Archive for the community Category

A little of the past three weeks…

Posted in christianity, community, Foy Vance, friends, Queens, rain with tags , , , , , , , , on March 8, 2009 by Phil Alcorn

Three weeks ago, my friend was found dead in his living room. He was found by other friends of mine.

It was Valentines day. I had been out in Carrickfergus helping at an International Students event when I got the message. Standing outside the gates of Carrickfergus castle, I got the message that would change a part of me forever. At 14:22:09 on Saturday 14th February 2009, the message came in.

“Phil. Cliff is Dead.”

I called right back, not wanting to believe it. The chill had already taken a hold of me, and part of me knew it was true. The friend who sent me that message does not joke about such awful things.

The next hour or two were a blur. I wanted, of how I wanted to leave… but I had come on a bus full of International students… there was no way to get back to Belfast until the trip was over. I walked around the castle on the tour, half in a daze. The weather reflected my feelings – grey and cold… a fewspittles of rain coming down, almost as if the clouds weren’t sure what it was they were trying to do.

I remember phoning my Dad… it was my Nana’s birthday, I was meant to be going home for a birthday dinner. I didn’t go home… I went to my friends house once I got back to Belfast. She had been there, she had been one of the ones to find him. I went to see how she was… other friends came round. It was an alien day…

Cliff was my friend. Our birthdays were on the same day… only two days after the day he was found. He was only two days off his 55th birthday.

Cliff taught me so many lessons about life. Lessons about how to love, how to care… how to look out for others, how to laugh in spite of a situation… he shared my musical tastes, he taught me about humility and gentleness, he showed me that everyone has a story, and that everyone, EVERYONE, has worth. Cliff changed me. God used Cliff to change and guide me.

A good friend asked me a few days after that day how everything that had happened fit into my perception of hope. He said that my last serious blog post had been titled ‘Hope, still under examination‘. And it is, it is still under examination. Foy Vance sang a song called ‘Two shades of hope”, and in it he sings a line that I never really understood.

“Hope deals the hardest blows…”

It is the final track on an album titled ‘Hope’. At the time I heard it, I thought I had an idea what he was getting at… but it wasnt until the past few weeks when I think it has really hit home. There were so many things I hoped for, so many things I still hope for. I hoped that one day, Cliff would trust in God to save him. I hoped he would do his body a favour and lay off the drink and the fags. I had hoped to share our birthdays together in celebration, to sing elvis songs with him again loudly and badly. I had hoped he could come to church with me some day, and maybe even help me out in a talk for the youth. I hope that, one day, I will see him again in heaven. I hope that his family will be comforted during this time and the times to come. I hope Cliffs memory and his story will inspire those who knew him to be ever more loving and caring to those they meet, and will even inspire those who never met him.

And I think Foy is right. By itself, hope can deal the hardest blows. I can hope for these things, but during the initial stages after Cliffs death, I was struggling under the uncertainty of it all. I mean, the very definition of hope implies that the outcome is ultimately unknown. And I didn’t know how to face that… how to face the prospect that despite all my hopes, they may never come to fruition. I mean, some of them haven’t come to fruition. I never got to share my birthday party with Cliff. I never got to sing Elvis with him again. He never did give up on the booze or the fags…

But is this where I have made my mistake? In focusing on hope, have I lost focus on the other two remaining graces? Faith, and love? If I had true love, would I not have made more of an effort to do everything in my power to reunite Cliff with his maker? If I had true love, would I not understand that God’s decisions are perfectly just, and that events that happen on this earth will be used in perfect love to help us grow, learn, and come closer to our Father? If I had true faith, would I not be able to hope without the need for clarification, without the need for certainty?

Even things like the news last night, that an attack was made on an army base in Antrim, resulting in the death of 2 soldiers and serious injury of others including civilians. The real IRA have claimed responsibility, and the gunmen went so far as to fire at the downed victims even as they lay on the ground. Talking to friends, many of them are fearful that it will spark a return to the ‘old days’, that retaliation will spark retaliation and it will all become out of hand once more. Is the hope that our country could have peace enough?

God has been teaching me a lot recently. I believe He has more in store for our wee country than we expect. And I believe that whatever happens, God is not done with us yet. And after the past few weeks, I know that this hope is enough for me. This hope IS enough, because I know that despite the terrible things that go on around us, God is good. I have faith that although I never understand WHY things happen the way they happen, that God still loves us, and loves us perfectly. And so I will try and learn from His love. I will hold onto the lessons He is teaching me, and hold onto the lessons He used Cliff to teach me. And I will hold onto the hope that I will see my friend Cliff once more.

Cliff was a special friend. He grew up in a ‘church family’. He became a Christian as a younger man, and became heavily involved in his church. When I met him, he was living on the streets, was addicted to alcohol and ciggarettes, and never revealed to me that he had ever at any stage made any sort of committment to God. But this wee Belfast man taught me truths about love and care and humility, and even God, that I will never forget. I miss you, Cliff. And I love you. And I hope that one day, we will sing again together in the company of our Father. I will wait for that day, our Kid… have your best singing voice ready…

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favourite person…

Posted in christianity, community, friends, personality, randomness on October 11, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

I just went onto youtube to have a look at a funny video I’d been told about, but instead on the homepage I came across a video title that spiked my interest. It was called ‘are you anybody’s favourite person?’, and was a vlog about a girl who had just seen the movie short ‘Are You The Favourite Person Of Anybody?’. She was trying to think if she was anybody’s favourite person, and had come to the conclusion that she wasn’t. Have a look at the two videos there, they kinda set up what I’m about to say…

Needless to say, this got my thinking the same question about myself… am I anybody’s favourite person? I mean, even now, while I think about it, part of me doesn’t think it’s important, but part of me does… Thinking about it, out of my whole life, all the people I’ve met and interacted with, would I actually be anybody’s favourite person?
To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I would be. With the whole span of someones life, I’m fairly confident that all the people I have met would have had time to meet someone far better than me in their lives…

I’ve just caught myself on before I go and list things about myself negatively… that isn’t what this is about. I like myself, most of the time. Yes, there are things about myself I’m not happy with. Yes, I’ve made a LOT of mistakes in the past. Yes, I’ve hurt a lot of people. But I’m also fairly confident I’ve had a good impact on people too. And I also happen to like who God is shaping me to be.

All that being said, I still can’t think of anybody that would see me as their favourite person. But thinking more about it (seeing as I’m writing this blog less than 5 minutes after I viewed those videos) I don’t think it actually matters. Sure, I may not be anybody’s favourite person… does that mean I should stop being who I am? Does that mean I should stop trying to love people as God loves them? Does that mean I’ve failed?
No, I don’t think it does… I think it means that I can’t see the impact I have made on people. The reason I don’t think I’m anyone’s favourite person is because I can’t think of anyone who I have made a positive enough impact on the life of, that they would call me their favourite person.

Take, for instance, me thinking of MY favourite person… Taking into account all of my life, all my experiences… I honestly can’t narrow it down to one person. There are favourite people dotted along the way, people who have been major influences and favourites at different stages and different times… even thinking about right now, over the past year… even thinking about the course of a DAY, favourite people can change, as new experoences are made and people are used in your life for certain experiences at certain times… some people make an impact, and then fade away into the recesses of memory. That doesn’t make the impact they had on me any less significant, any less important. Doesn’t make them any less of a favourite. Some people have just always been there, helping me grow, teaching me things, laughing and crying with me, sharing the banter and the struggles… they are all favourites in their own right. Some people are new, and who knows what time holds… but experiences are shared, and new favourites are born, joining the ranks of the hundreds already present.

And the crazy thing is, these masses of favourite people probably have no idea how much of a favourite each of them are to me. Because I simply haven’t told them, I guess… perhaps I should, the ones I can still tell…

As for people who are now gone, from life, or merely from MY life, I’m sure they have gone having no idea how much they impacted me, shaped me… how God used them to make and mould me into the guy I am. But they are no less my favourite people…

So in conclusion, for this has indeed been a somewhat unorganised ramble through my thoughts, I may not be anybody’s favourite person, that I can think of… but whether I am or not, it doesn’t really matter. My life is no less significant for it. And even I don’t know the impact I have made on others, as others don’t know the impact they have made on me. I guess the important thing is not to worry about if you’re somebody else’s favourite person or not… it’s to make sure you love those around you, regardless. Because y’know what? Love has no favourites.

how did it help…

Posted in christianity, community, taking action on September 28, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

First, I strongly advise you read this post of alastair’s… it’s one of my favourite posts of all time… and then this post by Connor… they really set the tone for this post…

It’s something I’ve been thinking about recently… A while ago, my two sisters and I were driving back from some church event at around midnight. As we drove along a street that our road leads off, an obviously drunk guy about 18 years old, standing almost in the middle of the road, waved at us for assistance. My elder sister was driving, and I told her to go on past him, not wanting any harm to come to either of my sisters…

I’m sure you can see the immediate stereotype that flew into my head about this guy… It actually shocked me when I realised how quickly I had allowed it to settle in my head and affect my judgement… not good at all…

Anyway, we drove on for about 30 seconds, pulled into our driveway and went into the house… but all I could think of was this guy, and how we had driven right past him without offering help. Now, I believe I did the right thing considering the circumstances… It was late at night, my younger sister is 15, she had school the next day, I wanted her home safe (which we were so close to) without any hassle… HOWEVER, I believe my motives were TOTALLY wrong… I had dictated our actions based on a stereotype and out of not wanting to have anything to do with the guy, who looked like he merely wanted help…

As my sisters went inside, I was caught in a dillemma… all I could think of was ‘Thats not what Jesus would have done…’
I was overcome with something, an emotion, I have so rarely felt before… which shames me… I was overcome with a real pounding LOVE for this guy, this drunk guy I didn’t know… I felt so awful that I had just left him there, when he needed help… I felt COMPELLED to go help him… and at the same time, I felt ashamed that this raw personal feeling was so foreign to me…

I wandered out of my driveway and started walking back towards where we had passed him. After a minute I saw him, sitting on the edge of the pavement, wearing a brand named track suit with a blue thin plastic bag sitting beside him, containing what I later found out to be a bottle of buckfast (an awful, cheap alcoholic drink)… I shouted up to ask him if he was ok, then went and sat with him. It transpired he was lost, having left his mates to, I quote, ‘take a girl home, she said she was lonely… you know, stay with friends, keep a girl “company”, no competition, right??’ – he proceeded to laugh and winked at me… Anyway, he had since left the girls house and was trying to find a certain road to get home again. It was a five minute walk from my house. I decided to take him there, for which he was very very grateful. He told me there wouldn’t be a lot of people would ‘help some random drunk b****rd on the street at night’ as he put it…

Now, we were actually chatting for quite a while before we left, and on the journey to the road he was looking for… I won’t put up his name, I’ll just call him Hamish. I learnt quite a lot about Hamish, about his home life, his family situation, where he lived and had grown up… I guess there were a number of times I could have popped in the statement ‘By the way, I’m a Christian…’ or ‘Yea, I’ve just been out at church’… but I didn’t. He never asked me WHY I was helping him. He never asked me about himself. To be honest, I’m not sure he even remembers our encounter, let alone would he recognise me again… but I don’t feel I wasted an opportunity there. As Alastair said, I think God was happier that he got home safely that night, that somebody showed a bit of compassion to a stranger that needed help, than he would have been had I tried to preach to this guy who to be honest would probably not even have remembered a word I said to him by the next morning…

I think we really need to make a point about caring more for the people around us… not having an agenda, just helping out of love, helping because there is a need… helping because our King loves them, and so too then should we. Helping for the sake of love, not for the sake of an opportunity to preach…

I’m pretty mad… again…

Posted in christianity, community, taking action on September 19, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

Yea, I guess this is my second angry post… but I can’t help it, what I just heard on TV just enraged me so much that I couldn’t even start this post before I’d had a storm around the room to calm down a little!!!!!!

I was in the kitchen, so I didn’t actually see what the ad was for… All I heard was the backing music and what was being said… And even at that, I wasn’t paying attention to what was being said until this phrase was spoken, so I still haven’t even the faintest idea what the ad was for… which DOES make me wonder a bit now about the justification of my anger, but I’m still to angry to care much about whether it’s justified at the moment!

The offending phrase was as follows:
“The challenge is not to live off the land… but to FEAST off of it!”

Have you spotted the little problem here…?? These words, spoken overenthusiastically and even a little suggestively by some woman, really boiled deep within me more than anything else has in quite a while… When did our challenge change from living off the land to FEASTING??? What is WRONG with our society here in the west??
Actually, thats a stupid question… It’s abundantly clear what’s wrong with our society… a better question is what HAPPENED to us here in the west??? There are whole societies in the third world that are starving, dying, for lack of decent nutrition and clean water… There are whole villages in EASTERN EUROPE for flip sake, that don’t have enough money to provide any more than basic sustinence for their children!! I’ve SEEN it!

At what point did we as a society stop caring?? At what stage did we discover it was easier to look away that to see the injustice raging around us??? We sit here in our comfortable rooms, sitting with a hot drink, watching TV and listening as some woman tells us our new challenge is to feast off the land… and we don’t even spare a thought for the people around the world, the CHILDREN, who are DYING because they can’t even LIVE off the land!! And y’know what angers me MOST???

I’m probably going to do exactly that when this anger wears off and I finish this rant…

Sometimes I really hate myself…

Community

Posted in community, friends on June 21, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

Was out at George’s tonight, for his bible study group’s social night. Thinking about it last week, I did find it a bit odd that I would attend a 5th year bible study when I could, when I’m not a leader of it. I guess its because of the community of it. I’m not really a member of the group, but its led my 3 of my closest friends, and I’m good friends with a lot of the guys who attend. Even though I’m not a member, when I go they make me feel like I am. I guess thats what true community is all about…

I mean, there was a big argument tonight during one of the games. There are a few competitive people there, in opposing teams, and emotions were raised a little. I’ll be honest, I hate confrontation. Usually, I shy away from it… which made the tensions tonight uncomfortable to witness. I don’t want to come across as a pansy, but yes, i was uncomfortable. And after a while a little irritated by it all as well (it had all started over so trivial a matter!)

But therein lies the community. Beneath every argument are bonds of love. Behind every emotion, you’ll find caring. Yes, there was an argument tonight, and people were rubbed the wrong way… but it was forgotten about afterward, best friends again. Community is built on love, on caring for one another. It’s built on friendship, on understanding… and being patient with each other. Learning to forgive one another our faults, our annoyances… the whole ‘plank in my eye’ thing….

I guess, in a sense, arguments and troubles are what strengthens a community. Which of course makes perfect sense now I think about it… growing stronger through struggle, beauty through brokeness. Sometimes I guess it takes tension for you to see that you care more about the person than their faults. And when you realise that… true community is strengthened.

In the ‘old days’ the Japanese, when a vase or something was broken, would stick the pieces together again, lacing the cracks with gold. Apparantly something that was once broken and had been repaired made it more valuable, so the cracks where enhanced with gold to show it’s ‘story’… to show that the item that was broken was precious enough to care about, to repair, and to cherish…