Bad Things, Good People

god

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.

SK

2010 – The Best Bits

It seems crazy that I’m sitting down to write this already and look back on what’s happened in 2010.  Looking back, I thought I’d pick out some of the moments, times, places and people that have stood out for me this year … enjoy …

Bon Jovi in London

Bon Jovi have always been a band that I have loved listening to. The first album I ever bought was their “Cross Road” album and I had seen them live in Croke Park, Dublin a few years ago but I doubt anything will come close to seeing them in the O2 Arena in London. Jena and I headed over at the end of June and spent two great days in London. The concert was absolutely immense with a packed out O2 and them playing for over two hours, just about as many of their greatest hits that I can remember.

We spent the second day taking in some of the sights and just generally relaxing around London before heading back home. A great break and a great concert experience … JBJ never fails to impress!

Woodvale PCI Team

Where do I even begin with this week of outreach in the summer?! I guess I should thank Jude for asking me to be her assistant this year and for the amazing job that she does not only during the week but throughout the entire year with the kids of the Woodvale area.

Words really failed me this year as we saw God work in so many ways and prayer being answered so readily and in so many powerful ways. The experience of co-leading the team was a great one and the guys who were on the team were amazing and I honestly mean that from the bottom of my heart. Nothing was too much to ask and everyone played their part in another amazing part in Woodvale’s history … you all truly shone like stars in the universe.

Never forget that greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this City.

Florida

This was a holiday that was VERY much overdue for both myself and Jena. We hadn’t had a proper holiday since the last time we were in Florida in 2008 so this was a much needed break from the horrors of part-time work and the seemingly no hope of finding full-time employment, so we used it as two weeks to get away and recharge and forget about everything back home.

We headed back to the same area as before but were a lot more chilled out and caught some more rays while relaxing at the pool rather than being at a park every day. We still managed to do all of Disney, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure and (on Jena’s part) a lot of shopping!

An truly awesome holiday and I even managed to get (a bit of) a tan!

Viva Aviva

As most people know I’m a complete rugby fanatic and will watch any level of the game and November is always a big month with the Autumn Internationals. This year was particularly special as it saw the completion of the new national stadium at Lansdowne Road, or as it’s now known the Aviva Stadium.

It is a spectacular stadium, not the best I’ve been in, but it’s still a special place to watch a game that I love. I was lucky enough to get tickets to the opening international between Ireland and South Africa but unfortunately due to a massive cock-up by the IRFU regarding ticketing prices the place was only 70% full. It really dampened the atmosphere and let down what should have been a sell-out with the world champions coming to play there for the first time but hopefully this administrative error will be rectified before the Six Nations in February.

The Aviva is now home to Irish rugby but is still a very long way off recreating the atmosphere of the old Lansdowne Road.

Peter Kay

This was a night that we had waited almost a year for … Peter Kay live in the Odyssey Arena, Belfast. Probably the funniest comedian I have ever seen which is a huge compliment since my DVD collection includes Michael McIntyre, Eddie Izzard, Dara O’Brian, Patrick Keilty, Ross Noble, Frankie Boyle, Rhod Gilbert and Neil Delamere.

I honestly didn’t stop laughing through his entire routine with me in tears at some points and would highly recommend buying the DVD if and when it comes out next year!

Just some of the things that I found hilarious included …

  • The time before rulers were shatterproof
  • Teachers with amnesia
  • Teaching his nan to use Sky+
  • Checking FaceTube on your Thigh Phone
  • Woofing, Quacking and Mooing to Good King Wenceslas and Jingle Bells

The Best Christmas Present Ever!

After two and a half long years of trying to find a full-time graphic design job and after countless rejection letters, non-responses and feeling like giving up … I have managed to successfully escape the nightmare of retail and land myself a job in the marketing department of a top scientific company based in north Belfast.

I am so unbelievably thankful for them giving me the break that I needed and I’m positive that I will not let them down once I commence working for them after Christmas. I am also incredibly indebted to all the people who have been supporting me through their prayers and their helpful advice and pointers over the last number of months.

I kept my eyes focused on one Bible verse the whole time and it just goes to show that God is God and God is good …

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29 v.11

So I guess overall 2010 has been a bit of a mixed bag of feelings, expectations and emotions for me and in true fairy-tale style it ended with a happily ever after! I do plan to sit down before the official end of the year and look back at the goals I had set myself for this year and work out a few goals for 2011 and a few things that I’m already looking forward to … but for now I guess I’d like to say Merry Christmas to you if you’re reading this and hope 2010 has been a good one for you too!

SK

Viva Aviva

 

So on Sunday I turned 25 … or a QUARTER of a century as a lot of you preferred to tell me! On Saturday I had the chance (thanks to my little bro) to head to Dublin and watch the first match to be played at the new Lansdowne Road … or the Aviva Stadium as it’s now known. I have to say the stadium is spectacular in how it looks and feels and is definitely a huge leap forwards for Irish sport, the stewarding however left a lot to be desired.

We had been told to enter through a set of turn-styles and then head down two levels … after being shown to three different elevators and a set of stairs with a no entry sign on it we managed to eventually find our seats on the touchline.  I know this was the first time the stadium had opened its doors to the public but really … should they not have had a practice run?!

Anyway all complaining aside it was great to have been there and witness the Ulster/Leinster lads hammer their provincial rivals 68-0.  The future for Ulster and Leinster rugby look bright, especially in the back division but more worryingly the future of the Munster scrum is looking exactly how their pack were on Saturday … very very uncertain!

On my actual birthday, Jena and I went road tripping in the rain to Crawfordsburn, played a spot of UV 10-pin bowling, had dinner in Tony Romas and ended the night watching The Hangover at home!

SK

Inspiring Invictus

There have been some memorable sporting moments that I have witnessed and thought that not even some of Hollywood’s best script writers could have thought up.  Greece winning Euro 2004 after beating hosts and massive favourites Portugal in the final, Liverpool coming from 3-0 down at half time to lift the Champions League trophy in 2005 … but nothing comes close to the story behind Invictus.

It’s hard to believe that it only happened 15 years ago and even then that there was such a gulf between the middle-class white and lower-class black children and how one man ended the racist apartheid regime that had divided their country for 46 years.

Nelson Mandela is a hugely influential world figure but some people still look at him as just another criminal.  I think it’s fair to say that we all have a past and some things that we’ve done we are far from proud of … but would we be capable of such forgiveness as he was … to forgive a nation of people who imprisoned him for 27 years … to dedicate himself to a cause of unifying his country so much that he risked death … to humble himself so much that he walked out on to the pitch at the final of the1995 rugby World Cup at Ellis Park Stadium wearing a Springbok jersey (The Springbok name was always associated with the white community.)

A truly remarkable man … with a truly remarkable story.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Ephesians 4 29-32

SK

2009 – The Best Bits (Pt. ii)

Part (ii) as promised …

Proposals

I guess the biggest commotion that I caused this year was related to this blog post. We actually bumped into an old school friend in Tesco just last week who asked had we set a date yet … obviously having not read the whole post and still under the impression that we were engaged! So … just to clarify to anyone still in any doubt … Jen & I are finishing 2009 together … but not engaged!

There was however a real proposal this year that delighted me. Two of my longest-known and best friends, Chris and Su got engaged at the beginning of October. Chris has also asked me to be his best man so I’ve plenty of time to plan the stag-do and put my speech writing hat on in time for April 2009! I’m looking forward to it already!

BB Camp – London

bb-camp
A lot of things made BB camp different to usual this year … heading off late on a Friday night, not that many senior boys attending, no need to pack our own tents and marquee and even Doddsy not being there! The week itself was a wet one … infact a very wet one … but it didn’t spoil the enjoyment that camp always brings because our boys always manage to find some way to entertain themselves and the officers!

I think my highlight of the week was the trip to Thorpe Park which turned out to be one of the very few completely dry days we had and the pure adrenaline rush of several of the rides including Stealth. I was also pleased with how my epilogue went … based on the determination of Steven Bradbury not to give up when he lay in last place at the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Woodvale 2009

Looking back, words really don’t do justice to the amazing week that I was part of in Woodvale this summer. I took charge of the teenage group in the mornings and was completely overwhelmed by how well the kids engaged with us and was also so thankful for the rest of the team who helped me out in those sessions (thanks Suz, Laura, Pony & Chris!)

Personally the best bit for me was the moment on Saturday night at Woodvale’s Got Talent when three of the boys who had been causing a bit of chaos most of the week, stood up in front of a church full of their peers and sang “Our God is a Great Big God.” Accompanied by the actions, these guys belted it out and by the end of the second chorus, the entire church was joining in and a sea of hands were performing in time with them … amazing … even just writing about it now still gives me goosebumps!

Job Hunting

It hasn’t all been fun and games this year though so I felt like I had to include the most frustrating thing about 2009 as well … the search for a full-time job! Throughout the year I had been applying for pretty much anything that was going in the graphic/web design field and had been getting the response that always began with “Dear Mr Kelly, Unfortunately …….”

It became quite demoralising and there were times that I had completely given up hope and just stopped looking and all I kept hearing was that something would come along at he right time. Just as that line was beginning to wear more than a little thin with me, I did get a small glimmer of hope when I got invited to interview by the BBC for a position in their new media team … but unfortunately nothing came of it so 2010 looks set to begin in exactly the same way that 2009 is going to end … still working part-time in Next!

Autumn Internationals

November is a big rugby month, the Magners League is normally well under way and the international break brings the best of the southern hemisphere to the north. This year I did manage to get to two of the three Ireland games, against Australia in Croke Park and Fiji in the RDS in Dublin. It was great to see Fiji for the first time and in a new venue like the RDS, which may not have had the same massive atmosphere as 80,000 people at Croke but was still a great experience. Hopefully by the time next November comes around, the new Landowne Road stadium will be open for business!

So I guess overall 2009 has been a bit of a mixed bag of feelings, expectations and emotions for me. I do plan to sit down before the official end of the year and work out a few goals for 2010 and a few things that I’m already looking forward to … but for now I guess I’d like to say Merry Christmas to you if you’re reading this and hope 2009 has been a good one for you too!

SK

Grand Slam ’09 …

What a weekend … anyone who knows me will know I’m a huge rugby fan and will watch it at any level.  Saturday evening really tested my nerves to their extremes but thankfully Ireland managed to pull it out of the bag when it mattered.

Congratulations to Declan Kidney and his staff and squad … a job well done!

SK

A Change From The Norm …

I haven’t posted anything in a while because, well there was nothing major to report … and then just like buses (as the saying goes) loads of things happen at once!

I was asked to continue with the design elements of the PULSE services in my church, which this year is focusing on the theme of “Running On Empty? … Filled With God’s Power”.

For the first service I decided to just introduce the theme and based the intro around a video I found on YouTube a while ago where a guy took a time lapse of driving across the USA.  I used the song “Road I’m On” by Three Doors Down to accompany the video and just had the theme fade in at the end and the PULSE logo to end on.

November also means one thing … rugby internationals!  I managed to get to two of the three tests this year, against the All Blacks and Argentina.  The All Blacks game was the second time I’d seen them play Ireland and the third time overall but I still get goosebumps when you hear the Haka live in a buzzing stadium like Croke Park!  The seats were right on the touchline beside the players tunnel so was a pretty amazing spot for photos!

dscf1088

For the Argentina game, Jena and I were in the Hill section of Croke which also gave a pretty amazing view of the whole ground … and even though we won, we still were nowhere near convincing!

I also got word in work that I’d be spending a couple of weeks away from the AbbeyCentre helping to set up new home stores in Sprucefield and Holywood.  To be honest I was dreading it, because it was total carnage trying to organise how we were getting there and what shifts we were working … but having just finished the Sprucefield store, I have to admit I really did enjoy it.

Don’t get me wrong, I mean it was hard work and there were nights I came home feeling like I’d been 12 rounds with Joe Calzaghe, but meeting people from other stores as far away as Edinburgh and Aberdeen was really cool.  Seeing the whole shop take shape and knowing that I was part of it was also a really good feeling … I don’t normally speak about work in such a positive way but this time I really enjoyed it … see if I feel the same this time next week when I’ll have done it all over again in Holywood!

SK