Failure

Where is the gift in this failure (failure to write every day for a short month)? The gift is the opportunity to re-assess the purpose of this blog.

One morning walking through the park on the way to work I noticed the blossom on the trees, the first buds of blossom and leaf. The next day I saw the same trees out a little more. I love the spring, and I started crafting that day’s #write28days post. Then I decided (or realised) that I would rather share this pleasure with my wife. That was the beginning of the end for my #write28days attempt.

Nurturing my family (wife and son) and loving my wife is gradually taking centre place in my life. Gradually over the last few months as certain slow-moving external constraints have changed formation.

I do want (and need actually) to write more and to practice writing. At the same time, I want (and need actually) to spend less time in front of a screen interacting with software instead of ideas or people. (On the third hand I would like to improve my touch-typing, …)

Good things I can share with my wife I should share with her. Some things I can’t share with my wife (or won’t, … or not yet, … if ever, …) and some of those things I should share here.

What is the point of this blog?

What have I achieved? With the help of readers, …

  • I have completely exorcised one bad habit or demon (dressing up), and much weakened the others. I don’t think of them as part of me or of who I am.
  • I think of myself as a Christian (I have even said as much, and gone to services (ok one service) and prayed in public churches! — albeit far from home), and I am happy thinking of myself as a Christian and of Jesus as part of me.
  • I have read and studied and learnt a fair amount of Scripture — both on my own and in online groups — and I have developed the new habit of turning to Scripture and Christian writing for succour.
  • It’s presumptuous to say I’ve made friends, but I have met nice people who have been kind and instructive and often inspiring.
  • I am happier than I ever have been.

So, not bad. Prayers of thanks for the kindness of strangers.

What is the point of the blog now?

  • I don’t want to kill off this persona. Apart from anything else, online is the only Christian community I have (and I like it too).
  • There are things I might want to write about that my wife would probably not be interested in (e.g., I’m currently reading Job).
  • My remaining bad habits or demons … I have decided they are fading and I am fairly relaxed about letting them fade, billow and fade in their own time. I don’t think there’s much more for me to write about them here.
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Ha!

When I really want something, I pray. That must mean something.

And last night’s prayer was answered — my request granted — this morning.

Rather than promise to sacrifice the first thing that meets me when I get home from work, I promised to finish reading the Bible — so I shall start on Job tonight.

Home

I have been on-site with a client for a week (hence the radio silence). Now I am back home. Compared to hotel life in the city, home has its annoyances and limitations (people talk to me; I have to wash up or cook or both). On the other hand I notice how much more relaxed I am here. Profoundly relaxed. And all the stress and exhaustion — and excitement — of the last week can unravel.

This refuge is a blessing, a mixed blessing, like many are, and a blessing that is difficult to rejoice in, but a blessing and a gift nonetheless.

In the roughness I see the opportunities to make smooth, to make the home stronger and more loving. Every failure is a reminder of Christ’s passion, and every success is a rainbow.

Sleep

I’m going through one of my semi-regular bouts of insomnia. This is one seems especially bad & I’m now going to bed expecting to be (a) unable to get to sleep and (b) waking in the night & having to get up for a couple of hours. I’m trying to take action and last night I managed to sleep through.

Here are my “Dos and Don’ts” so far. More ideas welcome.

Early bedtime and bed-time is for sleep: at home, be in bed by 10:30 & lights out by 11:00 (DLW is very much an early turner inner — falls asleep almost immediately); away, bed by 11:00 lights out by 12.

Coffee only in the morning (preferably only at breakfast or work arrival) (I only drink coffee at breakfast when I’m away, staying at a hotel. At home I have a pot of tea, much nicer).

Every day achieve something — it can be a small thing, but by the evening I must sincerely believe I have achieved something. For better or for worse, household chores do not count with me as achievements — however delicious was the dinner or however far the ironing mountain has diminished. Best if that achievement can be clinched first thing in the morning, or as early as possible.

Every day go for a walk in the fresh air, and do some exercise (yoga is my exercise poison).

Temporary total ban on screen time after dinner. Reading and writing on paper only. Medium/long-term I want to relax this ban. I don’t think screen time per se is aggravating, I think it is the expectation of stimulation or interruption (another tweet to read, another alert arriving). Longer term it will be better to control the alerts, rather than concede that the alerts are controlling me.

Linked to that: Total (and long-term) ban on online surfing of any kind (my two weaknesses are Twitter and music). Approach Twitter mindfully as a news source (or source of inspiration for my Christian twitter account). Take it off my phone and have something else to read on the bus/train (a novel, a book of poetry, even a little pocket Bible I like and mean to write about one of these #write28 days). That surfing mindset is both enervating and unsettling. It’s not at all relaxing.

Most of all: going to sleep is an action. It is an activity and I should approach it consciously. Bring in breathing exercises and meditation from yoga. Pray to release the day and offer myself to God. Use Scripture as an anchor to return to when my mind starts wandering or racing — either a new passage or better an old favourite. I have worn smooth a passage from James 4 (7-10) that I used last night:

Submit yourself therefore to God
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you;
Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you;
Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will exalt you.

Touchdown

Travelling is not as exciting for me as it used to be — the organising and packing, the waiting on train platforms, airport lounges, traffic jams — but arriving is very exciting. It doesn’t really hit me until I’m out of the airport and on to the S-bahn. The adventure has begun.

The excitement is a kind of engagement. I am soaking up the language, the people, the food and drink. Exploring the city after dark (looking for somewhere to eat) and coming across church after church, large and small, intact, preserved, and in ruins. Enjoying interactions with the locals as we dance between German and English.

Engagement is a kind of dance, dance is a kind of harmony. I think of following Jesus as trying to bring myself into harmony with God. Until writing this today I had thought of harmony as static like a chord, a pair of strings that resonate together. But harmony can be dynamic and active. My every action can glorify the Lord. It’s a dance I dance with Jesus, as I bring my living into harmony with His.

Food, glorious food

I’m travelling and, due to timings, have skipped lunch, aiming for an early dinner. My tummy keeps reminding me through the afternoon as I work (no sabbath for the closet religious). By the time the hotel restaurant opens I am starving and almost deliriously fantasising about food. The menu is dreary but the cooking is competent (steak, sweet potato chips, winter greens, wine, whisky). Meanwhile, …

Posh venison fillet steak. Scorpion and duck soup. Duck tongues. Fish ‘n’ chips — searing hot gobbled down on a chilly sea front; my native food. Roast chicken + bottle of vodka ditto. Street food — roast chestnuts; nameless fish fresh from the river gutted beheaded fried and slapped into a bun. Junk food — went through a phase devoted to Big Macs (DLW does not approve). Making food — breads, stir-fries, all kinds of porridge and stew, ice cream. Sharing food — they’ve eaten it all! Huddled round a table at the sauna with sausages, vodka and beer. Growing food — hard hard potatoes with the most delicious flavour; powerful garlic; bright parsley; sweet bay plucked from the tree.

Celebrating creation, celebrating God’s treasures He has filled the world with for our nutrition and pleasure. I thank the generous Lord above for every potato, every fresh fish, every mound of dough softly rising.

Blues

The world is turning, and now at hometime (around 6pm) the sky is not yet quite night black. The sky is mostly deep indigo with one or two stars beginning to emerge. About a quarter of the sky, towards the west is a rich inky glow. The sun is long gone, long set. The sun is shining from round the corner.

In the morning the sky will be a bouquet of orange and pink, white and blue, like coral.

In the full day, all the blues, from the pale almost duck-egg blue at the horizon, to the dreamy bottomless azure up above. Always a patch of blue in the cloudiest sky.

I didn’t think at the time — looking at the inky glow in the West — of that beauty as the beauty of God, but I do in reflection. As soon as I moved out here (in the late 90s) I fell in love with the sky — the skies. Breathtaking beauty every day. God shows His love for me by providing me with such beauty. I will remember Him by it.

Early

Not quite light. Snow flakes in the air. Crunchy and icy underfoot. The local bus company has updated its timetable and my bus to work is 15 mins earlier. That means I get to work closer to the time I like. When I cycle to work (starting in the spring) I am at my desk by eight. A chance for some quiet time before the daily grind begins.

God’s gifts are everywhere around me, small and large. God’s gifts often come with a challenge (get out the door by 07:45), a challenge that is redeemed as it’s met.

I hope to meet this writing challenge, to accept it as a gift from God (with @lisanotes and @blestbutstrest as God’s messengers). Celebrating gifts from God will be my theme. Each day I will celebrate a gift that God has brought me that or the previous day (i.e., since my previous post).

Thank you to Lisa and thank you to Anita, and thank you to God.

2019 Reading

Some reading goals for 2019:

The remaining books of the Bible that I haven’t read yet

The remaining books are:

  • Judges
  • Kings (1 & 2)
  • Job
  • Ruth
  • Lamentations
  • Ecclesiastes
  • Esther
  • Ezra
  • Nehemiah
  • Chronicles (1 & 2)

I have two confessions to make:

  1. The “Old Testament” I have been reading is actually a Jewish Tanakh, so the ordering of the books is different. I picked it up decades ago as part of a job lot of Religious Texts (including a Koran, a Dhammapada, etc.). Presumably the translation is slightly different from a Christian translation, but I like the translation.
  2. I read the Book of Revelation when I was a kid — read it as a bit of exotic weirdness. I don’t have much interest in reading again.

Non-scriptural Christian writing

  • I have Augustine’s Confessions & it’s been on my “to read” list for too long.
  • I see quotes from G. K. Chesterton from time to time & his theology intrigues me.
  • Modern and contemporary Christian authors. For example Madeleine L’Engle, Elizabeth Goudge, Eugene Vodolazkin.
  • Speeches of Martin Luther King (update after reading Only Love Can Do That – The Voice of Martin Luther King Jr.)

Male bloggers, British bloggers

I wrote about these two last February. The problem persists.

2018

The main thing about 2018 was that God answered my prayers. Boring prayers about money and work that I don’t talk about here. God answered these prayers in the summer with a new job, and I experienced it as God answering my prayers. I don’t mean intellectually or after reflection — I just knew. On reflection, I thought this was exactly the kind of answer the Lord would give. It’s a challenge as much as a gift, a gift I have to work to receive, it’s also a very good fit for me. That has definitely made e feel closer to God in an almost visceral sense.

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