I survived the dark, cold and wet month of November – as usual, my least favourite of the year. The month ended on the first proper snow of this winter. Personally, that means the end of my cycling commute, which means I now get up half an hour earlier to catch the metro. But the bright side is that I can listen to podcasts or read books on the journey.
Friends and family
November started with (one of the) church’s annual highlights, the international students’ Weekend Away. I still can’t get enough of it after nine years. We learnt new things from the Book of Jonah, chatted about relationships, sang songs, roasted marshmallows on a bonfire, played hilarious games and ran around after a Frisbee under a golden sunset. All was great. But the people! How I loved the people I spent the weekend with! It reminds me the friends whom I spent similar weekends with in previous years and who are now scattered around the world; the friends I see week by week now; and many more I will get to know in the future. It was almost a bit sad to leave the place where we worshipped God and enjoyed fellowship all day long and come back to the “ordinary life” in Newcastle. I do long for Jesus’ return for that reason. It brings happy tears to my eyes knowing that we will spend ten thousand years and more doing those things in much much better and more exciting ways in the New Creation. But while I wait, I can only say that I look forward to going to Word Alive 2018 in April next year!
Apart from church friends, we also spent some time with family members. We visited our new nephew for the first time and met the most content and happy baby we’ve ever seen. We also had some peaceful and relaxing time with my mother-in-law just reading and chatting. I loved reading and praying in her back room that looks into the garden.
It’s surreal when I wrote down “JOURNEY#05” for the first time at some point this month. It’s already issue five! Last year this time I was doing issue two. The latest issue has been really hard work even at the stage of finding contributors and gathering articles. But God is faithful. I just need to keep praying that “by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith” (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
As part of JOURNEY#05, there is a section on the Reformation (I know it’s a bit late). And one of the articles in that section is a biography of William Tyndale, who translated all of the New Testament and a big chunk of the Old Testament into ordinary people’s English and equipped ordinary English people with the printed word of God for the first time in history, and was exiled and executed for that very reason by the order of King Henry VIII. I volunteered myself to write that article and planned to do some serious reading for research purposes. So firstly I read the first chapter of Filling Up the Afflictions of Christ by John Piper. Now I’m tackling the brick-like biography of Tyndale by David Daniell. I haven’t even made the slightest dent in the brick but already learnt many interesting things about Tyndale and the history. For one thing, his ancestor was originally from Tyne area (the county that Newcastle is in). Isn’t that alone an exciting thought!
One book I finished is Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller. Just like studying Jonah at the Weekend Away, you thought you know the story full well now, but there is always more to dig out from the gold mine of Scripture. This book showed me the gold mine of the Christmas story that I thought I knew since I became a Christian nine years ago. I’ll do a review on it soon. I recommend it to people who think they know the story, and those who want to get more out of Christmas.
Film and YouTube
(Excuse my headline, we haven’t got a TV at home)
The Shack is a book-adapted film about a man encountering God in three persons in a shack after a family tragedy. It’s funny to see the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and the Guardian are ridiculously low (not bad at all on IMDb). But I enjoyed it!
Meet the Nativity is “a time-travelling romantic comedy in which 21st- and 1st-century Christmases magically collide” by Glen Scrivener. I had no idea who he was until one Sunday in November he visited our church. He said he made this mini-film series about the Christmas story in competition with M&S and John Lewis’ Christmas campaigns. He wanted to produce something for Christians that they are not ashamed to share with their internet community. Here is episode one, watch it for yourself and see what you think!
Another annual highlight in the church calendar is the all-exciting and all-consuming Carols by Candlelight services. For a whole ten intense days, 5000 people from all over Newcastle, Tyne and Wear and even Northumberland came through our church doors for the Carols by Candlelight services. If you’re in the area between 10th and 17th December, we would love to welcome you. For more info, see carolsbycandlelight.org.uk.
Misc. of Misc.
I visited my fabric supplier again this month without causing an avalanche. The fabrics I bought were a bit over the top but hey it’s party season I would love something shiny! Now the problem is to turn them from 2D into 3D (alright not quite).
Durham Lumiere was a major let-down for me personally. I didn’t enjoy it at all.
Now it’s December: the queue in front of Fenwick windows (a good Paddington Bear display) winds for miles; Northumberland Street is buzzing with musicians and performers on weekends; a small room in the church is filled with piles of apple juice and candles in preparation for Christmas carols starting this Sunday; carols flow out of my radio; my to-do list says: buy presents, wrap presents, post presents!
If I don’t see you before that, Merry Christmas!