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a sense of loss

My colleague and close friend Carl Taylor, founder and visionary of Faith Hope and Enterprise, died earlier this month.

Carl was a quite remarkable man. Someone of whom, in my estimation, the world was not worthy.

His compassion for the poor and his commitment to helping people turn their lives around against the odds was absolute. He enabled people to overcome abusive childhoods, mental health illness, learning disabilities, addictions and their past offending behaviour to find a meaningful place in society. He worked for the benefit of others at tremendous cost to himself.

Even in hospital, in the last week of his life, he would talk to me about the future of the company and the people we currently work with. He never once switched off.

He was the kind of man who said it the way he saw it. He could be uncompromising and intimidating. He was honest. He lived out the call of God on his life for the whole of his life. In the last days we remembered God’s promises to “make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope” (Hosea 2:15), “to proclaim good news to the poor…to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Isaiah 61:1,2).

We remembered the promise of Jesus to the man next to him on the cross, “today you will be with me in paradise,” (Luke 23:43). I know that Carl has also heard the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21).

Friendships like ours don’t happen very often in life. We were open hearted with each other, we shared common values and purpose, we felt that God had brought us together for a reason and we pursued that vision with everything we had.

I will miss him. I will miss his warmth and his love. I will miss his humour and his clarity of thought. I will miss his wisdom and understanding.

Carl leaves an amazing legacy in the lives of the many people that he supported and the many different projects and enterprises that he was involved with. His vision continues and his ministry lives on.

Well done, my friend.

changing lives

Every now and then you see a break through in someone’s life that reminds you of the importance of grace. To be part of these stories is always a privilege.

I am so grateful to the people around me who make it possible to see people like Emma change their lives.

I hope you feel inspired reading her story.

The Yellow Birds

The Yellow Birds is a powerful, moving and poetic account of one young American’s experience as a solder in Iraq and his subsequent psychological breakdown.

The story is beautifully told, the language is exquisite and the power of the emotions conveyed is compelling.  I was enthralled reading this.

Powers details the gruesome brutality of conflict and the developing relationship of two young privates unable to cope with what they have seen, experienced, been part of, done.

The main character’s subsequent struggles are sparingly but effectively conveyed.  Powers’ authentic voice is maintained throughout the narrative.

I highly recommend this book to you.

Lonesome Dove

I have just finished reading Lonesome Dove.  It is an amazing story, beautifully crafted, vividly detailed.  It explores the beauty and brutality of life and the kindness and cruelty of the people who inhabit it.

Set in the American West, following a group of cowboys herding from Texas to Montana, Larry McMurtry skillfully rotates perspective among the characters as the tale unfolds.  It is brilliantly done.

It is the fatalism of the novel which impacted me most though.  The regular deaths, the cruel treatment of key characters, the fears and failings of ordinary and extraordinary people.  Woodrow Call, a natural leader of men who gives his life over to doing right, is challenged at the last that he has never been right.  It unsettles him and the  futility of his own life is joined to the hopelessness of so many others.  He is unable to do the single most important thing he has ever needed to do.

It is this sense of futility that resounds so deeply at the moment.  The sense that nothing really matters, nothing you do makes any real difference.  The sense that we count for nothing.  That our lives have no meaning.  That we have failed.

It seems to me that this fear is a common human experience.  Yet we struggle to face it.  It is too hard.

But it’s there.  Unchanging.  Unrelenting.  Is there any purpose or meaning to our lives?  For all we achieve, have we ultimately failed?

We need to engage in this conversation, to recognise and understand the fears that haunt so many people.  Christians have hope and purpose.  Life is not futile.  We have a different narrative to tell.

We just don’t think about skinny bears do we?  Baloo, Winnie the Pooh, Kung Fu Panda.  Being overweight is part of the deal.

I was in a shop the other week when I noticed someone looking at me.  “Blimey,” I thought, ” that bloke’s chubby.”  Turned out to be a mirror.

You see, when all you do is sit in your cave all day and eat, you put on weight.  When you hibernate, you put on weight.  When you eat because you’re bored, under pressure or feeling low, you put on weight.

And when you put on weight and feel bad about it and start getting down on yourself, you have a tendency to eat.

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.

So – now that spring is here and I’m venturing into the great outdoors again, I might just do so with a little bit more vigour than I have done recently.  It’s time to meet the furious five.

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