I want to be a God Gazer

Feb 272015

Of late, my posts here have been about the situation I’m in personally and what that’s meaning for my life. I’ll almost certainly keep blogging in that way, but it’s not all this blog will be. It’s not all my life is, so it won’t be all this blog is. Today, I’m writing about something totally different.

I want to write about a book I’ve just started, and about its author.

God Gazer

(First, some disclaimers. I have not been asked to write this post. I have not been asked to publicise this book. I get no commission on this book. My church makes no money from this book. I am not part of an Amazon affiliate scheme, so I don’t get paid a penny if you click a link and buy the book. I write this because I want to!)

I want to be a God Gazer

The book is called I want to be a God Gazer: Yearning for Intimacy with the Saviour, and it is by my senior pastor, Malcolm Duncan. It is based on a poem Malcolm wrote five years ago for a conference (the recording of which is at the end of this post).

The poem expresses a heart of yearning for intimacy with God, a deeper understanding and revelation of who God is, encounter with Him, longing after Him, and in finding Him being so transformed that we will change this world and give life to its people.

Malcolm’s book ( or can be bought through Gold Hill now) explores those themes, taking stanzas from the poem and exploring their themes, helping us to become God gazers, world changers and life givers.

I’ve not read the whole thing yet, but I heartily recommend it.

My journey with God gazing

The poem on which the book is based has been important for me in my journey. Three years ago, I had not heard of it, of Malcolm, or of the church I now work for as a pastor. I saw an advert for an internship at this church, and was vaguely interested, so started doing some research. That was the first time I heard the name Malcolm Duncan.

God Gazer breakfast

This, of course, is the optimum way to enjoy the book.

Since then, I’ve got to know him, and it’s been an honour to relate to him as pastor, leader, colleague and friend. But at the time, Malcolm Duncan was just a name of some guy I’d not met.

There were two big things that made me really want to come to Gold Hill and serve here, and both of them were to do with Malcolm’s ministry. One was a sermon series he preached on the book of Haggai which was very significant for me for a variety of personal reasons.

And the other is this poem, God Gazer.

I saw the clip below of Malcolm reading it, and it caught something in my spirit, it captured me, it said so many things I had been feeling but didn’t have words for. It stirred something deep within me. As I listened, I welled up. I heard in his voice a deep yearning to know God more deeply, to be fashioned by Him more fully and to boldly and radically serve and change this world in His power. I’ve had the same reaction every time I’ve heard it or read it since. I had the same reaction this morning as I read it again.

I wanted to be a God gazer too.

Of course Malcolm is just one person and he wouldn’t want me to put him up on a pedestal. But his heart – which is so evident in this poem, and so also in this book – was something I wanted to learn from. I still do, and I hope I am.

God-gazing, or not?

So that’s why I’m excited for this book. Because I do want to be increasingly gazing at God, seeking His face, finding Him. At present there are days when God is so easy to see, especially in the faces of people who are such support. But there are also days when it seems I can’t see Him at all.

Sometimes that’s because darkness seems to obscure Him, but more often I think it’s because I’m not very good at God gazing. I just get on with life and don’t stop to seek Him in it. But deep down I know what I think we all know: there is more to life than this, than just getting by. And when I’m not pursuing that, finding that, living in that, it doesn’t satisfy. Some words that moved and challenged me from the introduction to the book:

We immerse ourselves in the humdrum rhythm of daily living in the vain hope that the beat of existing will drown out the rhythm of living, but it never does because it never can.

God gazing is a choice and a way of life, and one which I look forward to cultivating more fully through the words of my friend.

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Being wept with as I weep

Feb 252015

In my last post, I mentioned that I cry a lot at the minute. Not every day, but most. It ranges from the stoic kind of crying, with a single tear rolling down my cheek to the violent, shaking, uncontrollable, snotty blubbering kind. I resonate a little with the Psalmist who wrote ‘My tears have been my food day and night’ (Ps 42:3).


When I wrote about it in the last post, it was to say that I’m learning to be ok showing weakness and vulnerability publicly. This time I want to write about it for a different reason: I’ve experienced the power of others crying with me.

Being wept with

So what do I mean by others crying with me? Well, I mean exactly that. There have been lots of people who have been moved to tears because of the situation in my life at the minute.

The first communication I had from my pastor back three months ago said simply ‘I love you. Standing with you. Weeping with you.’

When my fellow elders at Gold Hill were made aware of the situation, I asked one of them how it had gone. He told me ‘People’s hearts broke for you, and a number were moved to tears.’

A friend told me when he first saw me how affected he’d been, that he’d been unable to stop crying, and for the first time had been praying for Jesus to come back because he wanted this to end for me.

When I went to my small group and shared with them, there were lots of tears. I will never forget that evening.

In so many conversations with people when I phoned them to tell them what was happening, I heard raw pain in their voices, their speech cracking as they tried to compose themselves. I’ve seen pain and tears in the eyes of so many.

The power of tears

Why do I share all that? Simply to say that it has been one of the most powerful experiences of my life to have others weep with me and for me in the last few months. I have valued so much the words people have spoken and wisdom they’ve shared, but the tears they’ve shed have meant every bit as much.

The verse that I’ve thought of many times is in Romans 12 where Paul urges believers to ‘weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn’. I wrote about that on here once before. In that post, I spoke of how God was challenging me to be someone who allows myself to feel the pain of others and be moved in their situations. Now I’ve experienced it from the other side, and it means so much.

People’s tears for me have expressed what words could not. Love for me, grief for my situation. People have allowed themselves to feel my pain, not just to observe it. They’ve stood with me in solidarity. They’ve shown very powerfully that we are family, that we are part of one body, one unit. And when one part suffers, it all suffer.

The tears of others have been a constant statement that I am not alone, that others have opened their hearts up to me so much that they choose to feel what I’m feeling even when that’s painful for them.

Entering in

And it’s that act of choosing to enter my situation that is so powerful. People could choose to say ‘We care about you and we will help however we can’ but not feel pain themselves. They could keep at arm’s length, remain detached. It would hurt them an awful lot less. Their hearts would be protected.

And their support would mean so much less to me.

The many people who have entered my pain have embodied Jesus, who entered our world, our pain, our whole life, who walked our path. He could have remained detached, but He chose not to.

And it’s not just the pain where I have known that solidarity. The people who I know I can cry in front of, cry with, text or call when it’s all too much and I need a chat or a hug or a meal are the very same people who I laugh with most fully. They have chosen to be with me where I am, whether that is easy and joyful or hard and painful.

If that’s you in my life, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

I pray I can grow to embody Jesus more in this way, too.

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Feb 212015

Three months ago today my life was turned upside down. It felt as though the bottom fell out of my life and I would never stop falling. So many things that felt certain no longer were.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this is the post where I shared what happened.)

It’s three months on now, to the day. Life is still a struggle every day. It’s easier than it was, but pain and questions and darkness are never far from me. So I share what I’m about to share—three simple things I’ve been learning—not from a place of being ‘out the other side’ of all this. I’m still in the storm.

Three months on

This too shall pass

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

One of the first friends I spoke to back in November about what had happened was a guy called Josh. He and his wife Lois have been absolute rocks for me in the last three months. From the day I first told him until the end of the year, he called, texted or saw me every day. Faithfully, prayerfully, honestly. It meant so much.

He wasn’t the only one, but I mention Josh because of something he said. When it was only one week from the day it all fell apart for me, Josh called. I was a wreck, in tears, barely able to talk. I manage to get out, “It’s just been the worst week of my life.”

Josh said this: “Yes, it was. But it’s over now. The worst week is done. Next week will be horrible too, but it won’t be the worst week.” I trust Josh, but at the time I didn’t know if I believed him. I couldn’t imagine it being any better. But it was. Or at least it was less bad.

In the midst of the darkness, it often doesn’t feel there will ever be an end.. I still don’t often feel there will be. But I now believe it. I have a future. I have hope. One week on, I needed Josh to say it for me. Now I can say it myself. The worst three months are over.

God’s grace really is enough

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you…” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

Five days before everything happened, I preached on these words. Paul has a struggle, a very deep struggle, and he asks God for it to end. It doesn’t. What Paul learns is what I’ve been learning, that in the middle of the hardship God is enough. His grace and love are enough. I’ve had to learn the discipline of throwing myself onto God in the midst of pain, leaning on Him for everything because by myself I just can’t cope.

And I’ve learned He is sufficient. He’s all I need. I don’t need for things to change. I want them to, but I don’t need them to. I have prayed things will change and healing will come. If I’m honest with myself, a part of why I prayed that is so life would return to a place where I can stand on my own two feet, can make it through the day by myself. That’s more comfortable.

Now my prayer is different. I’ve been changed. I just want God. He doesn’t depend on situations, or the faithfulness of other people. He is all I need.

Being weak

…for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)

I’ve also been learning to be weak. And for that to be ok. I cry a lot (I’m crying now!), so I have two choices: cry publicly, or stay at home. I’ve often been too self-sufficient in my life, wanting to have it all together. I’m learning to be vulnerable, to expose my heart, as hard as that is.

Two things on that.

First, it is beautiful to be part of a church family where it’s ok. Where I can cry, I can be exposed, I can be truly myself, and people don’t freak out or get uncomfortable. I am so grateful to the other leaders of Gold Hill for modelling that and encouraging that. It’s family and it’s real. My voice can crack when I’m preaching, and that’s ok. It’s a truly beautiful and healing thing. Thank you, church.

Second, there’s true power in weakness. Not only does Paul (and I) know God’s grace in struggles, but in his (and my) weakness, God’s strength can be made known. I can’t serve or minister from a place of strength right now, but I can from a place of weakness. So I am. And God is using it. So if you’re in the same boat as me (and Paul), don’t think that disqualifies you. It simply does not.

There’s more, but that’ll do for now.

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