Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Removing the Mask

I wrote this aaaaaaaaaaaages ago in Nepal (like, beginning of October) but never got around to typing it up. I think it's still true and relevent though, so- better late than never!

I hope that when I return from Nepal, for the first few weeks people worry about my spiritual state.

My study on church took me to some surprising places. For those who read all the scriptures attached, my reference to Ananias and Saphira may have seemed a little morbid and unnecessary. But actually, it has taught me a lot about the huge importance of honesty within the church. The full story is here.

There were awesome things happening in the church. People were being saved by the day, miracles were happening all over the place and the believers were giving everything they had to support each other, in one big happy family.

But Ananias and Saphira don't seem to have been so convinced. Maybe they were newly saved and hadn't quite seen the full picture yet. Maybe they'd been two of the first and didn't know what to make of the massive growth that was going on. Either way, They had a reputation to keep up so when they sold their field, nobody could know that they'd kept something back.

There are many times when I have been in that position. I've been offered prayer but preferred to listen to others' weaknesses than disclose my own, brushing off their kind offers with a well-practiced smile. I've led people in prayers and Bible study, all the while resenting the hours of my day that it took up.

There's no life in putting on a brave face. There's no cohesion in saying one thing and meaning another. How are we to support one another if we don't even know where the weaknesses lie? Deception leads to death, because there is no one to sow life into us.

Here is a song that spoke to me about halfway through last year. When I first heard it, it broke me, but somehow I never quite translated it into action. Let it challenge you and change you.



So when I return, if I tell you I'm having a bad day or I'm not sure what I believe any more, don't worry- be glad. And please, don't try to be perfect. Set your sights on the things of heaven (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control) then let it all hang out, and lets support each other.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

What is Church?

As I walked home from ‘church’ the other day, considering my experiences in Nepal, what I missed from England and the home groups I had heard about, I began to re-assess my concept of church, what it means to be part of church, and the role of church in my life as a Christian.

The more time I spend in Nepal, the more I come to understand my motives for coming here- some of them conscious, but many of them unconscious. One reason, though I didn’t admit it even to myself at the time, was that I was running away. I felt a pressure to ‘conform’ to the Christianity around me; I was challenged by those running beside me as they pressed on towards the finish line (Phil 3:13-14) and I felt that I was limping behind. I felt like church demanded more of me than I was willing to give, and that never leads to life (Acts 5:1-12).

But here, I have come to realize and learned from the very inside out that Christianity is about relationship. First and foremost, it is a relationship with Jesus Christ, the Father who made us and the Spirit who lives in us (Eph 1:4-5). But secondly, it’s about our relationships with each other: sharing the life that is in us, learning from each others’ trials and triumphs and celebrating in the glory of our God (John 13:34-35). This is where church comes in.

Church is the collective name for a group of people who have become one (Eph 4:4-5). Church is those with whom we share life (Heb 10:24) Church happens in coffee shops all over the world where people meet to talk about what is happening in their lives and encourage each other with stories of God’s work. Church happens in the emails I send to my friends along a very similar theme (Acts 2:44-46). Church happens when the part of the body with a car helps the part without to move house (Eph 4:16). Church also happens in bible studies and small groups where people set aside structured time to learn about God togeher. Church is fun and friendship- it is also accountability and challenge.

On Sunday mornings, members of this body have formed a habit of meeting with a wider group (Heb 10:25)- people they would otherwise never cross paths with- from different demographic groups, of different social status, with opposite personalities and interests (1 Cor 12:12-13). They are united by one thing- their love for their Saviour, and they come together to celebrate this. From this mixing pot of people can spark new relationships, new opportunities to extend love, new chances to sow into and learn from others. And so as the church meets, the Church is born.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Today I went on an eye-opening home visit. I'm not quite sure what to do with the experience so I think it needs to go here. I read a thought-provoking post the other day (:P) about what the purpose of a blog is, and how the purposes often merge into each other, and here is one such occasion. This is for my own therapy as much as to inform anyone else.

Kelly and Lucy, the physios that are volunteering at SGCP from Leeds Met, asked me to go and visit a child that they were very concerned about. They hadn't seen him in 6 weeks because the mother kept saying that he was too sick, and when they called to find out more they learned that he wasn't eating and the mother was having a lot of difficulty feeding him. As a newly-qualified SLT in England I'm not qualified to offer feeding and swallowing advice, but in a country where there are 5 qualified SLTs nationally I become more knowledgable than most other people around.

So off I went, armed with some very complicated Nepali phrases that I'd anticipated needing, a banana, some curd and a drink with a straw. I didn't really know what to expect but I could give it my best shot and at least offer some advice on positioning to the mum if all else failed.
We arrived at the house, and climbed three flights of stairs until we reached a corridor where the family lived in the first room on the left. Space is a luxury in Nepal. We were greeted with a strong smell of urine as we entered the room, and Nadesh (name changed... confidentiality!) crying on the bed. His mother had been trying to feed him but she stopped when we arrived. She looked exhausted but happy to see us.

I didn't know where to start. Lucy went straight into action trying to soothe him, and then the mother came and took him out while we spoke to the sister in very basic English. She must have been about 11 and didn't really understand most of what we said I don't think. The assesment began with a small piece of soggy banana which just sat on Nadesh's tongue as he opened his mouth and began to cry again. Kelly just got it out before it slipped straight back and choked him. His mother soothed him again and this time we asked her to feed him curd, which we were told he liked to eat already. Again he just cried and the food didn't go anywhere. He was clearly struggling to breathe and wasn't going to swallow anything we gave him, and I didn't want to risk it with anything else. The girls took over and did some physio stuff, and when he was calm again we tried him with tiny drops of mango juice from the straw. One drop took 5 swallows, an almost certain indication that it was spilling right down into his lungs.

What do you do? In England that child wouldn't be given another thing to eat by mouth, but here there are no IV fluids, no nasogastric tubes or PEGs to be inserted. I couldn't bring myself to feed him but we can't let him starve. The girls had also assessed his breathing and it was so irregular, he wouldn't breathe in for 5-6 seconds and then he would, but not breathe out, andso on. He had several collapsed ribs and his rib cage came all the way down to his abdomen, stoppinghis lungs from expanding properly and no doubt being part of the reason behind his vomiting everything he managed to swallow.

This child's story has a better ending than many- tomorrow he will be admitted to a general hospital and as soon as possible he will go to a nutritional hospital where he will recieve a short-term NG tube which will hopefully build his strength back up so he can begin to eat again. But the story isn't over- there are still so many risks involved and the family is so poor they will only ever recieve the most basic care.

I don't know how the girls do this every day. The children I visit are very well managed and reasonably healthy, regardless of their economic status or severity of CP. But here I just felt so useless- I could have endangered that child with my assessment and even when I knew it wasn't safe for him to eat, I was powerless to help the situation. The mother was wonderful, her positioning and feeding technique were flawless but that didn't help. There's no specialist to refer onto, no second opinion, just the hope that he will have caring and competent doctors and nurses at the hospital and that he won't get any infections.

It's a whole other world. Thank God that you're not trapped in it.

I am having an awesome time and learning lots- I have a handwritten post that I will find time to type up on here sometime soon, and an epic update post in my head for the nepal blog, but this just had to be expressed :)

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Transition

Yesterday I moved out of Leeds. It was a sad day, but at the same time it didn't feel particularly real, just like I was going away for the week. It's odd to think that when I come back, things will have changed so much- Leeds as I knew it is gone. It's exciting though as well, knowing that there is so much ahead and that I have good friends that will last a lifetime, whether we live in the same house or on opposite continents.

I decided on Sunday night that I was going to look forward to Nepal after all. I had been dreading it just a little bit- the prospect of living, working, eating, breathing with the same few people that I didn't really know frankly terrified me. But on Sunday night as I was sat with Sarah and Scot and we were talking about our expectations for various trips (Scot's off to Mozambique and Sarah's back to South Africa on Friday) I realised that this is a great opportunity to grow- I might make some more lifetime friends and in the meantime I will learn to become more and more dependant on God's love. I also realised what an amazing group of people I have here- the India crew (including Andy who was at work) will be all over the world but we still have a friendship and a Spirit that unites us.

And partly- why expect the worst when you can expect the best? It's never going to be what I expect anyway, but there is absolutely no point at all in worrying about something that might never happen! Smiles all round :)

Here is a prayer I wrote while I was trying to work out God's love for me. I've linked it because it doesn't really need shouting from the rooftops, but if it can help just one person, just a little bit, then I'm willing to be transparent in my own struggles. I'm so glad that God's love is so strong and his grace is so vast that there is nothing that can separate us from Him any more.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Tired

I'm feeling so tired and overwhelmed I just need to tell someone. But everyone here is very busy and excited about the wedding tomorrow. My housemate's getting married, and I'm being a bridesmaid :). It is exciting, but I just don't have the energy! Mum and Dad are coming to pick up a load of stuff because I'm moving out on Monday, so i was supposed to be packing, but I can't face that either.

8 days til I go to Nepal. Terrifying. There's a blog at slt-nepal.blogspot.com that'll be used to keep people updated about what we're doing while we're there, but hopefully I'll be able to keep up with this one for the more personal stuff too. Today as I was packing my stuff up, I couldn't help but wish a little bit that I was staying in the country and applying for a general Band 5 job like everyone else, inside the NHS where I knew what I was doing and where I was coming from. But God's plans are higher than mine and I'm sure this is part of them, I've never taken the 'normal' route so why start now?

God's good. I'm tired. Bedtime :)

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Family

So M:Powered 2009 has been and gone.

What an adventure it was.

I think I probably sat down for about 10 minutes per day (comedy moment in my room when I spent some time deciding whether the bedframe or matress on the floor would be most comfortable then noticed the sofa...nice), but I had possibly the best week so far this year! Definitely the best M:Powered so far this life (but then I am liable to be biased)

There were moments when I think we really did see heaven on earth. Times in meetings where everyone was doing their own thing but all were worshipping God corporately- singing, rapping, dancing, drawing, playing football- chaos but beautiful. There were moments when we tried to end a meeting but we couldn't stop the young people from praising God, so they carried on outside.

I also discovered that my family was bigger and wider and greater than I ever realised. Jen, Chris and Sarah were stars in the areas they served that we were jointly responsible for, but everybody mucked in. I knew that if I ever needed help anything, I only had to ask and 3 people would arrive ready to lend a hand, delegates and leaders. What a team!

I had been so stressed beforehand worrying about the food and the cafe, and whether there would be enough, if people would like it, how everything would fit together, but everything came together perfectly. I finished the week exahusted and with only a few days until I'm off to Nepal (this time in 2 weeks...) but I feel like that was the best possible preparation I could have had before I went. Thank you Jesus :)


I got back to Leeds today a little reluctantly after such a great time at home and away, but realised as soon as I arrived that my family was bigger still! Had some great prayer and soaking time with Danny, Tabs and Scot, some great wedding chats with Tabs and an awesome chick-pea curry. Everywhere I go I'm surrounded by amazing people, I don't know why I ever even worry! Life's good.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

ABC, easy as ...

I've also been *attempting* to learn the Nepali alphabet of the past few weeks- a good friend of mine advised that the script is the most important thing because often signs will have English words written in Nepali script. It's the same script that is used for Hindi, so my handy translator can show you what I have learned thus far:

अ a आ aa
क k ख kh
ग g घ gh
ट t(retroflex) ठ th (retroflex)

It's a bit difficult because they have more different sounds in their alphabet than we do in ours, and my phonetics slt training is proving very helpful to me to understand how I'm supposed to say things, but I've still not quite mastered actually making the sounds yet! But show me some Hindi/Nepali with any of the above characters and I'm there :)

Friday, 10 July 2009

Being Mum

This week I've been at home minding Ben while mum and dad were away celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. In fairness to me, by the time it gets to being responsible for a 13-yr-old, you've usually had 13 years experience, but it's been exhausting! I'm definitely not cut out for the mum thing just yet (which is just as well I guess...)

So it's been a hectic week of making lunch boxes and attending parents evenings (ha!) but also making some seriously awesome props for this year's M-Powered cafe. Seriously awesome. My nifty plan of getting creative materials and creative people together in one room and setting them loose came off well- creative juices and acrylic paint were flowing all over the place!

Chris is staying in our house at the minute so it was nice to have another 'housemate' while everyone was away, though with the busyness of the week a lot of time seemed to be spent with me rushing in and out and Chris looking on with a 'bemused' look on his face. Fun.

It was a strange week really, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the added independence of having the car, and catching up with people I hadn't seen for ages, and spending time with the girls in the youth group, and the crazy home set up where I (and Ben) were the only constants there. I wasn't really in a rush to get back to Leeds but I came back yesterday and went out as a kind of 'housewarming' with some of my housemates from second year, and that was nice because as part of my horrendous third year I all but lost touch. So it was a different week to anything I've had before, but it was good.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

For His Own Sake!

The other day I was flicking through Isaiah, trying to find the part that talks about what the Messiah will be called. Turns out it's in chapter 9 (and interestingly, names for Father, Son and Spirit are used... but there's one extra... just a thought) but I was way out looking through the back. I got distracted by this verse:

“I—yes, I alone—will blot out your sins for my own sake
and will never think of them again.”
Is 43:25
Now this is the New Living translation, which is a paraphrase, so I thought I should check in a more literal version, because it couldn't really mean that, could it? So I got out my trust NASB and fortunately that page hasn't fallen out of it yet:
"I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake,
And I will not remember your sins. "
And it's the same! God wipes out our sins for His own sake, not ours! It's not a begrudging, 'oh yes, but just this one more time, ok?' He wipes out our sins not because we beg Him but because He wants to.

That gives us value. We are no longer the hangers-on that got in by the skin of our teeth, but we are of such value to God that He chooses blot out our sins because He wants to, because He values us. He loves us so much.
The Lord says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help.
I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’
to a nation that did not call on my name.
Is 65:1
He's so there for us. Read the rest of Isaiah 43. He absolutely loves us and wants us to spend time with Him and know Him. That's my challenge this week- just to know Jesus, to spend time with the God who is everywhere (Thy omnipresence turns every spot of earth into holy ground - Tozer).

God is good

Friday, 3 April 2009

Rambling and Reflecting to Myself

Today was a good day. A long and interesting day, but definitely good.

I spent most of the day in Leicester at a Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT) study day. This panned out better than I expected. The talks were on bilingualism (my dissertation topic), 'dynamic assessment' (never heard of this before so it was new and interesting, SLT with autistic children (see below) and then some advice about starting new jobs (always helpful).

The 'autism' talk had a funny effect on me. The speaker was brilliant- so engaging and to the point, yet what got me was her compassion for the parents of the children she sees. Obviously this is a little bit close to home, but when Ben was diagnosed I was only young myself really, I didn't fully understand and I had no concept of developmental norms- no idea what kids should be doing at what age- he was the only child I'd seen develop from birth. But my parents did know what they were expecting, and that's not quite what they got. (Don't get me wrong, I love Ben to bits and wouldn't change him for the world, he's growing up to be a fine young man and I'm proud of him, though not looking forward to the day he grows taller than me!)

So this lady, Gina, described her process of assessment and therapy, but at every stage advocating the feelings of the parents. She explained what we label 'denial' in the early stages is actually just a tired anxious parent clinging on to a thread of hope for their beautiful child to be able to speak one day (she sees children with quite severe autism). She described a disaster scenario in which the child comes into the clinic room, screams for the entire session and destroys everything in sight, but that it is most important, not to clear the clinic room but to show understanding to the parents, let them know that we know bad days happen, but we're willing to try again, to avoid such shame and embarrassment that the parent daren't come back. I can't remember other specifics but all the way through there was this consideration, this compassion, for the distraught, concerned and regularly teetering 'on-the-edge' group.

I feel for parents who once had a sense of order, of control over their lives, but now find themselves living in chaos. The house is a mess because every time they tidy up, something else is 'explored' all over the floor. Every time they clean, a sticky drink is poured out because it makes a nice noise. And then, out of the blue, there is a tantrum that would have the neighbours talking about 'what goes on nextdoor' because a routine they didn't even know existed, has been disrupted. And all the while this beautiful child that they love with all their hearts and had such huge dreams for, won't talk, won't respond, won't even look at them. It is heartbreaking, you do need to hold onto hope.

I'm not relating all of the above to the experiences of my family at all, but that's what pricked my ears and what has led me to hear of these situations in other families. I realise I'm just emphasising one small aspect of a huge issue here, but it's really just so I can work out what I think in my own head, and this is the bit that caught me. She also did some wonderful demonstrations of how to engage a child's attention and develop meaningful communication, and made another interesting point about the common inability of autistic people to forget experiences, positive or negative. Hm.

And the bilingualism talk, ah, I love it. I'm such a wannabe, hehe. I spent the evening on Monday with some friends who are originally from Pakistan and they were talking about the culture and the differences between there and here and all of a sudden I felt so...monolingual and one-dimensional! There's such a richness and depth that comes from merging cultures and being able to function across them, it's fascinating.

~*~

My train back to Leeds took me through Sheffield, and I felt it would be a sin to get off a train in Sheffield and not tell Tilley! It worked out great in the end, we went for a lovely meal in HaHa, stopped by her flat for about 5 minutes and then I came home [leaving all my wonderful notes and the green tea & cranberry teabag Tilley had given me on the train...gutted :( ] and here we are!

A long day. An interesting day. But definately good.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

An Ending

I finished my most recent placement last night. It was a moment I had been looking forward to for weeks, but when it came it was actually quite sad! I have been working in a group for adults who stammer. It's an evening session and a lot of what we ended up doing was developing counseling skills and group facilitation. There have been moments when I've realised what a privilege and responsibility I had, being a part of these people's lives, and other moments when I've been asked to do something that meant I had to immediately deal with issues I've been facing for years! So I've grown in both skills as a therapist and in myself as a person. But it was sad to say goodbye to the group as well- I want to come back, want to find out whether they do meet that target and how things will be different when they've understood what this is, or settled into the group. How will the group dynamics work out because the past few weeks have seen all kinds of change! Maybe I'm just a geek. Maybe I chose the right career after all!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Ordinary Radicals

I wrote this in my journal on Monday but I quite like it so thought I would share.

Things that I see around me make me realise I need to change. The heavenly man, irresistible revolution and Danny Gough: all have challenged me this weekend.

  • The Heavenly Man: is quite literally a living sacrifice. He spent most of his younger life on the run from, or held captive by, the Chinese authorities. Even when he had escaped China and had a legitimate passport, he was arrested in an airport and spent time in the worst prison of all. Yet through everything he kept praising God. He could have kept quiet and got into less trouble without denying Jesus but he chose not to. His heart was so broken for the lost in prison that he spoke out, no matter what the consequences were.

    As it stands at the moment, I'm not willing to do that. I wish I could say that I was but I know that if I was given the opportunity to share the gospel at the cost of even one friendship, I would struggle so much.

  • The Irresistible Revolution: So far, this is a lot less extreme and covers a slightly different issue I guess, but it still requires\the complete surrender of a life. It's the issue of 'sell everything you have and give it to the poor.' How does that work out? How do you bridge the gap between the world's richest and the world's poorest? I want to decrease my 'ecological footprint' - how dare I take up so much earth that other people get none? To me life is precious, but to so many others it has become so cheap. Not from a lack of compassion but out of necessity, a survival mechanism.

    And yet here I am, in my nice semi-detached house with all my books and instruments and technology. I have a double bed to myself whilst whole families share a single, if they have a mattress at all. How do I respond?

  • Danny Gough: The real-life man in my house! My challenge is this: while I have complained about my all-Christian surroundings and tried to get out 'into the world' as often as I can, Danny has avoided worldly settings as far as possible yet his actions resulted in someone being saved yesterday! How's that for a challenge?! He was just desperate to share the Good News so he went to the bus stop to find some non-Christians, gave them some cups of tea and shared God's love. Now there's one more in the Kingdom of God and a few others on their way.

    May I never disregard a prompting to share the gospel with or pray for a stranger. I have nothing to lose in this country, but they have everything to gain.
A lot of people are doing a lot of amazing things, and I'm aware that I have used the busyness of my course this year as an excuse to live in my own little world and not reach out of it. But oh, how He loves me! Oh, how He loves my neighbours! My course mates! The homeless guy who sits outside the SU!

I am rich, I am rich in love. And I have been blessed with love so that when I see a need for love I can meet it. I have been blessed with grace so that when I see a need for grace, I can meet it. I have been blessed with forgiveness, I have been blessed with salvation.

Daddy, teach me to be an ordinary radical.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Revision time...

Revision time works one of two ways on these things. Either there are hundreds of posts in a desparate effort of procrastination, or there are none as all else is cut out except working, eating and sleeping. I've been veering towards the latter this year; with so much to do and minimal time to do it in, I began to wonder whether I should cut out eating and drinking time as well! Suffice to say there hasn't been much to post about save the ins and outs of stammering, effect of bilingualism on language development and the occasional breakdown.

On Wednesday we started the students group by soaking for a bit, then sharing what God had been speaking to us recently. A recurring theme was starting your day with God, something I did start doing on Monday really thinking about it. Kate shared Psalm 127:

1 Unless the Lord builds a house,
the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
guarding it with sentries will do no good.
2 It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones.

In my own strength I'm not going anywhere, I don't stand a chance. But when I learn to accept the rest that God gives me, and when I seek to work only in his strength, then I will find that "with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!" (Matt 19:26).


Incidentally, I'm going to Nepal in the summer! I'm so excited, I'm going out with three other girls who are graduating from my course and we're going to be working with a charity for children with cerebral palsy, setting up a speech and language service there. It's a bit daunting; we're going for three months minimum and I don't really know the girls I'm going with, but it is such an opportunity I can't miss it. This is exactly what I saw myself doing in the long-term; I was thinking India but they're close enough. Who knows what will come of it?! Eeek!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

How He Loves Us

You hem me in—behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?

If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,

even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

Psalm 139:5-10

Jesus has been chasing me around with His love recently. Everywhere I go, He is there. I can't escape! Even when I just want to fade into the background and observe, He drags me into the spotlight and pours out His love and compassion and concern for me.

The second half of 2008 was a tough period. It felt as though God just halved my capacity. I was busy busy busy as usual with commitments all over the place and then bam- I couldn't do it any more. I couldn't deal with the commitments, the responsibilities, the time pressures. It should have lead me to lean more and more on God but I'm afraid I am fallen and didn't do that very often.

As is so often the human nature, I would reach rock bottom before I cried out to God. But every time I did, He would be quick to respond, showing me His love that is strong. I would feel a bit better. A few weeks later we'd repeat all over again. It was a frustrating and nobody seemed to be getting anywhere.

Then, 'How He Loves Us' came along. It's just one of a lot of songs at the moment that seems focus on us, and God's love towards us. It made me a little uneasy when I felt that worship should really be focussed on God, who He is, His great, awesome, inconceivable power (This is a great one).

But- God loves me. God is love. I can only love Him because He loved me first. All good things come from Him (where is that verse?), and love is good.

I went to a meeting before christmas where a guy was prophesying over a lot of people. Everybody who wanted it received prayer at the end but God called me up and separated me out half way through. He loves me. A few weeks ago someone had a word for a person who was struggling with their studies. I was struggling, but didn't claim the word 'in case someone else needed it more'. He told the guy who I was and made sure I took it. He loves me. Praying with some friends about being set free- it a word for many in the group but He named me. He loves me. Last week I was feeling lonely and I 'coincidentally' bumped into three different friends I haven't seen in months. He loves me. Did I ever tell you about the washing machine I prayed for in October? It had died, but when no-one was looking I prayed for it. Nobody knew except me. He fixed it! He loves me. I was in Liverpool for the first Sunday in months last week and guess what the topic was? God's love! He loves me. He doesn't have favourites, so you know what that means...He loves you too!

No matter how much I try to pretend, the love of God persues me until I can not deny it. It won't stop until I have learned that lesson; even then it won't stop because His love for me will never change!

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-38

Now that's something worth singing about!

(This is my favourite video because the skating is so pretty)

I've barely scratched the surface of God's love in the Bible, maybe that can fill another post. It's late, and I have a dissertation to write in the morning. Goodnight. God loves you!

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Re-Introductions

So, um, hello :)

It turns out I'm writing for an audience, I wasn't expecting this!

I feel I should explain a little bit why I'm so taken aback that people are reading a journal that I've posted on the World-Wide-Web for all to see. In July 2007, I wrote a list of 101 things I wanted to acheive in 1001 days (see this website). One of the things on my list was to start a diary, and keep it at least once a week. So I figured, why not make it a blog? That way I can write in it wherever I am, and you never know, something I write might inspire some stranger who happens across it one day. I've been inspired to change by blogs I've read by accident before.

Thus, 'Finding Flapjack' was born. It's purpose was originally entirely self-indulgent but now it finds itself seeking to serve. If I can offer anything to help you, I hope it was worth wading through the rest.

There's lots on my mind that will hopefully develop into a number of posts over the next couple of weeks. So after this short disclaimer, I'm going to pretend you're not here any more (but feel free to come back!) and in the words of a slightly adjusted proverb:

"Dance like nobody's watching; love like you've never been hurt. Write like nobody's reading; live like it's heaven on earth."
(--who knew that this came from Mark Twain?!)

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Snow fights in the dark


Snow is falling, all around me...

It started snowing on Sunday. It was snowing a little bit as I came back from work in the afternoon, but by the time we sat down in Le Cafetiere, for our traditional sunday-evening hot chocolate and homous, it was snowing good and proper, blizzarding even! There's nothing better than to sit inside in the warm and look out of the window at snow rushing around and landing, sticking and then stopping, then coming back again ten minutes later. So by the time I got home at about 10, the world was already coated in white! I came inside and informed my housemates who were all very excited at the prospect, we booked a snowfight for the morning and I headed up to bed, exhausted. However, just as I was about to settle down for the night there was a knock at the door. "Time for a snowfight, frit?" How could I resist? I pulled on as much snow-proof gear as I could find and we were off.

To say I'm the youngest in the house, it was like a bunch of 10-year-olds who had never seen snow before! (except quieter, I like to think we are considerate neighbours :P) It was every man (and woman) for himself and we had a whole street worth of untouched snow to play with. Sometimes we made snowballs, but kicking the snow was just as effective and a favourite trick was to catch somebody next to a car and just flick it at them (Andy found a particularly effective technique when he trapped Tabs against her own car and scooped handful after handful into her face! No mercy I tell thee...)

There was a moment when we all just stopped and looked. The snow was still falling, and was yellow under the street lights. What makes snow so magical is that it falls silently and so lightly, and just to stand there and look up into the sky, it's beautiful.

Of course that was only a short pause. The continuing snow kept on replinishing our supplies which was very kind! Around eleven o clock Scot arrived from Derby to move in. Of course that called for an initiation ceremony as has never been seen before, as he was pelted with snowballs and then chased down the road by Andy looking like what can only be described as the abominable snowman!

You would run!

We finally retired about 11:30 for cups of tea and an extended punning session, and I slept better that night than I have done in weeks. When we awoke the next morning, it was as tho the snow had never been touched. Magic!

Monday, 26 January 2009

Slumdogs and Starfish

I just watched ‘Slumdog Millionaire’. Whoever called it the ‘feel-good movie of the decade’ either started off ridiculously depressed or… I don’t know, but feel-good it aint! I had been warned that for someone who’s been to India and seen the reality of the slums it could be quite harrowing but I’m not usually affected very much by movies so I thought it might just be a bit sad in places. But ‘harrowing’ is the perfect word to use. It is real and in every scene, for every character, there are thousands of real people living in that situation today, every day.

At the end of the film, when he goes to answer the final question, there are shots of people all over India celebrating: people gathered around TV shop windows, crowded into individual houses that have TVs, stood in the street watching, and others, obviously more wealthy, who are in comfortable houses. When he wins [sorry to spoil it…but you should have guessed by the title ;)], kids run across the railway lines in celebration just like Jamal does as a child at the beginning of the film. It’s a happy ending for one of these ‘slumdogs’ but there are millions of others still where he started. What will it take to protect them from leading the same life, or worse- the lives of those not so lucky to escape in the way he did so many times?

The problem is so big, what difference can we make? At this point I’m reminded of the ‘starfish story’ (found here). It tells of a young man who was walking along the beach throwing stranded starfish back into the sea. When challenged that he could not possibly make a difference to all the thousands of starfish washed up on the shore, he picked up another starfish, threw it into the ocean and said, “It made a difference to that one.” We can make a difference to the individual ones, until we find a way to make a difference to the twos, and then the threes, until we can make a difference to the thousands. But never let me be so overwhelmed by the size of the task that I make a difference to no-one.

If there are people actually reading this, watch this space for information about ‘Love India’- a charity we intended to set up when we returned from India in the summer. The busyness of life has put a pause on any developments but after tonight, I have to do something. Even if I just make a difference to one.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

And the walls came tumbling down!

Storytime. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin...

In July, like thousands of other students in Leeds, I moved house. Unlike a lot of those students, I didn't really know most of the people I was moving in with. It soon conspired that there were things going on in the house that I wasn't very happy with and didn't want surrounding by. Simultaneously, some of my friends were looking for a house and they asked me if I would like to join them. It was a surprisingly difficult decision but I decided to go for it; after all, a lot of people don't start looking for a room til September so how hard could it be to fill? You'd be surprised!

It was a few weeks before we found a new house to move into but when we did, wow, was it a great house! Such an amazing provision, beautiful and affordable and just in time- the wildcard from heaven. So for a few weeks I would have two rooms until everything got sorted then I could move across to the wonder-house. About two weeks later somebody came to see the room. He loved the house, my old housemates loved him, and he rang back within 10 minutes asking if he could take the room! What a God-send! Everything was fulfilled as I'd thought. He moved in the following Monday and we were to sign the contract the next day once everything was sorted. But one thing after another, and difficulty in pinning down one housemate to approve the swap, and by Friday the contract still hadn't been signed. But we were all moved so as far as I was concerned, the deal was as good as done.

Not so soon. On Saturday I received a text apologising very nicely, but explaining that this guy had found a room in a mate's house and he'd be moving out that day. I was gutted. Everything seemed God-sent: why would he give me this and then take it away? Why hadn't I insisted the contract be signed that week? What was I going to do now? I'd been through so much stress letting it out the first time, I wasn't sure I could survive that ordeal again. But we prayed, and I came to realise that this wasn't just any old room-filling problem; this was a spiritual battle. There were a number of situations in my family's life and as a family, we needed breakthrough. God had told me he was going to deliver me and I had to believe in Him.

So...I kept advertising the room, and kept praying. A word came through a guy I had never met in my life that God was going to break down the wall in a way that no man could stop and I stood on that word. In December, my family's walls began to fall, one by one. Surely my time was coming! I've been in tight situations before and God has never let me down. The closer it came to the deadline, the more certain I became that my deliverance was on its way.

(Let me explain about the deadline: My housemates are wonderful. When we first moved, they agreed to cover the rent between the three of them until I moved so that I wouldn't be paying for two rooms, on the understanding that I was moving soon. But time went by...and Sarah is moving out at the end of January. I couldn't expect the rent to be split between two. The 14th January had been set as the date when we would have to sit down seriously and talk about it: two weeks to go!)

I was challenged to speak aloud the faith I had. Even though I believed that God could provide, I found myself expressing different sentiments to those around me. But I was determined that 2009 would be different. On Wednesday, 7th January I was talking about the situation with a friend who isn't a Christian, but I committed to say that I believed there wouldn't be an issue come 31st Jan. I may not have said 'I believe God will deliver me' but there was faith behind my words. That night, I received a text from one of my old housemates, the one who had dragged his heels so that the last contract fell through. He had a friend who was in need of a room. There were a couple of issues to iron out but by 5:30 on Wednesday 14th January the deal was done and the contract signed! Couldn't have cut it closer but my God is never early and never late.

There was no other way out: God was my only hope. It had to be a filled room or provision of finance to pay for both. But it's those situations where we really need faith, where it's God or bust, that we see his deliverance. I love this passage from 'The Organic Church' by Niel Cole:

"We must be willing to place ourselves in a position where, if God does not show up we will be seen as complete fools. Most have not been willing to take that risk...We will never witness the sea part if we don't take the path that dead-ends at the beach while the enemy's forces are breathing down our necks...Because we are not in dangerous places, there is no reason for Almighty God to step in and deliver us."

Go on...take a risk!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

New Languages

ಜಸ್ಟ್ ದಿಸ್ಕಾವೆರೆದ್ ಥಟ್ ಕ್ಯಾನ್ ಟೈಪ್ ಇನ್ ಕನ್ನಡ ಸ್ಕ್ರಿಪ್ಟ್! ಹೌ ಎಕ್ಷ್ಕಿತಿನ್ಗ ಇಸ್ ಥಟ್? ಹವೆ ನೋ ಐಡಿಯಾ ಹೌ ಟು ರೆಅದ್ ಇಟ್, ಅಂಡ್ ಇಟ್' ಜಸ್ಟ್ ಫೊನೆಟಿಕ್ ತ್ರನ್ಸ್ಲಿತೆರಶನ್ ಆಫ್ ದಿ ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಷ್ ವರ್ಡ್ಸ್, ಬಟ್ ಸ್ಟಿಲ್ ಮಕೆಸ್ ಮೇ ಹ್ಯಾಪಿ :)

which says...
I just discovered that I can type in Kannada script! How exciting is that? I have no idea how to read it, and it's just a phonetic transliteration of the English words, but still makes me happy :)

This year I am going to learn Kannada, the language spoken in the region of India I have visited twice now. But I can learn the script on here, amazing!