the art of wandering aimfully


One of the fun things about being in foreign-lands is that you get asked things like, "So, are you going back to Britain soon?"  I like that question, cos I get to respond with something like, "No, I’m not going back.  I’m going forward!"

[small trumpet fanfare]

Bit of history:
– I never wanted to leave the St Albans world of my teenager-hood: I had friends, church, lots of vision for the area, and had just helped plant our Burn congregation.  I wanted to be there so much that I spent the first half of my DTS almost constantly praying for stuff back home.  But then I went to university …
– I never wanted to leave university: it was such a fabulous time to be alive (and I felt SO alive, particularly in my 3rd year) and I was in my beloved Sheffield too.  Why would I want to be anywhere else?  I loved what God was doing in the student world so much that I delayed leaving for New Zealand for a month so that I could be in Sheffield for Intro Week …
– Then New Zealand: first Tauranga, then Auckland.  When I got back to NZ last October I was SO glad to be around – I had such high hopes and a visa for another 18months, and was expecting to use all of it and more!  And look what’s happened now …

The horizon has expanded once again, and now I’m gazing at possibilities that did not exist even a month ago.  What kind of a story have I fallen into?

I’m trying to imagine what I would have made of staying-in-South-Carolina-with-an-American-girlfriend-making-plans-to-relocate-to-the-Middle-East if God had told me back in 1999 what was going to happen to me!  Gosh.

But nevertheless, here I am, and the story keeps unfolding, horizon by horizon.  Sometimes I know a little of what is ahead, other times (like now) I’ve had to just MOVE to create a fillable space.

But it is going forward, for sure – there’s no way I can go back.  If I did, for example, go and live in Sheffield again (and wouldn’t that be WONDERFUL?!!), I couldn’t just slot back in where I was before.  I’m pretty much a wanderer, and I don’t know where I’m going, but I am going forward 🙂

Mysterious Ways


God writes through us, and however imperfect instruments we may be,
                                         He writes BEAUTIFULLY.

[Mother Teresa of Calcutta]


            God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform;
          He plants his footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.
                Deep in unfathomable mines of never-failing skill,
        He treasures up his bright designs, and works his sovereign will.

       Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take – the clouds ye so much dread
           Are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head.
         Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust him for his grace;
               Behind a frowning providence, He hides a smiling face.

                 His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour;
         The bud may have a better taste, but sweet will be the flower.
               Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan his work in vain;
                God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain.

                                                                                           [William Cowper]

The Saddest Verse In The Bible

Sometimes you read the Bible and (if your compassion genes are anything like mine) it just puts its finger on something in such a way as to make you sad/sorry about life-and-the-world.  I remember the first time I cam across the verse in Amos 8 about a famine of hearing God’s words, and it really affected me, y’know?  Like imagining life with all the life sucked out.  Which is almost exactly what life is for so many people.

Anyway, since then, I’ve found a perculiar delight in noticing verses or lines that describe the Human Condition (aka ‘why life doesn’t work’).  Ecclesiastes is a great place to start – I read this one a few months ago:

  All labour & all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbour [Ecc. 4:4]

Can you feel how flipping sad that is?  I love how words have the power to do that kind of stuff, but at the same time it’s a different dynamic with the Bible (as compared to a novel), cos it’s a LIVING word; it has a dimension of growth and life, even in the saddest bits.  Tonight’s example (which describes me rather too well) is from Jeremiah, who’s not known for laughter and joking:

  You are always on their lips, but far from their hearts [Jer. 12:2]

I read that, and knew exactly what he was feeling (2500 years ago) – some things never seem to change.  And so, I continue in my search for the saddest verse in the Bible (or maybe I mean ‘most poignant’), without really knowing why …

Recommended Reading

DANGEROUS WONDER by Mike Yaconelli

Please read it, if you get the chance – it’s changed my life more obviously than any other book I’ve ever read (with the possible exception of the Lord of the Rings) – the adventure of childlikeness never sounded so central to real life.

Since I originally borrowed it from my lovely mate Tim Hirst (back in 2001? 2002?) I think I’ve bought 4 copies, 3 of which I’ve given away.  Something like that, and I need to give more away.  I lay down on the floor and read a chapter at random yesterday, and IT MADE ME CRY 4 TIMES IN TEN MINUTES!!

[crying = a very good thing, by the way]

If I could ever recommend reading anything, it’d be this, so please do if you can 🙂

a moment of philosophy

This last week has got me thinking along the lines of:

the most significant person in my whole life may presently be a stranger to me
the most important thing I’ll ever learn may presently be a complete mystery to me

I’m (kind of) of the opinion that God is in charge of ALL of our circumstances – that nothing is accidental (I don’t know whether that means that He is responsible for them all – I suspect not).  Which suddenly makes the act of sitting at this computer in this office at this moment just as HOLY GROUND as anything I’ve ever done.  Or anything ANYONE has ever done.  Because it’s Him that makes things like that.

Some people think that everything that happens is God’s will (we call them Muslims or Calvinists) – we’re just fated.  And some people think that God gives us complete free-will and then just sits back to watch (I don’t know what we call them).  I’m neither.  I think that God WEAVES.

Sometimes, we get a grasp of something solid of His ‘will’ – what He wants to do – around which we are then hopefully able to weave ourselves/our DNA/our us-ness.  And other times, it seems like He waits for us to decide what we want to do, and then He weaves His unique His-ness around that.  (This is cutting-edge theology, by the way 🙂  Even this last couple of days, stuff has started HAPPENING – His things, popping up – and I really like it that I honestly can’t tell who had the idea and who is weaving around it; it’s a TOGETHER thing.  Isn’t that nice?  I’ll tell you more content as it comes up …


Hey there!

I got to go to my first proper monastery (with lots of black robes and so on) a couple of days ago.  Didn’t exactly get to chat to a whole lot of the monks, to be honest (although one came out to check I wasn’t dead whilst having a nice lie-down on the concrete after lunch), but the day in general did me so much good. Conception_abbey

It was my first chance to get out of cities since being in the States, and it was such a relief, to be honest (and the fact the American cities pretty much go on forever doesn’t help the claustrophobia).  And now, having walked in real-life windy mid-west countryside, I feel like the city isn’t sitting on top of me any more – I’m on top of it, maybe.

thoughts on growing old

In a month, I’ll turn 25 – quite exciting really!  I was quite shocked (about 4 weeks ago) when I realised that.  Because (obviously) it means that I’m nearly at my best before date, and that everything will be downhill from here …

We don’t look up to old people like in the olden days.  My friend Kat is a singer in Japan, and at 22 is generally considered to be too old to get a record deal.  THAT IS SCARY!!!!!!!!!

This (NZ) summer, I got to meet a guy called Wyn Fountain – he’s 87, and as unlikely to ‘retire’ as ever, from the looks of things.  We listened to him tell some of his story one night: it really messed my head up to think that this chap was at the Battle of El Alamein – to me that’s like meeting someone from King Arthur’s court or the Battle of Pellenor Fields – and it helped me notice for the first time that I’M REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO BEING AN OLD MAN!!  I want a HUGE beard and a pipe and a shepherd’s crook and to dress upconvincingly as Father Christmas!