How, when and where did I find faith?

I often write about faith.

Faith is the subject of a number of my blogs and is one element in my book, How to Cope with the Church, but I don’t say much about my own journey. That is because I think the important thing isn’t myself, but the things I believe. Anyway, your journey will be different from mine, because you aren’t me. God knows that. However, I am not hiding it, and if you want to know, here it is.

I found faith in Bristol.

I was a student at Bristol University. In my first year, I was surprised to find that many students went to church, voluntarily, even getting up early on Sundays and/or having an early tea to get to evening services. Right from the start, some tried to invite me to things, including Bible studies and chaplaincy groups. I ignored them, or thought I did.

There was a mission to encourage faith, and a conspiracy.

It lasted a week, but there was a lot of publicity beforehand, leading to a good deal of discussion all over the university for a long time. You could hardly ignore it. I kept finding people who I didn’t know were Christians talking about their faith. I felt I was the subject of a conspiracy. The strange thing was that a lot of these conspirators didn’t know each other, and most of them couldn’t conspire to catch a bus. There must have been some superior intelligence behind it.

Did I find faith at the mission?

Yes and no. Mainly yes. The No is because I didn’t make a decision then and there. However, during that week, I had lots of conversations and gradually wrote off several other options. It was like painting yourself into a corner. For me, the big question became, ‘Is Jesus the Son of God or what?’

The ‘what’ comprised:

  • He never existed
  • Deluded
  • Phoney

I steadily  demolished all the arguments around each of these three options. This left me with an awkward choice: to ignore it all or to act on it.

My faith waited while I sat on the fence.

After the mission, I sat on the fence for a few weeks. I was aware that it could all be illusions, and I could waste my life believing in something that wasn’t true. How could I be sure? At this point, one of the conspirators, one of the quietest of them, learnt how I was feeling and handed me a magazine that had reprinted two letters from several years before. They hit the nail on the head.

From fence to faith.

One was from a student who expressed the same misgivings I was having. The other was from C.S.Lewis, whose main point was that you couldn’t prove God without taking a chance, just as you can’t swim without getting into the water to see how you float. He also said that to turn away was to risk the equal and opposite fate of living as if God didn’t exist, when he actually did. You have to take a chance. There was a third letter, from the student, to say he had jumped into the dark and landed in the light. So did I.

Was that the end of my journey of faith?

No. It was the beginning. Or so I often thought. Now I see other steps on that journey, starting long before. There were many more ahead.

How to cope with Church by [Murray, John]



Is Christmas an unhappy time for you?

This should not be a time to be unhappy but it can be.

There are many reasons to be unhappy at Christmas.

  • It can bring back bad memories.
  • Even good memories can make you sad if you think those days won’t return.
  • Perhaps the pressure gets to you.
  • You might find relatives hard to get on with.
  • Some people don’t cope well with any break in the usual routine, even if they want a rest from work or whatever.
Are you unhappy because you try too hard?

I went through a time when I thought I ought to enjoy Christmas more than I did. This was partly because I was not a natural party animal but thought I ought to be. You might be surprised to learn that I often got less benefit from Christmas services in church than from a normal Sunday. The long build-up and excessive hype around all aspects of Christmas tend to make it almost impossible for the reality to match the expectation.

The trouble was that I was setting my own expectations too high and trying to be someone I wasn’t.

Happy and unhappy masks. Are you being yourself at Christmas?
Happy and unhappy masks. Are you being yourself at Christmas?
Why am I not unhappy at Christmas nowadays?

I recognised the problem and began to laugh at myself. Now I just accept everything for what it is and decide to enjoy whatever events, religious or social, I go to, and to equally enjoy my time at at home. This lets me reject the pressure. Above all, I don’t beat myself up for not being as happy as I should be. I also try to remind myself of why I should be happy: Jesus’s birth.

So don’t be unhappy.

You might like to remind yourself of things I have written about happiness and to watch out for more on the subject in the New Year.




An invitation to some Christmas events in Penketh

Is this invitation too early or too late?

When do you think an invitation to Christmas events should go out? Early enough for people to include it in their plans, but not so early they will have forgotten it by the time of the event? Some people don’t like the way Christmas seems to start earlier every year. After all, the traditional twelve days of Christmas begin on 25th December and end at Epiphany, 6th January. Others like to enjoy the build-up and want it over in time for the January sales. (They’re getting earlier too, I notice).

What does this invitation cover?

Here’s a list of all the Christmas events at St Paul’s Church, Penketh, Warrington, most of which I’ll be attending. I don’t suppose many people will come to all of them, but you are warmly and sincerely invited, whether you live in Penketh or wherever and whether or not you usually include Church things in your Christmas schedule.

Sunday 16th December,  Carol Service, 7.00 p.m.

Sunday 23rd December, Holy Communion,  9.00 a.m.

Monday 24th December, Christmas Eve, Crib Service, 6.00 p.m.

Christmas Day, Family Service, 10.30 a.m.

Where?  The Oaks Centre, Stocks Lane, Penketh, Warrington, WA5 2QS

This is a personal invitation from me.

If you are coming to any of these events, let me know and I’ll meet and greet you. Of course, you can just turn up – no tickets required. If you can’t get there or can’t find it, ask me and I’ll sort it out. Contact me on the Comments Section of this blog, the Contact Form on my website, by e-mail or phone 01925 445215 or 07726 490639.

For more about St Paul’s Penketh, follow this link.


Depression? Join me as I’m revisiting my series on happiness.

This is the time of year for depression.

If you’re prone to depression, now’s the time you’ll feel it. Apart from the weather, the dark days and long nights can get you down.  Summer’s long gone and it feels like Spring’s far off. I’m not usually miserable, but this is the time when I find it hardest to keep cheerful.

Happy and sad masks. Is one hiding depression?
Happy and sad masks. Is one hiding depression?

Did my series on happiness help fight depression?

Try re-reading some of my posts about happiness, preferably before you get too depressed. But I’ve been thinking about it too, and I’m going to write another series, because I know I left a lot of useful stuff out, and I’ve come across a few tips I hadn’t thought of before. If you’ve any comments, they’ll be welcome. Let’s help each other.

Why does depression affect young people so much?

Research shows teenagers and twentysomethings suffer from depressive illnesses, even to the point of suicide more than the rest of us. It seems odd, when they should have more to look forward to. I don’t think anyone knows for sure, but here’s a thought. When I’m feeling low, I remember that I’ve been through this before and came out the other side. That itself is a help. Perhaps you just need to hang in there? Winston Churchill said, and I think he was quoting someone, “when you’re going through hell: keep going!” 

Good advice. And keep reading this blog!