Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Two more days to pack up all my stuff (too much), write some last letters, say goodbye. I don’t even know where to begin...
Yesterday I ordered library books and sorted out plans with Zoe and Anna for the weekend I get back and it makes me more excited than I can say (also the Stanley Cup final, if it gets that far, is the evening I get back...what a welcome home, eh?). It was odd, suddenly one day a week ago it was like BANG I'm ready and can't wait to get home now. But still it’s a guarded enthusiasm because I know I’m going to miss this place like crazy once I’m actually gone. I’m writing this during my last time on duty in the studio and it feels like just another lecture, just another day. Just another coffee break and rainstorm.
Last night instead of lectures we had a ‘student sharing time’ and then worship. It was fantastic—and I finally began to realise that this is all ending. Last night there was such a feeling of community, such a bond between everyone. The only thing we all have in common is loving Jesus (and now spending nine months together) and that is enough, more than enough.
One of the German girls talked about how if it was the people who changed you here, you’ll go back to the way you were when they’re gone, and if it was the place that changed you everything will be the same when you’re back home, but if God changed you, He will continue to work in you wherever you are. I needed to hear that. He is the same God at home as He is here. The same Spirit is at work in my mundane town as in places that seem beautiful and exotic. Here in this castle hidden away in the hills, our hands are clean and our lives are simple, but that’s not what we were made for.
When I remember Capernwray I will think of custard and fish pie, climbing out the fire escape after lockup, talent shows, dances, discussing the drama in my friends’ lives, inside jokes, screaming over Doctor Who, and exploring everything from Borwick to Malta. But I will also think of impromptu worship/jam sessions, long deep conversations, vulnerability, baptisms in the pool, going for walks with only Jesus, being able to spontaneously pray for anything and with anyone. There is so much...so much.
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
It’s midnight or so so this entry will consist of scattered and incoherent snippets. This is stating the obvious but just so you know.
Today I went on a walk with my favourite Ashley. It was meant to just be around the Loop which is like half an hour, but it turned into a two and a half hour trek. We braved herds of cattle, mammoth hills, and winds so strong you could lean back and not fall. And discovered mole corpses hung on a fence and a house guarded by stone dragons and other such exciting things.
England is gorgeous. I forget this a lot and then every so often I will walk outside and BAM. Beauty everywhere.
For the next few days we have a speaker named Ridge Burns who is hilarious and out-of-the-box and very very American. He started by breaking us into small groups for discussion and moving the desks out of rows and into random places around the room and then he distributed notes by tossing them off the stage and letting them fall around the room and I thought, I like this guy. So far all we’ve done is a spiritual gifts test (not strictly Spiritual Gifts Called Spiritual Gifts in Scripture, more God-given Gifts That Can Be Spiritual) and I got highest on missions. HAHA. Irony. Who knew. Though he defined it as using whatever other gifts you have, for God’s glory, in a different culture, so not always evangelism specifically, and that fits pretty well, I think... Got just about zero on tongues and leadership and organisation. Surprise!
I made a list of things I am looking forward to about home, because it is 23 days until Capernwray is over and 28 days until I am back in the True North Strong And Free and I am not really looking forward to leaving at the moment. Such as:
-My mum’s cooking... Perogies, waffles with strawberries and chocolate sauce, homemade pizza, curry (proper curry not omnipresent and ersatz Capernwray curry), baked goods of various kinds, meat that I can eat without being reminded of all the terrifying and grim facts that I learned while working at P&G Sausage last year...
-Seeing you people. Obviously. This would be right at the top of the list except that I am justmaybekindof STARVING at the moment. Not like you guessed that, or anything...
-Playing piano without bothering about anyone listening
-Attempting to teach myself guitar
-Being around people who are older and younger than me
-That graduationy ceremony danceish thing that the ingenious Madame Zoe is planning
-Being allowed to use British words (by accident, of course) without sounding like a complete poseur
-Not parting with £1.50 every time I wish to wear clean clothes
-Going to the beach
-Forcing my family to watch/listen to some of the movies and music I’ve discovered since being here (prepare yourselves, guys)
-The TWU choir
-Proper mountains, not these occasional lumps of uneven earth that are known as “mountains” around here
-Having more confidence because of what I’ve seen and experienced here
-Having a chance to put what I’ve learned into practise
Um. Yes. I’ll shut up now. Peace out. Cheers. Farewell.
Friday, May 6, 2011
...To God or to the world?'
Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me.
As long as I keep running about asking: 'Do you love me? Do you really love me?' I give all power to the voices of the world and put myself in bondage because the world is filled with 'ifs.' The world says: 'Yes, I love you if you are good-looking, intelligent, and wealthy. I love you if you have a good education, a good job, and good connections. I love you if you produce much, sell much, and buy much.' There are endless 'ifs' hidden in the world's love. These 'ifs' enslave me, since it is impossible to respond adequately to all of them. The world's love is and always will be conditional. As long as I keep looking for my true self in the world of conditional love, I will remain 'hooked' to the world ' trying, failing, and trying again. It is a world that fosters addictions because what it offers cannot satisfy the deepest craving of my heart. '
I am the prodigal son every time I search for unconditional love where it cannot be found. Why do I keep ignoring the place of true love and persist in looking for it elsewhere? Why do I keep leaving home where I am called a child of God, the Beloved of my Father? I am constantly surprised at how I keep taking the gifts God has given me ' my health, my intellectual and emotional gifts ' and keep using them to impress people, receive affirmation and praise, and compete for rewards, instead of developing them for the glory of God. Yes, I often carry them off to a 'distant country' and put them in the service of an exploiting world that does not know their true value.
It's almost as if I want to prove to myself and to my world that I do not need God's love, that I can make a life on my own, that I want to be fully independent. Beneath it all is the great rebellion, the radical 'No' to the Father's love, the unspoken curse: “I wish you were dead.” The prodigal son's 'No' reflects Adam's original rebellion: his rejection of the God in whose love we are created and by whose love we are sustained. It is the rebellion that places me outside the garden, out of reach of the tree of life. It is the rebellion that makes me dissipate myself in a 'distant country.' '
The great event I see [in the return of the prodigal son] is the end of the great rebellion. The rebellion of Adam and all his descendants is forgiven, and the original blessing by which Adam received everlasting life is restored. It seems to me now that these hands have always been stretched out ' even when there were no shoulders upon which to rest them. God has never pulled back his arms, never withheld his blessing, never stopped considering his son the Beloved One. But the Father couldn't compel his son to stay home. He couldn't force his love on the Beloved. He had to let him go in freedom, even though he knew the pain it would cause both his son and himself. It was love itself that prevented him from keeping his son home at all cost. It was love itself that allowed him to let his son find his own life, even with the risk of losing it.
Here the mystery of my life is unveiled. I am loved so much that I am left free to leave home. The blessing is there from the beginning. I have left it and keep on leaving it. But the Father is always looking for me with outstretched arms to receive me back and whisper in my ear: 'You are my Beloved, on you my favour rests.’"
-Henri Nouwen, Reflections on the Return of the Prodigal Son
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
I spent the last five days of spring break in Germany with my relatives—my grandpa’s sisters and their family. Most of them I had never met before, but everyone was amazingly kind, I was bowled over by their generosity. Saw Bergen Belsen and a castley place, did a lot of biking, and walked around Hamburg, it was pretty great. Hamburg reminds me a little bit of Vancouver—it looks more modern than old because so much of it was destroyed when the British bombed it during the war, and it’s right on the water and there are plenty of green places. So many things about those four days reminded me of home, and of my grandparents and the German side of my family and of the place I worked last year... So similar, but so far away; so much the same, but not.
And staying in someone’s house is a massively different type of travelling than backpacking is, let me tell you. Lots of stories to tell about that, but I’ll save them for real life.... :P I spent the last night in the airport (neglected to mention that detail of the plan to the German relatives, because I knew they would flip, but I think they found out anyway haha. nonetheless, so long, Manchester Airport! My days of sleeping in your Terminal 2 are over forever!) and took the train to Carnforth the next morning. Showers and proper beds and clean clothes are wonderful, wonderful things. Never forget that, people.
It’s been over a week now and we’re 1/7 through spring school. A little less than half of the people here were at winter school and a little more than half of them are new and it’s the oddest dynamic, for both sides. I don’t envy the spring school people who have to come into a place where half the school already knows each other and already has their established friendships, but at the same time, we all miss people from winter school and so much is different and I don’t know, it’s just weird. I think a lot of people are kind of subconsciously avoiding the effort it takes to get to know new people and sticking with their old friend groups, just because eight weeks is so short and leaving everyone at winter school was hard and you can’t help feeling a bit of “the more people I become friends with, the more it will hurt to leave again.” And leaving IS going to hurt, it’s going to hurt a lot. I didn’t expect this to be very different than the last six months were but it is, not worse, just odd.
aaanyway. Apart from psychological phenomenons such as the above and that kind of thing, spring school has been a blast so far. It’s been gorgeous weather, I am in the Lower Tower with two lovely roommates, everything is super chill because there are hardly any assignments, and we’re in the midst of some brilliant lectures this week by Derek Burnside on the life of Solomon (today was Song of Solomon, oh was that interesting...haha. It was, though! Ever heard it as a love story between a country girl and her man, with Solomon and his promiscuity as the villain? nope, neither had I.)
June feels like ages away, but it’s only seven weeks until I’m home and this adventure is over...
Monday, April 4, 2011
nothing is as great as you've imagined. Venice is--Venice is better." --Fran Lebowitz
I haven't seen much of it so far so I can't agree or disagree with that yet, but we are finally in Venezia! after a ten-hour journey from Florence. Which should not have happened but apperently we bought tickets for a four-in-the-morning train that does not exist. Five different trains and much stress later, here we are; I will spare you the details.
So now we're at our hostel. Craziest place I've stayed at yet. Everyone is super friendly and the place is run so casually that all I can do is laugh. The rooms are lit by chandeliers but the floor is made of crumbling cement and the paint is coming off the walls. The staff are determined to memorise everyone's names, the girl in the bed next to mine has been living here for next to forever, there are only two showers for the entire hostel, and apparently the staff takes whoever wants to out at night to experience Venice's nightlife. I learned this from a girl I met in Rome who stayed here, who told elabourate stories involving drunkeness and falling into canals (somehow I do not find this tempting).
I'm sitting on the balcony overlooking the canal right now and a mad thunderstorm is going on outside. In between typing this I'm talking to a girl from Hong Kong, with a bunch of people swapping travel stories in the room behind me, and wind blowing through the wide open doors but nobody cares.
I think I like this place :)
Friday, March 18, 2011
Outreach went wellI was on a team of 11 girls who went to Morely, a town near Leeds. It was craziness, but so much fun, and even though I was glad to get home at the end I miss it now. The town is known as “The Centre of the Universe” by those who live there but nobody quite figured out why. The church we worked with has only 15-20 people but they’re involved with a ton of stuff in the community and have all these connections with in schools, etc...which is pretty cool. While we were there we ran a kids’ club and some youth groups, did a Bible exhibition/drama thing in a bunch of primary schools, put on some elderly events, and ran a few church services. We also handed out 4500 calendars and way too many flower bulbs, did spontaneous drastic things to our hair, and made videos filled with ridiculous inside jokes.
Now school ends on Thursday and everyone leaves on either Thursday or Friday. I’ll be back for spring school, but most people won’t, and and the last week has been odd, so odd... Leaving is going to be tragic but I’m more restless than I’ve ever been here. A week from now I’ll be at Lucy’s house in Hull and then Gabby and I are out to conquer the world. Or at least London, then Paris, Italy, and Malta (and Germany for me--visting relatives). woohoo :D
Yeah, so, that was a week ago and I'm at Lucy's now. Yesterday dragged on forever...after the cleaning and packing was done everyone sat around waiting and waiting, ready to go but not, and then suddenly the London coaches were here and everything was a blur of hugs and tears and tripping over lost luggage and then everyone waved and yelled "MOVE THAT BUS" and the coaches were gone and most of Capernwray. And Megan left at 5:45 this morning (in pyjamas, having woken up exactly three minutes before, so that was interesting haha)... I hate goodbyes. I don't really know what to write right now and I'm definitely not doing the last few weeks justice but everything is just kind of mixed up and numb and bizarre. Not even going to bother deciphering these emotions. I can't imagine what the tenth of June is going to be like. And I should probably stop listening to all this tragic melancholy music.
Friday, February 18, 2011
For the first half of yesterday I wondered how the world could be so wonderful. The leafless trees and clouds and blue sky, cold clean air, the Switchfoot song Daylight to Break, the quotes of Frederick Buechner. Cookies at coffee break and a letter from Anna. You didn't have to make the world an intricate, enormous piece of art, but You did. You didn't have to give us the capacity to love beauty and to create our own but You did. You didn't have to allow small ordinary happiness like letters and jam biscuits with sunshine but You did. Because you love beauty and good things and love us and made us to love beauty too.
This morning the service's theme was the world and its problems and praying for it. There was one song that talked of "Lord please end this injustice and bring hope to the hopeless and freedom to the slaves" and it was a good song but all through it (in between hyperventilating about screwing up the powerpoint, which thanks to deficient mind-reading skills I did several times--the screwing up I mean) I couldn't help wondering, what's the point of singing about it if we're sitting here in our comfortable first-world chairs doing nothing? And then Sue who was running the service handed around coffee beans (fair trade) and said, taste the bitterness, the bitterness of the persecuted church and the orphans and slaves and children trapped in brothels and I did, but how can we ever know, how can we understand? As she prayed, listing all those things, I could think only "Someone has to do something, I have to do something," and it didn't feel like me making myself think that, if that makes sense, but just those words, beating over and over through my mind.
A minute ago--sitting here by the front door, wrapped in a blanket, looking over the hills--I asked God to make it clear, so absolutely clear so I could not mistake it, and He brought to mind the service earlier and what had happened, and what Rob Whittaker had said in his lecture on yesterday about your calling being something were were perfectly made for, something that is your "complaint" ("This needs to change, so I will change it") and He said, "Didn't I?".
Buechner: "What can we do that makes us gladdest, what can we do that leaves us with the strongest sense of sailing true north and of peace, which is much of what gladness is? Is it making things with our hands our of wood or stone or paint on canvas? Or is it making something we hope like truth out of words? Or is it making people laugh or weep in a way that cleanses their spirits? I believe that if it is a thing that makes us truly glad, then it is a good thing and it is our thing and it is the calling voice that we were made to answer with our lives. ...The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet."***
After that I came inside (sitting on frigid stone can only last for so long) and read the end of Isaiah. Two things stuck out, two themes that ended up with loads of underlining:
Fear not, for I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine.
Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen, to loose the chains of injustice...to set the oppressed free and break every yoke...
So it's (as far as I know so far) majoring in communications and minoring in Hindi next year, aiming towards an internship with IJM and maybe hopefully possibly working with them. Or something similar with someone similar. Who knows.
So we'll begin with this
and who knows where it will all lead...
Saturday, January 29, 2011
We had a seminar on marriage yesterday (kind of weird seeing slides and footnotes and statistics about a subject like that, as if it's something you can pin down to a formula) and they talked about the five love languages. Giving, physical touch, words of affirmation, quality time, and acts of service. I was never sure which one was mine. Either words or time. But I think it's actually something more to do with talking/listening/someone trusting you enough to communicate with you on more than just a superficial level, and spend time doing it/you trusting them enough to do the same. Or something.
Whatever that's called.
If not that then I suspect my love language is sarcasm.
On Thursday I learned that Titus was written to a church in a place were pirate bands were common and Christianity was new. "So Paul could have been writing to converted pirates," Ari said, and "Pirate bands? Musical pirates?" said Gabby. I will never view the book of Titus the same way again.
Today my outreach team is going away for two days--kind of a preliminary weekend to see the place we'll be spending ten days at next month. It's a working-class church of 25 people near Leeds, my team has 11 people on it (twice as big as most), and we'll be doing kids work and school assemblies and stuff. Other than that, no idea what we're in for, and I have a sneaking feeling that that's the only reason I'm not freaking out. Isn't that a comfort. I don't know what we'll do this weekend or where I'll be sleeping tonight--will definitely be an adventure!
So. That's what happening. And my heart is full and God is AWESOME and more than all the stress about outreach and school and travel and What Am I Going to DO With My Life When I Go Home?, I am super incredibly happy right now.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
Just finished watching some Doctor Who with Lucy and Megan. I liked DW before too but it's SO much more fun watching it with other people, and jumping and gasping and squealing and criticising collectively instead of crouched in my basement with headphones. Fans are few and far between in Canada :P
Ok, Zoe, here are a couple pictures, to reedem myself after the recent famine of uploads:
This is the Royal Albert Hall; in front of it (as in, behind my camera) it is the Albert Memorial; and in between is...a hockey game. Hahaha. Who would have thought? (Dark and blurry. Sorry. You'll just have to take my word for it, it was indeed a legit game of ball hockey.)
The Eagle and the Child!
Tower of London. The second picture is the green where Lady Jane Grey (and others) were supposed to have been executed.
Inscription/carving by Lady Jane Grey's husband (on the right). So much interesting graffiti in those rooms, many of it by martyrs or other people who suffered for their faith (not him though), whether Protestant or Catholic. "The more suffering for Christ in this world, the more glory with Christ in the next."...wow.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Yesterday we went to see Les Miserables. (First time with a proper revolving stage, first time with proper English accents!) And it was perfection. I love this story. A lot. (Spoilers inevitable here. So is nonsensical-if-you’re-not-familiar-with-the-story rambling.)
I cried during Lovely Ladies. Not at any other part. Just Lovely Ladies. Which was odd; that’s either a crude and profane piece of the musical or an upbeat amusing one depending on how you look at it, and I always thought the former, but I never realised how incredibly SAD it is. Not just for Fantine, who has pretty much the worst life ever, but for all of the women there. It’s not trafficking or slavery per se, but it’s the next thing to it. It must have taken an incredible amount of desperation to end up in that place, and once there, there’s no hope of escape. Behind the cheerful facepaint and outlandish costumes and bouncy music, there’s nothing at all funny about that song.
Gavroche. Have to mention Gavroche. :P I had the hugest crush on him when I was twelve or so (and it seems like a younger kid plays him every time I see the show, what’s with that?). I took my fiction very, very seriously back then. :P Still one of my favourite characters...but I have a lot of favourite characters.
One of the best parts: Javert, Valjean, and Thenardier and their views of God. And their reactions to grace. So much food for thought there. Thenardier believes God is dead, Javert believes God is vengeful, Valjean believes God is merciful. Grace would be wasted on Thenardier, Javert’s world shatters and burns because of it, and Valjean not only accepts it but gives to others what he has been given.
Anyhow. Random observations. I could talk about this story forever so I’ll shut up about it now :P
I finally realised not very long ago—um yeah, don’t ask why it took me so long to figure out—that the primary way God speaks to me is through stories. Through the Bible's story, obviously, but more and more when I watch and read fiction, look at art, listen to music, He brings to light shards of truth in the corners I was least expecting it in. This is cool enough when the author was a Christian and intended it but even more so when it seems like a complete coincidence. It's like He’s pulling strings to make His message heard and to slip into people’s hearts when their guard is down, when they think they're just being entertained. There are“types” or imperfect symbols/examples of the Real Story hidden all over the Bible...and I think God enjoys seeing the same thing in our own works of art. Even though they will always be small and flawed compared to His.
So Perseus is Jesus. Aslan is Jesus, but Robin Hood has pieces of Him too and so do Jean Valjean, Maximus, Batman, Gandalf and Aragorn and Frodo, Doctor Who, dragon slayers and kings in disguise and those who give things up so others can keep them. His story is whispering when Harry sacrifices himself to Voldemort, when Atticus defends the innocent no matter what the cost, when Dym refuses to give up on an unworthy Tony, again and again and again.
They’re all shadows, echoes, copies. None are the real thing. But all of them point to Him. How exciting is that!
Anyhow. Just something I've been thinking about lately. Right now we're in Oxford--did a lot of walking and observing of beautiful buildings, saw the Eagle and the Child which was very cool; now sitting at Starbucks waiting for our train back to London because I foolishly booked it way too late. :P
Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Met up with Christy tonight! [Er, four days ago now. Delay in posting blamed on my dodgy internet access, ok?] Human companionship is a wonderful thing, I have realised this (again) after two days alone :P Our hostel seems to be disintegrating daily but it was super cheap so I’m pretty happy with it. We’re in a 10-person room on the third floor (i.e. North American fourth floor)—and there’s no elevator, possibly God is preparing me for life in the Upper Tower next term. It’s also close to all things of importance: a. Tube station, b. Tesco, c. Starbucks. So. All set.
Yesterday we went to Westminster Abbey which was AMAZING. I don't really know what else to say about it except that it's ancient and gorgeous and magnificent. Favourite parts were the memorial to William Wilberforce, because he's one of my favourite people in history ever, and Poet's Corner--the section full of tombs of and memorials to Shakespeare, Carroll, the Brontes, a heap of others. And the grave of the unknown warrior. And the RAF chapel. And Elizabeth and Mary's tomb. And the fact that I got in for £6, instead of £15, because I'm 18 for another two weeks. Ok, there were a lot of favourites.
We also watched the Changing of the Guard (half of it, before we got too cold and decided that fifteen minutes of shouting and marching was enough) and saw the Imperial War Museum, which was evacuated right as we were about to leave for reasons which remain a mystery ("Due to unfortunate circumstances, we must ask that all visitors leave the building immediately by the nearest exit." repeat with siren sound effects x100). Unfortunate circumstances aside, the Imperial War Museum is one of my favourite places in London, I could happily spend days there.
So that's what's up... :) Going back to Capernwray on Saturday. I love it here and I love travelling but part of me can't wait to go back--the longer I'm away the more it feels like home.