The Big Church Day Out has a ‘night in’

Here’s an article that I wrote for the Evangelical Alliance – click here to see it on their site. I’ve pasted the ‘uncut’ version below (the wordier version!) 😉


photo (c) Josh Hailes

The BigChurchDayOut (BCDO) is now a massive annual event, seeing over 20,000 people gather at the start of the summer for a festival of all-age Christian celebration. So when I heard that the organisers were planning a BigChurchNightIn I was a little sceptical. How do you bring the scale of that sort of event down to create a ‘cosy night in’? Well, BCDO has just finished its eight-night BigChurchNightIn worship tour, featuring Matt Redman and the Rend Collective, which travelled to church venues across the country. The final night, December 1, was in London so I hopped on a train and bus to go and check it out.

The event’s promotional video asked people, “Fancy a night in? Just you and a few friends, maybe put a bit of music on and see what God’s got in store?” The idea was laidback and intimate: to take a few worship leaders out onto the road to spend an evening with church friends, with no other agenda than to be united in worship with God at the centre.

Tim Jupp, the man behind BCDO, said: “Kicking off the first of what we hope will be many BigChurchNightIn tours, this tour with Rend Collective and Matt Redman has been incredibly exciting as it represents so much of the heart and vision of the BigChurchDayOut, with a focus on celebration and drawing the wider church together.”

In House of Praise, London 2,500 people gathered with expectant hearts. The atmosphere was explosive, with people ready to worship as soon as Rend Collective appeared. The venue managed to capture a sense of intimacy really well – I had no idea there were so many people there until the evening’s host told us.

Rend Collective were their usual brilliant selves, singing some of their best-known songs, such as the lively “Come On My Soul” and “Praise Like Fireworks” and emotive “Alabaster”. From the outset lead singer Chris said that: “human voices connecting with God are so much more powerful than the PA system – we want to sing with you, not at you”, adding the challenge: “however crazy you want to go tonight we just want to let you know we are up for it too”. They included their now classic version of “Be Thou My Vision” (“You Are My Vision”).

Drummer/band leader Gareth talked about us all being “one giant collective” that evening, and it was great to see two trumpeters join them on stage for a couple of songs – I had noticed them tweeting earlier in the tour, giving anyone who played a brass instrument an invitation to play alongside them.

Gareth commented that there is “nothing on earth that has a force like the living, breathing church” and they went on to sing their frantic “Build Your Kingdom Here”. It is obvious that their hearts’ desire is to facilitate authentic worship and there were many moments in which they pulled back so the crowd could take the lead on vocals. At one point we all sang “Yes Jesus Loves Me” together!

Bass player Patrick then spoke to us about Compassion, the charity that facilitates sponsoring children around the world. When he first heard the statistics about how poor over 90 percent of the world’s population is he got angry with God, and asked Him why He hadn’t done anything about it. God replied, “I have. I made you.” He challenged us to worship with our hands and feet and a whopping 113 children were sponsored by the end of the night. Fantastic.

Rend Collective told me afterwards that: “We had an amazing time on the BCNI tour. We believe that the local church is God’s hope on this earth and BCNI was a perfect opportunity to encourage and stir it up for the kingdom through worship. To that end the tour was a huge success, with thousands of Christians gathering in their local communities to sing the truths of our faith. Through Compassion, over 400 children in poverty have been blessed through their sponsorship programme; a beautiful expression of worship! We were privileged to be involved.”

After a short interval, Matt Redman, joined with seven musicians, took to the stage. The crowd immediately rocked out to some old and new favourites such as “Blessed Be Your Name” and “We Are Here For You”. Matt was excited to be in the “best city in the world” for the last night of the tour and looked back over the year’s celebrations, including the Jubilee, Olympics and Paralympics, but said we have something far better to celebrate – God has restored us to friendship with Him. He said that we aren’t doing anything new, simply joining in with the eternal song of Jesus, and that’s certainly what it felt like – a people from all over the city, covering all ages, joining together with the same purpose.

Matt and his band took us through a medley of hymns such as “Here Is Love Vast As the Ocean”, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” and finished with the final verse of “Amazing Grace”.

I was interested to see Matt pulling back from his mic at times too, allowing the sound of thousands of voices to fill the hall.

Towards the end of the evening Matt led us in some of his really high-energy anthems, such as “Redemption Song” and “Dancing Generation” and the whole venue bounced (yes, the floor too). In a final act of unity and celebration, Rend Collective joined him back on stage for a massive rendition of “10,000 Reasons”.

While it was a slick, professional event the overall impression I was left with was one of humility and inclusiveness. That was the heart behind the tour – and it certainly achieved that.

Tim explains: “As I travel around the UK it seems so much that at this time there is a greater than ever focus on the church uniting, and it is exciting for me that the BigChurchDayOut can play its part in demonstrating this.”

Worshipping with other believers from a host of different churches certainly was uplifting and refreshing – even if it was actually rather a late night out! 😉

How well dressed is your spirit?

I have been working a lot recently, hence my lack of postings. It has been an intense month of editing, which has been quite different as I usually edit and write in tandem. While it has been quite a struggle to fit the work round my parenting responsibilities, I have certainly been stretched and challenged by the subject matter of the books I have been editing. And my Bible study notes this morning seemed to build on a few of the issues raised – so I thought it was about time I spent some quality time thinking about them. This blog is the result of my initial ponderings on one…

Like many other women (I hate that I can generalise like that), I can struggle with my self-image. Post-kids I can feel self-conscious about what my daughter calls my ‘wobbly bits’ (!), and look wistfully at my younger friends’ figures. I can take a lot of time (okay not on school run mornings but any other morning, or if I’m going out!) choosing outfits that hide the bits I don’t want people to see, and make me look as presentable as possible. And yet I was really drawn up short this morning when I read about clothing my spirit.

The obvious passage about spiritual clothing is the one on the armour of God, found in Ephesians 6. And we certainly need to be intentional about putting that on, as we face daily battles. But I was also reminded of Colossians 3, in which we are exhorted to ‘wear’ another type of spiritual clothing. Here are verses 12–14 in two different versions:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. (NIV)

So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (The Message)

Now it is quite obvious, reading the passage through, that we are being instructed to ‘clothe’ our spirits – to ensure our attitudes are godly. Imagine what the world would look like if we each spent time focusing on dressing ourselves with these virtues… I have to be honest here. I know that I can be impatient – when I’m stressed and tired (hello – welcome to the world of the working parent! 😉 ) it doesn’t take long for me to get harassed. I am also ‘blessed’ with a fiery temper, which I can often just accept rather than deal with – and am certainly not gentle that often. Embarrassingly, when I was part of my great church youth group, all those years ago, a visiting speaker asked us to each take it in turns to sit in the middle of the room, encircled by our friends and then we had to speak out words of encouragement over the one in the centre. I was asked to go first, and my friends were pretty shy about speaking up so the guy tried to start the ball rolling by saying, ‘Well, is she gentle?’ No one replied – they didn’t need to as the roars of laughter said it all. I didn’t feel that encouraged to be honest… But here, in scripture, we are being told to be ‘even-tempered’, gentle and kind. That is the ‘wardrobe God picked out for you’ – and yes, for me too. I think I fall short quite often…

So, why don’t I spend time ensuring my attitudes and actions line up with scripture each morning? I’m going to challenge myself to think about this every day when I’m getting dressed. To consciously ‘dress’ my spirit as well as my body. How about it? How well dressed is your spirit today? Or do you think you need to take up this challenge too?

I promise…to love my God

Last night I was a very proud mummy. My husband, son and I watched as our daughter was officially enrolled into Brownies. She has been uber excited for weeks, and yes, I’ll admit, it did bring a lump to my throat. Particularly because Brownies has been the one thing that has really helped her this term. She has been bullied by a close friend and starting Brownies has been a fantastic way for her to make friends outside of school and to build her self-esteem back up (man I could not believe how much a young child’s sense of self could get knocked down!). But, that huge issue aside, what really struck me was the words of the Brownie promise she made:

I promise that I will do my best:
To love my God,
To serve the Queen and my country,
To help other people
To keep the Brownie Guide Law.

Now copying that out from her Brownie book I’ve noticed the two asterisks after ‘God’ and  ‘country’ that refer to a note saying that Brownies can ask to insert different words at these points instead. That, to me, is a little sad. But… understandable. Indeed, on our walk home we met a friend from church. When we explained where we had been, and said a little bit of the promise, his response was, ‘Was there really a mention of God in there – surely that has been taken out by now?’ And he had a point. Everywhere in our British, national culture the parts that draw on a Christian heritage are being deliberately eroded away. Think about it. There’s so little left. I think that is why I was so struck by the words of the promise – because you don’t hear that sort of thing said much these days, particularly not in schools or children’s groups because it is not politically correct. So watching a group of excited girls all rooting for my daughter while she said those words was so refreshing. I understand that there will be those that say we can’t impose our beliefs on others – and I get that. Just hearing those words made me realise afresh how much our culture has been secularised – and I guess it made me mourn a little. I’m all for treating others equally, and for not making judgements based on religion, race or gender, but does that really mean we should simply give away all parts of our heritage and traditions that have any basis in Christianity, however small?

Moving on to a less contentious issue!… My daughter is 7. She is quite matter of fact, and prayed a prayer asking Jesus into her heart when it appeared in her daily bible notes when she was quite a bit younger. Now she is totally convinced she is a Christian, and I don’t doubt it, but I know she has a lot to learn and understand about what that means. But pondering the promise she made last night I thought it would be a good starting point – a good motto for life. I’m not particularly patriotic, but I do love my country – and I certainly love my God. So, actually, I think it would be a pretty good motto for me too! What about you? Fancy taking the Brownie promise as your motto for at least today?

Let’s reach them ALL

Today is anti-slavery day. A lot is going to be written and said about the issue of human trafficking but I’ve decided to dedicate my blog to it today because we all need to be raising awareness. It is shocking to ponder the statistics (many of which I found on the Hope for Justice website so thanks to them):

* Over one million children enter the global sex trade each year.
* $9.5 billion is made through human trafficking each year.
* The UN estimates that 80% of people trafficked are taken for sexual exploitation.
* There are an estimated 4,000 trafficked people in the UK but the actual figure is probably a lot higher.
* The rate of recorded child trafficking in the UK has increased by almost 50% in two years.

Hope for Justice reached 78 victims of trafficking in the UK last year but there are so many more out there that they haven’t found yet! The sites say that 99% of trafficking victims are never rescued. How sobering – how awful! That in our ‘civilised’ society this is still going on today…

One of the people that first educated me about this issue was Julia Immonen, who I happened to come across on twitter. I was fascinated by the fact that she was rowing the Atlantic Ocean having never rowed before. To start with, the writer in me thought it would make a great story – it did – and yet it had a much bigger impact on me than that. She told me that: ‘I heard about human trafficking a few years ago through The A21 campaign and my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t believe that I am an educated girl and yet I knew nothing about it.’ What is so inspiring is that she took something that is already a big part of her life, sport, and started using it to raise awareness in a positive way, founding Sports Against Trafficking.

In one of the interviews I did with her Julia explained that in the run up to the Olympics, when the site was being built, there were 10,000 construction workers and during that time prostitution doubled in the East End of London. We have just had a wonderful summer celebrating the sporting achievements of our best athletes, and been full of national pride about how well the Games were run and what a wonderful atmosphere they created around the country. And yet, at exactly the same time, extra women and children were being smuggled in for use in the sex industry. It makes me sick to think of what was going on in the ‘underbelly’ of London, but the truth is that every major sporting event creates supply and demand – for more hotels, the food industry – and the sex industry.

It can all seem rather overwhelming, and we can wonder what on earth we can do about it as individuals. I felt like that when I first heard, but, speaking to Julia, I realised that, while I may be useless at sport, what I do is write and what I can do is help raise awareness by writing about those who are making a difference. Keeping their profile up keeps the issue in the public sphere more and I hope that I’m helping in some small way. I am always on the look out for new people to profile – so please let me know if you know of anyone! It was inspiring to learn more about Beulah London, the ethical fashion label that is in the brilliant position of having the Duchess of Cambridge as a client, which means their clothes, and the story behind them, are being talked about worldwide. I’ve also learned more about the work of A21, and how Beth Redman has been working closely with them and, along with husband Matt and LZ7, wrote a song, ’27 Million’ specifically to raise awareness and money for the campaign.

How wonderful to see how each one of these people have dedicated their gifts to this cause. While we may not all have the capacity to work as tirelessly as them for this issue it is such a vital one that I urge you today to take some time to find out more, think about what you can do – each one of us can pray and give a little – and determine not to stop until we see human trafficking eradicated.

I know this is a long post – but I do not apologise for that! 😉 PLEASE think about all those helpless victims who are trapped through no fault of their own – apart from loving the wrong person…

Why marriage?

I keep thinking about a family wedding I went to a while ago. Seeing people you haven’t seen for years, and listening to another marriage ceremony, does focus your mind – on where your life is going, how your marriage is going etc. It can be quite a sobering affair. I remember finding the marriage address particularly challenging. It was talking about how, in our disposable culture, marriage is very outdated, outmoded and probably seems totally ridiculous to many – and yet people still do it. Even those who don’t hold to the ideals that the institute of marriage was originally built on (this couple had been living together for years, had a child, she had two other children from a previous relationship). Why? What is it about marriage that draws people to it? As the vicar said, it is a leap of faith – it is into the unknown and there are no guarantees. What a risk! The giving of yourself, your possessions, your future dreams… And yet the possibility of sharing your life with someone who will always be there for you, always love you and always champion you is mind blowing! How many of us are still doing that for our spouses in the way that we should? It is certainly true that it is the people who are closest to you that can hurt you the most, and yet how precious a gift it is to have someone alongside you to share the heartaches and pain and also celebrate your successes. Deep down we all long for that – we were built for relationship – and I think that is why marriage is always going to be popular.

Out of the mouths of babes…

I was chatting to my daughter this morning and was struck once again at how easy it is for her to talk about God to those around her. I had overheard her the day before walking to school, excited that she had found out another friend goes to church every Sunday. ‘Wow we are both Christians!’ she exclaimed, beaming. She then said that her other best friends didn’t know about God and didn’t go to church – so she had to teach them. I wonder whether it is simply the freedom of childhood, or whether she is an evangelist in the making! It is so overwhelming at times to stop and actually take a step back and look at my kids. Life is usually far too busy and I am often too harassed to be as grateful as I should be, but there is so, so much potential hidden in their little bodies and only God knows where they will end up. It is so important to pray for them and to help develop their giftings. I just hope I am not too caught up in myself and the jobs I have to do to give them everything they need to fulfil the potential placed inside of them. They are an amazing gift and I need to remind myself of that every day. This term has so far been a difficult, emotional one as they have both had to try to find their way in changing friendship groups. It’s been hard, frustrating, tiring and emotional for me (as a lot of it reminds me so much of my own childhood!) but I am so glad it is me that gets to walk this journey with them. What a blessing – help me Lord to be strong but also gentle. I want to be the one they keep talking to as they grow older.

A unified Church

I had the privilege of attending the National Day of Prayer at Wembley on Saturday alongside my husband. As he is a pastor we were invited to the leaders’ lunch beforehand, which I have to say was the part of the day that struck me most. Although when we first walked into the luncheon reception we were quite overwhelmed – amongst the sea of people we knew no one but recognised a few ‘famous’ faces. But having introduced ourselves to a couple on the table we’d sat down at, and been joined by a friendly, familiar face, we then listened to some brilliant and challenging short talks by various leaders from different denominations and organisations. Having spent recent weeks hopefully imparting the vision of a more outward focus in our small groups, it was so encouraging to hear each leader stand up and talk about how mission is so much at the forefront of what they feel the Church should be doing today.

I was particularly impressed by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who spoke about what it means to be a Christian in the public eye. He said that what struck him when he first came to England was the “invisibility of the Church”. He challenged us to think about what would happen  if our churches wanted to be light in our communities; that for years we’ve been more like invisible salt: “What would that involve? It would involve going out and would also involve hospitality.” He asked whether we are “genuinely open to those who are not like us?”. But he also said that “Jesus is for people but there are times when he is against a culture”, indicating that there are times when we have to say no, not due to our own prejudices, but because of what Jesus teaches. One thing that really struck me personally was when he wondered whether Christian parents have given up on their kids. He said that the biggest problem in Europe is the inter-generational communication breakdown…

Later on, Executive Chair of Crossing London 2013 Stephen Gaukroger again picked up on the subject of reaching our towns and cities. Talking about the initiative based in London for next year he said that we as Christians should give each other the freedom to shout when we want to shout, and be quiet when we want to be quiet. He said that: “only a diverse, united Church is going to reach a diverse city” and that we are going to have to work together if we want to leave a legacy that is not just about maintenance but about mission. That has really come back to me over the last day or so. It can be so easy to get uptight when you don’t agree with what another strand of the Church is doing or saying – but when that is taken to an extreme it does so much damage. I was saddened when I left Wembley Stadium, after enjoying worshipping and praying with 32,000 other Christians, to be met by two guys standing on boxes shouting that what had been happening in the Stadium wasn’t of God because there were Catholics in there. Where was the grace of God – and what message did that give to passers-by?

I’ll admit that often I can get riled by certain debates/exchanges that happen on Twitter/Facebook/blogging sites, particularly on issues that are close to my heart. And I am also frustrated by the misunderstandings and judgements that are passed on the movement our church is affiliated with – Newfrontiers. But I realise I can be guilty of treating others in the same way at times. My mum is currently trying to find a new church and has been going to one for a few weeks that she feels comfortable at. And yet when she told me something the pastor had said it made me uneasy, because it is different to my own experience and understanding of the Bible. But I know that my mum desperately needs to find a church that she can call home, and feel supported by, and it isn’t a ‘salvation issue’ as it were so I’ve been left pondering – is it really important? I think it’s a shame – but I don’t think it is a reason for her not to attend that church. I know there are some big issues that I do need to stand up for, things that others in other parts of the Church don’t agree with me on, and that makes it hard to be united as 21st-century Christians at times. But I am convinced that when we reach heaven we will ALL discover something that we got wrong but thought we were so right about! 😉 I really believe we all need to keep going back to the Bible individually and corporately to see what the reality of the Christian life God has called us to is – and then work together to show the world that the Good News really is good news!

As Ephesians 4 says:

I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

‘Let your gentleness be evident to all’

Wow. Sometimes it can be so hard when God starts pinpointing an area in your life that needs work can’t it? I’m exhausted, and the phrase ‘enough already’, which I used to talk about those things that crowd out God’s voice earlier this week, is something I’d like to shout back to God now! You see, I had a difficult conversation with a friend last weekend and was left out of sorts. I knew I had to talk to them again, but, when I did, even though I knew they were going to tell me I’d been harsh, I didn’t think I would hear the phrase ‘I certainly don’t expect to be talked to like that by anyone’. I knew I had some apologising to do, but it was such a shame – and such a lesson for me as a leader – because it clouded the real issues that were going on. I was trying to bring correction, and yet, in the end, in a way, it was me who was being corrected – at least in part. I of course fought it a little, saying things like ‘Well it only escalated like that because you fought back, saying you didn’t agree’ and, if I’m honest, I’ve come away pondering the phrase they used to describe me. I honestly and truthfully don’t think I was as bad as they made out, and I know we have certainly had those sorts of exchanges before because we are both fairly fiery and wear our hearts on our sleeves. But that isn’t really the point. And that riles me if I’m honest. Sometimes I think ‘why God?’ ‘Why pick on my faults and point out my wrongdoings when all I was trying to do was uphold your values in the first place?’ But then I have to realise, and accept (however begrudgingly!) that that isn’t the point, and the way I say things is just as important as what is said. And I also know that one of the things I found hardest about the whole affair actually showed up something lacking in myself.

Ever since that encounter I’ve had the scripture ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all’ going through my head. And part of me is allowing it to resonate in my spirit – while the other part is still longing to burst out and shout ‘it’s not fair!’ But I know this is such an important lesson for me personally that if I don’t grab this as an opportunity to grow and change then I will really regret it. Because it affects every relationship – with my husband, children, parents, friends, worship team members, general church members – everyone. Ever since I was a teenager I’ve had words spoken over me about the sharpness of my tongue; about how I need to learn to use it for God’s glory to cut through to the heart of things, rather than using it to hurt people. And I’ve had so many prayers prayed over me that I would learn to be more gentle. But, I guess if I’m honest, I’ve always seen gentleness as a bit of a weakness and, over the years, have accepted that I have a more fiery, quick-witted character. While I don’t think it is wrong, and still feel it is as God made me, not learning to rein it in and not cultivating the gentleness that is a characteristic of walking in the Spirit is wrong. I was struck by something that I read this week on the Gospel Coalition blog, which was written by a woman who lives in Dubai:

I find Peter’s exhortation about inner beauty in 1 Peter 3:3-4 both wonderful and very challenging. When I first read this passage I was struck by how many years I had spent desiring more physical beauty without a thought to inner beauty. My struggle is further compounded by the fact that I live in the consumer center of Asia, where only your outer self matters. A quiet and gentle spirit is often misunderstood to mean weak and timid. While this is a challenge, I am surrounded in church by women who are truly beautiful on the inside and whose lives are a wonderful picture of the gospel, and that really motivates me to work hard at my inner beauty.

Inner beauty is something that I’ve started to be asked to write about – and now I have that sinking feeling that perhaps that opportunity is another way God is closing in on me, prompting to realise that this is an area I need to work hard on. As a woman who has struggled with self-esteem a lot in the past (and still has great bouts of self-doubt) I can often overlook the work I need to do on my inner being as I am doing what so many in our culture (and others) do; focusing on the outer. Someone who has really challenged and inspired me in this whole area – and in being even more honest in my blog writing – is Emma Scrivener, whose brilliant blog can be found here.

I’m glad that I’m part of a Christian community that supports but also challenges me. While I was struggling earlier in the week with the realisation of how lonely leadership can be, I know too that that is part of the character changing process for me. Life can be hard enough that going on these particular journeys of self-discovery and change can seem so so uncomfortable – and downright unnecessary when they coincide with another big challenge! I have to constantly remind myself that it is only because God loves me that He touches those parts of me I’d rather He didn’t. When I started intentionally trying to draw closer to Him, to hear His voice more, I certainly didn’t expect the first thing for Him to say was ‘You need to work on being more gentle’ – but hey, looking back, I guess that was pretty naive wasn’t it?!

Enough already!!

Okay, firstly I have to start with an apology. I started this blog with the intention of writing in it regularly. But, over the summer, I made a conscious effort to spend quality time with my kids and pare back my work, only focusing on it for short, intense bursts (such as when they went to stay with my parents). I have to say it was definitely the right decision – I had some brilliant times with the kids and it made me feel I had brought back some balance into family life. But this blog has suffered as a result. It can be hard to get back into the habit of writing it – particularly now I have less time to work each day due to fitting in 3 school runs. But anyway, enough of that – I’m back to write about the things I ponder about and mull over day by day…

Today’s title is referring to the ‘noise’ we all live with. On Saturday I had the privilege of attending a day of a ‘healing prayer school’. I think I went with some preconceived ideas about what the day would involve, and I was totally wrong! 😉  I spend a lot of time with people who are hurting and broken in our church, and sometimes feel totally out of my depth (a good way to learn to cling to God!), and I hoped the day would give me clear instructions on how to approach various ways of counselling people biblically. The day didn’t really go like that – after each short section of teaching the speaker then invited people she felt needed a particular type of emotional healing to stand up and they were ministered to there and then. While at times it made me feel like a spectator, what I was struck by was how much she had heard God – and how quietly she stood there and listened to Him and then directed the team who was working alongside her. It was obvious that she was really connected to God, really understanding who He wanted to touch that day and what He wanted the team to do to aid that process. I long to hear more from God but know that I need to slow down in order to do so. It’s all about practising the presence of God – going to that quiet, calm place where we can actually listen to God as well as talk ‘to’ (in reality ‘at’!) Him.

I have to constantly remind myself that I can only do so much with my writing at this time, as my primary calling is to be the best mum I can be to our young children. And yet it is hard not to get swept up into the Twitter frenzy, especially all the Christian debates etc that go on. I can compare myself to others who write for Christian publications and be very conscious that I don’t have pithy soundbites coming out of my fingertips, being launched into the Twittersphere, constantly. It can make me feel lacking in some way and, on my worst days, makes me surmise that I will never get to write for a certain editor’s magazine because I don’t tweet like they do. However, I have been doing some research for a piece I am writing about the pressures that face 18–30 year old Christian women. To help me with this, I created a questionnaire and some of the answers I have received have been very revealing. I didn’t expect that age group, those that seem to embrace social media to its full, to say this, but three-quarters of them indicated that at times they feel totally overwhelmed by the information that is thrown at them via the media, Twitter and Facebook. I had to admit that I found that quite refreshing! And, even today, Vicky Beeching tweeted that new research indicates it is possible to be too connected in this digital age, giving a link to a survey about how social media can distract at work. Apparently workers are interrupted, on average, every 10.5 minutes, and it takes them 23 minutes to get back to their original task. The stats they cite are staggering: there are more than 1 billion posts added to Facebook each day, 62 billion emails sent daily and 400 million tweets. At the bottom of the page I found it very interesting that it asks, ‘How often do you unplug?’.

Having spent the summer not following things so closely online I can say that I don’t feel so hooked at all – somehow it doesn’t seem so important. I realise now that, rather than trying to keep up with the Tweeting crowd as it were, I need to draw closer to God and hear what He wants to reveal to me, to learn what He wants me to write about – rather than regurgitating clever ideas I may have heard elsewhere or trying to gain inspiration for myself through them so that I am somehow keeping up with the ‘in’ subjects in Christian circles. Sometimes I truly don’t understand how certain people have the time to do it all – but then they are in full-time Christian media work and I’m a full-time mum with only a few hours a day given over to working at the moment. What is true for all of us, whatever our situation, is that we have a responsibility to ensure our voice is authentic to who we are. So I’m going to leave you with the same question: how often do you unplug – from whatever it is that distracts you, be it the internet, TV or even an unhealthy obsession or habit, to make sure you are still in step with God, walking closely with Him? If you haven’t heard Him speak to you recently why not try saying the following: ‘Enough! I will silence everything that is crowding me, vying for my attention, long enough to connect with God each and every day.’

Women in worship

At the end of last year I had the privilege of putting together an article on women in worship for Woman Alive, which has just been published. As a worship leader myself, who is definitely in the minority as a woman amongst a male-dominated worship team, this is definitely a subject that is on my heart. I was in contact with some great worship leaders that I’m sure you will recognise. I’ve pasted the images of the article below, but they can also be found on the page of my site that includes other examples of my work: writing. As I know there are many women out there who need an extra boost of encouragement to carry on going I am hoping to develop this idea further. So I’d love to hear from any other female worship leaders about your experiences – and also from any women in local congregations. What is your experience of sung worship at your church? I hope and pray that all your giftings are encouraged and given space to be expressed 🙂