Day 65-66 Weston-super-Mare

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One of the challenges of this tour has been getting enough bookings. I have too much time on my hands with swathes of days off and a growing restlessness. I didn’t come to the UK to have a holiday. That being said I am in a UK holiday centre: Weston-super-Mare. I haven’t googled the name but assume that Fredrick Weston who founded the city once had a great horse… well, maybe. I walk on the beach, take photos of seagulls and sandcastles, drink too much coffee and stay in a quaint b&b and watch my funds dwindle. Oh well, life on the road. Lord, I need more bookings, unless you are trying to speak to my heart about something?  More reflections on the road..

the price of water   One of the great mysteries of life.. how can water here in the UK cost 50p for one litre (NZ$1) and water in NZ costs $3 for 750ml (dearer than petrol). Are kiwis being ripped off for a basic resource that we have in abundance? Does anyone care enough to do something about this? Don’t talk to me about market forces.

the fall of western civilisation    We ignore the fact that in the history of the world great civilisations have risen, and great civilisations have fallen (eg. the great Roman Empire). What makes us think Western Civilisation is immune to decay? In fact, decay is what I see all around me, particularly moral decay. It’s a sign to me that we live in the end times:  For that day (the return of the Lord) will not come until there is a great rebellion against God (falling away, nkjv) and the man of lawlessness (the antichrist) is revealed—the one who brings destruction.  2 Thessalonians 2.3 niv

driving habits   I am continually amazed how much better UK drivers are than NZ drivers. The English are a POLITE people and this shows in the way they drive, with courtesy and consideration. They are rewarded with a lower road toll rate. Conversely, NZ drivers are rude, aggressive, impatient and with a belligerent sense of entitlement. The result? One of the highest road toll rates in the western world.  The answer? TRAIN the drivers from age 18 (with 40-100hrs of defensive driving skills, like Germany) and severe penalties (high fines, loss of licence for breaking road rules, particularly the speed limit, as they do in Australia). But I’m on my high horse again. I’ve been writing about this needless death on the road for over 20yrs, but no one listens and no politician has the backbone to do anything about it. We just accept it and do not learn from overseas.

Rivers album

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This album was conceived on the shores of the Waikato River where it exits Lake Taupo by the Taupo township in NZ.  I walked there one morning after the final concert of the ‘Sanctuary’ Tour May 2014. I was deeply impacted by the depth and rich blue/green colour of the water and how it seemed the perfect metaphor for the Christian walk. The Holy Spirit has the ability to reach into our inmost beings, to touch us, to cleanse us, refine us, redefine us, lead us, and even comfort/counsel us in our most testing times.

Since that time I have done many bible studies on various aspects of water in scripture. The result is this new collection of songs. Essentially, a collection of songs about faith and the different aspects of our Christian walk. The songs have been written in different countries: mainly Australia, NZ and Eastern Europe. The song ‘Peace Will Come’ was written in Zalaszántó, Hungary 2016 as an anthem in response to the tumultuous history many of the Eastern European countries have had.  ‘Run To Me’ was written on a 4-day songwriting retreat on the Sunshine Coast Australia.. a winsome call from the Father to us his children. ‘Sebbys Song’ is a poem written by Belgian poet Hannah C Fairchild in response to the loss of her son.  ‘Hole In My Heart’ is yet another  paen about how the Lord can help us in the midst of brokenness.  ‘I Found Grace’ is a song written in response to the scripture ‘Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord’.  Genesis 6.8  
Noah lived in a time of ungodliness and violence as we do, and Jesus mentioned this time ‘as in the days of Noah..’  Matthew 24.37

My hope is these new songs will be a a blessing and encouragement to many. In these days of global media, and YouTube in particular, I believe these songs can and will reach multitudes with the message of the Good News of Jesus, and that it is possible our lives can be transformed as we surrender to him and lay our burdens at the foot of the Cross (Matthew 11.20), as we are cleansed by his blood (Hebrews 9.22), filled with his Spirit (Acts 2.4), and as we receive the peace of Christ which passes all understanding.  (Philippians 4.7)

If you would like to pre-order this album or make a donation towards recording costs go to:   www.julesriding.com/store

Day 63-64 Cheltenham

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Cheltenham has two meanings. In the original Greek it means ‘place where posh people live’ and in the original Hebrew it means ‘place where kids get abused’. I am standing outside the house where I was born at 173 Brooklyn Road. There is no Civic Reception, no brass band, and no one here to help me process the grief I feel. I should pray and feel thankful that I was born, that I live, that I’ve had a life, a family, an on-going  international ministry. Instead I weep uncontrolably. I’ve had three wonderful counselors (Ian, Jane, Craig) who each in turn help me forgive, and come to terms with the dysfunction and abuse I suffer growing up in this barren city, but today I realise it counts for little. I was born here and in the space of a few short years live in Bath and Poole before we emigrate to New Zealand. I have my 4th birthday on the boat (SS Morten Bay), in Port Said, Egypt. We settle in the semi-rural town of Masterton where I indeed have a blessed and happy childhood, with wonderful boyhood friends, and an outdoor life in a mild climate. At age 11, my parents make the hasty and somewhat suspect decision to return to England. New Zealanders are uncouth they say. England is the Promised Land they say, heaven on earth (with descriptions of green rolling hills and thatched cottages, the cradle of civilisation). It isn’t heaven, it is a wretched hell. It breaks my heart. It tears me to shreds emotionally. We live in Bournemouth (519A Boscombe Road) then move back to Cheltenham (22 Victoria Terrace), which has a posh side and a poor side. We live on the poor side. Go to a wretched low socio-economic school (Naunton Park Secondary Modern) with overcrowded classes and vindictive teachers. I am verbally, physically, emotionally and systematically abused over a three year period by teachers and pupils. Ostracised, alienated, marginalised, ridiculed, and endlessly mocked. I have one coping mechanism: withdrawal. And I spend the remainder of my life coming to terms with this, but never really have. All my ‘issues’ (and in particular shame, anger, depression) stem from this relentless abuse. Today is the mid-point and low-point of the tour when I realise not how far I’ve come, but how much further I have to go.

There is a verse in the bible:  All things work together for good for those who love God and are called in his plan. Romans 8.28  During my entire high school years I make only one friend (Ross Chamberlain). I am completely nerd-like and socially inept.  I have no social life, but I do become a jogger as an alternative and to this day I jog, and I’m better for it. I also teach myself guitar and learn every Bob Dylan song I can lay my hands on. It becomes an obsession, an alternative universe, the driving force in my cosmos. So when I come to faith age 26 through my Christian girlfriend Ann Fenton, God takes this obsession and moulds it into something else. Here I am today, an abused and obsessed man singing his way to glory.

Day 60-62 Portsmouth, England

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Every tour has low-lights and highlights. The Bank Holiday long weekend in Portsmouth is a highlight. The weather is calm, warm and sunny. The trees are in splendiferous bloom and the English sky is actually vivid blue. It has been a long time coming but the English warn me, it won’t last long. It doesn’t last long. BUT I am grateful that I can make (spiritual) hay while the sun shines over the weekend. I share in a Sunday morning service and a Monday evening concert at church. Both are anointed, both events touch hearts and I feel privileged to have visited such a warm fellowship where the singing is full-throated and whole-hearted and the acoustics good. I judge the success of events such as these by the feedback received, though mindful to contextualise the ministry by realising I won’t always see the fruit of the seeds sown.

I stay with Pastor Tracey Ansell and husband Steve. They are a very dedicated and committed couple with a good range of personality/ministry gifts and skill sets to serve the local Baptist church and impact majorly the local community.  It has been a blessing to have been here, but as always looking ahead to the next place on the itinerary.

I recall a piece I wrote in my first book of poetry (‘Don’t Let Poor Nellie Starve’) entitled Dreaming Leaving which is a poetic monologue on the fact I struggle with belonging anywhere. And why I continue to seek a definition of who I am. These thoughts and emotions crowd my mind. Why? Tomorrow I will visit my birthplace, but what in all honesty can I expect? The brutal truth is, this will be a non-event and so I’m setting myself up for the inevitable disappointment.

Day 56-59 Isle of Wight II

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I find myself yet again, on the Isle of Wight. The people are warm and friendly, there is a slower pace of life here and on a good day, the photographic opps are stunning. I share at a home group meeting with 17 in attendance. As I sing the new song Take It To The Cross I sense a strong anointing of the Holy Spirit, and I see people visibly moved.

Later in the week I share my new collection of songs from the ‘Rivers’ project with a group of singers and musicians. They play and sing along and again, I am greatly encouraged how the new songs are gelling. I sense the recording of these babies is approaching soon, Lord willing in Dublin at the end of the tour. I will check out recording studios in Dublin later this month, but ever daunted at the fund raising mountain to climb, and the challenge to sell CDs in a digital download world.

I receive another invitation to sing on the IoW in July, so may be back a third time to these lovely shores. The weather is improving, the sun is shining, temperatures are in double digits at last, the sky is blue and the clouds are fluffy white. There is spring in the air and a spring in my step.

Day 53-55 Southampton, England

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It has been a long cold dreary winter (so the local shopkeeper tells me) and I believe her. The overcast skies seem to linger over me and affect my mood.. it’s called being ‘under the weather’. I miss the long hot days of home. Summer is NZ seems to have gained an endless series of extensions whereby double digits still exist day and night. But here the temperatures enjoy remaining locked in proud single digits, day and night. Until suddenly, unexpectedly the sun breaks through on my day off, and Daisy Dip (a local park, a godsend, a sanctuary) is bathed/clothed in light. Hope restored.

Here in Hampton of the South, I perform a Saturday night concert, share in a Sunday service and a Sunday evening house concert. All a little on the quiet side, with minimal feedback. But I do know that God does his work even when I feel my delivery has been somewhat lacking in spark or focus. I’m reminded that in itinerant ministry I don’t always see the fruit of my labour.  Sometimes it is merely sowing seeds, and the harvest or the fruit can be much later.

On the Tuesday I take the ferry one more time for yet another invitation to the Isle of Wight. I seem to be gravitating to this wonderful island again and again, with the possibility now of a third invitation in July. As always, the Lord closes some doors and opens others..  I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. Revelation 3.8

Day 49-52 Bath, England

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Bath   I was born in Cheltenham (some time ago) and lived in Poole and Bath before my parents emigrated to New Zealand in the early 50s. I return to Bath in the hope there is some glimmer of ‘I used to live here’ but no such glimmer exists. It is a somewhat run-down city with not a lot to commend it. But there again, the days are deeply overcast when everything can seem somewhat Eeyore gloomy. I don’t even get to see the sweeping curved terraced houses it is famous for. All I see is dirty streets, run down buildings, homeless people begging, an influx of immigrants, and.. a shop selling Bob Dylan artwork prints at £3000 a pop. Well, at least the city has some culture.

Antsy   I have no ministry bookings this week, which is a challenge for me. I like to be busy, I hate days off as I’m prone to depression, so force myself into a ‘coping strategy’ of (a) going for long walks with my camera, and (b) working on the next project, which in this case is the next album ‘Rivers’, a few years in the pipeline to date. I struggle a bit. Decide to leave Bath and head for the cheapest accomm I can find in a rural setting (Antsy), about 80mins south. It is a small farm with horses, and a small room, no windows just a skylight. I look up. Rather than be depressed, I look up. I attempt a run, but the wind is so bitingly cold (4deg) I manage about 5mins and resign. Oh well.

Life on the road   The time off gives me opportunity to think deep meaningful thoughts about this itinerant musical life that I’ve chosen. There are many pros and cons, mainly pros. But good weeks and not so good weeks. The great blessing is the lives that are impacted by the Holy Spirit via the message I deliver: restoration and healing at the foot of the Cross. The great challenge is when the response to the message is muted or indifferent, at which point I can either blame myself and go into meltdown, or (as I’ve learned to do) just accept the fact that not everyone can receive the message.

Rivers Album   I began writing these new songs soon after I made the decision NOT to retire in 2014, the result of a supernatural vision I had beginning May 4th 2014 in a concert at Palmerston North Baptist Church. During that concert the Lord took me in the Spirit and showed me a vast crowd of people who needed to hear the Gospel message I was delivering. The people were many nationalities and ages, there were a whole range of depressed, suicidal, struggling people.. those in mid-life crisis, financial crisis, or marital crisis.. people at crossroads, people in strife, people lost and people bewildered by life..  and I had a message of hope for all of them. The songs I have written since then have been ‘road tested’ at many concerts and matured to a place where I am keen to see them unleashed, and fulfill their eternal destiny in these end times that we live.