Fresh Start

OK, this New Year fits several categories…
Marathon
Capable
Someday
Exquisite
Hopeful
And hopefully Successful

The year began with the news we have been wanting for three years. My wife has been offered a job in England. For three years we have fought our way through what has felt like a monster battle, a marathon of a race, where we have lost almost everything except our lives – and even that’s been touch-and-go at times.

It’s often felt like a “someday” existence, looking for hope. The writer of Proverbs said:

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick”

Proverbs 13:12a (NKJV)

It’s certainly felt like that for us. So many times our hopes have been dashed or postponed. The torture has felt never-ending.

Depression. Heart-sick existence.

But then the year started with a call from England. An agency who had rejected her had a new person look at her CV and called to ask if he could put it forward to a hospital group he felt would be a perfect fit. We agreed, not expecting much as the group he mentioned had rejected the CV out of hand six months earlier.

The next day came the call to set up a Skype interview with the hospital the following Thursday. We agreed, and I taught my wife very hurriedly the basics of how to use Skype!

The interview went ok. I was sitting out of sight and found myself wincing at some of her answers to their questions. To be honest, had I been the interviewer, even making allowances for technology and nerves I’d have questioned if the fit was going to be right.

Friday morning, 11am South African time – 9am UK time – the phone rang. The hospital wants her so badly they are going to apply to be sponsors with the Home Office so they can employ her faster.

We were completely bowled over.

“But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life.”

Proverbs 13:12b (NKJV)

After 3 years, her ability has been recognised. The offer is there.

Exquisite doesn’t begin to describe the pleasure of that moment. Even being admitted to hospital the next day didn’t tarnish the feeling.

Of course, now we have a new marathon to run. Immigration to the UK ought to be a simple affair. After all, I’m British and we’ve been married over ten years. Nobody could possibly call the last few years a marriage of convenience. But paperwork is needed. The length of our relationship is, apparently, irrelevant to the UK. As is me being a British Citizen, because I don’t have an adequate income in Pounds. So the next part of the race begins.

But it’s a fresh start. There’s hope again. Suddenly “someday” has become “8 weeks from now”.

House-hunting, finding a suitable job to generate an income for me, organising the quarantine for our dogs, packing and re-packing boxes has become a daily ritual. Writing – which I feel passionately is what God has for me moving forward – gets pushed aside for the “practical” stuff.

It’s easy to lose sight of the truly important in the busyness of the business of moving our life to the other end of the planet. But writing, and when the doors open speaking, is what I know God has called me to do.

His timing is perfect. And He calls us to be fully alive – that is His Glory. Our success – whatever He calls us to do – brings Glory to Him.

So my prayer for us, and for anyone taking time to read this today, is to find His purpose for our life, keep Him at the centre of it through the teething time of a new beginning, and let Him lead us into success beyond our imagination!

The Safest Road

“Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts”

CS Lewis: The Screwtape Letters Ch 12

I’ve walked a fairly “safe” road the last few years spiritually. If you’ve read much of this blog, that may be a surprise to you as my writing tends to be from my heart but my actions in my daily walk get diluted by the issues of a daily battle, complicated by studying, working, married life and so on.

We all suffer these distractions if we are not careful. I lost sight of how blinkered I’d become until recently when my wife and I were forced to take several major steps of Faith. We made them tentatively at first, leaving the flat where we had been living for a year to move back in with my mum and finally making the decision to finally and definitely move to England as soon as possible. Within a few days of the final hard decision being made, and me declaring that “No matter what, we will move to England in the next three months”, my wife was contacted by a new agency, had an interview with a company she had previously been introduced to by another agency and rejected by, and offered a permanent job in Somerset to begin as soon as possible. The interview was last Thursday, the offer made on Friday morning, just nine hours later. We went out to dinner to celebrate Friday night and…

I was admitted to hospital on Saturday morning with a mystery infection in my foot that isn’t responding to prayer (first rebuttal attack as always), oral antibiotics, steroids or any other medications. My sugar control shot to pieces and so now I write from a hospital bed, not feeling even slightly ill, but told it could be quite serious. The phrase “e-coli” has even been thrown around this morning!

All I can do is laugh! I think it’s getting to my fellow inmates, but it’s nice to be the most positive voice in the room. I have things in common with everyone, some of which I can share – a love of motorbikes, a dislike of crashing motorbikes, quality and portion sizes of hospital food and how hard it is to sleep in hospital – and some of which I have been told in confidence, and I will not break that.

Something that has been hard for me in the last 24 hours has been to sit still. I don’t have much of an option here, but with my head racing at a billion miles an hour being forced to sit still is not a bad thing. I chatted to David, the chap in the bed opposite me, for a while this morning. Neither of us slept much last night but I found myself suddenly sharing a part of my testimony I’ve not spoken out loud in over ten years with him. I don’t expect to see a harvest personally, but it felt like planting a seed for the first time in years. I’ll leave it to God what happens next for him, but for me I found a sudden peace and stillness I’ve missed for years. Then I decided to open my Christmas Present to myself – a book of devotionals called “Knowing the Heart of God” by John Eldredge. Today’s passage was 1 Samuel 3:9 “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening”.

Apparently God has a sense of humour – but I’ve thought this for 30 years.

There is much to do before I can move to England. Our dogs must be quarantined for rabies and housed in suitable kennels for the duration. I feel dreadful leaving them for so long, but the upside will be having them with us or their twilight years as they are both over ten now, so for big dogs they are ageing now.

dsc00031Their father, Cadbury, died of cancer as a young dog, but their mum, Beamer, only passed a few months ago at the age oIMG_20160531_154122f 12.

Losing her was a shock for us, the picture to the right was only taken a few weeks before she died and she was still very much herself, just a loss of appetite. It turned out that was caused by liver cancer and she would have only had a few weeks left and they would have been very painful. Having watched Cadbury deteriorate over three weeks from cancer a few years ago we elected to not let her suffer.

What does this have to do with a safe road though?

Basically, we were tempted to take the easy road.

A week ago I was offered a small business in South Africa for no financial investment. A friend’s father has decided to stop his gardening business and I was offered the use, for a profit share, of: the pickup, several top-of-the-line weed-eaters (strimmers) and petrol run gardening tools as well as a generator and some electrical equipment. I have some experience from a few years ago in building and garden maintenance and the thought of a ready-made business is beyond enticing at a time when a white foreigner in South Africa is almost unemployable.

The offer came days after I’d made the declaration about going to England, and it’s incredibly tempting. It’s easy work for me – employ a couple of men to do the heavy work, do the business management and marketing stuff myself and a nice little business to keep things ticking over here. A month ago I would have jumped on the chance, but I felt something say “Hold Back!”

So I asked for a few days to mull it over and discuss it with Rene. She reminded me of my declaration of Faith that we were going to England. Now the offer for England is there, and I’m working on not just the move, but also a series of Kindle books to publish via www.smile.amazon.com (that’s amazon.com but with a portion of your purchase being donated to the charity of your choice – mine is Andrew Wommack Ministries, but choose your own!) over the next two months for Lent, Easter, Ascension Day and Pentecost. It’s all happened so fast even my faster-than-normal brain is spinning!

It would be easy to say “let’s stay in Cape Town” and do the gardening and Rene stay in her practice.

Easy.

Safe.

But hunting lions is not easy, and it’s certainly not safe. I may be the first person in history to be leaving living in Africa to hunt his Lion!

My passion is Christ. I hope that is obvious from these scribblings. But I’ve found it near impossible to find a church I was able to integrate into here. I know it’s me, not the churches that’s the issue, but it still grates that it’s over ten years since I’ve been an actual member of a church locally. That’s not to say I’ve not attended, or that I’ve not had regular fellowship with other Christians, in particular my wife’s family and my dear friend Thuli Nkoyana (whose poem I published on this site here) without whose encouragement I may never have got this far with my writing.

But staying put is safe. At least, it seems to be.

If you get a chance to read Bruce Wilkinson’s book “The Dream Giver” then do so. The story of Ordinary, from a land of Nobody’s who dreams of being Somebody is great, but the disturbingly accurate description of the land he comes from where the people go to their normal job in their normal car then come home and sit in their normal chair and watch their box for entertainment is such an accurate picture of society – all it needs now is to add in iPads and Tablets and it’s today’s society. Scary stuff.

But as Ordinary sets off to leave the land of Familiar to pursue his dream he encounters resistance from people he least expects it from. It’s the same for us. If we go after what God puts in our hearts to do it upsets other people’s lives as well as our own. Our sudden absence (or presence) in their life changes their familiar dynamics. I know my mum isn’t looking forward to us moving. She’s become very quickly adapted to our presence in her home and has stated how much she’s going to miss us. But sometimes we have to follow our dream even if it means disrupting, even hurting, the people we love.

The thing is, taking the safe road usually means moving away from God’s Will for our life. Satan doesn’t resist people moving in the direction he wants them to move in. Or sometimes the resistance is a token easily overcome. We exchange our grand, God-given vision for a smaller, more comfortable one. And we quietly sit in our comfortable life, taking the safe road, dying and not even realising it or living a fraction of what God had stored up for us.

Take the road less travelled. There will be risks. There may be dangers untold and losses unexpected, but the rewards are greater.

But be warned, there are things that will happen:

  • Friends will abandon you
  • Family will disown you
  • You will have to choose between your call and your day-job (if they’re different)
  • You are declaring war on an enemy who will stop at nothing to destroy you.

It’s hard on the front line of the battle. The pioneers who went West and settled America or South and settled Australia, New Zealand and South Africa faced unimaginable hardships. The men fighting in the trenches on the Somme a century ago faced death from the enemy and from the living conditions.

Some quit the battle. They turn back and look for the easier road.

But ours is not a road that is easy.

But it leads to the only truly Safe destination.

OK, Now What?

Second Thoughts

So it’s official. Donald Trump has been elected to be US President until 2020.

One of the reasons I’ve been quiet for the last month on this Blog has been the US Election. I have some personal stuff going on as well, but my personal stuff left me with insomnia – which I have always used as a great time to write without being disturbed.

Not the last month.

I’m not a Hillary supporter. Let me get that straight from the start. Socialism and Christianity don’t blend well – just ask the First Century Jerusalem Church that tried to look after everyone and ended up being supported financially by the churches from around the ancient world. They had all things in common – which is actually a good thing. They gave to each as they had need – which is a VERY good thing.

But those who had property sold it to provide for those who didn’t have anything. The problem with that is you can only sell your house once. Then you end up being the person in need because you give away all your value from selling your property and, oops, you have nothing so now others need to provide for you.

That’s not smart.

I’m not a fan of capitalism either. Not in the way it’s been pushed in the last 40 years.

What we call “capitalism” is actually greed. It’s the worship of Mammon, plain and simple.

moneyAnd Trump is the embodiment of that ethos. The philosophy he has demonstrated is one of pure self-interest. Every time it’s looked like he might personally lose out he’s declared bankruptcy to protect his own fortune rather than let receivers come in to manage the business and protect the employees. His self-claimed “worth” of billions is debatable when you offset his assets against his debts.

No, what we call “capitalism” is not related to Christianity.

A few years ago, my wife and I were house-hunting. We drove around one area of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs looking for houses on show, going and looking at a few. We drove down one road and found it was a cul-de-sac, leaving turning round the only option. I turned the car and as I completed the turn found there was a large dog standing in the middle of the road blocking my exit.

Normally the procedure is straightforward. You move the car around the dog, it barks at the wheels and you drive away.

This dog was different though. As I turned the car to my right to pass it, it ran to it’s left – blocking my path. So I turned to my left – yep, it ran to it’s right and blocked me again.

Then it sat there and you could see the look in it’s eyes asking itself a simple question…

“OK, I caught a car. What do I do with it now?”

After about ten minutes of dodging about it gave up and went inside it’s house. As we passed the gate it was lying down looking very dejected. Apparently catching a car wasn’t everything it had expected it to be.

Enter 2016.

First we had Brexit. For personal reasons I support the departure of my home country from the EU. But the people who were leading the exit movement are not people I would want babysitting for me. The main “leaders” of the exit movement declared victory and then ran away, leaving the actual strategy for the separation of England from the EU to be drawn up by people who didn’t want to leave in the first place.

It was a place where an electorate voted on an issue it doesn’t properly understand based on rhetoric and empty promises made by sociopaths. Frankly in 1000 years of British history it was the best example I’ve seen for returning to having the monarch have absolute power in the country – at least while Elizabeth II is still Queen.

I didn’t think anything could compare with the fallout. The racism, sexism and xenophobic hate speech spewed forth in England’s green and pleasant land in a way I’d never dreamed could happen. Trump visited Scotland and said how delighted he was that Britain had voted to leave, and I realised that while my personal concepts of why Brexit was the right thing were solid in my convictions – the ability to re-establish open trade with Commonwealth countries, strengthening both their and Britain’s economies and helping poorer agricultural societies benefit from the wealth of the industrialised ones, Britain could rebuild her manufacturing industries and export goods, while importing food and raw materials from poorer nations at a fair price and allowing them to prosper as a result.

That was my expectation. The reality is I’m nervous to go back to my home country now because my wife is a foreigner there. Of course, as a white man in South Africa today I’m nervous to stay here as well.

Then came the real movement of the US election campaign, and the terrifying realisation that the GOP candidacy wasn’t some practical joke. The idea of a presidential candidate being able to say and do what Trump has done in the last six months makes Brexit look like a welcome movement for foreigners, especially from the Middle East.

Which brings me back to the title.canadasitecrash

Now what?

The Canadian Immigration website was crashed by the sheer number of enquiries trying to logon through the night as Trump’s numbers moved towards victory. Americans are looking for ways to leave America in response to the election – even before it was finalised.

What next?

Now Christians must rise up.

Huh?

Christians must rise up. We – all of us, not just Americans – need to pray for America. Trump will be the de facto leader of what was once a “free” world. We need to hold him accountable. We need to hold May accountable in the UK as well.

Christianity is under fire in the West. But the ones doing the real damage are those depicted as “christians” in the media. They are the ones wearing the hoods, burning

klan-1
Nope. Not Christians…

crosses on people’s lawns. The media and “progressives” depict those who are prepared to put their homes, livelihoods, careers and families on the line for what they believe as cranks and crackpots in the West because Daesh is cutting off people’s heads in the Middle-East. They don’t recognise financial persecution as persecution. They disregard it as inconvenience. They belittle the persecuted as being the aggressors.

The reality is there are other bakers to make the cake. There are other venues to hold you ceremony. People sue because they want their rights to be “equal”, but the reality is these people want their rights to be superior. Increasingly, Christians are forced to bow to the pressure of society and accept the “progress” that is 03382-atheismbeing made. Evolution – a theory – is taught increasingly as though it were a proven absolute, while another (in scientific terms) theory – Intelligent Design – is not only dismissed with no consideration, it is actually banned from scientific consideration in a classroom. Atheistic agendas are forced on us as though they are proven absolutes and we are forced to capitulate every day.

Children as young as five or six years old are now exposed to sexuality in a way unthinkable for teens to be exposed to just half a generation ago.

I have a dear friend in her mid twenties who dropped into conversation that she had problems talking to her mum because of the “generation gap” between them. We talk freely and openly about many things including God, faith, relationships and a host of other topics as equals. Peers. We may differ on what we consider “contemporary” music and “recent” movies to be, but on really important matters we are a similar way of thought. I asked her more about her mum and to my amusement (and slight terror) discovered she is one week older than I am.

I’m a child of the seventies. I grew up before computers were a part of every home, if you were out and you needed to call home you needed a telephone booth and the internet didn’t exist yet. The web was what a spider made on the hedge, phishing was a spelling mistake and that poor guy in Nigeria had no way to contact you about getting his $28 million out of the country through your bank account. Junk mail came from Reader’s Digest, and spam was a type of processed meat.

Somehow with less technology it was easier to believe in God. It was easier to stand up for your Faith 30 years ago in the West because if you did, you didn’t get shouted at instantly by 2 billion outraged people arguing with you or posting pictures of a small red face to you, or the other 2 billion shouting in agreement and posting small yellow faces to you. The other billion people on the planet didn’t know or care what you’d said.

Today there are nearly double the number of people on the planet – fields ripe for harvest – but fewer harvesters per capita than at any time in history. “Mainstream” denominations are in decline and it’s hard to get through the static to anything with real substance. I remember the intensity of “The Terminator” when I first saw it – in 1988. I was too young in 1984/5 when it was made. T2 was more intense. Recently, Terminator: Genisys was released. There is a chilling message in it about our dependence on technology. In the thirty years since the original, we have reached the level of technology in our lives that everything is inter-connected wirelessly.

Everything except us.

So: What Now?

Perhaps we need to reflect on the events of 2016 in light of a bigger picture.

A few respected entertainers died. There are wars and rumours of wars around the world. Where only 250 years ago we looked to kings and princes who were there by birth but lived and died nonetheless, now we look to presidents and prime ministers. “Leaders” died and were born/elected. 80 years ago the rantings of a short dark-haired lunatic allowed a decent people to become whipped up into a xenophobic frenzy over the space of about 4 years. Today the rantings of a small-minded orange lunatic have whipped up a basically decent people into a xenophobic frenzy over the space of a year or less. But if we look back, about every 100 to 150 years for the last thousand there has been some – usually short – crank whipping up a people who were basically decent into a frenzy about something. Whether it was Donald this year or Napoleon, Hitler, or any of the nut-jobs before them, they appear as pebbles in a stream. This year will be no different.

A few weeks from now we will mark the end of 2016 and the start of 2017. And almost everyone will forget. They won’t say “2017 years since what?” More entertainers will die. More leaders will rise and fall.

But the Gospel has been a constant. Like the North Star, it stays fixed to guide us home.

Ten thousand years from now, we won’t care about the US Election of 2016. But the Gospel of Jesus will endure. The candle of True Christianity demonstrating an unchanging God who Loved us so much He took on human form and allowed His creation to hammer iron spikes through His wrists and ankles, who allowed His own bodyweight to suffocate His body and die in agony, who rose from the dead. That Gospel will endure. That candle will flicker on, sometimes dimmed, but never extinguished.

For us what’s next is getting on with this day. We are none of us promised more than this heartbeat. So as Christians, what’s next is living this heartbeat for Jesus, demonstrating His love through our actions.

Loving the unlovely.

Forgiving the repentant.

Welcoming the stranger.

Healing the sick, raising the dead.

Giving Hope to the Hopeless. Food to the hungry.

Living out our relationship with Jesus in as authentic a way as possible so when we are met with hate – and we will be – people will notice how we respond with Love. When we are met with anger – and we will be – we respond with Peace.

Where we are met with Persecution – as all who live according to Christ Jesus will be – we respond with patience, forbearance, strength, Faith, Hope and Love.

Now what?

Now we must Love.

As He Loves us.

Dare to Think it's Possible

Daring to Believe – An Argument For the Cross

Then the other disciple, who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed.

John 20:8

I watched “Risen” recently. Whilst fictional – like “Ben Hur” – it was nonetheless a moving story. Since it was from the Roman Tribune’s perspective it didn’t need to try to slavishly follow the accuracy of the Gospels and allows for some poetic license.

If you’ve not seen it, I strongly recommend it. It begins with the Crucifixion and follows the initial Roman search for Jesus’s body, shows the bribing of the guards for their silence, and the slow realisation beginning to creep into the hardened soldier’s cynical existence that there is something very different here.

Anyone who’s read my stuff here knows I like movies. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade has a scene that sticks in my head. Indy stepping out onto the optical illusion bridge over the chasm.

Not as moving, granted, but a moment nonetheless.

Moments in movies like that make me look at my own life, and how things have impacted me. We all need to take time to reflect on what is going on in our world, our friendships need to be tended or they fall away. Our relationship with God is the same. Not many people deliberately decide to turn their back, it just happens over time. On average about half the people I knew through church 20 years ago don’t believe now, and from conversations I’ve had that seems to be the norm. Storms come and cause us to doubt or force us deeper into God, depending on a cornucopia of conditions.

There are moments we look at where we have a conscious choice to make. Decide on a path for our life.

Sometimes we have no choice but to face that decision, and sometimes we can defer it for a while, but eventually the decision needs to be made – and not making a decision is actually a decision in itself.

The defining moments in our lives lead us to where we are today. Me writing this blog is a result of hundreds of moments where I’ve had to choose a direction. Usually because of circumstances I had no control over.

My dad’s sister died in a fire in 1981. My brother in a road accident in 1985. Cancer took my mum’s parents in 1988 and 1991. My dad died of a brain cancer in 1999.

All of those events forced a choice onto me. Dare to believe, or walk away.

And there were other things I went through as well. The more “normal” growing up things like girlfriends, GCSE and A Levels, leaving home, getting married etc all made a profound impact on who and where I am today physically, emotionally and Spiritually.

I deferred the decision after Yvonne died in the fire. I was only 9 and it upset me. Robin dying in 1985 was the big one. I had to choose how to move forward. For nine months I put off the decision, then in the November I met Jesus in a very real, physical way.

And I dared to believe.

I dared to believe He could mend my broken heart. That He could soothe my soul. It was hard. I went to church already. I’d sung in the choir for years and now I was a Server, helping out during the service with preparations for communion, candle-bearer and Crucifer for ceremonies and services. But this was different. In those nine months I’d kept going through the motions, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Then I met and I dared to believe.

I dared to look to the Cross for my answers. I strive to docb877-military_helmet_and_cross so every day (some more successfully than others!)

I place my hope in the Cross. All my hope hangs there. At the end of the day, if you are Blessed by my writing then I am truly Blessed to offer it. But I write because Christ has put it in my heart to do so. In the movie (here I go again with movies) “Chariots of Fire”, Eric Liddell is challenged by his sister to abandon the Olympic games and follow his call to be a missionary. His reply is that while God made him able to teach, He also made him fast, and that when he ran he felt God’s pleasure.

I didn’t understand that until I began writing, and there is something in every single person reading this that will give you the understanding I now have. When I write (or preach) I feel God’s pleasure. I can feel Him cheering me on and that is when His presence is closest to me.

We were made for a reason. Atheists and agnostics claim it was random, but the mathematical odds of exactly the right conditions for life happening on this small, blue rock are remote. The likelihood of life “spontaneously” beginning is even more remote. It takes greater faith to believe only in science than to believe in a Creator who designed it!

I said this was an argument for the Cross. I guess it’s really more me trying to express the centrality of the Cross in my life, and why I believe it is time for us as a Church, irrespective of colour, native language or denomination to turn back and really examine our lives.

Are we living authentic Christian lives? Are we truly imitators of Christ?

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to make the case?

For myself, I hope so. I hope these thoughts, usually written in the middle of the night – it’s 3am here as I’m writing now – would serve as some evidence of the presence of Jesus in my heart. That the words I speak in conversation and when I am alone and I think nobody can hear me would be the same. I want my heart to be so inclined to Jesus that people ask me what’s different about me.

But it all starts with the Cross.

More to Come…

Ever feel like you left something Unfinished?

This blog has been like that for me the last few weeks. My ISP has let me down horribly and my connection speed was faster when I had dial-up 20 years ago.

I spent last weekend at a little reserve called Jongensgat near Stilbaai in South Africa. It’s about 4 hours drive from my home and it’s the most amazing place to go to reconnect with life and people who are important.

It has no cell reception.jongensgat-sea-1

No television.

No internet.

Cooking is done over a fire in a poitjie (kind of like a small cauldron) and takes 2-3 hours.

Everything is slow, intimate. Just the way it should be. There’s no

img_20160924_180927

interruptions from whatsapp or email. No inane television forcing you to tune in and

zone out mentally.

You get to reawaken from a slumber you don’t even realise you’re trapped in.

Basically you get to wake up and realise what the important stuff in your life is that is unfinished.

And 4 days there isn’t close to enough.

We left under a dark cloud. For those married guys reading this, some free advice: Be open and honest with your spouse at all times. This includes if you have a close friend of the opposite gender – even if he mother is your age (perhaps especially) – and you write her a note, avoid the greeting “Hi Beautiful”. If your wife finds this (and she will) it will cause an issue you may not have intended. What appears to a “Y” chromosome to be a friendly greeting to a friend carries VERY different connotations to your wife. Just don’t do it.

Thankfully, the location means we had nothing to do but talk through the issue and reach a resolution. I understood why it hurt her, she (I think) understood that it wasn’t intended as anything more than a face-value “hello”.

But I won’t be doing it again.

Four days. We arrived at 2am. I don’t recommend this. The sun will wake you around 6am. There is no escape to this.

But we had four days of watching Cape Robins hopping across the deck outside our door, rock dassies running helter-skelter around the cliffs and grass, and tortoises meandering about the area. The only sound is the crashing of the ocean, literally a stone’s throw from your door (if you have a good arm).

Peace. A chance to hear God again away from the bustle of everyday life.

I love this place. No distractions except what you bring – so pack selectively. A couple of good books, my laptop and a few selected DVDs to play on it.

And most importantly, an open heart to pray and hear God.

Four days.

In that time, my wife and I rediscovered part of why we love one another that in everyday life gets buried – we enjoy each other’s company. I had a chance to simply sit with God knowing I wouldn’t be interrupted by email, telephones, cell calls, messages or anything else.

And I was able to pray for an outcome to some issues we’ve been facing.

We’ve come home, and some of those issues which were so huge when we left are almost resolved. Job offers out of nowhere. Opportunities to move forward. Answers to uninterrupted prayer which had the chance to be truly prayerful and focussed on listening.

We spend too much time giving Go a laundry-list of demands and not enough time listening. Our prayer goes unfinished.

Take the time to go somewhere. Or just turn off the electronics for a day. Reconnect and finish that most important thing: the next step of your relationship. Intimacy.

Don’t quit, finish the task.

Let your spouse know they are the most important human relationship you have.

Let yourself remember the most important relationship you have is with Jesus.

Finish it.

Stubborn and Pig Headed…

Stubborn

 

I’m not known for keeping my temper. Mostly.

I don’t usually act on my baser impulses physically, but I do tend to not run from a confrontation either.

One of my qualities is that I tend to not change my mind easily once I’ve made a choice. This can be both a Blessing and a curse, depending on the choice I’ve made.

Margaret Thatcher once said “The lady’s not for turning”. I forget what it was in reference to, but it stuck. I didn’t agree with her political views very often, but I had a great deal of respect for the dogged way she would stick to her guns once she’d made a choice.

There’s something very different in the way things happen today than 30 years ago. I’ve written before about the way heroes are portrayed in movies now, particularly in some of the major blockbusters of the last few years.

The best example is definitely Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings”. He is confident in battle, but as far as accepting the throne of Gondor and taking his place as King it seems like he has to be coerced into it by Elrond. He doubts his own strength and second-guesses his way through the trilogy up until the final battle. Compare this with the Aragorn of the Tolkien books and he is barely recognisable. Tolkien wrote him as a man set on a mission to claim his throne and restore the realm of men, standing fast against Mordor.

Again in “Lord of the Rings”, the four young hobbits start out like children in the movie, wandering into the local ale house and afraid to speak to Rosie behind the bar or stand up to anyone about anything. Then they go off to war. Frodo and Sam walk alone into Mordor to destroy the Ring of Power, Pippin and Merry become a Guard of the Citadel of Gondor and an Esquire of Rohan respectively. They face dangers and battles, becoming warriors in their own right. Tolkien’s ending far better fits the change they undergo on the journey than Peter Jackman’s interpretation. Tolkiein has them return to find the Shire under an iron rule, Bag End having been taken over and the house-sitters of Frodo’s appointment murdered. But the four hardened hobbits with armour and swords are more than a match for the usurpers and drive them out of the Shire. Compare that with the movies where, having faced Sauron, Saruman and the nine Wraiths and defeated them all the four return and are instantly back into the way things were, except Sam finally has the courage to talk to Rosie. Quite a difference.

Doubt and uncertainty has become virtuous in this modern age.

The thing is, the world is still looking for decisive leadership. That’s part of the lure Donald Trump has – he appears decisive and sure of himself. The problem is that there have been so few people prepared to take a firm stand that his hate and fear-based bluster comes across to the uninitiated as confidence. Much like the Germany of the 1920s and 30s, America is lost in doubt and internal conflict. Despite unemployment being relatively low and an expanding economy, Trump has managed to convince an alarmingly large number of people that America needs to “recover”. I’m not sure what from, but it needs to.

Donald said so.

One member of the old guard (who frankly should know better), Clint Eastwood, spoke this week about the pandering to politically correct parties by “leaders” of recent years. Since this is a Christian space I won’t quote him verbatim, but I will say at least he was emphatic – and this is a man who genuinely knows about leadership. My disappointment is that despite Trump’s shortcomings Eastwood says he will still be voting Republican in November. My lament over this is that he seems to be unable to see that the Republican ideals he has believed in for so long are actually being eroded by the man picked to represent them.

I don’t really care which party wins any election. As a Brit, I’ve voted exclusively for the candidate I felt embodied most of what I believe in as an MP for my area, and similarly for the party I felt least unsuitable to lead in General Elections. This has meant some hard choices from time to time. I was relieved at the last election that since I no longer live in the UK I’m not registered to vote there so I didn’t have to choose which lunatic was given the keys to the asylum – much like America has to do in November.

I’ve been vocal about Trump, but that does not mean I support Hillary. Frankly I believe Bernie Sanders might be the best President America never got (possibly second to Al Gore), but I don’t believe either of the current major nominees should be elected based on their actions over the last few years.

Then again, I live in South Africa now. The less said about unsuitable presidential material in power, the better…

Bluster has replaced conviction on a global scale. It’s scary how nobody seems to have noticed.

Conviction is a very different beast.

Look to Jesus as our example.

In Luke 4, He returns from 40 days being tempted by Satan without sin and goes to the synagogue. Here He takes the scroll of Isaiah and reads:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”[k]

Luke 4:18-19 NKJV

In 1990 I heard Tony Campolo tell this and he said Jesus basically was saying “I’m IT Baby!” to the people.

That passage declared Jesus to be the Messiah.

The people responded by trying to throw Jesus off a cliff, but Jesus simply turns and walks through the crowd seeking His death.

That’s authority.

In the last weeks of His life and ministry, Jesus turns towards Jerusalem and the Cross. He sets His face hard and moves purposefully towards the Battle. Genuine decisiveness. He cuts off all other possibilities except the path to the Crucifixion.

The path to service.

Jesus was single-minded. Peter could not dissuade Him, and when he protests Jesus recognises the influence of His enemy over Peter and rebukes him (the enemy) immediately. (Matthew 16:23) Something of note is that Peter had a teachable heart. His rebuke of the idea that Jesus should die is rebuffed in a very hard way, yet there is no record of Peter feeling dismayed or offended by this. The Gospels are not afraid to show the feelings of the disciples, particularly Peter, in other places so we should note that Jesus’s words are not a source of offence for him. Rather they allow him to grow.

Peter was hard-headed as well. Stubborn in a way most of us actually should dare to be. He walked on water, he declared Jesus to be the Christ even before the Cross and his own single-minded focus on the things of God allowed him to preach in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, heal the cripple at the Temple and raise Dorcas from death.

Stubborn Faith doesn’t quit.

Single Minded

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

James 1:5-8 NKJV

If a double-minded man shouldn’t expect to receive anything from God, the inference is that a single-minded man who doesn’t doubt can confidently expect to receive whatever he asks for.

Consider Daniel, Joseph, Moses and all the great leaders of Faith. The single thing we see in them is that when their faith was tested they stood fast on it and God came through.

Every

Single

Time

Joseph kept the vision he was given as a youth in mind and saw it fulfilled when, many years later, he is made second in power only to Pharaoh. Daniel goes through the lion’s den, Moses oversees the Red-Sea Pedestrians (thanks Monty Python!) and 40 years in the desert. Caleb keeps God’s promise in mind and wins his mountain at the age of 85 after 45 years of walking in the desert and capturing the rest of the Holy Land for Israel before he asks for his own inheritance.

Single-minded, stubborn men won great victories by being single-minded and stubborn in their devotion to God and remembrance of His promises to them.

So yes, I’m stubborn and pig-headed.

I suggest we all should be…