Tag Archives: Time

Summer

I stand on the edge of an endless ocean

Longing to dive in and swim

Have exhilarating waves come crashing in to meet me, challenge me, carry me

Today… I must wait

Learn to enjoy the shimmer and sparkle as I stand at the edge

Back on land, the earth bakes in the heat

Everything thirsts for rain and respite

And I thirst too

I want the harvest

Today… I must wait

Learn to enjoy the sun on my skin and the comfortable cool of the long evening

Today, all is on pause

I ache for action, for change, for movement

Today… this season is for waiting

For patience

For just being me

Here

Now.

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Looking for Europe 9: Glasgow – 500 miles

October 25th

I cannot believe this is happening. I cannot believe this is happening. I cannot believe this is happening.

And yet, my alarm is ringing at 5am and I am ready to go!

This was my third time following Switchfoot on tour; it was also the first time I’d followed a UK and Ireland tour, and what has been blowing my mind since it was announced is that it comes within five months of their last visit. I have never known anything like this to happen. Having concluded that I probably wouldn’t try to follow every date on a tour again after the beautiful chaos of the last tour, I immediately went back on my word when these dates were announced. Perhaps if it involved travelling to new cities and countries I would want to spend more quality time there seeing the places I was visiting. But these shows were happening in my own country, in towns I mostly knew and was quite likely to revisit in future, so the pressure was off to go sightseeing. So tickets were booked, and travel plans forged (in that order; always buy tickets first, figure out logistics later!).

The last few days before leaving dragged by. I’ve had a countdown app on my phone since we first found out last year that they were playing BCDO here this spring. When the first of these dates was announced, during tour part one, I set it going again. Since it hit 50 days left, time has disappeared remarkably quickly; it felt as though 50, 40, 30, 20, 10 all came within a week. And then, 7 days left. Each day of that final week seemed a week long in itself! The morning of the 24th I looked at the clock on my screen at work after I’m sure being at my desk for around 5 hours, only to find it was just approaching 10am! It may have been the longest day of my life, and my mind was definitely elsewhere!

However, that 5am alarm eventually rang, and shortly afterwards I was on the train up to Glasgow, cradling a takeaway cup of tea and admiring the autumn colours as the sun came up on this beautiful day.

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I arrived in Glasgow at lunchtime, met up with my concert buddy friend from France, and we checked into the hostel with just enough time to pack our things for the show and head back out.

We caught the bus up to the university and found our way to the Queen Margaret Union. We then realised we weren’t sure exactly where we were meant to be! It was an open students’ union building with several venues inside and students coming and going continually. Clearly we weren’t meant to be outside the building, so we looked around inside, and eventually asked in the reception and were pointed in the right direction. A small group of us gathered outside the door to the room where Switchfoot were playing, but after waiting a while the staff asked us to go up and wait in the bar on the floor above until 5:30.

The wait for the VIP event to begin was somewhat awkward, a small nervous group of us waiting impatiently. I got chatting to folks, and it got even more awkward when it transpired I was following the tour and had done before, I pretty much got interviewed about the whole experience!! I didn’t mind but really hope it didn’t sound like bragging, this is all about making back many years as a fan fail and I still owe the guys a lot of belated support.

But no matter how many times I’ve met them, I admit I was freaking out a bit; for many reasons I don’t usually give them gifts, but this time I did have a birthday gift for Jon and I felt nervy about handing it to him. I also had a birthday card for him full of sweet messages from the SwitchFam, and the thing I was perhaps most anxious about handing them, yet another letter, this time just making sure they knew how political references to ‘Europe’ would be on this tour, letting them know there was no obligation to take my ‘Europe is where the light shines through’ flag on stage if they didn’t want to go there, and explaining that they were really helping me to grapple with these difficult political times, that Europe is the UK’s wound just now and that wherever we stand on it, we should be able to agree on that and try and seek the light through it.

As we waited we had some great conversations about how we’d come to know Switchfoot, about past shows we’d seen, about their music and how important it has been to us.

Time crawled past in slow motion; it was 5pm for about an hour!

Suddenly we realised that through the floor we could make out they were soundchecking Hello Hurricane! I tried to wait until we were called back down… but Jon was singing and I couldn’t stay put. I cracked and ran down to listen outside the door, and everyone else, equally desperate for an excuse, took it as a cue to move too. Oops!! 😀

Finally Chico came out to hand us our VIP passes and let us in. He didn’t ask my name. Drew had also seen me in the queue earlier and said he recognised me, and called me the queen of the UK SwitchFam, to which I said I don’t know if I can claim that, Jude isn’t here yet!

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In addition to Hello Hurricane, we heard them soundchecking Bull (In A China Shop), Love Alone Is Worth The Fight (LAIWTF), Travis’ Sing (wow, they sounded great!! This song used to be on their preshow playlist but I’ve not heard them cover it before), then we were let in for Float and I went straight to the barrier and danced like it was a concert!

Jon took a request for their second song from everyone there. He listed them back as best he could remember and asked Tim which they should play, and they agreed on Yet – which was my random request as I’d been listening to it a lot the past week and had seen it on a recent set list. He then asked whose request it had been, and there was mutual embarrassment when I sheepishly put my hand up (‘We honestly hadn’t arranged that!’)! I’m pretty sure he used my name too, which stunned me; I’m not surprised he recognises me by now but to remember my name straight away before we’d been reintroduced was special :O They spent ages setting up to play Yet, it was so sweet of them to do it. They had to work out how they were going to play it; they said they hadn’t played it in ages, though I’d seen it on a setlist from their summer tour, hence requesting it. Chad came to the front with muted drums, and Jon jammed on the harmonica, even leading us in ‘If it doesn’t break…’ the way I’d heard him do on the live album, despite there only being a few of us, it was very cool. You can watch it here.

Then it was Meet&Greet time. I got a poster signed for somebody I was planning to send some things to, then handed my gifts to Jon. I showed him the local hot sauce and chocolate coffee beans I’d put in, which again he seemed extremely enthusiastic about, despite being less jetlagged than they had been in Amsterdam! Then I showed him the card we’d made; I flicked through it to show him all the messages at a glance, highlighting one or two to him, and he seemed really touched by it. Afterwards we headed back outside to wait for the show.

The venue was very small, and a little grimy, but in my experience that can make for a great show! I went to Drew’s side of the stage, but as the venue filled I got pushed towards the centre. I had a great conversation with one of the other VIPs, a guy originally from Nigeria, about the depth of Jon’s lyrics.

A band from Sheffield called the Alvarez Kings were supporting Switchfoot for the whole tour. They played good, catchy tunes with a lot of energy; their drummer is very good, the bassist lively, and they threw in a lot of nice harmonies, plus a bit of swearing!

Then it was Switchfoot time!!

They kicked off with the full electric version of Hello Hurricane, which they haven’t played much for some time.

Keeping the energy up, they went into Stars. Part way through, Jon climbed up onto the amps, then broke from the song to get the crowd singing The Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond (appropriate as they’d spent the day there), then  jumped down and went into 500 Miles by The Proclaimers!! Well, that brought the house down!! Jon barely knew it at all, but belted out as much of it as he could remember before just descending into ‘DAH DADA DAH!’, the crowd laughing and jumping and filling in his singing, it was the best! 😀

Meant To Live followed, starting with an awesome intro jam on four guitars transitioning into the opening riff, which was passed around the band between their guitars, quite a dramatic effect. It was already getting sweaty, Jon pouring water over himself!

Then he went into the crowd for Bull and worked the crowd from a railing at the back, holding a hand to balance himself. It was a lot of fun.

Tim kicked off This Is Your Life with his powerful bass riff. Jon got everyone singing ‘Yeah!’ with him as a call and response, and then as the ending of the song repeats the title question he picked out individuals in the crowd to direct that question to each time he sang it.

Drew was improvising from start of Your Love Is A Song (YLIAS). The solo began with a duet between Jon’s harmonica and Drew’s guitar, then Jon left Drew to it, and he gave us a really epic solo; there were some precious smiles between the guys.

Jon introduced the band, and then Where The Light Shines Through (WTLST), saying ‘Let’s hear it for wounds!’ He did take my flag up on stage briefly, saying ‘Glasgow is where the light shines through’, and Josh got it back to me immediately. They started with a solo, throwing in complete pauses, which was awesome! Similarly to Budapest, Jon and Drew played a sort of solo trading game with Jon playing a phrase and seeing how Drew would respond to it, and like Budapest it seemed like he was cheekily throwing him some weird ones for him to play with! And he again got the crowd singing ‘Yeah-eah-eahhhh!’ in response. This song really is incredible live.

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Clearly having fun, Jon introduced Gone by throwing in the opening riff from Chem6A! There was much forgetting of lyrics; he got the crowd to help with the first verse, holding up the mic stand to us, grinning, before taking back over and having no trouble with the rest of the song! They rocked up the ending with a drum jump.

Bringing it back down, they played Only Hope, acoustic to begin with, with the band simply adding chilled ambience. They left out the second verse and went straight into a rocked up ending, and transitioned straight into I Won’t Let You Go, which was beautifully sung with evident feeling.

A short interlude of Shadow Proves… introduced LAIWTF, and then Jon got everyone ‘oreo’ing along. Then they played (If The) House Burns (Down Tonight), dedicating it to the firefighters who have saved their homes and communities many times, and to the feeling of driving away from your home not knowing if would be there when you return, and realising that the human souls there in the car with you are worth infinitely more than all you leave behind.

Dark Horses just rocked, and they ended with When We Come Alive.

For the encore they came back on to play Float; Drew seemed to start in the wrong key but quickly adjusted. And oh the joy – they brought the bubbles and disco ball with them!! This is the first time I’ve ever known them bring the fun stage effects they use in the States with them across the pond, and it was so much fun! And of course Jon crowd surfed, and thanked us for his first proper surf since arriving here 😀 Live It Well followed, introduced as a campfire song, Jon asked us to picture it. And they finished with Dare You To Move, which was just gorgeous.

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Then there was a proper encore, and they played Where I Belong. Jon took my banner, and this time actually threw it back to me at the end! 🙂 I closed my eyes and just soaked in that end yell like I was just receiving it. At the end there were emotional thanks from Drew, and the crowd carried on singing long after the lights went up.

Overall the show felt like a truly joyful start to the tour. However the sound hadn’t been quite right; the guitars were turned up extremely loud compared to the rest, so they drowned out everything else when really going for it.

I managed to meet a couple of friends I’d only met previously online, one doing photography, and the other waiting for an aftershow, both lovely. The wait afterwards was cold!! I put on all my layers, plus the wet banner to dry it off and attempt to keep warm! But Jon did eventually come out to us. There was much joking with him about the temperature (‘You’re cold?! I’m from San Diego! This is Scotland cold!’ ‘No, this is Scotland tropical!’). He played Caroline (‘Southbound Train?’ ‘This one’s like Southbound Train… and also in the right key for my harmonica!’), Inheritance, 24 with its back story, and Your Love Is Strong. He said he’d seen a rainbow over Loch Lomond that morning and said it was like finding gold. He said these moments could be like gold, and I said that they are. He thanked us at the end, and we let him go.

My friend and I just made last bus back! We wished we’d had time for photos, it was so pretty.

We got back at 1:30am, in time for not nearly enough sleep before getting back on the early morning train back to Bristol 😛

Day 2, and I was already wondering what in the world possesses me to do this?! 😀

‘And I would take the train 500 miles, and I would take the train 500 more…’ 😀

(You can find my write ups of the spring Looking For Europe tour starting here)

Chasing the wind?

I read the book of Ecclesiastes this summer. If you’re not familiar with it, it is the musings of an old ‘Philosopher’ on life; what satisfies, what is the point of it all? He tries to make sense of life, and what the purpose of both life itself and its pleasures are, given its brevity, the randomness of chance, and the fact that, taking the long view in his eyes, everything comes around again in an endless cycle in which nothing lasts. ‘Everything is meaningless, like chasing the wind’. He speaks with great wisdom, and yet I found myself debating with him as I read.

It occurred to me I’m thinking like the Philosopher, and not in a good way; in the long, slow recovery from the depression that has knocked back my energy for activism, if not my desire to see things change, I’m starting to succumb to the feeling that everything has happened before and will happen again, it all comes around again and nothing makes a difference. And then as I try to nurse myself, I find I am just trying to ‘feed’ myself, give myself the things I want, as if that could satisfy, and finding unsurprisingly that it doesn’t.

The Philosopher blows back and forth on this, on the one hand saying it’s useless as chasing the wind, on the other that enjoying what we have is all we can and should do.

But is that true?

I think adding Jesus to the equation changes everything. In Him there is a bigger narrative of hope and direction. There is eternity. Everything is headed somewhere. There will be justice – beyond the timeframes of our lives. Which side of that we choose to stand on now matters, not because we can change the endless cycles of rise and fall in this world in our lives, but because He sees it, and is honoured and assisted, or dishonoured and hindered, in His work by our actions and inactions in all things.

Recently at church the speaker preached on the whole book! Their conclusion was similar, that you need Jesus to complete the picture. The service was focussed on wisdom, rather than any other aspect of the book, but it took a similar course. The Philosopher points out that wisdom does not guarantee success, and asks what the point is, and yet concludes that it is still the best way to live and enjoy life. And yet wisdom is personified in Jesus; without Him, there is a hole in the logic. Why live wisely if it doesn’t bring us any benefits, except to know and please the one who is Wisdom?

The speakers made a big deal of how ‘depressing’ the book is to keep emphasising the reality of death. But isn’t this an important, and even life-giving, perspective, a wake-up call to remind us to actually remember to live whilst we have time? It is good and healthy to look at the material and remember how transient we are. But the conclusion of that should not be that we can only consume it in the time we have, but that we need to find contentment. And more than that, we can do far more than simply enjoy what we have; we can actually use it to help others thrive. We are blessed to bless, given to to give. In this way we build something bigger and more lasting than anything merely material we could build and invest in here for ourselves.

Everything may well come around. The justice, peace and progress we work for may well never be seen in our lifetimes, and may be undone in the generations to come. It is important to remember that I cannot fix the world. Even small acts of good that I do may be undone again afterwards. Does that mean it is worthless? No, it is worth it if I can help others now nonetheless. It is not my own legacy that I’m working for, but God’s, not my own kingdom but the eternal Kingdom of God. Never let fatalism become an excuse for apathy! It matters now!

What struck me most from the church sermon was when we were told the meaning of the word translated as ‘meaningless’ – ‘hevel’. It means vapour, breath, smoke.  Real, but intangible, transient, hard to grasp, hard to hold onto. Life is like this. It isn’t meaningless, but we cannot hold on to it, or anything in it. We can enjoy them. We can live in the now. But the only solid, lasting thing we can build is the Kingdom of God, and making life more enjoyable for others.

This is the perspective that I need right now. I cannot truly care for myself and nurse myself back into health by simply feeding my desires, though a certain amount of that is no bad thing. It won’t actually satisfy; but blessing others will. And whilst I cannot fix the world, I can always look for the opportunities before me in all situations and take the baby  steps towards bringing in God’s Kingdom that will get me walking again with some direction.

Don’t try to run from what’s uncomfortable; look for what opportunities you’ve been given to do good, and take them. That will satisfy in a way that feeding our comfort and material desires never could. It will outlast us all.

A birthday labyrinth

I found and walked this labyrinth on my last morning in Germany back in June before coming home, my birthday.

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This past year in particular has been such an amazing year of exploration for me into the person I am, and could be. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot about myself, been changed, challenged and stretched in all kinds of ways. Keeping this blog has been part of the process, learning to open up and try to become the same person in all circumstances. Work (and working for what matters, rather than for money) has been incredibly challenging and humbling as I find myself struggling with all sorts of questions around success, failure, pride, identity, vocation, ambition, apathy and money. I’ve been pushing myself creatively, letting God work through some of my failings and become a slightly calmer, hopefully nicer, person (but gaining some new character flaws in the process!), and making peace with myself, coming to accept all parts of my life, beliefs, eccentricities, and all my influences are a part of me, and that somewhere underneath I make sense.

It seemed really appropriate to have ended this year with a pilgrimage, and the pilgrimage with a labyrinth, the tiny journey of the labyrinth bringing into focus my thoughts on the physical and spiritual journey I’d been on over the last couple of weeks, and the wider journey of the year.

A labyrinth is not the same as what we usually think of as a maze. There is a single path, usually with one way in and one way out. A labyrinth does not have any dead ends, and you can’t get lost in it. It’s a tool for meditation, for stilling and/or focussing the mind and listening to God. The physical act of walking allows you to put aside distractions, as you concentrate on the labyrinth just enough to stay on the path but not so much that it occupies your mind. Sometimes I find it helpful to do something active but ‘mindless’ like this to stop my mind wandering when praying.

There is a long tradition of labyrinths being used in Christian worship, particularly in Celtic and medieval Christianity, and they were sometimes included in churches and cathedrals to be walked as part of a pilgrimage or prior to confirmation as a symbol of new life. Walking a labyrinth for a Christian can be a way of meditating on redemption, letting something go, the journey of life or faith, a particular story (from the Bible/ of a saint for example), an aspect of our own life or character, or can be simply a space to meet with God in the everyday, to take time out of the busyness and spend some quality time doing nothing in particular, to experience a ‘thin place’ where heaven feels very close to earth, or just as a focus for prayer.

I had a few quiet minutes to give to the labyrinth so I decided to prayer walk it properly. I stilled my mind a little at the start and opened myself up to have God speak to me as I walked and guide my thoughts. I decided to just listen to the thoughts that came as I walked. I’ve walked this design before, and there’s something about the way the path winds around it that really gets to me every time, but this time it really resonated with a lot that I’ve been wrestling with recently. I noticed how I kept on doubling back on myself, going round in circles, finding myself back where I started. It felt a bit like I was trying multiple dead ends to find the centre, only to find myself going back the way I’d come. But it’s a labyrinth, not a maze. All the time I kept walking, regardless of where the path took me, I was approaching the centre, and it was at the point the path seemed furthest away that it finally brought me in.

Is life like this? Are all my dead ends getting me somewhere? Is it when I’m furthest away that I can find the centre? I stopped in the middle for a moment to listen, and felt a sense of God’s affirmation, and with it an encouragement to keep on going. I sensed a little of who God made me to be. I want to put into practise what I’ve been learning of love and grace. Feeling energised, I made the return path at a run:

God, help me put all I have into giving You back what You’ve put in me!

Thoughts from inside a tree

Earlier this week I was back visiting the town I used to live in, and having a day to spare decided to go for a walk around some of the places I used to visit regularly. One of these was the meadows and woodland on my old university campus. My wandering brought me to a clearing in the woods where some climbable oak trees grow, one of which is an old friend of mine, a tree I sometimes used to climb once in a while, and which became a place of prayer for me. Being suitably dressed I hoisted myself up into it once again, to spend some time catching up with it before continuing my ramble.

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And time slowed down.

Trees know a rhythm that we don’t. It’s very complex, embracing both the chaotic, fast lives of the insects busy in their leaves to the much slower underlying rhythm of centuries. Sitting in its branches and feeling it move at its own pace shifted my perspective again, giving me a glimpse into tree time. Tree time feels the breeze, growth, sap, days, seasons, years, centuries. This tree knows me from my occasional visits here, and I can feel it calmly observing me as a transient but welcome visitor into its long lifetime.

I can’t help but be mindful in a tree – apart from the need for awareness to keep myself safe whilst some distance off the ground, a tree can teach me to slow down and see the world at its own pace, and notice what it notices. I spend so much of my life alternating between being busy and wasting time on the internet, and whole days can disappear almost unnoticed. It’s no wonder I dry up and burn out so often. It’s only when I slow down that I see the fast things I’d otherwise miss; here in the tree, the insects buzzing past, a tussle between rival butterflies, a thrush singing, a rare glimpse of a bullfinch… an unexpected pheasant launching out of another tree (when does that happen?!!).

I wonder if I learnt to slow down and live as mindfully as the tree, seeing the chaos around me and calmly and patiently reaching out into it to make it a little better, would I find a rhythm of life strong and deep enough to sustain me for the long haul? And to be at peace enough to be able to let go easily of this life when it’s time?