Over the last year and a half, God has been becoming increasingly vocal, and with each thing He says, I get better at recognising His voice.
I’ve heard Him on and off since I was a young teenager, and it began to increase when I was 16 and started praying/reading my Bible more (surprise surprise). Then I heard Him very clearly when my Dad passed away, when He told me to move out of my Granddad’s, and I ended up following His voice all the way to the Isle of Wight for a 4 year placement alongside a theology degree.
While there, however, I got caught up so much in the busyness of life, responsibilities, essays, grieving for my Dad and grieving for my whole family. My faith and trust in God began to decline, and His silence became deafening. I felt agitated and uncomfortable working for Someone who’s voice I never heard. I told my oldest brother in an email about my frustrations, to which, I got the loveliest, most encouraging reply – and the promise of a book in the post that would help. And help it did.
The author (Brad Jersak) encouraged the practice of some listening exercises, which I tried out, and suddenly, I began to hear the voice of Jesus speaking to my heart. I realised that He had been trying to speak to me, but the chaos in my heart and the noise around me prevented me from being still enough to listen. I suddenly became aware of how much He has to say, and how keen He was to share with me. Thus began my journey of listening/conversational prayer with God… But then I plateaued again… And became agitated again… I had become lazy at reading my Bible!
So I started looking for a Bible reading plan, and found one called ‘Read the Bible in 90 days’. I made an incredulous ‘cyuh’ noise, and God said “Why are you laughing?”
“Because there’s no way I could ever do that!”
To which, He gave a firm, challenging reply:
“You haven’t even tried. I dare you.”
So, begrudgingly, I took His challenge, last year in June. And then it was like an explosion of His voice – everywhere I went, making comments on the things I observed around me, or replying to my thoughts, or interrupting me to tell me something. I realised that the more I learned His style and manner of speaking, the more I recognised His voice in my thoughts, and the more I got to know about the things that hurt Him, disgust Him, annoy Him, amuse Him, make Him glow with love and compassion...
Then last year in the autumn, I visited Swanage for a few days and had such an incredible time. When I had to leave to go back to the island, I didn’t want to, which was the first time ever since moving there. The following Monday (31stOctober), I felt absolutely pants – like, really pants. I asked God, ‘why do I feel so rubbish?!’
He replied very quickly, “Because I’m preparing you to leave.” This was very timely, because I had been exploring the idea of staying on the island, but this was just the shove I needed to leave that hope well alone. My love for Swanage and my desire to come here began to grow over the next few months. I kept asking God where He wanted me to go after the summer, until eventually He said, “I’ll tell you when you’re on your block placement.”
All the while, I was hoping He would send me to Swanage! By Christmas, I was certain I wanted to be in the South West of England, but knew I had to wait for God to speak. All I had to do was wait… Haha! And of course, He waited until the last day of my placement.
I was sat on the floor in church, when Mark said ‘let’s pray about… blah blah blah…’
I seized the opportunity to seek God, and instead of praying for whatever it was Mark said (sorry, Mark!) I said, ‘Well, God, it’s the last day of my placement and You said You’d tell me while I was here… Are You going to wait until I’m at the ferry, or – ‘ and before I could finish the thought… “Here. I want you here.” Which He then confirmed through some other people straight after the service, which was pretty incredible!
I had no idea how it was going to work, but then over the next few weeks, He worked it out for me, and just handed it to me. And that is a very brief summary of how I ended up in Swanage, working for The Wave with all you lovely lot.
Being a Christian might sound really boring…
God is such a kill joy. He never speaks. Church is dull. Why do we stand up and sit down so much? Why does the speaker have to preach for so long? Why did Jesus talk in riddles aaaaaaaall the time? I’ll get bullied if I start talking about Jesus. Can’t I just live the same way as before? Swearing isn’t that bad… I don’t get why sex outside of marriage is wrong.
But my experience has been the polar opposite. I used to think those things above… but once I started reading my Bible and getting to know God for myself, I realised that He is so far from boring and a kill joy. Following His voice has been and will remain to be the best adventure ever in my life. It’s exciting to step into a new thing, and say ‘OK, what next, Jesus?’ It’s comforting and reassuring when other people say the same things as God, and it’s also really cool when He tells me off – but that’s for another time!
It’s challenging, it’s fun, it’s frustrating, it’s exciting, it’s painful, it’s a test of patience, and sometimes it can be really messy – but I couldn’t imagine living this life without the vibrancy Jesus brings daily. And I definitely couldn’t live without His lovely voice! I want to invite you to join us on this journey. Read your Bible – ask God to show you things as you read. Write them down. Ask Him questions. Write down the first thing that pops into your mind. Save them for later. See if He says it again, either directly to you or through someone else. You might just find out for yourself that His voice is the greatest gift and treasure in this life.
So recently I’ve been really getting into my songwriting. For those who don’t know, I love writing and playing music… it’s awesome! It has been real fun for me to be able to perform my music on a local radio station and also record my songs in the studio. Great, exciting times!
I recently watched a really good talk by Jon Foreman - the lead singer of Switchfoot (the most awesome band in my humble opinion). Jon talks about how we should approach life as a grand song, written by a great composer and conductor holding it all together.
For me that conductor is no other than God: In our busy lives as we try and simply get by doing life, the songs of creation are all held together by the fact that there is a God out there who loves us and wants us to be the best that we can be.
Later in the talk Jon shares how we are unique and being ourselves will “take a lifetime of practice.” So there's no surprise that there will be times when we are going to get things wrong. However we need to continue pushing into discovering what amazing and incredible plans God has in store for us.
He wants us to enjoy the good times that we face in our lives, and also use and learn from the challenging seasons. It’s like keys in music. Both the minor key and major key can prove useful, even if sometimes they sound very different indeed. When we get things wrong it’s important to remember that the great conductor can change the score.
Our lives can be totally Transformed by God, given new amazing meaning.
“Don’t let the past mistakes rob the present of it’s potential.” These words are so encouraging! So face up to your song today and enjoy what amazing plans the great conductor has in store for you!
You can find Jon Foreman’s talk here
If you hang out with me and my mates and haven't seen the films we have, you will not have a clue what were talking about - half our conversation is based around appropriately funny film quotes!
And what used to be our perfect Sunday was to kick it to my place (like The Big Bang Theory guys) armed with a take away (usually Chinese - which no matter how big the order only ever takes 10 minutes to cook!), put on a DVD or two, stuff our faces then all settle down with a cup of tea and talk about the film. It would always get deep quick…sometimes up to ten of us would be sprawled round the lounge trying to figure out, did we like it? What was it about?
But thats just the social film watching:
Watching films over and over, watching all the commentaries, hours of behind the scenes, making of documentaries, reading what the writers intended message was, reviews, websites, books & articles as to why Han shot first, looking at deeper messages behind the story, what’s with the licences plates in the Matrix sequels?
Why do certain colours appear in scenes of M. Night Shyamalan films?
Where is the influence behind this story? Who is Philip K. Dick and why should I care?
When someone with that sort of mentality becomes a Christian what happens is…
You dive into The Bible, watch the Chuck Missler commentaries, read the commentaries by serious dudes like John Stott, read what the writers intended message was, reviews, websites, books & articles as to why David shot first, looking into the deeper messages behind the story, what is Toledot in the Torah?
Why is no detail trivial in the genealogy of Jesus?
Who is the influence behind all 66 books? Who is Wayne Grudem and why should I care?
You see the world afresh like Neo when he's on-route to see the oracle. The world you thought you knew, yet through different eyes. You have indeed taken your first step into a larger world only this time the stories, comic books, novels and films you watch or grew up watching seem oddly familiar; themes and phrases prick up your ears, characters seem very familiar!
I’ve been a Christian for just over 8 years but I recognised early on that films would strike a chord with me.
The story, art, music and feel of a film would leave me dazed and stunned but it would also lead me to ask the deeper question about life, about God, faith and meaning.
I believe God speaks through films.
One famous oscar winning writer Sylvester Stallone acknowledges divine inspiration when he sat down to write Rocky in three days.
God in a personal letter (written 100 years before his birth) to Cyrus says in part,
I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who calls you by your name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel my elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me. I am the Lord. - Isaiah 45: 3-5 (NKJV)
Can God influence a comic book, a novel, a film? The writers of The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and The Chronicles of Brothers would say a big fat yes. The Isaiah quote would seem to suggest that God can inspire people even if they remain unaware.
I watched Iron Man - in fact I watch films like people listen to music. I watched it over 30 times. Loved it, about 5th time through I felt God say: “This is just the story of Paul retold”
Oh really? Excited I got my geek on I dived into the book of Acts 9:9-25, gave a few loud “No ways!", I did an inductive Bible study (thats black belt Bible geek!)
Watch the film again, did an inductive bible study on Iron Man, (wait that's not normal! Off piste geek!)
Heres what I found:
The question is, are our films inspired or just influenced by our cultural Christian heritage? Or do we look at the Biblical influence in the fabric of western culture from our laws, education & Health care but fail to think of its influence in our Films and stories?
Stan Lee AKA Stanley Lieber son of Romanian-born Jewish immigrant parents may class himself as not religious but was quoted as citing the Bible as an early influence in his youth.
Brian Godawa (screenwriter and author) writes “God loves movies. movies are visually dramatic stories, and in the Bible the dominant means through which God communicates his truth is visually dramatic stories – not systematic theology. 70% of the Bible is story, vision, symbol and narrative.”
So was the origin story of Iron man inspired by the bible? Will we see more biblical stories in films simply recycled or re-booted or is it as the writer of Ecclesiastes says “there is nothing new under the sun.”
The One Door Cinema Club (Film and Theology)
So I’m not the most gifted DIY guy ever. If you asked me to put a shelf up, I’d go 'Uhhhh' and then run away - I can just about paint and have hung up the occasional picture. Because of this I’ve never felt the need to buy a toolbox. I just kind of buy tools depending on the task at hand. My tool collection consists of a hammer, a screwdriver and some pliers.
You can have a toolbox with all-sorts of different devices in them but what is important is whether you need to use them. Electric drills and chainsaws look fun but I’m not planning on going ‘lumberjacking’ anytime soon.
As human beings we have our own ‘toolbox,’ with different tools in them. For example, there may be a situation we face where we want to use our ‘friends’ tool and seek their help and advice in a challenging situation. We might take out the Parent’s tool when we need a shoulder to cry on or some guidance.
What’s really interesting is that when we are facing times of challenge or struggle, we forget the most important tool in the toolbox… the Prayer tool. Jesus is the all-rounder, the perfect one to trust in our times of challenge, yet all to often we leave him at the bottom of the box.
I can honestly say that when all else is taken away, all I’m left with in times of struggle is Jesus, and he is always the perfect one to trust in. He always leads us out of difficult times, and to push the analogy as far as it will go, he is the ultimate DIY guy; He lived the human life and knows exactly how to relate to us in all areas of life. That’s not to say that we can’t share trying times with our friends, parents or others but we have an underlying support who will be there for us no matter what the situation.
So I’ll leave you with this thought, who’s in your toolbox? Do you need to add Jesus to the list of useful people who walk with you in life?
When you're 6'6" it's pretty hard to blend into the crowd and this has it's obvious ups and downs (ho ho):
The strangest thing about being tall is (despite it being totally genetic and out of my control) people seem to chalk it up as some kind of personal achievement and congratulate me on my obvious efforts to become really long.
Strangers also seem to think that they have some sort of innate right to comment on my height and talk about me within ear shot.
Somewhere there is a photo of 8-12 South Americans at a Pearl Jam gig having their photo taken with the Giant Smiling European.
I am generally used to all of this, but the feeling of standing out, being different or new can still be unnerving even as I approach my 30's.
About 530 years B.C. When Daniel was around 15 years old his city Jerusalem, the capital of Israel was assaulted, besieged and conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. This was a man whose foreign policy made Tony Blair and George Bush look like the kind of people you'd take to Iran for a picnic.
Whilst in Babylon, Daniel and his fellow kidnapped, war-torn Israelites were effectively brainwashed: they were taught a new language and told to serve new god's, taught to think differently, dress differently, eat differently and forget everything they had been taught back home. They were even given new names... not too different to turning up for your first day as a year 7 or sitting your A Levels.
Despite everything being set against him and living with the people who massacred your people - Daniel nailed his colours to the mast choosing to stand out, not just as an Israelite but as a follower of God - even if it meant putting his neck on the line.
There is an overwhelming temptation to keep our heads down, keep our mouths shut and keep our faith private but when you live your life on mute, more concerned with blending in than standing out you lead a life of little to no impact or consequence.
My Facebook feed is a right mix of dross and gold. One of my friends is posting a daily countdown until the new Star Wars film comes out on my wall which is kind of funny until you realise there are 167 more near identical posts to come. Every. Single. Day.
A lot of us use social media to keep in touch, share news, store photos and post the occasional dank meme.
Others use it as their personal PR firm letting you see a Pinterest version of their life where every day is sunny, the good times keep rolling and every meal is an Instagram worthy stroke of culinary genius #torrentialrain #notreallylikethat #actuallyjustbeansontoastmate
Our self worth is affected by three closely related sources: How we see ourselves, how we think other people see us and how other people really do see us.
Check this video out:
I found some of that hard to watch, folks can be pretty grim - particularly when protected by the anonymity that the Internet provides.
The point? That we can spend forever trying to attain or pretend to have attained some level of perfection but unless we recognise the value we have simply for being human, for being you and made in God's image to reflect some of his wonder then your self worth is always going to be like trying to catch the wind.
My faith confronts me with my flaws and my weaknesses, God's holiness can leave me feeling pretty small, but they always lead me to Jesus who shows me that I was still worth dying for.
So, to finish as I started; What do you see and whose voice do you listen to?