KcSsshhhh

As I read Stephens blog about his twirly chair days it made me think of how I felt as I lay in bed those nights listening to what was going on downstairs so we thought it might be a good idea that I blog about it. Before I start I want you to know that I love Stephen with all my heart he is my soul mate, my best friend and we are very happy together. I am writing this about when things were not good and we were both in dark places.
As Stephen has mentioned in previous blogs about our life before kids  https://afracturedfaithblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/the-bank-of-dad/ we had an amazing social life which involved going to work (which was were we met), pub after work and if it was pay day a half day was booked shops were hit then off to the pub. We had loads of friends and done practically everything together.  
When Adam came along I realised I had another little human being to look after and the things that Stephen and I had loved to do before hadn’t the same appeal to me and I wasn’t interested in them anymore I had grown up and although it took Stephen a little longer to realise he caught up with me eventually.

Fast forward a few years we were married and Hannah had came along and any social life that we had left was long and truly gone along with some of our friends and so we looked forward to a Saturday night to get the kids to bed and then we would relax. I would get a bottle of wine and Stephen a few beers and we would watch a movie this all sounded good in theory but not how it played out. By the time the kids got bathed and went to bed I was shattered and the last thing I wanted to do was to sit and have a drink which resulted in Stephen sulking as he didn’t want to sit and drink on his own so we both ended up going to bed in bad mood.  

As Stephen mentioned in yesterday’s blog  https://afracturedfaithblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/09/the-twirly-chair-part-one/ about the day his dad died when he said that he wanted to be on his own to have a drink that night this really took me by surprise and shocked me I offered to sit with him and have one too but no he wanted me to go to bed and so that was the beginning.  
At this time Rebecca had come along and our finances weren’t great we were on a very tight budget and each week I had to make sure that when I done the weekly shop there was enough to get Stephen his beers as well.

As I said before I used to lay in bed listening to the sounds going on downstairs and I could judge how drunk Stephen was by the length of time it took him to get from the chair to the kitchen and back to the chair again. When he got up from the chair the swivel base made a sound and the chair banged against the radiator, next the door was opened and I could hear him make his way up the hall to the kitchen, depending on how many beers were consumed I would hear him stagger into the wall or knock into something, next the fridge would open and the sound that haunts me KcSsshhhh the next beer can is opened and it’s back to the chair again. To this day that sound makes my stomach churn and it’s not even beer it’s only Diet Coke.  

Next morning I would go downstairs and stephen would be sprawled out on the twirly chair sleeping, the kitchen counter would be full of empty beer cans and before I’d wake him I’d sneakily check his phone to see who he was chatting with on twitter or texting then Sunday began with fights and arguments oh how I don’t miss those days.

Back then Stephen and I weren’t Christians and I know now that it was and could only have been God that carried us through that part of our lives to get us to where we are now. I believe that God uses our bad times and experiences to help others and it’s now that Stephen and I feel strong enough in our faith to reach out and help people in any way we can be it through our personal testimony or prayer. 

If you do require private prayer I can be contacted via email fionnualablack@hotmail.co.uk 

God Bless

The Twirly Chair – Part One

Today was a sad day in our house as a new armchair was delivered. This meant the end of the previous incumbent which had served loyally under me (quite literally) for seven years. It was big, it was round and it was comfortable. It also had wheels fitted to its base which meant that the kids (and occasionally adult males who shall not be named) could spin round and round on it. For this reason it was christened the ‘Twirly Chair.’


The ‘Twirly Chair’ was my silent companion through countless movies, box sets and sporting events. It bore my unmistakable ‘butt groove’ like a badge of honour and was my sanctuary from the trials and tribulations of ‘grown up’ living. When I was on the ‘Twirly Chair’ such pressures seemed a universe away. We were inseparable. It was my man cave. It was my panic room. It was my Narnia.

Ahhhhhhh. Good times.

Unfortunately the ‘Twirly Chair’ also witnessed some not so good times. If I could visualise my anxiety, depression and addictive personality in one image I would probably plump for the ‘Twirly Chair’. And over the next two days I intend to write a little about those not so good times. This is raw but it is honest. This is not easy. But the whole purpose of the blog is to offer people in the same place as I once was a glimmer of hope. And before you shine a light into any gloomy place you must first understand the darkness that it seeks to extinguish.

My father died seven years ago from prostate cancer. At the time I never really grieved for him. Yes, I cried at his bedside in his final moments but grieve, no. Following his death I was too busy organising funeral arrangements and looking after my mother to have any time for myself. I almost got a buzz at his funeral from the responsibility enforced upon me and the accompanying adrenaline surge. As the eldest child and only son I found myself  in the spotlight. As a damaged person who craved attention this was heaven. A dangerous slice of heaven. I was disgusted with myself. Perversely almost enjoying what was supposed to be the worst day of my life.

I vividly remember the night my father died buying beer on the way home. I then proceeded to drink this alone in our living room after Fionnuala and the kids had gone to bed. It was, in my mind, a much needed release after an incredibly stressful day. I thought nothing of it at the time. But Fionnuala was later to tell me that this was the first time I had done this. Unfortunately It wouldn’t be the last. Rather it was my first step on a slippery slope towards oblivion.

Initially my ‘Twirly Chair’ parties were restricted to a six pack of beer on a Saturday night. After a hectic week at work I felt I had earned this weekend treat. And I was harming nobody right? Fionnuala knew where I was and I was the perfect comedy father to the kids. Whenever Fionnuala gently suggested that I didn’t have to drink every weekend I reacted badly. She was the party pooper as opposed to the voice of wisdom.

The six pack soon progressed to a twelve pack. And the stronger the better. I would not go to bed until it was all gone. Sitting up on my own into the early hours of the morning before stumbling up the stairs. And sometimes I never made it that far, falling asleep in the ‘Twirly Chair’ and waking up the next morning surrounded by empty beer tins. Fionnuala told me later that she used to lie awake upstairs listening to the fridge door opening and the unmistakable sound of another tin being opened. She is even today still haunted by that sound. https://afracturedfaithblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/10/kcssshhhh/

Before long Saturday night was starting earlier and ending later until eventually it began on Friday evening and finished on Sunday afternoon. With the occasional midweek top-up. I was rarely a nasty drunk more a boring, selfish drunk. I didn’t want to do anything with Fionnuala and the kids. My family were my tins of beer. My horizon did not stretch beyond the fridge freezer. My safe place was becoming a self imposed prison. I was spiralling towards dependency.

I always suffered bad hangovers but the more I drank the worse they became. If I drank Friday through Sunday it was only by the following Wednesday that I began to feel vaguely human again. Meaning that my most (and only) productive day was Thursday before the alcohol fuelled cycle began afresh on Friday. My behaviour became more and more secretive and irrational. I was permanently grouchy. I was in the same house as my family but in reality a million miles from them.

The ‘Twirly Chair’ was my only friend. As I drunkenly spun round and round I did not realise that my future was also spinning aimlessly by a thread. My moral compass was hopelessly askew. I was adrift and floating towards nothingness. I poured increasing quantities of beer down my throat in a vain attempt to fill the gaping chasm in my soul. Addiction hovered just over my shoulder, whispering in my ear, telling me that alcohol was the only solution to the ever increasing waves of depression that washed over me, threatening to overwhelm me.

Alcohol erased whatever rational thought processes I possessed. It was the key to the door of self destruction. I drunkenly fell through it eager to see what was on the other side. I left the little common sense I had behind me and sought to embrace the new demons in me who so enticingly welcomed me. Darker, more dangerous demons.

For this was only the beginning. The ‘Twirly  Chair’ was to witness so much more. Much more and much worse.

Part 2 follows tomorrow. Thank you for reading. 

Charlie vs The Hedgehog 

I was rudely awakened the other night by the sound of Charlie, our six year old Border Terrier, whining and whimpering from his cage in the kitchen. Thinking he must have needed to go outside to relieve himself I stumbled downstairs, still half asleep, and opened the back door. Out he shot like a greyhound from the traps. Give him a minute, I thought, and then I could lock him up again and go back to bed myself. 

How wrong I was. World War Three suddenly erupted outside with Charlie barking like a lunatic. I ran outside not knowing what to expect. Was it a burglar? Casper the Friendly Ghost? Dr. Who materialising out of thin air in his Tardis to do battle with a Dalek army?

Thankfully none of the above, given I was dressed in a scruffy t-shirt and pair of Manchester United pyjama bottoms. No instead I found our heroic hound pawing and barking furiously at something rather less frightening. Our nocturnal visitor was none other than a hapless hedgehog.


As I neared the pair I saw the hedgehog curled up in a tight ball in the middle of our rear yard while Charlie continued to notify anyone within a three mile radius of his discovery. Growing increasingly brave he then proceeded to pick our prickly friend up in his mouth and shake him furiously from side to side. This was becoming a duel to the death.

As the battle continued I had no other option but to grab our terrier by the scruff of his neck and attempt to pull him off Mr. H Hog. Charlie had other ideas though and hung on for dear life, determined to defend his territory at all costs. The harder he dug in, the more tightly the hedgehog hung in there. In the end it took a few firm smacks to Charlie’s flank by me to force him to release his grip and be dragged back inside. 

I locked him back in his cage and made my way back to bed. As I turned the outside light off I took one last glance to find the hedgehog still resolutely refusing to budge. I hoped he had not been hurt but couldn’t think of anything else to do to help him. With heavy heart I retired for the second time that night.

The next morning he was gone. Vanished. Disappeared. With no sign that he had ever been there. No blood. No quills. Not a trace. Had it all been a dream? Charlie’s intensive patrolling of the yard and frenetic sniffing when later let outside suggested otherwise. Mr. Hedgehog had survived his sharp incisors and lived to fight another day. Or night in this case.

When attacked or threatened the automatic defence mechanism for hedgehogs is to curl into tight ball and contract muscles in their spines causing quills to shoot outwards protecting their head, feet and underbelly. It doesn’t attack and it doesn’t run as to to do so would be hopeless and invite disaster.

This survival strategy of doing nothing more often than not is effective. This strategy of ‘doing nothing’ is one often adopted in sport. Muhammad Ali famously defeated George Foreman in 1974 in the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ by his rope-a-dope tactic of defending himself on the ropes and little else thus allowing his opponent to exhaust himself before launching a vicious counter-attack that won him the fight.

Likewise many a struggling team has had to adopt a ‘backs to the wall’ approach against opponents who have the upper hand. Sometimes you can do little else but just ‘tough it out’, ‘take it on the chin’ and wait for the storm to blow itself out. I have watched many teams defend like crazy for 95% of a match before a sole counter-attack snatches the victory for them.

In recent months it has felt like our family has been under the cosh on several fronts. Illness has hit several family members and we have also had to fight a number of other battles that have been physically and emotionally draining. And like the little hedgehog I met the other night we have had no other option but to curl up in a ball and hope we would come out the other side.

We have had to put our faith in God and trust him to bring us through the crisis. He has been our only defence. Throughout the Bible he is described in this protective language. He is our refuge, our fortress, our stronghold. And I believe it is no coincidence that when Paul refers to tbe armour of God in Ephesians Chapter 6 that he includes more defensive than offensive equipment.

So next time your back is against the wall and you feel overwhelmed stand firm in your faith. But instead of prickly quills instead take up the breastplate of righteousness, the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation. And trust God to deliver you lovingly to the other side.

Psalm 46:1 – ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’

What nocturnal creatures visit your garden at night?

Have you had to ‘curl up into a ball’ recently and ‘take it on the chin?’

When did God last rescue you from the jaws of defeat?

The Wrong Trousers

Today was my first day back at work following the plague like virus I have had in recent weeks. I haven’t been running, in fact I have rarely ventured off the sofa in days. The exception has been regular visits to the kitchen for crisps, biscuits, chocolate and my particular Achilles heel….ice cream!

I am a comfort eater. And as I have been feeling sorry for myself of late I have slid off the healthy lifestyle wagon with a resounding thump. My marathon dreams have meandered on down the track as I have sat at the roadside, alone apart from a spoon and a litre tub of honeycomb ice cream.

I had been dreading today’s return for a variety of reasons. The mountain of paperwork that would undoubtedly be awaiting me; the hundreds of e-mails cluttering my inbox; and the 212 times I would have to rhyme off my symptoms and treatment to concerned (translation – nosy) work colleagues. 

My greatest fear, however, was would my work clothes fit me after a week in fashionable loungewear. (this year’s must have accessory for the trend setting father is a pair of Buzz Lightyear pyjama bottoms) I had gone full blown Honey Boo Boo on the clothing front. If it didn’t involve an elasticated waistline then I didn’t want to know. 

So it was with some trepidation that I eyed up my work trousers as they hung in the wardrobe. This trepidation grew as I pulled them on to discover with horror that they barely pulled up over my thighs. I had gained 165 pounds. In a week! How was that even possible?! I was a broken man as I hopped out of our bedroom clutching my trousers (pants for our North American readers) and despairingly wailed ‘FIONNUALA!!!’ down the stairs.

My long suffering wife responded quickly, concerned no doubt that my appendix had burst or some other calamity had befallen me. This initial sympathy, wavered somewhat, when she realised the true nature of my #firstworldproblem. For as she looked up towards the pitiful manchild tottering at the top of the stairs clutching a pair of trousers round his knees she uttered the following words of wisdom.

‘You idiot! You are wearing Adam’s school trousers!!’ Oh….

Humiliated (but mostly relieved) I beat a tactical retreat back into the bedroom where I located the correct trousers. Thankfully they were only slightly tighter than when I last had worn them. Disaster had been narrowly averted and I was able to negotiate dressing myself and catch the train to work. Behind every mildly successful middle manager is an exasperated wife. 


How many times have we adapted our personalities, values and beliefs in order to fit in with others? This peer pressure is thrust upon us from an early age and many crack under the strain in order to attain popularity and status. And while on the exterior all might appear well on the inside we feel awkward, uncomfortable and compromised. Like an ill fitting dress or pair of trousers.

Trying to be somebody who we are patently not usually ends in a car crash. We distance ourselves from our real friends and invariably end up with egg on our face. I have been down this path, the wrong path, many times. Mixing with people who I knew were not good for me and indulging in behaviour which was completely alien to the real me. It was akin to an out of body experience as I watched myself stagger from one disaster to the next. That path led only to sin, shame and guilt.

God created you to be you. Not someone else but YOU! He created you for a reason and placed you where you are today with the skill set you possess for a Kingdom purpose. It might not be apparent to you just yet what that purpose is but we must trust He who knows us intimately. To try and be someone who you are not is being disobedient to his will. As well as being ungrateful to a God who loves you and views you as perfect in his eyes.

You might look in the mirror today and hate what you see and hear. That mirror and your perception of what you see in it are barriers to God’s purpose for your life. If you want to make an impact and leave behind you a legacy then you have to learn to love yourself before you can learn to love others. And if that means ice cream over self esteem then go for it. 

Trust God and be yourself. Warts and all. Rather that than a vain man bleating to his wife with his trousers round his ankles.

Because that is not a good look….

Psalm 139:13-14 – ‘For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;’

What has been your biggest wardrobe malfunction?

What is your ‘go to’ loungewear ensemble?

How do you deal with peer pressure?

Burnt Offerings 

With Fionnuala away for a good part of last week visiting her mother in hospital she had little option but to leave me in charge of the kids. Or hatchlings as I ‘lovingly’ like to refer to them. And as they are bottomless pits when it comes to food this included culinary duties in tbe kitchen. I am a 21st century father after all.

Now my kitchen skills are let’s say basic. Knowing this Fionnuala had left strict instructions as to how to heat up a couple of chicken and bacon pies in the oven. Turn it on, set the temperature to 200 degrees celsius and leave for 35-40 minutes. Et voila! Even someone with my information retention issues could crack this meal. Plus the cooking instructions were even printed on the packaging. Easy peasy! What could possibly go wrong? Errrrrrr….

After a strenuous afternoon on the sofa binge watching ’13 Reasons Why’ I strode into the kitchen like a gladiator poised for combat. The kids, still recovering from previous cooking debacles, muttered sarcastic asides which hardly filled me with confidence. But as the hunter-gatherer of the household nothing would stop me from bringing home the bacon. Or chicken and bacon in this instance.

Setting the oven temperature with forensic precision I confidently awaited the taste sensation which was to follow. After 20 minutes, however, I opened the oven door to be faced with a dilemma. The pastry on the pies was cooked. As in overcooked. And when I say overcooked I actually mean it was starting to turn black.

I sought the advice of my son, Adam. ‘Looks cooked to me’ he shrugged. So, ignoring the cooking instructions, I removed the pies only slightly burning my fingers in the process. Seriously?! No wonder Gordon Ramsey always gets so grouchy. This cooking business is a logistical nightmare. I bet Jamie Oliver pays people to burn their fingers on his behalf!


I tentatively cut into one of the pies and was initially reassured as a waft of heat emerged from it. Upon closer inspection, however, I discovered the middle of the pie was stone cold. After a frantic telephone call to Fionnuala I was left with no option but to place the pies back in the oven for the allotted remaining time. I was literally stuck between a rock and a hard place. Undercooked pies = food poisoning fun for all. Overcooked pies = no hospital visits but a largely inedible meal.

As it was the latter was served up to the kids some 15 minutes later. With a side of oven chips and muttered apologies on my part. The kids made the most of it, hacking through the charcoal pastry to at least find the chicken and bacon were palatable. And the oven chips were a triumph even if I do say so myself. Charlie the border terrier made short work of the leftovers so in the end I viewed the meal as a win-win for all concerned.

What heartened me most was the attitude of the kids. Joking aside I was embarsssed and annoyed at myself. I had messed up the most basic of parental tasks. But they did their best to make me feel better with comments such as ‘It doesn’t taste that bad’ and ‘The chips are great.’ They realised that I had been out of my comfort zone but had did my best to provide for them. And they had lovingly overlooked my attempts to poison them. 

In tbe Old Testament the Israelites spent about half their lives disobeying God and the other half offering up sacrifices to him seeking forgiveness from said misdemeanours. I think I would have fitted in well on both scores. Especially when it came to the burnt offerings. God must have tired of this (in the most holy of ways) neverending cycle which is why he provided the ultimate sacrifice when he sent his son to the Cross.

No matter how hard we try to impress God or live according to his will we will invariably fall short. But thanks to what Jesus accomplished on the Cross we can be presented to God unblemished and pure; he is enough irrespective of our sinful lives. Just as my kids lovingly overlooked my cooking catastrophe so God overlooks the burnt offerings of our pasts. Just like my kids graciously forgave my failings so God will forgive us no matter how big a hole we have dug ourselves into. 

Isn’t it amazing how God can teach us through our kids. Now can anyone teach me the difference between celsius and fahrenheit settings on an oven?

Hebrews 10:14 – ‘For by one sacrifice he has made perfect for ever those who are being made holy.’

Tell me about your greatest culinary disaster?

Are you willing to hand the ‘burnt offerings’ of your past up to God and start afresh? 

If you require prayer in respect of issues raised in this post then please let us know. We would be honoured to pray for you.

Respect Your Juniors

Yesterday I had words with my 15 year old son. I won’t go into the gory details but it all boiled down to a lack of respect on his part towards me. Or so I perceived. He then proceeded to give his reasons for said attitude. Which, I have to admit, took me aback and caused me to walk away without saying another word.

We tiptoed around each other for a few hours after that and eventually drew an unspoken line in the sand regarding the incident. Men don’t apologise to each other; rather they watch sports together. So tonight we will be settling down together to watch our team, Manchester United play Real Madrid in the European Super Cup Final. 

My son gave as good as he got in our verbal exchange. He has his mother’s talent for getting the last word. He is also now taller than me so at one point I was aware that I must have looked vaguely ridiculous looking up to him as I berated him. Coming out with cringe worthy ‘Dad speak’ that I had sworn I would never utter to my own kids. We are all walking, talking cliches and will inherit at least some of our own parents traits, no matter how hard we try not to.


I thought about our exchange long and hard though. And, while I still believed my son should not have spoken to me in the manner that he did, I had to reluctantly concede that he had a point. As his father I demanded his respect. But respect has to be earned, and in my case re-earned. I have hurt my son’s feelings in the past and it has taken time for him to heal. He has forgiven me for the hurt but he hasn’t forgotten and, in the heat of our argument, it had raised its ugly head again.

While it hurt me at the time, his perceived lack of respect towards me acted as a timely reminder. I can never rest on my laurels. Billions of men have become fathers down through the ages but what percentage of them continued to be loving, supportive, wise ‘Dads’?

It is probably the toughest and most important responsibility us men can take on during our time on this planet. It is a tremendous honour and a blessing, not something that we should take for granted. As one indiscretion, one bad decision, one harsh word and the father-child relationship can be damaged, sometimes irrevocably.

This was brought home to me this morning when a delivery man called to our door to deliver some goods Fionnuala had ordered on line. As he was leaving I thanked him and asked what time he was working to today. ‘About 6:30pm’ he replied. ‘And then I start my second job at 9pm in a bar. I worked nineteen hours yesterday.’ 

Wow I thought. ‘You mustn’t need much sleep’ I replied. He looked down and smiled ruefully before speaking again. ‘I have spent £8000 in legal fees so far trying to win access to my six year old son.’ He needed the money desperately. And with that he was off leaving me standing at the front door of my home feeling five inches tall. And up in his room my son buzzed about excitedly at the prospect of watching his favourite football team with his Dad later in the day.

I believe that delivery man was sent to my front door for a specific reason. And the conversation we had was no coincidence. As I sit down to watch the match later I will thank God again that I have such an amazing son. And two amazing daughters. And realise that I have to earn and retain their respect as much as they do mine. 

I am a work in progress. As a man; as a father, husband, son and brother. I will always be a work in progress. And I will never be the finished article. All I can do is be the best I can and set the best example I can. Make the right decisions, choose the right paths and stick to them. Shine a light for my son and daughters so that they will never repeat the mistakes that I have made.

Because the sins of the father never need be repeated if the fathers of today stand firm.

Proverbs 23:24 – ‘The father of a righteous man has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.’

When was the last time you argued with one of your kids and then realised they had a point?

What shared activities do you enjoy doing with them?

Who is going to win tonight? Manchester United or Real Madrid? 

Acceleration 

In previous posts I have spoken about my prophetic leanings. I will get a picture or words in my head that do not tie in with my normal thought processes. They stand out as a little askew or ‘not of me.’ An example is given in my previous post ‘Blog Of Welcome’. I tend to write about them as (a) they are few and far between and (b) I want to document them so I can look back on them later in order to ascertain whether or not they were accurate.

This is a raw ability, if I can even use that word. I have had no formal mentoring or teaching in this area so take everything I say with a large pinch of salt. It is totally untested. So please don’t put your life savings on anything I ever say on this blog.

Some months ago I got a word that September was going to be a month of acceleration. I have only told Fionnuala and a couple of wise friends about this message as I do not know what or who it applies to; but I strongly believe that it relates to this September and as we enter August the significance of the word continues to grow within me. Leading to me sharing it on here with you all today.

The word acceleration means ‘the rate of change of velocity of an object with respect to time.’ This tallies with Newton’s Second Law of Motion which states ‘that the rate of change of momentum of a body is directly proportional to the force applied, and this change in momentum takes place in the direction of the applied force.’

The above paragraph may make me sound like a boffin but I must fess up that I ‘borrowed’ it from good old Wikipedia. Physics was my worst subject at school. I once scored 14% in a multiple choice exam. Afterwards my Physics teacher, in front of all my peers, derisively informed me that even a trained monkey should have averaged at least 20%. His words forever killed off whatever little love I had for the science.


My scientific knowledge is therefore decidedly suspect. But I can drive a car. Just about. Which has allowed me to make the following observations.

1. Cars need drivers – the fastest Formula One car in the world will just sit in the garage and rust unless it has a Lewis Hamilton to press the accelerator, change the gears and steer it round the track. It takes two to tango. And the same applies to any Christian. God may be nudging you in a certain direction but he needs you to step out in faith and start the ball rolling. Be it an awkward conversation or seemingly risky decision you have to ‘step out of the boat’ and move forward. Leave the rest to him.

2. God doesn’t do speed limits – the six points I have currently accumulated on my driving licence (I mean 38 miles per hour (mph) in a 30 mph zone come on!) testify that accelaerating beyond what is the legal limit has grim circumstances. God, however, doesn’t work that way. You might dither, doubt and delay but if his desire means you slipping into the fast lane of life then so be it. Just ask Moses. Backwater shepherd one day, leader of a nation the next. God’s timetable for your life operates at his pace, not ours. All he requires from us is obedience.

3. Acceleration doesn’t mean reckless – two drivers take an hour to drive between adjacent towns. They are then asked to drive back. The first driver takes 30 minutes, the second takes 55 minutes. What have they in common? They have both accelerated. Following God’s plan for your life doesn’t necessarily mean ripping up trees and relocating to the other side of the country. Not all of us are going to be global evangelists or megachurch pastors. Instead it can be something as ‘insignificant’ as befriending a new neighbour or volunteering for the tea & coffee rota at church. Again we operate at his pace, not our own. For some that will be jet propulsion; for others a much more sedate pace. But still progression, still acceleration.

I encourage you to be open to God’s voice in your life at all times. Tune in your God radar via prayer, worship and study. Until you are receiving God FM loud and crystal clear. And if he prompts you to put the pedal to the metal do so with a willing heart and without fear. You are in safe and loving hands. 

For September is only just around the corner.

How many times have you fallen foul of the speed camera?

What is your dream car?

Are there areas of your life where God is asking you to accelerate? What are you doing about this?

Everyday Superhero 

I was never a superhero fan. The likes of Spider-Man, Superman, Batman et al largely left me cold during my teenage years. When it came to comic books I was a 2000A.D. fan. The heroic exploits of Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson were what captivated me during my formative years. Although the Sylvester Stallone movie version was a travesty that I have yet to fully recover from.

Even with the recent upsurge in DC and Marvel superhero movies I have been largely nonplussed. Give me Bilbo Baggins over Batman any day of the week. Why watch the Green Goblin when you can have real goblins. And orcs with the odd dragon thrown in for good measure.

The other week though we watched, as a family, the new Wonder Woman movie. I was less than enthusiastic as the opening credits rolled, thinking back to the dreadful American TV series of the same name featuring Lynda Carter. I sat back and braced myself for two hours of bad acting, dodgy plotlines and even dodgier costumes. In family parlance I was taking one for the team.

Two hours later I was left pleasantly surprised. I actually enjoyed it thanks to a strong story, fantastic special effects and an excellent performance from Gal Gadot in the lead role. And not a hobbit to be seen. Maybe, I thought, I was going to become a superhero fan after all.


Which leads me to Jessica Jones. Sick of hearing me moan about my neverending virus, Fionnuala ordered me to remain on the sofa today, get caught up on my box sets and rest. She didn’t have to tell me twice. No sooner had she left the house than I had my feet up with a glass of Diet Coke and the Netflix original series ‘Jessica Jones.’

Jessica Jones is probably the darkest superhero you could meet. It begins with her eking out a living as a private investigator and trying to recover from a traumatic past with the help of copious amounts of alcohol. She is grumpy, sarcastic and permanently hungover. She lives in her office and doesn’t pay her bills. In fact you couldn’t meet a less super superhero. 

All that changes as we learn more of her backstory.  We are told of her traumatic childhood years following the death of her parents and brother in a car crash for which she feels responsible. She was then adopted as a publicity stunt by the fame crazy mother of TV childhood star, Patsy Walker. And finally her latter years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the sociopathic Kilgrave (played brilliantly by David Tennent) who misuses his superpower of mind control for all sorts of evil purposes.

It is dark, edgy, violent and not for everyone. But I found it to be must watch TV. I only have one more episode to watch of Season One and was delighted to hear it has been renewed for a second season. The one theme that shone throughout the darkness of the episodes was the way in which Jones and Kilgrave use their respective superpowers.

Both suffered traumatic upbringings which largely shaped their approach to their superpowers in later life. Kilgrave decides to use his solely for evil; Jones largely neglects hers, preferring to live a life drifting towards mediocrity and alcoholism. Until events in her life convince her to use her powers for good. It is through this process that she learns to love others and loathe herself a little bit less.

None of us are superheroes. But we are all born with powers, or gifts, that we can choose to utilise good, ignore or misuse. And I’m not talking about leaping over tall buildings or flying at the speed of sound….or any speed for that matter. It doesn’t necessarily mean achieving top grades in your class or being a sporting success. 

Your gift can be of much humbler origin, but just as impressive, if not more so. Maybe you are a good listener so can be there for a friend going through a rough time; or you are observant and notice an elderly neighbour has been struggling with their groceries in recent weeks. It is a matter of looking around your sphere of influence and seeing where you can make a positive difference. It is about doing and not just thinking about doing.

The greatest superpower of all is love. And we all have the capacity to love. Love is not a mushy feeling reserved for Valentines Day. It is an act of the will that we can turn into a daily habit. We can teach ourselves to love without thinking about it, even if it is through gritted teeth towards people who we don’t particularly like.

Love is free and doesn’t necessitate a fear of kryponite. It doesn’t involve wearing your underwear outside your clothes or being forced to scan radio channels in the dead of night and respond to crimes in progress. Don’t be a Kilgrave and misuse your gift. Don’t be a Jessica Jones and ignore it. Be a Wonder Woman (or man) and use the gift God blessed you with. 

Who knows. They might even make a movie about you one day.

Who is your favourite superhero?

Do you prefer hobbits or heroes?

What gifts can you lovingly display today towards others?

Barbed Wire Beard

Today I had to face daylight again after three days in the house resting from the virus that has struck me down of late. I had to attend my local health centre to give some blood samples for further tests. Thankfully the nurse found a vein first time, the blood was reassuringly red and I will know the results next Tuesday.

During my self-imposed hibernation I had not shaved meaning that I had some impressive stubble this morning when I arose from my pit. While I think this adds to my rugged good looks (I like to see myself as a slightly younger George Clooney) Fionnuala views it somewhat differently. ‘It’s disgusting’, ‘You look like a tramp’ and ‘Don’t come anywhere near me with that thing’ are three of the printable comments she has made about my face furniture in the past.

I once didn’t shave for a month for a cancer charity and it almost resulted in divorce proceedings. I ended up looking like a cross between Desperate Dan and that creepy guy who you never want to sit beside on public transport. Worse still it was the month when the five of us were baptised together as a family. The resulting photos, which should take pride of place in our home, are hidden away as Fionnuala and the kids smile in the baptism pool beside a comedy Mexican bandit. 

So I decided it was time to shave this morning. While Fionnuala had taken pity on me given I was ill I didn’t want to scare the staff or patients at the health centre when I walked in. ‘Honestly this isn’t a hold up. I’m just here to give a blood sample. I don’t want your wristwatch.’

Now I hate shaving at the best of times. It just seems such a waste of time when I could be doing something much more useful such as an extra five minutes in bed. No wonder so many men sport beards now. 5 minutes x 365 = 1825 minutes. That’s just over 76 hours a year. 3 days! Imagine how many blogs I could write in that time. And money I would save on shaving foam and razor blades.

Yes shaving makes no sense practically or economically. We have central heating now God. Why the requirement for facial hair still? Jesus never felt the need. Oh well, I suppose you know best being omniscient and all that. So as an act of humble worship and obedience (e.g. fear of my wife) I stomped into the bathroom and started going through the routine of applying the shaving foam to my face, wetting the razor, lifting it to my face and….

AAAAARRRRGGGHHHHHHH!!!

It was agony. Due to the length and thickness of the stubble, the blade scraped across my skin like a cat’s claws across a blackboard. The next five minutes became a masterclass in grimacing, gurning and general muttering. Through the eye-watering pain I could only think that this is how Wolverine must feel when he goes to the barber’s for his annual trim.


Eventually a clean shaven Stephen staggered back out of the bathroom looking like a million dollars. All green and crumpled *ta ditsch*. My shaving experience had been akin to an Old Testament story, such had been the wailing and gnashing of teeth. Why oh why hadn’t I shaved yesterday or, even better, the day before that rather than endure this ordeal? Why leave it to the last minute and accordingly enter a world of chin trauma?

Decision inertia? Analysis paralysis? Whatever fancy corporate training speak you come up, it is unwise to delay a difficult decision when the answer is staring you in the face. Stephen – you have a medical appointment on Wednesday. You can either (a) shave comfortably on Monday and Tuesday and keep your stubble in order or (b) wait until Wednesday morning when it has the consistency and texture of rusty barbed wire ensuring you a hellish bathroom experience. It’s a no brainer right?

I found myself in the same position at various stages of my life. I felt God calling me to him but rather than take that final step I held back unable to let go of my old worldly existence and all it’s accompanying baggage. And the longer I delayed the more I dug a hole for myself. A hole of lies, addictive behaviour and self-loathing. Increasing the pain for my loved ones and myself.

So instead of gritting my teeth and pulling the sticking plaster off I dithered over the biggest decision of my life. And the longer I put it off the more difficult it became. Until eventually the day came when I looked myself in the mirror, winced a little and started to shave off my toxic stubble. Decades of sinful living and selfish thinking. All gone. It was a much more painful experience than it could have been had I made the decision earlier. But in the end it was done. I made the decision to become a Christian.

If you feel at rock bottom and sense God tugging at your heart my advice is to give in to him today. Don’t delay. Make that decision now. Hand over all the dirt and junk of your past life to him and start again. Unburdened and truly alive. Yes it may involve temporary pain. You may lose friendships and have to make radical lifestyle changes. But believe me it will be more painful if you hold back. Find a church. Buy a Bible. Speak to that Christian friend you have always had a million questions for but have been afraid to ask. Or just talk to God and invite him into your life. What have you to lose?

Who else shares my hatred of shaving? Ladies – feel free to join in the debate 😂

Is someone in your life who you could lovingly lead towards God? What steps are you taking?

Or are you that person? Are you curious about the Christian faith. If you have any questions then please ask us.


Conor McGregor And The One Shot Wonder 

I have felt led in recent days to read the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel. There cannot be many people, whatever their beliefs or backgrounds, who do not know the tale. How the poor shepherd boy came out of nowhere to defeat the Philistine giant armed only with a sling and a handful of pebbles. We all know it inside out. What possible extra learning could be gleaned from a story that I knew like the back of my hand?

Well, as usual when it comes to God stuff, I was wrong. To the extent where I think I will probably write a few posts about it. The first thing that surprised me was the length of the story. 1 Samuel Chapter 17 is a whopping 58 verses, the longest chapter in the book. Yet the actual battle scene itself lasts only two verses, beginning at verse 48. It is literally over in a second. Blink and you have missed it. A one shot wonder. Imagine your disappointment if you had paid big bucks for ringside seats to this one. 

The above analogy is not far from the truth regarding this biblical bust-up. It was akin to a heavyweight world championship bout in Las Vegas. The build-up, the hype, the trash talking, the huge audience. David and Goliath had all that. Goliath had bad mouthed the Israelite army for forty days in a row while Saul and his generals trembled in their tents. He was the bad boy of the Philistine army. Think Conor McGregor except without the ginger beard and Irish accent. 

The two most powerful armies in the world stared across the Valley of Elah waiting to ‘unleash hell’ on each other. It must have been an epic spectacle. You would  have been able to cut the atmosphere with a knife as over 100,000 heavily armed men, horses and chariots just waited for the one word that would change the world and their lives forever – Attack.

But that word never came. Day after day of inaction. Nothing. Bar Goliath’s daily taunting of the Israelite troops. Nobody fancied their chances against a guy who must have made ‘The Rock’ look like Papa Smurf. This guy had muscles on his muscles. If Game Of Thrones had been auditioning for extras back then he would have been an absolute shoe-in. 

Well, almost nobody. David fancied his chances. In fact he couldn’t wait. And to tbe amazement of everyone, including an incredulous Goliath, ‘David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet him.’ He ran! Towards a nine foot plus killing machine. Armed with a sling! No sword, no spear, no armour, nada! And with one slingshot killed him stone dead. If you pardon the pun.

Imagine having that confidence. That faith in our God that we feared nothing and nobody; but instead charged headlong towards our biggest demons knowing that we would emerge victorious on the other side. David knew God was by his side as he ran towards Goliath. He described him earlier as ‘the living God.’ 

His God was not a distant, grumpy old man with a beard and white robes who sat on a cloud surrounded by cherubs playing harps. His God was not a once a week experience where you mouth a few hymns and pretend to pray to in order to keep your parents off your back. His God was not an invisible entity who you only turned to in a crisis when all your other more solid options had been exhausted.

David’s God was real. His relationship with him was real. As real as the relationship you have with your closest friends or family members. And like any genuine friendship it was built on trust. God had never let him down on the mountainside battling lions and bears and he wasn’t going to let him down now. He was 100% certain he was going to win as he ran towards his destiny.

He had stated earlier in the chapter that God was going to deliver Goliath into his hands. It was God who provided him with the strength to hurl the pebble across the valley towards his enemy. It was God who graced him with the laser precision accuracy to strike Goliath straight between the eyes. It was a golden shot. That once in a lifetime pitch that was destined to change history, bring David to the throne and eatablish a bloodline that would ultimately lead to a stable in Bethlehem. 

God is with you too when you face your greatest battle. That battle might be today, it might be tomorrow. It might be ten years away. But it will come. And you must be prepared. Like David was, honing his fighting skills and relationship with God during those long, hard years tending his father’s flocks in the remote countryside. He was ready when his greatest battle faced him. Ready physically, mentally and spiritually.

And when that moment comes you must recognise it and act upon it. David trusted and believed in God. To the extent that when his opportunity came he seized it with both hands. His brothers wouldn’t stop him. His king wouldn’t stop him. And a nine foot tall, swaggering bully wouldn’t stop him. He acted confidently when all around him was indecision and inaction. 

This has been a long post. Thanks for bearing with me. But the message from it is simple. Trust God. Believe that he will give you whatever you require to face, and overcome, your biggest battle. And when that moment comes don’t hesitate. Instead be the man or woman that our living God created you to be and run confidently towards the battle line.

1 Samuel 17:48-49 – ‘As the Philistine moved closer to attack him, David ran quickly towards the battle line to meet him. Reaching into his bag and taking out a stone, he slung it and struck the Philistine on the forehead. The stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.’

When did you first learn tbe story of David and Goliath?

What battle lines face you today?

Are you prepared to run confidently towards them?