UP

Two letters, one very short word. It doesn’t have too many meanings. Perhaps your mind immediately goes to the Pixar classic with the balloons and the house. Maybe the atrocity that VW dares call a car. Or maybe you’re normal and your mind goes to the actual definition of the word. Well, when I hear UP, I think of something completely different.

My youngest daughter is a wild soul. Perfect in every way, but when she’s in go-mode, there’s nothing that can stop her. And yet for all the speed, agility and momentum – there comes a point in the day when very suddenly, that all-consuming energy diminishes. The fun ceases and the quiet sets in. Then she’ll find one of us and simple say ‘UP’. Not because she can’t formulate a sentence, not because she’s lazy and can’t be bothered to say anything more than that. But because she knows, that’s all she needs to say. At that moment, we’ll thrust her up into our arms and cuddle her for all she’s worth. And sometimes -very rarely- she’ll relax enough to fall asleep.

To me that’s the perfect analogy for our lives, in our endless cycles and attempts at victory. We sometimes, if we’re honest to ourselves, wonder where God is in it all. We wildly chase through life’s gigantic hurdles and chasm-sized potholes trying to see a pattern or logic to it. Sometimes we find the pattern and push through, rolling with the punches. Sometimes we’re lost in the water and the rolling waves hit his before we can catch our breath. But yet, sometimes it takes us to loose the energy we once had, in our own strength, and simple ask God to pull us ‘up’. Into His control; into His peace and into a perspective that puts everything else into model-railway scale.

It wouldn’t take too much strenuous scrolling in the blog history timeline of my site to see that life was a challenge for me over the last year. As my family and I battled to purchase our first home, make no mistake it was painful and frustrating. We seemingly circled the conclusion a million times before eventually landing our breakthrough. At the time and shortly after, I knew that there were lessons that I was learning in the process that would change the way I do life. But I wasn’t aware of just how identical life’s patterns can be.

Less than a year later, the same pattern of challenges emerged. Without getting too technical, we found ourselves up against new challenges and obstructions that we’d never faced before in business this year. Simple things like securing a working overdraft on our accounts became a big issue for the small-minded, but heavily bloated, banks. What started as a positive move to a limited company quickly presented some unforeseen difficulties we couldn’t have imagined. And yet, somehow it was all wildly familiar.

I am absolutely amazed at how identical the issues I face match up to last years’ battles. And I’m starting to believe that there are only a finite number of battle varieties we face during our lives. Sure, the intricacies and details move. But overall, it’s the same thing but a different aesthetics. With that in mind, I believe that as we recycle those game-plans of how we won those battles, we come out better and stronger each time.

And I believe one of the only ways to fight those battles is to learn from before, fight hard, then take a beat. And in that breath just a single word is enough to put it all into perspective. Turning to my God with my weary breath, ‘up’. Is enough to bring peace and a spiritual cuddle with the Almighty. A reminder that no matter the battle. No matter the recycled attack or difficulty. He’s bigger and he’s not letting us go.

And then, keep on going.

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Brain Storm (Second Guess)

I know, I know, it’s ‘Mind Map’ or ‘Fluffy Picture with Lines’ these days. But I’m not referring to the process of mapping out a particular topic on paper. I’m talking about something else.

I don’t know if this happens to everyone, some people or if it’s just me. But I know that far too often I find myself lost in a Brain Storm. Official terminology aside for lack on knowing, but I use this term when I’m lost-at-sea in a thought. You see, about half the time, I have a tendency to overthink things to the nth degree (the other half if made up of stupid impulse reactions, usually courtesy of my tongue). And that can be a useful tool. It helps me problem solve, helps me predict likely chain of events (even if they never pan out that way!), it helps put my mind at ease to know I’ve thought it through.

But it’s not all plain-sailing. A Brain Storm can also hinder things. The emotional and environmental factors aside, there is a monumental assumption that underlines every Brain Storm. That logic (my logic, no less!) can answer everything. It’s a similar way that leading scientists around the world claim that science can prove everything – even if it hasn’t yet. And I’m not refuting that claim. But I am raising the point that sometimes there is a gap between understanding and truth that our minds cannot connect. Furthermore, my never be able to connect.

The question then becomes: Is truth, indeed truth? And if it is, does understanding matter?

Humour me for a second. If you know something to be true. But you don’t understand it. Does it make it any less true? I am, of course, talking most specifically about the truth of who Jesus is. Immediately offensive to some, I realise. But truth to me. Trying to fit his reality inside of logic doesn’t work. And so the only way to accept his truth is to put it into a category outside of Brain Storming and outside of a tidy theorem. Into the category of faith that what he said was true. In this case, the truth that God’s love is so massively incomprehensible that time and space were no matter for him. He broke ‘rules’ of nature and logic to connect with humankind because he cared about every little thing they did. More than that, the fact he could look past all the crap and see the value. How could I possibly logic that one away?

So to that end, this particular truth can actually calm any Brain Storm. That there’s a higher power. That he’s more than interested in me – he actually wants me. And to think too much about how or why would be a waste of my time when I can just enjoy the love he wants to give.

There’s a song that encapsulates this. And it’s been resonating with me for weeks now.The lyrics that go a little something like this:

If you want me heart; I won’t second guess,
Cause I need your love more than anything,
I’m in, I’m Yours,
Your love’s too good to leave me here.

The lesson I learnt, and am still learning? If our definition of truth is based purely on evidence that is concrete and logical, then immediately we cancel out all other potentials realities. If we broaden our acceptance to include things outside of logic, we can begin to have faith in love that can actually make us valued, accepted and whole.

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The Battle of Mort Gage

This one is a long read. But it’s one I have crafted carefully over the last season.

You always hear that life is a battle. But a wise man once told me that it’s not always about the victory, sometimes it’s about the honour in how you fight. I didn’t think much of it at the time, but now I can safely say that I have lived this legend. And telling it is easier than walking through it. This is the story of how a thirty-something family man tried to get a mortgage in the UK.

The battle to own a property has been one that I’ve fought over the last three years. Along the way, I’ve been challenged, disassembled and rebuilt more times than I’d care to count. Through this process I’ve fought financial, stereotype and mental battles that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

I don’t know why, but while the whole story is still raw, I thought I’d write about it. Thank you for humouring me. This is ‘The Battle of Mort Gage’.

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My Decision

Found these old cards the other day. My first ever business cards. From a simpler time. When I had hair. But in all seriousness, it felt appropriate to share them today. Today marks a special kind of anniversary.

24 years ago today I made a decision. As a seven year old boy, not a lot of your decisions sick around for much longer than a year. But this one has lasted me nearly a quarter of a decade (and counting). It’s not a decision I took lightly then, and it’s one that I take even more seriously now. That decision was to externally express an internal trust and belief that Jesus is who He said He is.

I didn’t do it on a stage. I didn’t do it around others. I didn’t do it because I felt I had to. I did it because I read about the importance of accepting Jesus as He is – so He would accept me as I was (and am). I did it because -even then- I knew that the ‘feelings’ I got when I spoke with God were more than feelings. I knew Him to be real and that He was interested in knowing me, an insignificant pre-teen.

So much has changed since then. Both in my world and in the world around me. But He never changes. And just as He accepted an uncomplicated seven-year-old then – He just as much accepts the highly complicated and over-thought thirty-something now. Something I find highly re-assuring.

And even though I don’t remember much from being seven, I remember making that decision. It’s a decision that has tested me, torn me apart but also kept everything in perspective and exposed to faithfulness that is unmatched by any human. I don’t always make good decisions. But God knows, that’s the best decision I have ever made.

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The Focus

I can often find myself getting lost in myself. My brain can be a infinite abyss of complex realities and unending reasonings.

That is, as you can imagine, only multiplied in times of extra stresses, confusion or uncertainty. And lately, that has felt a little bit like where I’ve been.

Firstly, let me just stress that I am so blessed with the worlds’ best wife and children. I am by no means ‘going through it’. In comparison to many in the world today, I’m living the dream. But every now and again, the minor stresses that I deal with eat away at the joys.

And its times like this that it’s good to stop and re-adjust the focus. This song, recently released by UNITED, is one that really spoke to me in this way.

So often, I feel guilty of loosing focus in the moment of a stressful week or an uncertain bill to pay. So much so that even when I do try to refocus, I miss the most amazing point of all. If only just for the 7 odd minutes of this song, I began to realise that the re-adjustment wasn’t about my focus – but it was all about realising how intensely focused God is on me. Just like He does on all of his children.

And as the universe around us screams of His greatness, it fails to compare, nor does it distract God from His ultimate desire – us. And that’s more than enough to bring my focus back each time to meet His gaze.

But what measures could amount to your desire?
You’re the one who never leaves the one behind.

I’m not a big fan of the aesthetics behind this lyric video, but the song and the lyrics are just phenomenal.

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I don’t know

Following the events in Manchester yesterday, I am at a loss for words. I’m not sure if, as a parent, I can’t help but get a snippet of what the parents of the victims must be feeling. I’m not sure if it was because it was an attack taken out on my home country. I’m not sure of a lot of things.

I felt myself recalling a song that reflected the truth that I can’t do anything, but I can trust God. I’m not belittling the work that anyone has done in the wake of this event and I’m certainly not trying to make myself seem like a victim here – but rather – sending my prayers to those who were involved. Since that is just about all I can do. I certainly cannot begin to reason or explain why things like this happen.

I looked for a lyric video to the song that my insides sang, but I sadly couldn’t find one. So, as that’s something I could produce – that’s what I did do. But, as perhaps expected, Youtube blocked it due to copyright infringement. So Instead, here’s a few images and a link to listen to the song for yourselves.

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Rise

I realise that this blog lacks a certain level consistency. I’ll start a theme and leave it open-ended. I’ll talk about heart-felt inner battles and follow that up with a sarcastic review of my latest cinematic experience. Like I say. Inconsistent. But perhaps it is, always, honest and it is in keeping up with my life. Perhaps equally inconsistent. Perhaps not.

But as we enter into the Easter Bank Holiday, it’s something I really wanted to talk about. My past inconsistencies and failed attempts at success. I make no apology for drawing parallels to the Easter message of Jesus. The true meaning of Easter probably needs no further elaboration for you to complete the analogy. While Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus after his brutal crucifixion three days prior, I think so too, our past dreams and failings can rise. And I think that Jesus’s supernatural return, could actual be part of the catalyst to bring our dreams back into play.

Jesus will have about as much an impact of your life as you’ll let Him have. And while there are countless claims to ultimate success and ultimate peace out there, I really don’t think any of them can actually compare than that of what Jesus can do. And so easy as it is to put Jesus into pictorial, historical and theoretical scenarios logically, there is one arena that Jesus branded out of place. And that’s today. Society says Jesus is historical. Jesus says “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”. His friendship, his resurrection skills and ultimately his eternal ticket out of h-e-double hockey-sticks.

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Hypocrite!

Nothing like an insult and exclamation mark to drive home a post title, eh? The title could relate to any number of people or things. Like the fact that this blog post is nearly a week late for week 4 of my 52 week blog journey. I mean that’s slack by anyone’s standards, and only the fourth week – wow! But, no, this post is about something a bit more close-to-home…

I wrote a blog post last week about the way in which the new US President, Donald Trump as been ‘welcomed’ into office by outraged social network users and media agencies alike. Not brilliantly. And while I could draw similarities between the title of this post and the said media agencies *cough* BBC *cough*, this post isn’t even about that.

It’s about the very notion of hypocrisy. The definition of the word hypocrite, according to dictionary.com, is “a person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie his or her public statements.”

And in the light of that definition, I think I need to make something quite clear. I am, by no means or measure perfect. This will come as no shock whatsoever to anyone who knows me. But I wonder if I dare suggest something grander, we all suffer from imperfection. The classic line whenever we mess up to excuse ourselves: ‘nobody’s perfect!’ comes to mind. And while flippantly used here and there in our daily lives – it’s actually a really truth that we should pay attention to every now and again.

So at the risk of beating a dead horse (a physical action I would highly advise against, but in analogy’s sake…), I revisit the Trump debate. Since my last post, there have been several actions of the new President that have been wildly unpopular amongst the louder-voiced of the Western World (dare-I-say, making their point seem more universal than it actually is). But it’s debates like this one that bring out the best and worst in people.

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