Thriving?

We’re going through a difficult time at the moment – I won’t go into it but suffice is to say one outcome could be pretty crap.

A deep fault of mine is that I allow worry to wrap itself round my heart and squeeze ever so painfully. So much so I find it hard to pray. If you know me you probably wouldn’t realise – as I just ‘carry on’. I think it’s something I inherited from my mum – just ‘get on with it’. Crying about it isn’t going to make it any better…

I had to leave for work super early this morning. There’s something about silly’o’clock – like no one’s touched the day yet. It’s clean.

I’d grabbed some AVON brochures on my way out the door to post along a nearby road. I crossed paths with a man doing a paper round from his Ford Escort…remember when it used to be a young teenager on a bike?

I found myself dwelling on what’s hurting me most – and asked God where he was in all of it. Over the last few days I’ve felt a numbness that I’ve wondered is the vacuous absence of God.

So much so this morning that I asked:

“Do you love me Lord? Do you really Love me?”

After posting the last AVON brochure, unusually, I’d put on my headphones as I walked to the train station. I wanted to listen to a Christian music playlist – if I can’t pray, this is the next best way to talk to God, right?

A band came on and then as I turned into I side street my playlist jumped to the next song.

“How he Loves us..” – Cory Asbury.

‘Odd’, I thought.

I got to the station platform and phrase from the bible came to mind; Paul in Corinthians saying:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh..” – 2 Corinthians 12:7

I realise that there are so many others a lot worse off than me: financially, health wise…but I wonder why it feels like I’m herding kittens? Am I thriving? Am I doing what God’s really planned for me?

Paul talks about overcoming the ‘thorn in his side’ – and uses the analogy to stay grounded in Christ. If I struggle to pray in the worst times, how will I ever feel ‘connected’?

I actually feel like i’ve only just got my head above the water, and I can see the next wave coming. It will engulf me…

Advertisements

Untitled…

Royal CourtsThey walked slowly out of the building; through its long shadows, down the stark white steps and into the sunshine. It was only then he realised how chilled the stone had been, and how muffled the sound as it’d bounced around the cavernous architecture.

He glanced up at the arch as they came out under it. The building seemed to glow in the sunshine. The sky a blue back-drop. In any other circumstance, he may have paused to appreciate it more.

He was suddenly aware of a group of people clustering around the family who had come out just ahead of them. Men with cameras, a woman holding a microphone. Press.

He guided Geena in the opposite direction, and closer to him, thankful that the family had come out before him..and that they were not interested in them. In the grand scheme of things – they were small fry.

He glanced at Genna as they crossed over the Strand and made their way down Arundel Street, towards Temple Tube Station. Her shoulders shook under his hand every so often as she took another gulp of breath. They hadn’t said a word to each other for hours.

But, what do you say?

His attention was caught by a young black man standing outside a coffee shop. He wore a long black robe that fell to just above his ankles. He was holding a white wig under one arm; his other hand held a thin cigar, which he drew on every so often before it collaborated in making another point to his companion. 

He realised that it was the smell of the cigar that had caught his attention. It took him back to the last time he’d smoked one, thirty odd years ago, when his son had just been born.

With two girls already, he’d really wanted a son. He’d have been happy with either, of course. But, he’d secretly wanted a son. So when he’d arrived at the delivery room, and the nurse presented him with a wriggling bundle in a pink blanket, he was slightly dismayed.

Geena laughed at him. She’d looked blotchy and knakered. Her gown was in disarray, and the top of her breasts were streaked with blood. She was beautiful. 

And then he realised, as the nurse, half smiling too, opened up the blanket.

“We ran out of blue ones today,” She’d said, apologetically. 

Poem: The Old Man

Cars and buses, feet on wet pavement,

Swoosh, tap, pace, and rap.

And you, oblivious to time, you lament

At dark windows, docking your cap.

Dapper old man in your battered suit,

Aiming your lighter toward your fag,

A story set in your own head, you salute

All that is familiar to you; a sad,

Weathered building in Muswell Hill.

Lights green, clutch off, and off,

I launch myself into now, and still

Seeing you, rush from all that was silent.

 

No room for self doubt

Keep Satan downI had a thought; in between the madness of work over the last few weeks. It was like a scolding fork prodding my left bum cheek. The thought was simply; why?

Yes, yes..i’ve had it before. Many a time if fact, when talking about my ex. But this time it miraculously resonated with the answer. And this, because I had a conversation with a work colleague.

I must have easily been amongst 4000 other Christians over the last few weeks if you count the Christian New Media Awards and Conference, the William Lane Craig events and the Woman to Woman conference.

So the stabs and prods of self doubt shouldn’t really have been surprising. Pete Phillips (CODEC) got it right as we all piled out of the Christian New Media Conference on 16th October –

@pmphillips spiritual attack tweet

Inspired and filled with the spirit of ‘can do’ – what a dangerous Christian we are. What I now realise is that we are at our most venerable when we are closest to God.

Studying to be a Minister, working in a Christian environment, a new Christian…hungry to know more of God? All lambs.

Peter said, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Here, God can use His power and ability to shine through our weaknesses; the potential to become living witnesses of his power. Self Doubt robs Him of this.

Paul confirms this, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12: 9-10)

CM. I’m shaking my head. We’ve known, and talked about how a relationship won’t work, but we’re still playing games. Something I told myself a while ago that I’d never do. Honesty always. But I’ve ended up deceiving myself.

It’s not real. And that’s not what I need.

My ex has forgotten I’m still on our account, and still receive bank statements. I see the flowers, the restaurants and the trips away. He’s loving someone else. But I won’t find anyone if I’m still bitter and letting him influence my own self worth.

A conversation with a work colleague confirmed this. We got onto the subject of divorce. When he split with his wife, who cheated on him, he was made homeless. I’ll not name names, but he was a successful DJ at the time…and slept in the back of a shop for months and months; nobody knew.

He had every right to be bitter. And he was for a long while. Reduced to sleeping in a shop, with a friend leaving him food every now and then, he turned to God and asked, ‘Why? And for how damned long?’

It dawned on him that in his bitterness, he was holding on to the past. Not allowing God to point to the future. It wasn’t until he let her go, that things started to fall into place for him and he found a flat.

I need something real now. And yes, I’ve know this from the outset really. I’m feeling low about this ‘relationship’ today. Add to this, i’m feeling low about my ex, my job, lack of money…and this low self esteem is taking up a lot of energy. Too much, I realise this. If I feel shite, I’m good for nothing. (and i’m downright sure this is sinful)

It’s not what I need. That’s not what He needs.

How She Prays

Orange skies and Lemoncello.
So clings the last vestige of day.
She’s supine, captured in yellow.
Cherry red lips parted.
Cloudless, open are the heavens,
Ear cocked to hear her prayer.
She’s wordless, emptied even,
Her contrition halted.
Tell her heaven hears her speaking,
No matter how quiet the sound.
Catch her before she’s weeping.
So the seeds are planted.

Bouts of Bravery

I call him CM. Meeting him is the result of a mixture of a challenge with work friends and curiosity.

I can imagine HA lifting her eyes to heaven. ‘A dating website? What have I told you?’

Obviously, I’m not put off by other people’s bad experiences. Although, i’ve heard both good and bad online dating stories. My previous boss put me off sites like Match.com, purely because it seemed like all the men she was meeting wanted was sex. Not a relationship, just sex. (and don’t get me started on those ‘we met online’ case studies. I know PR when i see it!)

He ‘looted’ the site as he was leaving CC. Deciding not to renew his subscription he mailed me his email address with an invitation, “I thought I would take a bit more of a direct approach give you my e-mail and suggest that if you are interested in getting to know me more you can e-mail me.”

He said he’d lasted three months. And I can understand why. In only a month I felt I was becoming a little too obsessive. I was frequently logging on to see who had ‘waved’ at me, who had looked at my profile (which i was constantly updating and ‘refining’. Actually, I think the 60 year-old was the last straw. [shiver]

However, one ‘bout of bravery’ later I realised that new friendships can be surprisingly easy. I put this down to having no expectation other than, a meeting of two people who happen to have had very similar experiences. Similar hurts..and stories of healing.

And so, we moved from email to texting; with the last bout of bravery (‘bob’) leading to our first phone conversation at Greenbelt. Now we speak nearly every day.

Unfortunately, after using the ‘bob’ acronym in a text to him, I can’t think of it being anything other than ‘battery operated boyfriend’. A friend of his had informed of the alternative meaning just before our first conversation at Greenbelt. His story made me smile. No. Actually I laughed and laughed. And he continues to make me laugh.

We’re friends, but he’s made me think about what it would be like to finally move on. It’s become a possibility, something to work towards. Although i can’t really do this unless i start a certain legal procedure. Today, I pulled out the ‘Papers’. They’ve been sitting in front of me since 9.30am. I could potentially have my surname back by Christmas. If not by then, then very soon after.

In other news: my Orchids have flowered. And at the same time! This means, they must like me.

They are beautiful.

I asked for little things at Greenbelt

So, God is talking to me. From the moment a work colleague, Luke told a story in the Morning meeting about not forgetting to ask for the little things…I’ve been hearing Him.

Luke, who staggers his work hours to avoid crowded tube’s after 7/7, makes a point of noting who is sitting near him in a carriage. So when the tube he was on pulled into a station, and people left and refilled the carriage, he’d actually taken the time to ‘look’ at the comings and goings around him. The next person to sit next to him found an iPhone on the seat, and asked if it was Luke’s. It wasn’t his, but Luke had immediate an empathy for the guy who’d lost it…who, incidentally…Luke remembered.

Luke is a social media freak. (maybe freak’s too strong a word) but he’s always on his iPhone. He lost his once, and I think a little piece of his world crumbled.

He prayed that the guy and his phone would be reunited. And felt silly about this, because God obviously has a lot going on at the moment what with Isreal and the Arab Spring, the England Riots and the end of Col Gaddaffi’s regime.

But God answered. Luke and the stranger got off the tube together. The stranger went one way, saying he would hand the phone in. And Luke went the other..making his way to the exit. Suddenly he noticed a man running desperately towards him with the aim of getting on the tube. It was the man who’d left his phone on the seat.

Luke grabbed him as he was about to shoot past him and said simply, ‘you’re phone just being handed in.’

I’m telling this story as a sign post to my own experiences while at Greenbelt this year. A number of my prayers have been answered. Firstly being the actually ticket to the festival. I’ve always wanted to go, but financial situation I’m in at the moment meant that I wouldn’t have been able to afford it…plus the cost of buying camping gear.

My ticket was provided by CODEC, which meant I worked a couple of hours on their stand, and then had the rest of the time free to explore the festival! My sister knows someone who works in a camping shop…and got 10% off my tent…which ended up being £10. I borrowed a sleeping bag from my mum; and a kettle and camping stove from work. [Thank you Father for providing through friends and family]

The only thing I didn’t have, which would have been nice and saved me buying coffee, was a thermos flask. But then, one morning I was talking to the Communications guy from the London School of Theology when he stopped and said he had a ‘random act of kindness’. He gave me a box, which contained (did you guess?) a thermos flask! [Thank you Lord for hot coffee while i was working on the stand]

I had a really interesting conversation with a guy called Daniel. He’s doing a phd in something like theology and blogging. CODEC is the Centre for Christian Communication in the Digital Age (I know, the acronym doesn’t quite work does it?) but we talked about the impact of social media on Christendom etc. And then I asked where he was from. His Church is in Colliers Wood. I was stunned. I live up the road from there. He then asked if I went to St Nic’s. Which I don’t, but I’ve been wondering about going to a local Church…

I only had around £30 spending money fir the long weekend. And it was enough. Just.
Collecting my car from my parent’s house, I had half a tank. Although, on my way out, my dad had told me to put an extra £10 petrol in, to be safe. And, foregoing a round of beers, I took his advice.

I really wanted to keep £10 aside, just in case. But after rounds had been bought for me at the Jesus Arms by the lovely people i was with and had met, I felt obliged to buy one.

I said goodbye to Greenbelt on Tuesday morning. Looking at my petrol gage, I suddenly felt very silly for spending that last £10 on beer.

I started to pray. Very hard. Hitting Oxfordshire i saw a man at the side of the road hitchhiking. He was holding those temporary number plates they have when they ferry cars from one part if the country to the other. I passed him, thinking about safety before petrol. I got to the M25.. And my gage was on empty. I just prayed.

What with my bank being in a shambles, I’m still unsure if my AA cover is still live. I called the 2nd emergency service…(my parents) to warn them of my predicament. I felt so bad for worrying them. But, to cut it short, I got home. With an empty tank I managed to park on my dad’s driveway. My parents were so surprised to see me.