Tag Archives: theology

Storytelling 

“‪Storytelling is a trinitarian act that unites writer, text and reader in a collage of understanding. Though distinguishable and unequal, the three participants are inseparable and interdependent”

Phyllis Trible, Texts of Terror

Advertisements

Youth camp revelations 

I was helping on a youth camp last week – and it was amazing and exhausting. I had a bit of an emotional rollercoaster week for all sorts of reasons that I’m not going to go into just yet, and I still have loads to process from the week. But for now I want to give you some of the top things I learnt from the week.

1) God’s plans are amazingly beautiful and intricate and we need to stop second guessing them (and Him). A year ago I went for a youth work job at a church where I had previously done some training. This was my dream job, and the timing seemed so perfect, I was sure it was God’s plan for me to get it. But I didn’t. Last week a friend who has been working with that church was helping out on youth camp. She is now engaged to the guy who got the job, and they wouldn’t have met if I had got it. A year on I can see how that job wasn’t the right into for me at that time, and how happy I am with my life right now… God is good, y’all.

2) It is so easy for each of us to be a different person in different situations, and we don’t even realise it sometimes. Last week I got a little frustrated with some of the young people who were so switched on and engaged in sessions, and seemed very spiritually mature beyond their years, but would go outside and be airheaded bimbo girls or laddish show-offy boys and forget everything they just said or did or learned. Part of this is just teenagers finding out who they are, but I think we all do it, we compartmentalise our lives and put on masks to be different people when we need to be. Can I ask that we drop the act, work out who we are and be that person the whole time? Be authentically ourselves? (Me included)

3) Never, ever, ever, underestimate young people. They are awesome. Our speaker, my good friend Neil, decided to pick as his topic for last week the book of Revelation. The whole book. In a week. And the kids kept pace. Sure they won’t have taken it all in but they definitely took it seriously and appreciated that we were willing to challenge them. Sometimes young people are referred to as the church of the future, but they aren’t. They are the church of today and until we really understand that we will keep wondering why they want to leave.

There is so much more I could say but, as I said, I need to do more processing. I am so thankful for the honour it has been to serve on youth camps for so many years and see the fruit of that investment in people’s lives.

A Glimpse of the Future?

I recently read the novel Flashforward, which was made into a TV show a few years ago that was cancelled after one season and ended on a massive cliff hanger… I read the book because I had enjoyed the show, but other than the basic concept and a couple of character names, the book bore little resemblance to the show and, sadly, did not live up to expectation. It is very rare for me to say this, but the show was better than the book it was based on…

Anyway, this blog isn’t really about the show or the book – it’s about the idea. The concept of the novel is that for two minutes, unexpectedly, the entire population of Earth blacks out and their consciousness is transported twenty-one years and six months into the future, where they experience two minutes as their future selves.

When they return to the present, they have a lot of questions – what caused the phenomenon? Should they try to repeat it? And, most importantly, is the future they saw fixed, or can it be changed?

Although the book was a disappointment, it did get me thinking – if I had the opportunity to see my future, would I take it? Do I want to know what will happen to me a few years down the line – and would I try to change it if I knew?

I generally have an overactive imagination, and spend a lot of idle moments thinking about where I’d like to live, how and where I might meet the man of my dreams, what schools would I send my hypothetical children to, what job I want when I finish my course… But while I enjoy the speculation, I like the openness of my future right now. I like that I have options, and that I don’t know what is coming. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it would be nice to know for certain that I will get married, and what his name might be so that I can pay attention when he comes along… but at the same time I know I’m better off not knowing.

In Matthew 6v25-34, Jesus tells the crowds not to worry about the future, because there will be enough to worry about when it comes along. He’s talking specifically about provision – comforting us that God knows what we need and will provide it, so we don’t need to fret. But I think it applies more generally. The present is all we really have, because we don’t know what is around the corner. So we’re wasting our time if we stress ourselves out over the details of our futures. I don’t think this means that we shouldn’t make plans at all, rather that we shouldn’t be so obsessed with the future that we miss out on enjoying the here and now.

Not knowing the future also gives us hope. One of the characters in the book is convinced that the future is set, and there is nothing he can do to change it, and it starts to have a negative impact on the choices he makes in the present. As Christians it is often a comfort to us to know that God has plans for our future, and I believe that He does, but they are not strict and immovable. God has also given us free will, which allows us to involve ourselves in His plans, rather than have them dictated to us. Yes He guides us, and He has an ultimate plan for creation, but He will not force us into doing things. At the same time, He is always working behind the scenes to bring about His will.

Does that sound like a contradiction? It kind of is… God’s omniscience regarding the future is something I’ve really been struggling to get my head around in the past year… And I don’t think I’m any closer, but I’m happy to live in the contradiction of a God who knows the future yet gives me free will to determine how mine will pan out.

When life gets messy, we can have hope that the future will be better, different. We can also trust that God is looking after us, directing our steps (Proverbs 16v9), and working for our good (Romans 8v28).

a slightly rambly blog post…

Sometimes, when I sit down to write this blog, I really just don’t know what to say. Sometimes this is because there are no ideas, or sometimes, like today, it is because there are so many ideas flying around in my head that I can’t bring a sensible order to them.

So this is going to be short today, but I felt I needed to touch base with the few of you who like to read what I write (thank you so much!) as it has been a couple of weeks since I last posted.

Life just happens sometimes, doesn’t it?! I have had a crazy busy couple of weeks, but mostly in a really good way. I knew juggling working, studying and being a sociable human being was not going to be an easy task, and some weeks are more balanced than others. The last few weeks have been quite hectic (although a lot of fun) and finding time to stop and think has been hard.

A lot of my course requires reflection, and in a few weeks time I would love to spend some time on this blog explaining some of what I’ve been learning, as theology should be the study of every Christian, not just the academics (I still don’t consider myself an academic, by the way, just a geek). We’re now entering into essay season, where I will be summarising and applying what I have learnt over the last five(ish) months, and through that process I hope to develop my thoughts in a way that is sharable and understandable to myself and others. (This is also me apologising in advance if I don’t post again until my essays are handed in!)

But outside of my studies, I’m finding it hard to find time to rest in God’s, reflect, breathe.

Recently I’ve really been challenged (again) about not turning God into a subject to be studied. I’m sure I’ve written about this before. During the Lent season at my church we have been talking about some of our core values as a community. These stem from encountering God, and include belonging to the community and growing in our faith, then extend into serving our neighbourhood and the world.

Last week we looked at growing, and the preacher said something that was so simple yet so profound that it made me stop in my tracks: ‘To grow as a disciple we need to know Christ and His love.’ He talked about the difference between intellectual knowledge and relational knowledge, and I was so challenged.

As a theology student (or even before I was) I have always found it so easy to fall into knowing about God, that sometimes I forget that the important thing is simply knowing God and His love for me. If my intellectual pursuits are not pushing me to a deeper relational knowledge of and love for God, then they are a waste of my time.

So this week I made a change. Instead of getting in from work, watching a bit of tv to relax, and then hitting the books, I added an extra stage in. Before sitting down to study, I spent 5-10 minutes in prayer, reflecting and asking God to help me. I am not good at prayer, so I have been using a guidebook to help me, called 31 Days of Prayer for the Dreamer and the Doer by Jenn Sprinkle and Kelly Rucker (available from The {well} Studio). The first day when I started reading, it hit me so hard how much I needed this book that I nearly burst into tears in the public library. A few days in, I am definitely feeling encouraged and refreshed to go on with my busy life.

As I head into essay mode, I need to remember why I am studying theology – to know God better, not just to know more about Him.

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.