Archive for the friends 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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The face in the window…

Posted in creative, friends, rain on May 2, 2008 by Phil Alcorn

Alone, he sat, fingers hovering over the keys. He knew, of course, what he wanted to say… The words had already taken shape in his mind’s eye, already given themselves form and reason. He knew, knew all too well what it was he wished to complete this post with. But, as had happened so many times before, hesitation had taken hold. Its bony fingers grasped his wrists, holding them back from the keyboard with a steady but strong restraint…

Sighing, he swivelled around in his chair, turning to gaze out of the murky window. The first few beads of condensation began to form at it’s extremeties, mirroring the raindrops clinging to the other side. He barely noticed, however, focusing instead on the street below, beyond this current realm of his. It was deserted now, save a few parked cars and a cat taking shelter by the gates of the school opposite his house. Small streams flowed down the roadway, pouring themselves into the waiting drains. The puddles on the footpath shook and spat as each new raindrop crashed down upon them, sending the reflection of the dull amber streetlight dancing in all directions. Somewhere in the distance, the sky flashed, lighting up but for a moment the maze of clouds that swirled overhead. The thunder rumbled a few seconds later, a low menacing threat of more to come.

Mind churning, he turned away from the window once more. The glow of the computer screen cast a strange shadow across his face, witnessed by no one. Sighing once more, he paused the song that had been playing on repeat for the past ten minutes. The melody coming softly though his speakers halted abruptly, giving way to the gentle tapping of the raindrops outside. Throwing his arms nehind his head, he swivelled in his chair a second time, now facing the interior of his room. Bible verses and inspiring quotes adorned his walls, seeming to glow out at him in the light from his lamps. His guitar stood in its stand, standing guard in the corner of the room. A half finished book lay on his bedside table, sat open at the point he had reached the night before. And everywhere, everywhere, was the stillness. The rain pattered against the window like a metronome, as he contemplated the absolute stillness of his realm. The silenced music added now to the emptiness he perceived around him, the isolation he felt creeping into the edges of his mind…

His blog post forgotten, he turned again to the window, unable to face his room any longer. Turning his attention back to the street outside, his mind fought to shut out the lonliness that so often plagued him on these late nights. Silently, and unknown to him, the clock on his computer screen clocked forward by one digit. 2:34am.

What would one think, he found himself wondering, if they glanced up at my window as they walked past outside? It was foolish, he knew, to imagine anyone going for a walk in the rain at that time of night. But the question remained. They would see a face. They would see my face… but what would they think? Would they know I exist… I mean, really exist? Would they wonder about my story? Would they ponder over what makes me tick, how I live, what I feel and hope for and dream of? Or is that all that I would be… a face in the window…

Slowly, he turned back to his computer. It would do no good to start dealing with these thoughts tonight. Better to sleep, to rest, and face the new dawn with a new resolve. These feelings that come at night, they’re so much easier to ignore during the day… best to go to sleep, and speed it’s arrival…

His eyes focused on the screen in front of him. His own words shone back. This post would not be finished tonight, he knew. He could not write what he wanted to… it was not right to do so. He saved the post, to be finished another time, and shut down his computer. Turning off his lamps and closing the curtains, he lay down on his bed, allowing the steady drumming of the heavier oncoming rain to lull him off to sleep. How many other faces are at windows tonight? he wondered, as he drifted off into slumber. I wonder if anyone thinks of them too…

*********************************

Steadily, he paced through the wind blowing against him. Camera bag over his shoulder, tripod under his arm, and raincoat flapping around him, he made his way home along the road. The night hadn’t been a total waste – he had managed to get some pretty good snaps of the clouds before the rain simply became too heavy for him to risk soaking his camera any further. He pressed on, feeling the water from the puddles entering his shoes with every step… old trainers may be comfortable, but they have their downsides too. Passing by the school, he stole a glance up at his friends house. There, in the window, illuminated by the glow of a computer screen, sat his friend. It was hard to make out, the fog on the inside of the window reaching almost halfway to the top of the glass. Stopping, he considered calling his friend on his mobile, stopping for a cup of tea, having a chat… the late hour, he knew, would not necessarily be a problem. As he watched, however, the glow of the computer screen died, and the curtains closed. He turned away, and proceeded with his walk back to his own house. Better not to bother his friend if he was heading to bed – sleep is a valuable thing, they both knew that all too well. Still, he thought, it would have been nice to have a chat, to hear what his friend had been up to, share stories of the past few days… their chats were always something he looked forward to.

Walking on, the rain continued to pelt against him, and the wind began to strengthen. Lightning flashed once more, as he thought about his friend, the face in the window, and gave thanks for him. That face in the window, though he didn’t always know it, was a real blessing…

Interaction…

Posted in blog, confused, creative, friends, randomness on April 2, 2008 by Phil Alcorn

Ok. Something new. Something unexpected. Something that may well fall flat on its face, though I hope it doesn’t.

I’m looking for interaction from YOU. Yes, you. You, reading this blog, right now. I am looking for you to leave a comment to this post. And in that comment, I am asking you to say what the word ‘hope’ means to you. And I for one certainly hope you take me up on this challenge…

Thanks guys. Peace out.

photos and thoughts…

Posted in christianity, friends, photography, randomness on March 14, 2008 by Phil Alcorn

My good friend James took me on a drive tonight to find a place where our view of the sky was not hindered by the city lights. It’s amazing, you know, just how much light pollution affects the night sky…

Anyway, the reason we went out was because a friend of mine had charged me with taking some photos of the night sky for him. So we set out at 3am to find a suitably dark area in the country somewhere. Eventually we found the perfect spot – the top of the Boghill road just outside Mallusk. We set up the tripod (during which i received a quite painful hand injury!) and took some photos of the stars. Using a shutter speed of 30 seconds, we got some quite nice shots, though it was difficult to get the focus right. After we were satisfied with the results of the sky shooting, we took a couple of shots down over the city lights as well, before heading back to Belfast.

Why tell you all this? Because heading back in the car, a rather interesting metaphor came upon me, and I wanted to record it on here so I will remember it. It struck me how often we pray to God, asking for answers, and wanting to see results right away, instantly. And after a while we grow tired of waiting, and stop looking for the answers. I found an interesting parallel to taking shots of the night sky – with a high shutter speed, you come away with a black photo, hardly any light was allowed into the camera before the shutter closed, sealing the image. However, with a low shutter speed (leaving the shutter open for longer), more light was allowed to flood in, resulting an a clear and beautiful image of the stars in the night sky. How often are we like the first example, the quick shutter speed, looking around for answers to our questions and giving up when we don’t see anything right away. We walk away feeling let down, or disheartened, because God “didn’t answer us”. However, if we were to have patience, hold on as long as it took, keep looking for answers, how much more would we see? How clear the image we would be left with… if we truely waited on GOD’S timing, and not our own.

I could even take this a step further, and look at how much light is let into the camera every second. Not very much, certainly not enough to make a clear image. But as the seconds tick by, the image builds up. Only the same amount of light is let in every second, but the effect of that light makes the image clearer and clearer with each passing second. In the same way, the longer and longer we hold out, actively seeking God, seeking His will, seeking answers, we may not feel like we are seeing more and more as time passes, BUT surely the fact that we are looking and looking and looking will build character and patience within us. The actively waiting on God’s timing will be producing in us a masterpiece of character that God is creating…

Yea, bit of a random post this… I guess the point is just to say to be patient. God will reveal things in His own time, if we are faithful to wait and to look…

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.

Especially for Connor…

Posted in friends, funny on September 29, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

I’m not sure how many of you will understand this… I’m sure a fair few of you will… But this post goes out exclusively to my good friend Connor (who, if you read this blog in any way often, you will have come across before…)

Just found this on youtube man… this one’s for you…

more prayer needed…

Posted in christianity, church, friends, taking action on September 25, 2007 by Phil Alcorn

Ok, so its the second time in a few days… but could really do with some prayers right now…

Just found out that someone I’m close to has been diagnosed with cancer… don’t know if its localised, or if its spread to the rest of the body… I have to admit, I’m quite shaken up by it all… I had to get up and leave the living room where my housemates were for a while just to process my thoughts… I haven’t even told them yet…

Anyways, please please please be praying for this person – for healing… but for God’s will to be done, whatever that will be… and for courage and strength to deal with this situation, and accept whatever outcome may occur – please pray for healing… please just pray… anyone who reads this, and believes in the power of prayer, please pray…