Knowing God – Interview with Emily Owen

Knowing God – Interview with Emily Owen

  1. What is your name and what does it mean?

    My name is Emily which, according to Google, means ‘industrious’ or ‘rival’. My middle name is Louise which, so Google informs me, means ‘famous warrior.’
  2. Do you think your name suits who you are and/ or what you do?

    Perhaps, inasmuch as I do sometimes see my illness/disability almost as an enemy I need to work hard to rival and (hopefully) conquer.
  3. If you were born in biblical times, when names were given as prophesies, what would your name mean?

    My friends jokingly – I think (!) – call me ‘Planning Queen’, so perhaps my name would be to do with liking to know the plan.  More seriously, perhaps ‘writer’ or ‘speaker’.
  4. Which of God’s names or attributes resonate with you the most? (give up to 3)

    That’s hard! I want to say them all! Today, I pick:
    Jehovah Nissi – The Lord my Banner
    Jehovah Shammah – The Lord is Here
    El Roi – The God who Sees
  5. Is there an experience/s connected with these aspects of who God is to you? If so, please share one if you feel comfortable doing so.

    As a teenager, my life underwent a huge change, as I suddenly went from being a fairly high achieving allrounder, to a person experiencing hospitals, operations and disability. In this whirlwind, I felt more and more defined by my symptoms, and less and less defined as me. During that time, during many times since, God did – and does – remind me that He sees me. He sees past all the damage illness has caused, damage I see every time I look in the mirror, and He sees me. That brings me great comfort.
  6. Have the names/attributes of God that you most relate to, changed due to life circumstances such as illness or disability? How so?

    I don’t think they’ve changed as such, all of God’s names are meaningful to me, but I’ve come to appreciate ‘El Roi’ more, as I mention above; to increasingly value being seen by God. To be honest, I probably took being seen by God a bit for granted: it never really occurred to me, until my life turned upside-down, and I didn’t want anyone – including myself – to see me. I didn’t think anyone would want to. And, as I said above, God showed me I was wrong! And I learned – and am learning – to actively live in the immense privilege of being seen by God.
  7. Are there any of God’s names that confuse you or that you struggle with? Which one/s and why?

    I suppose an obvious one for me to pick might be Jehovah Rapha: The Lord Who Heals. Despite specific prayer for physical healing, I’ve not been physically healed. Yet, as I live in this broken body of mine, each day I learn more of the meaning of 2 Corinthians 4:16: ‘Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day’. I am outwardly wasting away and, at the same time, I am being inwardly renewed – even healed – day by day.
  8. Which parts of God’s character would you like to know better

    Maybe Adonai: Lord. Hudson Taylor is quoted as saying, “Christ is either Lord of all, or is not Lord at all”. To truly have Him as Lord in charge of every part of my life, to know Him as Lord in practice as well as theory, is a challenge and a goal.
  9. Which part of the Trinity do you feel closest with and why do you think that is?

    Probably partly because of my upbringing, in which I was encouraged to know and relate to God, I’d say God. As an adult, whilst I would still say God, I do find I feel closer to Jesus, too.
  10. How do you think that knowing and using God’s names in prayer and conversation might help us?

    I think that they help us pray to more of Him. If I were to only talk to my sister about clothes (perhaps a bad example, I’m definitely not a clothes person!), I would miss out on so much of who she is. She is more than a stylish dresser. What about her job, her humour, her interests and hobbies, etc? If I only knew she likes clothes, how would I know about our shared love of chocolate?! The more we know of God, and Who He is, the richer our relationship with Him will be. And that can’t be a bad thing, can it….

Emily Owen is an author and public speaker. She began writing following a medical diagnosis which turned her life plans upside-down and, among other things, left her deaf. 

After publishing her first devotional books, in the 30 Days series, Emily published her memoir, Still Emily. Her speaking, and more recent writings, combine her personal experiences with biblical teaching and reflections.

Emily is surprised to describe herself as a writer and speaker, but she has no hesitation in calling herself a fan of flowers, candles, purple, stars, and making her nieces and nephews giggle.

1 Year Review and Looking Forward…

1 Year Review and Looking Forward…

I cannot believe that after creating a Twitter account one year ago, YouBelong would be what it is now and heading in the direction it seems to be!

At the time, my Mum was working in a cafe and as I had a hospital appointment later that day, I decided to go into work with her to wait for my appointment. I can’t remember exactly what was going through my head other than that I had just completed my theology degree and was wondering what the purpose of it was as I was too unwell to use it. Then I was reminded of something my course director had told me about – online church. I didn’t really know what that would look like but knew there must be others like me who were too unwell to attend church some weeks, or maybe even every week, and others who could physically attend church but felt isolated by the complex theology and ‘Chistianese’ used in many churches. I can attend church most weeks, with the help of my parents, but have avoided some churches not because I cannot physically access them or because I can’t understand them, but because their theological teaching around pain, suffering and disability is damaging and hurtful. By giving others a safe place to share their thoughts and concerns around balancing life as a Christian with a life as a disabled or chronically ill person, and discover that God isn’t as harsh and judgmental, or formula abiding, as some places make Him out to be.

I quickly knew this project was going to be bigger than I ever intended or imagined when the number of followers grew. This was confirmed to me whilst at Spring Harvest just before Easter when a number of church leaders told me about people they knew of, within their congregation and in the community, that do not attend their churches due to disabilities or chronic illnesses. It wasn’t that they weren’t wanting to change that, but they didn’t know how.

Meeting leaders led to me being invited to a conference where lots of other church leaders gathered to discuss and help one another run their churches in the best way possible. Although a lot of the teaching was for physical churches, it gave me some ideas but more importantly, it grew my network and has helped raise awareness of people with chronic illness and disability in the Church – or not.

Around March, I started a blog (youbelong2019.wordpress.com) as a place to share my thoughts and experiences in greater detail as social media only allows for limited characters. I was shocked and surprised to find out just a few months after starting the blog that I was a finalist in the Premier Digital Awards! As the Premier Digital Conference preceded the awards show, I decided to attend that first and came away with lots of notes and more connections and I hope to work with these people over the coming year. The day flew past and suddenly YouBelong was being announced as winner of the up and coming blog! It still amazes me now and I am so thankful for all of you who guest blogged and who read the posts each week – thank you!

Before long, December was here and with that, advent. I knew I wanted to arrange something for us to do together as a community and after seeing the idea to study the 24 chapters of Luke in 24 days, that the 24 days before Christmas would be perfectly suited to that. I wanted to ensure that people from all platforms (YouBelong is on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram now) were able to participate so I posted every day on every platform. It was a bigger commitment than I initially realised but I was thankful for having done it as I not only learnt more about the stories in Luke’s gospel but also got to interact with more of you and have since heard stories of couples reading the chapter together each day and some people sharing them with others they know to encourage them which I love to hear!

And know we are into 2020, YouBelong is 1 year old and we have LOADS of exciting plans in place to move things forward in new ways this year. One of the biggest things that we hope and plan to do is register as a charity so that we have access to funding to enable the team to grow, to reach isolated people where they are, provide resources and training for churches and start a more official online church for those who cannot attend church, either at all or occasionally. This will also include a connect group which will begin on Facebook and be a closed group of people who study the same passages/ topic together so if you are interested in getting involved, I highly recommend following us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/youbelong2019 now as this will be launching in the next few weeks!

I am excited for what the year ahead has to bring and hope you are too! If you have any ideas of things you would like to see included then please get in touch either via email at info@youbelong.org.uk or on our social media.

Jesus rises from the dead

Jesus rises from the dead

Luke 24:1-12

I’m so happy to say that the last blog post was not the LAST blog post. Luke doesn’t leave Jesus dead and in the grave – He has risen!

The stress, busy-ness and pressure has been gradually building in my household over the last month or two as work tasks have increased, hospital appointments have built up, ongoing jobs from the past year need tying up and we prepare for Christmas and the new year. There have been blood, sweat and tears physically and metaphorically! But those things are coming to end, nothing more can be done, and it’s time to stop and relax and ‘let the good times roll’!

Looking back at the chapter in Luke, Jesus has been in the grave, blood, sweat and tears have been present in an even bigger way than in my household, and now, it is time for Him to come alive again and bring smiles back to the faces of His loved ones. The stress, concern, sadness and disappointment was over. Their friend, son, brother and Saviour was back and all was well again!

I am sure I am not alone in letting the tasks that need to be done, and the stress they bring, overwhelm me. If you can relate, please take this as post as your sign to stop. Jesus is born and He has risen again to be your God and Redeemer. Nothing else matters now. Have fun, share the love of God with those around you and relax.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Jesus is crucified

Jesus is crucified

Luke 23:26-43

There have been a few posts recently that have been a bit sad rather than happy and joyful as you would expect and hope at this time of year. I’m afraid we are about to get stuck into just about the saddest passage in Luke now, just before Christmas – Jesus’ crucifiction. There is a reason we are reading this passage today though, and hopefully you will understand why by the end of the blog post…

It is important for us to remember that although we celebrate Jesus coming down to Earth as a baby at this time of year, He didn’t stay a baby. He grew up to become a teacher, friend, neighbour, prophet, brother, healer, carer and more, and ultimately, He became our rescuer, redeemer, forgiver and Messiah when He died on a cross, taking away our sins.

It isn’t nice to read about Jesus suffering and dying in pain and alone, especially at Christmas, but it is important to remember who Jesus was and what He was sent down to Earth for. He knew His purpose so well, and loved so strongly, that even on the cross, when the pain in His arms and feet was unbearable and His breathing difficult, He focused on the sinner beside Him. This man had done wrong in a big way, and did not deserve anything, instead of using His God given power to free Himself.

The next time you see a nativity scene, acknowledge the baby in the manger, but then look closer. Imagine the baby as a man. God sent to Earth in human form to teach the teachers, heal the sick and broken, change theology, share the good news of God, awaken the dead, calm the seas, feed the hungry, release demons and finally, die on the cross for us. He didn’t have to do it, He didn’t deserve it, but He chose to do it for us, because He loves us.

Pilate sends Jesus to Herod

Pilate sends Jesus to Herod

Study of Luke 23:6-12

We are almost at the end of this book now (only 2 chapters left to go!) and things are getting messy! Jesus has been falsely arrested and now the authorities are battling over what to do with this ‘troublemaker’.

  1. Pilate only sends Jesus to Herod in Luke’s account. Why do you think Luke wanted to include this information?
  2. Why was Herod wanting to meet Jesus? How long had he been waiting?
  3. Why did Herod get Jesus dressed up in a robe like a king?
  4. Why do you think that Jesus spoke to Pilate but refused to reply to Herod?
  5. Why was Jesus sent back to Pilate again at the end of the passage?
Peter says he doesn’t know Jesus

Peter says he doesn’t know Jesus

Luke 22:54-62

I am sure you will know this passage already so I am just going to give a quick summary before getting into the questions for today:

Jesus is arrested, Peter follows, people around question Peter about his connection with Jesus, he denies knowing Jesus, once, twice, three times, then the roaster crows and Peter remembers that he told Jesus he would never deny him but Jesus told him he would do so three times before the roaster crowed….. and breathe!

  1. Why is Jesus taken straight to the high priest after being arrested?
  2. Why does Peter deny knowing Jesus?
  3. Why does Peter cry when he denies Jesus for the third time? What is he remembering?
  4. Previously, Jesus used the Greek word agape for love the first two times, while Peter used a different word, phileoAgape carries the meaning of intense, complete, devoted, sacrificial love, while phileo refers to love as in friendship. Why do you think they used different words?
  5. What can we learn from this and apply to our lives today?
Don’t lose your faith!

Don’t lose your faith!

Luke 22:31-34

I have heard stories of people whose faith was so strong that they were able to do incredible things and even believed enough that they were willing to become martyrs, losing their lives for God. One of these people that always inspired me is Mother Teresa who just upped and left the comfort of home for the dirty, dangerous streets of Calcutta because she believed so strongly in the vision she had been given.

I have recently found out that although her faith was strong at the start, Mother Teresa experienced many years of doubting despite the work she was doing and her strong faith initially.

I can honestly say that I have always had some faith from as long as I can remember but there are definitely moments I can recall when I have struggled and doubted. Just like Mother Teresa, I didn’t tell many people at all, and most people I know will know nothing about those times. This is mostly because I felt ashamed to say that my faith lacked when I was in a role of responsibility or authority and known to others as ‘the Christian girl’, but also because I didn’t want non-Christians to believe that we struggled because I thought it would make them think I wasn’t a good Christian.

In Luke 22:31-34, we find Peter promising Jesus he will always be with Him, even in death but Jesus tells him that isn’t true and that within the day, he will be denying he knows Jesus more than once.

Faith is hard. It isn’t easy to have it all the time at a great level and God knows that isn’t how it works because we will face questions and challenges that force us to consider what we believe, why we believe it and how it impacts us day to day. Without doing this, our faith would be weak because at the smallest hurdle, we will fall and our faith will be gone.

Although Peter fell at this hurdle, Peter instantly realised what he had done and would have regretted it greatly, and when Jesus rose from the dead, Peter was there by His side and was a key figure in the creation of the Church and spreading the message all over.

A lack of faith does not mean your relationship with God is over. It may just be a blip or a learning curve. if you stick with Jesus,continue talking with Him, thanking and praising Him and reading your bible, He will come back to life in your life again and your faith will grow!

Jerusalem will be destroyed

Jerusalem will be destroyed

Study of Luke 21:20-24

The passage prior to this one is a prediction of the end of time and warns us, as Christians, to expect conflict and harm from others. This passage that follows is yet another prediction of times to come but where the previous one ends by telling us faith will save us, this one seems to end as darkly as it begins.

  1. What is different about the way in which Jesus talks about the destruction of Jerusalem here versus in Matthew 24:15-22 and Mark 13:14-20?
  2. At the end of this passage the statement “until the times of the Gentiles” is given – what does this mean?
  3. How do these prophecies of Jesus reinforce your faith in Him?
True Giving

True Giving

Luke 21:1-4

As my siblings and I have grown up, we have been able to work and earn our own money. This is lovely as it means I get to bless, thank and honour my siblings and parents (and now niece and nephews too), but there is also a pressure that comes with that – the pressure to buy a really good present for each of them! This doesn’t come from an external pressure, but from within me. We often say, “It’s the thought that counts” but deep down I still worry that my present won’t be as good as the one I am given by my parents or that my sister gives to my brother. I know that I have done my best and given them a present worth the amount I can afford but it still upsets me if I cannot afford to give a present of a ‘good’ amount.

In this passage in Luke 20:1-4, Jesus was at the temple and saw rich people putting lots of money into the money box, maybe giving 10-20% of their income to God. Then, a poor woman came and put all the coins she had left into the money box. She gave 100% of what she had. Although the amount was less, relatively, it was much more and would have affected her more than the 10% the rich people were putting in. It is likely that they would not have noticed that money going out of their pockets, but the poor woman may not have been able to buy food that day because she had given all her money to God.

This reminds me that it isn’t what I give at Christmas, or the rest of the year round, that matters, but that it is sacrificial – that is what makes it special, if not to people, then it certainly does to God. So don’t worry if the presents you give don’t seem up to scratch, or if the people you give them to don’t seem grateful, don’t worry about it. God saw and He knows what you have done in that sacrifice and will bless you for it!

Is Christ the Son of God?

Is Christ the Son of God?

Study of Luke 20:41-44

In this passage, Jesus is answering a question, perhaps asked by someone or maybe He just knew they would be wondering about it – ‘Why do people say the Christ is the Son of David?’

  1. Who is Jesus talking to in this passage?
  2. Is the question a genuine or rhetorical question? How can we know?
  3. In verse 42, it says ‘The Lord said to my Lord’. Who are these referring to? Are they the same person?
  4. Which enemies of God did David put ‘under God’s control’?
  5. Finally, I am asking the question that Jesus asks in the passage: David calls the Christ ‘Lord,’ so how can the Christ be his son?