So just over a week ago, Felix Baumgartner became the first person to break the speed of sound without the aid of a vehicle. It’s a mind-blowing achievement, to ascend to 23 miles above the earth’s surface and step off with nothing but a parachute to guide you back safely.
Felix is the very definition of a daredevil … you only need to search YouTube for some of his other crazy stunts but this was the ultimate challenge to end his career on, and what a challenge. Literally a huge leap of faith which in the process would provide valuable data and information that scientists can use to build the next generation of space suits and give them a better understanding of the strain that the human body can deal with at such extremes.
I’ve been following this mission for the past 3 years since it became public knowledge and being the complete geek that I am, knew as much about every part of the mission as I could … the capsule design, the advanced pressure suit, the test jumps, the technology and cameras being used … but up until a couple of days before the actual jump I hadn’t thought of the ‘what ifs’. What if all this high tech gear fails him, what if his parachute doesn’t open and what if the world watches as a man plummets 23 miles to his death?
Thankfully none of the ‘what ifs’ happened and he touched down with a textbook landing to achieve the incredible feat the Red Bull Stratos had set out to accomplish. In true Neil Armstrong style, Felix delivered a line just as he was about to step off the capsule which will go down in the history books:
Sometimes you have to go up really high to understand how small you are. I’m going home now.
An inspirational man who proves that unless you are prepared to test and push limits and records, they will remain unbroken.
Sometimes I think that about being a Christian, that unless you challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone, then those limits will remain unbroken … it’s something I’ve struggled with in the past and continue to even now. There’s a safe zone where people know me and where I’m comfortable and outside of that, I seem to shut down on anything remotely connected to God or church.
It’s something that hopefully I can work on having recently moved church. That was a big leap of faith for me and so far it’s paid off because of the new people I’ve met and the passion for God I’ve witnessed there, but I don’t want to just be a by-stander witnessing all this happening … I want to be part of it. It might take a little longer to figure out where exactly I am meant to be, but I know that I’m being challenged to step out in faith, to get involved and knowing that God will use me in the best way possible. I wish I could be as fearless as Felix because God is my capsule, pressure suit and parachute … and with Him there are no ‘what ifs’.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
The last couple of months have been a real time of change for me. From simple material things like my phone and car, to pretty major life decisions, which includes a change of church for the first time in my life.
I have grown up in Ballyclare Presbyterian since the age of 3 and have made some great friends through the church and organisations and it’s not something that I will forget quickly, but I have felt that for the last year, I needed a bigger challenge and to feel that I had a chance to learn something myself. There were times that I honestly felt like I was giving everything I could to help and still feeling like I was being used and not having a chance to grow in my faith.
It’s probably the scariest life decision I’ve had to make, purely because I faced it alone and it was a major case of stepping out of the comfort-zone from a place where everyone had known me for the last 20 years and into a completely new place, where I thought that only a couple of people would know me. I arrived in the car park of Carnmoney Presbyterian and literally questioned myself for a few minutes … “What are you doing? You’re not going to know anyone here.” “Why didn’t you bring someone with you?!” etc etc … but finally plucked up the courage and headed for the front doors.
The door was opened for me as I approached and I was greeted by the familiar face of a guy (Matt) who I used to work with in Next a few years ago. Relief was now the overwhelming feeling and then we began chatting as if we’d only seen each other the previous week and the fear barrier quickly subsided. He introduced me to his (now) wife and a few friends and I felt instantly welcome and that these were my kind of people who I would enjoy being around.
Over the last couple of months I’ve got to know a lot more people, added a lot more Twitter followers, been invited into people’s homes, sang worship songs I’d never even heard being sang in a church before, been challenged directly by what’s being preached and have left the church building some Sunday evenings in complete awe of God.
One song that has been a regular on the set-list is “Cornerstone” by Hillsong … if you don’t remember anything that I’ve written about in this post, please just listen to the words of this song … simply incredible.
Paul writes this in Romans 12 v 2:
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
I really believe that this new start in a new place is exactly the way to renew my mind and to continue to challenge me in how I act and live outside of the four walls of a church, outside of a Sunday evening. The people who I have met and got to know in the short time I’ve been at Carnmoney have made the world of difference and I feel like I’ve been part of that family for years rather than a few months … so thank you for helping me make that change.
As a massive Ulster Rugby fan, I was devastated to get a text from a friend on Saturday evening to tell me the tragic news about Nevin Spence and his family. Nevin was an incredible talent to watch and was destined to be a regular fixture in the Irish midfield in the next few years once the old guard of O’Driscoll and D’arcy retired. Sadly now he’ll never get to pull on the green jersey and represent his country at senior level after the events that took his life as well as that of his father and brother.
There has been a lot of talk in the press about Nevin’s faith and it was no secret that he was a Christian with a personal faith in God, as this article in the Irish Times from last year demonstrates:
“Listen, I’m making as many mistakes as you or anybody in the street, I suppose I just have to hold up my hands about it. I’m not perfect, I don’t want to be put on a pedestal as I know my own limitations.”
Like his team-mates, Spence grew up in a Christian home, but at school started to challenge the faith he had been brought up in.
“I don’t think it’s too unusual. I suppose I went off the rails, I don’t mean I was into drugs or anything like that, but I turned my back on Christianity, but something was always pulling me back.”
Spence still lives in rural Northern Ireland, in a small town where he goes to church twice a week and everybody knows his background. Yet, he is unwilling to give talks just yet. He stresses that this isn’t due to shame, but simply because he is still learning a lot about his faith himself. Spence never believed he could be a professional rugby player until late in school, and is delighted that he can be a Christian in his chosen profession.
“The Ulster team is a great place to be a Christian. It’s funny, Paul Marshall and I would help each other at training, if we catch each other swearing or whatever, it’s just good to know we’re looking out for each other. There’s a group of 30 lads here, and the banter won’t change amongst us, nor would I want it to. There’s no divide amongst the Christians and the non-Christians. For me the Bible is about actions speaking louder than words. I’ve just got to be careful my Mum doesn’t catch me swearing on TV again.”
In a country where religion has been the cause rather than the solution for many problems, this special group of Ulster rugby players are determined to keep using their own brand of muscular Christianity at Ravenhill as long as their careers endure.’
And we are left to wonder why? It is the question in all of our minds, if not on our lips. Why such senseless waste of human life? Why do 3 men from one family die in such a tragic accident? Why do 3 people who trust God end up dying in a slurry tank? Why do bad things happen to good people?
I don’t think any of us can answer that … we simply don’t know why.
But we know a few things which perhaps it’s good to remind ourselves of at a time like this, when so many people are asking the same “why” questions:
- Accidents happen in this messed up world and none of us are immune. The Bible even tells us that we will go through hard times … “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows, but take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
- Life is precious – “Teach us how short our life is, so that we may become wise.” Psalm 90:12.
- We can turn to God in the midst of our confusion and shock and horror. He can deal with our sense of outrage, injustice, bewilderment. He gave His only Son to die a horrible, shocking death when He was still a young man. When Jesus gave His life, when He suffered, He was bearing our pain as well as our sin. “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering” Isaiah 53:4.
So we shouldn’t turn on God and run away from Him in our sense of horror at what has happened. We should run TO God because He can handle all of our questions, our tears, our anger. There is nowhere else to run to, but this is not the final word. One day God “will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain.” Revelation 21:4.
Meanwhile, until then … let’s run to God with all that distresses us because we know that when your world comes crashing down and your dreams get shattered, His purpose still remains.
Came across this pretty appropriate piece of advice this morning on my Twitter feed from Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit) … thought it was worth a share …
The crap you are going through does not define your story. In a year it will be a chapter. And in another a page. Press on.
— Carlos Whittaker (@loswhit) June 3, 2012
I hope he doesn’t mind me writing this, but, a work colleague and good friend of mine, and his wife, are expecting their first child. Shortly after discovering they we expecting, they were told that Sharon had a very rare kidney disorder that may cause some difficulties during the pregnancy and may cause an early arrival.
Tonight in work we discovered that the baby may be born as soon as tomorrow, a full 10-weeks premature. I arrived home and was sitting eating my dinner when I opened the Bible app on my phone and it showed me today’s ‘Verse of the Day’ and it couldn’t have been more suitable for their current situation:
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
Psalm 139 v13-14
I texted it to Jonny and his reply completely blew me away in how God works even through the worst situations that we find ourselves in. I shouldn’t be surprised or expect anything less from God but it just pulled everything back into perspective that no matter the situation or problem, it’s never to big for Him to handle.
I had the unenviable experience of attending the funeral of another grandparent recently, my last remaining grandparent unfortunately. I posted this a few weeks ago which was aimed I guess, at how tough I was finding it coming to terms with losing a family member after not having lost anyone close for the past 20 years. So you can imagine how tough it is losing 2 in the space of 4 months!
We decided against a church service for the funeral but the minister and deaconess from Whiteabbey Presbyterian joined us at the house for a short service. In a house filled with family friends, cousins, second-cousins, work colleagues and others who knew her, it was a very fitting tribute to a truly amazing little woman who I had the privilege to call my grandmother.
During the service, Sadie the deaconess, had written a little testimony to the life of granny and made mention of all her little quirks and habits which we all remembered and loved. She finished by reading a passage from Proverbs 31, entitled “A Wife of Noble Character” which was the most perfect passage that could have summed up her character, habits and life.
In it, it speaks of being a home maker, a garment maker, speaking wisdom and working vigorously … all attributes that I would instantly link to granny but the verses that impacted me the most were the following:
29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Knowing that she had a great life in the 89 years she was here is comforting but it’s made even better by knowing that she is more alive now than she ever was and living a life infinitely more enjoyable than her 89 years here. That kind of blows my mind and I find it really difficult to explain to people who aren’t Christians … that in the middle of all this pain, frustration, hurt and sorrow there is a massive silver lining in knowing that she is in Heaven.
“Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Thanks for all the prayerful support and texts over the last while, it’s a truly indescribable feeling to have such a supportive group of friends and thanks probably isn’t a good enough expression of it but it’s all I can think of!
It’s a question that will raise all sorts of debates and arguments but Lionel Messi has become Barcelona’s all-time leading goal scorer with 234 goals … at the age of 24 … but is he the best player of all time?
There’s an argument that it’s impossible to compare him to the likes of Pelé, Cruyff, Maradona and Best because football has changed so much with the professional era, but regardless of era, his tally of goals is still staggering, averaging 2.8 goals per game.
He has won every domestic honour possible with Barcelona, who are close to being the greatest club side of all time, but he is still missing a World Cup winners medal with his beloved Argentina.
Can he really be classed as the greatest when he hasn’t achieved the greatest honour in the game?