I live in a world of fluttering wings.

In a world of chaos and confusion, where traffic never stands still, emotions whirl in an un-patterned flurry and I never know where I am, or stand, or am wanted. You are forever.

With You, I can walk, and know that each step will thud onto solid ground, like concrete which You set beneath my feet, or simply are. Statistics which I cannot grasp, numbers with no order and lists which I must complete, and the panic that shakes me; well it’s just calm, because they fade somewhat when You’re next to me. I can step out of panic and look at them unswerving, knowing they were just imps, sent to make my head spin.

What is true in this kaleidoscope world? You, as my oak tree of a Father, and all else twisted into Your roots. Meanwhile, I in your branches, smile, and run my fingers down the rough and solid bark, which grips to me.

I live in a world of fluttering butterfly wings; the slightest flutter I make can change my destiny. And those of countless others. Truly, without my creative God, the thought of making the merest of choice could cause me a heart-attack.

It’s best I remain simple; trust and be held.

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How much do you have to hate someone, to not tell them they can have everlasting life?

I mean really? This last week, I heard an atheist ask this question. An atheist. I really think that this man was onto something. He absolutely did not believe, he also said that he wasn’t particularly interested in knowing more, but nonetheless he realised that if you really believe something so utterly life-transforming, life-giving and important, that it’s shocking not to share it!

Wow, that’s challenging to me. I suppose it raises the question of “How much do I really believe what I say I believe?” To what extent is my belief in Jesus a reality to me?

For a week, me and some friends have been living in a church building in Glasgow, Scotland, the land of freedom, haggis and people who paint themselves blue and shout a lot. These people have fire in their bones, and it’s contagious. Our week was about sharing Jesus with the people we met, and asking how we could best love the people in the area we were staying. An afternoon that springs to mind was one that brought to head the importance of what we were doing.

It was raining, and 160 young people were very tired, hungry and ready to crash, but we were planning to go out and meet people. From the stage, someone suggested “Let’s ask God what He wants us to do! Does He want us to go out this afternoon or not?”

So people formed into small groups and prayed. The overwhelming answer was yes, and someone spoke up saying “Even if it’s only for one person, that they get to meet our Jesus and know true freedom because of that relationship, facing the rain, the cold, the tiredness, it’s worth it.”

It’s life and death at the end of the day. I know that, I’ve lived through some of both and I know for sure which is better. But there’s more for me to grasp, more for me to understand and big questions for me to keep asking myself. If I really really really believe my experiences to be true, how could I not share?

In a city, oh so close to my own.

So, when I think of poverty, I think of my experiences in the townships or the favelas, in far off countries where the people are hungry, forced into lives of prostitution or drugs, subject to abuse, or unable to access clean water. You know, the countries that you see on charity adverts, or on the news. But honestly, when someone reads off poverty statistics about Western Europe, such as ‘15% of children in this city live in poverty’, my instant response is “Ok, whatever. They need to go and see some real poverty.”

That sounds harsh right? Well, you’d be correct to think that. It turns out that I had absolutely no idea what I was talking about, and it seems that my privileged upbringing has blinded me somewhat. I’ve discovered that poverty really does exist in England. You probably already realised that one.

Last week I was taking part in an Olympic outreach to a city in the north of England, and we spent some time in one of the less well-off areas of the city, performing dramas to cause people to ask questions, chatting and helping out with a couple of youth projects. It was a fantastic time. We took a couple of girls with us from my church, who were great, and we were able to witness a beautiful prophetic act, of the Norwegians thanking the people of England for telling them about God all those years ago. They sailed a Viking ship all the way over the sea for the occasion!

—-> http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2180916/Viking-longship-makes-way-River-Tyne-express-gratitude-gift-Christianity.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

But it’s perhaps the children I met who stand out in my mind most of all.

On two different days, whilst performing in the streets, we noticed a little girl of 11 years old watching us. The first time, she was alone with her four year old little sister and the second time she was out buying milk. Let’s call her Katy. She obviously loved being around us, and she had this smile of awe on her face the entire time. She looked after her brothers and sisters [I can’t remember the exact number, but my brain seems to say seven] because her mother wasn’t able to and her dad wasn’t around, cleaned the house, and food-shopped for her family. She was dressed in worn-out clothes, walked about the city completely alone with her shopping bag and it was quite something to hear her talk about what she did in a day.

I’m not saying that she lived in terrible conditions, I’m not blaming her parents [what do I possibly know about her situation?] and I’m not trying to paint an exaggerated picture of a poor little girl who needs huge amounts of pity and help. But Katy definitely wasn’t a one-off in the area, and I could see the way that the older these children got, the less hope they held for their lives and the less the wanted to achieve anything. One of the older boys I met seemed to expect nothing in life, and because their behavior was far from perfect, people, I imagine, would perhaps steer away. Working in the youth café showed me that quite a few of these young people had needed to grow up much too fast.

So now, I think my mindset has been changed a little since meeting some of these kids – hopefully I’ll open my eyes some more to see that there are lots of young people who need practically loving where I live right now. Someone to believe in them. Someone to be available to talk. It’s probably a similar story where you live too.

Opportunities grasped; An Armenian bus-ride.

I hate sitting next to a stranger on a bus or a train, and never knowing anything about them – it’s a waste of life and opportunity. And speaking to the person that you’re unlikely to ever come across in any other context again can open your eyes to other viewpoints, make you see new possibilities, and mostly, give you a chance to share your passions and hopes with someone else.

My main passion is Jesus, and that’s usually where my conversations about hopes and dreams get carried to, if the person I’m next to is in the mood for a chat.

The bus I was on last weekend was a nightmare. We got stuck in rush hour traffic coming out of a huge cosmopolitan city, at one point we began to drive south down the motorway [we were definitely meant to be going north], the heat was making my mouth dry and I was so tired that after a few hours, my head kept drooping and my eyes closing. I’d had a brief chat with the girl next to me, and then she’d left, leaving me, hopefully, to three or four hours of much-wanted sleep. At this point it was 11 o’clock at night.

That was when I was joined by a man from Armenia [which is next-door to Turkey, incase you didn’t know]. I begrudgingly moved my bag off the seat as he sat down, smiled and said “Hi! This is late to start a journey! Where are you going to?”

After some small talk [by now, I’m beginning to regret asking questions if I’m completely honest] he asks a question that I get quite a lot. “So, are you from Australia? What are you doing here?”

Incase you were wondering, I am in fact, not from Australia, or Sweden, or South Africa… despite the fact that I get asked all the time.

I said “No actually, I just live with lots of foreign people and it screws my accent up. I work with a group of people who love Jesus and we try our best to follow Jesus teachings to ‘love our neighbour’, sometimes we do well, sometimes not so well, and that happens to be in the city that I’m heading to.”

He pulls a cross necklace from inside of his jacket. “Some people think that by wearing a cross, Jesus will give you everything you want. It’s a superstition. I don’t think that, God is bigger than that” He begins to talk about how he believes that bad behaviour means that bad things will happen to you, and good behaviour makes God like you, and what he thinks about who he’ll be in a next life etc.

I challenged Him slightly, and then said “So who is Jesus to you?”

“Errrm… well… I don’t really know. Can you tell me who He is?” He genuinely asked me, just like that. So I told Him. I explained the good news. I told Him about Jesus and what that means to me. And He listened. As did the guy opposite us [I was probably ruining his sleep in actual fact.]

“Ok, thanks!” He said after thinking for a while. “I have a lot to think about now. I feel like my head is full of thoughts and questions to ask”

We continued to talk for the next hour or so, whiling away the rest of the journey, looking at photos of his beautiful home-country of Armenia on his iphone, eating Doritos and talking about God and knowing Him, every now and then.

Scowling on a park bench.

God decides that He wants to deal with my big life questions and the selfishness of my heart at the most random times sometimes. Today, I was working on my laptop, typing typing typing, answering emails, creating schedules etc, and not really in tune with God, when He said “Enough of this anger and bitterness towards [insert name here: you really don’t need to know any details…]. Come on, let’s go to the park, find a bench, and take some time to forgive…”

So I do. I find myself sitting on a bench in the sunshine, amongst the flowers and bumble bees, with the sound of people lying on the grass and chattering just around the corner, wondering how on earth to start. Bitterness is a horrible thing, it really eats at you. And no matter how much you may want it to affect the person you’re bitter with [yes, I really did!], it always consumes you more than it does them. Horrible.

And I wanted to forgive. I really did. I knew it was best, I knew it was right. But how? I mean, they were completely wrong, I felt completely betrayed. And they were not sorry one bit. I must have been sitting there scowling, deep in thought, feeling a burden that I didn’t know how to shake off, when my phone buzzes; I have a text message.

It says “Smile! It’s a beautiful day!” That’s all. Weird. Perfect.

I literally looked around, looking for the guy I knew had sent it. It was such a stalker text. Whoever wrote that must have been able to see me. But no, there’s no-one there and anyway, the person who wrote it should be somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean right now.

I text back saying “thanks” and “I feel like you’re stalking me” [along those lines…] and a moment later I get a new text saying… “Word of knowledge.”

And I had to laugh. Because it was a beautiful day! And God used someone almost on the other side of the planet to help me forgive; because as soon as I received that first text message, it was like an “oh!” moment. And all of sudden, I felt lighter, and able to really let it go; to actually want and pray for the best for them. I’m still going to have to make an effort to stay in a forgiving attitude, but Holy Spirit obviously had a plan up His sleeve when He asked me to sit with Him on that park bench.

I just sat there so amazed that God really does care about these small things in my heart. He cares that I notice the beauty around me. He cares enough to take me for a walk, sit down with me and talk me through why I need to change my heart, even to the extent of asking someone on the other side of the world to let me know about it. He really cares, even when I’m horrible, thinking and feeling horrible things, and even enjoying it.

Here’s something that doesn’t make much sense to me today: knowing someone of such perfection, who chooses to work with and live and love alongside such imperfection. Just think of the snails pace that He takes on, in order to get the simplest task done, just so that we can be a part of His life. And the dirt He gets involved in, so that we can see Him, once our eyes have been opened and the dirt washed away.

It’s quite amazing I think.

It’s better to be weak.

I’ve learnt this the hard way.

I’ve spent much of my life trying to be strong, trying to do things well and to make things look good, trying to show myself to be capable, and thus, to show God in the best possible light. I’ve stood in front of audiences and tried to give the best possible impression. I’ve been heart-broken and strived to put forward a happy face and a sunny disposition. I’ve not had all of the answers, but I’ve often tried to look as if I do.

And now as I think about it, I realise what a massive waste of time all of that was.

My story of learning that lesson takes part one Friday evening in Göttingen, Germany, as we were preparing to lead a youth group about how to share our faith. It’s not often anymore that I feel afraid of speaking out to large groups of people, but now and then, the fear creeps back in, and I find my heart beating and my mind frantically going over all our plans, praying over and over “God, help me”. This was one of those nights. I wanted it to go absolutely perfectly. Oh, how my aspirations were dashed to the ground!

I think that God was trying to teach me something that night; He must have been because it all just went so terrifically wrong! It’s funny, because I’ve definetly come to the conclusion over the past years that it’s a dangerous decision to ask God to have any part in what you’re doing. He’s often got totally different ideas than I do as to how something should happen, or to what I should be doing. At this youth group, the music and my singing was terrible. I mean, laughable. Really bad. The small group I was leading literally went in the opposite direction than I was trying to lead it; actually in quite a detrimental direction. My brain was fried. I couldn’t think. And my heart wouldn’t stop beating violently. And God seemed a million miles away.

After it had finished, I sat down in the prayer room and cried. I felt like a failure.
And suddenly God said… YES. It was terrible. Isn’t that great?
And He meant it.

Because let’s be honest, we live in a world where we’re more noticeable than He is. We can get right up into peoples faces. We can be amazingly kind and gracious people that others aspire to be like. We can look like Beyoncé. Sing like angels. Speak wise words that cause people to marvel. And we can do it all the time thinking that these things will cause others to want to know God.

But as long as we’re standing tall and shining brightly, no-one’s going to be looking at God. They’ll only be looking at us. And that’s a tragedy.

“Star how beautiful you shine
You shine more beautiful than mine
You shine from sea to shining sea
World-wide is your strategy
But shining star I hope you see
If the whole wide world is staring straight at you
They can’t see me…”
Dying Star – Jason Upton

The cool thing about this story is that about a week later, we heard that one girl was seriously considering starting a Christian group in her school and a couple of them had decided to go on a short-term missions trip to Costa Rica; all as consequence of that evening, and none of it as any consequence to me. In my weakness, God had shown Himself to be strong. It makes sense because ‘His power is made perfect in weakness’. [2Cor12:9]

Really, it’s about time that I allow myself to be weak, to fail, to depend and to allow God to be God.

A Starbucks Experience.

I believe that God can speak to me. Genuinely. I listen to Him. And ask Him questions. And I’m pretty sure that I’m not crazy when He answers me. So something that I love to do is to listen to God for other people, and to give them a little glimpse of the things that He says.

So one day in Berlin, when the rainclouds had opened their gates and people were rushing to and fro with umbrellas up and no time to talk, we took a seat in Starbucks with a cup of coffee, a notebook and some colourful pens. People often say that God doesn’t talk to them, but I assume that if they’ve never learnt what He sounds like, how would they be able to recognise His voice? We block Him out with our ipods and our TVs and the chaos that is everyday life. And Gods beautiful sweet voice gets lost in the havoc, and on we go living our lives.

Whilst sipping at our lattes, we thought we’d have some fun and ask God details about the way He created the individuals around us to be; their personalities and talents. This is what I heard for a man sitting behind me:

I saw a picture of an arctic explorer, and an image of a globe.
And the phases “Going to extremes” and “Breaking barriers” came to mind.

He was nice-looking man, in his 40’s perhaps, absorbed by his phone and his laptop, obviously working on something, and thus looking closed and slightly intimidating. But this was the guy; this was who God wanted me to speak to. It’s never easy going up to a total stranger in a coffee shop and telling them that God has a message for them, but it’s always the same: take a deep breath, say a prayer and just do it.

… on this occasion, I was really happy that I had.

He looked slightly shocked and laughed somewhat nervously when I showed Him my scribbled list, and told him that I’d asked God about how he was created. Did anything match what he knew about himself? I asked.

He went on to explain that he was from Sweden [he joked that it was practically the arctic…] and that for his job, he travelled constantly around the world making cutting edge fashion films and music videos [he namedropped ‘the editors’ somewhere during our conversation]. He worked with new ideas, exploring concepts to create film and concert experiences that would be at the forefront of creativity and style. Basically, he told me, it was spot on.

I got to see one of his films on my laptop: it was just as he said. Cutting edge.

He loved our creativity in showing God to people, and it was perfect opportunity because my Finnish friend was able to speak to him in his language aswell! He was able to enjoy what we were doing, because in his work, he did something similar, watching people and imagining their characters; only he acknowledged that listening to God was an entire new level.

This man was an atheist. His wife and mother were both Christians, but he’d decided that God was an illusion. He knew about Him, but had no experience of Him. Perhaps the possibility that God actually spoke and apparently knew about Him in such a way had impacted him in a way that nothing had before.

As I turned away from our conversation at last, he repeated “I may be an atheist, but this has really made me think!”.

I love that. Our God is truly alive. He speaks things that are hidden to our natural eyes and ears. We don’t need to communicate history, a God who was at some point, but no longer is. A God who is irrelevant. No; because our God is completely relevant. He speaks in the moment. He has something important to say in every situation and to every individual.

And we get to be His mouthpiece to a world too busy to listen; we can intervene into someone’s average day with an extraordinary message from God.