First Draft Done!!!

Sorry everyone for my inconsistent posting. I have an excuse, a valid one this time. Honest. A couple of years back I felt an urge to write a book. Me being me, a lot of focus was put on the planning side of it. However over the last few months, basically since 2020 I started hammering out a steady pace of daily typing and flexing out my plan. Last month I took a week off work to focus just on writing. And yesterday, 24thJune 2020, 80,243 words later, I finished the first draft!

It summarizes, most of what I’ve learnt about my faith and discipleship since being a teenager, so has been a long time in the making – even sub-consciously. The journey from here is much more outside of my hands, so I should be able to write blog posts a little more frequently. (Plus I have a lot of ‘draft’ material I can upload if I’m stuck for ideas!)

For those interested and who want to be praying blessings over my efforts. I would be most appreciative! As far as I can see, or know, the next steps are:

1)     Look through the first draft, clean it up, make sure the sentences make sense, double check I’m not repeating myself, cull the blatantly bad bits, give nutrition to the good bits etc etc. Then I’ll have a “second draft”. [My personal deadline for this process is 10th July– Pray for me please]

2) Then I’m sending it to one or two friends who are SUPER-SMART/have written things I know and like. I’m already sending out feelers now for possible people.

3) While these amazing friends read and edit, look for heresies and grammatical failings, I’m getting in touch with a few friends and friends of friends who have published books already. Trying to network, further edit my ideas, and give me advice about publishing etc.

3.5) I’ll also be using this time to begin putting together a series of seminars, teaching on the content in the book. The power-points, extra reading material and handouts at least.

4) Once all this is done, I’ll start approaching publishers. I think this has to be done through a third party, who will store a copy of my book proposal and let mainstream publishers look it over and weigh it up against the risks of signing a new author.

I’m sure it won’t be as clear cut, but that’s the journey I’m likely going to be on over the next few months. Please do pray, I have a feeling, I’ve not yet reached the halfway mark. 😀

P.s. I was so proud and chuffed to have finished a first draft, I paid to have it bound. Here’s a picture of me basking in the various chemicals associated with pride and achievement:

Desiring to Live and Breathe: Jesus

I want to be the kind of person who lives and breathes Jesus. Who’s hobbies and free time all revolve around Him. I want to be known as a follower of Jesus, someone who loves Him and is trying to be as much like Him as possible. To be a man after God’s own heart and then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same.

But then I run into two problems.

Firstly, I get distracted. I lose sight of this goal and will invest my time in things which aren’t Christ centred. Which have little to no impact in His Kingdom and which don’t bring me closer to Him OR make me more like Him.

Secondly, I fear that I will become one-dimensional to others. That I will become that cliche Christian stereotype who only does “Christian things” and who therefore becomes pretty dull and has nothing to talk about.

I want to write a little truth into this second problem. It’s wrong on a few levels and needs to be combatted with correction. I can focus on the distractions later.

So first, where does this fear come from? Well, I want to fit in, I want to be cool, I want acceptance and to be able to contribute to conversations. Primal need – relationships and acceptance in community. If I centre my life of “Christian activities” then the only community I’ll find acceptance in is in “Christian circles”. And experience has taught me, this is not enough, it’s not dynamic enough or satisfying enough. In my experience “Christian circles” are cliche and fairly shallow. (Admittedly, I’ve had a fair share of frustrating experiences….) Furthermore I also want to be “relevant” to everyone else.

Remember that kid, who only listened to Christian music, only watched Christian films and only read Christian books. Not only was his experience of art, constrained to a bleak corner, but he also couldn’t/struggled to get involved in the conversations, communities and friendships that had exposure to a wider world.

Let me clarify, I know that to have a life which is Christ centred – doesn’t mean only engaging with the “Christian Bubble”. I know that there really isn’t so much as a sacred-secular divide as people in the olden days supposed. I know this, I’ve been around the block. It’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out – Jesus said that.

But at the same time, I do believe Christ calls us to a life of purity. Where we are selective about what we engage in. And deliberate about what we do. We know that there are certain activities which harden our heart to God’s truth, we know that there are things which cause us to stumble, we know that we need to live selectively because our days are short. We are ambassadors with a limited time frame to work, to harvest, to fish. Therefore we should live in such a way that demonstrates God’s love, passion and blessing to this world. And not get caught up and entangled with distractions.

Let me also clarify that a life lived after Christ, isn’t insular, it isn’t passive and useless, it tackles the problems that the world faces. It offers light and salt to a world hungry for it. It shines hope into darkness, truth into lies, freedom into captivity, healing into brokenness and glory into shame. It does all this and more. And therefore it doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, in the periphery and outskirts of ordinary life.

Furthermore, we shouldn’t be living in fear of being excluded or being rejected. This Good News, is ugly news to some and off-putting to others. The lifestyle of radical discipleship to our Rabbi, will upset, frustrate and anger people who don’t like Him. It is enough that the student be like his Rabbi/teacher. If they persecuted Him, if they laughed at Him, rejected Him and excluded Him, how much more us?!

Sometimes I just need to write truth down, and speak it to myself.

Afterthought, I also think that a selective life is very interesting to a watching world. Ever met someone who didn’t have social media, or a Netflix subscription – because of a deliberate decision. They usually have an interesting story behind it. And we are eager to know about it. May my selective life, draw others to Jesus.

“…to live in a way which demands an explanation.” Was a motto my wife and I adopted when we got engaged. It’s time to dust it off and start again.

Agenda Item #1 See the person

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We all have agendas, some of them are big and important, some a small and silly.

We set ourselves an agenda each week when we go shopping. We look at our watches, outside the doors of aldi, and we see if we can make it round the shop, past the checkouts and back out the door in less than 20mins. Shopping shouldn’t take that long should it? So we set our self the target of getting it done quick.

The thing with agenda’s is that people often get in the way of them. There’s that family with kids running around the aisles blocking your path. There’s the old lady with a walking stick – whose left her basket in between you and your goal (Why is she using a basket if she’s got a walking stick!?) Then there’s that lady at the checkout who is nattering away, like she’s the most sociable woman in the world – totally distracting the customer who is in my way, and also seeming to enjoy a superficial conversation with a stranger!

It’s silly when you put it like this but we all have them – agendas. Whether they’re work related: closing the deal, finishing the project, getting the promotion. Family related? Having dinner together, date nights, movie nights, playing a game of monopoly (and winning it!) Or maybe even “spiritual agendas”: getting to church on time, reading my bible each day or leading the music worship on Sunday…writing a blog etc.

The thing about agenda’s is that they can often make us blind, blind to people.

There is a story in the Bible (Luke 13:10-17) about Jesus teaching on the Sabbath, – anyone who is a teacher or has done teaching will know that you teach with an agenda. They’re called “learning objectives”/L.Os – we had to write them out as school kids, so that we knew what the teacher wanted us to learn. Jesus had an agenda this Sabbath, He wanted people to learn something. But despite His agenda, he saw a woman in the crowd who was suffering. He called her out and healed her. This messed with the agenda of the synagogue leader – who’s agenda it was to make people feel guilty and bad about themselves (joke!) – his agenda was keeping the Sabbath sacred.

Both these agendas are important. Teaching is important (hence the effort that goes into schools in this country: maintaining them, training teachers, inspecting them etc). Keeping the Sabbath is important (it’s the 4th 10 commandment)! But the difference between Jesus and the Synagogue Leader in this story, is that Jesus wasn’t blinded by His agenda. He could see the woman in need.

Who is the person, who are the people – God wants you to see? They may be the very people in the way of your agenda.

 

1 year old!

As of a day ago, my blog has been around for a year! I’ve been consistently blogging for most of that time, although I had a few months off towards the end of 2016 and beginning of 2017.

Haven’t got anything particularly profound to say, but thought it was good marking.

 

BRT – Colossians

  1. 1.29: It is for this that I toil, striving with all the energy that he stirs up in me so mightily. I love how this captures both our part and His part. We are to be good stewards of the energy that God stirs up in us. Too often we lean on one side of this equation rather than on both. For me I feel this most in my attitude towards quiet times. I strive and strive for a disciplined routine and it actually means that I do them in my own strength. Rather than stopping and asking God to have is way. Because of my own effort, without dependency, I get easily angry at interruptions and all sorts and things that stop me from getting finished in the time I want it. These moments reminds me that I’m not dependent on God, but myself. I reckon it would be handy to see interruptions as divine (there’s a balance here, and having my quiet times early in the morning does help in this).
  2. 2.7:  Remain deeply rooted in him; continue being built up in him and confirmed in your trust, the way you were taught, so that you overflow in thanksgiving. This stood out to me because it says that the/a reason we should be rooted in Him (Christ) is “so that” we overflow with thanksgiving. Often I forget that thanksgiving comes from being deeply rooted in Christ. Elsewhere in the Bible it talks about remaining in Christ so that we can produce fruit (Jn 15), maybe here we can see that one of the fruit we produce is thanksgiving. I want to be more thankful, and remember to thank God for even the little things. This is what it means to overflow. I remember a sermon I heard years and years back, in London, the guy said: “gratitude is rarely silent”. How is my thankfulness expressed to God, to others?
  3. 4.5-6: Behave wisely toward outsiders, making full use of every opportunity — let your conversation always be gracious and interesting, so that you will know how to respond to any particular individual. The NIV and ESV uses the phrase seasoned with Salt, instead of interesting. But because the NLT uses “attractive”, I reckon “interesting” is a not far off translation! How about that? I think when we spend a lot of time round people we adopt their way of speaking, and especially in groups this can shut out outsiders and make them feel unwelcome. This was an interesting check for me, on the way I speak. Am I approachable, am I relevant, am I interesting in what I talk about? I know this doesn’t mean put on a pretence and  never talk about things which are unpopular (the Bible clearly teaches that the world will hate the gospel). But there is a tension here. Am I so caught up about talking about niche interests (books, church, psychology, gaming and sci-fi?) that I am really hard to get to know and therefore Christ who dwells inside me is hard to know. Back again, I know that these niche interests may be the very tools God uses to reach others in my life….Tensions, tensions, its a fine line. But I’m not going to ignore these words, may be conversation be seasoned with salt, carry the aroma of life and be flavoursome to the world!

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BRT – Ephesians

Good morning! Back to work today (or yesterday), I tend to write the blog posts a day before so that there’s a bit of a buffer if I can’t write anything one day. I really want to try and keep for daily posting! 😀

Anyways, had a great time reading Ephesians! One thing about BRT is that I feel as though I appreciate the New Testament so much. You spend several months reading Old Testament passages dipping into the NT every now and again, so when you get into the NT stuff! I personally find it like drinking something really really rich and easy to digest!! So here are my three points from Eph, I’m posting them backwards today:

  1. 6.18 “all kinds of prayers” … A few years ago I used to watch quite a lot of a youtube channel run by the Hodge twins called ‘twinmuscleworkout’ (they do a lots of hilarious fitness and eating videos – warning that their language and themes are adult rated and crude). And they had a phrase they used: “all. kinds. of. gaaains” it was a joke that they were growing muscles in loads of different places. Anyway, for some reason when I read thesecfc3bae9261b0feb2940e874b4d97580ff9683bec2935f99c5044b808f4bf335 words I heard it in their joking voice). That’s why it caught my attention. But then I thought about it, there are  many different ways to pray. We can journal, pray in tongues, pray for others (intercession), pray the Lord’s prayer, pray in song, pray in silence etc). One thing journalling has taught me is to keep an eye out for which kind of praying I do a lot of and which I neglect. For me journalling has really helped remind me to be praying for other people more!
  2. 5.19 sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to each other; sing to the Lord and make music in your heart to him…” I really like this. One of the guys who had a big impact on my walk with God through my early teens, I used to meet with. I have a memory of us on the London underground, and him just singing a worship song (quietly to himself). I remember being encouraged and since then if ever I’m walking with someone else, and we go into our own thoughts I ask God if there’s a song I can sing which might encourage each other!
  3. 4.13  “until we all arrive at the unity implied by trusting and knowing the Son of God, at full manhood, at the standard of maturity set by the Messiah’s perfection.” Here I really liked the connection between unity and maturity. I have recently been reading Invitation to a Journey, and one of the things the author highlights is that Spiritual Formation  doesn’t happen in isolation, and our walk with God isn’t a private and individual journey, instead it happens in community! I also heard another talk recently that talked about how God delights in a united Church, just read Jesus’ prayers in John for His Church and also in Acts 2. If I want to become a mature Christians I need to be united with Jesus’ Body – the Church!

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Friends and Thankfulness

On Friday night we hosted a few friends round that we’ve not seen in a very very long time. These guys were all part of the Church youth group we went to when we were teenagers. We all headed off to uni and this Easter break was a good time to meet up and catch up.

I’ve never been to a school reunion so I don’t know if this is normal, but we all got on so well. It was really nice that the old friendships weren’t awkward or stunted coming back together.

I wanted to share a few things that really stood out to me from our hanging out:

Two of the guys who came are brothers, who both have an older brother. The youngest is graduating this year. They were telling us about their plan and I thought this is so cool! In September their going to be moving into the same rented house together, and pooling all their money together in order to buy a house with no mortgage! WOW. They were telling me, they’ve already been saving for a while and have enough to buy a really cheap place already! I find this so cool and great, that they get on so well and have a plan they can all get behind!

Secondly after food we started playing a few games. One I bought recently is called: 100 Questions (it’s really great, although it’s quite expensive for what it actually is – so I’d keep an eye out for 2nd hand). Anyways, I bought it because a guy who works with the Navs in Nottingham said its a great tool for conversations with strangers. We basically ask a question and everyone takes it in turn answering it. One question said ‘Do people envy you?’ And I added (if they do why? or in what way?). The other guy who came gave such a thought provoking answer. He said that he reckons people envy him because he grew up in a stable family with both parents.

This is something that’s very true of me, and I don’t half way appreciate it as much as I probably should. It’s odd how we can forget to be thankful for the amazing things that are constant, like our health, family, job ect. Because when these things are missing you notice!

Father I pray that you’d open my eyes to see all the amazing way You have already blessed and provided for me in this life. I thank You for the things which are constant and that I probably take for granted. Please help me to live with thankfulness and understanding.