Lost in London

I wasn’t about to be that classic tourist, camera around the neck, map hovering in front of his face, asking everyone and their mother where Buckingham Palace was. Nope!

Yet, I was lost. And the next day. And the day after that.

After walking for quite some time, I finally found Buckingham Palace!

After walking for quite some time, I finally found Buckingham Palace!

Luckily, London has these handy stands with a map of where you are with major streets and landmarks. And it seems that the locals can sense this lostness from a block away; they don’t always help you, but some do.

Thursday, I ended up wandering through a local hospital. Don’t worry, I was fine. Directional dyslexia doesn’t require medical attention. Friday, I ended up getting off at the wrong stop and walking for over an hour. Yesterday, I showed up 15 minutes late to the first church service, and 20 minutes late to the night service. Today, I showed up 20 minutes late to a meeting.

The church service I was 15 minutes late to, with more than 2,000 in attendance!

The church service I was 15 minutes late to, with more than 2,000 in attendance!

There’s something about whenever I travel where things just seem to go wrong. Flights get cancelled, buses get delayed and directions take you to the wrong place. Last night, I watched 15 buses pass by as I waited for about 45 minutes until the right one finally came.

I’ve found myself get pretty frustrated — especially with no cell service or wifi available. I’m alone. I’m somewhat helpless, although I don’t like to admit it. But God has used it every time, to transform my worries into worship and give me a clean heart.

Last night, as I was waiting for the bus to come, wondering if I would have to lug my bag 4 miles to my destination, my heart changed and I just started laughing hysterically. My heart changed from frustration to fascination with what God was doing! Then, I started singing “Holy Spirit” by Jesus Culture as a prayer over the city, that He would come and transform lives.

Watching the cars and buses go by in Late Night London.

Watching the cars and buses go by in Late Night London.

Sure, I’m lost consistently everyday when I’m here. But I’m not the only one, and there’s far worse lostness here. I’ve met homeless people, immigrants and locals and in a sense, most of the people are lost with what really counts in life.

The businessman on the tube may know where the train is going, but will success bring him to his true destination? The immigrant may know the daily walk to her shop down the street, but will financial stability bring her lasting life? And the homeless man may know the street corners where he gets the most money, but where does he need to go for joy?

Sure, if I get lost I waste 30 minutes. But if someone lives their entire life for something that leads them in the wrong direction they waste 30 years…or more! London offers these various tantalizing directions, but they don’t bring you to the right destination. No wonder I’ve continued to get lost here!

The London Eye directs people to find joy in attractions, entertainment.

The London Eye directs people to find joy in attractions, entertainment.

It’s only when you’re lost and humbled, that you realize you need help to find the way. But when you think you’re found and you’re truly not…that’s when you’re truly lost!

“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found.” — John Newton

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Lollygagging with Londoners

The stoic guardsman outside Buckingham Palace.

The picturesque double-decker tourist buses.

The red tele booths that beckon new callers.

It’s all a bit romantic, and quite unrealistic, really. Of course, the media is going to fluff everything up a bit, and paint a picture of a scene quite different from reality. But what it misses out on is the real heart of London — the people.

This creative bridge is only open to people crossing the River Thames.

This creative bridge is only open to people crossing the River Thames.

There’s the friendly university student interested in world cultures. The aspiring businessman on the tube in his trench coat. The two Brits at the pub having a laugh. And the homeless man that roams the street, looking for a little conversation as much as anything else.

Riding on the Tube in London, you quickly realize that people don’t really talk to one another. They read. They check Emails. But talk? Especially not to strangers.

Yet my first Tube ride I struck a conversation with a friendly businessman who was off to an interview at a big firm. He asked me about America and was interested in what I was doing in London, what my impressions were. It may have been a quick one, but he offered his full attention and courtesy.

On my second Tube ride, I began scribbling down some notes about the culture and the people. A young black woman eyed over my shoulder, and when I got off to tour Hyde Park, she followed me off and started to pick my brain about culture.

“What do you think about London? Are there any good books you would recommend?”

The London Eye, a big tourist attraction, sits on the bank of the River Thames.

The London Eye, a big tourist attraction, sits on the bank of the River Thames.

The eager learner and avid reader, she was fascinated by all things that make the world go round. We began talking about religion and spirituality — typically somewhat taboo in London — and she really opened up.

“You know, I don’t really know what I believe. There’s so much out there, I really want to learn more.”

Then, there were the two Brits at the pub who openly invited me into their conversation. We talked of football, culture, jobs, religion. It felt like good friends having open conversation about life!

Heck, they even offered to buy me a drink!

The famous "Big Ben" watchtower peers over the Westminster borough.

The famous “Big Ben” watchtower peers over the Westminster borough.

And lastly, the homeless men that roam the streets, who are not so much begging for money as they were begging for attention, for someone, not something. I stopped a few times to give some money and have a conversation. They were very open and seemed absolutely blessed by our small one-minute conversation and the occasional prayer or “God Bless”. Their eyes perked up and a smile cracked across their worn lips, “Well thanks mate, you too!”

The culture may be vastly different, but the same principles of humanity apply. People want to be noticed, cared for, appreciated, loved.

That’s the beauty of London that I’ve seen. It far surpasses the Gothic towers, the immaculate bridges and the spacious parks. It’s the kind of beauty that a camera can’t capture, because it’s living.

The bright sun site colorfully over the horizon of Westminster.

The bright sun site colorfully over the horizon of Westminster.