“…Cripples and Bastards and Broken Things.”George R.R. Martin.The Prophetic Conclusion of Game of Thrones.

The Raven…The Broken.

Has an ending ever been so controversial or talked about? Still the dust is being kicked around about the conclusion of Game of Thrones. A petition of over a million signatures want the whole of Season 8 to be re-written. Social media is full of dissatisfied people disgruntled that certain characters acted in certain ways, and that story arcs finished as they did. And as for Bran ending up as the King of the Six Kingdoms!!! But as I watched the final episode I found it very moving, satisfactory and totally prophetic in it’s outcome. I was a late starter to the drama and intrigue of Game of Thrones. I had tried when it first came on, but to no avail. But just before Season 5 was due to air I decided to give it another go as they repeated the previous Seasons. This time I was hooked, especially when it got to Season 1, Episode 4, entitled

Cripples, bastards and broken things.

A quote from Tyrion, who himself is a dwarf. I knew at the time it had significance and it spoke to me about the type of people that God uses to confound the wise. That this brilliant drama about power hungry, throne desiring people, was not going to be won by the most evil or the strongest or the dominating leadership styles of the Kings and Queens, whether we thought they were good or evil. It was going to be won by the least, the despised, the rejected of the ensemble. Who that was going to be at the time was not clear, but everything was pointing to the futility of war and dominion and government, and leading us to see through the eyes of those on the outside. That this ended up being Bran was totally unexpected by nearly everybody, but to me a stroke of genius. The boy in the wheelchair who couldn’t fight in a battle, and the only one who seemed to have no claim or desire for a throne. He was the chosen one. The least. The last. Or was he? He was also a Seer. A visionary. A prophet. The one who had insight. With no interest in the politics, but eyes to see. The three-eyed raven was really the only one who could take on the leadership and help unite the seemingly fractured society. It was no longer about power but about sight. And stories…

A Better Story.

At the end of the day Game of Thrones was not about gaining the throne. We were showed the futility of that as Drogon (one of the Dragons) burnt the throne to the ground in the final episode. It did reveal the futility of thrones and power and war. It was more about stories, and the power of stories.

“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing more powerful in the world than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it. And who has a better story than Bran the Broken?… Who’s better to lead us into the future?”

There is nothing more powerful than a good story. Isn’t that what the Old Testament, Gospels and Acts are built on? The power of a story. Our family gatherings are built on good stories. They are powerful, life affirming, uniting, empowering. In our increasing digital age we can forget the power of a story. So much is fed to us. Life becomes about education, career, climbing the ladder, asking Alexa or Google anything, being given all the answers to every issue neatly tied up in a drama. We can get through much of life without imagination, and sadly without story. We’ve lost the parable by being sermonised. Who better to lead us into the future than one who holds the stories? That is such a powerful, prophetic declaration that even we as part of the Church need to hear. The power of story. C.S. Lewis knew it. J.R.R. Tolkien knew it. Tyrion knew it. Do we appreciate how the story has held identity, community, hope, purpose in the past? Let’s not lose it’s future.

An Ending…

People are talking about Game of Thrones and how they would have ended it. What would they have done differently? What will happen to John Snow, Arya, the Dragon? I find it interesting that George R.R. martin talks about doing Prequels, but there will not be a Sequel. We will have his conclusion in the books, when he finally gets around to writing them, but it seems as if we will not know where it all goes from here. It will be left to our imagination. We will have to become the story writers. Just as we, in conversation, are re-writing the end. When asked if his ending will be different in the books Martin replies

Well… yes.  And no.  And yes.   And no.   And yes.   And no.   And yes.

He calls it an ending. And when asked what will be the real ending he replies

Book or show, which will be the “real” ending?   It’s a silly question.   How many children did Scarlett O’Hara have? How about this?  I’ll write it.   You read it.  Then everyone can make up their own mind, and argue about it on the internet.

This is a reference to the 1939 film of Gone With the Wind where O’Hara has only one child, whereas in the book she has three children. In the sequel book she has four children. The power of the story is not affected either way. Just as the power of our story is not affected by detail. But by the way it effected our lives.

The ripples will keep going on for a long time about that ending. In the midst of it all let us not miss the prophetic heart of the power of the story and the way that God so often lifts up the humble; the cripples, the bastards and the broken ones, and creates incredible stories with the pieces that he finds. These are the ones who will lead us forward. The least likely. The visionaries. The broken. The story-tellers. Bran the Broken.

 

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Game of Thrones…My Heart.

The Plot Twists Like a Knife. (Includes Spoilers)

Game of Thrones is a phenomenon. An incredible drama that is now drawing to a close with the last episode of Season 8 to come. It is a harsh drama that has included much violence, revenge, plotting, deceit, sex, betrayal and many twists and turns. It is not afraid to rid itself of major characters that we have grown to love, or hate. Every episode is dissected and talked about as if it is the most important thing on earth. There are heroes and villains, and villains that are heroes, and heroes that are villains. It is to it’s credit because it is incredible drama, and brilliantly acted by a cast that have become household names. But the last episode has caused the internet and FB and conversations to go into meltdown. The woman everyone learned to love, Daenerys, turned into a cold blooded murderer of innocent people and surrendered armies. Children in particular are seen being burned alive by her dragon as she inflicts the ultimate war crimes on the city with the Throne. She has come to displace evil, with ultimate evil. Baron Acton (1834–1902) came out with the quote. … “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Power corrupts Daenerys as the Throne and rule become her obsession. But then there is the evil she displaces from the Throne, Cersei. Cersei has been described as the ‘most dangerous human being in Westeros’. The most hated character. She has murdered and plotted her heartless way to the throne, without a care for anyone, other than her brother, with which she has an incestuous relationship. Then comes the most controversial part of the whole episode, her death in the arms of her brother Jaime, weeping.

Revenge is mine, saith…me.

For a split second the writers mess with your heads. You are angry that your hero is nothing more than a war criminal, and then in a moment of weakness at the point of death a bit of sorrow enters for the most evil woman there has been for eight seasons. Nothing more than a woman fighting her own demons. But then her death. Not at the end of the sword of her enemies, slain like she has slain others. Cut open, sliced, beaten to death. Not one of our heroes gets their hands on her. Not one of the Starks, or the Hound. She dies the most undramatic death of the whole series, with rocks falling on her and Jaime while they embrace. The outrage. The outcry. How dare they? Here are a few quotes from a Facebook page;

i was relieved when she died, tho i wanted a horrific death for her than be simply smashed!! 

I only feel sorry that she died this way. I would prefer torture and much of pain.

I would have pushed her off the wall when she was passing the Hound.. He should have done it for Arya … She got off too easy

only wished she had been torched for all the evil she had done 

She deserved a lot more brutal death

She didn’t get the sort of death she deserved. What would I have done to her? This has so upset everyone. Yet I think the writers have been very clever, and revealed a major theme of the whole Game of Thrones. Inside us all there is a monster wanting to get out. A monster that is really no better than the characters we are watching. One that wants revenge, death, blood, our way. The show is a mirror for our own hearts. It was once quoted (source seems confused between Mike Bickle and John Wimber), “God offends the mind to reveal the heart.” This episode has clearly demonstrated what can be inside us all. Our minds were offended because Cersei’s ending was tame, too good for her. But she died!!! Isn’t that enough? No, we want pain, blood, violence, revenge, the most horrific death possible. Being crushed to death is a nice way to go for someone so evil. Really? We measure death by blood and violence now. But only when it is about what someone deserves. The mirror of Game of Thrones is potentially within us all.

A Real Game People Play.

War, power, authority, ruler-ship, thrones, sadly these things are part of reality. Power hungry people who would destroy anything and anyone to get what they want. Not just in the bloodshed of the streets, but in all realms of society; boardrooms, business, education, church, sport, art, culture, religion, the list is endless. It is a game, but not a game, as lives are destroyed, broken, devoured. We need to guard our hearts, and minds. As this is the well-spring of life. I’m sure there are many twists and turns to come in the final episode of Game of Thrones, just as there are in our own lives. Not everyone will be happy with what takes place. It is too big a show for everyone to be satisfied. But whatever happens let’s just take stock of how we feel inside, and where those feelings came from. When you think about it you may not like what you see.

Death Still Stings.

Family Matters.

Just over a year ago my wife Allison lost her mother. This was closely followed by the death of her eldest brother John, who had been living out in South Africa. Death sucks. “Death where is your sting?” seems like an ironic statement of total disregard to loss and grief. Losing a loved one can never be handled with pre-planned rock like stature, because grief is something that grips your guts and screams inside like no other feeling. There are still times I struggle with the concept of losing my mum to cancer. I still hate mother’s days, I still struggle to go back home, there is still a drop in my stomach when I see her picture and am reminded that I did not get home in time to say goodbye. Allison was in that zone, and still is in some respects, after the events of early 2018. Death had stung her good. Life was never going to be the same for her again. There was now a gaping hole where her mother was, and the thought that she was now one of four children, that used to be five. It was as the year unfolded after these events that I realised more and more that I needed to be where she was. Family matters.

Emmanuel.

Post Tonyrefail, and my journey outside the walls takes place. It was during this time that Allison realised she needed to be with others in a place of fellowship. She could not journey without that. We realised there was no right and wrong in this and released each other to outwork there own journeys in faith. Allison attended Emmanuel, a place where her brother Terence was Pastor, and a place where many of her family were in attendance, including her mother. At this stage, which included much spiritual pride, I told her I could not go with her. During this time Allison grew in her journey, got involved more and more, and now at regular intervals through the year preaches and leads worship. At times I would go to hear her but never wanted to get involved or join that world again. My eldest and youngest remained with her, Joel and Matthew. All free to journey as they see right. But over the last twelve months Allison has struggled. The seat where her mother sat is now empty. Favourite songs bring back memories and tears.

Joel’s Arm(y).

Convergence. Doors closing on my involvement in Passion. A real sense that I wanted to stand with Allison and my boys again, especially with all that had taken place over the last year. Also Joel was now starting to get involved and towards the end of the year announced that he wanted to be baptised. An incredible moment where I witnessed my eldest son grasping his own journey and story. I am proud of all my boys, whatever they decide to do. However they chose to journey. But Joel seems to be taking steps where I least expected him to. Just a couple of weeks ago he preached for the first time during a Sunday service. He was brilliant. I want to be around and watch him grow. I want to be there for Allison. I want to be there for Joel. I want to be there for Matthew. And Daniel and John, even though they do not attend there. I’m not there to minister or preach or lead, I’m there to stand shoulder to shoulder, not breaking rank, with my family. That it is full of extended family, or the style of worship, those things don’t matter one jot any more. I love the Divine threads that permeate everything that is unfolding. My heart is for people, whether in Emmanuel or Asda where I work. Secure in the everlasting arms. For the first time in nearly 15 years I stand with my family and worship.

Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies…

Death may hurt like hell, but only out of death can come forth life. Grief, an amazing, painful, spiritual gift of inexplicable proportions. But through the darkness there may just be a tinge of grey. And beyond the grey there may just be the smallest shaft of light. 

When is a Door Not a Door?

When it’s ajar.

Thought it was about time to write an update on the journey, for anyone out there who is remotely interested. It’s been nearly three years since my last post, and even longer than that since I wrote on my journey. A journey which took me out of church life and structure and into a life of disconnect from where I had been positioned for nearly twenty years. A life of re-connection with the Divine in and through all things after a time of disillusionment and breaking down of my identity wrapped up in church leadership. And then a surprise swing back into “church” life to stand with a friend who had suffered a heart attack. This standing was a positive experience and made me realise that there is hope within the walls, and that a door that is ajar brings grace and peace and joy. It has never been about being in or out, but about heart and life and experience and all that entails in a life of freedom. I am so honoured and privileged to have been able to stand with the folk in Passion, who gave me back a joy to serve and love and worship and share. There are those with amazing hearts marginalised within the walls, who gather for more than just a meeting. And my road to wholeness continues. You never realise how much hurt is carried until confronted with a few things. The scars were touched by a healing balm as we worshipped and journeyed.

The Shutting of Doors.

Have often wondered how long this part of the journey would be for. Had often had the thought of three years in my mind and heart. Yet it is funny how we often need more than a hint about things. First thing that happened was my car had engine issues and became a bit of a write off. The mechanic said it is just not worth fixing. That sort of honesty in a mechanic is not usual. So I had to rely on others to get to places. But I still managed to get lifts to passion. The next thing was a shift in my job situation. Nights were getting to me. I had walked those holy aisles for over ten years. I got a job in a factory. After a couple of days I realised I did not like it, and that I had made a big mistake. I looked to get my old job back, the hours had gone. But they found me a job on days in the chilled department. But this meant hours that took me out of Thursday night’s gathering. I was happy with that, but getting increasingly uncomfortable. But I was back in those holy aisles. New connections. Old connections. Customers. Loved it. The door was shutting more and more on a chapter but still I soldiered on. Then I was asked to work Sundays. I took the opportunity. But it clashed with Sunday life as I had known it for the past three years. I knew the door had closed. While others fretted I was at total peace. It was painful, I loved the guys at Passion, but I knew the time to step out had come. This time I stepped out with peace, joy, health and no sense of disillusionment or lack of identity at all. I was secure in the arms of the Divine. Whether in the aisles of Asda or in life at home I was steeped in grace and love.

A New Door(ning).

Parallel to all this something else was going on that was highlighting the next step. The life outside the walls was as secure as anywhere, and the new shifts were just the tonic. But there was some things that were going on with my family that was more than an under-current. A new door, a new dawning. But that is for next time. Just want to comment on the fact that the journey remains ever surprising, ever amazing, ever frightening and full of curve balls. Convinced the most amazing stories are still being written in the margins, and that the unseen places are the most powerful. We journey on forever in the eternal Palm, and forever indebted to grace and love.

Album review; Ghostly Beard- Infinite E.P.

Those regular readers of my blog will realise a couple of things; 1) I have not written for a very long time and 2) In all my journeying I have a deep love for music. Yet when an offer was made to obtain this release from a Facebook forum for readers of the excellent Prog Magazine, with the proviso that a review would be made on a blog I could not resist to both add to my collection of CD’s and hear something new from an aspiring artist.

Ghostly Beard is the moniker of artist Patrick Talbot, who not only wrote all the lyrics and music on this release, but also played all instruments and did all vocals. Such talent makes me sick, lol. First off I love both the name and the artwork. Stunning album cover that immediately grabs my attention. But what of the music? Five tracks that are described as encompassing soft rock, jazz, prog rock, fusion, pop, classic rock and more. A very broad soundscape of genres and music. But does it deliver? Here is my track by track surmising;

Close Your Eyes- The sound of a clock ticking is the introduction to the first track. A sound that a few artists have used over the years. Then comes the music; gentle swathes of keyboard and guitar. The mood reminds me of the k-scope band Nosound, or the more ambient moments of No-Man. The solo is very Gilmour-esque. The softer sounds of Floyd remain all over this release. This is an impressive opener that draws you into a world of chilled out moods and great musicianship. Incredible to think this is the work of just one man.

“If there’s a chance

That ll your failures be redeemed

You may find peace and quiet is hiding in the loving of a child.”

Frozen in Time- Again a gentle sound permeates the ears of the listener. A sense of peace floods over the soul as these songs unfold. Great bass sound on this track. I think this is my favourite track on the release. The solo again is pure Gilmour. This is quite a commercial, catchy number that I could just put on repeat and listen to over and over. My only complaint. It seems to be over all too quickly.

“No more sorrow

Running under current

Silver Rainbow

Lighting all our love”

No Return- Another great track. This one reminds me musically of Peter Gabriel’s more tribal stuff, and yet the keyboard and electronic sounds permeating takes it to an altogether different place. An almost Stranglers type vocal joins the fray, but it never stops the sense of hope that glides around the sound. The guitar and keys are almost reminiscent of some seventies movie, and yet the track is very much up to date. A great track. Then Gilmour brings in the solo again.

Limitless- My least favourite track on the E.P. Just doesn’t do it for me. More of a soft rock approach here, but it lacks the unexpected sounds and journeys of the other tracks. Could be a radio hit, but then could also so easily be that background elevator music. Although I do love the (sound of) the oboe solo, which is over far too quickly.

“My love, in the end, will be limitless.”

Winter Dance- The release ends with an instrumental. A beautiful number that incorporates a real jazz/fusion sound. Again it washes over gently, and all the instrumentation is perfect. A track which again is far too short. This could have journeyed and washed over me so much more over a greater time period. Leaves me intrigued and wanting more. Patrick Talbot is an incredible talent.

In conclusion, an impressive initial release from Talbot. I look forward to journeying more and hearing where he takes all these influences next. It is a release that is well worth investigation and investing in. The future looks bright for the artist known as Ghostly Beard. Hear him here first.

 

Reading About Reading.

God is Moving in Reading.

That is a headline that I have just read about a so called ‘move of God’ happening in Reading, U.K. at this moment in time. One that was prayed for, believed for, and now is ignited by a visiting itinerant evangelist from the U.S.A. Hundreds are making decisions, the presence is spilling onto the streets, and there is a facilitating going on to spread this into the U.K. and further afield. Why when reading this do I no longer feel an overwhelming sense of excitement that ‘God has come’? Why am I not getting in my car and visiting the church so I can be anointed to carry the fire myself? Have I been so burned out on my own pursuits of moves and revival that I have become too cynical? There was a time I would have reported this, read everything on it, and wanted to go see for myself. I travelled all over the U.K. and Wales longing for that river to flow during the time of Toronto and Brownsville, I wanted the touch, I longed for the anointing, wanted to carry the mantle, held and hosted conferences with some of the key players and prophets, but somewhere on the journey I gave up chasing rainbows. The pot of gold never arrived at my house. What was once the desire of my heart became a hyped up illusion that I refused to fall for again. Does that mean I do not believe that people get changed or transformed? Look God is able to take the biggest mess and do something precious in a life. God is capable of working in the hype to heal, help, bring peace. But that in itself is not enough of a seal of approval. God blessed the Temple of Solomon and moved in, but He quite plainly tells David through the prophet that He does not dwell in buildings, that He does not want it built and that He will dwell in men’s hearts. But there is this obsession. An obsession we still have.

If You Build It He Will Come.

The Field of Dreams was a very poignant film to me. It spoke to me of building things right and as instructed so the father can come and walk in the field again. I attempted to build with right structures, with the right foundations of apostles and prophets, with the right leadership, right worship, right messages, right people around me, right relationships. The constructing was fun, dynamic, powerful, awesome and of course full of promises and presence. But it made me a judgemental person. I categorised people as those who got it and those who didn’t. The church I was pastoring disintegrated because I had a powerful, personal vision to do things right and bring revival in. Those that had walked together for years started leaving and I didn’t give a damn about them, because I was building the Kingdom. I was digging the wells of revival. I was waiting for God to come and bless my great gatherings and to answer my spot on prayers and desires. Come and revive us o Lord! It nearly destroyed me, and it nearly destroyed all my relationships, and the church I was part of. I was obsessed with building the right structure of religious life and worship, one that would welcome the King in. My Reading was on it’s way, just around the corner, being sown in righteousness so I would reap in righteousness. It never came. I became broken, ripped, torn, splattered on the rock. The Valleys continued to experience poverty, the church still had empty seats. Disillusionment sets in.

Reviving the Desire for Everyday Life.

I am content. It took a journey to get to here, but I am satisfied. I do not need to bring in a visitation or outpouring because the Divine is so intertwined with my life it is inseparable. The ordinary is so full of wonderment I do not need to run after the end of a rainbow to find the more I think I need. The only awakening most of us needs is that life is available, life can be satisfying, and that my identity is full of holy D.N.A. in the here and now. There is nothing more awesome than opening our eyes and seeing. The joy of family, friends, colleagues. The hope and holiness in a sunrise, a raindrop, a star, the trees and fields. The amazing Divine D.N.A.within every person you meet. I no longer have to pray anything in, just open my eyes and breath. My longing is fulfilled. The more is at my fingertips. The only move of God I need is the next step I take, no matter how insignificant that feels. In insignificance is everything of significance, just because you or I are there. The view and vision has changed from fantasy to focus. The focus of what is in front of my nose all along. Everyday life is good. The ordinary, the normal, the Divine. God is moving in Reading? All I know is, as I move, He moves with me.

A Muse Meant.

A Dystopian Present.

On Saturday night I was in the Manchester Arena watching the band Muse. This was a Christmas present from my son Joel. He knows what a Father would like :). Muse are considered one of the best live bands on the planet at the moment, and I am a big fan, have all their albums and have enjoyed their progression in sound and popularity. Lyrically they paint a bit of a bleak dystopian present where Governments control, lie and create war and pain for it’s people. In that was they are like an Old Testament prophet speaking out about injustice, manipulation and the evil ideas that come from the top of the pyramid in society. Yet it is not all bleak. There is a call to stand tall, to speak out, to create a better world than the one we already live in. To be aware, to be free, to not be controlled by the forces above. In this way the lament and fear of the powers that be are tinged with hope of a more positive future because of us, the ordinary people.

Revere a million prayers
And draw me into your holiness
But there’s nothing there
Light only shines from those who share

(Dead Inside)

My life
You electrify my life
Let’s conspire to ignite
All the souls that would die just to feel alive

(Starlight)

Love is our resistance
They’ll keep us apart and they won’t stop breaking us down
Hold me
Our lips must always be sealed

If we live a life in fear
I’ll wait a thousand years
Just to see you smile again

Kill your prayers for love and peace
You’ll wake the thought police
We can’t hide the truth inside

(Resistance)

They will not force us
They will stop degrading us
They will not control us
We will be victorious

(Uprising)

An Artistic Musical Painting.

Musically they paint an incredible picture of experimental and creative rock music. Generally only a three piece (guitar, bass, drums), but the sounds and musical kaleidoscope takes you through a gamut of emotions. From classical piano to the thrashing rock music, to signature time changes and surprising improvisations, the music never sits still. They are one minute Queen with pomp and circumstance, and the next minute a rockier version of Radiohead or Sigur Ros, painting pictures with sound and voice. Their creativity never wanes. Although each song is unmistakably them, they are all different journeys of sound and emotion. And they can play, they are real musicians. Watching them I came to the conclusion that no true artist can produce unchristian art because when the Creator is allowed to be let loose then it all speaks of Him. Muse shout out creativity. Their music is a journey that they want to take you on. You may be faced with a few bleak truths, but you will be carried through to make a difference through your own life.

Stage Management.

And that creativity is part of the stage show too. From glowing, floating drones and a plane that was guided around the stage, to the incredible light show, especially where the band looked like they were puppets, controlled by an evil leader. The stage itself succeeded where U2 failed in my opinion. Went to see the U2 360 tour and ended up commenting that it was 180 not 360, especially for those of us who sat at the back. This stage set up was totally 360. There was no front and back. It completely spun around through many songs, the singer and guitarist moved from one mic to another at different vantage points. Wherever someone sat they were at the front. Back-drops that told stories, incredible sights to match the sounds. But never too much. The band remained the focus of all things.

Divine Evenings.

The Divine fingerprint and breath is all over everything. I saw it, I felt it. We can keep churning out the same tunes and sounds while Muse move on if we want to, but to reflect the Creator there must be more creativity. This was up there as one of the best concerts I have ever been to. Ahead of U2, Coldplay and the game. It will live long in my memory that is for sure, and if you love music, and like it real, please if you ever get a chance go and see one of the best, if not THE best live band on the planet right now.