Thursday, September 27, 2012

The nature of love...

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails...
1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I cried.

I really should stop blogging and get on with some work. But this made me laugh more than I have for ages. But you probably had to be there...

The other night, when bedtime was approaching, I was a little peckish. Since my wife was in the kitchen I called to her, "Can you bring me something to eat please?"
"What would you like?" she replied.
"Some chocolate."
"We haven't got any."
"Yes we have, that bar of really horrible stuff that someone gave us ages ago."
"Where is it?" she asked.
"Down the bottom of the cupboard – it's that gross swirly orange chocolate."

There was some rummaging and a pause...

"OOOOOOOOIIIIII, that's the chocolate that ME and the GIRLS bought you when we came back from holiday!!!"

I laughed so much I cried. I couldn't stop. After about 30 seconds of my hysterical sobbing my wife came in with the chocolate and offered me a tissue as well. And the chocolate wasn't soooo bad after all :)

Richard Bach on friends, soul mates, love and lies.

This American writer appears to have a slightly odd philosophy on life  – that 'our apparent physical limits and mortality are merely appearance' (if wikipedia is to be believed). Hmm, so it only 'appears that people die'? Perhaps, I'm taking him out of context. Anyway, whatever else he is, he does have a way with words and I wanted to squirrel these here for later pickings – could be useful sermon fodder. I don't really agree with him in a lot of what he says – but there's some nice sentiment. Cool – consider them squirrelled.

“Don't be dismayed at goodbyes, a farewell is necessary before you can meet again and meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.”

“A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life.”

“If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were.”

“The worst lies are the lies we tell ourselves. We live in denial of what we do, even what we think. We do this because we're afraid. We fear we will not find love, and when we find it we fear we'll lose it. We fear that if we do not have love we will be unhappy.”

Do we need the bitter to appreciate the sweet?

What if life was always good? A life where everything always turned out well? What kind of people would we be if we lacked nothing, knew no frustration, difficulties or heartbreak? One would hope the answer would be 'contented, happy and fulfilled people'. But would we be?

We are amazing creatures. Our capacity to adapt is phenomenal. Not that adapting to new situations and circumstances is enjoyable – for the most part change fills us with fear and can be very traumatic. But if we're to survive we have to adapt, and so we do. Surprisingly quickly our new situation can become the norm – for better or worse. So where there is an injury, the whole body compensates. Where there is a change of income, the standard of living falls or rises. Of course some changes take weeks, months or even years to accept. Perhaps the loss of someone precious to us is one such example. But change and adapt we do.

If we happen to enjoy good health then when illness breaks that norm, we long to return to it, and for a short while appreciate our good health. When sleeping in an usual and uncomfortable bed, we long for and appreciate the comforts of home. When friends reject us or let us down we find a new appreciation for those who stay with us. It occurs to me that this runs like a thread throughout everything. When our employment, family, security, health, friendships, love or happiness is threatened we have that deep desire to see things return to the norm, to how things were, because suddenly we realise how good it was.

This of course is not just negative. Positively, where there is pain, it's removal brings relief and appreciation of our wellbeing. Where there is hunger, food never tastes so good. Where there is a broken relationship, reconciliation brings great joy. But without the negative can we really comprehend the positive? The negatives make us crave the positives, just as pain makes us desire its relief. And perhaps all these things are meant to drive us to the one who never fails, and in whom we are most fulfilled, God.

And so it is, that although no one likes to imagine themselves as ungrateful and no one desires trials or heartache... it is just possible that without the bitter things in life we might be unaware that perhaps we have adapted and accepted to a second-best norm. Pain, bitterness or heartache make us aware that things are not right, and may provide the impetus and desire to seek after that which is sweet. I don't think pain gives us meaning. That just seems perverse. But I think pain and problems can bring our focus to bear on the things that do have meaning, which we might not otherwise appreciate, and so cause us to treasure when we have them.

Count your blessings.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Am so excited...

... about Ruth! Am preaching it tonight. It's got all the ingredients of a modern day Romantic Comedy: tragedy, tears, the 'coincidental' meeting, courtship, potential heart-wrenching disaster and finally a happy ending! And as if that's not all – it's all built into God's great plan to illustrate and actually lead up to the greatest act of love ever – God giving his son, Jesus, so that we could know and love God and thus find contentment, happiness and enjoy a happy ending. And I get to preach it tonight – although it's not going to really be preaching, more a dramatic (I hope) retelling of the story. Very excited.

Thursday, September 20, 2012


Apparently my taste in music knows no depths to how low it will stoop when it comes to unsophisticated musical cheese. I found myself buying Chris De Burgh's Ultimate Collection, Notes from planet earth. I knoooow!!! But what can I say? I'm a total romantic at heart and love the heart-aching, eye-filling (some might say eye-watering) songs-with-a-story that he sings. Can you beat the classic, Missing you? Now there's a song that gets stuck in your head. I love it – Fatal hesitation, Sailing away, Tender Hand... and of course the all time classic – Lady in red. Brilliant main stream heart breaking cheesy pop at its best. So I confess, it may be the musical equivalent of fast food or chocolate, but it hits the spot. And like chocolate, I just can't get enough. So rock on De Burgh. Awesomeness.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Only 26 days to go...

In the days of modern transport there are many options available to enable us to comfortably cover eight miles: car, motorbike, train, bus, bicycle... and of course, foot – although the latter two are arguably not that comfortable. So why then I have I found myself signed up, along with five friends to RUN eight miles?

Team High Hopes
We are doing in it to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, who 'deal with all aspects of Cystic Fibrosis'. Our motivation comes from the death of our friend, Claire Salter, who passed away a number of months ago. She was a very special person: genuine, caring, ambitious and kind. Although her life was a constant battle with CF, she was a constant inspiration – and she had a great sense of humour and lived a very full life. She was only a few weeks younger than me and I knew her all my life and so it seemed appropriate to do something to celebrate and remember her; something that would help others – after all, that's what she loved to do.

In the light of life and death, running eight miles seems small. But personally speaking, I've never run that far, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. And to be able to head into that challenge shoulder to shoulder with friends in the memory of another friend – that's awesome. If you want to help support the cause and sponsor us, please visit our team's sponsorship page. Our team is called 'High Hopes', for that is what we have. Bring it on!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Tales from WEST: the good, the bad and the awkward.

So having just survived what will hopefully be my last Welcome Week at West, I'm back in my study with a few things to say. I'll not mention the Dodgy Doughnut, the slack McDonald's staff or the I-want-to-beat-you-to-a-pulp Welsh men – that's on Facebook. But I will mention the good, the bad and the awkward...

The Good
Chuffed cause I got there in one piece – albeit much later than planned. Managed to sign up to all my subjects and got reacquainted with my fellow students. Also had a blinding curry with a good mate – good to catch up :)

But perhaps the 'goodest' thing was that they had threatened me with having to share a room... with a complete stranger. That's not the good thing. I mean what's the etiquette for changing??? Who decides when then lights go out? What if they're really annoying? Or snore? I was in some distress as I travelled up – thankfully it all proved unnecessary – I had my OWN room, all to myself. So that was good. But what about the bad...

The Bad
Within about a day of being there, I managed to break three rules. Firstly, due to electrical problems in the kitchen I couldn't make my morning tea. So I moved the kettle into my room (my own personal private not sharing room). Apparently that is against the rules. Hello!?!? The second rule I broke was due to a lack of librarian and my library account expiring, I was forced to steal a couple of books. Getting them out was the easy part... it was returning them that was rather more tricky. Hmmm. But not really life-chaning rules to break. But what about the third rule? Well, you see I... don't think I'd better put that one into the public domain... sorry. But let's move onto the the awkward...

The Awkward 
As it happens there was a rather large contingent of students from Korea over for a short while to learn a bit of English etc. They were mostly female and this meant that the normally male dominated residence was suddenly full of femininity. Not a problem. However, what I forgot to put in the bad, was that I had a cold and had not been sleeping very well. So, dragging my body out of bed, still half asleep, as any self-respecting Englishman would do, I stumbled out into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. I had hoped that the kitchen would be empty. It wasn't. With a tea bag in one hand and some milk in the other, I blundered through the door only to be met by two slightly shocked young Korean ladies. As time stood still for a brief moment, I became aware of a gentle breeze on my chest and it occurred to me that I might be baring a little more than I should. Needless to say there was some rapid redistributing of one's dressing gown. Trying to act as if nothing was amiss (my mouth gaping as wide as my gown) I tried to rescue the situation. Alas, having not spoken yet and hindered by illness, my cheery 'hello' growled out a couple of octaves lower than usual, disappeared half-way through and so sounded like 'hurrrrrrgh.' It did little to ease the situation.

There's a saying, that 'a watched kettle never boils'. Well, it did, but it took ages. Trying to break the embarrassed silence, I asked them about their special Korean evening that they had put on the night before. With broken English, they said it had gone well and asked if I had been there. Another moment of awkwardness – no, I had arranged to go out with a friend as I didn't know it was happening until too late. Woeful as this conversation was, it did mean they had to turn and face me again. Hmmm, let's go back to the pretending I'm not really here bit. Thankfully the kettle boiled and I made the fastest cup of tea in the history of tea making.

Time for a shower. In the aforementioned dressing gown, I dashed into the shower – sorted out the mess that was me and got out. Towel. Where's my towel? Oh, in MY own private single room. Down the hallway. Past the kitchen. Oh. So, soaking wet, and naked apart from my faithful dressing gown I poked my head out of the door and eyed the distance to my room. There was nothing to do except make a run for it. So wash bag in one hand and phone in the other (why did I think I would need my phone in the shower? "Hello! Sorry, can't talk now, I'm in the shower! ... No, can I ring you back? My phones getting wet..." fwzzzzfszzzzz) I ran, with my bathrobe tailing behind me... and guess what!?!? I made it! Back into the safety of MY room. No strangers, no Korean students, but thankfully one white dry towel.

I could go on, but I'm sure you don't want to hear about my sheep poo encounter and my return to THAT McDonalds and it's lack of soap in my hour of need. So there we go – the good, the bad and the awkward of (hopefully) my last Welcome Week at West. But there's always exam time to come...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Friendship... one day.

Last night my wife and I settled down to watch the film One Day. It's a tragic film based on a book with the same title, by David Nicholls and to my mind it presented two interesting ideas.

Firstly, the film is based around the friendship of Dexter and Emma. The are at University together, and whilst they nearly become lovers, they end up as close friends who aim to meet up on the same day every year (15 July). Their lives take them in different directions, but they always share an unbreakable bond of friendship that both enjoy and need. Throughout the twenty years the film covers, feelings inevitably fluctuate between friendship and love. What I found interesting was that no matter what they went through and who they were with, their friendship remained, sometimes strained, but it was there – an emotional link invisibly joining them together. Our friends can be like that. Sometimes we lose touch. Sometimes we don't speak for months, even years. But when reunited, if the friendship is based on a deep understanding of the hearts then it can be picked up and still work. I am thankful that I have a good number of friends like that.

The second thing that struck me was the tragedy. And here I do slightly, no, totally ruin the plot. After, many years of being 'just friends' their other relationships fall apart and they acknowledge and give into their mutual affection for each other. Life is good, but not always easy. Then through an accident one of them dies. All that time spent apart, now seems like such a waste, but there is no going back or rewind function. The unavoidable and horrible truth is that they are parted for ever.

It made me think that although good friendships can endure a lot, perhaps we shouldn't allow them to lay dormant for so long... because no one knows how long they or their loved ones have got. Depressing? Morose? Indeed, and that's the taste that the film left in my mouth. But afterall, it was only a story. As for our friends and family... that's real. Real people, real emotions, real friendships, real heartbreak, real joy. Perhaps it's time I picked up the phone or sent an email at least... because how will our friends know that we're thinking of them if we never make the time to tell them? Hmmm.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What is it with hairy armpits?

It's funny what keeps us awake at night. There I was, exhausted from a day's worth of work and woes, innocently laying my head to rest on my pillow, when a troubling thought presented itself to me. Hair. Now, I can understand the function of most areas of hair – on the arms, legs and head it acts as an early warning system for any contact and also helps preserve heat. But what about the armpits? What's the point?

In that strange place between sleep and consciousness my mind was troubled. It just seemed to serve no logical purpose (armpit hair, not my mind). And furthermore, how come in some cultures it's okay for women to sport full follicles, but in others, it's not. And let's face it, if most women in places like the US and the UK manage without it, how necessary is it?

I for one am not a fan of armpit hair. I tolerate my own, but if my wife was to abandon her usual shaving habits and decide to grow a small crop then I would find that most unfortunate. But this must be down to my cultural outlook rather than anything intrinsically wrong with under arm rugs. But for some reason our cultural seems to require women (and some men) to shave every area of their bodies... except of course the lucky hair that grows on the head. A good head of hair is something is prized – in fact whilst half the nation is intent on shaving, removing or plucking all bodily hair, the other half laments the thinning that occurs on the head. To have a full head of hair and to be hairless everywhere else is of such importance that men and women are willing to pay great sums of money to try and either cultivate or remove hair, depending on its whereabouts.

Anyway, the answer seems to be twofold. Firstly, it acts as a kind of lubricant to reduce friction. Secondly, and slightly strangely, it is to aid us in attracting members of the opposite sex. Apparently, it captures the nutrient-rich sweat and the resulting scent conveys a lot of information about the one who produced it.

So there we have it. I can sleep again, safe in the knowledge that armpit hair (and certain other areas), although not essential, does indeed have a function. But don't get me started on nasal and ear hair. I mean why when you hit a certain age does your body decide now is the appropriate time to start redirecting its precious hair growing resources from your scalp to other areas? Looks like another sleepless night coming my way...

Monday, September 3, 2012

I'm not a robot.

I wonder what was going through Marina's mind when she wrote this song? Whatever it was, this song has been going round and round my mind all day...

You've been acting awful tough lately
Smoking a lot of cigarettes lately
But inside, you're just a little baby
It's okay to say you've got a weak spot
You don't always have to be on top
Better to be hated than love, love, loved for what you're not

You're vulnerable, you're vulnerable
You are not a robot
You're loveable, so loveable
But you're just troubled

Guess what? I'm not a robot, a robot
Guess what? I'm not a robot, a robot

You've been hanging with the unloved kids
Who you never really liked and you never trusted
But you are so magnetic, you pick up all the pins
Never committing to anything
You don't pick up the phone when it ring, ring, rings
Don't be so pathetic, just open up and sing

I'm vulnerable, I'm vulnerable
I am not a robot
You're loveable, so loveable
But you're just troubled

Guess what? I'm not a robot, a robot
Guess what? I'm not a robot, a robot

Can you teach me how to feel real?
Can you turn my power on?
Well, let the drum beat drop

Guess what? I'm not a robot
Guess what? I'm not a robot

Guess what? I'm not a robot, a robot