Sunday, 6 May 2018

God and sport




With the world cup approaching this blog post is my first blog about sport. My extra-curricular activities have taken a strange twist.

I shall also be blogging about the topic which has given me the most views on Stories Make the World ‘Go Round. That topic is Christian revival.

Because nobody – nobody – is talking about the socio-economic implications of a revival today. What has happened before can happen again. And if the chattering classes know their rumours then they will also have heard and laughed at the possibility of a Christian revival happening in the UK again. And after they have laughed, what then?

So people need to prepare and even choose sides. Choose sides because people usually either oppose or support the need for a revival. Both Christians and non-Christians. Depending on whether they feel it will be good for them personally, or good for those they love.

Please indulge me as I blog about whether and why that elusive magic that sports commentators lament has really left almost every aspect of sport. Because nostalgia and sport have a lot to do with God.

I’m qualified to write this blog post simply because I’m among one of the worst sports fans in the world. I’m the one who goes strangely silent when people talk about football. I’m the one who says ‘I like watching tennis and the world cup… and the Olympics.’ Which, I believe, among sports fans is code for ‘I literally know nothing’, like saying to a music fan, ‘I really like Phil Collins and the Now compilations’. I’m the one who was in the school football team (left back) and partly responsible for us losing 10-0 almost every match. That, believe me, set me up quite well for Christianity later on.

So, you can say, currently, there is no Christian revival in the UK. There are a few ‘outpourings’ of a kind where people seem to operate in some kind of genuine Christian gifting. There is Thy Kingdom Come (again) from May 10-20th. But we are, in my opinion, effectively (and debatably) in a declension in Europe and the West. How’s that for happy Christian jargon? Look it up – a declension is a waning of Christianity, like the moon’s sad smile going out. Despite various prophecies, there has been no revival. I’m sorry. At least we tried.

There is a revival of politics. People who like Brexit or Trump or Corbyn or Momentum or anything in between (or beyond, like the vocal and scary alt-right). Sometimes Christianity and politics are mixed together and that usually stinks, like a vision of ‘revival’ in The Handmaid’s Tale (even though that kind of ‘revival’ has never historically happened). And as an aside to anyone who wants me to write a blog post about the effect of a revival on politics – maybe do your own historical research – have past revivals really led to retrograde changes in law? I’ve never been talking about a revival of politicians. I’m talking about a revival of the people – a revival from the source of true love. But here we are talking about sport and it is way out of my comfort zone (stay in your comfort zone long-suffering readers).

What there is not, is a revival of that missing ingredient, that magic which most of us remember there once being in sport, usually when we were kids. I know, I’m being dogmatic and subjective. I’m as much a contrarian as anyone else and I’m making assumptions. Please indulge me – all writing makes assumptions (‘No it doesn’t’ says the contrarian).

We need a revival in and of sport. For sports philistines such as myself, it’s never going to be like the 80’s Olympics and Cram and Ovett and Coe ever again. It’s never going to be that romanticised world cup win ever again. Jinx. At least not without some kind of miracle. Nostalgia is a powerful force and we romanticise the past. But what if it really was better back then? Would a Christian revival mean that England win the world cup again? No-one can promise that. The sports commentators may feel that something is lacking in sport today, but how on earth is a Christian revival going to solve that problem? Saying it would might just be more fake news, a narrative that never was or could be. An obvious underhand attempt to link Christianity and sport in order to appeal to the masses. Just like politicians do when they claim a favourite team. Or worse, some kind of way to make money.

Instead, we have that most powerful of feelings - nostalgia. You can’t promise it. You can’t pin it down. You may as well attempt to promise that becoming a Christian is going to make your life better than anything you’ve ever imagined. That would be a lie. I can tell you from experience that it can make things better, but it also brings a whole shedload of trouble. Trouble like an opposing team and a Coach who seems neglectful.

A modern Christian revival could make things better, even in sport, but such a claim has to be limited to the facts. In this case we are going to have to look at historical revivals and whether or not they ever made sport better.

And you tell me how to research that? You will find a few recorded anecdotes here and there about how the Welsh revival of the early 20th century clashed with rugby. There can be historic links between football and Christianity, the formulation of teams like Manchester City coming from churches for example. We don’t want a history lesson about how the YMCA actually created basketball and volleyball. We don’t want a long list of Christian sports players who have made the game more exciting. Some of us want it to be like when Daley Thomson won in the Olympics and that was all we ever talked about at school, because he was an inspiring black role-model at a time when there were too few of those for children in white-dominated comprehensive schools. We don’t want to wade through millions of archaic words in the hope that someone happened to say that the real reason everyone felt that way when they watched their favourite sports hero was because of God. Because it meant something.

Would people lose their jobs in sport if there were a Christian revival? Doubtfully. These days there are many famous Christian sports men and women all over the world. Revivalism doesn’t, or shouldn’t clash and oppose those things that are considered good in and of themselves, like sport. People could lose all kinds of shady jobs in industries like the drugs and arms trade, if there were a revival, but sport is considered neutral in faith terms. In fact, it is considered a little more than neutral because you will often see the best from humans when they compete. And sometimes the worst. You will see more than bread and circuses – you will see sports men and women and teams who dedicate themselves and inspire people. And even if sports is the politician’s circus for the masses, it is still a circus which fascinates, influences and inspires. Like Christianity, you will get individuals who will cheat, who enhance their game in unethical ways, or those who are only in it for the money, but does this necessarily make sport itself a negative thing?

Sport has become a highly lucrative industry in which some people say the magic has gone. Maybe kids today enjoy some of it as much as adults used to do. But there seems to be something missing for those of us of a certain age. I can play Eddie Kidd’s Jump Challenge or Horace Goes Skiing on a retro computer and wonder at the way that sport has now exploded into this strange monster that it now is (that’s personification by the way).

Politicians know the value of sport and so should believers. Revivalists are no different. Billy Graham understood the necessity of linking revival with sport. That was why he had some of his biggest events in sports stadiums. He understood that if you could prove that God was somehow linked with sport then you made Christianity a little less… boring. But there is no revival and Billy Graham’s revival ethics clearly do not run in the family. These days, even the revivalists need to repent. And everyone, always needs to repent… except ourselves.

But is there a link? Is this a Christian fake news blog in which I’m going to promise that Christians in sport have always been there and when there is a revival you always find that missing magic? Not if I have a shade of integrity left I’m not.

When I researched this blog I also found that during the Welsh revival, people were told to stop doing anything ‘doubtful’. And for some of them they interpreted that as playing and watching sports. It’s ironic when you consider that the whole basis of revivalism is about freedom – about freeing people up – that so many innocent pastimes get thrown out with the bathwater. It’s like there being a revival when Christ was alive and then Peter, witnessing his death at Calvary, and his coming back to life, suddenly said ‘I’m giving up fishing’ now.

A Christian revival would only help inasmuch as more Christians are involved in sport and whether or not God himself put that magic back into the sport we loved. Whether God made that nostalgic memory happen again. Whether he let all that happen for a reason. There may not be a lot of research about the effect of Christian revivals on sport, but what there is, is a lot of research on the effect of Christian revivals on people and atmospheres. Because it is the atmosphere that is missing isn’t it? That’s part of the magic. Open the floodgates of heaven and you have better sport – because sport involves people and God is interested in people, skills and talent.

Look at organisations like Christians in Sport. There are many chaplains involved in sport. They are better qualified to talk about it all than a non-practicing Stoke City supporter. And there is a lot of prayer involved from all kinds of people.

I’ve never really understood why people can’t pray for their favourite sports heroes to win. Why not? It has never been explained to me. People pray their desires all the time. Who are any of us to say that you can’t pray that? Okay, maybe God is rooting for an apology rather than for us to pray that England win the world cup again. But I don’t know. God knows.

Because my conviction is that a Christian revival would make things better for most people in this country, I desperately want to say that it would influence sport too. That it would bring back the magic. But conscience stops me from saying that. However, there are strong links between Christian revival and sport. There would probably be a positive influence, more Christians in sport for example, a change in atmosphere and a reduction in the peripheral violence and drug use. Maybe the atmosphere would change. That nostalgia, that sense of magic and the joy at seeing sporting heroes win is known to God. All I’m saying is that if anyone can bring back the magic into sport, then God can. And that a Christian revival would make that more likely not less.

So choose sides. Or change teams.

Think happy thoughts.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Ziggy

Just an interim blog post as I haven't written here for too long. I debated whether I should post about the obvious revival of drug and knife use, the hopeless political nightmare in which we now live or some other thing.

But our three year old cat Ziggy has just been diagnosed with a rare, fatal cat disease (called FIP) and to be honest I don't want to write at the moment.

Of course - everywhere I look there are just healthy cats now. 

Here he is - please spare a prayer for him if you are the praying kind.



  

Friday, 16 February 2018

Parables



My latest book has just been published and is available on Amazon from this link.


'Parables' is a collection of 14 eerie and unusual short stories written over a number of years. The genre of these stories ranges from modern ghost story and magic realism through to updated parable. These stories are full of pathos, memorable characters and a deeper meaning. They will linger with the reader long after they have been read. Above all, each story is designed to be a portal into a new way of looking at life.


The paperback is £5.99 and the ebook version is £2.99.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

New book trailer

This is the trailer for my new book, a short story collection called Parables. It will be available from February 10th.



Wednesday, 3 January 2018

The British Soul


Bruised rose

I have always found it strange that the great Russian writers like Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy could happily comment on the Russian soul, but very few modern British writers will comment on the British soul.
I suppose that it is because part of our national identity is that many of us believe we are not enigmatic enough to have a soul. Many of us are materialists and we want pragmatic answers and things that work, not ephemeral ideas. We do not want mystery. We do not want the invisible. When the wind blows across this island we cannot see the wind itself and we like it that way. We only see the effects of the wind.
All kinds of people with eclectic backgrounds and characteristics muddle together on this island and when we run the gauntlet of the high street, board a pricey train or use the crowded NHS, we get in each other’s way. We become each other's enemies and it is not pragmatic to afford your enemy a soul. Because that way they may not remain enemies.
Apart from liking a man in a dress on TV (as one intelligent person once noted) we are rarely uniform in our likes and dislikes. Even our national landscape only goes so far to influence us, especially for those too poor to travel. And for all the calls to unity from politicians, we are often as much individual islands, individual kingdoms failing to communicate with each other on a larger island.
So people do not speak of the British soul – it is not a unifying topic. You may as well talk of national guardian angels.
Politicians may hint that the British soul is broken and needs to be fixed (before leaving it more bruised and wounded than ever). Religious leaders sometimes say that it is sick. Business leaders may say that the British soul is thriving and that any other view is a pessimistic talking down of the nation. Intellectuals and academics will rightly caution that any such talk can also lead to jingoism at best and a sick racism at worst.
But if we do have a soul, there is hope for that soul’s healing if we can avoid the sledgehammer fix of Government. And, as better men than I have said - 'It is never too late'.
Think happy thoughts.


Saturday, 18 November 2017

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The Meaning of a Life - short story


The Meaning of a Life - cover - a cave



As promised, here is your short story for Halloween 2017...


The Meaning of a Life


The meaning of life had eluded Greg Williamson. Despite his 45 years on this earth, he had failed to find a satisfying answer. A successful career and two failed marriages had not even hinted at a meaning to a life that felt devoid of rhyme or reason. After his sister died Greg had taken an immediate decision. He had driven, alone, to the coast. To think. To retreat. To survive.

Nature hugged him as he drove there. It was a contrast to his city life which seemed full of angular, straight lines and laptop screens and rectangular pop-up adverts. Here everything was curved or else twisted. Here, the rules were different.

He parked at the top of a cliff. There didn’t seem to be anyone far below on the secluded beach. And there were steep steps leading down to the beach. It was a lucky find – to find an area in which there were no other people. Most of the tourists were at the popular destinations and few people went on holiday at the end of October.

Dusk was coming. Greg looked across the sea and saw only dark clouds.

“There’s a storm coming,” he said aloud to himself. But his inner storm was also at its height and Greg knew it. Down to the beach it was pebbles rather than sand. He followed the call of the sea. Wrapping his coat tightly, Greg looked at the shells which had been washed ashore. There was a large jellyfish which had been washed aground too long to live. Some kind of shiny black tar could be seen between the pebbles. The dull, wet sky seemed to permeate his body, to saturate his skull. The cold winds seemed to blow right through him as if he was not even there. As if he were invisible and his life had no meaning. He looked out across the grey sea and despaired.

His mind gripped hold of the name of the beach - Smugglers Cove – and the childhood fantasy of adventure and hidden treasure made him feel a little better. He would walk the beach, storm or no storm. He would clamber across rocks to the left, across bladderwrack seaweed and explore. And maybe the exploring would change his state.

I suppose he had never expected to go out quite so far. I suppose he had never intended to go across the barnacle encrusted rocks and explore quite so many miles of coastline. But it was like a siren song inside. As the winds buffeted his body, he felt compelled to continue. He was, as he had always wanted to be, in the moment and out too far. Certainly not waving. And going back was a worry which was boxed in a clam at the back of his brain. 
When he reached the cave entrance it seemed to be a place of lost dreams. Dusk now. Total dusk, when the strangest things can happen.

The cave seemed to have always been there, its dark opening like a mouth willing to swallow him. He explored. The cave itself felt bitterly cold and austere, but it provided some shelter from the wind. The waves outside approached and seemed to warn: ‘Curiosity killed the called.’

There was no smuggled treasure to be discovered. There were a few bottles and rusty cans and in one corner a pile of paper which looked suspiciously like toilet paper. Someone had scratched a name and date into one of the cave walls: ‘John – ‘10, 10, ....’. The year had been eroded.

He sat at the entrance, his back to the darkness and he looked across the sea to the approaching dark clouds. There were no moon or stars to be seen, no crack in the aluminium greyness of the merciless sky. Greg had felt the workdays eating into him. He had felt his life passing by and he felt guilty that he had let his life pass by without really living. His dreams seemed to have dissolved like mist. They seemed only delusions now. Like the American dream. Like the British dream – one of money and possessions and a happy family and two and half children. Watching TV alone was not enough. He would watch celebrities climbing mountains or visiting strange exotic places. He would watch the famous discover their family trees. He would watch ordinary people doing extraordinary things and sometimes he would wish it was him. When he received the news of his sister, his reaction was immediate and he had driven to the sea without even packing. And the storm grew closer.

Greg’s mid-life crisis was like an intoxicating poppy flower which he had carefully watered and fed. It was not a case of wanting to buy a motorbike or make love with beautiful women. His crisis was that he wanted to know the meaning to life and why he was put on this earth. He had accomplished so little. Neither his words nor his deeds had forked any lightning in the hearts of others. No thunder from his intentions had shaken the needy into a places of safety.

“I like you for that Gregory.”

Greg jumped at the voice. It had come from behind him. From a darker entrance deeper inside, further down into the throat of the cave. It was not an internal voice. There was even an echo which took place outside the cave of his own skull.

“It’s impossible not to like Gregory Williamson. Well… not quite impossible, but I like you anyway…” said the voice from a distance, the echo, rebounding from the cave walls and the inside of Greg’s head.

“The things that Gregory has been through… so very much. We should look out across the sea and watch the waves crashing and breaking in the coming storm and it would remind us of eternity. It would make us feel very small. We would be unable to look at the horizon then, and instead gaze down at our feet…”

After the word ‘feet’ there came an edgy laugh which sounded as hollow as the cave. As hollow as his head.

“Hello!” shouted Greg deeper into cave. “Who are you? How do you know me? Have you followed me?”

He felt safe though. A strange bliss seemed to envelope him, more intimate than the sea and the horizon which spoke of eternity. The storm and the darkness made him curious. There was no fear. A kind of peace caressed him in that moment, like the soft wing of an angel.

And the air was full of the smell of salt and seaweed and something else which he couldn’t put his finger on. He wanted to go further. He wanted to go further than anyone else. And the crashing and breaking of the waves as the tide came seemed to have an atmosphere of their own. ‘Curiosity killed the called.’

“Hello!”

But there was silence still, apart from a strange ringing in his ear as if the pressure had changed or someone had clashed ancient swords at the side of his head.

Then there was singing. A hum, a childhood nursery rhyme. “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.”

Greg’s curiosity overtook him and he walked deeper into the cave and the last of the dusk light showed a fork ahead. The cave seemed impossibly deep. It seemed labyrinthine. He followed the singing and soon most of the light was gone. The voice of the sea became a whisper. He had to feel along the cold rock and soon he saw something sitting on a rock further inside. At first he thought the dark outline to be some kind of stalagmite. He gasped as the silhouette moved.

“What do you want to know Gregory?” said the voice.

“Hello,” replied Greg finally.

Greg wondered how the stranger could have known his name.

“Do you want to know how we know your name?” asked the voice. “We have been expecting you and we know the question you will ask and we know the answer to that question – the question which had been burning in your heart for years. Ask it and we shall answer.”

So Greg thought frantically of what that question might be, because doing so seemed to be his only escape. And then he remembered…

“What is the meaning of my life?”

Soft laughter.

“It is well that you have asked what the meaning of your life is and not what the meaning of life in general is. And now we shall tell you what the meaning of your life is… it is this. You were born to come here and you were born to be in this place at this time. There can be no meaning without a creator who created both you and us. And so the meaning of your life is quite simple: You are here to be our supper.”

Then bliss left and fear came. It was a horror for Greg and no kind of answer. It would have been no kind of answer for anyone.

“I’m sorry? What are you doing here? Who else is with you?” said Greg thinking he must have misheard.

He fumbled for his mobile. And clicked the torch app and suddenly the owner of the voice was lit up. It was a merman in reverse. It was a merman but it was not a merman. It had the legs and midriff of a man but it had the torso of a huge fish. It was wrapped in seaweed as if the seaweed were a clothing. There were no feet, simply a tail where the legs joined. The head seemed normal, apart from the mouth. Part of the back could be seen and barnacle ridges formed there. On the front there were mussel shells clasped to the creature’s scaly chest.

Greg was horrified and he would have raced from the spot if the strange merman in reverse had not spoken to him with a voice which sounded like the eternity of the sea.

“The meaning of life is like the sea. When you look at the sea from the place that the river and estuary flow, it seems only to be the sea, of no relevance to you, something to only be aware of. Hardly even important. But when you are in the sea itself, when you are no longer fearing it, when you have passed the boundary between land and water, when you flow into the sea you feel it all around you. You feel it all and you know that it is forever and that it is beautiful and it becomes a compensation for the sufferings of dry land and the saltless river which led you there. But you have to follow the river to the sea. We have been waiting for you.”

“I’m sorry,” said Greg. “What are you? That’s no answer. That answer sounds like bullsh…”

And then he suddenly realized that the mouth of the merman in reverse was not that of a merman but the mouth of a tiger shark. The teeth so sharp. A mouth which gaped open, its jawbone disconnecting to widen its maw like a snake. And then there was a lurch and suddenly the creature met the place where Greg stood frozen. He dropped his mobile and in the darkness the great sharp mouth opened and suddenly there were no questions left in Greg’s head to ask because he had no head.

And the others came to feed too.


And the vast ocean, outside the mouth of the cave, the body of this strange soul, welcomed its new guest with a whisper... ‘Curiosity kills the called.’



Merman



Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Send your name to Mars

No spectacular reason for this post and my next blog post will probably be the free Halloween short story on here on the 31st (unless something really interesting happens like Theresa May appropriating the idea of The British Dream © for her gremlin-laden keynote Tory conference speech).

But some dreams can come true if you have always wanted to send your name into space...




...as long as you act before November on this link:
https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send-your-name/orion-first-flight/

In the meantime...






Thursday, 7 September 2017

Is Wendy Alec leaving GOD TV?





Wendy Alec
Wendy Alec


Wendy Alec, co-founder of GOD TV, says that she has not received a salary from the Christian broadcaster since July. The London born author and presenter is now asking supporters for personal financial help.

On her Facebook page she writes:

"Beloved friends - I am going to be SO very vulnerable with you now - And brutally honest as well. Deep breathx...

To explain to those who may not understand... I in a short term extremely tough transition period where after the divorce I am still faced with paying quarterly rent; council tax; utilities and other bills connected with the divorce. And I presently have NO Income. Things happened re GOD TV that I am not at liberty to discuss or disclose... only to say that my salary was terminated abruptly and with virtually no warning in July... no severance pay."

She goes on to detail her difficult circumstances following her high-profile divorce to Rory Alec in 2015 but says that she is unable to give further details of the current situation between herself and GOD TV.

She writes: "You know me. This is REALLY HARD FOR ME TO ASK THIS.
I have never in 21 years asked for myself but always promoted others to the best of my ability."

The GOD TV website also appears to have scaled back on references to its co-founder and presenter.

Founded in the UK in 1995, GOD TV has a global viewing audience of 1.1 billion people.


UPDATE: Wendy Alec says that her ex-husband and co-founder of GOD TV, Rory Alec is getting remarried this weekend (16/17 September 2017).

"I honestly didn't think it would affect me," she says. "I've had so much prayer healing deliverance and cut all soul ties... but it has far more than I realised... The end of an era of 30 years."


Editorial comment

At the moment it seems that viewers are either in camp Wendy, camp Rory (who has gone on to establish a business website called 'The Internationals') or camp GOD TV. Given the historically fickle nature of much Christian media it must be hoped that GOD TV treats its founders fairly, whatever the current circumstances.


Tuesday, 15 August 2017

This year's free Halloween short story...

The Meaning of a Life
October 31st
On this blog






The Meaning of a Life cover - picture of a cave