Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Pancakes. Mmm.
Obviously this should have come before profound musings about Lent. But who cares. Pancakes are wonderful. Nevermore so than when coated in lemon and sugar. Although a close second has to be Nutella and banana. Check out the history of the humble pancake here. We're having pancake and knitting madness tonight in our house. Expect amusing photos tomorrow.


There are moments built into our lives to help us remember things. I think because we are stupid bits of dust and easily forget the reality of the world around us. Thankfully we have a maker who remembers that we are just dust, and who graciously puts things in our path to help us remember. The Old Testament is littered with such events, stones and markers to help the Israelites remember the God who had brought them out of slavery and into the Promised Land. The New testament also has it's fair share of memory moments, with the obvious Lord's Supper, but there are also many commands for us to encourage each other daily, to remember to whom we belong.

Moments of remembrance throughout the year are clearly a Good Thing. And so we come to Lent. A time of year taken over by people who want to use it to help us exercise will power and remove sugar from our lives. Strangely Lent is not really about that. This quote I found the other day helps.

"Lent is supposed to be a time when we review our spiritual life, think again about what it means to be a follower of Christ, reset the compass of our discipleship and prepare ourselves to celebrate the Easter festival. But often we just give up biscuits" (Stephen Cottrell, I Thirst, p. 12)

"Lent is not about giving up luxuries, not about losing weight or gaining other benefits, not about food per se, not about de-cluttering or Feng Shui or about ay other kind of feel-good, de-toxifying exercise. In the end, it's about denying yourself some of the essentials of everday life in order to focus on the reality that we depend upon God for life itself; about re-aligning ourselves with God and his purposes in our world; about reminding ourselves that all we have is a gift from God in any case.
And neither is Lent about achievement. We cannot earn God's love, nor save ourselves. If our Lenten Fast is understood well, it will relieve us of the need to try harder, achieve more, feel worthy. It will ground us in the firm and unshakeable knowledge that we are human - we are but dust, and to dust we shall return - but that to be human is enough, under the loving gaze of God." (Maggi Dawn)

So there you go. Lent. Another focused time of the year to help us remember where it is we come from, who it is that defines our lives and where we are going. Giving up chocolate almost sounds easier.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Apologies for this. It's just too addictive.

A word to the wise.

So, back to the thinking deeply part of this blog. I'd like to insert a note of caution to the lovers of theology out there, to those amongst us who work in the weird world of 'Christian' work (insert your own jargon tribal phrase for what the official title might be, eg 'paid full time gospel ministry';-). A note of caution on two fronts, which have been niggling at my brain and life for the last few days so you can share in them... if I'm going to be hassled to change, I don't see why others shouldn't share in that too. :-)

1. We have to live this stuff out.
Sometimes I want to know less than I know. Because if I am not loving, if my character is not growing, if I am not cutting out sin in my life, living and breathing the reality of all I say to others, then what am I doing? It is easy to be a whitewashed tomb. Someone who says and does all the right stuff on the outside and yet has no love, no grace, no hope for anyone struggling along the way, no tenderness, no compassion, no humility. There has to be reality to our lives, depth, understanding of what walking as Jesus did really means. And maybe that will require less reading and more living. Knowing things in our head should deeply, deeply transform the way we live.

2. We are not all armpits.
You might say, yes Kath, I know I'm not an armpit. Bear with me. We are not all armpits. We are a body together made up of unique bits that aren't made like other bits. I'm slowly (being a bear of little brain) coming to understand that I'm not a one man band.

I'm not even close. I'm Kath and I am good at some things and appalling at others. And that's ok. Because there are other Christians out there who are better at other things than I am. We're all different. It's ok that I don't have every gift out there, that when someone asks me why I am a Christian my mind goes blank and I wonder what the answer is, and it's ok that I have some gifts, that I can tell people that God uses the weak and foolish things of this world and see their eyes light up because that means God can use them. But can we get on with appreciating that in each other? To spend more time working together and rejoicing in each others different gifts and personalities, rather than comparing with others, wishing we were someone else, being jealous, envious and proud.

Instead, we can get on with building each other up, delighting in the way God has made us all so brilliantly different. I might be an armpit, but you are a left toe, a right nostril, a small bone in the ear. Lets help each other in not just banging on about how great it is to be an armpit, so all the unarmpit like people feel small and rubbish, but to recognise the brilliance of being a left elbow. (ahem, clearly this body illustration is about to fall apart, but you get my drift). I need to stop wishing I was someone else and get on with being who I am where God has put me to be me. How hard it is to sing 'If I were a butterfly' with deep conviction, am I really thankful to Him for making me me?

Faces speak louder than words.

This is my family. Examples of how faces can say so much to people who know them. These faces are part of my life, and part of what makes me me. I love this photo as it captures so much unsaid stuff that goes on in my family. At the back there is Mark, grinning smile masking the slightly uncertain wary look in his eyes, the questioning 'what is she doing now?'. Then Mum and Dad, Mum on the verge of telling me not to be so silly, and Dad bemused as ever by the randomness of his daughter. I love the fact that a simple action, like me taking a photo of them, sparks off this reaction in their eyes and faces. All because I have told them to do something strange like, "Smile for the camera".

Things of note.

1. I enjoyed the experience of Mission today.
2. I remembered that there is more to this world than the visible world.
3. Harold really needs to grieve. Shutting everyone out just won't work forever.
4. Sleeping on a bad sofa gives me strange dreams of people dying through sofa attack. I kid you not.
5. The prospect of my own bed, clean sheets and a warm night in is almost too exciting.
6. I bought Ice Ice Baby from itunes. Oh dear.
7. Today I grinned all the way home because I'm loved, called and kept by the maker of the world. mm. (Jude 1 if in doubt)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Geek Blogging

Ok, ok, so I promised myself I'd not do this, but here goes. We're live at the Portsmouth Mission. There you go. Anyway, before you hit the snooze button, I'm really talking about being back in the land of the student house. It's an strange place to be back in, but this one is considerably tidier than I remember. Important things to note though are the large amounts of fairy lights, the ability to msn each other from every room in the house (things have changed since I was young...), birthday celebration posters from two months ago, random chipped mugs, bottles of wine from Christmas and the sad old brown furniture.

Things are different in studentville from when I was around though (old granny hat on). There are no more posters instructing me to CHOOSE LIFE, pictures of Pulp, Radiohead, the Telly Tubbies or Mr Men. It's kind of sad. But awaiting me tonight there is a saggy brown sofa to sink into, and presumably a mouldy bathroom to have a morning shower in. Ah, some things don't change. I like being a student worker, it means that I get to go back in time every now and again. Oh and the mission is going well too. Loads of people at Jazz and Curry tonight. I'm not hardcore and am returning to my own bed, house and saggy brown sofa tomorrow but it's been grand to take a trip back into the student world.

To continue the student theme- presumably this isn't true.

Friday, February 17, 2006

And now for something completely different...

Who would do this???


The struggle of our lives never ends. The ache will not go away. And to know that is ok is brilliant. Because life is hard. And sometimes just being able to express that darkness makes things seem more bearable- see previous post on Johnny Cash, I'm still obsessed. But obsessed with a life of grace. A life that messed up time and time again and yet God still persevered in keeping him until the end. The whole Bible in fact is littered with people like that. And yet I'm surprised that God still holds onto me. That's the way he works. He uses the complaining, the scared, the timid, the rebellious, the blatant deniers of his mercy, the foolish, the sinful. That is all I am. That is all any of us are. Yet we don't seem to talk about it much. But I need others to talk about it with, to admit that I am wrong, to admit that I have failed.

I told a friend about the rubbish day I had yesterday and she very nicely wanted to make allowances for me, to tell me it was ok, and to be honest I'd have done the same in her shoes. But I don't need that, I need to know that I have sinned, that yes I have messed up. That I could have chosen a better way yesterday and didn't. That I willfully rebelled against what I know to be true. That I did not act on reality or relationship but chose the unfaithfulness of sin. I need to know that because then there is HOPE. Because if all this is just personality flaws or just a small mistake that doesn't matter then I can gloss over it and go on, but the guilt and shame remain. I can't be a better person. I don't have it in me. But I do have a cross. A story of redemption. A hope that this mess has been dealt with. Repentance is needed. And I don't hear it enough. In church we confess in our mumbling general way, and we are told we are forgiven. But I need the gritty reality of repentance. Because repentance is the only thing that frees me. The cross is ALL I have.

Repentance means I can get up and keep on walking, repentance means I can fall, repentance means that someone else is taking care of my salvation. Repentance gives me hope that I can change because it recognizes that someone else's strength is at work here. It means I am kept. And it is the means of grace of my keeping. God keeps me. And I keep myself in God by praying in the Spirit the prayers of repentance which come to me by grace. I can't get away from God or his grace. Which weirdly leaves me in irritation at God and his hemming in of me. Jonah is someone I identify with right now.

It's like my Dad, when I was growing up he was always right. I mean ALWAYS (well as a flawed sinner can be) So irritating, he knew me better than I knew myself. I would do everything else, but what he said, to try and avoid facing up to accepting that he knew best. Now I find myself in that place with God. He blatantly knows best but I try every other option. I find myself in the no-mans land between failing to live in obedience and failing to completely rebel. I cannot leave, but unless repentance is real I cannot walk on.

My illustration is as follows.
I'm in the house, living with God, but sometimes I want to escape, want to get out of the reach of my parent, want to make it on my own, so we have an argument and I end up running out of the front door and slamming it behind me. The trouble is the moment I step outside I suddenly realize that the house is on a cliff, that I'm teetering over the edge and gazing down at nothing. There is no other way to live. And so I hang around outside on the cliff top for a bit, but then I have to sheepishly turn around, knock on the door, creep in and feel a bit foolish. Almost embarrassed at how I've forgotten that the 560 other times I've done it the same thing has happened. Weirdly the door always opens.

Flawed as the illustration is, that's how grace feels most of the time. Amazing but weird. I've given up thinking that this life is going to get easier, that the road will somehow straighten out and that I'll be a faithful part of this relationship. That doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying- the Spirit within me has a habit of producing fruit, of helping me encourage people, of equipping me to serve, resurrection power is poured into me and I can fly.

But there is something that remains, the groaning doesn't stop, I sin, stumbling over mountains is the reality of the Christian life. But one day... One day. I will soar. Broken, bruised and battered I'll stumble over the line, I'll finish the race, because He will keep me, because he finishes the work he started. And because his ability and desire to keep me outstrips my desire to keep running. For that I am profoundly grateful. I don't get it. But I love him. Because he first loved me. Because his words stand firm throughout history, and because he called me by name long ago. I cannot escape. Perhaps this is grace.
i cannot escape
there is no-where to run.
turning around in this no-mans land.
can't live for you, yet something bids me stay
i cannot escape
can this be grace?

"Look at me, I'm a castaway
I'm somewhere I shouldn't belong
I was placed here yesterday
And there's a man smiling at me
I said, 'Why am I here?
When You are so holy?
I will never hit the mark'.
He said, 'Yes this is true
But my friend, I've done it instead'.

Run, run, run
The law it beckons me
But gives me no limbs
Fly, fly, fly
The gospel bids to me
And lovingly gives me some wings
So I will fly
Held on the wind of grace
That teaches me when to say yes and say no
So I will fly
On eagle's wings
You're helping me win the prize
But always with love in Your eyes
Love in Your eyes

Look at me on a journey now
The road looks narrow ahead
But everytime that my head falls
I feel a hand steadying me
I said, 'Teach me Lord,
That I may be holy
In silver and gold I must build'.
He said 'All that I've started in you
I'll see to the end"

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Just a broken pot.

"Say how's the weather, so I look out the window
To brighten my soul, but I can't control the rain
That keeps falling
Smile on the outside that never comes in
A comedy, mystery, irony, tragedy
So I scream "let the show begin"

You break me open, turn on the light
Stumble inside with me, with me

Do I entertain you?
Do I preoccupy you with my wit to cover this lie?
Are you mesmerized?
Do you think me faithful, do you think me a clown?
I picked out this shirt, I put on this hat
I wore all this paint just for you"
(Jars of Clay)
"The beast in me
Is caged by frail and fragile bars
Restless by day
And by night rants and rages at the stars
God help the beast in me

The beast in me
Has had to learn to live with pain
And how to shelter from the rain
And in the twinkling of an eye
Might have to be restrained
God help the beast in me"
(Johnny Cash)

"So I have been hanging out down by the train's depot. No, I don't ride.
I just sit and watch the people there. They remind me of wind up cars in motion.
The way they spin and turn and jockey for positions.
And I want to scream out that it is all nonsense.
And that their lives are one track, and can't they see how it is all pointless?
But then, my knees give under me. My head feels weak and
suddenly it is clear to see that it is not them but me, who has lost my self-identity.
As I hide behind these books I read, while scribbling my poetry,
like art could save a wretch like me, with some ideal ideology that no one can hope to achieve.
And I am never real; it is just a sketch of me.
And everything I have is trite and cheap and a waste of paint, of tape, of time.
Sometimes I park my car down my the cathedral, where floodlights point up at the steeples.
Choir practice is filling up with people. I hear the sound escaping as an echo.
Sloping off the ceiling at an angle. When voices blend they sound like angels.
I hope there is still some room left in the middle.
But when I lift my voice up now to reach them. The range is too high, way up in heaven.
So I hold my tongue, forget the song, tie my shoe and start walking off.
And try to just keep moving on, with my broken heart and my absent God
and I have no faith but it is all I want, to be loved and believe in my soul, in my soul..."
(Bright Eyes- Waste of paint)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Back to the randomness.

In the absence of knowing what to write, the agonies of the point to these words on the screen, and the wonderings of if what is written here is written to a particular audience for a particular reason, I have decided to give up on the musings and get on with doing what I love and writing randomness for my consumption and the consumption of anyone else who might pass this way. I guess writers block gets to us all after a while.

And so, tonight I sit with my knitting buddies. I, having finished a scarf last week, have no knitting and so am sitting with my laptop in the lounge musing on life and listening to the clack of needles. In the background Johnny Cash is lulling us all into a nice state of depression and longing for death. I don't think there is any other voice in the world that is so world weary and ready for heaven as Johnny Cash on the last American Recording album. No other song so sad as his interpretation of Trent Reznors 'Hurt'. No man so ready to be in the arms of his Father who, throughout his life, has never let go.

My weekend was one revolving around the Big Man himself, I went to see 'Walk the Line', the biopic detailing the first third of Cash's life. Then I indulged myself in starting his Biography and playing his prison albums on repeat. I'm trying to put into words the importance of Johnny. Bono (always worth quoting) described his songs as 'singing with the damned'. Not singing to the damned but standing with them in the mess and mire of life. He was a man who told the stories of real people, a man who knew what it was like to genuinely know grace, not just as a clean concept but as a dirty gritty reality. He knew the need of undeserved love and the freedom that comes from it. I'm trying not to use too many superlatives here because there is a danger in being over the top. But having said that this man was an important man.

And I'm not just jumping on the latest bandwagon, the man called Cash has been in my life for a long time, an important part of my parents record collection and hidden amongst my cds for years. Finally I can come clean about my obsession. His songs are different from many country songs, say the word country and lots of Dolly Parton images, pink houses, steel guitars, songs about dogs and overblown love come to mind. Cash's music has depths that go beyond that. He wrote songs about death, life, faith and love, pretty much covering all it means to be human. That is the essence of his genius, his ability to sing about every aspect of life, and his ability to express the darkness in this life. By putting words to the darkness he made the darkness easier to live with. There is something spine tingling about a man who knows that through his life he has tasted hell but been held back by arms of grace. If you ever need to rediscover what grace really means, check out the life of Cash.

Two albums to start with are his recordings at Folsom Prison and San Quentin. Cash at his most energetic, sparing with the prisoners and warders, laughing at the cheers to the line "I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die." and bringing hope to men who have lived without hope for a long time. Giving voice to the pain within. Then pick up "The Man comes Around", one of his last recordings, the sound of a man ready to die with sad worn out songs expressing some of the futility of this life.

This was a man who spoke to many people, mainly due to his lack of self righteousness, his awareness right to the end that he didn't deserve the love God lavished on him and that no-one is beyond redemption. He was a man of integrity and a man who knew the darkness in his soul and who sometimes gave into the darkness. Not a man who walked the line all of his life, but one who was held to the line by someone else.

At the end of his life he was asked if he was angry that the love of his life, June Carter-Cash, was taken first. This was his response:
"He gripped the arms of his wheelchair and sat up straight, dark eyes blazing, "Never, Never!" he growled, and if you've ever been on the receiving end of a Johnny Cash growl, you'll know not to take it lightly. "No, I don't get angry with God. Not at anything...my arms are too short to box with God."
A line that gets me everytime. My arms too are too short to box with God, no matter how much I try. And this man teaches me more of the reality that I am not beyond redemption, that there is hope and a reality beyond the world in front of our eyes.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Oh and the Belle and Sebastian album is brilliant. Buy it now.

Students are nice.

It's kind of official. Look what the president of Sussex CU bought me. Flowers and chocolate. Nice.
It's good to hold onto moments when your job seems worthwhile. Tonight was one of them. Sussex's AGM and lots and lots of looking back and being wowed at God and all He has done and looking forward to more dependence on Him. And I get to hang around and be a part of it all. Mmm. Holding onto that moment.

The dentist

It occurred to me today that the one constant unchanging thing in my life, apart from Jesus and my family, is my dentist. I've been going to see him for 20 years now. Every 6 months I walk up the same flight of red carpeted stairs to sit in his waiting room. The room has gone upmarket over the last few years, graduating from "Womans Weekly" magazines to "Hello" and "Readers Digest", but today I found a TV in it. Which seems like a slightly inconsequential thing to have in a waiting room. Surely if you were waiting long enough to enjoy a whole programe you'd also be highly irritated at waiting for so long, thus negating the enjoyment of the television programme? Waiting rooms aren't there to act like a lounge, you aren't meant to take up home at the dentists. Anyway. I think I've just realised where my extra £4 on the price of cleaning my teeth has gone to.

So I sit in his waiting room and the thought comes to me. I've been doing this for 20 years. There is hardly anything else I've been doing for 20 years. I don't know whether to get sentimental about this, but nothing else has lasted for so long. He's seen me at 7 and at 27 and everything else inbetween. Do you think he finds that weird? We have no relationship really, just a few comments about the weather, how life is (always fine) and lots of smiling and wishing each other a good day at the end when I feel generous towards him because he hasn't given me a filing. But the weirdest thing is, he hasn't aged. He looks exactly the same. Is my dentist stuck in a timeless land? And should I ever mention these things to him?

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ah, sometimes you have to embrace the teenager inside

The film that accompanied me through the delights of teenage angst was Pump up the Volume, tonight I'm having a trip down memory lane and embracing the moment again. It's a classic tale of disillusionment and despair with life, the system and everything, that sadly I'm now too old to appreciate. Well I can appreciate the disillusionment and despair at life, but I'm very glad that the school factor in that is over. But, then again being over 20 I clearly have no idea anymore. Ah well. Here are some quotes so you can appreciate the joys, and hopefully not give too much insight into the disturbed teenage part of my brain. On a more serious note, this film does ask the question of life, the big one, the 'what on earth are we doing here' question. Which needs to be asked, shouted and raged about every now and again before we sink back into the blandness and blindness.

"They say I'm disturbed. Well, of course I'm disturbed. I mean, we're all disturbed. And if we're not, why not? Doesn't this blend of blindness and blandness want to make you do something crazy? Then why not do something crazy? It makes a helluva lot more sense than blowing your brains out."

"Feeling screwed up at a screwed up time in a screwed up place does not necessarily make you screwed up."

"I'm sick of being ashamed. I don't mind being dejected and rejected, but I'm not going to be ashamed about it. At least pain is real. I mean, you look around and you see nothing is real, but at least the pain is real."

"[T]here's nothing to do anymore. Everything decent's been done. All the great themes have been used up--turned into theme parks."

"Society is mutating so rapidly that anyone over the age of 20 really has no idea."

Friday, February 03, 2006

Just seen...

Belle and Sebastian, a band not to be confused with the strange '80s cartoon series about a boy and a large white dog. Someone asked me to sum up their music style; jingly jangly happy, with biting lyrics, was all I could come up with, which really does the lovely band no justice at all. So, buy their new album and discover the delights for yourself.

Looking forward to this coming out on Monday.

Nights like this make me fall in love with music all over again. The band were genius, as were the amount of random people who appeared to come on stage purely for their "shaky egg" moment. One day I shall play "shaky egg" in a band, or the cow bell, or the tambourine. One day. But for now I'll be content with a lush Scottish voice in my head, smiley cheery music, delightful cellos and the slightly surreal image of one member of the audience who appeared to do nothing but jog on the spot for the entire evening.

Music is just the best invention ever. Hoorah. Now I'm looking forward to the amount of driving I'm going to do tomorrow because I shall be accompanied by my cd player and lots of wonderful music to do things deep inside me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Can't believe I haven't posted this here before.

"But alas! These my golden expectations have been like the south sea dreams. I have lived hither to a poor sinner, and I believe I shall die one. Have I then gained nothing? Yes I have gained that which I once would rather have been without - such accumulated proof of the deceitfulness and desperate wickedness of my heart as I hope by the Lord's blessing has, in some measure, taught me to know what I mean when I say, 'behold I am vile!' I was ashamed of myself then, I am ashamed of myself now and I expect to most ashamed of myself when he comes to receive me to himself. But oh! I rejoice in HIM that HE is not ashamed of me!" (Some old dude such as John Newton maybe!)

Relay 2

Oh and for random photo's from the Relay conference I'm still recovering from- click here and here and here . I think one site, at least, has a slightly smiley photo of me. I can't really sum up the conference here, if you are interested read some Relay Worker's opinions. God was at work, and that's good enough for me. I just have to find some way of remembering that it is now Feburary and I need to think about the rest of term. Ah well. This green pasture day is nice for now.

But I wish I was here:-


This is my 101st post. That should, in my mind, be accompained by lots of balloons, cheering and crowd applause. Anyway, I can't be bothered with lots of effects, grandiose statements and the like. Today I would like to talk about cake. I have just baked a cake. It is a rather lovely lemon cake. I am proud of my cake. Baking is wonderful, mainly because you achieve something at the end of the process. You put some ingredients together, put them in an oven and twenty minutes later a cake comes out. Genius. If only all of life worked like that.