Tag: christian blogger

Knowing God – Interview with Bex Lewis

Knowing God – Interview with Bex Lewis

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

My name is Bex, short for Rebecca, which apparently means ‘servant of God’ in Hebrew, although a mug I have also says that it means ‘bound’, as in ‘bound to do what is right’, and an online site says it could mean any of: tying firmly; fastening; binding; noosed cord; captivating; snare; beauty that ensnares, grace that enraptures. Online you’ll typically find me @drbexl.

2) Do you think your name suits who you are and/ or what you do? 

I love my shortened version, it has a bit of ‘va va voom’, and the full name makes sense too, although aren’t all Christians ‘servants of God’. The meaning from my mug rings way too many bells, I often feel pressurised by ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ – I want to do what is right, but maybe with less mental stress! I feel like I’m a solid person to have around, rather than a captivating, enrapturing one!

3) If you were born in biblical times, when names were given as prophesies, what would your name mean? 

My name is from the Bible, so has a biblical meaning! Like Rebekah in the Bible, who left her family to marry Isaac who she had never met, I have had a habit of giving up secure work and moving around the country to do what feels right at the time.

4) Which of God’s names or attributes resonate with you the most? (give up to 3) 

Considering a list of attributes of God, the ones that resonate with me most are grace (although it can still be very easy to fall into habits of seeking faith by works!), the great ‘I AM’ – there before, with and after us, and infinite – beyond our capacity to measure and label!

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.

I have always been brought up with a strong ‘Protestant work ethic’, and therefore ‘faith by works’ is always a habit that I fall back into. On an Oak Hall ski trip many years ago, the focus of the week’s teaching was on ‘grace’, and I felt that it was finally starting to make sense – I then came back from the trip and the Sunday sermon was on …. grace! I need constant reminders of this – that there is ‘nothing I can do to make God love me any more – or less’…

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 think there are many aspects of God that have different resonances throughout our life experiences. Now living with incurable cancer, and not knowing if I have 3 months, 3 years or 30 years to live, but that living will be combined with managing side effects and lifelong treatment … the fact that God is above and beyond all this, and is alongside in our suffering (even if we can’t always feel it) helps keep me on a more even keel when life feels out of control/unmanageable. I don’t expect that this will necessarily be done through ways that are recognisably supernatural … but friends (Christian and non-Christian) and organisations can help make life survivable! God is above and beyond humanity – but works through it!

7) Are there any of God’s names that confuse you or that you struggle with? Which one/s and why?

There are times when I may wish for comforter and healer in a more ‘magical’ and ‘instant’ way, but I remain comforted by the idea that God is above and beyond human understanding, and we can’t reduce Him to our level of understanding. If I ever hear about people talking about ‘God pre-chose you’, I wonder what that means for free will, and for those who were not pre-chosen … that niggles! I am more comfortable with the idea that God is a jealous and just God (mixed with mercy), and that being a Christian doesn’t mean we are wet blankets, or there to be walked all over – we can get justifiably angry, although sometimes we have to trust God to carry out the justice.

8) Which parts of God’s character would you like to know better?

God is described as ‘self-sufficient’ – I have spent many years feeling like I should give of myself to the church in a sacrificial way – and there are times for that … but learning that God doesn’t need my input (though he loves it) is something to learn more of.

9) Which part of the Trinity do you feel closest with and why do you think that is?

As someone who lives on the earth, and as Jesus walked the earth in a physical form, this can feel the easiest to relate to. God can feel a bit ‘up above’ and the Holy Spirit can feel a bit, well, ‘ethereal’ – although it’s what been left to help us in our earthly life since Jesus left it (rather like a wi-fi signal helps us to connect to the wider internet … I had to get something digital in there somewhere).

10) How do you think that knowing and using God’s names in prayer and conversation might help us?

I don’t find prayers with an over-repetition of ‘Lord’ at every other word very helpful, and to be honest I don’t think I’ve particularly thought about the names that I’ve used (I’ve had no formal theological training, so working through these questions have introduced me to some new ideas as I’ve bobbed around the internet looking things up), and am thinking about what difference it would make now.

Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience.

She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University, with a particular interest in digital culture and the digital environment, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, includes social media and cancer.

Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research.

She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst  (Lion Hudson, 2014), of which a second edition is in preparation for 2020. Alongside academic journal articles, she has authored a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards.

She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.

Knowing God – Interview with Jemma Brown

Knowing God – Interview with Jemma Brown

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

    My name is Jemma Brown and it means precious gem which is very fitting as I was a long awaited baby! It took my parents 10 years to conceive me hence I’m my parents precious gem.
  2. Do you think your name suits who you are and/ or what you do? 

    I think the most truthful answer to this is that it depends what mood I’m in.
  3. If you were born in biblical times, when names were given as prophesies, what would your name mean?

    Something about being stronger than I think or stronger than others perceive. People often make assumptions about me because of my disability, seeing only the things they think I cannot do. There are some things I can’t do but I’m also really good at finding ‘work arounds’ and adapting.
  4. Which of God’s names or attributes resonate with you the most? (give up to 3)

    Elohim is definitely one that resonates with me significantly. It’s the meaning that our God is the ‘true God’ who is all powerful that we can put all our trust and hope in and that that same powerful God created everything in the earth, planets, stars and of course us. Our God is a creative God.
    Ironically for someone living with severe visual impairment, another name that resonates with me is El Roi, the God who sees. This is something I hold on to as I have faced so much discrimination and trauma as a direct result of my disabilities. God has seen all the times I have been badly treated and knows every detail of the struggles I have faced – He knows it all. Looking at this one from a different angle God also sees me in my entirety as someone living with multiple severe and enduring mental illnesses (Bipolar, complex PTSD and Borderline Personality disorder). I spend a lot of energy ‘masking’ in an attempt to fit in but I know God has seen all my pain and frustration and knows how much effort recovery has taken. He has seen me at my best and he has also seen me at my most mentally ill yet He never leaves me.
  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. 

    I think that I believe in a God that is all powerful and a God of truth which is really helpful when navigating the storms of life as I know that He is in charge of my life, not me, and He can be trusted. Most of my chronic illnesses are degenerative and will get worse over time, and my remaining vision will eventually go (I say eventually but no one really knows when) and that is a huge burden to carry. As medicine can’t ‘fix’ me, my future health is in God’s hands.
    When I am mentally unwell I find it very difficult to talk to others honestly about how I am feeling so often hide it. I take comfort in the fact that the God who sees knows all about my mental health and the ‘thorn in my mind’ (inspired by the book ‘A Thorn in My Mind: Mental Illness, Stigma and the Church’ by Cathy Wield) so I am actually never alone with the darkness as God is always there and sees it all.
  6. Have the names/ attributes of God that you most relate to, changed due to life circumstances such as illness or disability? How so?

    Yes – I think that is actually true for everyone, regardless of health or disability. As we walk through life, different names and attributes seem to have greater significance at various points.
  7. Are there any of God’s names that confuse you or that you struggle with? Which one/s and why?

    I identify a lot with the names of God and it was hard to pick out just a few to talk about so I don’t really struggle with any right now but I think it’s fairly fluid.
  8. Which parts of God’s character would you like to know better?

    All of it! Isn’t that the main part of our walk as Christians to draw close to God and to have a relationship with Him that evolves and deepens over time? I became a Christian roughly 10 years ago and since then, my desire is to know God more. Galatians 2:20 says ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me’.
  9. Which part of the Trinity do you feel closest with and why do you think that is?

    I feel closest to Jesus as He knows all about my suffering, be that physical or psychological pain and trauma. Jesus was also very non-judgmental and went against the grain of the societal norms. Specifically, I’m thinking of when He healed the women with bleeding and made clean the man with leprosy. Both of these miracles were done for people who were cast out by society and considered unclean. Jesus touched them and changed their lives and that was pretty radical! I’m a bit like that. I’m wired to love people and love them deeply, not just my friends and family but the persecuted and cast out. I feel called to show the world a tiny bit of Jesus’ love (in that the love of God is infinite and whatever I do will only be a tiny part of it).
  10. How do you think that knowing and using God’s names in prayer and conversation might help us? 

    I think its important because it shows us that our God is HUGE and has so many attributes and looking into them specifically for this interview I thought of more and more ways I could see different attributes or names working together in my life and how actually, they all work together. Our God is awesome, powerful, loving, father, healer, I Am, kind, compassionate, caring, fierce, trustworthy… the anchor in the storm and so much more!

Jemma is a former journalism student who became a Christian at university during one of the darkest points of her life 10 years ago. Since dropping out of university, Jemma has volunteered her time extensively for guide dogs UK helping our with campaigns and media.

Jemma also uses her extensive experience of living with multiple disabilities in a number of advocacy roles including as a guest lecturer to nursing and medical students on topics like spirituality in medicine and PTSD. Jemma is severely visually impaired (blind) and also lives with Ehlers Danlos syndrome and SEMI (bipolar, BPD and CPTSD).

Jemma is a passionate reader of both fiction and non fiction and also loves social media. 

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!

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!

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!

The Sadducees try to trick Jesus

The Sadducees try to trick Jesus

Luke 20:27-40

As a young child, my faith was so strong that almost nothing in this world was strong enough to break me away from God. I felt God physically next to me for many years so never felt alone. As I have grown up, that feeling of a physical presence of God has disappeared, not because my faith has gone, but it has changed, as have I, and the the things I worry about have changed too.

In Luke 20:27-40, Jesus is faced with a tricky question about marriage and right relationships – if one man marries a woman, but dies, then she marries another man, but he dies, and another but he dies, until she has married 7 men, when she dies, who is her rightful husband? It is a complicated question, but Jesus answers it perfectly!

Marriage is an earthly event. In heaven, we won’t have husbands and wives because in Heaven, we are all children of God and all love and care for one another. I don’t know if that means we won’t be worried about being with our partners or families, or if we just don’t even remember those events, but it seems it will all be irrelevant in Heaven.

When I was younger, Heaven was Heaven. It was a place I was going to when I died where I would be with God and float around with the angels whilst smiling and singing songs of praise and worship to God. Now I am older, my interpretation of Heaven is different. I don’t think I will be floating around on a cloud and bouncing from one to another whilst unicorns gallop past, but maybe it will!? In this passage in Luke 20, Jesus makes Heaven more real, understandable but also confusing. He knows what it is like to love but we won’t love another as husband and wife as we have done on Earth.

It can be hard to grasp this concept because we want to be with our partners forever, that’s why we get married, but remember, the traditional wedding vows say:

”til death do us part’.

Marriage wasn’t ever intended to go on into Heaven. I don’t know whether when we get there, we won’t remember that we got married, we won’t recognise our partners, or we just won’t be worried about being with them because we have everyone else around us to love too. It’s complicated, and far beyond our human brains can imagine. All I know is that Heaven is going to be amazing! Everyone will love one another and there will be no fears, shame or regret. The perfect place! Whether I get to jump around and float on clouds with the unicorns (like my 8 year old self hoped/ believed) or I just get to be with the rest of God’s children in a big, happy family setting, I can’t wait!

How do you imagine Heaven to be and what are you most looking forward to?