Courage Always Triumphs.

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David Cameron reads the Gospel at the Queen’s 90th Birthday Thanksgiving Service.

So here we are in a post-referendum world. Of the 7000 million people on the planet, just a comparative handful of ‘little people’ on a little island off the coast of Europe have spoken with their hearts, and made a difference. Little people, each with just one vote. It’s called democracy.  Their courage changed the course of history. Things will never be the same again.

Courage always triumphs.

People who choose a life filled with courage will always win in the end. Over these last weeks, onslaught after onslaught of terrifying predictions were thrown at these courageous ones, and they STILL voted “No” to fear. The direst consequences, financial ruin, the inability to feed your kids, poverty in old age, the elites of pretty much anywhere did their very best to intimidate, rubbish, persuade and bully, but in those few quiet safe and sacred moments in the sanctity of a polling booth in our little Sussex village I ticked the Leave box, joined my heart with the risk-takers, and voted for a better – and quite possibly a more prosperous world.

Of course, we’ll never know what might have been, because no one can predict the future. Every decision you and I make is irreversible, so alternatives at that time and place no longer exist. There is only one life, and we are all living it.

Big Mistake. Huge.
Julia Roberts' famous Big Mistake Moment in the classic film "Pretty Woman"
Julia Roberts’ famous Big Mistake Moment in the classic film “Pretty Woman”

Just two weeks before the Brexit vote David Cameron publicly read these words of Jesus to a fearful world. “If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after.”  He listened to another David, David Attenborough, read the words of poet Minnie Louise Haskins reminding him that going out into the darkness with his hand in God’s hand is “better than a light and safer than a known way.” In the vote of his and our lifetime, he chose away from a life of faith to lead us with a message of fear.  As Julia Roberts famously said in Pretty Woman when she had been treated as ‘trash off the street’ by an elite clothing store, “Big mistake. Huge.”

It cost David Cameron his career, and us a very good Prime Minister.  Let’s not make the same mistake ourselves.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

Minnie Louise Haskins

 

“I AM HERE” What on earth …

The latest Sercombe motorbike adventure was to the Outer Hebrides.  Just me, my big BMW R1200GS and my red tent.  In case you’ve never been there – and few people round West Sussex have as it’s 730 miles away –  this string of islands is off the northwest coast of Scotland, windy, rainy and cold.

And in the middle of a mile-long deserted pristine beach I saw this:

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No footprints anywhere near, except mine, and by the time I left my idyllic wild campsite overlooking the sea, the engraving was no more – washed away by the waves.

Of course it was me. In a moment of spontaneous inspiration I carved “I AM HERE” with my foot in the sand – and the thought dominated my week, as I contemplated my life, my business, God, the universe, and my future. Today I’ve been thinking about it again as I camped out last night in the wilds of the South Downs catching up with some reading.  A bit existentialist I know, but the truth is, I am here, and I will be ‘here’ for a while yet.  Wherever I am, I AM.  It’s the inescapable truth, and on the basis that the truth frees us, I’m enjoying the freedom.

Yep, I’m here, and it is up to me to make of it what I will.

I’m not on that beach any more. I am here instead, writing this blog.  I moved on, came back to Sussex, and I’m two weeks older, and although I have a camera full of Hebridean photos – Butt of Lewis lighthouse, the rocky hillsides of Harris, Benbecula, Eriskay, and a welcoming pink roofed cafe in Lochmaddy – I can never, ever, recapture that moment on the beach.

In times of quiet solitude I become particularly aware of the presence of God ‘here’, where I am, with me.  It is as if He has said, not written in sand but whispered as a permanent statement deep within, “Andrew, I am here” – wherever I am, always. Regardless of the ups and downs of my life, I’m never actually alone. The Divine Presence, the Creator, present in the world He created.  With me. Here. Now. For ever.

And today that is sufficient for me.  In fact overwhelmingly more so.  Far more important than success, or money. God is here.

And He is where you are too – such is the omnipresent nature of the Holy Spirit.  Unhampered by the limitations of time and space, God is with you as you read this on your screen – closer, actually.

3000 years ago a gifted young shepherd on the run from his tormentors wrote about it. Stunningly poetic, he wrapped it up in a way I’ll never be able to.  I’ve put a few key bits of his poem for you to read quietly before you move on into the rest of your week. Take a few moments – ten minutes? – to stop and reconnect. And whilst you’ll already know that I am here for you today (yes, me, Andrew. Just a phone or Skype call or email away), far more importantly, He is too.

Enjoy.

E:  andrew@powerchange.com   M: 07771631945  Skype: andrewsercombe  Website: www.powerchange.com

Coming Home.

This story continues from last year’s Christmas blog. If you’ve not read it already, it might provide an enjoyable minute or two. If you did read it at the time, pop back for a second visit before you read Part 2.

Here is Part 2 of the story…

Mrs Winchester never slept like a baby normally.  The doctor had described her early wakefulness in various ways, and diagnosed ‘Marriage Anxiety Syndrome’ (DSM-IV 326a) resulting in an ‘over-active sense of responsibility’. She lived with that subtle underlying anxiety of one who cares a lot for the needy – and there was no doubt that Max came into that category. She was, in her words, a light sleeper.  Max, on the other hand was having the time of his life.

Having recovered a little of his decorum following his stumbling across baby Jesus and his teenage parents in the stable, he grabbed his iPad and began writing his journal. He recorded every last detail: the clothes the shepherds were wearing (‘headgear like a tea towel at home’), the state of the stable (‘warm, though smelly’) and discretely omitted Mary’s struggle with feeding Jesus for the first time (he had quietly nipped into the inn for that bit). It was only then that he realised he had a bar or two of Wifi (it was free in the inn), so promptly whizzed off an email explaining where he was and what was happening, to Mrs Winchester, who was duly dumbfounded. She phoned the Community Support Officer again to tell her she’d found Max and heard her snigger for the second time.

Max headed for a hour or two of sleep. He dreamt he heard angels singing, Max 35. Angels.but was wakened finally by the revving of cars in the road below his window. Three massive blacked-out limmos were parked on the curb, complete with their minders and an escort car or two. He slipped his shoes back on and headed for the stable again, there to find a selection of eastern dignitaries gathered round the manger/crib. They were chatting quietly to Mary and Joseph as Jesus slept, and he noticed them handing the young couple some little gifts wrapped in the poshest of wrapping paper.  Max took a picture with his iPad and emailed it home.  “Bethlehem” he thought to himself, “will never be the same after this night, and neither will I.” He proved to be right on both counts.

It was a few days later he decided to head home. Boxing Day had come and gone, and he’d been able to sleep off some of his weariness. It was with a palpable sense of relief that he pressed the “Go Home” button on his TomTom, and waited (ages) while it planned his route through Lebanon, Syria, Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary, into Austria and Germany and back to the Channel. Bluewater seemed a long way away.

He only got lost six times, and broke down just the once – as he was driving round the southern edge of Lake BalatonBalaton – about half way home. Most of the time he slept in the Fiesta, but occasionally he allowed himself the comparative luxury of a comfy bed in a wayside inn.

Max’s final stop was at the side of the road a few miles from his house. He pulled into a little car park on a hill overlooking a beautiful view – you know the sort. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go home, it was just that he was overwhelmed by an inexplicable desire to cry. For a few minutes he managed to contain himself, but finally he surrendered.
For the first time in thirty eight years, he sobbed and sobbed, calmed himself and sobbed some more. Wave after wave of tears engulfed him.  He was shocked to find he couldn’t stop. His body ached with the emotional outburst. Somewhere within his brain he remembered something about the symptoms of PTSD, but he couldn’t care less right now. He knew something deep was happening to him and continued to cry.

When finally his tears ended he noticed the sun was setting – the huge red orb making its way inexorably towards the darkening horizon.  As he sat quietly he felt a sense of peace begin to trickle under the door of his heart. Max put his head back on the headrest. All he could think of was that baby. Somehow the peace he felt was connected to the little newborn child resting innocent and contented in that grotty stable, though he found it impossible to figure out quite how.  He remembered a couple of lines of a T.S.Eliot poem about Magi going to see Jesus, and how they felt. “We returned to our places, these kingdoms, but no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation...” He would look it up when he got home. He felt like that too … no longer at ease … old dispensation. Weird. He started the engine.

Mrs Winchester was delighted to see him back. He was even quieter than normal – which is saying something. Preoccupied. Contemplative. Stronger. More relaxed in a way. Nothing seemed to matter to him in quite the same way, and despite her efforts she couldn’t get him to open up. “I’ll tell you all about it sometime, my dear,” he told her.

And one day he did.

The Practice

I sat, moved by fifty Welshmen, in their everyday clothes, pouring their souls into their national pastime.  These men were practising for the pure pleasure of singing together, with the thought of their future concerts clearly in second place.

Rarely have I felt it such an amazing privilege to be a spectator (or should that be ‘listener’) to such a inconspicuous event. As I listen to them hone their already trained voices – many are Blue Riband singers –  to the next level of perfection, I have to admit to a moment or two of deep emotion.  Heaven knows, they’re good.

These guys were singing on the pitch of the Millennium Stadium down in Cardiff only a week ago, at the Six Nations game, yet here they are, farmers, painters and decorators, quarrymen, and shepherds, big muscular men, sitting literally on the edge of their orange plastic chairs in a little church hall in Betws-y-Coed, singing their hearts out. They draw from each other the deepest richest tones. They humbly pay attention to their musical director John Daniel as he coaches them bi-lingually on the finer detail of each bar and refines each phrase. They focus their attention, no, affection, on bringing Bridge Over Troubled Water to a new level of meaning, not least for me.

Some of these men have driven a hundred miles to be at this practice, and they do it every two weeks. At the half time coffee break the sound of singing voices is replaced by that natural relaxed chatter of people comfortable with each other, teasing, laughing. I can only admire the closeness of a common bond and the shared fun of taking their music from this hall to a wider world (they’ve been to Australia and the States).

I will never forget that practice as the sheer volume of sound (carefully controlled by John Daniel: “DO NOT, under ANY account, sacrifice quality and tuning for volume.” Note to Self: Never sacrifice quality and tuning for volume.) flowed out beyond the lobby doors of that small space towards the street outside. As the ten or so of us in the impromptu audience finally emerged from this relaxing auditory massage, I knew the passion of ‘Cantorion Colin Jones’ (aka The North Wales Male Chorus) had reached into my heart.

And so had their love.

Who will I be?

Late in 1990 I experienced ‘burn out’, and made some decisions about being free from the tyranny of living my life to fulfil other people’s expectations.  (Some of them were really nice ‘other people’ too.) Here goes…

Who will I be?

The quiet and submissive heart
That, pressed by peers, will play the part
Selected for him by the common vote
Of those who stand, observe
And solemnly take note
Then gently urge him to conform
To fit the role
For which he’s not
been born?

Who will I be?

The one who scorns the social mould
And flirts with glorious liberty,
Whose heart, determined, wild and warm,
Laughs in the face of those
Who quietly continue to perform
And turning from the narrow stage
At last possesses that
For which he knows he’s born.

That’s who I’ll be.

I’ve now had nearly 20 years of freedom from ‘the narrow stage’ – though sometimes I’m tempted onto it for a while, allowing my life to become a bit of a performance. Not to be recommended.


My Song

For those who have read my blog (Success Part 3: Better) on writing and singing ‘your song’, here’s mine. Inevitably it is deeply personal and highly subjective, so please honour it as such, but, well, it’s my song.  I’ve titled it My Mission.

To worship Almighty God alone as Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer of the Universe, and King of All.

To live in the confidence that God has a unique purpose for my life, and for the life of every human being, that reflects His love for me and for mankind.

To work with Him towards the fulfilment of that purpose, guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, cushioned by God’s grace, and accountable to Him.

To cherish the vision of a kind and forgiving world for future generations.

To seek truth and to keep eternity in view.

To teach life-enriching principles with enthusiasm and to narrow the gap between principle and practice.

To be an example of good health, contentment and personal prosperity for the rest of my life.

If you’re into poetry you might have a though or two on this one of mine: “Who will I be?” Again, it’s very personal, and for those who know me personally, it could explain a lot!

The Poet

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I thought he was great. (He thought he was small)

His damaged self-image no longer stood tall

The little old poet lived his life in a dream

His scratchings expressed a monotonous theme.

Few people would read the hard-written lines,

The handful who did saw the pitiful signs

Of a poet obsessed with declaring his pain –

The shrewd and the clever marked the writer insane.

Compelled from within to blurt out what he found

In the depths of his mind (now regarded unsound),

He suspected his writings were close to the norm

for a largish percentage of those who are born.

It was many years on I discovered his script.

The most powerful pages were tear-stained and ripped,

Discarded, unwanted, rejected, unread;

For all these decades they’d been silent and dead.

As the reader moved slowly from one line to the next,

Freeing his spirit to dwell on the text,

He perceived, not the agony, aching, and strife,

But the heart of a poet exploding with life.

The depth of emotion so much like his own

Reached into the reader as he sat alone,

Established communion with the battling bard

Who’s path to my door had been hauntingly hard.

Oh you who are reading my writings today,

Are tempted to try them and throw them away,

Remember there’s more in the gaps in-between

Than ever there is where my pencil has been.