“I want something to look forward to in life. Is that really a lot to ask? I mean, really? Am I too old to dream?”

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know I’m currently unemployed, and last night I wrote about how my next step is to find a job so I can travel next summer.

But today I’ve been asking myself if I’m too old to still have dreams I want to fulfil, if I can still dream in the current economic climate. My first thought is that I don’t believe God wants me to give up on dreams. What He doesn’t want is for me to sit around and wait for Him to “work His magic”, He wants me to work hard to chase this dream. I want to do that; I’ve applied for six jobs in the past two days. Because the way life is right now can’t be all there is, I want something to be excited about, to look forward to.

I’m always searching for the next dream, the next exciting adventure. We all are, all humans. We want more, we want better. I’m lucky enough to have the drive to search for that, to try and find it in anything. One of the jobs I applied for was in a rather generic office-style job and, dear goodness, that job in itself will be enough to encourage me to work hard and then get out of here. I’m only 22, I don’t think I need to know what I want to do or where I want to live yet. I encourage all of my fellow 20-somethings, if you’re feeling a bit lost, not to settle for something and never leave just because it gets you out of that rut. By all means, find something temporarily, but never take your eyes away from what you want. If you, like me, want to travel next summer, don’t think you can’t do that.

Life would work out just fine if I was choosing to find a job and just settle for staying in Northern Ireland for a while, but I want something more than that. God has given me this motivation, this passion, and I’d go crazy if I didn’t try and chase after it all.

I mean I’m a writer, I have to dream. I know I can reach something with my writing, some day, and that it will be beautiful.

God made me a dreamer. He gives me purpose, He wakes me up every day and inspires and motivates me to chase after Him IN these dreams. I write for my Saviour but also because I know there are people out there and people in my life, who have secrets and fears and struggles and they don’t talk about it, they don’t tell anyone, and they fight alone. The ones who don’t eat, who are obsessed with how they look, who come from broken homes, who have no confidence and yet who pretend to be perfect, who don’t know love… my dream in my writing is that God will use me to speak to those who need to hear His words. That doesn’t feel like a big dream because I can do that from the comfort of my home.

But travelling is big and scary. It relies on me finding a job in a terrible economy while the unemployment rate rises. I’m not saying that I think God has some big plan for my adventures, I’m not trying to make it some “anointed journey”. But I believe that the fight to get to it is what God will use. I have a year in front of me in which I will meet new people, gain new friends, form relationships with people. I will enter the lives of some and exit the lives of others.

I don’t think the dream is the issue, I think the issue is how we fulfil that dream.  

Finding a job in the current economic climate involves trusting in God like never before, and in that job I will be entrusted to love people and to evangelise relationally. Our life consumes our dreams and it all works together and comes together as something more than we ever thought it could be.

So, in answer to my question, no, I don’t think I’m too old to dream. I’m too old to think that I’m invincible and that there won’t be work involved, but I’m not too old to chase after the things I want, the things that make me excited to be on this earth that I have been blessed to be on.

I am so excited to chase after this with Jesus.

x

Rap music; no really.

One great thing about travelling is discovering new music, or discovering that you love a certain type of music that you never thought you could.

For me it was Southern California and rap.

Now I realise a bunch of you, after reading that sentence, will swiftly exit my blog, vowing never to return again. For those of you who haven’t, thank you.

I met some great people in Southern California and saw some beautiful places. Yeah, I went to Laguna Beach and saw one of the most rich places I think I’ve ever seen. I saw beautiful, stick thin men and women, tanned and blonde, making fashion choices that just wouldn’t make it any where else in the world. I walked on Hollywood Blvd. and took photos outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and spent a night on Coronado Island, on the beach by the stunning Hotel de Coronado

But I also went to Venice Beach, LA and stayed in Oceanside for a week, and saw that there’s very little in California between poverty and riches. I met some amazing people and learnt a lot about myself. It was a great week and I truly fell in love with the place; Jesus is truly in California.

That was just as a side note to inform you all that the beautiful state of California, in particular the southern part of the state, isn’t just glitter and money and bright lights and Hollywood. If you go back to some of my older posts you’ll find plenty about my thoughts on my time in California. However, to get back to rap…

Rap has gotten a pretty bad reputation, which is unfortunate because it’s as legitimate a genre of music as anything else. I tell people I like rap and they say “Really? You?” I love it. It’s some of the most passionate music I know. I don’t listen to much mainstream rap for a lot of reasons; it degrades women (and men…), a lot of it is about nothing more than sex and drugs and alcohol, and a lot of mainstream rappers are involved in gang violence, and I also find that it’s aggressive rather than passionate.

I love Lupe Fiasco’s music a heck of a lot. He was probably the first rapper I listened to. Fiasco is a Muslim from Chicago, Illinois and writes some of the most inspirational lyrics I’ve ever heard in rap. One of his most recent singles, B*tch Bad, may have a title typical of mainstream rap, but that’s what makes it so brilliant. The whole song is about the use of the word ‘bitch’ and how women are degraded in rap music; the title will be appealing to people who are mostly into mainstream rap therefore having the best affect. Fiasco’s whole ethos is rapping about justice and is full of positive themes, but my favourite song of his is probably Kick, Push, which is about kids who used skateboarding as their escape from the struggles in life. I first heard it when he performed on One Tree Hill and it’s a far cry from anything artists like Jay-Z are rapping about. However, most recently he released Around My Way [Freedom Ain’t Free]which is all about the mess that the USA has found itself in,  in particular how the rich treat the poor. I suggest you check out his albums ‘Food & Liquor’ and ‘The Cool’ if you want to hear some of his best work.

A rapper I found on YouTube is George Watsky. Watsky hails from San Fransisco, California and started his career with spoken word poetry, one of my favourite poems being Letter to My 16 Year Old Self (something I wish I’d heard when I was 16). The best part is definitely this:

“You’re gonna get depressed sometimes
You’re gonna have weeks where you don’t feel like eating
Where gravity is working overtime like it’s afraid of getting laid off
And you can barely lift your fork to your mouth
And you are going to have a choice
Do you wanna see this world as ugly, or beautiful?
Wanna know what I think?
Well go fuck yourself! This is my poem
And I think the universe is great
It’s like God just chucked a bunch of candy into space
And Earth is a jawbreaker
So it doesn’t matter if you’ve got the biggest mouth
You can’t just chew the world up and spit it out
You’ve gotta savor it
From the grandest to the blandest nook and cranny
Every crooked alley, every mountain, brook, and valley
From Candyland to Cali
That’s been stamped by Rand McNally
Ordinary is outstanding!”

I’m not a teenager any more and that still speaks volumes.

Watsky is one great reminder that rappers are also poets and artists, he totally ruined all my misconceptions of all rappers being no different than Jay-Z and Kanye West. Watsky is my fellow nerdy white kid and I think that’s why I love his music so much. He also raps a lot about his political views  and can be pretty inspirational. You can find all his albums at his bandcamp site, the amazing bonus being that you can get most of them completely free. Definitely click that download button right now!

Another rapper I discovered on YouTube is Dumbfoundead. Now, this dude isn’t quite as, eh, inoffensive, as the last two, but he is so damn good at rapping that I can’t even pretend like I don’t love his music. My favourite song is most definitely Are We There Yet, which is all about growing up and covers numerous different parts of his life, including how his Mum got him and his sister to the USA and raised them brilliantly while working numerous jobs.

I’m also massively into Lecrae’s music, and if you’re looking for Christian rap he is definitely someone you should listen to. My favourite song of his, and probably one of my favourite songs in general, is Gotta Know from his ‘Rehab’ album. One of his best is most definitely Just Like You, a song all about growing up without a Father and trying to find some sort of good male role model in all the wrong people. Lecrae has an amazing testimony, which you can find here, and in himself is an inspiration. He doesn’t water down his past or make it into some great Christian cliché, his lyrics are honest and raw and he is worth giving a listen, even if you don’t think you like rap that much. 

If you’re interested in rap music and want more recommendations you should definitely listen to Trip Lee, 116 Clique, and theBREAX. I hope that helped people see rap music in a new light, and made you realise that you don’t have to be a certain type of person to listen to it. Rappers are some of the greatest lyricists out there and putting them in a box is stupid and unfair.

x

P.S. If you have Spotify, check out this playlist I’ve been compiling for a while:

Short-term missions, and why they’re detrimental to the communities in which they happen.

A week or two ago I read a great article by Chuck Blakeman on how non-profits won’t solve poverty. A long while ago I read a brilliant article by Jamie the Very Worst Missionary  about how short term missions tend to be a bad move. And some where in the middle of reading both of those articles I came across one on The Gospel Coalition entitled ‘”Why you should consider cancelling your short-term mission trips.” 

All these articles have been brilliant food for thought.

Growing up in the Church I heard so much about people going on mission trips, and obviously in Church they don’t really discuss the negative sides of short-term missions. But as I’ve grown up and learnt more about things like the economy, I’m realising, as of late, that short-term missions have so much potential to do more harm than good.

We get so excited about going to places like Uganda and Kenya to build schools that we forget that by doing that we take jobs away from the people within the communities who would be massively benefited by work. What they need is someone out there to train them to do that work, which will then benefit them in the long run. If people in poverty-stricken communities learn how to start their own businesses, this will benefit them more than people in the west sending them copious amounts of money. That money will eventually run out, but if a community can support itself from within then it will have a constant flow of money and they won’t have to rely on anyone but themselves. Local business owners will also be less likely to exploit their employees, decreasing the amount of people having to work in sweatshops.

I think a main problem with short-term missions is that a lot of people who take part in them do it for their own spiritual growth, with the people they’re serving just being something on the side that makes them feel good about themselves. Jamie’s article says a lot of really interesting things about how people will do short-term missions in countries in which they know very little about the culture and actually end up doing things, without realising, that massively offend the locals. We go out there with all our great ideas about people and spreading love and all we end up doing is selfishly forgetting that all cultures are different. We spend all our time wanting to visit this foreign country and find God there and we completely forget about people. If you want to travel then go on holiday, don’t masquerade your adventures as a mission trip; that isn’t fair on anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, I think a lot of good work has been done by short-term missions, but I worry that there have been more negative trips. I think it’s important that we work on the communities that we find ourselves in, rather than spending insane amounts of money going to places like Brazil and India for a week or two, when all the money raised for the people we go to work with and to buy that plane ticket could go directly to the people who need it, for food, water, training, you name it. If God calls you to do missions some where further afield than your home then by all means, do it, but I strongly believe that if He does call you to that then it won’t be for a fortnight, but that it very may well be for a large period of your life.

x

Finally, some plans.

I’ve made a decision about the next ten months (ten brings me to June and the very start of summer).

I’m going to find a job as quick as I can, which means applying for everything I find that seems even half-suitable. I want to do this so in ten months I can head across the pond, which will be for the first time in two years, to road trip up and down the west coast of America. I always felt at home in America in a way in which I never did in Scotland and N.Ireland. A lot of you will laugh at this, making jokes about my accent, but I don’t mind. It’s a place I love to be in, where I feel comfortable; that’s not a lot to ask of  a place.

It’s a brilliant, exciting goal and I love it. These ten months also give me plenty of time to become more involved in Church, get to know tonnes of people in N.Ireland, and learn to drive. It does put my moving out plans on hold, but I’ve decided I’m okay with that. I would have done this this summer, but we all know why I couldn’t. This also means I’ll get to work and get some good stuff for my CV which will make life easier one I return home from my travels.

I really need to do this. I have incredibly itchy feet already so ten months is a really long time to wait, but if it means I can do some proper travelling it’ll be more than worth it. I’m still growing up, still figuring out life, and travelling is a good way to do this. I’m not usually into all that “finding yourself” stuff but there’s something about seeing different countries and ways of life that really makes you figure out what you want. And just because America is full of English speaking white people doesn’t mean it’s anything like the UK. Southern California in itself is a culture shock and that’s why I love it.

Knowing how much scope for writing this adventure will give me is amazing; that in itself is more than enough reason for me to do it.

The frustrating part is that I know it’s exciting now, because I haven’t been looking for jobs for long since I made this decision (I think it’s been about two days…), but it’s going to get tough, and sometimes I’ll feel like it’ll never get any where. But this is a dream, and I was able to fulfil the past two dreams I chased after, so I don’t believe this will be any different 🙂

x

Plans and memories: the book is back.

I love memories.

I remember dipping my feet in the lake by our house when we lived in Finland and how afraid I was of swimming in it (I couldn’t swim).
I remember how icy cold my fingers were the morning we hiked up Dumyat for sunrise, and how much they hurt when I tried to play guitar as the harsh winds blew.
I remember how much it hurt the first time I cut my knee at school.
I remember the warmth of the Pacific Ocean between my toes on Coronado Island.
I remember the first time I fell off a horse, and that weird moment when everything was in slow motion.
I remember the second time I fell off a horse, and when it trotted back around and sniffed me; my heart still melts at the thought of that.
I remember the taste of Goat’s Cheese Risotto in Strada on London’s South Bank.
I remember how much it hurt the first time I had my heart broken by a boy; and the next time, and the next time, and the next time…
I remember my first gig when I was fourteen, and my friend’s parents dropping us off right at the door of the venue; I remember how that gig ended with a guy overdosing and going to hospital. I don’t remember what bands played.
I remember the first time I saw the Wallace Monument, the Ochils and Stirling Castle all standing strong in a line as we drove along the A9 when I moved to Stirling in 2008 and how I didn’t care at all; I remember staring at them in awe every other time I went back in September after that.

This is why my book is on hold. I’ve decided not to quit, but to put more effort into planning it. I managed to wing it for over 6,000 words and that was cool, but I want to try a bit harder. I want to sit down and remember and smile and cry and make notes and then I want to start the final product. It’ll take a while, but it will definitely be worth it.

x

Rejoicing Always

I’ve been dying to write today.
To share with you the amazing things that God has been doing in my life over the past week.

If the past seven days have taught me anything it’s that we learn and grow the most in the tough times. I have truly learnt how to “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16). It baffles me how the devil seems to think that the hard times will break me down, when really all they do is encourage me to fight even harder and to love my Saviour even more. Jesus won the battle long ago; it’s strange how he hasn’t realised that yet.

This morning on the way to Church I was fighting back tears. Really sad, broken tears. A lot has been going on within my family recently and it’s been incredibly tough. But in Church we sang ‘How Deep the Father’s Love for Us’ and, again, I was reminded of the great love that Jesus has for me.

The thing about Jesus is that He doesn’t pull us out of bad situations, He doesn’t click His fingers and make everything right again. If He did that then we would never share in the pain that He knew on the cross, we would never know the fight, the battle, we would never know why we truly needed Him. But what He does is so much better; He loves us through the pain. He strengthens us so we can grow and continue to fight the good fight, spread His word, love people more deeply and learn to be more like Him. He humbles us and shows us that He is the only way.

Some people probably want a God who’ll make life perfect, who’ll just pull us out of the tough times, but how would we ever learn from that? We wouldn’t be living in reality, we’d be in a fantasy world and we would never be able to share in the pain and anguish that Jesus experienced on the cross.

My heart has never before wanted to cry out in praise as much as it does now, and it’s not because I feel excited or happy. If I was going by my emotions I’d be angry with God. I just know He is working and doing great things and waking me up every morning and reminding me that He loves me constantly. He is truly the reason I get out of bed in the morning, because I know He has something better for me, something that is just beyond the horizon; and that horizon gets closer and closer every day. I could not do this without Him and I don’t know how anyone does.

I want to leave you with a quote from Francis Chan that in some way expresses how I’m feeling at the minute:

“I don’t want my life to be explainable without the Holy Spirit. I want people to look at my life and know that I couldn’t be doing this by my own power. I want to live in such a way that I am desperate for Him to come through. That if He doesn’t come through, I am screwed.”

x

God will never waste pain; a response to the Aurora, CO shooting.

Last night a gunman entered a cinema in Aurora, Colorado during a midnight showing of the new Batman film and opened fire. Fifty people were injured and out of that number fourteen were killed. Among the wounded was a four month old baby. On the BBC website I listened to an audio recording of a man describing how he and his wife escaped to safety; for a while he was separated from his children to ensure they got out unharmed.

Today my heart aches for the citizens of Aurora. It has only been thirteen years since the Columbine High School shootings and, once again, the people of Colorado are grieving for their loved ones because of the selfishness of an individual who, we can only assume, had lost all control of his mind; no sane person would do this.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families as the dust begins to settle in Aurora and people try to figure out what the next step to take is.

I’m not entirely sure what to say in this situation. I don’t want to patronise or belittle.

Events like this make you realise the importance of life. They make you realise that it’s a gift, that it’s not to be taken for granted. It baffles me that a four month old was injured, that God couldn’t have done more to stop that. These are the times I question Him.

But these are also the times that I realise that this isn’t the world He created. He didn’t plan evil, but He did allow freewill, because who would love a God who they were forced to love? It all goes back to Adam and Eve and the fall of man. Had Eve not eaten that fruit we wouldn’t be in this place. But if she hadn’t eaten it we wouldn’t know joy because we wouldn’t know pain. We wouldn’t need the hope of Heaven because everything on earth would already be perfect. We wouldn’t know Jesus, we wouldn’t know forgiveness, we wouldn’t know restoration, or reconciliation, or love.

God never wastes pain; I believe that He has something beautiful lined up for the citizens of Aurora. My prayer for them is that they will find good in this, that there will eventually be a positive outcome, that justice will be done, that the injured will come home from hospital soon and that the lives of those who died will impact their communities in ways that they never could have imagined.

x