Fractured Faith Meets Fractured Ankle 

I promised my wife (the brains behind this blog and related social media accounts) that my posts would always be about my faith and not my running. But sometimes the two inevitably overlap. So this post is about both of them; although you will be delighted to hear it might be the last one about the latter for quite some time.

I have been running for just over three years now and have been largely blessed by injury free progress to date. I started running in my forties so aches and pains are unavoidable but on the other side of the coin I have relatively few miles on the clock unlike some guys my age whose bodies have given up on them after decades of pounding the roads.

All that changed this morning when I leaped (stumbled) out of bed and, upon planting my left foot on the bedroom floor, felt a sharp pain which grew increasingly worse over the course of the next few hours. To the extent that later that morning I found myself lying on the floor of my office curled up in a ball as waves of nausea and juddering pain took turns in bulldozing through my body. 

Yes I had driven to work like an idiot. And I felt equally idiotic as my wife and youngest daughter had to rescue me and deliver me to the Accident & Emergency Department. A rapid x-ray confirmed my worst fears. A rather impressive torn ATF ligament and avulsion fracture of the cuboid bone. Or in layman’s terms a busted ankle.

Which led to my first ever experience with crutches. Feeling quite the rock star as I initially hopped out of the hospital I soon realised that they were hard work. I was soon sweating like I had run a half marathon. And it was to get worse when I got home.

Otherwise mundane tasks such as visiting the fridge, going upstairs or (sorry people) using the bathroom turned into Herculean endurance events. Give me 26.2 miles any day of the week I whined as the crutch slipped again from my grasp and another bolt of pain shot through my poor foot. Aren’t these things meant to be a help rather than a hindrance?

At which point my son quietly informed me that I was holding them the wrong way round. 180 degrees later and I was off again like Lewis Hamilton surging round the streets of Monte Carlo. Much better. I now had the necessary support I needed get where I needed to be.

Which got me thinking. God knows a bit about support. In fact he is the greatest and only support we need in our lives if we just accept that fact and discard all the other crutches that we feel we need to get from A to B in life. Why depend on alcohol, food, money, image or status when all we have to do is accept him into our lives. Then the other things will take care of themselves.

But how often do we rebel against him and hold tight onto our earthly idols to the point where we end up in a worse state than we started out. Going nowhere fast or falling flat on our face. Because we know best. Or at least think we do. 

So next time you hit a brick wall in life and are in need of a leg up don’t be afraid to reach for the greatest crutch of all. And let him carry you to your ultimate destination. Or it could be a long road ahead….

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight.’ PROVERBS 3:5-6

What’s been your grisliest sporting injury?

What do you turn to when life deals you a bad hand?

What’s the longest you have ever had to wait in an Accident and Emergency Department?

Noah’s Big Night In 

The Old Testament is jammed full of jaw dropping stories of valour and bravery. But it also contains some stuff which is well…..downright weird. I know that all Scripture is God inspired and included for a reason but really? Talking donkeys? Incest in caves? Over sensitive balding prophets who summon bears to massacre roaming gangs of teenage youths? Really?? Am I missing a trick here Lord?

Well either God has a pretty weird sense of humour or there have to be gems of wisdom buried deep within these stories. As in really deep. JCB digger excavation deep.

And so begins a (very) occasional series on the blog focusing on the more obscure and barking mad corners of Scripture. We start with one of the less memorable mornings in the 950 year long life of a Biblical giant….Noah.

Yes Noah. Every kid learns the story of him and his ark during their formative years. And stop your average person in the street and, church goer or not, nine times out of ten they will be able to recite the tale.

Noah. A righteous man. He was blameless and walked faithfully with God at a time when the earth was riddled with evil and corruption. So corrupt that God scratched his head, threw up his hands in holy exasperation and decided it was time to wipe the slate clean and start again. A new world order which required a superhuman work of nautical engineering.

He chose Noah for this gargantuan task. And faced with the ridicule of pretty much every other human being on the planet, boy did he deliver. We all know the rest. The animals two by two, the rising waters, the dove and the olive leaf. And around a year later Noah and his family emerged to a new world, a new life, a new covenant with God.

And they all lived happily ever after right? Er no….While Sunday School teachers now move swiftly on to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob few pause to burst the ‘Noah Bubble’ with the contents of Genesis 9:20-27.

Noah, 600 years young, and now with with a lot of spare time on his hands does what any self respecting real man would do after such a massive DIY task. He kicks back and has a drink. And as a man who doesn’t do things by half I’m not talking about a cheeky glass of vino rouge after dinner. No he plants an entire vineyard and then proceeds to drink the contents of it.

So after the largest boat in history and then possibly the largest vineyard this man of excess wakes up with the largest hangover in history. And not a paracetamol to be had.

It must have been an epic night. So epic in fact that he appears not to have made it to bed. Or for that matter slipped into his jim jams. 

I must admit even in my drinking heyday I usually made it to bed in appropriate nightwear. But then he was 600 years at the time. And maybe not able to take on board as much booze as he had at his peak. Say when he was 550. 

And how did this epic man of faith react to this shameful episode. Contrite apologies to his God and family? Admitting it was all his own fault and promising never to touch the hard stuff again? 

No he got cranky, shouted at his son and dished out a generational curse on his unsuspecting grandson who had probably been tucked up in bed oblivious to it all the previous night as his grandfather had staggered round the tents slurring ‘Show Me The Way To Go Home’.

Noah lived another 350 years after this episode. Maybe he never touched another drop. 950 years in total he lived. But my Bible devotes a mere four pages to his life. And two incidents in total. An epic high on Mount Ararat. And a monumental low face down in a tatty tent.

Yet God used him to rewrite history. Just as he can use us too. Even if we have the odd blip along the way.

Were you taught the WHOLE Noah story at Sunday school?

What has been your most embarrassing ‘morning after’ moment? Go on we won’t tell anyone. Honest.

How is God using you in this season of your life?

The Bank Of Dad

In days of yore (BC – Before Children) pay day used to be the adult equivalent of Christmas for my wife (then girlfriend) and I. Designer clothes, loooooooong liquid lunches and the occasional minimum payment off the credit card bill ensured our twenties were a blur of partying and carefree carousing.

Pay day was the highlight of the month. Normally penniless a good week before then I existed primarily on a diet of toast and economy brand cola, counting the days, hours and minutes until my bumper (yeah right) wage landed in the bank account. While never quite desperate enough to queue at the cash machine at midnight it was definitely my first port of call the following morning.

Pay days that fell on a Friday were even more spectacular. A half day was invariably booked off work as the shopkeepers, publicans and bookmakers of Belfast welcomed me and my wallet with open arms. A king for a day I was until reality hit the following morning invariably courtesy of a thumping hangover. Good times. Er….I think.

Fast forward 20 years and I write this blog on the eve of another pay day. Three hours and nine minutes to be exact. 189 minutes. 11,340 seconds. No make that 11,335. But whereas I earn considerably more than I did back then (thanks to an outrageously lucky career path with a smattering of diligence and ability) the anticipation is just not the same.

One of the most fearful moments in any parents day is when the hatchlings arrive home from school, dump the contents of their school bags randomly around the house and then hand you the ‘permission slip’ for the latest school trip, after school activity or charity event. And this month has been no exception.

A summer camp deposit here. A day trip to Scotland there. And as summer holidays approach the diary goes into overdrive with school fetes, cinema trips and touring theatrical groups. Yes the days of partying for us are a distant memory. Nowadays lost weekends have been replaced by a Chinese takeaway and a box set on the sofa. If we are lucky. In between parenting taxi duties.

It’s a small price to pay however. We are blessed with three incredible children. And while they empty our bank accounts on a seemingly daily basis they fill our hearts with joy, love and priceless memories. Be it on the sports field, the stage or in the classroom they give us back infinitely more than they take.

God blessed us with them. Speaking personally I stumbled into fatherhood utterly clueless and unprepared. Undeserving but still blessed by him. Just like he blessed us by sending his Son to earth to cancel out the debt of sin that I was to steadily accumulate two millennia later in every sphere of my life.

So next time my son or daughters comes to the Bank of Dad for yet another handout I won’t mutter as I reach for my wallet. Well maybe mutter a bit less. Instead I’ll thank God for the loving grace he deposits into our lives through our kids on a daily basis. Even as the bank account haemorrhages into their eager hands.

And I’ll think of the greatest handout in history. When Jesus paid the ultimate price and wiped out the debt of sin once and for all. For us. A pay day that doesn’t come once a month for Christians. But every second of every day.

5,346, 5,345….

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. JOHN 3:16.

Tell me about your pay day memories?

Who are you regularly handing out money to?

How does the debt that Jesus paid impact on your daily life? 

The Bag Lady

Having decided some months ago not to ‘do church’ anymore we as a family have found ourselves facing the previously alien concept of free time on a Sunday morning. This has opened up endless opportunities for us which, up until then, had been denied by the traditional 11:00 a.m. service – actually resting on the Sabbath as opposed to running about from one religious appointment to the next; spending time with God (normally a hit and miss experience at Sunday services this last year or so); and dare I say it enjoying ourselves (definitely a 100% miss).

Today was no exception. I am a keen runner (regular followers of this blog will grow to hate these words). And in an effort to spend some ‘quality family time’ (three of the most patronising words in the English language when arranged in that order) I encouraged (dragged) our son and youngest daughter to a junior running event in our local park. My wife and eldest daughter knew better and wisely stayed at home.

Once the lycra fest was over we stopped at the supermarket on our way home to pick up some groceries. And armed with the necessities of life (Diet Coke, sausages and toilet paper – in that order) I stood in the queue waiting my turn to pay. In front of me a dear old lady battled to gather up various purchases in her arms. As I gallantly stood by and did nothing the shop assistant helpfully enquired ‘Would you like to put them in a bag?’

Quick as a flash the plucky pensioner shot back ‘I need a bag but I’m not willing to pay for one’. In Northern Ireland (where we live) legislation was introduced in 2014 placing a five pence charge on plastic shopping bags. To help save the environment….or something like that.

Many (myself included) have struggled with this outrageous and draconian dictat ever since. I mean five pence!  That’s like 1/20th of a pound. I’ll happily fork out £4.95 for a running magazine and £24 for a gallon tub of honeycomb ice cream. But five pence? For a plastic bag?! It’s a bridge too far. I’d much rather flounce out of the shop tripping over dropped milk cartons and smashed eggs than suffer the ignominy of such an ridiculous surcharge.

Which is exactly what this heroic old lady did….

Thankfully the assistance of my daughter (four arms good, two arms bad) meant I didn’t have to face the question that invariably causes me to break out in a cold sweat – ‘Would you like a bag sir?’

On the drive home the morning got even more eventful when we passed the scene of a road traffic collision. We stopped to offer assistance but thankfully nobody was badly hurt. My son got to pretend to be a police officer for a while directing traffic until the real police officers arrived.

It got me thinking though. About the man who thankfully crawled away unscathed from his overturned car. And the old lady back at the shop. Life is so fragile. One minute we can be happily sauntering along with not a worry for the future. And the next that future could be gone. A road traffic collision. A terminal illness. Just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The variables are incalculable. The one constant is that death awaits us all one day. And it might be a lot sooner than we think.

That’s the grim news. The good news is that we do have an input. Not usually as to when it will happen but rather what will happen afterwards. To the Christian, death is just the beginning. Life is just the aperitif before the main course. The warm up before the race begins in earnest.

We have a choice. And that choice is Jesus. Who came to earth and died a violent death on a wooden torture instrument reserved for the basest criminal. An agonising, humiliating, dirty death. For us. To cleanse us of our past, present and future sins in order to allow us access to the greatest gift of all. Eternal life.

And the price? Five million pounds? Five hundred pounds? Five pence? No it costs us nothing. All we have to do is say yes and embrace him as our Lord and Saviour.

Yet so many of us still say no. We need it but are still not willing to give up our material, sinful lives. And like the bag lady we stagger along, laden down with our false idols, our guilt and our secrets.

My prayer as I write this is that if you haven’t already done so say yes. To Jesus. To a new life. And if you do I’ll happily give you five pence the next time I see you….

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. JOHN 10:28.

How did you spend your Sunday?

Do you still ‘do church’ on a Sunday? Or worship in a different way?

Have you said yes to Jesus? Tell us about your experiences. 

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