Tuesday, 24 March 2015

When I didn’t want to pray

Last week at college we had week of prayer to pray for the mission teams that we would all participate in the following week.  This meant that we prayed more than usual in our morning chapel times and chaplaincy groups, usually in small groups rather than being lead from the front.  

At some point in the week I suddenly felt exhausted from praying.  I didn't want to pray anymore, I was tired of praying and it had tired me out.  

I was shy of admitting this here.  After all, I'm a Bible college student, I've chosen to study my faith full time, shouldn't I love praying?  Shouldn't I be good at it by now?  I shouldn't be feeling like I don't want to do it.  

But in case there is even just one other person out there who feels the same way as me sometimes, I thought I should share this.  And I want to be honest here not just about the good things, but the struggles too.  

I know I can come up with a number of reasons to explain away why I was tired of praying.  I'm an introvert and praying in groups for 20-30 minutes each day with people I don't necessarily know well, if at all, is emotionally taxing.  I'm also shy about talking in groups so often praying out loud is a push out of my comfort zone.  Then there's the fact that you have to reword and add-lib on the fly because simply reading out the prayer point doesn't quite feel like I'm praying sincerely (even though that's a totally legitimate way to pray, particularly with the detailed points).  

But honestly, I don't want to let myself get away with excuses for my attitude to prayer.  Prayer has often been hard for me, in groups and alone.  I know that I'm not alone in this.  Pray is hard, that's the truth.  It's hard to keep at it, to keep trying, because it feels so weird.  There's nothing else that we do like it.  And often we wonder what's wrong when we pray because we don't feel any different, as if feelings are the gauge of God hearing us.  

Image from thegospelcoalition.org

But my thought that day last week shocked me.  Because while I don't expect that I will always love praying, and I certainly don't expect to be good at it without a lot of hard work, I shouldn't let that stop me from persisting.  And I shouldn't want to opt out from doing it.  Prayer is our lifeline to God.  It is our expression of our utter dependence on him for everything, and a product of our relationship with him.  How can we have a relationship with God if we never speak to him (prayer) and if we never listen to him (reading the Bible)?  

It was my sinfulness that said I was tired of prayer.  And I know I'm not disgusted enough with my sin, but the shock at my sin was good.  I was glad it shocked me because it showed me that God is changing me, little by little, working in my heart to make it like his and to despise my sin and love his righteousness. 

We visited a mosque today as part of our mission, to learn more about Islam and what Muslim's believe.  I've often been impressed with the amount of praying that pious Muslims do (at least five times a day according to the rules of their faith).  But I shouldn't need rules about when to pray to get me to pray.  Paul says to pray continuously! (1 Thess 5:17).  I know that God has made it possible for me to approach him in prayer without any need for special words or special actions.  Jesus has interceded for me before the Father and made me clean.  Praise be to God.  I need to remember this and keep trusting in God for everything, knowing how much of a privilege it is to come to him in prayer.

O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear.
All because we do not carry
everything to God in prayer.

(“What a Friend we have in Jesus”, lyrics Joseph Scriven)

Friday, 20 March 2015

Thankful Thur– Friday

Oops!  After all that rush on Wednesday I’m late with my Thankful Thursday post.  Here are some things that I’m thankful for this week:

Church camp
Last weekend J and I went away up into the mountains for church camp.  It was a lovely time away and a great opportunity to get to know some people at church better, and have fun together.  I felt more relaxed (and sometimes a bit crazy) than I usually am at church.  Thanks to everyone who shared thoughts with me, sat next to me, played games with me, puzzled with me and prayed with me. 

Making music
On Monday night our college had their graduation ceremony and J and I were involved in leading the songs with three others from college.  It was lots of fun.  There was playful banter, helpful instrument carriers, some insistent glasses cleaning, nerves and beautiful noise.  I also surprised myself by being chatty in the car when we were taking instruments back to college.  It was particularly lovely getting to know our drummer a bit and to see her enjoyment and enthusiasm for music.  Thanks music team!

Our year group at college
On Thursday afternoon we held a “senatorial inquiry” on Luke’s gospel and how it provides hope for a number of different people groups of the time.  It was hilarious (and also informative of course).  People dressed up in togas (or dresses or toilet paper bandages or hessian sacks) and went to town on first century jokes and year group references.  I’m thankful that our year group is funny, friendly and overall fantastic.  I’m so grateful for the friends I have, the helpfulness people show, and the fun we have together.

A flower
I only noticed today that my passionfruit plant has produced a flower!  To be honest, I wasn’t sure that the plant would do very well in a pot so I’m excited that this has happened.  One step closer to getting fruit!

What are you thankful for this week?

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Wednesday woes

(Oh no, quick!  Get in a blog post before Thursday so there aren’t two Thankful Thursdays next to each other!  Not only does the Thankful Thursday series ensure that I post once a week, it’s really more like twice a week because I don’t like having two next to each other.  I suppose it doesn’t really matter but for some reason I don’t like it.  So here’s a post about Wednesday instead.)

I’ve just (finally) submitted an assignment which was very painful to do.  I’m currently waiting for J to finish but I really should just go to bed. 

Wednesday isn’t really a woeful day, only on assignment submission days (always Wednesday for third years, apart from research week assignments), and there haven’t been many of those so far this year.  But this assignment was hard.  It was only an 1,000 word book review but the book was difficult to read and difficult to understand and I didn’t enjoy doing any part of the assignment.

But having submitted and (hopefully) understood the book better than when I first read it I’ve realised that even though it was painful, I have learned some things.  And that’s why I’m at college.  I want to learn and grow and stretch my understanding of God and his word.  Even though learning can be painful at times it’s still an important thing to do and it is valuable. 

I can appreciate that this assignment has forced me to learn things that I may have simply glossed over had I not done it.  So I am thankful for doing this assignment (but only in hindsight now that it’s finished!).  And I hope that I remember this moment next time I’m complaining about doing an assignment (friends, please remind me). 

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Thankful Thursday

Hi everyone! 

Here we go with Thankful Thursday again.  I hope you have some things that you can be thankful for this week.  Here are some of the things I’m thankful for this week.

Books on my phone
I spent several hours at the airport and in a plane last weekend and I’m thankful for technology that fits into my pocket that provides entertainment anywhere.  Sometimes I still marvel at how much phones can do.  I’m particularly thankful for being able to read books on my phone.  This weekend I read through Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen.  I have recently seen the movie and I often find Austen novels easier to read after I’ve seen the movie.  I enjoyed reading it already knowing what was going on. 

Picture from www.fanpop.com

Friends who feed me
I had dinner at our friends’ house Wednesday night because J was out at Bible study (which includes dinner).  My friends didn’t want me to have to eat alone.  Then after dinner we sat together in their house and studied (they are both students at college as well).  Being an introvert, I don’t often mind being alone but it was nice to have company that night, to chat about our day and companionably read together.  Thanks friends!

The relevance of the Bible
Today a dear friend preached in women’s chapel on Exodus 3:16-4:17.  We have college mission coming up in a couple of weeks and she used this passage to help us think about mission and encourage us to rely on God who uses even our fumbling words and who helps us to speak.  I’ve been feeling nervous about mission and if I’ll say and do the right things so this was a great comfort and encouragement to me.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

A wedding, nostalgia and seven years

I’m recounting my weekend in the wrong order, now I want to write about what I did on Saturday.

This weekend I flew back home to be at the wedding of a dear friend from school.  We became friends in year eight when we discovered a mutual love for the Lord of the Here's us at Speech Day in year nine.Rings.  Throughout high school our social groups changed but we always remained friends.  Even when we hadn't seen each other for two and a half years (because it took me almost that long to work out how to catch up with people when you live so far away) when we caught up these last summer holidays we seemed to pick up where we left off.  

But this post isn't an ode to our friendship.  

The wedding was at our high school chapel.  Oh the nostalgia!  It was weird being back at school and seeing the places that I sat, where I made friends, where I learned.  Some things had changed about the place, but it was mostly the same.  But it wasn't just the view that tugged on my heart memory.  The school is Roman Catholic so as we went through the wedding mass I remembered particular phrases that I once heard every week.  And though I'm not Catholic and I don't agree with everything in the Catholic liturgy I enjoyed my remembrance of the phrases and the places I could confidently add my amen.  

There were some other school friends at the wedding too.  I found myself a bit shy to begin with.  Some of them I haven't seen in seven years!  I don't think I'm a very good conversationalist so I wondered how things would go at the reception.  Thankfully the conversations were pretty free-flowing.  It was really lovely catching up with some of the people I used to hang out with every day.  We didn't exactly catch up on the last seven years, but definitely the last few.  Many of us expressed surprise at how much time had passed.  We'd finished degrees, some of us have moved interstate, someone has bought a house, someone is in the navy, I've been married for two and a half years!  

I didn't get a picture with the bride so here's one of me with my mum.

And yet, I was also surprised at how most of us basically hadn't changed.  Yes we're older (and maybe wiser?) but our basic personalities have stayed the same.  I started nodding to myself: yes, I remember your sense of humour, and I remember your interest in that.  And I'm not sure how much this is a comfort or a concern, because it means that I basically haven't changed.  I wondered if my friends thought that?  

Because I feel like I have changed.  I've learned so much in the last seven years.  I like to think that I've become less shy, nervous and reserved.  That’s because now I'm more confident in God's love for me and my worth as a person.  I hope I've become more compassionate and caring, because I've understood better the compassion that Jesus showed.  

But maybe change is a slower process than I think.  Maybe learning these things doesn't change my personality but the way that I express it.  I pray that in the last seven years I've become more of the person that God wants me to be, but I know that seven years isn't really a long time and there will always be more ways I can be like Jesus.  And I pray that next time I meet my friends they will see Jesus a little bit more.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Things I learnt at* the cricket

On Sunday I went to the cricket.  It was the first outdoor professional sporting event I'd ever been to. 

Since marrying J I've slowly been learning the rules of cricket.  I learnt what the score means (the number of people out and the number of runs scored so far), what an over is (six bowls of the ball) and why some bowlers have a run-up and others don't (fast versus spin bowlers).  But I've never been really interested in watching the cricket on TV for more than a few minutes so I was a little apprehensive about going to a live game for 6+ hours.  I didn't really know much about how it all worked.

So here are some of the quirks of cricket from a relative newbie to the game. 

But first, a picture with our pastor and his wife.

The bowler would die if he had to bowl consecutive overs (more than six bowls).  J's words.  Bowling is hard work.

In getting the ball back to the bowler everyone  on the team (okay, maybe not the outfielders) *must* touch the ball.  This means it is thrown around to all the fielders (perhaps for catching and throwing practice?).  Sometimes even the umpire is included in this fun!

It doesn't matter if you don't hit the ball, you can still run.  Here I was thinking that hitting the ball was the whole point.

Australians drink a lot of beer.  I should have known this already. 

Look, more beer!  You could even get a thing that helped you carry four beers at a time.

Only the batter who hit the ball gets to count the runs against his name.  But the other batter still has to run unless he wants to get run out.

There are certain times in the game when only a small number of fielders are allowed near the boundary.  Everyone else has to stand nearer to the pitch in the "inner circle" (my words).  This means that you're more likely to see bigger hits or more wickets.  It's really just a rule to make the game more exciting.  It's called a power play. 

The crowd is rubbish at catching the ball.  I guess that's why it's so exciting when it does happen.  To be fair, the ball isn't hit into the crowd very often. 

Left handers make things harder. (sorry everyone).

A Mexican wave is very hard to start.  But when it gets going it's fun to watch it go all the way around the circular stadium.  Sometimes it goes around more than once, or even twice.  Hitting a six effectively stops a Mexican wave. 

Sometimes the wicket keeper doesn't wear his helmet.  Instead he sits it on the ground about five metres behind him.  (This happens when the bowler is a fast bowler and the wicket keeper stands a very long way behind the wicket, for obvious reasons).

The wicket keeper does literally 300 squats a match.  Imagine how strong his legs must be.

When a fielder catches someone out his whole team will run to him from all over the field for a big group hug. I love this camaraderie. 

Don't look at the light.

The third umpire is the slow-mo technology.  (J told me later that there is actually a person behind this technology, a real third umpire who makes a decision based on the slow-mo.  It was more fun thinking that the actual tech was the third umpire.)

The human body is amazing.  We can throw a ball at 148 km an hour!  (Well perhaps not all of us.)

To play (international/professional) cricket you have to know how to slide on grass, roll for a catch, hit the ball while spinning around, catch and throw the ball while running, and throw really, really, ridiculously long.

I think I like cricket now.


*I did already know some of these things from J's previous lessons.