In church, we often refer to ‘mountain top moments’ and ‘being in the valley’. If you’re not familiar with this language, being on the mountain top means to be having a really good experience. Perhaps you’re at a summer conference; the sun is shining, the worship is great, you feel the Holy Spirit in every seminar, you have a notebook full of notes from the talk, you’ve bought a load of books that you’re so excited to read, you think, “ah, this is so much better than what’s at home”. You’re having a mountain top moment.
Being in the valley is the opposite. You can still experience God in the valley, but everything is darker, heavier and harder. Perhaps everything is going wrong, one thing after another, and although you know God is there, you don’t understand what He’s doing and that’s painful.
I think there’s a third ‘place’. I think this third place is one we’re most often at, but gets recognised and appreciated a lot less. This third place is ‘the path of the mundane’. It isn’t the spirit-filled youth event with lots of young people giving their lives to Jesus, but it’s also not when you’re running a youth event that has one problem after another, you’re burning out and can’t see God in the project anymore. The path isn’t always easy, sometimes it’s a bit rocky, a bit steep, sometimes there isn’t enough shade or it rains, but it’s fine. It’s the mundane. It’s the youth group that happens every week that you don’t see anything happening in. That’s not to say nothing is happening, or that it’s going badly, you’re just not seeing it. Or it’s the sermon you give, and you don’t get any response from it. Or it’s just your commute to work, your tidying, your preparing.
I wanted to be a youth worker since I was fourteen years old. I remember the day that I voiced this, and class-mates telling me that it wasn’t a proper job. When I imagined being a youth worker, it included the big events, constant conversation with young people and constantly seeing growth and change. It included only mountain-top moments. I never imagined making 4 mugs of hot chocolate every Sunday evening, or sitting at my desk trying to work out how to print on labels for an entire hour, (and then still getting it wrong). I didn’t imagine finishing youth at 9:30pm and then packing away for a further 45 minutes. None of this stuff is bad or unenjoyable. Okay, maybe the label-printing-mishap was unenjoyable. But it's just the mundane. I didn’t imagine God being in my mundane, because I didn’t imagine having a mundane.
There is so much beauty and so many blessings to be had on the path of the mundane, but it’s like we’re always focusing on the mountain top, desperate not to find ourselves in the valley, that we forget to appreciate the beauty and blessings.
I challenge you to write down three mundane blessings per day for the next week. Found a bargain in wilko? Had lunch out with a friend? Made a nice dinner? Slept well? Checked everything off your to-do list? Had a couple of regulars at your youth group? Had a word that might have been from God? Shared a sermon, made a little mistake, but all-in-all, it went alright? Write it down, recognise it and be thankful.
You’re walking along on a path. It looks a bit like this:
Above you is the mountain top experience.
Below you is the valley
You’re walking along but your hands are covering your eyes so that you can't see. Little do you know, there are flowers growing out of the rocks beside you. There’s an army of ants working together, carrying leaves so much bigger than they are, just passing you now. The sun has just come out from the clouds. It’s a little steep and there's a big pile of rocks to stumble over, but it’ll get easier soon. Your friend has joined you and put their hand out with a cup of water and a chocolate biscuit. Oh look, a beautiful, big bird has just flown past!
But you’ve got your eyes closed, worried about being back in the valley and expecting the mountain top, that you’ve missed the blessings on the path of the mundane.
As a noun, 'wonder' means to have a feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable or unfamiliar. As a verb, it means to desire to know something, to feel curious.
Recently, I feel like God is really reminding me about having childlike wonder. Rather than being a blog post of what I think to be all the answers, brimming with my thoughts, it is a blog post with reflective questions and resources such as bible verses and lyrics, to (hopefully) help you gather your thoughts on what Childlike Wonder is.
There’s a song by Bethel called Wonder, and it’s lyrics are:
May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King
Ooooh oh oh
Fill us with wonder
May we never lose our wonder
May we never lose our wonder
Wide eyed and mystified
May we be just like a child
Staring at the beauty of our King
Cause you are beautiful in all your ways
King of Kings
You are beautiful in all your ways
Cause you are beautiful in all your ways
Just close your eyes
The lyrics that really stand out to me are “wide eyed and mystified, may we be just like a child, starring at the beauty of our King”, I think it's a really powerful and inspiring image
Every week I help at the Church’s toddler group, and my favourite thing about it is watching the toddlers, and taking in how they act and what they say. Watching them is like watching tiny wobbly adults; one is sweeping the floor, another is telling her baby doll off, another is sweeping the floor and a fourth is pouring pretend tea for his friends. I often lead the crafts, and some of the children get so excited about stickers, colours, glitter, different types of paper. Even at under the age of five, they all have a story to tell if you’ll listen. A story about why they like the colour pink, or what they did this morning, or their baby brother. Wonder. Everything is exciting. Okay, maybe not during the tantrums or strops… but generally I think children are so full of wonder. Curiosity, as well as amazement and adoration.
A couple of Sunday’s ago, the worship team were on stage as the congregation joined in with sung worship; a hymn followed by a more modern song. Everything was normal, except one little change. One of the children, a five year old, fearlessly joined the musicians on stage for interpretive dance. She smiled as she twirled and clapped her hand on stage. I stood singing with a big smile on my face. I loved watching her so free up there, with not a single care or worry about getting in the way, or not being sure whether she’s allowed, or distracting people, or looking silly. I thought about what Jesus would say or think if He were to walk through our doors. I quickly became certain that He wouldn't tell her to get down for any of those reasons, so why should we? In fact, part of me was slightly envious; envious of that childlike confidence, freeness, surrender and wonder. I was reminded of Matthew 19:14 that says, "Jesus said, "let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these". Based on Matthew 18:3, which says "unless you become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven", I don't think that Jesus meant the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to only those under the age of eighteen. Instead, I think Jesus notices something about children, perhaps their wonder, and encourages the adults listening to him to change and be like children.
How often is your prayer style and life childlike?
How often are you ‘wide eyed and mystified'?
Do you get excited about simple, little blessings like toddlers?
What's holding you back from experiencing wonder in worship?
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. I'd love to know your thoughts on what wonder looks like in your life, or how you could 'have' more childlike wonder.
I stick on some worship music that I haven’t heard for a while, or ever heard. I do this, rather than putting on songs that I know like the back of my hand, because I find that God speaks to me more through lyrics I haven’t heard before. If I put on, for example, ‘Oceans’ by Hillsong, then I find myself singing the words but not really thinking about them. I really like quiet songs when I've put time aside to spend with God, whereas I like 'beaty' songs when I’m driving, or cooking. Below are two playlists of my favourite songs right now, for which ever mood you’re in.
After I’ve put some music on, I open up my journal and get my favourite pen.
(For anyone interested, every year I buy a new big, fabric, line journal from Paperchase. My favourite pen is the 'Handwriting Pen' by Berol... the ones you got in primary school once you got your 'pen-license' and didn't have to write in pencil anymore)
I light some candles, firstly because the flame reminds me of God’s presence, and secondly simply because I almost always have candles lit.
Then, I just listen. I don’t hype it, I don’t repeat “please speak to me, please speak to me, please speak to me” in a whisper to God. I just listen to the lyrics and write down the ones that speak to me. Maybe it’s just me, but maybe it is God.
I know a couple of people who play ‘Bible Bingo’, and it’s a way that God speaks to them. They pray over their bible, open it to a ‘random page’, and a verse on that page speaks to them.
That doesn’t work for me.
I really like the Bible plans from 'Little Faith Blog'. I rarely follow them like a devotion anymore, although I’d like to get back into the swing of that. Instead, I read the suggested verses in my journaling bible. I underline bits, highlight some words, I write exactly what I’m thinking, usually ‘wow’ or ‘huh?’ Or I just rewrite the verse in a script font.
Then I go back to my journal, and I write prayers to God (usually based on the lyrics and verses), starting with worship and praise, followed by asks, finishing with surrender.
For example, most recently I wrote about God’s loyal love, how no matter what I do there is grace upon grace upon grace. I wrote a list of things that God says I am, and I wrote a verse that I liked.
Then, for asks, I draw a heart, and then wrote the things that I’m praying for in that heart, and I prayed over it.
Finally, for surrender, I listened to the song ‘Closer’ by North Point InsideOut and Lauren Daigle, and wrote out the bridge:
“My sole devotion, my only focus is to worship you. My life surrendered, my heart abandoned for more of you”
I hope that helped, or was of interest! Comment below how you like to spend time with God....
Thanks to your nominations and support on this blog, last weekend I took a trip down to London for the Premier Digital Awards. Hosted at The Brewery in The Barbican, I won ‘Runner Up’ of ‘Young Blogger of the Year’!
I went with both my parents, and we were seated at a table of other finalists in different categories. We had very posh but delicious food, made conversation and contacts, and laughed a lot too. It was so amazing to be in the same room as so many individuals and organisations that inspire me; editors of Premier Youth and Children’s Work Magazine, TLG, YFC, Lily Jo, More Precious. It was a strange mix of feeling slightly out of place - a sense of inadequacy - yet the feeling of worthiness and pride to be there.
My category was one of the last. I had seen many I mentioned above either win their category or get runner up. I started to feel a little shaky and nervous, but still excited. The hosts, Faith Child and Maria Rodrigues, introduced the ‘Young Blogger of the Year Category’ and read out the five finalist names. When mine was read out, my whole table let out a loud cheer… especially my parents! The next thing I know, my name has been called for Runner Up and I’m walking my best in my heels towards the stage to receive my certificate and have a photo taken.
The winner of my category was Alisha of 'Writerield', and since the Awards night we have been getting to know each other over Twitter!
‘The honest bit’
The Awards night was a perfect example of just having to fight the enemy away. Honestly, I often feel like ‘second best’, like people’s second option, like ‘plan B’. So when I got the award of runner up, even with the adrenaline, pride, and excitement to text those closest to me who were eagerly waiting, I still felt the enemy say to me, “you’ve literally got the prize for being second best".
It was in this time that I had to fight the enemy with the truths. Only a day or two before, someone had sent me a prophetic word about how I have nothing to prove and nothing to protect because I am who I am, and those few words really helped me. I also took a step back and had a reality check that I had got further than so many other amazing bloggers. I reminded myself of all the people that had messaged me kind words, congratulated me and told me that they’re proud of me
I really want to thank everyone who nominated me. I don’t know who did, but thank you.
Thank you to everyone who has written kind words on my social media posts, to my parents for (literally and loudly) cheering me on, to Premier Digital for having me, to all my readers, and finally, a ‘thank you’ to 'Grandad in the sky', who started my love of writing many many years ago.
I'm sure you'll agree that it is one hundred times easier to praise God and trust His ways when our lives are sunny and bright, when everything is going right in our eyes. But what about when the waves come crashing, lightening strikes, thunder roars and rain pours? How easy is it to say, "I trust you, God" then?
In my experience, it's not easy. When things haven't gone my way and have been more difficult than ever expected, it's been really hard to say, "I trust that God is in this". I know it to be true in my head, for I've been taught that since I was little and in Sunday School. But how true do I believe it in my heart?
Recent experiences have really taught me how to trust God is in the storm, and I'd like to share that with you today.
1. WORSHIP IS A WEAPON
I see worship as a very powerful weapon. I was taught about a year ago something that has changed the way I worship: the devil hasn't always been the devil - first he was an angel. What do angels do? They worship God and know the power of worship. Therefore, the devil knows exactly what worship does and the power it has. I find sung worship incredibly powerful, even if I don't believe the words I'm singing with my whole heart. It's difficult, and it's something that takes a lot in you to do, but there's something very powerful in singing, "You are my Rock in times of trouble" even if right now it doesn't feel that way. Use worship as your weapon.
Who knows what you are going through more than God? Who can change how you're feeling more than God? Who in the Bible was the one to calm the storm just by speaking to it?
I love the way the James 4:7 in the Message Version talks about surrendering to God,
"so let God work his will in you. Yell a loud 'no' to the devil and watch him scamper. Say a quiet 'yes' to God and He'll be there in no time... get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get back on your feet"
I love the imagery in this verse; watching the Enemy run away with one word, and the image of God coming to your side "in no time" when you're down on your knees.
3. FOOT PRINTS IN THE SAND
When ever I consider, "is God really here?" I am always reminded of the Foot Print in the Sand poem, pictured below.
There is never a time in your life when God isn't there. If you don't see another set of footprints walking alongside you, perhaps it's because God is carrying you.
4. TURN TO SCRIPTURE
When you don't know whether God is in your storm, turn to the scripture for encouragement and truth. Has there ever been a person in the Bible that was led by God into a storm, and was left there? No.
As I was writing this blog post, I went online to Bible Gateway, and the verse of the day was Proverbs 29:25, which says,
"the fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe"
It's easy to read these verses and think, "easier said than done". It's true, it is so much easier to say, "I trust in the Lord, I am safe, I do not fear" than to actually trust in The Lord, feel safe and not fear. But, like with worship, I think there's something powerful in praying that and declaring that over yourself, and leaning on these verses for encouragement. Likewise with Deuteronomy 31:6, which says,
"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you"
Again, easier said than done to be strong, courageous and fearless, and to trust that God will never leave you. However, if you do believe this truth, and you start living in this storm as if it is a truth, then just think how life changing that can be. Leaning on the Word and trusting that God will never leave you or forsake you, will perhaps be what gets you through the storm.
5. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH CHEERLEADERS
Paul was a great cheerleader. A lot of his letters are cheering people and churches on. He came alongside his friends like Timothy to encourage them and teach them.
Through a storm, cheerleaders like Paul are exactly what you need.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Paul encourages us to encourage others. He writes,
"therefore encourage one another and build each other up"
Surround yourself with people who will encourage you and build you up. Surround yourself with people who will challenge you, put things in perspective, offer solutions, and tell you that they believe in you and you will make it through. Sometimes just having a new and brighter perspective can make the storm feel less rocky, and certainly a lot less lonely!
I hope this blog post has been in some way encouraging!
My Bible is an NIV Journalling Bible. When I got it from Etsy, it was a blue/white/pink polka-dot fabric Bible. Because of the fabric, it got pretty grubby. So, I decided to cover it.... here's how!
1. GET INSPIRED
Head over to Pinterest and type in 'paint cover Bible'. Whether it's a floral design you're looking for, or an illustration of the deep blue sea, you're bound to find something on Pinterest.
2. SET THE SCENE
I painted my Bible on window sill of the Juliet Balcony of my flat. I put a black bin liner down so as to not get paint everywhere! I lit some candles and put some calming worship tunes on. I made sure I had everything I needed - paint brushes, water, paint and snacks.
3. BASE COAT
Paint your Bible with white paint. I just used white acrylic paint from The Works. Remember the edges and sides of your cover!
4. GET STARTED ON YOUR BACKGROUND COLOUR
Once your base coat is dry, you can get started on your main background colour. If you've mixed shades together, it's really important that you have enough paint. Otherwise when you've run out of paint, it'll be really hard to get the right quantities to get the same shade again.
- Again, make sure you remember the edges and sides of your Bible.
- paint your Bible whilst it's closed, whilst it's opened slightly and when it's totally open and flat on the floor (or wherever you're painting). This way, you'll paint every part of your Bible.
- paint in the same direction over the whole Bible.
Unless you're feeling particularly confident, whether it's the outline to flowers, lettering or waves, draw your detail out with a pencil first.
- Use a light, soft pencil.
- remember to rub out your pencil lines before the next step!
- Try out different mediums. I used a blue Sharpie for my bottom layer of lettering and gold nail varnish for the top layer. I also used pink and red sharpies for the flower details.
Now you've got your detail and you've rubbed out the pencil lines, you can gloss your Bible - I used acrylic clear craft spray. Open your Bible to roughly halfway through, lay it flat on a bin liner and spray away, holding the can about 15cm away from the Bible. Wait for the first coat to dry, and then spray again, just to make sure that there's no part not glossed.
And there you have it, your very own personalised painted Bible! I'd love to see your creations, so tweet me a picture!
Thanks for reading!
There are many discussions on when Generation Y ends and when Z begins, but it's around the years 1996-2000. Being born in 1999, and being Worcester Baptist Church's Youth Worker, I am a Generation Z Youth Worker.
I've drafted and redrafted this blog post many times in an effort to make it tidy, but still my thoughts seem scattered. In essence, this blog post is about the high and lows of being an 18 year old, Generation Z Youth Worker.
When it comes to social media, being a Gen Z Youth Worker can be a massive pro. Generally, it gives me an added insight to this generation that perhaps a 30+ year old youth worker wouldn't have. I understand how Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook works, all without it being explained to me by a Young Person. I understand why young people want to keep their 'streak'* with a person, even if they find it tiring or annoying. I understand repeatedly checking how many likes the last post got compared to a friend's. I understand the positives and negatives of modern day social media, not because I've read up on the research, but because I've grown up with it.
I find being a Gen Z youth worker really interesting when it comes to research. The research about Generation Z - the young people I'm leading- is also about me. For example, Youth For Christ did research in 2016 and found that 94% of Gen Z use social media on a daily basis, yet 67% of those surveyed recognised it as being their biggest negative influence. I find it so interesting that this research both informs my youth practice, as well as telling other older youth workers about me.
I think being Generation Z impacts what I teach and how I teach it. For example, Youth For Christ's research found that Generation Z's biggest concern was school and exams, the second was what other's thought of them, and the third was their appearance. As Generation Z, I'd agree with this. As a youth worker, this research would inform what I teach.
Similarly, Youthscape did research called 'Losing Heart', and in it they discussed what young people want to talk about VS what the Church is talking about.
The top things Churches were talking to their young people about was the basic beliefs of the Christian faith, prayer, personal reading of scripture, and serving the community. The bottom things were pornography/sex/relationships, same-sex attraction, drugs and mental heath.
The top things young people wanted to talk about were mental heath, how to share faith with friends, pornography/sex/relationships and same-sex attraction
Just to note: all these topics are things I do and will teach, but it's a matter of priority.
Again, as a Generation Z, I agree with this. As a Youth Worker, this research informs what I teach.
But I think the biggest challenge of being an 18 year old youth worker is the feeling of being too young and therefore not enough. There are so many incredible female youth leaders that I'm inspired and encouraged by, but I can't help but see them do youth work and think they're far more capable than I am. I know that I'm just starting out so can't expect to have a handle on everything, especially as some of these youth leaders have been doing youth worker longer than I've been alive. But they all just seem 'together'.
I was so reassuring when I heard a podcast by one of my biggest inspirations, saying that she struggles with body confidence, and another of my inspirations said she struggles with feeling not good enough to lead a new generation. It's not reassuring because I want these incredible women to feel like this, of course not, but if makes me feel a whole lot less alone.
Thank you for reading! Please let me know your thoughts by commenting below or tweeting me @rebeccasaz
* a streak is a Snapchat feature. When a person sends a photo to another person daily, an emoji of a fire appears by their name, along with the number of days photos have been sent. For example, if I sent you a photo on Snapchat every day for 30 days, on your screen would be, "Becca *fire emoji* 30"
I had the absolute pleasure and privilege of interviewing Blogger and Vlogger, David Gibbs.
David has a blog titled 'Confessions of a First Time Dad' where he beautifully and powerfully shares his experiences of parenthood, well-being and mental health. With his fiance Ebony Day, David has a family vlogging channel called My Tiny Tribe, on which the pair share the highs and lows of being first-time parents, featuring travel, Q&A's, life updates, day-to-day-life, and the ever-wonderful Daisy - what's not to love?
I present to you, an interview with David Gibbs....
Hi! It's great to chat to you. How are you doing? Is life with a baby treating you well?
I am doing amazing.
Life with a Daisy is almost beyond words. It's been the most challenging but rewarding eight months of my life. When I look at Daisy I see Grace. Parenthood is a powerful, beautiful thing.
As many of my readers will know, I grew up in a Christian family, have been to Church all my life, I went to a Christian school and now I'm at Bible College. What, if any, faith-related influences did you have whilst growing up? How did you 'find God'?
Ahh, so I grew up a strict Atheist with absolutely no faith related influences. I read the books, learnt the clever arguments and felt smug in my intellectual, material worldview. Th funny thing is though, when you are broken and in pain those books, those arguments and that smug superiority complex just doesn't count for anything. They fall short. It all falls short. I found God through a twelve step recovery program. It turns out I'd been seeking Him all along. I think a lot of us are like that; we are born into this feeling that something is missing and we spend life trying to fill it with all these different things - be it drugs, food, sex, alcohol or work. It doesn't fill the hole but we keep trying and trying. Four years ago I got to a point where if I tried for much longer I would lose myself completely. When a man spoke to me about this idea of a higher power I had the gift of desperation. I was so broken I actually listened. From that moment my life change. Every day since has been a miracle.
That is so powerful and incredible.
So you've said in Instagram comments previously that you don't follow a certain dogma or religion/ Could you just explain your feelings and though-process behind this?
I can - or at least I will try. I find it hard speaking about religion as it's such murky waters and I never want to offend. I guess it's as simple as this for me.
I didn't find God in a church, or a temple or in a mosque. I met him right where I was in the darkness. As of today, my experience with Him doesn't fit truthfully with a certain dogma or religion. That doesn't mean that I think Christianity is wrong. That doesn't mean I think Islam is wrong. It just simply isn't my truth at this moment in time. For now, I will keep praying and I will keep building upon this relationship and trust in that and in Him. I guess that is somewhat of a polite answer. The truth is I also feel a lot of the time organised religion can be something that stands in the way of someone when they need God the most. I've had conversations with people that are begging for help but the moment God is brought up they shut down. Why? Because for them God is organised religion. It's hate signs and judgement, strange clothes and strict rules. I'm not saying that's what it truly is. I'm just saying generations of misguided actions in His name has caused the very answer to become the problem. I feel that the tides are changing though. Less about memorising the words and more about experiencing His Grace and His love and passing that on.
For me, having a sense of God is really important. For example, I feel closest to God when I sing worship songs. Or sometimes there are things that I pray for that get answered. Sometimes things happen that can be seen as coincidence, I feel like are God. Is this something you've experienced? Has there been a time where you've been able to pinpoint, "that's God"?
I feel God in everything. I feel God in the good and God in the bad. I feel God in Daisy's laugh. I feel God as two strangers smile at each other on the tube. I feel Him in the everyday, I feel it when I'm watching a singer in a rock band connect with an audience. When I look at the audience and I can see for that moment they are connected to the music so intensely. When you can see in that moment they feel understood and the storm has lifted. That's beautiful. It's messy but it's beautiful. When I see humanity working together, in even the smallest way...it's then I feel him most.
Wow, I think that's something we can all learn from.
Your followers saw that you went to Hillsong Church recently - what was that like? Daisy looked super cute in the big baby-pink ear defenders!
Daisy and Ebony at Hillsong Church
It was soooooo cute! Daisy loved it!
I love Hillsong. We don't go super often but whenever we do, I love it. We've been to the conference as well. I know, this may sound a little strange as I am not Christian haha.
For me, any place where people meet to worship I feel home.
Thank you so much for your time! Do you have a favourite faith-related quote that inspires you that you'd like to share and finish on?
"Divine discontent ignites a longing. The exile remembers his own home and begins the long road back to the beloved. It's only because he wants us that we turn our eyes from the outer world and set out in the ancient journey of the soul back to it's source. This call is always present because each and every atom sings the song of remembrance, every particle of creation desires to be reunited with the Creator"
Amazing! Thanks again!
You can read the Confessions of a First Time Dad here, or watch the Tiny Tribe here.
A few days ago I came back from 5 days camping in Peterborough for Soul Survivor! The night I came back, I slept for 14 hours straight - if that doesn't show you how exhausted I was, I don't know what will. Despite the exhaustion, this year of Soul Survivior was one of my favourites. Here's why:
- The teachings this year were really great. Mike Pilavachi and Andy Croft were up to their usual top standard, Tim Ross was hilarious and powerful, and a friend of mine was preaching on main stage, which was crazy! She spoke amazingly and really hit the heart's of the young people, and I'm sure many youth leaders too.
- I'm very much an observer. During SS, I loved watching the young people chat with each other, share stories, joke, play endless card games, have a water fight, dive deep into worship and take notes through the teachings. I loved how patient and kind they were to each other, even when tiredness crept it.
- Similarly, I learnt a lot from observing the other youth leaders; how they interact with different young people, youth work styles, creating conversations, asking questions, organisation....
- having long and deep conversations with the young people and youth leaders
- the worship was incredible. Worship is one of my favourite things to do. I find it much easier than other spiritual disciplines; meditation, reading my Bible, praying... However, I'm a picky-worshipper. Perhaps because I'm Gen Z, I find it so much easier to engage in worship when there's lots of people around me lifting their hands, when it's loud, when there's harmonies and lots of instruments. This is actually something God is really challenging me on, and is another blog post for another day. That aside, the Worship at Soul Survivor gave me space to surrender all, sing, shout, dance and jump.
- a favourite and least favourite was cooking. A favourite was the sense of achievement when I had cooked a meal (for 18, in a marquee may I add) by myself, as well as the love I felt when people offered help, and intervened and was patient when I made mistakes. But when I did make mistakes, I found it really hard. When I underestimated how long sausages would take to cook, or when I hadn't realised the gas had blown out, or I forgot about a vegetarian sauce, I felt like I had totally failed and I was showing everyone just how stupid I am. That was tough.
- After a long chat, I sat in the cold marquee with a young person at about 11pm, drinking hot chocolate and waiting for the others to come back. This young person said to me, "you've made Soul Survivor for me. You're actually alright". That made me feel pretty special.
- at meal times, we tried to create a space where we could share the highlights of our day and what we were enjoying most about Soul Survivor. I really loved that; hearing the young people's thoughts and seeing their faces light up as they tell a funny story. It felt very family-like.
- I started each morning by reading my Bible and praying. I loved hearing the chatters of the early-risers coming from the marquee as I read the Psalms. One morning, I felt a need to pray for each young person and youth leader individually, and as I did I had an image in my mind that I later shared with the group. This year at Soul Survivor, I really heard from God daily.
- the people I went with made it one of the best years. Their craziness, intelligent insights, their patience and kindness towards each other, and their growth through the week
- Finally, the journey home. All but one young person slept the entire journey home, and me and my Placement line manager chatted about the past year, the danger of comparison, church politics, holiday and age. As someone who loves road trips and deep conversations, these two hours were definitely a highlight.
I've had an incredible year with this Youth Group. Soul Survivor was the best way to end a perfect year.
My favourite song at the moment is by Hillsong Young and Free and it's called P E A C E. Featuring on their newest album, 'III', 'P E A C E' is all about declaring God as the Keeper of Peace even when the "lies come", even when "my thoughts don't line up", even when my "mind wreaks havoc".
A couple of weeks ago I sat in bed, opened YouTube and was going to catch up with a vlogging family, 'My Tiny Tribe'. On my YouTube home screen was a recommended video by Bethel, titled 'PEACE | Amanda Cook', who is one of my favourite Christian artists. I clicked on the thumbnail and the song totally broke me.
I cried the entirety of the song and when it finished, I dragged the slider to the beginning and listened again, and cried for another 10 minutes.
The second time, I sung the lyrics through the pain. In this version, Amanda Cook adds the lyric, 'this is where the war ends' and she repeats the verse 'all anxiety bows in the presence of Jesus the Keeper of Peace', and that's what I was declaring over my mind and my life.
This Is Where The War Ends.
'Tetelestai' is my favourite word. In Greek, it means 'it is finished', and it's what Jesus said as He was dying. The war of identity, the war of anxiety or depression or addiction or whatever it may be for you - this is where the war ends - right here, right now. It is finished already.
All Anxiety Bows In The Presence Of Jesus
That word, 'bows' is the one that gets me. Even anxiety bows in the presence of Jesus. I Googled the definition for 'bow down', and here's what some sites said:
"to show weakness by agreeing to the orders of something or someone higher"
"to cease from competition"
"to show respect and agree that they are more powerful"
At the time, I had this image in my head of personified Anxiety, and it jumped around and bounced off people's heads in complete power and authority, until it got to God. At God, it stood still, then bowed. Anxiety, something that has a grip on many, submits, ceases from competition, shows weakness, agrees that God is higher and more powerful than it's self.
Over the last last few weeks, through what has been a bit of a ‘mental health flop’, God has reminded me of His peace. People have given me verses about overflowing with peace, about carrying peace. I’ve read quotes, I’ve heard songs that sing about peace but I previously hadn’t noticed. In February at a training day for The Year Out, we were each given a piece of thread that represented who God is. The one I picked up represented peace, and at the time I thought, “other people have better verses than me, I wish I picked up a better one”. As I was praying for peace again this morning, I was reminded of my red anklet, and felt God say, “you’ve been wearing my peace on you’re ankle for months”.