We are on the train!!

Ok so this day that has been on a countdown in our house for what seems like an eternity has finally arrived yes it’s the weekend that Shawn Mendes has the pleasure of being in the same city as the one and only Hannah Black!!

We are on the train sitting next to the most boring people we’ve ever heard in our lives but thankfully we will be off the train in just under an hour and will never have to see or hear them again!!

Anyway Hannah and I are going to do lots of mini posts over the weekend we are going to go sight seeing round Dublin City centre this afternoon actually that should be corrected we are going Shawn Mendes stalking this afternoon in Dublin lol

Here’s a photo of Hannah ready to go this morning

This is Hannah heading into the station with her luggage

This is Hannah waiting for the train nothing is taking this smile off her face today ❤️

The 12 Blogging Questions Of Christmas – Day 8 – Do You Like Or Loathe Chris Rea?

You know that Chris Rea song, ‘Driving Home for Christmas’? Well I hate it. Whenever it comes on the radio, I reach for the tuner and change channel pronto. I think it’s his gravelly, dour voice. He turns the most positive message into a depressing dirge. I can think of nothing more depressing than being stuck in a festive traffic jam with Mr. Rea. It’s ‘no, no, no’ as opposed to ‘ho, ho, ho’ as far as he’s concerned.

I did travel today, however. To pay a pre-Christmas visit to my mother. I dragged myself off my death bed, a la Lazarus, and made the hour long car journey with my very own Christmas elf, Rebecca. The weather was foggy and drizzly but we made good time. Even better, Chris Rea was nowhere to be seen. Or heard. My old home town of Omagh was busy, busy, busy with last minute shoppers.

Hopefully, this is my last long trip before the big day itself. Fionnuala is taking the kids to see the new ‘Mary Poppins’ movie tomorrow but, much as I love all things Emily Blunt, I’m going to spend the day resting at home and hoping this illness clears before Tuesday. I hope that wherever you travel over the Christmas break, it is a safe and incident free journey. Chris Rea or no Chris Rea.

Will you be travelling over the festive period?

Do you like or loathe Chris Rea’s ode to Christmas?

What’s your favourite festive jingle?

Meet our guest blogger

As part of Hannah’s English coursework she had to write her autobiography so we decided to share it with our WordPress family.

My name is Hannah Catherine Black I am 14 years old. I was born on the 10th of December 2003. I was supposed to be born on Christmas Eve, but I came earlier. I was born in the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast I lived there for a year, then I moved. I now live in Aghalee in County Antrim. I have lived there since I was a year old. I live with my mum Fionnuala, my dad Stephen my brother Adam and my sister Rebecca. I also have a dog called Charlie. We got him when he was just a puppy seven years ago.

I was born with Spina bifida and Hydrocephalus which is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the brain. Spina bifida is a congenital defect of the spine in which part of the spinal cord and its meninges are exposed through a gap in the backbone. It often causes paralysis of the lower limbs which I have and sometimes learning difficulties.

I go to Fleming Fulton school in Belfast on the Malone Road. I am now in year 11/12 in school. I am in a class with girls named Leah, Kamile Jodie and Rachel I have been going to this school for 11 years. My favourite subjects are Maths and English because I like the teachers and the way they teach their subjects. But my favourite all time teacher has to be Mrs Devlin who teaches me Maths.

When I am not in school I like to sing and dance. Music is one of the many things that keep me happy, it is my passion. I have been in a few plays and singing competitions. I was once Jack’s mother in Jack and the Beanstalk. I was Cinderella in Cinderella. I also came fourth in a singing contest called Stars In Their Eyes. I was Ariana Grande.

One of my most memorable memories was when I went to Florida with my family and my great Aunt and Uncle, when I was 7. We had a pool in the back garden and my Daddy gave me and my sister dolphin rides up and down the pool.

I have made lots of friends in my school who I will love and be grateful to for the rest of my school years and beyond. My best friend is called Jodie, she is 15 years old and is in my class. We have been friends for as long as I can remember and will continue to be for the rest of my life.

Next year I am going to see one of my idols in concert. I am so excited; his name is Shawn Mendes. I absolutely love him, he is my favourite singer of all time He has inspired in me so many ways through his music and has helped me discover what I want to do in life.

When I leave school my hopes and dreams is to be a singer /songwriter and to be famous. I also want to have kids and a husband of my own one day and maybe a dog. I would also like to be able to walk so that I can be walked down the aisle on my wedding day.

Thank you for reading my story

I’m Writing A Book….Still: (Part….I’ve Forgotten Which Part)

Regular readers will know that I’m writing a book. I’ve been droning on about it for the better part of a year. It’s titled ‘The Kirkwood Scott Chronicles – Skelly’s Square’ and is the first part of Young Adult fantasy series based in Belfast. The hero of the piece is very loosely based on yours truly in his 20’s, except cooler and braver. Plus he talks to girls and battles supernatural beings. I don’t recall doing any of that either.

I’m now about a third of the way through the latest edit. Beta readers have been selected and I’m bracing myself for the first raft of feedback. Fionnuala is reading and formatting the draft as I go along and loves it. I have also allowed a good friend to have a look at it and, again the feedback has been very positive. But then you would expect them to say that. They have a personal connection with me.

Waiting for beta feedback is like waiting for exam results. You start off fairly confident but as time passes the voice in your head sows seeds of self-doubt. This snowballs into a Gordian knot of worry and anxiety. It is out of my hands, however. All I can do is chip away at the edit and hope that people like it when it finally sees the light of day. If nothing else, I will have fulfilled the lifelong ambition of writing a novel.

This edit has encouraged me though as, for the first time, the story has a fluidity and structure that was previously lacking. I’m equally pleased with the depth of, and interaction between, the characters. I’ve put a lot of thought into the development and I hope this comes across in the characters of Kirkwood Scott, Meredith Starc and Augustus Skelly. Minor characters have been fun to write as well.

I have decided to start off down the traditional publishing route. I know it’s a long shot but, if nothing else, it will provide me with experience of the process and provide some much needed skin toughening. Rejection letters are part of the experience and I will just have to get used to that. I’m already beginning to think about query letters, book synopsis and sample chapters in addition to ways I can broaden my social media presence.

People say that the real work only starts when the novel is written and I am starting to appreciate that now. I’m researching books on the publishing process and the work expected of a first time author in respect of marketing and self-promotion is immense. I’m learning all the time but it is a very steep learning curve. Reading posts from fellow bloggers on a similar journey also helps.

Beta Readers. Critique Partners. Editors. Agents. Publishers. The list is endless. So I’m reaching out to you today, my fellow WordPressers. If you can offer advice or guidance regarding any of the topics I’ve touched upon above then feel free to contact me and let’s talk. Likewise, if anyone can point me in the direction of any useful people in the industry then I’d love to hear from you.

This has been a bit of a rambling post today but I really wanted to update you and thank you for all the support you send my way on a daily basis. I’d also appreciate prayers from those of you with a faith. I know my own faltering faith has been greatly bolstered in recent times by a number of you whose prayers and Christian wisdom have been of great comfort to me. Hope you all have a wonderful day ahead.

Should We Meet Our Heroes?

During the recent World Cup I have heard the word ‘hero’ casually bandied about to describe the exploits of young men who get paid millions of pounds every year to kick a ball around a field. The same applies to our favourite actors, musicians and authors. I’m as susceptible to this idolatry as any of us. If Eric Cantona walked into the room now I’d probably turn into a gibbering wreck. And when I bumped into Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones in Belfast a few years back I was a gibbering wreck.

Did I say bumped into? That might be a slight manipulation of the truth and by that I mean an outright lie. I actually stalked them through the city centre before cornering them in a jewellery store where I refused to let them leave until I had my photograph taken with them. Thankfully they were both lovely about it. There were no diva outbursts or exaggerated eye rolling. I floated off on my little cloud nine and all was well with the world.

They, for it is always they, say never meet your heroes for they will invariably prove a disappointment. We find out that they are not the perfect creations we had imagined them to be. They are as flawed and tarnished as the rest of us. Just because you are skilled at kicking a ball or strumming a guitar doesn’t mean you are a wonderful human being. When they step down from the pedestal we have placed them upon and face us eye to eye we see beyond the carefully crafted image. We see them for who they really are as opposed to who we so desperately want them to be.

Hero worship is idolatry and the latter reflects an inadequacy within us that we seek to fill with fickle fantasies. There is a hole within us, something is missing so we grasp at the first thing we can find to plug the gap. It can be a pop star, a baseball player or a Kardashian. Worse still it can be an addiction. Why worship a person when you can worship food, alcohol or drugs? They are so much more accessible. We pump our bodies and minds with images and substances; anything to stop us from looking in the mirror.

Mirrors tend not to lie. Our minds eye does. Mirrors strip away the facade and reveal the present in all its not so glorious glory. I personally tend to avoid them for I don’t particularly like what I see looking back at me. The Stephen Black I want to be, I need to be, is not there. I’m not handsome enough, I’m not clever enough, I’m not popular enough. I’m not a sub 3:30 marathon runner. I’m not a published author. I’m not the world’s best father or husband. I’m not anything really.

But then I look beyond my personal pity party, beyond the vain, selfish thoughts that warp and corrupt my perception. I see my wife and kids. I see the people in my life who accept and love me for who I am, warts and all. I see the people who turn up every day for me, who support and encourage me in whatever hare brained scheme I am chasing at any given time. These are the people who you get out of bed for and trudge into work for, day after monotonous day.

Why? Because they are our real heroes. They are the people we are learning from, they are the kindred souls who we smooth our rough edges against, who help to mould us into the people that God created us to be; despite our kicking and screaming every step of the way. They keep us on the path and prevent us from wandering off and along more treacherous routes that lead to dead ends and deadlier drops. They are our signposts, our beacons in the darkness. They are our very lives, our reasons for being.

Never meet your heroes? I disagree. I say meet them. Open your eyes and look around for they are there, right beside you, as you muddle through life. They are our family, our friends, our daily dose of inspiration. See them for who they really are and, in doing so, be grateful that they have been placed in our lives for a reason. They are an oasis of hope, grace and love in this barren desert we trudge across. If we appreciate the everyday heroes around us we are a step closer to becoming reluctant heroes ourselves. For they need us just as much as we need them.

Have you ever met a celebrity and been disappointed by them?

Who are the everyday heroes in your life?

12th Of July Parades – Aghalee

A taste of the 12th of July celebrations which are being held in our village this year. Feel free to ask questions. It’s all about history and culture and stuff….

What do you know about the 12th July parades in Northern Ireland?

Is this what you expected?

It Isn’t In Our Blood

Help me

It feels like the walls are caving in

No medicine is strong enough

Someone help me

Feel like I’m crawling in my skin

Sometimes I feel like giving up

But I just can’t

It isn’t in my blood.

Not the words of Stephen Black, average blogger and wannabe author. No, they were written by Shawn Mendes, multi million selling singer/songwriter and teenage heartthrob. Although to be fair we do look very alike. How do I know this you ask? Because Mr. Mendes has stolen the heart of our eldest daughter, Hannah. And his music has been a constant auditory backdrop at Chez Black for the last three months or so. As in incessant. Think Guantanamo Bay interrogation techniques incessant.

We have been exposed to the entire Mendes experience in recent weeks. There has been tension as he has drip fed new songs online to his adoring army who, I am reliably informed, are known as the Mendes Army. In my day you went to a ‘record store’ (ask your parents) and purchased the cassette tape (ask your grandparents) of your favourite artiste on its release date. Money was exchanged. You interacted with another human being. Strange times, I know.

Two weeks ago his world tour dates were released. He was coming to Dublin! Hannah almost passed out. But that was nothing compared to last week when Fionnuala purchased tickets for Hannah and herself to the concert. I think you could have heard Hannah’s screams of delight in Dublin, if not Canada itself, the home of young Mendes. Well, there goes my overtime for last month. But at least I have a very happy daughter.

Despite my best efforts ‘In My Blood’ has wormed its way into my brain like one of those wriggling alien lifeforms always does in science fiction movies. I have found myself involuntarily humming it. Feet have been tapped and rumours of dad rapping to it are not entirely unfounded. I only knew the words to the chorus though and, whenever it came round, would burst into song much to the embarrassment of my mortified teenage daughter.

At dinner the other evening the topic of Mr. Mendes came up. It eventually does in any conversation with Hannah. She was asked what ‘In My Blood’ was about to which she very eloquently explained that it was about Shawn’s own mental health battles with loneliness and anxiety. I was intrigued so googled the lyrics which are partially listed above. I was slightly shocked and more than pleasantly surprised. It was if the song was written about me.

On the surface Shawn Mendes is a hugely successful, talented, confident young man with the world at his feet. Money is no object, he’s on the A list of every party and he could have any girl he wanted. Except our Hannah’s, he’s too old for her! Yet even someone like him can be struck down by the demons of the mind. It is further evidence that nobody is immune to mental health issues in society today. It is reaching epidemic proportions.

It is encouraging that role models like Mendes can come out and discuss their struggles in the media. That takes courage. I will no longer look upon him as just another pretty boy pop star adorning the bedroom walls of my daughter. And I feel slightly less bad now about the dent our bank account has taken over those ticket prices. I’m already undergoing counselling in advance of when she hits his tour merchandising stall in Dublin next April with my debit card.

If you are struggling with your mental health then today is the day to do something about it. Talk to someone about it. It is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Get the help you need in order to live the life you were born to live. Do not allow it to rule your life for you are not defined by it. You can get better because you are better than it. Speak up and break free. Don’t be a slave to it.

It isn’t in your blood….

Please feel free to share any comments or thoughts you have on this post. It’s good to talk.

What Bloggers Would You Invite To Dinner And Why?

I’ve posted some heavy duty stuff in recent days so thought I would lighten matters up somewhat. The weekend is just around the corner and sometimes us bloggers take life just a little too seriously. I know I’m the worst offender. So to kick off ‘Fun Friday’ *cringe* I thought I’d pose you a few questions.

I’ll probably be Mr. Miserable again by Monday so make the most of it 😂

If you were to host a dinner party what three bloggers would you invite and why?

Feel free to post the links to their blogs in the comments section below.

Who Are Your Favourite Bloggers?

I’m always delighted and slightly surprised when someone compliments me on my writing. It’s that inbuilt inferiority complex that I have dragged around behind me for most of my life. A nasty case of you’re-not-good-enough-itis. For many years I was so disenchanted with myself that I hid behind different characters that I created in order to gain attention and cover up the many glaring flaws that I perceived as having.

It took me to the brink in more ways than one. I almost lost everything. But over the last year or so I have come to the conclusion that maybe I’m not such a bad person after all. Maybe there is hope for me and a purpose for my life. And that is why the majority of my writing focuses on my faith, family and fitness. For they are the three constants in my life that I have clung on to when the rest of my world has been crumbling apart. Likewise they have been the foundations on which I have started to rebuild.

This blog has been part of the rebuilding process. The more I have written and revealed myself to the blogging community the more you have supported and encouraged me. It has been refreshing and invigorating to discover a social media platform where people put others first and talk openly and honestly about their lives and struggles. Where vanity and ego play second fiddle to compassion and selflessness. If only Facebook, Instagram et al could follow that example.

They say a picture paints a thousand words. Personally I’ll take the thousand words any day of the week. The rampant selfie culture holds no interest for me anymore. Beauty fades, prose and poetry do not. They are timeless and irreversible. New words lead to new worlds. Worlds overflowing with possibilities and opportunities. Words bring people together and create caring communities where before there was separation and isolation.

WordPress typifies this bringing together of like minded souls. So the purpose of this post today is to further promote and spread our community. If you would like to I would encourage you to either reblog or post a link to your favourite blog or blogs below. This will create a list of new sites for people to check out and follow. It is about putting others before ourselves and encouraging fellow bloggers to write and read more.

Lacey Sturm – Mercy Tree

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hrgl9z3grKU&feature=share

Fionnuala and Hannah are the musical maestros in the family but I thought I would crash the party and post a song by one of my favourite singers and authors, Lacey Sturm. She was formerly the lead vocalist of a band called Flyleaf who some of you may have heard of. Her words and music have had a huge impact on my faith journey. This is one of her more mainstream songs (she’s usually more grunge rock). Hope you enjoy it and let me know what you think.

Hannah’s Saturday Worship

Throughout this week we have been springing little surprises on you all and so we have another one for you this evening.  Our eldest daughter Hannah loves to sing and has dreams of being Worship Singer when she is older.  As part of the changes to our blog we want the children to get more involved and so on a Saturday Hannah is going to upload a song that she has sang.  We really hope you enjoy this change as Hannah is very excited about it.

This weeks song is Hannah’s favourite worship song it’s written by Hillsong Worship and is called Oceans.

We hope you enjoy Hannah’s version and please let us know your thoughts or even a request.

God Bless

What’s So Super About Heroes?

Everybody needs a hero, right? Someone to look up to. They inspire us to aspire to become more than what we are. They move us to improve. And their very nature makes them super. Heroes cannot be anything but super. They perform at a level beyond our wildest dreams. They operate on a different plane from us mere mortals. They are faster than us, stronger than us and smarter than us. They are flawless and their reflected glory casts a little more light on our drab and dreary everyday existences. We follow their exploits on the silver screen and in glossy magazines. They are everything we dream of being but are not. They are perfection and that perfection exposes and magnifies every fault and failing we spend most of our lives trying to hide from the world.

I disagree with pretty much all of the above paragraph. I’m sorry if that has burst a few bubbles out there. Maybe you want to skip this post and we can hook up again next time. You see, I don’t really want my heroes to be super. To me, a perfect hero isn’t really a hero at all. If everything you do is effortless then it’s not really super. It kind of becomes mediocre. Bland, mundane, run of the mill. I saved the world again today. It was easy…..yawn. Where’s the blood, sweat and tears in that? Where are the demons they have slain to become who they are today? Where are the staggering odds they have somehow overcome along the way? Er….we kind of skipped that part because we’re perfect and cut straight to the super, heroic bits.

I don’t want perfect heroes. Anodyne and featureless, every scrap of personality scrubbed clean from them. Now before I continue I know there will be many Christians reading this so, before you start, let’s set Jesus to one side for the purposes of this blog. Yes I know he was without sin and, therefore, perfect. He was the ‘Godman’ however and I’m talking about human beings here. Ordinary men and woman who commit extraordinary acts. I’m also not talking about superheroes like Wonder Woman or Captain America. I am talking about real people. I’m not really a DC or Marvel hero anyway. Give me orcs and dragons any day of the week. Or possibly Jessica Jones at a stretch.

I’m not really talking about celebrities either. Yes there are role models out there who inspire and motivate us but we risk straying into dangerous territory here. When we start to worship our heroes it can become idolatry. Which is largely unhealthy and counter productive. They are human beings and human beings have a nasty habit of letting you down. Never meet your hero they say as they have a habit of disappointing you in the flesh. They are not what you created them to be in your imagination. They are a pale imitation. That’s because they are flesh and bone. They can never possibly live up to what we have created them to be in our fevered imaginations. They will always fall short.

They are a concept, an ideal, an unattainable image. Striving, and failing, to be more like them will only end in frustration and resentment. I’m not saying unfollow Taylor Swift on Twitter and take your football and baseball posters down but just be wary they don’t take over. Obsession is a companion I know all too well. Filling your head with such individuals are a distraction. Distracting you from the people around you who truly matter. You will never become them and aspiring to do so is a futile exercise. Focus on becoming a better you not a better them.

Having real life heroes can be problematic as well. It’s all very well and good but once more they will eventually let you down. The higher you build them up the further they will inevitably fall. They cannot live up to your lofty expectations of them. And when they don’t it often ends in recrimination and broken relationships. There is resentment on either side and irreparable collateral damage is caused to trust and respect. Seeds of anger are planted on such fertile ground. From these grow weeds and thorns that will choke and entangle us. We will grow to despise those we once loved. And they will despise us back just as hard. Friends become enemies and allies become foes. I’ve lost so many friends so I know this all too well. My days of setting others on pedestals are over.

So what is the point of this post? I’ve dismissed just about every hero in the book. From Batman to Tom Brady. And everyone in between. Comic book heroes, action movie heroes, everyday heroes. Firefighters, brain surgeons, megachurch pastors and your big brother or sister. They are not heroes. They are just people like you or I. Respect them, admire them and love them. But don’t set them on a plinth and get all gooey eyed over them. For they deserve better than that and so do you. Plinths and pedestals are barriers to true relationships and mutual growth. Let’s all get on a level playing field.

Death to heroes.

What are your thoughts of hero worship and heroes in society today? Do you regard it as healthy or a hindrance? Please comment below.

“I am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made”

Today’s song is “No Longer Slaves” performed by Bethel Music. One of the first times I heard this was a few years back when a very good friend of mine, Helen, asked me to join her to see Bethel playing in a church in Belfast and I just simply couldn’t say no.

We were like two teenagers hogging our two spots right in front of the stage dancing, crying and worshiping was a very memorable night and this song reminds me of it.

We are all God’s children and he loves us unconditionally no matter how many times we screw up he’s still there with his arms outstretched waiting to embrace us. Even those of us that don’t walk with him and turn their back to him he is still there he will never abandon you even in our darkest hours he is there you just need to call out his name he’s waiting.

“You have searched me, Lord, and you now me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me’, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand – when I awake, I am still with you.”   Psalm 139 v1-18

Psalm 139 tells us exactly what God knows about us even before we were born he had a plan and a purpose for each and everyone of us.  I have previously wrote about this before in a blog about our daughter Hannah and what Stephen and I went through on finding out Hannah’s diagnosis if you want to read it here is the link https://fracturedfaithblog.com/2017/06/03/the-butterfly/

Really hope you enjoy this song and please let me know your thoughts.

Fionnuala

https://youtu.be/f8TkUMJtK5k

What a Beautiful Name

The-Name-of-Jesusb

I love to listen to worship music.  Stephen is a reader and a writer and I love to sing.  Although I love to sing it doesn’t actually mean that I can sing and if I am really honest I couldn’t carry a note in a bucket but that doesn’t stop me.  As part of the new changes to Fractured Faith Blog I want to share some of my favourite worship songs with you.

This song “What a Beautiful Name” is from Hillsong Australia and every time I listen to it I get goose bumps.  It sings about the name of Jesus and tells us how powerful the name of Jesus is.  No other name can break the power of darkness, no other name can save lives, no other name can heal illness or disease, no other name can break the chains of depression or addiction. Wow what other name can do that what a beautiful name indeed.

Thank you Jesus ♥️

Would love to know your thoughts.

Fionnuala

https://youtu.be/nQWFzMvCfLE

All I Want For Christmas….

Fionnuala and I celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary today. We have decided this year not to buy each other presents but instead are going later this afternoon as a family to the Christmas Market in Belfast. I’ll be blogging about that adventure later so stay tuned for photos of the Black family there. Probably eating. A lot.

Fionnuala loves to sing. I don’t particularly love to hear Fionnuala sing but that has never stopped her before. She also loves Christmas so the house has been rocking all month to her festive soundtracks. One of her party pieces is her variation of the Mariah Carey classic ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. Fionnuala, instead belts out ‘All I Want For Christmas Is Glueeeeeeee’. I’m not quite sure what this means but, anyway, the kids find it hilarious.

Fionnuala is our glue. She has held this family together for many years. She has fixed broken relationships and hearts. It has been sticky and messy at times but she has persevered and overcome every adversity thrown her path. When I was broken she could have shovelled up the pieces and thrown me in the bin. Instead she held me together until I mended. She fixed me. She healed me.

She is the unsung hero of the family. She deserves so much yet asks for so little. She has a heart the size of Ireland and would fight to the death for her family. She would give her last penny to someone in need. Whereas I talk and write she acts. She gets stuff done by hook or by crook. She organises, budgets, schedules, never stops. She brings her A-game 24/7 even when she is tired or sick. She always puts others needs before her own.

She is kind, wise and beautiful. The latter on the outside but, more importantly, on the inside. She puts up with the insanity of being married to me. Without her there would be no me. She is my best friend and is always there for me. Even though I drive her insane on a daily basis. She often tells me that she wanted a husband and not a fourth child. She also says that the world doesn’t revolve around me. I know that now. For the kids and I are mere planets. She is our sun.

She provides the light, heat and energy that we need to survive. We orbit her and rely upon her. She is indefatigable, indestructible and invincible. She never gives up on us and is the driving force behind all the stories and messages on this blog. She is as perfectly simple as I am imperfectly complicated. She loves God and she loves her family and friends. She is my gravity, keeping me firmly rooted to the ground whenever I start to drift off on flights of fancy.

I can’t give you expensive presents this year, Fionnuala, but I can give you my thanks and my heart. You are my wife and my best friend. You are my everything. I love you. Happy anniversary.

My Big Sister Hannah

My sister is called Hannah she is 13 her date of birth is 10th December 2003. My sister’s full name is Hannah Catherine Black. My sister is special because she is my big sister. When my sister was born she had to stay in hospital for two months because she had Spina Bifida and she needed some operations. For Hannah’s first year she had to wear leg splints to straighten her legs.

Just after I was born Hannah got her first wheelchair it was pink with Disney Princesses on the wheels before this when my mum and dad were going out they had to put Hannah in a buggy.

When Hannah was six she made a wish with Starlight and we got to go to Florida and her wish was to swim with dolphins and feed giraffes. Our Great Aunt Sue and Uncle Pat came with us they are my mum’s aunt and uncle.

IMG_5105

My big sister is a brilliant singer and dancer she has been Cinderella in her school play in Nursery and that was the lead part of the play. She was Jack’s mother in Jack and the Beanstalk. She was Pepper in Annie the musical and so was me and my big brother. She has sang in the Waterfront and in the SSE Arena in Belfast and she has sang in Belfast City Hall for the Lord Major and the Duchess of Gloucester three times. Last year she was in a pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk with the Waringstown Players as a Villager.

This week Hannah got her new electric wheelchair this means me and Hannah and my big brother Adam will be able to go outside and play more.

This is Hannah’s favourite things:

Make up
YouTube
Drama
Singing
Netflix

In Hannah’s room she had to get another desk one for all her make up and one for her homework and all that stuff. Sometimes when I got into her and go to her desk to ask her something I feel like I’m in Boots Makeup and Beauty Store. One of her favourite things in the hole world would be YouTube. Her favourite YouTubers are Saffron Barker, Alfie Deyes, Joe Sugg, Zoe Sugg, Roman Attwood and Tanya Burr. This Sunday Hannah is going to meet Saffron Barker at a book signing in Easons in Belfast and she cannot wait.

Netflix – Hannah loves Netflix and TV I don’t know what Hannah would do without TV and WIFI so I don’t.

Hannah is so beautiful and pretty I really couldn’t do anything without my big sis Hannah. I always look up to my sister and I don’t think I could have asked for a better sister and I am really proud of how talented and brave she is and I hope that one day I will be like her.

by Rebecca Black Aged 11

The One Where Belinda Carlisle Spat On Me

As a teenager my first serious crush was the 80’s pop singer, Belinda Carlisle. And by crush I mean obsession. She occupied every waking moment of my day. My bedroom was plastered in posters of her. ‘Heaven Is A Place On Earth’, her massive hit, was played on a constant loop. 

I swooned and daydreamed over her videos and dreamt of a day when I would enter her life, effortlessly capture her heart and live happily ever after in the Hollywood Hills. The fact that she was already married to a millionaire film producer was a mere detail. This from a teenager who, if a girl had spoken to him then, would have clammed up, broken into a cold sweat and bolted to be sick in the nearest toilet. 


The one and only time I ran away from home was when my parents would not allow me to go to a Belinda Carlisle concert in England. I made it as far as the town limits on foot before my father pulled alongside me, told me to stop behaving like a spoilt child and get in the car. I got in the car without a whimper.

Tbe next year tbe crush (read unhealthy fascination) was still raging when she announced she would be playing Belfast on her upcoming tour. No doubt weary of a repeat of the previous year’s histrionics my mother and father agreed to drive my sister, my best friend at the time and me to the venue, some seventy miles away. I was finally going to meet the love of my life.

The next few months dragged as I awaited the fateful day. When it arrived I was chauffeured to the venue, a bundle of excitement and nerves. We pushed our way up to the front and awaited her arrival. When she did I was gobsmacked as my brain struggled to process the fact that my idol was right there in front of me in tbe flesh. Heaven indeed was a place on earth called the King’s Hall, Belfast.

The next ninety minutes passed into a blur. When she sang she was singing to me. When she looked into the 7000 fans she was looking at me. At one point I was so close I was convinced that a sliver of saliva left her mouth whilst she was singing and struck my outstretched arm. I would never wash that arm again. It was a covenant of my unending love for her. A holy relic.

For months afterwards I lived in her tour t-shirt and endlessly replayed concert memories in my mind. But as the year passed and I left home and started at university the light in my heart for her dimmed a little, day by day. I adopted new heroes such as Kurt Cobain (RIP) and Eric Cantona, the Manchester United legend.

The posters began to come down to be replaced by posters of Nirvana, Metallica and later, Oasis. I listened to her music less and less. It was unimaginable for a metal/rock fanatic like myself to be caught listening to 80’s sugary pop. I even started talking to real girls. Usually with disastrous results but, hey, I was trying.

All these years later I still have a fondness for all things Belinda. When I hear her songs on the radio I think good thoughts and relive happy memories. Bar the leaving home episode. It was a harmless teenage crush. I imagine we all have been there. She was my goddess. My idol. My obsession. I was addicted to her. 

As I progressed through my adult years other less harmless idols and obsessions emerged. Alcohol, social media, unhealthy and inappropriate relationships. They all sought and failed to fill the gaping void in my soul. The need to fill it overwhelmed the little common sense I had. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I knew it was hurting my loved ones. I tried a million times to stop. But I couldn’t. Not on my own.

When I became a Christian four years ago I handed that all over to God. I had already stopped drinking and taken up running. I stopped swearing literally overnight. But I won’t lie and say it has all been a walk in the park. I have still struggled. I have still succumbed to temptation and messed up. I have still needed to go back to basics over and over. But I am getting there. Slowly.

My tastes have not changed that much. I still love heavy rock music and Manchester United. But I have new idols now. Biblical ones like Abraham, Moses, David and Peter. All deeply flawed individuals who were used by God to change the face of human history. All paving the way for the ultimate superhero. Jesus Christ. Who I aim to serve in anyway I can. 

Thanks to him I am seeking to create my own little piece of heaven on earth.

Mark 1:16-18 – ‘As He was going along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, the brother of Simon, casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.’

Who was your teenage crush?

What was your first concert?

How are you creating heaven on earth within your own sphere of influence?

The Writer

Attention fellow bloggers! Have you ever been caught in the creative flow, hunched over your keyboard, and the thoughts and ideas and have just flowed effortlessly from your mind and onto the screen via your frenetic fingers?

This has been happening me more and more lately. To the extent where it has felt like an out of body experience where I have been looking down at myself typing. I am writing but they are not my words. I am merely the conduit.

I experienced something similar when I was praying the other evening. Normally it feels like a one way conversation but on this occasion the following words seared across my mind like a streak of lightning – ‘You need to reposition your life.’ I was praying but they were not my words. It doesn’t happen me very often but I truly believe it was God speaking to me. They were his words. I was merely  the conduit.


I have been mulling over the above all week. I have been blogging for around six weeks now and have been so encouraged by the positive feedback I have received. I want to write and I want God to use me to speak to others via this medium. I have been excited but impatient. I want him to floor the accelerator, to take me to the next level. To unravel his plan for me, reveal his vision for my life.

As I was walking to work this morning I decided to take a shortcut through a shopping centre (mall). Playing over the tannoy was an Ellie Goulding song, one of my favourite female musicians. The song was ‘The Writer’ and these were the lyrics:

You change your position and you are changing me….But I’ve got a plan. Why don’t you be the artist, and make me out of clay? Why don’t you be the writer and decide the words I say.’

The words hit me like a hammer and two passages of Scripture immediately flooded into my mind.

Psalm 45:1 – ‘My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skilful writer.’

Isaiah 64:8 – ‘Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.’

I have an awful memory but Fionnuala reminded me this evening that some years ago a very wise and loving Christian lady gave me a prophetic word that one day I would write and interpret the Bible in a new way for people. I want to start doing that via this blog.

Use me Lord. Like a potter uses clay and a writer uses the written word. I am a lump of clay. Mould and shape me to obey your will. I am a blank page. Fill me with words and stories which glorify your name. 

Reposition my life to stride along your path and not my own. Lead me to the light. Lead me beyond these earthly shackles. Lead me to the next dimension.

Does God speak to you through music?

Have you ever felt like someone else was writing for you?

When did you last receive a prophetic word?

The Gospel According to Logan Paul 

Have you ever got a song in your head that drills through your skull and deep into the recesses of your brain in a never ending loop. One that lasts for hours, days, weeks. That drives you to the edge of sanity and then beyond. Leaving you a shell of your former self, a gibbering wreck.

It’s bad enough if it is a song that you used to love but grow to hate as it gnaws away relentlessly every waking moment of the day. But what if it is one that you despised from the start. But which digs it’s nails into your soul and drags you screaming to the fiery gates of Hell themselves. 

One such demonic dirge currently doing laps of my mind is ‘Help Me Help You’ by Logan Paul featuring Why Don’t We. A week ago I had no idea who the aforementioned Mr Paul was but thanks to our 10 year old daughter,Rebecca, and the joys of You Tube it has entered our lives for the foreseeable future. 

Logan Paul appears to have no discernible talent in the video. He can’t sing, dance or act. It therefore made total sense to find out that he has an online following of millions and probably earns more in a day than I do in a year. 

And on it goes. The lyrics can be best summed up by the fact that two lines rhyme with the words ‘clue’ and ‘scooby do’. Lennon & McCartney these people are not. But then they did give us ‘I Am The Walrus.’


A week of ‘Help Me Help You’ would break anyone. I’m sure the CIA are already in on the act and deploy it 24/7 at all of their interrogation facilities. Which of course don’t exist. Give me water boarding any day of the week over this living nightmare. 

But God speaks to us in a multitude of ways. And why utilise rousing worship music or even his small, quiet voice when there is crappy Z list bubble pop bilge to inflict on me, his obedient and humble servant. Isn’t it funny how God sometimes has to bludgeon you (lovingly) over the head in order to get your attention.

In the early part of this year I hit a major flat spot in my Christian journey. I stopped going to church, stopped reading the Bible, stopped most activities really. I was convinced God wasn’t listening and, even if he was, didn’t want to intervene as I slipped irrevocably back to a meaningless, secular experience. 

He didn’t care. And he wasn’t there. I wanted him to save me, to swoop down and lift me up from the trough of self pity and apathy I had slithered into. But thanks to wise counsel from some very experienced Christian friends and the loving encouragement and patience of my wife I began to read again, pray again and blog again.

God seemed near once more and my creative juices began to flow. I was getting back to my old self again. I even laughed at a television show the other day and Fionnuala remarked that she hadn’t heard me laugh like that in….well forever.

And I realised. Just like the sagely Mr. Paul sometimes you have to take the first step out of a situation in order for God to do the rest. That little mustard seed of faith is all you need for the mountain to move. Jesus often asked people seeking healing what they wanted. And when they were healed he didn’t help them to their feet. He told them to get up. 

Take that first step and he will do the rest. He can and will. But only if you take that initial leap of faith in order to help him help you – Stephen.

Jesus 1 Logan Paul 0….

Matthew 7:7-8 – Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.’

What’s the most annoying song which has stuck in your head?

Has God helped you today? 

Who is Logan Paul???

Samson – The MTV Years

I’m not an authority on Biblical timelines but I’m pretty sure the Book of Proverbs was written after Samson’s time on Planet Earth. Or if it was he didn’t get around to reading it. I get the feeling that Samson wasn’t much of a reader. Too busy leading the life of a heroic leader and warrior for all that nonsense.

When I read of Samson’s story in the Book of Judges I get the image of a really cheesy 1980’s heavy metal video with lots of pyrotechnics and dry ice. Samson was the Old Testament’s pre-cursor to Vince Neill from Motley Crue. Or maybe a young Alice Cooper.

Now before you shout blasphemy let’s study the facts. An only child raised by devoted and probably well to do parents he appears to have developed all the qualities of a spoilt brat in his formative years. No doubt handsome and possessed with superhuman strength he has also acquired vanity, arrogance and insufferable smugness. What Samson saw, Samson got.

His best friend was undoubtedly his mirror. Imagine the preening, pouting and backcombing that went on. He no doubt had a considerable entourage and Israeli (as well as Philistine) girls swooned at his feet wherever he went. Yes as Biblical heroes go Samson really was a bit of a prat.

This Old Testament jock had it all. Or so he thought. The wealth, the looks, the body. But beneath it all was he happy? I’m not so sure. He had a terrible temper. Now we’ve all been cross before. But capturing 300 foxes, tying them in pairs and then unleashing them alight through your enemys’ cornfields? That’s supercross.


He also had terrible judgement when it came to women. His marriage was a disaster and as for his dalliance with Delilah? Well there’s gullible, there’s naive and then there’s Samson. It’s ironic that this escapade cost him his physical sight given that a blind man wearing earphones could have seen that gold digging diva from a mile off. 

Samson led a heroic but tragic life. He was greatly blessed but deeply flawed. If Samson could screw up a situation he 100% did. But beneath the flaws and the screw ups was a man who loved God. Was a man who wanted to please God. Was a man who at the end of his life reflected on his behaviour, realised the errors of his ways and sacrificed himself for his God and his nation. It all came crashing down on Samson in the end. But what a way to bow out and enter eternity!

We can all relate to Samson. Not the million miles an hour rock star lifestyle. But beneath all that when we look at the man and his insecurities we can see ourselves. Wanting to lead a godly life but dragged down by earthly temptations, false idols and misleading emotions. I have been the king of screw ups. Samson without the looks and the money, that’s me.

But I am really starting to think that this blog and my writing could be my calling. I feel new hope and a stronger faith after years of false starts and falser friendships. And if Samson can do it then so can I. Without the big hair and the eyeliner of course….

Tell me about your worst ever hairstyle? Mullet anecdotes particularly welcome.

How can you relate to Samson?

Is God leading you beyond your past failings and into Kingdom work?

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