Freedom Is…

.. A deep work (what happens in you is greater than what happens to you, and is deeper than the workings of the circumstances and situations that frame our daily life), a quick work (God takes a long time to do something quick  – as long as it takes for us to turn away from what ever else we look to for help on to Him) and a lasting work (what happens through you is meant to outlast you, and true success is measured by how much it empowers the next generation to extend the work that we do). Or so says the phenomenal Joel A’Bell whom I stumbled on in today’s Hillsong London pitstop..

Was also great to hear the worship team reprise This is Living from the Young & Free Album. Sadly they didn’t get to do the Lecrae rap bit.. 😦

New month, new focus, new energy, given how much February sucked on so many levels…

Of Journeys and returns

compare2

London was warm, a tad too warm if the truth must be told. And dry – well, except for that wretched Saturday evening, which in keeping with my rotten luck with these things, was the one day I decided to be out and about into the wee hours of the morning. Other than that, the contrast with the ‘Deen couldn’t have been starker – wet, barely nudging 19 degree weather and warm, dry, 26 degree weather and sunshine, separated by the small matter of sixty five minutes of flying.

I had barely managed to catch my flight to London this time, ending up forgetting my Oyster card as I frantically tossed jeans, t-shirts, shoes and my trusty MacBookAir into my holdall after falling asleep in a state of turmoil. For the umpteenth time, an attempt to get a sit-down with S. failed collosally – it is slowly beginning to sink in that I may be barking up a wrong tree here. Five missed calls and two voice mails from my friend J., didn’t help soothe my mind either. I ended up soaking wet, at 7.20am, having walked the mile between my house and the train station to drop off a package for him. That early start also meant I skipped breakfast, which was why my first action after scaling baggage reclaim at Heathrow was to head off to the Giraffe for a coke and a sandwich. An hour later, I was seated on the Piccadilly line for Cockfosters, hoping to get off at Kings Cross

Across from me, a man sat, hunched forward, headphones in, swaying almost imperceptibly from side to side to whatever music he was listening to. His face had that calm, meditative mien of one at peace with the world and himself, his sandals, shorts and a simple t-shirt with ‘Chicago’ sprawled over the front somehow adding to the image of quiet, simple, acceptance. On the other side from him, an Indian woman sat, hands folded in her lap, eye shut as though fast asleep.

By the time we were past the Hatton Cross station, our carriage was standing room only. A woman and her daughter – she had on the most garish eye lash extensions I have ever seen – had joined the carriage, a family of five – a man, a woman, two teenage sons and a young daughter who could not have been more than seven or eight.

The heat wave had been all over the news – which had prepared me somewhat – leaving images of shirtless, pot-bellied hairy men on the underground seared deeply on my memory. As I hauled my stuff off at the Old Street underground station having switched over at King’s Cross, I was inwardly thankful for having avoided anything that dramatic.

hillsong_final

The main driver for London on this occasion was the Hillsong Europe Conference, and given how much anticipation I had had prior to actually flying, it didn’t fail to deliver. Making my way across the Northern line to London Bridge and then the Jubilee line to North Greenwich, there were dots of people clearly excited about what was coming. The sense of anticipation only heightened the closer one got to North Greenwich at which point just outside the O2 the lines had begun to form even before the scheduled 5.50pm front door opening.

Upon arrival, I joined the back of one of the lines as it inched slowly towards the doors where we were meant to swap our electronic tickets for wrist bands. Somewhere in between, I fell into conversation with a bloke who introduced himself as P. His story, as it spilled out, was one of deep desperation and sadness – apparently he was broke and needed a tenner to sort out a few bills. I ended up parting with £20. In retrospect, given how many names he dropped in the seven minutes or so we spoke for – including a few Nigerian ones – I may have been had; not that I minded much given how pumped up I was.

The conference itself was fab – Brian Houston’s call to embrace Holy Mystery rang very true with the stirring I’d been having about learning to not make everything about my ability to plan and anticipate problems. Judah Smith was funny as always, repeated a few of the jokes I’d heard since I’d committed to preparing for conference by listening to his church podcast but managed to place The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard  in a new light for me. Louie was Louie. #NuffSaid.  All told, it was well worth the money, time and energy expended, that I may have made a couple of new friends was a great bonus to tack on.

The one complaint my friends south of the border usually have is that I don’t come down as often as they might wish. Each trip thus tends to morph into an exercise in optimisation; trying to cram as many meetups into a weekend as possible.

I ended up not meeting Si. A combination of bad planning on my part and having to sort my bags out on Sunday morning at the Dominion meant the little window we had vanished quickly.

I did get to catch E. at Nandos on Friday, at the back end of the conference. And she was great company for what it was worth, at 11pm on a Friday night, clearly knackered from what had been a busy week for her.

My friend K. has always been my one counter cultural, rebel, overly liberal acquaintance – and when it was certain I would be in London long enough to meet up, it was with some trepidation that I agreed to. For starters we argued about where we’d meet – a Starbucks for coffee or a pub for drinks. We ended up at a pub somewhere around Old Street. We got on famously, no issues there,; I ended up accompanying her in the piddling rain as she burnt through three fags in the 2 hours and some we’d spent.

These jaunts are usually incomplete without the obligatory airline gaffe. This time, my flight from Heathrow ended up delayed by an hour and thirty minutes. The culprit, a stuck partition between first class and economy.

SMH.

Goings on – A few quick hits…

chicken

In line at my GP’s, waiting for an audience with the receptionist who I want to confirm an appointment with, I find myself growing impatient despite being only the fifth person in line. It looks, and feels, like everyone and their dog opted to stop by today. It is a warm day and there are at least ten people in various stages of repose on the chairs scattered around the waiting room. Inwardly I am cursing myself and my daftness for choosing lunch to do this. At the head of the queue, a large-ish woman engages the receptionist in a conversation of sorts – if speaking two unrelated languages can be classed as a conversation. She, like me, has an appointment to confirm, unlike me she needs an interpreter to pass her query across. The dour, matronly receptionist seems to be at a loss, unable to determine what is an appropriate response besides saying repeatedly ‘The nurse is not in yet, she’ll call for you when she has an interpreter on the line’. Six times and five minutes later, she has made no headway, and the woman has held the line up for all of that time. Our saving grace is the nurse calling out ‘Olga”, allied with a name I can’t recall. Recognising her  name, she makes her way to the consulting room to be attended to. Needless to say, I am not at my most gracious at the delay – unnecessarily so.

The GP visit has been occasioned by an unexpected bout of malaise. By my standards, four hours and some of sleep is plenty, but over the last few days even that has been about as attainable as a snow storm in the Sahara. I am hoping to have a chat with the GP, get all my vital signs checked, particularly my blood pressure and gain reassurance that nothing major is amiss.

That malaise ends up being unresolved, at least up until Friday when I get dragged out by my friend Q. for peri-peri chicken at Nandos. On a slightly positive, it provides ample material for my return to the3six5NG

hillsong.countdown

In other,  even more positive news, it is 8 days to the Hillsong Conference Europe, and I am preparing –  by listening over and over to Louie Giglio’s message from Passion 2013 as well as Judah Smith’s and bobbing along to Glorious Ruins. Over the weekend, I got confirmation that my friend E who I haven’t seen since the back end of last year will be attending, even more incentive to look forward to some time away from the ‘Deen since my quick trip to Nigeria in February.

#Can’tWait

Weekends of debauchery, blasts from the past and a return to a home of sorts

dominion theatre

Three quarters of the way through the year, I find I still have just under three weeks of holidays left – and that does not include the productivity black-hole that is the last week of December when all and sundry truly grinds to a halt. Once again, in spite of my plans to not be in this situation, I have ended up hoarding holidays again, the plan being to use them as a make weight in lieu of notice as my plan to swap cold, windy, Aberdeen for the slightly warmer, but more rural climes that are Kirkland Lake. The BossMan has made it clear there will be no carry overs this year, and he has made sure to ping the appropriate warning email in my direction  in addition to the automated ones sent by our holiday tracking software. All told after one too many reminders, I log on to Teamseer and fire off holiday requests for an extended weekend.

Newcastle, for all the right reasons, (NCLC, landmarks, relatively low costs and the friends I still have left there) usually comes up trumps whenever I have a few days to kill but the prospect of attending a buddy’s night out ends up being the final push that swings the pendulum firmly in favour of London. That, and the chance to catch Hillsong London for the first time since my all too brief appearance at the 10th year anniversary in 2010. With the luxury of a week to plan, I promise myself the mistakes from last time won’t be repeated. I book a flight to Heathrow with plenty of time to spare, and get a hotel in the Heathrow area to make sure I am well rested and primed up by the time the party gets swinging by 10pm. What I don’t bargain for is my topsy-turvy relationship with milky weak tea landing a sucker punch, one where I ended up passing so much gas I am doubled over in bed by 8pm, running to the loo every so often. Needless to say, all thoughts of partying fade to a distant memory as I try to wait out the diarrhoea. I wake up the next morning fully rested with a faint rumbling the only relic of my night of pain consoling myself at missing what arguably was the core reason for heading to London with the prospect of catching Hillsong London at the Dominion Theatre. Morning ablutions done and dusted, I plot my route on google maps and commence my eighty minute rigmarole via foot, bus and tube to Tottenham Court Road.

Hillsong – I arrive at 11.20am, shake hands with one of the welcome team dressed in black with dreads and a hint of an East African accent in the greeting he lobs in my direction through a plastered on smile and make my way up the flight of stairs to the back row where the remaining seats are. The kids are just heading off to children’s church and I squeeze myself past two women chatting excitedly oblivious of the goings on in front before I plod down besides them. The service is all I remember and have missed – rockish music, lights, great visual effects, MacBooks and iPads proudly displayed and jeans and t-shirts all round. Glyn Barrett from Manchester’s Audacious church brought the message on The Promise of God, somehow managing to throw in an anecdote from City’s sensational title win from last May and kissing a stranger’s sweaty, bald head.

Post Hillsong, I call up my friend O, and we arrange to meet up in the vicinity of the O2 Arena – another poignant place as it was here that the Hillsong 10th Anniversary was held. We grab lunch – I am famished and nearly dead on my feet – and watch Arsenal rip Liverpool to shreds  at Anfield in the league. Again, not since Newcastle have I watched a game in a pub.

o2_arsenal

I never got to see the buddy on whose account I came to London in the first place, but a bonus was running into one of the guys from my old Nigerian job. We got to swap stories about who was still with the company or not and all the shenanigans and hassles of being the Corrosion Engineer in a firm whose primary focus is producing oil and gas.

cake_london

It is only a quick two day break, but the joys of no dishes, chillaxing and chocolate fudge cake have no compare, at least in my opinion.