Something New from Something Old

Have you ever done something because you thought it was the right thing to do, but soon discovered it wasn’t workable?

I love the Bible, and as a young Christian, I thought the best thing to do with that love of God’s Word was to go to Bible-college. As a blind person, I was relatively slow on the technology front; I hadn’t even graduated to Email or the Internet. There were no eBooks, and no accessible devices enabling blind people to read them. I needed my books in Braille or audio. My Disabled Students Allowance got me a laptop, and a Braille embosser (a large machine that converts text from the PC into Braille) for the college to keep.

The college had never enrolled a student who was visually-impaired, so they misunderstood what Braille was. Braille comprises 6 dots. Different combinations of those dots make up the letters of the alphabet. Brailing a book requires someone to type or scan text into a computer, and send it to the Braille embosser (like you would send a document to a printer). However many times I tried to explain, staff saw Braille as akin to another language. They weren’t happy with non-Christians brailing any part of a textbook, in case something got lost in translation. This meant no one from outside of the college could come in and do the work, so it would fall to staff or students.

While we waited for the Braille embosser, some students spent a couple of hours a week reading textbooks onto cassette. Mum did some reading too, back at home, and sent tapes through the post. In my first lectures, we were told how to write an essay. I would have to cite the page-number for every quotation I wanted to use. There were none on the cassettes which had already been made, and from that point on, whomever read aloud would have to remember to say the number every time they turned the page! I had to listen to everything and couldn’t scan-read as a sighted person would, so the college agreed to a more specific reading-list for each essay, but lecturers would promise said list and never actually come up with the goods. I realise lecturers have their own commitments aside from Bible-college, but that doesn’t help the student. After a couple of months, the logistical nightmare proved too much. It wasn’t just doing the course; it was getting the support I needed in order to do it. Some people are far better at banging the table to get what they want than I am!

More recently, I thought about going to a different Bible-college nearer home and trying again. Because of my previous experience, I had a far better idea of what I needed. The college were very gracious and said it was possible to do the first year of a degree course online, but in order to do the entire degree, I would need access to books that were only available in print. Having that information first time around would have saved a lot of heartache. It’s only thanks to God that I can say I don’t have any regrets.

While I was at that Bible-college far away from home, representatives from the charity CSW came to talk to us about the persecuted church. Their words about North Korea stayed with me. A year later I wrote this song, which ended up on my first album. God never wastes anything. I was a mess; everything seemed to have crumbled, but out of that came such a special song – one that made me think: “I want this to be heard. I want to raise awareness of what these people are going through.” If it wasn’t for “North Korea”, I wouldn’t have made one album, let alone two and one-on-the-way. Aren’t you glad God can take something old and unusable, to bring out of it something new and worthwhile?

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Compassion’s partnership with CardFunder inspired this post. Click here to see how they can use the leftover money from your old gift cards to meet the needs of children in poverty.

Link

Do you remember last year I said one of the surprising things about Christmas is that you can still find new songs, even after so many years?  Well, here’s one I heard for the first time yesterday (“While Shepherds Watched” to a different tune, with an added chorus).  I quite like it.

5-Minute Friday: New

Linking up with Lisa-Jo again for another of her 5-minute Fridays, where we set the clock for 5 minutes and just write, without worrying whether it’s just right. If you have a blog, maybe you want to join in that way, or you could share your 5 minutes here in the comments.

And this week’s prompt? New. This week I needed more than 5 minutes, so:

Go

A washing-machine stuffed full, and the zoosh of a vacuum-cleaner, licking up the dirt. Tops of bookshelves dusted, and shiny photo-frames returned to their places.

Because before that crisp, clean new bedding is brought in, the old has to go. The fresh smell of linen, carried in from the line; towels folded neatly and placed on the bed, at the foot; sweet-smelling flowers picked from a garden … Welcome. You are welcome.

And that same welcome is extended to us, on that Day when the old is thrown away, like dirty linen discarded, pushed behind a closed door, and the new is ushered in – a new Jerusalem; new hearts; no more of the old … and you are welcome.

Stop

Since writing this, I’ve read Psalm 105 and been reminded of the joy in God’s heart as He makes us new. When Jesus talked with Peter after breakfast that morning, saying feed my lambs; tend my sheep; feed my sheep; follow Me (John 21), what joy He must have felt – looking into the eyes of one who had once denied Him, seeing his potential, and knowing that all was not lost. Peter was welcomed into God’s kingdom; God was pleased to give it to him.

Friend Friday: A bit of a Plug

Let me introduce you to my friend, and fellow Compassion-sponsor, Alex Banwell.

I met Alex 20 years ago. We shared a room at boarding-school, and her family in particular have always treated us like sisters. I travelled in to school daily for the first year or so. School would finish at 4, and a taxi would pick me up from the boarding-house at about 5:15 every night. One morning, the relief houseparent asked would I take Alex over to school. I knew her name, but we’d never spent any time together. I wanted to make conversation – to say something like: “Who’s your favourite pop star?” but shyness got in the way. As we walked up the corridor, I was in a dilemma. I didn’t want to take Alex to my form room, because I was nervous of my form; I didn’t want them to randomly take a dislike to Alex and start picking on her, so what was I going to do? I thought it best she waited for me outside the chapel, but I didn’t articulate this very well. Actually, I just said: “This is the chapel” and ran off! I ran upstairs and into my form room, dumped my schoolbag, and ran back down again, but by the time I reached the chapel, Alex had been guided in by somebody else. I don’t think I was ever asked to take another person over to school!

I’m glad to say she’s forgiven me for deserting her. Hopefully I’m a loyal friend now; she’s certainly been loyal to me. Alex is a great encourager, who’ll sometimes come out with these funny quotes like: “I don’t know whether I’m coming, going or been”. She’s always keen to read my writing and give me feedback, but now it’s Alex’s turn to have a new project (this is where the plug comes in). After a live audition, which I had the privilege of hearing not so long ago, she’s just been given her own show on an online radio-station called Mushroom fm – ‘The home of the fun guys’, as they say! The station already has a southern gospel music-show, but Alex’s aim is to play a whole variety of Christian music – anything from Third Day to a male voice choir.

So, if you’re free on a Tuesday afternoon, 12-3 pm UK-time, why not give her new show a listen?
www.mushroomfm.com

Are any of your friends involved in something you want to shout about? And, if you’re a friend of mine, let me know if you’d like to be featured one ‘Friend Friday’ in the future.