For Lent 2018 we thought we’d share a ‘4t of the day’ each day (… get it… because 4t sounds like ‘thought’ :) ). We hope you enjoy these short thoughts, reflections and stories from some of the 4Front team!
2018 marks 4 years since 4Front Theatre came into being, and what a crazy, wonderful 4 years it has been! In 2014 (the year of birth…) we produced 2 shows (‘The Gsus Story’ and ‘Christmas, Toys and an Empty Manger’), and keeping on top of the administration of that was ridiculous. 4 years later we’re planning 8 touring productions, 2 festival residencies and many one-off events all to take place between now and Christmas 2018…
I can’t even explain the amount of admin jobs I have to do right now! From grant applications to sending out booking forms, replying to emails, policies, contracts, risk assessments, site visits, meetings, monthly book keeping… the list goes on. So if you don’t get a reply right away – I promise we’re trying our best!
Yet despite the crazy business, God has been and continues to be faithful. We’re looking forward to sharing some of the things we’ve learned over our 4 year journey. For today though, I wanted to share something that Rob and I are really focusing on personally in 2018, and that is rest. Having just told you about all the events / productions we have coming up this year that may seem a little surprising, but this year we are aiming to be deliberate with times of rest.
“Be still and know that I am God…” Psalm 46:10a
Our tag line is ‘putting faith at the 4Front’ and in order to continue to do that we’ve realised that we need to set aside time to rest in God so that we can really do our best, without burning out and doing a half-hearted job because we’ve overdone it.
As well as ensuring we keep a ‘Sabbath’ day each week, each month, Rob & I have set aside a ‘renewal day’ where we take time out and go away for the day to rest, renew, pray together and focus on God.
It is not about us. It is all about God.
My encouragement for the first day of Lent is simply this, regardless of how busy you think you are, take a moment and be still and know that He is God. And don’t wait till you’ve got a gap, schedule it in, be intentional with rest. Take a moment to realise that whatever is going on He is in control and He will renew our strength. So that we will soar on wings like eagles; run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.
- Actor (Law & Disorder, So On & So 4th, 4FFF, Operation Bible)
- All round good guy
So a few years ago I was in a play called Shakespeare in Love. It was an absolutely incredible experience and one I learned an awful lot from. I remember the first few days of rehearsal, working alongside some fantastic actors who had worked all over the business and being slightly over-awed by it all. As opening night got closer, though, I noticed something – everyone was getting fed up of the show. People started talking less and less positively about coming in to work as previews ended and we got deeper into the show, and all this rubbed off on me as a young actor in his first job.
Then came December; A really tough time for me as I spent the evenings doing the show with the old cast, whilst my daytimes were spent in rehearsals with the new cast coming in for the new year. Words cannot describe the difference. Where one was stale and 'phoning it in/going through the motions', the new cast were filled with love for the play, the writing and the story it told. Living in two worlds, part of two families was a hard task to keep going.
But the first show of the new cast changed everything. Hearing words again I knew inside out as if for the first time. Seeing people take love, care and attention over every detail. It reminded me of one of my favourite lines in Shakespeare – 'Did my heart love till now?... I ne'er saw true beauty till this night'. I fell in love again with the play, with my work, and with the story I was telling to audiences every single night.
And weird as it sounds, this translated into my real life too. I started looking for, and seeing, beauty in everything. In the woman and her baby asleep on the tube. In the twilight sky over the river on Putney Bridge. It put me in mind of Psalm 118 – 'This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!' Sometimes, when things are getting me down and I struggle to take joy in what I'm doing I re-challenge myself to try and see people and the world the way God sees it. Looking down on his creation and saying 'It is good.'
This Christmas we sent out two shows, Chuck Blaze and Christmas Castaways, which meant for the first time, a 4Front show went out that I wasn’t performing in (up until now, yes I have been in every 4Front show because the performer in me has been willing to do it for little to no pay, and the casting director in me is cheap).
Directing the show, finishing off the music, sourcing the last few props, getting a handle on the new PA and dusting off the old Chuck Blaze gear; the rehearsal period for Castaways was plenty busy enough. Yet once the show was on its feet and out on the road, I experienced a strange phenomenon. I had a couple of days with nothing to do.
It was a few days before Chuck Blaze rehearsals started so I tagged along for the first few shows of Christmas Castaways. By the second show, I realised just how redundant I was and it made me do something that I’m not normally very good at. I stopped...and I reflected...only for a moment, but long enough for me to learn something. I saw the value in what we’re doing.
The show had gone down brilliantly, it was a good turn-out, and Nat, Steve and Jake were mingling with their audience. Nat was in one corner, talking to people with the volunteer from Compassion, gaining sponsors to literally change underprivileged children’s lives. Steve was at the other side of the room introducing two wide-eyed children to Tarquin (our blue-footed booby puppet), and Jake was sat on the front of the stage surrounded by another gaggle of festively charged kids, explaining who was who in our coconut nativity. And as I looked around the room I saw people all over talking, laughing, and there was a tangible sense of joy.
We’re not going to be short-sighted enough to claim that this was all because our show was so good. Sure the show contributed to it a fair deal, but the general good-vibes in the room were also down to the hospitality of the church and the shared experience and the time of the year. Yet, I could see the value of the work we’re doing right in front of me. The show is good yes, but the opportunity it creates; that’s where the value lies.
It was a bit of an emotional moment, and I was humbled to think that the work we’re doing is bigger than us, and that it was a work that could be used by God.
It was a huge encouragement personally, but I think the lesson in all of this is about appreciating the work I’m doing. In Ecclesiastes 3:13, it says that ‘everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil - this is God’s gift to man.’ Sometimes it’s good to take stock of what you’re doing, to step back and realise the value of the work you do. Take a step back from marking books again, to appreciate how much you’re shaping the lives of the kids in your class. Take a step back from under the sink, to appreciate how much of a difference hot running water will make for that elderly couple over Winter.
Take a step back from the till, to see how valuable a friendly face can be in people’s lives. Sometimes we’re blessed with moments that show us the value of our work, but most of the time we’re not that lucky, so find the time, stop for a moment, and take a step back from your work; take a step back to admire the view.
I was never meant to be on the tour in the first place. I was meant to be at home on the other end of the phone in case anything went wrong with 2 shows on the road, but, due to illness, I stepped into a 4-week tour at the last minute, which was not what we’d planned for at all.
We’d performed ‘Christmas Castaways’ 37 times and our final show was about half way through when it happened. Having just been around the audience searching for any ‘monster’ on the island (unsuccessfully) we got back to the stage and I dragged Jake off as I usually do – only this time he managed to knock the flower stand (just to the side) on the way off.
The gasp from the audience was audible as the elegant flowers began falling. From backstage I saw Jake try his hardest to catch them but unfortunately they were made on green crumbly stuff that fell to pieces in his hands and indeed continued to the floor where it made a gigantic mess. The audience laughed and I tried to compose myself before going back onstage to continue the show.
We performed ‘Christmas Castaways’ 38 times (+ a few in rehearsals) and, although we performed the same script every time, I don’t think one of the shows was the same! Whether it was knocked over flowers, kids coming on stage and taking our props, mics being ripped out instead of ‘tinsel’, snow, the list goes on. We certainly had lots of fun.
On reflection, this Christmas tour was one of the most favourite I have ever done. I hadn’t even planned to be on it and then when I was it was nothing I expected it to be, but so much more! It reminded me of the verse:
‘The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.’ Prov 16:9
We literally wrote a script, planned a tour, cast actors, and rehearsed for a week – it was very planned! But the Lord brought it to life anew each day.
Sometimes we might make plans (I’m a killer for it – I love organisation!) and have ideas about how something will be, but it is God who establishes and directs our steps. God’s plans are way above ours, so sometimes it’ll turn out better than we could have thought (like Christmas Castaways), and sometimes it seems to turn out worse, but don’t lose heart, for God works all things together for the good of those who love Him!
So what did I learn over Christmas Castaways? To chill out – God’s got it in his hands, and if it’s not exactly the way I planned … that’s ok.
-veritable font of wisdom
This contribution to 4t comes from the other side of the globe as we are spending February with our son and his family in Japan. Lent is not part of the religious tradition in this country, but there are lessons the Japanese can teach us that may help all of us in our lenten devotions.
Along with everyone else here, our Japanese family and friends love their cherry blossom, or sakura. And it is now just coming into bud, which is very exciting. Soon families will gather for picnics under cherry trees for the annual celebration of Hanami. It is taken very seriously - almost a religious thing for people here. Even now, when the buds have not yet burst, you will see people eagerly photographing branches of what will be beautiful blossom in a just little while.
So what does this say to us? Well, we can so easily be guilty of taking for granted the blossom and new leaves that are the harbingers of spring. Let us each resolve to take time during Lent to appreciate every little sign that spring is on its way. And those of you who love the excitement of the theatre, think of every tree as a stage on which the great Heavenly Director calls into play his huge cast of emerging blossoms, and puts on a stunning performance, surpassing the efforts of any theatre company - even 4front! It's a performance of new life, reminding us of a Faithful Creator who loves to follow what for many has been a harsh winter with the delightful joy of spring.
So find a park or garden today. Look closely at the trees. Find emerging buds of blossom and dare to believe that if your have been going through something of a winter season, you can join with my Japanese friends and celebrate the Hanami of God's creativity and faithfulness.
I’ve had a few different jobs before settling on Artistic Director of 4Front. (If settling is the right word for it, gosh it would be nice to settle into something.)
I’ve been a till operator
A taxi driver
A mad scientist
A driver for special needs children
A ‘tenter’ (marquee erector)
A singing teacher
A cinema usher
I was once even the guy in the suit for Buster the health and safety bear for a building company. (The teenager who used to free-run round building sites in me found this very amusing)
I tried my hand as a musician, as a magician, youth worker, balloon modeller, wedding singer…the list goes on.
Yet now I’m doing what I love, making theatre, writing music, performing; doing what I feel God wants me doing at the minute and it’s great. I feel like I’m making a difference…
Lol jokes, ‘making a difference.’ What a fluffy idea.
It’s quite a millennial thing apparently, people get dissatisfied with where they are in life or what they’re doing because they’re not ‘making a difference;’ because they feel like what they’re doing doesn’t matter enough.
That’s how I felt in between my many jobs. When we were starting 4Front, I worked as a waiter in a restaurant. For over a year I’d regularly put on the uniform and go in to work doing a job that wasn’t ‘making a difference;’ that wasn’t ‘fulfilling.’ All the while wishing this theatre thing we were developing would take off. Yet every shift I’d go in with a prayer (well most shifts, I’m not perfect), and a desire to be a good witness and to be a good waiter. To smile, to be friendly, sociable and altogether pleasant.
One night, an elderly lady came in on her own, and she was on one of my tables. Nothing too special, we had a lot of elderly customers, and we had people dining on their own every so often. So I did my thing: I was friendly, chatty, exceptionally polite, attentive; I did all the things a good waiter should do.
Same old same old.
She finished up her meal and paid, then shortly afterwards she left. As I was clearing her table I noticed a little note she’d left, which read “this was my first night out on my own since my husband died, thankyou for making it such a pleasant one.”
That night, I made a difference. And here’s the important bit, it wasn’t what I was doing, it was how I was doing it.
In Colossians 3:23 it says whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, for the Lord, and not for men. Do things whole-heartedly, as if you’re doing them for God. And that’s not just in roles where you feel fulfilled; the things that suit your skill-set or personality, but in whatever you do.
I love how it’s worded in Ecclesiastes 9:10, whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing an email, fixing a lightbulb or unblocking the toilet. Whatever your hand finds to do.
Whatever circumstance you find yourself in, whatever it is you find yourself doing, do it with all your might, with all your heart, as if God himself is waiting on the end product. It’s that kind of attitude that really makes a difference.
It seems appropriate, writing a blog for 4Front, that I should talk about the first time working with them! I'd met Rob three years previously at summer school and we then didn't stay in contact and out of nowhere he pops up and asked if I wanted to come do an improv night and, later, their Easter tour 'Law and Disorder'.
I was living down in London at the time, trying to be a jobbing actor and, quite frankly, had hit a bit of a rut. Over a few months I'd seen my life and mental health deteriorate around me – the auditions and inevitable 'No's were slowly battering down my self confidence, my agent had dropped me and I was being ground down by the ongoing cycle of work several jobs to be able to afford rent to have a place to sleep so I could work several jobs etc. etc. repeat ad infinitum.
Safe to say I really wasn't in the best place. But the month or so I spent with 4Front changed everything. A world that had soured for me was given new life. After a few months of being too busy, and having no time either for myself or for acting I had space to think and to reflect. I've always had a strong affinity to nature, and during the tour I got a chance to climb up the Malvern hills and look out over the land. After months of turmoil and internal strife, up there with the wind buffeting my hair I felt such peace. Peace about my place and purpose in this world, about the work I was doing and who I was working with.
For me, this new working relationship and time spent working on what I loved to do revitalised me, setting me on the right path towards getting myself back on my feet. John 16:33 reads 'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.'
Jesus never promises that things are going to be easy, but in him we can find peace.
- Chairman of the Board of Trustees for 4Front Theatre
- Youth Ministry Course Leader and Performing Arts Lecturer at Regents Theological College.
I was leading a tour that performed a show in a black church in London and let’s just say things didn’t go to plan.
When we first arrived, we were shown up four flights of stairs to the performance space which we then had to carry our heavy set and tech equipment up. Once we were set up, we were then shown to our ‘dressing room’ which was a corridor, this served well as a changing space until the youth group starting running up and down the corridor just as one of the actors removed his trouser (comic timing or what); so, for safeguarding purposes, we moved to another space and began to prepare for the show.
7:15pm (When the show was supposed to start), no one was there…. 7:30pm, I think one person has turned up and he was the event organiser. I went and asked him what was going on, “don’t worry, we’ll start soon” he said… 8pm there were 25-30 people milling around. The organiser got up and began to introduce us; ok, I thought, we’re 45mins late but we can make up some of that time and we’ll just finish a little later. We were poised for the opening line. The organiser finished praying and we were about to go on stage when the audience began a praise and worship session. We decided it would be best to wait… 8:30pm the pastor shouted a closing prayer over the signing, alright, I thought, we’re going to have to pick up the pace here… the next words I heard were: “We’ll take a short break and then we’ll come back for the play.” I sank to the floor and began to silently laugh in a manic sort of way (it was either this or cry), ‘don’t send them away’ I thought, ‘we’ve only just got them all together.’ People always say God has a good sense of humour.
… 9pm, we start the show! We ran without an interval and as fast as we could while making sure we could still be understood, but by this point I wasn’t really worried about that, I just wanted to go home. The show finished (in record time) and after an impromptu discussion by the audience on the play and its themes we began packing the set down and headed for our host accommodation. We were split up and sent all over London (some of the accommodation was about an hour or more drive from the church and we didn’t leave till 11/11:30pm). I was then dropped in the middle of a street without an address or even a name for my host as I watched my only mode of transport and contact drive off into the distance. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well that evening.
But the next day, as we gathered back at the church, the pastor (and various people in the church) told us how moving they had found the performance and how relevant and important it was for them right now. They said this was the first performance they’d ever had at church but they would certainly have a theatre company back again (I thought ‘good luck trying to book us again’).
The show was all about how messy and ridiculous ‘Church’ can be but how transformative too. We get so concerned with our plans and schedules, but in the face of God they are so meaningless. This performance was well worth the ordeal, if not just for the good story, it was worth it because God has spoken to people and worked out his plan. Thank goodness God is in control.
Proverbs 19:21 ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’
When I was 12 years old a team from the States came over to my Church and shared the story of Elisabeth Elliot and the ‘Operation Auca’ missionaries in the 1950’s. I remember getting a t-shirt from them with a picture of Nate Saint’s yellow piper plane in the middle and the words ‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose’ around it. I was so touched and moved by the story that I got baptised in that t-shirt.
When I was 17 years old I’d read several of Elisabeth Elliot’s books, and so I wrote to her. Her husband wrote me a hand written letter back explaining that she was now very ill and unable to reply personally to letters, though she loved receiving them. He sent me some of Elisabeth’s poems and previous letters she’d sent to girls around my age.
When I was 21 I embarked upon a journey of bringing the story to life. I started writing (having never written a play before) with no end goal that it would ever be performed. I toyed with a 2-man show, a 5-man show, but I could find no way around the need to capture the lives of all 10 missionaries involved.
When I was 23 we performed ‘Reckless Abandon’ for the first time. The third time we ever performed the show was at Creation Fest where we received a standing ovation from nearly a thousand people. I’ll never forget that moment. I needed to hold myself together to speak shortly after the bow, but it was hard! I was emotionally moved and so were the audience!
When I was 24 Elisabeth Elliot died. I didn’t even know her personally but I cried as if she were a close friend. I cried as I was sad she’d gone, but mostly I cried with joy for the reunion with the men in Heaven and with the Lord she’d served so wholeheartedly her entire life.
When I was 25 we went on tour with Jaime Saint, grandson of Nate Saint. Suddenly, it was all brand new. Suddenly, Marj Saint (who I was playing) wasn’t just an amazing lady who’d lived through crazy stuff in her life… suddenly she was Jaime’s grandmother whom he knew and remembered clearly. Suddenly, Mincaye wasn’t just the first Waodani convert, he was a close friend of Jaime, and he’d been and spent a lot of time in the jungle where this happened, in fact he goes most years.
I’ll be 27 when we take this show out on the road for 2 weeks in June 2018; 15 years later I’m still excited, amazed and moved by the story.
It seems this story has a special place in my life and as long as it does I will faithfully keep on sharing it. There is so much we can learn from it, and I continue to be challenged by the missionaries’ devotedness to the Lord. Have you had a recurring inspirational story in your life?
‘For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain’ Phil 1:21
- Actor: Fishermans Tail, So On & So 4th, & 4FFF
Last year I went on tour with 4Front for the first time. Five actors and one technician in one van and many hours on the road. Needless to say, we got to know each other pretty well, and friendships were formed and strengthened.
But, sometimes, it was a bit much. There were moments when I couldn’t take being around the others. I was getting irritated by the smallest of things people would do.
The more time we spend with people, the closer we get to them, the more cracks we start to see. I was becoming less gracious and my heart was becoming hard. Why was this? I was part of a touring Christian theatre. We prayed together before each show, had deep theological discussions on numerous occasions, the show we were touring WAS the Easter story, you can’t get much more Christian than that.
But as the tour went on, I realised, in being surrounded by others, I wasn’t spending time alone with God.
“And rising early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.” Mark 1:35
There are two things Jesus does here. He (1) sets aside time and (2) seeks privacy.
Jesus doesn’t just get up in the morning, he rises “EARLY in the morning, WHILE IT WAS STILL DARK”. But even then, Jesus doesn’t pray where he had been sleeping round the campfire while his disciples were still sleeping, “he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.”
So, what could I have done? What could WE do when we need to be alone with God, but it seems that there is no escape? I think the answer to this is practical, simple, but possibly hard. If there’s one thing I take away from Mark 1:35, time with God takes EFFORT and SACRIFICE.
Does it mean saying no to a night out with the friends you see all the time anyway to spend time with the God you need to catch up with? Should I have put my headphones in to isolate myself in the van so I could spend time reading my bible?
As much as it is a sacrifice to miss out on time with friends, I think it’s worth setting aside time to go into the desolate place to pray.
One of my youth leaders married an American girl who had the biggest heart I had ever known; she just seemed to love everybody unconditionally. The love she showed was an example of Jesus and I wanted to be just like that, so I prayed that God would help me love more.
The old saying goes ‘be careful what you pray for’ and I definitely experienced this first hand when I prayed to love more! Up to this point in my life I had generally gotten on with everybody. I’m quite a friendly person and so there hadn’t been anybody that really rubbed me up the wrong way or didn’t like me… until now.
During my gap year I was working with a small group of people in a foreign country, and whether it was a personality clash, or a clash of cultures, there was one girl who just did not like me, and the feeling became mutual, especially when she effectively became my boss. Day after day I felt like she was interpreting my motives wrongly, giving me all the hardest jobs while she did the easier ones, and even getting other leadership involved because she felt like I wasn’t respecting her.
Those 6 months were so difficult. I remember praying and asking God why I had to work with this person when I got on so well with everybody else there! Why she was misinterpreting my motives and why it was SO hard to be in her team. I remember God reminding me of my prayer just a few weeks earlier, that I would learn to love more; to love like Hannah (the American girl); to love like Jesus
During that time, I certainly learnt to love people more, even when they’re not easy to love, because Jesus didn’t say ‘love those who love you’, He said ‘love your enemy’. Love those who it is hard to love. She’s not even my enemy, she’s a Christian, so shouldn’t I find it easier? I didn’t… but daily I remembered (and still do):
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
The old saying goes ‘be careful what you pray for’ – God didn’t suddenly open my heart up to love more like I’d hoped, instead he put me in a situation where I had to learn to love more. Seek to be more like God, to show more fruits of the Spirit… but don’t be surprised when you have to learn!
- Actor (Wingin’ It, 4FFF)
- Looks good in angel wings
As an actor I cling onto a lot of stuff. ‘It’ll come in useful’ I think to myself as I place a cardboard motorbike in the corner of my room that I’ve inherited from a pantomime. I probably used it once since that day. A lot like the trunk of costumes I have but hardly ever use. Sometimes I’m tempted to dress up as a pirate but then I realise that it wouldn’t be appropriate for the job interview, so it stays in the trunk.
There’s stuff in my room that I don’t even know I have. There’s stuff I’ve used once but have never touched again and I still have stocking fillers strewn across my room from the previous Christmas let alone this years…
Sometimes we clutter our lives with stuff. Stuff we don’t really need like glow in the dark toilet roll (an actual product).
Then there’s the stuff that we are aware of. Objects that we deem as indispensable and valuable like my ever-growing Lego Batman collection. Often we put a lot of pride in these possessions. We place an importance on them that overtakes our kind nature. We become selfish and over protective. ‘You can’t use that, it’s mine’ or ‘You can look but don’t touch’ are phrases I know I’ve been guilty of saying.
Jesus once said that to get into heaven a man had to ‘sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’ Mark 10:21
That sounds crazy. But what does this really mean for us?
I don’t think that it necessarily means that you can’t have stuff (I’m sure God loves my Lego Batman collection). What I do think though, is that you shouldn’t place your possessions above God. When it comes down to it, you can live without all of the stuff you own.
Instead of keeping them to yourselves, believing that you are the sole owner, share it with other people and don’t cling on to it. Don’t let your possessions come between you and God.
In Jesus’ time, the disciples, literally had to give up their stuff in order to follow Jesus. It was either that or lug it around with them all the time where ever they went.
Imagine carrying everything you owned with you. It would very quickly become a burden on your back. Then you would have to make a choice. Leave it behind and catch back up with Jesus or go back home and sit with your stuff until you die.
At lent we often give up stuff, like chocolate or playing on the x-box. But Lent isn’t a challenge for us to complete. It’s not a competition between you and God. You’re not making a bet with God that you can give up something and he’s betting against you, urging you to take that bite of a Galaxy bar. Lent is there to help you spend more time with God.
Every time you think about doing whatever you’ve given up, you should be reminded of why you’re doing it. And then you should be acting upon it. Read the Bible. Pray. Go to church. Help someone in need.
Lent is about leaving something behind so that you can catch back up with God.
I'm writing this in the departure lounge at Paris airport, waiting for the connecting flight to take us on the last leg of our journey home from Japan. And I find myself reflecting on the way that words can be so powerful, for good or ill, but they can also be so inadequate. Here in Terminal One, the computer screen announces that this terminal is ‘not in operation’. This causes alarm among some Chinese tourists, and it was the reassuring calmness of the official, rather than his words - that would not have been understood anyway - that helped them to realise that the 'terminal" was the computer screen not the airport terminal!
So, actions often do speak louder than words. And that has frequently been our experience during our stay in Japan. We manage only very few words in Japanese. This means that smiles, gestures and bows - which are so much part of Japanese culture - take on a new importance. It is quite remarkable how we can enjoy a conversation with our son's parents-in-law, even though we don't actually know the words we are using! And earlier this week, Helen and I ventured into a cafe in a nearby village. The lady behind the counter spoke no English and the menus were entirely in Japanese, with no pictures. And we forgot to bring our phrase book with us! Nonetheless, we succeeded in ordering a lunch and conducting a reasonable “conversation”.
Now, I am sure any actor, from Forefront or elsewhere, would be aware of the power of silence - those moments when the audience is gripped not by the words but by the unspoken actions of the players. And I am sure it was the same with Jesus. The people were amazed at his words, but I am sure they were equally amazed by the way he smiled, the looks he gave and how he took the children on to his knee. We are told that when He met the rich young ruler, He looked at him and loved him. And when Peter was overwhelmed by remorse for denying his Master, Jesus did not speak words of reprimand – he simply looked at him.
So why not decide to give your tongue - and other people’s ears - a rest today? Listen to the unspoken words and the gestures that can convey so much. And take time, yourself, to smile - and to find creative ways to show your appreciation of the people you meet.
- Actor (Reckless Abandon, Christmas Castaways, 4FFF, So On & So 4th, Fishermans Tail)
I thank God (almost) everyday for the life I live. I have a loving family, a great soon to be wife, and a job that takes me all over the country – and occasionally across the sea’s. Acting is a great job, one that is harder than most believe it to be, but still so enthralling to pursue. And, once you put God to the 4front of your intentions (see what I did there), over that of self-gratification or simply to find fame or fortune, you can be blessed by some miraculous surprises. One of which I shall now explain is not of huge religious significance, or really of any kind of self-reflection, instead, merely a hilarious snippet from my journey with Christ.
To set the context, like much of my life, I was on tour; travelling across the country bringing the good news of Jesus to all corners of our society. During the journeys, actors and singers alike are hosted by kind and generous people around the country. They feed us, keep us warm and give us a bed to stay in after a long day travelling and performing. This story began with one of these host’s.
After a long day I was dropped off at a host house. Armed with a suitcase and satchel I walked up to the door and rang the doorbell. Answering this door was a middle-aged gentleman, well dressed and well spoken. He had been expecting me… brilliant. So far so good! He ushered me into the house explaining apologetically that he and his wife would be celebrating a milestone anniversary in an hotel that night. I would be left alone. Almost. He explained that his 17yo daughter would be at home with me, however, I was not to worry as she would look after herself.
The wife and husband wave goodbye and leave. I was left alone with the daughter, who was keeping herself well away as predicted. Whilst watching tv, the clock strikes 10pm and simultaneously the daughter… lets call her Jasmine… leaves through the front door. I think nothing of it and go upstairs to bed. It must have gone 12 when I finally drifted off, and still no sound of Jasmine. I sleep soundly, until suddenly my bedroom doors swings open! My head bolts upwards with my eyes darting around ferociously until they settle, rather peculiarly towards a figure, standing before me. The figure is timidly calling my name. It is Jasmine. It takes a few moments but it dawns on me that she is stood entirely in her underwear. She calls my name again, slightly more fearful this time…after the initial shock that what I see before me is not a dream, she timidly describes her issue. It was a relief to hear I wasn’t being propositioned, although my ego was somewhat dented at this fact… She went on to say that she had brought a man home, but had second thoughts last minute, and the guy was now not leaving. She asked whether I could remove him. Scare him off even. So here I am, half asleep, in my boxers thinking “how on Earth am I going to scare this bloke away in my pants”. But anyway, I try to psyche myself up.
I enter her bedroom, walk past the display of shed clothing and see the lad lying in her bed, ‘pretending’ to be asleep. I tell him to leave. No response. I call out again, louder this time, yet to no avail. More determined than ever I yank the bed sheets firmly off of him and call again. He jumps up like a fish out of water, flapping around, flesh everywhere. Turns out he was going the Full Monty! Before I have chance to kick this naked gent out of the house I am deafened by a loud, BANG!!!
The door I had just come through swings back open behind me. Jasmine’s dad was home. Turns out he didn’t stay out all night as predicted. With a roar of bemused fury the Dad shouts “WHAT IS GOING ON!” .
He had come home and heard a party of noise coming from his daughter’s bedroom and found Jasmine in her undergarments, a naked stranger jumping from his daughter’s bed and a guest from a Christian organisation standing triumphantly in his boxers…
Well the lad ran pretty sharpish leaving me and his daughter to explain. “It’s not what it looks like”.
Thankfully I didn’t use that line. I’ve seen it in the movies… doesn’t usually go well. I was sternly told to vacate the room with Jasmine left to explain the rest.
For the rest of the week I waited in horror and with anxiety for the family to speak to me over the course of my stay. The Dad wouldn’t speak. The daughter’s head never glanced close to me. The mother did try a couple of times to initiate some sort of conversation. To no avail, but it was sweet.
It was cleared up eventually, or at least to some degree. When I left, the Dad quietly gave me a gentle apology. Humble, quiet, and probably quite painful to say, “Thank you”.
Tense. Hilarious. Traumatic. Bizarre. There are many words that I could find to represent this memory. A fruit salad of feelings if you will. And to think of bible verses to share the feelings I felt, again, a multitude of teachings work so well. One verse sticks out above all. It kept me safe against the fear of every moment. The fear when being awoken, when confronting an unknown, potentially dangerous man, and fear of scorn from the family and community I was staying with. One truth kept me strong.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10.
He helped me enter the girls room. I had nothing for defence, but my body and my God. I was protected, and was called to protect this girl. And in shame, I was protected from the wrath of her father, from the implications of what occurred. And, if nothing else, the father was raised up too. He conquered his anxiety, his embarrassment, his fear… and apologised. Not an easy thing to do I’m sure. We are all protected by God if call upon him. He is our shield. When we find ourselves in unnerving and unknown territory, remember this, he is only a whisper away.
A friend and I visited Salzburg in Aug 2009 and, being a huge fan of ‘The Sound of Music’, we booked onto ‘The Sound of Music tour’ as well as booking tickets to go and see ‘The Sound of Music’ at the theatre. What better place to see ‘The Sound of Music’ than in the very place it was filmed?
After a fantastic tour we were very excited to end the day at the theatre! The theatre was famed for being the very place they made the marionettes used in the song ‘Lonely goatherd’ in the film, and as we entered we saw those, along with many other marionettes, on display across the theatre.
Now these tickets had not been cheap (and we didn’t even buy the most expensive ones), yet as we found our seats and looked at the stage we realised it was oddly small, barley big enough for a child, never mind an adult. We thought this might be some kind of pre-set that would be taken away to a much bigger space behind. However, as the lights went down and the show began, marionettes came on stage. A little puppet of Maria, the nuns, Captain Von Trapp and all the children … and all we could do was laugh. We had booked to see a puppet show! And an expensive one at that!
I like to think God was laughing along with us in Heaven at how silly we’d been... in hind sight the theatre was called ‘The Marionette Theatre’ – how did we not realise?
In Nehemiah 8:10 it says ‘Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is my strength’
Nowhere does it specifically say God or Jesus have a hilarious sense of humour, or that they pull pranks and joke around, but it does speak of joy. Jesus said ‘let the little children come to me’ – I don’t think they would’ve gone to someone who wasn’t joyful, smiling or laughing.
Jesus is Holy, righteous and worthy of our praise, and he is also my friend, and sometimes friends laugh when friends do silly things. Remember to share your funny times with Him, as well as your apologies, thanks, prayers for others and requests.
- Actor - Fishermans Tail, So On & So 4th
In this period of lent I’ve been thinking a lot about the Jesus’ ministry in the Bible. How incredible it is to go over those stories and think about the amazing ways Jesus shared his great love with those around him. And at the end of the story as he ascended into heaven we are reminded to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), along with a promise that he will be with us.
But often I find merely sharing my faith with those around me is a trial in itself, let alone making disciples in whole other nations. I often fear that speaking to others about my faith will cause a rift in the relationship or cause offence, with people feeling like I’m trying to push my own beliefs and ideas onto them, ending with cries of “don’t try and change me! I am who I am!” Of course, no one’s ever actually said this to me, but the fear of it can be even more debilitating.
So where’s the answer? Well, some of the most courageous sharers of faith that I’ve spoken to have actually been children. Whilst touring Fisherman’s Tale with 4Front I got to speak to many christian children at churches and schools who shared their experiences of their relationships with Jesus, about how he helped them feel calm at school or how they helped their mum or dad through a difficult time. And it seemed to come so naturally. It didn’t feel forced like they were trying to preach at me, but neither did they avoid talking about their faith. I think there’s certainly something we can learn from that.
In his ministry Jesus speaks to his followers about how the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are like children (Matthew 19:14). And I think that we can be like children when sharing our faith with others. I mean, these kids that I met on tour were just living out their christian journey day to day, without looking for opportunities to speak, but merely being honest and open about their experiences and stories.
So if you are looking to be more courageous in sharing your faith through lent this year, perhaps rather than working up to a big discussion with a friend (although I commend you if you can do that!) why not just try to be more open about your every day faith. If someone asks about your day or week, why not mention your prayer or bible study. If someone asks what you did at the weekend why not mention what happened at your church service last Sunday. And in being more open with our everyday faith, the people that we have around us may well hear more about what it’s like to have a relationship with God, through our eyes.
I recently went to see the musical Hamilton, and I can safely say that yes, you need to do everything you can to get a ticket. Whilst Rob Holman respectfully disagrees with my view that it is one of the best shows to have been written so far this millennium, there is one thing that is irrefutable: The chorus were absolutely incredible. They made the show. It was phenomenal to see the passion and skill each of them brought to the stage. A show based so much on lyrical trickery was sent to another level by the atmosphere created on stage.
It reminded me of another show I saw recently where the chorus members, though they didn't have loads to do, were again insanely talented and dedicated - bringing everything every night. The lead actors, however, were 'phoning it in' and lazily going through the motions. It really felt like they had been caught up in their own success. Yet the people in the ensemble who maybe don't often get noticed really shone.
And then there's the people you don't see. The mysterious 'people in black'. Stage managers, lighting and sound techies, directors, choreographers; people who's work wasn't always visable but was vital to the show and making everything perfect for an audience.
In 1 Corinthians 10:31 it says 'So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.'
People won't always see what you do. You might be part of the 90% of the iceberg that's under water. But just like when I watched Hamilton, looked and saw what the chorus memebers were bringing to the bigger picture, so God looks down on us using our gifts and talents. He sees our passion and our toil – so shouldn't we be trying our hardest to glorify Him through what he's given us?
The Good Samaritan is a staple in the Christian theatre world. It’s a beautiful story which can be acted out with great vigor and ease because of how well Jesus constructs it.
Often we focus on the Samaritan in the story, looking at what a great example he was as a neighbour and how we should lead by his example and not judge other people just because they are different to us. We should help everyone, regardless of whether they support Liverpool or Man U. However, I’d like us to focus on those who we are told walked past the beaten up man. Mainly because, I think, that’s unfortunately who I’d be in the story.
I commute into London when I go to uni and in London it is full of busy, busy people. No one smiles at one another in the fear that it may lead to conversation. They drown themselves in coffee in the hope that the caffeine will make them go that extra bit faster. People are crammed onto the tube because they can’t afford to wait another minute for the next one. Time is of the utter most importance. And sometimes, that rushing leads to an accident. Someone may slip over, running to get to the next train or pushing their way to get out of the station. Or the business of life catches up to them and they fall down and have a heart attack. I know this, because I’ve witnessed it first-hand. Before, I used to have the excuse ‘I’m squeamish. I hate blood. I’m the worst person to help. I’d literally faint.’ Then, when I realise there isn’t any blood on the scene, I’d walk past and think to myself ‘I don’t know first aid. I wouldn’t be much help. Someone more qualified than me will come along.’
As part of my job as a Children’s minister I had to do a first aid course. I managed to get through it without fainting, which is a minor miracle for me having fainted three times in the past for various and embarrassing reasons of which would take me too long to tell. I am now first aid trained. I was inspired.
What’s that? You’re choking? Let me perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on you like a pro!
You’ve got a nasty burn there, wouldn’t it be great if I fixed you up?
The next day I embarked on one of my trips to London, ready and vigilant to act upon my new found heroics, but nothing came my way. I was, in truth, pretty gutted. I was tempted to push someone over or shove a biscuit down their throat so I could put my first aid skills to the use. I didn’t, of course, but I was desperate and given the right opportunity, who knows…
Anyway, maybe a week passed since my first aid training course and one morning as I got off the train I noticed someone was lying on the floor. People were tending to them. This was it. This was the big chance I had been waiting for.
“STAND BACK! I KNOW FIRST AID!” I screamed rushing to their aid. Expertly placing them in the recovery position. People in tears as I saved this poor person’s life.
Except I didn’t. I walked on by and didn’t look. Guilty but with a voice in my head saying ‘I haven’t got the time. They’re already being looked after, I’m sure they’ll be fine without me.’
Still, Charles?! Even after training, even after knowing that you are more than qualified, you still put off helping someone else because you’re worried that you don’t have enough time?
Time is such an easy excuse to use. We’re controlled by time. Time to get up. Time to have lunch. Time to sleep. Deadlines. Events. Everything is dictated by time. And if you miss that allotted time, you pay for it. Oversleep? You’re late and everyone at school or work judges you for being late. They label you as lazy when maybe it’s just because you’re actually tired and overworked and exhausted.
We choose things to do and not to do based on whether we have enough time.
Yeah, I’ve got time for this.
Nah, I’ve got too much to do and not much time to do it in but in half an hour’s time I’ll find time to play on the PS4 for an hour.
We’re terrified of running out of time. We keep it and use it sparingly.
But here’s the secret. Our time here, on this earth, it’s not for us. It’s for others. Giving up your time to help others, to develop others, to have fun with others is the key.
Helping others is so rewarding. Before I was paid to do work with children, I used to volunteer in my old church helping out with the various children’s groups.
Sure, it’s hard work. Frustrating when people don’t listen. Tiring when you’ve had a day of school or work beforehand. Upsetting when you some kids never come back and you never see them again. But for every one of those, there’s been a reward. I’ve seen kids come to faith. I’ve watched as they’ve been baptised. I’ve seen them grow into incredible teens doing incredible things and my heart swells and sings. And that’s why I do what I do. I look at each one of the kids in my groups and I’m excited at who they are. And I’m even more excited to see them grow and become even more amazing. I’m overjoyed when they say something that has so much wisdom to it and I laugh when they make jokes because it makes me happy to know that they are happy.
I know that I’m spending my time wisely when I see other people grow and be happier as a result.
When we’re on earth we think about all the things we can be doing to help ourselves and yet, when we get to heaven we’re going to have eternity to spend on whatever we like. I can’t even properly imagine what that’s going to be like but I imagine it’s going to be awesome. We’ve got an eternity to have fun. But whilst we’re on earth perhaps we need to be better at compromising and sharing our time with other people.
Instead of walking past someone in need and thinking that you haven’t got the time or skills to help, I encourage you to stay and help. If you’ve always considered volunteering at a children’s or youth group or something that your church runs which involves taking the time to spend with other people, I urge you to just go for it. Don’t walk past, muttering to yourself that you haven’t got the time. Make the time and God will find the time for you to do everything else in your life. Trust me. I’m so incredibly busy but also so incredibly grateful and amazed when I find I’ve managed to complete everything I needed to do despite going off for a coffee to help disciple someone from my youth group.
You may find that the rewards of those interactions you often walk past outweigh what’s waiting for you elsewhere.
- Actor (Chuck Blaze & The Cradle of Life)
“The joy of the LORD is your strength.” ~ Nehemiah 8:10b
One of the greatest privileges I have had in the world of Christian theatre is the opportunity to portray Jesus himself in a production that told the Gospel story to primary school children. It was remarkable in many ways – there is nothing quite like seeing a ten year-old boy who has never heard the Easter story shouting “YES” and fist-pumping as Jesus emerges from the grave – but while God definitely moved in our audiences, He certainly did not hold back in showing new things to us as actors either.
What I love most about acting is getting inside a character’s head, trying to figure out how they would feel and respond in different scenarios, trying to embody someone else’s mind entirely. Naturally this becomes all the more challenging when that ‘someone else’ is the son of God. As we put together the play and I looked into Jesus’ interactions with various people, one strong revelation kept dawning on me – and it has to be said that it really shouldn’t have been a revelation at all: Jesus is joyful.
Christians often take Nehemiah’s words about “the joy of the LORD” out of context and it is often taken to mean the joy that God instils in us, the joy we obtain when we serve Him. But this is the joy of the Lord. It is His joy. As we rehearsed the play, and we developed various ideas of presenting the most important man who ever lived to young children, it became clearer that of course he ought to be joyful! I can’t speak for everyone, but I have a tendency to picture Jesus as straight-faced (and I think most Christian artwork would agree), whether preaching the Sermon on the Mount or forgiving the sins of a lame man. Jesus’ words were consistently ground-breaking and often terrifying, but they were always words of love. When we perform acts of service for those we love, it brings us joy - with a love like His then, how much greater must His joy be when He speaks, heals, listens?
The biggest transformation from the Jesus I played in our initial readthrough to the Jesus I played on stage a fortnight later was simply his face. So often the Bible is read in Church with such solemnity, and of course its words should not be taken lightly. We know too that Jesus suffered terrible things and one could never suggest that he smiled through them. But Jesus is God. A God who feels joy as He looks on His creation, despite the mess we’ve made of ourselves. A God who surely then smiled as he served food to 5000 people; a God who surely grinned as the lame man leapt up with presumably infectious ecstasy; a God who forgave his friend’s betrayal by asking ‘do you love me’ three times. What’s to say He wasn’t beaming as Peter accepted that grace? Take it from me, in a very feeble attempt at filling his shoes, I found it near impossible not to be.
That is the joy of the Lord. And that joy alone is powerful enough to be our entire strength. That’s pretty cool.
As we are now around halfway through Lent, it is good to remember what is special about these 40 days. Well, traditionally it has been the time that Christians remember and reflect on the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, immediately after his baptism and prior to his public ministry. This also means reflecting on what happened at the end of those forty days, when Jesus was tempted by the Devil.
Now if we, as a community of actors and their supporters, reflect on the temptations of Jesus, it is good to remember that one of those temptations was that Jesus should misuse his acting ability. Did Jesus have an acting ability, I hear you ask? Well of course he did. Not only was He gifted in everything because He was God, but he often showed himself to be a master of drama. Once when he healed a blind man, we are told he spat on the ground, made some mud and applied it to the man’s eyes; and when he wanted to release a poor woman snatched from an adulterer’s bed, he dramatically stooped and wrote on the ground while her accusers faded away; and then when he wanted to reclaim the purity of the temple he did not give a lecture about it – he dramatically overturned the tables of the moneychangers and sellers of merchandise; and finally, when he wanted to give his disciples a lesson in humility, he famously took a basin and a towel and washed their feet. He chose to show, rather than just to tell.
Coming back to the Jesus’ temptations, what was it that the Devil wanted him to do? Well, he urged Jesus to take advantage of his acting skills, and the fact that he was the Son of God. He wanted him to do something that would make everyone cheer in amazement and adulation. Something that would certainly put Jesus in line for an Oscar! He told Jesus to stand on the pinnacle of the temple and jump down. For anyone else this would have been a disaster, but, so the Devil argued, if Jesus was the Son of God, his God would somehow catch him. Of course, Jesus refused.
So, what can we take from this story into our Lent devotions? Surely it is that we will often face the temptation to use the gifts God has given us, especially if those gifts are in the world of theatre, in a way that will attract attention to ourselves and enhance our reputation. But it’s not the spectacular, or the attention grabbing, that will impact people’s lives. If we want to do something effective for the Kingdom, it is better to use our gifts humbly. It is often even better to use them invisibly.
We’d sent out all out wedding invitations, the flights were booked (we got married abroad), the dress was ready, and it was just 2 weeks before we were to tie the knot that Rob suddenly realised he has forgotten to invite one of his closest friends. A panicked call and huge apology later we sent out one final invitation, and, although they weren’t able to come, I was glad they got the invite.
One thing we’ve learnt as we seem to get busier and busier is to be intentional with friendships. When you move away from home, go off to university, travel, leave university, whatever it is, you often find that as you grow older your friends don’t all live in the same village anymore. Actually, your Primary schools buddies that you could see whenever you wanted now live half way across the country and you’ve lost touch.
Lots of our friends live all over the country, (even all over the world) and we’ve learnt that investing time into seeing these friends and maintaining a relationship is just as important in the diary as any work commitment. For us, this still means that we’ll only see some friends once or twice a year, but we’re seeking to be better friends and be there. Some weeks that doesn’t mean much, but other weeks (like this week) that means 3 dinners with 3 different couples 3 days in a row and, for me, a long weekend with my best friends from school (who both now have babies.. crazy!).
‘Many a man proclaims his own unfailing love, but a faithful person who can find?’ Proverbs 20:6
In school we saw our friends on a daily basis, and the same is often true at university or with friends form work. But when those seasons end, remaining a faithful friend isn’t quite as simple; friendship takes effort.
Why not get in touch with a friend, even one you haven’t seen in a while, (maybe even someone you forgot to invite to your wedding) and arrange to see each other.
Make the effort today. Be a faithful friend.
Recently we had snow, and dependent on where you live in the UK, we had quite a bit. Over the two days that we had a lot of it on the ground I was working on music, so practically wasn’t very disrupted by it. In fact I didn’t even need to go outside, I could plonk myself behind my computer and my piano and stay nice and warm indoors all day.
Yet I decided to wrap up warm and go out for a little walk in it, because as much as us Brits panic at the sight of it, snow is awesome. The sound it makes underfoot, the brilliant layer of white that gives everything a whole new life; snow’s great. It was freezing, yet I decided to make the most of the opportunity and have a quick tromp through the snow because snow never sticks around long here in the UK. Sure enough it disappeared shortly afterwards and I’m glad I went out as I had the opportunity.
In Galatians 6:10 we’re encouraged to do good to everyone, as we have opportunity. Truth be told, life is short and there are many opportunities that are easily missed.
In our old house, we always wanted to properly get to know our neighbours, to do good to them. We can be quite good at “loving our neighbours,” as a general rule, but then get super awkward with getting to know the ones who actually live next door. And with the busy-ness of 4Front, aside from the occasional hello, getting to know the neighbours was something that always got neglected. We’d always hide behind the flimsy defence of we’ll get round to it eventually. Yet we kept putting it off and eventually circumstances changed and recently we moved house. Now getting to know the old neighbours is an opportunity missed. Just like the snow, opportunities to do good to others don’t last forever, and even those ones that seem reliable can disappear in an instant. We don’t know how long opportunities will be around, so we should make the most of them while they’re there.
I went out a couple of times in the snow while it was around, and I’m really glad I did, because both times it gave me the opportunity to meet some of our new neighbours.
When we visit a venue there’s just a small team of us, we unload, do the show, load back up and then, as soon as we’ve arrived we’re on the road again to the next venue.
In Matt 28:19 Jesus said “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.
Billy Graham recently went home to the Lord, and of course he is well known for the many huge rally’s that he preached at, where literally thousands of people came to Christ, even people I know. But there’s no way he could ever stick around to make meaningful, personal relationships with each one of those people and disciple them to grow in Christ. That is where the local Church comes in.
One of the primary reasons we like to work with local churches and encourage them to partner with us in schools or for community events is because we’ll be there one, maybe two nights, but they will continue to be there. They will be the recognisable, friendly face for the people who brought a friend along to see one of our shows, or for the children who start going to Messy Church. They will be the ones to build the meaningful, personal relationships that lead to discipleship.
We, the local Church, are the people who can help make disciples within our community. We can help people wherever they are on their faith journey, whether they’ve been dragged along to a 4Front show which has left them a bit more interested, or whether they got saved at a Billy Graham rally.
So say hello to the mum whose brought her children on Sunday morning after coming to tots during the week, or the student who has wandered into the Church looking slightly lost.
Make relationships. Make disciples.
In the first year of 4Front I was working full time as a Box Office assistant in a theatre. I loved the job, and loved the people, but it was 6 days a week and meant that I couldn’t take part in a lot of 4Front things because I was working. Financially it made total sense for me to continue with a steady job so we could pay the bills and Rob could continue freelancing around 4Front stuff, but after a year an opportunity came up for me to freelance with another Christian ministry: iSingPOP.
I was passionate about what they were doing and thought it was an amazing thing, but with no guarantee for the same amount of money going into the bank every month, and a whole long summer where schools are closed so there’s no work… I just wasn’t sure if leaving a full time job on a good wage was right.
I am very organised and like to plan ahead, and so after some thought and prayer I had worked out that we’d be ok financially until Christmas (it was May) so if things weren’t going well then I could look for another job in the new year. One of the many 0 hour contracts Rob had at the time was as a waiter in the Theatre restaurant and so we decided I’d look for a similar job in the area. I managed to secure a waiting job pretty quickly at a local hotel and so I handed in my notice, started working with iSingPOP, doing more 4Front stuff and did my first shift at the hotel.
Now, I have worked quite a few jobs over the years … even cleaning toilets, retail, hospitality, cafes, various theatre things, but I just didn’t get on with being a waitress that well. But I stuck it out for a few more shifts. It did mean though, that I’d left the box office to be more involved with ministry (iSingPOP and 4Front) but was still missing out sometimes because of this waiting job. I remember telling God how much I didn’t enjoy this place and then reading this verse:
Acts 6:2 “And then the 12 summoned the full number of disciples and said ‘it is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables’”.
I literally couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d never read that in the Bible before, and I was giving up ministry opportunities to serve tables! I read on…
Acts 6:4 “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of God”
There are few times in life when God clearly speaks but this was one of them! I handed in my notice at the hotel (which I was actually very pleased to do) and devoted myself to ministry with iSingPOP and 4Front, and (alongside a few freelance jobs along the way) that’s what I’ve been doing ever since!
God wants to speak into our lives, and cares about what we’re doing if you’ll just share your feelings with Him. The above example is one of the rare occasions something has been SO clear, but don’t miss out on the opportunity for those rare occasions – pray about it!
I got a place to study Primary School education at Bangor University (Wales) and was all set to go when I got back from my year abroad. Many people had said I’d be a good teacher, and I like working with children so it seemed like a logical thing to do. I had always been acting, singing and dancing but you can’t really make a life out of that, can you?
One of the last weeks I was in Austria was an international Missions conference for missionaries all over Europe to come and be refreshed. Near the end of the week I sat in on one of the sessions listening to the preach, all about God’s calling on our life.
The preacher said that sometimes we do things because we think that’s what God would want us to do, even though actually we’re much more interested or gifted in something else. Actually, if we’re following and seeking after God, He puts desires in our heart for a reason.
It was like something clicked inside me. I realised that my desires and gifting’s in performing arts and administration were something I could and should pursue. I immediately got online and started googling what courses I could pick up in Performing Arts when I got back, and eventually settled on a BTEC before re-applying for a different uni later on. I ended up at Regents Theological College doing a joint degree in Performing Arts and Theology, meeting Rob and founding 4Front, and I can draw it all back to that moment when God used the preacher to speak into my life and direct my path.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart – Psalm 37:4
If you’re seeking God, the desires on your heart will be the desires He has given you. They will utilise the gifts He has given you and He will fulfil the desires of your heart.
I had planned for a steady, reliable job as a teacher because logic told me performing arts wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle; it was a hobby. Just because it doesn’t seem like the most logical thing to do, doesn’t mean it isn’t right. God is using me in this ‘hobby’ to reach thousands of people every year with the Good news… even though I didn’t think it was ‘logical’ – He can see the whole picture!
Talking to children about what they’re thankful for is a really interesting conversation. Of course they’re thankful for presents and chocolate, but it quickly continues into family, friends, teachers, the countryside, our homes, etc etc.
Once a child told me they were thankful for their pet horse... if only I had a pet horse!
This week a 7-year-old child put their hand up in front of about 90 children and just said ‘I’m a Christian’. Now that certainly is something to be thankful for!
'But God showed His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ Romans 5:8
None of us are perfect but Jesus is. Jesus lived on this earth a perfect person yet he took the ultimate punishment completely undeserved so that sinners like me and you can have a relationship with God and meet Him one day in paradise. That is something I’m really thankful for.
The confidence of the little girl to put her hand up amidst her peers in a community school (not even a Church of England one) and declare that she was a Christian and that’s something she is thankful for is admirable and stood as a good reminder to me.
I am thankful for chocolate. I’m thankful for presents, my family, my home and the beautiful place where I live. But I am mainly thankful for Jesus. I am thankful that God is with me every day because of what Jesus did, even though I absolutely and completely don’t deserve it! What are you thankful for?
There’s a really great song by Brad Paisley (gotta love country music) simply called ‘No’ and these are the lyrics of V1 & chorus:
“On my fifth birthday, I got so upset
About the brand new bike that I didn't get
I'd prayed my heart out, and it didn't seem fair
I told my Grandpa, "I guess God doesn't care"
And he just smiled and said, "My child
Make no mistake, every prayer you pray
Gets answered, even though
Sometimes, the answer is no"
Sometimes it just feels like God doesn’t hear our prayer requests. When we can only see ways in which the requests are beneficial, it’s hard to remember that God sees the bigger picture.
It’s not that God isn’t listening, or doesn’t hear our prayers, it’s simply that sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes it’s yes and sometimes it’s soon…. But sometimes it is no.
Who really likes no for an answer? I don’t that’s for sure! At the time I can get annoyed or feel at a loss to why something isn’t happening the way I think would be best – but God knows best – and when I look back I can see His working through and through. I can see that He was right; I didn’t know best and I’m glad His answer was no.
I have learnt lessons and become a better person because God’s answer was no.
Phil 4:6 says ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God’
Let your requests be known to God … and be prepared that the answer might not be exactly what you’re looking for, but trust Him, for we can only see to the end of the page, but God knows the ending.
Over February and early March I've being doing a play set in World War II. In some ways it's very similar to other pieces about this period in history – regailing the stories of heros without whom this 'sceptred isle' would look very different. However if you think back to any people you know involved in the war effort they are almost always going to be straight, white males bravely marching off to the trenches. When the producer approached us with this idea he made one thing very clear: He wanted to look at the untold stories of incredible people from different nations and bring to light the diverse nature of the allied forces.
One of the great privilages of working as an actor, particularly when one takes on a 'real-life' role, is the opportunity to see into the past, get a view of the mindset and be given a picture totally unique of that persons history. It is then your charge to bring this and translate it for an audience to see as well. Over the past few weeks I've learned about some amazing people: like Billy, a Jamaican who sold his bike and saxaphone to come to Britain for the war and survived 60 missions, or Cuthbert, a woman with a prosthetic leg working tirelessly for the ambulance service in France.
I'm sat writing this about to join 4Front for the Easter Tour, where we do a sketch about everyone being an integral member of the family of God.
In Galatians Paul writes 'For there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus' (3:28).
It's easy to look back on history through just the lense you're taught. 'History is written by the victors' after all. But just like the war effort, the Church has a wonderful and varied history – and that's just taking into account the book of Acts! God has a habit of choosing anyone and everyone, so be ready to be asked to do something amazing and maybe future actors will be doing a play about you!
As I write this I am sat at my desk at home and silently sobbing as I think about the amount of work I have to complete this week and next.
However, I am also painfully aware that it is my birthday tomorrow (14th March) and that this will be the last evening I spend as a 21 year old and I am ever approaching an age in which I will actually have to act my age...
I've don't a lot of lasts today. The last commute to London as a 21 year old, the last listen to a podcast as a 21 year old and the last time I'll go to the toilet as a 21 year old. I understand that you have no idea where I'm going with this (and in truth, neither do I) but it's got me thinking, what was going through Jesus' mind the night he took the last supper?
(I realise being very melodramatic here, I'm not suggesting that I've just had my last supper and tomorrow I will be sentenced to death. Having a birthday and being betrayed to the authorities are two very different things...)
My life is pretty hectic; juggling uni, a part-time job at a cinema and being the children's minister at my church can get a bit overwhelming at times. Especially when I have impending deadlines and a busy rota.
I struggle to keep my head above the waves and often panic about how much stuff I have on and how little time I have to complete it in.
There's a phrase that I love and it's used in countless films and shows but I'm going to choose to quote it from Hamilton for two reasons; I've seen it recently and I can't stop listening to the soundtrack.
'In the eye of a hurricane, there is quiet'
I don't know about you, but sometimes when we take our busy lives to God he can provide the eye of the hurricane for us, that moment of quiet. That time when you can sit back and take a minute to look over yourself and check what you've got. To appreciate that even amongst all the busyness of life that God is with you, that no matter what storm you are caught in God has provided you with all you need to survive.
You can take that moment just to look around, watch as a cow flies past or a house carrying a girl and her little dog too spins into view.
I imagine that Jesus' eye of the hurricane was when he went to pray in the gardens of Gethsemane. He was probably scared, I don't know whether this was the case, it almost feels weird to think that Jesus could be scared but I wonder whether he was. He was, after all, God in human form and to be scared is a very human emotion. I reckon God does get scared sometimes. When you're looking out for your children you worry about what will happen to them and being scared must come under that umbrella.
Jesus was probably anxious about what was to come next. The storm had been brewing for a while, he had annoyed a lot of the officials and they hadn't exactly kept their anger to themselves. He knew he was going to die too. He'd been telling his disciples for ages, not that they understood. And although he knew that the outcome of it would ultimately be the greatest victory of all time, I wonder whether Jesus was also only too conscious as to what cost it would come at. The pain, the suffering and the dignity.
Being in the eye of a hurricane doesn't mean that you are out of the storm. You're going to have to venture back out into the wind and rain eventually. What it does provide, however, is a new found sense of faith and belief. An understanding that God will provide all that you need to confront it and that in the end, God will use it for the best.
Anyway, I should be getting back to work as, just like Alexander Hamilton, I've used this eye of the storm to write as though I'm running out of time. Thanks for keeping me company but I've got to put on my raincoat and wellies and wade back in...
Although we’ve done a couple of one off events, we haven’t done a tour since Christmas. It’s been really great to take some time in January to re-coup and then to catch up on the administrative jobs (for me) that often get pushed to the bottom of the pile.
This week we’ve started rehearsals for our Easter tour of ‘So On & So 4th’ and on Sunday evening I came down with a horrific cold. I’m snotty, tired, struggling with sleep and achey. I’ve been absolutely fine, well and full of energy for the past few weeks, but suddenly, the night before intense rehearsals begin, I get ill!
I say this not for you to feel sorry for me, but to share with you what I am trying to focus on:
‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Phil 4:13
This week He is literally having to strengthen my body to push through the rehearsals and make sure we get an awesome show.
I was really looking forward to rehearsals starting and getting the show up on it’s feet, and I am loving rehearsals… I’m excited for the show and can’t wait to be on the road. It just sucks that I can’t enjoy it to it’s full potential. Being slightly ill just means I have to work that much harder to keep up and keep taking sneezing breaks!
We are constantly in a Spiritual battle, and the Devil will try and use anything he can to come up against you in what you’re doing for God… but take heart. The battle is the Lords.
So when you’re snotty, you’re tyre is flat, or you’re just finding things a little tough.. remember…I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
At 4Front we did our first ever tour (The Gsus Story) in a micra! We soon upgraded to a Ford C-Max (and managed to break the suspension 3 times from the weight of set) but 2 years ago we knew we couldn’t tour in the car much longer. We really needed a van.
Initially we began hiring vans just for the one off performance days we needed them, particularly for ‘Reckless Abandon’, but we quickly began praying for our own van. We knew this would have to be a miracle of God because there was no way we had the finances to have a van. It was really a catch 22, because we didn’t have the money to get a van, but we couldn’t do as many tours as we wanted because we didn’t have a van. I prayed for a year that we would get a van, and for that entire year we rented vans whenever we needed them, which was an added expense that hit us every time.
One particularly performance of ‘Reckless Abandon’ was the hardest one we’ve ever had. It was a 500 seat venue and for various reasons only 42 people showed up to watch the show. We did the performance and the show went well, but everyone felt a little dejected, despite the wonderful comments from the audience.
But that night was the night God gave us a van. An audience member from that performance donated the money for us to buy the van which we had in time for Christmas. So a year of prayers, a night we thought had been a bit of a write off and God answered out prayers at the most unexpected point!
Col 3:12 ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’
At a performance, to be honest, I was slightly embarrassed about because of the low audience numbers in such a big venue, God answered my prayers. When I was in a humble place, and had shown patience, God provided. (I might add that I certainly wasn’t in a humble place out of choice, and I had not been the perfect example of patience, many times asking God why we didn’t have a van yet!)
This verse reminded me of learning to be more patient and that I should try daily to choose to clothe myself with patience, humility, kindness, compassion and gentleness.
As we were rehearsing yesterday I sat backstage during one of the scenes and looked at the set. From the front it looks great with up lighting from behind and black and red stripes – just like a talk show set. However, from behind, there are ugly metal bars, the edges of material hanging off in various places and the wires and lights visible amidst props ready to be used in the show.
It got me to thinking that sometimes life is a bit like that. We put on a front for people to see that makes it look like we’ve got our lives together. We use the filters on our photos on social media and only post the stuff we want people to see; that makes us look good. We don’t want people to know that we’ve got issues we’re dealing with, that we’re struggling with relationships or that we’ve had a huge argument with family.
1 Sam 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
The Lord sees us as we are. We cannot hide from Him.
God sees past the front of the set to the draping material, the metal bars and the messy wires and He still loves us. He cares for us and He wants to be our friend even though we haven’t got our lives together.
‘…For the Lord sees not as man sees…’
We have a joke within 4Front that we can fix anything with gaffer tape or cable ties. Many of our sets have been hung together by said things, but the audience don’t know that. They see the beautiful backdrop of a desert island … not the 25 cable ties and ugly metal bars holding it up!
Don’t look at someone else and think they’ve got their life together. Remember that everyone has other stuff going on, and that God looks at YOUR heart.
My 2 friends and I looked up at the stars, gave each other a hug, and said ‘we’ll remember this night in years to come because the stars are so bright and so clear’. We certainly did remember it, but it wasn’t because of the stars.
We had decided to have a ‘video night’ and sleepover when I was about 14. Now this was long before the days of Netflix, NOW TV or Amazon Prime… no this was the days of Blockbuster! My friend’s mum dropped us off at Blockbuster so we could choose a film and said she’d be back in about 20 minutes after she’d picked up some other shopping.
We looked round the store at the many films on offer and eventually decided upon one we were all happy with (don’t ask me what film it was!). We paid to rent it for the night and then went outside to find our lift. My friend’s mum wasn’t there yet, but that was fine… perhaps it hadn’t been the 20 minutes yet, despite us all feeling that it had probably been a lot longer.
We waited some more and she still didn’t arrive. This was before the days of us having a mobile phone each, so there was no way to contact her, and the Blockbuster store was now closing. Suddenly my friend’s mum came speeding round the corner and super apologetically recounted how she had actually forgotten us! We all found the situation hilarious and it certainly was a night we didn’t forget.
1 Tim 2:5-6 ‘For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.’
I think we can all be forgetful at times, or just start to take things for granted. This verse reminded me that Jesus gave himself as a ransom for me. He didn’t forget me when I was lost in sin and still hasn’t. Sometimes I take this for granted, and I don’t want too. I am so thankful for Jesus and what He did for me!
So don’t take Him for granted today – thank Jesus for his self-sacrificial love.. and for not forgetting us when we were lost in sin.
Do you know what an actor's least favourite word is? No? Well that's right. No. As sure as the sun rises in the morning you'll face rejection day in, day out as a jobbing actor trying to establish yourself in this industry. It starts early for some – rejection from drama school aplications whilst still at school age. Then when you try and get jobs on the other side you'll trapse in and out of auditions and the only way to stay sane amongst it all is to try and put it to one side as soon as you leave the room.
And you get told 'no' for a vast list of possible reasons: and very rarely is it that you aren't good enough. I remember going for one job, getting to the last two and being rejected because I wasn't blonde. But a part of me takes that rejection to heart; what could I have done differently, or worse 'better'. And even when you do get a job, you have so many people you feel you have to impress, people you perceive as judging you. Your director, fellow actors, producers, audience... You end up in a world where you feel you have to impress everyone.
A real danger for actors is you start to judge yourself and determine your worth on what other people think. You crave people's approval. I've heard people talk about 'needing' the applause from an audience. Your entire life becomes a performance to recieve external verification from other people. Obviously it isn't just actors who feel this way, but it is rather endemic of the people I've seen working alongside me.
It's was times after auditions that I had to remind myself of the very simple truth:
'I am fearfully and wonderfully made' (Psalm 139:14).
It is through God and his love for us we should identify ourselves, not what others say about us. We need to remember and as ourselves the question the Psalmest did: 'I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from?' (Psalm 121)
For our reflection today, let’s return to the Temptations of Christ. We will focus on one word the Devil uses in his temptations. The word “if”. Twice he said to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God…” The Devil’s motive was to cause Jesus to question and doubt his calling and his relationship with his Father.
But “If” is a word that can also be used positively. Paul told the Romans: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Jesus said: “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” John wrote: “If we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
The Devil, however, says “if” because he wants to probe your doubts. We see it right at the beginning of time. To paraphrase what the serpent said to Eve, he asked: “If God is so good, would he really have told you not to eat one of the fruits?” So, when the Son of God appeared, it’s not surprising that he tried the same thing: “If you really are the Son of God, would he not help you to do exactly want you want to do.” And the same thinking was behind the voices at Calvary who exclaimed: “If you really are the Christ, save yourself!”
So, what does all this say to us? Well, there are times in all our lives when doubts come to the surface. If you are an actor, and you’re struggling to remember your lines, then you will hear a little voice saying menacingly: “If you really are an actor, don’t you think you should have been able to remember those lines?” Or… “If God really has called you to Christian theatre, then it’s surprising that he has not helped you with that performance.” That’s not an “if” of encouragement, it’s an “if” of accusation, an “if” that is designed to discourage and to cause you to doubt.
What’s the answer? Well, make sure you discern the difference between the two “ifs”. If you hear a negative “if” of accusation, then it is unlikely to be from God. But if it is an “if” of encouragement, listen carefully. If someone tells you that if you trust in God, he will take care of the detail, then heed those words and allow them to build up your confidence in the gifting God has given you.
So, if God is challenging you about humility this Lent season – and we can all do with such a challenge, not just actors – then take note of the challenge. But don’t allow the “ifs” of the enemy to turn that humility into a denial of God’s ability to use you – or a breakdown in your confidence in the One who called you. Make sure you can spot the difference between a good “if” and a bad one!
Today Rob and I visited Bristol to learn more about George Muller, an incredible man of great faith (who happens to be one of the heroes of the faith in 4Front’s ‘Heroes’ show touring later in the year).
For those who don’t know George Muller, his life story is incredible and I would strongly recommend you learn a little more about him, but in brief, he opened orphanages in Bristol and cared for over 10,000 children in his lifetime. Yet, this was not his primary goal in life.
‘Still, the first and primary objective of the work was, and still is, that God might be magnified by the fact that the orphans, under my care, are provided with all they need only by prayer and faith – without anyone being asked by me or my fellow workers for resources, so that God’s faithfulness might be seen. Through His provision, others would see that He still hears and answers prayers.’ – George Muller
George Muller never had a penny to his name yet he bought land, built 5 huge orphanages and cared for thousands of children through the Lord’s provision. He didn’t ask anyone for money but God. His faith was admirable and he seeked to prove the age of miracles was not over.
Oh to have faith like George Muller!
Ephesians 3:20-21 ‘Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’
One of the greatest things about Muller was that his entire purpose was to glorify God. To remind us as Christians that God is able to do IMMEASURABLY MORE than all we ask or imagine! That we should remember to give the glory to God.
Pray about it – don’t worry!
Believe God will answer your prayer.
Believe God can do immeasurably more.
Give the glory to GOD!
Complacency is the comfort of modern society. We have grown into a world of convenience and comfort. Fast food chains take the pressure away from cooking ourselves, a plethora of information is accessible from our phones, and God is pushed to a Sunday… every other Sunday? It is easy to push him aside. Maybe its work, our studies, or family? Maybe it’s a Sunday league footy match. Whatever it may be, the danger is that we lose sight of the Lord. His importance in our lives becomes secondary. Some, through this busy life we live, lose sight of his love or significance. This is when we begin to enter the world of the prodigals. I entered this world once.
It begins when I am 18. I was brought up an Anglican, grandson to a vicar, so have found myself within the realms of church all my life, however, once I went to University it changed. I was given free-will to choose what I wanted to do, where I wanted go. A Sunday became a free day which I had not had all my childhood. I put my priority in exploring myself in new environments. Certainly this was not a bad thing, if anything this helped me to grow as an individual. I drifted idly into sports groups, drama classes and rehearsals to drinking at the pub after most lectures, partying and lastly sleeping. If I found time after that it was filled with doing the work I should have done weeks before. The leftover time was wasted on Youtube. When a weekend freed itself, that was spent seeing Rhiana… my fiancé. God was still in my life, but now on the peripheral. I still consulted him with issues and the challenges I faced, but I lost sight of what I should have been doing. We are made in his image after all, the Servant King. We are here to serve… the needy, the less fortunate, those that cannot repay, our neighbours et cetera, and Him. I was taking advantage of the God who has given so much to me. Then 2 years into my University life something happened, God intervened.
It was a Friday, where was I?… I can’t really tell you, no doubt intoxicated. My friends and I were about to enter a club, it was our end of year celebrations. So this time it was huge. Everyone was out. The streets were infested with us students. As we were about to enter, I glanced towards a gentleman, huddled on the street, begging. Not an unusual sight to many reading this I’m sure. I walked up, and instead of donating any money, I felt compelled to sit down next to him. Once I did that he was a little shocked and looked towards me. My drowsiness caused by the alcohol quickly subsided and I found myself just talking. Small talk to begin with, but it grew, more and more. He told me the secrets of his past, and I mine. We spoke for hours. His personal story was a sad one. An Irish national, estranged from his family after the darkness of losing his mother. Something that he admitted made him an evil person to those close to him. He felt guilty at what he had done to his family and fully said he deserved all that had befallen him thus far. Make no mistake he wasn’t all doom and gloom, he had aspirations of getting off the streets, and it seemed some things were already set in motion when I spoke to him.
As the night drew further on, I was angry at all those clubbers who walked past. Here I was speaking to a man so upset, distraught. A life story that no one would wish for and people carried on, without saying a word. I felt so much anger at those who wouldn’t part with a penny in case the homeless bought booze… A frustrating hypocrisy when they were off to spend up to £100 on just that. More so again at those who stopped by and gave empty life lessons to Paddy (the homeless man). Paddy just took it graciously and said thank you to anyone who walked by. And then we’d continue talking; about fond memories mostly. As I got up to leave I went to a cash machine and got the money I would have spent that night… it was roughly £50. (I wouldn’t usually give this much) I gave it to Paddy. He started to cry. He clutched at me tightly, hugging me. I was sure it was due to the cash I had given him, but he astounded me with something else.
“Thank you for talking to me. I haven’t spoken to anyone like that for such a long time”
With tears streaming down his face I welled up. This man had probably been surrounded by so many people every day, and yet no one said hello.
I went away from this experience fuming with guilt. The amount of people I had just walked past due to being too busy partying, or living my life the way I wanted. Desperate to right the wrongs of myself and others, I spoke to many homeless, I gave money, I gave time. I gave money to charities, friends, siblings, all of them. I was desperate to get this feeling of guilt out of my system. My finances were certainly taking a huge battering. This was not me being a saint, this was me trying to make myself feel better. A selfish selflessness. I certainly wasn’t doing this for the right reasons. My situation became so bad, I ran out of money. I stopped looking at my accounts months before it happened, so once my rent money bounced, it took me by huge surprise. I was in debt, bad! A few days passed and the image of me being kicked out of my university house swam around my mind 24/7. I did what I had forgotten to do for so long. I prayed. I really prayed. I got down on my knees and sobbed at the situation I had put myself in. I apolagised for not being with my God. I felt some peace afterwards, however, still very unsure of what was to come.
A couple of days later though, my life was lifted from the darkness. An email from the university arrived. I had achieved the grades the year before, to receive a grant. The grant was enough. Just enough to pull me from the debt, pay the rent and give me, a reasonably fresh start. I couldn’t believe it. God really helped me, pulled me my darkness and thrust me into the light again. Safe to say I went to church pretty quickly after that.
Since then I have been very thankful for all he has given me, and I try to give as much back as I can.
The famous saying goes ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and neither was Noah’s ark. It took Noah a very long time to build the ark; in fact varying beliefs state that it could’ve been anywhere between 75-120 years! Despite the many people who (probably) questioned Noah, and the many times he (probably) found it difficult to build a boat big enough for so many animals, Noah didn’t give up. He kept on going and persevered until the end, ultimately saving his family and all those animals from the flood.
I love the verse in Isaiah 40:31: ‘…but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.’
Perseverance is a common value I often see on the walls in Primary Schools, but it’s just as important for us to remember as it is for children. We often talk to children about persevering in a race or with a hard piece of homework, but there’s so much more than that.
Persevere with a friendship, with a ministry, with reading your Bible and prayer. They say it takes 30 days to make something a habit so persevere. Pray daily. Read your Bible and wait on the Lord. For those who wait on the Lord ‘shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.’
It took Noah as long as our entire lifetime is to build the Ark, and he was obedient. Might I encourage you today to persevere and expect great things… but know they will take time. After all, Rome wasn't built in a day.
I grew up in a Christian family and have gone to Church for as long as I can remember. When I was 12 I got baptised, at 17 I left the country to intern in a beautiful Christian Conference Centre in the Austrian Alps and at 20 I went away to Bible College.
I am so thankful for my testimony.
I used to slightly dread the ‘let’s all share our testimony’ times (although listening to other people’s is one of my favourite things to do) mainly because mine is pretty boring. I haven’t turned my life around from drink, drugs, or any of the world’s vices. I’ve had a wonderful upbringing with 2 loving parents and 3 great sisters.
It wasn’t until recently that I became thankful for this testimony. Someone had just shared their testimony with me of having been through rehab, a divorce, etc, and then they asked what my testimony was. I brushed mine off as ‘boring’ next to theirs and summed it all up as ‘I’ve always been a Christian really’.
‘Wow’ they said ‘you’ve never had the pain and suffering I’ve had to deal with, you should be thankful for that’. And it hit me. I’m blessed beyond belief that I know God and was brought up knowing Him. That my coming to know him personally wasn’t out of a place of desperation and pain, but out of a gradual realisation in a loving environment.
And so I am thankful for my testimony. I’m thankful for my family and for how I came to know God. Of course my life had/has ups and downs, but I no longer call my testimony ‘boring’… I’m simply ‘blessed’. Because that’s what a testimony is – nobody’s is the same – we all come to know God personally at a different time and in a different way… but how could life with the Lord ever be boring?
Whether you come to know God in the same kind of environment as I did, or in prison, on an alpha course, or through rehabilitation… aren’t we blessed to personally have a relationship with God!
So today, I’m thankful for my testimony… are you thankful for yours?
So Nat mentioned it before, but we went to the George Muller museum the other day, as he’s featuring in our upcoming show: Heroes. And he was an incredible dude.
His big thing was living on faith, but the thing that really stuck with me is his attitude on worrying. He was a big believer in not worrying about stuff, that whatever our circumstance, trial or tribulation, we should hand over all our worries to God in prayer.
In Philippians 4:6-7 it says “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
And this was a big deal for Muller, to the point that he said:
‘No anxiety ought to be found in the believer. Great, many and varied may be our trails, our afflictions, our difficulties and yet there should be no anxiety under any circumstances, because we have a Father in heaven, who is almighty, who loves His children as he loves His only begotten Son.’
Yet usually when someone needs to say “don’t worry,” that’s when you’re exactly in the kind of position to really not hear it. “How can I not worry when I’ve got this deadline coming up?” “How can I not worry when I’ve so much responsibility?” “How can I not worry when there’s so much that could go wrong?”
Sometimes we can face high-stress circumstances and situations, but it is always important to remember we’ve got an awesome God who is always ready to take up the burden of our cares and worries. Roll it all on to God, let him take your worries and cares. This is something I’m really being challenged on at the minute; we’ve had some very high stress situations recently and I’m trying to learn to be that little bit more Muller-esque, and not worry as much.
Be anxious for nothing. And that’s coming from a guy who opened his home to 30 orphans off the street, a guy who had to build, staff and oversee five orphanages (250+ kids in each), a guy who had to daily live hand to mouth, not only for his own needs, but for the needs of 1800+ children, the guy who worked himself into the ground till he was 70, a guy who decided to travel the world in his retirement (70-92), in the mid 1800s! Be anxious for nothing.
if it worked for Muller, odds are, it can work for you.
Today we are dealing with insurers following the events of the weekend when we were crashed into. God is good and continues to be faithful - we'll be back tomorrow with a blog!
For those of you who don’t know.. on Friday night on the way home from a show we were involved in a hit and run road traffic collision. We were stationary waiting to pull into a BP garage in Birmingham for fuel and a car hit us at 50-60 mph. Obviously we were in immediate shock; the other car was totally smashed in with air bags deployed and the car smoking at the front.. yet he didn’t stop.... it was a hit and run. It was unexpected, shocking and an awful situation … but here are the many miracles of God throughout:
1. Overall we are all ok! We definitely have some aches and pains but in the grand scheme of things.. we’re ok!
2. Even thought it was a hit and run…thankfully a taxi driver heard the crash and followed the car to get a number plate (which he did!)
3. The very next day we were told we could get our equipment back only if we got there before 12pm. This was at 9:30am and the compound was an hour away. We had no van and called several hire places who equally had no van. However, Regents Theological College and Oliver Ward stepped in and drove us over to Birmingham getting us there at 11:50am where we were able to recover EVERYTHING in the van.
4. Despite the impact, all our equipment is ok! The only exception is the banjo (totally broken) and some damage to the accordion.
5. We had 2 performances booked for Sunday and had no idea how we would be able to do them.. however, Saltmine Theatre Company stepped up to the mark and let us borrow their van for the day,… which meant we still got to do both the performances!
6. Today, we found out that the other car had cancelled their insurance, however, they cancelled it just hours after the collision which meant that the insurers will still cover it because it was insured at the time of the accident.
7. The insurance company are lending us a ‘like for like’ van… 6 seats, all the storage space in the back, and they’re dropping it off at our house tomorrow morning… just in time for us to continue the tour without having to cancel anymore shows.
We have a long road ahead of us in terms of whether the other party will admit fault, the extent of damage to our van (probably a write off) and what that means going forward for us. HOWEVER, I am reminded of these lyrics:
I do not know what lies ahead,
The way I cannot see,
But one stands near to be my guide,
He'll show the way to me.
I know who holds the future
And He'll guide me with his hand
With God things don't just happen,
Everything by him is planned.
So as I face tomorrow,
With its problems large and small,
I'll trust the God of miracles,
Give to Him my all.
I do not know the course ahead,
What joys and griefs are there.
But one stands near who fully knows,
I'll trust His loving care.
From the abundance of miracles we’ve already experienced we know God has got this! It’s hard and it’s tiring, but we are trusting in the ever faithful God who holds the future to continue to watch over us as we move forward with His guidance.
So today we are thankful that God is always with us, that He never leaves us and that He is in control and just knows.
The first car I drove when I was 17 was a Landrover discovery. Anyone who knows me now will know that even at the ripe age of 26 I still look about 18, so when I was only 17 you can image the looks I got as I parked and got out of a Landrover! I could see the ‘she only looks 13’, ‘how is she driving that big car’ judgements every time.
We can all be judgemental at times; whether that’s judging someone for looking young, judging a mother for her parenting choices, judging a friend for their lifestyle choices – unfortunately it often comes naturally.
‘Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.’ Romans 2:1
Nobody is perfect except God, which is why He alone is the judge. How can we judge others when there are many imperfections in our own lives? Though we strive for excellence we have all, and will all, fall short.
There’s a saying: ‘Be kinder than necessary, because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.’
We do not know what is going on in people’s lives. We do not know what lead them to get to the place today, where you now stand judging them. We do not know why a driver rammed into the back of our van and failed to stop.
Let us not be judgemental today, but let us be kinder than necessary. God’s grace is abundant and let’s draw on that.
My favourite Bible verse is Romans 8:28:
‘And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.’
This has been my favourite Bible verse for a little while now. It’s a really nice and easy thing to remember when everything is going right… but when things get a bit more tough, it can be just that little bit harder.
I’m sure you’re aware of the situation we’re facing with the van… but let me tell you about how the rest of the weekend went…
After having just 3 hours sleep and trying to sort lots of things out on Saturday, our Carbon Monoxide alarm started going off. We turned it off and again it started bleeping. We called the emergency gas man who came and turned our gas off telling us that we wouldn’t be able to turn it on until a gas specialist came out to check our appliances; our heating, hot water and hob are all gas. So now I can’t even have a hot shower after the accident until Monday when someone can come and fix it.
Our car was then due it’s MOT on Monday… which it failed. It wasn’t too expensive to get it fixed, but we did discover that at 120,000 miles we should’ve had a cam belt changed… we’re now on 160,000 and no other garage had pointed this out to us. The garage can’t fit the new cam belt for 2 weeks, so we’re now without that car as well.
A speeding ticket for going 45 in a 40 zone on the motorway also dropped through our door on Monday morning.
It feels like we’ve had one thing after another this weekend, but let me tell you this: God is faithful. God works ALL THINGS together for the good of those who love Him.
Today a hire van arrived (covered by the insurance) which means we can hit the road tomorrow to finish our tour and head up to Spring Harvest.
The gas is back on and I LOVED my hot shower.
I have never felt so much love and support from those around us. If there’s one major thing we’ve felt during these last few days it’s cared for. The van situation is ongoing (and probably will be for a little while) but we’re still going and God is still working little miracles everyday.
It’s still my favourite Bible verse – I just appreciate it so much more now.