Tag: uk blogger

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.

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?

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King

Jesus enters Jerusalem as King

Luke 19:28-40

This is it, there is no denying it now. We are much into the traditional Easter story instead of the Christmas one now. This is where things get less pretty, and more intense, full on and emotional…

Christmas is an exciting, fun time for myself and many others, full of great food, presents, laughter, joy and love. It’s easy to get distracted and forget the reason we are even celebrating is because a baby was born. Not just any baby though, the Son of God!

This passage in Luke 19 reminds us that not only should we be remembering and celebrating the moment Jesus was born, but also the moments after that in which He went into Jerusalem, got arrested and died on a cross, knowing that it was required in order that we might be able to live with Him in eternity.

Death and pain are not things we like to think about at this time of year, but this one was special. He didn’t stay dead, He rose from the dead later on, proving who He was and what He was born to do.

As Jesus enters Jerusalem, His followers shouted out, praising Him for what He had done, and even laying down their coats and leaves to make a path for Him (and the donkey He was on) to ride across. If you know the Easter story, you will know that these cries of Hosanna soon changed to be boos of hate.

It can be easy to love Jesus when things are going well and we are surrounded by happy people and good things but when things in life are challenging, Christmas is over and we go back into the ‘real’ world, are we still celebrating Jesus the King? Do we continue to worship Him when He is no longer a baby? Do we lift our voices or hands and give thanks to Him when the cross feels far too heavy for us and life isn’t all tinsel and bells and glitter?

I wonder how many of the people present on this day in Jerusalem, who seemed committed to worshipping and praising Jesus, continued supporting and loving Him when the crowds had to choose between Him and a murderer? How many of them still saw Him as their Lord and Saviour when He died on the cross? How and why would our God allow His Son to die a death like that? Surely it can’t really be Him!?

When Christmas is done, are you still going to be there beside Jesus when life is rough? Or are you only there for the good parts, the celebration? It’s a challenge for us all to make sure we don’t get life get in the way of recognising Jesus in everything and not giving up on Him when things don’t pan out the way we want.

Rightfully righteous

Rightfully righteous

Luke 18:9-14

I am going to make a confession. I was a boring child. Out of all my siblings and friends I was the boring one because I was a rule keeper. Even now as an adult, I love rules and lists and being organised. The Pharisee in this passage seems to be the same. He didn’t steal, cheat or commit adultery, he prayed, fasted and gave one tenth of his earnings as required. Outwardly, he seemed like the perfect person.

Then we have the tax collector. Known to cheat and lie to people, he recognised his faults and sins and asked God to have mercy on him. When they went home, the Pharisee was kept doing the right thing, but didn’t get right with God, but the tax collector opened up to God about his faults and wrong doings and he was right with God – rightfully righteous.

It can be so easy to get carried away doing the right things and looking like the perfect Christian from the outside. But we cannot be rightfully righteous without accepting our faults and opening up to God, asking for His grace and mercy, just like the tax collector.

No one else can judge this because they can’t see what is going on inside. That is down to you to work out with God, and ask for someone to help you work through it if you need or want to open up and get someone else involved.

The Richman and Lazarus

The Richman and Lazarus

Luke 16:19-31

When I am attempting to learn something new, I have to be physically involved. You could give me pictures or say the instructions step by step. I could even watch you do something and have a video recording of it to watch back, but if I don’t get the opportunity to be hands on, I won’t remember it nor will I be able to confidently carry out a task.

In the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus, it seems the rich man was like me. He had teaching from Moses and the prophets, but he only paid attention and fully understood it when it was too late.

I know some people who take advice from others and put it straight into practice and others who ignore advice from anyone other than themselves. I am somewhere in the middle. I appreciate good advice when I need it, but will need to test it before taking it as solid truth. For example, if someone told me that something was hot, I would often have to hold my hand near it before believing them. – not on it though because I am not a risk taker!

With Lazarus in heaven and the rich man in hell, he suddenly realises that he is wrong but it is too late. Jesus explains that once you are in heaven or hell, you cannot switch over to the other. One belongs to the devil and the other belongs to God – no house shares allowed!

This is difficult to hear as Christians with friends who are not believers, but it is the way things work. Good and evil are separated and there can be no contamination otherwise Heaven could not be the perfect place we know it to be. We need to be sharing the Good News of Jesus with everyone we know and love to ensure they don’t end up in the fires of hell. However, we are lucky that in our time, since Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are given another chance. Judgement day is God’s day for Him to ask us one more time if we believe in Him. Therefore, even if we decide to go against Him all our lives, we have another chance to spend eternity in Heaven.

Our God is a compassionate, loving, gracious, merciful God. He is the God who sent His only Son to earth to die for us – He wouldn’t do that if He didn’t care about us. God doesn’t want us to leave Him and spend eternity away from Him so He will always give us the best chance, but if you have the opportunity, say yes to God now – it will save time later.

Lost sheep, coin and son

Lost sheep, coin and son

Luke 15:1-32

Have you ever lost something or someone you loved? I am a very nostalgic person and love to keep as many items that relate to memories as I possibly can. I also treasure people, especially those that have kept in touch after I become ill so when I lose touch with someone, fall out of a relationship, or lose something special to me, it hits me hard!

In each these 3 parables, there is a lost item or person but the reaction to that is different in 1 than the others. In the first 2, the shepherd and the woman actively search for the sheep and coin, but in the third story, the father waits for his son to return home instead of searching for him.

“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep but loses one of them. Then he will leave the other ninety-nine sheep in the open field and go out and look for the lost sheep until he finds it“. – Luke 15:4

“Suppose a woman has ten silver coins, but loses one. She will light a lamp, sweep the house, and look carefully for the coin until she finds it.” – Luke 15:8

“While the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt sorry for his son. So the father ran to him and hugged and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against God and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’But the father said to his servants, ‘Hurry! Bring the best clothes and put them on him. Also, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get our fat calf and kill it so we can have a feast and celebrate. My son was dead, but now he is alive again! He was lost, but now he is found!’ So they began to celebrate. – Luke 15:20b-24

The parables of the lost sheep, lost coin and lost son (otherwise known as the prodigal son) are all stories told by Jesus to help the ‘tax collectors and sinners’ to understand His teaching. As I grew up in a Christian family and have never turned away from my faith, I had struggled to relate to these stories and apply them to my life. I am not a tax collector, but I am a sinner, as we all are, so this parable is for me too. Though I want to always be a perfect follower of Jesus, I am still just human so cannot be perfect, therefore, there are days or moments that I choose to do my thing and go my way rather than do the things that God would have me do, just like the prodigal son.

Without God’s grace and mercy, the first time I chose my earthly life over His Heavenly Kingdom would have been the last. Grace and mercy are for all. We can’t buy, we don’t deserve it, but God is a loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving Father, so if we turn back, God will greet us with open arms and welcome us back into His family.