Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Some years ago, at a church slide-show, I heard of a missionary who’d been roughing it somewhere in the depths of darkest Africa, and was about to meet a tribe who had never seen a white man before. Preaching the gospel to everyone on Earth was a touchy business. Befriending this tribe, gaining their trust, and learning their culture and language would take years at best, but behind the next line of trees waited the crucial moment of first contact. Any seemingly innocent gesture or facial expression might turn out to be a suicidal faux pas in front of these people. Cautiously, he pulled back the branches of the tree, to see the tribe’s coveted local branch of McDonald’s.

God only knows quite how apocryphal the above story is. If apocrypha levels were measured by how far you were through the Bible, then I’d probably rate this one a Gospel According To Thomas. However the point that was being made at this presentation was that McDonald’s had got there before we did.

Curse you Ronald, curse you and all your Satanic burger-eating evil clown friends.

Then, today, this evening, live, as it happened, the above story took on a new spin.

My journey all the way around the world to get back to the UK took me to a place where there was no McDonald’s.

Let me just say that again so that it sinks in – I have been somewhere where there is no McDonald’s restaurant. And by the term “McDonald’s” I include Burger King, Wendy’s, Wimpy, Hungry Jack’s, Burger Queen (it’s real), Blue Tops and the Krusty Burger.

Yes, I know, you’re already reaching for the phone to book your next holiday there, so I’ll tell you all…it’s the duty-free area at Auckland Airport.

No kidding.

I have spent the last 12 months promising myself that whatever happened to me in New Zealand, no matter how badly things went, no matter how much I was afraid that God might let me down, I would at least still have a huge unhealthy Burger King meal waiting for me at the airport after I had checked-in to leave. Plastic cup of pig fat and all. But no, I think God was proving a point.

I queued-up for some extortionately-priced slices of pizza, but it really wasn’t the same.

Curse you pizza-servers, curse you and all your over-charging graveyard shift Auckland airport friends. (except you
Rhett – cheers for reading buddy :))

I suppose it’s time to look back on the last year and draw some conclusions.

More than anything else, despite what I’ve said about following God, I think the last year has really all been about me. The reason why I say this, is because I think that’s what God has been working on.

So with that in mind, here are 21 things that I have learnt about myself over the past year. This advice is from me to myself, it is definitely not intended as advice for anyone else. Everyone’s different, just like numbers. (bad analogy – ignore that)

1. Get 8 hours’ sleep.

“Getting by on 6” is not the same as being wide-awake. When you’re wide-awake you feel as though you can do anything. Easily. Definitely still working on that one.

2. Get up earlier.

There’s nothing like a morning. And in my life they’re so rare. When I worked evenings at a callcentre, for years I would regularly get up at 2pm, go to work, come home, stay up all night, wake my family with tea last thing at 7am, and go to bed. Breakfast telly was the worst.

“Well Gavin, it’s going to be a great day out there today. There’s so much to look forward to. I really pity any poor sap who has to sleep through and miss the next 8 hours.”

3. Read the Bible most days.

For the same reason as watching The Simpsons. It’s very encouraging, and reminds me what the real world is like – it’s not the one that I might be wrapped-up in and despairing over. I read it out loud now as well. I say “most days” because I think it’s a mistake to blindly enforce rules.

Their religion is nothing but human rules and tradition, which they have simply memorised.

- Isaiah 29:13b (Good News)

Jesus. Healing people. Sabbath. Son. Well. Fallen down. Common sense.

4. Get out of my room.

I can’t do anything in my room. Going to my room always results in lots of doing nothing. It’s like a black hole in there. Or the Goble Triangle.

"Goble’s room, where things dis-a-ppear, Goble’s room, wooh-don’t go too near. But she doesn’t see my angle…"

5. Exercise.

My body is the tool through which I do everything, even praying. Joining a gym was one of the best decisions I ever made. I can do so much more now, for longer. And God has provided a treadmill in my room!

6. Wash every day.

I hate washing. I hate shaving. I hate showering. It’s such a hassle. But skipping it always kills my energy levels, making it harder to do later on.

7. Tithe.

The first handful of dough that is offered is holy. This makes all of the dough holy.
If the root is holy, so are the branches.

- Romans 11:16 (NIR)

I don’t think tithing is so much about giving God a tenth, as giving God your best. If I always keep my best, that leaves God with second best, so who is most important to me?

8. Pray.

Again, out loud.

When I was a kid, I used to open my curtains each morning and say “Let the light of God engulf this room in happiness and joy.”

By the time I was 34, this had grown to about 20 minutes of careful exact wording and concentration. Trying to start each day without fearing how much I might blame myself if something went wrong and I hadn’t yet said my obsessive carefully-worded prayer and meant it – it was tough getting it out of the way in time for my evening prayer.

Today my prayers vary, but I try to avoid set ones. In his book The Prayer Of Jabez, Bruce Wilkinson recommends reciting 1 Chronicles 4:10 every single day.

He was the one who prayed to the God of Israel, "Oh, that you would bless me and extend my lands! Please be with me in all that I do, and keep me from all trouble and pain!" And God granted him his request.

- 1 Chronicles 4:10 (NLT)

Every day would rob it of its meaning, so I just pray it sometimes.

Now I say a quick prayer before beginning something, and a longer one when appropriate. I try to keep everything varied.

And I’ve replaced my long daily prayer with reading the Bible!

9. Speak positive things.

If the future is going to be dreadful, then you might as well enjoy believing the opposite while you still can. It’s better to be wrong and happy than right and miserable.

10. Watch The Simpsons.

I always feel better after watching that. Despite what people say, it’s a wonderful life-affirming show, and it’s always on.

Mmmmm - Simpsonsssss.

11. Play games. (for motivation)

12. Change things regularly.

I’ve always tried to find the best way of doing everything, but that’s just resulted in repetition and stagnation. I get used to things real quick.

13. Stop thinking.

Thinking is probably my worst trait. Must stop thinking, it only magnifies everything and ruins Star Trek...

(Heh heh heh - if I only had a brain.)

14. I Can’t Make Decisions.

What I really mean to say is that I always need a deciding factor. If there are 2 identical boxes of corn flakes at the supermarket, you can bet that I’ll pick the one that’s further away, so that the remaining one will be easier for the next person to pick up. I need something to go on, anything.

15. Make friends with everyone.

I’m rubbish at faces, and even worse at names, but serving people is what I’m here for.

16. Go outside every day.

Nothing new there.

17. Take a day off every week.

Another oldie.

18. Be thankful.

Everything is a gift of grace from God. Even the way I can see the leaves’ shadows dancing on the kitchen door as I type this. The contrast between that white speck of dirt and the rest of the table. The way 7 numbers can be re-arranged into laughter through a game of dominoes – it really is a miracle.

When they banged Jesus to a cross, he was probably blind by that point. He’d have heard everyone hating him, felt only agony from his body, and had his sense of smell and taste flooded with his own blood. Bad example. What could Jesus possibly have been grateful for with only evil coming through all his senses at once?

I guess that’s when you only have your faith.

19. Blog.

Keeping this blog has given me a real sense of identity. I have a better idea who I am, and who I want to be.

Words focus us. I think this is what separates us from the animals.

20. I can live anywhere in the world now. Woo-hoo!

21. Most of those were pieces of advice, but this final one is something that I've learnt about myself: Right in the centre of my heart, more fundamental to me than anything else, is my belief in the truth.

I believe that this is the same as my allegiance to the Holy Spirit.

Even back at infants’ school, people would come to me to ask what had actually happened. I remember: “Ask him – he always tells the truth.”

Lying, by my definition, is deliberately causing a false belief in another person. (jokes are not lies)

I am failure, and a sinner, and make no pretence about my track record, but I will go on the record and say that I do not recall speaking, typing or writing a lie this year.

And now that I've gone on the record I recall telling Tiger that I had no free drinks vouchers, and then apologising to him afterwards for lying to him. And I remember answering the phone and a friend hissing at me that he wasn't there. I really really hated saying that. I told him afterwards "Don't ever ask me to lie for you again." I felt awful. If I sit down and go through the year I suspect I'll find others, but I don't remember any others right now.

I do sometimes find it very hard to tell the whole truth. Especially when I am afraid of how I may be treated as a result.

I believe that lying by omission, if it indeed causes a false belief in another person, is lying.

So yes, I sometimes lie, by saying nothing, but I do try to avoid it.

I always try to tell the whole truth.

I always try to do the right thing.

This is who I am, who I want to be, and who I always will be.

Lastly, when people lie to me, it can hurt. But I feel really sad when I go on to tell them a truth, and they can't believe me.

So as my flight took off, and the “Auckland Airport” sign hurried away behind me yet again, I inevitably reflected on the past 2 life-changing years, and on what a renaissance they had been in my life. Had God really had it all planned out like this? Was He really in control? Was He just silently manipulating me for as long as He could get away with it?

And what did I have to show for giving up my life, family, friends and beliefs to follow what inescapably repeatedly claimed to be His path for me?

I’d changed, sure, I followed God more closely, was far more certain of His existence and reliability, was happier, more bullish, less afraid, lived more for the present, and had lost so much cynicism and arrogance.

And rather than blame God for the things that my life are still missing, I now repeatedly stated and steadfastly believed that God was able, willing and would prove that He really could do anything.

Tonight, as the aircraft’s wheels let go of the runway, for the first time in my life, I had absolutely no idea whether I was returning home or leaving it.


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