Sunday, October 29, 2006

One more step.

There's not much to say here. There aren't many schemes, ideas, plans or wisdom that can be summarised here to work for the rest of life. There isn't a nice neat plan of how things are going to work out. Sometimes I can't see the mountain range mapped out in front of me. This is a journey that twists and turns, that goes down and up and spirals around. In fact, if you have time, it's a little like the walk I went on with my Dad today. We meandered around some Surrey countryside (and saw where his tunnel is going to go- very exciting), we wandered down a steep path with one view of a valley, double backed on ourselves further down the valley, seeing things from a different perspective and then walked down the other side of the valley, getting yet another angle on the pretty scenery. We trudged up steep hills, on paths that weren't all that obvious and back tracked on ourselves a couple of points along the way.

That is life. This is what we live, seemingly random and yet beautifully ordered in ways we will never know. And it's not our place to do the guessing, it's our place to keep walking, to trust in the weirdness, to look at the scenery and remember the one with us as we walk. It's our place to interact, to recall to mind, to be reminded and to receive the strength and mercy to walk the bit we walk today. And yet, it's easy to lose sight of that, easy to just do the bits of life that everyone else sees, rather than the hidden twists and turns, the hidden pathways on this journey that are essential along the way.

I've realised I've stopped doing the hidden things, the praying, preparing and planning (and other important things beginning with P). I've stopped remembering the One who is behind and through and in and who, well, just IS in all this stuff of life. It's easy to blame my job, other people or circumstances but the reality is I'm sinful. I'm lazy. And I'm sorry. But I also know that I have a God who is unending mercy. (well this is what I am told and this I shall believe, and when I can't someone else in this wonderful body can believe it for me.). A God who beats me in any staring contest, whose love is real, whose silence speaks louder than any silence I have known and a God who is committed to getting me home.

I'd love to put in a five point plan that would get me sorted out and able to keep walking without tripping up. But I can't. I don't have it, God is strangely silent when I ask him for such things. Perhaps because he's not dedicated to everyone seeing how together Kath Arnold really is. He seems to want me to live in this moment he's given me Today. He seems to want me to swallow my pride and receive. He seems to want me to take one more step, trusting that His grace is sufficient for this moment, and that tomorrow the mercies will be new. He seems to want me to love well, to eat and sleep and act with grace and mercy to those around me. He seems to want me to stop blaming and wallowing and to walk on because He is enough. He seems to look in my eyes with the most real love in the universe, calls me His child and offers his hand once more for the next bit of the journey.

It turns out that there was a lot to say, but there isn't much to do, be actioned or put into place, just some breathing, walking, sleeping and remembering that Someone else is redeeming, restoring, working through and enabling. My 5 point plan will never work, waking up and asking what He is doing might just. Being reminded by and reminding the people around me in this being-transformed-daily-together-body might. One more step, one more step.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


There are things I think we need to speak about, the times when everything is dark and when unbelief seems to be the only thing we can do or experience. There are times when everything seems futile and bare. There are times when I cannot get out of bed without a long argument with myself on the need to do so and there are times when I think I have nothing to offer anyone. I have a feeling that I am not alone in these times. I have a feeling that some of these times come to all of us at one point or other in our lives.

These times hurt my pride, because they are reminders that I cannot do much in this world, I am broken and messed up. My mind is twisted and distorts things, I need someone else. I need someone to come into this mess.

These are times when the curtains come down, when every event in the future seems like too much effort, and every event in the past seems like a waste of time, fruitless and futile. These times are the times I lose my perspective, lose any connection to reality and what makes up reality.

Today has been one such time, a time when I couldn't do or think anything without tiredness and twisted things going on. It's times like these that I'm glad for friends on MSN and texts who remind me of the truth, and who know the same struggles. In times like these I worry that I am a freak for thinking this way about life, but it turns out I'm not (unless my mates are too). Hey, there's a whole Bible book dedicated to this stuff.

The reality is that we struggle, we struggle to believe, to have faith, to not believe the lies, to obey our Dad, to walk in Holy and Blameless ways that we were called to. There are times when we are wilful in our sin, hard in our hearts and trample on grace. There are times when the truth escapes us.

The thing is, Jesus is still real, still holding onto me, still patiently loving me, still here, still praying for me, still willing me on, still walking me hand in hand to the Father to be loved, still wanting the best for me, still prodding me, still challenging and disturbing me, still being Him. And there is nothing that can stop that love, nothing that can separate us from that love, nothing at all. And the brilliant thing is that all that is true even though my brain is kicking in right now and asking the "really?" questions. Phew.

I just like pretty pictures...

My housemate thinks it's Christmas

Really. Look. Do you think she needs professional help?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

One more thing that helps...

Having MSN conversations with friends about how free we are to fail and how brilliant it is that Jesus expects nothing more, and has dealt with our sin and failures once and for all of the times we do them. A brilliant fact which reminds me of my old boss, who asked in his job interview whether the church he was going to work for was a place where he could fail. I guess we all need to be free to fail and to expect it from each other, because the reality is, we will fail. We are stupid sinners, but that's all God ever expected us to be. We expect to produce great things, never let anyone down and not hurt others, ourselves or God. He knows the Truth and wants us to learn it too. So that we can be honest with each other, quick to say sorry, quick to forgive, quick to display the same mercy that we have been shown, and quick to get into the redeeming and restoring business that our Dad is SO good at.

Community together will always be this process of hurt, repentance and reconciliation with grace being involved every step along the way. We need to expect less from each other and more of the depths of grace and mercy that the cross has bought us. This world desperately needs these kind of deep overwhelmingly loving relationships. We need the cross to seep into every area of our lives with each other. We need to listen to God the Father, Son and Spirit teaching us how to love one another well, to see them do it perfectly and abundantly, bringing glory to each other, loving each other and delighting in each other. We have so much to express of our amazing God's character in our relationships with each other.

Lets get on with it and be free to fail, free to come back again and again to the old rugged cross, and by his grace, power and energy, put to death the clinging rubbish that drags us down. The Spirit is at work within us, our failure is never the end of the story. We get on up, bloody and bruised from the fight, breathing hard and we take a deep breath in. The Spirit is at work with us, the Father will never let us go and Jesus is NOT ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. We walk on. We walk on.

Ways to get through the day.

Top ways to stifle the boredom and drown out the fuzzy noise in the brain:

1. Go drumming. Bang it out of your brain.
2. Sit on a freshers stall and work out what your team would be if they were sweets.
3. Write to them to tell them their sweet category.
4. Invent new permutations of "paper, scissors, stone" with your Relay Worker- wavy fingers for fire (which burns paper), river like motions with your hands for water (rusts scissors, soaks up paper and kills fire), act out a bucket in the air (contains water and so defeats it) and then act a pushing motion with your hands (pushes the bucket over and kills the water again). You have to understand, we were on the freshers stall for 5 hours.
5. Eat nothing but cake and drink nothing but tea.
6. Make models out of blue tac and text a picture to a friend for comment. Jess made a particularly good desert island with a ship on the horizon. This was Steph's comment: "You have created a visual comment on the spiritual status of many of your students. There is a powerful juxtaposition between this stark reality and the rescuing ship of the gospel. Moving. Very moving."
7. Sit in a cafe on campus writing gibberish into a notebook whilst waiting for a student.
8. Drum some more.
9. Have MSN conversations about how to rule the world, where to escape to and dream of deserted islands and compulsory days of eating cake and dancing. (separate days of course, to combine the two would be madness, sheer madness.)
10. Other.... (please fill in as appropriate)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

On the blog

"Blogs then can indeed be wonderful expressions of who we are – an opportunity to communicate, to express oneself, to test ideas, and connect to those people who might be listening and might want to begin a conversation. Although such blogs are unlikely to attract huge traffic, that is not necessarily the point. Not everything is about celebrity and sales and causes celebres – bloggers create their own communities and sometimes it’s joy enough and satisfaction indeed to find a kindred spirit." (from some article about blogging on the LICC website. )

The first description of blogging that I've heard that sums up what I love about this medium and why I really love blogging, especially when I forget to write to impress, or create comments, or other such desires. This space is just a creative expression of parts of me, and that's what makes me keep posting.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

A drum, a drum (name that Shakespeare play)

Djembe, I've been learning to play my djembe. Small dance. I haven't learnt to play like this yet(click for genius playing)But it's so much fun. Rhythm drowns out the noise in my brain and leaves me feeling a little bit freer. Hoorah for rhythm and the genius of knowing the maker of it all.

I was sitting with a lovely student today reading through Jonah 1 marveling at the God who made heavens and the sky and sea. We thought about what the fear of God really means, and we got a little bit gobsmacked by the fact that we know the maker of the heavens, the sea and the sky. Now that's a point to smile about. We were also glad people like Jonah are in the Bible, God is used to sulky rebellious people who don't want to do his will, and delights in pouring out grace and patience on us as he brings us back into His ways. He really is brilliant. Contented sigh.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

My God

"My God full of mercy
Heard our weeping
Came to bring us home again
My God takes the broken
And makes them whole

My God mocked and beaten
Crushed and bleeding
Yet crying Father forgive
My God became broken
To make me whole

My God on the third day
In the morning
Broke the shackles of the grave
My God takes the broken
And makes them whole

My God knows my failures
Speaks forgiveness
Gives me strength to try again
My God takes the broken
And makes me whole."
(Stuart Townend)

Sigh. What a God we have.
Language has been doing my head in again, it's all too easy to skim over the words, think I know what they mean and forget the brilliant concept, idea, person or truth that they are communicating to me.

An example: I asked a friend on Friday what cool thing about God he'd been reminded of recently. He replied quoting Galatians 3 that the Gospel is blessing for all nations. A good thing. But my brain does something irritating.

I read a sentence like that and shudder inwardly because I forget the reality it is describing and just read the words. The words float over my brain and all I hear is seemingly jargon. Just words devoid of the concept they were describing. It's a problem with words becoming overfamilar and getting separated from the brilliant truth they were describing, so I stopped and thought about it for a moment.

Then it hit me, the Gospel being blessing for all nations means the reality of God coming to rescue his people is something that brings good things to the whole world. Get into that in more detail and suddenly you can see why my friend was excited. And I became excited.

Phew. But it's a battle. And it's one that is worth fighting, especially if you've been in this crazy Christian thing for a long time. It's all too easy to lose the reality behind the words and get cynical at the overuse of jargon and phrases which are attached to the myriad of Christian subcultures. The problem is then that it's all too easy to get cynical with God. I'm happy to be cynical at stupid subcultures. I hate it when that leads me to get cynical about the reality of the living and true God.

I'm not sure where this thought is going, other than I like it when I remember the reality behind the language and I like it when I enjoy God and can tell Him that without it sounding empty and hollow. I'm most scared when I just talk a good talk and nothing is going on inside. I guess this is just a plea for being real with God and each other, and using different language as much as possible to jolt each other back into the depths of what this life is all about.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

My parents took this in Guernsey. Good eh.

Well well.

So, today has been, lets say, an interesting day. It started off so well (name that tune) in a blue sky, sun shining, sit and talk to God in bed, sit on the back step and eat breakfast in the sunshine kind of day. I trundled up to Gatwick in my car, abandoned it in the car park with instructions to play nicely with the other cars and headed up to London on the train. (there was a good reason for the crazy mad parking in Gatwick but it's too long to bore you with right now). London in the sunshine is pretty, the walk up to Covent Garden from waterloo full of panoramic views over the city and interesting back streets. An idyllic day, especially given the fine company I was heading towards, the aforementioned Sarah and Anna, my Relay buddies from back in the day, people who know me inside out and still love me.

We met, hugged and went off to Cafe Nero, upon which my day started taking a slightly annoying turn for the worse. I sat, I drank tea, I put my bag on the floor, I chatted, I looked down and was surprised to see not the bag but the floor. Ah. Yes, someone had nicked my bag. Large bloomers. In fact, if you have time, several large bloomers. So frustrating, and an event which left me feeling slightly stupid for not having hugged my bag close to my chest for the duration of our coffee time. Cards have been cancelled and a new shiny phone is on it's way to me at somepoint next week, I haven't lost all that much apart from a diary and lots of handy business cards in my wallet, a wallet which had about 50p in it. (poor criminal not much to steal there..) I'm still alive and well and, apart from a slight weird feeling of emptiness and a desire to look at a non existent phone, I'm OK.

There are several things to note from today.
1. If you ever are in a situation where your bag gets nicked, make sure you are with Anna and Sarah, I can't think of two better people to be with in such circumstances. Anna whirled into efficient 'journalist talking to police' mode and provided many good hugs, Sarah was on hand with her mobile and card canceling details. They both came to the police station with me and were generally lovely.

2. Sarah deserves a special mention for her ridiculous generosity and grace (which reminded me LOTS of Gods ridiculous grace and generosity). She took me out shopping, bought me a new bag, notebook, replacement novel and wallet. She put money in my pocket and took me back to hers, she then drove me to my parents house in Guildford (in her uber nice Honda S2000) and found time to encourage me, know me well and make me feel loved. Wow. My reaction to grace in everyday life is similar to how I react to God, reluctant at first but then increasingly gobsmacked and grateful for such good friends.

3. When you have no bag to carry, no money on you and no phone, you feel light and slightly like you've escaped from prison or a mental institute. I've realised how much my brain clicks in every few minutes telling me to look at my phone or bag, without them actually being there it got a bit confused.

4. My parents are also lovely. I got to hug my Mum lots and then Dad drove me home to get car keys and then up to Gatwick to pick up my car, and then paid for me to get out of Gatwick. Again the feeling of being let out of prison. I had loads of quality chats with Dad in the car and am grateful for that time.

5. Despite having my bag nicked at the beginning of the day I've experienced a ridiculous amount of giving and generosity today leaving me with the suspicion that, somewhat perversely, I may have gained more than I've lost today.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Office Freelove Freeway Medley

Sitting with my housemate tonight revisiting this genius medley. Just look at Gareth's face...

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Deep breath, sigh and relax.

Embrace the madness and the fun.
Unclench yourself has hit the blogging sphere.

One reader described it as: "The breath of fresh air the blogging world needs, I'm going to read it everyday."

Monday, October 02, 2006

Always come back to the solid place.

For those of you who, like me, forget a lot of things in this life.

"You must believe in the yes that comes back when you ask, 'Do you love me?'. You must choose this yes even when you do not experience it.
You feel overwhelmed by distractions, fantasies, the disturbing desire to throw yourself into the world of pleasure. But you know already that you will not find there an answer to your deepest question. Nor does the answer lie in rehashing old events, or in guilt or shame. All of that makes you dissipate yourself and leave the rock on which your house is built.
You have to trust the place that is solid, the place where you can say yes to God's love even when you do not feel it. Right now you feel nothing but emptiness and the lack of strength to choose. But keep saying, 'God loves me and God's love is enough'. You have to choose the solid place over and over again and return to it after every failure."
(Henri Nouwen- The Inner Voice of Love)

And that, my friends, is theology of the deepest kind. Choosing to believe in reality and fighting for that reality in our minds and hearts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Before the serious stuff.

OK so I have many vaguely serious things to blog tomorrow, but as it is bedtime here's a few thoughts until then.

Can someone explain the logic of the Old Lady swallowing the horse to catch the dog? Up until then the rhyme depends on an abnormally large throat and stomach but the sequence makes sense. Spiders catch flies, birds eat spiders, cats chase birds and dogs chase cats. Fine. But has there been a long standing feud between horses and dogs that I have been previously unaware of?

Also, who invented chewing gum, and were they mad or a genius? Charging money for something that loses it's taste within three chews, has no nutritional value, no purpose in being chewed and (to turn into a old grannie for a moment) is fairly indestructable when it comes to covering pavements. Why? I'm confused.