Saturday, 24 September 2011

It’s OK to Be You

For a long time in my life, I have in essence ran from myself and tried sometimes to not be me.  If you understood what I mean, then you know where I am coming from; if you don’t understand what I mean then I will try to explain.

For many reasons, I have often felt inferior; firstly I suppose because of my working class background and growing up as a kid in a run-down dilapidated house with no bath and an outside toilet and a leaking roof, amongst many other things.  I agree, this isn’t the worst poverty anyone could endure, but bear with me.  Secondly, I hated school and was bullied somewhat, although not seriously, and found year on year in my senior school that I was getting worse and worse grades and so got less and less interested and finally left at fifteen; a bad mistake some might say.  Thirdly, I have since my late teens felt a failure and felt that whatever I turned my hand at would not succeed, and so in the past I didn’t even try; and having ambition?  It didn’t even register.  Fourthly, and this may seem beside the point, I have had a long series of bad and even unpleasant encounters with the opposite sex, so much so that I have had a problem with women for a long time and once could even have been described as women-hater; I’m coming to terms with this now and am asking God to help me deal with it.  I hasten to add, I never was or never have been a violent person in any way.  Finally, although there may be other things too, I have had an on-off relationship with God throughout my life.  This has resulted in me finding myself estranged from God many times, and being punished by Him in various ways for my disobedience, culminating in my life stopping and starting until I learned to put my faith, and my obedience, in God.  You may ask ‘why would God punish you and disrupt your life, if He is supposed to be a loving God?’; I suppose my answer simply would be, that sometimes God has to take drastic measures to bring someone in line, even if it might seem to mess up their life.  Sometimes, God’s punishment is the kindest thing He can do to make changes in your life; at the time though it might not seem like that at all!

We all struggle, in one form or another.  I think it is part and parcel of the human experience.   Some people are gifted academically, but they might struggle with getting on with other people.  Some people might be good at making money, but struggle with subjects like maths and English.  Some people might be good to know and lovely people through and through, but let people down by being late all the time or not turning up.  We all have gifts and talents as human beings, and we all have areas in our lives where we are not so good at things.  In short, we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses at the same time.  And sometimes, we can be over-confident, and sometimes we can lack confidence; I think somewhere between the two is the best way to approach life and whatever comes our way.  

As a Christian then, I have had my ups and downs; but who hasn’t?  I can say this though; after many hard lessons, I have finally learned something!  Seriously, I have learned and understood that God is the best source for help with any troubles I have and the best source for any kind of help I may need, and He is utterly reliable and completely unfazed by whatever question or problem I might bring to Him, or advice I might need.  He is always there, day or night, and however I feel, whether it’s grumpy or happy, or even downright miserable, He is always the same yesterday, today and forever.

As I am a bit older now than when I was a teenager, I can afford to be somewhat amused at the way I was when I was a youngster; I made so many mistakes, said so many stupid things, did things that made my life worse and even occasionally got in with the wrong crowd.  Those days are gone now, and I am in a different phase of my life; maybe it’s the same for you or perhaps you are just embarking on your ‘salad days’ as I did all those years ago.  Some things have changed; I am more mature, my character is more rounded and I am more thoughtful and considerate of other people.  Some things are still the same; I still make mistakes, and I still fail from time to time.  But I am moving forward in my life, trying to make headway and get on in life as best as I can.  And God?  Yes, I think I am in a much better place with Him than I was even five  years ago, and it gets better every day.  I now believe firmly that my place in life, first and foremost, is to be a committed Christian and to put all my wants, desires, ambitions and even passions to God first, and to ask Him to smooth my way and make my paths straight.  He has a knack of bringing it all together in a way no human ever could.  

‘Thus says Yahweh to his anointed one, to Cyrus whom, he says, I have grasped by his right hand, to make the nations bow before him and to disarm kings, to open gateways before him so that their gateways be closed no more: I myself shall go before you, I shall level the heights, I shall shatter the bronze gateways, I shall smash the iron bars, I shall give you secret treasures and hidden hoards of wealth, so that you will know that I am Yahweh, who call you by your name, the God of Israel.’  Isaiah 45:1-3

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

So; Just What is the Point of Being a Christian?

One of the reasons why I like Atheists is that they ask questions that some Christians will not ask.  If we as Christians are prepared to ask tough questions, even questions we feel are hard to answer, then we can at least have answers for anyone who wants to know about our faith.

Before you try and change the world, perhaps you might try and change yourself first!  With God, we can change, and we can change for the better too.

So, just what is the point of being a Christian?  Is it to be a better person?  Yes, I think so.  Is it to give us purpose in what can be a meaningless life?  Yes.  Is it to understand that we are part of a community?  Yes.  Is it so we can get closer to God, and walk in His ways?  That’s the way it is for me anyway.

God moves in mysterious ways; I have understood that much about Him!  When we try to fully understand Him, or put Him conveniently in a box, He always seems too big for any definition we might have for Him.  What church or cathedral could contain Him, when He created the whole vast universe?

If God has called you for whatever reason, the point of being a Christian might at first just be being obedient to that call and learning in every way to be a Christian.  Being obedient to God’s discipline and teachings is a great part of Christian living, perhaps the most important part.

The point of being a Christian for me is finding God in the everyday, a God who is big enough to create everything but intimate and tender enough to make a difference in our everyday lives.  He is the God who can be relied on, the God who can be trusted, the God who, when everything and everyone can let us down, is always there for us.  When we strike up a friendship with Jesus, every day is special and every day can be different.

St Paul knew just what was the point of being a Christian after spending a chunk of his life being a Pharisee.  Being so wrapped up in religion, he eventually saw the error of his ways; and likewise so can we all.  I think we are all trapped in our error until Jesus shows us the way.

Thursday, 8 September 2011


Have you ever just felt like getting away from it all?  Just walking out in the country on a lonely path leading who knows where?  Or walking along a deserted lonely beach far off the beaten track?  Or just exploring a town or city or village you’ve never been to before?

If you have, I don’t think you’re alone.  Some people are practical, pragmatic and hard-headed; and others are dreamers and might have their head in the clouds!  I suppose that’s me really.

So much of what we dream about, often doesn’t make it in reality; we do a ‘reality-check’ on so many things, and often they just don’t make the grade.  We accept that there are some things we just can’t have or we just can’t do.

I will always be a dreamer first before anything else; I think God doesn’t mind to be honest; dreams make the world go round after all.  He dreamed the world into existence, then it became reality.

Where can God be found?  In quaint churches?  Or huge cathedrals?  When we pray privately in our bedrooms?  God is everywhere, and nowhere it seems. 

We yearn for so many things, and perhaps for so many different reasons.  We yearn to find work, and struggle when we don’t; we yearn wistfully for a better life, and then we can’t find it; we yearn to make sense of it all, and find that we just can’t; we yearn to understand God, and are confused when we don’t; we yearn for things that can’t be put into words, unutterable yearnings that maybe only God can really answer.

We yearn, because we are human.  I am a Christian, and I struggle with thoughts and ideas about God; surely, as a Christian, I should have it all together, I should be sure in my beliefs and know everything there is to know about God and everything there is to know about the Bible?  I wish!  If you’re struggling understanding God, you are not the only one!

We yearn to be better than everyone else, and we fail.  Does God want us to continually strive to be better than everyone else, or does He want us to run our own race?  We can’t be anyone else, and we shouldn’t compare ourselves with anyone else; we can only be ourselves.  There is something precious about being you, and only you can be you, and there is something precious about being me, only I can be me!  We are unique, and precious to God.

We will always yearn, it’s a part of the human condition; God can answer our deepest yearnings.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


Many of us who live in big cities tend to dress informally, with jeans and trainers and sometimes sportswear like tracksuits and baseball caps; some people might label such a person as looking like a drug dealer or a street thug, or even a Hoodie!  But for many, it is just a way of dressing and nothing more.

I am a Christian, and I often dress like this; I don’t see any problem with being an ordinary bloke and being a dyed-in-the-wool Christian; there is no reason I see to pretend to be something I am not; I think God wants us to be who we are, even if we look and dress like Hoodies sometimes; Hoodies 4 Jesus no less!

Some people from poorer and disadvantaged backgrounds lacking in self-worth may mistakenly think they need respect from other people; but the sad fact is that no one needs to’ get respect’ from anybody else for any reason.  We need to respect others first, even if generally people don’t respect us; how can you respect yourself if you don’t respect others, and how can you respect others if you don’t respect yourself?  There may be a thin line between needing and demanding respect; we all need to be respected and loved but this should come naturally from family and friends, even from neighbours and acquaintances.  You don’t get real respect from people by threatening them in any way.

In my walk with God, through good times and bad, when I’ve been a good lad and at other times when I wasn’t really walking with God at all, there has never been a problem with how I dress.  You can wear a hoodie and be a Christian!  You can wear a baseball cap and be a Christian!  You can be trendy and be a Christian; but it doesn’t matter if you’re not trendy!

God wants us to be real, not false in any way.  There is so much scope in Christianity just for being who we are; God is big and tough enough to take on our individuality, and He is big enough to accept us as we are.  I’ll leave the final word to the Good Book: ‘Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.’ Hebrews 13:2