About Me

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Come to church, you are all welcome!


I came across this article yesterday via Twitter, it's from the Telegraph. Got to admit I only know what it says in the article so I won't be commenting specifically on this Vicar or his church, but just in a more general sense…

This kind of attitude infuriates me. The church is continually accused of being judgemental and here it is being reinforced in the national press. If we as the church don't want people to think we're judgemental, then let's not be judgemental. Every time someone steps foot into a church it's an opportunity to show them Gods love. It might be the only opportunity we get to share that with each person who comes in. So let's make the most of it...

Many, many people only attend church at Christmas - but I would say, at least that's once a year not zero times a year. And on top of that labelling people as hypocrites for attending church once a year is pretty rich when many churches don't bother to reach out to those same people at all, let alone once a year. If your church is full at Christmas and not during the rest of the year then what does that tell you? 
Many people only attend church for weddings and funerals - is that hypocritical too? What about those who want their funerals/weddings in church - do we turn them away because they only come once a year? As a church we have a message to share with people, a people who often do not want to hear it. And they will be even less likely to want to hear it, or even be open to it if they think that they are not welcome in our churches.

I love the Church of England and I will always defend it but I do also get so frustrated with it and with this kind of attitude. The Church of England that I love is vast and broad, it is loving and open. It is non judgemental and loves all people. It welcomes everyone who steps over the threshold no matter who they are or where they are from, or whether they have been to the church 1000 times or zero.

If you want to come to church this Christmas for your annual visit, you have every right to come and feel welcomed. Please come and sing the carols with gusto, please come and comment on the organ playing (or in our case guitar playing), please come and say hello to people who haven't seen since last years Christmas service, please come and then run away to the pub afterwards, it's all fine, we'll just be delighted to see you and to celebrate with you. Please don't be put off by a few grumpy individuals, I assure you the church welcomes you, we welcome you and most of all Jesus welcomes you...


Monday, 16 December 2013

Guest Post: 'The Words which Change Everything' by Anita Mathias


The words which take the hard walnut of the present
When it feels devoid of nourishment, just hard, just hard
Which take it, and crack it,
And reveal the sweet meat within it,
Are: Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

Though my day is not panning out as it should,
Though my work is not panning out as it should,
Though my nerves are fraying,
And energy and love has leaked from my heart,
Thank you, thank you, thank you.

For your goodness endures,
For the sun rises painting the sky,
For the sun sets, making it blaze,
For the mind you given me to praise you,
For the people who love me,
For the people I love,
For this world so full of beauty,
Though all is not as I want it to be,
Thank you.

Oh, you take the hard shell of your cantankerous heart,
And with the nutcracker of thanks split it open into joy,
Thanking him for the glad moments and the hard moments,
For there is nothing He cannot redeem.

Thank you that this world is full of goodness.
Though much is taken,
And much may never be as I want it to be,
So much goodness remains,
And for that:
Thank you!


Anita Mathias is the author of Wandering Between Two Worlds  (Benediction Classics, 2007). She has won a writing fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts, and her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, The London Magazine,  Commonweal,  America, The Christian Century, and The Best Spiritual Writing anthologies.

Anita blogs at Dreaming Beneath the Spires, www.anitamathias.com
you can find her on Twitter @anitamathias1 and or on Facebook at Dreaming Beneath the Spires.


  

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Wrecked in worship...

Just back from another Vicar School weekend. Exhausted, inspired, so pleased to be home and completely in love with Jesus…

So here's the thing about Vicar School, there are people from lots of different parts of the Church of England, so the worship times (or services) are varied, cover different types of worship and are very different to the worship at my church. I have really struggled with this. I know it's needed and it's good to get a range of experience, I totally get that. We are all made in different ways and it's important that we can all worship in a way that we find most brings us closer to God - and so in that I know the styles of worship that I find help me feel closer to God. Now we could get into a whole debate about what is worship and whether it should be about us as individuals or about us as worshippers giving rather than receiving from God, but that's another conversation. So the point is, I've been struggling with worship at college and found it hard to engage.

So today then, I wasn't really expecting what happened. Which was: tears, snot (not pretty) and a deep realisation of Jesus' love for me. All with a bunch of people who I have known for a sum total of 3 months. Hashtag awkward…

So just as I turned to my neighbour and said 'gosh this service is going on forever' (and yes I know, judge me now, even vicars in training find services dull and hard work sometimes) that we began to sing the song 'How Deep the Fathers Love for Us'. I love this song but today it broke me. Or rather God broke me, through the song.

The reality of what Christ did for us is something that I think can only really be understood when the Holy Spirit works through us to gain a deeper level of understanding. I mean, lots of people hear the story of Jesus's death and resurrection without being touched by it. They can hear it as a tragic story or a waste of life, but the truth of it has to really reach into someones heart to be understood. When someone becomes a Christian there's always a first time when that really hits home but I think there are points along the journey of life when it is refreshed in a very real way, and today was one of those for me. Probably my arrogance at being annoyed by the service was the point at which God reached in and changed that. I was humbled and I needed to be.

As I sang the lines from the song 'ashamed I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers' and 'it was my sin that held him there…' I really felt that it was me, personally calling out in a mocking voice - and it was really, in mocking the length of the service I might as well have been saying 'Jesus I can't be bothered worshipping you this morning, it's boring worshipping you like this.' I literally had the sense of my sin as if I was banging the nails into Jesus hands myself. 

Cue tears and desperate need to hold it together. Fail… just about held it together to receive communion but then the floodgates opened.

So at the start of this weekend I prayed that I just wanted to meet with Jesus. Study weekends have a lot of teaching and so they are pretty full on and although there are times set aside for worship, as explained above, I don't always find this helpful, so hence my prayer on Friday eve (and don't get me wrong the teaching was amazing and something I'm really looking forward to looking into further, blog to follow…!). So... right at the end of the weekend, when to be honest I was really just thinking about going home, that's when God answered my prayer.

So. What is it about Jesus that has made me turn my life (and my family's) around to go and train to be a Vicar? Well, exactly what happened to me this morning. The realisation that I and everyone else are the reason why Jesus died so horribly, but that he did that because of love. In that moment this morning, I saw a picture of Jesus on the cross with me banging a nail into his hand, and yet he just looked at me with the eyes of a loving Father, he looked at me in love, and with compassion. Broke my heart.

Jesus knows our pain, because he felt it himself on the cross. He carried all of our pain but he knows how it feels for each of us, as individuals.

I fail daily. I love Jesus but I get it so wrong regularly. But the thing is I try. I love Him and I try. And that is all I, or any of us need to do...


Thursday, 21 November 2013

On being a parent

So tonight I'm having one of those, 'wow I'm really a terrible mother' moments. I'm not of course, I might not be the best but I know I'm not really that terrible, but I definitely had an 'epic fail' tonight. The thing about being a parent is that of course we all make mistakes and I'm sure there will be times in the future when my kids will remind me of some of those mistakes. At least I can be thankful that they can't remember them all... But that's part of being a parent I think, we learn with our kids, we grow together.

People say that being a parent is probably the hardest thing you'll ever do and cliche as it it, it is so true. Because it's not like a job where you can have training or a manual to refer to, you just have to get on with it yourself and do the best you can. Oh yes I know you can read up on it and read different peoples views on parenting but at the end of the day it's just you, the parents (or parent) that make the decisions on the operating procedure.

The stakes are high.

Too high really. Because of course you can't be impartial about the work you are doing because you're too intimately involved in it. You can't just quit when it gets tough or you get fed up. But then by the same token the rewards far exceed any you get in employment. Like your child passing their driving test, or hitting a 6 (cricket...) or drawing a beautiful picture and writing 'I love you mum' across it, or even just sitting down with them to veg out and watch TV together. Those moments are when your heart melts and it all makes sense.

That's why, when it goes a bit wrong you really feel it.

Like tonight. 

Oh, don't worry, I didn't do anything really awful, and in the morning it will probably all be forgotten but it doesn't stop the feelings of guilt, or that I feel I've failed as a mother tonight.
And the thing is I know there will be loads of parents out there thinking the same which is I guess, why I'm writing this. If any parent says they have never made a mistake with their kids, I guarantee they are lying! I learned once never to see others as perfect parents, which is the danger, thinking that no one else ever makes parenting mistakes. I really looked up to this family and they were the kind of people everyone loved so much, people would always say 'oh aren't they wonderful'. Then through circumstance I came to spend some more time with them and I soon discovered they were just like everyone else, they made mistakes too, they were not perfect! None of us are, so we just have to do our best and above all love our kids.

The thing I hold onto is that my heavenly father never has those bad parent moments. And whilst I feel terrible right now, I know that he's just loving me, loving my heart, loving that I'm trying to do the right thing for my kids, loving that I want the best for them, he's loving that I am just loving them. And I will never stop doing that. There will be other mistakes I'm sure, and there might be tough times, but nothing will stop me loving them.


Monday, 11 November 2013

Pastoral Care & Social Media #cnmac13

'Head in hands' photo (c) 2010, Mike - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/















One of the best sessions I went to at this weekends Christian New Media conference was about Pastoral Care in the church and how that links in with Social Media. To be honest I don't think I'm a naturally pastoral person, in fact my kids will tell you I'm pretty unsympathetic, so it was a surprise to find myself in this seminar - perhaps God led me there, perhaps it was just me faffing and not deciding which one to go to until the last minute. Either way I'm so glad I went. Led by a passionate Will Van der Hart and the lovely Katherine Welby it was an interesting mix of ideas and a sessions that really got me thinking.

In the church we bear a great responsibility for Pastoral Care, perhaps too much sometimes (but that is another post entirely). Jesus is referred to as the ultimate pastor -  the Good Shepherd caring for his flock. He told the parable of the shepherd who went after the one lost sheep. But often I think our reactions to the 'lost ones' are mostly in judgement and not compassion. I don't mean just generally but, well, think about this:

I mentioned in yesterdays post that I am sure we can all think of people who use Facebook in pretty inappropriate ways, there are those who live out the intimate details of their lives in infinite detail, there are those who would do better to speak face to face with those they name in their status updates. Just think for a minute, if you are completely honest, what is your first reaction to those kinds of posts? Because I know my first reaction is not always a particularly Christian one. But the truth is, if someone is posting the minutiae of their life on a social media site, there is probably a reason for it...

Will talked on Saturday about the fact that people who are suffering with pain from past experiences possibly have wrong boundaries, possibly don't even recognise there should be boundaries. People like that can become dependent on the attention they get online and the responses to those kind of posts. 

So as a Christians do I not have a responsibility here? What would Jesus do? as the old saying goes... Well I'm really not sure and this is the thing - I'm left wondering how can we turn this around? How can we react in compassion, how can we use social media in our pastoral care?  for our and others benefit?  Katherine Welby talked about how communication can bring freedom for a sufferer, but that in turn the screen can keep one captive. The thing with social media is that it's relatively easy to communicate or to get information out, but then it's also easy to hide too. From my own experience I know that an admission of needing help or revealing a difficult situation can then be followed by an immediate withdrawal, a regret of sharing the information in the first place. That's one of the dangers with social media, in the physical world one can go and knock on someones door (ok so they might not answer but the point is it's much harder to hide in person).

We need ways of enabling, helping and encouraging people online rather than just the quick fire status reply 'praying xx' or 'thinking of you' or even just clicking 'like' - another thing I'm sure we are all guilty of as Will pointed out in his talk. What should be our default position here? Because just a quick fire reply might relieve some guilt from ourselves but it sure ain't going to help that person...

I don't have answers, these are just some thoughts that have been going through my head, something to ponder on I guess. But if you've been thinking about this too or have some thoughts do post in the comments section.






Sunday, 10 November 2013

The digital world and the real collide... #cnmac13

So, yesterday I went to the Christian New Media Conference. As a blogger I've planned to go to this for the last three years and for one reason and another I've never made it, so it was great to finally get there yesterday.

These days there is a lot of talk about how 'real' the digital world is and whether virtual relationships can replace real ones. But the thing is, and anyone who uses social media and embraces the digital world will tell you, it's not about replacing it, it is just a part of it. The curve of development in technology in recent years has exploded (mixed metaphor alert...) and there's no two ways about it, technology, social media, digital communication are here to stay. Like it or not. 

As a soc med fan I have made some wonderful and useful connections online many of whom I would refer to as friends even though I've never met them. This is a new way of connecting with people and we all need to learn new skills to get the most out of it. Virtual relationships are never going to replace those we have with the people who are physically around us and we needn't be fearful of that.

So yesterday for me was like two worlds colliding. I met a whole load of people who I have 'known' online for quite some time plus I made a heap of new friends too and I think that was one of the most valuable parts of the day.  Like Pete who I met on the train and Laura who had tweeted me in advance to say she'd travelling up on the same train as me. We'd never met before but we all became buddys for the day. Or like Anita whose blog I have followed for some years now, we first 'met' in person when a fellow blogger invited us both to lunch and yesterday we met over lunch for a quick catch up, and she then introduced me to others who I 'know' from the blog world. 

It was also great to be in a room full of like-minded people. So often people just don't 'get' social media, especially in the church, some are so anti and often their  reasons for being anti it are completely valid, but like anything we need to embrace the positives and learn from the negatives. We can all give examples of people posting their life histories and intimacies on Facebook and I'm sure we've all been guilty of that at some point. In the church we have to be even more careful, especially in leadership that our use of social media is 'appropriate' but we must be careful not to 'throw out the baby with the bath water' too.

I've loads to reflect on from yesterday and took copious notes so I'm sure there will be several posts to follow but for now I'm just excited about the future of digital communication and how we can harness that within the church...

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

"I Could have been..."

A brief conversation today made me revisit this thought - of what 'I could have been'. 

So often people say things like "I could have been a...' or if it weren't for X I could have done this... 

Oh how we yearn for so much more. Are we ever satisfied I wonder?

Thing is, for me my 'I could have been' would probably be '...could have been dead' or '...could have been in prison', or '...could have been angry and bitter for my whole life',  or '...could have been stuck in a dangerous or harmful relationship...' or could have been so much worse...

But in all these things I thank the grace of God that none of those 'could have beens' ever happened...

I sometimes think about what my life could be like if God wasn't in it. You see 20 years ago I was rapidly descending a slippery slope into a dark and uncontrollable world. I was into drugs, wasn't a fan of myself, didn't eat, really just wanted to get as far away from anyone who knew me as I could. And although of course I know God was there all that time, I certainly wasn't paying him any attention. 

But now I can look back and see all the things that he rescued me from. Saved me from. Truly saved. There were very real times when I put myself at ridiculous risk. Risk of assault, attack, overdose, arrest and prison to name just a few.

I was an angry young woman. But by God's grace I am here today. And I am here with a wonderful husband and family. And I am happy.

And I know that none of what I lived with and went through will be wasted. Through all that I have learned compassion, not to be judgemental, I have learned to look past the exterior, to love people. I am so thankful for all that God has blessed me with because it 'could have' been so different. My life could have been so so different.

And that is what God's grace is all about. Getting something you don't deserve, but you get it anyway, a free gift. And what a gift it is. 

I hope that I will always walk through life being thankful for what God has done for me, remembering where I could have been. Because although it's not nice remembering some of that stuff and it can be painful, it just helps me to remind me that nothing is about 'me', but it's all about Him.


Monday, 28 October 2013

College Update // October 2013


Southwark Cathedral & Education centre


So I’ve made it to half term and am grabbing some time to write the next update before the chaos starts again. Actually I say that, but so far it has not been too chaotic, we seem to have fallen into a rhythm that works for us as a family and whilst there will undoubtedly be weeks when deadlines fall where things may not run so smoothly, so far so good!
This term I have 2 modules to study, one for evenings at Southwark, which is ‘Church in Practice’ and one for the weekends, which is focusing on Mission. Church in Practice (or CiP) covers the history of the Christian church, how patterns of worship formed, ie: why we do what we do in our churches. Also looking at the Christian calendar: events that are celebrated annually in the church - Easter and Christmas being the obvious but there are loads more. We started this module looking at liturgy which is the way services are formed – the wording, the various components that are included in each service and so on. Got to admit I thought this was going to be a pretty dull module to start on, but I have actually found it fascinating. So, for example did you know that early Bishops in the church were chosen according to how well they could lead services by listening to the Holy Spirit and being guided by him (I think the technical term for this might be ‘winging it’ !). Seriously, I loved reading this because this is how I try and live my life, just being guided by God not according to some set pattern.
The module on Mission which we are taught on over the weekends is just amazing. It’s an area that I feel passionate about anyway but the teaching has been so inspiring. Mission is basically taking the message of Jesus out into the world, not just by telling people about him, but by showing them. So it can include things as diverse as community projects, praying for people on the street, events and more. We have had a guy called Ian Mosby to come and tutor us who runs a project in London called ‘Moot’, which basically allows people to explore spirituality within a Christian context. He shared some startling statistics that showed that in a survey of non-Christians in the UK, over 75% would agree that they have some sort of belief in a force of good, possibly God, and accept that humans are spiritual; but of those less than 10% would look to the church for answers. That is exactly what Moot is addressing – helping people ask those kind of spiritual questions in a non traditional church format. Very inspiring.
As part of this module we also get to do a mission placement project and our group will be going to St Peter’s church in Henfield, which is very local to us here. We’ll be helping to put on a nativity festival in the church which I’m really excited about. If you’re local, it will be starting over the weekend of 7/8 December so do pop along.
I’ve also just finished my first assignment (just in time to enjoy half term!). It was a 2000 word essay entitled; ‘To what extent has observance of the Christian year been a unifying factor in the history of Christian worship?’. Which is probably enough to send anyone to sleep and anyone who I have mentioned it to seems to glaze over within seconds, but I have found the research really interesting.
Our second study weekend was at an ex-army hotel in Gillingham, which let’s face it, is not the nicest town in the world, but compared to the stone cell I had on the previous weekend was actually pretty luxurious. And of course it had actually hit the 21st century, I mean I even had a teasmaid in the room this time… I think like most of our venues there are little quirks, like the fact that we had to use one big room for most of the things we did, so while we were holding times of worship, the staff would often be setting up for dinner in the other half of the room, or clearing away from breakfast. Needless to say there were several bouts of stifled giggles when odd clanking noises occurred in particularly reverential parts of the services (maturity doesn’t come along with being a Christian clearly…).
Some good bits //
Well lots really, after the low of the first weekend it has all been pretty much uphill. Plus a trip to Disneyland, Paris last week which has nothing whatsoever to do with college but it was amazing!
Rough stuff //
: Getting lost in a park in Gillingham – decided on an early morning run and got hopelessly lost in a park near our hotel and ended up running twice as far as I wanted and nearly missing breakfast. Thankful for a random dog walker who pointed me in the right direction!
: Two weekends away within the space of a few weeks – this is a one off as we had an induction weekend as an extra this term. Pretty rough on us all to be honest, but thankfully the next one isn’t until the end of November now.
Prayer Stuff //
: I’m approaching a very busy few weeks with 3 family birthdays, a new project at work hopefully getting off the ground, Christmas preparation, planning the Mission Project and another assignment due. So prayer for peace, no stress and good time management would be great.
: For Phil & the family, for good quality family time, for continued ease in general organisation, and for understanding all round when I am snowed under!
So, that’s all for now, thanks for your continued support,
Blessings
Jules x

Monday, 21 October 2013

Keeping it Real...

So I recently entered the #digifaith competition 'Christian Writing in a Digital Age'. The brief was to write a blog post of no more than 450 words about an aspect of Christian writing and had to include something to do with writing, something to do with faith and something to do with the digital age. Right up my street! I didn't win but here's my entry anyway...


You know what? I love living in the digital age. I love that I can get hold of my teenager at any second of the day or night (she, not so much). I love that if I’m lost in the wilds of Sussex (yes, it has been known) I can Google my way out. I love that I can get the answer to any question in the entire world, with a swipe of my finger (ok so it may not actually be the right answer). And I really love social media. I am a tweeter, a facebooker, instagramer, blogger… just can’t get enough of it. 
I am also a Jesus follower. 
Thing is, being in a digital age, you never quite know quite how much is digital and how much is ‘real’ do you? Society seems to be obsessed with ‘persona’ and this digitalness enables us to be whoever we want to be. It’s like ‘Ikea’ for people: pick your sofa, pick your hairstyle; pick your character, pick your past… Adverts scream at us from the peace of our own Facebook pages, ‘YOU can be different, you can be BETTER, you can be whatever you want’. ‘If you buy this brand of Wellington boot, with one splash of the Dorset mud you will instantly be transformed into ‘Yummy Mummy’ or ‘Wear this shade of lipstick and you will become an irresistible sultry goddess with one swift swipe of the stick….’ You know what I mean, I’m sure. And I think secretly we all have a bit of us that wants to be something else, or someone else… so we fall for it, the appeal of not being ourselves for a while. The digital age just means we can carry out this charade with perfect ease.  Pick your stereotype, chose an avatar, write a few posts and away you go. You are now Mysterious Mable from Marylebone, with a penchant for flavoured tea and an expert baker (of course). 
So, where does that leave us? Christians awash in a sea of falsity? Well, how about this?: let’s be real! There is enough tosh out there for an eternity. Some of my favourite blogs are Christians being real, sharing their lives, but at the same time acknowledging that there is something more to life – and I don’t mean their latest Egyptian cotton sheets, or the rescued chickens perusing their ‘oh so charming’ gardens –  but that the something more, is the true and living God. Here’s the thing, we actually do have a real message to share and a true and perfect persona to reveal. If we want to be like someone else, let it be Jesus.




If you're interested you can see the results/winning blogs via the digifaith blog here.


Saturday, 19 October 2013

Crossbones Graveyard


In medieval times this was an unconsecrated graveyard for prostitutes or 'Winchester Geese'. By the 18th century it had become a paupers burial ground, which closed in 1853. Here local people have created a memorial shrine.

The Outcast Dead
RIP



A few weeks back I was searching around the depths of Southwark for the office of my theological college and chanced upon this place. I took a quick snap as I was intrigued and it's only today that I've looked into it a bit more.  The gates, fronting what seems to be a derelict site overgrown with weeds, are adorned with hundreds of ribbons, dolls, signs, flowers along with the plaque (words above).

So it turns out this place was once a burial ground for the prostitutes of Southwark from about 1100 onwards. They were known as 'Winchester Geese' from the fact that the Bishop of Winchester licensed them to ply their trade in this area which became well known as a 'pleasure quarter'. Seems quite bizarre that the Bishop would not only turn a blind eye to this but in fact actually give it legitimacy!  By the early 19th century there were concerns about the continued use of this site as a graveyard and it was subsequently closed.

In recent years there have been several attempts to build on the land which have met with much resistance from locals. In fact a friends society has been set up to protect the area and they hold regular events and vigils at the site, find out more here on their website which has plenty of information about the history of the site.  I've got to say that their activities seem far too pagan for my liking, but there is something rather reverential about the fact that these women who once would have been at the depths of society, living in appalling conditions, often dying young from various diseases, are being honoured now in this way. Whilst in life they suffered and were not valued, now this land is probably worth a huge amount being in the heart of London, and a group of people are bothered enough to want to honour their memory.

It's quite amazing what you find when you're wandering around the city, a chance walk along this street discovered an opening into a whole different world. Whilst today Borough is pretty trendy and becoming more so, a few hundred years ago it was a whole 'nother matter...

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Book Review 'Crossroads' by Wm Paul Young

On a chance visit to our nearest Christian Book Shop (which isn't actually all that near at all...) I saw a big display of books. I would have ignored it apart from the tiny sticker indicting it was by the author of 'The Shack' (which I saw has sold 18million copies!) - if you've read it, like marmite, you'll either love it or hate it. (Most love it but find the subject matter very hard to read - the main character's young daughter is abducted and murdered). I loved The Shack and so on an impulse I bought Crossroads and subsequently read it in 2 days (partly helped by being ill and having to rest!)

Young is a Christian and his books reflect the Christian message,  evangelical in nature, clearly illustrating some of the complexities of faith in a simple and easy to understand way. The Shack was a quirky and contemporary read, addressing some deep theological issues like the trinity with ease. I really liked the way it was written, I'd never read anything like it. Crossroads is written in the same vein. It takes some deep issues and addresses them in the same way as in The Shack. There are similarities - in The Shack, God is represented as a large black woman, in Crossroads the Holy Spirit as a native Indian woman. Where I loved that in The Shack, in Crossroads I found it lazy, too same-y. Young fans will probably love that, but for me it was slightly disappointing. Jesus is a likeable chap (he would be) who forms an easy relationship with the main character, Tony. I like this because I think this is what jesus would be like.

So was it a good read? - yes, couldn't put it down. The main character is initially an unlikeable man, arrogant, self-absorbed hurtful and paranoid. He ends up in a coma and in this coma state subsequently meets God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They give him the opportunity to put the things right, with an offer to heal just one person. Through this he encounters various strangers who become friends who subsequently affect his life and his decisions. The plot is clever if rather unbelievable, and in places it seems unbiblical, not sure what the bible says about the spirit of a living person inhabiting someone else. Sounds demonic if you ask me! But it's a very easy read. That said, to get the best out of it a slower or second read would be necessary to address some of the themes within it. 

The book cleverly uses a changing landscape to illustrate the state of Tony's heart and mind, in the aftermath of his arrogant and self centred life. And we watch how as he addresses the things he has done, the landscape changes until he reaches the one final, and huge hurdle. I wonder what has happened in Young's life that he addresses such difficult and painful issues in his books (I am sure I could google and find out...) but I imagine to some who have dealt with such pain this would be a deeply beneficial read.

I really like the main theme of redemption, that no matter how much of a mess you make in your life, no matter how many people you hurt, there is a chance with God, to make it right. That is the Gospel right there. So if it makes people think, gets them asking questions then it's done it's job.