Saturday, March 28, 2009

London, vast and shadowy, towering against the purple city sky...

The DWJ book I'm reading at the moment is inventive. Instead of having wizards as the major power holders, she includes powers tied to the land and geography. My favourite bit so far has a tiny, almost non-existent village ( a rotten borough) called Old Sarum, meet and negotiate with the great city of London...

London had the strangest voice. Part of it was like the groan and clatter of thick traffic and the rest was a chorus of different voices, high, low and tenor voices, voices with very upper class accents, bass voices speaking purest Cockney, overseas voices, and every grade of voice in between. It was almost like hearing a huge concert...

"Who gave you your orders?" chorused London... in that dim light he seemed to have the strangest face. It was like the framework of a strong, noble face with other faces stuck into it. Part of one cheek was shifty. The end of one eyebrow and part of his mouth seemed to leer...

"I have never guaranteed safety," London replied, "nor wealth either."

"No, and your streets aren't really paved with gold neither," Old Sarum retorted, "All the respect in the world, your honour. Anything you say, But I don't have to tell someone who straddles a great river like you do that humans are just water under your bridges... they come, they go. You live on."

"We grew up for and by the means of human," London thumped out. He sounded like hammer on a building site.

I love the picture my mind makes of this scene. But something in me also responds to the idea. It reminds me of the power of a large community of humans. We are individuals and our choices are our responsibility and reflect our freedoms as well. But there is something collective about the choices we make that means that in groups our 'character' is larger than the sum of our parts, or something.

Makes me think of Israel and the kind of community they were (and still are) trying to be. And my own community in the little house I live in in Newy. And the wider communities I belong to: Cornerstone, my family, friends.

How would the characters of those communities be described if they were to appear in a novel?

Later London allows them passage into the city. With a rumbling chuckle he tells them that he will be with them all the way. Roddy (one of the main characters) watches as Old Sarum drives them through city streets.

And every time I glanced out of the open half of the window, I saw London's huge, shadowy figure wading among the houses beside us.

Extract from Diana Wynne Jones (2003) The Merlin Conspiracy, Harper Collins pp. 360-363

Monday, March 23, 2009

trust and pray

As I grow older, the grief and troubles of our world present before me more starkly.

As I grow older I need a fresh hope.

I find it harder to reconcile the hurting world I see with the wishy washy 'inner faith' of my past experience. Jesus promises to redeem. This is no simplistic promise. It must have some application for life in a real way in the hurting people I know and love. And that application must take into account their freedom (and my own) to continue in various, possibly even some destructive, beliefs and behaviours while still allowing healing and transformation to happen.

I want to find a way to live in this belief and be a carrier of such transformation and see the power of the Spirit at work.

I think the first step is to trust and pray. And to not be afraid to let the suffering of others call out to me; to not be afraid to share in their joy. Make time for conversations with people; listen more in them. To smile is a beginning.

I really want to listen more...

Monday, March 16, 2009


This morning Morris shared this Psalm with us

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

I was reminded that I didn't used to have such an optimistic view of things. I was prone to grumble when I faced difficulties, and even struggle with and fight against people I didn't see eye to eye with. When life was unpleasant I even (at times) wondered whether it was worth living.

But somewhere in the last few years, I have begun to acknowledge and enjoy God's presence with me. A sense that he is leading me, ordering my world, and restoring me has begun to infiltrate my understanding and reactions.

I think the best way to describe it is to say, even being bitten by mosquitoes is bearable when you are with people you love.

You would rather be with those whom you love even if it means having boring food, no money etc.

The Father's presence is at work, transforming the way I see things, colouring the grey bits. I would rather be with him and endure difficulty than be without him and have an 'easy' life. It doesn't make the unpleasant things fun, but it does make them infinitely more bearable. And the hope...

surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life...

source: Psalm 23 TNIV

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the poor

Recently my brother has had an obsession with 'de-cluttering his life'. Its a kind of self-help sub-movement that takes simplicity to its furthest end (well as much as is possible in Western Society). He found it by googling 'de-clutter your life'.

When I think of all the rubbish he has shed in the last month or so since this new fetish began, I am increasingly envious of his new found freedom. I mean, lets acknowledge it for truth... our possessions do become a burden. I understand 'the weight' of rooms full of gear that I don't know how to order or even cherish. Yet I am unable to let go of many of the possessions I have that hold sentimental value for me. And I partially regret the purges I have forced myself to make at different times in my life.

I want to hold on to things.

This is true in my spiritual life also. Spiritual 'poverty' is a real freedom. When you know you are spiritually poor you don't need to have the answers, you don't need to appear to have been good. There is no such thing as trying to keep up appearances. The only thing required of the spiritually poor is confession and a readiness to receive what God has for them, whether it be a job to do, a person to respond to or just a lesson in hardship or grace...

What is it in me that resists being 'poor'?

"What make’s this harder for us is that the more clearly we see ‘His glorious goodness’, the more clearly we see ourselves. Being confronted by our proud, lazy, demanding, trivial and pleasure seeking self in the light of the Father’s goodness is very uncomfortable, even painful. Something in us hates being ‘poor in spirit’ for all the wrong reasons! We have to fight hard against the temptation to ignore or drown out the quiet awareness His Spirit brings. It’s more natural to reach for excuses or anaesthetic than to genuinely confess."

Peter Volkofsky 2006

Friday, March 6, 2009


a friday afternoon double period of Year 8 English ended, and the next one as far off in the distant future as it is possible for it to be (not including holidays)....

the prospect of seriously relaxing bro time ahead...

meeting with my favourite Sophie tonight...

Mike Goheen tells me that I can give thanks because I am aware that my creator exists and that every aspect of life is a gift from Him. Father accept my thanks!

Mike Goheen, Living at the Crossroads (2008)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the chase

I am thinking about the chase. The hunt. Adrenaline. Fear.

I am undergoing the chase. I am experiencing adrenaline. I am hunted; at the same time I am hunting. Fear is running its course through me; it must come to an end.

I am searching for a way out. Perhaps I could lie down. Give up the chase. Give up myself as prey; hope for a swift end to the rising panic in my tight chest.

I can't really hope for a swift end, can I?

So now I am looking for an answer. Could there be a safe place to hide that my eyes have not seen? Keenly I am searching; dashing first left then right; searching for some cover sufficient to swallow me whole; and at last I am seeing a possibility, a poor place to conceal my sorry hide; and the thought is coming to me…

don’t give up the chase…

Peter Volkofsky, our mission director, visited us in the team house this week. His visit reminded me that what we are doing is unlike what normal people choose to do do with their life. I am coming to see that problems are not solved in ordinary ways here on team. Where I would normally seek an end to any difficulties I might face, in this case I am choosing to remain within the difficulties and see whether they can be transformed by patience, love and grace.

What I hope for is that I can be transformed by patience, love and grace. And that that could mean something for my world.

Pete reminds me of the character of Sol in Diana Wynne Jones' 1975 novel Dogsbody. So practical, so joyful, so fearsome. It's a marvellous work. Like so many of her stories, expected traditional values are subverted and a fresh understanding becomes possible. I always feel transformed when I read one of her ingenious denouments. I feel like something in me gets unknotted.

Dogsbody contains a chase sequence where the main character, a dog, joins in with the chase of Arawn and his dogs. In Welsh mythology, Arawn was king of the otherworld realm of Annwn. His hounds would ride through the the skies in autumn, winter, and early spring. The baying of the hounds was identified with the crying of wild geese as they migrate and the quarry of the hounds as wandering spirits, being chased to Annwn. Jones' chase sequence was the inspiration of my little reflection this evening. It is worth a read if you ever get your hands on the novel.

image source:

Monday, March 2, 2009

What to do?

Another extract from MacDonald's Scottish novel. The kind of life described in the passage is beginning to make sense to me...

All the morning he was busy in the cornyard--with his hands in preparing new stances for ricks, with his heart in trying to content himself beforehand with whatever fate the Lord might intend for him.

As yet he was more of a Christian philosopher than a philosophical Christian.

He was working in his own imagination, and not in the revealed will of God. If should not prove the will of God concerning him, then he was spending his strength for nought. There is something in the very presence and actuality of a thing to make one able to bear it; but a man may weaken himself for bearing what God intends him to bear, by trying to bear what God does not intend him to bear.

The chief was forestalling the morrow like an unbeliever--not without some moral advantage, I dare say, but with spiritual loss. We have no right to school ourselves to an imaginary duty. When we do not know, then what he lays upon us is NOT TO KNOW,and to be content not to know.

The philosopher is he who lives in the thought of things, the Christian is he who lives in the things themselves.

The philosopher occupies himself with God's decree, the Christian with God's will;

the philosopher with what God may intend, the Christian with what God wants him to do.

Extract from What's Mine's Mine, George MacDonald

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Does Nature Speak to You?

Can you tell me when you were last alone? are not alone while you know that you can have someone with you the instant you choose

Then what I would have you do is to make yourself alone in one of nature's withdrawing chairs... On a day when the weather is fine, go out by yourself. Tell no one where you are going or that you are going anywhere. Climb a hill. No book, remember. Nothing to fill your thinking place with the thoughts of others.

When you are quite alone, when you do not even know the nearest point to anybody, sit down and be lonely. Look out on what you see, with the lonely sun in the middle of it all. Fold your hands in your lap and be still.

Do not try to think anything.

Do not try to call up any feeling or sensation; just be still.

By and by, it may be, you will begin to know something of nature, and then possibly of the God whose clothing it is.

I do not know you well enough to be sure about it; but if you tell me afterward how you fared, I shall then know you a little better, and could perhaps tell you whether nature had or will speak to you.

I have been challenged by this reading and would love to hear your stories.

extract from George MacDonald, What's Mine's Mine, Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. Publishers, London 1886