'continually reproducing the life of Jesus...'
About to start Uni this September? Getting ready to take on your Final Year? Here's a blog from Rachel on her experiences studying Primary Teaching in Bristol.
My name is Rachel, I have just finished a primary education degree at UWE, Bristol and am starting my first teaching job in September! To sum up my University experience in just one word is tricky, the past three years have been three of the most incredible years of my life. I have learnt so much about myself and God.
I remember leaving for Uni and everyone telling me just how much fun I’ll have and how excited I should be, but all I felt was dread. Dread that I wouldn’t make friends, I wouldn’t find a church and most of all missing my Mum. I won’t lie to you, the first few weeks and months were hard, but it soon began to settle down and I began making friends and happy memories.
In the first few weeks of Uni I clung to God like I never had before. I’ve always grown up in a Christian household and knew God was there but the relationship I’ve built with him over the last three years has saved and changed my life. It’s easy for me to sit here and tell you to not worry; God will be with you, enjoy yourself because it goes quickly, but Uni can be daunting. You may be just like me and feel homesick for the first term, or you may be the complete opposite and can’t wait to get out of home. Regardless, try to enjoy every moment, make the most of lie-ins and binge watching on Netflix!
There have been some challenging times over the 3 years for me, most of them not related to Uni work. Some of these included family life, sorting out accommodation, and living with others. I love people, but living with people you don’t know, or haven’t known for long can be difficult. I spent most of my time in first year cleaning up after my housemates. If you’re the person cleaning up, keep going and may God bless you. If you’re not cleaning up, stop making mess! When it comes to living with people, try to have friendships outside of your housemates so when things get difficult you have somewhere else to get away from it.
But one thing that I will hold onto is my relationship with God. I went to Ebe Church on my first Sunday at Uni and have been going ever since, I simply felt at home. FIND A CHURCH IT’LL MAKE EVERYTHING ELSE EASIER! I remember on one of my first Sundays we talked about the grace of God and what he did for us. In that moment I had a revelation of God’s love and grace and after that night, I spent hours on my own with the Bible and some music listening and praying, crying and laughing. I went through a very tricky year where everything in my family changed, but God held me. Sometimes all I wanted was a “Mum hug”, but that wasn’t possible, so I turned to God and in those moments I realised that He was all I needed and he held me when things were too much. God challenged me a lot over the years about forgiveness and loving those who are hard to love. Sometimes I was up for the challenge and other days not so much. But something I realised was that none of us are worthy of the love of God which is why it is so incredible, so who am I to not love someone? After a long 2/3 years God has transformed my heart and has made it possible for me to love others.
Final year students – make a timetable to make effective use of your time (preferably colour coordinated), make sure you give a significant portion of that time allocated to God remain involved in church and take breaks to enjoy your final year of student life.
Now that Uni is over, I’m excited. I finally get to do what I’ve always wanted to do and can’t wait to see how God is going to continue to use me and grow in me.
This month at The Gathering we took on the tricky-ness that is fasting!! I don’t know what your first reaction to the thought of fasting is? What is it? Is it something you have done or do?
This quote from Richard Foster is an interesting one to start with in thinking about this...
“In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times...
What would account for this almost total disregard of a subject so frequently mentioned in Scripture and so ardently practised by Christians through the centuries?
... the constant propaganda fed us today convinces us that if we do not have three large meals each day, with several snacks in between, we are on the verge of starvation.”
We chatted about how we see food in our affluent western culture, mostly as something we are entitled to, whatever we want, whenever we want it, and how we can often have an unhealthy relationship with food.
There are loads of examples of different people fasting in different ways in the Bible.
Here are a few you might want to have a look at...
Daniel 1:8 & 10:3
Have a read around these verses and figure out...
What’s happening? Who? How long? Why? Are there any obvious results?
Have a read of Matthew 6:16-18 and see what Jesus has to say about fasting.
Jesus talks about fasting in the same ‘breath’ as giving and praying (verses 2-15).
Is He suggesting they are all equally important parts of living out our faith? If that was true then, is it still relevant now?
Jesus says ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. He was talking about a practice that was common among Jews at the time. He doesn’t say ‘if’ and He doesn’t say ‘must’ – should we read anything into this?!
Here’s another quote from Richard Foster:
“Where are the people today who will respond to the call of Christ? Have we become so accustomed to ‘cheap grace’ that we instinctively shy away from more demanding calls to obedience? Why has the giving of money, for example, been unquestionably recognised as an element in Christian devotion and fasting so disputed? Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money.”
“At times there is such stress upon the blessings and benefits of fasting that we would be tempted to believe that with a little fast we could have the world, including God, eating out of our hands.”
So why do you think we might/could/should fast?
How might we get fasting a bit ‘wrong’?
How might we apply fasting to our culture today? What could we fast from other than food?
“The central idea in fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity. There is nothing wrong with these normal functions in life; it is simply that there are times when we set them aside in order to concentrate.”
Don’t walk before you can run, it’s OK to start ‘small’.
Be aware of who you are and what is ‘good’ for you.
Give it a try? Learn as you do it?!
The aim of this is to challenge us and get us thinking about fasting! It’s a personal thing, we need to figure out what we’re doing and why, it’s between us and God. But it’s also something we can learn about, try, and do together.
As always, keen to hear your thoughts and experiences!
(Give us a shout if you want to read anything else on this)
At ‘The Gathering’ this month we chatted about worship as a spiritual discipline.
Maybe start by thinking about what worship means and looks like to you...
One of the things we talked about was ‘expectancy’, and how we approach any kind of worship (not just singing on a Sunday!).
Richard Foster says, “A striking feature of worship in the Bible is that people gathered in what we could only call a ‘holy expectancy’.”
After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly. Acts 4:31
“As those early believers gathered they were keenly aware that the veil had been ripped in two... They gathered with anticipation, knowing that Christ was present among them and would teach them and touch them with His living power.”
Have a think about how we might cultivate this attitude holy expectancy.
What might that look like for you in day to day life?
If we really believe that Jesus is alive and present among His people, what practical difference would that make to our approach to worship?
Sometimes it’s good to get a bit practical! Here are some ideas that might help in the experience of worship...
1. Learn to practice the presence of God daily – the ‘gathered’ experience of worship will become a continuation of what you’ve been trying to do all week long.
2. Try lots of different experiences of worship.
3. Prepare yourself for gathered worship.
4. Submit to God and what He might want to do, in His way.
5. Be dependent on God.
6. Relax within any distractions, be thankful for them!
7. Learn to offer a ‘sacrifice’ of worship – even when you don’t feel like it.
Are any of the above particularly needed, helpful or difficult for you?
Maybe pick one or two of these and try and do them with God this week.
Let us know your thoughts!
At The Gathering this month we continued with our ‘Spiritual Disciplines’ theme, having a chat and think about ‘Service’.
So what is service? And why could it be considered a spiritual discipline?
Have a think and answer those questions for yourself! .
Serving others isn’t something that always comes naturally to us, sometimes it involves giving things that we enjoy and like doing, sometimes it involves sacrificing a lie in to do stuff that no-one notices!.
Here are some definitions of ‘self righteous’ and ‘true’ service...
‘Self Righteous’ service
Comes through human effort
Is impressed with itself, especially when seen by others
Picks and chooses who to serve
Affected by moods and the ‘feeling to serve’
Comes from relationship with Jesus
Welcomes all opportunities to serve, big or small
Content with being hidden
Serves because there is a need
Is a lifestyle
What do you think of these definitions? Have a think about your motivations when you serve – are any of these particularly relevant/easy/difficult for you?!
Jesus gives us a load of good examples of what serving and putting others and their needs before our own looks like - John 13: 1-17 is a well known story. Before you read it, this is what Richard Foster says to help set the scene...
“When Jesus gathered his disciples for the Last Supper they were having trouble deciding who was the greatest. This was no new issue for them...
The disciples were keenly aware that someone needed to wash the others feet. The problem was that the only people who washed feet were the least. So they sat, feet caked with dirt. It was such a sore point that they were not even going to talk about it. No one wanted to be considered the least...” (Celebration of Discipline)
With this story, and what Jesus does and says, in mind, what does (or could) service look like in our day to day lives? (Not just in church related stuff)
And how could our attitude towards serving affect how we treat those who serve us?
Experiment this week by starting each day with this prayer:
Jesus, show me someone I can serve today.
Help me get creative in how I think about service. Amen.