Thursday, 25 July 2013

Slovakia - The End

The trip has finished. It was an interesting drive home, and not without some form of excitement, even if that involves God teaching us how to live with less money.

We spent a lovely evening in Prague after our first journey and I fell in love with the city. We had a whirlwind courtship (despite my dislike of the word) and were married by midnight. T-shirts were cheap so I bought two, partly because by this time I had run out of clean clothes several days before and we had no washing options.

We ate at a restaurant on the river, and the food was good, but the staff seemed beyond stressed. One of the waitresses was crying, our waiter seems to have done a decent job but half of the things we ordered never arrived. Eventually the other table of our group became exasperated and there was confusion with the payment ending in the staff asking us politely but firmly not to come back. Shame.

The next day we hit a bollard on the German motorway. It was a tiny construction lane, and there was a lorry to the right so I can be thankful we didn't hit that, but it came out of nowhere and scared most of us half to death. No one was hurt, and the car had no internal damage, but the rental place will charge us an arm and a leg, I have no doubt.

We spent the second night in Darmstadt with a university friend of the Aberystwyth girls. I had a doner kebab for the first time and quite liked it. Then I got in bed at 9:00 and woke up at 5:00 to head back to England.

There was heavy excitement as we approached the tunnel; I could feel that England was close again. After several close calls—details of which are strictly classified—we made several drops and landed in Birmingham with 30 seconds to spare before the hire company shut and we couldn't return the vehicle till the next day.

Despite the stress, it was a great trip. I would do it again. We drove almost 3000 miles in total, which I realise isn't even the distance across the US. But it does mean I can cross six new countries off my list.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Slovakia - Discovery Camp


Dear all,

Have I ever mentioned that the missionary world is sadly lopsided in favour of the female sex? It’s not as fun as it sounds, trust me.

Discovery Camp is over and we are moving on in the morning (or have already moved, if the internet doesn’t become available before I put this up). I am sorry not to have written more, but it was a long and full week and there was limited internet. In any case, it was better that I focus on the campers and my activities as English teacher than be writing home and neglecting opportunities here.

Camp days run very similarly: 7:45 is devotions for the team; 8:30 is breakfast; 9:30-10:30 is Bible Study; 11:15 to 12:45 is English lesson; 1:00 is lunch; 2:30-4:30 is afternoon activity of various sorts, and then dinner is at 6:00 with evening event at 7:30 followed by relaxed café atmosphere at 9:30.

We played a variety of indoor and outdoor games, had a murder mystery afternoon (for which I was a Scottish gamekeeper dressed in kilt attire), after which I played the bagpipe and had photos taken with most of the campers to whom a bagpipe was a relatively foreign concept. Several of the girls wanted to learn how to play, so I attempted to teach them, but the lung capacity takes months to build up to, so after becoming rather red-faced with puffing, they relinquished their dream of playing such a magnificent instrument, and settled to posing in photos holding it.

On Friday evening I taught two Ceilidh dances and the Slovaks then taught us traditional Slovak folk dances. In the end, I danced from 8:30 to 1:30 in the morning, knowing it was the last night for many of the campers. I believe I’m starting to get the hang of this thing you call dancing. In fact, I rather enjoyed it.

We had an arts evening on Thursday where I read out and had translated a portion from my book, followed by short interview with me (writers, represent), an actress, a singer, and an artist from the camp leader teams. 

I’ve spent a lot of time teaching English one on one and being taught Slovak, with an emphasis on the romantic phrases. I have picked more up than I expected to, surrounded as I am with the language at every side. As I tell people here, if there’s only one part of a language you learn, it’s best to learn how to compliment people. I assure you, it will take you farther than knowing how to count (a skill, incidentally, I have also acquired).

By now (Sunday) the days have all run together. On Wednesday we went up to the High Tatras (pictures forthcoming), the pride and joy of all Slovaks. They are beautiful. After climbing for a couple of hours, taking pictures, enjoying a leisurely packed lunch, we descended and arrived back at the centre in time for dinner.

One afternoon was spent teaching the Slovaks my American accent. I am proud to say they didn’t succumb to its subtleties, but we all laughed very hard at the attempts. They are willing and able students, and eager to please their teacher. I quite like teaching, the more I do it.

This is nearly all I have to say at the moment. I will prepare a longer newsletter at the end of the summer, with updates from the whole season. For now, thanks for reading, and thanks for praying.

Love to all,

Josiah

Monday, 15 July 2013

Slovakia - Several Days, Berlin, Prague, Poprad (Slovakia)


Dear All,

I haven’t had time to write for the last couple of days so I’ll try to squeeze everything into this update.
All day on Friday we drove through Belgium, the Netherlands, and most of Germany, arriving in Berlin around 8:00pm. We joined the Berlin CU for dinner and then their CU meeting, which was a great encouragement and loads of fun. Afterwards, the girls headed to their house and Dan and I drove to ours.
I didn’t sleep very well, as my bedding was a series of couch cushions that kept sliding apart from each other during the night. They didn’t do wonders for my back, and I got up feeling that I’d been run over by a truck. I wasn’t sure if it was the bed or all the driving for the past two days. And yet, I’m thankful that we were alive and safe in Berlin after all the complicated driving and switching sides of the road, getting used to being on the right side of the car, and enduring the—at times conflicting—advice from my lovely passengers.
Lara, our team leader, joined us in Berlin and we went on a tour of the city till 3:00 in the afternoon. I saw the Brandenburg Gate, Frederick’s Palace, various exteriors of famous museums, a fish tank elevator, the Jewish memorial, the place Hitler died, and of course the remains of the East/West Berlin wall. It’s a very interesting place. I would like to go back.
The drive commenced to Prague after that, and we made decent time, though still in excess of our plans. The Czech Republic is beautiful, a bit like a poor Switzerland. After a long, complicated attempt to park in the vicinity of the hostel, we were gathered in one place at last and made our way to dinner. I have so many different currencies in my pocket right now; Koruna, Euro, Pound, with various denominations of each to the point that I have to pick through them to pay for anything.
I had the cheapest goulash I could find on the menu, which was not a bad price at all considering Germany and Belgium. Then all 10 of us trooped home and I snuck off to use the internet and Facetime for a few minutes as well as attempt to catch up on emails. Remind me never to do this with my summer again! It’s wonderful and exciting and complicated and frustrating and nail-bitingly difficult to juggle all at once. I love, hate and despair over it simultaneously.
We hit the road early, because we’re coming back to Prague in a week’s time and so wanted to get the long drive over with as soon as possible. For the most part, our journey through Slovakia included astounded ‘Ahhs!’ and ‘Oohs!’ over the spectacular scenery, the mountains and valleys, the castles perched precariously on the outermost edge of a cliff, the towns nestled in a gorge and the rivers that run through everything. Then we got pulled over by the police.
Turns out, you can’t drive without a road permit, so they fined us €100 (€50 each vehicle) and instructed us to buy the permits at our next opportunity. The girls found the officer quite fit. I can’t disagree.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. Arguments happened, stony silences (like after the time one of the girls insulted all home schoolers), loud music to drown out disagreements, laughter, and then, at long last, the journey was over and we had arrived in Poprad, Slovakia.
We ate dinner, then played some get-to-know you games with the Slovakia team for a couple of hours, and ended it all with a cup of tea. I didn’t realise how much I missed my tea till they offered it to me. Even if it wasn’t Yorkshire, I survived.
I got into bed at a decent time, exhausted, and am now awake on Sunday morning before breakfast catching up on what I can with my computer but without internet.

I love and miss you all, 

Josiah

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Slovakia - Day One: Antwerp


Dear All,

The journey has begun. I am writing from a church in Antwerp where we are staying, but won’t send this until we get to Berlin and I have some internet.

Jo and her dad dropped me off at the car place and we hired the vehicle with no difficulty, despite the stressed Lara’s many emails and texts. There was a bit of trouble to start off with; I noticed the vehicle was acting strangely, and when attempting to move from first to second gear, would continually stall out. My fear immediately was that I had forgotten completely how to drive in the last seven months, and did my best not to panic. We limped along, and the girls—bless them—didn’t say anything but as I later discovered were extraordinarily nervous, fearing they had put their trust and their lives into unsafe hands. A moment later I realised the emergency brake was on, took it off, and the car drove normally from that point on.
We had a few hiccoughs after that, but nothing so frightening or unnerving. In hindsight, it was hilarious.
The second car was separated from us, we got lost in London, and ended up getting the later Eurotrain, but all in all it was a lovely journey and we had up to 4 drivers at once so if I had died I am sure the girls’ expert driving advice would have kept us from harm.
We arrived in Antwerp in the evening and squeezed into a parallel parking space with inches to spare on either end. A late dinner at an outdoor café followed by a walk around the castle and the riverfront ended our evening and I got in bed several hours earlier than I have done in the past few weeks. Today we’re driving to Berlin, where I will update this further and relate any of the more hilarious stories that are best suited to telling with written word, saving the orally suited tales for an in-person situation.

Okay so I haven’t had time to write an update from Antwerp to Berlin. Know that I am safe and will write when I can.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Glasgow - Week Two

I updated everyone pretty regularly for the first week. That's partly because I had more time because the events were less well attended than the ones for the second week. It's partly because I was more tired, and partly because I had other things on my mind that kept me from making the time to update.

This will be an update for the second week of my travels in Glasgow, followed by a prep-update for Slovakia (which starts tomorrow! Yay!).

Monday - Spanish Night
Tuesday - Pancake Night
Wednesday - Day Off
Thursday - Ceilidh
Friday - Café and Music
Saturday - Birmingham

The Spanish night went very well and I led a Bible study in it with 25 or more people, many of whom had never attended Bible Study before. I led the study on Thursday as well with a similar turnout. I was asked by someone from Sri Lanka if I was a pastor, and had to disappoint him by telling him I was a student. Someone else told me to present for the BBC. I think I missed my calling as a con artist. Or maybe an out-of-work actor.

We had a lot of great discussions each evening. There was a new team for week two, with the loss of one girl and the addition of three more. What is it with women in world mission? You just can't get away from them.

During the days we had devotions and training sessions, followed by lunch and contact time as per usual, and in week two we saw a lot of people coming to the events who had received a flyer. That was encouraging. I had a long chat with a Muslim fellow who was a judge in Libya for 10 years and is now doing his PhD in International Commercial Law. He was fascinating, and we sparked a conversation about the Bible after I told him my name. I guess I have mum and pop to thank for that one.

The end of the week was so encouraging. The café and music night was relaxed and fun, even if they did make me sing in front of everyone...twice... The atmosphere was good, we had a good turnout, relationships were built, and I think everyone felt like it ended on a high.

I met people from dozens of countries around the world, learned to interact with innumerable cultures, led Bible Studies, started conversations with strangers, built a friendship and community with a team I had never met, made relationships in Glasgow that will last and bring me back either for GIO next year, or even with Relay to live. It's such a wonderfully multi-cultural city, and for the first time I'm not saying that with any kind of grievance. Nationalism breeds subliminal racism, and if there's anything God hates it's racism in any kind. It makes a mockery of what He did on the Cross, and should be cut out of the church so deep there is never any chance of its return. Our citizenship is not on earth, and therefore our loyalties should lie with no country or nation based on the proximity of its headquarters to our place of birth or upbringing. There will be no argument.

I have spent the last three days with Jo in Birmingham preparing for Slovakia. I will embark early tomorrow to hire the car and set off for Antwerp, Belgium which is our first destination. Pray for safe travels, a smooth hiring of the car, and alertness for one driver who is unused to British roads and British cars. (That's me, by the way.)

I will do my best to update often in Slovakia, but do not know the internet availability where I will be so panic not if you do not hear from me. It is unlikely I have been taken by bandits.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Glasgow - Day Eight

We started a little earlier than we usually do, because the activity was a day-trip to Edinburgh. A few people turned up besides our group, but even so it was a good time and I think everyone was happy with how it turned out.

In the city we ate lunch and a few people climbed the Scott monument outside Waverley Station. Whatever you say about the Scots, they loved Sir Walter something fierce.

Afterwards we headed out to the Royal Mile and up to the castle where the grounds are set up for the Tattoo and covered with rows of stadium blue chairs. I believe Edinburgh has grown tackier since I was last here; you can buy a disgusting cheap kilt for £25. It breaks my heart. I blame the Americans.

There was an Orange march in the city for a while, and Effie and I sought refuge in the side streets due to the unbelievably obnoxious fife and drums. It's safe to say I'm not a supporter of such violently anti-Catholic movements and was eager not to appear spectator.

Before we headed back we had time for a few photo-ops and then hopped on the train. A few of us got cheap street food and ate it on the bus on the way back to our hosts. There's a Bible Study to prepare for, as well as English lessons for Slovakia that I need to get moving with, and a myriad of other things. I won't lie and say I got in bed early, but it's been worth it.

Sunday will be a quiet day; I may not write as there is nothing scheduled, but if anything interesting comes up I will be sure to mention it. My hosts had pavlova with rhubarb and créme fraîche whilst watching them view ancient polaroid photographs through a projector. After a wee chat I retired to my bed.

I am off to church now, and looking very much forward to it.

Friday, 28 June 2013

Glasgow - Day Seven

Devotions and training in the morning, as per usual. A discussion of how to share the gospel with European students, followed by an exploration of Friends International's other programmes such as the yearly internship Reach.

Lunch was a hasty, but tasty, affair followed by canvassing around town. Today was the worst response to the flyers that we've had. Many rejections, and very few individuals about the place; even fewer of an international appearance. I will admit the weather may have had something to do with this.

Dinner happened after some free time, and then we prepared for the Glasgow's Got Talent night.

Last minute, I was asked to Emcee it with Lizzy, and so, like the man I am, I took it on the chin and bottled up all my talent to save for the presentation, seeing as I was now unable to perform (something I had been, it must be said, actively avoiding).

The show had a handful of acts and got off to a slow start because of technical difficulties, but I told a wee joke (that few laughed at, and fewer with true appreciation) and stalled by quizzing the first act to some length. Halfway through, as is usual, we had an optional Bible study for those interested, and then resumed for the remaining acts. My favourite two were the women singing the Gaelic song Chi Mi'n Geamhradh and the Chinese folk song sung by one of our own team.

Bedtime after that, supposedly, though I'm not sleeping well these days. I wonder why? Perhaps you can tell me.

Glasgow - Day Six

We had the morning and afternoon off, so I had a lie in and went out for a pizza crunch in the afternoon. A pizza crunch is a Glasgow delicacy, where a pizza is dipped in batter and deep-fried. Afterwards, I had a deep-fried Mars bar and Snickers to wash my chips down with. I assure you, my heart was doing things I wasn't expecting. Whilst that may not be entirely down to the battered food, it surely was a contributing factor.

At 5:00 we gathered for dinner, then set up for the ceilidh. We had a true Scot calling the dances, and though I was holding the door for the first half hour it was still loads of fun. Mostly, I watched. Partly because there was a shortage of women anyway, and partly because the oil in my veins had begun to separate with the water in my blood, and I was afraid I was going to part ways with my dinner in a similar (though more violent) way, and wished to avoid doing such a thing anywhere near any other people.

With the assistance of one of the girls from London and one of our group leaders I led a Bible study on the parable of the lost sheep from the book of Luke.

Then it was back to the ceilidh. Fun times. I popped to the pub with the others for just a few moments, before succumbing to the desire for sleep and relaxation in my room in Scotstounhill. Shortly after this realisation, I jumped on a bus and hit the sack, though I will admit my eyes did not close for some time due to other (though not unwelcome) distractions, including but not limited to a Skype call with the family.


Thursday, 27 June 2013

Glasgow - Day Five

This will be shorter, because the day was shorter. We had Wednesday night off and will have the day on Thursday off until the evening.

Morning devotions were followed by a discussion of the best way to share a testimony, what should be included, what should be left out, and then we had several examples from guest speakers.

Lunch was a quick affair, and after that the team split up, half going to the University of Glasgow, the rest going into the city centre and the other two universities.

I was on the U of G team, and very much enjoyed spending time on the campus, parts of which are 550 years old. It was graduation day, so kilts were around every corner and I can't say I was complaining. God didn't make a garment more flattering, I am convinced, in a completely fashion-guru sort of way, not a weird way.

Once we had given out as many fliers as we thought reasonable, we regrouped at headquarters and those on the Bible Study team prepared for that (I was on it this time) and then there was free time until dinner. After dinner, we went out to the cinema and enjoyed some group bonding time.

At that point I went home, thinking again of going to bed early. In the end it was around 2:00 that I turned in. I'm not complaining though; had a good chat with some friends, and went to bed...content.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Glasgow - Day Four

None of this Falling Slowly rubbish for me. Anyway, today:

Training and lunch as per usual, then we hit the streets. I was on the team that headed into town itself whilst the other team went to Glasgow University, on the other side. We handed out fliers and made some conversations, though not many. Fewer people were out and about, and a great many weren't interested in being handed anything on the street.

We had free time this afternoon, and I relaxed playing Scrabble online with a good friend, as well as sitting down giving my feet a rest.

I played some ping pong (and discovered it's originally a Chinese term) with a Chinese girl, who told me that it's the national sport of China which I may have known before but appreciated the reminder.

Then supper happened, and prep for the quiz night.

People trickled in, and it was a small group but I think that was ok. We didn't mind. Had some conversations with a few of the new people, and mingled where I could. Ate my share of Doritos, I think, and sour sweets. I'm fat as a warthog by now.

When we had packed up I hopped on a bus to get home, thinking it was the correct one. It wasn't just a random, unfounded hypothesis. In fact, the bus driver had told me specifically it would take me to the street corner I was in search of. As it happened, it took me within about 2 miles of the house I'm staying in, a fact I discovered when I rang my hosts. I was kindly given a lift back to the house by Mr. Mckee.

Every night I expect to get in bed a little earlier than the previous night, and each night it doesn't happen. I can't complain, though. Had a lovely chat on Facetime, that felt like a moment but must have been longer because it's 1:00 now and can't sleep. Not long now, though. Adios, amigos.

Glasgow - Day Three

Relatively late start. Had a short Bible study together, then some briefs about Glasgow as a place, and some discussion about different world views we are likely to encounter amongst the various nationalities.

Lunch happened sometime after that, and thereafter we headed into the city to do some canvassing. Took the tube to the West End, where the University of Glasgow is situated. I think a part of me may have died and gone to a Glasgow University shaped heaven when I saw it. Perhaps one of the most impressive set of buildings I have seen anywhere for many years. After passing flyers out for sometime, we headed back to the centre and did some canvassing in Strathclyde and Caledonian University.

That was the sum of our afternoon, and we returned to headquarters to get ready for dinner. We had a debrief about the evening events, and then dinner. The food was delicious, and I stocked up, eating enough for a year or more. Then I realised we had dessert and despite the loosened notch on my belt (whilst still being tight of girth) I had two portions of strawberries and blueberries with meringues, Scottish ice cream and warm chocolate sauce.

The event was a games and pancake night, so Katie and I went to Sainsbury's and picked up the ingredients while the others decorated. By 7:00 people were showing up and we welcomed them in the hall with tea, coffee and Doritos. Games started happening later on, and I mingled about the room meeting new people. I met an American, a Libyan, a Czech, an Italian, a Syrian, and a variety of others for whom I know not their nationality. I think it went well. Halfway through we announced an optional Bible study for any of those interested, and I think we may have had a couple turn up but I'm not sure.

Tonight I had a new host family. They live on the other side of the city, but they have the most amazing house and are incredibly generous. I slept in a real bed, which, I'm not going to lie, was wonderful.

I didn't blog last night, so I'm doing it now, but I'm off to get some breakfast and take the bus into the city. More tonight. I will say, though, that I'm shocking Katie with my arthritic snapping, my sleazy French, and doing everyone a number with my fluid accents.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Glasgow - Day Two

Breakfast, then church.

The Tron Church, named after the particular area of Glasgow it is situated in, is a big, thriving church that has been going for some time. There are several hundred members, and the hall was packed when we arrived. The hymns were familiar, the singing glorious, and we even indulged in a version of a psalm to the tune of You Raise Me Up which was indeed thrilling.

At lunch I met the rest of the team and discovered I am the only male to arrive from out of town. There are two or three others in total coming to help, but once again, the majority are female.

Lunch was good, then we had tea and chatted whilst getting to know each other, and two old ladies joined us begrudgingly for some icebreakers. One of them was the most cynical person I have yet to meet, and you could never tell if she were being facetious or if life really was as dire as she made it out to be. One of the most amusing situations in a long time.

Evening service was held after we had dessert, and was a similarly refreshing affair, after which we went to the pub to celebrate Katie's birthday (one of the group leaders on the project).

On the team from out of town: Myself, obviously, Penny, a Chinese girl studying in Newcastle, Wei-ky (not sure how to spell it) another girl studying in London, and Elizabeth, a Nigerian-British girl studying somewhere near London as well. Then there is Katie, Ali, another Elizabeth, Jamie (who I haven't met yet) and occasionally Alec and James.

Not much to report. I'll walk in tomorrow, and we'll get started. For now, tis bedtime.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Glasgow - Day One

I left Aberystwyth pretty early. Caught the train with Ailsa, one of my future Slovakia companions, and stayed on it for three hours till arriving in Birmingham. An hour later, after rushing madly through a convenience shop to buy victuals for the rest of the day, finding the bus stop and standing in the pouring rain with a Quaker woman discussing the essence of God on a public street, I loaded my bags and embarked on the six hour drive to Glasgow.

It was just past seven o'clock when I arrived at the church, a few minutes' walk from the station. There I met one of my future co-workers on the mission, who served me chilli leftover from the meal I had missed due to my late arrival, and shortly thereafter I was greeted by Alec, the 24-year-old bus driver I'll be staying with for a day or two.

Alec drove me home after I ate, and we discovered there was no sleeping bag or blanket available to me (and I had neglected to bring one, not realising it might be necessary). Ringing up a friend of his, Annie (so I believe her name to be), we put our request in for a sleeping assistant, and she arrived some time later with some cereal, milk and the implement for improved evening rest in the form of an insulated, socially acceptable human-sized bag for ease of nightly repose especially during such rough-and-tumble events as camping.

That is to say, I have a sleeping bag and am currently tucked inside it just before bed.

The next two weeks will be full, and very exciting. We are putting on a variety of fun evening events complete with Bible studies, Ceilidhs, pancake and game evenings, a Spanish night, to name only a few. During the mornings we will be training and in the afternoons we will be canvassing on the three university campuses in the city. I am looking forward to it. We have a smaller team than previous years, but after a quick chat with Gideon about size issues, I discovered that won't be a problem.

That's all to say for now. More when I have the chance.


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Another Time, Maybe?

For that which was,
I laugh, and weep, and wonder
Because though I'm not
And never will be a math major
Point A (where we were)
and point B (where we're now)
Don't add up in any book
That has ever been written
Or that I've ever read.
Do I miss it? I think so
But then, if it wasn't
The me I am now
Then how can a me that I'm not
Remember a time that never was
In the life I live now—
A time in a life that I've left behind
A life with a girl, who wasn't you
And who might have loved me,
But doesn't exist any more?
That's the question
That I keep asking
A me that I'm not
And a you I forgot,
But the only look in your eyes
Is one sad and misgiving
That says with much sorrow
"Not today, I'm afraid
But come back tomorrow.
Another time, maybe?"
And with those words I know
You don't mean them
And when away I go
The you that I knew will be gone.

Monday, 6 May 2013

Honestly!


It was only when I met you that I knew
There was a hole inside my heart, 
This lonely space, and when I saw
You that hole was filled.
Don’t look at all the ways I’ve blundered
My blind, failing stumblings
Trying to find a pair of feet
On which to stand and say
“I love you every single day.
Come, fly with me, away—
To watch the sun set and die
And wake as he is birthed anew.”
Coward that I know I am
I hide behind this silver screen
Turning thoughts to mute poetry
Instead of pouring out to you my heart.
Where is the honesty in this world?
It is gone—if it ever was.
We do not want honesty
Unless we can decide what is true.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Is it possible to know the loss
before it is taken?
To feel the hurt
before it is given?
I weep not for what has happened,
but for what I know that will.
My heart breaks for a sorrow
not yet lived in
I feel a pain not yet there.
Am I so eager to feel the touch of death
that I will find him before he comes to call?
Does my blood run so cold
to preempt what comes tomorrow
and force it on the shoulders of today?
Or could it be,
through some misguided sense of honour,
I have come to think
that by bleeding out before the sacrifice
I spare myself at death,
and so drink, early, a cup less full.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Sweet and Sour

Again have I written, and again thrown my words from me in disgust. Poetry? It seems a greater jest than any I know. Explain to me how I have reached this state of degradation, having fallen so far from my lofty perch. Words, that once yielded death at my command, now lie empty in my stockyard. Tools with no skilled hand to use them, that for all the world may not exist. The shame, we cry, and the agony of waste. Helpless, though alert, watching with pity the efforts of the blind, stumbling poet desperate to retrieve the shadow of his former glory. Tread me hastily, but the footprint on my back will I remember. Once threatened, never forgotten, I press on in anger to the key. Its shape I know not, nor the door to which it fits. The joy is in the seeking, not the finding; once found, challenge lost. So cry fie and wrestle on. The sourer the ascent, the sweeter the view.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Waking

When I wake at dawn, or soon thereafter
My thought, with reflection, is one of surprise
That I have been given at least one chance more
To tell the whole world of the best news I know
Spreading the name of Jesus from here to Hell.


Friday, 1 March 2013

Content-ion


Beauty, so tempting, so far beyond reach
Unheeding, unhindered: once more to the breach.
This love knows no fetter of reason or sense,
It blunders unthinking in its destruction of men.
Yet...I am a dour old contender, unwieldy and unwise
Like a mouldering old phoenix from the ashes I will rise.

Monday, 18 February 2013

My Life: An Omnishambles, Extant

Sparkle, little petal, glow,
before the dew is burned away.
Tremble in the hour's frosted snow—
no more now the sun is out to play.

Enough talk of vagabonds and crystal thieves
Of diamond-hearted rogues and nature's reeves
Away, your romance of song and lovestruck dreams;
You will find no solace among the bereaved.

I put no foot in uncharted waters of the heart,
I bear a cross worn smooth by many shoulders.
But though I know this ache is felt by all the world
It seems to me, from where I sit, that I am left alone.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Do I have to go to church?

'I'll go to church because I want to, not because I have to.' Such is the sentiment of the Christian youth of today. Fair enough, that's as it should be. As a child, that argument might have worked to irritate or upset your parents just prior to belaboured obedience. But shouldn't we always do things because we want to, not because we have to?

Christians today like to say that there's no rule they have to go to church; we're under grace, not law. I guess that depends on your definition of the word. Since analogies are the best way we can comprehend our relationship with God, I'll take this back to something a little closer to home.

You're past the friend zone and you think you might be dating; you're mutually attracted to each other and you've decided to give what's happening between you a name. It might even be on Facebook. But unless you're spending time together there's no point pretending that you have a relationship.

One dictionary definition of 'relationship' is: 'the way in which two or more people are connected'. You might be enjoying what you have between you, but if you consistently put your own desires above those of the person you have a connection with, then what you have is false. Sarah and John are going out together, and Sarah wants to spend time with John at her house with her family in her territory, on her terms. He doesn't really feel like making the effort to get up and in the morning and head over, though, and even though she only wants him there in her house once a week it's just too much effort.

And yet, John wants to claim a close relationship with Sarah. He thinks that as long as they spend time together in some way and as long as he is happy, what does it matter? After all, he needs his sleep because he was up late the night before hanging out with other friends. From Sarah's perspective, John's only in the relationship for himself and he's putting her below other priorities—the antithesis of a healthy relationship. If you were Sarah's friend and you saw the way John treated her, how long would it be before you were counselling her to dump him and find someone more committed?

When we don't go to church, the excuses we give, the reasons we have against it, are as pitiful and shameful as anything John can come up with. If John is ill or absent Sarah will understand—but if he doesn't get off his lazy butt and spend some time with her afterwards to make up for it, where's his commitment? Where, then, is our commitment?

The truth is, we do have to go to church. It's a different kind of 'have to', sure—the kind where you have to show your husband or wife physical affection because you love them and want them to know that. The kind of have to where you take time out of your day dedicated to just the two of you. We have to go because the One we are in a relationship with wants one day out of seven in His house, on His terms, with His family. The rest of the week, He'll come to ours, meet us in the middle, accommodate our situation. He is understanding—but He really wants a relationship with us, and the only way that's going to happen is if we want what He wants, 100%. God won't dump us as quickly as Sarah has the right to dump John, but if we love God why would we ever give Him even a human reason to be rid of us?