Apostolic Spirituality

I spoke recently during the evening service at my church, and I drew upon the idea of apostolic spirituality talked about by Susan Hope in her book ‘Mission Shaped Spirituality: The Transforming Power of Mission’.  In this book, Hope challenges us to find out what happens to us when we become missional in our every day interactions; what happens to us when we simply go.

Apostolic spirituality is the moving away from a spirituality that is focussed on the personal union between God and man, instead focussing on going and being with people in their need. Now, I think both are essential for Christians. We are called to love God, and to love our neighbour. Is it too far fetched to think that there would be different aspects of our spirit involved in these very different relationships? I don’t think so.

Hope writes from personal experiences of how by simply going and being alongside people, she felt revitalised in her ministry and reenergised in her faith. She ponders whether there is a specific spirituality for Mission, and I believe there is. Most definitely. And here’s why…

On 17th January, a lady from church posted on Facebook, requesting items for an asylum seeker who was about to have a baby. I offered to donate a few bits, but it then transpired this lady had more than she needed because of generous donations. The following day, I was walking in town and I happened to bump into my godmother’s husband. I discovered that my godmother was gathering these items to take to this Albanian lady. A couple of friends had offered to cook meals for this lady, so I passed this on to my godmother and she presented me with an opportunity.

This lady speaks very very little English and is on her own in the U.K. Come with me and visit her.

So on Tuesday evening, this week, I went to visit this lady. I can’t use her name, so we will call her Chantelle.

For an hour and a half Chantelle and I chatted, with hand gestures, miming, Google translate and Google images to help. We put together a shopping list, decided what food I could bring for her, and exchanged telephone numbers.

Honestly, I find new social situations hard. I am shy. That is, I worry about social judgments, so I tend to stick to places and people I know. But this year, 2017, is going to be a year of stepping outside those comfort zones; a year of going and being with people in the ups and downs of their lives. Hope says, “What the Church of England could do with possibly more than anything else at present is an adventure’, and I think she’s right. We need to leave our comfort zones, take risks, travel into the unknown, and all of it with God by our side. 

On a Wednesday I visited Chantelle to bring her food, and I calmed her fears about being tired all the time, and fluctuating emotions. We laughed and hugged, and arranged a coffee date for today, so she can meet some more mums and babies. I’m so looking forward to seeing how God works in this sitatuion. That Tuesday evening I could have cried, but I also left feeling exhilarated, as though I should sing loud songs of praise to God. Something within my spirit was awoken by taking an opportunity and going.

Look around you. Where are your opportunities? Where can you go?

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Sermon Writing

Every year our church holds a Missions Sunday, where our Mission Partners share stories from their work, we pray for them and a speaker challenges us about mission.

This year I have been given the task of preaching, and laying down the challenge. It’s quite daunting, but thenakfully God has spoken to me through a particular passage. So much so, that I sat down to write yesterday and the words came flowing out of me.

I was so pleased, as I had asked people to pray for me… and I had been praying. And finally I felt God saying, “This. Talk about this.”

But… things are never that simple. 

God has given me another word. A question in fact. A very challenging question. And a fabulous piece of scripture to go with it.

So, 6 days to go. Do I stick with what I’ve written? Or do I start again?

Mini Beasts Advent

It’s December, but it is only the 1st of December, and our church does a lot of fabulous Christmas things for children and their families a little closer to the main day itself. So, for this month’s Mini Beasts I thought we would try to not look too closely at Christmas itself. Instead, I thought a few wintery activities, alongside some miniature wreath making, might help us get in the mood and get excited.

We had…

Gingerbread playdough (smells amazing!), which the little ones could mould, roll out and cut out gingerbread men.

A festive paddling pool, with tinsel and glitter and baubles.

A surprise blind feeling box, which was wrapped up like a present. Children (and adults) had to put their hands inside and try to work out what it was they were feeling – Christmas pudding, and mince pies.

Miniature wreath making with foliage, little candles and oasis.

Singing, a story and a special Advent prayer!


I am seriously blown away by how much joy I get from doing this group. Not only do I get to come up with fun, creative sensory activities which go with our story / theme, but I also get to share my faith with my daughter and with other parents and their children. What a privilege!

As I hurtle towards my daughter’s first Christmas, and then her first birthday, I am reminded daily of God’s goodness. Whether it’s a message from a friend, the fact I had a good sleep, or just a beautiful blue sky, his love and faithful provision surrounds me. With Mini Beasts, we have taken what was a small seed and planted it. We have met 3 times now, and I am excited to see where 2017 takes us.

Mini Beasts

Today marked the beginning of a new venture, a part of my new mission as a mum. This morning we – a friend and I – put on church in a different way.

We welcomed under 2s and their mums* to church, where we had singing and a story. We had areas set up for them to explore, and we let them pick prayers from our prayer box. 

As our story was the creation story, we had a darkened tent area with electronic tea lights, for some quiet time. We had a paddling pool, to represent the creation of the waters, along with pebbles and lots of bubbles. We had cushioned green area, with many soft animals for imaginary play. All of the little ones (even the under 1s) enjoyed exploring these areas with their mums, and one little girl loved the water area so much she couldn’t help but go for a little paddle.

With much laughter, singing and play, our first Mini Beasts got off to a fabulous start. We are so hopeful that God will use this ministry to show the littlest of his children how much he loves them.



*Disclaimer: not just for mums and babies. Dads, grandparents, carers also welcome.

Burn

“And it burns, burns, burns, the ring of fire, that ring of fire…”

So goes the classic Johnny Cash song. It’s about falling in love, the way it consumes you so you can’t escape. Love envelopes you, and it’s intense, especially in those early days. But what makes you burn? What sets your heart on fire?

For me it is the gospel of Christ – the truth that Jesus died for me, even though I am so undeserving. It is that, when I was in the darkest place, he reached into it with his hand and helped me up. He shone a light in the darkness, and helped me make that light brighter.

If that makes me burn, why don’t I talk about it more? A friend, and member of our congregation, challenged us recently in a sermon. In fact, I talked about it a couple of weeks ago. She asked exactly the same question. For me, it’s because I feel anxious that I’ll say something wrong. Or that they’ll ask a question I don’t know the answer to. 

I’m setting myself a challenge this week: this week I’m going to talk to one person about my faith and Jesus. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Purposeful Acts of Kindness

This year our church celebrates 175 years. That’s quite a long time, and quite an achievement when you consider many churches are closing their doors. As part of the celebrations, the church is asking its members to carry out random acts of kindness.

Now, they are random to the person who is receiving the kindness… But actually, I like to say they’re purposeful. We are purposefully sharing kindness and hope to those around us. 

As many of you will know, I became unemployed in December, when my teaching contract came to an end. Plus, I’m on the long, enjoyable roller coaster of emotions that is maternity leave, and I’m trying to set an example to my daughter from as young as possible. So, me and my daughter will be attempting to undertake as many of the 175 suggestions as we can. We will be doing it purposefully, and we will be doing it loudly. I’ll keep you in the loop and let you know how we get on.

Be purposeful. Be kind. Be generous.

About Her: Gemma Tuson

Introducing my new monthly feature: About Her. Through this feature I want to showcase brilliant Christian women, their passions and their callings. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you Gemma Tuson, creator of the new Be Loved course.

Gemma, what is Be Loved?

Be Loved is a course specifically devised for 14-17 year olds, and runs as six weekly sessions, lasting two hours, in groups of 8-10 with two facilitators. The heart of Be Loved is to see young women thrive within themselves, their relationships and with God. We are passionate about inspiring healthy self-respect and encourage the ability to make valuable life choices. Through the ‘Be Loved’ course we are equipping the group members to deal with life’s challenges head-on, using practical exercises and biblical truth. We love to see young women enjoying the life they have been given, and being excited for their future. 


Where did you get the inspiration for Be Loved?

I’d been working with groups of girls for a while doing various creative workshops, and I was very aware that the majority of teenage girls I met had moderate to low self-esteem. I knew of some fab self-esteem courses but I hadn’t heard of one that included some good, solid biblical truths that they could stand firm on. I felt a strong calling from God to write Be Loved, and through dreams, prayer and various words He definitely directed it.

You speak so wisely of the need to be sure God’s love for us, in order that we live full lives. Has there been a time when you felt unsure of God’s love for you?

Yes. My dad died 6 weeks before my wedding day. I really struggled to get my head round why my Heavenly Father would take away my earthly father so close to the most important day of my life. I was really angry, but didn’t know how to express it, as there was so much going on in my life around that time. I was getting married, leaving my family home and moving into my new house with my new husband. It all felt so surreal. People were telling me how brave I was so I put on a brave persona. Really though, inside, I was in a sad, angry state, but didn’t know how to show it.


That must have been an incredibly difficult time in your life, and faith. How did you come out of it?
It took me 6 years to come to a place where I finally recognised I wasn’t doing ok. I was going to church but I wasn’t praying and had lost my relationship with God. I went for some Christian counseling, which helped me talk about all the hurt I’d been holding onto, and I was able to process my feelings towards God. I knew I either had to work through it, and pursue God, or walk away from my faith. Just after that I read a book called ‘Crazy Love’ by Francis Chan, and it really helped me to realise how much God loves me, and I finally started to come to terms with what had happened.


Obviously faith is an integral part of our lives, but we are busy as mums. How do you pray and read the Bible?

My prayers are usually arrow prayers throughout the day. I have two children, and my husband works at home, so I never really have any alone time! 

I try to get up before the rest of the house and have some time reading the Bible. I like to use bible studies, as I find them really helpful. I love the ‘She Reads Truth’ app and I have found that their commentary gives me fresh insight.


I’m a massive fan of singing, and find such joy when singing to God. What’s your favourite worship song?
I often wake singing ‘Good, good Father‘. It’s like my soul is singing it. Which is amazing since I had a period in my life where I didn’t think He was a very good Father!


Do you have a favourite verse from the Bible?
I have a few favourites!

For being brave:

1John 4;4 “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

For work and relationships:

1 John 3;19 “We, though, are going to love—love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first.”

For my soul:

Matthew 11;28-30 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”


You have a clear calling to serve teenage girls. One problem that seems to come up a lot is the pressure to conform to societal expectations when it comes to sex and relationships. If there was a young girl struggling with pressures of a modern day relationship, wanting advice, what would you say to her?
Don’t do anything you don’t want to do. God wants the BEST for you and your relationships, if it’s not the best then it may not be right. 


Finally, what is your hope for Be Loved and the girls who use it?

My hope is that churches will provide the girls in their churches with the opportunity to do Be Loved. That the young women who complete the course, will leave knowing deep down in their hearts that they are so greatly loved, who they are and who they were created to be, and be completely comfortable with that.


Thank you, Gemma, for sharing some of your story and faith with me. 

If you would like to know more, please visit the Be Loved website where you can find out more information and even buy the course. When I was a teenager, I know I really struggled with self-esteem and finding my identity in God’s love for me. Despite the fact I went to a Christian school, the days and events put on to help build our confidence and self-esteem were very general and not built on the solid foundations of truth found in God’s word. Perhaps you’re a church leader, a parent of a teenage girl, or maybe you are a teenage girl who wants to access this course. Get in touch with Gemma, and allow God to build you up in the knowledge of his love.

Be Loved.

Love Your Neighbour

I don’t want to say how anyone should vote; it’s one of the greatest things about democracy, that people can vote freely. However, I am opinionated, as friends will know, and my blog shares all aspects of my life, so why not politics? If you don’t want to read it, don’t. It may upset you, or make you feel uncomfortable.

I make no secret that I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus. I believe in the Bible. I believe in truth, justice and hope.

Jesus said, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Love your neighbour, as yourself. What does that mean? What does it mean to love yourself?

For me, that means wanting the best for my neighbours. In an increasingly globalised world we benefit, as a country and as individuals, in economics, education, equality and information sharing. Social networking has allowed people all over the world to connect, to enlighten others of their plights, and to reconnect with long lost friends and family. We live in an exciting and connected world. So who is our neighbour? As a Christian AND as a believer in connectedness, I see my neighbour as every man, woman and child, wherever they are in the world, whatever their circumstance. As a Christian, I want to see great change happen in this world; I want the best for everyone.

A friend spoke such truth to me when they said:

“This whole referendum perfectly sums up the hashtag #firstworldproblems and is a major distraction to living as a human being in a needy world.”

However emotive that statement might seem, to me, it is true. We live in a devastatingly unequal world, and yet many of the arguments from both camps are based solely on selfish gains. It seems to be all about trying to make a more profitable and easier life for British people… People who already have one of the easiest lives in the world, and definitely one of the richest.

Who is looking at what is best for humanity? What is best for the citizens of European countries less well of and with less freedoms? What is best for influencing change and bringing peace and hope and love to countries outside of Europe? When will humans be human first and nationalistic second?

I believe, if we take the Bible seriously, we must live this out in every aspect of our lives. I have been guilty of thinking selfishly, wondering how the outcome of this referendum will affect the property market and mine and my husband’s mortgage. But it’s time to stop, and to change.

Love God first, and humans second. Anything else is contrary to Jesus’ teaching.

“Love your neighbour. This is the greatest commandment.”

“I’m letting go of who I was; the old has gone, the new has come.”

Yesterday evening a friend was preaching at church. I haven’t really attended the evening service since my daughter was born, as it has been tricky with feeding and routine. Yet the service was vital for me to attend. You see, on Saturday my friend told me she was gearing up to throw down a big challenge to the church. Something about that made me realise it was important for me to be there… So I could here this challenge myself. I didn’t want to be like Timothy, and miss out on the actual event. I didn’t want to hear the message second hand.

What a challenge! In a nutshell, what are we doing in our everyday lives to share God’s love? Are we as passionate about the Gospel as we should be? She shared a picture of the church teetering on the edge of a cliff, with a choice: leap off into the unknown and trust God; or step backward into the relative safety of our lives to which we have become accustomed. The title of this post is a line from a song she challenged us to use as a response.

For the past few years, this has been a recurring theme in my life. It’s how I’ve been living for some time, with choice after choice after choice. Each time I have felt that God has been saying, “Go on! Leap! I’ll catch you! But if you’re not ready… Don’t worry!” So I’ve been backing away from that cliff for some time. I’ve not really been ready to leap fully into the unknown, and I’m still not. Except recently, I’ve been hearing God’s voice clearer than before. And his message is different. Now, he’s saying, “Go on! Leap! Even if you’re not ready, even if you stumble, trust me.” Yet I still haven’t quite done it. I still haven’t quite let go.

  

I am living a new life, as a mother. It’s the reason behind this blog: I have a new mission to explore and live out. I’ve had to let go of so much, and it’s all worth it, as I gaze at my daughter’s beautiful, happy, shining face. As I face this new mission, with so many decisions ahead of me, I must lean into God and let go completely. I must leap. I must learn how to fly.