The Stars Look Very Different Today…

Posted in Games, Life, Poetry, Video Games, Writing with tags , , , on August 18, 2016 by Jim Diffin

I was young… and I was a fool.

Ariadne 2 was my home and its warm, verdant embrace was good and wholesome.

No Man's Sky_20160811021037

But I was impetuous…

I had the dreams of a starfarer.

I longed for the heavens and I set my eyes upon them. I pointed my galleon at the vast expanse above and I sailed off into the blackness.

Now…

Now my flesh burns – the very hairs on my arms set ablaze by the heat of the Karkinos star.

No Man's Sky_20160810171741

I left the meadows of Ariadne for a hellscape.

Now even the Sentinels seem to laugh at me…

Destined to wander the brimstone of this wasteland ever searching for the precious crystals that spur my chariot – the elusive red rocks that might bear me home once more.

When I close my eyes, I think of thee Ariadne…

IMG_3270

I think of thee and mourn…

 

To Boldly Go…

Posted in Dreams, Society with tags , , on July 7, 2016 by Jim Diffin

On 25th May 1961, John F. Kennedy stood before Congress and proposed that

“This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Just over eight years later, that thought, that invitation to commit became a reality.

I was thinking about that speech this evening as I watched a wee bit of Star Trek. Did you know that in the science fiction world of Star Trek, hunger has been eliminated? Zefram Cochrane makes the first ‘warp’ fight in 2063 and two generations later, there is no such thing as hunger or poverty on earth…

It just made me wonder what would happen if the nations of the world invited everyone to commit to something in the same way that Kennedy did in ’61. If we, particularly in so-called ‘developed’ nations, proclaimed that “this world should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this generation passes, of ensuring that no one on our planet suffers from malnourishment ever again…”

…I wonder what would happen?

Why don’t you be the artist…

Posted in Christianity, Church, Life with tags , , , on August 17, 2014 by Jim Diffin

And make me out of clay
Why don’t you be the writer
And decide the words I say.

The Writer by Ellie Goulding

Before I left for church this evening, I spent some time hitting the rewind button when listening to Switchfoot’s Sing it out.

I’m on the run, I’m on the ropes this time.
Where is my song? I’ve lost the song of my soul tonight.
Sing it out, Sing it out.
Take what is left of me, Make it a melody.
Sing it out, Sing out loud.
I can’t find the words to sing. You be my remedy.

Sing it Out by Switchfoot

I empathised with Swtichfoot’s Jon Foreman who said, contextualising the writing of this song –

I want my life to be the poetry of the Poet himself, I want to sing – to be a melody intertwined with The Melody Himself. But sometimes I’m hopelessly lost, broken, spent. I fall in love with the ones and things that take life and love away from me. I need The Song Himself to sing through me. I need The Word Himself to speak into me.

Jon Foreman

Sometimes I’m hopelessly lost, broken, spent…

How true.  I want God to be the artist of my life.  I want God to be the writer penning each line in my story… and yet sometimes I am so hopelessly lost, broken, spent…

I sing with All Sons and Daughters saying –

…The pieces seem too shattered
To gather off the floor
And all that seems to matter
Is that I can’t feel You anymore

Reason to Sing by All Sons and Daughters

I long for the sensation that God is shaping my existence and yet all I see are broken pieces with no form or function.  Worst of all, I can’t feel You anymore…

My brother, my teacher and my friend reminded me tonight in church that the apostle Paul responds to us.  As we search in desperation for God’s movement in our lives, feeling like he has missed us – like he has “left us forgotten on some cosmic shelf,” Paul speaks to us saying

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

Philippians 1:6

I have confidence that God, who began His good work within me, will continue that work until it is finally finished.  Amen.

You be my remedy
My song
I’ll sing with what’s left of me
I’m holding on to you

Sing it Out by Switchfoot

Take what is left of me and make it a melody.

The Air I Breathe…

Posted in Books with tags , , on January 6, 2014 by Jim Diffin

Now Melkor began the delving and building of a vast fortress, deep under Earth, beneath dark mountains where the beams of Illuin were cold and dim. That stronghold was named Utumno. And though the Valar knew naught of it as yet, nonetheless the evil of Melkor and the blight of his hatred flowed out thence, and the Spring of Arda was marred. Green things fell sick and rotted, and rivers were choked with weeds and slime, and fens were made, rank and poisonous, the breeding place of flies; and forests grew dark and perilous, the haunts of fear; and beasts became monsters of horn and ivory and dyed the earth with blood. Then the Valar knew indeed that Melkor was at work again, and they sought for his hiding place.

I love this paragraph from Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion.’ If you’ve seen The Hobbit movies you’ll know that the characters spend some time talking about ‘The Green Wood’ has become changed and how locals, at the time of Thorin’s expedition to Erebor, had started to call it ‘Mirkwood’. In the film ‘The Desolation of Smaug’, Bilbo and the Dwarves find it a heavy, oppressive and twisted place.

One thing that the movie did not convey particularly well was that this was no overnight change. The transformation was so long and subtle that no one really knew how terrible the change was until it was too late.

The twisting of The Green Wood came from the evil bleeding out of Dol Guldur. Sauron, like his master Melkor, was a blight upon the landscape – his evil infected all that was true and beautiful and good in the world.

With No Strength to Console…

Posted in Christianity, Church, Life, Society, Struggle with tags , , , on November 15, 2013 by Jim Diffin

Friends, you really have to listen to a song that is, hands down, the most incredible song I’ve heard all year.

The lyrics have hit me like a truck. They are earth-shatteringly beautiful.

Shipwrecked – Yvonne Lyon

Just today I was talking to a friend from Church over lunch.  We got around to talking about our pasts and, more specifically, how we share the grief of losing a parent at a young age.  Our conversation’s tone turned to a wrenching honesty of how we felt at those awful times and how we feel now.

We got to talking about how we bear pain in our lives. It may be different for each of us but there is pain nonetheless – the pain of loss; the pain of broken relationships; the pain of illness; the pain of addiction; the pain of loneliness…

Still, we bear it…

We bear it because “we have to keep going.” We bear it because “we don’t want them to see us cry.” We bear it because “someone like us shouldn’t feel this way.” Right?

So we bear it. We cope. We persist. We endure.  Our facade holds true and the world knows nothing of our hearts cry in the secret places… The silent places… The lonely places…

It shouldn’t be that way. It just shouldn’t. No one, and I mean no one, should have to cry alone.

Then I heard this song. I’d picked Yvonne Lyon’s new album a while back and threw it on in the car on the way home from work. As I sat in traffic on the North Road in Ballymena, just opposite McDonalds, I rewound and played the first verse and chorus over and over again.

Friends, I yearn to be part of the community she sings of in this song… 

A community where we don’t hide our pain. A community where we’re not afraid to show our scars. A community where no one has to cry alone

“And we all wore our wounds,
Every torture, ever tear.
For some things are too broken to bear.”

A community where we gather around oneanother not with words of patronisation, condescension or insensitivity but, instead, to simply hold each other through times of trial. To unite our voices and fight whatever pain burns us out.

“So we sang oh we sang ’til despair had no choice,
And hope took her place as we all raised our voice.”

We need this folks… We need this in our families, in our places of work, in our circles of friends, in our Churches, in our neighbourhoods.

Someone that you know in one of those categories – the old lady who lives two doors down; the guy who sits in the pew behind you; your best friend from school; your assistant manager; your sister – is in pain.  Maybe you, yourself, are in pain…

I am too, but I’m with you and we’ll get through it together…

Unstoppable Love…

Posted in Christianity, Love, Sin on November 3, 2013 by Jim Diffin

 

Try to stop Your love and You would wage a war
Try to take the very thing You gave Your life for
You would come running 
Tear down every wall
All the while You’re shouting 
“My Love, you’re worth it all”.

God you pursue me with power and glory
Unstoppable Love that never ends
You’re unrelenting with passion and mercy 
Unstoppable Love that never ends

– Kim Walker-Smith & Skyler Smith, Unstoppable Love

My arms just flailed with a wild excitement. I’m not big into sports but a casual onlooker might have surmised that my hypothetical team of choice had just emerged victorious in my hypothetical sport of choice. That was not the case. It was a moment of pure joy and excitement created from a bizarre and yet totally characteristic interaction of the scriptures and a phrase that the Lord laid on my heart nigh on five years ago now.

It has been a day like every other human day recorded in history and hearts. It was a day of sin and a day of unworthiness. As I sat down to think of the message to bring to my bunch of teenagers tomorrow morning, I found myself praying along with the psalmist David –

Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against You, and You alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in Your sight. You will be proved right in what You say, and Your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But You desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; You have broken me—now let me rejoice.

(Psa 51:2-8)

Hiding wasn’t an option although there are certainly plenty of times when you wish you could simply retreat to bed, pull the covers over your head and convince yourself that you are escaping the piercing gaze of the Lord God and the stretching, convicting arm of His Holy Spirit. No, there was no room to entertain that. My sin and my grief notwithstanding, there would be a collection of faces staring at me tomorrow morning, patiently and expectantly waiting for the word of God to be brought to them. I had to pray with David… I had to find that joy… because if I can’t find joy, then how can I possibly convey it to others.

I looked through the verses we had all been studying this week and turned to my thought for the day for Thursday – 1 Corinthians 13 –

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.

(1Co 13:1-3)

This love that the apostle Paul talks about here is no ordinary love. It isn’t the love declaration that we hear on street corners from parting couples as their hands part, their eyes meet and they mouth those three words to one another. It isn’t the slap-on-the-back I love you man that friends, team mates or co-workers express in their times of elation. No, this is more. C. S. Lewis thought of this love that Paul talks about here as the highest level of love we can ever know – a selfless love, passionately committed to the well-being of others. He thought of it this way because of the word that Paul uses here in the original Greek – agápe. The bar is set immeasurably high when Paul uses this word. Lewis compares it to another time the same word is used in the New Testament – in perhaps one of our most famous verses –

“For God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

(John 3:16)

Lewis doesn’t pull any punches when he discusses just how high a charge this is for us. He doesn’t want the reader to be deceived into thinking that this agápe is something to be taken lightly. Lewis wants us to know the full force of this love and its authoring –

God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

This agápe is the love that made us. This agápe is the love that saved us. This agápe is the love that Paul wants us to take up as our mantle and run with into the world.

…and that’s when it hit me – the flash of divine insight and guidance. I thought of another place in the scripture where Paul says more or less the same thing that I’ve paraphrased above –

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk–better yet, run!–on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline–not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love…

(Eph 4:1-2)

I checked the Greek… “Pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of agápe…”

My arms just flailed with a wild excitement. I’m not big into sports but a casual onlooker might have surmised that my hypothetical team of choice had just emerged victorious in my hypothetical sport of choice. That was not the case. It was a moment of pure joy and excitement created from a bizarre and yet totally characteristic interaction of the scriptures and a phrase that the Lord laid on my heart nigh on five years ago now.

Look at that verse. “Don’t sit around!” “Get up and run!” “Go out and pour agápe into the Church.”

See, I think that what Paul was saying here can be summed in one wee phrase.

I think Paul was saying I dare you to move…”

Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere…

Posted in Ballymena, Christianity, Sin, Society, The Holy Spirit with tags , , , on September 23, 2013 by Jim Diffin

 

A thought struck me this evening while reading Acts 2.  The day of  Pentecost was not the first time the disciples had encountered the Holy Spirit.

In John 20, we read that they had already received the Spirit.

Then He [Jesus] breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.

John 20:22

The difference is that in Acts 2, the Spirit is poured out onto their meeting with powerful abundance.  The scriptures say that a mighty windstorm filled the place where they met –

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.

Acts 2:1-4

Oh, the difference here between a breath and a mighty wind.

Paul teaches us that we receive the Holy Spirit through salvation:

And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, He identified you as His own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom He promised long ago. 

Ephesians 1:13

… and that always confused me when, as a young man, I heard of folks at meetings feeling “filled by the Holy Spirit.”  ‘How,’ I mused to myself, ‘can one be filled by something which already fills us?’

I think there’s a distinction made between the visitation of the Spirit in the Gospel of John and the Acts of the Apostles.  Perhaps at salvation the Holy Spirit is breathed into us and yet, at other times beyond this, that same Spirit washes over us anew like a mighty wind.

I’m going to offer a further truth here… We should not be content with a breath.  Now don’t misunderstand me friends – a glorious breath this is.  It is the seal of our salvation.  The prophet Zechariah calls the Spirit “the power of God.” It is our counsel, our wisdom and our strength.  

Jesus himself, though, told His disciples to expect more… I love how Matthew Henry talks about Acts 1 when he discusses Jesus’ command to tarry in Jerusalem in expectancy of the outpouring of the Spirit.

Ah, brothers and sisters, are we waiting in expectancy of more?  I’ll be honest here and confess that while I’ve sang Consuming Fire countless times, only now do I truly understand the importance of the line

“Come like a rushing wind,
Clothe us with power from on high…”

What is the importance?  Read on in Acts 2.  The outpouring of the Spirit is coupled with the gathering of a great crowd and Peter, filled and washed over by that same Spirit, delivering perhaps the most convicting preaching of his ministry.  I love how the NIV translates this portion of the Acts –

With many other words he [Peter] warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

Acts 2:40-41

With the Holy Spirit moving through and over Peter and hovering and brooding over the crowd gathered there, all changes utterly.  Suddenly a discomfort grows there in their very hearts and souls.   A great conviction falls upon them, the weight of their sin plainly evident.  “Brothers, what should we do?” they cry out.  The response is direct.  Unambiguous.  Succinct. 

"Change your life. Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2: 38 (The Message)

Friends, I believe that the cessationist view is an indefensible one here.  I am fully confident that these miraculous acts of the Spirit did not end with the Apostles.  I recently read an extract from a testimony of the Rev. S. Moore regarding the 1859 revival and speaking about Ballymena, my hometown, he said

“On my return, after two days’ absence … I found the town in a state of great excitement. Many families had not gone to bed for two or three nights. From dozens of houses, night and day, you would hear, when passing along, loud cries for mercy from those under conviction, or the voice of prayer by kind visitors, or the sweet, soothing tones of sacred song. Business seemed at a standstill.”

Ah Hallelujah! Oh Holy Spirit, come like a rushing, mighty wind!  Lord, may we not be content with a breath, but instead wait expectantly on your Spirit being poured out in great abundance…

Amen.

“Holy Spirit You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory God is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence Lord.”

Holy Spirit by Bryan & Katie Torwalt

 

“…To be overcome by Your presence Lord!”