Day 120-131 The Final Stretch

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I find myself for a third time in the sunny climes of Isle of Wight, one of the highlights of this 131 day tour. However, before I can blink I am confronted with germ warfare. I sing in two venues: Shanklin United Reformed Church and Colwell Baptist in Freshwater, but the moment I stop singing my head feels groggy, my nose leaks and Kurols become my best friend very quickly. Over the next few days the joy of this place is replaced with groggy despair. I confine myself to my room for much of the time as I allow the body to manufacture antibiotics to combat the invasion. These things take time, and I resist the urge to toddle off to the Doc for a top up of the manufactured stuff.

It has been a long tour (they are all now 4mths duration, for better or worse) but I don’t find them arduous (as people assume), I find them invigorating, fulfilling and spiritually rewarding. To see people’s lives impacted with the hope of restoration at the foot of the Cross (the gospel message) is truly uplifting, makes everything worthwhile and gives a sense of a greater calling.

From Shanklin it’s back to the mainland. A Friday evening at East Sheen Baptist in London, and a Saturday night/Sunday morning at Southwick Christian Community Church Brighton. And yes the tour is over, complete, and I am still compos mentis, by the grace of God. I would love to do a list of highlights but really the highlights are always the people. I am not a ‘people person’ (I’m an introvert by nature) but this ministry gives me the opportunity to come out of my shell for a season and become a people-person, for the sake of the Gospel.  2019 will be an Asian Tour Lord willing, but it’s all by His grace and it’s for His glory.  I consider my life worth nothing to me, my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. Acts 20.24

A big thank you to all the wonderful church hosts and accommodation hosts, the prayer supporters and spiritual warriors, my PAs Hannah Fairchild (Germany) and Karen Cullen (NZ), my family, the financial supporters but most of all to God the Father, who sent his son Jesus to die for me, so that I might have life and have it to the full.
The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  John 10.10

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Day 112-119 Dublin, Torquay

IMG_9714I am standing on the tarmac at Dublin Airport with a sense of resignation at the last-minute changes & delays this budget airline specialises in. I am reminded of a piece I wrote years ago ‘Dreaming, Leaving’ (published in one of my early books of poetry, now out of print). Dublin has been a disappointment to me. I had such high hopes as it was a highlight of the ’92 world tour. I want to record an album here. Fat chance. I want at least to sing & share in one of the churches. Sorry we’re busy, and your name is not Matt Redman (one of the pastors actually said this to me).  So, I consider a name change (Sir Matt Ridingman) but think better of it. I won’t be bullied by this once-vibrant culture. I won’t bow to the Almighty Dollar which seems to have taken over. I won’t play their game, I will take my music elsewhere. Jesus said: If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Matthew 10.14

On the plane I am seated next to an Irish musician Richard Jago. We chat. He agrees with me. The musical heart of Dublin has gone west and now resides in Galway he tells me. If I had been privy to this knowledge earlier in the piece, I could now have a master tape in my carry-on bag and a wider sense of satisfaction at goal achieved.

The plane arrives over an hour late in London. My host Rob is there with a grin on his face (fortunately). The website said the plane was on time. Hard evidence suggests otherwise. We both vow never to fly BryanAir ever again. Simple economics suggests we probably will. Rob loans me his 2003 Saab (the Grand Old Lady) and I drive to Torquay the following day, much of it at walking pace thru dense jungle traffic. I wave at a henge of stone (from a distance) and arrive for my sound check with 1min to spare.

Over the weekend I have four events. Friday night & Sunday morning at Barton Baptist (pastor Richard preaches one of the best sermons I’ve heard in a longtime), Sunday night at Okehampton but the jewel in the crown is an evening house concert at Brunel Manor Retreat Centre. It is an elderly group, so my expectations are low (no offence). But the anointing of the Holy Spirit is very strong, and hearts are touched. Heart-warming feedback and I sleep soundly knowing I was in the right place at the right time.

Day 112-114 Life on the Road #2

IMG_7301A solitary man   People feel sorry for me on the road. You must get tired they say. Yes, it’s true I do, but God created sleep to cope with this very situation. And following a calling, playing & singing to the best of your ability, sharing your faith regularly with others and seeing many touched by the Holy Spirit is not as tiring as slogging your guts out in a job you hate for 40 hours a week, year after year. No amount of tv watching will numb the fact God created you for greater things. But hey, I’m just stirring.. lol..

3000 Guitars   I heard that Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones owns over 3000 guitars. He employs a fulltime curator to look after them. I have one guitar, an Ovation, and I look after my own guitar. I bought it Aug 1978 for a TV appearance on the talent show of the day: Opportunity Knocks. Opportunity did not knock, but I still have the guitar and it has traveled the world with me. It will be 40yrs-old this August. However, the wooden soundboard has developed a split, so it will need some TLC on my return to NZ.

Tattoos   Wherever I travel I see hordes who now display tatts on their body. It has become a huge fashion trenda personal statement of the ‘me’ generation, but I am in two minds about it. The bible seems to suggest the inner life is more important than the outward appearance. I have no desire to mutilate my body in this way (in the past we considered this the domain of bikies, rebels & delinquents) but I must be careful not to judge my fellow humanoids. God loves us all, tatts or no tatts.

Life without the media   I used to enjoy intelligent unbiased journalism in the media (eg. tv Mark Sainsbury) and the NZ Herald. Now unbiased journalism is a joke. The media has become the political stronghold/mouthpieve of the Liberal Left. Since I’ve been away, I have not watched tv once, and reduced my news gathering to 2mins of headlines (to avoid missing the onset of nuclear war..) I am the better for it.

Scam   As a wake-up call I got scammed in Dublin. Booked accomm with Airbnb for 3 nights, but they took the money and ran. Fortuitously (the Lord’s provision), there was a cheap hotel nearby which took me in, and Airbnb refunded the money in full.

Revival in Europe   On facebook I have posted an article on the current revival in Europe, and Eastern Europe in particular (years of oppression has created a spiritual vacuum which is now being filled). It has been ‘liked’ by 4 people. It seems the West has no interest in what’s happening in the East. The truth is the church in the West is in decline, doesn’t know what to do about it, and shows indifference to how God is moving in other parts of the world. I have felt drawn to Europe over recent years, and not really known why. Coincidentally, I had my DNA tested out of curiosity and find that my dominant genes are not English as I thought, but European. Deep calls to deep.
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Day 108-111 Zittau, Germany

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I am standing in the middle of a small city (pop 25k), in Eastern Germany. The sky is  overcast, a grey monument to the grey days of Communism. But flowers bloom, even out of dirt. The flowers can see, feel the goodness in the dirt, they suck it out by a process called osmosis, and the dark grey brown dirt is transformed into something beautiful. The scars of Communism are not that hidden on the faces of those I meet on streets and  in shops, hotels and stores in the Czech Republic, in Eastern Germany, and on the 2016 tour in Poland, Bulgaria, Serbia and other countries I visit with a curious compulsion.

I am standing in the middle of this small city early on a Sunday morning. A light overnight rain has left a silver sheen on the cobbled streets. Photos are difficult in the low light so I compose poetry instead, but those words find no voice. Who reads poetry? Who wants to read poetry? Who is educated to read poetry? My words die. Maybe a song at some later stage. People will listen to a song won’t they? Though on the streets of Prague last week very few would stop and listen to an average kiwi singer on an average day in the bustling tourist city.

I share in the Sunday morning service, as I have so many times before. Cross culturally can be a challenge but the effect of my songs is actually visible on the faces I sing to. This was the strategy given to me 2yrs ago, to sing under the anointing of the Holy Spirit to melt the hearts of communist and religious stone. Later I receive feedback from a saint:  We were talking about the Sunday service in house group today and people really took out a lot of what you said and shared – also your encouragement to open the mouth and sing out loud, your being so calm and much more. You really affected people in a positive way and people also stated they liked how what you shared was so authentic and believable (for example that is was not only a 3 week process of the depression lifting and that was it, but that is was an ongoing 4,5 years process) – you were authentic for people.. I would say it already had good effects! Just as a feedback 🙂    He has brought us this far by His grace.

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Day 101-107 Prague, Czech Republic

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Spotted this black dog on the famous Charles Bridge in muggy Prague. No collar, no owner, just a slow intent to follow the crowd and wind up.. somewhere. He was friendly enough but in NZ he would be impounded, micro-chipped, inoculated and offered to a good home before being euthanised, if no kind-hearted takers. I don’t know if he has a name, but he does remind me of Winston Churchill who suffered from depression, which he referred to as his ‘black dog’. Churchill was a temperamental impulsive man who was disliked by his peers, but he had the balls to stand up to Hitler. A bit like Trump who is universally disliked but who stood up to Kim Yong Un, called his bluff, threatened him with annihilation (to the scorn of the Left), and brokered a peace deal. Go figure.

Depression has been my companion since the age of twelve. Over a four year period I had three godly counselors who identified this as the age I suffered the trauma of abuse: bullied at high school, not once or twice but relentlessly over a three year period, by staff and pupils in a foreign school. Pushed to the ground, kicked, spat upon, mocked mercilessly and called the scum of the earth. Why? Because I had a kiwi accent in a foreign land and I didn’t know how to stand up for myself. I was an immigrant, an alien, forever the outsider, socially ostracised & dysfunctional, wounded, hurt and that trauma turned to bitterness, resentment, anger, and yes, a major depression problem. It has taken a lifetime to come to terms with it, but it is so ingrained it turns up in my life like a black dog, like a demon on my shoulder whispering negative thoughts, like a curse.

Prague is a mega tourist destination, not far behind Venice, Paris & Greece in it’s drawing power. They come in their hordes, and swarm like orcs over the landscape devouring all they see. But I shouldn’t be skeptical as I could be mistaken for a tourist. I walk around a lot, I take a lot of pics, I drink coffee and even stretch to roast duck, red cabbage & dumplings for a meal. Wow. But my motivation to leave my family for this length of time (four months on the road) is different: I’m here because I have a message of hope for those who are broken. Like Eva after the Sunday service in the Roman Catholic church in Želiv. I prayed with her (with a translator), her face was drawn, she had tears in her eyes, I could see her struggle, and so I was able to speak and pray words that gave practical  insight, inspiration and hope. It’s not a tourist destination, it’s a calling.

He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece. Acts 20.2

Day 91-100 Klášter Želiv, Czech Republic

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I have missed my calling. When I stay in a monastery there is a ‘deep calls to deep’ within me (Psalm 42). What is it about the monastic lifestyle that draws me? Community. Shared lives. Silence, deep silence, the silence of centuries of meditation in this place. The Cross. Being set apart and ‘holy unto the Lord’ (Hebrews 10.10). The rhythm of life, punctuated with bells, rising early, the freshness of the morning air, combined singing, combined prayer, laughter and deep peace. A strong devotional life, devotion to Jesus. The purity of heart here. The simple lifestyle, owning little, being content with less. It’s a foretaste of  life in the heavenly realm, maybe (Revelation 21).

I loved the Rick Warren book: A Purpose Drive Life, but in that book he made a negative comment about the monastic life which bothered me at the time, and it bothers me now. Something about being too heavenly minded, maybe, I can’t actually remember what he said. But, having seen the purity of heart of brothers and sisters devoted to the Lord in this way, and the effectiveness in their local communities, I am convinced in the Lord’s good plan there is a place for this lifestyle. I have been blessed here.

Our hearts or minds are to be continuously set on these ‘things above’ where Christ is in heaven, not on earthly things. The popular notion of Christians being ‘so heavenly minded they’re of no earthly good’ is a myth. On the contrary, most of us are so earthly minded we are of no heavenly or earthly good. CS Lewis said, ‘It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.’ God commands us to be heavenly minded, and doing so will give us the perspective and motivation to live on earth as he has commanded us.

Since you were brought back to life with Christ, focus on the things that are above—where Christ holds the highest position.  Keep your mind on things above, not on worldly things. You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. Christ is your life. When he appears, then you, too, will appear with him in glory.  Colossians 3.1-4
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Day 86-88 Belfast, Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland is different to the rest of Ireland. It’s under British rule. It has a history of division and conflict. And I’m only here for a few days so it’s hard to have any deep understanding of the real issues underlying the historical conflicts: Left/Right, Protestant/Catholic, North/South, Loyalist/Republican, IRA/British Army etc. What remains is a town replete with murals of every size and color (consult google) with art memorialising the various aspects of the conflict. The remarkable thing is the lack of counter graffiti. It seems that if nothing else, they respect each other’s right to speak.

The accent is broad, unlike the lilting southern Irish accent. I struggle to get my tongue around it but am determined to add it to my list of accessible accents for inclusion in future stories of my travels. Rain is not pronounced with one syllable: rayne, it is a two syllable: ray-in. To be sure, to be sure (you never say that in Belfast..)

I have four events here. On the Friday Hannah Fairchild (now resident in Dublin) is the main speaker at a woman’s event. She invites me to sing, so I lead a couple of worship songs at the start and a couple of my own at the end. There are about 45 in attendance and a lovely anointing where I sense the Holy Spirit minister to many present, as testified by the comments afterwards.  On the Saturday I have my own concert at the same venue, with a small turnout, then two services on the Sunday at Castlereagh and Grove Baptist churches, similar in style to the Brethren church in NZ. Lovely people, faithful in the Word, but churches dwindling in numbers, a sign of the difficult times we live in, and you ponder the future.  I take heart from Jesus words:  I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  Matthew 16.18   Lord, build your church!