It is who You are


"Joe, I know you have never done this before but I was wondering if you would play guitar for me at the Youth 2000 retreat in Scotland" 


"OK, Kate."

Why did I agree to do that?

Later I thought, why did I agree to do that? I often think this thought. Especially when I find myself in what my brothers describe as a particularly "Joe-ish situation" (improbably complex), which is what this seemed to be turning into. 

I told myself I was doing it as a favour for my friend Kate. The truth was that I was a dry weary land without water and wanted to experience God's love. 

Surprised by Emptiness

I left my little village in the highlands of Scotland when I was 17 to be the singer in an indie rock band. Our band travelled the world playing in bars, clubs and festivals. We made friends with our heroes and sang our sad songs to thousands of (sometimes excited) people. 

For reasons that did not make sense to me at the time, I found my experience of all of this increasingly empty and sometimes brutal. The joy I had for music ebbed further away every time we loaded into the back of our van. I felt like I was grasping for a bar of soap, knowing it would slip away every time my hands closed around it.

At 26, I came home, like the prodigal son, from 30 days on the road with a band from New Jersey who were my long-time heroes. I was spiritually starving and I vowed to give up my dreams of being a musician for good.

Surprised by Joy

It was a year after I quit that Kate asked me to play for her. After rebuking myself for agreeing to do it, I remember thinking "maybe it will be ok". That was the extent of my expectations for my first Youth 2000 retreat.

Jesus had more for me! He showed me that He had been with me in all my wanderings; that He was so pleased that I had finally come home. I made friends that weekend that I hope will last for eternity. I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God. He could lift higher heaven's doors even for someone like me who had squandered his inheritance.

A few months later, I joined the Youth 2000 worship team and began a journey in worship which has already fulfilled me more than all those years playing in my band. Jesus has been teaching me how good things can be and I am constantly surprised by Him.

The Lord takes delights in His people

This year,Stronghold Festivalwill take place in our little village of Dalmally in the highlands on the 24-27th May. While we are far away from most things, you can get to us by train or bus quite easily from Glasgow. 

I hope and pray that young people at Stronghold will be transformed like I was; that they will be filled with peace, that they will experience healing, that they will be surprised by the joy that only Jesus brings.

I hope you can come to Stronghold and that like Kate, you invite someone who is dry and weary or who doesn't know Jesus at all. 

The Father delights in His children. He is preparing a feast for us.