Wednesday, May 31, 2006

But as for me.

This phrase jumped out and hit me over the head the other day. I was reading through Psalm 71, a psalm that really emphasises God's work throughout the whole of the Psalmist's life, right through from being a baby in the womb to his old age and grey hairs. It's a Psalm I often flick through to remind me that God is the story of my life, that He has been at work and He will continue to be at work. A Psalm that leads me through my childhood, my teenage years and beyond, reminding me of the constant presence of God weaving His faithfulness around my days here. The plea is for God to carry on doing his work, the circumstances around the Psalmist seem hopeless, people are laughing at him, taunting him with tales of God's abandoning of him. And yet in the middle of the Psalm come these four words, "But as for me...". The strong desire to continue despite the circumstances around him, the clinging to trust in God rather than unbelief, the deep cry of the soul. But as for me...

So anyway I looked around a bit and found some other places where this phrase is repeated in the Bible and again found the verses that leave me wrecked every time I read them. The end of John 6, people abandoning Jesus all over the place, and I can almost feel the piercing gaze of Jesus into my soul as he asks. "You do not want to leave too do you?". The answer, that sometimes is almost too hard to gasp out, is no. No I do not want to leave. There is no where else to run, you have the words of eternal life, you went through Gethsemane for me, you rose from the dead and smashed all the barriers between me and you, you hold me, you comfort me, you challenge and confront me, you hide me, you are the story of my life, you are my Lord, my Friend, my Shepherd.

“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." (John 6)

*But as for me*

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:14-16

But you, O God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of corruption; bloodthirsty and deceitful men will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.
Psalm 55:22-24

But as for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.
Psalm 71:13-15

But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73:27-29

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me.
Micah 7:6-8

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Joining up.

Well I managed about 48 hours of resistance until I did This. (Edit: the link works now...) Becci Brown is the one to blame or praise. However, it is one of my favourite occupations, paying attention to the fine detail of life. Go on, you know you want to join up too.

Can't wait.

Ok, Ok, so many updates, so little time. Paul Simon is bringing out a new album. The rumour on the street is that it is Quite Good. And so it should be, coming from the genius that is. He was promoting it on Jools Holland last night. Here's a preview. Father and daughter is my current favourite track. Mainly because it reminds me of my Dad. Aw.

Neighbours genius

Ok, so I know I'm behind on these things, but for those of you who haven't been blessed by Nathan's linkage. Click away and experience the true joy of Neighbours. Genius.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Dear Diary...

Dear diary. Today has been an eventful day.
It all started with my car limping down the hill to the nice people at the VW garage so they could make it better. Apparently it thought driving across London twice in a weekend was a step too far. It is poorly sick and needs lots and lots of money spending on it to make it better. (I mean really, when garages phone up and list many things that are wrong with your car and then ask, "do you want us to work on it?", what do they expect the answer to be? "Well no, I'd rather leave it with you for the rest of it's life to rust away". Or "No thanks, I'll just try and drive it in faith for a bit and see if you are right about it not working". At least they were apologetic about the vast list of repairs to be done.) Ah well, ecologically sound methods of transport for me for a few more days.

I cycled with the wind into Brighton this afternoon to go to the sealife centre with my friends Ben and Debs and their little girl Sophia. (and yes I did toy with the idea of calling this "supporter time" and claiming it as work, but even my conscience wouldn't let me.) I LOVE the sealife centre. Mainly because you walk around looking at weird weird fish thinking..."God, you are weird, I mean look at that fish. It's so strange. How did you think of doing it like that? And why does it have so many tentacles, and why does it's face bulge in that way?". Infinite creativity makes for a lot of odd creatures.

Anyway Sophia seemed to enjoy it all. Especially talking to the nice stingrays.

Later I cycled against the wind (much much harder) back to Hove station to get the train that stops at 26 stations to Portsmouth. I mean, 26. I could recite them all here but I won't. Suffice to say, I bet you've never heard of Warblington, Nutbourne or Fishersgate before. All these places seem to consist of a small field with a horse in it. I'm not yet convinced of the necessity of a train for the horses yet.

In Portsmouth I said goodbye to some lovely students at their end of term BBQ and introduced their future Relay worker to them. Ceryn seemed to adjust well to the general Portsmouth madness (indicating that, yes, she too might be a little strange in the head). After a couple of hours of fun, and shivering in a very English manner around the BBQ, I got back on the train that stops at 26 stations. A mere two hours later I made it home.

Other things of note today; I started planning my life again with paper and felt tip pens. Colour makes for good productivity; Paul Simon has a new album out soon; Neighbours is the best way to bond in any conversation with students and God is still real and still worth following to the end. Read Jeremiah 32 if in doubt.

I love the comedy exchange between Jeremiah and God, a shorterned version is:
Jeremiah: God, you've judged us, we've sinned, we have been captured and have to leave the land. But you've asked me to buy a field? A field? (you can almost hear the disbelief and slight confusion. Why buy a field in the land we're leaving?)
God: Ah ha, you see the field has hidden meanings. It means I haven't given up on the plan, I'm going to bring some people back. And ensure they get it right this time, I'm going to do good to them and never stop smiling because of them. OK. That's what the field is all about.
Jeremiah: Er. Ok.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Honest chats.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe my job, today I more or less got paid to hang out with some friends for a day. Obviously the context was an encouraging day with fellow staff workers chatting about life, work, God and anything else that comes into the conversation. It was good to know that there was no set agenda, no things we had to discuss, just some talking to people who know that it's a lonely job, who know that it's hard and who know that in the midst of all that there is a God who loves to pour out the grace of rest and reality upon us. I don't know why I'm surprised that just chatting through life with people suddenly makes me realise that I want to carry on. There is something very important about good honest friendship. Coffee shops are also an important feature of such days. Today's was pretty perfect with many big bowls of cappucinos and wooden tables to sit around.

This was followed by opening a small door to the past and meeting up with an old friend from Uni. We had much discussion on the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I'm not sure I had any satisfactory answers for him, but then I don't think that was really the point. We talked about belief, how you can know anything at all, where you come from affecting your beliefs and the whole strangeness of Christian subcultures who leave no room for the doubting, the questions and the what is going on moments. Having to talk through why I was still on this road home was hard. Experiential arguments are not enough, feelings about things are not enough, staying here because I've always been here is not enough. And yet I cannot leave. Jesus compels me, calls me, shouts at me off the pages of the Bible. It comes back to him.

It was good to talk through the meaning questions again, to remember that beauty exists whether you acknowledge the creator for it or not, to be challenged on assumptions I make, good to think through why I stay on the road and good to chat in the depths after little contact over the last few years. Obviously now I want to jack in my job and go away to some mountains to talk to goat farmers all over the world about how they make sense of the universe. I want to study endless reams of philosophy and history and work out how we can know anything. Hmmm. Maybe soon.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Ah belief isn't what it used to be...

Can't really believe this website. Entertaining anyway.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Why do I do these things?

No, this isn't another post about the dark dismalness of life and the existential angst that usually goes with such murmuring. This is about my inability to say no to simple things. This weekend I drove for 14 hours, crossed London in busy traffic twice and went on a conference, all on my weekend off. The reason for such madness was our band being asked to lead worship at a Interserve (mission agency people) conference called Next Step. The facts that kept this weekend from being completely pointless are as follows.

Getting to spend time with Steph. Beating her at pool. Lots.
The completely over hysterical moment in the car as we drove up to a conference house (ON OUR DAYS OFF) allowing the full realization, of what we had said yes to, hit us.
The man who stopped me in the corridor this morning and asked: "Do you know where the tiny little children are?" (cue lots of images floating around in my head of uber small children scampering the carpet and being trod on under our feet)
Driving on Oxford Street. It is possible to drive through central London. Oh yes.
Listening to over-amounts of brilliant music. (Indigo Girls, The Smiths, Karine Polwart, Eddi Reader, Damien Rice, Rich Mullins, Kate Rusby)
I did get to play my bongos. Lots.

Other things learnt from this weekend: Satellite Navigation is a Good Thing. As stubborn a navigator as I am, there are limits to my ability to balance a map on my knees and drive at the same time. Wendy (Steph's Sat Nav) was very understanding of my foolishness in driving and very good at putting me back on course. In fact, if you have time, there is a sermon illustration in that. I had to receive from Wendy, I had to put away my pride in my navigation skills and trust hers, there was nothing else I could do except receive from her. (Fill in the blanks as to how this might relate to us and God yourself).

Friday, May 19, 2006

The hymn that floats around my head at such times. Especially the last verse. Pure genius. Pure Grace.

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
to you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed!
For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
that soul, though all hell shall endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no, never, no, never forsake."

Thoughts on the darkness.

One of my biggest fears in the darkness is that it may mean that God has forsaken me forever, that, like Saul, I have been forsaken by the living God. Which places this quote into the context of beautiful relief when I read it yesterday morning. It's from Dale Ralph Davies commentary on 1 Samuel and the random bit when Saul consults the witch of Endor. Interesting reading for a first jaunt back in the Bible for a while. But utterly appropriate for my head.

"Some believers are convinced that they are cut off from God's presence, doomed to his silence, forever under his frown. One can understand why believers in Jesus might draw such conclusions: God's presence does sometimes seem distant; sometimes he seems to have cast them off. Sometimes God leaves us in our affliction for so long that we are tempted to say he has forsaken us. And the Bible acknowledges that such conditions can prevail in the lives of God's flock. The Bible recognizes that someone can be- shall we say objectively forsaken by God (as was Saul) and that others can seem to be forsaken or fear that they have been.

Have we any clues to help us distinguish the one situation from the other? I would at least point to one. Look for example at Psalm 13:1 " How much longer, Yahweh will you go on forgetting me? Forever? How much longer will you keep hiding your face from me?". When believers are terrified at God's absence they instinctively turn to the God they think has forsaken them, and complain to Him about forsaking them. And then they go on having dealings with this God, crying to this God to answer because they have no-where else to go and so keep clinging to him. Psalm 88 is almost as bleak as 1 Samuel 28 for that Psalm does not have a confident end in Yahweh's deliverance and favor. The faithful man's anguish is still unrelieved at the end of his prayer, but he is still speaking to Yahweh about it.

Cool rationalists will never understand it but true believers do. Eventually they see that the clearest evidence that God has not turned away from them is that even in his 'absence' they keep turning to the God who has turned from them." John6:67-68 "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life"
(Dale Ralph Davies - 1 Samuel)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Music that soothes the soul

Last Thursday I went to see Karine Polwart with a friend. It was an amazing gig, mainly for the sad sweet melancholy songs that she plays. With lines like: "Maybe there's a road that's not this hard." and "I can’t say there’s many things I wouldn’t change, there are better days gone than those that remain, but I can find joy in the sound of the rain, you have to find joy where you can", who could resist? It was music that soothed the deep parts of me and left me hopeful. Here's one of her more cheery songs that sums up some of the rare moments of peace with me and God at the moment.

You put me back together again
just when I thought I was broken forever
So broken that nothing on this earth could mend me
You put me back together again

You put me back together again
Just like a puzzle with no pieces missing
I see myself as you see me my friend
You put me back together again

When everything else in this world
Flickers and falters and falls
And the thunder is under our feet
You feel like four strong walls
(Karine Polwart)

Back to blogging

Phew. To be honest that picture below is all I have felt like saying here for a while. That’s the trouble with writing a blog based on being real. When I can’t figure out what is real anymore things get a bit messy and I have to stop for a while. (I’ve promised myself this isn’t the place for unrestrained darkness). It’s been an interesting few weeks in the world of my head. I have dark moments in my life, moments when I just don’t know what is real, don’t know which of my thoughts to trust and moments when I get lost. I’m learning to deal with them, and I’m learning to try and remember that there are things that remain whether I think I can believe in them or not.

Words that help me in these times come from Isaiah 50:10 “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.”

I like the fact that I am in good company in these dark times, many Christians in the past have struggled with this darkness. I like the fact that God uses this apparent weakness in me to help others. But it’s still hard to keep walking, to keep choosing the light whose call is so hard to hear at times. Thankfully there are friends with flashlights to come and walk with me. Thankfully I don’t follow a set of arguments, I follow a real live person who walked on the earth, lived, died and rose again. He is the source of my hope, joy and fundamental light in this darkness. He is the reason and the way I am able to keep walking. Thankfully it is his new mercies that work each morning and his freedom that enables me to get up, if shakily, and get back on the road home.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Friday, May 05, 2006


I think our street is in a timewarp. Last night there were kids in the street playing cricket. This afternoon an ice-cream van came and played loud jolly music down our road. This made me happy for some reason.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Questions questions...

Will I have this feeling like I'm a dopy carpenters mate (ht to Nigel Pollock for the classic illustration) for the rest of my life? Getting things wrong, stuffing up, missing opportunties, asking dumb questions, looking in one place when the action is happening somewhere else, feeling like the thing I got right was a massive fluke? And will the carpenter ever get fed up of my randomness? I think I know the answer to the last question...

Monday, May 01, 2006

Welcome to summer

Just had my first Shakeaway of the year. Oreo Cookie and Custard. What better way to spend a Bank Holiday Monday than in fine company, walking along a windswept beach, bumping into random friends and playing beautiful music for the afternoon whilst drinking beer. Summer is here. Hoorah.
Click for more timewasting game opportunities.