This is the latest I’ve done this letter yet, but my excuse is it’s still Christmas Day! I’m currently sitting in my living room watching Murder on the Orient Express with Joanne, my girlfriend and being very glad that I’m not going out this evening!
I thought I’d pick out a few highlights of the year, in no particular order, but categorised together rather than chronological order, to try and vaguely mask the fact that some parts of the year have already faded into obscurity.
Having a car has meant I have undertaken some insane journeys. I headed over to Spring Harvest in Minehead in April, taking the short route in one direction (444 miles Belfast-Moira-Dublin-Holyhead-A55-M6-M5-A39) and the long route in the other (555 miles Minehead-A39-M5-M4-Reading-M40-Rowley Regis-Much Wenlock-A5-Amlwch-Holyhead-Dublin-Belfast) – this was because I was travelling in the company of my good friend Grace Park from Moira to Reading. It was Grace’s first trip to Spring Harvest, and hopefully she is now hooked! I hope to do week 1 in Minehead in 2011, but I might be more conventional this year and fly over. Much Wenlock is a pretty town in Shropshire, which I visited on the recommendation of Sharon and Ian Pearson, and Amlwch was the chance to mop up the north side of Anglesey, which I had not had a chance to visit when I was in North Wales with Libby and Lee Hawkness-Smith in September 2009.
September saw me drive 1250 miles around Scotland, starting by nearly missing the HSS to Stranraer with Holly McGuigan’s piano in the boot of my car due to a security alert on the Westlink. During the week, I visited Glasgow, Loch Lomond, Rothesay (completing a full circuit of Bute while waiting for the ferry), Stirling, Forth Bridge, Kirkcaldy, Cupar, Monifeith, Dundee, Kookaburra’s restaurant in Forfar, Loch Ness, Cannich (where the midges were waiting for me!), the Moray Firth, Nairn, the Forth Bridges, Edinburgh, Dumfries, Moffat, Kirkcudbright, and Wigtown before hitting the road home. I saw an awful lot in a very short period of time, and got to catch up with a few old friends and family.
Summer Madness was made easier by having someone else to write Total Recall (thank you Dave!), which took a lot of pressure off me – I still produced the content and coordinated site photography, considerably honing skills which I had already practised at Spring Harvest, where I had spent spare time during my night shifts post-producing my back catalogue of photographs.
The results are quite interesting – I think that I have now used some photographs which I would previously have overlooked. I am also not alone in noticing how my photography has developed over the last number of years – alas, I still need to catch up on a lot of photos I have taken in recent months!
I have already mentioned that I have a new girlfriend! Joanne Robinson is 41, from Ballyclare but living off the Cregagh Road, and an Art Therapist for the Ulster Cancer Foundation. We met in August, shortly before I went on holiday, and we’ve just been enjoying the journey together, sharing our appreciation of different bits of the arts, introducing her to U105, bringing her along to Strand Presbyterian (more on that in a minute), meeting family and friends, and generally hanging out.
I’m still playing weekly at Strand Presbyterian Church in East Belfast, still using the gifts God has given me to try and bring people along with me as I worship him. We had our traditional Carol Service two weeks ago, tracing the story of salvation in seven of the traditional readings from the Fall in Eden to the visit of the Magi, and St John’s reflection on the identity of Jesus, with all the traditional hymns plus some less traditional items. I had the privilege of reading Matthew 2:1-12, telling of Herod’s words to the Wise men.
Herod wanted to destroy Jesus to eliminate the threat to his throne, but the Wise Men, almost certainly astrologers, travelled many miles to bow down before the new King, the King not of the human kingdom of Judea, but of the world, higher than all human kings, and to whom all kings must bow.
The biggest thing in 2010 has been learning more and more about the man that God has made me – my true identity as a child of God, and realising what that truly means. I have learned more of God’s amazing grace in my life and in that of my friends, and I grow more in wonder every day.
This Christmas, and throughout 2011, may you know that amazing wonder and grace, that God should love us exactly as we are, regardless of his dreams for what we will become, and that he sent Jesus to die so his creations who had chosen disobedience could be treated as pure so we could be admitted to his awesome presence. Best of all, he always wants our total honesty – part of wanting our all, because he knows us intimately. I am awed by how he loves me and all of us, despite knowing exactly what I’m like.
God bless you all!