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The Not So ‘New Normal’

Apparently, we believers are late to the party and, as usual, have actually turned up demanding that everyone does things our way. The ‘party’ in this present case is the ‘new normal’ way of life that has been imposed on us all. I refuse to be dragged into the politics of whether it is a valid situation or not, that doesn’t really matter because this is the new normal. Although, as I am finding while studying Theology, we like to discuss more than we like to do, we have to accept at some point that this is happening. We, as the Church of God, have to engage at some point. We have some awesome gifts and abilities that we could be bringing to the party to help others cope with and deal with this new normal but as usual, we are late and insisting that we don’t have to do anything that we don’t want to do. Like some spoilt teenager throwing a hissy fit, we are refusing to be the awesome ambassadors of God that we were created to be.

Within our midst are people with fantastic creative abilities. We have more than our fair share of techy nerds who could have been putting their knowledge to good use finding ways that we could spend time together in some virtual way or other and yet we still have large numbers of churches across this green and pleasant land that are stumbling through their Sunday morning services in the most clunky of manners. There are a lot of great examples of how to use the internet and the technology we currently have to our advantage for the new church experience but six months after this all kicked off it is still not the new normal. Instead, it appears that we would rather just get upset that we can’t be expected to change and deal with it.

I’m not going to claim that I know all the answers but I’m savvy enough to know that if I start having a go I had best offer something. So, how about we start with a dialogue with any gamers that we can get to lift their heads from their screens for long enough to converse. These guys have been playing games with people on the other side of the planet for years now and so should be able to advise against that petty view that says “I can’t be expected to really fellowship with people that are not in the same building”. Again, we are late to the party. This is the new normal and so we do need to adapt. A part of this adaption could lead us to a place where the people that have been forced to isolate for years because of physical issues or mental health issues or many other reasons can have badly needed contact and fellowship. The problems that this new normal brings can actually lead to solutions to other problems that have been around for years.

Another of our, apparently, unsurpassable problems concerns the ruling that singing in enclosed public spaces is banned. I have lived in a few rehabs and recovery houses over the last few years and a part of these experiences is knowing that singing aloud is not always the best way to witness. I just can’t be explaining myself to everyone that I live with and so rather than have people think that I’m a crazed zealot, I have learnt to mouth the words while I sing under my breath. If we could all do this we could then sing silently while wearing face coverings and not break any rules. Maybe, maybe not but we are in the new normal and we need to do something because I for one am less likely to attend a church service where worship is just a thing of the past.

As I have already said, we are a group of people that have a wide variety of God-given gifts and it saddens me that we can’t pool our resources and lead the way into this new order. I’m as good a sniper as anyone else and can sit on the sidelines taking potshots at the players like so many other believers or I can put my rifle down and help out. I’ve allowed myself to be too ‘busy’ to get involved but now that I am a lot more comfortable in my dwelling-place in God’s Grace County I’ve got a stronger desire to connect with and fellowship with rather than isolate like this new normal is leading to.

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Posted by on Sep 27, 2020 in Uncategorized

 

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A tale of two rehabs

As previously mentioned I have recently finished a six-month stretch in rehab and this was my second time around. My first was at Yeldall Manor and this time I was a resident at The Carpenters Arms. Both of them are Christian Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centres but, quite obviously, they are very different in a lot of ways. Although I’m very aware that it would be almost a cliche to write about the differences between the two, my writing has to be strongly influenced by my experience and this is too good a target for me to ignore . . . so . . . here goes . . . (I can’t help but think that a flash of lightning, a clap of thunder and a handful of crashing chords on a church organ would go down well at this point).

When you first arrive at Yeldall Manor, having been driven up a drive that includes a couple of hundred yards of an avenue of simply enormous Redwood trees, you enter through a proper old-fashioned porch into a building that carries the weight of years quite comfortably. If you can manage to not be completely awed out by this experience it will only be due to being drugged up to the eyeballs, whereas arrival at the Carpenters Arms could not be much further apart in level of experience. The first phase property of the Carps is very clearly an average revamped pub in an average street in an average town in the Midlands whilst Yedall is an imposing piece of unique architecture set in acres of clean, fresh countryside. That first impression will naturally have an effect on how quickly you can settle into your new surroundings and way of life and for me, it also affected how quickly I moved into finding my own areas of control and, as such, rule breaking.

Once I had settled into my new surroundings at the Carps and began to consider the overall format of both places I could see the glaring differences. The word organisation leaps to mind when thinking of how Yeldall functions and, unsurprisingly for a comparison piece like this, the word disorganisation takes a running belly-flop into my thought process when I consider the Carps. The title of the late sixties film, “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium”, is a great starting point for a description of the way that Yeldall runs its programme. If you knew what the time was and what day it was you would, therefore, know exactly where you meant to be and what was going to be happening. The Carps had a much more, shall we say fluid approach to the wheres and whens of its programme. Other than the residents meeting first thing in the morning everything was dependent on a large number of, sometimes completely unknown, parameters. At times I was exasperated and at other times just totally bemused. I tried to bypass the uncertainty by approaching the staff member in charge of any given circumstance and inquiring about the starting time but soon learned that this technique gave little in the way of narrowing down the timeframe involved.

I’m going to choose to quickly run through things like counselling, teaching and food in order to keep this piece relatively short. At Yeldall I was allocated a trained counsellor who guided me through a series of sessions that looked into some of the many issues that led me into drug and alcohol abuse, at the Carps I had a number of ‘key-workers’, most of which had little training and/or personal experience of addiction. Yeldall had a tried and tested pattern of teachings that ran on a rolling schedule and the Carps seemed to run theirs dependent on how the allocated pastoral staff member felt at that given moment. The food at Yeldall was prepared by a professional chef and was varied, plentiful and generally wholesome and the Carps was almost the exact opposite. It was cooked, although I’m using that word in the loosest possible fashion to describe some of the meals presented to us, by my fellow residents. The basic ingredients were more often than not donated, right on the edge of their use-by-date, from a very little range of variety (we had, literally weeks of either sausages or chicken) and at times you needed to be near the front of the queue to ensure you got a plateful.

One area of difference that I found particularly difficult to deal with centred around the shopping trips. Yeldall had a straight-cut policy for this, the first month at Yeldall was the probationary period during which each resident was always accompanied by a staff member while outside the property. After this initial month period, you were allowed to go shopping on your own and trusted to return at a set time to the mini-bus. There were two shopping trips per week, a short period after visiting the leisure centre on a Wednesday afternoon and a longer time on Saturday afternoons. The Carps had a very different view about shopping. For one thing, the probationary period was a lot longer. After the first month or so at the first phase property there was then another sixteen week period at the second phase property before you could go shopping on your own. When you add to this that there was only the one trip per week and the day and time for this, like many other aspects of life at the Carps, changed almost on a weekly basis then for someone like myself frustration occurs. For those that have not experienced this kind of thing and are possibly wondering why this might be a problem please consider that this meant that not only were you dragging an awkward, troublesome staff member around the shops that you wanted to access but you also had to negotiate with another resident or two where you would be going and all within, usually, a fairly short time.

Another noticeable difference centres around free time. Yeldall is, as previously mentioned, a large mansion set in acres of mainly wooded countryside and so after that probationary period, there is always somewhere to go for either a time of solitude or to spend time with others. There are plenty of rooms available and just so much space outside to explore and/or spend time with others. The first phase of the Carps, being in a small old pub, was like being in a goldfish bowl. It is almost impossible to escape and find a space to be alone other than your own bedroom and with a policy of not allowing residents to be in each other’s rooms, it is not possible to get away from the rest of the group and socialise. The Second phase is located in an old hotel which is entirely surrounded by roads which means that, when you take into account the policy of not being allowed off the property without a staff member, you are restricted to the car park if you want to spend any time outside. Add to this the fact that literally only half of the property is heated and during the colder months of the year, outdoor clothing is needed to endure the cold in this half. The part that is heated has two areas for socialising and both of these have T.V.s that are on continuously from five in the evening weekdays and all day at the weekend. Those watching T.V. are usually quick to request silence if any conversations start during a program of interest. This leaves very little space in which to escape the crowd.

Then we come to phone calls and the systems involved concerning these. At Yeldall a simple policy was in action which meant that residents could make calls for a very small fee and therefore the length of calls out were recorded by staff and the cost taken from the residents ‘cash card’ (a simple piece of card carrying a log of the resident’s finances). The length of these calls and all calls coming in to the residents were dependent on the resident either having the money to cover it or the interest to continue it within sensible reason. At the Carps, though the rule was that each resident could make or take calls for fifteen minutes per day total with grace given for incoming calls after this point but only short grace. Although I didn’t want fifteen minutes each day I did want a phone call that could go on for as long as was needed, again within reason, once a week or so.

So these were the main differences that caught either my attention or my ire. There were others of course but they either don’t make good writing material or are so unimportant that they’re not worth documenting. Well, except for the feel of each place and this is an entirely personal view. Yeldall has a calm, peaceful air about it which I put down to the fact that prior to being a Rehab it had been owned and run by some nuns, the Carps has a harder edge to it and this again I put down to its previous use which I am assured involves an hourly charge for the use of rooms and its fame as a night-club.

I think that kinda covers it.

 
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Posted by on Jul 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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The new improved version

I have just completed a six-month programme at the Carpenters Arms Christian Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre in Loughborough and not for the first time upon my release back into the wilder wide world I am noticing what seem to me to be plenty of changes around me. I first experienced this when I left the first Rehab that I had the pleasure of attending, four years ago. It seemed that I had been out of circulation for a number of years rather than the ten and a half months that I was a resident. A couple of these changes are that the cars on the street appeared to have a far more modern styling than I remembered and the people around me were displaying a wider diversity of clothing styles than before.

This time around I feel that I’ve entered a new improved version of the world I left six months ago. Although, as always with me, a simple statement like that comes dripping with a sauce of its own and in this case that sauce is sarcasm flavoured. Most of these changes are only for the better on the surface and a quick look under the facia reveals once again a short-term improvement that comes with a wealth of overheads that will insist on being cashed up in the future. Whilst I would not wish to steer too much attention to the ‘prince of this world’ I would be amiss if I ignored his influence on matters around us and you don’t need too much experience of spiritual matters to see that his forte is in the visual appearance of things and not the nuts and bolts workings that keep things running.

Now that I am back from my self-imposed mini-exile and I observe my surroundings and the way people interact with their environment I am, once again, feeling that maybe I’ve been left behind while everyone else has turned a page or two further on than me. The cars not only looked more stylised but they were also generally newer with far fewer older vehicles on the road that were held together by rust and a prayer. My experience since learning to drive was to buy a cheap run-a-round and drive it till either it fell apart or it cost more than it’s worth to keep it running and this way of life had clearly come to an end. The cars on the road resembled the fruit in a supermarket, they were the cleaner, better-looking editions and not the misshapen, dented versions I took pleasure in seeing.

As I walk through town centre and take stock of my fellow travellers I note that with the variation of clothing styles comes a certain unmistakable accessory, namely a massive increase in visible tattoo ink and especially on women. Now, obviously, I likes a bit of ink I do. I have added to my collection since breaking free but whereas previously those displaying tattoos were in the minority, it now seems that they are in the majority. Like a lot of the lads that I’ve met in rehab I admit to finding the idea of tattoos on women appealing as it seems to suggest a certain edginess that I find attractive but some of the artwork that I’ve seen recently, especially the large conspicuous pieces across a number of women’s chests, leaves me wondering why. Yet again the word ‘random’ comes to mind.

Small things for sure but my mind has its own way of evaluating data and in these cases sees a continuing trend towards an outward image that denies the truth underneath.

Kinda like the swans, I used to watch swimming along the Thames in Reading.

 
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Posted by on Jul 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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