An exercise book with the words, “My experiences with God 1988.”
Photo: Eurofire conference Birmingham, England, July 1988 ‘Being baptised’
I did not start writing for pleasure until about the age of seventeen. Occasionally, I had written letters to various people, including Santa Claus, but writing was not something I valued until much later. I had written several letters to newspapers some of which were printed. I knew I had something to say and writing seemed to be a medium to convey it particularly for a fourteen year old commenting on political matters.
It was in 1988 that I began to record my thoughts and observations of my life. That is something that has continued right until this present time. It has taken until now 2003 to have that word processor that I also thought about owning.
I began with an exercise book with the title, “My experiences with God.” It seems that I wrote retrospectively beginning from the date that I made ‘a decision’ to follow Jesus Christ his teachings and spirit.
I had been to a local hotel, which ran a disco. A girl who attended the same college invited me to a Christian event. I was always happy to accept invitations to Church somehow I had a connection even though I had stopped practising Christianity some four years earlier. This girl was a Christian who socially came from a very opposite background to me. I always felt she liked the cheeky untamed character that I then was.
I wrote of the event,
“The atmosphere was tremendous, things have really moved since I was last involved in Christianity. The whole set up attracted me three thousand people worshipping God. The speaker Tom Bathgate spoke on Samuel compromising with God’s spirit. I knew I had to get myself right there and then to prepare myself for God’s kingdom.”
I revisited places that I knew from the past. The local Methodist Church, the town’s Pentecostal church and several Charismatic meetings. I reckon in Northern Ireland you could find a meeting to go to every night of the week. Some meetings have plenty of food at the end so it turns into a real social event.
Like most things in life when I get into something, I get totally into it. There was a book circulating at the time on barcodes. The author believed that barcodes were the sign of the beast. Then, I at times was easily convinced. I set about sharing this news with anyone who would listen even producing a homemade leaflet on the subject. I now wonder why so many Christians are preoccupied with working out the ‘end days’ perhaps it is more interesting than crosswords!!!!
The following entries record how although claiming to be a Christian I was still involved in activities that were far from being Christian. How easy it can be to live different lives in different settings. It seemed that I immersed myself in a subculture of Christianity and connected with new groupings of friends. There is that separation. Somehow being a Christian makes you different. I did not find it easy to relate to my previous friends. The danger is that you end up in something of a Christian enclave. There is a challenge to remain in the mainstream of life yet distinctive.
I was working in bars as a side job to school. In Northern Ireland, Christianity and alcohol do not go. Even secular people tell you what sort of Christian you should be. I remember someone telling me in a pub, “You’re a Christian you should not be here.” I recall using it as an excuse to leave a job. I was asked to serve alcohol and said no on the grounds of being a Christian. How easy we get caught up in the externals the do and don’ts. It’s the problem of having an established religion. You think that’s how I am to be. That does not allow much room for Jesus to show you how to be original and how he intends. It would take years later for me to learn that.
As the new boy on the block, I was a potential for any unattached Christian girl. There always seems to be fewer males around. The difficulty was I did not know how to conduct myself other than certainly ‘no sex’. In the first few weeks, I had asked one out only to realise, she was not for me. I got distracted by another. She certainly seemed my type. The difficulty was these two were in the same church and were good friends. I ended up having an ongoing deep friendship with the latter one, not so with the former.
Then there were the factions that you have to align yourself with based on your answer to questions like,
“Can a Christian be demon-possessed?”
“Or you Charismatic or Pentecostal?”
I had not realised there was a difference. Of course, in N. Ireland it was ok to be Pentecostal as that kept you within Protestantism to be Charismatic meant you were open to Catholics.
One of my greatest weaknesses was my emotional need. I found it difficult to ignore an opportunity and even seek opportunities that met my emotional needs.
There was without doubt hypocrisy. I was very purist about what was right and wrong yet in the dark corners of my own life, I was doing the very thing.
Through my contact with ‘the enthusiastic Christian girl’ I spoke about who started me off, I got to know an older Christian woman who wanted to encourage young Christians. She had been very impressed with Reinhardt Bonnke a Pentecostal preacher. She decided to sponsor a number of young people to go to a conference he was hosting in Birmingham, England. That experience of Birmingham was to live with me right up until this present time.