Monday, 28 July 2008


N.B. I think it was a highly sensible and reasonable idea to take a small suitcase to Susie's so that I could take my laptop and all my things and not have to carry them. Susie however, found it hilarious.

I've been back in Brentwood a whole week now. It seems to have gone slowly, but looking back, I guess time has flown by. My heart is still disorientated, I don't know where to call home or where to feel homesick for most of the time. But all I know is that no matter where I am, I am sure glad to have my friends around me.

Since being back I've seen pretty much everyone at some point, spending more time with some than others, but then I guess that's always the way. I guess, chatting things through with Georgia and Susie at different times this week I've realised that being in Southend doesn't really change the amount I love and treasure my friends from Brentwood, or vice versa. They are all there for me, at different stages of the journey, at different turns in the road, but each are equally valid and meaningful to the travelling. And some will fall along the way, but others will join, but I guess that's all part of growing up.

Sunday, 27 July 2008


N.B. Me and Jeni spent this last weekend away with South Green church, looking after the 2-4 year old's. I've come back exhausted. Our sessions focused on the different things that God loves us to do, including making joyful music, dancing, reading and being ourselves. Reflecting back on the weekend now, there are two events that I remember with a firm smile imprinted on my face, and a warm feeling in my heart.

The first occurred in Session 2, and after making streamers out of popsicle sticks and crepe paper, we have a little mini dancing session around the room while we played some upbeat -Doug Horley type - children's worship music. The kids loved this bit of the session, all of them tearing around the room, their streamers flailing behind them. I joined in eagerly, prancing around the room and encouraging those who were a little unsure what to do. I loved the freedom of it, being able to be silly whilst worshipping and not worrying about what the kids may think, because they were doing it too.

The second occurred in Session 3, and we are all sat round in a circle, waiting to listen to Jeni tell a story, when little Emily, just 3 years old, tells us she is going to read us a book. (The book in question is titled 'He Lives' and is a children's book of the trial, death and resurrection of Jesus.) Me and Jeni exchange surprised glances as even though the book has pictures, there are large sections of text that we were fairly certain Emily couldn't read. Even so, I exclaim, 'Oh, wow. Go on then, tell us all the story!"

We all sit quietly, as Emily, (bless her) confidently opens the first page of the book - a picture of Jesus and his friends in the garden of Gethsemane. "One day, some people were walking along in the forest..." She stops to turn the page, and there is a picture of Jesus standing on a balcony with the people down below shouting and waving their arms. She continues... "The people shouted 'Hooray' and the king shouted 'Hooray' cause it was a sunny day"... (Me and Jeni again exchange glances. We feel that she isn't quite gripping the storyline, but allow her to continue, giving excited feedback) ... the next page is a picture of people walking and on the top of the hill are three crosses... "And then they walked some more but got worried cause it might rain..."The story continues like this, Emily eagerly interpreting and explaining each picture to us, until she concludes "Then is was a sunny day. The End." We all give her a round of applause and thank her for reading us the story, and continue with the rest of the activities.

Afterwards I thought back on the dancing session, and how such an event would go down in church, and how a five (even twenty) minute talk on God loving it when we dance would more than likely have no effect whatsoever on the state of our collective worship. As I looked around the room, every child had a broad grin on their face - such a vast contrast to the faces of so many I watch worship. And sometimes, I really don't get that. The children I was working with are completely unaware of the vast pain and suffering that Jesus went through to pay the price for the wrong things they will do. And yet they were completely engaged and absorbed by singing songs and dancing to a God they don't really understand. Then why so many adults; who are much further along in their spiritual journey and able to grasp (albeit only a small part) the magnificence of Christ's death and resurrection; who don't express any joy whilst singing songs about it?

It's times like this when I realise why Jesus expressed such a keen interest in the children, and indicated that only those who become like little children would inherit the kingdom of God. Because kids are kids. Most of the time it's the adults I don't understand.

Monday, 7 July 2008


N.B. I have often heard people say that they try their hardest to obey God and to put Him first in their lives, and yet, often they live comfortable, well rounded lives. Being an Optimum volunteer means that for the last year, I have been actively putting God first, and I can tell you, it has been anything but.

Over this last year, I have been constantly challenged to do the things that I was completely terrified to do, things that make me shake inside, things that make my stomach knot itself tighter and tighter. Things that confront me head on because they force me to relieve old memories and emerge myself in old situations. But I don't think anything made me rely on God more than this weekend. Let me tell you a story...

God likes to make you do things you really don't want to do. If only but to teach you to rely on Him. Since I could remember, I said, "I'm not going to Uni, I'm staying in Brentwood." I didn't go to Uni, no. But did I stay in Brentwood? No. God packed me up and sent me to Southend. [Lesson #1 - Don't tell God where you will or will not go. Just listen!]

So there I am, in Southend. On Optimum. And the one thing I hated more than anything else was talking about myself. So on the fourth day of September Training Week, we all have a nice session where we sit around and tell each other our testimonies. Was I terrified? Yes. In fact I spent the majority of the time in between when we were told about it, and when we did it, crying. And when it came to it, it actually went quite well. [Lesson #2 - Don't be afraid to be open with other followers, everyone has a past.]

So I was done with sharing after that. I said, "God, that's it! I'm not speaking in front of people any more!" I was still a fairly insecure person, not really ready to share myself fully with others, but I got on and did the job God had sent me to Southend to do as best as I knew how [minus the speaking up the front]. Everything went pretty good until the date of the School's Work assignment was due, and I had to give an assembly to a whole bunch of Infant school kids. Was I terrified? YES! And I spent the majority of the morning before the assembly trying not to cry. [Lesson#3 - God will make you do the things you told Him you were not going to do...]

So that was it. After that, I said "God! Seriously! No more speaking up the front, please!" (Obviously hadn't learnt my lesson yet...) and so a few months later I am in church, doing some kind of kids talk/drama. Was I terrified? YES!! But God came up trumps and it went really well. But still I said, "Please, God, no more talking things." And a few months later I was giving two talks at a Youth weekend away. Teenagers I had never met before were listening to me talk about the Bible. Was I terrified? Absolutely. But God remained faithful and some of the things I said really hit home with them. [Lesson #4 - Seriously. He'll make you do it, and He'll make it go well too.]

After that, I thought I was pretty ok. I thought I was in control of what I could cope with. Talking about the message of God was okay, because it is an awesome message! I was prepared to take more of an up the front role in terms of church and youth group, because I knew God was the one speaking, not me. He was the one that made things go well, because in those situations, He held me up. But I still asked God not to make me talk in front of large groups of people, and especially to talk about me, because I just wasn't ready.

Then, spending a few days at home before the SOLID youth festival, I got an email from Claire Parry asking me if I would give a few minutes talk during the main worship on Saturday about my journey on Optimum. It sounded like the scariest thing I had ever heard of, but for some reason, I felt it in my gut to say yes. I made notes, I prepared, and I thought it would be ok. (Still spent a good few hours fretting over it... but I didn't attempt to back out.)

About 45 mins before the main Saturday evening session we were having the usual 'last-minute-check-everyone-knows-what-they-are-supposed-to-be-doing' meeting, when I was told that actually, I was to be giving a five minute talk on my personal journey to God, not just a talk on my journey on Optimum. A talk about me. About me before I came to Southend. AAAAHHHH! To say I panicked would probably be putting it lightly. On the outside, I remained calmish. On the inside, I was practically screaming. But even though all of my senses were telling me to run far far away, I didn't back out.

And when it came for the time for me to go up on stage (and it came... very quickly...) I went. Head held high. And I started talking... and I talked, and I talked, and I paced the stage, and I talked and I just didn't shut up. I talked about myself, about my past. And then I told them this story. I finished by saying, "And I said, okay God, I'll do the talking up front, but I am NOT talking about myself in front of lots of people..."

I spoke to quite a few teenagers afterwards who really connected with the things I said. And I can honestly say that the whole experience, it was completely amazing. If I had learnt nothing else this year, it was to trust that God knows the best plan for my life, and I can waste as much time as I want trying to fight against it, but only truly amazing things will happen when I surrender to his plans.

Friday, 4 July 2008


N.B. I guess it's been a rather long time since I last blogged huh? I'm only really blogging now because I think the majority of the people who read this wouldn't understand the complete 'emo-ness' that was the last entry. In all honesty... I never expected anyone to.

Lately I've been thinking a lot. A number of situations and questions asked of me have made me do so, and although the majority of that (at the time) left me unsure and confused, the more I've had a chance to think it all over, the more sure I am of what is what. (Does that make any sense?)

Thinking back over the challenges and things that I've had to cope with this year has been strange. There was never any one point where I felt I had achieved something and yet now, as I prepare to finish the year, I wonder about all the things I have achieved. And I no longer wonder why God chose me for the job.

In training this Weds, Den was asking us questions about whether we were passionate about the Gospel. Such a questions leaves everyone feeling humbly unable to say yes, whilst guiltily knowing that maybe the answer is no. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised, YES, I am very passionate about the Gospel. And I shall tell you why.

It's changed my life! Simple as that. Over the last year, getting to grips with what it actually means, and understanding the impact that it should have on your life, has left my head spinning. But it has had that affect on my life. It's made me begin to believe in myself. It's made me realise that I'm loved, that I'm worth something to God. It's made me forgive things of the past, and let go of things that should have been let go of years ago. It has set me free from fears and insecurities, and opened up a whole range of opportunities for me that I never knew were possible.

And because it has changed my life, it has made me more passionate about it changing other people's lives. The thing I live for, the reason I do youth work, is the look on a young persons face when they begin to feel the truth of the Gospel for themselves. The realisation that God loves them despite all their imperfections. That He sees how beautiful they really are, that He made them and He wants them. That they are accepted and loved, and no longer need to hide behind walls of possessions and popularity. How amazing is it, to have something that when shared, can bring a smile to a young person's face that previously only knew tears? To hear laughter instead of statements of self doubt and hate. To see hope in their eyes instead of depression and emptiness?

"You are not your job,
And you are not the clothes you wear
You are the words that leave your mouth
So speak up, speak up loud..."
'Call Me Ishmael' - Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.

It's time for us, as Christians, to speak up about the truth that gives us hope, that makes us live lives worth living, and that means we are with God! Why be scared of being rejected or persecuted? Being a Christian was never supposed to be easy! But God did promise us that no matter what we endure on earth, it would be worth it. So SPEAK UP!