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!

Day 76-85 Dublin, Ireland

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Many years ago I visited Dublin with its cobbled streets and its incredible range of gifted buskers. Now many of those cobbled streets are gone and there aren’t so many buskers. It has become more of a thriving thronging commercial centre and not quite the Dublin I experienced in the 90s. That being said, it is an attractive town. While I am here the sun shines, which is contrary to the public opinion suggesting the Irish norm is grey overcast.

So.. I spend my time here visiting recording studios and talking with producers. And walking. Lots of long walks. I make a list of 23 recording studios here in the city, then whittle it down to a shortlist of five. Windmill Lane selects itself, an easy head and shoulders above the rest, but more expensive than the current budget allows. The musician’s dilemma. How to make a living from music, and how to finance big recording projects when the income streams are dwindling, not increasing. There is no simple answer to this question. The new songs I have are begging to be recorded, but the practicalities overwhelm me. I am planning a retreat next week in the Czech Republic. In faith, I believe the Lord has the answer to this conundrum. In faith, I have to believe there is a way to record and release these new songs to a wider audience.

Day 72-75 London#2

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I’m back in London to (a) return the 2003 Saab Aero SW I’ve been loaned for the last two months, and (b) to talk on overcoming depression at the Hope Community Centre in Barnet (Sun May 20th). This meeting is an open meeting for all and sundry, an event supported by the local churches but in the neutral venue of a community centre. There are a number on non-Christians there. I share my story of overcoming depression without the use of pills, and my journey of recovery at the foot of the Cross. There is a definite anointing of the Holy Spirit which enables me to say just the right words for these people and sing effectively. Lives are impacted, tears flow. I talk and pray with a number after the event, which as always encourages me that I’m on the right track. It  makes these daunting itineraries worthwhile. In two days time two things will happen. I will fly to Dublin on the budget airline Ryan Air, and I will turn 69:  Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures.. Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90.10,12   Lord, as I age, give me wisdom I pray.

Day 67-71 Stroud, England

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Stroud is a picturesque town set on the edge of the Cotswolds with a population of 12k. I could live here. A lot of alternative lifestylers, aging hippies, and buskers. I’d fit in. I walk past the ‘spiritualist church’ every day, which offers healing meetings. I would love to do the research: do they get healed? I sing of emotional healing at Sunday morning and evening services and again at the women’s prison during the week. I often find a stronger anointing of the Holy Spirit in the prisons than in the churches, hmm.. I visit the stunning Westonbirt Arboretum (place of trees) on a warm sunny day, a photographer’s delight (see facebook pics) and run (well, more of a jog) on the Rodborough Common, past a swathe (my current favourite word) of humans led around by dogs. Although I once lived in Cheltenham 22km to the north, I don’t recall ever visiting this likeable place. Maybe I should have been born here.