A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Just when you thought I was on the straight and narrow

Erm, I haven't posted for a while, because my post Faith Camp euphoria has landed with a bump.

Meh. I believe in God. I believe he loves.

But I'm trying very hard not to believe in Hell because I think it's a really stupid idea.

I started my blog about Jesus, you can read further angsting here.

Also I'm meeting for coffee the same woman I met in February last year after I confessed that I was in total angst about my beliefs and that I wasn't much of a Christian. I feel bad for her because I was looking forward to explaining how much God has done in me since then, but instead, angst.

OK, God has done a lot since then. And I'd like to be optimistic and say that I hope this current angst is his way of sorting out the whole Hell issue.

I don't know. But I recall last time I had a crisis of faith a whole load of people chipped in with their point of view, so feel free to contribute your opinion!

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Architect


Central hall again
Originally uploaded by sweet-indigo.
Apparently there will be a public lecture in which the architect of York University will talk about the original architecture.
I am surprised that
a) there was an architect
b) he was happy to credit the architecture with his name
c) he's actually willing to show his face in public :)

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Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mess and cups of tea now at St. Helen's

There aren't enough hours in the day.

I mean, I really want to be in the Gilbert and Sullivan society... I want to do Patience... I want to be a lovesick maiden. I want to flutter after an obvious parody of Oscar Wilde. But I don't think I'll get time :( On the other hand, with any luck I'll get time to do the summer show. Finals? What are they? :D

I realised about ten minutes after posting last entry that it was kinda negative... So I thought it would only be fair if I posted some of the nice things about the fact that I'm rapidly becoming a Christian societies nerd.

Went to a prayer meeting Thursday morning. Felt a bit angsty beforehand, and because it was generally freestyle worship I was trying to think of things I need to pray for... and it was almost as if, when I began my requests, God said, "Not now."
I get so caught up with the notion of *doing* things. ("And as soon as you're not a human being, you're a human doing. Then what comes next?" "A human going!") But I remembered how in church on Sunday they said that we are made for worship, not work - ie. our first purpose is having a relationship with God and anything else comes out of that. Before we go out and save the world, God wants us to simply spend time with him. He does call us to help others and to speak out and to pray for other people but first of all he just wants to know us!

Also I think we can get caught up in big causes and end up focusing on them instead of God. We can't do anything without him, but still we... or at least I... manage to forget that. This is kinda like offering someone a lift and then refusing to put fuel in your car.

And it occurred to me that I always have doubts and questions and worries... but the time they trouble me most is when I don't pray. When I pray, the reality of God is so strong that I don't feel threatened by a question or a doubt - it'd be as stupid as believing a rumour about my best friend. If I heard something weird about my best friend I could just go and ask her about it. And if I'm troubled about stuff to do with God, I can just ask him about it. Cool huh?

Latest church-search news - going to church I had dilemmas about on Sunday morning. I'm annoyed with calling it 'that church' so from now on I'm going to call it "St. Catherine's" even though it's not called that. Might go to another church in the evening if I have time. I read on the adverts that "St. James's" has lots of outreach projects in the city so it might just be my kind of church. If not, I think I'll just stick with St. Mike's (not its actual name, but everyone calls it that...)

You know, calling every church St. something makes them all sound Anglican/Catholic. But actually all Christians are referred to as saints in Paul's letters in the New Testament, which means that I can rename my room "St. Helen's".

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Friday, October 14, 2005

A heretic?


Zebra Crossing
Originally uploaded by sweet-indigo.
It's often simply a lot easier to ignore people you disagree with, especially if you're likely to lose arguments, or at best meet a stalemate. Which is probably why, in my first two years, I didn't join Christian Union, instead sticking with the much less controversial group Christian Focus.

The thing is, now I've actually met a good portion of CU people and talked to them, I find that I can't help but like them and I admire their passion for learning and for evangelism.

But... you know there's a however coming! However... I helped out at a CU event yesterday 'with gospel message' and the speaker spoke on the Parable of the Ten Virgins. It's in Matthew 25 and I'll quote it here.

1"At that time the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish and five were wise. 3The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. 4The wise, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. 5The bridegroom was a long time in coming, and they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
6"At midnight the cry rang out: 'Here's the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!'

7"Then all the virgins woke up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish ones said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil; our lamps are going out.'

9" 'No,' they replied, 'there may not be enough for both us and you. Instead, go to those who sell oil and buy some for yourselves.'

10"But while they were on their way to buy the oil, the bridegroom arrived. The virgins who were ready went in with him to the wedding banquet. And the door was shut.

11"Later the others also came. 'Sir! Sir!' they said. 'Open the door for us!'

12"But he replied, 'I tell you the truth, I don't know you.'

13"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour."

He used this to say that if you didn't have a relationship with Jesus you'd go to hell (because we all deserve that) but if you did you'd go to Heaven.

To put it shortly and honestly, I disliked his message.

I think some Christians believe if you don't mention hell in a gospel message you're being soft. Perhaps you should mention hell. I still personally believe that it's a second death, not eternal pain, but that's interpretation.

My main problem is this - is our faith in Jesus so poor that the best we can say about him is that he's better than hell?

Afterwards I was talking about this to Andy and Lois. I haven't mentioned Andy before, but I'm sure you don't mind :)

I told them that I felt dubious about the message, partly because I felt it was something that Jesus said to disciples (ie. Christians) rather than to general non-believers - see Matt 24:3, which is the beginning of his teachings on the end of the world: 'As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. "Tell us," they said, "when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?"'

The parables, therefore, are aimed at Christians who already know what the cost is. We at least have an inkling of how terrible it would be to be without God. We already want to go to the wedding banquet, and we've already started to prepare. I believe that Jesus is telling us not to give up what we have, and to prepare for the long haul rather than figuring that we've done all right so far. And that if we want Jesus as Saviour and not as Lord, then we're in for a nasty shock.

(Incidentally, I do believe that life is full of second chances, but we have to take them. There have been lots of times in which I've messed up, but God kept pulling me back. If I'd refused to be pulled, I don't think he'd have pushed the point.)

Perhaps I'm rather predictable in suggesting that the parable of the lost son might have been a better choice but... perhaps it would have been. I felt that the parable of the ten virgins makes the most sense in the context of Jesus's character. It makes sense when you consider that Jesus offers compassion and healing but that he also says, "If you love me, do as I command." And he doesn't command things arbitrarily. He didn't gain followers by telling them they'd go to hell if they didn't follow him. First he demonstrated his love. Hordes of fish for fisherman. Healing for the sick. Food for five thousand families of devotees. A simple conversation with a hated Samaritan woman. Acceptance for Zacchaeus. People understood how much he could give them - how much he wanted to give them. Then they realised the consequences of being apart from him.

In short, I mentioned to Andy and Lois that I thought the passage was taken out of context because Jesus used the parable with disciples, not with non-Christians. They responded in mock-horror, and joked that I shouldn't mention that to certain people in the CU... who go to a certain church (you can probably guess which one). Then Lois joked that she and Andy were the CU's heretics and Andy said that some people take the Bible very literally.

I thought they were missing the point.

In fact, wasn't I taking the Bible literally? It annoys me that there is ever a time when we have to jokily apologise for being heretics when we genuinely believe something. Something doesn't become more Christian just because it's hard, intolerant or frightening. Jesus might have come down hard on people who thought they could get the blessings without obedience - the 'goats' who didn't bother feeding the hungry or welcoming the stranger - but he had compassion for the 'sheep without a shepherd'. So in conclusion I refute that I'm a heretic, and I'd also like to add that Andy and Lois aren't either.

But hey. Before I was outside the CU so I could mutter criticisms from afar. Now I'm in the CU so I can cause much more trouble. *evil laugh*

Now, perhaps I should e-mail my thoughts to the speaker? Yesterday I was still mad. Sigh. So I didn't want to just go up to him and tell him he was rubbish. Today I've thought about it some more. Perhaps (in fact, I hope) some people did think about Jesus as a result of his message. But I think I'd still like to express my concerns. Who knows, perhaps he'll set me right on a few things ;)

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

Manners before Microchips!

A gem from the BBC's Have Your Say on the topic "Should schools teach manners lessons?".
"In these modern age of IT and innovation, this is priority or we lose our kids to IT. We are already losing the grip on the manners of the children as they grip the iPods and mystic PC games."
Firozali A. Mulla, Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania

There you have it... iPods and PC games cause moral decline. Fantastic!

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Back to Christian Union

Feel a bit better about the church stuff now. I went to Christian Union this evening (yes, and term hasn't even started! dem crazee Christians :) ) and was talking to Lois (who I knew from Gilbert and Sullivan) and she seemed to understand my misgivings. So although I'm going to try and go to that church tomorrow morning (eek! morning has become the time I go to bed :) ) I'm at least reassured that I'm not crazy for wanting to find somewhere else.

I met a cool guy at CU who told me he has a Hug Ministry. He said they have prayer for revival, and he's a friend of a guy I met at Faith Camp! It's cool because at the meeting the talk was on evangelism and it seemed to centre mainly on just talking to people, and I was getting edgy thinking that it's nothing without the Holy Spirit - prayer is really important. And then the guy I was talking to (he has a really distinctive name so I feel I ought to think of a nickname for him) said the same thing as we were talking. So I'd like to get to know him and his friends a bit better :D

I also saw Lucy! We were at school together. Randomly, I was also talking to a girl called Laura who turned out to also be from Kent - she was in Lucy's youth group at church. How strange... And I saw Karen, who's a sweet geeky girl who now has a sweet geeky boyfriend. Geeks in love :D

Ooh, if you know me irl you may be surprised I was at CU because I used to talk about how I don't like them. However 1) the committee's changed about three times since the one I didn't like and 2) to be honest I had a really bad superior attitude. I criticised without really knowing the people or most of what went on. Also there was that little crisis of faith... which I can't be bothered to find and link to right now :) But anyhoo, after writing an article on Christian unity in the Christian magazine on campus I realised that I wasn't following my own advice. I think it's really important that we Christians stick together and if we do have issues with how other Christians act, then it's more loving to discuss it than ignore it.

Now, I'm going to go home, have some supper and pray :)

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Saturday, October 08, 2005

Churchy dilemma

I've been kinda cagey lately when people ask me what church I go to in York. I haven't bothered to tell anyone the full reason why I'm unsure about going back to the church I started attending regularly.

In case you haven't read my diary, here's the story: I didn't find a church in my first year of university. Second year I meandered around until the summer term when I started going regularly with my friend Cat. It's a small friendly church that do regular student lunches. The music's mainly hymns - not my particular favourite - and while the church did regular city-centre evangelism (OK, handing out leaflets), it didn't strike me that they did any other regular outreach work... I left them and went to Cambridge, where I found a lovely church, settled right in and made lots of friends. Not a perfect church, but a loving church that accepts everyone.

Yesterday I was talking to two of my housemates (the third came today) and ended up telling them how I became a Christian... which means that now I have no excuse not to behave like a Christian towards them now :) So... "Kate" (I'm going to give my housemates nicknames, just in case I need to complain about them at a later date :) ) said, "Do you have a church in York?" and I admitted reluctance to go back to the church I started attending. "Why?" I was too embarrassed to admit why - I'd found out that morning that my other housemate who was there, "Steven" is gay.

It was because the pastor of that church said during a sermon, "We seem to be on a downward moral spiral compared to a hundred years ago. There's homosexuality. What's next, incest?" (It had outraged me at the time but then the same preacher came up and started talking to me and being friendly so I felt too embarrassed to tell him I thought he'd said something stupid) ...So I just murmured to Kate that they'd struck me as a bit intolerant. I guessed that Steven at least would have been shocked that I'd even consider going back to a church that had suggested that homosexuality was the worst sin of the age.

The thing is, even my lovely Cambridge church had a sermon one Sunday in which the preacher talked about how we as a country had wandered away from God and mentioned the 'militant homosexual agenda\' as an example. I thought it was on the whole a very silly sermon (one of those "ooh look - terrorism! God must not love the UK anymore!" kind of things) but at least he'd been humble enough to admit that not everyone would agree with him. I think the 'militant homosexual agenda' is frankly the least of the church's problems. What about poverty? homelessness? drugs? greed? global warming? AIDS? And the fact that we, the Church, are often seen as the least effective force for change in society. Jesus preached good news to the poor, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, released the captives and proclaimed the Lord's favour. When people describe the church, that's not what they say. In fact, a lot of them think we're obsessed with fighting the militant homosexual agenda. Who would have given them that idea?

But I fear that if no one speaks out within churches to make people realise as sins go, homosexuality isn't the only gay in the village (d'ya see what I did there?), that we'll continue on this foolish path. C'mon, technically self-injury's a sin and you wouldn't tell a hurting person that if they cut themselves they'll go to hell unless you're seriously deranged. This is because there are many more issues than simply a matter of good/bad. Issues that need to be dealt with far more urgently than "God made your body, stop harming it". I know that periodically I annoy a lot of people by doing the 'homosexuality is not a sin' thing, but to be honest I think that a sin that involves two people in a loving relationship isn't particularly impressive. I have to wonder if there are Christians who think that all homosexuals are deranged perverts with a one-track mind... Personally I think I'd trust Oscar Wilde more than I'd trust Jerry Falwell. (Well, Oscar Wilde's dead, but you know what I mean...)

I want to start a faction against the Militant Pen-Stealing Agenda :)

So why am I not dead-set against returning to this evil, anti-gay church?

Well, they're not evil. OK, so they're not perfect, but as Hanlon's razor states, never attribute to malice what can be attributed to stupidity. I got the impression that the pastor wasn't a bad man - he didn't gun down every gay that he met. In fact, I suspect that he didn't even know any homosexuals. The Bible's clear that change is possible. I'd like to be in a church that reaches out to the poor - perhaps God will put me in a place where I can encourage others to do so. Also I think my prejudices against hymns and street evangelism are showing. I know that God can use these things, but I just don't personally much like them. And that's no reason to dislike a church that does.

So I'm in a quandary. On one hand, the church I started going to back in May/Jun 2004 helped me rededicate myself to God. I got focus again. I do feel that the congregation are all sincere Christians who are serious about their faith. And I feel I ought to go back, if only to see how they've changed over the past year. I've prayed about it, and I don't feel right immediately assuming it's *not* the church for me. Last year it *was* the church for me - I needed the close community. I even dare to suggest that God led me there - I had prayed the morning before I first went that I'd at least find someone to pray with that day, and then Cat came and told me she was going to church. Admittedly I found Cat's probing questions rather annoying but I was impressed with her dedication to following God. It was the beginning of a change - I'd felt so far away from God, and I developed the boldness to start looking again.

...But I confess, I think there are probably better churches in York. I feel judgemental saying it. But I don't honestly think that they're nearly as dedicated as they should be to following Jesus' example. And I know that's a bit rich for me to say, but the doubt remains even so... I'd like to be in a church known for loving sinners, helping the poor, being passionate, being faithful, speaking out against injustice. But I know from experience that God knows my ideal church better than I do. I'll keep you posted on developments.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Scary Degree


Ick. I've just taken a look at my timetable and received an e-mail asking about my project and now I feel queasy.

It's not, actually, a problem with my timetable or even my project really. My timetable for this term looks deceptively nice. I have no 9.15s, which were the bane of my life in 2003-04, which means that although I'll probably want to get in the lab early, the occasional lie-in won't be such a disaster. I have most Tuesdays and Thursdays lecture free (meaning lots of lovely lab work, I'm sure :) ). OK, so I also have five hours of lectures on some Fridays, which means that I might be tempted to Pro-Plus (caffeine pill) consumption, especially as I have four hours consecutively in the afternoon (ending at 18.15. They are sadists. and masochists!). And really, the project write-up isn't too bad, I'm just procrastinating.

It's just... kind of daunting. I'm heartened that my supervisor tended to scold me rather than than look worried whenever I got bad exam results last year. If he'd looked concerned for my university career I think I would have just cause to worry. If he was simply sympathetic whenever I got bad results, then it'd be a good idea to quit, but since he actually seemed rather scandalised that I'd dare score badly, I suspect I do at least have a chance.

But it's frightening. To be honest, I think Biochemistry wasn't the best choice of degree :( Alas, my best A-level, Chemistry, would have been a disaster too (or perhaps not, they might have given better maths classes to the chemists... ours were useless). It's not that I'm bad at it per se, it's simply that I find it hard to care :) I don't like learning many many facts, and I find it hard to concentrate on journal articles and textbooks. Perhaps the project this year will be good - my project supervisor is a man who was one of the reasons why I came to York :) Dr. H is a really nice man who really loves his subject. And with no 9.15s I should at least find it easier to make it to all my lectures.

But I find my degree frightening. I am *not* going to quit but I'm frightened of failing. And though I know God still has plans for me no matter what, I also know he's placed me here for a reason and I don't want to mess up. Perhaps I should try trusting him a bit more :) It's pointless being afraid at this stage of the game... So perhaps I should go buy some chocolate and then get on with this project write-up.

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I'm back in York


Willow
Originally uploaded by sweet-indigo.
Sorry I haven't written for a while. I couldn't find a way to update this blog at home (and didn't realise I could update via Flickr... Duh! :) ), because security measures at home don't seem to like Blogger. I'm back in York. Term hasn't started yet, but Autumn definitely has... I was in denial, but now it's here.

So it's a slow start... I'm enjoying the rather languid pace right now. It's giving me the chance to get settled back in without getting stressed. My room is quite small, but I don't mind - as soon as I get a bookcase, it will transform into paradise :) Although the food naturally isn't as good, it's nice to be cooking for myself again. It's funny how satisfying autonomy can be. I've also been trying to get to know my housemates (or at least, the two that are here) a little better, but as usual I have the familiar feeling of weirdness when it comes to talking about Jesus. Evangelist, I ain't. Yet. I suspect most people are actually quite curious about what us weirdoes Christians do with our time, but silly old me seems to believe that people will think I'm judging or just a nutter, so in some ways I'd like for us to get to know each other a bit better, and let them know I go to church and things but wait until they ask the questions.

I was thinking about faith yesterday, and it occurred to me that although God is our fortress, many of us (well, me) act as if he's our shack - rickety and liable to collapse if not protected against harsh weather. I don't want to serve a pathetic God. I want to serve a powerful God who can, as the Bible says he can, protect me and provide for me. But I think doubts and questions and possible inconsistencies are treated with the kind of caution with which it'd be ridiculous to treat a rainstorm in a fortress. God is bigger than doubt. God is bigger than fear.

I confess, though this is all milling around in my brain, emotionally I still haven't caught on :) Old habits of timidity are still lingering, although definite progress has been made! (Praise God :) ) Little by little, I'm resolving to step out in faith and rely on God. I see this as a great experiment. If God is all powerful, loves us more than anything and hates sin more than anything, then it's of immediate relevance to everyone... So I don't want to be dishonest. I don't want to tell someone something I half-believe. So first of all, I'm going to try living God's way, and let him demonstrate his power and love. If doubts can shake him, if fear can hinder him, if danger is too much for him... then he's not the God he promises to be. But if he is, I'll have made the greatest discovery anyone can ever make! So I'm going to try trusting in him more, and hopefully we shall see where this takes me :)