Saturday, 1 September 2012

My Own Private Idaho

Like many people, I like to feel good and happy, and hopefully all of the time.  Of course, who feels happy and content all the time?  I don’t; not all the time anyway.


Having in the past suffered from severe manic depression, and it now largely being a thing of the past, I try to keep from things that might start the onset of another episode.  I might add that my disobedience to God didn’t help matters when I was depressed.  I now try just to be an obedient servant.


In trying to feel good and happy all the time, I surround myself with things that I like; I buy all kinds of films, especially Film Noir, I try to do things that I like, like writing, taking photographs, going shopping, reading on all kinds of different topics and I especially, usually occasionally, like to travel to different places.  I am also a reasonable cook and at least once a day I like to eat something nice that I’ve made like a decent curry or a pasta sauce from scratch or something like a risotto or a paella or something even that I’ve never made before; usually it works out because I always follow the instructions even when I occasionally chop and change things.


I try to get a little simple pleasure out of each day; if it’s sunny, I say ‘what a nice day!’  If it’s raining, I say ‘well it might brighten up and still be a nice day!’  I personally like thunderstorms and dramatic weather, hopefully as long as I am indoors or not getting soaked, and can watch a thunderstorm transfixed for hours at a time.  Up until very recently, I also looked forward to drinking half a bottle of wine on Friday night and finishing off the bottle on Saturday.  Well I tell a little white lie; I always buy another small bottle to add to Saturday’s Bacchanalian reverie!  In the week I used to have a few bottles of beer, choice English ales or bitters.  I have given up booze for the time being because I feel God wants me to.  Even though I am not a heavy drinker I feel God wants me to give it up for Him; for the time being.


Those Private Solitary Moments

Like many people growing up in urban areas full of all kinds of people, I sometimes get the need for solitary moments; for me this can be walking along a beach near the end of the evening, just listening to the seabirds singing and looking for their food, or even taking a small holiday to North Wales and taking a walk where I may, hoping that I can enjoy the walk whilst not meeting too many people along the way; if I do meet people I’m always polite, but you get what I mean.  I believe we all need moments such as this, as much as at other times we need to be around other people, especially family and friends on special occasions or just when we’re chilling out and having a laugh.  But for me, at times I need to be alone, to think about things, to think about God and what He wants for me, and just to reflect on my life and perhaps where I am going.


I definitely need those private solitary moments to keep me going, and it might sound strange but when I am on a lonely path somewhere or a slightly isolated beach or even on the Great Orme, which is a hill in North Wales, near the end of the day, I feel somehow closer to God, and in the silence of the burgeoning evening I find solace and peace that sometimes I don’t find in the midst of crowds of people.  I need those moments, they are part of my life.


God is in Every Experience

Some people go to church on Sundays to find God, some people go to church more than once a week to find God; as a non-church goer but at the same time a dyed-in-the-wool Christian, I try to find God in every experience.  Of course, I find Him when I pray to Him, and I find Him when I read the Bible.  But God is everywhere in every place all at the same time; we can’t escape Him even if we wanted to, but a Christian should feel comfort that He is always there and only ever a prayer away.


I have a calling on my life, but not coming from a Christian background or community of any kind, I have to find and experience God for myself without priests or vicars or anyone else really telling me what I should do or what I should believe.  Because of this, I consider myself just a Christian, not particularly Catholic or particularly Protestant, or any denomination for that matter, just someone who is a Christian and tries to live out that faith each day.  As I said, for me Christian experience, experiencing God, is something at this time that is private and solitary, yet at the same time I am aware that God is in every moment and is everywhere in time and space.


I have felt God move in my life, sometimes because I was obedient and He was rewarding me and sometimes because I was basically disobedient and He was punishing me.  I believe that with those He calls, as you’ll read with the Israelites in the Old Testament and people like me and many others today, He deals with our sins in this life.  I think for those He doesn’t call, He will deal with them in the next life.  What in the end does God’s calling on a person’s life mean?  For me, it means that, whether I want to or not, I have to serve God with a whole heart; sometimes I think I manage this, and other times I don’t.  Christianity then isn’t something that is a game to me or even religion, it is a palpable and sometimes hard-edged reality.  Christianity is to me God’s presence in my life; He knew me before I knew Him.  When the Israelites were obedient they prospered, when they were disobedient they suffered and sometimes terribly so.  We can learn much from the Israelites relationship with God in the Old Testament; how to live, and how not to live.


The Israelites and their many different prophets didn’t seem to separate the world or their nation for that matter into secular and divine, they saw everything as being a part of God and His Creation.  Likewise, we should not separate things we do into secular or divine and should see that God can enter in every experience and thing we do, whether it’s praying, baking a cake, doing exercises to get fit, going out with friends or just chilling out and relaxing.  God is there for all life and our whole lives.


God, a Refuge

So, for me God is a friend who I can talk to and completely rely on.  I won’t tell you that I have a ‘hotline’ to God and that He treats me better than anyone else, or that I am somehow more blessed than others, quite simply because it’s just not true; we are all special to God, all those He calls for His purposes.  We are well aware that God works with those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good.  (Romans 8:28 NJB)  It does help of course that we develop a love and total respect for the God who can do so much more for us than we are barely able to ask.  So, even if like me you sometimes crave solitude and a kind of nice loneliness, along wind and sea swept beaches or country lanes or hilltops, God is our refuge and He will protect us and enter into our lives, especially if we ask Him to.


I’m trying to write about a faith that goes beyond the four walls of a church, that goes beyond the rituals and human traditions of many Christian denominations, that goes beyond sectarianism and fighting for sects, that goes beyond our class and skin colour and country of birth, that goes beyond everything we really think we understand and often don’t, a faith that embraces all our imperfections, all our brokenness, all our questions and misgivings and a faith that brings real meaning and hope, peace and contentment into our lives.  Most of us desire such a faith, but if we are honest what we do have falls short, if not far short, of that blessed reality.  I have yearned for a long time to have a walk with God that would mean me being contented and happy and for a long time have felt that what I have is something far less solid; my sins have caught up with me and caused a gulf to separate me from the perfect love of God.  Yes I know He loves without let or reservation, but I still feel there is a gulf between me and God. 

In time I hope for a perfect relationship with God; I’ve learnt to be content with what I have and I am learning to be more tolerant of my fellow human beings; it’s a slow process but if we make a little progress each day it all adds up in the end.  Our part is merely to have faith and remain obedient.


  1. Tim,
    I have two friends who have an active faith in Jesus Christ but they, like you, don't attend any church. These two know each other as well as both knowing me. Also, it was worth mentioning the pub, as these two and I often go out together as a threesome to have a quiet social together in a pub. There is not a trace of guilt, nor any feeling of "worldliness" in these socials, as we can talk about the Bible and spiritual things as much in a pub as in a church building. It is also worth mentioning here that back in the 1980s, when our housegroup leader wanting us to go out and knock on doors, very much as the Jehovah's Witnesses do, I said "No" and refused to go out with them. I was soon after transferred to another housegroup, after taking a peek at the leader's report to the Pastor, saying that I was "ravaged by the Devil".
    At present, I don't attend any housegroups.
    As for solitariness, I too have been to the Great Orme in Wales, as well as hiking solo on the West Coast Path from Bournemouth to Exeter, and the Lake District from Kendal to Keswick (a few weeks before our wedding in 1999 - final solo trip of all time!) With these experiences I know how beneficial such solitary prayer can be.
    An excellent post.

    1. In hearing what you've said Frank, I think it would be nice for me to actually have a couple of Christian friends I could meet now and again, even if in a cafe or pub or somewhere like that.

      Well, saying you were "ravaged by the Devil" probably said a lot more about them than it did about you. I've always thought that ego plays a big part in things like this. Some people get in a tizzy if you disagree with them; this is the same in church as it could be anywhere. I learnt to relinquish my ego a long time ago; if someone agrees with me, fine. If someone disagrees with me, fine. I leave it at that. we all have our opinions after all.

      I, like you, need solitary moments, places where I can just be and not have to justify myself to anyone other than God; it's good to go off the beaten track now and again.

  2. Hi Tim,
    I know what you mean about the solitude, for me that is the time when I feel closest to God. It is also the time when I am able to feel a great love for all people, I think this is because I see us all as God sees us when I am not distracted by public activity. I have time to reflect on how all of us are in a world full of pressures, even though sometimes we may not recognize their presence in our lives. God wants all of us to have the peace that is found in Jesus, and I know that it is a peace that comes totally out of putting our entire lives into His hands. I have never felt that my faith is anything to do with denominations, church buildings or anything at all that is man created. Jesus says that when two or three are gathered together in His name, there He is in the midst of them. The name of a person, according to Hebrew tradition, represents the character of a person. We can be anywhere together and be in the presence of Jesus, He is everywhere. I am a positive person too, as you say you are. I firmly believe that words have a power in them when you are a christian, and I believe absolutely that God's perfect love is able to cast out our fears, if we take every thought into captivity and make it obedient to Christ.

    1. I do need sometimes to be on my own, and yet God is to be foubd 'amongst two, or three.' So there is a dichotomy for me that I can't get over yet. I am a sociable person and like to have a laugh with my mates, but there is a definitely solitary and private side to me, which is as much a part of me as anything else is.

      I love the way you've written: 'I have never felt that my faith is anything to do with denominations, church buildings or anything at all that is man created.' I agree with you entirely, but it seems that much that passes for organised Christianity is about hierarchy and maintaining church buildings and collecting money and so on; it seems that Jesus and His worship, and the real life of the Christian that goes with that, is an afterthought. There has to be a balance between private faith and communal faith, that doesn't compromise either. That's the trick.

  3. By the way Tim,
    I think you are a brilliant writer, you are very sincere and I think that is the most important requirement to be able to relate to others through a person's writings.

    1. Thank you Brenda; I equally think you are an excellent writer and Poetess!

  4. I absolutely love this post. I'm very similar to you in this regard minus the beers and wine lol. This line sums it all up for me, "for me Christian experience, experiencing God, is something at this time that is private and solitary". I spend a great deal of my time alone, very different from the way i was before God changed me. I am most relaxed and calm and able to think clearly in my solitude. I sit out on the balcony outside my room and just meditate on how amazing God is. I look around at the trees the birds the sky the clouds and so many other things and think to myself God is so amazing. I am in awe of Him daily.

    Being unemployed, most of my days are spent at home in my room in silence, most recently some music on a very low volume playing in the background. I think a lot about my life and wonder what Gods plans are for me, I think i need this in my life right now. The more I seek God the more I understand Him and love Him. When i was lost I only knew of God, I didn't know Him at all. Unlike you I grew up in a religious home, with a very strict mother, all I knew for many years was school, church and home. I didn't have sleepovers and was never aloud to go to any. What I did have we're books and a radio, which is strange because now in my adulthood although there are other things that can entertain me, i prefer reading and listening to the radio. I truly loved every bit of this post, pretty much captures me.

    1. Well thank you Sateigdra; I've given up the beer and wine for the time being!!! I bet sitting out in Nassau when the sun is shining is a beautiful experience. Usually in England, the weather wouldn't be up to it; anywhere in Britain really the weather is often not fantastic, but sometimes it can be nice.

      I think all Christians wonder at times what God has planned for them. You wrote: 'The more I seek God the more I understand Him and love Him.' That's pretty much how it is for me too.

      The dangers of being too strict can be ultra-rebellious young people and adults. We need our parents to be strict at times but sometimes we only learn by experiencing things ourselves. We might assume that because someone who is religious is very strict, that somehow God is very strict and a killjoy as well. My experience of God is that where sin is concerned, God is very strict, but where other things are concerned, He is a liberal! He didn't create us to around cowering in fear but to have life in abundance; how so few people in the world really seem to understand that.