Tag Archives: Baptism

Entering The Temple

Just as this past Thursday was the 36th week anniversary of my sobriety, then today Sunday 9th December 2012 follows with the 36th week anniversary of my first walk into Church, into the Everyday Champions Church, as broken man, a lost soul, yes, but I was walking into the house of God for the first time in my life because I wanted to be there, not because I was invited, asked, requested or dragged, this time I was looking for something, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find, but I was going to take a look anyway.

It had been two whole weeks since my life had been saved, by a power I was yet to really find, but ready to embrace, I had started praying, I had stopped drinking, I had started the process of changing my life, cleaning myself up and implementing a number of small daily changes, as a means to start the rebuilding process.

I was, it was safe to say, nervous, apprehensive, I would go as far to say damn right scared, but I knew I had to go, I was driven to go, it was where I wanted to be.

Why the apprehension?

I suppose there were many reasons, firstly I’m breaking the habits of a lifetime, it’s always been a struggle to get me into a Church, I would make excuses to avoid family occasions in Church, I would use karate as an excuse, usually I can get cover for my classes, but I never really tried hard to find one, I just didn’t want to be in a Church.  I was anti-religion, not so much anti faith or anti God, I just had issues with organised religion and all the that has taken place or carried out by the various religious organisations in the name of God.

On top of that I believed that all the old churches in the UK were just that, outdated, cold and out of touch.  Old uncomfortable wooden pews, in a drafty old building, singing out dated hymns and generally with an old bloke quietly reading from the bible at the front, none of this was transmitting on the frequency I was ever going to receive in, so I made every excuse possible, my partner covered for me and I just turned up casually for the evening do!

The other main issue was, that despite my visit a year or so previously for my daughter’s confirmation and all the great people I met that day, these were not really my friends, these were Victoria’s friends, this had been her haven away from me over the last few years.  I knew that very few people knew the true situation between myself and Victoria, our split and the fact that despite this we were still living together, but I was still apprehensive about how I would be perceived.  If this was where I needed to be, where I had to be to sort myself out, then my darkest secrets would have to be told, my secret life as an alcoholic would have to be exposed, my soul laid bare.

Although my meeting two weeks previously, with our Pastor Gareth and Alex, had left me in no doubt that this was the place I wanted to be and that it wouldn’t matter what I had done, forgiveness was what they were preaching and that was really what I was after, that together with the help and support to make this none drinking thing stick.

I had texted Alex to let him know I was coming and then walked up to the door, I walked in as though I had been there before, a few hellos were aimed my way as I walked in, I think some people weren’t really sure who I was, they had maybe seen me before or they thought they knew me, but some were maybe thinking that surely he couldn’t be here, surely he would never just walk in here, on his own!

Well I had, Victoria knew I was going, I had asked her the day before if it was OK, I know I didn’t need permission, it just seemed like the right thing to do, I didn’t want to just turn up and make an already tense situation even worse.  I spoke with Victoria on the way in and then found Alex, said hello and had a quick chat and catch up about how things had been since he last saw me two weeks before, when at that point I was a broken man, I had spent most of that night in tears, incoherent and desperate.

Alex was playing drums that day in the worship band, he had to go get ready so I took a seat, a seat I would take week after week, at the back, the very last seat on the row, the furthest away from the stage as I could possibly be.

I sat alone, the new guy, a lost soul in sea of happy people, as the service started and the worship band started playing I stood up with rest, put my hands in my pockets and just looked around, as everyone else sang, bounced or held up their hands, I just looked around, taking it all in, wondering what it was that I was actually looking for.

In this youthful environment for a Church I was surprised when an elderly couple came and took the seats next to me, after four worships songs and some messages there is always some connection time, time to meet and say hello to old or new friends, John introduced himself and his wife Eve, we chatted for a while, then the first of the many times I would answer the big question:

So what brings you here?

Well, I could have hidden the truth a little here, if I had wanted, but where would that get me, if I was to find what I needed here I had to be honest, the truth had to come out, it was imperative that I stop hiding behind that bottle, climb out of it, admit my weaknesses and find a solution to my issues.

This is the moment I guess I was dreading, not that I had to tell my painful secret, but the response I would get, I was expecting condemnation, to be labelled as a sinner and not worthy of a place in this Church, you hear so many stories of this happening in Churches around the world, I expected it despite all of Gareth’s assurances and I would have taken it, I deserved it, but that is not what I got, I got a calm and caring response, my past didn’t matter, my now mattered to John, just the fact I had realised my problem, took steps to deal with it and was now here at Church looking to God for help.  John and Eve were so friendly I began to feel straight away that I had I found what I was looking for, that this was the right place to be.

The service this week was to be taken by Pastor Ken, Gareth’s father, he has a very calm persona, an older more fatherly style to his preaching and I was ready to listen, but another thing further fell into place when the subject of his preaching became apparent.

On the night I spent with Gareth and Alex going through my problems, Gareth purposely kept the conversation about me and not religion, he was keen to point that out from the start, that night was about me primarily.  He mentioned only one passage from the bible that evening, about Jesus rising from his sleep in the bottom of the boat to calm the storm.

Mark 4:35-41, New International Version (NIV), Jesus Calms the Storm
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”
36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

So this day Pastor Ken was preaching on the very same story, at that point it was the only Bible story I could actually remember, the only one I had heard since my school days.

Ken’s principle point was the need for us to face the oncoming storms in our lives, head on, not to turn away and let the waves engulf us.

I cried.

I can’t remember how many times I cried that day during the service, I seem to think it was at least three times.  Why?  I realised where it all had gone wrong, I had turned away, I had panicked and walked away from the storm, only to be engulfed by it, to be drowned, drowned in an alcohol storm that dragged me to the bottom, without the energy to fight my way back to the surface and dry land.  It brought home what I must do, to face all the oncoming storms I would have to face in the coming months head on, not to panic like the disciples did on the boat, but to trust in Jesus and face the storm with him.

In my journal that day I wrote this about something that happened during the service: 
“As we are asked to pray towards the end of the worship, I feel funny, can’t explain it really, but my heart went cold, nothing else, not sure what that’s about.”

I enjoyed the service, my tears were as a result of the realisation that I was the architect of my own pain, my failure to deal with the storms in my life, but I knew now how to approach the future, how to move forward.  It wouldn’t be easy, I was still at this point feeling alone, but I was ready to face the storm.

After the service I chatted once again with John, he offered me all the support and help that I could have ever wished for, I’m so glad I met him that first week, he sat with me many times over the next few weeks, always supportive.

As I made to leave for home, I met up with James, as I posted before in Future Friends, I spoke at length with James about the storms in my life and my failure to deal with them, despite meeting just once before a true friendship was born that day, a friendship I will treasure forever.

So I walked home alone, happy, content, ready for the storms ahead.

I returned the next week, this time more people spoke with me as I walked in, maybe it was the element of surprise last week, but I was now there for the second week running or maybe even they hadn’t realised who I was last week, but nonetheless these were all friendly greetings.

Luke 14 New International Version (NIV)
10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests.
11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

That second week and nearly all the weeks after that, I took the same seat as that first week, the bible passage above is the first one I actually memorized, I read this and decided I would keep taking that same seat each week, I felt humble and so decided I would keep this seat, indeed until I was asked to move to a better seat by my host, I’m in God’s house now, he will tell me when the time is right.

This second week I met with Gareth again, he walked past my seat and then stopped when he realised I was there, he was so pleased and even more so when he heard I had been there the previous week.

This week Gareth was preaching on the subject The Miracle Marathon, as my previous post, I knew then I had had my Miracle Moment and I was now ready for the Miracle Marathon, I wrote at length about this in my journal later that night.

At the end of that service, as part of Gareth’s prayer, he asks any newcomers ready to accept Jesus into their lives to raise their hand so he can pray for them, I raised my hand, I was ready, I had found what I was looking for.

So what had I found, what made this place so special?

  •  I Had Found A Home!
  •  I Had Found A Family!
  •  I Had Found Jesus!
  •  I Had Found A Foundation Stone Upon Which To Rebuild My Life.

Over these last 36 weeks, this Church, the Everyday Champions Church, has become my home and my family, I’ve attended not only our Church here in Newark, but also the other Churches at Wellingborough and Nottingham, the people there are just as friendly, just as welcoming and just as understanding as anyone I’ve met during my journey.

I’ve never met with any negativity, no condemnation of my sins, indeed after my interview at the Unleash Gettaway, where I opened up more than I had previously, I was met only with support, encouragement and praise for my courage, the courage to stand before everyone, to bare my soul, to confess and release the most painful of Hot Coals.

“Father, enter this temple
Come touch Your people
We need to be where You are
And children living as their Father
Washed in pure water
We need to be like You are”
(Enter The Temple by Leeland)

Quite simply, I could not have found a better place to be, the support and understanding has been fantastic, I’ve experienced some fantastic times with the members of all the Everyday Champions Churches, my Baptism and the Unleash Men’s Gettaway, were two of the best moments, but there have been so many great moments that I just can’t list them all here, you will just have to wait until I find the time to post a blog entry about them.

When I walked into Church on that Sunday 1st April 2012, I was carrying a world of baggage, this baggage was taken from me at the door, nobody cared about my past, the concern was my future, my wellbeing and my recovery.

This Church doesn’t just read the words of the bible, it lifts the words from the page and places them directly into your heart. 

I owe everyone I’ve met through the Everyday Champions Church a world of gratitude, they have each played a part in my fantastic journey, I will be forever grateful.

My First Blogging Award

Reality Blog Award

Reality Blog Award

So after two days of a few ups and downs, I’ve had chance to reflect on my first blogging award, so gratefully received on my day of anniversaries, the day of my 39th birthday (oh heck, one more year then I’m 40), 36 sober weeks (every Thursday is a SoberDay for me) and then two months after I start this blog I receive my first award, REALITY Blog Award, from Candy S at Finding Order In Chaos, it is so appreciated.

I try to write straight from my heart and the pain or the ecstasy of my memories.  I treasure every comment I receive, I’ve not received anything negative, just some fantastic comments of praise, support, inspiration and some proclaiming me as an inspiration, I thank you all for your likes and comments.

So in the spirit of the award I make my own six nominations below, with obviously a link to each blog and a brief explanation as to why I have nominated their blog.

Lost Companion

My writings mainly come from processed memories of where I’ve been and what has happened, over the last month I have seen this young Blogger see her father go into rehab, only for her father to tragically die and then see her deal with all of this, in real time, not memories, as it happens in the true spirit of reality.

I’m sure I couldn’t be as strong as she has been if I was in her shoe’s, I pray for her, an inspiration of spirit for us all.

Hope For Heather

I’ve never heard of Cowden’s Syndrome before, I still not sure I understand it, but once again another Blogger going through these experiences in real time, exploring and posting on the reality of their day to day situation.

My achievements pale in comparison to the day to day struggles Heather and other like her face, I’ve been able to walk away from my demon, she has to face her’s everyday, she will be in my prayers.

Human in Recovery

Another Blogger who goes through each day dealing with the ongoing reality of their situation, unable to just put it behind them and walk away from it, just finding the strength everyday to keep moving forward despite everything and still post about it.

Once again I am inspired by the strength Kina show’s in face of the reality of her situation.

Running On Sober

Another alcoholic in recovery, another dealing with the day to day reality of not wanting to fall back to the mess we were.  We have a lot in common, not just the alcohol, but our love of music for inspiration and her running and my walking.

I’m inspired by many others who are working through the same as myself and Christy, but I can’t nominate everyone, but as one of my earliest followers and frequent commenters, especially after the kind comments and songs posted on my post Wylie & Me, for that I thank her with all my heart and nominate her for this award.

Robin Claire

Another of my fellow alcoholics in recovery and another Born Again Christian who found God in the most amazing of circumstances.  Her posts about her Christianity and recovery are from her personal experiences and help me and I’m sure others come to terms with the reality of their own situations.

She has left me some of the most fantastic comments, both praise and inspiration, she has taken me under her wing so to speak, become a bit of a mother figure, such a lovely human being, I’m blessed to have found her.

Deep And Wonderful Thoughts

This blog focuses more on the spiritual side of life, but with some very thought provoking posts on life, spirituality and everything in between.

Amazingly her cover picture is the image of the tunnel and light I described in my post The Wind Up Torch, I’ve never seen the picture before and she had never seen my post before, just one of those life coincidences.

Also she has asked my to contribute an article on my journey with God and how it has changed my life, as part of a feature she has planned for her Blog throughout January, I am so proud to have been asked, thank you so much.

So there you have it my wonderful nominees, please give their Blogs a read, if you haven’t already.

My understanding of this award is that each nominee should do as follows:

a) Display the award logo on your blog.

b) Link back to the person who nominated you.

c) Answer the Questions below

d) Pass the award onto to any other bloggers you want — and link to one of their specific posts so that they get notified by ping back

So here are my Answers to the Questions:

If you could change something what would you change?

I can only change my past by changing my future, I know that doesn’t make much sense, but stay with me here.

I cannot change the things I’ve done, I can’t change the person I’ve been, but I can learn from the mistakes I’ve made and change who I am going to be, thereby growing from the roots of my past mistakes.

I would never change my walk with God and Jesus, only wish I could have made the journey sooner.

If you could relive one day, when would it be?

I would relive my Baptism day, everyday again and again for the rest of my life, if that was my Groundhog Day, I would never tire of life.

What’s one thing that really scares you?

Now I found God in my life, it scares that if I stop counting my Days, I might also lose my walk with God.

What one dream have you not completed yet, and do you think you will be able to complete it?

My ultimate dream would be to rebuild my relationship with my Partner, under the love God, I don’t know whether that dream will ever come to fruition, but I’ll keep praying.

If you could be someone else for a day, who would you be?

I don’t deserve to be anybody other than myself, my shoes are mine to walk in and I will live and die by my mistakes, my failures, my triumphs and my achievements.

I wouldn’t wish anybody else the pain of walking in my shoes either, for one thing they smell a bit, plus I’m only a size seven (UK size), a bit small for most normal men.

So there you have it, my first Award Ceremony so to speak, I hope the recipients enjoy their award as much as I have.  I’m sorry I couldn’t nominate everyone, I hope there will be other awards, so I can spread the love and appreciation further.

I can never finish a post without my usual song, so today I give you Strong City by NewSong:

“We all have days that we just can’t escape
Everything we try
Every trial we face
It gets the best of us
Our strength is not enough
But His greatness will not be shadowed
And His kingdom will last forever, forever”
(Strong City by NewSong)

Thank you all for putting up with my ramblings and I hope you stay with me, wherever this journey takes me, I will take you all along with me for the ride. 

They Have Decided

After a couple of weeks where karate commitments have taken centre stage on a Sunday, it was back to my usual Sunday routine. I was out the house by 5.15am, it was absolutely freezing, the pavements were iced over and the air was well cold, but I was up and ready to walk.

I took my usual route, my long walk this morning, just over 13 miles, completed in 2 hours 50 minutes, I was on fire this morning, the cold air and freezing pavements weren’t going to slow me this morning.

As I approached the last leg of my walk a thought came over me. Today is baptism day at our three Churches, the last one back in July was an absolutely fantastic day in my life, as I’ve previously posted my Baptism was a calling from God, I was lifted from my chair to make a public declaration of my faith. But I had this feeling as I came close to home, a feeling that today something special was going to happen, so I prayed, I prayed that today lives would be changed, that God would do some fantastic things in our Churches, something that would out do my glorious moment back in July, now I just had to wait and see.

So today in our Church, nine people had made the decision to make that public declaration of their faith and be Baptised, they all took to the stage with their testimony, a diverse group, some reaffirming their faith, others new to faith following struggles within their lives, then there were the members of our youth group, choosing to make that decision to follow God. It was great to hear these people and their testimonies, it brought back memories of me standing on that stage four months ago, but I was relaxed today, I was staying firmly seated, there would be no spontaneous actions for me today.

Later Justin, who was leading the service today, made the same statement that Gareth had made back in July, the same words that saw my world freeze for a moment and then lift me from my seat, he put out a request for anyone who still wanted to be Baptised to come forward whilst we sing one last worship song. Well, I’ve started a trend, I set the ball rolling, last time two of us made that decision on the day, this time six stood up to be counted.

What made this more special is that these six are all members of our youth group, in today’s society when teenagers worship the plastic music and film idols they see on TV or in magazines, to see these youngsters make a public declaration of their faith and their decision to follow God is just overwhelming, some of these kids live hard lives, they have issues, but today that didn’t matter, they were lifted, they were called to stand proud by God’s glory, I was removed to tears today, tears of joy for these young stars, proud of all of them.

I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, No turning back
I will follow You, I will follow You
I will follow You my God
(I Have Decided by Starfield)

It seems is wasn’t only our Church, similar happenings were going on at the other campuses, today God was calling out those he thought were ready to make that declaration, just like he did to me four months ago.

I may be relatively new to religion, to God, to Jesus and to faith, but I just think that special moments like this make this life worth living, it what it’s all about, celebrating the glory of God and Jesus.

These kids just blew my greatest day out the water, quite simply, this day was amazing.

Future Friends

The 6th February 2011 marked my first visit to the Everyday Champions Centre, that would one year later become my Church, I had been there before, but not to a service, this day would see my daughter’s confirmation.

At the time things in my life were low, money scarce, work scarce, relationship scarce, alcohol abundant!  The balance of my life was tipping and I would continue to slip towards the edge over the coming year, but this day now when I look back holds many regrets.

I don’t really remember too much about the service, I was busy taking in the sights and sounds, this wasn’t Church as I expected it, my partner had told me about the usual Church services, but actually being there was an experience, it wasn’t an old building, with an elderly gentleman at the front reading from the bible, whilst we all try to stay awake, this was my vision of Church in England, but this was different, vibrant, this place was alive and I kind of enjoyed it, even going on stage for the confirmation was not as daunting as I expected, it was a great experience.

After Church it was back to my house for bit of lunch, my partner and her family were in the back room with the kids and food, I sat alone initially in the front room with the football on, Chelsea vrs Liverpool, Torres making his debut for Chelsea and Suarez making his debut for Liverpool, I am a Liverpool fan so I wasn’t going to miss this.

Gradually people from Church started to arrive, they all joined me in the front room with most of the men football fans and were happy with watching the football.  I had met Gareth, our Pastor, before through other family gatherings, but many of these people I would meet for the first time, including James, I had never met him before, but I liked this guy, I remember talking to my partner afterwards and saying that I really liked him, that I felt we could become good friends.

I didn’t see many of these people again for over a year, when I turned up at Church on the 1st April 2012, this was the first time I had walked into a religious service of my own free will, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I needed change and this was the first place I was going look.

After that first service was over I remember standing in the foyer of the Church just about to leave, when James came over to me, we had met before just that once, over a year ago, he recognised me from that one previous meeting and we began to talk.  Through the course of our conversation it obviously turned to why I was there, I confessed all, I told him about my lost relationship, my alcoholism, my struggle and my attempt to turn my life around.  The first thing he did was gave me his phone number, he took my number also, he told me to keep in touch, let him know if I needed help.  I had met this guy just once before, I felt a connection then, but now after all this time he was willing to help me, a lost soul, I was overwhelmed.

James certainly kept in touch, he would often text me during the week, make sure I was okay and that things were going alright, always with a word of encouragement, I was grateful for his text every time, I was not alone anymore.  At the lowest point of my recovery, when the pains of withdrawal were too much, when I was close to giving up, it was James I reached out to, it was his reassurance that helped me make it through, for that one night alone I owe him a debt of gratitude.

Before the day of my Baptism I had never met James’ wife before, I had seen her at Church but never been introduced or had a conversation with her, I wasn’t even sure she knew who I was.  During the amazing events that were my baptism, James wasn’t there, he was at one of the other Church campus in Wellingborough, when I texted James later to tell him about my day, he replied that Gemma had sent him a text during the service to let him know, she thought he would want to know and also be gutted that he wasn’t there.  I was blown away, essentially that James had thought enough of me to talk with Gemma about me and that someone I had never met would do such an act of kindness and let James know what had transpired, as he was instrumental in getting me to that point.

James has certainly been a rock that I could rely on during these first months of my recovery, he’s not the only one though, all of those that sat with me back in the dark days of February 2011, have become good friends and have shown me great encouragement and kindness, so much so I owe them all so much, I met some fantastic people that day.

But I have one massive regret from that day, they were all great people, I sat there with them, the only none Christian in the room, but that didn’t matter, we laughed, we talked and we shouted at the TV (well the men did, I don’t think the women were that interested in the football), I really enjoyed their company, but I couldn’t wait for them to leave, as the afternoon rolled into early evening, my drinking hours were approaching, I hadn’t any drink in the house, I was beginning to get the cravings, I wanted a drink, but some of these people were still with us, we kept talking and I kept craving, I kept a lid on it but I found myself wanting them to leave, purely for selfish reasons, I wanted to drink, but I couldn’t whilst these people were with me.  Once they had left I gave it a few minutes and left for the shop round the corner for a couple of bottles of wine, I was desperate.

Part of me thinks now when I look back at that day, that it’s such a shame I didn’t embrace them and God that day, that I continued to turn my back on it, things could all be so different now, but then on the other hand I think I’ve gone through what I have for a reason, it’s made me stronger, I’ve been rebuilt a better person, with a story that maybe can help inspire others.

His love is like a river wide
So let everyone beneath His skies
Lift their voice and sing
(The Kingdom by Starfield)

I have changed my life, I have rebuilt a broken man with God’s grace and the help and encouragement of some fantastic people.

My Year So Far In Music

Back in June I started thinking about songs that map out my journey, I was listening to a lot of music, Christian artists mainly or just music that was inspiring, on my Baptism day I posted six songs on my Facebook page, six songs mapping my life from February to July, one to describe each month and a quick reason for each, now I have expanded the list for the whole year and I will describe the reasons in more detail:

January : Dead Man (Carry Me) by Jars of Clay

So carry me
I’m just a dead man
Lying on the carpet
Can’t find a heartbeat
(Dead Man (Carry Me) by Jars of Clay)

Back in January I was oblivious to what was happening in my life, I was working now for a couple of months, Christmas wasn’t that bad (the year before I was ill over Christmas up to New Year), so the drink had been flowing well, work equalled money, money equalled beer, so I was slowly becoming a Dead Man, people were carrying me, I just couldn’t see it, my friends, family and workmates didn’t know it, it wouldn’t be long before I was dead on the floor.  When I first heard this song following the breakdown of my life, the lyrics hit me right between the eyes, I was that dead man, I was carried longer than I ever realised, I had been dead on the floor for years.

——————————

February: Monster by Skillet

My secret side I keep
Hid under lock and key
I keep it caged but I can’t control it
(Monster by Skillet)

This is a song I had played many times, infact it was one of the most played songs on my Ipod over the previous three years, but I was again completely oblivious to it’s relevance to my life.  The truth is there was a monster in me, I did keep it caged, but I couldn’t control it, I never let anyone see it, but it was there, I tried to fight it but lost everytime, it had control, I was it’s slave, a body and a soul consumed in torment.

——————————

March: Daylight by Brave Saint Saturn

Jesus Christ, Light of the World
You never did forget me
And when I bled in darkness, You held me
Still held me
(Daylight by Brave Saint Saturn)

To understand the song you have to know the concept of Brave Saint Saturn, the band have released three albums that tell the story of a space mission to Saturn, the first album deals with the departure, the second the mission and it’s failure, the third the rescue and return.

Daylight is from the second album, the mission has gone wrong and the crew are stranded in darkness with no contact with mission control.  The song is meant as a metaphor for that feeling of isolation, that feeling I was going through, feeling lost and alone in darkness, unable to reach out for help.  The crew members try desperately to reach mission control, but fail, then they hear a voice, as their ship comes out of the darkness.  I felt the same way, I was lost, until a voice came through from mission control to bring Daylight to replace my darkness, Gareth Morgan came through bringing the light of Jesus with him, I truly made contact with mission control when I prayed for the first time on 21st March 2012.

——————————

April: Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North

Afraid to let your secrets out
Everything that you hide
Can come crashing through the door now
But too scared to face all your fear
So you hide but you find
That the shame won’t disappear
(Healing Begins by Tenth Avenue North)

I’ve posted before about the song Healing Begins and the message I received to listen to this song, all through April this song was my guide, it stood by me through the pain and my struggles, it kept me on my path, even when I felt like falling back into the darkness, it kept my striving for the light.

——————————

May: Right Beside You by Building 429

When the walls are closing in
And you think you’d rather sink than swim
When you think there’s nothing left for you to lose
I’ll be right beside you
(Right Beside You by Building 429)

Another song that I had listen to many times, but this song became more important to me as my journey with God took more significance and relevance in my life, I was still coming to terms with the pain and withdrawals, I realised when I was at my lowest, so close to succumbing to temptation, if I asked for help from God it was there, he was right beside me, it just hit a chord with me, it didn’t matter how low I was he was right beside me.

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June: Dear X, You Don’t Own Me by Disciple

Dear shame, I was safe in your arms
You were there when it all fell apart
I would get so lost in your beautiful lies
(Dear X, You Don’t Own Me by Disciple)

This song was another I had listened to over the last few years, I really liked the song, but again never looked at it’s relevance to me, but as I became stronger and moved further away from the drink, I felt like I was gaining some element of control over it, I knew how to handle most of the feelings of temptation.  So X, which in my case stood for alcohol really didn’t own me anymore, it was still there trying, but I was fighting it, I had an element of control now, DEAR X (ALCOHOL), YOU DON’T OWN ME!!!!!!

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July: Unbreakable by Fireflight

Now I am unbreakable, It’s unmistakable
No one can touch me, Nothing can stop me
(Unbreakable by Fireflight)

On the day I was baptised I posted this list of songs on Facebook, without any real explanations, I was looking for a song for July that described how I felt that day, having been baptised in the amazing circumstances that happened that day, well I was so high on the whole experience that I felt Unbreakable, nobody could break how I felt that day, that feeling would last for sometime.

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August: Rise Above by Fireflight

Counting scars and losing track
Afraid to crash we never spread our wings
And with every chance we take we find a reason
To give up on the hope that we all need
(Rise Above by Fireflight)

With my control over my problems gradually improving, out of the blue I found this song, it said everything I was feeling at the time, whatever came my way, I had to rise above it, keep going on my path, whatever was throw at me, I could not afford to let it bring me down, I simply chose to rise above it, so this song just said everything.

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September: Run to You (+ Meet You) by Parachute Band

You are calling you are calling me to you
And i run     and i run to you
I need you i cant get enough of you
I come alive when im in your presence oh God of my salvation
(Run to You (+ Meet You) by Parachute Band)

This was again another song I had added to my Ipod well before my world changed forever, but one morning on way to Church it randomly played, I was blown away by it’s beauty and the simple message, the song just hit me.  Walking home from Church I listened to it over and over again, I just felt the song, it says everything to me really, it didn’t matter what I did or where I tried to hide, he would meet me, Christ would find me and I am so grateful that he did.

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October: Times by Tenth Avenue North

My love is over. It’s underneath
It’s inside. It’s in between
The times you doubt Me, when you can’t feel
The times that you question, ‘Is this for real?’
(Time by Tenth Avenue North)

Of all the songs on the album Over and Underneath, this song originally I didn’t really like, I still wasn’t a big fan when my world changed, then after listening to their new album The Struggle, I revisited this song and I finally understood it.  The song basically has two parts to it, in the first part the singer questions his relationship with God, the second part God replies that no matter what you do his love will always be there.  At a time when things in my journey became real and I questioned if I was ready for it, I got my answers, this song played out in my life, I questioned, he answered.

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November: Don’t Change a Thing by Seabird

Waking up before the sun came up, was a fight that I would lose
To fall in love without a heart must be the hardest part for you
If I could change anything I’d change everything but you
Please promise me you won’t change a thing
(Don’t Change a Thing by Seabird)

The reoccurring theme here is that all these songs were on my Ipod well before my fall, they were there, I had listened to them many times, they were on my regular play list, but I hadn’t heard them, I hadn’t taken their lyrics and questioned them or their relevance to my life, now I feel them, I see the words, I hear them, at times many of these songs still reduce me to tears, I just can’t believe I never really heard them before.  If I could go back to that darkness I was in, with what I know now, I would change everything but Christ, in fact I have, the only constant is Christ, I have with his help changed everything.

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December (hopefully): Merry Christmas, Here’s To Many More by Relient K

I made it through the year and I did not even collapse
Gotta thank God for that
I’m torn between what keeps me whole and what tears me in half
I’ll fall apart or stay intact
(Merry Christmas, Here’s To Many More by Relient K)

I know we are only in November, but I love this song, it is my all time favourite Christmas song, narrowly beating “Fairytale of New York”.  I just hope that I make to through the year with out collapsing (again anyway), I will certainly thank God for that, though not everyone I love will be there to greet me, I will be thankful to have at least reached Christmas, things could have gone horribly wrong this year, between contemplation of suicide and being a heart attack waiting to happen, whatever happens for me this Christmas, I will be glad just to have made it.

With the Correct Faith, Yesterday’s Failures Can Become Today’s Victories

Today I took part in the service at my Church, I was asked to help promote the up and coming Baptism Sunday with the story of my Baptism back in July, with only a few minutes to speak, I gave a short version of the amazing events that took place that day, but here’s the full story.

Saturday 7th July 2012

Where do I start with this one, well I’ve posted about my karate before, I’ve had success, back in 2010 I was my association’s National Men’s Kata Champion, in 2011 I was runner up, both these previous two years, I had rode my luck, I survived on pain killers and freeze spray as my body was barely able to cope on it’s own, I had drunk at least four cans of cider the night before, I couldn’t remember a Nationals where I was completely sober the night before, so this year both sober and with a new outlook on life through God, how could I fail.

I had spent the last two and half months losing weight, so I was fitter and lighter, I wasn’t struggling with aches and pains, I didn’t need the pain killers this year, I prayed for strength to achieve my dream of winning, I was ready, I was up for it, it was my time.

Well, no it wasn’t, for the first time in over twelve years I lost in the first round, it just wasn’t there, yes I had got fit, yes I had lost weight, yes I was pain free, but to be honest I hadn’t put in the practice, I wasn’t there to win a Wii fit competition, this was karate, this was kata, it needs practice, no matter how good you are.

When I lost the split decision, there was a massive disappointment, I walked back off the mat truly down, I shook my opponent’s hand, then it hit me, I looked up and thought, “Ok, I’m with you God, I’m not there yet, I’ve still got work to do, it’s not my time, it’s not part of your plan, I am with you, I will trust you to show me when the time is right”.

People around me couldn’t believe I had lost, but my response was “it is what it is!” In other words, that’s how it’s supposed to be, who am I change that. The disappointment was short lived, I was given a bit of a jolt, but there was a lesson to be learnt and I was learning it.

It’s was late when I got home, but I followed my routine, wash, pray and write up my journal. I wrote two phrases in my journal that night, the first being “It is what it is” and the second being:

“I am a work in progress, but I have to work in order to progress”.

I love that second phrase, it sums up everything, we are all a work in progress, none of us are the finished article, but in order to achieve that potential we have to work to improve, to progress, we should not just expect everything to just happen because we want it to, we have to work for it in order to appreciate it.

Sunday 8th July 2012

A good night’s sleep followed, I was at peace, content that even though I hadn’t achieved my dream, I had learnt a big life lesson. I woke the next morning, started as a means to go on, straight on the Wii Fit, a couple of hours of exercise and then a nice hot bath.

Then the first of the odd things that were to happen on this day, as I got ready for Church, I looked out of the window to check the weather, well it was overcast, it looked like it could rain, I had just my jeans and a t-shirt on, so I checked the weather on my phone, overcast and a chance of rain, so do I take a coat?

As I walked through the kitchen towards the back door an odd thought came into my head, “I not taking a coat, I don’t mind if I get wet today!” Ok, so no coat, it wasn’t that cold, but a bit of an odd thought, but that’s it no coat, let’s go then.

I walked to Church in my usual, slightly odd looking power walk, well okay freaky looking, walked into Church, hugged a few people on the way, hang on a second, did I just say hugged a few people, yes, yes I did, but that’s not usually me, I surprise those I hug, just as much as it surprises me, this day is getting stranger, but it’s about to get even weirder.

I take my seat, at the back left corner as usual, if you walk into our Church, you will find me quite easily. Today wasn’t a normal service, it was Baptism Sunday, this had been announced some weeks earlier, I had thought about it, but as I had only been in Church three months and still felt like I had a lot to learn, feeling that I wasn’t ready yet for that step, I had decided to put it off until later in the year, when I had more time to prepare. The service starts with Worship as usual, three lively songs, then Gareth our Pastor takes the stage, he announces it’s Baptism Sunday, but then makes a statement he says he has never made before, at this point everything changes, the weird, just gets weirder!

Gareth challenges everyone, that in this Church today someone will make the decision to get Baptised today, an on the spot decision, it had never happened before, but Gareth had a belief that something amazing was going to happen today in the presence of God.

Now at that point everything changed, I froze, I literally froze, I couldn’t breathe, my lungs, my heart, my chest had just frozen, everything felt cold, the air was gone for that moment, then it went. I knew then that He was talking to me, not Gareth, he just mouthed the words, God was talking to me, he was calling me out, he was telling me it was my time to stand up and be counted. Gareth proceeded to say that they would find a change of clothes and a towel, he didn’t know where from, but they would provide somehow.

I stood frozen to the spot as Gareth left the stage, we sang one more song and then a break for a short time to meet and great friends, I stood there absolutely still, oblivious to anything going on around me, having a conversation with myself in my own head. “He’s talking to you, God is talking to you, what are you going to do about it?” “Are you doing this or what?” There was only one answer, “YES”. I looked around the hall, spotted Gareth and set off, ignoring every face I passed, I was on a mission, I interrupted Gareth, he turned and I just asked “Ok, where do I get a spare set of clothes?” He realised what I was saying and it was all agreed, too late to back out now, in for a penny in for a pound. I went back to take my seat, I had a grin bigger than a Cheshire Cat, I couldn’t believe what I had just done, I’m never that impulsive, I don’t work that way, but things were happening here that at the time I couldn’t understand, but I was going with it.

Part of the Baptism service is that, each of those who have made a decision to be Baptised, prepare a statement of how they came to God and tell their story on stage, so Gareth called out the three people who had made the decision some weeks earlier and were prepared, I don’t think I was supposed to go up there, I hadn’t prepared anything, I was still reeling from what had already happened, but again impulse took over, I stood up, marched to the stage, took Gareth completely by surprise and joined the other three, I was literally lifted from my seat to that stage, my normal self would never have done this, but today was quite obviously, no normal day.

Speaking on stage, in front of a couple of hundred people, is not easy, the three before me had written statements that they were reading, but they were struggling with nerves, they were quiet, losing their track, even unable to read their own writing, as each one got more nervous than the previous one, I stood waiting my turn. I am out of my bubble here, this is not me, I don’t act impulsively, I don’t push myself to the front in places I’m not comfortable, but it wasn’t like that today, I wanted that mic, I wanted to speak, not sure what, but I had something to say.

I took the mic, looked out to the crowd, not down, not avoiding the gaze of the crowd, I was looking them in the eye, I told them how my life had collapsed, I told them I had been an alcoholic for the past 3 years, I told them how I made the hardest phone call of my life back in March when everything had felt lost, how I had met Gareth and Alex, telling them just about everything.

I had prepared some words to send to Gareth in text when the moment was right, but the moment was now, these words just came out

“That night I took from them an hour and half of their lives, in return they gave me the keys to the rest of my life and the strength and courage to unlock the door and go through it, to a better life”.

I say these words with strength and passion, the response from the audience is fantastic. I proceed to tell them when I quit drinking and how things were getting so much better, then passed the mic back to Gareth, then it’s back to my seat and relief.

The response from everyone I meet as I go back to my seat is unbelievable, I don’t think at this point they know I wasn’t supposed to be there, they had no idea that I had answered the call.

The word is next and then the Baptism at the end of the service, we are called up, I remove my shoes, socks and the contents of my pockets, ready to enter the Baptism Pool, firstly the three who were supposed to be there, then me, then another man who had made the decision after I did.

It’s my turn, I climb the steps, then just jump in, no dignified climb down into the cold water, like everybody else, not for me I can’t wait, I just jump in and take Joss and Alex, who are carrying out the Baptisms today, totally by surprise, then I’m in position, I relax, then I’m under, it’s a total rush, a moment I can’t easily describe, if you’ve been there you will understand. I was soaked, I had no spare clothes, but who cares, it’s was alongside the birth of my two children, the most glorious day of my life.

The rest of the day was a bit of a blur, I know I just couldn’t stop laughing to myself, I was in amazement at the things I had done throughout the day, things I would not normally do. I had made my mind up, I wasn’t ready, but that didn’t matter, it wasn’t a case of I didn’t think I was ready because the Lord did!

I think I was called because of the faith I had shown the previous day, that was my test, that was a test of faith, I had hopes and dreams, I had failed, but my response was, I trust you, I will follow your plan.

You gotta believe
Oh yeah
Don’t fear, don’t break it
You gotta be free (Ah, Ah)
I hope your blinded eyes will see
(You Gotta Believe by The Rocket Summer)

I wasn’t to worry about getting wet that morning, he would provide, I would be getting the greatest soaking of my life, what was a little rain compared to that! He did provide, I had clothes brought to me, I don’t know where they came from, but they appeared.

That night when I wrote up my day, I wrote another phrase:

“With the correct faith, yesterday’s failures can become today’s victories”.

It had certainly been so in my case, I was called out, I was lifted from my seat at the back, lifted up all the way to stage, taken from my comfort zone to share my story, rewarded for my faith.

If you are considering being baptised or have made the decision you are not ready, I say this:

“Do not look into your own mind to ask yourself if you are ready, look in to your heart and ask the Lord if he thinks you are ready, you may get an answer you never expected”.