Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Baby First Aid

Today I went on a baby and child first aid course.
It was really helpful!

It was 6 hours long and run by the British Red Cross. I wasn't sure who else would be there today, but it was just a bunch of ordinary people. Two sets of grandparents with childcare duties; two parents; a woman with a messy play business and another pregnant lady.

It was really helpful that the content of the course was taught for all learning styles - there was power point, videos, card games, demonstrations and lots of trying it out yourself. How else does one learn how to put on a bandage or give CPR without trying it out?

I loved the course and would recommend it to anyone, however it made me ask the question, 'why on earth is this an opt-in skill?' It seems ridiculous that the government hasn't made learning first aid a compulsory part of school education, or a compulsory thing for all employers to get their employees trained in. I really think first aid courses should be free for the general public and subsidized by the government. Everyone should have to practice giving CPR on a mannequin.

It only takes a few hours to be taught comprehensively how to administer first aid for a whole range of life threatening and serious situations. When so much is at stake why do we think it's ok for some people to think it's not their responsibility to know what to do? Surely we have an ethical responsibility to each other to be first aid trained. Surely it would benefit the NHS and therefore the government if as a society we were prepared and equipped to help save lives?

Until that day comes however, book yourself on a first aid course. It's only £45, but, invaluable.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Wonder Woman Must Die

I've been reading a book recently called 'Ordinary Mum, Extraordinary Mission'. It sounds a bit cheesy, but I've found it really helpful for preparing me for the changes ahead.

I'm very excited about us having our first baby. As my tummy gets bigger and the baby gets squirmier, it all begins to feel very imminent! There are so many things to be excited about.  It's so brilliant that Scott and I are going to get the privilege of bringing this little one up - I can't wait to get to know him/her. What will they look like? What will their likes/ dislikes/ opinions/ interests/ skills be? In what ways will they be like me? How will they be like Scott? There is so much potential and life in this little wriggly one. I'm so excited about all the special times ahead, the baby's first smile, peek-a-boo, the belly laughs, sticky fingers, their first prayer and all their questions about 'why?'

I've also had some time to think about what life will look like for me as a mother. While I've felt for some time that I wanted to be a full-time mum, I've always felt committed to the idea that I won't really be 'staying at home'. I have wanted to be out and about, getting to know other mum's in the community, blessing the neighbours around us, spending time with Scott's family, investing in relationships at church, doing some theological study, reading the bible with students, and of course sharing the gospel with people I meet along the way. In my mind's eye, the house will be tidy-ish, meals would be prepared for Scott and others coming home, and the baby will be cooing happily for all to dote on.

Now all these things are good things to aspire to. I do want to make the most of the amazing opportunities that having a cute baby give you. However, reading this book has helped me to see what a self-centred and self-reliant vision I've had of parenting.

In some ways, I'm afraid of losing my identity as a UCCF staff worker. It can be easy to find your identity in your work - and for me, the thought of not being in paid employment and of not doing 'Christian Ministry' is a bit scary. The thought of the 'glamour' of staff work coming to an end has resulted in me subconsciously trying to build a new identity on the basis of successful motherhood.

This is what Anna-France Williams says, "When I began writing this book, my idea of what a missional mum looked like was Wonder Woman, soaring around the planet rescuing troubled souls, kids in tow, changing bag slung over one shoulder, cape flying, wearing a freshly applied coat of sheer red lipstick. That was who I aspired to be. I had picked up the idea that mums who could 'do it all' and 'have it all' (running projects, groups, volunteering, baking, preparing endless creative activities for toddlers, earning money, having regular deep chats about God with strangers) were the ones who were truly bathing in the glory of God's favour and obeying the Great Commission in Matthew 28."

As the book goes on, it becomes apparent that the authors, Anna France-Williams and Joy French, have been humbled by the reality of actual parenting! The reality, it seems, is that your deep and meaningful conversations are often cut short due to a need of your child - running to stop them throwing themselves off a piece of furniture, or stop them hitting another child, or to kiss them better when they've grazed their knee. The reality is also that parenting is tiring work, and so however good the intentions of doing evening things - community projects, church meetings, even having people round for a meal - is often a battle of the will, because all you want to do is snuggle up with a book and a bar of chocolate! Also, parenting makes you realise that rather than having the natural ability and resources to serve everyone else's needs - you often really need help yourself in order to keep sane, rested and eating properly. In fact, being real about struggles in parenting can be a much better way of deepening friendships with believers and non-Christians rather than trying to give the impression that you are coping brilliantly.

So the book has been a really helpful corrective for me. I have a bit of a Messiah complex, and trying to be super mum - looking after baby, husband, and all those other needy souls out there, would absolutely play to my selfish pride. It's liberating to know that I'm justified by God's grace and have nothing to prove to my heavenly father. My identity isn't primarily in my employment (or lack thereof), or my marital status, or in how I spend my time - my identity is in Christ. I couldn't possibly be more loved by the Father then I currently am in Christ. So this frees me up to enjoy basking in his love for me, and serve others out of a place of security. Praise the Lord that my identity is found in his son and not my performance.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Questioning Evangelism

Hello again, after a long time of not blogging. I think I'm going to give it a try again...

The title is slightly misleading, I'm not going to chat about the importance of asking thought-provoking questions in evangelism (although this is great approach as I'm sure Randy Newman's 'Questioning Evangelism' book lays out). But rather my continuing questioning about how we 'do' evangelism.

It was really interesting to read my blog post from a couple of years ago. I still really agree that we should share the gospel out of a real sense of God's love for us personally. When we are thrilled by the gospel and feel secure in the knowledge that because we are united to Christ, the Father is utterly besotted with us, our evangelism will be warm, winsome, compelling and will sound like fantastic news! We won't share out of guilt or shame, but out of love for God and the person we are speaking to.

However, I feel like the Spirit has been challenging me recently about the content of the actual message that I've been sharing. I'm all for sharing the gospel creatively and not feeling like we need to stick to one particular gospel outline in order to explain the gospel. I definitely think that we can use a whole host of biblical imagery to explain the gospel - law-breaking/forgiveness from the judge; idolatry/ rescue from the creator; adultery/ reunion with the gracious husband; rebellion/ reconciliation with the loving father; leprosy/ restoration and cleanness from the healer, the list goes on... I don't think we need to limit ourselves to one way of explaining the gospel to feel like we've done it faithfully. I don't think that we need to talk about judgement lots in order for it to qualify as a genuinely evangelistic conversation/ talk. I don't even think we need to explain everything in one sitting, or really comprehensively, or at that very moment ask someone to respond to Jesus in faith and repentance for evangelism to be happening. But with all these caveats, I still have been challenged...

The Spirit has really challenged me about not just about the appealing, wonderful, heart-warming nature of the gospel - the perks, if you like of coming to Jesus. 'Come to Jesus, he really is brilliant! And knowing him will definitely bring joy and blessing now and for eternity. In fact your heart was created to know him.' But also the absolute necessity of the gospel.

The reality is judgement is real and deserved because we are sinful. People need to trust in Jesus' work on the cross in order to be saved. This is a critical part of the gospel to explain clearly. How can someone have a crisis moment where they turn to Jesus for salvation unless they are under no pretensions as to their current predicament?

My brother and his wife became Christians last week at Word Alive. It was the most wonderful thing ever and I'm so thankful to the Lord!

We had the great joy as a family of being involved in their journey to faith - my husband being able to answer some of their difficult questions, myself being able to give a couple of talks at the 'Just Looking' course for seekers, and my parents being able to pray with them as Jeanne gave her life to Christ. What a privilege!

However what the whole experience revealed to me was how difficult and painful I found presenting certain truths to them. It was hard to tell them about our sinfulness, Christ's undeserved death on the cross for us and God's eternal judgement for those who don't accept Jesus.

However they needed to see their necessity for Jesus, and not just that - it was so clear that the Spirit was at work in them bringing them to faith, when they responded positively to what was being said. That 'it makes sense' that we are sinful and deserve punishment, but amazing that Jesus pays it for us! It was amazing seeing the gospel message - the offensive gospel message, actually bringing conviction for sin, followed by faith and repentance, not offence and rejection. The gospel is the stench of death to some and the aroma of life to others - I really feel like I saw that firsthand last week.

So where does this leave me now?
Well I still feel committed to gentle, compassionate, winsome and creative gospel presentations - but the content does need, as a vital part of the process, to clearly present people's absolute need for Jesus, and the consequence of rejecting his offer of salvation.

What I found helpful in sharing the hard stuff of the gospel, was telling my brother and sister-in-law that I was really nervous about sharing this stuff with them, and that I personally find some of these things difficult to accept at times. I think that helped them - in fact my brother (pre-becoming a Christian) said that he understood how hard it must have been for us as a family to believe this stuff with him not being a Christian - then he gave his life to Jesus that night.

Praise the Lord that he uses our stumbling words and fearful efforts to bring people to himself. I don't suppose we need to have a sorted and super polished approach to evangelism in order to be used by God - and that's probably the whole point.

2 Corinthians 4:1-7

 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeingthe light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.