Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Randomness Banana

Another one bites the dust. 2008 is in it's final hours and every piece of media is doing their review of the year. Mostly it'll be Obama or the Olympics ... which is nice.
Tomorrow I'll wrap up 2008 in my own regular style with the annual blogging highlights compilation. It's been a year that's seen much of the blogs randomness going by the wayside, with focus shifting away from quantity onto ... well, an attempt at the other.

But you'll have to wait til tomorrow for the joy of highlights, cos I couldn't let Christmas pass by on the blog without sharing my most chuckleworthy experience of the festive period:

It's Christmas day at church and as is now tradition, the kids are up the front showing off their presents. You know, xbox games and the like.
Then one youngster grabs the mic and says in the cutest voice, 'this is my banana what i got for christmas.'
She held up the banana with great pride. I thought it would light up or make a noise or something.
But no it was just a banana!!

Love it. Have a great night everyone. Let's celebrate randomness.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Joy - The 2 Minute Sermon (City Life Church, Cambridge)

It's 11:58. There's only 2 minutes left in a sunday morning church gathering. Normally someone will be nearing the end of a half hour preach and everyone else is breathing a sigh of relief. But on this occasion the talk hadn't even started!
What should you do?

Erm, probably not this!!!

The funny thing is I'd only been asked to speak for 5 mins before Tim, the church leader's main talk. But now everyone thinks I managed to pack a half hour talk into 2 minutes!!

What a surreal experience.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Cold and A Broken Hallelujah

The xmas song sweeping the nation at the mo is 'Hallelujah.' The song is incredible. The original by Jeff Buckley is incredible. Even the Shrek version stops you in your tracks. But for me - sorry X Factor fans - the new cover is distinctly average.

Nevertheless as I was lying in bed this morning listening to Radio One, I realised for the first time that the lyrics reference King David of Bible fame:
'I heard there was a secret chord that David played and it pleased the lord.'

Hallelujah literally means 'Praise the Lord', and the cool thing is: David wrote the majority of the songs in the Bible, which do just that.
The King goes down in history famed for being 'a man after God's own heart.'


...the 'Hallelujah' song, in the second verse, chooses to focus on an affair David had:
well your faith was strong but you needed proof
you saw her bathing on the roof
her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

By choosing to cover up his actions in an intricate web of lies, the affair ended up with murder!!

HOW? How can an adulterer and a murderer carry the title, 'A man after God's own heart'?!!!
It even took David a long time - and a load of prodding - til he fessed up.

But he did say sorry eventually. And straight away David hears the words, 'The LORD has taken away your sin.'

AMAZING. Forgiveness is amazing! Forgiveness happens instantly.

We often think that forgiveness simply became part of God's plans when Jesus rocked up. Yet David received a totally fresh start, living centuries before Christ. Forgiveness has always been who God is. Love has always desired to forgive.

In response David penned these moving and groundbreaking lyrics, connecting deeply with the character of God:

‘Take away my sin, and I will be clean.
Wash me and I will be whiter than snow.
…Create in me a pure heart, God.
…Give me back the joy of your salvation
…God save me from the guilt of murder
…You don’t want burnt offerings.
The sacrifice God wants is a broken spirit.
God you will not reject a heart that is broken and sorry for sin.'

(Psalm 51:7-17)

As Jeff Buckley sang,
'love is not a victory march
it's a cold and it's a broken hallelujah.'

Friday, December 12, 2008

Varsity Rugby U21s Celebrations

Twickenham was the venue for the 127th Varsity rugby match. It was a great day; I mean, simply visiting a huge stadium is usually enough to get me excited. But there was also so much more in store.
It all started with the U21s match that saw Cambridge convincingly beat their archrivals. Somehow I found myself positioned right next to the trophy presentation in prime place to capture the above video. Check out just how much the victory meant!
But the greatest personal highlight was seeing a pal from Homerton not only playing at such an impressive venue, but also scoring a brilliant solo effot!

Then it was time for the big one. An exciting game ended up being the highest scoring match in Varsity history. With a Cambridge player sin-binned, Oxford opened up an almost unassailable lead of 33-15. Relentless second half pressure cut the defecit, but Oxford just held on to take the title 33-29.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Love is...

Love is ... handing your heart to someone and taking the risk that they will hand it back.
Love is ... giving away power. When we love, we give the other person power. They can do what they like with our love. We expose ourselves, we allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
Love is ... giving up control. If we are serious about loving someone we have to surrender all of our desires to manipulate the relationship.
(Rob Bell)

God is love.
And Love desires relationship. He wants to ask you out on a first date.
But God cannot force you to say yes. He will not manipulate relationship.

In Jesus, Love 'made himself nothing'. He became vulnerable. He made the first move. It was an extremely daring way to ask you out. Exposed, with his heart on the line he took the risk of rejection.
And rejection hurt.
But occassionally a freely chosen 'yes' accepts the greatest proposal.
And joy explodes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kenya Review

For 12 days in October 2008 a team of 11 from West Sussex stayed in the remote village of Chemakeu in West Pokot, Kenya. Here's my review:

My personal role on the team was teaching in two schools. This was my first experience of teaching in a classroom and I really enjoyed it. The children sit in the mud-walled classrooms (or under a tree!) wanting to learn, waiting patiently for a teacher to come to them. I mostly taught Maths, along with some lessons in Science, R.E. and (bizarrely!) Kenyan Agriculture. The latter highlights the way we needed to adapt very quickly to teaching any subject presented to us in the textbook. One memorable experience involves being handed an R.E. text book whilst walking to the classroom. It was open on the page explaining the death of Jesus, giving me the opportunity to explain the depth of God’s love and portray the Gospel message using a simple illustration.

The top priority of the teaching team was to encourage and develop the Kenyan teachers working in the schools, to leave a lasting long-term benefit from our visit. Though we took many resources, unless the Kenyan teachers understand how to use the teaching aids they will simply sit gathering dust. We also tried to demonstrate a more interactive style of teaching, with an emphasis on checking a child’s understanding rather than simply desiring a child to repeat the right answer.

While progress in these ambitions was made, it proved to be a much more challenging prospect than we first anticipated. Other more elementary needs came to the fore, such as encouraging teachers to actually leave the staff room when it was time for lessons! This highlighted for me the need to understand an area before deciding how you can best help. One moment which hammered this home came when enquiring about the location of the parachutes taken by last year’s team. After an initial coy response we later discovered that the parachute was being used in the teacher’s living area as a roof. The parachute had been intended to introduce fun into lessons but instead was being used as a shelter – a much more fundamentally important purpose! The image of the parachute offering shade acts as a classic reminder of the difference between what we thought was needed and what was actually needed.

Living in extremely basic conditions has indeed helped me appreciate my comparative luxury in England. 12 days in Chemakeu was long enough to begin to appreciate the difficulty of everyday life in the area. The ease at which I picked up an illness - or the thought of not having any more relatively clean water to drink unless it rains tonight - emphasised this for me. Rain water collection tanks in Chemakeu have been a major feature of our efforts so far, but the second school we worked at (a 2 hour walk from Chemakeu) currently has no such facilities. Watching a young child digging a hole in a dry river bed to reach the water table and scooping out muddy water to drink, served as the most emotionally moving moment of the trip for me. To then hear a Pokot Pastor describe the situation as a blessing from God further shocked.

The strongest lasting impression from the visit will be being moved by the abundance of faith in the area. The area may lack access to clean water; the crops may have failed; the majority won’t know what electricity is; a few years of a sketchy Primary education will be the limit of most aspirations; and yet these people know how to be joyful! They are full of so much of God’s Spirit. Christianity is currently thriving in West Pokot, breaking down many of the negative aspects of the area’s traditional tribal culture. On the final Sunday of our trip the Pastors on our team baptised 62 people in the river! What a tremendous privilege to witness!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Upper Beeding, England @ Pokot, Kenya

Hi everyone. It's good to be back! Here's a very simple compilation of my video highlights from my recent trip to Kenya. Written review coming soon.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kenya Here I Come

For the first time in my life I am about to leave Europe. I'm going to go and hang out with these guys in their school in Kenya. They look like pretty fun people to be around.

If you're the praying type could you ask the big man that I'd soak up so much from these smiling faces and be able to help/teach to the best of my ability. Thank you and see you in 3 weeks!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Release the Life

Wow - I'd almost forgotten how great DNA is!

For those of you wondering what I'm talking about, DNA is the gap year programme I threw myself into before Uni. This year - after Uni - I'm basing my activities within the same organisation once again.

The name DNA doesn't stand for anything. It's an illustrative name, with the catchphrase 'Release the life.' As this suggests, the course is specifically designed to emphasise character development, helping individuals grow in confidence by embracing their unique qualities and identity.

I've just returned from the first residential of the year, supporting the next bunch of DNA trainees. It was a tremendous privilege to befriend people going through the same challenging experiences that I experienced four years ago. It really is incredible moving to see men and women finding greater freedom and joy, boldness and sensitivity, in who they are.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh, rubbish!

An alternative working title for this blog post could be, 'The new adventures of the house tenant with responsibilities.'

Let me take you back to last Wednesday morning. I'm lying in bed with the early morning radio for company. An irritating rumbling noise starts up outside.
I roll over, burying the face further into the pillow.

Then the realisation.
Oh, rubbish!
That's the binmen and I haven't put the bins out!!
Roll over.
Can't I just ignore it this week?
No, the bins are overflowing already.
Shove the body out of bed. Slip on some jeans and the nearest hoodie. Open the front door.
Oh, rubbish!
I've missed it. The lorry is heading in the wrong direction.

But hang on. Maybe I can catch the men up.

So I take the plunge. Lugging the bin behind me, an awkward shuffle down the road begins.
On reaching the destination, the binmen can't resist a quick quip:

'Hey, nice slippers mate.'

Not my best ever start to a Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Silver Wedding

Today is my parent's silver wedding anniversary. Congratulations!

Flicking through the old wedding photos was a bizarre experience. 25 years ago today was an significant moment in my life yet, I have no memory of it. I mean, I don't think I was even invited.


Well done Mum and Dad. Enjoy the day.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Jesus The Drunkard

Wooah, hold up. Before you start throwing stones, read this direct quote from one of the major biographies of Jesus:

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners".

Jesus was accused of being a drunkard. And it wasn't just because some people couldn't understand his controversial teachings. It was because he 'came eating and drinking.'

We don't know whether Jesus ever really was drunk, but we do know he had no aversion to turning water into wine. And we're not talking one glass!

Jesus is at a wedding party where everyone has already had too much to drink, having finished off every last drop. Jesus decides that this is the appropriate moment to fill six jars full to the brim with the finest wine. Get this: each jar held atleast 20 gallons!

No wonder Jesus is accused of being a drunkard. No wonder the religious authorities couldn't stand him.

It's easy to just think about Jesus as a man who had the audacity to claim to be the most important individual of all time. Indeed, there's no denying he's had more effect on the world than anyone else.

But within the revolutionary world visions, Jesus was also a man who loved to make the most of ordinary everyday moments; he loved socialising with anyone and everyone; this was a man who knew how to party!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Summer Blast 2008: RockStar

Don't ask why. Just enjoy.


Friday, August 08, 2008

Summer Blasting - Would You Like Fries With That?

The Meal Deal. The Complete Package.

For me, that's what stands out from this years Summer Blast. By combining with other churches we had a wider spread of qualities. In particular (allow me to exaggerate and indulge in some cringe-worthy Hollywood-ised language) the natural and supernatural came together. It was like Batman and Superman joining forces. 'The Dark Knight', by the way: excellent film. But you know that already.

I digress.

Let me explain with two personal stories from the week:

One afternoon I got the opportunity to give out free tea and coffee to shoppers, simply with the intention of helping people out. At 3 in the afternoon, we got chatting to a very jolly guy, and by jolly I mean drunk. Through his slurred words, we made out that the guy was asking us for a lift home. So in a rather strange scenario, we agreed to head towards the car.
Simple. Nothing earth-shattering. But the guy appreciated it.

That evening I sat listening to some Christians do their singing thing, and got chatting to a young chap in a Liverpool shirt. We talked tactics. We talked signings. We talked Robbie Fowler. I loved it. Eventually I thought I'd better ask what this trendy teenager was doing sitting in an old church building?
The response astounded me. 'In the park on Monday I met some of your Summer Blast friends. My mates dared me to get prayed for, cos I was on crutches having injured my ankle and could be out of footy for a long time. As you can see, now I no longer need the crutches. So I thought tonight I'd better come and see what the fuss was about.'

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Summer Blasting - Smiling it up

Each weekday afternoon, the Summer Blast team rocked up with their array of holiday activities. The 5-11s were kept entertained with visits from the Man of Steel and Aliens with waterguns, football goals went up for older lads, and while all this was happening, parents could kick back in the cafe. They must have loved it!

A massive challenge in previous years of Summer Blast has been behaviour. This year I was astounded, encouraged and grateful for a vast improvement in the general behaviour of young people.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Summer Blasting - Spread Your Love Like a Fever

For the past week I've been part of the Summer Blast project in North Cambridge, linking in with the national Hope Revolution initiative.
This was the third year I've been involved and 2008 goes down as my favourite experience, partly because we're seeing the benefits of investing into the same area year upon year. Over the next few days I'm going to blog on varying highlights from a super week, where much love was spread.

Here's highlight number one: Clearing out a heavily overgrown garden for a single mum and her young children.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Memoirs of Baptiso

I still go on Facebook every day, eager to receive a wall post or a tagging, but it's rare that anything ultra exciting happens on there any more. Ok, so there's currently a new look to explore. But what else? One notification that made me smile this week, was news of a friend at home being baptised.

The event invite reminds me of when I went through a similar experience exactly five years ago. Getting baptised meant a lot back then, at the age of 17. I don't remember it being a super-spiritual moment. But I do remember a shy teenager plucking up the courage to publicly declare that I wanted to put God as the number one priority in my life. The event stands as a marker in the ground, symbolising a journey of experiences and thought-processes, that led me to conclude there really is a Creator who cares for me intimately.

Five years on, the journey continues. The searching continues. Maybe now I actually have more questions than I did five years ago. But that's a good thing. Cos the one thing that really matters, I am even more convinced of: my Rescuer really does care for me intimately.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cutting Edge

On July 6th Delirious?, one of my favourite bands, announced that the end is in sight. After 17 years, 2009 will mark the final chapter in a remarkable story. The rock band, who once peaked at 16 in the UK singles chart, will be best remembered for radically changing the thing they were most passionate about:

For those of us who no longer see churches as boring and lifeless places, we owe Delirious? a lot.

To commemorate I've trawled over some early Delirious? lyrics to find out what really challenged, shook and fired up the 90s generation. As I put together this compilation I discovered that honesty lit the touchpaper; brutal no holds barred honesty; vulnerable willingness to say yes through the questions; to not settle for anything less than the real thing.

Can I be free from the chains of my religion?
They wrap around my head and they blind my eye of faith
And I feel dangerous cos I hunger for the truth
The tightropes swinging high
No turning back
Teach me to fly
All I want is You.

We have wearied you Lord with our words
Our promises we've broken
Oh Lord forgive me
You are breaking the pride in our hearts
Lead me into your arms
I will be safe in the shadow of your wing.

We didn't count on suffering
We didn't count on pain
But if the blessings in the valley
Then in the river I will wait.

I'm not ashamed any more
Cos I've felt the oil pour down over me
And there's a fire that's burning stronger now.

Is there hope enough these days to forgive someone like me?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Congratulations Abi and Mark

It will probably be a once in a life time experience - going to a wedding in the world famous, King's Chapel, Cambridge. I particularly smiled as the best of Tim Hughes guitar tunes filled the impressive, traditional environment. Congratulations Abi and Mark. Thanks for a thoroughly enjoyable day.

The middle aged often joke about how weddings are the only time friends catch up with each other. And that's already coming true for me. In these photos there's a few uni friends that graduated a year ago, all of whom, during my first couple of years, went out of their way to encourage me and pass on their experience. So it was a privilege hanging with you all once again. Thanks for the laughter.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Call Me Stupid or Something

I must have heard it quoted over a thousand times. Phrases such as, 'most famous' or 'most meaningful' are usually uttered before its use. The codeword '3:16' is enough to get most Jesus fans on the same wavelength.

'For God so loved the world...' It's a fundamental belief: God=Love. If there was an introductory handbook to Christianity this would be on page one.

But when you hear something so many times it's easy to not actually think about its meaning. If you don't inspect something yourself you'll never really grasp why everyone else raves about it. Call me stupid or something, but I've only just found out, 'For God so loved the world...' is a direct quote from Jesus!

'...That he gave his only son.' So - would you believe it - Jesus is actually talking about himself. Suddenly the infamous verse takes on a new twist. Call me stupid or something, but I'd always assumed the line was simply a narrative explanation from the biography author, John.

Through a simple piece of self-exploration one of my fundamental beliefs can be looked at from a revitilized new angle; it has new life.

I'm learning that you should never assume you've got it sussed. Even 'page one' of your worldview may need rewriting. Never stop exploring. Open yourself up to fresh perspectives. Never stop asking questions.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wildlife on Blog

In efforts to earn money recently I've been up to a fair bit of gardening. Chop, chop, dig, chop has been my soundtrack. Until chirp, chirp. Tucked away in a thorny hedge there was a nest holding a pair of tiny chicks. Awww.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Summer Sandy Beach Banter

Pics here from some laughter-filled summer fun with Uni pals Andrew and Heather.

I've never seen a beach this sandy on the south coast before!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

You Are My Joy

Last month me and the Cambridge crew joined nearly 3000 students from all round the UK, to bundle into the Hammersmith Apollo and sing our hearts out. The event was part of a world tour that is still to visit Manila, Kuala Lumpar, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Mexico City, Vancouver, Seoul, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Sydney. Now that's what I call a WORLD tour!

The David Crowder band headlined superbly. They're definitely worth checking out itunes if you get a mo. Here's a taster video for you, filmed by someone in the thick of the action at the Dallas leg of the world tour. This song - 'You are my joy,' - never fails to flood me with excitement bursting out from the pit of the stomach. Oh yes, get in!

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Wedding of Beth and Will

The heart of exam season saw the wedding of my gap year partner in crime, Beth. 'Impressive' doesn't do it justice, particularly the venue, opera singers (and food).

It was a pleasure to meet the groom Will for the first time, and it wasn't long before we were exchanging notes on amusing Beth comments. They're a good match I reckon!

Another highlight was catching up with some of the Herne Bay crew and a massive thanks goes to DNA buddy Paul for letting me hitch a lift. I couldn't have done it without you pal and I'm sure you'll agree, the hours of traffic jams were more than worth it. Thanks also for sharing my excitment of discovering the groom's family have their own wikipedia page!

Back in facebook world, here's a video of Beth's first dance, courtesy of Don and Mary Warne.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Revolutionary Coldplay?

After three weeks of release, and numerous back to back listens, it's finally time for my Coldplay review. Straight off - I'm a big fan.

A couple of observations though. Before release early indications pointed towards something completely new. The artwork drilled home the theme of revolution. The first single had a gritty rocky edge to it. Would this be the album to win over the Coldplay doubters?

In the end though we've got something similar to the beauty of 'Parachutes' - the original Coldplay we fell in love with. The Coldplay purists will love it. But other than a variety of skilful instrumental sections, there's nothing revolutionary about it.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Graduation - The Slightly More Emotive Review

Graduation was a special occasion. It goes without saying that being surrounded by proud and excited family and friends stands out. But the most bizarre aspect was the reaction of complete strangers/tourists. When posing for photos you'd suddenly find ten cameras pointing in your direction! And the absolute highlight of the day was parading through the streets to applauding crowds. It felt like the red carpet at a film premiere.

A truly memorable occasion ... worth remembering for one simple reason - you'll probably never see me looking this smart ever again!