Category Archives: Life

Just don’t ask us to name a boat…

imageAwww. Nothing quite so sad as unrequited love. Harrow Online is one of my local social media communities trying to engage the 215,000 residents of this one of London’s 32 boroughs in local affairs. They fairly often do this asking us what we love or like about our corner of the metropolis and the locals are not shy in telling them what they think. Today they asked: “Can anyone guess what the major news we will be announcing for this summer is?” Not quite how I would have worded it but the responses still piling in are typical of the stuff they usually get back from a local population that seems to be grinning and bearing life on the far northwestern edge of London rather than enjoying it:

“Open a few more chicken shops”

“You will clean up Wealdstone of all the drug dealers and all the rubbish that hang out there”

“It’s been decided to close all the chicken shops and make the centre of town into one big chicken superstore”

“They are going to build houses entirely out of bottles and cans pulled out of hedges and flowerbeds stuck together with sticky paan scraped off street corners and insulated with tons of chicken boxes?”

“The Olympics are moving from Rio to Harrow?”

“They will actually fix the pot holes and clean the streets and stop ripping residents off?”

“The Civic Centre will be blown up in a controlled demolition for all of us to celebrate.”

“Harrow is still the Tuberculosis capital of the U.K.?”

“Harrow Council are closing down street cleaning services completely to save the £5.99 they spend annually?”

“Harrow will be bulldozed out of existence to make way for airport expansion plans?”

And these were just some of the kinder responses. Life sure has changed here on Walton’s Mountain. Just don’t ask us all to name a boat.

Tonight I think I lost my best friend.

The how’s and why’s are not important for this post. It’s been a long drift and yes after a major blow up point. Attempts at reconciliation on both sides but still the seemingly inevitable outflow of detritus into the bay and the wider dissipating sea beyond.

It hurts. Hurts because of pain I’ve received. Hurts more because of pain I’ve inflicted.

‘Best Friend’ is an odd outdated term I think. I admire those who have and know such relationships. I should never have been entrusted with one. I’m not a best friend kind.

I still have, I think, friends who share the burden of my piss poor reciprocation. I’m less likely to harm a few who have a small piece of me than one who has or had far more.

Covered Wagons

imageOver the holidays just passed, I caught a snippet of an old black and white cowboy movie with those covered wagon trains of settlers heading for a new life to pioneer America’s Wild West in the original western mobile homes. I didn’t watch the film but saw enough to remind me of some wise words given to me by an older sister (just) in my faith back in our University days, which have remained with me ever since.

I don’t do goodbyes well at all. Never have been able to and only marginally cope better now as years and experience have weathered my emotional skin. Back then I had newly discovered the difference between faith and religion and had the joy of experiencing that same discovery with others. LIfe was new. The life-bonds made then remain in my memory still today as very, very special.

“We are all on a journey, the same journey, to a common horizon. We are like those people in the cowboy movies who travelled out to an unseen destination first as individual family units in the wagon train, but later as a travelling community as they bonded along the way. At first while they travelled, they were close with those immediately around them. As the journey moved on, they would swap wagons for a while and travel with others away from their immediate original units for all sorts of reasons while still heading together as a community on the same course. At the end of the journey, they will all be re-United.”

I’ve paraphrased my friend’s words from memory here but that was the key thought she left with me to help me cope with parting from loved friends and embracing changes, including parting from her also. It’s OK and sometimes even necessary to swap covered wagons in life with friends whose compass is set in the same direction as yours in order to fulfil your own path in life. A common destination awaits but the journey to get there may well involve many changes of company and surrounds.

Leaf fall

imageI went for an hour’s walk in my local park this morning. It’s something I’ve been used to doing every day since July for my first waking hour. Life has changed somewhat now and I only get to have such quality times at weekends. This park is the place I got to pray and meditate and talk to the Big Guy upstairs.

How come I had space to do this every day for three months that I don’t have now? Three months ago I handed in my notice to leave a job I’ve been doing for the last twenty years with no replacement job to go to and no idea in what direction to head next or what lay ahead. I’m in my early fifties and I jacked in all I had known in the workplace over the last two decades. A brave and courageous decision to some of my friends; foolishness to others. Of course if one has made such a decision and one believes in the power of prayer, one had better jolly well get praying, yet it was prayer that caused me to make such a decision in the first place.

imageMy early morning walks around the park started in the height of Summer under clear blue skies and warm sunshine on my shoulders. My resignation “reluctantly” accepted, my former employers gave me their blessing to work my three months statutory notice at home on what is called ‘gardening leave’. They could have asked me to work those three months in the office but I asked them to give me the best fighting chance to try to find a new career in a job market that had changed beyond all recognition since the last time I peered into it and to their credit they did. So my early morning walks and talks with the Big Guy as early as six in the morning became an imperative part of my life as it soon dawned on me how quickly the three months would pass and how far I was from having any idea of what life had in store next.

I could write a book on the adventure the three months from July to September has been, filled with a mix of release, uncertainty, hope, inexplicable peace, thankfulness and times of doubt, fear and tears. My journey to the point of handing in my notice was not sudden but had started in October last year but it was not until March of this year that I my mind was made up.

imageI took myself away to Nice, France for a long weekend of soul-searching in a place I’d never been before alone and away from all familiar. There along the beach promenade I walked and talked with the Big Guy as a fresh, light north Mediterranean fine drizzle fell. As I was praying I saw in my mind’s eye and in the distance a very large image of a Roman soldier, stood to attention fully armed and poised like a Puma waiting to pounce. He was of gigantic proportions. As I write, I can still see his steely blue eyes beneath his bronze helmet. He was not looking at me but back past me as if at some Commander who had his full attention I could not see. I’m praying about my job, I thought to myself so why am I seeing Roman soldiers? Friends who know me – both who share my faith and don’t – are by now, I hope, used to me talking about my faith from time to time honestly and as it happens. I’ve shared extraordinary encounters I’ve had before too. That day in Nice was just one of those.

imageNo sooner had I pondered over the soldier while still praying when in my head I heard these words. OK I know – Ian-Luke hears voices na na nana na. Well, no not every time. Occasionally I do ‘hear’ thoughts outside of me when I pray. Only on two occasions to date have I heard an actual, audible voice but that is a whole other story. “You have not because you ask not”, the voice said. I stopped in my tracks and went very still inside and considered: all I’d ever done was whine at the Big Guy but I’d never actually asked Him for the way forward or even anything specifically about the way forward – just heaps of frustration and fear. It struck me that maybe I should put my faith on the line and ask for something specific and tangible. I turned around 180 degrees and started back along the promenade as the sun broke through the rain and Nice started to sizzle. “I want you to report in to me every morning”. Without wanting to go too ‘Field of Dreams’ that is what I heard inside again and to be honest you could have slapped me around the face with a wet Kipper and extracted the same sense of a wake up call I had then. Only then did the picture of the Roman soldier make any sense. The Big Guys was basically asking me to submit and trust. I came home from Nice and decided I would ask. I would ask and be specific, sort of. I couldn’t be specific about anything other than that I wanted and needed to be in a new place – whatever that was – “before the leaves fall” – in those specific words. That was in March. Back home the leaves were only just preparing to open. I don’t know why by I often ask God for things and use images of nature and I’ve done that ever since I was a child.

So my times in the park over the Summer and into Autumn became times of asking and specifically but also less and less about me and my job and future. The asking widened to include others: friends, neighbours, people I knew who were sick, lonely and bereaved and for so many things not connected to my life. My prayer life changed and apart from very rare occasions I kept my morning appointment of reporting in with the Big Guy in the park.

imageToday is the first day of Winter. I’ve never ‘heard‘ winter arrive so gently as I did this morning and this is what prompted me to write this post. I’ve felt and seen Winter’s arrival before with drops in temperature, hard rain on windows and howling wind but never like this. As I walked through the park today with iPad in hand, which I sometimes do, I found I couldn’t pray. The reason I can now only find such quality time to be there at weekends is because I am in that new place I couldn’t see three months ago doing a job I never imagined before but which I had been praying for on and off since last October. As I walked through the park I was of course taken by the visual beauty of this moment as Autumn passes the baton to Winter but I became transfixed by a certain sound. OK, no, not more voices but a distinct pitter-patter that sounded like it could be rain falling on leaves only it wasn’t.

There was no wind, not even the slightest of breeze on this dense foggy morning, yet all around me I kept hearing this pitter-patter coming from above. If you are thinking Squirrels make a pitter-patter sound then they don’t. Trust me – I’ve walked with them too for three months. No, the pitter-patter was the leaves themselves as all around me they just started to fall. No, of course this wasn’t the first day they started doing that just because I was there. There were leaves on the ground all around and the ”fall’ process had started weeks ago. I just never heard it before. Not just me, but as I chatted to other walkers they too commented on the sound of the leaves they also noticed all over the park as they walked their dogs.

imageMy time in the park today was taken more with watching, observing and listening than any prayer at all. I wondered why and I also felt a little sad seeing the leaves that had flown high above me during my Summer of uncertainty, hope, learning, trusting and fear now lying beneath my feet and making their voluntary and gentle departures from the branches and twigs that had held them with no wild weather forcibly ripping them away. As I headed toward the exit a thought came to mind. The falling of the leaves had played a major part in my asking of the unknown way back in March and my prayer had been answered in that time. This Summer’s leaves had been witness to my prayers and hopes and tears and the things I had prayed for under them to the Big Guy upstairs had now been accomplished. One season in my life has closed and another opened. Next Spring those same trees that were shedding their leaves today will open new ones and I know for sure that I will be talking and leaning on the Big Guy when those leaves open because my journey is not over yet.

You’ll find your way

imageTime to leave Oslo. Came here as a follow on from my time out in Copenhagen. Why is all in the last post.

No earth shattering revelations in Oslo – unless rediscovering old forgotten truths is earth shattering.

I’ve always known I’m a very able solo traveller. From a young kid I always seemed to figure out how to get places without a map or with only a cursory glance. My ability to do that came back to mind here and I prayed about it. Why this ability?

In the warm Spring sunshine under a sapphire Norwegian sky yesterday I walked along the harbour and thought about many things, not least my overwhelming desire to find my way back in spirit to a place I once was before I let life, doubts, sheer laziness, unwillingness and listening too much to others cover over the trail.

Before I came out here, I was trying to find Norwegian music to listen to on the flight over to get me in the mood. I couldn’t find any so tuned into a Swedish Christian radio station affiliated to the one I work for. They were playing a certain song. Ironically it wasn’t Norwegian or even Swedish. The moment I heard it I knew I needed to download it. Then I forgot about it. Yesterday on the harbour front I remembered it. Playing it then it all made sense. My life made sense or at least I can now see direction of sorts. While I have been confused in trying to adapt to new ways I have buried instincts born in me that were put there to help guide me to be me. It is those I need to return to.

It was odd to be choking back tears on such a beautiful day. But they weren’t sad ones.

The song us called “You’ll find your way” by Andrew Peterson and is available in iTunes. It’s written from the perspective of a loving father having let his son go and face the challenges of life hoping that he has taught him enough to find his way through..

You’ll Find Your Way

When I look at you, boy
I can see the road that lies ahead
I can see the love and the sorrow

Bright fields of joy
Dark nights awake in a stormy bed
I want to go with you, but I can’t follow

So keep to the old roads
Keep to the old roads
And you’ll find your way

Your first kiss, your first crush
The first time you know you’re not enough
The first time there’s no one there to hold you

The first time you pack it all up
And drive alone across America
Please remember the words that I told you

Keep to the old roads
Keep to the old roads
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way

If love is what you’re looking for
The old roads lead to an open door
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way
Back home

And I know you’ll be scared when you take up that cross
And I know it’ll hurt, ’cause I know what it costs
And I love you so much and it’s so hard to watch
But you’re gonna grow up and you’re gonna get lost
Just go back, go back

Go back, go back to the ancient paths
Lash your heart to the ancient mast
And hold on, boy, whatever you do
To the hope that’s taken hold of you
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way
If love is what you’re looking for
The old roads lead to an open door
And you’ll find your way
You’ll find your way
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