Monday, 15 November 2010

Word Search

It's been a long time since these thoughts got dressed in ink and stepped out onto the page.

It's easier inside my head; thoughts unbound by words and ink. But clarity often comes only through the hard work of forming sentences and paragraphs, committing them to the page and exposing them to the light of Scripture. Thoughts can be evasive. Left to themselves they hide in the shadows. And weariness within me whispers 'leave them there'.

But in this broken, feeble act of chasing thoughts I am brought low. Effort fails, words slip out of reach, and my head is lifted.

There is Light.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
 John 1:1-5

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

"O that all my distresses and apprehensions
might prove but Christ's school
to make me fit for greater service
by teaching me the great lesson of humility"

- Valley of Vision, 'Need of Grace'

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Sausage-Cake Sandwich

One might expect that after so long I would write about something a bit more profound than this...however, here it is, the Sausage Cake Sandwich:

You'll see that there are 2 options - the Custard Cake Sandwich and the Sausage Cake Sandwich. These are two of the many fine items available for purchase at 7/11 in Nakhon Sawan. Now, not wanting to be too cynical about Thai bakery items, and spurred on by Heather Simmons, I once tried this Sausage Cake Sandwich, thinking that perhaps it just had a funny name and was in fact a normal sandwich. Unfortunately, the Sausage Cake Sandwich lived up to its name and was exactly what you might imagine from the name. Sausage, and cake, made into a sandwich.


I am happy to report, that though I do in some sense miss the wacky lunch options in Thailand, I am very much appreciating British bread, sandwiches, sandwich fillings etc now I am back in the UK! May I keep being thankful, and not forget the days when the choice of sandwich was between custard cake and sausage cake!

Saturday, 5 June 2010


I’m going to be quite honest. This may or may not be the right place for it. But I think it’s important so I’m going to risk it.

I struggle with depression.

The reason I want to make this public knowledge is this: almost every time I am honest with someone about this, I discover that they struggle with the same things. Not just 1 person, not just 2, not even just 10. Everywhere I go. All kinds of people. And people are sometimes surprised that I am honest about it. Because people often aren’t.

I don’t want Christians to be afraid of depression. It is NOT incompatible with Christian joy – let’s just blow that one out of the water right away! I don’t think I have ever learned so much about joy as I have through depression. And I know this isn’t just my story, but the story of countless others. Joy forged in the fires of depression is real and lasting.
And it is NOT something to be ashamed of. It’s a no-brainer! As broken, fallen human beings our bodies are frail, our minds are frail, our emotions are frail. So depression shouldn’t be a surprise to us any more than a cold is!

So why are we afraid to be open about it?

Let me be honest with you. There will be people who don’t understand. There will always be people who see depression as a disqualifying weakness, who judge you for it, who think that you must be doing something wrong if you feel like this. It will hurt. And then (if you’re like me!) you will judge them for their lack of understanding…. A vicious circle of bitterness that can only be broken in the wells of forgiveness that are at the heart of the Christian gospel.

Somewhere in the midst of this, honesty is not only appropriate, but I think crucial. Even in the face of misunderstanding and risk of rejection, and disappointment with our own sin, we are called to be honest with God, ourselves and others about our depression.

There are 3 main reasons why I think this:

For the sake of God’s glory
We want people to see that we are weak but that God is great! The price of being misunderstood is worth nothing to us if this is our greatest aim and desire. We don’t want people to think that we are ‘sorted’; we want people to see that God is working in ordinary, broken people! The gospel is about Him, not us! (2 Corinthians 4:7)

For the sake of thirsting for God
We must resist the temptation to appear spiritual by never allowing ourselves to feel what we feel. On the contrary, I must let myself feel deeply, and only then will I cry out to God to ‘lead me to the Rock that is higher than I’ (Psalm 61) “The Longings of our heart must be faced. The disappointment of our soul must be experienced. Only then will we learn to pant after God in eager expectation of His coming, when every desire will be forever satisfied.” Dr. Larry Crabb

For the sake of helping others
It’s not just about us and God. We are part of a community. Covering up our struggles is not loving to those around us. It does not model authenticity.
On the other hand, if we are honest about our struggles there may be opportunities to help others as we have been helped. Perhaps honesty breeds honesty. Perhaps it needs to start with us. And perhaps then we can say with Paul:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.

Honesty isn’t where it ends…it has to be balanced with gospel truth. This balance is what Tim Keller calls the ‘gospel 3rd way’ and is what we see in the Psalms all the time. It is the balance between the 2 extremes of the ‘religious way’ (uncomfortable with feelings; deny and suppress) and the ‘secular way’ (acknowledge, express and follow). The gospel 3rd way is to pray our feelings, bring them before God and process them. [You can download Tim Keller’s excellent talk, praying your tears, HERE]

I do not have the monopoly on depression, or on fighting it. And I don’t want to reduce this topic to a blog post – it is much more complex than that, there is more to say! But I do want to start the wheels of honesty turning. And I want you to know that if you struggle with depression, you are not alone.

Sunday, 30 May 2010


Clouds are not permanent residents of the sky. Some move across the sky with visible speed, others seem to crawl or even not move at all...but always the wind is driving them, all that differs is the pace. Some day they give way to blue skies and golden sunshine.

Rainy season has arrived in Thailand. My heart too seems to be heavy with clouds, dark and ripe for rain. But watching the black clouds move steadily across the evening sky the other night my heart was filled with hope.

These clouds too will pass.

Monday, 24 May 2010

A walk down my street...

Continuing my theme of transition from life in Thailand to life back at home, I thought I would take a walk down my street today and take photos of the people/things that have become part of my daily life here in Thailand and that I am thankful for/will miss!

Lets go on a virtual tour of my 'soi' (street)!

This is the Youth House, where I live and work! On the left is my/our bike, to the right is P'Nok who lives at the YH and sells food out the front!

P'Nok making yummy food!!!!

This is the shop where we buy drinking water - that's what those big white bottles are! It is also my emergency 'milk for tea' stop if I run out of fresh milk!

A little bit further down the road you will meet this great little stall where you can buy a chicken an rice meal ('khao man gai') for 20 baht. If you get it to take-away it comes wrapped up in a paper package, like the Thai equivalent of fish and chips! The man who makes/sells it is really friendly, and I call him 'Khao-man-gai Man!' (Original!)

This is the bucket I walk past every day that is always overflowing with an unknown supply of water dripping from above! I only notice it because every time i walk past it my feet get a bit wet.

A bit further down you get to 7/11 - convenience store of all convenience stores! Not only can you buy microwave meals here, they microwave them for you! Not only can you buy sandwiches...they toast them for you while you wait! Not only can you buy packets of coffee....there is even an area of the store to add hot water and make it yourself!

After a quick stop in 7/11 (known as 'seven' by the locals!) to buy a chocolate milk, we come to the section of the street that I like to call the 'buzzing wires' part! This is because (you've guessed it...) these electrical wires that hang down continually make an alarming buzzing sound, so that when I walk past them I always instinctively find myself veering to the right to avoid them in-case I should walk into them!!

This is just a whistle-stop tour of the street I live in and the things I pass as I walk/cycle down it! These things have become so familiar to me, and I will miss them!

More crazy stationary

You just can't get stationary of this quality in the UK....

Monday, 10 May 2010

Note to self (2): things to appreciate about Thailand in the next month and a half before i leave...

  • wonderful Thai friends
  • the fact that it's almost always possible to get somewhere door to door by public transport! (and cool public transport at that!)
  • 'Bum-sprays' (see HERE for a very important read about Thailand's alternative to loo roll - I'm just not sure how I'm ever going to feel clean again without one...!)
  • being able to go outside in the dark and not feel cold AT ALL!
  • the pace of life in Thailand and general laid-back-ness to everything!
  • never having to cook! In particular I am going to miss MSG restaurant.
  • being allowed to fit as many people as possible in a car (esp. pick-up trucks!)
  • geckos
  • singing in Thai
  • availability of hilarious stationary - for example here and here and this:  

    Thai Cultural Lessons #7 [Eating Out]

    In Thailand eating out is the norm - hard to imagine in western culture where you only eat out on special occasions! This is because it is (a) cheaper to eat out and (b) easier to eat out.

    I never need to cook a meal, EVER in Thailand. I could buy 3 meals a day at restaurants in my street and it would cost me in total no more than 60 baht (around 1 pound!).

    So let me introduce you to two of my very own favourite locals.

    Introducing...Sneezing Restaurant:

    Features of sneezing restaurant:
    • you are guaranteed to sneeze every time you go there, due to peppery things that are being cooked (presumably!?)
    • when you put cold drinks in the plastic cups you get what I like to call the 'phenomenon of the dry-ice smoke-cup effect' (catchy!)
    • when the restaurant is closed the tin roof folds down to become a door!

    Introducing...MSG Restaurant: 

     Features of MSG Restaurant:
    • The extreme amounts of MSG in the food make it very yummy!
    • the lady who makes the food (called 'MSG lady') is very friendly.
    • I do not have to order - I just go in and sit down, and MSG lady sees me and says 'your usual?' and starts getting it for me!
    • Me and my Chinese housemates call this our 'second home' - going there is like walking into our own home!
    • It is totally acceptable (in fact normal!) to just take your own plate over and get her to fill it up, then take it back home (just across the road) to eat! I LOVE that feature!
    When Caroline was here (OMF colleague, now in UK on Home Assignment) we would usually take it in turns to go to sneezing restaurant (her fave) and MSG restaurant (my fave!) on alternate days. Despite the unfortunate sneezing side affect, I do agree that sneezing restaurant is probably better (meaning healthier), but MSG restaurant is just so yummy and friendly! I love it. I will miss it.

      Saturday, 8 May 2010

      Note to self: remember to appreciate these things (for more than a day!) when I get back to the UK...

      • friends and family
      • being able to go through a whole day without sweating
      • being able to understand more than 70% of what people say to me
      • being able to read without the pages of the book being blown around by a fan
      • bread for sandwiches which isn't sweet!
      • church in English
      • carpets and socks
      • being able to walk places
      • recognising most of the foods that I see in the supermarket
      • baths

      Thursday, 15 April 2010

      Happy New Year...(again!)

      We've had the Western New Year and Chinese it's time for Thai New Year - Songkran!

      This is one of the most interesting festivals in Thailand for foreigners, aside from all the deeper meaning (which is pretty much, as Christmas in the UK, hidden beneath the commercial and social aspect of the festival these days).

      During these 3 days, you basically have 3 options:

      1) Set up camp at the side of the road with a hose, water pistols or big tank of water (or all 3!) and throw water at passers by. Buy and mix up some lovely greyish paste to plaster on people's faces as they walk past (a sign of blessing...)

      2) Get together with your mates and spend the days driving round in a pick up truck, with a big tank of water and water pistols and soak unsuspecting people on the roads, pedestrians, people on motorbikes etc.

      3) Pretend the festival is not happening and try to get on with normal life without getting wet.

      Last year I went out and played - and it was fun! This year however, I thought I would go for the the third option and try to avoid getting didn't work. This is what happened when Heather and I 'popped out' to find some food at lunchtime:

      Monday, 29 March 2010

      Reason to rejoice with ALL your heart!

        'Sing, O Daughter of Zion;
             shout aloud, O Israel!
             Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
             O Daughter of Jerusalem!
        The LORD has taken away your punishment,
             he has turned back your enemy.
             The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you;
             never again will you fear any harm.'
      Zephaniah 3:14-15

      I read Zephaniah recently and was just blown away by the grace and mercy that spill out of its pages. It is a story of Judah's rebellion and deserved judgment. Of Jerusalem's mess and corruption and God's just anger against them. And yet it doesn't end like that. Because much more importantly, it is about God. It is about a merciful God who does not treat us as our sins deserve. It is about a God who delights to save and who is mighty to save. And so even though things looked bleak for God's people at the beginning of Zephaniah, we see that God Himself provided the way for them to be saved: 'The Lord has taken away your punishment' (3:15)

      The best thing about this book, is the way that it points forward to Jesus. In fact Jesus shines out of every chapter and floods the whole book with glorious hope and joy. There WILL be a day of judgment - and it is what we deserve, Zephaniah makes this plain, but on that day, if we are in Jesus, who is our righteousness,we will be sheltered from the LORD's just anger (2:3). Let us now make sure we are seeking Jesus and His righteousness, for this is all this is all that will matter on that day.

      'The LORD has taken away your punishment' (3:15) - shadows that were received joyfully by God's people in the Old Testament give way to the reality as Jesus gloriously secured this for eternity. When Jesus took the judgment we deserve for our sin on Himself on the cross, sinless as He was,  the LORD took away our punishment. If we trust in Jesus, if we are in Him, sheltering in Him, then our punishment has been taken away. And so the promise applies to us:

      "The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing" (3:17)

      And so, because we have such security in our forgiveness and acceptance from God, security that rests not on us or anything we have done or even how secure we feel, but in all that Jesus has done on our behalf - we have great reason to rejoice! And we can rejoice with ALL our heart (3:14) because our greatest problem is dealt with for all time, because this can never be taken away from us. Whatever else is happening in our lives, we can rejoice with ALL our hearts because our punishment has been taken away and God delights in us. And this is something that will never change.

       ' Be glad and rejoice with all your heart,
             O Daughter of Jerusalem!
        The LORD has taken away your punishment' (3:14-15)

      "I have a shelter in the storm
      When all my sins accuse me
      Though justice charges me with guilt
      Your grace will not refuse me
      O Jesus, I will hide in You
      Who bore my condemnation
      I find my refuge in Your wounds
      For there I find salvation"
      ('I Have a Shelter' - Sovereign Grace Music)

      “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”-
      2 Corinthians 5:21

      Saturday, 13 February 2010

      The year of.....

      So things have been a bit quiet from my end recently...but that doesn't mean my thoughts have been quiet! Just that somewhere between my mind and my fingertips those thoughts have got lost or muddled. I am starting this post not entirely sure what I will write. And as I am starting to write a whole load of things are coming to my mind, so this could be the opening of the blogging flood-gates - the start of a blogging frenzy?

      But anyway, as tomorrow is the beginning of the Chinese new year, and i have some thoughts I have been meaning to post something since our new year, i thought this might be the most appropriate opportunity to write about 'year naming'. This is an idea that came from Ann Voskamp, who likes to name her year before it begins. To set the scene, here is part of a conversation I had on skype with my friend Sophie a while back:

      [11/01/2010 19:10:08] Alison Young: so, you know Ann has made this her year of YES! Have you named your year?
      [11/01/2010 19:10:55] Sophie: ironically no!
      [11/01/2010 19:11:00] Sophie: I like the idea tho.
      [11/01/2010 19:11:20] Alison Young: me too....but i sort of think its easier to name something after its happened..
      [11/01/2010 19:11:44] Sophie: yes i know what you mean. i don't feel very prophetic!
      [11/01/2010 19:12:34] Sophie: i suppose it's just the same idea as a resolution because it means you set out to have a certain approach to stuff and that's good - well, depending on the name!
      [11/01/2010 19:13:06] Alison Young:'d have to be more of a positive thinker than me i think.
      [11/01/2010 19:12:52] Sophie: what would you name your last year?

      So I decided that 2009 could be called the year of hope. There were lots of reasons for this, but top on the list was the fact that 2009 saw me becoming more and more convinced of the wonderful and certain hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Hope that has nothing to do with how I feel or how circumstances look. Hope that says that I am in Jesus Christ and brought into the glorious community of the Happy Trinity. Hope that tells me that all my righteousness and salvation is in Jesus, and so couldn't be more secure! 2009 - the Year of HOPE!

      And that led me to thinking about this verse from Romans 12, verse 12:

      'Be joyful in hope...'

      So if 2009 was the year of hope, then 2010 can be the year of joy. Not because I 'have a feeling I will be in a good mood for 365 days', but because if I have hope then joy is possible in all circumstances. If I feel I have nothing else to be joyful in, I still have hope. And it is not a momentary hope, that changes with my feelings, but a sure and certain hope, that depends only on Jesus and not at all on me.

      2010 - the Year of JOY

      "By faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope" Galatians 5:5

      Tuesday, 12 January 2010

      The Valley of Vision

      Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision, where I live in the depths but see Thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold Thy glory.

      Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive, that the valley is the place of vision. 

      Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter Thy stars shine; let me find Thy light in my darkness, Thy life in my death, Thy joy in my sorrow, Thy grace in my sin, Thy riches in my poverty, Thy glory in my valley.

      - Valley of Vision, Puritan Prayers

      Thursday, 7 January 2010

      Waiting for that day...

      "There is no escape from an aching soul, only denial of it. The promise of one day being with Jesus in a perfect world is the Christian's only hope for complete relief. Until then we either groan, or pretend we don't"
      Larry Crabb, Inside Out.

      In some ways I would love for this to not be true. I would love to be able to say that perfect joy is available now, that aches can be removed, that frustrations can be alleviated fully; that we can trust perfectly, love completely and await our Saviour with dry eyes. I wish we could promise a pain-free existence in this life with perfect relationships and no disappointments. But the truth is, some things are reserved for a day that hasn't arrived yet.

      There are lots of things that are meant for today - forgiveness, justification and union with the Lord Jesus to name but a few. But we live in a twilight zone where God's promises are real but not all of them consummated, and some only partly realised but not fully. And so that's why we groan, aching for the day when promises become reality. The day when groaning gives way to shouts of joy.

      Until that day we ache and hurt, and it is messy. But He who is eternally faithful has promised the better day, the day when tears will be wiped away, the day when our thirst will be truly quenched, the day when joy will be the very air that we breathe. So we can wait in confidence and hope, and we are free to acknowledge that an aching soul is the norm; it is part of this present age. The ache is there because we were made for more - and the 'more' is coming! So there is much joy, be it through tears.

      22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.
       26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.
      Romans 8:22-27