Monday, December 7, 2009

God is in control....are we sure about that?




This could be a long post but I'll try to keep it short. I haven't been able to bring myself to read too much about the Murphy report. The report in a nutshell exposed the extreme lack on the part of the Catholic Church to deal with reports of children being abused in the Dublin diocese. It concluded that the main priority in dealing with child abuse within the church was to maintain secrecy in order to protect the reputation of the church and it's assets and to avoid scandal.
One of the testimonies that came out of the report was of a lady recalling her experience of being abused as a 10 year old girl by a priest. During the abuse he told her to be a good girl as he was "doing God's will". It made me sick to my stomach and I'm sure it does yours. The thoughts of a man of influence representing Father God abusing a little girl in his name is repugnant.
However the thing that pains me and confuses me is that behind a lot of Christians theology is that what happened is in fact God's will. All the time I hear "God is in control', 'It's all part of his perfect plan' and so on. I wonder do people really realise what is loaded behind these statements? If God is truly fully in control, that means all things are attributed to him. That in turn means that somehow our loving heavenly Father thought it would be a good idea as part of his good and perfect plan to have a 10 year old girl abused. How can people reconcile this with a Father who is to be trusted and a Daddy who has the best for his kids?
Now I know many Godly men have brought forward great and compelling theological arguments for why God is truly in control and why they cannot conceive a world where anything happens that God does not decree. The problem for me is when this theology becomes practical. What does the Pastor who firmly believes God is in control say to a woman who was abused as a little girl when asked why did it happen? Of course they will probably say it was a horrible thing to happen and God is there to comfort you. If being honest they will have to say actually God was pleased according to his perfect will to ordain that you be abused for his greater glory.
I'm learning and could be wrong but I really cannot ever imagine my Father in heaven ordaining something so heinous and nauseating upon a child. This world is messed up, hence the call to pray that God's kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven. I touched on that a couple of posts ago about the floods in Ireland. I could launch into a biblical defence of my thoughts but I'll save that for another time. It's the thoughts on our theology (we all have theology some of us just don't call it that, it's just our way of thinking about God) and how that influences how we live our lives and how we pastor and care for the broken around us and how we view our Father that I'm thinking about.
God the Father weeps with those kids and all of us who are suffering. He's not ordaining our suffering and then asking us to find comfort in him. He has given us and angels free will, therefore we suffer and in the midst of it he comforts us. He can and does bring good out of evil things, but he doesn't cause them. It's a scary thought to think that God is not controlling everything but it makes the beauty of his giving us, in his sovereignty, free will all the more beautiful knowing he wants a genuine love relationship with us. We're not just robots who he controls for his own pleasure.
God is good, is in love with us and can genuinely be trusted.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bell x1, Olympia Theatre, Dublin, November 27th 2009



Friday night myself and Jane saw the ever wonderful Bell x1 at the olympia. It was a surprise for Jane, no reason except she's awesome and she loves Bell x1. We went for something to eat before hand and as we were sitting there Jane looked bemused for a second and then said "That looks like Paul Noonan from Bell x1". Turns out it was the whole band having pre gig dinner. I wrestled with the idea of going over and having a chat but us Irish don't like to disturb people when they're having their dinner.
The gig itself was so good. Starting perfectly with an extended la la la, la la la....from 'The Ribs of a Broken Umbrella' the first song off their new record. Following up with the punchy 'Reacharound' and the melodic beat laden 'How Your Heart Is Wired'. The whole first set was fantastic, not a bad song amongst them. I was surprised that 'The Great Defector' got such a big reaction, possibly the biggest of the night. 'Bad Skin Day' and 'Next To You' where a perfect sweet combo followed by 'My First Born For A Song' before, as Paul Noonan said, 'Eve The Apple Of My Eye' "done proper" as some fans had requested. Interesting to hear him say they had changed it around a little bit because they can get bored of playing it so much; they played the original radio edit. Tongue a song in which I'm not crazy about preceeded the crowd singalongs of 'Flame' and 'Rocky' which was dedicated to the Simon Community and Focus Ireland agencies who help look after homeless people. The song is written about a homeless man who lived near Paul Noonans apartment in Smithfield. Apparently he was always on his own until one morning he had a lady with him in his sleeping bag, the song is pretty much an imaginary conversation between the two. A cracking tune.
The encore started with 'Slowset', my favourite song off their first album. They had a poll on their website as to what song they rarely play would fans like to hear. 'Slowset' won and was played acoustic with just Paul and David. Dominic joined them for the acoustic rendition of 'Just Like Mr. Benn' which again was wonderfully played. Another old school song Alphabet Soup was played with plenty of cowbell. Will Ferrell would have been very proud. 'A Better Band', a stomping tune from the new album came before the last song of the night 'I'll See Your Heart and I'll Raise You Mine' a fittingly gorgeous way to end a cracking gig. Here's the setlist.

The Ribs of a Broken Umbrella
Reacharound
How Your Heart Is Wired
Bad Skin Day
Next To You (The Way You Make Me Feel, Michael Jackson snippet)
My First Born For A Song
Eve, the Apple of My Eye
The Great Defector
Tongue
Flame
Rocky Took A Lover
---
Slowset
Just Like Mister Benn
Alphabet Soup (Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads snippet)
A Better Band
I'll See Your Heart and I'll Raise You Mine --->Do You Realize?(Flaming Lips(

Friday, November 27, 2009

Act of God

If God was one of us (just a slob like one of us, la la la) I think he'd sue for defamation of character. Parts of Ireland have been hit with dreadful flooding this past week. In one interview I was listening to a man was describing how his insurance company might not pay out as the destruction to his property was an "act of God".
It seems like a logical conclusion to think that of course God is in control of the weather, sitting up there with his buttons controlling lightning and waves and wind and snow and so on. He's all powerful so of course he controls everything. The problem with this line of thinking if taken to it's logical conclusion is that God is arbitrarily controlling the weather to the huge detriment of his children and also to those who don't want to be his kids. From Hurricane Ike to the Tsunami on stevens day in the Indian Ocean that killed over 300,000 people. The argument of whether God controls the weather leads to a deeper discussion about the problem of evil which I won't go fully in to on this blog. It's something I think about often as I'm sure do most of us.

Lately a prominent american pastor John Piper blogged out about a tornado that hit his town. He believed that it was a specific sign to make people turn from certain sins, he also believed his prostate cancer was a gentle reminder from God for him to turn from sin. Big statements to make about God. If we use every disaster as a sign from God to be explained then we've got a pretty harsh God. Millions of babies aborted to teach us what? Children abused and raped to teach us what? Churches abusing their flock to teach us what? I could go on but I'm meant to be talking about the weather.
Everytime I think about things like this I always come back to Jesus. God looks like Jesus as Hebrews 1:3 tells us. What would Jesus say? Simply put we know that things aren't as they are supposed to be, hence the announcement of the coming kingdom. In fact at one stage in Jesus ministry he rebuked the wind and the waves to make them still. They obeyed. If God was controlling the wind and the waves why would Jesus rebuke them? I don't think Jesus and his Father where at odds in that situation. Jesus knew that there was a natural element to the wind and waves stirring due to the fallen nature of the world and he rebuked the rebelliousness of nature and brought his kingdom authority to that situation.
In another situation in Luke 13 Jesus talks about how easy it is for us to think disaster falls on certain people because it is the judgement of God or somehow they deserve it due to some sin in their life. Jesus says nothing of the sort and says pretty much that we need to not analyse these situations but to focus on our own relationship with God and know that we are all in need of a saviour. Unless we repent we too will perish. Simple as that.
When we pray for Jesus kingdom to come we are praying just for that, for his kingdom to come. It's not already here meaning there is conflict between the will of God for the earth and what actually happens here on earth, hence the statement "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Why would we pray for God's will to be done on earth if this was infact already true? Evil happens because there are other wills at work apart from Gods. He's that good and sovereign that he has chosen to give us free will to allow us to enter into a genuine love relationship with Him.
When floods hit certain places let's not think God is teaching the people who live there a lesson. All we know is that floods happen, nature can be cruel but God is good, the perfect Father and can be trusted. He'll be there in the midst of evil working to bring about good but he never needs to cause it or bring it about to do that.

The gospel only makes sense in the midst of chaos where God isn’t always getting his way – even with nature. And so we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We don’t pray for the things that are already true, we pray for the things that we hope will become true.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To strike or not to strike?

Next Tuesday our country faces shut down as the public sector has decided to go on strike. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly the strike is about. I keep hearing people tell me they don't want to loose their benefits and don't want their wages cut and so on, however no one has given me a definitive statement on why they are striking. None of us know what the government are going to decide in the budget. They have stated that they need 4 billion and they will take it out of public sector pay amongst other things but nothing is in stone. Right or wrong, the government are being very clever in keeping their cards close to their chest so we have nothing specific to go on.

I totally understand that the current crisis has plunged people into huge financial difficulties and the government appears to not be helping out much especially when we focus some of our anger on the banks and their lack of sympathy for home owners in difficulty. (We need to remember that if they didn't bail the banks out we'd have NO economy). However, I can't help but ask, why are we the public sector who's jobs are permanently safe not willing to give up 2% of our pay? Especially as we are among the most overpaid public workers in the world. After returning from traveling I lost a significant amount of money through being demoted by proxy and having a wage cut, however I'm so thankful I'm in the public sector because I have a job and it's very secure.

Coming back from being away we've noticed a significant difference in our outgoings on things like groceries etc. Those of us in the public sector have benefited from the downturn when we consider how much most shops and businesses have dropped their prices making for a cheaper way of life. Granted we don't eat out nearly as much as we used to, but when we do treat ourselves to a luxury like that it costs a lot less than it did a year ago.

The strike will not affect the government in any way, all it will do is cause a bigger divide between the private sector and public sector. Our jobs are safe; the private sector have been hammered, absolutely hammered and I'd be pretty annoyed if I was living in fear of my job every day and the public sector were going on strike.
If the budget is harrowing, then maybe then, a strike might have some benefit. However, at this point in time I think a strike is embarrassing and short sighted. I won't even talk about how little respect I have for the unions, especially the 172,000 euro a year earning leaders of them.

Some of us in the public sector genuinely earn our wages with difficult jobs, I include teachers nurses and all frontline staff in this. My job is not easy, I got punched in the head on Monday night however that's my job. Just as teachers have to deal with difficult kids and nurses deal with difficult patients. That's why it's called the caring profession. That is also why we get very good holidays. 27 days a year holidays is excellent for me, compare that to the private sector or our cousins across the water in America. Never mind our sick pay which public sector workers unfortunately abuse and cost the government millions. Teachers get Autumn breaks, christmas breaks, spring breaks and at least 2 months off in the summer; I don't think they like to be reminded of that at the moment. They think it's a right, it's a benefit.

I also don't know if my God conscience would let me hold my country to ransom when I don't specifically know the injustice I'm fighting against. I'm all about standing up for injustice but I'm not sure if us public sector workers with relatively big salaries loosing 2% is an injustice. There comes a point when we have to think of the greater good of our country and maybe those of us with secure jobs can help give back to things like health care, welfare benefits etc. I'm willing to give up a small bit of my salary, be it on the governments head if they choose to use it unwisely.

Will I strike on Tuesday? No. Will I cross the picket line? Absolutely. I've swopped my shift from Monday to Tuesday so I can look after kids I'm paid to look after even if others choose not to.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A promise to blog more could be futile, but I'd like to...

It's been way too long. Nearly every day I have a thought I want to blog about but I never formulate it into a post. My thoughts have been as varied as how awesome the debut album from Mumford & Sons is, how thoroughly disappointed I am in Rafa Benitez and the complete lack of hope I have for any meaningful silverware this season for Liverpool, how ridiculous Prof. Drumm's 70,000e bonus is when the hse is continually falling apart, how much I enjoyed Face to Face with God by Bill Johnson and am currently enjoying 'Jesus Culture' by Banning Liebscher, how strange it is that in my wife's sickly snotty state that she seems even cuter than ever, how David McWilliams drives me mad, how much I want to go visit Bethel Church again and countless more random thoughts.
I've been back to work a month now and I've surprisingly really enjoyed it. Enjoyed could be a deceptive word to use, I'll change that sentence to "I've been surprisingly fulfilled by it". It's strange being on the floor again and not in management but I've loved it. I've always wanted to be in this line of work to work with young people and not necessarily the adults who look after them! I loved the challenge of management but for this season I'm enjoying the lack of wider responsibility, knowing I just have to focus on the young people. It's hugely challenging and I'm completely cabbaged when I'm finished my 25hr shifts but it's been awesome building relationships with them and knowing that somehow you're bringing hope and safety and stability into such hugely fractured lives. I read through our youngest lads files and shed a few sneaky tears; knowing what he's been through in his short 9 years is heartbreaking. God has so much more for this kids life than he can possibly imagine.
During mid-term myself and Jane helped out with a camp held down in Avoca in Wicklow. Apart from the atrocious sleeping conditions we had a cracking time. It was so awesome to catch up with some guys from the youth group we helped out in. I loved doing the worship music for the week and listening to my brother preach the good word. He was awesome. It was great to see someone taking the teens seriously and really challenging them on what it is to live a life for Jesus.
I loved some of the questions the teens had to ask, they're so much more honest than grown ups! It's always good to question aspects of our faith and to want to get to know more of who God is.
I might talk about some of those questions here, there where great food for thought.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Disintegration



The Cure are one of my favourite bands. The re-issue's of their first 7 albums were a real treat especially 'head on the door', 'seventeen seconds' and 'kiss me, kiss me' kiss me'.
Robert Smith just announced today on their website that 'Disintegration' is to be re-issued next spring, coinciding with the albums 21st anniversary. There is no weak song on the album and it is definitely an album that makes sense to listen to from start to finish. It's a masterpiece. I've always been slightly disappointed with the mastering of the album; it's quite low in the mix (they say it was mixed to be played loud) and it's not as clear as it should be. I don't know if this will be corrected in the re-mastering but I hope so. I generally listen to my cd version of the Live Trilogy dvd where they played disintegration in full if I want to listen to the album. The bass and synths and symbols are so much clearer.
The remastered album comes in three different versions, a single cd of the album, a double vinyl of the album and a 3 cd deluxe edition which looks awesome. Disc 1 is the album remixed/mastered. Disc 2 is rarities which is in keeping with the previous 7 re-releases, some of which make fascniating listening. Disc 3 is the Entreat concert from Wembley 1989 which was released as a promo cd in France and a limited run in Europe (you can find it easily on ebay - I did!). It contains 4 more tracks than the original release. Here's the tracklisting of the 3 disc version:

Disc 1: Disintegration

1. “Plainsong”
2. “Pictures Of You”
3. “Closedown”
4. “Lovesong”
5. “Last Dance”
6. “Lullaby”
7. “Fascination Street”
8. “Prayers For Rain”
9. “The Same Deep Water As You”
10. “Disintegration”
11. “Homesick”
12. “Untitled”

Disc 2: Rarities (1988-1989)

1. “Prayers For Rain” rs Home Demo (instrumental) 04/88
2. “Pictures Of You” rs Home Demo (instrumental) 04/88
3. “Fascination Street” rs Home Demo (instrumental) 04/88
4. “Homesick” band Rehearsal (instrumental) 06/88
5. “Fear Of Ghosts” band Rehearsal (instrumental) 06/88
6. “Noheart” band Rehearsal (instrumental) 06/88*
7. “Esten” band Demo (instrumental) 09/88*
8. “Closedown” band Demo (instrumental) 09/88
9. “Lovesong” band Demo (instrumental) 09/88
10. “2late (alt Version)” band Demo (instrumental) 09/88
11. “The Same Deep Water As You” band Demo (instrumental) 09/88
12. “Disintegration” band Demo (instrumental) 09/88
13. “Untitled (alt Version)” studio Rough (instrumental) 11/88
14. “Babble (alt Version)” studio Rough (instrumental) 11/88
15. “Plainsong” studio Rough (guide Vocal) 11/88
16. “Last Dance” studio Rough (guide Vocal) 11/88
17. “Lullaby” studio Rough (guide Vocal) 11/88
18. “Out Of Mind” studio Rough (guide Vocal) 11/88
19. “Delirious Night” rough Mix (vocal) 12/88*
20. “Pirate Ships” (rs Solo) Rough Mix (vocal) 12/89*

All previously unreleased versions
(*Previously unreleased song)

Disc 3: Entreat Plus

1. “Plainsong”*
2. “Pictures Of You”
3. “Closedown”
4. “Lovesong”*
5. “Last Dance”
6. “Lullaby”*
7. “Fascination Street”
8. “Prayers For Rain”
9. “The Same Deep Water As You”*
10. “Disintegration”
11. “Homesick”
12. “Untitled”

Recorded live at Wembley Arena July, 1989; remixed by Rs 2009
(*Previously unreleased performance)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Unthought Known

The last weekend of our 9 months off has arrived. I can't believe it has gone so quickly. I start back to work on Monday, something in which I'm not particularly looking forward too. Who does look forward to work though? Unless you're one of those super fortunate people who are doing what you've always dreamed of.
Although maybe Bono wishes he didn't have to play a stupid gig tonight in Raleigh, NC in front of 60,000 screaming fans and Fernando Torres probably isn't too keen on having to silence 40,000 Chelsea fans this Sunday by scoring 2 in a 2-1 win for Liverpool.
It'll be all change when I go back to work, a new house to work in with different staff and different kids. A change is as good as a rest they say, although I've had plenty of rest. Still a change in our line of work is generally always a good thing. Nothing worse than dead wood or people getting stuck in their ways and subsequently failing to focus on how to help the kids we work with. That is the reason we're there in the first place but for some reason it can be very easy for people to take the focus off the young people and place it solely upon themselves. I pray that never happens to me, or if it does that someone slaps me back in to focus. I'll really have to have my attitude in shape on Monday morning, ready to go back full of enthusiasm and wanting to make a difference in the lives of the kids and perhaps some co-workers. Nothings worse than being with people in work and you know they hate being there, especially when the kids pick up on it more than anyone else. I'm determined to make a difference.
A couple of weeks ago we had to follow through on a decision we felt God had called us to make and tell our Pastor we were leaving the church we go to. To say that was hard would be a massive understatement. No need to go in to much detail but we know God has taken us on a journey and has been revealing certain gifts that both of us have and we want to be able to use them to their full potential. The church we were in can't facilitate that so we knew it was time to leave. The Pastor was so incredibly gracious and understanding. It was very humbling for him to be so kind and understanding in what must be a very difficult thing for him to hear. We don't leave with any sense of condemnation, we just know God is taking us on a journey that can't be facilitated where we were going to church. We completely respect how things are done there and that is another reason why we had to leave, we're not called to rebel against a churches way of functioning so it was with a heavy heart that we said goodbye. Of all the stuff that makes up a church it's the people we'll dearly miss. Especially the young one's we did youth group with. They're awesome and we wish we could still spend some time with them. But alas, things change and we want to follow where we feel God is calling us.
Our hearts are pretty tender at the moment!
We decided to head to Wexford for the week as it was my last week off. We had a great time. We got a super awesome deal with tasty breakfast and full use of the spa. Who would have though I'd be loving taking advantage of a spa in a hotel?! Plenty of beach walks and chilling out made for a lovely few days.
So a season is closing as a new one begins. We're ready for whatever God has for us and looking forward to the journey ahead. I can hear the sound of a new song coming from heaven...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

More sloppy wet kisses!!

I wrote about the line 'a sloppy wet kiss' a while ago here. Well John Mark McMillan has written his own take on the issue. He's the author of the song so he has a bit more authority to talk about it than me. Although he'd actually probably disagree with me there
it honestly doesn’t really belong to me, or Kim Walker, or David Crowder. It belongs to them (the listeners)


You can read what he has to say here. It's a great read and I'm glad he wrote about it. If you don't want to read the whole blog, his final words are:

I applaud David for changing the line to serve his people, and at the same time I boo the machinery that would cause him to have to do so.


I still have my own convictions and think if you're going to sing the song, sing the whole song and allow the true meaning of it to saturate you. What are we so afraid of??




"Polarize people. If you create something great you will create controversy. Better for people to love or hate your product than be indifferent to it."

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Morning songs...

I don't care what the world may say, I believe. I believe that you're more real than what my eyes, they can see.



Click here to listen to God of the Angel Armies

There are two songs that I put on first thing in the morning. 'You are Faithful' and 'God of the Angel Armies'. Particularly the latter which has has been my (our) soundtrack for the last few months. I can't get enough of the song. The only problem is it wrecks me. The raw honesty of Jonathan David Helser and his wife Melissa is heart wrenching in the best possible sense. When she sings "you didn't have to come, but you did and I'm thankful Lord" from the depths of her heart it gets mine everytime. The song is full of awesome truths about who our God is.
Don't listen to the song in the background, plug your headphones in click on the link to hear the full song and let it minister to you. Believe the truths of what he sings about, all 15 minutes worth of it!!

The other song that's getting me at the moment is 'You Are Faithful' which is on the new Jesus Culture album 'Consumed', it's sung by Kim Walker-Smith. Check out the clip on youtube (click here if you're reading this on facebook). It needs no explanation.

I'll keep trusting you...for I know You are faithful, my God.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Have you met Him?


while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him

This is possibly the one verse in scripture that most encapsulates the Father Heart of God. Jesus is telling a story that we now call the prodigal son. It should be called the rejoicing Father. The story has somewhat to do with the Son but everything to do with a Fathers heart for his boy.
So often Christians preach about a God who loves conditionally. He only loves us when we have it all together, when we are fulfilling our religious duties or when we are on our knees full of shame at what horrible wretches we are. Here Jesus turns that up on it's head. He paints a picture of a Father standing on the balcony of heaven peering down waiting, yearning for his kids to come home. Waiting for his kids to realise he is the source of all love, joy, peace and hope.
It must drive Jesus nuts at how wrong we get his Father. Consistently one of my favourite verses is 2 Corinthians 5:17-19.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Jesus came to reconcile man to God, not God to man. God didn't have to have his mind changed about us. He didn't have to be convinced to love us. Jesus came to point us to the Father he talks about in this parable. A Father who loves us unconditionally. A Father yearning for his kids to turn to him.
We often think, and tragically are often taught that God has one hand on the smite button, waiting to gladly send us to the pit of hell. Just waiting for us to screw up so he can say 'See, I told you they deserve my wrath!". The son thought this and was coming back to his Father with a nicely rehearsed religious prayer. He thinks his sorrow and repentance will open the door to his Fathers heart. Maybe a huge dose of humility and a lot of repenting and weeping and wailing will maybe, just maybe get him a job with the servants and a bed in the stable. He comes back to his Father with his nice religious prayer
Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

What happens next is astounding. The message translation says
But the Father wasn't listening

It's not about us, it's not about what we do. It's about the Father. It's about the Father who didn't want to hear his kids religious prayer, he just wanted him home. It's about a Father who ran to his boy, threw his arms around him and kissed him. It's about a Father who shouts
"MY SON'S COME HOME, LET'S THROW A PARTY FOR HIM!!!"

That's who God is. Yes sin is drastic and can keep us away from the Father but guess what? He's peering down from heaven waiting and longing for his kids to come home. Staying away from God because of our sin means we don't know the heart of our Father. While we were still sinners Christ died for us, we don't have to have it all together. In fact he know's we won't but again, guess what? He loves us anyway. He loves us. We don't come to the Father to escape the fiery pit of hell, we come to the Father because he's our Father, because he's jealous for us, because he's mad about us and we make his heart leap when we think about Him and it does the same when he thinks about us. He really is that good.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Teenstreet




It's pretty hard to cram two weeks of awesomeness into one blog, nevermind the fact that it's been two weeks since we got home from the aforementioned two weeks.
What is teenstreet you may ask? First of all it's the worst possible name for a christian conference ever, especially if you need to find information on it and you type 'teen street' into google; never a good idea.
What it actually is is a conference for teenagers across Europe to come and hang out with 3,500 other teenagers who share their faith in Jesus. It's purpose is to equip them to run the race of faith and also to impact those around them when they go home. It's not just a case of 'fill us up' but it's a case of 'fill us up; send us out'.
Myself and Jane went a week early with about 15 or so others to pray, worship and prepare for the main week. When I say 15 others, that was just the program team. There were probably a few hundred others there preparing and setting up for the week. It's a big set up preparing for the invasion of 3,500 teenagers!
It was such a huge blessing to be able to spend time with such awesome people seeking the heart of God for what he wanted to share with the teenagers. God being the amazing Father that he is poured his heart out on us incredibly during that first week. Speaking words of truth to us and reminding us what he thinks of us. I just wanted to pour my heart out to him for who he is, what he's done and what he will do, yet time and time again he just blesses us. He loves to bless his kids. It had been a while since I'd been able to be the lead worshipper for a group of people so it was a real precious time for me to be in the presence of God surrounded by people who are chasing after Him too.
Usually the week itself takes lumps out of us; it's nonstop and can be a tough time serving at such a high pace. Yet, this year there was a different atmosphere. Peace reigned. The team having such incredible hearts was a huge factor in this, but also God answered our prayers and made it easier than it's ever been, for me and Jane anyway. It wasn't without it's difficulties, yet they paled into insignificance when we saw what God was doing in the lives of the teens.
The speaking was off the charts. Josh & Deb did a truly incredible job of sharing God's heart with the teens, as did Luke, Aimee and Dan. I had the awesome privilege of leading the worship on the Wednesday and Thursday nights. It was an honour to be able to facilitate that many people coming into the presence of God. He was so present and I know he was pleased with our worship.
During the week we also had the opportunity to facilitate chat rooms. They're a time when the teens can come and chat about certain topics. It's not a seminar as the aim is to give the teens a chance to input and to have their say and also ask questions. I love them. The ones I did where ones very close to my heart. They were 'Worship', 'How to hear from God' and 'Where's God when it hurts'. They were great times.
From the chat rooms to the times of prayer I had with the teens to the chats with other program team members, for me it seemed like the overarching theme through everything was God revealing his Father heart to his kids. Revealing who he truly is and what he thinks of us and these kids who are cherished in his sight. It was amazing to hear God speak so clearly to some of the kids (and also to some of our team!), things that only he could know and it was a real honour that he used amongst others, Jane and I to speak into their lives. God also healed people of various afflictions and it was so awesome to witness and be apart of that too. I think it rocked a few people but I'm learning more and more that the more you experience God the more he rocks your theology and the more you know Him the more there is to know! He's that big, awesome and good!


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pearl Jam, o2 London, August 18th 2009


The morning after the Manchester show we got the train to London and had the awesome pleasure of hanging out with our friends Roly & Paula and Meg. We sat and chatted over a tasty coffee. It was such a treat to get to see them and we were stoked they made the effort to come hang with us for a couple of hours.

The show itself was a notch up from the night before. They were so tight and on form. Any show that starts with 'Release' is going to be a good one! Never mind following 'Release' with 'Animal', 'Corduroy', 'Why Go', 'Small Town' and 'Immortality'. Yowza. The crowd was quite different than the night before. In Manchester it seemed like everyone had grown up, gotten married and where content to chill out, sing out and enjoy the show. The London crowd where a little younger and a little more boisterous. Not necessarily a bad thing as the band seemed to get a buzz out of it and made sure that everyone was ok, even getting everyone to take three steps back at one stage to make sure everyone was good at the front. They seemed to play forever, going over curfew by 20 minutes which was sweet. The only thing missing from the show was my mate Hoey. Highlights were the opening 5 songs. 'I Got I.D' (love that song), 'Rats' so good to hear that song. He dedicated it to "someone who was going to be playing here" which is Micheal Jackson due to the 'Ben' reference at the end of the song. 'Whipping', 'Light Years' dedicated to a friend who passed away the day before, 'Insignificance', 'Blood'; that was raucous. 'Hail, Hail' in the encore, awesome. 'Footsteps', 'Leaving Here', 'Porch', a bangin version' and 'Yellow Ledbetter'. Man, pretty much the whole gig was a highlight. 28 awesome songs. 47 different songs between both nights makes the trip more than worth it. Here's the setlist.

Release
Animal
Corduroy
Why Go
Small Town
Immortality
The Fixer
Even Flow
I Got I.D.
Rats
Got Some
Whipping
Light Years
Insignificance
Black
Life Wasted
Blood/Atomic Dog
-----------------
Supersonic
Hail Hail
Footsteps
Love, Reign O'er Me
Do The Evolution
Alive
-----------------
Better Man/(Save It For Later)
Crazy Mary
Leaving Here
Porch
Yellow Ledbetter

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Pearl Jam, Manchester, August 17th 2009



Pearl Jam have consistently held the crown of being my favourite band ever since my friends in school Aido and Bago introduced them to me when I was a 13 year old with the dodgiest undercut known to man. They didn't grace Ireland on their short European tour so I got tickets to see them across the water. Mind you I probably would have done that if they were playing Ireland anyway. The thing that's so great about a Pearl Jam show is that you have no idea what they're going to play. Gone are the days when I wanted them to play the rarest song ever at the show I was at, purely so I could say I was there. I just want them to play an awesome setlist and rock my face off. They duly obliged. Jane, who wouldn't be as enamored with all things Pearl Jam as I am came with me, mainly due to her awesomeness in wanting to share something that was a big deal for me. She gained a new appreciated for how good they are. The night was mildly marred by sound problems with vocals and guitars but Pearl Jam aren't exactly known for hitting every note right and for some reason that definitely endeared them to Jane. Eddie Vedder has a tendency to forget lyrics and the band managed to screw up the end of 'Go', a song which they've played over 250 times.
Highlights for me where 'Last Exit', 'Why Go', 'All Night', 'In Hiding', 'Sleight Of Hand', 'Given To Fly', 'Go', 'Smile' and 'Leash'. All of it was awesome really. It was fun to see Eddie interact so much with the crowd, chatting to the front row and dedicating 'Smile' to a girl who had been to 70 shows and giving her his harmonica afterwards. Super glad we went.
Here's the setlist...

Long Road
Last Exit
Why Go
All Night
The Fixer
Low Light
In Hiding
World Wide Suicide
Not For You
Evenflow
Present Tense
Save You
Grievance
Sleight Of Hand
Got Some
Given To Fly
Rearviewmirror
----------------
Go
Daughter
Do The Evolution
Alive
----------------
Smile
Black
Leash
The Real Me
Indifference

Sunday, July 26, 2009

U2 Croke Park, Dublin, 25 July 2009.



2nd night of U2's 3 night stand in Dublin was a very different experience to the first night. Jane & I and Alan & Ruth (brother & sister in-law) went and as the ladies where with us we had seated tickets. It's interesting how different it is. Being in the pit feels like you're part of the whole experience and your focus is completely on the band and even if they play a dud song (like Desire or Angel of Harlem) you feel caught up in the moment. However when you're siting it's more like watching a show. An amazing show at that but you're more of a spectator than a participant I felt. Things I couldn't take in the first night like the pure spectacle that the show really is, from the lights, to the stage, to the mirror balls and the 79,999 other people in the stadium that you could see rockin it out. It was awesome watching the whole pitch jump up and down to Beautiful Day and Vertigo. It was so cool to be there with our ladies and to be able to see the show in a whole different way to the Friday show. I also got to see a girl from work Eithne before the show who I hadn't seen in 7 months which was great. Nice to have someone from home tell me they like my beard for a change!!
The setlist on Friday was definitely better for me due to them playing Until the End of the World and Bad, but hearing 80,000 people sing the first verse and chorus of I Still Haven't Found... without help from the band was awesome and In a Little While is a cracking little tune. I was stoked to hear Unknown Caller which is an outstanding track from the new album.
One last thing, Moment of Surrender is the best song on the new album and is one of their finest but for some reason it doesn't work as a closer. Also interesting that the encore is nearly the same as a whole stretch of the Zoo TV tour 17 years ago, which had Ultra Violet, With Or Without You and Love Is Blindness.
Mondays show will be awesome. Hope everyone who's going loves it. Here's the setlist from Saturday.

1. Breathe
2. No Line On The Horizon
3. Get On Your Boots
4. Magnificent
5. Beautiful Day / Here Comes The Sun (Snippet)
6. Mysterious Ways
7. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For / Stand By Me (Snippet)
8. Angel Of Harlem / Don't Stop Til You Get Enough (Snippet)
9. In A Little While
10. Unknown Caller
11. Unforgettable Fire
12. City of Blinding Lights / Rain (Snippet)
13. Vertigo / Thunderstruck (Snippet)
14. I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight (Remix) / Come All Ye Faithful (Snippet)
15. Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rock The Casbah (Snippet)
16. Pride (In The Name Of Love)
17. MLK
18. Walk On / You'll Never Walk Alone (Snippet)
19. Where The Streets Have No Name
20. One

Encore:
21. Ultraviolet
22. With Or Without You
23. Moment of Surrender



Saturday, July 25, 2009

U2 Croke Park, Dublin, 24 July 2009.



Amazing show last night. Never thought I'd say it was worth queuing up at 3:30 to get in to a concert but as we got into the pit it was definitely well worth it. We had an amazing view and the whole set up has to be seen to really get what a spectacle it is. The stage is awesome. Highlights for me where No Line..., Until The End Of The World, City Of Blinding Lights, Streets, 40/Bad and Ultra Violet. Will be sitting tonight which will be a whole different experience. Can't wait.

1. Breathe
2. No Line on the Horizon
3. Get On Your Boots
4. Magnificent
5. Beautiful Day/Blackbird (snippet)
6. Elevation
7. Desire
8. Stuck In A Moment
9. The Auld Triangle (cover)
10. One / Do You Hear Us Coming Lord (probably)
11. Until The End of the World
12. The Unforgettable Fire
13. City of Blinding Lights
14. Vertigo
15. Crazy remix
16. Sunday Bloody Sunday / Rocking the Casbah (snippet)
17. Pride (In the Name of Love)
18. MLK
19. Walk On/ You'll Never Walk Alone (snippet)
20. Where the Streets Have No Name / All You Need Is Love (snippet)
21. 40 (snippet)/ Bad / 40 (snippet)


22. Ultraviolet (Light My Way)
23. With or Without You
24. Moment of Surrender

Monday, July 20, 2009

U2 360 dream setlist

This weekend the U2 spaceship rolls into town. I used to have a love hate relationship with them until they broke my pride on the Vertigo tour when I saw them live for the first time. Now it's just pure love, much to the amusement of my brother who was trying to convince me for years to give them a chance. I'll be going to the gigs on Friday and Saturday with him, it'll be fun for me to watch him wet his pants watching his favourite band. I asked him to post his dream setlist which is here. Below is mine, in order and ready to blow my face off.

Zoo Station
Magnificent
City Of Blinding Lights
Mofo
I Will Follow
Vertigo
Do You Feel Loved
A Day Without Me
The Unforgettable Fire
The First Time
Grace
Red Hill Mining Town
If God Will Send His Angels
Running To Stand Still
Stay (Faraway, So Close)
Pride (In The Name Of Love)
Walk On
The Moment Of Surrender

Ultra Violet (light my way)
Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses
Bad
With Or Without You

Where The Streets Have No Name
Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me
Until The End Of The World
The Ground Beneath Her Feet
Yahweh
‘40'

Friday, July 17, 2009

Home

We're home! The morning after we arrived home when we awoke Jane turned to me and said 'feels like it was a dream doesn't it?'. It did as I can't believe 6 months went by so quickly and that our time away far surpassed anything we could possibly have imagined.
It's strange being home, in so many ways it seems like nothing has changed while at the same time so much in us has changed.
We spent the last week of our trip in Houston, Texas with awesome friends. It was so great to see what God is doing through them and the impact they're having for the sake of his Kingdom. One of the ministries they are involved in is rescuing kids from extremely unhealthy (in all sense of the word) situations whether that is working alongside the mothers and empowering them to be better parents or prayerfully taking them and placing them in either temporary or full time foster placements. While we were there we got to see God rescue two kids from a truly awful situation and place them in a foster home that will nurture them and love them. It was amazing to see God's hand in it all and how our friends are being so evidently used and self sacrificial. We also got to do planning meetings for Teen Street the conference myself and Jane help out with in Germany. It was so great to see what God has been speaking to Josh and Debs about what he wants them to say to the teenagers. We're looking forward to being a part of what He wants to do and hopefully to impact some lives!
Apart from all our friends in North Houston we also got to catch up with Hoey and Kara in downtown Houston. It was more than awesome to get to spend time with them. Hoey was my housemate for a few years until we both got married! He's now living in the states so it was great to get to spend time with him and his lovely wife. Mighty banter and precious times. His mom and dad where visiting as well so we got to party on the 4th of July with them which was great.
Being home and getting to see family again has been wonderful. We feel like we could have stayed away for plenty more time but we did miss seeing our families and close friends so that's been a great thing about coming home. We're also making sure we don't see this as the end of a season but as the beginning of a new one. We know for sure that God is stirring something here and we're excited to be a part of what He's going to do. What exactly that is we don't know, but we do know we're hungry for His presence and that He's going to do more than we could possibly imagine.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Kingdom Culture

It is so difficult to put into words the experience of this past week. I'll try but I won't capture what it truly meant to us in a blog.
We spent the first part of the week chilling out in the super cheap but super awesome hotel we stayed in. It was so relaxing, despite the fact that it was 110f, that's 43 celsius. The main reason we went to Redding for a week was to get to go to Bethel (church) for a weekend to get a real picture of the church and then to attend the 'Kingdom Culture' conference from the Wednesday to the Friday.
Bill Johnson, Kris Vallatton, Danny Silk and Steve Thompson spoke and worship was led by Kim Walker, Chris Quilala, Kristene Mueller and Brian & Jen Johnson. Could you get a better line up? The main focus of the conference was understanding the nature of God which will help us be a people who live with a kingdom mindset 24/7. Bill, Kris and Danny are incredibly gifted communicators and blew me away with their hearts, their love for Jesus and their honesty. Those guys were raw. I've never heard anyone be as raw and real from the pulpit as Kris Vallotton. Telling us the most intimate heartbreaking story about his family to help us get a picture of what it truly is to be a people who love like Jesus.
Danny Silk spoke about who our Father in heaven really is and how our relationship with our earthly Fathers effect how we view our Father in heaven. We think it doesn't but it does. I've heard this before but he explained it in such a fresh way and it was so refreshing to hear someone talk about my Dad in heaven and for me to be able to amen it all the way through. Knowing what our Father God is truly like can help us know his heart for people and to strip ourselves of judgement and to love unrelenting. He is good and the perfect picture of love.
Bill Johnson took the Thursday and it was definitely a heaven on earth moment. In a nutshell God told him very specifically about an illness someone had and he had people pray for them. They got healed and then all these other people around the room started getting healed. Like proper healed. Deaf people being able to hear, blind people seeing, club feet healed, ligaments restored, tumours gone. It was amazing. Overwhelming to see the power of God on display like that.
Myself and Jane were able to get in on the act too!! He called out infertility and both of us heard very clearly from the holy spirit that people near us had this issue so we asked them was it true. They said yes which confirmed for us that 1. We actually do hear the voice of God and 2. He wanted to heal her. We had the most awesome prayer time and we know without a doubt that she was healed. It was outrageous. Have I said before that never again will I entertain someone tell me that God doesn't heal these days?! There is power in the testimony and I'll be using mine!
Friday night's worship was like a symphony of heaven. At one stage the band stopped playing and there was a sound around the room that was no doubt angels singing with us. It was mind blowing. I was just singing my own thing to God and he told me to stop singing and take in the moment. The same happened to Jane. I can't describe what it was like to know that we were literally joining with heaven singing praise to God.
It was so encouraging to be immersed in a culture for a week where it seemed like all the stuff we've been learning and all the experiences we've been having made sense. God is that good, real and alive and wanting to truly impact peoples lives in a tangible supernatural way.
What made the conference even more special was having the awesome pleasure of getting to hang out with two friends Dave and Emily from home who came by for the Thursday and Friday. They were traveling up the west coast and figured Bethel would be a good pit stop. I'm fairly certain they enjoyed it as much as we did and we were hugely blessed to meet like minded people from home and to get to chat and hang out together. The banter was mighty. Also got to meet a guy called Wes who is coming to Ireland to pray. No reason, except that God told him to. We had great fun with him and are looking forward to having the banter when he comes to Ireland in August. We also got to be reunited with some great folks we met in Wanaka Jeanie and Alistair.
There is so much more I could write about but I think you get the jist that it was truly an amazing time. So often we get the impression that churches like Bethel are crazy and weird but in some ways it was the most normal church atmosphere I've ever been in. All they want to do is allow God to move and invite people to experience Him in an atmosphere of absolute awe and worship of who God really is.
The last two days we've spent driving 10 hours each day on our way to Houston. Currently we're staying overnight in El Paso while the biggest electrical storm I've ever seen is going on outside. It's awesome in the true sense of the word.
We're so excited to be able to get to spend time with our friends in Houston. It'll be well worth the 1,500 mile drive.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A sloppy wet kiss??

So I'm not sure if you've all heard the song 'How He Loves' by John Mark McMillan. It has been made famous by Jesus Culture from Bethel Church in Redding; I posted about it here and here. The lyrics are below. I love the song, it carries such weight and is definitely being used by God to bring people into an encounter with his heart. We listen to it all the time, switching between Jesus Culture version and John Mark McMillan's version. I prefer the former, Jane prefers the later.
Anyways, the reason I write this is the line in the song 'heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss'. I'll be facilitating worship at a conference for teenagers in a few weeks and I definitely want to sing this song and I've been talking to Jane about whether to sing that line or change it or skip the verse or what to do.
I know some churches skip the second verse, but that's not an option for me. Way too powerful to leave out and dilutes the song for me. The second option is to change the lyric. I know one church sings 'heaven meets earth with a passionate kiss' which is a relatively good compromise and one in which I was considering, THEN I heard David Crowder Bands version of the song and they changed the lyric to 'heaven meets earth with an unforeseen kiss' and it killed me. I was so disappointed that they would take the song and change the lyrics and release it to the general public. It's like a slap in the face to John Mark McMillan. Hey we dig your song but your theology is a little off so we're gonna change the lyrics and release it ourselves. Maybe I'm reading too much into it and maybe I was just annoyed because they did such a terrible version of the song. Seriously, they butcher it in my opinion. You can hear it here. I should add that I'm a big fan of David Crowder Band so I was really hoping I'd love it.
Hearing their version made me want to never change the words. I love the imagery, the poetry of a Father embracing a child. The image of my brother picking up his son and giving him this big huge kiss that affirms his son and it's nearly like nothing Andrew can do can get him out of it. He thinks he doesn't want it but it's so overwhelming and full of love and sincerity that he can't but rest and let his daddy kiss him and love him. That's what our daddy in heaven wants to do with us, overwhelm us with his love and passionately embrace us.
As a worship leader my roll is to lead people into the presence of God and I don't want anything to get in the way of people encountering their saviour hence my seeking wisdom on what to do with this song. I also think that maybe half the leaders at the conference will take issue with the lyric so there's also that to deal with as I'm not one to rebel for rebellion sake. I may end up changing it so as to make it easier for people to agree with/sing with but it will pain my heart that I have to dumb down such a beautiful image.


He is jealous for me
Love's like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy
When all of a sudden, I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
and I realize just how beautiful You are and how great Your affections are for me.
Oh, how He loves us so
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us so.

Yeah, He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves.

So we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If grace is an ocean we're all sinking
So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don't have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way

That He loves us,
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves us
Woah, how He loves

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Encountering the Father


Mammoth was such a rich part of our journey so far. God's hand was so evidently upon us in bringing us to that place. Mike and Karen who we stayed with are such kingdom people. We loved staying with them and I hope we can return the favour when they hit Ireland one day. Or else we'll just have to go back for a snowboarding holiday. We had some great conversations and it was so encouraging to talk to older wiser people in the faith. We had a great night with Dave and Stevie the pastors of the church, on Thursday night. Their heart for people is so tangible and their wisdom and intimacy with God is wonderful.
We had a great chat about how it seems like so much of the church is chasing after knowing about God and studying Him and defining Him when in fact life is about knowing and encountering Him. Of course studying about him and so on can be extremely beneficial but information will never lead to transformation. That's why so many Christians constantly struggle with their walks. They haven't gotten the fact that Jesus has saved them from their heads into their hearts. They are still repenting for sins they did 10 years ago because they don't really know in their hearts that they have been forgiven. They think that God wants them to be good when in fact Jesus paid the price to make us glorious. God is a relational God who is so much more than a book.
We've been really enjoying using cataphatic prayer lately, engaging with Jesus in our imaginations as Paul encourages us to do in scripture. I struggled with prayer for so long because I felt like I was praying to a wall and an empty space whereas now I sit and picture Jesus and actually talk to Him, and guess what? He talks back. He has been saying the most incredible stuff to myself and Jane lately, one thing that also sticks out is he is a funny man!! Greg Boyd's book Seeing Is Believing and his latest 'Animate' series that he has preached on has really helped me develop a desire to allow Jesus move the things I know about Him from my head to my heart so I can actually experience those things. It's very hard to act like Jesus when we haven't experienced his acts in our lives.


Currently we're in Bethel Church, Redding and we are loving it. We were so excited about going to church to encounter Jesus and we did. It was awesome. In the morning Brian and Jen Johnson led the worship which was fantastic. Bill Johnson preached and it was exceptional. Man that guy knows the heart of God and communicates it so well. He spoke about the difference between walking in the ways of God and walking in the acts of God. Seeing the acts of God is amazing, exciting and a huge testimony, however sometimes these can take away our focus from the ways of God. Actually just focusing on who he is, because of who he is. Life is all about intimacy with our Father in Heaven, from that place of course he will act but that is not why we surrender to Him, we do it because he is God and he deserves everything we have.
The evening worship was led by Chris Quilala and Kristene Meuller and again it was exceptional and Ray Hughes spoke. He was so funny and his message was fantastic. He spoke about revival and how it is so misunderstood. It is not about trying to recreate a movement but is about letting God be God and a group of passionate warriors seeking his face in the quiet place which will lead to a quiet rising of an army that will war in the heavens to see his will done on earth as it is in heaven.
During the service some two different randomers came up to Jane and gave her the same word straight from the heart of God as well as after the service another randomer came up to Jane and gave her the very same word. It was so encouraging for her and awesome to see how God speaks so very very clearly. Incredibly prophetic words were said to me aswell that could only have been from God. It's so cool being in an atmosphere where God speaks so clearly.
We have a couple of days to chill out here before the conference starts on Wednesday. I'm expecting a cracking time with God and to see some more miracles to take back home with us.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

yo-yosemite


We've had a great couple of days. The couple we are staying with are the nicest people and we've had some really great chats with them. Hospitality is definitely one of the best kingdom things we can do. They are people who dearly love Jesus and it resonates. Their daughter even had words for us over dinner straight from the Fathers heart. It's been great here!
Tuesday we had a lovely day. We drove up to the lakes to spend time with Jesus and he showed up in a very real and tangible way separately to us. The stuff he said is for us to hold on to but we were so encouraged and I was so overwhelmed and still am at how Jesus keeps speaking to us in such concrete ways. He also made me laugh so hard, he has an amazing sense of humour!

Tuesday evening we went to the churches prayer & worship meeting and it was so cool. Turns out that part of what Jesus said to me earlier that day was an interpretation of a ladies dream in the church. We were both asked in the middle of worship to pray for the church. Both myself and Jane turned to each other and said 'Do you have anything to say?, cause I don't!" God then spoke very directly to Jane about what she was to say and then right before we were to pray he did the same to me. It was super exciting to see Jane continually being used in a prophetic way to speak very directly into peoples lives and in this case a church. A couple who are leaving the states to move to Hawaii were prayed for and God spoke outrageously clearly into their live and also used us to do so, things in which we could have never known, God said through us. It was so humbling and encouraging. It breaks my heart that people are so afraid of God speaking today, limiting his voice only to the scriptures. He's so much bigger than that, and more importantly he's so much more relational than that.
Yesterday we went to Yosemite National Park which is just astounding. It's 1,200 square miles of wonder. Waterfalls, granite cliffs, meadows, streams, bears, mountain lions; you get the picture. We just walked around and drove around for the day marveling at God's creation. It was spectacular. Apparently it's also a rock climbers dream - those guys are crazy. We got to chat to one of them and look through his telescope at his friends who where on their third day of a five day climb to the top of 'El Capitan'. Rather them than me!
Tonight we're going to the Pastors of the church for dinner which we're really looking forward to and then on to Bethel tomorrow, sweet!!!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mammoth Lighthouse



After we left Vegas we figured we'd go one better than there and hit Death Valley. It's pretty much exactly what it says. A valley of death. Barren desert type land with scorching heat. It was cool enough to drive through but we've definitely seen better. Good to see the dry and arid places demons go to when they're cast out of people! It's not a place you'd want to run out of petrol in.

We had organised a place to stay in a town near enough to Death Valley which looked cool but for some reason when we turned to go towards that town Jane told me that we were not to go there. My tiredness from driving wasn't exactly enamored with her direction but as I know God speaks to her I figured I'd listen so we drove on for another two hours and ended up in a place called Lone Pine. While there we figured out that a town we had really wanted to visit but thought was all the way up in north california was only an hour and a half away. It's a place called Mammoth Lakes and is the original plant of the Lighthouse church we visited in New Zealand. We were so amazed at God's hand in leading us there despite google maps telling us it was near Oregon. Turns out there's a Mammoth and a Mammoth lakes, we had been searching for the former.

We stayed a night in Lone Pine and then drove to Mammoth which is a cute little skiing/snowboarding town with happens to have a great coffee shop! It's surprisingly high up and surprisingly cold. It had been 110 in Death Valley and today it was 50 degrees in Mammoth, that's a big difference. We booked into the cheapest place we coould find which happened to be a motel. First night Jane was pretty freaked so we prayed for God's protection and BAM I totally know he sent an angel to stand guard at our door. A big ass angel with pythons of steal and a sword that would take down anything that came at him!! I had a vision of all these demons that had been allowed into the room before rushing towards the door but as soon as they caught sight of the angel they fled. Jane went straight to sleep. It was cool. Weird but cool.

Today we drove to the lakes and walked around, it was so nice and peaceful to be out of a city. Tonight we had the awesome pleasure of going to the Lighthouse church. It was so great to be around people who dearly love Jesus. It was so encouraging to hear testimonies of miracles God has done and is doing and to hear people have words for each other. You can tell that the Pastors have such wonderful hearts for people and just want people to encounter Jesus. Not to just know about Him but to actually experience Him and know Him and to feel his love and hear his voice. We got to share briefly who we are. God gave me a word for the evening which I wasn't going to share until Jane turned to me and said 'do you have a word to share?'. I figured as I was a visitor it could have been inappropriate or whatever but I guess God told Jane to tell me to stop being self-conscious and to actually speak what he was telling me to say. It was exciting to again hear God's voice, act on it (with Janes prompting - she's good at that and especially good at hearing God's voice and knowing it's Him) and know it was actually the God of the universe speaking and using us to do it. Awesome.
It was great to chat to people after and really encouraging. One lady super generously asked us to come stay with her and her family for a few days. That's what kingdom people do! We felt so welcomed. Unfortunately we won't be staying at this lighthouse for 7 weeks, but we'll stay till Thursday, then hit Yosemite National Park and then up to Bethel Church in Redding. Good good times.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

God Bless America

It's always a great Friday at TGI Fridays, would you like a margarita for the lady and a 20oz Guinness to start for yourself sir?


It was 10am on a Wednesday morning and we were getting breakfast.


Two words...stranger. danger.


I was browsing through cd's while Jane was window shopping when I saw a kid looking for a specific song by a band. He picked up the wrong cd and told his friend it was the one they were looking for. I turned to them and said it wasn't the cd they were looking for and I found the proper one and handed it to them. I've never been looked at like I was a pedophile before and I don't want to experience it again! The irony is, they were delighted I found them the real cd. punks.



Blind man: "I'll have the burger please"

Waiter: "Sure. You must have sat too close to the tv as a kid!"

Blind man: "I didn't have a tv".

Waiter: 'ok'.


Lovely couple across from us in a restaurant. Did the waiter not realise that asking a blind man who was about 70 did he sit too close to the tv to bring on his blindness would be highly inappropriate.
I nearly spat out my diet coke and Jane nearly choked on her baked potato. Outstanding.


Irate Customer to waitress talking about the manager: She's lucky I know Jesus because I'd go right over there and tell her what a b***h she was!


That just made us plain angry. If you knew Jesus you wouldn't talk like that and you'd realise that maybe the manager has stuff going on for her which should make you try to love her even more. They refused to tip the manager who was their waitress and tipped the other girl who didn't serve them at all. This makes me never want to call myself a Christian. There are way too many bad representations of Christ around. It was slightly amusing to see the woman have to come back in to retrieve her phone she left behind from the manager. The manager was nice to her.


Waitress: "So where are you guys from?"

Us: "Ireland"

Waitress: "Oh I knew it was Australia or England. It's the same island anyway".


Same island? I ignored the fact that Australia and England are on two completely different continents and just thought about the fact that somehow Ireland and England are on the same island? If only she knew our history!



Information person on Las Vegas Boulevard "Where are you guys staying?"

Me: "Sam's Town Hotel. Where all the weird locals seem to hang out!".

Lady: "My sister lives near there, are you saying she's weird?"

Me: "Eh...they're not all weird!?"


They are in fact ALL weird. Bless their cotton socks, but they were the definition of carney folk.


English man at a bar: "You're from Ireland? Do an Irish dance"

Jane: "ha, ha (awkward) eh...didle de dee potatoes!"

English man: "ha ha you didn't have any potatoes during the famine did you?"

awkward silence...Me: "that's offensive, and you're English so you need to back off when talking about our tragic history when you caused most of it".


I think I was more offensive! I guess Irish Blood runs thick in me. Both my grand fathers would have been proud of me. Not sure if that's a good thing though! Makes me order baked potatoes instead of chips out of solidarity now. Nice to see those beautiful creations in their full glory.


Pastor in church in Las Vegas "if you tithe to us you'll prosper financially"

Us: "huh?"


That one always amuses me. Takes some amazing hermeneutics to come up with that one.

Me after opening the door for the millionth time for someone and them ignoring me as they walk past "YOU'RE WELCOME, you ignorant yolk". (capitals said out loud, lower caps whispered to myself).


I know calling them an ignorant yolk under my breath is not a very kingdom act. I'm in constant repentance for that one, but it is one of my irks - at least say thanks, or tell me you didn't want me to open the door for you, just don't ignore me. Jane sometimes forgets to whisper her annoyance.


homeless man "Your beard is awesome"

Me: "Thanks dude and yes it is. Real men grow beards. I hope to have one like yours someday."

Homeless man: "Maybe someday".


That someday is arriving sooner than I thought. This is not an invitation for comments about my beard. You say you don't like my beard, I say I don't like your face. That dude's beard was awesome. In fact, he was a cool guy. Jane agrees with me that real men grow beards. Sweet.


Denny's waitress: "How do you like your eggs?"

Jane: "huh?"

Denny's waitress: "sunny side, scrambled, over easy, poached, hard boiled (I'm sure there were more I can't think of right now).

Jane: "I'd just like an egg please"


That needs no explanation. She got a scrambled one.


Starbucks barista: "What can I get you?"

Jane: "tea please"

Starbucks barista: "green, black, herbal infusion..."

Jane: "I'll have a normal tea please"

"Starbucks barista: "They're all normal"

Jane: "black?"

Starbucks barista: "Hot or cold"

Jane: "hot"

Starbucks barista: "room for cream"

Jane: "cream? Who puts cream in tea? If you mean milk, then yeah"

Starbucks barista: "What size?"

Jane: "small"

Starbucks barista: "You mean tall?"

Jane: "Yeah. I'd just like a tall black tea with room for milk please.

Starbucks: "No problem. You can collect it at the counter. Have a nice day"

Jane to me: "Can it be that difficult to order a tea?"

Me: "I didn't think so".


The next customer accustomed to the elite starbucks ordering club asked for the following drink or something very similar to it:

"Can I have a Decaf, Triple shot, Grande, Sugar free vanilla, 2% milk, Extra white mocha, Extra hot, No whip, No foam, Extra drizzle (chocolate), Marble mocha macchiato please?"

Starbucks barista: "Sure, no problem!"


It put it all in context and made us realise that yes it can be that difficult to articulate you drink order at starbucks!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Liva, Vas Legas




Our Vegas experience is over. All glitz but we didn’t find any glam. Actually to say it’s all glitz is a gross exaggeration, there’s a bit of glitz but it’s moniker really should be ‘Las Vegas: All hopelessness and despair, with deviance and infirmity thrown in for good measure!”.

If we though last week in Santa Barbara was a slight culture shock, this week has been like a punch in the face. Las Vegas is all the worst things America has to offer all thrown in together with huge spiritual oppression hanging over the whole city. Every day we’ve really had a sense of sadness that has been all over this city, especially Jane. So many people overweight, in wheelchairs, unkempt, rude, obnoxious and with sadness in their eyes. We got a sense that God really has a heart for this place but it’s really going to take spiritual warriors to rise up and take authority in the heavenly realms to break strongholds and open up the heavens so that the living waters of Jesus can rush through this place and wash it clean. Practically people just so desperately need to be treated like they have worth, like they actually matter to God and to his children. And also that gambling isn’t going to solve any of their inner issues. Even if they hit the biggest jackpot in town, it’s not going to help. As cliche as it sounds, they need Jesus and not just the golden ticket to heaven Jesus, they need holistic healing Jesus who cares more for them than they can possibly imagine. Our hearts broke for this place.

Having said that, we did have fun in the midst of it. Fun in our usual way, finding somewhere to have a coffee and chat! I also got to play my guitar which has been great. The place we stayed in was super low budget but actually great. A hotel with a giant casino, a cinema, bowling alley, mcdonalds, dunkin donuts, subway, tgi fridays and plenty more for 20 euro a night is definitely a one of a kind experience! Under my encouragement Jane put a dollar in a machine and won 18 dollars - very entertaining. The next time she put a dollar in of course she won nothing but the third time, she won 24 dollars.

We took a walk down the length of the strip on our second to last night so we could take plenty of photo’s. Some of the casino’s where nice but really once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all. No one is really dressed up that well, mostly shorts. All the way down the strip are guys giving out cards for ladies of the night. So disturbing that guys walking with their girlfriends/wives take the cards and put them in their pockets. Hello!!!? Your wife is worth so much more than that. The guys had no shame trying to give me a card with Jane right beside me. Mingers.

On Sunday we got to go to a local church here. I think they had possibly the best communion I have had at church. Not the taste of it - no one can get the juice right and they had mingin wafers but that’s probably one of those things christians never discuss: how communion elements usually taste awful (Grosvenors bread is usually pretty nice though!). There was real victory to the taking of communion rather than the usual downcast feeling there is to communion. Not that there isn’t a place for reflection in communion, however it was a nice refreshing way to celebrate it. My friend Hoey would have loved it as he talks well about how communion doesn’t always have to be a ‘sad’ moment. The service was great until an hour and 15 minutes into it when the assistant pastor got up to speak. He finished 45 minutes later. He was great for the first 3 minutes, he then proceeded to repeat himself for the next 42 minutes and I really wanted to get up and say “yeah we get it, wait on the Lord, he’ll come through for us”. I didn’t, much to Jane’s dismay; it would have made for good lunch conversation. It put a dampner on what was a good service up to then.

It was definitely an experience doing Vegas and in a weird way I'm glad we went, but I don't think we'll ever go again. We leave Vegas and head to Death Valley, yes I do see the irony in that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

hee, hee, ooohh....sha mon




So here we are on the last leg of our trip. We flew into LAX last week after a shocking flight (turbulence was awful, thank God for the angels on the wings!), picked up a car and headed straight for Santa Barbara. We stayed with Jane’s cousin and his family for a week and had a great time. They’re the loveliest family and it was great to spend time with their kids and to chat with them.
America has been a big shock to the system. I love spending time here but it is a million miles away from New Zealand. It’s hard to describe the subtle differences but the main differences are pretty easy to see and imagine. Two completely different worlds. I didn’t think I’d find it as hard as I have but I guess it’s the fact that New Zealand was too good. However, we know that we’re here and this is also a part of our journey so of course we’re choosing to enjoy ourselves and embrace the fact that we’re here. Having people to hang out with and chat with for our first week was great.
At the end of last week I got myself a new guitar. Very exciting. The guitar I have is nice but I knew a new one was a wise move. It has been so great to be able to play again. It had been far too long and I was yearning to be able to pick up my guitar and play some tunes. It made its debut with a little worship session for the kids in the family we were with; cute. I’m really praying for songs straight from the heart of God to come out through the guitar.
Speaking of music, I finally got Bell x1’s new ablum. It’s brilliant, also got Dave Matthews Band’s new album. I hope it grows on me, not quite sure how I feel about it yet. Twice while we were listening to it Jane wondered had they been listening to Metallica’s album with the symphony orchestra. I never thought she would be able to reference Metallica!! Why I Am is my favourite so far, killer riff.
We’re still loving Jesus Culture and Misty Edwards. I also got a guy called Jonathan David Helser, if you want to hear super raw worship music from a man who is obviously in love with Jesus I highly recommend it. Listen to ‘God of the Angel Armies’. Amazing amazing song.
We left Santa Barbara two days ago to hit Vegas. We thought Santa Barbara was a million miles from New Zealand, Vegas is a whole other world. It's definitely an experience, I'll tell more later.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Zealand; till we meet again...




Our last night in New Zealand. Can't believe our time here has finished. It's been our home away from home and we're really sad to leave here. Of course looking forward to the next part of the journey, but this part has been so incredibly significant for us. Specifically for our individual walks with Jesus, our walk together with Him and also myself and Jane as a couple. God has been more gracious and near than we could have possibly imagined. He is constantly reminding us that he's so much more gracious, loving, merciful and kind than we can fathom.
We're currently in Auckland. Yesterday we had the awesome pleasure of meeting up with a couple of very good friends (Jay & Erin) of our very good friends (Ferg and Sarah-Jane). So lovely to chat with people who get it. Their love for Jesus is so tangible and resultantly so is their want to bring Jesus to those around them. All aspects of the saving power of Jesus, not just a golden ticket to heaven. It was humbling and inspiring to hear their hearts. I hope we meet again.
At church we had another randomer come up to us with a word from God! It's nearly funny at this stage how much God is speaking to us. He came over to us at the end of church last night and said he had seen us at the earlier service and God told him very clearly to tell us something. He was bang on and it was really encouraging.
Today we had another amazing opportunity to meet a friend of Ferg & Sarah-Jane's called Judith. The love of Jesus is all over that woman and we had such a cool time chatting with her. We could have talked all day. It didn't harm that the coffee and chocolate cake in the coffee shop we were in were exceptionally tasty! It was so great to talk to someone across the other side of the world who has a huge heart for Ireland. We're excited about the possibility that we can be involved in some way with what God is doing at home. He's on the move and we want to be a part of what he's doing in bringing his kingdom to our land.
I've no doubt we're going to have an amazing time in the States and it'll be so different to here because God is a God of new things and continued adventure. Bring it...