Thursday, 9 June 2011

Johnny Cash

I was watching ‘Walk The Line’ the other night – something I had wanted to do for a long time but never had the chance. It was a fantastic film, and superbly acted, even if I didn’t recognise Elvis until I was told!

As I was watching the film, and his faith was touched upon at various points – such as when the record label guy question’s Cash’s faith in God, I started to ponder more on this side of his personality, and as the film moved on I started to build much more of a picture, and realised that in many ways Johnny Cash optimizes the Christian struggle; He struggle’s to deal with the many issue’s he has, and struggle’s to put lean on God, rather than on the drugs, and temporary solutions of the world, which actually aid in his continuing downward spiral. He hurts just about everyone he knows, drives his wife away, loses access to his kids, wrecks his career.

Then things begin to change, and God provides a light in the form of an intervention by his future wife, June, and his family. In June’s words, ‘God has given you a second chance to make this right. This is your chance’.

It just seems to me that there is probably a part in all of us as Christians who can relate to this. If we are honest, don’t we all have experiences which are not so dissimilar? But no matter how badly we mess up, God always gives us a second chance..,. and a third…. and a fourth… Even in the most hopeless situations, he never gives up on us. Johnny Cash messes up allot in his life, he is by no means perfect, sinless. But he has a relationship with God and he is saved by that.

I would bet that actually he knew more about what it meant to be a Christian than many other Christians do. I remember when a record label guy says ‘The boy’s don’t want to hear you tryin’ to cheer up a bunch of murderers.’, Johnny’s reply is ‘Well they’re not Christians then’.

So what can we learn from Johnny Cash? That no matter where we are on our Christian journey – no matter how profoundly we may ‘understand’ what it means to be a Christian, we are always going to have this struggle. We are always going to make mistakes. But we can also see that God continues to forgive us, pick us up, and give us second chances.

I think that this song illustrates Johnny’s Christian ‘message’ beautifully.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A Burglary, A Fire, and a Job. All in a day’s work.

Saturday was one of those days when everything happens. I guess really though, for the point of view of this story, I must start a bit further back than this; One of the things that I have become acutely aware of the last few days, is how crazy this summer is going to be. I guess in a way I had put off dealing with it, because in a lot of ways it is actually quite scary. By the time my course restarts in September, I will have produced my first show, Performed at the Edinburgh Festival for the first time, and moved house. This entails me being in Cheltenham to rehearse for the Edinburgh Festival, in Canterbury (A five hour coach journey) To rehearse for my show, having somewhere to stay in Cheltenham, and having a Job.

I remember Thursday night having a real worrying session. I was actually watching a Matt Chandler video at the time, with him talking about how the Lord tells you not to worry, and how you should put everything in the Lord. Sometimes no matter how much you know it is true that you should be doing this, it just doesn’t seem to be that helpful advice does it? You think to yourself ‘No, no, no, I’ve got to hold onto this one.’ Sometimes you go even further and start thinking ‘Jesus WANTS me to keep thinking about this, even though I’m just going round in circles in my head, and really not achieving anything with it.’

Anyway so eventually it got to the stage where I thought ‘You know what, I’m probably not going to stop worrying about this, but I can at least get the Lord involved. So I prayed. I would say that I prayed for most of the rest of the night, in one form or another. I would love to say that my prayer was some grand peace of poetry, but it was actually a far more desperate ‘LORD PLEASE HELP ME TO FIND A JOB’, with my hands clenched together like to clamps. I was far more like a young child clinging for life to his mother, ‘PLEASE GET ME THAT GAME, I NEEEEEED THAT GAME!!!’

The next day, I phoned a nightclub in Cheltenham, and they said they needed glass collectors, and to pop in the following day.

So that night, I’m now worrying ‘what if I get this job? What am I gonna do?? How am I gonna do this job, go to Edinburgh, and do my own show back in Kent?? What have I let myself in for? I’m gonna have to concentrate all the rehearsals for my show into a short space of time. How is that gonna work? Will anyone be able to do the show like that? Will the show be any good even?

Then I remembered something which I had heard in church from a guy called David Gate. ‘We all wing it.’ Winging it is a part of life. I realised that I was just gonna have to make a decision and go with it, rather than procrastinating over it. I realised that I was gonna have to just make it work. This was the best option I had, and I was going to have to go with it, and that there was always going to be a certain amount of blindness about the situation, but I was going to have to go with it, to jump in the waves, and let them carry me.

How was I going to go tell these potential employers that I was going to need all this time off? I decided to take the advice of Matt Chandler, and not worry about it. I would judge the situation at the interview, and take it from there.

So onto Saturday. My plan for the day: Go get a job, then meet a friend in town, come back to mine to get ready and then go to a party. Well, two parties – one after the other. First thing’s first, the job interview. I got into town, stood outside the nightclub pretty nervously, partly hoping that the manager wouldn’t be there and I could go home, but mostly thinking ‘No, I need this job, and I need to start it as quickly as possible.’

After waiting for a while, the manager arrived, and I had my interview, which went very very well, and praise the Lord, he told me that I had pretty much got the job, and I just needed to come back on Monday to see the other managers.

So I went home, then went back out to meet my friend. On the way down there, spot a fire, so have to call the fire brigade. Actually it was just a bin fire, but to be honest, the area I live in, so full of drugs that it could have easily caused a massive chemical fire! Actually what got me about the bin fire, was everyone just seemed to be walking right on passed it, without even thinking to try and deal with it. To use biblical terms, ‘walking by on the other side’.

Anyway eventually the fire brigade came, I was able to leave. I met my friend. I had phoned my friend to tell her I was held up by this fire. It turned out what she heard was ‘held up, fire, bus, bomb’, so she was understandably a little scared!

Party was fine, me and my housemate came back home before going out again for the second one, which was at a nightclub. On the way out, I noticed some kids staring at us from across the road. ‘I bet they try and break in’ I said to him, as we walked into town.

The person who’s party it was, was a friend of my housemates. It was a really good night out actually. So good we didn’t get back till four in the morning, and we were more than a little drunk. We got out of the taxi, said goodbye to the others, and opened the porch door. Immediately we noticed that something wasn’t right. The door from the porch into the house was open.

‘Okay, that’s odd, this door is open’, my housemate said. We went in further, checking all over for signs that someone had been in the house. When we got into the living room, we saw the back door was wide open. Did we leave it open? We wandered. ‘Looks like nothing’s been taken’, my housemate said. ‘Yeah’, I replied. We were lucky.

Then it hit me. My laptop. Where was my laptop? I went back into the living room, where I had left it. It was gone. It had been stolen. I looked everywhere for it, but nothing. It had definitely been stolen, and we had definitely been burgled, so I phoned the police. My memory cast back to the boys across the road, and my words at the time, ‘I bet they try and break in!’.

I remember being very calm about it – something which has continued since then. ‘No point worrying about it, or getting upset about it’, I said to my housemate, ‘That won’t solve anything’. Looks like I had learned something from my experiences the previous days! I remember at the time as well just opening my Bible, and it turning to psalms which just helped me to express and sort out how I was feeling at the time so well, but at the end of it all, I kind of felt sorry for those who had broken in. I just thought ‘they risked there freedom for one piddly laptop? How desperate must they be? But it’s worth remembering as well, that – as easy as it would be to hate these kids in one way or another, are they not just the same as us? God views all sin as the same, and we are all sinners. It is important to remember that no matter how much someone sins against us, we need to try to hate the sin, not the sinner, because actually we are no better, or no worse than them, based on sin. You can only be made righteous by Jesus.

This weekend has been so full of experience, good and bad. But it is possible to get through anything with God – with his support. With him showing his understanding. With him helping you to fly through the hard times, and grounding you through the good. He always watches over and looks after us. No matter how many things may fly at you at once, how much you may feel like you are winging it, or how badly people treat each other at times, Jesus is the true path, and is the light in the dark to follow.

Isaiah 57 Series: God-Idol Part 1.

 3 “But you—come here, you witches’ children,
      you offspring of adulterers and prostitutes!
 4 Whom do you mock,
      making faces and sticking out your tongues?
      You children of sinners and liars!
 5 You worship your idols with great passion
      beneath the oaks and under every green tree.
   You sacrifice your children down in the valleys,
      among the jagged rocks in the cliffs.
 6 Your gods are the smooth stones in the valleys.
      You worship them with liquid offerings and grain offerings.
   They, not I, are your inheritance.
      Do you think all this makes me happy?
 7 You have committed adultery on every high mountain.
      There you have worshiped idols
      and have been unfaithful to me.
 8 You have put pagan symbols
      on your doorposts and behind your doors.
   You have left me
      and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.
   You have committed yourselves to them.
      You love to look at their naked bodies.
 9 You have given olive oil to Molech[a]
      with many gifts of perfume.
   You have traveled far,
      even into the world of the dead,[b]
      to find new gods to love.
 10 You grew weary in your search,
      but you never gave up.
   Desire gave you renewed strength,
      and you did not grow weary.

Immediately here we see the focus changes from the men of God who are being rescued from the world they are IN, to the idolatrers who are OF the world.
The first thing that sticks out to me is this idea of being MOCKED wich appears in verse 4. It points out that the actions of these people is actually mocking to God. I would say that if this verse were to be paraphrased another way, it would say 'Who are you to mock God? You represent everything that is wrong, you give yourselves to sins and lies.'
It then goes on to point out what is wrong with the way they are living. This is important to us, because I think we are all guilty of many of these things - even as Christians. Here is the list, and in brackets I will put an example of how this could apply to us:
Worshiping Idols with a passion (sports stars, celebrities, etc)
Making sacrifices to them (paying money to them, buying the football shirts, etc)
'Your God's are the smooth stones of the valley' (substitute stones for something more modern - i.e a premiership footballer)
'They, not I, am your inheritance' (Instead of getting God, the gifts of the spirit, eternal life, a seat next to the Lord in Heaven, you're inheritence is... Wayne Rooney)
'You have committed adultery on every high mountain.
      There you have worshiped idols
      and have been unfaithful to me.' (When you worship , for example, Wayne Rooney, you are actually commiting adultery with him against God. Nuff said)
'You have put pagan symbols
      on your doorposts and behind your doors.' (Posters of celebrities, etc)
'You have left me
      and climbed into bed with these detestable gods.' (gods = celebrities)
'You have committed yourselves to them.
      You love to look at their naked bodies.'
'You have travelled far... to find new God's to Love' (X-Factor, American Idol, America's Next Top Model, etc)

Just something to think about. Although this was aimed at people living Well over 2000 years ago, are we not just as guilty today? Something to think about...