St Frank, Biker Cafés and Verbal Diarreah

Being a two-wheeled missionary to the fringes is a confusing business. People are wonderfully complex, and love to blast out of the boxes we put them in. It’s much easier to have well constructed opinions when regarding things from a distance, but when you get up close enough to feel the breath, the beast is a many-faced monstrosity.
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Wrestling with God

One of those tricky Old Testament passages which always confounded me is the famous story of Jacob wrestling with God (Genesis 32:22-32 if you want to read it)

The idea always puzzled me, and more so that Jacob prevailed. How can a man wrestle with God and overcome?!

I received an epiphany of sorts on this, on the floor of a mixed martial arts gym where I used to train. The testosterone fuelled atmosphere and stench of stale sweat didn’t make for the usual setting of such a divine revelation, but hey if God can speak through Baalam’s mule? (I’ve met a few preachers who speak out of their ass too).

We were privileged to receive our Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training from a notable black belt, believed to be the first to bring the art to the UK. BJJ is an incredible art, and one that sadly I suck at. All the machismo and egotism goes away when you step out onto those mats. There is only trained or untrained. The art is designed to use an opponents strength and weight against them; I learned this the hard way when I got owned by a skinny 19 year old in my first session. Didn’t see that coming.

What the hell does this have to do with Jacob you may ask? BJJ is a grappling art. Part of the training is to grapple with people of the same level, people of a lower level and people of a higher level. Part of my training was grappling my teacher. Sparring with someone who could end your life in two seconds without breaking a sweat is a humbling experience. The feeling of utter helplessness takes your mind to a place where you face big questions. I have watched people of far greater strength and skill than myself spar with the black belt, and the effortless poetry with which he dominated them was awe inspiring. But his purpose was not only to demonstrate his power, as when God struck Jacob’s hip, but to allow me to fight. To allow me to perform moves which he could easily escape, but didn’t so that I might learn. Sometimes he allowed me to take the victory so that I could learn to struggle and to overcome. Sometimes I think it’s like that with God.

A pivotal moment in my walk with God was during one of the darkest nights of my soul. I time when I stood in the street shouting at the heavens like a lunatic, furious with God and demanding answers like Job. God took me to the point where I hated Him, and yet his love remained faithful to me. That was where I learned that His love and mercy are truly unconditional. My walk with Christ has often been characterised by struggle. I have wrestled with the Master, or rather He withheld His strength and allowed me to wrestle with Him, in order that I might learn to overcome.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV)

Have there been times where you felt like you wrestled with God?
What struggles have you learned from?
I’d love to hear some of your story in the comments section below….

Much peace.

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Tree Cathedral

Tree Cathedral

Took this photo today at Whipsnade Tree Cathedral. Such a beautiful and peaceful place, although I’m biased as I married my soul-mate there just under 6 years ago. If you could transplant some Californian weather here it could just about be the perfect place of worship.

My shoulders just ain’t broad enough…

My shoulders just ain’t broad enough

This is the conclusion I’m rapidly coming to. Many people warned me, and as per usual I didn’t listen. The cries of, “You’re doing too much”, “Don’t burn yourself out” and “Don’t spread yourself too thinly” all fell on deaf ears.

But the truth is I don’t think it’s how much I’m doing that’s the problem, or even what I’m doing. I think the problem is how I’m doing it. I haven’t even properly started on my change of work balance yet, and to be honest, I feel exhausted. Not really physically – 10 years in construction has taught me to recognise this well, not really mentally, but emotionally. Life was so much simpler when my eyes were closed to the reality of the world around me.

So
Much
Pain

A wise friend once told me that a part of ministering to the broken is to share the burden of their pain. And trust me, there’s plenty of it. So back to my point, my shoulders just aren’t broad enough to carry all this. And thank God they don’t need to be.

One of the obvious pitfalls of sharing God’s love with broken people (including myself) is the constant urge to fix everything. I’m a fixer, it’s what I do for a living and it’s what I’m good at. But people don’t need to be fixed. They need love, they need friendship and they need truth. Most of all they need pointing in the direction of the Saviour. Marriage started getting a little easier when I began to realise this.

My only hope of surviving my imminent foray into a bizarre balance of time shared between working as a good-news-sharer to the poor and marginalised, and part-time construction work, is to grasp this truth. And most importantly to recognise that other people’s burdens are not mine to carry, they are God’s. God’s children, whom he loves. He loves them far more than I do and in a far more redemptive way. Supposedly an old Polish proverb goes “When other people drag you into their mess, say to yourself: “Not my clowns, not my circus!” Love those crazy chaotic clowns!

Today started as a day where I began to feel like giving up, before I’d even really started. I was looking for a back door more frantically than an Irish Priest lost in the lingerie section. Two things have redeemed this day.

Number 1, I arrived home to find a delicious home cooked meal for me and the Mrs left on our doorstep. It was a gift from a busy Mum at our Church. “I don’t have any time or any money, but I really want to support you in what you’re doing”. Cue man tears.

Number 2, reading these two things:

“The mystery Jesus revealed to the Samaritan woman is the mystery contained in the life of each one of us: if we drink from the source of life, which is Jesus, we too will become a source of life;
we will bring life, the very life of God, into our world. Thus we fulfil the deepest desire of Jesus for us: his desire that we become men and women who are fully alive.” Jean Vanier – ‘Befriending the Stranger’

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)”

So friends, if like me you’re getting back-ache from carrying the load, then just drop it. Right at the foot of the cross. Then join me, there’s spot right here on his yoke, saved especially for you. And it’s so much lighter, especially when we all pull it together…

Mistakes are not the end of the story

Had quite an emotionally charged afternoon on Saturday visiting my home church for their 25th anniversary. Must be about 11 years since I’d last been there.

Was good to spend time sharing stories and catching up with people who had great significance in the early days of my walk with Christ. It’s hard not to feel a twinge of pain looking back at some of the experiences of the last 11 years, there have been dark times where I’ve felt quite alone, felt the weight of the consequences of my own actions and those of others. The current minister hit the nail on the head with a short message which can be summarised as, “With our God mistakes are not the end of the story”.

Thank you God for redemption.

Moses and Joan Osbourne – What’s in a name?

“If God had a name, what would it be?
And would you call it to his face,
If you were faced with Him in all His glory?
What would you ask if you had just one question?” Joan Osbourne – ‘One of Us’

“But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?” God replied to Moses, “ I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:13, 14 NLT, Italics mine)

What’s in a name?
Continue reading Moses and Joan Osbourne – What’s in a name?

A milestone day

Jeremiah 29:11

Kind of a milestone day today, my first team meeting since becoming a full team member at Azalea and my third visit to the Diamond Day at Ace Café marking two years since I first started hanging round with God’s Squad.

Started the day by sharing one of the most beautiful communions I’ve ever experienced. Some incredible life stories in the Azalea team, ministering to the broken out of our own brokenness. I’m deeply encouraged by what’s happening there, it’s exciting to see people taking initiative and working together to answer Christ’s call to the lost. I feel privileged to keep meeting brothers and sisters from all kinds of backgrounds who have, in their own way, kicked open the Church doors and launched an assault on the gates of Hell. As Christians step out in strategic ways, working in blessed unity, and begin seeing our ministry in the context of God’s Kingdom, change will come!

So now I’m back at home, trying desperately to distill a day of rich experiences into words, and failing miserably! If I could travel back in time and tell just a few stories to the bitter and cynical man I once was, maybe I could reclaim some of those frustrating years.

For now, I’ll take 5 in the midst of a manic weekend. Time to sit and daydream about the songs of victory we’ll sing when we share that communion meal in eternity….

“Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the lord : “I will sing to the lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; he has hurled both horse and rider into the sea. The lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory. This is my God, and I will praise him— my father’s God, and I will exalt him! The lord is a warrior; Yahweh is his name!” (Exodus 15:1-3 NLT)

A Traveller’s Tale

I hear many Christians talk about being ‘led’ to do this or that by God. This is a concept which still puzzles me, and I fear that few really carry through the implications of that statement in their minds.

This was a day when I was ‘led’ by God.

It was a balmy summer afternoon, the kind where all of creation seems to hum with life. Spring was not long past and the heat was at that beautiful point before stifling. My transit van was dutifully hauling me home from a tiring day labouring in the sun. That was when I saw him. Standing thumb-out on the hard shoulder, heavy-laden with rucksacks and looking well-travelled. This is a fellow travellers way of saying he looked like a ragamuffin. When I say I was ‘led’ to pull-over what I mean is that to do anything else was an impossibility. Almost like there was no conscious decision in the split second between spotting him and hitting the brakes.

As he pulled his slight frame into the cab of my van, baggage and all, I asked his destination and purpose.

“I’m on a mission from God brother.”
Continue reading A Traveller’s Tale

So it’s not just me that does that then…

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Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig