Category Archives: Faith

When God’s love, trumps our fear

smiling homeless man

It’s hard to explain exactly what happened to my wife and I over the last week or so – so to stay true to the story I’ll keep things as factual as possible without embellishing it.

Last weekend my wife and I were at our local vege market doing our usual weekly vege shop. As we were leaving the market I passed a man begging for money sitting on the concrete by one of the market exits. I was happy to pass the man sitting on the ground – turns out my wife wasn’t.

As my wife, Jen, sat next to the man and listened to his story, I sat in the car (which was parked close by where I could see them talking) waiting for her to finish her conversation thinking, ‘My wife is awesome. I married up’.

Jen then got up from the ground beside the man, whose name was Anthony, and came toward the car – I thought we were on our way for the rest of our day’s errands – I was wrong.

‘Hunny I think we should pray for that guy’, she said. Confidently I agreed and opened my car door without delay to go and join Anthony sitting on the ground – but my heart had fear in it, fear of failure (what if the prayer doesn’t work?) and fear of people (what if someone thinks I’m weird?). And my mind was sceptical.

So I knelt down next to Anthony and started some light conversation with him before getting into what physical ailments he had. Anthony’s face was scarred – the remnants of past fights he’d been involved in and one of the most telling signs of this was he had lost sight in one of his eyes. It lacked the ability to focus, was partially closed and looked dysfunctional.

I asked Anthony if Jen and I could pray for his eye which he willingly agreed to briefly sharing with me his family had prayed for him before. So Jen and I prayed for him.

I put my hand on his eye, Jen put her hand on his shoulder and we prayed for him. It wasn’t a long prayer, it wasn’t a super spiritual one either – we just prayed that his blindness would be gone and that God would restore full sight into his eye.

Once I’d finished praying (we’re talking like a 30 second prayer) we asked Anthony if there was improvement in his eye and he said that things were starting to become clearer in that eye, but there was no full recovery. So we briefly prayed for him again. Again after asking him how it felt he said again he felt like his eye was clearing.

On that I told him I felt like his eye would be healed by the end of the day – and these weren’t empty words, I truly felt like something was happening in Anthony and the healing happening within him wasn’t done. After that we said our goodbyes and moved on.

Once at the car, Jen and I put an appeal out on Facebook inviting others to pray with us for Anthony in the belief that God was doing something here but we were unsure what. People generally responded well indicating they were praying from wherever they were in the world for this guy, at our local vege market in little old New Zealand.

Fast forward a week…

I am returning from some work I was doing further north in New Zealand when I get a call from Jen. She is beyond super excited on the other end of the phone. What she is about to share with me is something I’ll never forget…

The guy we had prayed for, Anthony – his eye was healed.

She had bumped into him that morning and she said his eye looked unbelievably better – clearer, brighter, with the ability to focus. He told her that he could see out of it again – that it had been 5 years since he’d seen out of it last. Our brief phone conversation was filled with excitement, awe and disbelief. It’s fair to say the rest of that day was one of thankfulness – and hope.

The above story is amazing on so many fronts. It’s amazing that Anthony’s eye got healed (and I believe is still improving as I write this post). It’s amazing that God involved two everyday people like Jen and I in what he wanted to do in Anthony.

But above all this, to me, what makes this story amazing is that God used this prayer, Jen and I, the prayers of our friends and family and the healed eye to show Anthony that He loved him. Regardless of my unbelief, regardless of my fear of people, my fear of failure that the prayer may not work. God’s love for this guy wasn’t contained by my lack of faith or sin or knowledge about how this sort of stuff should work – because His love can’t be contained. God’s love trumps our fear – and this is something we all need to remember next time we have a sense to help someone else in need.

To end this post I want people to understand Jen and I are not the heroes in this story – God is. Love is.

I want to sign off this post with the prayer we prayed for Anthony’s eye:

God, thank you that you love Anthony. I pray that blindness would go – and that full sight be restored into Anthony’s eye. In Jesus name. Amen.

God – thank you for answering our prayer.

photo credit: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7083/7192839330_06a7ea2d38_z.jpg

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What the Church Hasn’t Learnt Yet

homeless1

It’s been a while since I wrote my last blog.

I’ve written over 50 drafts all of which are unfinished, considered different ways to share ideas conceived in the most obtuse places and situations in my life, but the one idea that has stuck with me the longest over the last few weeks, is the idea that I probably know least about.

It came out of a conversation I had with the CEO of a mission organisation in New Zealand.

I’m unsure of how our conversation got to this point, but our meeting turned into a discussion about where the church is weak – and I can speak frankly about this because I’m a part of the wider church I’m talking about.

An idea came out of our discussions which blew my mind. It rocked how I see one of our (the churches) biggest shortcomings.

I do understand that for some smarter than myself this may be something that has been on the radar for quite some time, but in my world this idea really shook me for the first time ever. The idea came out of this story.

The person I was speaking with told me a story of when he and his church at the time had organised an outdoor event celebrating a special date in the history of the Christian church in his country. He told me they had planned the event with aplomb, plenty of seating for all guests and an airtight programme for the events proceedings.

The event started, members of the hosting church began to speak and everything was going to plan – until members of the public began to respond to the event.

People passing by stopped and listened, others heckled, others sat around those seated to participate in what was happening – and this was not the plan. The person I was talking to told me they began to panic. He told me as people began to respond to their event in ways they had not anticipated – they were not ready. They didn’t know how to respond to those who weren’t invited.

This struck a chord with me. I couldn’t help but be reminded of other situations I had experienced of churches being ill equipped to respond well to the – ‘uninvited’.

I’ve been to churches where the doors are locked if people don’t arrive to church on time (this also means the ‘uninvited’ are locked out too). I’ve been to churches where they’re more concerned with a smooth running church programme than embracing the ‘uninvited’ who walk in off the street wanting to know more about the love the church so boldly preaches about. I’ve even been in churches where the ‘uninvited’ have been asked to leave fearing more for the flow of the service than for that persons immediate need.

I’m unsure if this has been an issue in the churches history, but in my experience this is definitely an issue in the churches present.

In my experience – a large part of the western church (especially in the middle class) are still novices at responding to the ‘uninvited’. In our pursuit of ‘righteousness’ we’ve isolated ourselves, grown scared of the people and groups that we should be drawn to. Our concern has become more about the comfort of our 99, than the outright priority of the 1.

This has turned into a bit of a rant and to be honest I don’t even know where this piece is heading. All I know is that our admission as a wider church that we have been rubbish at dealing with the ‘uninvited’ could spark a real movement in making the ‘uninvited’ the priority again in our meetings, in our communities, in our lives.

Am I going crazy? Have I missed the boat or should someone be screaming at me DILLUSION? I’m not sure. But that’s the topic that has stuck with me most over the past few weeks. Feel free to add to this conversation if you think I’m nuts. Thank you for humouring me.

Rant over.

Image credit: http://blogs.psychcentral.com

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Inspiration Only Goes So Far

Peter Snell

One of the awesome benefits of my blogging journey so far, have been the stories I’ve heard of people inspired by my writing to dream again, to do something remarkable, to throw caution to the wind and risk failure for freedom.

So in the interest of not wasting anyone’s time, this post is not for the guys I have just mentioned. You guys can go back to dreaming big and doing cool stuff.

This post is for ‘the inbetweeners’ (and I’m not talking about the brit comedy) – the people who read my posts, tell me they are loving what I write, indicate their 100% agreement with it, and then go back to their day-to-day lives.

I find you lot frustrating – and possibly because in a way you reflect my own internal struggles to turn inspiration into action.

You see the thing with inspiration is inspiration only goes so far. Inspiration will get you to your race – but it won’t get you to your prize. It’ll get you pumped about what you want to do, but it won’t do it for you.

You see if you want to do something remarkable – you need to involve yourself in your dream beyond just being inspired by it. You need to lace up your proverbial Nikes, do your stretches and get beyond the starting blocks and into your race of turning your dream into a real life journey, possibly for all of us to witness.

Now this message isn’t for those who are content with their current situation. If what you dream about is where you are now, then congratulations, you are the envy of millions of people who want to live in their dream like you, or at least live in real pursuit of it.

No, this post is for those in the space between ‘I’ve been inspired to pursue what I dream of’ and ‘I’ve started making moves turning my dreams into my reality’.

Inspiration may be the birth of your dream – but it’s beginning to live out that dream that really gives it life.

So if you’re one of those people who has been following my writing, and have been inspired by words that have been given to me for you to hear – I dare you to take the next step in making your dreams real. I dare you to leave inspiration in your wake and to pursue what’s been placed in your heart for all of us to benefit from.

That’s a part of why I started this blog. As this blog develops, you watch part of my dreams unfolding. My hope is that as you journey beyond inspiration, I will also have the privilege of watching and applauding your dreams unfold as well.

Photo credit: enricovivian.blogspot.com

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Why I Write

Street poet

In regard to blogpost writing, I’ve had a rough last week or so.

The past few days have seen me write thousands of words, engineer and re-engineer hundreds of incomplete sentences and paragraphs and spend hours exploring real-life stories against truths I believe the world needs to hear.

All these actions work toward crafting that brilliant blogpost, the one with enough substance to impact the next person that reads it, who will positively impact the next person they interact with, and so on.

But this week, it just hasn’t been clicking.

I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s the change of season, maybe it’s the other projects happening in my life beginning to impact my ability to order my thoughts – I can’t quite put my finger on it.

But one thing I do know is this – my latest rough episode of blogging has not left me discouraged.

It’s because the reason I blog goes beyond clocking up large numbers of readers to follow my writing (though I am extremely humbled by the number that do) or the encouragement I’ve received to continue sharing my thoughts in this way (though this encouragement is appreciated).

The reason I blog is because I have a conviction that I am part of a group of people seeing the world differently for us, who have the capacity to share what they see, believe or hear from angles the world has never seen before.

I believe all of us are part of this group in some measure. We all hold something (or some things) that the world has not seen, heard or read about yet, until you’ve painted, played or written them for us.

And this is why I am not discouraged.

My belief that I hold pieces of writing within me that the world hasn’t read yet, and needs to hear, far outweighs my feelings of anxiousness when I can’t string two coherent words together within a timeframe I define.

I know I hold messages that need to be heard. And I know that my readers hold things that need to be shared too.

So for those reading my writing, I apologise for the delay between new blogposts. This piece is a little insight into my last week.

If you enjoy reading my writing and want to see more of it, be encouraged in this: I know I hold written pieces within me that can change the world, and that is why I write. That is why I share. That is why this pursuit continues.

That is why I am not discouraged. The right words will come. And when they do – I’ll be ready.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scootervagabond

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The Difference Between Smart People and Wise People

owl3So for people who are following my writing, I thought I would share a bit of my story.

When I was 19, for about a year I acted, danced and sung my way across New Zealand with a performing arts company – one of the coolest things I’ve done.

It was a great experience. I performed in some iconic New Zealand theatres, met some fantastic people and made some life-long friends – but looking back in hindsight these were not the things that would impact me most on that tour.

The tour introduced me to a person who would shift how I see the world – someone like noone I’d ever met before.

He was an interesting character. A gentle giant who stood at about six-foot-two (or it seemed so at the time). He would’ve been in his fifties then – a tall,  lean, white male who everyday donned the same set of thick glasses perched lightly on his nose and had a head of greying hair that always looked slightly unkempt.

A part of his role on tour was to drive our tour bus. We spent hours on that bus – travelling from city to city – town to town. And while he drove, I found myself for hours on end sitting next to the guy, picking his brain about everything and anything. From practical stuff to big picture stuff, from people’s everyday problems to life’s big questions.

On that bus, for that year, I learnt more about myself and the world than I had learnt in any other year in my life. That person taught and helped me experience life concepts and ideas that still inspire and bamboozle me to this day.

Given all this – there was one lesson he embodied that stood above them all.

He modelled for me what a wise person is.

And this led me to explore the difference between a smart person – and a wise person.

Beyond that tour bus, I have interacted with many different kinds of people from many different walks of life, and in my experience the people I’ve met have fallen into one catergory or the other. Few have fallen into both.

So – based on my experience (and opinion) – here are several differences I have encountered between smart people – and wise people.

Smart people know a lot. Wise people apply what they know well.

Smart people tell you about something. Wise people show you something.

Smart people present arguments. Wise people walk you through experiences.

Smart people can make the simple complex. Wise people make the complex simple.

Smart people protect what they know benefitting themselves. Wise people share what they know benefitting others.

Smart people revel in the mystery of their work. Wise people willingly help others unlock their mystery.

Smart people hate being wrong. Wise people recognise being wrong as an opportunity to be better.

Smart people look to critique others. Wise people know the critiquing begins with themselves.

Our Parliament is filled with smart people… not necessarily wise people.

Our universities are filled with smart people… not necessarily wise people.

Our churches are filled with smart people… not necessarily wise people.

My hope for all of us is that one of the big pursuits in our life would not be limited to just becoming smarter.

My hope is that like my now friend from that tour all those years ago, we would continually pursue becoming wiser.

I wanted to finish this piece by honouring that friend I met all those years ago on that tour. Those conversations we had on that bus have changed my life forever. Thanks Gee.

Photo credit: www.zazzle.com

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The Practise of Pausing Time

me at the altar3Fifteen minutes is a long time when you’re waiting at the altar.

Hollywood movies warned me this was the way it was meant to play out, but that did not prepare me for how I was feeling at that moment.

Two o’ clock, at a snails pace, turned to two fifteen. I could sense from guests a small amount of pleasure at watching me squirm. To be honest I would’ve enjoyed the squirm as well from the pew seats.

Surely she’s not too far away.

And then like the Hollywood movies – our wedding story began to unfold.

A light murmur spread through the church as my future wife arrived outside. Once the murmurs settled, our wedding song began to play, and one-by-one the bridesmaids elegantly made there way down the aisle. My wife then joined the party by entering at the rear of the church.

And then it happened.

As soon as she came into my vision…

I paused time.

I paused it. There’s no other way to explain it.

And for that paused moment, which may have been brief, I was not bound by that hour – or that minute – or that second. I was freed to live that moment out with the intensity and fervor that it deserved.

Her elegance, those eyes, the breathtaking beauty, the nervous excitement, that dress – the moment became bigger than the timeframe it was lived within – removed from the confines of time and space.

When I close my eyes I can still relive the whole moment in its intensity and entirety.

***

It’s this practise of pausing time that I think is a great lesson for all of us.

For a lot of us, with time –  it always seems like we’re running out of it or we don’t have enough of it. I’ve been a victim to its pressure, encouraged to save it and told not to waste it away.

My past has conditioned me to pursue being on it – to set plans to it that are bound by it. And I’m told if I’m wise I should manage it well, set it aside and watch it carefully.

But these are not the concepts that grind me the most about time. It is my feeling that I am subject to it. Like time is my Master.

Well today is a new day. I’ve been looking at it wrong.

Time is a means – it is not an end. It exists for us, we don’t exist for it (let that breathe for a while).

Time is a tool with which we live within not a master that we serve under. We need to master it, not the other way around.

We must engage more in the practise of pausing time.

And I’m not talking about planning our time better – that’s too mundane. I mean we must learn to pause time – more.

In moments like walking down the aisle toward your future husband, holding your baby in your arms for the first time, standing atop gorgeous mountains or walking alongside flawless lakes – in these moments when time stands still – we need to stand with it. Be attentive, be immersed, be still.

Mastering this practise opens up a whole new world of heightened awareness and sensitivity in the moments that matter.

You are not subject to time – time is subject to you.

So this is my challenge – in the moments that transcend time – I dare you to transcend with them.

I dare you to more often engage in the practise of pausing time.

Photo: That’s me waiting at the altar – she did eventually join me there:)

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5 Books That Changed My Life

boys-readingI hated reading growing up.

At school the choice between a book and a basketball was an easy one. My heroes were Michael Jordan and Brian Lara not Dickens or Tolkien (I did think Roald Dahl was cool though – Boy was one of the only books I read cover to cover as a kid).

But as time passed, and my world began to open, reading became a staple in my life. If not to satisfy my appetite for knowledge, to help shape how I see the world.

I love the ‘exchange’ that takes place while reading. Authors are able to share their ideas on the topics we love based on research, history, convictions and experiences and us, readers, are able to uphold our pre-conceived ideas on that topic against what they’ve written, either challenging us to shift our thinking or to reinforce the beliefs and ideas we hold onto.

This is why I’ve grown to love books (I’m unsure of what this love of books does for my street credibility – but this is my truth).

So of all the great books I’ve picked up so far in my life – these titles are the ones that have had the greatest impact on me.

5 Books That Changed My Life

Tribes by Seth Godin

A book urging people to form tribes around their passions. Seth Godin is a world renown blogger / business innovation thinker. Tribes is written from a business angle but the principles can be applied to the rest of your life. Great read for people looking for that last ounce of inspiration before stepping into pursuing their dream line of work. A classic.

Orthodoxy by G.K Chesterton

A champion of the early twentieth century writing and speaking curcuit, G.K Chesterton lit up packed houses of his day with his wit and thought-provoking life concepts. He wrote in a way that made life’s seemingly mundane – moments of magic. One of the most challenging books I have ever picked up. Concepts so complex that like me you may only be able to read the book one concept per day. For people who want their worldview blown out of the water.

Leading with a Limp by Dan B. Allender

My favourite book on leadership. Dan Allender proposes a new idea on leadership, that adjacent to focusing on your strengths as a leader, some of our greatest leaders led out of the transparency of their weaknesses. A challenging and refreshing take on an important topic.

In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson

Inspiring book about hope in hopeless situations. The book is framed by the story of a warrior who against-all-odds defeats enemies in impossible situations. Great read for people who themselves are battling some form of opposition: work, relationship struggles, depression etc.

The Bible by Various Authors

In my eyes, the undisputed champion of literature. Can’t be imitated, neither underestimated. The most controversial book of all time. Premise for some of the worlds greatest acts of grace and worst acts of tyranny. Above all books this book has shaped my worldview more than any other. So complex and simple it has kept me in continuous intrigue since I first picked it up. Haven’t put it down since. The heavyweight champion of books in my eyes.

So there you have it – 5 books that have changed (and are still changing) my life. I hope that they are able to impact you in the same way they impacted me.

What books have changed how you see the world? Would love for you to share. I’m always keen to have my worldview challenged.

Happy reading.

Photo credit: http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/creating-readers/creating-reading-culture/boys-and-reading

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