Poetry etc

I know several of you have my other LJ friended anyway, but I’ve put a fair bit of my poetry up on andyb_writes.

More will follow.

Meantime, healthwise, I’m getting better. Antibiotics course finishes on Monday morning, and I’m back at work on Wednesday!

Prayer without action

Dangerous stuff.

If you read my post last night, you might be excused for thinking that I was making prayer the be all and end all.

Of course, it’s anything but.

It is essential that when we pray, we should be listening to God, and ready to act according to his instructions.

Tim Hughes’ new song God of Justice puts it well:

God of Justice, Saviour to all
Came to rescue the weak and the poor
Chose to serve and not be served

Jesus, You have called us
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

We must go live to feed the hungry
Stand beside the broken
We must go
Stepping forward keep us from just singing
Move us into action
We must go

To act justly everyday
Loving mercy in everyway
Walking humbly before You God

You have shown us, what You require
Freely we’ve received
Now freely we will give

Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out
Fill us up and send us out Lord

Of course, I have my own song about Micah 6:6-8, but hey. This song focusses us – it talks about not just singing (or praying, whatever – same problem, only I think most people would rather sing songs with everyone else rather than pray as such. Can’t blame them!)

It also fits in with what James had to say about faith without works being dead. If we pray and then don’t act in accordance with what God’s asking us to do, it’s pretty useless.

Challenging. Make sure I follow my own advice, will you?

Next step…

Well, I went to the doctor’s. He nearly prescribed me Amoxyllin, until I reminded him I’m allergic to penicillin – so I’ve got a five day course of two erythromycin four times a day. Without saying it, it’s what we already knew – one big chest infection.

I’m still due to go back to work on Friday, but the heat (to be 24 max tomorrow daytime, and 25 min tomorrow night…. AARGH!) may yet hold me back for a few days, in which case I’ll need a sickline from Friday. Lovely.

Prayer anyone?

From the blog of Tracie, an English girl I know:

“Unfortunately we as christians here in the UK regard prayer as the thing done in church by women especially middle aged and older women. When we have tasks to perform for a day we rush around setting up and then squeeze in 5 mins to pray before we start. When we should be praying first then setting up in the time left after praying. For too long we put centre stage humanitarian issues and things like fair trade. These are worthy issues but when any issue takes first place over prayer something is wrong. It seems to me that one of the reasons we fail to see revival here in Europe or answers to pray is that we don’t take prayer seriously. When the church wakes up to the need to take prayer seriously we will see answers that we never dreamed possibly.

“As Martin Luther said (paraphrased) before a busy day…I must pray for 3 hours rather than 2 as I have a hard day ahead.”

How true.

Only for us here in NI it’s not even humanitarian issues and fair trade. We’re pretty guilty of pursuing our own programme.

And when we turn to God, we ask him to bless our programme. We try to set parameters on what we think God should be doing. Especially in this country.

Our challenge is to pray the words “Your will be done” and mean them. To say to God, “We set aside everything we would like and trust you for justice, good government (this is a bugbear of mine. If we pray for either a United Ireland or for NI to stay in the UK because we think that’s what God wants, someone’s wrong. And that’s a lot of people praying against it, and telling God what he wants. Excuse me?), and above all that when you send revival, it will be amazing, brilliant, and we are not going to try and tell you how to send revival, we will not ask it to fit into how we do church, we trust you that it will be worth it.”

Prayer is the fuel for God’s plans. Which reminds me… but I’ll save that for another time.

Please, get praying. Regardless of what Steve McCartney might say in his blog, I am not this amazing prayer. I need to do more of it, and I need to trust God more for his will to be good, no matter how scary it is.

It’s ironic saying this on a night when we’re not actually meeting, but a group of us meet to pray for each other, Belfast and Ireland in general at May Street Presbyterian Church (nearly) every Tuesday at 7.30pm. Do join us – details at http://www.theweeprayerroomthing.org, together with any weeks when we’re not going to be there!

Anyone who can’t make Tuesdays, we meet Thursdays as well from September.

Burn out


I’m an idiot.

I’ve overdone it yet again.

I’ve thrown myself too deeply into too many things.  Work, Summer Madness, Streetreach, assorted internet stuff.

So I’m currently home nursing a bad cold, mild tonsilitis, and not sleeping well.

I am also broke, and wondering how I will survive until my bank loan is paid off in two years, because my outgoings keep going up in price more than my pay goes up (the price of being a civil servant).  I’m subsisting, and I can’t even afford to go to the dentist or the optician – both of which are loads overdue. 

On top of that, my emotional health and spiritual health have taken a nosedive as well.

With everything that’s happened this year, my spiritual health is stillbetter than it has been in the past, but I’m still hitting burnout too often.  The big one was 2001, but about twice a year since I’ve hit rough spots.  Last two times were last autumn when I had high blood pressure (at least partly precipitated by the Ignite forums… sorry, but it has to be said), and February this year after Becky and I broke up – although that was helped so much by the number of people praying for me.

I’m going to be taking it easy for a while.  I expect I’ll be off sick for a few days at least, will see the doctor later in the week if I’m not better… but meantime please pray.

Daft bosses…

The Northern Ireland Civil Service tends to let staff away on the day before bank holidays, and our department is no exception.

Except the head of our branch doesn’t believe it. He made the concession of letting us away at 4 yesterday.

Kinda wish he’d been in all afternoon, because there was absolutely zero productivity. Everyone celebrated the meanness by doing nothing all afternoon.


Someone, whom I should not call a muppet, posted the following on a mailing list I belong to:

“Yesterday was the annual feast of Drumcree and yet it passed of quietly and with dignity. Is it now possible that given this pattern of behaviour in the last few years that the time for allowing the marchers to return with dignity some quiet Sunday is upon us?

“What would Jesus do? How would members feel if the way home from the service in ****** was altered because it was a protestant act of worship in a predominantly non-protestant area.Should the C. of I. not try and work for equality of road use?”

Never mind the fact that Drumcree is a protestant church is irrelevant to the march home, here’s what I wrote…

“The marchers can return with dignity to Portadown any Sunday they wish – just not via the Garvaghy Road.

“If you consider that marching back into Portadown is part of the act of worship, which is not an unreasonable intention given that all of our lives are to be an act of worship to God, we must raise the issue of whether how it is perceived damages our witness as Christians, and if our neglect of this reduces its effectiveness as an act of worship to God. The scenes we endured up to ten years ago, together with the fact that the whole business of marching along the Garvaghy Road seems to be more about being able to use a road as an Orangeman than any other reason, suggests that its effectiveness as a (potential) act of worship is seriously impaired. It neither honours the residents nor the authorities (who gain their authority from God), and bluntly, I don’t believe it honours God.

“I personally think that there is an accommodation to be reached, not unlike the one imposed on the Whiterock parade the other week, where the local lodge and no others walk the traditional route without a band, essentially preserving the route, but you don’t get the whole lot invading an area where they are not welcomed. Neither side was happy with it, but it took on both sides of the argument… having been past the Workman Avenue gates last week, though, I cannot say I’d particularly want to walk through them.

“That said, Uncle Andy and Mervyn walking the Garvaghy Road in Give My Head Peace was a sight to behold!”

I just followed up with:

“The other thing I didn’t mention is that the nature of the church service at Drumcree Parish Church is utterly irrelevant. The diversion is in place not because of where they have been, nor because of the act of worship they have participated in, but because of the nature of the actual parade. Those who would argue that it is not triumphalistic are referred to the year they were allowed down, and Ian Paisley and David Trimble danced to celebrate.”

Isaiah 35

I think I mentioned the Connect weekend earlier in June.

During the course of it, I attempted three pieces of artwork. Pictures of people are one of my weak points, so I abandoned my attempt to draw a man in armour (God’s armour) standing on top of a hill, holding a staff with what I call the Banner of the Lion and the Lamb – the banner itself is red, with a lamb and a lion either side of the cross.

Having abandoned that as a bad job (if anyone would like to draw it for me, please do), I did a smaller one of the banner itself and the words “I will stand under the banner of the Lion and the Lamb, the banner of truth and love” or something.

The other one I drew was a desert scene, with a river flowing right through it and green spreading either side, with trees and flowers. I tried looking for the Bible reference, and found one somewhere in Isaiah, but it was the wrong one.

The correct one is Isaiah 35:

ISA 35:1 The desert and the
parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, 2 it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to it,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.

ISA 35:3 Strengthen the feeble hands,
steady the knees that give way;

ISA 35:4 say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, do not fear;
your God will come,
he will come with vengeance;
with divine retribution
he will come to save you.”

ISA 35:5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

ISA 35:6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
and the mute tongue shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.

ISA 35:7 The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

ISA 35:8 And a highway will be there;
it will be called the Way of Holiness.
The unclean will not journey on it;
it will be for those who walk in that Way;
wicked fools will not go about on it.

ISA 35:9 No lion will be there,
nor will any ferocious beast get up on it;
they will not be found there.
But only the redeemed will walk there,

ISA 35:10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return.
They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.


This was read a couple of times at Streetreach, and it is so full of hope for Belfast, which is probably best described as exactly that – a desert waiting for rivers to flow and bring life back to it.

We keep praying, waiting and watching. It’s going to happen.

(just don’t ask me when)

SRConfidential Days 3, 4, 5…

Sorry folks, but the SM broadband modem was taken away on Friday before I could do any further blogging.

Talking of which, Friday. I spent the day back at the King’s Hall. It turned out to be a fairly quiet day as far as I can remember – I was already getting really tired. Think it was the day I had long chats with Holly and Railto – it was also the day we were looking out for John to send him back home if he came on site.

John not having appeared, I faced a 24 hour day on Saturday, starting at 4am. I don’t do early mornings at all well, and late nights don’t help either… nor does some kind person moving all the toilet cleaning stuff into the middle of the Paddock subcamp so we can’t find them to make the toilets nice and clean for the Streetreachers… (they had to wait until this morning!)

Saturday afternoon a tired Andy hit the Woodvale area to do photography for the street carnival, which got moved into Springfield Road Methodist due to the rain. There was genuine excitement about the carnival amongst the kids, as I walked round with one of the teams – unfortunately, I missed seeing the kids coming through the infamous Workman Avenue gates. One day that peace wall will be torn down as totally unnecessary, we have to believe it.

Inevitably, a few of us found ourselves round the piano in Springfield Road Methodist, perhaps even more inevitably including myself. One of the Team Leaders, Philip was doing a three chord thing of ways to praise God, before moving into more secular stuff – I threw in a little Beatles and some worship songs.

Back on site, everyone arrived back early for the last night. Ryan Mitchell, who hosts Ignite (and Summer Madness and a lot of other sites) has become a fantastic worship leader, with great sensitivity and fine musical ability. A friend of Johnny Parks and fan of Tim Hughes, he kept some of the songs going from Summer Madness, including a very good one of Tim’s – “God of Justice (We must go)”, which is so appropriate to Streetreach, perhaps especially in the context of SBSUSM07 (oh ok, it’s Stand By or Stand Up – Summer Madness 07. They told us on Monday night) which was on wristbands and all Streetreach and Staff t-shirts this year, and has really already been launched.

People were feeding back about what was happening in their areas, and one team revealed that 17 kids were saved in one area alone. Wow!

The main thing that Linda Gordon said, imparting a vision for next year, was nothing to do with next year, but that we need to go into our communities and act now rather than wait.

I’m going to make one final observation on the day that I finally came home after 13 nights at Balmoral, and that is that as an observer, which in many ways I was this year (nearly all the Team Leaders and Delegates this year were under 30 – the over 30s mainly coordinated areas alongside other under-30s, or did homebase), I watch, listen, and take photographs of some incredible stuff being done by God through my friends in Belfast.

Where will it all lead to? Full-blown revival? We can only hope so, because seeds planted are beginning to ripen.

This blog will return to normal from the next entry!

SRConfidential Day 2

Well, I’ve just cycled round a pretty peaceful King’s Hall site. Nicky Kells last went round just before 2, and Martin Edwards is going to let me get to bed in about half an hour or so (BLISS!)

Yesterday (as it is now) morning was fairly quiet. Two guys missed their bus, and got extra kitchen fatigues with Patricia, our semi-resident nurse before being taken on to their area (isn’t she lovely!). Martin and I could easily have found something for them to do for the afternoon 😉

This afternoon, I cycled down to Sandy Row, where I was based last year, and to Holylands, to see how the teams were getting on and to take some photographs. I hope to upload the best ones later on in the week… More prosaically, I also got more lovely yellow gloves for the toilet teams tomorrow…!

In Sandy Row, I learnt that a wee fella who had been giving a team a bit of a hard time yesterday gave his life to Jesus last night. Wow. Darren is in touch with the local youth fellowship leader, Lindsey McLeod, whom I remember well from last year (she’s good!)

In Holylands, I arrived in time to search for teams before attending a barbecue and joint birthday party for a Streetreach delegate (17) and local resident (62).

Back on site, we have been having it fairly quiet during the day – all the real action is out on the streets. Summer Madness has now left site, so all that is left is Streetreach (which means we have to do the full clear-up on Sunday… lovely… still, it’s only two subcamps, my stable and the Balmoral Hall now)

What does concern me, and we need prayer for this, is spiritual attack and health. John Kee’s son Robin has been diagnosed with diabetes, and as I speak, John is spending the night with Robin in the Ulster Hospital. Health problems are also dogging other members of the team – one guy had to go to hospital tonight after hitting his head during the day and fainting during worship.

Please pray for our safety. God is our strength, our stronghold, our place where we are actually safe, but we can never have too much protection from him.

More tomorrow.

SRConfidential, I suppose – Day 1

Well, I should really have changed the title, shouldn’t I?

On Tuesday (call it SM Confidential Day 9!) I headed home and had a lovely bath before returning to site to rest in advance of my 4am shift on Streetreach Comms. Eek.

Yesterday SR Comms really swung into action, trying to sort out missing buses (don’t ask!), first aid contacts, and general message taking. We did however get to listen to stories from the folks out on the streets last night during worship, which was really good – it always makes me go “WOW!”

I also finally got my SR pass last night. Hopefully I’ll get visiting a site or two this afternoon.

More later!

SMConfidential Day 8

It’s nearly over!

Monday was all in all a VERY interesting day. I started out by covering Gate A since no other security personnel were available, all having been up late the night before, before escaping.

The afternoon was our trip to the City Cemetery. Photos will follow, but you won’t believe the difference that the 500 people made to the cemetery, clearing some of the most horribly overgrown graves and gravestones, and also clearing out a derelict house (downstairs only!). Jim Rodgers (chair of the BCC Parks Committee) attended, and was obviously really impressed – the whole thing really blows my mind. Wow.

The evening was Mike Pilavachi’s second talk. Where on Sunday night he had talked about God and referred to the Scriptures, he took time to expound the two fishing incidents involving Peter – with his dark sense of humour of course!

One of the interesting things is that Tre having talked to us about action, Mike took time both nights to talk to us about praying for each other as we stood, setting parameters to work within (and having the Prayer Ministry experts to hand to ensure that only they stepped outside those parameters). Not entirely unusually for me, I ended up flat on my back as God spoke to me.

The Cinema was another thing altogether – it started an hour late because, try as a couple of guys from the AV team, plus Rishi and Geoff from the site team, and I stood scratching our heads trying to work out why the DVD player wouldn’t talk to the projector. People were praying, because quite suddenly the DVD started working again just before 11 – the venue finally finished 15 minutes late (without rolling the credits), but they did get seeing the film, which I feared that they mightn’t have – and, arguably, we shouldn’t have shown it without enough time to finish it. Thanks to Nelly and JK for sorting that one out for us!

Streetreach proper starts tomorrow. I need to find out when I need to be back tonight, because I think I’m going to run over to my grandma’s and get a nice hot bath…!

SMConfidential Day 7

Last night I did the sensible thing and went to bed. I’m currently preparing Powerpoint for Staff Worship at 8.30 before I get some (badly needed) breakfast.

In the end, I got to 24/5 worship slightly late at 6.40am, but at least I got there – problem was that I was really hoarse because I hadn’t drunk any water or anything before I headed in. Oops.

The highlight of the day was the Northern Ireland All-stars v. Brazil 7-a-side match. With M Taylor in goals (no comment), one JK took the lead early on, before Brazil equalised and went ahead, but some nifty footwork by Tim Canning got him another two goals interrupted by another Brazilian goal, and Pete Dennis got the deciding goal from a penalty kick. Final score after 60 minutes – 4-3.

More later when I’m more awake.

SMConfidential Day 6

And so the first full day of the festival passes. And the weather forecast has changed again – they are now expecting pretty much constant fine weather for the next five days rather than showers on Monday.

In a change to the published programme, Phil Collins spoke this morning, but I’m too tired to remember what about (besides, it was many hours ago).

Highlight of the morning was a spot of Security Rapid Response by myself and Mark Railton. Called to meet a couple of motorcyclists who had accidentally ended up in the middle of the site, we cycled up in double quick time – Troy got there from a shorter distance about the same time, and Mike drove up to watch Mark mainly deal with it before Troy and I walked them down to Gate A to retrace their steps to Gate G (where they had entered the site). Nice and straightforward.

Tonight Tre was preaching on Luke 4 after Jesus returns from the wilderness, when he speaks in the Nazareth Synagogue on Isaiah 61. Crux of the talk was that this was the moment.

Response was to throw water on our faces to wake ourselves up, and remind ourselves that it was daytime and time to get going.

Personally, I was prayed with by a couple of people I already know. The upshot of it was reference to Revelation 3 and doors that no man can close, and that I was in a good place for now and basically to live for that rather than continually looking towards the future.

During the day, I attended my first Streetreach seminar for 2006. There are fewer and fewer left of the 140 (or however many there were) who did Lower Shankill in 2003, just a handful of areas, but the preview of the areas was so encouraging.

The rest of the day was spent on Security (or cycling to XtraVision!). Fairly quiet, thankfully – and since I’m to be up for 6am tomorrow, I’m off to bed now!

SMConfidential Day 5

And so Day 1 ends. At least for the campers, because for those of us on site on Monday, it’s Day 5.

(Things are bad. I can’t remember where I left off on yesterday’s blog!)

Anyway. Last night the crank on my left pedal nearly fell off, so I took the train into Belfast. Life Cycles was closed, due to a crazy morning that the owner had (he rang me back later to say he hadn’t got in until 11.30 – I gave up at 11), but I ended up at McGarvey’s in King Street who tightened it, saying I’d need a new crank soon enough as it would come loose again.

It wasn’t a totally wasted morning, as I got a new globe and mantle for my gas lamp, and a couple of other messages.

Before that, I had rushed to the Church of Ireland Centre in search of a data projector, with which Tim Canning and I got back only five minutes late. In what started out a very slow afternoon, I ended up helping act as Sub Camp Leader for the Londonderry Hall (normally run by the Square subcamp), waiting for six groups to arrive and pitch tents after I left.

I also ducked out to get Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The rest of the films for the weekend are on the Summer Madness website – check it out 😉

We had our first full Security Team meeting. I walked in and said something along the lines of “Where did you all come from and where were you last night and last Sunday?” – thankfully taken the right way. It looks like I’m on standby most of the day, but I may also be on the general rota. Soon see what happens.

You’ll want to know what Tre was talking about tonight. He went against type, and preached on being hungry for what God wants us to do, based on Peter’s affirmation of Christ and Jesus explaining what that entails (including suffering) and the Transfiguration, all from Mark 8. The climax of the talk was about coming down the mountain afterwards – he compared it to talking about the end of the festival at the start, but if Tre’s intention is to spend his talks talking about action, he’s started at the right place.

More tomorrow night.