2] Ibid., p21

Finding God and where to look for Him

In studying theology, I am learning things I didn’t expect to, primarily about God, but also about the world and about myself.

Over the first few months of the course we’ve been asking ourselves: how do we know what we know about God? Where does our information come from? We have been challenged to consider what presuppositions we might hold, and think about how they affect what we believe.

I discovered one of my own this week, one of my deepest and most strongly held presuppositions, in that process, I was shaken.

My presupposition was this:

When I look for God, I will find him. When I seek Him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength, or even when I catch sight of Him out of the corner of my eye, I will encounter Him and be brought deeper into relationship with Him.

Why did learning this about myself shake me?

Because, for some reason, I expected that having presuppositions was a bad thing, and the academic process has a tendency towards suspicion – something I’m starting to notice in the responses of my coursemates in forum discussions. I felt like someone was trying to tell me this week that I had to be cautious when it came to my experiences of God, in case the worship music had heightened my emotion; that I had to mistrust my reaction to artwork that wasn’t biblically accurate; that I need to separate myself from culture in case it leads me away from God; that I am out of my depth on this course because I want to see the merit in everything.

Of course, I didn’t realise this straight away, my primary reaction was emotional because I feel very deeply. But I think deeply too, and my mind wouldn’t rest until I figured out why I was so hurt by comments that were in no way intended to be hurtful.

Last week I wrote about my words for 2015, and in a lovely twist of God-incidence, this week at homegroup we were talking about what it means to have core values. I realised that this is what picking a word for the year is for me – it helps me to make decision to define my year, but each word gets absorbed into my life. I am still dedicated (2012) to serving God; I am still seeking to change (2013) and grow; I still want to be healthy (2014) in all areas of my life. This week I realised that trust (2015) is already an integral part of my character, that suspicion is quite alien to my nature.

I’ve realised that I cannot be cautious is seeking to encounter God, but instead that I trust Him to be true, even if my motives or emotions or thought processes are faulty.

And I still trust that I will find Him when I seek Him, even if I am searching in places that others wouldn’t think to look.

I love allegory. I love it when God turns up in a place I hadn’t expected to find Him. I love being led to worship Him at a rock concert or listening to a pop song. I love discovering truth about God when watching a film about good and evil, or someone sacrificing something for someone they love, or someone going on an adventure. I love watching tv shows that challenge me and remind me of the terrible state of the human condition and how much we need a saviour. I love seeing people use their talents to create something amazing, because the creative process gives glory to the Creator God, who made us in His creative image (even when the ones doing the creating don’t realise they are doing this).

Yes, I have presuppositions, and yes, some of them will need to be challenged.

But this is one I am holding onto:

“You will seek me

and find me

when you seek me

with all your heart”

(Jeremiah 29v13)

Be on the look out for God and you will find Him, even in places you’re not expecting to see Him.

Why I pick a word

Greetings. We’re nearly a month into 2015, and I realise it’s been a while since I wrote. Well, 2015 so far hasn’t been quite as straightforward as I could have hoped. But more on that to come.

I’m part of an awesome online community and in the run up to the end of 2014, there was much talk about what word we would be picking for 2015. To some this was a new idea and they were keen to know what it was all about, and it got me to reflecting on what it means to me to pick a word for each year.

You see, this is something I’ve done for several years now, and it was good remind myself why I do this. Each year I pick a word that I want to help define that year, to help me reflect and to guide my decisions. Last year I decided to pair it with a Bible verse as well, to help me focus on God and what I felt He would want for me in that year.

Let me give you a brief history of the words I picked and why…

2012 – this was the first time I picked a word. I was serving God in a church and loving it, so I settled for the word ‘dedicated’ because I was giving the year to God, and wanted to focus more on Him.

2013 – unfortunately, many things in 2012 didn’t happen as I would have liked, leaving me with many questions, and basically feeling a bit like I’d gone through the blender. So the word I picked for 2013 was ‘change’ – I wanted to be different, renewed, more hopeful, more trusting, and I wanted to see my life change for the better. This led me to make some brave decisions, to relocate and face new challenges.

2014 – In some significant ways, however, my life had started to get worse. My new job, in a new city, was much more challenging than I had expected, and by the end of 2013 my health was suffering. So my word for 2014 became ‘health’, and my verse was Luke 10v27: “The Scriptures say, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind.’ They also say, ‘Love your neighbors as much as you love yourself.’”

With this verse, I thought about how I could show my love for God by taking better care of myself in each of the four areas of heart, soul, strength and mind. I took this one pretty seriously, and took several pages of my journal to outline how I was going to practise loving God and myself in each area (if you followed the previous incarnation of my blog you may remember reading about this). The trouble was, as I plunged headlong into 2014, some of the lessons took a long time to stick. I got to April and suddenly realised how much I was struggling at my job, and how unhappy I was in the city – I’d been living there nearly a year and felt so isolated and alone. I suddenly knew, for the sake of my health, I had to leave.

I think this was the hardest decision I had ever made.

After a brief holiday, during which I’d admitted this to myself, I returned to work and had a difficult conversation with my boss, the minister of the church I was working for. And as I explained how I’d been feeling, it was like a huge weight lifting off my shoulders. I agreed to stay a few more months, to give the church and myself time to plan our next steps.

Last year’s word brought about such significant change in my life. It helped me realise what my strengths and weaknesses are, and helped me realise letting go is not the same as giving up. It challenged me to remember what my dreams are and gave me the courage to follow them, even if it seems crazy or risky to others.

So as the end of 2014 approached I started to think about what I wanted from 2015. I had several realisations, including the fact that I was finally living in the same town again as two of my best friends growing up, and wanted to make up for lost time with them. Also, for the first time in a long time I am working in a non-Church environment, and I want to build good relationships with my colleagues who aren’t Christians and hopefully have some opportunities to share my faith with them. Third, I realised that as an introvert, I can tend to shy away from social situations as I find them intimidating, but I don’t want to let my weaknesses define me, I want to let them refine me and make me grow.

So the word I have picked for 2015 is ‘relate’, and I’m focusing on the second part of last year’s verse: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’. This means that this year I am trying to make decisions that will help me to build relationships with others and give me opportunities to show them how amazing they are, and how much they are loved by God.

However, as I said at the beginning of this post, things didn’t start out quite how I’d planned in 2015.

I picked up a nasty bug over Christmas, and spent the first couple of weeks of this year feeling decidedly under the weather. I also had spent more money than planned over Christmas and New Years and was starting to worry about whether I would have enough saved to pay my tuition fees for my course. I was also anticipating changing times at work, as I would be taking on new responsibilities, especially with a colleague moving onto another job. Having only been in post for three months, I was worried about how I would cope with the changes. I was also worried about my course, and whether I could cope with the workload

Basically, I started 2015 scared.

But fear is not what I want to define my life. I had a sudden moment of clarity in the middle of my fever, where I realised how scared I was. And I decided not to be scared any more.

You see, if I have learnt anything over the last couple of years, it is that God is so much bigger than any situation I find myself in. And He cares. He cares so much for me that He doesn’t want me to live a life of fear. And He always has a plan. I could never have dreamed a few years ago that I would be where I am now, but He has lead me so gently, that I know so deeply now that I am where I am meant to be. So I don’t need to be afraid.

So I had to pick another word for myself, to help remind me of this every time I start to let the fear in: Trust. And the verse to go with it: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3v5-6).

Since making this decision, I have felt such peace about my finances, my course, my job, and my relationships. It’s not easy, but everyday I am choosing to trust God in everything and asking Him to bless my relationships. I am still learning, but I am also more aware of Him at work.

It’s still early days for 2015, and I am excited to see how it will progress as I focus on trusting God and loving my neighbour. I’d love to hear whether you’ve picked a word for 2015, and what it means to you.

And soon it will be #Dressember…

2014-11-23 16.51.03

So last weekend I didn’t manage to write a post as I was in London. I had the amazing privilege to be present at the first UK conference of the International Justice Mission (IJM), called Make Darkness Light. I say privilege because I was humbled to hear of the brilliant work this charity is doing in some of the toughest places in the world.

I am not quite sure how I first heard about IJM. I think it was at a screening of the Nefarious film (produced by another great charity called Exodus Cry). After the film, there were stalls for various charities working to fight trafficking, and I signed up to a few mailing lists, including IJM’s.

I have been receiving IJM emails for some time now, and I confess the majority ended up in the deleted items file, unread. But then in the summer I was accepted onto a Masters course in Theology, and picked modules concerning social justice issues for my speciality. I had been interested in the issue of human trafficking for a number of years but always pushed it to the back of my mind because I didn’t really know what I could do about it. So in choosing the social justice modules I was admitting to myself that this was an issue I really cared about, and that it was high time I learnt what I could do to help.

The next email I received from IJM was an invitation to the conference. I straightaway knew I wanted to go, but even though tickets were not expensive, at the time I had no job and less money, and was unsure how I would be able to go. I mentioned it to my Dad, and he said to leave it for a week or to (there were a few weeks of early-bird discount left) and see what happened. Later that week we went out for coffee with my Nan. She asked if there was anything particular I wanted for my birthday this year. I couldn’t think of anything, but then my Dad mentioned the conference and my Nan offered to buy my ticket as a birthday present. A few days later I booked my ticket.

The whole day was full of heartbreaking stories mixed with great hope about what could be done to help. We lifted up in prayer the IJM staff, the victims, the perpetrators, and the local justice systems. Where we knew names, we prayed for individuals. Where we could not find the words, we let our tears be our prayers. We worshiped the God who is stronger than the powers of this world and who cares about the poor and the oppressed. And we were encouraged to act – to raise money, to raise awareness, to be a voice for the voiceless.

IJM work in some of the world’s poorest countries, where violence and oppression are a part of daily life, where millions of people are trapped in slavery, trafficked and forced to work in horrendous situations, stripped of their rights and their voice. When IJM hear of victims of slavery, sexual exploitation or violent oppression they work hard to rescue the victims, restore their health and dignity, get them counselling when needed, train them in new skills and help them to avoid becoming trapped again. But this is not all they do. They work closely with the local justice systems of that country to take the perpetrators to court, to try to prevent them from commiting the same crimes again. They do not win every case, but in working in the system they find all the loopholes, the corruption, the structures that keep the victims victims and allow the perpetrators to get away with their crimes. With this knowledge they can start to change the systems from the inside. They are also working with our government to keep the issue of slavery on the agenda.

Trafficking is a huge problem in our world, and I can’t not do something about it any more. In December I will be raising awareness of the issue of slavery and the work of IJM (and hopefully raising some money too!) by joining women all over the world in taking part in Dressember. For the 31 days of December, I will be wearing dresses everyday, to stand in solidarity with women worldwide who are victims of oppression.

I will be taking a photo of my outfit each day, and posting it online with the hashtag #Dressember. (if you want to see the pictures, they will appear on my old tumblr blog: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/squishymeanderings and on my personal twitter feed: @cerilouise_87)

I have also created a fundraising page at: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/Ceridressember if you would like to donate, and UK taxpayers can giftaid their donations. If you are in the USA, it’s better for you to sponsor me through Dressember’s own site, so you can do your tax-related thing… Go to http://www.dressemberfoundation.org, click on give, then ‘support a specific participant’ and search for me (Ceri Webb).

To find out more about the work of IJM and sign up to their mailing list, visit their website here: https://www.ijmuk.org

And ladies, It’s not to late to join us – check out the Dressember website for how you can get involved.

27 million people trapped in slavery is not okay. Speak up. Raise awareness. Be a voice for the voiceless.

My #Next5

2014-08-29 22.05.55

 

I’m part of a pretty awesome online community, that is constantly challenging me to dream bigger and to chase those dreams down. (You can read more about what this group means to me here).

This week, another member of the community came up with a great challenge, and is encouraging us to spread the word.

Before I go into too much detail about what #Next5 means, let me fill you in on what I was doing right before I heard anything about #Next5. 

I had just sent off an essay and a written interview as the second stage of an application process for a Masters course. In Theology. This is something that I have really wanted to do for a long time but something always got in the way. Even as I was writing the essay, my mind kept asking me: “Are you sure you’re clever enough to do this? Do you even understand what you’re writing? Better to give up right now…”

I feel like, when I let other people tell me I can’t achieve my dreams (or I assume they will tell me I can’t achieve my dreams, so I smother the dreaming and try to be sensible) they are just agreeing with what I’ve been telling myself all along. I’m my biggest enemy. But no more.

Kevin Buchanan, of livingoutmyjourney.com, has challenged us this week to dream big, and imagine what we want our lives to be like in 5 years time. Now, with the way things have gone in the last few years of my life, I’ve given up on making any long term plans, but I was really encouraged by his video and blog post (available at the bottom of the page) and the subsequent photos my friends posted on Facebook, to come up with a few things I would like to have achieved by this time in 2019.

2014-08-26 21.01.36

Actually, I took this photo on Tuesday, and I think I want to dream a bit bigger now. But anywho. The point is, I know with a bit of hard work and hustle, I can achieve these things (apart from the man of my dreams one, maybe…?). It won’t be easy. It may not happen. But I’m going to do everything in my power to make these things happen.

So my challenge to you, dear reader, is the same as Kevin’s: what do you want to have achieved over the next 5 years? Write it down, take a photo, share it with the hashtag #Next5 and then stick it up somewhere to inspire you. Mine would be above my desk, if I had one…

For Kevin’s original post, go here.

And you can watch the video below…