For some time I was very unhappy, I couldn’t understand why;
there was a hole in me that seemed to be getting bigger. I was full of sadness
for the world, a sadness that could quickly turn to anger or disgust and which
inevitably I turned upon myself as it all seemed so futile.
I felt separated and isolated, even though I had a wife and
two children who loved me in spite of what I felt about myself.
Life was just so hard.
As 1994 went on through autumn towards its sure demise,
Bernie, my wife, had begun to go to an Alpha Group> meeting that a friend of
hers was hosting. Her primary motivation was this:
“Amanda is such a nice person, she rarely complains or
bitches like so many of my friends. There’s something different about her that
I would really like to know more about. Maybe it’s because she’s a Christian or
this Vineyard thing that she goes to, I don’t know, but I’ll do this course
that she’s hosting and I might find out.”
So she started this thing- I wasn’t really interested, “but
fine, I she’s happy then I’m happy…,”.
Bernie started coming home and running through various Bible
passages that they had picked out on a particular evening.
She’d, like, wake me up and we’d find them together to
discuss them. The strange thing was that I would get a “shock” every so often
when reading certain passages. Looking back, I knew that it was God speaking to
me, trying to get my attention. For some reason I would try to shake it off as
one would a mild electrical shock from a badly wired plug.
Sadly, Bernie missed a number of Alpha evenings as we went
on vacation soon after the course had begun.
We had a good holiday, though I didn’t really appreciate a
lot of it because of this hole in me that just seemed to get bigger.
Bernie finished her Alpha course and started on a follow up
program and Christmas came and went.
Buried in there was a car journey to work during which I
switched off the radio and started talking to God. “There’s got to be more to
life than this God, if you can use me then use me, I just can’t go on like
Also buried in this time-frame was a conversation with
Bernie. “Would you like to do an Alpha Course? You seemed quite interested, and
anyway, I sure that you would shake them up a bit!”. I said, “Uhh, OK, sure
whatever…,” and thought no more about it.
The gloom continued, the hole was getting so big that I’m
surprised I didn’t collapse on myself like a human black-hole.
Then one mean and moody afternoon as I sat there grouching
through my work the phone rang.
“Hello, is that Graham Stewart?”, asked a voice.
“Err, yes…”, said I in a kind of non-committal, hard
nosed, ‘push off you over-friendly and unknown telephone salesperson’ sort of
“Good, I’m Paul from the Riverside Vineyard” said Paul.
“Uhh, yeah?”, said I still very much in character.
“Yeah, your coming to my house for the Alpha Course? I just
phoned to check that you were OK” said Paul.
Finally I made the synaptic link, “Oh…, right”, said I,
falling out of character into a sort of stunned and vaguely embarrassed state.
“Yes, I’m fine thanks.”, I sort of mumbled back.
“I just wanted to make contact and make sure that you knew
haw to get to my house and everything was all right. Are you still coming?” ,
“Oh yes,” I said, “I’ll be there.”, not really sure of when
it was to start.
Anyway, we finished talking, but I felt so good afterwards.
It was so nice to speak to someone that I didn’t know from Adam but who was
actually asking after my well-being without wanting something. Yes, that’s just
how cynical and twisted I had become, I thought of most people like that and my
conversation with Paul was really a shock.
I felt good for the rest of the day, the hole seemed to have
shrunk a little, I wasn’t teetering quite so much on the edge.
I went to Paul and Gena’s place, had dinner, did the worship
thing-that was a bit weird, did the course that night and went home.
Bernie asked me what I thought and I said, “It was OK, we
sang some songs to start with and that was a bit strange, but they seemed like
nice people. Yeah, I’ll go again.”
I went again and got more out of it each week. Each week I
was touched by a song or a reading or something someone said. It was God
speaking to me, but I still wasn’t listening properly.
About 3 or 4 weeks into this, my financial mud hit my
bankers fan in a biggish way and I became sorely worried. I started working out
various options to deal with this, of course, going to my father was not one of
them. You know, it was the pride thing, it was the I’m a big boy and I don’t
need my fathers help thing. The I’m a big man and don’t need anybody’s help
In any case, my father and me had never been particularly
close, we spoke occasionally but that was it really. Since he had been left on
his own because of bereavement, we had got a little closer, but not really Bill
Stewart & Son Ltd. I left that kind of thing to my brother.
Anyway all my big man options were closing up on me, I went
to Alpha that evening and during discussion read the Lost Son (Luke C15). I was
asked to read some of it, but I couldn’t finish because I had started to cry. I
sort of muttered “Sorry, I can’t finish this.”, and sat there sitting on a
volcano while one of the others read the rest.
What was going on? This wasn’t just a mild electric jar,
this was a full blown ten thousand volt thud that hit me. I tried to compose
myself and we talked about it, boy there was some real emotion and charge in
that room between some of us. I could see it in one guys face, just as I felt
everyone could see it in mine.
We wrapped up and I went home dazed and stunned. I didn’t
crash the car and I got home to bed.
The next day my last big man option closed up and I still
hadn’t got the message. Then finally I thought about last night and phoned my
father. I summoned all my courage, sat on my suitcase full of pride and asked
if he would help me. He said sure, how much do you need? There were no strings
When I saw him the next night we both cried and I told him
that I loved him, I am not sure that I had ever said that to him in my life. I
had always loved him, I just didn’t say it or acknowledge it to myself.
Then I began to tumble to the truth, this was just too much
of a coincidence, all that had happened. I was a son who was lost, my
relationship with my father was just like my relation with my Father. God had
been talking to me and I hadn’t heard properly, it seemed that he had got a bit
fed up with my ignorance and bashed my head against a wall to get my attention.
I went out and bought a Bible that was written in plain
English, I read it and enjoyed it. I enjoyed Alpha evenings even more.
Soon after most of the Alpha Group went away for a weekend
to cover some more of the course. We were with Alpha groups from other
Vineyards and we were covering the opposite ends of life, the Devil and the
This weekend changed my life. This weekend I new that I was
a Christian, because this weekend God was going to tell me that I was a
I was taking Vince and Lorainne from my Alpha group to the
weekend as their had transport problems, so we arrived quite late on Friday
evening. This was mostly because we got lost which was mostly because I didn’t
read the signs properly and because those I did read I didn’t entirely trust.
Does that sound familiar, am I talking about driving or
When there were signs I didn’t think they were very good and
when there weren’t any, instead of trusting in those that I had seen I worried
that I wasn’t on the right road and spent too long looking for others.
Anyway, we got there, had food and relaxed a bit. Then we
started the next bit of the course and during worship and reading that Volcano
inside started to rumble again.
It was like that the next morning and I was becoming more
and more phased by it. Plugging this Volcano was really hard.
You see I was scared to let the Holy Spirit to come. Twenty
years ago I had been very involved with a Church in which the Holy Spirit had
moved. I had read “When the Spirit Comes”-it was still in a box in my attic!
Friends I had at that time spoke in tongues, I prayed a lot but never received
Over the next twenty years I did some good things, I did an
awful lot of bad, bad things. Over those twenty years there were times when God
touched me, I didn’t really know it, because I thought you had to speak in
I moved further away from God and became a bitter man. All
that time he loved me and tried to tell me, but I couldn’t or wouldn’t listen.
So I was scared this weekend because God hadn’t just touched
me, he had got hold of me and it felt
like he was trying to burst out of my body.
My friends there were really good and kind, I thank them and
thank God for them being there.
Saturday evening we had another session and during worship I
couldn’t sing many songs as the effort of corking the Volcano that was the Holy
Spirit took away my voice.
I was crying to myself during the lesson, then we began
And when God came to me he was kind & forgiving, I was
very afraid that his spirit would tear me in two-I felt as if my heart would
burst – but it didn’t. Instead, he came to me in waves of love, each one giving
and forgiving and I cried out in wonder at how such love could be given so
freely, given so unconditionally, so fully and so mindful of my fears and
All my sins and burdens that had so weighed me down were as
nothing, he peeled them off my shoulders one by one and I cried as he did so. I
was in wonder that anyone could be so good, that anyone could be so forgiving.
Then I began to understand.
He sets no value by the judgements of man, indeed, only man
wrapped in his own worldliness attaches such importance to such judgements-and
the man-made laws upon which they are based. These things are as nothing to God
when we understand his purpose a little more. A stick for us to beat ourselves
with, bringing great sadness to ourselves and to our Lord.
A stick which for all the world may be a forest that
separates the loving father from his dearly loved but lost son. The father may
call and call for his son, but it must be up to his son to fight his way
through the forest to come to his father.
After some time the Holy Spirit’s Flame died down somewhat
and I was left rather stunned and in great awe.
Eventually I went to bed, talked some more with my room-mate,
then fell asleep. I cannot be sure as to the time, but the Lord awake me later
and I began to shake as he touched me again with his Spirit.
It seemed that for most of the night thereon, he spoke to me
of things for the most part I cannot recall, but his presence was real and
tangible. He was, and still is, in the process of repackaging my life, helping
me to regain my perspective. My slate was being wiped clean. The only thing
that I can clearly remember was “Spread the word, for I am coming to save you
all.”. That was just before six a.m. as I heard the clock tower chime the hour.
He let me sleep for a short while, then I was up, washed and
out enjoying a walk and natures beauty soon after seven.
Later that morning we had a service involving worship, communion
and prayer. I couldn’t stop shaking through most of that time. My legs would
tremble and if I tried to still them then the Spirit moved to other parts of my
body that would shake just a vigorously.
Some people were encouraged to speak of prophecies to those
in the room and later still I was very happy to pray for my friends there.
Then the shaking seemed to take a real hold of me and I
couldn’t stop. The Holy Spirit was reshaping my very being and I had to roar
and shake and roar some more.
This all may sound strange and I am sure that some may think
I am simply mad or some-such. This is to again apply men’s laws where they have
no domain. What happened was truly wonderful and beautiful and the work of Gods
Since that time I have continued to grow in God and cannot
recall a time of such happiness and strength. The only problem is that all that
was my life is of lesser importance and I feel that I am in a waiting room,
gathering strength for the work God has planned for me. I struggle to remember
what it is that I should be doing in the meantime.
I shall be grateful to receive his instruction when it is
appropriate, meanwhile I continue the struggle to continue the roads of my life
as before but within Gods law.
It is very difficult as my work now means nothing to me and
I am eager to get on with Gods work.
Praise be to Lord Jesus who has not left me and shall never
leave me. He is all wise and caring and should be feared by those who deride
him. Only by Jesus can we be saved from death. Thank God for his touch of mercy
and I pray that I shall see his word ever more clearly as each hour passes.