I’m just over a week into the summer break, and I’m already itching to get back to college! Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve been sat on a sofa for the whole week. I don’t know. Anyway, with the vast expanse of a 4 month summer ahead of me, I feel like the best way to deal with it is to reminisce about the year I’ve just had.
Second year was definitely harder than first year. For starters, there was a lot more work. In first year I just drifted through my assignments, and managed to get everything in early without doing any all nighters, and even without working on weekends! That wasn’t the case for second year. We had so many back to back assignments that not working on weekends wasn’t an option. Still, I got through it, and only took a minor drop in my grades. That’s pretty normal I think. Anyway, I decided that it wasn’t worth sacrificing the fun parts of college life, to work all the time in order to get a 1st.
Throughout second year, God showed himself to be incredibly faithful. He has a habit of doing that.
I had a bit of a wobble about what I wanted to do with my future, which I think I blogged about at the time. That taught me not to hold on too tightly to my plans. It turns out that God has led me back to where I initially thought I wanted to be. The difference now is that I feel secure that I’m doing it because God told me to, not because I wanted to put myself into a position of responsibility. It also made me more open to supporting Annie in her calling - something I might have found difficult before.
A few months ago, Annie and I started praying for a car. We knew Annie was leaving college, so I’d most likely need a car to go and visit her. Neither of us felt comfortable asking God for something that we didn’t desperately need, but we felt that it was important that we try. A few weeks later, one of my pastors gave us his car! Naturally, we were both very excited. Of course, we couldn’t afford to insure it just yet, but it was a start. So we started to pray for money to insure the car. A couple of weeks ago, a friend of ours offered to loan us the money, so we’ll be insuring the car in the next month or so!
God’s taught us that he listens to our conversations. Not in a creepy way, but He understands the things that we worry about, and He wants to be the one in control of that. There are so many examples we’ve seen, so I won’t list them. It’s been a funny experience for us, when God comes through and answers a prayer we haven’t even prayed yet, but we remember having talked about it once!
I’ve learned a lot about leadership in second year. In a previous blog post, I talked about taking over heading up the Student Representative Council (SRC). That’s been a real learning curve for me. It’s been hard at times, but with each challenge I’ve learned a little bit more about what it takes to be a leader, and what kind of leader I am. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes, and there are probably people who would be happy to point those out to me, but that’s a part of being human. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that you can’t please everyone. Believe me, I’ve tried. There’s always someone who didn’t like the way you did that, or who feels like you’ve forgotten about their specific issue or concern. Nevertheless, I feel confident now that I’ll be able to fulfil my role competently until I hand it over to the next person in March.
So now my challenge is finding something to do with myself during this 4 month summer break. I’ve done sitting on a sofa. I might do that some more, but I’d like to think that I’ll achieve something during this time as well. I have a couple of Hebrew and Greek books, so I’ll try and learn a bit of either of those, to help me in my studies next year. I might do a bit of reading to prepare for writing my dissertation. I have a month placement to look forward to as well. I’ll be going to Selly Oak Elim Church at the end of August to do that, and I’m really looking forward to it! It’s a great church, and I’m excited about spending some time there.
Last summer was a disappointment, because I failed to find a job and felt like I didn’t achieve anything. I don’t want this summer to be the same!
A Long Overdue Blog Post
It’s been a while since I last posted an update, so I’ll try to summarise.
I’m in the middle of a busy period at college. I have four essays to write over the next three weeks, one of which I’ve handed in already. People said that second year is the hardest in terms of workload, and so far that seems to be about right! Luckily, once these essays are out of the way I only have one exam and then I’ve finished second year!
That realisation is a little bittersweet though. I’m not sure I’m ready for second year to be over. My girlfriend, Annie, is in third year so she graduates this year. We’ve become used to being able to see each other all the time, so neither of us are looking forward to having to spend time apart. Still, it won’t be the end of the world! Once summer is over (4 months of it!!) I’ll be back at college for my third year and raring to go.
One thing I’m looking forward to over the summer is my placement. As part of my course I have to do a month-long block placement in a Christian organisation. I’ve chosen to do mine at Selly Oak Elim Church in Birmingham. I know Iain, the pastor there, and we get on well, so I’m excited about spending a month there. It’s a really interesting time, because Iain has just taken over the church after its previous minister retired, so he’s in the process of taking it through some changes and reshaping it for the future. I’m looking forward to being a part of that process for a month, and seeing how the church develops over that time.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer at Elim Bible Week, which is Elim’s annual conference. Initially I was just running the open mic stage, performing some music and encouraging others to get involved too. That ended up only taking up a couple of hours of my time per day, so I joined Annie in the hospitality room where she was serving. It was our job to look after Elim’s National Leadership Team, as well as any visiting speakers or guests. We served them drinks, and talked to them. It was a great experience for us to see the NLT together, just being normal people. Sometimes we can put men like them on a pedestal because of the position that they hold. This can lead us to assume that they’re more bothered about their position than about the people they represent. The good news is that that simply isn’t true. I think that ordinary people can project ideas of arrogance onto people in leadership, when they are actually incredibly humble people. My experience of the NLT was that they were gracious and cared deeply about us. They really appreciated us serving them, but didn’t insist upon it. I had a lot of respect for them already, but after serving them for a week that went up considerably! I’ve seen one or two of them since then, when they’ve been visiting college for meetings, and they’ve made a point of saying hello and asking how things are going.
This last stretch of second year is going to be long and difficult. When I allow myself to think about the months after June it’d be easy to assume that it’s going to be harder. Still, I know that I’m here for a reason, and I’m going to finish what God asked me to start. What happens after that, I don’t know, but I trust that God will reveal that to me at the right time. He has continually shown himself to be faithful, and I don’t expect that he’ll stop now.
Holiness is not about being clean; it’s about being set apart.
Downs and Ups
It’s been a few weeks since my last blog post, so I feel it’s time for another update.
The main reason for my silence has been that I was having a minor personal crisis. When I decided to come to Regents, I was certain that God had called me to be an Elim minister. I had a clear plan for my life over the next 5 years, that I would get my degree, then I would spend two years as a minister in training before getting ordained. A few weeks ago I began to radically rethink this plan. I’m not sure what started it all off, but I was suddenly quite scared by what had previously excited me. I almost did a U-turn away from the idea of being a minister, to the point that I was considering switching onto the Performing Arts track here at Regents.
Since I’ve been at Regents I’ve discovered giftings that I wasn’t aware of - specifically to do with the performing arts. I took an acting module last year, which I scored very well in and enjoyed thoroughly. I rediscovered my passion for music, which had all but disappeared when I worked as a guitar teacher. I took up stand up comedy. All of these things led to several people telling me that I should switch to the Performing Arts track, or people just thinking that I was already on that course. I began to wonder if I was at college for the right reasons, and if I wasn’t going to be a minister then maybe I should switch track and look into pursuing a future in that kind of sphere.
After struggling with all of this for a few days, I went back to Coventry for the wedding of a good friend. Over that weekend I didn’t think much about it, but when I came back to college I felt a lot more at peace about it. I had a sense that switching track wasn’t the right thing to do. I’m no more certain about my future than I was, but I feel at peace that God will lead me in the right direction at the right time. For now I’m content to continue my studies and trust that whatever I do afterwards will be something God can use for His glory.
One thing I found really encouraging in this time was that although I was struggling a lot with why I was at college, I never considered stopping. I maintained my belief that Regents is exactly where God wants me to be. I love it here. I’ve made some of the most amazing friends, who I’m sure will be in my life for many years to come. I’m learning more and more about the God who I love, and I’m becoming more like the man He’s made me to be.
Here and Now
In other news, I’ve been really enjoying my placement each weekend. As part of my Vocational Training module, I have to do a placement in a church on a Sunday. My placement is Resonate, a recent Elim church plant in Worcester. We’ve recently moved into a new building, the Medway Centre, which is at the centre of a community. The church is running a youth club in the centre, which is going really well, and we’re meeting there on a Sunday morning.
My main responsibility as a placement student is worship. I’ve been getting lots of experience of leading worship each week, while also trying to release others into serving in that area. I had a real encouragement last Sunday when I was leading worship. I wrote a song, which we sung in church. It was amazing to hear everyone singing something that I wrote, and connecting with God through it.
Tonight I’m playing some songs at the opening of an art exhibition down the road from college. My friend Caroline from church is one of the artists who is exhibiting their work, so I’m pretty excited about it. Also, tomorrow evening the choir from college is singing carols down in Great Malvern when they turn on the lights. Exciting times!
In short, although it’s been a difficult few weeks, I’m happy. I don’t think I’ve felt this positive about my life for a long time. It’s not that I’ve felt particularly negative either, I just seem to be enjoying life a lot more than normal at the moment. I thank God for that.
God can change the world with just one willing soul,
Who will stand up for the truth and give him starring role,
So come into the fullness and open up the door,
Maybe it is you he’s looking for.
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’
You marry a sinner. There’s no one else to marry.” Elisabeth Elliot
"Cast all your anxiety on Him [Jesus], because he cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7
That’s my memory verse for today. I’ve decided, having been given the idea by my girlfriend, to do a memory verse every day for Lent. I don’t normally give anything up, but the idea of starting something that might enhance my devotional life was really appealing to me. I’ve done five days so far, and I’ve discovered that the process of learning a scripture each day has been really beneficial.
I start by choosing a scripture. So far I’ve done this either from my daily reading plan or by flicking through my Bible to find verses I’ve underlined before. I’m sure that process will change as the next few weeks go on, so I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops.
Next I write it down in a journal. This helps me to keep track of what I’m reading, but also I find that by the time I’ve finished writing down the verse I almost have it memorised already.
Then I start to speak it out, over and over, until I remember it fully. I’ve found that this quickly leads into praying the verse, and that in turn leads me into praying in the day. It’s been a really great entry point into prayer for me, because I pray from the verse I’ve learned that day, which means that I pray differently every day. I find that I easily get stuck in a rut, so I’m feeling refreshed by this new approach.
I’d like to sustain this kind of reading after Lent if I can. Realistically, I don’t think that doing a memory verse a day is entirely sustainable, so I might try learning a longer passage each week. Perhaps I’ll do this a verse at a time. I think it’ll help me to know where key passages are in the Bible. I really admire people who are able to immediately quote and reference scripture when asked questions, so I’m hoping that this process will help me to get there.
Over the last couple of weeks lots has happened. I turned 23, on what was possibly the best birthday I’ve ever had. I wrote and handed in an essay on arguments for the existence of God contrasted with new atheist beliefs. I’ve had a visit from one of my closest friends, and developed deeper relationships with my friends here. All these things have been great, and I’m enjoying being at college. I’m looking forward to the rest of this semester. My workload is relatively small, compared to last semester, so I’m hoping that I’ll have time to discover new things, and more importantly, discover more of God.