The Writer

Attention fellow bloggers! Have you ever been caught in the creative flow, hunched over your keyboard, and the thoughts and ideas and have just flowed effortlessly from your mind and onto the screen via your frenetic fingers?

This has been happening me more and more lately. To the extent where it has felt like an out of body experience where I have been looking down at myself typing. I am writing but they are not my words. I am merely the conduit.

I experienced something similar when I was praying the other evening. Normally it feels like a one way conversation but on this occasion the following words seared across my mind like a streak of lightning – ‘You need to reposition your life.’ I was praying but they were not my words. It doesn’t happen me very often but I truly believe it was God speaking to me. They were his words. I was merely  the conduit.


I have been mulling over the above all week. I have been blogging for around six weeks now and have been so encouraged by the positive feedback I have received. I want to write and I want God to use me to speak to others via this medium. I have been excited but impatient. I want him to floor the accelerator, to take me to the next level. To unravel his plan for me, reveal his vision for my life.

As I was walking to work this morning I decided to take a shortcut through a shopping centre (mall). Playing over the tannoy was an Ellie Goulding song, one of my favourite female musicians. The song was ‘The Writer’ and these were the lyrics:

You change your position and you are changing me….But I’ve got a plan. Why don’t you be the artist, and make me out of clay? Why don’t you be the writer and decide the words I say.’

The words hit me like a hammer and two passages of Scripture immediately flooded into my mind.

Psalm 45:1 – ‘My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skilful writer.’

Isaiah 64:8 – ‘Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.’

I have an awful memory but Fionnuala reminded me this evening that some years ago a very wise and loving Christian lady gave me a prophetic word that one day I would write and interpret the Bible in a new way for people. I want to start doing that via this blog.

Use me Lord. Like a potter uses clay and a writer uses the written word. I am a lump of clay. Mould and shape me to obey your will. I am a blank page. Fill me with words and stories which glorify your name. 

Reposition my life to stride along your path and not my own. Lead me to the light. Lead me beyond these earthly shackles. Lead me to the next dimension.

Does God speak to you through music?

Have you ever felt like someone else was writing for you?

When did you last receive a prophetic word?

Maggie’s Story

Every morning my commute to work involves a 15 minute walk from the train station, through Belfast city centre, to my office. En route I pass a lot of homeless people and I have been trying to build up relationships with them rather than just throwing a few coins their way, mumbling some throwaway words, and then hurrying away back to my own safe, comfortable life.

I found it a bit intimidating at first. What if they told me to go away (or more colourful words to that effect) regarding me as just another clueless do gooder who knew nothing of their real needs and situation. 

However, pretty much universally, my tentative, nervous approaches have been met with gratitude. Despite their often dishevelled appearance they could teach many of the well dressed commuters that rush past them a thing or two about manners and dignity.

One of tbem is called Maggie. She is a waif of a girl. She has told me she is twenty years old but looks about twelve. Most days you can see her around the city centre huddled in a doorway trying to keep warm. She is totally vulnerable and I shudder to think what experiences she has been through while living on the streets. Sometimes I see her in the company of much older men and my heart breaks for her.

Don’t get me wrong, she is no angel. There are times I speak to her and she can be distant and uncommunicative, rude even. She has issues with drugs and sometimes I find her glassy eyed and monosyllabic. I suspect she lies to me quite a lot but beneath it all is a lost soul with a good heart just waiting to be heard and helped. There but for the grace of God….

Most of the time, however, she is bright, energetic yet proud and humble. I have to force her to take money, food or cigarettes from me. ‘You do enough she says. You’re my mate. I don’t like taking stuff from you.’ When she is lucid she is witty, intelligent and polite. When she is lucid….

The one thing she can never get right is my name. It has become something of a running joke between the two of us. ‘What’s my name?’ I will ask. ‘Paul’ she will confidently reply before slapping her forehead with the palm of her hand upon realising her mistake. ‘I mean Stephen’ followed by profuse apologies.

I laugh now but I didn’t in the early days of our friendship. It annoyed ME. Here I was giving my time and money to someone who couldn’t even be bothered to remember MY name (never mind she couldn’t probably remember her own name when she was high). How ungrateful.

Then I realised one day that it wasn’t about me. It was about HER. Helping her, loving her and revealing the love of God through my actions. Once more I needed to crucify my former self; feeding her with love would simultaneously starve my ego.

Maggie doesn’t go to church. She doesn’t have a Bible. But from my conversations with her I know she has a faith. It is a brittle, fluctuating faith but it is still there, flickering like a candle in a drafty room. If I can in any way strengthen that weak flame in her then I am doing my job. The relationship between Maggie and me is only a conduit to a much more important relationship between Jesus and her.

So it doesn’t matter if she calls me Stephen, Seth or Serendipity. It’s irrelevant. What matters is that she remembers the name of Jesus. At the end of the day, his is the only name that matters.

In order to protect her identity Maggie is not her real name. But please include her in your prayers today. Pray for her protection, provision and salvation.

Please consider helping a homeless person today on your daily commute. A hot drink, a few coins or a friendly word could mean everything to them.

Psalm 112:1

I opened my Bible at Psalm 112 this morning. To be honest it’s been a while since I have read it and I was glad it was a Psalm. I love the Psalms especially those written by King David. They are honest and raw. Brilliant, brooding and bloody. Warts and all. They are a safe place for me. I am with David in a cave as he pours his heart and soul out. 

He writes desperately and deeply. They are poetry to me, soothing and comforting. Like cough medicine sliding down a ravaged throat or a duvet wrapped round you on a cold winter’s morning. They heal me, restore me and bring me back to life. Armed with such words I feel stronger and ready to step out of the cave into the harsh reality of life. Armed with the truth of the written Word.

The verse I got stuck on this morning was Psalm 112:1.

‘Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands.’ (NIV)


It’s simplicity is it’s beauty. Thank you God. The word ‘fear’ is better translated as ‘respect.’ Just as you would respect your mother or father, or a trusted friend, so you should respect God. He knows best for you. He has plans for you. Great plans. Respect him and trust him. Even if it makes no sense at the time. Even if your emotions tell you to do otherwise. Emotions are fleeting and dictated by shifting circumstances. His Word is permanent and timeless. Immovable.

The psalmist asks us to find great delight. The onus is on us to draw near to God, to actively seek him out. God does not force us to, he is not a dictator. Forced love is not real love. That is why evil exists. Because he gave us the freewill to choose. To seek out and find the true path or to turn our backs on him and revel in the ways of the world. The road that leads nowhere but the grave.

He commands us but again our decision to follow him is voluntary. But if we do we will experience ‘great delight’, a satisfaction that will outlive any temporary pleasure of the flesh. If we choose to follow Jesus we cannot go wrong. It won’t be easy, it won’t be pretty and it will cost you. But ultimately it will lead to life. God’s Word ultimately unlocks the door to freedom. No more low self-esteem; no more grabbing onto addictive pursuits that suck you dry; no more worshipping at the idols of destructive relationships and meaningless materialism. 

One book. One verse. One way to live.

When did you last read the Bible?

What verse spoke to you?

What is your favourite Psalm?

Dawn Of The Dead

Tomorrow morning our son, Adam, is going on an end of term school trip to Scotland. He is super excited about this and has been looking forward to it for weeks. I am not quite so excited as (a) I had to pay for the trip (b) he announced he would need £60-80 ‘spending money’ but this was okay as the ‘spoilt kids’ were taking £150 and (c) I will have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to drive him to his pick up point.

After that I have five hours to kill before work. What to do? What to do? Go back to bed? Unlikely that I will get back to sleep and, even if I did, I would probably wake up more shattered than before. Go for a run? I hate early morning runs and always struggle on them. Plus I haven’t been feeling that well this week so my running mojo has been somewhat lacking.

Go on Amazon and buy some new books for my Kindle Fire? Tempting if it wasn’t for the fact that our son has already bankrupted me of late through semi-formals, school trips, new school uniform and rugby kit etc. The Bank of Dad is down to its last few pennies make no mistake.

Spring clean the house from top to bottom and prepare breakfast in bed for my wonderful wife? This has potential but runs the risk of burning the house down or waking Fionnuala up early as I blunder around the kitchen banging cupboard doors and dropping saucepans on the floor.


So many options coursed through my head. Then it hit me. Never once had I included God in my enforced early start. Why wasn’t I starting my day in his company? When was the last time I started the day studying his Word, praying the million prayers I should be praying or just quietly meditating in his presence?

We are so used to living our noisy, chaotic lives at a million miles an hour that when we do get cursed (I mean blessed) with a dawn start we immediately look for ways to fill the time with additional clutter as opposed to making the most of the opportunity and spending time with God.

Jesus often got up early to spend time with his Father in Heaven. And he had the busiest days imaginable. So why can’t we follow his example. Now that the brighter mornings are here (at least where we live) it isn’t much to ask. He wants to spend time with us. And it will be time well spent.

Anyway I’m off to bed. I have an early start tomorrow 😳

Mark 1:35 – ‘Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.’

Are you a morning person? Or do you fail to function as a human being until after noon?

When do you spend your quiet time with God?

What is the first thing you normally do when you get up?

The Extra Mile

Regular readers of this blog may have noticed the recurring theme of my love of ice cream. This has increased significantly in recent years as my marathon training has justified (in my mind anyway) my need to consume copious amounts of the stuff while binge watching Netflix. Currently Jessica Jones.

I’m not fussy when it comes to my ice cream but Fionnuala is. Her favourite  is ‘Pooh Bear’ honeycomb flavour. And I have to admit she has got me hooked on it. To the extent that I am digging into a litre tub of it as I write this. So excuse the sticky fingers please. 

The shop in our village stocks Morelli’s ice cream, a very famous brand in Northern Ireland. And they boast a variety of flavours. Including ‘Pooh Bear’. And very nice it is too. However my wife has high standards when it comes to her taste buds and insists on eating only Maud’s ‘Pooh Bear’ ice cream. No exceptions. And don’t try to fool her for she will find out, hunt you down and kill you.

This involves me driving to the next village to purchase the aforementioned dessert. Which involves driving an extra mile no less. And then driving back again. This huge outlay of time and effort on my part is outweighed by the fact that I can’t really complain. Bringing Fionnuala back the wrong ice cream would be the equivalent of returning to me with Pepsi Max when I asked for Diet Coke. Divorce proceedings would be imminent.


So I’m quite happy to go the extra mile where ice cream is concerned. But when was the last time we went the extra mile to help a friend, neighbour or for that matter total stranger? When was the last time we went the extra mile to help out at our church when we would rather just turn up every Sunday and go through the motions? When was the last time we went the extra mile and stepped out of our comfort zone to talk about our faith and advance the Kingdom of God.

It’s easy for us to go the extra mile when it suits us and serves our own selfish needs. Not so much when it clashes with our sinful, default instincts. Jesus went the extra mile for us. To the Cross. Punched, kicked and spat upon every step of the way. Flayed to the bone and beaten to an unrecognisable pulp. He didn’t have to. He asked God was there another way. But he did it. To rectify the complete mess we had made, were making and would make of our lives.

I didn’t run today so I didn’t really deserve ice cream. But I went the extra mile for it anyway. I didn’t deserve what Jesus achieved at the Cross. But he went the extra mile for me. The least I can do is spend the rest of my life going the extra mile for him and for others. 

Or even better. Two miles.

Matthew 5:41 – ‘If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.’

How far have you ever driven for your favourite treat?

How could you go the extra mile for someone today?

Just Giving

In my last blog I wrote about our efforts to raise funds to buy a new wheelchair for our daughter, Hannah. As part of that process Fionnuala (the technically gifted one in our marriage) has set up a ‘Just Giving’ account so that people can donate online at the touch of a button.

It’s so simple. And the money has already started to come in. Every time a donation is made Fionnuala’s phone gets a notification and we excitedly look at the screen to see who has donated. From close friends and family to complete strangers. We have been humbled by the generosity of people.

An hour ago some friends who we haven’t seen in many months turned up at our front door and made a generous and totally unexpected donation. They had been driving through our village and felt led to bless Hannah with the gift. My gob was well and truly smacked. 


Such generosity is truly inspiring. It fills me with hope and positivity for the future. Every donation, no matter how small, is a little raindrop of love on our daughters head who, herself, loves her family and friends 24/7 with a passion. As I write this she is her room singing Ariana and Adele songs live on Facebook to her adoring public. A miraculous step from the sad and lonely girl we were fretting over 24 hours ago. Filled with hope again of a future outside of the four walls of her bedroom. Thanks to the kindness of others.

Just Giving is a brilliant concept. But there is no such thing as ‘just’ giving. By giving we are spreading love and light into a broken world full of broken people. Giving a homeless person a meal or a hot drink. Giving a lonely, elderly relative a phone call. Giving a friend in need your time and undivided attention. 

You are not ‘just’ giving. You are going on the front foot and setting down foundations for a better world. A world where a little girl can sing and dance today, where yesterday she was heartbroken. Living your life in a way that impacts on others and breaks down the walls of selfishness and indifference. Bringing a little bit of Heaven to earth. 

Generosity is a blessing. A gift that can change lives and build kingdoms. It’s not just a one-off act. It should be a lifestyle choice. It’s not just giving. It’s living.

We need to live to give. 

Proverbs 3:27 – ‘Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.’


Don’t Give Up 

For what seems like forever we have been battling with our local health trust to acquire a new wheelchair for our daughter,  Hannah. Hannah is 13 years old and was born with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. She has outgrown her current wheelchair to the extent that it is now dangerous for her to use. She has been out of school for six weeks (and counting) and is largely housebound as we fight an ongoing bureaucratic nightmare with the medical authorities to obtain the essential equipment Hannah needs to live her life.

It’s got to the point now where he have decided to raise the funds ourselves to buy the chair that Hannah needs. Kids with disabilities should be at the very heart of our society. They should be loved, cherished and protected, not exiled to the fringes and seen as an inconvenience by some medical professionals. They deserve better.

As do their carers. I will have known my wife Fionnuala for 21 years this summer. She is an utterly devoted wife and mother. To the extent where she has given up her career to care for Hannah and our other two kids. The problems with Hannah’s chair have had a devastating ripple effect on the family. Fionnuala has been affected most of all. She cannot leave Hannah’s side so is effectively housebound herself. 

Every day for her is ‘Groundhog Day.’ A mind numbing routine of housework and hospital appointments. She has a heart as big as a house but it is breaking at present. Breaking for her daughter but also breaking for the life she had which now seems so tantalisingly out of her reach. A year ago she had an important job and had a hectic social life. She was very involved in our church.

Now that she has had to give up her job and we have decided to step down from church life the phone has stopped ringing. She gives so much and expects so little in return. Yet people forget. People disappoint. And she sits and looks out the window as life appears to pass her by. 


It’s easy, at times like this, to think that God has forgotten as well. When the loneliness is overwhelming and the obstacles seem insurmountable. We have prayed long and hard about this. Fionnuala has cried, pleaded and screamed. She will fight tooth and nail for her family. She always puts the needs of others before her own.

They say an untested faith is a useless faith. Well our faith is being sorely tested of late. My wife is a proud woman. An intelligent woman. And a patient and forgiving woman (she did marry me after all!). I know this is just a season of her life and that God has incredible plans for her. Just around the corner. But we round the corners of our lives in his time and not our own.

I feel Fionnuala’s corner is close, very close. But that is little consolation to someone who feels at the bottom of the pit, at the end of their tether. Words are cheap. As meaningless as chasing the wind. But prayer is powerful. And just as light always overcomes darkness so love will always conquer despair.

Fionnuala as you read this I pray for you. That your light keeps burning, that your flame never goes out. You are deeply loved and the heartbeat of this family. We are nothing without you. You are strong and beautiful, a warrior. A Daughter of the living King. My best friend, my earthly salvation, my number one fan. Yes cry, scream, swear and shout.

But do not give up. As I will never give up on you and us.

Philippians 4:13 – ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’

D.N.F.

On Wednesday evening I ran my second half marathon of the year through the streets of Lisburn, joining 6500 other runners for the annual event. I was quite nervous before the start for a variety of reasons. It was the first race I had taken part in since my recent foot injury so I was apprehensive as to how that would hold up. 

Secondly it was probably the hottest evening of the year. Now when I say hot, I mean by Northern Irish standards where we regularly have four seasons in one day and summer usually consists of a sunny Tuesday afternoon in June. So when I say the thermometer was hitting 25C (77F) at the start many of you may turn up your noses in disdain.

But to your average Northern Irish male this equates to Death Valley-esque conditions. So as I set off into the arid desert that is Lisburn and surrounding countryside I kept repeating the same word over and over in my head – hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Now as all you ladies know us men struggle to carry out two tasks simultaneously. And running and drinking water is no exception. First there is the approach to the water station where you have to slow down and time your approach in order to reach out and take the polystyrene cup from the volunteer while, at the same time, avoiding other thirsty runners and gangs of kids wanting to high five you.

Next is the mechanics of getting the cup to your lips. I was taught the old runner’s trick of pinching the cup into a funnel which certainly works. But I still manage on a regular basis to miss my mouth, choke on the drink or stumble over discarded cups on the road as I exit the water station. 

It’s a veritable nightmare. Sometimes I just run past them without slowing down. But at Lisburn I made a point of taking on fluid at every available opportunity. No matter how awkward I looked in the process. The heat and humidity just seemed to increase with every passing mile. There was no breeze whatsoever and the cloud cover overhead just added to the draining conditions.

I finished in a decent time but upon crossing the line had to immediately sit down to avoid keeling over. My t shirt was soaking wet and for the next 48 hours I could not drink enough. I had completed the course but was seriously dehydrated. Had I not drank at every water station I’m pretty certain that the dreaded letters ‘DNF’ (Did Not Finish) would have been against my name in the official records.


As Christians we need to constantly refuel as well. The race we run is long and arduous. We will face many obstacles and challenges along the way. But we have the best possible coach in Jesus who, via the Holy Spirit, is with us every step of the way; and who provides all the encouragement and replenishment we need.

Dehydration leads to pain, lack of focus, illness and ultimately death. You can easily collapse by the wayside or stumble down the wrong path. I have many times. Without prayer, study, worship and fellowship you will fail to finish the race. Run the race. Run it fast and strong. But also run it wisely. Don’t neglect rehydrating with living water at every opportunity.

Don’t be a DNF….

John 4:13-14 – ‘Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’

What is your favourite drink?

Have you ever been badly hydrated?

How do you spiritually refuel?

The Day I Met The Stark Sisters

I am a massive Game Of Thrones fan. I regard myself as a purist as I had read the books before the TV series took off and became such a worldwide hit. I grew up on a diet of J.R.R. Tolkien and was a proud member of the Dungeons & Dragons Society at school. All of the above contributed to the fact that I didn’t speak to a girl until I was eighteen. Yes I was a geek. But I was a happy geek.

The icing on the cake regarding Game Of Thrones (or GOT as us afficiandos like to call it) is that much of it is filmed in little old Northern Ireland. The Giants Causeway, Dunluce Castle and The Dark Hedges all suddenly became internationally recognisable as GOT film sets. And I would often take my lunchtime run past The Paint Studios near Belfast Docks in the slim hope of seeing one of the cast being whisked through the security gates for filming.

GOT cast spotting in Belfast city centre became something of a national pastime. Unconfirmed sightings regularly flooded Facebook in addition to photographs of the stars of the show in the most peculiar of settings. Brienne of Tarth playing pool with Ramsay Bolton  in Laverys Bar. Tyrion Lannister strolling down the Lisburn Road doing a bit of window shopping.

These were all small fry as far as I was concerned. I was Team Stark and the true jewel in the crown of any fanboy was a photograph with one of the Starks, the family whose fortunes and actions lay at the heart of the show. I scoured the streets every day for a glimpse of Sean Bean, Sophie Turner or Kit Harrington. But alas to no avail.

Until one day. I was wandering through the city centre on my lunch break when up ahead of me I saw a tall girl with flame red hair cutting through the crowds at speed. With her was a smaller girl with shorter, dark hair. They look just like Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams (Sansa and Arya Stark in the show) I mused to myself before it hit me like a rampaging rhino. It was Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams!

To cut a long story short I used my finely honed surveillance skills to follow them to a shopping centre where I cornered them in a jewellery store. I babbled a bit about how much I loved the show, before getting a photograph taken and tben floating back out of the shop on Cloud 9. They were both lovely by the way.

I spent the rest of the day phoning, texting and tweeting virtually everyone I knew to tell them my earth shattering news. My equally nerdy fans gushed and gasped with me but a number caused me great offence when they politely replied ‘Er…..Sophie and Maisie who?’

Had they been living under a rock I responded in disbelief? You don’t know who they are? I shook my head in pity at their ignorance and returned to gaping at my celebrity pic of the century.


Celebrity is a very fickle occupation. Today’s superstar is tomorrow’s z lister dependent on the mood of the public. Fame is equally subjective. My hero could mean very little to you and vice versa. The reverse happened to me earlier this week when I walked past a local rugby star who had been asked to give out the prizes at our daughter’s sports day. I only realised later when I saw his photo on Facebook surrounded by awestruck pupils. But to me he had been just some random guy on the street.

This made me think of Jesus. Even the most belligerent agnostic or atheist will agree that he has the most famous name in the world. Believers would fall to his feet in adoring worship were he to appear in our street today. Surely we would recognise him immediately? Heralded by trumpets and flashes of lightning? Long brown hair, beard and a robe right?

But Jesus appeared in many guises following his resurrection. And his closest companions did not recognise him. And there are arguments that he pops up throughout the Old Testament. In fact Jesus is everywhere. So when we walk past the homeless person in the street; when we ignore the sounds of domestic violence next door; when we turn our backs on the friend or relative who is struggling with debt, addiction or depression are we not in fact neglecting our supposed Lord and Saviour who died for us.

My prayer for you is that you do not walk past Jesus today. My prayer is that your walk through this life leaves footprints that reverberate love and compassion through the lives of others. My prayer is that you fine tune your spiritual antennae so that you see him in every aspect of your daily routine. 

Please like and share if you enjoyed this blog. Or check out some of our other posts. 

Have you ever ‘stalked’ a celebrity through the streets?

What societies were you in at school? Were you a jock or a geek?

When did you last see Jesus in somebody else.

Bin There Done That

Today was bin day. This is one of the few domestic chores that Fionnuala trusts me to do without (a) setting off the smoke alarm (b) seriously injuring myself and/or other family members or (c) incurring financial costs for damages in excess of the original expense of performing said task.

Having OCD I rather enjoy our waste disposal system. We have three wheelie bins. A black one for general waste, a green one for recyclables and a brown one for degadeable products. Today was ‘Big Daddy’ day, the black one.


A more organised and cautious man would ensure that the bin is put out the night before collection as our bin men (I mean refuge disposal operatives) descend upon our street early and at speed. Woe betide anyone who does not have their bin in place because, blink, and they are gone.

I have been caught out like this a number of times which has resulted in recriminations and much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Question? When was the last time you gnashed your teeth? Do you gnash regularly or are you merely a social gnasher? What gnashing technique do you currently deploy?

An overflowing bin is no party. Apart from the wrath of your spouse, they are smelly, untidy and unhygienic. Then why do I keep taking a chance by not leaving it out the night before but instead leaving it to the following morning with all its inherent risks?

Much as I would like to see myself as a rule flaunting maverick it is probably more to do with the fact that I am a bit lazy and at the end of a long day cannot face the Herculean task of wheeling a bin the staggering distance of thirty yards from the back of the house to the front of the house.

In the same way our emotional bins need regularly emptied. Of all the mental junk that we accumulate during an average week. The anger, guilt, jealousy, unforgiveness and hate that eat away at us from the inside out and poison our thoughts and words if left untended.

An overflowing emotional bin ultimately leads to depression, despair and incalculable hurt to yourself and those close to you. As followers of Jesus we cannot be transformed more to his likeness if we don’t regularly attend to this matter. Through prayer, worship, study and having the right people in place around you who you can regularly unload to.

In order to foster a healthy mind and healthy relationships every day needs to be bin day. Otherwise life is just rubbish.

How many bins do you have?

When did you last empty your emotional bin?

Is gnashing and wailing past it’s sell by date?