Where Have I Been?

As usual, there’s a lot going on in my world. I’ve not done so well recently at posting about it here. I’ve been popping up online here there and everywhere though. One place is on Threads (you can keep up with my occasional writing on that platform here), writing a snappily titled piece called ‘Why The Marris Bill Frightens the Life Out Of Me’ (see what I did there?). Read that here

Yesterday, I appeared (at short notice, talking off the top of my head) on Helen Blaby’s BBC Radio Northampton lunchtime programme talking about the awkwardness of disability. 8 or 9 minutes of me on local radio. I bet you can’t contain yourself and have already clicked on the Listen Again link here. I start waffling around the 13.10 mark. Thanks to Helen for having me on, and finding me amusing.

I’m continuing to write as and when I can fit it in for Drowned in Sound and Clash. Click the names of the sites to find where I’ve been most recently.

There’s always more going on, but that’ll do for now!

I’ll be back with a roundup of what I’ve been enjoying musically recently soon.


I Am Not….

Over the last couple of days, I’ve sat in Gosport and Southampton, listening via Skype while a dude named Eric, who I’ve never met, played in a studio in Rochester, New York, recording drums on a bunch of my songs. This strikes me as somewhat crazy. While I’d rather be in New York – who wouldn’t rather be in New York than Gosport? – this is a pretty good deal. It’s meant that the EP I’m working on has had the drummer who fitted it just right play on it. It’s also enabled us to welcome Eric, and Brian, who engineered the session and entertained us royally, into the community that is building around the songs and the vision behind them.

Writing and recording songs has been one my favourite things to do since I started in bands around the age of 18. There are loads of reasons, but one of them is that the moment when you realise that you have a good song on your hands is unlike almost anything else. A good song is a good song, whether it’s written by the latest production line pop strumpet, or a grizzled veteran. When it comes to music, the fact that I’m a wheelchair user is of no consequence at all. If my songs are good, they’re good. If they’re not so good…

My cerebral palsy is a big part of my life, but it does not define me. I’m not Haydon, the disabled ordinand (trainee vicar), or Haydon the wheelchair singing guy (although I’ve been called that before). I’m Haydon, the son of God. That’s the whole of it. Not a mention of disability anywhere in that identity is there? We’re identified first, foremost and only by the loving action of God, through Christ, in our lives. Nothing more. Nothing less. It’s funny in a piece on inclusion to say something like this, which you, the reader, may perceive to be exclusive. Sorry about that. For my part I’ve found that every label other than son of God that either I’ve used, or has been used about me to identify me gives me, or others, the opportunity to either think of myself as better or worse than other people. All are equal in the eyes of God. All. No one is better. No one is worse. That is inclusion. That is an enabled society. Anything else is a pale reflection of God’s intention for society.

I strongly think that we, in this country at this time, have a key role to play in the development of a new kind of society. Not only can we be primary movers in social change, so that the loving kindness and justice of God can prevail in our broken society, but we need to learn to live, love and act in such a way as to make our communities real and whole. Just as no one is excluded from the offer of life in Christ, so no one should be excluded from our church families, from the communities we build together. Whether that means you change physical elements of church life, open up to the possibility of people around you being depressed (there will be some depressed people that you know, whether you are aware of their depression or not) or you consider what an inclusive, enabled community that features people from all the parts of God’s glorious creation might actually look like, this is something that we need to get stuck in to, in this place, in this time.

Let me not be known as Haydon the wheelchair singing guy (please, not that). Let me be known as Haydon, the son of God who abounds in loving kindness and partners with God in bringing about His kingdom. Let us be remembered in history as the generation marked out by our abandoned love for Christ and all of His beloved sons and daughters, including those who our society and, God forbid, our Church, currently disables.

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We Don’t Know God

I want to let you in to a little secret. I understand God a lot less well than I used to.

It might be something to do with having spent two years at theological college. It might be that my brain doesn’t work as well as it used to (this is quite likely). I could be being disobedient and weak (sadly, this is quite likely too).

Whatever the reason, the truth remains, looming larger and larger day by day in my mind (ironically): God is bigger, more glorious, more wonderful, more merciful, loving, frightening than I can really get my head round.

George Herbert really nails what I’m trying to get at here when he suggests: “Knowledge is but folly unless it is guided by grace.”

Proverbs 3 calls us to this: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be a healing for your flesh and a refreshment for your body.”

It strikes me that the call is to a life of seeking God day by day, thanking Him for His love and mercies every single day, and asking Him, through His grace, to guide me into what it means to be a son of His, to be the person He has called me to be.

I think there’s a danger in thinking that we know too much, that we see with too much clarity who God is and what He wants. Romans 12:2 exhorts us to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

I believe that this renewing of the mind is to cause us daily to let go of our own pictures of God and who He is, or might be, that we might allow Him to minister to us in His grace so that we can learn to truly exercise faith and trust. Every human has a different level of understanding. Some of us are never going to understand very much at all. And yet God is for us all. We are all known by Him, whether we know Him yet or not. And so the question remains, what if there’s more to faith than knowledge? What if it’s about letting go of the need to know?

Today, as you go about your daily stuff, ask God that you might grow in knowledge, sure, but ask Him too that you might get more opportunities to exercise your faith muscle, as we walk together in the glorious unknown, into the arms of the one who will give us the answer to every question we ever had, that we might, finally, know Christ and the power of his resurrection, sharing in his life, death, sufferings, and glorious, final, victory.

And yes, I do get the irony of using understanding and knowledge to write a blog questioning the value of understanding and knowledge. I’m just asking a question.

Don’t flame me…

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“I Have Thought About Killing Myself Many Times”

Recently, on an evening off from recording my new album, a group of family and friends gathered in the living room of Ben, the bassist in my band, and his wife Sharon. We were talking about theology, as it happens, and debate was predictably passionate. At one point I committed the cardinal sin of telling a friend she was “just wrong” with her point of view (she wasn’t).

Things were tense for a moment, and then they moved on and the moment was forgotten. Except in my head. I was gripped with guilt and remorse for having been so immature, stupid, prideful and much more besides. Quickly I felt myself sinking in to a feeling of worthlessness and pointlessness that is fearfully familiar.

Within five minutes I was quietly making a list of pros and cons as to why I shouldn’t kill myself.

This kind of thing has happened many times before. I have a problem. I am depressed. I have thought about killing myself many times, many times daily during some periods of my life. I tried once. I failed. I hope never to try again. I’m sure many reading this would be able to tell their own stories of what it feels like, or perhaps doesn’t feel like to want to die. Sometimes my thoughts, my senses, are so heightened, that I feel as if I can’t cope. Other days I feel nothing. If anything, for me this is more frightening.

The occasion I described above was all the more poignant because the morning after my list-making, I was to play as part of the worship band for the morning service, and also to ‘share’. Waking up, glad that the evening had passed to the new mercies of morning, I lay in bed and asked God what I should speak about that day. The only thought/answer I could perceive was: depression. This wasn’t part of my plan. Depression is something I hate talking about. Showing my weaknesses to others is a frightening prospect. What will they think of me? Will I lose my job?

The service that morning was intense. Musically, something happened. Kevin Bruchert, who was leading, did so in such a way that there was little in the way between God and His people. Andy the pastor preached, and then it was turned over to me. I had no plan as I began speaking. All I did was honestly relate what had happened the previous evening. I found myself talking about Romans 8:10-11, about the Spirit who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, who is at work in our mortal bodies, our spiritual bodies, our hearts and minds, to bring us to true identity, peace and freedom in him. It struck me how little in church we talk about depression and suicide. I encouraged the church to talk, to pray, to live in uncertainty and pain, as well as joy and hope together.

And then something else happened. People began to come forward and pray; for me, for one another, for themselves. It felt like something broke through that morning in me and in the lives of the people in that church. So many of them had stories of depression and suicide attempts, and had never had the opportunity to talk about them in church before. This is a problem we can deal with. God knows and cares for us all, intimately. He knows what we are going through, what we can bear. As this is World Suicide Prevention Day, let’s make a commitment to talk to each other, take care of each other and entrust one another to the grace and mercy of God. Sometimes suicide happens, and it is horribly painful. It is often, very often, no one’s fault. Often it is the final outworking of a horrible illness. We need help to remember this.

I want to make a commitment to continue to fight, daily, to look to Jesus for my strength and wisdom, for healing. More than that, I want to be a grateful worshipper. Sadly, however much I pray it seems that some days I cannot escape these thoughts and feelings. Each time they seem to come back more strongly and more overwhelmingly. I know, though, too, that my redeemer lives, that he is my refuge. People who know and love Jesus commit suicide. I believe it does not change his love for them, or the victory of his death and resurrection in their lives. Regardless of this, as a Christian, a future vicar, and someone who feels as I often do, I long for a church that is able to live in such a way as to point to the hope of the gospel for those who feel as if their hope has run out.

This has been a difficult article to write. I fear I have not expressed myself clearly. I also fear that some of what I have said might not be correct or accurate. Please forgive me and my clumsy honesty.

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When Healing Doesn’t Come

All of us, I think, want to be healed of something. Whether it’s something outwardly obvious, like a condition or an illness, or something internal like depression, or even a character trait or flaw that we or others perceive, none of us, if we’re truly honest, would say there was nothing we would change about ourselves. And that’s quite apart from the game some of us like to play where we look at others and decide how we would change or improve them. We’re a fun bunch aren’t we?

If you’ve read my stuff here before you’ll know that I have issues with depression. You might well have picked up too that I have Cerebral Palsy and use a wheelchair to get around (and to gain free entry to sporting events). As I’ve grown up around the evangelical charismatic wing of the Church, I’ve had a pretty wide variety of experiences of healing. I think I’ve seen miracles happen. I’ve definitely seen medical professionals and carers act as agents of the miraculous in changing my life and the lives of many people. And yet I’ve also seen many people who have had sicknesses, ailments, life-ending diseases, for whom grace and mercy has not included a cure or healing. What are we to make of this?

Thinking about answering the question though, I’ve kept coming back to one thought: Are we seeking healing so that we can be who we were created to be, or are we seeking healing so that we can be someone else? In short, are we seeking healing from ourselves? Jesus healed the sick. So did the disciples. We are called to do likewise in His name. Often, healing encounters in scripture begin with “what do you want me to do for you?” or some such question as this. The question is not “what do you want me to make of you?” or “who do you want me to make you?” There is the possibility of us carrying a prototype image of the perfect Christian man or woman around with us and aspiring to that. Personally, I think this is dangerous.

The only measure of success in the Christian life is in our fruit and in our being changed more and more into the likeness of Christ. Sadly, and I do mean this, I have had to find a way to come to terms with the idea that Cerebral Palsy might be part of the person that God designed me to be.I believe, instinctively, that this is possible, whilst at the same time believing another person with Cerebral Palsy might be healed (although I’ve never heard of such a healing taking place). What I mean by this is, in the provision of God, I don’t always get what I want (probably a good thing), but somehow I have to trust God that He knows what I need. If I could have convinced Him to get rid of my CP I would have. So far it hasn’t happened. We all need the (promised) healing of salvation, though. Perhaps we also need to ask God to heal our senses of self, our perspectives on who we are, our aspirations, so that when good and bad things come, we can remain firm in the faith that has been set before us, and find some way of staying thankful.

I realise that I have by no means explained why healing doesn’t always happen. I think it would be a falsehood to claim it were possible to explain it all. Wherever you find yourself as you read this, whether you are aware of your need for healing, or whether you rejoice in having already received it, or you mourn for the lack of it, I want to close by encouraging all of us to look to Jesus.

Jesus may not answer every question. Some do, maddeningly, remain unanswered. He will, though, go before us and stand with us in whatever we face. As His strength is most clearly shown in overcoming the ultimate weakness of the cross, so when I am weak, then the strength and vulnerability of Jesus, His victory, is what I can look to. So can you.


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