Thursday, 25 December 2008

First Hot Christmas...

Two things I experienced today that have never been part of my Christmas day before:

- The smell of freshly cut grass mingled with sunshine and warmth - a smell you only usually get in a UK spring or summer!

- The problem of my paper crown hat continually blowing off during Christmas dinner as a result of the fan!

Other than that it was pretty similar to being at home, thanks to a lovely British missionary couple who live nearby and welcomed me into their home for the day. Very grateful.

But in general over the last month, being in a new culture for the Christmas period has been wonderfully refreshing. None of that frenzy that is created in western cultures, centred around santa and elves and vague ideas about good will and the potential for human goodness, really exist here.

In Thailand for Buddhists (over 90% of population) Christmas is nothing; and for Christians it is nothing less than an opportunity to explain the real Christmas story to the community.

It is a time to spread the message not of our capacity to bring good will to fellow man, but of God's generosity to us in sending His Son. It is a message not of human goodness but of human depravity and God's goodness in making a way for us to be good as we were meant to be.

Am thankful for the opportunity to experience this afresh in a new place without the familiar added extras.

1.) Lunch with the Trelogans, Carolini and Leeanne!
2.) My first hot Christmas, out in Thap Than, Thai countryside!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

I love this picture...#2

The place: Christmas camp 2008, Christmas Carols workshop.
The action: Students writing a song celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.

This is what Christmas is all about.

It's all relative...

This isn't, as you could be forgiven for thinking, a discussion about post-modernism. I do have some opinions on that topic, but right now they are not on my thought-agenda.

No, this is about the weather!!

So, picture the scene: I wake up in the middle of the night in my Thai bed (in Thailand) shivering. I pull the blanket up around me, I put on a hoodie (my old Bristol Uni one...received this weekend in the post from my mum!). Morning comes, I creep down the cold stairs, glad of my warm hoodie, make myself a hot drink, take it back up to my room where I clutch the hot mug as I delve into the day's portion of God's Word. I briefly consider whether or not a cold shower is essential this morning...decide it's not worth the trauma, so dress quickly (jeans and a long sleeved jumper) and go down to grab some breakfast before heading out.

This is where I realised that my temperature was 'all relative'!!

I took two pieces of bread out of the freezer and watched in amazement as both were thoroughly defrosted after less than a minute of exposure to room temperature...! So there I was shivering away in my warm hoodie, and my frozen bread was doing the exact opposite!

The cold season is in full swing here, with the temperature regularly going down to 20 degrees C, and sometimes as low as 17! It feels genuinely cold, but its blatently not!

So there's my thought of the day....admittedly it's not Einstein....

More profound Christmas related thoughts to follow!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

I love this picture... #1

I love this picture. It is full of good memories. Let me recount some of them.

The scene: Alison Williams’ living room.

It reminds me of the time when me and Katie helped Al paint this room. It was fun, meaningful and productive all at once!

It captures Lizzie in the moment of finding something hilarious (a common occurrence!) and reminds me of hours spent in hysterics with these guys.

The pile of Mark's gospels on the table remind me to pray for the students in the UK and the FREE project.

It reminds me of the story of Al’s shirt (the white one she is wearing in this picture) which cracked me up when she first told it and still cracks me up sometimes now:

Al walks into a shop, wearing the white shirt.
Indian Man: That’s a nice dress
Al (thinks): he must be talking to someone else, I’m not wearing a dress.
Al goes to the counter to buy whatever she is buying.
Indian Man: I like your dress
Al (thinks): It’s not a dress, it’s a shirt! Get lost you creepy person!*
Al (says): Thank you.
Al makes a swift exit.

Now whenever I see that shirt I think ‘I like your dress’!!

Unfortunately I never actually see the shirt what with being in Thailand and everything. But that just makes this picture even more special!

*(N.B. Al – sorry if I put words in your mouth/head there, I obviously don’t know what you were thinking re:the Indian Man’s comment, I just used my artistic licence!)

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Being real

I like songs that are real. What I actually mean by this is that I like melancholy songs. Now for a melancholy person, listening to melancholy songs can be a bit dangerous. That's why when I found myself making a playlist of songs for my ipod yesterday called 'melancholy' I stopped myself.

I stopped myself because I have to be very careful in this area. The last thing I want to do is yield to becloudedness. But then I thought about the songs that I was selecting for this playlist. Were they really melancholy? Yes, I suppose they were, but the overriding theme in each song was hope in the amazing God who is our creator and sustainer. These kind of songs sneak hope into places where hope has been beclouded, in a way that is unassuming and consistent with reality. They turn our eyes gently upwards to gaze on our Maker, without pretending there are no tears. They tell us the truth about our great God without creating an imaginary world of fluffy, fuzzy perfection. And so I am grateful for such songs.

For that reason I decided not to abandon the playlist. Instead I changed the name to 'songs of beholding'.

Sometimes we need the honesty of these songs.

Sometimes however, we don’t.

Sometimes we just need to get over ourselves and stop feeding the parts of ourselves that enjoy the darkness. This might mean listening to upbeat songs like 'Life' by Desiree, which includes lines full of meaning, such as: 'I don't want to see a ghost, it's the sight that I fear most, I'd rather have a piece of toast, watch the evening news.' (Rhyme it sister!!) Or it might involve watching Flight of the Conchords until you feel you might die with laughter (feel free to replace with whatever comic genious you enjoy more).

Sometimes this works.

Sometimes it doesn’t.

So one needs great discernment in knowing what one needs in any given state of melancholy. My resolve is to be careful, and to keep enjoying and appreciating the moments of light-heartedness given to me in this world. To listen to the feel-good songs as well as the thought-provoking ones. To be real, but fun; serious, but spontaneous; sorrowful but overflowing with joy! To love deeply, give freely, breathe in great lungfuls of God's wonderful grace regularly. To lean my full weight upon the one who made me. To keep being honest about what I am feeling and asking Him to protect me from the sin of indulging in despair.

Saturday, 29 November 2008


So, I followed the link on Andy Shudall's blog to another blog which linked me to this 'blog analyser!' It uses what you've written on your blog to tell you what your myers-briggs personality type is. The result is scarily similar to what doing the actual myers-briggs test told me, and took much less time!
So, this is what my blog says this about me:

ISFP - The Artists

The gentle and compassionate type. They are especially attuned their inner values and what other people need. They are not friends of many words and tend to take the worries of the world on their shoulders. They tend to follow the path of least resistance and have to look out not to be taken advantage of.

They often prefer working quietly, behind the scene as a part of a team. They tend to value their friends and family above what they do for a living.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

So, House is my new favourite TV show.

For those unfamiliar with House, it is an American medical drama about a Dr (called House) who, through the means of controversial yet ingenious methods, complete with outrageous sarcasm and hilarious one-liners, figures out various mysterious illnesses that no-one else can work out. It has me laughing out loud frequently. But it also makes me think. House thinks differently to most people, and he’s not afraid to say things the way he sees them. Here is something that made me think:

Patient: I just wanna die with a little dignity

House: There’s no such thing! Our bodies break down, sometimes when we’re 90, sometimes before we’re even born, but it always happens and there’s never any dignity in it. I don’t care if you can walk, see, wipe your own ass, it’s always ugly, always.
We can live with dignity, we can’t die with it.

I think House is spot on here.

Death is always ugly.

It shocks us and it horrifies us, because it is just that: ugly and horrible. And it wasn’t meant to be here, it’s a trespasser. It steals from us, it robs us, it takes EVERYTHING we have. And whether we’re expecting it or not, there is nothing we can do to stop it. We have no control over it.

We like to think we can ‘dignify’ it because that makes it easier to manage. It makes us feel like we have some control over it. But the reality is that it is our greatest enemy and whether we think about it or not, we are decaying. This life that we love, that we pour everything into, that we cling to, that we try and figure out as we go along, that we believe is all there is….is temporary.

It is our biggest enemy, but there is a bigger reality. There is more than this life. And even better than that, there is victory. Death has been crushed. It came into the world because we invited it in at the beginning; and we chose these small, frail, pitiful lives that revolve around ourselves and each other instead of our Maker, and in doing so we forfeited the pure, satisfying life that never ends.

But that’s not the end. We weren’t left to just get on with it and get over it; ‘you’ve made your bed, now lie in it’. No, we’ve been given a second chance. This is where House would probably disagree with me.

The One who made us, entered the mess, took the brokenness, the sin, the punishment we justly deserve for our rebellion, and the great enemy of death on himself and then, in victory turned death on its head as He was brought back to life.

“since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” – 1 Corinthians 15:21-26

So death is always ugly, House is right. I agree 100%. But there is more that needs to be said. Even in death there can be life, even after death we can be made alive. But only through one man: Jesus Christ. The defeater of the enemy.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Encouraging words...

Tonight at the night market with a group of students:

Fern: Do you like shopping?

Alison: No.

Fern: I guessed.

Alison: How?

Fern: You look like a boy.

I love Thailand.

Monday, 3 November 2008


I want you to close your eyes for a moment and imagine the sound that you hear a thousand million times in a supermarket at the check-out when an item's bar-code is scanned. I think I can be almost 100% certain that we are imagining the same sound because it is the same everywhere in the world.

I have one question.


Sitting waiting for some friends earlier in a Thai supermarket I tried to imagine how it came to be that someone chose this particular sound effect. Was there a committee meeting at which it was discussed? Did they try out a few different sounds and then decide on this one? Did they test several different sounds in a large room to find out which one would carry most effectively so that it could be heard everywhere in the building? Did they do a survey of people on the streets to find out which sound was most appealing to them? And how did they even think this sound up in the first place!? Did someone raise their hand in the meeting and say
"when items are scanned at the till, it would be wonderful if we could get the scanner to make a sort of 'piip' do you think we could make that?"

The ideas I came up with for alternatives for the 'piip' sound are as follows:
- a light flashes, different colours for different sorts of items.
- the whole floor vibrates.
- a spotlight comes down from the ceiling onto the cashier and/or customer.
- the name of the item is spoken loudly by the scanner in a pre-recorded Russian accent - particularly funny for buying embarrassing items!
- the scanner is attached to a pair of electronic dancing shoes worn by the cashier, that must perform involuntary tap dance moves each time a barcode is scanned.
- Nothing.

It is frightening what bizarre things my mind can think of when it's late at night!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Still beholding...

Skype conversation just now:
[22:38:16] Alison says:

I wanted to write something meaningful on my blog today as its my Christian birthday....
...but i need to iron...
...and sleep
[22:38:28] Jill says:
You could write that
...that Jesus is and should be in all our everyday life
...even ironing!
[22:38:46] Alison says:
i could...and may well!

And so I am.

5 years ago today my life changed very drastically. Jesus stepped in. Not that He wasn't always there, knowing me and loving me, but on that day He burst into my life and enabled me to start seeing Him for who He really is.

I didn't deserve it...quite the opposite! I was determined to live only for myself, to accept no help from a Saviour, to go my own way. And so left to myself I would have wallowed in that horrible pit of lonely darkness forever. Literally forever. And I would have deserved it.

But He didn't leave me there.

And so this beclouded soul didn't stop being beclouded...but it did begin to behold the Light. It stopped seeing only itself, it stopped delighting in fading realities and started to see and love and delight in something that will never end. Something wonderful no-less. It couldn't do that on its own...believe me it tried...and failed miserably...again and again. Sight and life and hope and light could come to me only because Jesus was willing to take on my horrible, ugly, dark, messed-up-ness on Himself as He was crushed and pierced and stricken in my place. My soul was able to behold light out of its darkness only because He came in and opened my eyes.

And 5 years on, it is still beholding…beholding the same wonderful Light…

"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." "John 8:12

But as my soul is thrilled with this truth it is not paralysed. I do not mean you to think that the last 5 years have been spent entirely in private contemplation, thought and prayer, meditating on some kind of abstract ‘light’ that makes me feel better about things. Life with Jesus isn't that inward.

Jesus is a part of all of life - not just in feelings, not just in thoughts, not just for that first day when He rescued me, not just for bad days when I feel like I'm back in that dark pit again....but He is part of my life every day when I eat, when I sleep, when I am happy, when I am sad, when I go to the post-office, when I chat to students, when I am on facebook, when I am listening to music, when I am cleaning my teeth, when I am shopping, when I’m playing badminton, when I am washing dishes, when I’m playing the guitar......and when I am doing ironing.

All these things were meaningless before – just a means to an end. But now they are bursting with purpose! Because all of life is from and for Jesus!

So to the ironing I go. As one who has been rescued by Jesus, and is alive because He gives me each breath that I take.


Wednesday, 29 October 2008

'a frog fries the garlic' - only 50 baht!

So, today was my last day in Lopburi for the time being. I finished the second module of my language study and I move to Nakhon Sawan tomorrow. I celebrated mainly by eating sweet things. But a totally unexpected highlight of my day was lunch. I went to the Mosquito Restaurant with some of the other language learners (that is its official name by the way…its other official name is the Blue Restaurant…), and as we sat down we were handed a newly created English Menu. Concealing our laughter as we read it was difficult.

These are some of the dishes on offer in the Mosquito Restaurant:

Some of my favourites:

‘A frog fries the garlic’

‘Minced snake-head fish meat’

‘Mix noodles made of green’

‘Mix total up the friend’

‘Mix a pig praises’

‘Cook time squid hand, frame pig’

‘Cook time shrimp hand, fried rice the shrimp’

Even reading them now, for about the 50 millionth time, I am laughing my head off! Laughter truly is a wonderful gift! The Lord knows how to bless us when we’re least expecting it…and in very weird and wonderful ways!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Favourite language mistakes #4

Scene: Alison walks into the coffee room at school and is greeted by her Thai teachers. Some conversation ensues in Thai. Alison idly busies herself making a cup of coffee and answers questions about what she had for lunch, where she went, who was there etc. After a while Alison starts to get a bit deserves a mention here that unless Alison concentrates REALLY hard, she does not notice the difference between the words 'tengaan' (marry) and 'thamngaan' (work)...this is where the problem began...

Teacher Wan: Alison, would you like to marry an old person?

Alison (clearly hearing something else): Yes

Wan (laughing): really? You would like to marry an old person?

Alison: Yes

Other teachers (also laughing): old person?

Alison: (slightly suspiciously this time):...yes?

More laughter.

The Conversation switches to English.

Alison: What? What did I say?

Teachers: You will marry an old person!

Alison: What!? No, you asked me if I like working with old people!!

More laughter, Alison joins in...then makes a swift exit with her coffee.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Favourite language mistakes #3

Word for milk: 'nom'
Word for wind: 'lom'

Recently I have caused a few giggles for asking, not for a pineapple milk-shake as I intended, but pineapple with 'wind'!

Keep pressing on Alison....keep pressing on!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Things that get me through a church service:

Church here is hard work (because it is 2+ hours of Thai that I don't understand).

These are the things that help me survive:

- not thinking about time - i.e. what time it might be, how long the service has been so far, how long it will be til it's over....etc.

- reading the English on people's clothing.

- eating sweets.

- making mental lists of things I need to do/emails I need to send.

- planning my next blog entry.

Things I think I probably could do during church that would be more productive than what I actually do:

- trying to listen out for words I recognise.

- read the Bible.

- try and read the Thai along with the songs.

- pray for people.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Favourite language mistakes #1&2

So, I thought it might be amusing to document my favourite language blunders on here! I made two today (a good sign as it means I am using language!)

#1: My teacher asked me (in Thai), how long it takes to go from England to France on the train. I replied confidently (in Thai) ‘1 year’! She looked very surprised and assumed I had misunderstood the question, I on the other hand was oblivious to my mistake…so we went through it bit by bit, and I was assuring her that it really was that fast (I thought I had said ‘1 hour!) Eventually we went through it in English: ‘by train-it takes-1-hour….’ As soon as I said ‘hour’ I realised that I had said ‘pii’ (year) instead if ‘chuamoong’ (hour!)

#2: After dinner we went to get rotee (dessert). The lady who made it was very good at it, we were amazed by the way she did things with her hands and flicked the knife back into the butter, so I leaned over and said (what I thought was) ‘you are skilled’…but what I actually said was something more like ‘you are cold’!

Hmmm…I have to laugh, don’t think there is any other way of getting through this!!!

Thai Adventures...all in my own home!!

Language study has been busy, busy, busy the last week, but I have still had time for some adventures!

Last weekend we had a visit from a giant poisonous centipede (about 30 cm!) Julia (roommate) and I attempted to dispose of it (well…if I’m completely honest my role was more of the ‘assisting’ variety) but, despite our bravery, our attempts were in vain. The creature was fast and very hardy! But, upon hearing our screams (screams of bravery of course…) our housemate Sheila came down and, using a mop handle, got rid of the beast. A great girl to have around!

The next day I dropped the (full water) container that we get our drinking water delivered in. It must be at least 10 litres. It promptly broke and within seconds had spread right across the whole of the downstairs of our house! Another use for our mop!


1). 2 warriors preparing to face the giant centipede

2). Sheila, the hero of the story, killing the beast

3). Our 'flooded' house'

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Helpful Labels

I'm glad they clearly label their explosives here in Thailand! Otherwise this could have easily been mistaken for a humble gas lighter!!!

Monologue of my thoughts during a typical journey home from language school:

[Leaving the building…] Oh good, my bike’s still there!....oh, there’s a dog…don’t look directly at it…just get on the bike and go past…oops, that’s not the way to get on a bike wearing a skirt, hope no-one saw!...ok, I’m off… road is not too busy that’s good….go AROUND the ditch…that’s right, ok….head for the main road…..past all these cafes, past the shop…onto the main road…..ok, I’m going the wrong way down the road, against the traffic, but that’s ok, that’s normal…but I can’t do this for too long, I do need to get across to the right side at some point… ok…there’s a gap…slow down…look behind, look all around…ok, ready? U TURN! U TURN!!!!...phew…can relax for a bit…BEEEEP!...what was that? Why did they beep? Is something wrong?....oh no, it’s normal, it’s just cos I’m farang (foreign)!.....DOG! DOG!...don’t look directly at it!! it moving towards me?, it’s sat down again…phew!...keep going!...BEEP!..what’s that? Am I doing something wrong?! I forgot, I’m farang…it’s normal…right, slow down, traffic lights…stop….but not too near that dog…it looks ill…did it just look at me?? Look straight ahead, ignore the dog, don’t look directly at it! Ok…all the motorbikes are ignoring the red light…hmmm…I won’t risk that, I’m not fast enough…BEEP! Laughter!...hmmm, yes I am farang, get over it. Green light, ride, ride ride!!! Over the bridge…DOGS!...about 10 of them! But they’re asleep, that’s good…try not to make the bike rattle too much…go slowly…make sure they don’t wake up…don’t look directly at them!!!...phew…nearly home now, past the men pumping water out of the school into the river…only a few more dogs to go now….turn the corner, down the hill, into my road…go AROUND the ditches, past the scabby dog…don’t make eye contact….ooo, some friendly people…nod the head, smile, ‘sa wat dii kha!’…pull up to the house…open the gate…park the bike…leap off…oops, must remember how to get off wearing a skirt…in the door…safe til next time!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Week 1 in Lopburi, Pictures

Top to bottom: a fruit seller in the market; me and roomate Julia in a song thaew (transport); my bike (yes...I'm aware that it's not cool!); Our street; My room (note the gold curtains!! Have you ever seen such a sight?); my NEW guitar!!!)

So, today's most exciting news is that I purchased a guitar! I love it! Can't think of a suitable name for it yet though, any suggestions?

I am wondering why the evenings seem so long here in Thailand. I think it may be because it gets dark so early (6pm) and probably also because I know that when it is evening here it is still only afternoon back home. I'm sure they won't seem so long once I have lots of language study to be getting on with!

Lots of new sights and smells and sounds and information to take in today. The most wonderful discovery yet is that God is the same here as in the UK! Woop woop!!

P.S. If you are reading this as an imported note into facebook you will have to go to the original post on my blog to see the pictures!

Saturday, 13 September 2008


So, I am here in Thailand. I thought I would give you a little update on how things are going so far:

Day 1 - arrived in Bangkok, met by OMFers Off and Peung at the airport (even though my flight was 3 hours late - we found each other in the end!)

Day 2 - Travelled to Lopburi where I will be for the next 6 weeks doing language study.
Most notable feature of the day: throwing up after everything I ate or drank for the whole day!
First purchase: Thai mobile phone in TESCO!
Second purchase: A fleece throw for my bed, also in Tesco (air con is so cold!)

Day 3 -
Most notable event: Locking myself out of my room, a couple of the guys from language school had to come over with a ladder and break into my room from the outside!! Oh dear!
Positive: No throwing up!

Day 4 -
Positive: managed pluck up the courage to actually use the rickety granny bike i am borrowing and rode all of 5 mins down the road, home from the place where I had my orientation this morning!
Negative: DOGS! Horrible dogs everywhere!

Will post pictures soon!!

Thursday, 31 July 2008

We are being conned!!

Yesterday I washed my hair with shower gel after swimming........and.....IT WAS FINE!!!

Goodbye Herbal Essenses! It's all a con, you can wash your hair with SHOWER GEL!


Monday, 28 July 2008

Final favourite conversations with old people:

Finished work on Saturday. Here are some of the highlights of my final weeks there:

Old lady 1 (as I'm saying good night): "Turn the light off will you? It's cheaper than falling down the stairs"

Old lady 1 (at the dinner table): "They should do a test to see who has the most electrically wired utensils...and outfits! A test for fun!"

Old Lady 1 (While I am standing at her sink waiting for the water to warm up and she is sitting in her chair chattering away to herself as usual): "Ha ha children you see...ha ha ha....home-made escalator..."

Old Lady 2 (while I'm making her bed for her): "You're doing a good job there Bill"

Old Lady 3 (to ME): Can you hand me that bread-maker please Pam?
Me (Thinking "Pam?? Breadmaker??"): Bread-maker?
Old Lady 3: Yes that little black one on the table!
Me (all I can see is a remote control and a phone. The phone is white....): the remote control?
Old lady 3: Yes!

Names that old lady 3 (above) called me in the space of one conversation while I was giving her a bath:


Good times. I will miss them.

Friday, 2 May 2008

I have a shelter

I have a shelter in the storm
When troubles pour upon me
Though fears are rising like a flood
My soul can rest securely
O Jesus, I will hide in You
My place of peace and solace
No trial is deeper than Your love
That comforts all my sorrows

Thursday, 1 May 2008

Favourite conversations with old people #5

Old lady: (pulling the corner of her cardigan as if trying to give it to me) Here you go! It's a big kiss!

Me: I don't think I really want one of those

Old lady: No? I'll just leave it on the side of the plate then.

Sunday, 27 April 2008


These feel like the 3 sweetest words in the universe to me right now.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Favourite conversations with old people #4

Me: (to old lady who is in a world of her own, trying to bring her back to the task at hand) You're on the toilet!

Old lady: Marvellous!! Who's on the honey?

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Favourite conversations with old people #3

Lunchtime, in the dining room.

Old Lady: Oh you've got your mask on!

Me: No, this is my real face.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Sometimes I ache for heaven. I just long for the day when I will be with Jesus forever. It's not like things are rubbish in my life or anything, it's just that I'm VERY aware that this is not my home. I was made for more. We all were. My longings were not meant to be satisfied here. And so I ache inside for the day when they will be.

I long to be home.

In other news, here is my latest favourite conversation with an old person:

Me: Are you ready to come downstairs for lunch?

Old lady: Yes, I'm just getting my things I look ok? Well I suppose it doesn't matter, it's not a fashion show is it!!

Me: Well if it is then I'm certainly not dressed for it!

Old lady: Oh you are!! I can imagine the commentary - 'and here comes the lady dressed in a beautiful white pinny (!?), with the finishing touches of a pair of black trousers! She didn't expect it, but she's the bell of the ball!'

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

A response to the secular perspective on hope in the face of despair

From BBC Website:

Facing despair

Hope is based in reality - it's not optimism, wishing or dreaming. Facing up to dark and difficult truths enables hope to emerge and new doors to open.

For example, when cancer is first diagnosed the hope is for a cure. If the cancer spreads or the treatment doesn't work then the hope changes - one hopes that the cancer can be held at bay for as long as possible with few symptoms. Hopes for family holidays, reunions and anniversaries can be worked on and achieved. This can be a special time.

If the cancer spreads further and it becomes clear that it'll cause death then hope shifts again. The hope is for a peaceful, pain-free death, for good endings with friends and family, for reconciliations - and for preparation with spouses and children who'll be left behind. Memory boxes and books, letters and photographs can be used to pass on pearls of wisdom and hopes for the future of those left behind. Beliefs beyond death can be examined and spiritual issues never normally discussed can lead to deep and meaningful moments with huge intimacy and understanding.

Setting achievable goals

When despair creeps in it's often because expectations are unrealistic. Goals can be set that are impossible to achieve and the person repeatedly fails and becomes frustrated and hopeless. Re-setting goals and accepting limitations means that plans go ahead and pleasure and fulfilment allow hope to return - and despair vanishes.

For instance, many people dream of a holiday somewhere warm and sunny. However, holiday insurance can be difficult to obtain, travelling by air can be fraught with obstacles and it seems that one barrier after another is put in the way. Altering the goal slightly to travel within Europe by train or a visit to the beautiful Devon coast, for example, can suddenly make this dream a reality, and hope is back.

Day to day, it's important to attempt activities that are achievable - it may no longer be possible to dig over the entire garden, but it may be hugely rewarding to plant out summer bedding plants and transform the garden with colour.

Dreams and wishes are important but can disappoint and frustrate. Hope is real and gives huge comfort and peace - leaving no room for despair.

Dr Suzy Jordache, BCC Website (

I do not doubt the wisdom in this advice TO SOME EXTENT. I am sure that learning to set achievable goals really makes a difference when expectations are high and physical capability is diminishing. But is this really the best hope that the world has to offer?

Is this all we can offer people - the hope of a final holiday? The hope of a pain free death? The hope of not being forgotten? Of passing on wisdom to the next generation? IS THAT THE BEST WE CAN DO?

What happens when we return from the holiday? What happens when the pain doesn't go away? Can true, life-giving hope really be rooted in these things? Are real people in this real, broken world really satisfied with these solutions?

There is only one sure foundation for hope in the face of despair, hope in the face of death:

'Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." ' - 1 Corinthians 15:51-54

'And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."' - Revelation 21:3-5

Oh how I ache for the fulfillment of those words. And oh how I ache for the people around me to know their truth.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

My favourite conversations with old people:

Old lady 1: ‘I’ve been admiring your asbestos lawn – very nice!’

Old lady 1: [calls me over] ‘I don’t quite know how to approach this topic…but you know your green walking stick?...Well...I had it for Christmas [gives me a cheeky look]! I’ll try to use it in the correct way.’

Old lady 1: [whilst on the toilet] ‘We heard a tremendous noise the other night…so loud! It was like… it was like…what’s the word? It was like…….

Me: What was it like? [I’m thinking thunder?]

Old lady 1: ‘It was like a fart! And it was so long too, we were surprised at how long it was. It was at least 4 ft long!’

Me: [coming into bedroom to take dirty dishes away] 'Can I take your cup?'

Old lady 2: ‘Yes, but leave the saucer here for my…my…what’s it called? My otter.'

Me: 'Your otter???!!??'

Old lady 2: 'Yes, he comes up to see me sometimes [deadly serious].

[Half an hour later…]

Me: ‘Have you seen that otter?’

Old lady 2: 'No, I don’t know where he lives.'

Me: 'Probably a river'

Old lady 2: 'Well yes he lives in the river, but he hasn’t been up to see me. I’ve had to give my affections to a puma instead.'

Me: 'a PUMA???!!!'