Archives For journey

Well this is it. I’m nearly there. Only two days of my 40 Days of Water challenge remain. Two more days until I can drink what I like, when I like. Freedom.

Except.

Part of me is sad it’s going to finish. I know once it is over and I can resort to morning coffees I will feel differently, but I genuinely feel it’s been quite an impactful journey to have been on.

***

I don’t want to use the classic cliches that could be applied here – “It’s changed my life”, “Now I realise whow much I take for granted”, “I’ll never look at a glass of water the same way again” – because that would be, well, cliche.

But the truth is, I think the last few weeks have changed me. They’ve made me realise how fortunate I am to live in a corner of the world where water is available at the turn of a tap. I’ve come to be grateful and thankful for the water I use – particularly to drink – rather than going through the motions. Above all, hopefully the money I’ve raised can make a difference for communities who don’t have clean water.

As far as sacrifices go, it’s not been the most difficult. I’ve not gone without anything I need, just without some things I’ve wanted. But the shift in my perspective has been significant, and something which I don’t think I’ll forget in a hurry.

Blood:water Mission are an amazing organisation who do amazing things, and I’m proud to support them and have been part of the 40 Days of Water blogging team. One community at a time, they are spreading God’s love and showing compassion to God’s people.

Whether it’s Lent or not, that is a challenge which we should all rise to and be inspired by.

***

To learn more about blood:water mission visit their website, and to learn more about 40 Days of Water visit the campaign page. You can also follow #40days on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A month or so ago, I saw a tweet by Jon Foreman (leader singer of Switchfoot) about a project he’d been involved in called For the Sender. I knew nothing about the project and so did a little bit of internet investigation. It turns out it’s one of the most unique and moving artistic expressions I’ve come across for a while.

In the midst of his own grief, singer Alex Woodard received a letter from someone he’d never met before. He and a friend turned the letter into a song, and For the Sender evolved from that point. The final book and CD offers 12 songs born out of four letters, with the musical talents of members of Nickel Creek, New Found Glory, Switchfoot and many more.

Alex was good enough to answer a few questions to give a bit more background to the book.

***

This is a pretty unique project. Can you give us a short summary of the process you took from receiving the letters to creating the songs and the For the Sender project?

I was trying to let go of this identity I had created as a singer-songwriter, as well as my best friend, when I received a letter about a different kind of letting go. A woman named Emily lost her soulmate, and writes him a letter every autumn since he passed. She sent me that letter, which I showed to my friend Sean Watkins, and we wrote a song about it. It was the first time I had co-written a song I didn’t sing. That song led to another song, and another, and as more letters crossed my path we wrote and recorded more songs about them. That set me off down quite a different path than I was on, which changed the course of my life.

What was the response of those who you approached to be involved – there’s some pretty big names on the CD, was hard to get them in?

It wasn’t hard because we are all good friends…everyone’s response was positive, even though they didn’t know exactly what they were signing up for at the time because the project was still evolving. They trusted me with their voices, and hopefully I did good by them.

Where is your favourite place to be?

These days, on my horse.

What does an ideal day look like?

I wake up early, feed my horse, feed my dog, feed myself, and see what the day brings. That’s my ideal day, and lately almost every day.

What’s your hope for the book – the one thing you want people to get from it?

Probably that people take away the message that we are all part of one story, one conversation. What I call my pain, or joy, may be by a different name, but it’s the same as yours at it’s core. The loss of my dog might be the loss of your partner, or dreams, or childhood. We all have the same victories and defeats, the same triumphs and tragedies, we just call them different things.

What’s your hope for the future?

I think ‘hope’ takes power out of the present moment, which is all we have to create the future…I’m more interested in the steps you take every day, how you speak to your neighbor, how you treat yourself and the planet. Don’t hope for better times…create them.

***

What sounds like a slightly curious finished product is actually a moving journey, one on which as the reader you feel immediately involved. The combination of the letters and the songs means that this is more than just a re-telling of a season of Alex’s life. It’s as if the letters are given a new lease of life, a new telling which places them in part of a bigger story.

The drawing in of so many famous musicians is testament to the unique nature of this idea, and the love so many people have of telling and re-telling stories. There is a feeling throughout the book that this is just more than a musical project; this is a coming together of ideas, people and stories to produce a snapshot of a moment in time, giving an enduring legacy to letters and emotions.

Given the nature of the book – built on personal stories – the finished work doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions that arise in dark times. However, there is a sense that – as Alex hinted at in his answers above – we are all part of one bigger story. There is no denying we live our own lives, but this book more than any reminds the reader that so many people have similar stories – of loss, grief, pain, hope and hurt.

Above all, there is a real beauty throughout this project. It feels more like poetry at times. The letters are heartfelt and genuine, and there is a rough around the edges feel to the whole thing which only adds to this. Alex and his friends have put together a beautiful reminder that whilst life is difficult, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and that creativity and community can help us through our sorrow.

Alex very kindly answered questions for this piece, but had no influence over my verdict on it. For more information on For the Sender visit the website, and for more information on Alex click here.

A life of seasons

September 26, 2012 — Leave a comment

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

I’m quite a big fan of weather.

It’s not the coolest thing. But I love huge variations in weather, from blisteringly hot summer days to bitingly cold winter nights. There’s something about the ever-changing nature of the weather which I find intriguing.

With that in mind, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about seasons – both seasons of weather and seasons of life.

In nature, seasons are part of the intrinsic cycle of life. Spring offers new life and green shoots, which bloom and flourish in summer. Autumn heralds the beginning of the end of this time of colour, whilst winter superficially seems dead but nests next spring’s hope underneath its cold blanket.

This cycle comes and goes each year. There are variations, yes, but the overall cycle is the same. Without fail.

***

I think the same is true of our lives. I don’t know whether we follow the same set pattern that nature does. I think it’s probably not quite as structured and planned as that.

But our lives go in seasons. There are times when we are full of hope and expectation, when there are new beginnings and opportunities. These times often turn into summer seasons, when we flourish and grow.

Then there are autumn times, when it can feel as if nothing is happening and we are treading water. During autumn, it can feel a little as if the good things are dying off, as if we are losing them. Autumn invariably leads to winter, where we find ourselves hopeless, lost and without direction.

A life of seasons.

***

Ideally, we’d be able to lose the winter season, make the spring and autumn shorter and spend most of our time in the summer. Ideally. But in the same way that nature would not be able to survive on just one season alone, the same is true with us.

The seasons all have a value, all have a purpose. Even if sometimes, that purpose can be painful. The winter season can be long and bleak. But it teaches us to trust, to remember that spring and summer will come, and to rely on the roots we have grown in the warm seasons.

Seasons come and go, but God’s love never once falters or fails, never lessens or becomes conditional. Despite the seasons, God’s love runs through them all.

That promise is what we root ourselves in.

***

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says “Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.” Lewis Carroll

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“If only. Those must be the two saddest words in the world.” Mercedes Lackey

I’ve started to notice myself use a dangerous expression lately. In fact, it’s quite a common phrase, and one most of us will utter many times a day without realising.

If only.

“If only I hadn’t been made redundant from my last job.”
“If only I was more like that guy.”
“If only I could do this/that/the other better.”

If only.

***

The reason I think it’s so dangerous to say if only all the time is because it means we forget or intentionally want to reject who we are in God’s eyes.

If I mutter, “If only I could be more like Mr X”, then I’m dismissing the person God made me to be, the child he created for his purposes. Mr X may be incredibly strong and have an excellent ability to lift weights, but he isn’t me. He isn’t who God made me to be. He’s Mr X.

It applies to our communities as well. “If only we had these people involved”, we say. “If only more people came to this.” To say these things is to ignore the people who God has brought to us, the people who God has drawn into our communities to surround us and grow with us.

If only makes us always want more, rather than recognising the blessings already around us.

***

I get that sometimes, things don’t work out how we expect them to. And I don’t for a minute want to suggest that it’s wrong to be upset when things go pear-shaped, or that we shouldn’t long and pray for greater things.

I didn’t expect to be unemployed this summer. There have definitely been times when I’ve thought, “if only that job had worked out”.

But then I wouldn’t have seen all the things I have this summer. I wouldn’t have been able to spend the time with friends and family that I have, wouldn’t have been able to figure out what my long-term dreams are.

If only doesn’t help me realise my dreams, it only forces me to feel like I’m constantly under-achieving.

***

So my challenge is to stop myself from saying if only. I’m not quite sure how best to do it yet (I might treat myself to one of these each time I stop myself), but my intention is not so much to lose a phrase as to gain a better and richer recognition of all God has done and is doing in my life.

I’m under no illusions – I’ll probably fail often. But I think it’s worth trying.