Saturday, 31 December 2011

Songs for the new year

And so, another year down (another year closer to seeing Jesus face to face!) I find myself looking back over 2011, which has been full of work and play. Highlights have included New Word Alive, turning twenty one, Dorset Venture, a month in London, new housemates, holidays and hundreds of cups of tea.

Although I’m done with new years resolutions, I do have hopes for 2012; all being well, this is the year that I finally graduate, take my driving test and start a grown up job. I’m both sad and scared about leaving the university bubble behind, but I am also genuinely excited about the future. I often struggle with this, (finding a fine line between expectant hope of heaven and absolute flat out apathy), but I’m forced to recognise that God has good places and plans for me.

When I think about 2012, if I’m honest I’m excited about finding the dream job, the move to Nottingham, the prospect of possibly getting my degree, improving my baking skills, extending my glassware collection or buying a car. However, what I want to want more than anything else this year is this; to love Jesus wholeheartedly and to align my priorities with the kingdom of God.

Yesterday I stumbled across Psalms 70 and 71, finding myself both captivated and challenged. The writer fully trusts God as a mighty, righteous, redeemer – his exclamations so accurately describe the awesome combination of God’s love and perfect justice displayed to us at the cross! In a hymn I’ve been enjoying recently, there is a line that proclaims; ‘Jesus, all my trust is in your blood!’. I love it - but inside my head, I have to ask ‘-Jesus, is all my trust really in your blood?’, ‘Am I really wholeheartedly aligning all of my priorities with the kingdom of God?’ The Psalms present a similar challenge – can I really sing from the same hymn-sheet as a writer who says to God ‘I have no good apart from you’ (Psalm 16)?

In answering these questions, inevitably, I realise that I fall so far short. I don’t want God more than anything ever, but I want to want God more than anything ever. However, I was helpfully reminded recently by a visiting speaker, that Jesus is the perfect psalmist – he is the one who can truly say that his priorities are in line with the kingdom of God. What’s more, it is his righteousness I inherited when he cancelled my sin and paid for my unbelief at the cross. We can praise God then, that he is our mighty, righteous, redeemer!

Knowing Jesus, we are free before God to join in with the awesome words of Psalm 70 and 71, in which God is refuge, rock, salvation, mighty, righteous and worthy to be praised for all of our days. Here is an encouragement to forget everything else and proclaim, in the strength of the Lord, His righteous deeds alone.

Note to self - forget shoes, baking, degree classifications and moving house. Here are some resolutions for 2012 and beyond. Happy New Year!

Psalm 71 verse 14
But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.

Psalm 70 verse 4
May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Christmas Lullaby

For me, Christmas means that God is with us. Christmas means that God, the creator of the universe, came to live on earth as one of us. Not to show us how to live, or teach us God's rules but to die so that we might live. Thirty three years later it was all about God's ultimate self-giving love, shown through a sacrifice which, for those who will believe, swapped darkness, slavery and sin for light, liberation and new life in Christ.

This Christmas, Mary (Jesus' mum, that is) is my new favorite person to read about in the bible. I'm sure that as a normal girl, she was as far from God's absolute holiness and as imperfect as I am. Yet, her swift willingness and obedience in response to God's word and work is amazing to me.

If we think the nativity is a cosy christmas bed-time story we'd better re-read, briefly, what happened to Mary, my latest bible heroine, who was incidentally still a virgin (despite her engagement to Joseph, a carpenter). According to Luke, Chapter 2, this is what happened...

Angel: Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you *Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be* Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end

Mary: How will this be, since I am a virgin?

Angel: The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.

I am down with miracles, angels and seeing God make impossible things possible, but I have to be honest - if I were Mary, I would be absolutely bricking it, pinching myself and waiting to wake up. I've been wondering what made Mary so cool with the virgin birth.

Fair enough, the bible says that Mary is scared when the angel arrives. She also asks an entirely logical and practical, question. But, what amazes me, is that she actually doesn't seem to question the legitimacy of God's message at all. Although overwhelmed and confused, Mary doesn't disbelieve that the impossible is possible with God. Although scared, Mary fully embraces the part God has etched out for her in his mighty plan. She simply says 'I am the Lord’s servant, let it be to me according to your word'.

Perhaps Mary's unswerving desire to trust God's word for her future (and the future of the world) stemmed from an understanding of his faithfulness in the past. Perhaps the angel's final words to her, 'for nothing is impossible with God' reminded her that God's word is unfailing. Almost certainly she had read the old testament scriptures (eg. Isaiah 7vs14), God's promises about a coming king. Whether or not she understood the gravity of it all, she trusted him fully for the future.

I am excited because I believe Christmas means God with us, come to die so that we might live. This is God's mighty plan fulfilled through Mary, but ultimately in Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem. Also exciting is that God today chooses people to be part of his work on earth.

For Christmas, and forever, all we need is Jesus. Lets pray for Mary's unswerving desire to trust God's faithfulness for the future and her unwavering belief in God's possible impossible. We need this swift obedience and readiness to respond to God's word and work.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

From lethargy awake!

I don't have much to say except a resounding 'amen' to follow the words of epic hymn-writer Frank Houghton, who wrote 'Facing a task unfinished' in 1930.

Firstly however, I have to be honest and admit that at present I miss the zeal of my eighteen year old self. The overriding disposition of my heart wants to say 'all I want is Christ', (because I know that only Jesus is worth my wanting), but I can't ignore my fruitless deviations, my sinful, often stubborn and entirely stupid resistance to God and his purposes.

To want God alone, I need to be reminded every day of who He really is. God's glory, the fullness of his whole being and the nature of his character, is revealed most clearly at the cross. At the cross we see a God who is gracious loving kindness itself- the giving of his gifts does not depend on anything I have or haven't done. Since I have fallen so far short of being who God created me to be, this is just as well. I simply don't deserve the gifts, never mind the giver. But this recognition of my absolute inadequacy shouldn't amount to defeat, since my identity and status before God no longer rest on who I am in myself, but on the new identity I have in Christ. Here is a God who died and rose so that I could know him and live despite it all.

And so, I need God to reveal more of his character to me as I read about him in the bible, and I need to be real about the challenges this sets me. I want to know God more, and rejoice in loving the Lord, truly knowing he is all that I have and all that I need. Whilst I stumble and struggle in this over angst and apathy, I need to ask God to help me to have faith in his never failing faithfulness. The bible says that even youths will become exhausted, fall down and give up, but those who wait upon the Lord will find a new strength, since he never grows weak or weary.

In light of this, here is my favourite hymn this week. A roaring encouragement to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, rely on God alone and keep on keeping on.

'Facing a task unfinished,
That drives us to our knees,
A need that undiminished,
Rebukes our slothful ease,
We, who rejoice to know Thee,
Renew before Thy throne,
The solemn pledge we owe Thee,
To go and make Thee known.

Where other lords beside Thee
Hold their unhindered sway,
Where forces that defied Thee,
Defy Thee still today,
With none to heed their crying
For life, and love, and light,
Unnumbered souls are dying,
And pass into the night.

We bear the torch that flaming
Fell from the hands of those,
Who gave their lives proclaiming
That Jesus died and rose.
Ours is the same commission,
The same glad message ours,
Fired by the same ambition,
To Thee we yield our powers.

O Father Who sustained them,
O Spirit Who inspired,
Saviour, Whose love constrained them,
To toil with zeal untired,
From cowardice defend us,
From lethargy awake!
Forth on Thine errands send us
To labour for Thy sake.'

-Facing a task unfinished
Frank Houghton (1930)

Friday, 23 September 2011

Hold unswervingly (tales of summer..)

Despite four months holiday, I'm not feeling rested at all. Having shared breakfast today with some close friends and finished the day with a few cups of tea in good company, I'm partially prepared for my fourth and final year at university. This will commence on Monday - in Norwich, so I need to get a move on! After a glorious four day train fast I'm back on the railroad tracks tomorrow, suitcase in hand. In the past, I've often felt unready to return to university at the end of an amazing long summer like this one, but today I am almost looking forward to resu ming some sort of (regularly irregular) routine.

I could try to sum up my whole summer holiday experience in one mammoth blog posts, but this is so not happening! It's far more efficient to live life than to blog it! In summary; trains and planes, holidays and rainy english summer days, catching up with old friends and making new ones, barn dancing and god camping, tea drinking and thinking about pharmacy. I've spent some time in Leicester and Luton, worked for a fruitful week in Norwich running a children's holiday club for 5-11s, and for ten days by the seaside in Dorset with a group of older young people. The seaside town Swannage was amazing, but the ultimate privaledge was spending so much time chatting with girls who were learning the implications of the fact that God's grace is free; we can neither earn it nor or lose it. Birmingham, Loughborough and Milton Keynes have also been good! Earlier this week I paid a productive flying visit to Nottingham, where I will now be moving to next year to do my pharmacy pre-registration year...I'm seriously excited about this! Which is an exciting development in itself.

A month in London was amazing; fun times and freeloading with friends, writing and sightseeing,attending conferences and pretending that I know how to use semi colons. Add to this feeding ducks, fundraising, dancing and drinking rum based cocktails, singing, baking, tubing, studying the gospels of Mark and Luke, mastering the art of accidentals on the harp, playing bingo with my nan and a casual bit of fancy dress wherever possible. Picnics in the park, Ghost the musical, bowling and BBQs, a disco boat and cosmopolitans on the red carpet. Absolutely manic in some senses, but I've lived to tell the epic tale of God's never failing faithfulness through it all, and his transformation of my weakness into his opportunity

Where I am weak and only just willing, he proves strong and evermore able to do immeasurably more than I can ask or imagine. I can't say that I don't struggle every day to keep my eyes fixed only on Jesus, but at the root of everything I still see that he is faithful. I'm inconsistent and apathetic, prone to wander from giving God the glory he deserves, but when the cracks inevitably show, I thank God that I'm called to trust not in my own faith but in his faithfulness to bring me hope in Jesus.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10.23.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

London Calling

Alright, long time no blog. What neglect, but what a busy time! You can read some brief descriptions about some things I've been doing on my PJ Online blog.

Since I last wrote, I've been on holiday to Corfu (living it large and soaking up the sun), digging deeper into mark's gospel with 14-18s on an action packed camp in Dorset and 'going for gold' with a children's holiday club at my church in Norwich. I've seen more than one young person come to faith in Jesus Christ and learned loads myself along the way. I've spent some time at home cuddled up on the sofa with my cat Winston watching House and I've baked a few cakes here and there. I haven't learned any japanese (a summer project yet to get off the ground) but I've enjoyed catching up with friends.

I've been bowling more than once, partied on a boat and attended yet another barn dance. My most recent expedition has been beginning 4 weeks worth of work experience with The Pharmaceutical Journal. So far London living is treating me well thanks to a friend and her very kind family, the work is challenging and yesterday I spent a wonderful day with friends seeing sights in the big city. I loved the London eye and the natural history museum!

I just watched Doctor Who from last night. I liked it! I especially like Karen Gillan because she’s ginger, and I was admiring her green nail varnish. I might treat myself to some! I’m just about to finish my hospital pre-registration application form. I’m procrastinating until the end and still have a couple of big decisions left to make! As usual, I don’t know what to do! But I'm keeping it as casual as I can and trusting that God is sovereign.

Up until now, life has taken some turns which have surprised me and when I look back it's clear to me that all the wildcard choices have come up trumps for his reasons. The more I look back and think about how little clue I had when it came to doing my A Levels, choosing whether to go to uni and deciding what to study, the more I realise how much God's absolute wisdom is demonstrated in me. The fact I still have choices to make whilst playing my part in God's perfect plan is mind blowing but amazing all the same!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Street Spirit

I spent a glorious yet slightly overcast and somehow exhausting day yesterday helping complete 30 second questionnaires on the subject of Church with happy smiling locals as part of Groby Village’s Street Fair! An absolute gift and the perfect opportunity to positively exploit community spirit to get people talking about Jesus and yet I still feel we’re reluctant to really use it as much as we might.

Generally in life I’m treading along the thin line which separates genuine zeal and disheartened apathy, wondering if this is just how life is in the (almost) grown up world. My enthusiasm simmering just below the surface is controversially not content with selling bookmarks with the Lord’s prayer printed on them when the vast majority of potential buyers have no idea how it is that we as Christians can come before our holy God and call him ‘Father’. How come we can give out lollies and paint kid’s faces with relative ease but we don’t think it’s appropriate to bust out the free copies of Mark’s gospel that have been sitting in the church loft for the last ten years?

On the other hand, part of me just can’t be bothered to reject good old fashioned inertia and this comfortable, well tried, tested and always waterproof holy huddle. In the holy huddle there are rarely awkward conversations about whether ‘good people’ really go to hell or moments where we feel so out of our depth that we’re forced to recognize the absolute sovereignty of God. Sometimes I think that maybe I just haven’t grown up enough and I’m just yet to realise that I should give up, but I know this easy life isn’t the life we’re called to as Christians. How can we be encouraged to more actively be involved in sharing the gospel (through what we say and do) and seeing God’s kingdom truly expand?

After a long day and a few dances to finish it off (second ceilidh for me in a week!), I simply had to come home for a supposed early night. Reflecting on the day's conversations, my surprisingly sunburned face dirty from smudged black face paint reached the following broad and rather generalised conclusions;

1. People in this village are all over community spirit, not scared of Christians and more willing to talk about Jesus than you might expect

2. People in this village know about church activities but have no idea what it means to be a Christian.

3. If people in this village could ask God one question, the most frequently asked is simply ‘Why?’ reference to the presence of suffering and evil in the world, wars, famines and bad things happening to good people. This closely seconded by ‘What’s the meaning of life?’ outweighed any other question asked.

4. People in this village would welcome the opportunity to find out more about the Christian faith if church did more events of this nature in future.

Although my sample size is relatively small, data qualitative and certainly not statistically tested, these conversations certainly count for something. In light of our universal call to preach Jesus Christ as Lord, what will we do with these rough and ready nuggets of info from a community so needing to know the living God?

Monday, 20 June 2011

Summer lovin' and Birthday barn dancing

I’ve just been kicking back with the fam watching a trashy crime drama. This is fairly standard practice of late, though I’m much more interested (for some reason) in documentaries about prisons. It’s been three weeks since I finished my third year exams I’ve been loving guilt free tea parties, breakfast dates, three BBQs per weekend, feeding the ducks, hanging out in cafes, regular cocktails with special friends and birthday gatherings galore. Here's some photographic evidence..

This week has been particularly exciting since on Tuesday I turned 21. As if an all day girly tea party in the garden complete with strawberries, champagne and homemade chocolate brownies, dinner out with the immediate family, and a little night out including a slight excess of cream based beverages wasn’t enough, this weekend has been an outrageous festival of fun. Grandparents + some Norfolk road trippers + a church crowd + neighbours + family friends + old school bezzies + excellent musicians = absolutely loads of tea drinking, cake and most of all a cracking barn dance! There isn’t too much more to say on the subject except that I’ve had just about the best time it’s possible to have in the space of two days. It was great to see such a good crowd having such a good time and generally getting involved! Apparently the village is having a street fair and ceilidh next week?..just saying. Despite the recurring feeling of simultaneously running an old people’s home/drop in centre and cafe/catering company, the rising of my domestic goddess status meant stress levels were low and the Flaxfield close festival of fun ran smooth as could be. I was totally spoiled by everyone and really have milked my 21st Birthday for all it’s worth, this morning herding the house guests off to church where yet more tea and cake were on the agenda after the service! Having waved everyone off, despite a busy family afternoon and church this evening, I’ve actually had that almost forgotten friend-withdrawal-coming-down feeling, which was once a regular occurrence following exciting occasions like church camps and school trips. If you’ve experienced this you’ll know exactly what I mean. There’s also a strange feeling of knowing after three years at uni, although I’ve another before graduation, to some extent things won’t quite ever be the same with good friends graduating and getting on with their lives. Woe to pointless nostalgia though, because life has thus far proved that real friendships can definitely survive long distances and time constraints. Day trips and weekends away are super underrated in my life so more of these must happen, and at the very worst I’ll see friends like Andy Simpson in glory.

It’s been great catching up with the girls from home home and the crowd from Groby URC. Tea and/or wine and cocktails sloshing everywhere as per usual. Absolutely love them and gutted we’re not going on holiday together this year but I can already see Ibiza 2013 in my dreams.

Despite all the frivolity that’s already been going on, It’s still relatively early days in terms of 4 month long university holidays. As ever it will be busy (I hope!) with short bursts of doing next to nothing for days on end. I can’t wait for that since it’s a luxury. As usual I’ve made an informal list of potentially fun/useful things I could be doing so that if boredom threatens I can jump into action and paint a picture, learn a few national anthems on the accordion or master the art of simple Japanese phrases to help me along the way in conversation with a new friend. Lately I’ve been baking, and received a stack of useful kitchen equipment for this for my birthday, so the plan is Japanese speaking domestic goddess harp babe by September, providing there’s time to fit in some casual employment, less casual employment, beaching it up, happy camping, holiday clubbing and plenty of the aforementioned day tripping/weekends away! No Boots summer placement for me (to be honest, I’m quite pleased they’ve rejected my application two years running!) but I’ve really got to sort out my pre-registration place over the summer. I also thought I might continue my professional development by watching all seven series’ of House. I’m going to Corfu for two weeks, helping out on a national Urban Saints camp in Dorset at the end of July which should be fantastic and working with some folk from church on a holiday club for primary school kids in August before heading off for what can only be described as some actual employment in London for a bizzle towards the end of the summer.

Exams this time around were understandably a bit of a disaster. Moaning about them is a bit boring though I’m not confident that I’ll have passed them all. There’s a high chance there might be one or two left for me to resit in August but I absolutely can’t call it yet. I’m living in hope of passing but thinking that even if I have, because my whole academic year was unavoidably an absolutely massive cram I’ve probably got to spend a fair bit of time re-learning the stuff that I haven’t actually committed to long term memory yet anyway! Oh, why did I pick a course which requires synoptic learning for life? On the plus side, I might walk out of it with an actual job. An additional plus; despite the stress of it all, my fears and the some initial symptoms I’m yet to develop full blown actual shingles which is definitely good news!

Potentially I’ve got a long ol’ summer ahead and I’m desperate not to waste it. Reject apathy, and say yes to everything (within reason) are the only rules. I’ve got about three weeks of spare time from now until I go on holiday, so I’m looking for things to do, people to meet (old and new) and stuff to get involved in. I have an outrageous amount to learn, probably just enough to do to keep me busy and possibly some academic heartache coming up which could be a struggle. But as a friend reminded me today ‘I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength’ (Phillipians 4.13), I’m a child of God by grace and he is in control. Good news indeed.

I’ve got a cat on me since although the festival of fun has been winding down there’s still a bed deficit in the house leaving me downstairs in the cat’s bedroom on a supposedly ‘superior’ air bed. It’s an upgrade from the floor unless Winston sticks his claws in and deflates this John Lewis bad boy. I’m so allergic to him but thankfully Bodycare’s slightly overpriced OTC Loratadine 10mg OD seems to be doing it’s thing quite nicely.

Grace and peace to all in a bun dance X

Monday, 16 May 2011


Not much to say here. Brief lull in the absolutely abhorent exam timetable = an evening off + definite lie in tomorrow. In my head is all you can possibly wish to revise in a week about the cardiovasocular and renal system, the gastrointenstinal tract and liver, nutrition, the central nervous system, immunology, and all the associated infectious disesase. Not to mention the drugs, their design and delivery into the body. Cramming has played a vital role, stress has been minimal but sheer exhaustion is certainly upon me. I have three days until the next exam, which is all about being a pharmacist! Despite the academic trauma of epic proportions, I'm learning lots.

In the past at this time of year I've learned about the peace which comes from God and is beyond all our understanding, but now I'm learning how much my priorities need to be super-imposed onto his. My life was bought by God at a price therefore is not mine to live for my gain but for his. When I've been given some heavenly perspective this week I've been reminded that God's plan is so much more than me and my trials and tribulations(though I still have a role to play and hard work to do!).

What does it mean to count everything but Christ as rubbish, and to align ourselves with God's priorities? I can't say (because my brain = mush) but I'm learning something more important than pharmacy. Here are the words to a powerful hymn called 'Jesus I my cross have taken' I learned at New Word Alive that I've been finding useful this week as a prompt to remember God's bigger picture and my role in that.

Jesus I my cross have taken,
all to leave and follow thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
all I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition
God and heaven are still my own.

Let the world despise and leave me
They have left my saviour too.
Human hearts and hopes deceive me
Thou are not like them untrue
Oh whilst thou doth smile upon me,
God of wisdom love and might.
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
show thy face and all is bright

Go then earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster scorn and pain
In thy service pain is pleasure,
with thy favour loss is gain
I have called thee Abba Father,
I have staked my heart on thee.
Storms may howl and clouds may gather,
all must work for good to me.

So then know thy full salvation
Rise o’ver sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine.
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven canst thou repine?

Haste thee on from grace to glory
Armed by faith and winged by prayer
Heav’ns etenal days before thee
God’s own hand shall guide thee there.
Soon shall close this earthly mission
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days
Hopes shall change to glad fruition
Faith to sight and prayer to praise.

hear it here:

Thursday, 28 April 2011

THE Royal Wedding

Tomorrow, whilst we’re drinking tea and either happily watching British history in the happening or complaining about tax-payers money being spent unnecessarily on the wedding of two strangers, Kate Middleton will marry Prince William. She is the ultimate WAG, almost from a normal background, inheriting all sorts including inevitably one day the title of Queen. The whole country is decked out with union jack bunting and revision procrastination seems to be coming predominantly in the form of endless Royal Wedding related TV documentaries. I’ve spent most of this week with my Nanny, and both she and my Granny up in Scotland are mad far it. So am I (a little surprisingly) and not just because a relatively little part of me would love to become the next princess and marry Prince Harry, the royal with the most appropriate hair colour. With all this talk of The Royal Wedding, I can’t help thinking about the ultimate up and coming, eternal union.

In the bible, imagery about a perfect and faithful husband is used to describe the relationship between Jesus and his collective followers, referred to as ‘the bride of Christ’. As the perfect husband, Jesus has shown immeasurable sacrificial love to the church by giving himself as a sacrifice. His sacrifice was necessary to pay the penalty for each individual’s sin, providing a means by which God’s righteous judgement is satisfied and we as fallen people may enter the kingdom of God. If we believe, not only are our old lives gone with Jesus’ death, but with his resurrection comes new life bought at a price (and therefore owned) by the King of the universe with whom we are united.

God hasn't planned marriage as an institution for oppressing women without a voice but it is designed to model Christ’s loving relationship with the church. When I grow up, If I marry a man who wants to model his love for me on the example set by Jesus’ sacrificial obedience to the cross, I expect it would be a freedom and joy to respond submitting to such leadership. The metaphor provides the ultimate expression of marrying rich. I’m realising more and more that without Christ I have nothing, and being united with Him I have everything, sharing in his inheritance as the son of God. If as Christians, we are each united with Christ, then in follows we are united with one another. This is the Church, otherwise known as the kingdom of God or the bride of Christ, existing now with the deposit of the Holy Spirt and a role to play, in light of the glory still yet to come.

On THE Royal Wedding day there will be no illness, angst or apathy amongst the people of God. No division over secondary issues, hurt feelings or moaning about particularly lengthy sermons. No judgement faces, inconsequential squabbling over hymns, how to play them or supposed theological high ground. As we wait for the big day approaching, let's press on keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. By his grace and for his glory, let's continue living exchanged and changed lives until his work on this earth is done.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’.

-Revelation 21: 1 – 3

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Christ plus nothing.

Last week I went to New Word Alive, a christian conference held at Haven, in Pwhelli, North Wales. It was my first time at this particular event, and I genuinely loved it every minute! Unusually having no stewarding/youth related role to fulfil made for a lovely change, meaning the experience was purely a holiday one. (Discounting some early morning emailing and pretending to read some notes on molecular pharmaceutics.) There was plenty of time for catching up with very old friends and making new ones whilst eating jelly, drinking tea and/or wine, playing adventure golf and frolicking in the sea. I was definitely the most naked person on the beach on one swimming occasion although this wasn't difficult considering the overcast weather!

The main meetings were full of lots of sung worship which I really enjoyed. In addition to the certain and glorious biblical truth found in the words to the songs which were sung, and therefore their super encouragement, singing alongside so many others helps to point me towards thinking about (in perhaps the smallest little way) what living in God’s new creation might be like. Will there be singing? I hope so. But ultimately there will be people (too many of them to count and myself included) giving Jesus all the glory. In terms of teaching, I went along to about three epic bible talks every day, so I can certainly say I used the opportunity to learn something.

From new word alive I have taken away lots of things to think about and ultimately marvel over. I want to seek more actively an eternal perspective not based on earthly things but on hope found in Jesus alone. I want to reject apathy (off of this amazing/inspirational t-shirt some guy was wearing)and follow the advice of whoever wrote Hebrews chapter 12 when they wrote;

‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God’. (Hebrews 12;1-2)

God is so much bigger than I realise! Whilst all of the above, and all I know about God is based on his limitless grace, how easily I misunderstand the way I am made to relate to him. How much do I even without realising it put my faith in my own faltering faith, rather than God’s unchanging faithfulness! (Hebrews 11vs11 shows me that faith is a response to seeing that God is faithful.) I can easily remember that I saved by the work of Jesus’ death and resurrection alone, but what about my life now lived out daily as a child of God? How easily I can forget that I now live as a child of God, still by his grace alone. The beginning of Galatians 3 has some words on this.

'You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?' (Galatians 3:1-3)

I am certainly quick to forget that there is no such thing as a good or bad christian, however up to date or behind I am on my youth group planning. The Gospel isn’t about what I do, but about what God has already done. Specifically, the gospel is about what God has already done in the person of Jesus Christ. My relationship with God doesn’t go up and down depending on what I do, but it depends upon the perfection of my substitute.

I have changed my mind about getting a tattoo. I mean, that if I were going to get a tattoo tomorrow (or as a post graduation present to myself) I have changed my mind about what I would like it to say. The words now, might read

‘Christ plus nothing’

Because this is the grounds for my relationship with the living God. Nothing I can do will make God love me more or less because he accepts me solely on the grounds of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, which was made on my behalf. Without Christ I have nothing, and there is nothing more. Below are the words to a quality old hymn written about the same stuff!

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.

When darkness veils His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood
Support me in the whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

pharmaLIFE: blogging pharmaceutically

So, I've earned a spot blogging on the PJonline website. Another time commitment to squeeze in and an additional meaty CV filler arising as a symptom of the new zeal for clinical pharmacy I seem to be experiencing.

It would seem I ended up training in this profession a result of process of elimination, accidental logic and some encouragement from others. In all of it I can also see God's awesome sovreignty. I liked science at school, and had an interest in working with people. I didn't want to be a doctor, but when I stumbled into a department open day, pharmacy seemed to fit. Although always working hard and often enjoying the work, a quiet reluctance has thus far been ever present with respect to my long term life choices. So this genuine interest of late, in my degree and it's relevance to the world of work has naturally taken me a little by surprise!

This is not to say that my current enthusiasm will continue long term,that I will work as a pharmacist forever or even far beyond pre-reg because genuinely God only knows what will happen. But what I am saying is that I have an interest in pharmaceutics, and sometimes I am amazed at the novel things people have thought of to try and get problem drugs into the body. I like pharmacetical care planning (well, I think I do) because now I feel like I have some clinical knowledge, the prospect of it to the lives of real people (and keeping them alive) does not seem so foreign. I like medication, I like people, I like talking, I like helping. Therefore I like helping people by talking about their medication.

I am, at heart, quite geeky. Other symptoms of this recent enthusiasm have presented over the past few weeks. I went to a student Interprofessional Learning Conference last week, and had the interesting experience of attending and taking part in The Great Intercollegiate Pharmacy Debate held at KCL over the weekend. I sometimes help out on pharmacy open days showing prospective students around the uni and i even considered applying for a summer research project. I have pharmacy related 'evidence of esteem' coming out of my ears. Just as well; I need all the coursework marks I can get considering those pointless ones we loose for emailing in a tesco team roles questionnaire 5 minutes late.

I'll maybe be writing more about these pharmacy escapades, and the pharmaceutical wonders which amaze me a bit more in my new blog, found at .

Monday, 21 March 2011

Jazzing, jiving and living the amish life.

It's been about 6 weeks since I wrote a blog. My 14 year old blogging
addict self is disgraced. Life at the moment is simply and sadly a little
bit too busy for such regular blogging escapades!

I spent most of the weekend just gone in Leicester, snuggling up beside a
lovely radiator writing up a year's worth of evidence for my year 3
pharmacy practice portfolio, thinking about how much I really don't like
CPD. That's 'Continuing Professional Development' to anyone blissfully
unaware of reflective essays, skill development and the like. Very. Very.
Dull. On the plus side, I happily spent the weekend with my immediate
family in honour of my Nanny's 78th Birthday, and I slept for 12 hours on
Friday night. Win. I cuddled the cat and played the piano; privileges my
lovely house in the ghetto of West Earlham, Norwich just can't offer.

I could write a whole lot about everything I've done since week 4 of the
UEA spring term. This is inevitably going to turn out quite lengthy. So,
not at all in chronological order, I'll cut it short, skim through the
high/low lights, and try to expand upon only the most dramatic/challenging

*for exciting but relatively un- world changing events
**for hearing God's voice, personal challenges and epic learning curves

*I spent a weekend at the end of February visiting Sheffield for my friend
Sian's wild birthday celebrations. This was amazing, since despite
spending all my hard earned money on taxis ferrying drunk friends to and
from unknown destinations in the wee small hours, I had the opportunity to
catch up with lots of my besties from Leicester over dinner and getting
ready, see lots of associated mutual friends and experience Yorkshire's
biggest LGBT club night. When we woke up on Saturday morning it was
snowing (!). Not that Leicester or Luton are on the way back to Norwich
from Sheffield, but I decided to whilst roughly in the area, venture
homewards, see the parents, and then head south for an epic fry up and
lazy afternoon with my Nanny. There was just enough time to spend Sunday
morning with the good folk at Groby United Reformed Church before nom-ming
down another humongous dinner with the family and heading east again.
Perfect(ly a little bit mental!).

*I made and ate an excessive amount of pancakes, not only on pancake day
(when amazingly my house mates and I amazingly had our 9am lecture
cancelled!) but the Sunday preceding it with brother Laurence and sister
Katie post church, and with the children at the youth group I help out at
on the following Thursday.

*I had the enormous privilege of singing along with the music society big
band at their annual (and my favourite of the year) Jazz in the Hive
concert. I jumped at the chance to sing Michael Buble's arrangement of
'Feeling Good' and managed (after struggling at the first rehearsal) to
apparently do quite a good job! As the band completed their encores I was
even called on to sing again, since the song is also a favourite of theirs
to play. Awesome times.Video evidence can be found; although a little out
of sync I'm thankful to whoever made it as I was ab
le to show my Nan at the weekend, who was loving it.

*I've extended my baking repertoire beyond the default (but apparently
amazing) chocolate brownies. I can now make orange and sultana cake,
although zesting oranges and squeezing out the juice is a little bit of a
faff, and I'm still not sure how to stop the sultanas from sinking right
to the bottom and going crispy.

*I've spent some really valuable time with good friends I don't get to see
so often, particularly some I have the privilege of calling my brothers
and sisters in Christ. I spent an evening with Dave, his stories however
they are, are always of encouragement to me. Last Saturday afternoon was
one of drinking tea and eating cake with Fran in the Forum, which was long
overdue catch up and particularly great since she introduced me (after our
three years in Norwich) to the city library. I've even started reading the
book (fiction!) I took out!

*My friends keep turning 21. Whilst waiting my turn, and planning a barn
dance for the occasion in June, it's been great celebrating with all these
folk. Most recently Zoe Matthews, my lovely old housemate from last year,
James Pannell who managed to extend his birthday across a week's worth of
varying celebrations including jelly and ice cream, and Grace
Constance-Main whose parents treated us to their abundance of pizza
express vouchers attained from Tesco.

*Despite adopting more of a hermit lifestyle, I've been on a fair few
happy nights out and about. Last week was St Patrick's day and a few
Saturday nights of dancing at the LCR have been fun. A couple of weeks
ago I went along with James' rabble to the wild west themed night which
was another 'getting reading in the congregation hall toilets with Sally'
occasion after a busy day of being on campus for ~20 (long) hours. Epic as
ever. On Wednesday I went to see The Mariners Children who played
alongside Coco's Lovers and local band Grenouilles at Norwich Arts
Centre. Grenouilles, some friends of my friends, and therefore friends of
mine, genuinely played really well which made for a great night.

**My laptop broke! This affected my life and times far more than I could
have predicted. The majority of the uni work I've ever done, presentations
I was most of the way through prepping and all of the photos I've taken
since about 2008 disappeared entirely (never to return) along with
apparently the functionality of my hard drive. Disaster. First lesson
learned? Always back up. After a stressful weekend in the library, I
waited (not very patiently) until the following Friday when Dell finally
managed to send an (actually really nice Terry Pratchett fan-boy)engineer
to replace my hard drive free of charge under the amazing warrantee my Dad
had the ingenious foresight to buy following some previous trouble.
The apparent trauma of my amish week was exacer-bated since it came
directly after a week of house-related disasters including a flooded
bath-room, power cut, internet outtage and broken freezer. Having survived
relatively unscathed, I won't bore the world with further details of my
personal techpocalypse, But I'm sure you would think my world had ended.

Having no access to my work from home was a major cause of stress, since
every spare moment needed to be spent in the library trying to block
out background noise and fight off competition to use computers at peak
times. Second lesson learned? I have realised just how much I depend on
technology to do my work, and how much I depend on my work for my
identity. If I'm up to date on my coursework, (a rarity due to the heavy
demands of my course) I feel content. I rarely get nervous, but if I have
done well in a presentation I can sleep peacefully come the evening.
Equally if I've got piles of unfin-ished/unstarted work or I don't get
such good feedback from a teacher, I'm inclined to feel stressed,
disappointed or even a little angry with myself for not doing better. My
to do list is so often (and quite wrongly) the cause of and comfort for my
daily life's dramas. As a christian, I'm challenged and encouraged when I
recognise this attitude. I know that however I might feel, my identity
doesn't come from what I do, or what I don't do. Does this mean I
shouldn't use lists if I find them helpful? Surely not, but meanwhile I'm
asking the holy spirit to help me see Jesus as my only source of hope,
comfort and uncircumstantial joy. Hasn't God transferred me from the
dominion of darkness into his glorious kingdom of light? Doesn't my help
come from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth? Isn't the peace he can
bring far greater than my understanding and Isn't he the source of
strength for those who wait on him? The words of Paul found in Phillipians
chapter 3 resonate, as I want to know more of what it means practically to
live in and for Christ Alone.

''But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of
Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the
surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have
lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be
found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the
law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that
comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know
the power of his resurrection and partici-pation in his sufferings,
becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the
resurrection from the dead'' - Phillipians 3.7-11

**I watched a couple of TV programmes which challenged me. One was about
some celebrities visiting the slums in Kenya's Kibera, the other about a
British woman going to work as a midwife somewhere similar. I was
overwhelmed by how much I didn't care.

What I mean to say, is that I do care. I do care about people. I pray and
I give some money to charity. But what about when I turn off the news or
programmes like the ones I described above? What about when the preacher
stops preaching and I'm going about my normal life? What about when I go
to Sainsburys, get some beer and trifle and cuddle up with my housemates
in our relatively toasty house? What do I care about then? Is my heart
aching every day for the same things God's heart aches for? Am I doing all
I can to act justly for the people in God's world? A hymn we sometimes
sing, includes these words;

'heal my heart and make it clean,
open up my eyes to the things unseen,
show me how to love like you have loved me.
break my heart for what breaks yours,
everything I am for your kingdom's cause
as I walk from earth into eternity'

In truth, my heart is hard. I am still more likely to cry about my
computer not working than Jesus' perfect response to suffering and sin in
the world he loves. Jesus please cultivate more of your compassion in me

*I'm considering what I might do with my life. I think I would enjoy being
a pharmacist in some capacity. If I want to do this (which I know enough
to know I apparently do) I have to apply for pre-registration placements
soon! It's worth noting this won't be until about July about
planning ahead...this is what pharmacy does to you.

In terms of hospitals, I'm wondering about Nottingham, Cambridge and
Birmingham, staying in Norwich or indeed lovely Leicester. I've always
liked the idea of living in Nottingham. Whatever people will say, I've
never been involved in any shootings and I wouldn't mind being a bit
closer to my family. Coming round to the idea of community pharmacy a
little, I might apply to the big businesses (Superdrug gave the best
freebies...) and some of the jobs in the smaller independent pharmacy
chains which exist only in the south of England. Why not go and live out
in the coun-try/Essex/Sussex/Devon/somewhere entirely random and far away?

Ultimately I have no capacity for such big and immediate decision making.
I'm not even sure how to do it. It's a sticky subject and up for debate,
but time will surely tell...exciting!


Monday, 14 February 2011

UEA Christian Union Events Week!

The activities shown have made for a very exciting couple of weeks. I have been greatly encouraged by continual reminders of God's grace, provision and faithfulness to us as a group, and to me personally. I've been privaledged to have some great conversations with both randoms and close friends, and excited to see so many people getting involved with what God is doing. By an almost disasterous accident and God's awesome sovreignty, our lunch time events were all held in the Union Blue Bar..a massively central venue on campus, drawing a great crowd of people each day. Many people listened in, had a good time, ate free food, brought questions with them and lingered to chat afterwards, which is just what we want since we're seeking to help people investigate the claims of our Christian faith, and to address the common objections people have as barriers to finding out more.

A host of evening events were similarly well attended and responded to, and the gospel was spoken. On Thursday evening I was thrilled and terrified to be part of 'Grill a Christian' - an event providing opportunities for people to bring questions about the Christian faith to a pannel of Christians, thankfully the rest of whom were a little older and much wiser than myself. I have rarely been so scared but when I am scared, instead of relying on myself, I am more likely to lean on God, who is entirely faithful. It was a great evening, with questions about everything from evolution to judgement, 'Is God capable of Sin?','Do you believe in Karma?' and 'aren't all religions the same?'. Awesome opportunities.

So if you pray, please pray for our continued work on campus at UEA both through Christianity Explored, and our every day relationships with those around us. Pray that our friendships and contacts with those we've met over the past week would be sustained, so that we might love them and ultimately share with them more about Jesus! Pray for changed hearts, minds and lives!

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13.34-35

Happy Valentines Day! <3

Thursday, 27 January 2011

More harm than good?

‘Are statins effective for the millions of people who take them?’ asked the BBC last week in response to recent research findings proposed by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The Daily Telegraph website claims that millions of patients are taking statins 'needlessly', with an apparently greater potential to experience more harm than good. Whilst talking to an older relative prescribed Simvastatin for primary prevention during the week, my opinion on the matter was asked.

A collection of evidence based medicine, lipid lowering drugs, research skills critical appraisal and patient counselling lectures sprung vaguely to mind. After the briefest of conversations with my housemate and fellow third year pharmacy student, I came to the earth shattering conclusion ‘it’s probably fine’. But when isn’t this sort of thing a somewhat grey area? If there’s such a thing as exact science I doubt we’ll find it when weighing up the risks/benefits of using statins for primary prevention.

After attending a workshop on cardiovascular risk assessment this week, I told my aforementioned relative to check out two equally crude cardiovascular risk calculators online. Have a look yourself (try or ), or play with the epic smiley face patient decision aid tools found here .

I can’t face delving into hard facts and numbers to investigate the matter further. However, I did scroll down the heated (by no means representative) barrage of online responses to the Telegraph’s slightly sensationalist take on things. It's clear that media attention of this nature has a direct implication for pharmacy practice. Patients have concerns, and generally want to know what’s going into their bodies and why. Patients need to be assured that healthcare professionals care about the outcome of drug therapy from every day patient perspectives.

We should be ready to address seriously all of the worries patients have about side effects and any long term risks that arise. The more we encourage patients to get involved in decisions about their care, the less likely people will be asking questions like ‘Are all the profs doing statin research working at Norwich Uni and hiding all the evidence?’. Genuine,quote of the day. As future pharmacists and healthcare professionals generally, we need to take some responsibility for helping patients and the public become better aware of medicine and healthcare issues relating to them, benefits, risks and all.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

'Glory, Hallelujah...There is no God?'

Some familiar questions..

As a christian, music lover and sometimes a performer, where do I stand when I consider the songs I will sing? Does it matter if I swear on stage? Am I comprimising my core beliefs by singing secular songs blatantly opposed to what I believe is true? Or am I to enter into the spirit of performance, suck it up and get over it all? To what extent do I need to believe the words of the songs I sing?

The subject has been brought back to my mind quite sharply, by a favourite musician of mine. I often think to the songs of Frank Turner when considering all this nonsense.

The reason why we love the words to other people's songs, is because they can resonate with our own lives, who we are, what we believe and whatever situations we might be experiencing. Frank Turner seems to write about reality.
Just about half of what he writes resonates strongly with my life as twenty year old girl who loves people, music, grabbing life by it's throat and living it to pieces (his words there, not mine). Like most of my friends of all faiths and none, I seek justice, I have my views on politics, and I'm keen to see (and have at least some minor influence on) how society turns out around me. The other half of what Frank Turner writes (predominately the bits which include yelling lines such as 'definitely going to hell..etc), as a Christian I simply wholeheartedly disagree with.

The song which has brought this epic discussion to my mind is the ironicly titled 'Glory Hallelujah' which launches after a while into an enormous chorus of 'there is no God'. It's a great song, but as a follower of Jesus, there's no way I can personally justify singing this line in any context. This was an easy, quick decision and hardly surprising since there is nothing subtle about the song which is undisputedly contradictary to biblical truth, and clearly the singer's most overt expression of disagreement with the christian faith. However, I don't by any means think this song should necessarily by cited as Frank Turner's most contraversial set of lyrics when considering the claims of Christianity.

What about the track 'I still believe'? It's another good tune, a rousing chorus with words concluding 'Now who'd have thought, that after all, something as simple as rock and roll could save us all?'.

Don't get me wrong, I love 'guitars and drums and desperate poetry' (although sometimes the latter is a little angsty), but is Rock and Roll going to be the one thing which defines my entire belief system and identity? I love my dancing shoes, I love singing and making a joyful noise with the piano/guitar/accordian/violin/harp/whatever, but I can't pretend for a moment that it's this which will (in any context) save me.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!”

The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.(Acts 16.25-31)

So thank you Frank for the challenge, and for the music- I really love it. But this is what I still believe. I love Rock and Roll, but how much greater and joyful it is to know my identity is found in Christ.

And, since I haven't earned my salvation, and I don't maintain my status before God by what I do, there are indeed no rules about which songs I can and can't sing as a christian. I have a love of music, a voice given to me by God and he will graciously grow my integrity if I let him and want to put his glory above my own. I needn't worry about trying to earn the love and forgiveness of God by what I do, only ask God to help me to recognise more and more that these things are already given to me in abundance as an uncomprehendable and undeserved favour through faith in Jesus Christ who died and rose alive again. Glory, Hallelujah!

Monday, 10 January 2011

I'm at the bus stop, having just had the following conversation with an unknown year 8 pupil.

Me: What did you have last lesson?

Student: English

Me: how was it?

Student: alright, we're doing The Simpsons

Me: *stunned into silence*

How, is that a thing?

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