So it's been nearly three weeks since I last blogged and so much has happened in that time. I'll give you a brief overview:
NEW WINE: Drove down to Somerset with my lodger Smellen for a week camping in Shepton Mallet and to serve at a Christian Festival. We were both working in the main venue which could seat 5000 at least I reckon. I was on the cafe team so got to learn a new skill in working a barrista machine and honing my milk frothing ability. In between shifts I got the chance to listen to some ace Bible teaching. Was really challenged by the fact that the Bible is full of ordinary people. I mean I have always known this in my head, but it really hit me that the people God used back then to fulfil his purposes were ordinary people. The Bible says that "Elijah was a man just like us" (James 5:17). I guess that just reassured me that God uses normal people...I'm sure that plenty of you would argue that I'm not exactly normal but to me that was a bit of a wake up call that just because I'm not sorted doesn't mean that God can't use me. So much of the time I think Christians feel pressure to have their lives completely in order so that God can use them, and I don't think there's anything wrong from doing your best for God...but God isn't limited by our weaknesses. He uses us anyway! Mental. I mean look at Jonah - a totally unwilling prophet who ran away from God but God still used him even though he wasn't really that repentant. He had a rubbish attitude but God, in his grace, used him to start a miraculous revival. So anyway, yes New Wine was a really good week of being able to praise God, learn more of him and have space to listen to what he was saying.
HEN PARTY: I came back from New Wine on Fri 29th and the next day I was leading a Hen Party for my friend Clare who's getting married at the start of Sept. It was a hilarious day filled with picnics, dress up, crazy golf, disposable cameras, a great meal in the evening followed by disney! I am one of 6 bridesmaids for this wedding and am currently hunting for ivory shoes (size 5) if anyone has any that I could borrow??
FAMILY DAY: A couple days after the Hen Party we decided to have a family day. My parents and brother (and his friend) had driven over to the East Kent coast for the week and so I drove my other brother, myself and my brother's friend's mum and brother (confusing I know) over to join them. We had a fantastic day in the sun. Had a picnic on the beach, ended up having a battle with the incoming tide as to whether our defences of a moat and wall of sand would hold....it probably bought us about 10 minutes extra time before we had to move. Played a game of crazy golf (of which I won over all!) and then enjoyed some more time on a nicer, sandy beach in Margate. I've realised how much I really enjoy being able to be with my family. We do get on really well now that myself and my brother are a bit older and days out are always filled with hilarity of some nature.
XLP CAMPING: So on the 5th I went to join a group of about 18 kids (11-17) from estates that XLP work on to go on a camping trip down to Dorset. It was possibly the most intense induction to the kind of work I will be doing EVER. Myself and about 9 other leaders were in charge of making sure our kids stayed out of trouble and enjoyed their time away from the luxuries of home. There were no showers, limited electricity and our only shelter was either tents or a marquee. Safe to say some were not happy, others took to it quite well. We took them to different activities including: high ropes, climbing/abseiling, trampolining, skiing, tunnelling etc. As well as getting them to cook on camping stoves, going on nightwalks and playing sardines in the woods. While it was totally exhausting, it was a fantastic way to get to know some of the kids on the estates I will be working on. So many of these kids are hardened to any show of kindness that they find it really hard to understand when you are genuinely trying to be nice. Respect is a big thing and something I will be trying to cultivate. I have no idea how! Advice welcome.
RIOTS: Now that I'm back in the real world and able to see what is going on in our country I am pretty disturbed by all that is going on in our cities. I can understand where kids are coming from when they have limited opportunities to succeed, but if they think that that justifies them to ruin any potential livelihood that they might get in their areas they are clearly wrong. It really upsets me because I have no doubt that some of the kids I have just spent the week with will be involved in what has been happening. I think a lot of it is that they want to be involved in something, not to miss out. I've seen loads of people pointing to this verse in the wake of all that is happening - Jeremiah 29:7 "Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper." I think that this is our answer. The government can bring in the army, can bring in as many Police officers as it likes but unless their is a shift in attitude there is going to be hostility for a long time. It is God who can change people's hearts. I love this verse in Ezekial 36 "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." That is such a cool picture. I would encourage any Christians reading this to pray seriously for the riots and for the roots of it to be dealt with. If you're not a Christian I would be really interested to know what you think viable solutions are to the riots.
Sorry for such an essay...I'll try to blog sooner....