Friday, 31 December 2010

Happy New Year! My year in music..

I was going to write a huge summary of everything I've done, everywhere I've been and all that I've learnt in 2010. However I realise this would take far longer than the amount of time I have left this year to write it all down. I could make a few glib statements about how I've been to new places, made mnew friends and had new experiences, but the words seem empty. In short I'm not really sure what to say.

I'm not a humongous media head, and I haven't seen enough films or read enough fiction books this year to arrange any into a list of my top 10 of the year. But I'm not immune to what I hear on the radio, so let's do this differently..Hold your is my year in music.

Top 10 Tracks of 2010.
(New Releases/personal discoveries)

10. Ego – Saturdays
Here because of the Groby girls, who have somehow made me love it. Memories of going on holiday, prancing around ‘hotel’ rooms in Ibiza and ‘washing up’ in Torville la Chapelle’s loudest and trendiest little kitchen.

9. Parachute - Cheryl Cole
I'm not going to lie. I love Cheryl Cole and the whole package she’s got going on. She's trendy and although I haven't yet bought any of her music, really enjoyed hearing this on the radio.

8. Dynamite - Taio Cruz
Not to my usual taste, but I have enjoyed dancing to this.

7. You've Got The Dirtee Love ('Live' At The Brit Awards 2010) – Florence and Dizzee Rascal.
I dig this.

6. I will wait for you there - Phil Wickham
‘Beautiful’ is cited as one of his best but this is the one I love the most.

5. Come people of the risen king - Stuart Townsend et al

Older than 2010, but a masterful work of musical art with rousing lyrics for a church united in mission, which I have discovered and used absolutely loads this year.

4. Radio Protector – 65daysofstatic
Released in 2005 but here because I missed the boat then but couldn’t love this more now. This is the one I want to sit down and learn to play.

3. One - Sweedish House Mafia
I do recall being obsessed with this song for a considerable proportion of the summer holidays and for good reason.

2. Stereo Love - Edward Maya and Vika Jigulina
Soundtrack to the beginning of summer, screaming procrastination running and grooving with the south park sisters, kitchen window wide open, friendlies' finest wine and the buzzing of Eaton Park’s motorized model boats in the background.

1. Love the way you lie - Eminem and Rihanna
Not much to say here, except, what a tune. Genius.

Thus concludes my year in music (how does yours look?) and the last blog post of 2010. All that's left to say is Happy New Year!

and for those who love Jesus

'Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the prescence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen'! (Jude vs 24-25)

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

A favourite song

'Come thou fount of every blessing'.A hymn I'm learning and loving at the minute, particularly for it's last 6 lines, and having heard Christina Sonnemann's version via Spotify. Check it out.

Come thou fount of every blessing
Tune my heart to sing thy grace
Streams of mercy, never ceasing,
Call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
Mount of Thy redeeming love.

Here I raise my Ebenezer;
Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
Safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger,
Wandering from the fold of God;
He, to rescue me from danger,
Interposed His precious blood.

O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be!
Let Thy goodness, like a fetter,
Bind my wandering heart to Thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
Seal it for Thy courts above.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

My latest freedom 'list'

Top 10 activities (costing no money) to simultaneously avoid boredom and stress during the Christmas holidays, in no particular order:

1) Finally read CS Lewis' 'The Last Battle'
2) Make use of accordian for christmas carol singing
3) Provide a gift wrapping service for family members too busy to do it themselves :-)
4) Practice medication history taking/medicines use reviews on elderly relatives
5) Learn to play awesome hymn 'Come thou fount of Every Blessing' on the harp
6) Knit something (something easy, such as a scarf)
7) Walk to Groby Pool
8) Visit Bradgate Park
9) Play 65dos' 'Radio Protector' on the piano
10)Drink tea, read and discuss the bible with some friends who aren't Christians.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Nativitiy. Who do you say I am?

Whether you count yourself a christian, hindu, muslim, jew, any, all or none of the above, and whether you call it fact or fiction, a story remains.
It claims to be actual, life changing fact and so demands our full attention, if only for a minute or two of consideration.

I really like this video which we'll use at this evening's carol service. Like the BBC's 'Nativity' series running over the last four evenings, it gives a slightly more 'edgy' retelling of the birth of Jesus than the sweet primary school plays and pictures on christmas cards we might be used to. And rightly so, I think we are quick to forget what an unusual episode the story of Jesus' birth as told in the bible really is.

First off, if I were Mary off of Mary and Joseph and still a virgin I would most certainly be freaked out by this holy mysterious immaculate conception, and much more were I Joseph! Someone said this situation would get laughed off Jermery Kyle. I think I would be much slower to trust the word of the angels (yeah, angels! that's mental in itself, let's not go there..) appearing and God's sovreignty over the situation. Presumably the 90km walk to Joseph's home town Bethlehem to take part in the census didn't make a comfortable journey for Mary, 9 months pregnant. On arrival in the town of Joseph's birth, with no room at the inn, no midwife or hotel room waiting, the baby was born into markedly lowly surroundings, especially for a baby heralded to be a new king, wonderful leader, mighty God, everlasting father, prince of peace. Whilst Jesus undoubtably did cry as a baby, my least favourite christmas carol ever ('Away in a Manger') is correct to say that the new born baby described to be 'God with us', God in human form, was placed into an animals' feeding trough for a bed.

Meanwhile, shepherds in fields nearby encounter a host of heavenly angels in the sky proclaiming 'Do not be afraid! We bring you good news of great joy. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born, he is Christ the Lord!' they come to visit and worship the baby, telling everyone they meet about this new born saviour.

Wise men from the east will soon come to visit the baby, following a star in the sky leading them exactly to the place where Jesus is On seeing Jesus, they will worship him, presenting gifts of Gold, Frankinsence and Myrrh.

King Herod is fearful of usurption by this new baby, so orders all male children under the age of two in the land to be killed, since the wise men had been warned in a dream not to pass on to him information regarding Jesus' wherabous. (Yeah..they don't put that bit in school plays.)

So Why all the fuss aboout one baby? Why such differing attitutes of worship, fear and hatred? Perhaps more than any living person, there has been ongoing discussion about the identity of this baby born in Bethlehem.

About 30 years later Jesus asks his followers the big question, found in Matthew 16vs15 ; 'Who Do you Say I am?'.

All of the people involved in this story had some level of understanding, based on Jewish scriptures and/or their own experience, about who this new baby was, and the significance of his birth.

The bible makes some bold claims about who Jesus is. If you were around at the time having read jewish scriptures, this was not a baby born out of the blue, but a baby born to fulfill hundreds of years of divine prophecy written down regarding a coming King and Messiah. The more I read and study the old testament the more I marvel at the sheer number of direct unquestionable references to God's direct intervetion into the world by way of sending Jesus Christ, 'a bridge between heaven and earth' as described by BBC1's Magi this week.

For example, Isaiah chapter 7vs14(written ~700BC?) in reference to a coming Saviour says 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and will give birth to a son and his name shall be called Immanuel- which means God with us'. This prophecy brings a whole new meaning to the nativity story. If the happenings described above and documented in the book of Matthew are true, then this baby is not just a baby but God in human form, with us on earth.

Just a couple of chapters on, (Isaiah 9:6-7) talks about the birth of a child, a son from the lineage of David as the saving hope of the world to come. So come Luke 2vs11, when the angels appear and at first terrify shepherds in the fields, proclaiming good news of great joy that 'Today, in the town of David, a Savior has been born unto you- He is Christ the Lord!' (Luke 2.11)

The bible is full of exciting little gems like this. In my quest to read the whole bible cover to cover I have reached Genesis chapter 26, and despite my slow reading, I am astounded already to find so many moments pointing to the coming and crucifixion of Christ as the centrepoint of our faith.

It impossible to read the bible without recognising it's overarching claim that Jesus was indeed born to be this bridge between heaven and earth. This was God himself coming into the world, leaving the majesty of heaven to be born into the lowest section of society. Not a distant God watching his world from afar, but a God intimately involved with creation.

In accordance with many more instances of OT prophecy, the son of God, God himself in human form, was born into the world to bear our sin, to be oppressed, and silently afflicted and led like a lamb being slaughtered (Isaiah 53.4-7), to death as substitutionary sacrifice for the world's sin. He did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped but became obedient, even to death on a cross (Phillipians 2) In summary, with thanks to John Stott, 'God through Christ substituted himself for us. Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice. The cross was an act simultaneously of punishment and amnesty, severity and grace, justice and mercy.'

The bible's claim about Jesus in the manger can not be separated from it's claim about Jesus on the cross. In response to Jesus' big question (in Matthew 16vs15-16), Simon Peter, one of his followers answers 'You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God'.

Einstein said 'no man can deny the existance of Jesus', leaving us to decide for ourselves the true identity of Jesus Christ. Man or Myth? A good moral teacher and nothing more? Mad, bad, or God?

Happy Christmas! I hope it is wonderful, but I cordially invite you to consider for a minute or two, Jesus' question to us today..
'Who do you say I am?'

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The trauma of Boots. part 2

So thanks to what many are calling 'UEA Techpocalypse', Christmas genuinely came early for myself and fellow third year pharmacy students. Our epic last day of term poster presentation research skills exam marathon become a day off, since every computer on campus, the whole university's internet connection/intranet/email system has been well and truly broken for the last few days, scuppering all printing plans and statistics joy. Some blame Nick Clegg's education cuts but mostly this can't be helped. An inconvenient fact of life turning us all amish in the run up to christmas as presumably loads of people scrabbled around in the library unable to complete and print coursework. So, an unexpected day off today meant an early train home and now means extra night with the fam.

Immeadiately ahead is an enevitably busy weekend bringing an annual christmas party with friends, carol singing,a couple of church services, a family meal in honour of Dad's birthday, catching up with close friends and apparently The Apprentice final! Stella to win this year's series of my absolute favourite tv programme.

My third year at university started somehow more quietly and serenely than my first and second. A quieter household, missing mental christian union committee meetings and a substantially less manic timetable in terms of my course have certainly been contributing factors. In the first few weeks of term, I had loads of half days in which Jeremy Kyle, 60 minute makeover and homes under the hammer became a great backdrop for wonderful activities previously weeded out of my schedule due to lack of time (predominantly cleaning, pharmacy and painting my nails.) Perhaps my age is showing in the decreased frequency of wild night outs. Although there have been a few fancy dress occasions and some Saturday nights, including a PJ party, Cave Rave (genuinely took the sheet off of my bed and wore it) and a magnificent effort on the part of Amy my housemate and I in the fashioning of some quality (if I say so myself) Hogwarts robes (see below for Harry, Ron, Ginny and Hermione, easily identifiable).

There have been a few whirlweekends away from the fine city of Norwich too, beginning with a special evening in Birmingham with the Groby gang. After a perfect chilli courtesy of Alison and Mike at their flat, we headed out (for a change!) to Broadway Casino. Having mastered and enjoyed the art of winning at Roulette I spent the night at Mawbs' house with the girls, and consumed a very large fry up before heading back home.

A couple of weeks later, it was time for UEA Christian Union's Houseparty weekend away (see them all below!). In all senses it was an amazing weekend! I boldly went where I had never been before..into the catering department, helping to serve food for 50 the whole weekend! Perhaps an initially intimidating task but one which gave me the opportunity to really get to know the other girls and sing along in the kitchen, so I genuinely loved it! The weekend was full of so much teaching about God's character; I particularly loved hearing again about how our relationship with God as christians does not rest on what we resolve to do, but on who God is. I can not earn God's love by being a good christian, neither can I loose it by being a bad one! I don't earn my salvation by works, but I recognise my salvation as Jesus' righteousness accreditted to me and seek to live a life pleasing to God in response to this knowledge.

I spent another few days at home in the middle of November, seeing my immeadiate family, old friends from School (a night out in trashy leicester nightclub life) visiting my Nanny in Luton and dropping quickly in for the rememerance Sunday church service. I had a quick drink at local The Stamford Arms with Deb Goodhead, bumping into a familiar face or two, and managed to fit in some r&r plus report writing before heading back to Norwich.

It's been a relatively musical term, with one thing and many others. I've had the pleasure of hearing folk legend Michael mcGoldrick and friends, Seth Lakeman (is he married?), and 65daysofstatic (which was incredible!) who all put on stunning live shows. It's been great to meet up a couple of times over the term with old friend Dave Blane (now living and working in Norfolk where are the cool people end up..) who introduced me to The Kings Chamber Orchestra. Their concert was awesome comprising a very enjoyable accessible combination of classical tunes and top notch contemporary christian improvisations. For good measure and hilarity they also included a carrott solo and some glowing balloons overhead...what more could you want of an orchestra? The same weekend one of my dearest friends Beccy came to visit, we made a weekend of it including some shopping, a trip to Norwich Castle, the LCR and some pie from old Local The Farmhouse following church on Sunday morning. Here we are, in Eaton Park in the snow..

This year, I decided to finally pay up, attend and throw myself into involvement with UEA Music Society, to the extent of relatively faithful attendance to rehersals and even the purchase of a society hoody! I absolutely loved singing as part of the choir in last week's Christmas Concert, held in St John the Baptist church on Timberhill in the city centre. Here we are, my housemate Amy leading the merriment clarinet in hand.

Along with a flurry of christmas shopping, a lovely afternoon watching Glee with Fran Chorlton, Carols in the Square, a couple of epic meetings, some piano playing, and yet more christmas carolling at an old folk's home in Cringleford, the last couple of weeks at uni also brought the Christian Union Carol service, a jovial occasion (as usual) designed entirely to share the good news of the christian message with those who don't know it, over singing, some preaching and excitingly mulled wine and mince pies. Although not involved in leading the Christian Union I am so committed to the work of the CU on campus and really excited about what's going on this year.

I'm very encouraged to see so many first years getting involved and tapping into the aim of the society. The CU at UEA exists not just to bring christian students together but to make God's glorious gospel known to the whole campus. I feel quite challenged. The danger is to forget that our entire reason for existance (when I say our, I mean us as a society but also us as individuals!) is to give God all of the glory. Perhaps the time I can give practically to Christian Union is limited, but how much more could I commit this cause of making Jesus known on campus to ceaseless prayer! Ditto this realisation for every area of my life, which I find exciting even in my general state of aged apathy.

I've decided to begin reading the bible through completely and in some detail from cover to cover. I don't know if this is the most practical way, and I am a slow reader prone to give up easily, so I have no set readings ahead for each day and no expectation of how many days, months or years I may take. Neither is this a promise of a daily blog to write about what i've been reading or learning. If I feel like it along the way, perhaps i'll write about some of my coolest discoveries, favourite bits and the bits which throw up questions. So far, I'm just getting up to the bit where Issac is born.. aka at pretty much the beginning..but I am already so amazed at how much there is to learn in just the first 18 chapters of Genesis!

So to finish off, some party pics!

pyjama party

dinner party


coctail party

birthday party (Me and Mr Bua at his 22nd!)

HPLC research party (not sure this counts as a party but nevertheless an integral part of this semester)

light party (alternative face + larry's face + kids with face paint)


p.s My previous blog 'The Trauma of Boots part 1' was titled so as I quite rightly anticipated today's enevitability in the form of reserving the title of 'part 2'. Boots (the chemist) somehow predicatably have declined my summer placement application for the second (or possibly third..i can't remember) year running! I don't mind at all, since the likelihood of me having to turn down the placement had they offered it was strong anyway, since I have already booked a holiday for next summer with my family. Despite feeling a little hurt re: repeated rejection, I may consider applying to work at some hospitals (preferable anyways) whilst nonchalantly naming this blog after my epic failings as a community pharmacist.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

The trauma of Boots. part 1

I write, beginning with a wholeheartedly unjustified tale of woe, moving onto joy in it's fullest form.

It began two weeks ago, when I travelled home on the train to spend a few days
frolicking in Leicester. It was an amazing weekend with friends and family galore.

Having much experience in the purchase, enevitable little wear and loads of tear of
cheap false economy shoes I wasn't at all surprised or saddened when my cheapest of
the cheapest boots (bought a couple of months previously) decided it was time to
fall apart along the way.

In light of this, having the kindest and most generous of parents, I was given some
money to invest in a pair of new, sturdy shoes, waterproof and all. Having little
time at my disposal for shopping I hit M&S before jumping on the train home, pleased
with my slightly pricey but lovely new boots, fitting all of the aformentioned shoe critera. On arriving home I burst through the door, pretty much making my
first words to my housemates the story of the shoes. I proceeded to spend most of
the evening (and part of the following day) spraying them with protective spray and
generally admiring them. I even took a photograph of them and emailed it to my dad.
I wasn't by any means unhealthily obsessed with the boots, but I really liked them,
and enjoyed wearing them.

So imagine my horror when getting ready to go out the following Saturday night, I noticed a small tear in the suede fabric close to the seem on the top of the right foot. So it wasn't big or particularly noticeable but it shouldn't have been there after just four days and looked to have potential to get larger. After some consultation with my housemate Andrew (whose patience and empathy were incredible) I resolved to return to M&S for hopefully an exchange. Imagine my horror when on arriving at the returns/exchange/ordering desk I learned there were no more shoes of this kind left in the store, or available for ordering online. Imagine my further trauma when calling various M&S branches across the UK to see could I order them from perhaps somewhere where my family or friends lived, and might be able to collect them for me. Imagine the most unneccessary upset when my efforts were to no avail. Imagine me recounting the story to all who would listen over the past week.
A horrible episode revealing to me the extent of my reliance on material items for my content though this was, my Boots trauma over the past week has been teaching me.
I have learned of the constant need to remind myself that life is not about what I can buy in the shops, what I look like or even how warm and dry my feet are, amongst other good things at risk of becoming ultimate things. I need some perspective.

Sometimes I think the kids in my youth group might have more of this than I do since they still remember the bible verse they learned during this year's holiday club back in August, which is pretty foundational to the Christian faith.
It goes, in some sort of children's bible version, something like this;

'Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as rubbish. All I want is Christ' (Phillipians 3.8)

I believe that this is true for me, because I am a Christian. I believe in a God who knows how I should live my life better than I do, but how prone am I to wander from my commitment to keep God's will and way as the foundation to all I do, say and think? How keen am I to fix my eyes on the goodness of God's gifts to me rather than the supreme authority, love and justice of the giver? I have been challenged to consider where my rationale for having hope, joy and contentment come from. Where do you find hope, joy and contentment?

Certainly the writer of the words above did not find his contentment, hope and joy in material possessions, physical freedom or an easy life, writing from prison under great persecution for his beliefs. Presumably no new suede boots, university education, freedom to go out and play in the snow, to say what he liked without persecution and easy close relationships with those around him then, Hence, his joy did not come predominantly from what he could buy, how he could look and his close relationships (although there is joy to be had there). So what is the ultimate for Paul, and what is the ultimate source of my joy, hope and contentment? He goes on to write:

'Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice' (Phillipians 4.4)

And I believe that the nature of people, the nature of God, and his promises made in Jesus Christ* are unchanging through eternity** and as relevant to me, as they are to Paul, and as they are to you reading. So my hope for Joy, is found only in the Lord. This is why they say, 'preach the gospel to yourself everday', and 'constantly remind yourself of the majesty of God'; because only he is worthy of such adoration. No pair of shoes can bring me the righteousness of Jesus Christ and a relationship with the true, living and loving God.

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand.***

*John 3.16-17, Romans 5.1-11, Ephesians 2.1-11
**Hebrews 13.8
***Hymn, "My Hope is Built on Nothing Less" (Edward Mote)

Saturday, 20 November 2010


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Monday, 18 October 2010

Mobile Phone Vs. The Bible..?

Ever wonder what would happen if we treated our Bible like we treat our cell phone?

What if we carried it around in our purses or pockets?
What if we flipped through it several times a day?
What if we turned back to go get it if we forgot it?
What if we used it to receive messages from the text?
What if we treated it like we couldn't live without it?
What if we gave it to kids as gifts?
What if we used it when we travelled?
What if we used it in case of emergency?

Oh, and one more thing … unlike our cell phone, we don't have to worry about our Bible being disconnected, because Jesus already paid the bill.

I heard this read out at church on Sunday, what a challenge to those of us who claim only to live by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, which is revealed to us predominantly through the bible God's very words.. I treat my blackberry as though I couldn't live without it, I would certainly turn back if I forgot it. Yet could I really say that I love the word of God as much as all that? And Jesus says 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God'. Am I living my life fully based on God's word or am I in myself quick to compromise my commitment to do everything for the glory of God alone. What does it mean to give Glory to God in every area of my life? I could have a good go at answering this question now, but more than I have done in a while I'm looking forward to learning more about how to apply God's words into my life at our new found Sunday night student bible study group.

Friday, 8 October 2010

ONE Leicester

So this weekend (after my one lecture this afternoon- life has somehow suddenly become a complete doss of leisurely breakfast watching Jeremy Kyle) I'll be heading west to Birmingham to hang out with my friend Alison Carter and a bunch more of our friends in honour of her belated 21st birthday. I'm going via the home city hoping to see my family,have a cuddle with my cat, pick up some shoes from my friend's house and avoid if possible any action that may or may not be kicking off in Leicester City Centre on Saturday.

I have read that a very small minority of people from the English Defence League will be staging some sort (I think static) demonstration in the city centre which will almost certainly be a very nasty display of racism towards the muslim community. Although it is great to speak out against this sort of thing I think the wisest thing for anyone wishing to counter their message of hate would be to avoid deliberately taking any action on Saturday, because from my little knowledge it seems the EDL group will surely relish the attention and any unrest caused in the city on account of their actions, and there is the potential to easily provoke violence.

However, I am encouraged to see that Leicester City Council, along with many individuals in Leicester, have been moved into action on the issue, organising certainly more peaceful and larger scale events today and Sunday allowing people to express their opinions to show unity against the racist messages brought by groups like the EDL. Marathon runners and the general public are invited to join in wearing lime green ribbons. If you are so pursuaded there will be a 'Hope not hate' peace vigil at the clock tower this afternoon (4.30pm) or a service held at Leicester Cathedral this evening for 'people of all faiths and none' (5.30pm).

Although I will be passing rather quickly through Leicester on Sunday afternoon, heading East for the harvest tea at church followed by much slobbing out and general recovery on the sofa, I am indeed half tempted to drop in and catch Billy Brag kicking off 'We Are One Leicester' festival proceedings on Humberstone Gate at 1 O'clock!

Sunday, 26 September 2010


So regretably I'm on a train heading east not nearly as quickly as I'd like it to with a fair few miles to go. Although I left my heart at home with my accordian and a much loved rainbow coloured tambourine, a small part of me is looking forward to learning some stuff. Having weaned myself back into education over the past couple of weeks with a job in a school, the prospect is not quite so frightening. Although I have to admit that whilst many of my friends have been working hards in Boots/Lloyds and various other pharmaceutical gigs, I've possibly been into a pharmacy once over the last 4 months. And even then this was only was due to an expensive creme d'solaire emergency on holiday in France.

Sadly it's getting noticeably colder, it will be october soon and the summer is officially over. It did almost surprisingly end with a bang though, with yet another epic weekend fusion of partying and various church related activities.

Friday night was exciting. As a few good friends from church, we have been promising a wild night out on the town together for possibly years now. On friday these plans finally came to joyful fruition as we headed out to Terrace followed by fanclub, even stopping along the way to meet the nice folk from the 'Jesus army' bus, which somehow I didn't even realise was part of Leicester's night life. We had coctails, giggles and lots of dancing before food on the way home. To make the evening's happenings more outrageous, Miss Deb Goodhead and Mr Nathan White positively peer pressured me to stay out until 5am..shocker! It was an evening of discovery as we soberly arrived and crazily danced at a rather shifty underground club I'd never even known about before. Amazing!

After a big trip to the co-op to buy such essentials as new teatowels, oven gloves and a tin opener, the joyful celebrations continued. I attended alongside many friends, the wedding of Pat and Don Smith! Having never really been to a wedding of anyone I know well (the last time being when I was about seven), it turns out I really like weddings! What a joyful day of singing, cake, catching up with friends and celebrating with the happy couple. I was still going over it all in my head when I got home! After church (yet more musical madness!) this morning we on behalf of all the youth stealthily and hilariously pimped out their honeymoon caravan with a big just married sign and some 'caravan raiders' challenges to complete along the way!

And now, here we go, to the east. So far third year is like first year but with much less preparation. Looking forward to rocking up at my new house in the not too distant future!

Ciao for now.

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Thursday, 23 September 2010

What I saw at the zoo

Today, I went to Twycross Zoo with some year 10 students from Beaumont Leys High School. It was awesome.

I saw some..





and many a funky monkey.


Tuesday, 21 September 2010

What I have been up to

A significant amount of time has passed since I blogged in the traditional way. I keep forgetting to take my camera places, but from what I can remember, this is how September has been so far.

The month began with a whirlwind trip to Norwich, where I had to return to take two days worth of training in preparation for my student associates scheme placement. I used this time to settle into my new house, and also had the opportunity to spend some time with my good friend Sally. We explored our new local areas together, met up with Mrs Chorlton and found that our respective new houses really aren't too far apart at all!

I've come to the conclusion I spend far too much time and money on train travel. This Norwich adventure was quickly followed by an even faster trip to the south coast, Hastings, to be exact, in honor of my old housemate Katie's 21st Birthday. It was an awesome trip, great to see some faces I hadn't seen in a while, and to engage in lots of dancing. Look at this last photo below..I love Beccy Twist. Although I needed to make a hasty getaway the following day, there was just enough time to visit the local church and nom some chips on the pebbled beach before dashing for the train home. I refused to leave the seaside town without a paddle in the channel! It was cold.

The following week flew by in a haze of tea, nothing much catching up with friends. I spent a few days with my Nanny, who returned from taking my Grandad's ashes to Ireland and stayed with us a few days. We watched a disproportionate amount of daytime television, and walked around the shops in Groby. The weekend following that flew by in a whirlwind of total madness. On Friday night, Ryan's 21st Birthday Party was fun despite some rain.Then Saturday marked the end of Groby URC's annual week of prayer. The obligatory Saturday night church praise party BBQ passed with loads of joy, singing, piano playing on my part and dancing. The Sunday morning was full of much the same, and Sunday afternoon brought the baptism of Tom, a friend of mine from church. This meant more worship leading, and a really joyful afternoon. It was great to share in Tom's celebration of his faith, particularly with cake, getting excited about possible future baptisms and jumping around on the trampoline in his back garden into the evening.

The week and part of a week since this wonderful weekend has been a working one. I've been privaledged enough to be working in the science department at Beaumont Leys School, Leicester, as part of the student associates scheme. This so far has been fun, and should be a good earner of the pennies. On Thursday I get to accompany year ten on a trip to Twycross Zoo, absolute win. Around this I've been dropping into various church activities such as Revelation, the youth bible study group which was the highlight of my week during sixth form. Despite being the grand old age of twenty, and often a leader to this age group, I stand with so much to learn from the discussions and absolutely love spending time with the youth! I also loved spending some time with Sian 'Slay' Moseley taking a walk in my trendy new nike high tops to Groby Pool, the village's finest night time spot.

After my first week at the school, it was time for yet another crazy weekend. Friday night brought Helen's 21st Party, Cosmopolitans and Rasperry Daquiris all round. We danced lots on the Top floor of Leicester's Superfly, it was wicked! Sad black cab syndrome quickly arrived when I realised I may not see these friends for a while now. Saturday brought a trip to Luton to see my Nanny, and an enormous much appreciated fry up completed by lots of tea, trifle and my favourite Marks and Spencers biscuits. We helped hang some new curtains before heading home quite late.

I slept until Sunday, (another relatively busy one!) went to church, and then went back to church in the afternoon to prepare for the 3SE evening service. We did what we used to do every month without fail, arriving for a music practice at three, jamming for a couple of hours and retreating to James' house for tea before the evening service was brilliant. The lovely Miss Jackie Williams, youth worker and now a friend from Desford came to speak on the evening's theme 'believing without seeing', an all round challenging one. Naturally the evening progressed happily to the Stamford Arms. Such is life eh?

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Norwegian Cod vs. King Crab

And today in school, where I've been working this week doing a Student Associates Scheme placement, a year 10 Btec applied science lesson began with this piece of genius. Brilliant, although I absolutely could not keep a straight face.

Groby Ink?

So, I'm still contemplating the professional implications of getting this, inked onto my wrist. The words mean 'sacrificial love' and 'justice' in greek, although i'm not at all convinced this translation here is right. Roughly..

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Accordion Dream

I was going to give ten biblical reasons not to burn the Qu'ran but let's not even go there. Instead, here's a long overdue photo of the instrument bringing me so much excitement over the last couple of weeks. Bought second hand for my mum, by my great grandmother in 1973, costing £30, this beautiful baby piano accordion having never been played by the rest of my family now falls into my adoring but more than slightly amateur hands

I've just realised the photo is confusing because I used a mirror to take it, but there are two octaves of piano keys to be played using the right hand and three rows of eight buttons for the bass, each corresponding to chords. Of these, so far I've only mastered the art of using about 4 of them. Any accordion wisdom would be much appreciated, my technique (though masterful in the key of D) is entirely trial and error.

So far I can play selected jigs, reels and hornpipes (mainly ones in the key of G or D), and a few rousing hymn choruses from Mission Praise. Along with the two or so famous bars from Edward Maya's absolute dance classic 'Stereo Love', my beginners repertoire is complete and certainly enough to drive my family members and new housemates into a state of insanity. For this reason I think I will have to begin keeping my sessions to home alone time!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

It ain't necessarily so?

Although I really enjoyed watching Jamie Cullum at the proms, I was reminded of a recent quandry. I would appreciate the thoughts of my friends, all faiths and none.

As a christian, I believe that whatever I do, I should do it for the glory of God. That is, I should not be pointing at myself to make myself look better, but pointing always to God, giving him the credit for all the good things he has given me and enabled me to do.

So if everything I do should be pointing to the greatness of God, this must include the words out of my mouth, right? The conversations I have with others, what I write in texts, emails,essays, blogs, tweets and good old fashioned letters. And, the words I use when I'm singing.

I'll happily be the first to admit that often I spend probably too long analysing the words of worship songs, for their theological accuracy when I should be concentrating on the reason I'm there singing them in the first place! It strikes me that if there were some words I did not entirely understand, or wasn't in exact concordance with, I might be more reluctant to sing them with such sincerity and joy.

On the whole however, in terms of what we say, it's easy to make God the most important thing using the words we sing in church; the songs we use are written for this specific purpose!

But here's the big question; If I pay so much attention to the words I sing in church,what about the words of the songs we sing when we enjoy the highlights of our ipods, listen to the radio, dance in clubs, or perform on stage?

It would certainly, certainly be too extreme to suggest in any way that Christians should not be listening to or singing along with secular music, but recently I have found my integrity challenged in this area; not in terms of what I listen to but in terms of what I sing.

Jamie Cullum performed an excellent version of George and Ira Gerswin's 'It aint necessarily so' alongside a company of superb brass musicians. However tounge in cheek, the song throughout details various episodes from the bible, suggesting 'the things that you're liable, to read in the bible, it aint necessarily so'. Asides the blatant theological issue with this, I have to say I love the song's lyrics, which include these diamond lines.

'Jonah he lived in a whale
He made his home in
A fish's abdomen
Jonah he lived in a whale'

Who wouldn't?

In light of a conversation on this subject earlier in the week, I considered my hypothetical self in the position of Jamie Cullum singing 'it aint necessarily so'.
For me to sing the song's major hookline...would that be to compromise my belief that the bible is God's word,true from start to finish and the number one way that we can know God? Or by choosing not to sing these words am I embracing a new form of legalism and undermining the freedom I have as a christian living under grace? The short answer is I just I don't know.

Perhaps out of any songwriter I can think of at the moment, I have been enjoying Frank Turner's lyrics the most. (I'm listening to his album 'Love Ire and Song' as I tap away on my trendy blackberry). His are certainly songs which require lashings of gusto and a level of lyrical sincerity to capture the spirit in which they were written. Having seen him live, there aren't really any half measures when it comes to the yelling of this line from an excellently crafted song called 'The Ballad of me and my friends'.

'and we're definitely going to hell but we'll have all the best stories to tell'

On Sunday night I singing was alongside a friend at a party providing some fairly rough and ready light entertainment for mostly close friends and their families. After some consideration I actually chose not to sing the aforementioned song, letting Sian work her magic solo. It's certainly not a song about the great hope we have as christians; and although singing other people's songs often involves an element of theatre, I made the call that for me to sing it with enough conviction and sincerity to perform would be impossible. Asides the witness of the words coming out of my mouth, singing the song, would possibly be to compromise my core beliefs as a christian and the spirit in which the song was written.

Having said this, realising a while later on the dancefloor that the pussycat dolls 'Buttons' and indeed most other songs that I love to dance to have lyrics with implications far from God's best plan for my life! So then am I not to dance, the response of a couple of Amish people I watched on a culture clash style television programme a while ago. I think not, for I would presumably have to sit alone in my room all night and day listening to Tim Hughes (a well known christian songwriter)or silence!

So where do we draw our lines in the sand? Do we? If performing perhaps to sing songs alongside a disclaimer, or to count it all fun and games and to put the discussion to rest. After all, we are in the midst of a diverse world created by God in his image, we are to live in love with all people, and this must include involvement with and embracing the creativity produced by the experiences and emotions of others?

But then if as christians we are to be 'in the world but not of it', 'living up to what we have already attained' letting our yes be yes and our no be no, doesn't our new life demand this radical stand against all that God hasn't planned for his people?

The most important thing is that of course, under grace, this discussion is perhaps pointless. These questions are not asked so that I can behave right, do all the right things and ultimately earn favour and forgiveness from God. They are asked from an already righteous stand point before God, because of what he has done for me. This isn't about following rules, in black and white, but looking at the cross, and learning to respond, asking 'how can I best glorify God with my life?'

All these decisions about what I will and will not sing are decisions not based on any rules in seemingly the greyest of areas. Neither are they specific to the issue of singing on stage. I could only ever sing christian songs but still use my mouth in gossiping about friends behind their backs, just as I could buy fair trade chocolate and tea but decline to lend a moment's attention or penny to a homeless person I pass in the street. I know there is much more to say on the matter.

This is the way I'm challenged and should continue to be challenged my whole life. Of course the answer to the above question is no, but in light of God's undeserved kindness to me, there is no need to want to carry on in the old way of living, the governing disposition of my spirit is a will to live for the greatest cause I know.

As with all choices about what I will say, how I will act and how I will respond to various situations, my question should not be 'what can or can't I do so that God won't be angry with me' but 'does what I'm doing or saying match up to the salvation and amazing status as a child of God that I have already been given?'

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Ephesians 2 (as found in the 'landlubber's manual', otherwise known as the bible)

I can't believe it was now a whole month ago at Maplewell, that I had the pleasure and privelege of looking at the second and third chapters of Ephesians* alongside an awesome group of young people.

If I'd have chosen my inital favourite part of the book of Ephesians on which to focus I might have picked the end of chapter 4 and the beginning of chapter 5, which talks mostly about how as Christians we should be living in light of what we believe. However, on another couple of readings, I began to appreciate more the brilliance of what comes before all this stuff. A friend reminded me that if we forget the first few chapters of Ephesians, all that we do afterwards, no matter how firmly we adhere to the back end of the book, is pointless! In short, if we have no understanding of what it really means to be a christian, the reason why we can live differently, and the cause for which we do so, then doing all the good 'christian' stuff is in itself worthless. The book of Ephesians both reminds us firstly what it means to be a christian - and secondly what impact our faith should have on the way we live today, in light of eternity.

Having never really done a talk-y bit (this sounds a more friendly way to describe it than calling it a talk and certainly a lot nicer than using the word 'sermon') as such before, this passage seemed a good starting point. I particularly enjoy the the first ten verses of chapter 2 which seem to overview the very crux of our christian faith.

Paul, once named Saul and a persecutor of christians, now writes as a follower of Jesus being held prisoner in Rome for preaching the very news he used to hate. It is this good news about which he writes in the book of Ephesians, a letter of encouragement to christians living in a place called Ephesus, now part of modern day turkey. Ephesus town was a wealthy port where people were generally pretty educated and people were writing all sorts of clever things; being a christian was probably to go against the grain.

Paul is writing to a church, to remind them of the huge change their new identity as christians brings to who they are, and the impact it has on how they are to behave. The first ten verses of chapter 2 sharply contrast the before and after of being first 'dead in sin' (or 'spiritually dead' as the youth bible translation phrases it) to then having 'new life in Christ'.

But what do these phrases mean? We might so often hear them thrown about, along with 'born again' and 'saved' in christian circles. If we're not careful we can end up using these words all the time without realising their enormous implications, in turn downplaying God, how great he is and the greatness of his gifts to us.

Let's imagine that my parents go on holiday, which a few weeks ago they did, leaving me to look after the house. To all intents and purposes, the house is mine for two glorious weeks. There are no rules, only that the house must be found upon the return of my parents, in the state which it was left. Two weeks later, the house is wrecked. There is my new favourite red wine seeped into all of the cream coloured carpets. All the handles on our new kitchen drawers have fallen off. The windows are smashed in and all of the radiators are leaking. I also borrowed the car which is now written off. When my parents return, are they angry? And is it right that they are angry?

In the first few verses of Ephesians Chapter 2, Paul (once Saul) talks fairly bleakly about us being once spiritually dead or 'dead in sin'. If our spirit is the part of us designed to relate with God, and we are spiritually dead, we are described as unable to relate to God as he intended us to. The passage says this is because of our sin, ('dead in sin'), put more simply, because of the way we have turned against God's plan for our lives and ultimate authority. Much like me messing up my parent's house when they left me home alone , we have been up until now, living in God's world as though we were in charge! Were my parents angry at my hypothetical house destruction? And was it right that they were angry? Certainly. So we are comparing the rebellion of all humanity away from God, to my (relatively small in comparison) act of rebellion in the form of trashing my parent's house. If my parents are right to be angry, how much more would God have the right to be angry at the rebellion of the the whole world? Ephesians 2 says we deserved to face God's anger, and rightfully so; we have a holy and just God who by nature then must be angry at our rebellion against his perfect plan for our lives.

However, we can not forget that the reason Paul writes this letter is to remind the Ephesians of the great change that God has now made in their lives! It's worth noting that Paul speaks to the Ephesians about being 'spiritually dead', 'dead in sin' in the past tense, as the recipients of his letter have had their hearts and lives changed. Now, there is hope. In the next few verses a dramatic turning point is given as Paul talks about being given 'New lives in Christ'!

Back to my hypothetical house sitting disaster. My parents return, and the scenes of devastation are unimaginable. There is certainly rightful anger involved. But for the million dollar question, despite the destruction, and their rightful anger, will they stop loving me? My answer here, is that they don't. So we are (quite crudely) comparing the unconditional love of parents, who are still human, only a reflection of what God is like, to God, the source of all, incomparable unconditional love. If my parents were still to love me despite me blatantly disobeying them, how much more love then does God still have for the whole of his creation, despite such a rebellion on an enormous scale?

For two and a half years (I am a slow reader at the best of times) I have been reading very slowly on and off this epic book by uber theologian John Stott, called 'the cross of Christ'. I'm only perhaps three quarters of the way through but it's helped as a useful reminder of why and how Jesus on the cross is so central to what we believe as Christians. Particularly when matching God's holiness and perfect justice system up with his unconditional love and compassion.

So If we believe the bible to be true, we have a God who as the perfectly holy and just creator of the universe can not tolerate our sin - a God who is rightfully angry at our rebellion. Yet we have a God who is wholly loving and compassionate to all he has made - a God who is unconditionally loving to rebels. Surely this is contradictory in the grand scheme of things? How can God be true to himself by retaining his rightful anger at the things in our world and our attitudes which go against his plan for us, whilst also showing us true unconditional love and compassion towards us in the form of forgiveness for these things and our attitudes of rebellion?

In Ephesians chapter 2, Paul explains. He reminds the Ephesians, 'For it is by grace you have been saved'. Saved from what? Saved from the consequence of our turning away from God's perfect plan and rejecting his rule and authority over our lives. The bible says, clearly that the consequence of turning against God is death, hence the Ephesian people are referred to as once 'dead in sin'. But indisputably, upon reading it, the overwhelming message of the whole 'landlubbers manual' (also known as the bible) is that 'the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.'

So what is this Grace, and how does it save us? One of my oldest friends Grace defines her name to mean 'undeserved favour'. I've also heard this acronym given for this word thrown around so much by preachers and people in the back end of the bible;


And here describes the painful yet perfect solution meaning that God is able to both maintain his rightful anger and perfect system of justice and show unconditional compassionate love to us who have broken the law. This is the crux of the christian faith and the ultimate expression of sacrificial love; we are given the riches of God, at the expense of Jesus Christ. to summarise, perhaps the most well known and most quoted sentance of the bible

'For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life'

If you were wondering why I previously refered to The Bible as the 'landlubbers manual' this is because I haven't quite dropped down out of the sky from planet pirate yet, where I have been this week having fun helping out with a children's holiday club back at my church in Norwich. Making, doing, singing and silliness have all been part of my every morning this week designed to most importantly teach primary school aged children what it means to be a christian and follow Jesus. They have truly loved it, and have certainly been learning.

The memory verse we have been learning together with the children this week comes from Phillipians Chapter 3, verse 8. 'Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as rubbish. All I want is Christ'. Each of the children can recite this from memory better than I can, and still could this morning at our family feedback service. If you pray, please pray that each of the children we have met with this week would be remembering all they have learned, considering it's truth for themselves and still wanting to know more about what it means to count everything else as rubbish compared with following the greatest captain, Jesus.

One particularly exciting part of the bible I had the great privaledge of reading with the older kids at holiday club is the bit where Paul and Silas (followers of Jesus and imprisoned for it) experience a humungous earthquake which knocks down the prison walls!** To cut a long story short, the jailor arises from his sleep and seeing possibly the joy/wisdom of the two men, runs in shouting 'what must I do to be saved?' Again, even for the untrained teacher, this bit is a joy to talk about because this is the very epicentre (apologies) of my belief system.

The two rapidly reply 'Believe in the Lord Jesus' - but to Believe exactly what about the Lord Jesus?

Rightfully, for turning against God and rejecting his ultimate authority, renouncing the fact that my creator knows better than me, I deserve nothing but the consequences of God's anger; my separation from God, my inability to relate to God as he had planned, death. But the bible says, whilst I have earned myself separation from God, it was Jesus, both wholly man and wholly God, who chose to die on the cross. In doing so, Jesus who had never sinned, sufferd everything which was due to me because of mine, ultimately the spiritual death Paul talks about in Ephesians chapter 2, separation from God the father. Any crucifixion involved immense physical suffering, and social humiliation. But the christian belief is that Jesus' death on the cross was not just a shameful,or tragic accident but a choice, part of God's plan to bring people back to himself. I believe that Jesus on the cross was taking the penalty I deserved. The sin debt I once owed, he payed. The separation from God I deserved as a result of my rebellion, he endured, explaining the significance of his words '"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?".

But truly God, he rose to life again, demonstrating power over death itself and with him his followers too inherit the gift of eternal life and a one day fully restored relationship with the Father and his creation.

This is what it means to believe in the Lord Jesus. That his death has paid the sin debt I owe, making me righteous in the eyes of God. Here there is grounds to be joyful in absolutely every situation, peace admist any trouble, and an assurance that God's goodness and mercy follow me every day of my life.

Thank God, that this salvation is not something I have to earn, because I could never. Thank God that i need not live life depending on my own strength or righteousness to impress a holy God - to do so would be to fail. Thank God, that this salvation is a gift! Thank God that I am to depend on the righteousness and strength of the Lord Jesus.


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

My work of Ibizan inspired art

So when friends aren't around, and there is no uni work left pending, and only a small amount of youth group type planning on the go, I have a few days spare in which to entertain myself. Almost immeadiately, boredom threatens. So I'm seeking to fill my time productively with those things I remember longing to have enough spare time to do whilst shut up in my bedroom/the library back in may learning about everything from the particle sizes of various types of aerosols to the many different forms of insulin available and what to do if the doctor forgets to sign the prescription amongst other world shattering situations.

Today I had a short scrap booking session, ordering online some bargainous photo prints to add in, and I also completed my first 'read it swap it' swap. Read it Swap it is a website designed for, you guessed it, swapping old books. It's as simple as offering up a list of books, waiting until somebody requests a swap and then choosing one of their books with which to swap with. I don't yet see how this is an improvement on the library service because it still costs for postage and packaging, but as they say 'you can't knock it til you've tried it' so I await my next package in the post with great anticipation.

Also on today's agenda was lots of tea drinking, university challenge, chilling with the cat, painting my nails (red, as usual.) spending too long on the internet reading theology blogs (what's the deal with that?), cooking dinner for my family and this evening sewing up a hole in a pair of tights (hopefully, good as new!) whilst watching a ridiculous 80's film called 'The Thing' with my parents. I even browsed a website which had loads of adverts on it for musicians wanted. I quite like the idea of being in a band again, or even doing more little chilled out jam/sing songs like the good old days. I fear, although I'm not sure whether I should, things getting a little dull. Perhaps this is just because i'm not really used to having so much time doing next to nothing, but I've been thinking about other things, little projects I could get involved in to mix things up a bit, either over the next few weeks or months, or even back at uni. Suggestions on the back of a postcard, please.

So tomorrow, there will be tea in abundance, although our newly tiled kitchen is still not quite back to normal. I may have to spend the morning consulting the pre prepared freedom board of rainy day activities. During exams I had fun with coloured pens on a large sheet of paper, writing down all of the things I'd like to do once the summer holidays were officially upon us. Our house in Norwich had at least 3 freedom boards (named boards to infer no obligation rather than using the potentially stress inducing term 'list') up on our respective bedroom walls , and mine is still in place. It will be interesting to take it down on my return in a couple of weeks to see how I'm getting on with all the fun things I had planned!

On the freedom board, I remember writing 'do a big painting', after being inspired by a programme Katie and I watched on TV, about Mattisse. Today I remembered this pledge although the painting shown below, a San Antonio Sunset, is just A4 size due to my cuts in spending at The Works. I did it with watercolour paints using my fingers because I don't have a paintbrush. Rock and roll. It looks a little as though the sun is setting into a mountain, but these were just intended to be darker coloured clouds. I am by no means an artist, and I realise that my twenty minutes of finger painting this afternoon looks like the contents of a primary school drying rack, but I quite like it! Certainly, with my perhaps too harsh scepticism of modern art, and everything being whatever you want it to be, this is a work of Ibizan inspired art.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Fun in France, the grace of God and an unusually quiet, reasonably uneventful week.

One unusually quiet and reasonably uneventful week on from Maplewell Hall camp, and perhaps I can just about say that I'm recovered from the crazy couple of weeks i'm about to recount.

First up, I had the enormous privilege to spend a week on holiday in France with fourteen friends. From Alison's house, we piled onto Jim's minibus at around 3am on the 9th July, heading for Newhaven ferry port. This routine has now somehow, amazingly become a normal procedure, this being our third holiday in lovely Tourville la Chapelle, a teeny weeny village found around ten miles from Dieppe. Still spoiled by a friend's parents allowing us to stay in their little holiday home and still as up for a good time as ever, we have mostly reached the grand old age of twenty, and have begun trying to appear a little bit classy with some formal dress,champagne, and cycling around the french countryside with loads of baguettes.

As holiday experiences go, I believe this to have been fairly unique. Arriving on Friday afternoon, on Saturday we headed off by bus back to Dieppe. Eventually, after several hours and much expenditure including pizza at the shops near to the bus stop, the bus arrived and we were able to go and pick up enough hired bikes for the tour de france 2010. We paid ten euros each for almost a week's worth of cycling - not bad at all! Sunday brought the football world cup final - between The Netherlands and Spain. In light of this, our holiday would not have been complete without a world cup fun day!

Mr Nick Loakes hosted the proceedings, whereby we were split into two teams, each taking up the challenge to sport adopted national colours for the day. This attracted some attention from locals who had the pleasure of spotting a small army of ridiculous looking 'spanish' and 'dutch' cyclists wearing red and orange respectively when we stopped for a picnic by the coast on a trip to the beach. There was fun in the sea, and I narrowly avoided lots of sunburn. High tides foiled the penalty shootout on the beach plan but this reconvened later on in the evening in Tourville la Chapelle's small park, following 'walking out of the tunnel', hand shaking, team photos and national anthems in the garden. The penalty shoot out was THE BEST and so much fun! I did not score a goal, but was so overjoyed to watch Lucie, who least expected it, bang one in. It was universally agreed that the world cup football match itself was a disappointment to watch, but we were kept entertained by a quiz comprised of both general knowledge and questions relating to Holland and Spain. Sample questions include 'how many bicycles are there in Holland?' and controversially 'name ten possible ingredients of Sangria'. See the team photos below.

You get the idea.

Monday brought another trip to Dieppe, and bidding farewell to Loakesy, who left us early to return to work. We had dinner (I had the 'fish that arrived' - quality translation skills) in a fishy french restaurant before heading home for a cheese and wine night. As usual, loads of cheese, plenty of wine. In short, the week was cycling, baguettes, sunshine, champagne and brilliant company. Nearing the end of the week, the girls decided to hold an awards ceremony for the boys, who generally treat us so well, and last year excelled themselves with a three course meal, champagne reception, table waiting and chauffer driven taxi services. So we held the first annual BAFTAS, that's a 'Bros Awards For Things And Stuff' ceremony, awarding medals (cardboard covered in tin foil), fanta citreon, and much coveted cigars for both good and bad behaviour throughout the week and general life. Awards, presented in the categories of 'best', 'worst' and 'most', included 'most wine consumed throughout the week' and 'best arrow-word knowledge' and unfortunately 'worst bladder control'. Let's not go there. Maxi dresses, jazz and group photos were the order of the evening, and when it got a little chilly, we ajourned inside to partake in a very small amount of ballroom dancing.

The weather was fine all week, and caused me to purchase some extra over priced suncream. In order to find this I unfortunately had to break my summer holiday rule of avoiding all pharmacies but such is life. It only rained as we cycled our bikes back to Dieppe for the final time (which was not a nice rainy experience) but overall not too obtrusive at all. We sheltered in a kebab shop with really poorly cooked chicken and bad decor. Je voudrais un kebab sil vous plait. I drank loads of tea and was reminded of how much I really appreciate the aesthetics of wind turbines. I am so thankful for such good, beautiful, lively friends with whom I've stayed close with over the past couple of years since finishing school. Without being all slushy, when spending so much time with them it isn't hard have a great love for each of them. I hope this will only increase and that I am continually challenged to show an unconditional love to them just I have been shown such great love by God.

Less than 48 hours after our return, having spent a couple of nights home alone (because my family were on holiday in Crete) and suffering severe friend withdrawl symptoms, Megan arrived at my door and we packed up her car with all sorts, ready for Maplewell Camp 2010! With tambourine, giant painted prayer clock, cyber man costume, a few bibles, a couple of heavy suitcases, several hymn books and a dispproportionate amount of christian literature we were the first to arrive at our destination, Maplewell Hall school. A residential school during term time the building is perfect for our 14-18s annual summer camp. The days are full of activities, ridiculous challenges, outrageous tribe dancing, but there is a strong focus on teaching in the form of bible studies and evening sessions. Being part of it all is an enormous privaledge and more fun than you can imagine. For evidence of this, see the below photograph of the female leaders on dress up night - which was themed 'Alphabet Soup'. ie. you dress up as something beginning with the same letter as your name.

Yes, Deb is wearing a duvet. And I am wearing another cardboard box covered in tin foil on my head. And Becca is dressed up as Big you do!

We went ice skating, to Playzone (an adult sized wacky- warehouse style play area - absolutely amazing.) in Lincoln, splashed around doing various activities at the national watersports centre in nottingham and took part in an excellent photo challenge treasure hunt around the unsuspecting village of Rothley. I particularly enjoyed Kayaking in the Trent, and surprisingly, being genuinely assaulted by an appropriately named assault course. Asides the activities, we did bible studies using the 'Noise' 'Dust' 'Rich' and 'Trees' Nooma DVDs produced by Rob Bell et al. and had four main evening sessions during which we looked at the book of Ephesians in four talks. Having never watched the Nooma DVDs prior to what little planning I'd managed before the week, I wondered what they would be like. Despite mixed reviews from various people I've spoken to, I watched with an open mind. Although not really my learning style, our bible study group on the whole seemed to like the format as a useful point for beginning discussions and the dvds were a valuble resource for us.

Broadly, the week's programme was 'faith in action' or as I looked at it 'what is our christian faith and how should it affect the way we live our lives?'. Ephesians, a book of the bible containing a letter written from a guy called Paul, a christian involved in the set up of the early church, to a group of christians in a place called Ephesus, is so great for this. There is no way we can start looking at how we as christians should live our lives without first looking at the foundations of what we believe. Without an understanding of why we are to live a certain way, our efforts become wasted on the pointless and impossible task of merely living according to a moral code. Ephesians first looks at what it means to have a new life in Christ, then what it means to be part of God's community, then how we are to live in light of all that has come before. I was privileged enough to give one of the evening talks, on Ephesians chapter 2 and 3, but focusing mostly on the first ten verses of chapter 2 which essentially explain what it is to be a Christian. Having never really done anything like this talky bit before I found this a very exciting place to start! I'll save the exciting details for another blog, because this one is getting fairly long!

I returned home exhausted last Saturday afternoon to an empty house (parents still on holiday) to sit down almost immeadiately on the sofa and not get up for several hours. At first I was slightly too zombified to really recognise the inevitable and well known severe camp/friend withdrawal but as the evening wore on I was glad that a few of my friends who had also been leaders during the week returned to join me for the evening. We watched the film 'UP' which is an amazing film, consumed a chinese takeaway, a glass of wine and lots of strawberry laces from the co-op.

Since Maplewell, I have been mostly in Groby, and although I love home sweet home, things have been a little quiet. This has apparently been my token week of the year where I remind myself I am actually, technically employed. I've been working in the library for a few hours here and there most days, and apart from that, overall justspending seemingly too much time sitting around not doing all that much.

My quiet week has had a few moments where dare I say it boredom has threatened, which got me doing some thinking. Obviously it's not possible as not all friends live just around the corner, but how much healthier would our friendships be if instead of having a browse through someone's photographs online, following them on twitter, or checking to see if they've updated their status recently, we actually called said person up and invited them round for a cup of tea, out for a drink, for a wander out somewhere if the weather is nice, or for dinner if times are a little bit easier. How much better would our spare time be spent investing in our relationships and really getting to know and love our friends better- there is no substitute for spending time with someone.

Similarly, from a Christian point of view, how much healthier would my relationship with God be if I were to invest those spare moments in prayer, communicating with my creator rather than letting quite literally the whole world know, using my admittedly amazing blackberry, that I'm on the 29A bus into town and it's quite busy. What if during the holidays I spent the same amount of time reading my bible as I do almost wasting time reading the status updates of people I haven't seen since primary school..

Thus, I've instigated not quite a facebook fast but more of a 'facebook diet', because I really want to try and make the best use of my time. I've been hanging out with friends here and there. My friend Becca passed her fourth year medical exams therefore celebratory drinks were in order, and pizza along with dancing games on the wii were on the cards as a post Maplewell early celebration of Megan's 20th. I've just begun re-reading Pete Greig's 'The vision and the vow' which is proving to be just a challenging the second time around, despite only being a small chunk of the way through so far. Like the good old days I sat with a friend in the park until the early hours of the morning, swinging on the swings and discussing the best way to sort out the world's problems. As usual, we came to no solid conclusion except perhaps this one unsaid.

'He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.'

This morning I was excited to go to church, where I particularly enjoyed playing the newly installed super-techno Clavinova recently purchased. I was the first to play it and even I, never a fan of a digital piano or a keyboard over an acoustic piano, have to say it's amazing! I went along with Mum, Dad and Alex to The Greyhound in Botcheston this afternoon for dinner, which was a great time. On our return I promptly fell asleep for a couple of hours and then with my mum watched more television than I probably have done for the whole year so far put together, including extreme makeover, snippets of '16 and pregnant', a biography of Daniel Craig, and an old David Tennant (love the guy) episode of Doctor Who followed by the current new drama of Sherlock Holmes, starring a guy who my mum kept banging on about also being in 'Amazing Grace' who also to look at reminds me lots of a friend of mine. All of these TV programmes were mildly entertaining to me and the cat, making good background noise for the writing of this blog, but really this is what I mean about making better use of my time!

Tomorrow will bring a few hours working at the lovely new all singing all dancing New Parks Library Centre, which provides quite a different environment to the building I was used to working in each Saturday during my time at sixth form. If the swimming pool is open I might jump in there, but if not i'll return to the mad house where we're getting a new kitchen floor in tomorrow and the poor cat will be dancing around trying to avoid getting his paws stuck in cement etc. etc. I hope to join some friends at the pub in the evening for a catch up too.

And, I think, this brings this blog right up to date!

Adios Amigos as they say in Ibiza
Au revoir, as they say in France.
See you in Glory, as they say at godcamp.