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I wake long before my alarm, much earlier than the time I usually get up. I’m cramped and uncomfortable, so I decide to go for a walk. The air outside is sweet and cool compared to the awful dorm room, and I walk with long strides. I try to veer off onto a bush track, but it’s been raining and I don’t like my chances on the muddy ground, so I stick to the road.

When I get back to the site, I sit in a corner with my laptop and ipod on, trying to write, but other early morning risers keep wanting to chat to me. That’s okay, I guess, though I don’t feel like I have much to say. I sit with Mark and Tim for breakfast.

Grimmo gives the morning Bible talk on Philippians 3:1-16. He starts off by making poo jokes, which is kind of unexpected, but segues neatly into how the apostle Paul described everything in his life prior to knowing Christ as dung. Our translations are much too sanitised (the NIV and ESV use the word ‘rubbish’) but Grimmo said it was more akin to bin juice, or whatever the most revolting thing you can think of is. Before his conversion, Paul was the ‘Jew of Jews’ and was obsessed with keeping the law and being made right with God by doing the right thing. But after knowing Christ, he knew that was impossible, and was prepared to give all that up, his reputation and everything he had worked for, thinking only of straining towards the goal ahead of him – life in Christ.

You can’t get your life sorted out and then come back to God when you’re ready. There’s nowhere else to go. All you can do is come back to Jesus and fall at his feet, and lay all the crap of your life at his feet. The three takeaway points:

  1. Keep finding your righteousness in the Lord Jesus Christ and in nothing else. (Not in achievements – it’s not about achievements but ‘have I honoured Christ?’)
  2. Forget what lies behind. There is nothing that has happened in your past that needs to define you in your relationship with God. A profoundly excellent truth!
  3. Suffering and perseverance is part of it – but so is resurrection. As we share in his death, we will share in his resurrection. One day this body will be taken away and we will be given bodies that are fit for glory.

All very good things for me to be reminded of in my current mindset!

We have prayer groups again, then go into a couple of hours talking about SPRTE. This is our big conference at the end of the year, which this year will include students from all over the South Pacific. The logistics of it all are already wearying us!

I ditch lunch (processed meat…bleagh) and go down to Fairy Meadow to visit Stacie. I always think it’s funny that Fairy Meadow sounds like such a cute sort of place but it’s on the highway, with huge almost industrial buildings here and there. But Ben and Stacie’s house is kind of cute. We’re both feeling a bit flat and blah. Stacie puts Eli down to sleep, we just chat over lunch. It’s always good to chat to Stace as you can be as blunt and honest as you want and it won’t faze her because she is also blunt and honest.

I head back to the conference site. I’m getting so peopled out, making eye contact, making small talk, keeping it all together. The afternoon session is really good though. Leigh Hatcher, who is a Christian journalist and news presenter on Sky TV, gives us some media training and interview techniques. He has a warm, lyrical voice that sounds like the aural equivalent of butter menthol. He never says ‘um’.

I’d seen him on Channel 7 news, but I wasn’t hugely aware of him before I read his book I’m not crazy, I’m just a little unwell. It’s an easy-to-read autobiography looking specifically at the period of his life when he was struck with chronic fatigue syndrome, and how he had to work through that and ways of dealing with it and other peoples’ impressions of what the illness was. I know it’s not the same thing as depression but I think it does share a similar stigma. It’s always helpful to see someone on the other side of something like that, looking healthy and happy and helping people. I feel fairly confident I’m going to come through this somehow, and I will be fully functioning again one day. I hope I never take good health for granted, if I ever get it back.

I chat to Mark and Keith and Cathy over dinner and then Cheryl and I drive home. Ahh, my own bed! My own hot shower! My own block of chocolate! It’s good to be home.