I have engaged with God’s word like never before in the last few months… find out how!
I have engaged with God’s word like never before in the last few months… find out how!
“We are sinners cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Through His sacrifice He has successfully dealt with the power and effect of sin for all who believe. Nothing now separates us from the Father.” Bill Johnson
NOTHING can separate us from God. Are we living in this truth at the moment? He keeps pursuing us, no matter how far we run. His love is constant! The best news!
A couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of attending one of the UK’s main youth work conferences, the Youth Work Summit, which this year was held in Manchester. This, I think, was my 3rd time at the Summit, and year by year I just get more and more inspired, blessed and encouraged. This year was definitely no exception. I would whole heartedly recommend the summit to anyone who works with young people, voluntary or paid, in a church or not, get along to this event, I highly doubt you can come away from the event without your mind racing with thoughts from the day, and your heart breaking in compassion for the young people you know, that you work with. Plus the Summit is fantastic for people with short attention spans, like me, as each speaker has around 10 minutes to speak on a very specialist subject. The variety is incredible! (https://www.youthworksummit.com/inspire)
I thought I’d share with you some personal highlights from the whole Summit experience.
1. Meg Cannon’s ‘Come and find me’ – a spoken word piece about life as a 15 year old girl. This one blew me away. You won’t find any notes in my notebook for this one because Meg just rocked it so much, I won’t forget it! Meg gave us a real lift insight of being a 15 year old girl in 2014, insight gained through her regular work with girls and through her project: koko (http://thekokostory.com/about-koko/) I cannot do this justice but will link the talk in another post later on so you can be inspired too. This was one of the one’s which had my heart in shatters. Spend time with people, get to know them, be there.
2. The train journey home – This might sound a strange one especially as the train was delayed by 2 hours which mean arrived home at 3am, however I was able to make new friends, catch up with old friends, walk up and down the train and know someone in nearly every carriage, have a dance on the train, play games, chat with Shane Claiborne and some of the other speakers and give prophetic words to some of the ‘new’ friends I’d made (I’ve never given prophetic words on the train before!) The fellowship, friendship and the ability to change stress into fun was what made this a highlight.
3. Shane Claiborne – I was inspired by the glimpses Shane gave of what love can look like, the fact that the Gospel spreads most by fascination and that we are re-presenting Jesus to people. That we’ve made the Gospel too easy, that our lifestyles NEED to change as we encounter God and continue to encounter him through our walk.
4. Kenda Creasy Dean – Was able to spend the pre-day with a smaller group of youth workers listening to this awesome lady as well as during the main day of the Summit – Kenda was able to bring insight to why young people leave the church, what needs to happen to help them stay and managed to work both Doctor Who and Downton Abbey as representations of the church! ‘God sized visions but the churches canvas is too small’ and this is part of why young people are leaving.
5. LGBT discussions – I liked the fact this was not just a debate that could have got really heated and dramatic but a look at pastorally how we approach situations with LGBT young people. We were privileged to hear the testimonies of two Christian young adults, one transgender and one who is gay – this made it more real for people – especially for those that have never had this come up in their ministry. I salute the organisers of the Summit for putting in the subjects that can be tricky, that can often be avoided but are SO SO important, and for doing this so well.
6. Seth Pinnock – I loved Seth’s portrayal of the passage of the 5 loaves and 2 fish; feeding of the 5000, found in John 6: 1 – 13. His main points really encouraged me, and when I shared them with my young people the following day, were a blessing them to them too. The boy was in the crowd; you have to be present to be used by God. The boy gave what he had to Jesus; it wasn’t enough, he didn’t think it was good enough but we need to give what we have. It took an “Andrew” to see what he had encourage him to give that to Jesus; this puts us in prime positions as youth workers, to notice that in our young people and encourage them to give that to Jesus so they can see this multiply and grow and made enough because of Jesus.
7. Catching up with old friends – It was just a blessing to catch up with old friends over the weekend, one’s I hadn’t seen in a long time, seeing many other friends and as I mentioned before, making new friendships, which I know that weekend will not be the end of.
8. Sarah Percival – Sarah’s talk really challenged me and is definite food for thought. She talked of how for young people rest CAN be found through their phones, through the right ways, and when we are encouraging our young people to rest we need to stop telling them to turn their phones off but instead be encouraging them to find rest through appropriate ways. Technology doesn’t have to stand in the way of rest.
9. Chris Russell – Chris challenged us in whether we are preaching the ‘happiness’ gospel to our young people, but actually that Jesus didn’t come to give us happiness but to give us LIFE. The happiness gospel is one that put ourselves first, not God, it’s all focussed on self-fulfilment and it’s very dangerous if we sell the gospel as daily satisfaction. Chris made me a lot more aware of how I communicating the gospel to the young people I work with.
Apologies this was such a long post, I think what you can take from that is that it was a great time from which I gained a lot. Was inspired a lot. Was encouraged a lot. Was challenged a lot. My heart was broken a lot, and my drive to work with young people was rekindled again and again throughout the day.
“Love the Lord your God and love one another. Love one another as He loves. Love with strength and purpose and passion and no matter what comes against you. Don’t weaken. Stand against the darkness, and love. That’s the way back to Eden. That’s the way back to life.” Francine Rivers (Redeeming Love)
The power of loving one another is SO strong. Step out today in an act of love, an act of love with purpose, against the odds. This is an instruction from God, love love love love, our greatest challenge is to try and love like He loves.
“In the most ironic twist of all history, what Satan meant for evil, God meant for good. Jesus’ death on the cross bridged the gap between a perfect God and a fatally flawed humanity. On the day we call Good Friday, God defeated sin, routed death, triumphed over Satan, and got his family back. In that act of transformation, God took the worst deed of history and turned it into the greatest victory… Between the cross and the empty tomb hovers the promise of history; hope for the world and hope for each of us that lives in it.” Phillip Yancey
Have hope, for He is alive!
“Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep have strayed away. We have left God’s path to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.” Isaiah 53: 4 – 6
Jesus took our messy lives on himself in the ultimate act of love and died a death we deserve because of God’s love for us.
This is a difficult post to write, I probably won’t explain it quite right, but please bear with me and to those who have helped me and supported me through all this, I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you. You, and the help and support you gave is God’s gift to me.
Something you may not know about me is that I have a battle with the temptation to self harm on a daily basis. A battle I am currently winning.
From age 17 I would regularly harm myself to try and rid myself of feelings of anxiety, fear, and low self esteem. It was an outlet for extreme & confusing emotions. An outlet for my constant and overwhelming anxiety. This way of releasing my feelings soon spiralled out of control and I started harming myself very regularly, I was addicted, and I couldn’t stop. I knew it wasn’t the best way of dealing with it but I knew no other way. No other way had seemed to work. I found support in some of my close friends but to others it was a huge secret, nobody would know unless I decided I wanted them to know. I became an expert at putting on a mask every day, and hurting myself every night. This became my identity and unfortunately my competitive nature came out and influenced my harming too.
Those people who knew, they were amazing to me, caring for me, supporting me, and just being there when I was having a crappy day. You know who you are. Thank you, honestly I couldn’t have fought this battle without you.
I came to a point where I knew needed to stop, it was getting ridiculous, I thought “how could I not handle my emotions properly?!” (This is not the case, I just hadn’t learned good techniques of expressing emotion) I went to the doctors, who, initially were very on the ball with supporting me, but then this help dwindled very fast, and I completely fell off the system with the main message to me from the NHS being that I “wasn’t bad enough.” To say this to someone who is regularly hurting themselves, asking for help, and to someone who is competitive, was stupid, I realised later on in my recovery, but played a massive part in aiding self recovery. If I wasn’t going to get help from them, I still had to stop. A series of different things meant my self harming routine went out of the window, which helped me significantly. I was ready to stop, and without being ready I wouldn’t have got as far as I did.
Throughout all this I had a couple of people praying for me, and my walk with God was continuing, I was in a roller coaster journey of faith, but as I grew closer to God, I knew this was not the plan He had for me, He had much more, much better plans. These different things are what helped me stop. A drive to stop, a relationship with God, people caring for me, praying for me and changes in circumstances. The reality is though, without God I would still be harming, I try and thank Him as often as I can. He is the all powerful Daddy who loves and cares and wants what’s best for his kids, and this included me, and includes you.
The reason I’m writing this now is down to God as well, I’m comfortable that self harm and anxiety are part of my life, my story, my self harming happened for at least a couple of years, and I still constantly deal with anxiety. I’ve been challenged by God to share my story, I’ve been challenged to be bold and brave. I wouldn’t wish my experiences on any one, no way, but through God He can turn it to good, and that’s the place I’m in now. I can talk about it freely, I can be confident that talking about it won’t trigger me into wanting to harm again, and I can say, actually, this is a real issue for young people, for adults, for anyone, and the more people are honest about it the less people believe myths; for example self harm is purely attention seeking behaviour. The more people are honest about it, the more people can help, and support. Myths and stigma stop people seeking the help they need. And I long to do just that, support, help, care, pray. I believe God is going to use me for just that. Coming along side people who are struggling and giving them hope, and letting them know there is a way out.
I’m no expert but I have a story, and God can use my story to help others.
It is believed that 1 in 10 young people self harm, and these statistics are probably way off, as it does not include young people who don’t tell anyone. This is not just a problem for young people either, young children, adults and many elderly are being caught in the addiction of self harm, and they need hope. I hope this blog can encourage, even just one person, that there is hope, there is a way out, there is freedom. I battle temptations almost every day, but it’s okay because God is with me, and He is for me. Even if I give in once, God won’t leave me or ditch me, He keeps saying “Steph, I love you, and I don’t like to see you in pain, come back to me, you can find freedom, I promise.” And He keeps his promises.
And my freedom came because of Christ, because of His faithfulness, because of His continual and constant pursuit of us, and because of those He placed in my life around me.
1 Corinthians 15: 57 says this “but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And my victory over self harm is because of Jesus, thank you Jesus.
Feel free to ask me questions, I’m very happy to answer!
Thank you for reading,
God Bless , Steph xx