Category: Christianity (Page 2 of 5)

Feeling very inspired right now…

A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post from Pudsey Parish Church on Facebook about the start of their Believe in Pudsey week, which was kicking off with ‘An Evening with John Sentamu’. It sounded interesting and it was only £4, so I booked tickets to go with my boyfriend and my best friend. It turns out that it was exactly what I needed right now, and I left the room with an overwhelming sense of inspiration and feeling completely uplifted.

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Picture courtesy of Pudsey Parish Church on Facebook

You’d be forgiven for not realising that I was a Christian. When I was at school, being a Christian or even mentioning the J word would have people rounding on you like nobody’s business. It didn’t change my beliefs, but it did make me very quiet and reluctant to express them. And even though I left school 8 years ago, I still carry that feeling around with me.

But Archbishop John Sentamu flicked a switch in me last night. Why should I be ashamed to be a Christian? No matter how many people try to say that this is a secular country, it’s not. We’re a Christian country and we have a right to be proud of that. I realised last night that I’ve become one of the ‘floppy handed’ Christians that the Archbishop talked about. This is something that I’m not pleased with, and I’m ready to change.

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Halfway through last night, a couple of booklets were given out. One for those who wanted to start a new life with God and one for those who wanted to be filled with the spirit, with the option for people to choose both, which I did. I haven’t yet read them, but I feel like they’ll contain what I need to refresh my life and help me to kick out the bad things so that (in the words of last night), I can get my torch working again, in other words, I can let my light shine through Jesus and in his name, and can be proud to be doing so.

I haven’t been to Church for quite some time, making excuses like I’ve got other things to do, and it doesn’t matter if I go because I know that I still believe, but I think that now’s the time for me to return. That feeling of being in a group of fellow believers who are all sharing the same experience with you and feeling the love of God in the room was something that I had lost sight of until last night. And I want it back.

Standing in a room full of 200-300 people singing Amazing Grace gave me chills like I’ve never felt before.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

So thank you to Pudsey Parish Church for giving me an experience I’ll never forget, and bringing me to a turning point in my life.

Review: A. J. Jacobs – The Year of Living Biblically

20140531-220146-79306212.jpgI decided to read this book as a bit of an impulse. When I joined the library, I was looking around to see what kind of books they had, and I took a look at their religious section. This one kind of jumped out at me, it looked like an interesting concept: a guy decides that he’s going to spend an entire year living to the rules in the Bible. I couldn’t help but pick it up and see what it was all about!

Obviously some rules are easier to keep than others: Thou shall not kill for one. But things like not cutting your beard, not sitting in a seat after a woman has done so during her ‘unclean’ time of the month and not wearing clothes of mixed fibres are slightly more difficult to stick to.

As expected, I found the book to be quite funny, but mainly I found it very insightful. During his quest, he decides to talk to as many people as he can, from the neighbourhood Rabbi to the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the extremely evangelical Christian groups of Southern America, it was very interesting to see the many different ways that the Bible can be interpreted, and how people use the same verse to justify wildly different behaviour.

I loved the way that the author fully immersed himself in the journey, tackling the harder parts as well as the easier ones. Starting the year as an agnostic, non-practicing Jew, the culture difference is immediately apparent, especially since he’s having to drag his wife and young son along on the journey with him, and there are many times when you can sense that his wife is shaking her head and wondering what is the point.

By the end of the book, he is changed in ways that he might not have expected, and I think I was too. It’s quite easy to just disregard some of the rules in the Bible as being not applicable to this day and age, and to believe the hype that the Bible forbids homosexuality and other behaviour that is completely normal nowadays, but as A.J. finds out, verses of the Bible can be interpreted in different ways, and a lot of verses are almost certainly not supposed to be followed word-for-word.

I absolutely loved the book, although I found the ending slightly disappointing. We spend nine months of the year on the Old Testament and only three months on the New Testament. Granted, the Old Testament does contain more of the ‘rules’ and guides for life, but I felt that the New Testament section of the book was a little rushed and more like it was tacked on the end. I would have liked this part to be a little more fleshed out, but I can understand that as he was brought up in a Jewish family, the New Testament would not have been as comfortable to follow.

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone, Christian or not. It’s an eye-opener, and you might just find yourself learning something and becoming more tolerant of other people.

5/5

 

Review: Michael Mayne – A Year Lost and Found

Michael Mayne - A Year Lost and FoundSometimes, a book comes into your life at just the right time, and this was so perfectly timed it’s untrue.

I only picked it up by a random choice when I was browsing the religion section at the library. It stuck out to me for some reason so I checked it out. And it turned out to be completely perfect for what is going on in my life right now.

Michael Mayne was a priest struck down with a seemingly mysterious illness. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong and he spent most of his days in bed, unable to summon the energy to move. Eventually, after being shunted from doctor to doctor for test after test, the doctors told him it was probably some kind of post-viral syndrome, which could clear up in days, or it could take up to a year.

This is quite similar to my dad. He’s been spending the majority of his time in bed since last August, when he suddenly lost all energy and found it extremely comfortable to sit up for any long period of time. He’s not asleep when he’s in bed, just completely lethargic – like the author. And the doctors have diagnosed ‘extreme jet lag’, one of the things that was suggested to Michael.

The first half of the book took you through Michael’s year of illness, the highs (not many) and the lows (a lot). The second half of the book is the Michael talking about how he relates this to his experience of God, and how he doesn’t lay the blame for his illness, how suffering has a higher purpose. The book was a great (and very personal) story about illness and hope, perfectly timed to give me the hope I needed.

My favourite quote from this book was:

“Nowhere is Jesus more powerful than in his passive suffering on the Cross. Nowhere does he show more clearly the truth of the passive, suffering God whose hands are tied by love.”

4/5

Good Friday

I can’t quite believe that it’s Easter already, this year has gone by so quickly. I have managed to stick to giving up chocolate for Lent though, even if it did mean that I couldn’t eat the gorgeous smelling dinner that my sister cooked earlier this week (who puts chocolate with Turkey?!). I’ve also mostly managed to stick to the two books that I started reading for Lent. I’m not at the end of them yet, but I’m just going to carry on reading until I’ve finished.

As it’s Good Friday, I wanted to share my favourite Good Friday Bible verses with you:

My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. —Matthew 26:39

My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done. —Matthew 26:42

This verse comes from just before Jesus is arrested, when he goes to Gethsemane to pray. He knows what is going to happen and why, and he is willing to do it to save the rest of us. It’s something that I need to learn, sometimes God wants you to do something and you just need to realise that if it’s God’s will, there’s a reason for it and you just need to get on with it and stop fighting against it.

As it’s Good Friday, I’ll probably watch The Passion of the Christ tonight. I first watched it a few years ago with my parents and we had to stop half way through as we were all so upset by it. I’ve watched it every year since, and it’s always a struggle to get to the end. Seeing everything so brutally on screen just hits home how big the sacrifice was. But it’s not something that should be avoided, in fact, I should make more of an effort to remember it all year round.

 One last thing, seeing as though it’s Good Friday, I’ll share a bit of my good news. My Dad and I have been on a new plan to eat healthily and go to the gym more often, and since Christmas I’ve lost 39 pounds and my Dad has lost 30 pounds. There’s still a long way to go, but I’m very pleased with myself for keeping up with it. Let’s just hope we can avoid too much chocolate after Sunday!!

John 14:27

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I’ve had this in my head the last couple of days, I’m finding it quite comforting. It’s also reminded me that I’m a bit behind on my two Lent reading books, I’m really enjoying those, particularly The Purpose Driven Life, so I need to get back into them again.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Review: Rob Lacey – The Liberator

rob-lacey-the-liberator-e1330254420433As I have already read this book a few times, I knew it was going to be great, but I was surprised how much I enjoyed it. Every time I read it I get something different out of it, and this time I finished the book feeling more connected than I have in a long time.

If you don’t know, The Liberator is a re-telling of the life of Jesus, but the language in the book is brought completely up to date, Lacey was definitely not afraid to change it up a little. It make the book very easy to read (once you get used to the new language he has used – e.g. Prophets are called God’s Couriers, and the temple is referred to as Religious HQ). Here’s an example from the book, from Matthew 5:17-18:

It’s time to rumble the rumours: I’m not here to bulldoze through Moses’ Big Ten Rules. I’m not here to do a character assassination job on God’s Couriers. I’m not here to finish off the Instruction Manual. No, I’m here to complete it. Straight up, on the level, nothing’s getting deleted from Moses’ Contract – not the smallest dot from your paper print-out, not the tiniest pixel, not the faintest watermark – zip. Not till every ending, from main theme to smallest subplot, gets wrapped up and filed under ‘C’ for ‘Complete’.

Compare this to the NIV, and you can see the difference:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Throughout the book are little fictional pieces, for example articles from a newspaper called ‘The Jews News’, and interviews with people from the time. It’s all very fun, and does help you see deeper into the story – a very clever idea.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, Lacey was battling cancer when he wrote this book, and he passed away shortly after it was published. It’s a shame, as he was truly talented and had a natural gift for communication and explanation.

I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to get into the Bible or find out more about the life of Jesus, or to anyone who has read the Bible many times and wants a refreshing take. If you’ve read this book and liked it, I would also highly recommend The Word on the Street – another book by Lacey in very much the same style, only this time he takes on the whole Bible – a very worthwhile read!

5-5

Lent Reading: Rick Warren – The Purpose Driven Life & John Piper – The Passion of Jesus Christ

For lent this year (as well as giving up chocolate again), I’ve decided to re-read two books that I’ve read and loved in the past.

rick-warren-the-purpose-driven-life-e1330255287342The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.

This book is handily split into 40 sections/days (although I’ve started a bit late so I’ll have to double up for a while, or finish a bit late). I’ve read it in the past, the first time was when I was part of the youth group at City Church Leeds, and it’s basically 40 days to reconnect with God and rediscover why he put us all here, what your life is about. Some people might think it all sounds a bit airy-fairy, but it was great the last time I read it, and it’s about time I read it again – maybe I shouldn’t leave it so long next time!

john-piper-the-passion-of-jesus-christ-e1330255531856The Passion of Jesus Christ by John Piper.

I bought and started reading this last Easter, but I never got to the end, so this year I’m determined that I will. This one is in 50 sections, so I’ll have to read more than one a day, but I remember loving what I read before. The subtitle of this book is ‘Fifty reasons why Jesus came to die’, although it makes it clear that it’s not fifty causes, but fifty purposes – fifty reasons why Christ suffered and died for us – perfect for reading during Lent.

Now Reading: Rob Lacey – The Liberator

rob-lacey-the-liberator-e1330254420433I’ve read this book a few times in the past (as you can probably tell from the tatty edges of the cover), and it’s one of my favourites. I’ve not read it for a while, and I found myself really wanting to read it last night. It’s a telling of the life of Jesus as you’ve never read it before, the language used is completely modern and relatable (and sometimes a little surprising). Throughout the book, there’s also fictional interviews with characters from the story, and thought provoking questions at the bottom of many pages. It’s great as a point of discussion, but also great for reading through from start to finish.

As Lacey writes in the intro:

It’s not a Bible, but it might just get you reaching for one.

As with The Word on the Street (another of my favourites), Lacey wrote this book while he was battling cancer, and sadly passed away two months after this book was published. He’s left a marvellous legacy though, one that his family can be very proud of.

Happy New Year (or should I say Prospero Año Nuevo?)

Happy New Year everyone – I can’t quite believe it’s 2012 already! I know everybody says this, but I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a good one!

I have a few resolutions for this year, which I thought I would share with you all, hopefully it’ll make me more likely to actually stick to them. Although saying that, my resolution from last year came true, so I’m hopeful for this year too!

  • First up, I want to continue to read my bible more often. My OwnIt365 reading plan will help, as will listening to the Daily Audio Bible podcast which I have started doing every day.
  • I really want to pick up on my Spanish again. I loved learning it when I was at school (and I used to be pretty good at it), so I’m going to get myself learning it again. It may sound weird but I do sometimes still think in Spanish, does anyone else find themselves doing that?
  • Read more – I’ve signed up for Book Chick City’s 100 book reading challenge, which is definitely going to be a challenge, but hopefully one that is a lot of fun!

I’ve decided to combine the first two resolutions by reading my Spanish/English bible. I bought it a couple of years ago (it took me ages to find), it’s basically a bible with Spanish down one side of the page and English down the other:

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Hopefully by the end of the year, I’ll be able to read my Spanish-only bible (Santa Biblia), without needing to consult the English version or a dictionary so much.

If you’ve made a resolution for the new year, leave me a comment and let me know!

Merry Christmas!

It’s a bit late in the day now, but wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone had a great day. Mine was surrounded by family; chatting, laughing and opening presents – and eating turkey of course! The only thing missing was Cameron! I got some really cool stuff, including books, DVDs, music, make up and charms for my bracelet.

I wanted to share this picture that someone posted on Twitter, it really made me laugh:

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I hope everyone enjoys boxing day, recovering from the over indulgence today! I’ll leave you with a couple of my favourite quotes this Christmas:

“Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.”

Luke 2:14

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 3:16

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