31 December 2009

Ten Quotations for 2010

1. "Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble." - John Madden (American football coach)
2. Jeremiah 29:11 (New International Version) "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
3. "You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God...This kind of prayer, be sure, the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame." - William Booth
4. "It's not what you know, it's who you know" - anon
5. Proverbs 11:14 (The Message) "Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances."
6. "Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes)
7. "I call you up whenever things go wrong. You're always there. You are my shoulder to cry on." - lyrics to 'Never Be The Same Again' (Melanie Chisholm, Rhett Lawrence, Lisa Lopes)
8. "Nothing ventured nothing gained. A lonely heart that can't be tamed. I'm hoping that you feel the same. This is something that I can't forget." - more from 'Never Be The Same Again'
9. "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." - Stephen Covey (author)
10. "With Christ Into The Future" - title of a song by Generals John Gowans and John Larsson, included in the musical 'The Meeting'

Happy New Year.
:)

24 December 2009

Soldiership - part nine: Covenant

"I now call upon all present to witness that I enter into this covenant and sign these articles of war of my own free will, convinced that the love of Christ, who died and now lives to save me, requires from me this devotion of my life to His service for the salvation of the whole world; and therefore do here declare my full determination, by God's help, to be a true soldier of The Salvation Army."

I hope you have been encouraged by my personal insight into soldiership in The Salvation Army, a covenant agreement which I signed way back in 1988 and am still happy to accept today... Perhaps you have been challenged by some of the things mentioned in this short series - if so, why not talk it through with a Salvationist? You might even want to get in touch with me; drop me an email, chat things through... after all, as a 'seeker after truth', perhaps we can discover some truth together...

I hope you will have a happy Christmas.

22 December 2009

Soldiership - part eight: Truth

"I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, loyal to its leaders, and I will show the spirit of salvationism whether in times of popularity or persecution. "

I really like this particular phrase. In a world where 'wrong seems right' it's often difficult to determine what is truthful. Misinformation abounds. Half the circulated 'facts' I get via email or Facebook turn out to be wrong (it's worth checking out some of these circulars before passing them on - try snopes.com for a start). As a seeker after truth I tend to take things in and ponder over them for a while before making my own decision - I've learnt to my cost that people, even friends and family, can often take a wrong turn, doing the wrong things for the right reasons. I don't want to be one of them.

So I will be true to the principles and practices of The Salvation Army, a movement which has been tried and tested, and holds fast to many tenets which many find to be unfashionable in the 21st Century. Because I've tested them and found them to be true...

Philippians 4:8 (New International Version)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

19 December 2009

Soldiership - part seven: Commitment

"I will be actively involved, as I am able, in the life, work, worship and witness of the corps, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support its ministries and the worldwide work of the Army."

We've discussed some of the distinctives of The Salvation Army's outreach before, however we now centre our thoughts on our own individual commitment to the Army's outreach. Over the past few years I have been fortunate enough to see (albeit from a distance) the many and varied opportunities that are available for outreach in our own movement. The only true limitation we have is our own willingness to push the boundaries; to leave our own comfort zones and try and do something new for Him.

What difference can one person's commitment make? Oh, plenty. Just do what you can and as well as you can. He will multiply it. And will provide any resources that you can't see. Just rely on Him.

Matthew 6:30-34 (The Message)
"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.
"Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

"God's work, done in God's way, will never lack God's resources"
(J.Hudson Taylor)

16 December 2009

Soldiership - part six: Back to Basics

"I will be faithful to the purposes for which God raised up The Salvation Army, sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, endeavouring to win others to Him, and in His name caring for the needy and the disadvantaged. "

Remember my last blog entry? This is how we need to be identified - by who we are, individuals who are 'chosen to be soldiers'. We need to be identified by the things that we do ... caring for those marginalised in society, winning souls for the kingdom. This is why I'm a Salvationist! I hear so many taking about the Army's roots - reflecting on why William Booth started the movement back in 1865. There's talk of going 'back to basics'.

Those basics include the wearing of distinctive uniforms (serving a number of purposes); active participation in the social work which is part of our evangelical outreach; participation in a mission where 'each has a vital part of play'. This last point is very important to me, as each and every soldier needs to have their own ministry within a Corps outreach. All of us are mobilised, all have a job to do, all 'endeavouring to win others for Him'. There's no room for bystanders in our Army!

13 December 2009

Soldiership - part five: Addictions

"I will abstain from alcoholic drink, tobacco, the non-medical use of addictive drugs, gambling, pornography, the occult and all else that could enslave the body or spirit."

Arguably this is one of the most common aspects of Salvation Army soldiership ever brought up as a discussion point by non-christians. It seems to be a big deal... is is easier to define Salvationists by what we don't do rather that by what we do?*

Yet, have you ever personally known someone whose life had been wrecked through addiction to porn (I have)... someone who couldn't function in the morning without taking a shot of booze (I have)... someone who had to lie, cheat or steal in order to find their money for their fruit machine habit (I have). It's only when you get down to individual lives that you begin to see why Salvationists take such a hardline stand.

I believe the man in the street only wants to know these people as 'the down and out', 'the drunk', 'the gambler'. By their labels. Our way is to get to know them by name, to live alongside them, to show them there are other ways that you can live. That's why we seek to walk the path we do.

*If you want to know what I would rather they asked about, wait for part six...

10 December 2009

Soldiership - part four: Time Management

"I will uphold the sanctity of marriage and of family life. I will be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit, knowing that I am accountable to God."

This is one issue I've had to face up to myself this year. Do you have the same problem? Do you rest when you're supposed to rest? Work when you're supposed to work? Read the Bible as often as you ought? Pray? Share quality time with your spouse, your children? You know, you can sometimes be so busy trying to keep busy that you eventually end up being no use at all to anyone!

Thankfully I've learnt this lesson this year, and have taken steps to reprofile my life as a result of this. I'm not quite there yet, I've still got some more work to do in this area in 2010. I would like to encourage my fellow Salvationists that it is OK to sometimes think of yourself rather than of others all the time. I see many of my fellow soldiers falling by the wayside because they don't get the balance right. Perhaps they should realise that part of your Christian commitment is in fact in maintaining your own marriage and family life, as we can see above.

7 December 2009

Soldiership - part three: Relationships

"I will maintain Christian ideals in all my relationships with others; my family and neighbours, my colleagues and fellow salvationists, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community."

Yet another good starting point for a debate... are we of one mind, united against a common foe? Well, I must admit, not always. However, it's how we work through our differences to reach resolution that should define us, and I guess that it's the inability of some people to talk through 'pinch points' that leads so often to arguments, bitterness, broken covenants. As Christians we should work to resolve these issues with love and understanding. After all, we should be taking that same attitude out into our community...

I guess we are often so used to fighting battles that we often start to fight each other... let's not forget who is the true enemy here...

Ephesians 6:12 (New International Version)
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

4 December 2009

Soldiership - part two: Integrity

"I will uphold Christian integrity in every area of my life, allowing nothing in thought, word or deed that is unworthy, unclean, untrue, profane, dishonest or immoral. "

This is where we get down to a particularly challenging aspect of soldiership, which is how your spiritual life fits in with your daily life. In a previous blog I quoted a definition of Integrity as "doing the right thing even though there's nobody looking". This definition has particularly helped me get to grips with this particular aspect. It's easy to keep your commitment sitting in the Hall on a Sunday but not quite so easy late at night at home during the week! Living up to Christian standards every day of the week can be a challenge to any Christian, but it's particularly true of Salvationists who tend to be very visible in their own community (this can be turned to an advantage - more on this later). The secret of success is in personal discipline... which needs to be the subject of a separate blog entry...

It's also very interesting when you dig a little further into this subject, by turning the negatives that we need to avoid into positives that we need to embrace. We need to be pursuing things that have merit, are clean, true, consecrated, honest and moral. For a 'seeker after truth' (as I often style myself) I don't have a problem with pursuing truth - however one person's opinion of 'truth' can be so different from someone else's!! It can be so confusing... wrong can often seem right...

So here's the great challenge - and it's particularly a challenge in the 21st Century! Ask yourself whether each and every aspect of your life fits those positive headings. That TV show - that magazine - that pastime - that regular habit. And if you have difficulty confirming whether that particular thing is true, or clean, or moral - perhaps there's some doubt - then why not take steps to give it up? It could well be leading you away from God - or at least preventing you from following Him to the fullest extent.

Interesting, therefore, to see that this sort of self-examination was encouraged by William Booth for his soldiers ever since the earliest days of the Army. Maintaining Christian integrity is therefore a constant battle for all Christians - but then Salvation soldiers are not afraid of a bit of a battle...

"We are called to take His light
To a world where wrong seems right."
(a line from 'People Need The Lord' by Steve Green)

1 December 2009

Soldiership - part one: the Holy Spirit

When signing their Articles of War, prospective Soldiers of The Salvation Army are confirming that they have "accepted Jesus Christ as [their] Saviour and Lord", and that they "now by God's grace enter into a sacred covenant". There then follows a series of statements which form part of their covenant agreement, the first of which is:

"I will be responsive to the Holy Spirit's work and obedient to His leading in my life, growing in grace through worship, prayer, service and the reading of the Bible. I will make the values of the Kingdom of God and not the values of the world the standard for my life."

I am very clear in my own mind that it was the prompting of the Spirit of God that led me to my own commitment at the Mercy Seat those many years ago. Salvationists often say they are 'chosen to be a soldier' (see 2 Timothy 2:4) and that was particularly so for me. I responded to His prompting, was obedient and made my commitment. That's where my particular adventure began, as I tried to explore where God wanted me; what He wanted me to do. After some exploration of various avenues of service, what has become very clear to me is the fact that it's not about what you can do as a Christian, but who you can be...

The Spirit's leading is all very personal - your spiritual path is unique to you; truly a one-to-one relationship with the Almighty. Once you realise that, you gain a hunger for the Bible, as this essentially begins to become a personal love letter to you. And the adventure still continues...

26 November 2009

Fight the good fight!

Fight the good fight with all thy might,
Christ is thy strength and Christ thy right;
lay hold on life, and it shall be
thy joy and crown eternally.
John Samuel Bewley Monsell (1811-1875)

Having just been reminded that it's been a while since I have blogged, I thought I'd kick off again with a few thoughts about Soldiership that have been at the back of my mind for a while. It's always interesting to see how often military symbolism crops up in discussions about the Christian life and walk. I remember singing 'Fight The Good Fight' at my earliest days at school, never dreaming I would be signed up to serve in the ranks of The Salvation Army two decades later...

It's now 21 years since I signed my Soldier's Covenant (Articles Of War) ... a long time! However, there's quite a few folk I could name from my years of service who aren't to be found in our ranks any more, preferring to attend other Christian churches... So why is it that I'm still here - why do I feel that the Army is the place for me?

There's more to follow on Soldiership - and what it represents in the 21st Century ...

2 Timothy 2:3 (New International Version)
Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

17 November 2009

Accentuate the positive

"You've got to accentuate the positive,
Eliminate the negative,
And latch on to the affirmative,
Don't mess with Mister In-Between..."

(Johnny Mercer)

It's been one of those days today. One where I've really struggled to keep positive... I've put on a brave face but it's wearing a bit thin tonight. You know, sometimes folk don't realise how a throwaway comment can really hit a raw nerve; how it can really hurt someone deep down. I could have expected such a low point I suppose, after such a high at the weekend.

Perhaps tomorrow will see a turning point. I'm praying very hard for such a change. Or at least the strength to stay positive. God is good.

16 November 2009

The Way Of Holiness

Isaiah 35 (New International Version)
1-2 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God.
3-4 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
6 Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert.
7 The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. In the haunts where jackals once lay, grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
8 And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it
(a).
9-10 No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Footnote: (a) or 'the simple will not stray from it'

(Bible verses from the Prayer Room at Territorial Congress this year).

14 November 2009

Stray thoughts from the Territorial Congress

I am pleased to be in Bristol this weekend for The Salvation Army's Territorial Congress. Although it's a long weekend it's one I really enjoy... meeting loads of people I know! One high spot is when people encourage and challenge you. Here's just a few of the things said to me today that I need to note and unpack later:

"...it's not what you know it's who you know..."
"...is the way you have chosen easy?"
"...are you the only one who does this?"
"...whatever you do, stay close to Him".

More later...

8 November 2009

Being Me

Do I attract you? Do I repulse you with my queasy smile?
Am I too dirty? Am I too flirty?
Do I like what you like?

I got to be wholesome, I could be loathsome
Guess I'm a little bit shy
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you like me without making me try?

I tried to be like Grace Kelly (mmmm)
But all her looks were too sad (ahhh ahhh)
So I tried a little Freddie (mmm)
I've gone identity mad!

I could be brown, I could be blue
I could be violet sky
I could be hurtful, I could be purple
I could be anything you like
Gotta be green, Gotta be mean
Gotta be everything more
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you like me?
Why don't you walk out the door!
(lyrics from 'Grace Kelly' by Mika - written by Mika (Mica Penniman), Jodi Marr, John Merchant, Dan Warner)

The problem with trying to be me is sometimes confused by the fact that other people tell you how you should feel - they won't let you be yourself. I used to find it easier to go along with their way of thinking - to 'go with the flow' rather than to take a stand and be true to yourself. Recently I've tried to take that stand and do what I feel is right - it happened twice this weekend. I feel that what I did was right. It just wasn't that easy... does it get easier with time? I can see myself becoming more and more unpopular!

The use of the Mika song lyric was because that was the song playing on the car CD when we pulled up at home this afternoon. The song is satirical, about musicians who try to reinvent themselves to be popular. "Why don't you like me?"

John 15:17-19 (New International Version)
17 This is my command: Love each other.
18 If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.
19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.

2 November 2009

Heading towards year end

2009 has almost run its course, and this is a time of the year when everybody's thoughts focus on Christmas and New Year. Well, most of us... Where does the time go?

Well, looking back on a busy 2009 I am pleased to report that I have achieved so many of my personal goals for this year. A few major ones have eluded me - but not for the want of trying. However, I am further reminded that the year is not yet over. There is still time... One final push may see us to further victory!

No retreating, Hell defeating, Shoulder to shoulder we stand;
God look down. with glory crown our conquering band.
Victory for me
Through the blood of Christ, my Saviour;
Victory for me
Through the precious blood.

chorus of SASB 702 (Herbert Howard Booth)

29 October 2009

Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NIV)
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


This extract from Paul's letter to the believers in Corinth, talking about his 'thorn in my flesh' speaks volumes to me today, as I write this I'm feeling quite weak and lousy. I think I might have one of the bugs that have been buzzing around. Now, I'm not comparing in any way Paul's thorn to my minor bug, however I hate being prevented to do what I want to do by ill-health. Why does it have to happen to me when I get a week off?

God is good. And uses all opportunities to teach us...

26 October 2009

The Devil Finds Work For Idle Hands...

It's a popular idiom, isn't it? People with no work or activity to occupy them are more likely to do things they shouldn't do.

I've had the benefit today of a day at home, so I've been doing a variety of jobs about the house that I have been meaning to do for a while. A chance to switch off from the usual things which usually occupy my mind and deal with other matters closer to home. And I must say, it's produced some fantastic results in the house. I've really had a good time working with my son, and we've worked well together tidying up and rearranging things. It's been great. Can't say I've had idle hands...

However, my mind has got to wander this evening and I find that I've relaxed - my defences have been brought down and the 'opposition' has been attacking me this evening with doubt and insecurity. Perhaps the devil also finds work for idle brain cells, too!

Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.

21 October 2009

All is well...

I'm looking back now to Tuesday, to what has proven to be a rather peculiar day. A most strange period of my life; a day of confusion. However, part of the puzzle is because I reflect back on that day with a calmness that is simply amazing. Because on the whole I'm fine, truly convinced that all is well because the choices that I'm making in my personal life at the moment are leading me closer to Him. I hold that fact close to me.

On a day like this when 'all is well', it's all the more strange then when I see all around me plenty of evidence to the contrary... that things are far from well. Without too much effort I see disputes, anger, resentment. I see sickness, pain, disrepair. I see lies, chaos, even death. I see people asking questions and not prepared to listen to the answers I give.

What is the answer? Why do I have such a peace in my heart?

And do you have that same peace in your heart?


:)

14 October 2009

Worse Things Happen At Sea... part two

The best place to be in the middle of a storm is of course to be safely in port, safely anchored to something firm. What is your anchor when things get rough in life? I know what mine is!

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,
When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?
When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,
Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Steadfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
Grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love.

SASB 280, verse one & chorus (Priscilla Jane Owens, 1882)

13 October 2009

Worse Things Happen At Sea...

The words of encouragement mentioned above have sparked off today's blog entry, inspiring me to reflect. The history of the phrase itself seems to be lost in the mists of time, however it seems to be something that mums or nans used to tell their children so that they would see things into proportion... To a seafaring nation like us the peril of being 'all at sea' would make things far worse than those who have dry land and solid rock beneath them. Hmmm...

12 October 2009

Confused, you will be...

I vaguely remember a TV series 'Soap' (a light-hearted soap opera parody from the late 1970s and early 1980s) where part of the opening narration stated "Confused? You will be after this episode of ... Soap".

I have just had a terrific weekend, with some wonderful high spots and some great fellowship as part of our Corps Anniversary. God is so good! So why is it that I ended up last night feeling rather puzzled and confused? Need to clear my mind and focus my thoughts a bit more this week, maybe I can work out why...

Prayer gently lifts me to highest Heaven.
From earth’s confusion to Jesus’ breast;
My sin and weakness, my doubt and sorrow,
Are lost forever in sweetest rest.
Chorus 94, SASB

8 October 2009

First or second?

Colossians 3: 12-14 (The Message)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It's your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it.

Colossians 3: 12-14 (NIV)
Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
It's amazing when a bible verse just pops out at you. It happened last night in the Corps' House Fellowship meeting. The verses being read were as stated above, but as I was reading from The Message translation - it hit me square between the eyes. '... content with second place ...' These words aren't in other translations of scripture, but seem to be especially relevant to me personally this week.
The other verse that seems to link in with this is:
Matthew 20:16 (NIV)
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.


I'm in the process of exploring what this means to me personally at the moment. If you have any input into this, feel free to drop me a line.

6 October 2009

Finding the time...

"All that you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you." -
Gandalf, Lord Of The Rings.
Following on from previous blog entries about time, I am well aware that time is a precious resource. I am tasked at the moment with a challenge to spend my time wisely. The difficulty is not that I haven't anything to do, the problem is that I have too many things to do, and I need to identify and block out some 'me time' in the scheme of things, ensuring that I hold on to it.

Time to let me be me.
Time to relax.
Time to really let God's word sink in.
Time to devote to some serious prayer.
Time to cook.
Time to sew.
Time to do arts and crafts.
Time to clean.
Time to play with the children.

30 September 2009

FlashForward...



I don't know whether you got a chance to catch the first episode of 'FlashForward' on Monday. Already hailed as 'the next big thing on US telly', it depicts a frightening world where everyone in the world gets a brief glimpse of their own future, six months later. You see, everyone loses consciousness for exactly 2 minutes and 17 seconds, during which most people get to see visions of their lives on 29th April 2010. An FBI team from LA are soon hard at work to solve the mystery, led by Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B Vance), Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) and Demetri Noh (John Cho). Benford's contribution is the creation of a database of the visions (known as 'flash-forwards') from around the world. Known as the Mosaic Collective, he saw himself working on this during his own flash-forward. The show is being aired in the States on Thursdays, with us in the UK getting our showing the Monday after.

The premise is an intriguing one - particularly because most of us would be fascinated to know what is going to happen to us, even six months down the line. However, thankfully, we don't have this insight. We don't know what the future holds... but we do know who holds the future. :)

Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

28 September 2009

Weary Ways and Golden Days

As I write this blog entry, I must admit to feeling more than a little tired. In fact, following a frantic weekend away and after a solid eight hours kip last night I still feel like I haven't slept! Mind you, I've just been looking back on all the places I've been to this September: Stratford, Swanley, West Kingsdown, all around the streets of Dartford (annual appeal), Portsmouth, Croydon, Camberwell, Lewisham, Brownsea Island... Just think about all the people I've met, all the experiences ... What a rush! Of course if you analyse each activity you will realise there are some tremendous highs, followed by periods of nothing, extreme boredom, or tedious repetition. But that's life! The important thing I've learnt is to keep your eyes on where you need to get to. And I feel several steps closer to my goal now!

I know not what of good or ill
May be reserved for me,
Of weary ways or golden days,
Before his face I see.

But I know whom I have believed,
And am persuaded that he is able
To keep that which I’ve committed
Unto him against that day.
SASB 730, verse 4 & chorus
(Daniel Webster Whittle, 1840-1901)

20 September 2009

Selfish or selfless?


I'm currently at a point in my Christian walk where I have to face up to a particular issue in my life of service. The problem is a challenging one, summed up by the question at the top of this blog entry. Am I selfish or selfless as a person? I think I know the answer to that question, but is that where I should be right now?

Christians who look to embrace ministry or other forms of service would probably consider themselves as selfless individuals. Self-sacrifice doesn't seem to be a problem for them. But is total self-sacrifice actually the ideal or the goal for the Christian? Is there not time enough for 'me' in the scheme of things?

One particular blog I read this week even concluded that pursuing such service to the detriment of your friends and family was in fact a selfish act, indulging one's own personal dream of service while friends and family suffered from lack of attention. Is such a lifestyle merely an attempt to gain thanks and recognition, merely a chance to ego-boost?

Some thoughts from scripture (all quotes from the NIV):

Luke 9:23
Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

1 Corinthians 13:3
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Mark 12:28-31
28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"
29" The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'
31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Comments are welcomed!

19 September 2009

Why Are Pirates Called Pirates?

Cos they arrrr!

'Tis International Talk Like A Pirate Day, me 'earties!

http://www.yarr.org.uk/

16 September 2009

We will survive!

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 (The Message)
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralised; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorised, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!

15 September 2009

All A Question Of Time...


I've been given some consideration lately to one of the most precious things we could possibly have. It's something important to mention in this Blog - it's in the title! Yes, it's all a question of Time. I've been pulling some thoughts together for a meeting I'm preparing at the end of October (when the clocks change), so here are some quotations on the subject of Time:

"There is never enough time to do everything, but there is always enough time to do the most important thing" - Brian Tracy

"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is" - C. S. Lewis

"Time is a companion that goes with us on a journey. It reminds us to cherish each moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we have lived" - Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart from 'Star Trek: Generations')

"Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so." - from the Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

"Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday" - traditional

"What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know." - St Augustine

Ecclesiastes 3 (The Message)
1 There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth:
2-8 A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.
9-13 But in the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I've had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he's left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he's coming or going. I've decided that there's nothing better to do than go ahead and have a good time and get the most we can out of life. That's it—eat, drink, and make the most of your job. It's God's gift.
14 I've also concluded that whatever God does, that's the way it's going to be, always. No addition, no subtraction. God's done it and that's it. That's so we'll quit asking questions and simply worship in holy fear.
15 Whatever was, is. Whatever will be, is. That's how it always is with God.

11 September 2009

Enhance Your Calm!

The title to today's blog comes from one of those self-help books you sometimes see on the bookshelves. Whenever I hear it, I always think of the movie 'Demolition Man', the SF action movie starring Sylvester Stallone and Sandra Bullock. Set in the near future, it depicts a sanitised world where they speak to each other in aphorisms, like the one above. "Be well..."

I'm endeavouring at the moment to do just that - to keep cheerful at all costs, to "enhance my calm”. There's plenty of things going on in my life at the moment, and to stay on track to where I need to get to I've got to stay focused on the task at hand. And that's means staying positive, sometimes against all odds. However, on some days this seems to be an uphill struggle!

What's seems to be your boggle? :)

John 14:27 (New International Version)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

5 September 2009

You can't handle the truth!

Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I think I'm entitled to them.
Jessep: You want answers?
Kaffee: I want the truth!
Jessep: You can't handle the truth!
quotes from "A Few Good Men", written by Aaron Sorkin

Bart: We want the truth.
Sideshow Bob: You want the truth? You can't handle the truth. No truth-handler, you. I deride your truth-handling abilities.
quotes from "The Simpsons"

In my blogs and on my Facebook account I describe myself as a 'seeker after truth' - and so I am. I strive to consider other people's points of view, because it may give me new insight into my own understanding into a particular issue. Sometimes I still don't get it - but I still try. The big question is - once I have found the truth, and realise that it is fundamentally different to what I have understood in the past - can I handle it? Can I act upon this 'truth' to correct past mistakes?

Here's some more quotations on Truth:

"How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg? Four; calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg." - Abraham Lincoln

"Whenever you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of Sherlock Holmes)

"Falsehood is easy, truth so difficult" - George Eliot

"When people thought the Earth was flat, they were wrong. When people thought the Earth was spherical they were wrong. But if you think that thinking the Earth is spherical is just as wrong as thinking the Earth is flat, then your view is wronger than both of them put together" - Isaac Asimov

"A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes" - Mark Twain

"Always tell the truth. That way, you don't have to remember what you said" - Mark Twain

1 September 2009

Roots of Bitterness

I've blogged before about bitterness, and mention this subject again following some work recently in my rather overgrown back garden. I've been working hard with cutters, clippers and even power tools on the foliage, however it's only when you get down to the roots do you really know that you've dealt with the weeds.

So, getting to the root of the problem is important. Here are some words from Samuel Logan Brengle.

Good, but do you know that your heart is clean? Are all the roots of bitterness gone? Do you bear patiently the faults of others? Do you bear meekly, and with a forgiving spirit, the unkindness of others? Do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind, and your neighbour as yourself? Do you feel that all malice and pride, and jealousy and envy, and evil and filthy desire, and unholy ambition and unbelief, and all foolish things have been taken out of your heart, and that the Holy Spirit has His own way in you all the while? Remember that holiness has to do with the heart, and that, as Solomon says, 'Out of the heart are the issues of life.' It is at the heart that Jesus looks, and He says, 'Blessed are the pure in heart.' Now, if your heart is not clean, do not be afraid or ashamed to say so, but frankly tell your Heavenly Father the whole truth about the matter.

...and from Scripture...

Hebrews 12:14-5 (The Message)
Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.

Keep the gardening tools close at hand.

30 August 2009

Get Out!

Acts 2:38-40 (The Message)
38-39 Peter said, "Change your life. Turn to God and be baptised, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven. Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away—whomever, in fact, our Master God invites."
40 He went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over, "Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!"
I'm working on the changes right now.


27 August 2009

Learning from the Detectives

Are you good at jumping to conclusions? Well, pretty much all of the great detectives we have encountered in this month's A-Z have one thing in common - making observations and then jumping to conclusions. The problem comes when the conclusion we arrive at is perhaps the wrong one...

If we are wrong in our analysis of the situation, we'll probably hurt somebody's feelings, judging them without knowing all the facts. I know from experience what happens when I've said something out of turn, or without thinking it through. I also remember the following:

James 1:19-20 (NIV)
19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,
20 for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

As usual during August, I've been doing some self-analysis during the time I usually commit to blogging. And I've discovered that I often need to ask just more questions before reaching my final conclusion. As Columbo might have said, "Just one more thing..."


I also must accept that I may not like the conclusion. It may take me way out of my comfort zone. In the words of Sherlock Holmes: "When I eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be the truth."

26 August 2009

Z is for Zimbalist (Remington Steele)


Our final offering showcases 'Remington Steele', an series produced by MTM Enterprises between 1982 and 1987. Stephanie Zimbalist stars as private detective Laura Holt, who finds her customers unwilling to hire a female!However, business picks up when she invents a fictitious male superior named Remington Steele. Laura soon encounters a former thief and con man (played by Pierce Brosnan, who later went on to play James Bond) who assumes the fictitious identity. The series features many references to classic detective genre movies.

25 August 2009

Y is for Yet More...


What a rich vein of material from this particular genre! Here are just a few more names which I could have mentioned in this month's A-Z. I leave you to sift through this list of possible contenders, as you plod down memory lane... perhaps I'll mention one of these in a future blog?





Spenser (Robert Urich)
Banacek (George Peppard)
Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck)
Jim Rockford (James Garner)
Sledge Hammer (David Rasche)
Harry O (David Janssen)
Steve McGarrett from 'Hawaii Five-0' (Jack Lord)
Inch High, Private Eye (Lennie Weinrib)
Regan and Carter from 'The Sweeney' (John Thaw and Dennis Waterman)
Cagney and Lacey (Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly)
Joe Friday from 'Dragnet' (Jack Webb or possibly Dan Ackroyd?)
Starsky and Hutch (Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul)
McMillan and Wife (Rock Hudson and Susan St James)
Holmes and Yo-Yo (Richard B. Shull and John Schuck)
Hart To Hart (Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers)
McCloud (Dennis Weaver)
A Man Called Ironside (Raymond Burr)
Dempsey and Makepeace (Michael Brandon and Glynis Barber)

24 August 2009

X is for X-Ray (Diagnosis Murder)


To complement the coroner Quincy in our detective line-up we feature the medical profession again with the series 'Diagnosis Murder'. Starring Dick Van Dyke as Dr. Mark Sloan, a medical doctor who solves crimes with the help of his police detective son Steve (played by Dick's real-life son Barry Van Dyke) and an excellent regular cast. Dick is of course an established TV, film and Broadway star from decades of credits to his name, and is also an elder in his local church.

23 August 2009

W is for Lord Peter Wimsey


Lord Peter Wimsey is a British gentleman detective in a series of detective novels and short stories by Dorothy L. Sayers. Set in the 1920s - 1930s (which is when they were written), the books include an element of satire of the British class system which was prevalent at the time. In the adjacent image he is being portrayed by Ian Carmichael in a TV series from the 1970s.

22 August 2009

V is for Eddie Valiant


Eddie Valiant is a Californian private investigator in the 1988 fantasy film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit". A Steven Spielberg film based on Gary K. Wolf's novel, the film is set in 1940's Hollywood where cartoon characters live alongside humans to make movies. Eddie Valiant (played by Bob Hoskins) is brought in to solve a mystery involving Roger Rabbit, a Toon who is framed for murder. The film features many classic cartoon characters from Disney and Warner Brothers alongside one another for the first time, as well as some breakthrough work combining live action and animation.

21 August 2009

U is for the Ultimate Detective


Who else but - Sherlock Holmes? Could I have done an A-Z on this very subject without a mention of the ultimate example? The most famous consulting detective in the world first appeared in 1887, the creation of British author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Holmes' use of observation and deductive reasoning in his work are now considered as standard in both real life police work and in modern-day detective fiction. Conan Doyle wrote four novels and fifty-six short stories that feature Holmes, many written from the perspective of his friend, Dr John H. Watson. Holmes is now so famous that the address of his consulting rooms at 221b Baker Street, London are as legendary as himself. Even Baker Street tube station is decorated with silhouettes of the great man - a fitting tribute to what has become an immortal character.

20 August 2009

T is for Dick Tracy


Possibly the consummate police detective, Dick Tracy is a long-running newspaper comic strip that has quickly progressed into mainstream pop culture thanks to cartoon and movie adaptations. Created by cartoonist Chester Gould in 1931, the strip made its debut appearance in the Detroit Mirror. Gould wrote and drew Dick Tracy's adventures until 1977 - and the strip still continues to this day. Tracy is a tough police detective who has matched wits with a variety of colourful and bizarre criminals, often utilising modern or even futuristic gadgetry.

19 August 2009

S is for Star Cops


'Star Cops' was first broadcast on BBC Two in 1987. Devised by Chris Boucher and set in the year 2027, it followed Nathan Spring (David Calder) and his multinational team who formed the International Space Police Force (nicknamed the “Star Cops”). Set in a near-future space environment, and let down by poor scheduling and some internal conflicts, the series was cancelled after one season. However, the show is regularly hailed by fans for its gritty reality in trying to portray an SF-based detective series. SFX magazine described it as “the SF TV show SF writers love. It wasn't perfect but it's as close as TV will ever get to producing proper written SF”.

18 August 2009

R is for the (Constant) Return Of The Saint


The character of Simon Templar (known as The Saint) was originally created in books by Leslie Charteris published from 1928. The character has featured in a series of Hollywood movies, a 1940s radio series starring Vincent Price, a popular 1960s TV series which starred Roger Moore, and a 1970s TV series called 'Return of The Saint' which starrred Ian Ogilvy.

Simon Templar is a thief that is known as The Saint because of his initials (ST), and by leaving a calling card depicting a stick figure with a halo. The character is depicted as 'The Robin Hood of modern crime' as he only takes from the heartless rich, giving it to the deserving poor - after keeping a percentage for his own expenses. A frelance adventurer, he will frequently interfere in a situation to put right a wrong, fighting against injustice.

(Incidentally, the 1997 film entitled 'The Saint' that starred Val Kilmer wasn't based on the Simon Templar character created by Charteris.)

17 August 2009

Q is for Quincy


"Gentlemen, you are about to enter the most important and fascinating sphere of police work: the world of forensic medicine". 'Quincy, M.E.' featured Jack Klugman in the title role, a heavily principled Medical Examiner who frequently worked outside his coroner's role to play detective in order to solve his cases - ruffling more than a few feathers in the process. The show later introduced themes of social commentary, one of the first US shows in the Eighties to openly further a social agenda.

16 August 2009

P is for Perry Mason


Perry Mason is a fictional Los Angeles defence attorney who originally appeared in 82 novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, but perhaps is better known today as an Emmy-winning American TV series that originally ran between 1957 & 1966 and played by actor Raymond Burr. A further 30 TV movies were produced between 1985 & 1995. He never lost a case!

15 August 2009

O is for Outland


Yet another SF-themed detective in my list - however it's not surprising, is it? 'Outland' is an Academy Award-nominated 1981 film that written and directed by Peter Hyams. Set on Io, one of Jupiter's volcanic moons, it stars Sean Connery as Marshal William T. O'Niel, who is assigned to a one-year tour of duty in Con Am 27, a titanium ore mining outpost on Io. O'Niel's investigation of a series of violent deaths of miners leads him to discover the use by the mine management of dangerous drugs that increases the miner's productivity but eventually causes psychosis. The investigation culminates in a 'High Noon' style shootout. An intriguing 'space western', where the real threat comes not from the extra-terrestrial location but from inside the dark hearts of men.

14 August 2009

N is for Nuns & Priests (Father Dowling)


'Father Dowling Mysteries' is a TV detective series, based on the adventures of the title character created by Ralph McInerny (Professor of Philosophy, Director of the Jacques Maritain Centre) and Michael P. Grace (Professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame). Father Frank Dowling is a Catholic priest who acts as an amateur sleuth in his hometown of Chicago, Illinois. He is assisted in his investigations by Sister Stephanie "Steve" Oskowski, a streetwise nun who was born on a rough housing estate in the city. There were three series made, with Tom Bosley playing Father Frank Dowling, with Tracy Nelson as Sister Stephanie.

You may be interested to know Ralph McInerny's original novels were about Father Roger Dowling - and that's not the only change they made when they adapted the show for TV! Fans of 'clerical detectives' may wish to check out this link:

13 August 2009

M is for Monk


Once a rising star in the San Francisco Police Department, Adrian Monk (Tony Shalhoub) was legendary for using unconventional means to solve the department's most baffling cases. However, after the tragic (and still unsolved) murder of his wife Trudy, Monk developed an extreme case of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now consumed by peculiar obsessions and wracked with hundreds of phobias, Monk has lost his police badge and struggles with even the simplest everyday tasks.

However, Monk now has the help of a personal assistant, Sharona Fleming (seasons 1-3, played by Bitty Schram), and later Natalie Teeger (from season 3, Traylor Howard) to help him in his new role as a private consultant. His former boss and loyal friend Captain Leland Stottlemeyer (Ted Levine) still calls upon him to provide unique insights into cases that have the cops stumped. Eager Lieutenant Randall Disher (Jason Gray-Stanford) and Monk's therapist Dr. Kroger (Stanley Kamel) complete the regular cast.

Although Monk battles against his own fears and the most impossible of crimes, he still has two goals that elude him - to solve his wife's murder, and to regain back his position on the San Francisco police force. Can he win through?

This show is one of my favourites!

12 August 2009

L is for Little Grey Cells (Poirot)


Hercule Poirot is a Belgian detective created by Agatha Christie. With the possible exception of Miss Marple, Poirot is arguably Christie's most famous character, appearing in 33 novels and 51 short stories that were published between 1920 and 1975 and set in the same era. The character is regularly seen on TV and film, and perhaps the best known modern incarnation of the character was portrayed by David Suchet (pictured). The character's almost fanatical neatness borders on the obsessive, however his logical approach to solving crimes is represented in his vocabulary by two common phrases: his use of "the little grey cells" and "order and method".

11 August 2009

K is for Kojak


"Who loves ya, baby?" - Telly Savalas played the bald New York cop Theo Kojak during the late seventies, and was such a regular on TV schedules that his surname became a nickname for bald men the length and breadth of the country. Although the character smoked heavily in early shows, this was at the start of the modern anti-smoking sentiment and the writers soon had Kojak quit smoking, and his use of lollipops as a substitute led to a trademark of the character. The show lasted for five seasons and a series of TV movies. A recent attempt to relaunch the character, played by Ving Rhames, only lasted one season.

10 August 2009

J is for Jessica Fletcher


Jessica Beatrice Fletcher is a fictional mystery writer and amateur detective who featured on on the American TV series 'Murder, She Wrote', played by actress Angela Lansbury. The show ran for twelve seasons and subsequently in four TV movies. The character is said to be based on a combination of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple character and of another Christie character called Ariadne Oliver (from the Hercule Poirot mysteries).

A retired English teacher, Ms Fletcher lives in Cabot Cove, a coastal town in Maine. The relentless appearance of dead bodies in this little town has given rise to the term "Cabot Cove Syndrome". It's not a place to settle down - The New York Times calculated that almost 2% of Cabot Cove's residents died during the show's run. It's not a place to visit, either - more visitors to Cabot Cove died than residents.

9 August 2009

I is for Inspector Gadget


Wowsers! One of the leaders in the fight against crime on kids TV is 'Inspector Gadget'. The original animated show is a co-production by DIC Entertainment in France and Nelvana in Canada. Gadget is a bionically-enhanced detective, using the various gadgets built into his anatomy to fight crime. Unfortunately, he is clumsy and absent-minded. Fortunately, his niece Penny and her dog Brain are always there in the background to save the day.

Gadget is voiced by Don Adams in the animated series, with obvious comparisons to the character of Maxwell Smart from the live-action 60s spy series 'Get Smart', which Adams also portrayed. A live-action film was made in 1999 which starred Matthew Broderick, and a sequel which starred French Stewart.

8 August 2009

H is for Holistic (Dirk Gently)


Perhaps eclipsed somewhat by his better known creation 'The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy', Douglas Adams was also the writer of what is described as a "thumping good detective-ghost-horror-who dunnit-time travel-romantic-musical-comedy-epic". 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency' is a humorous fantasy detective novel, first published in 1987. A surreal novel, probably because the plot is non-linear, the central concept being the fundamental interconnectedness of everything. The book touches on Chaos theory, holism (hence the title) and references to quantum mechanics.

Dirk makes use of these concepts to solve his cases, by running up large expense accounts and then claiming that every item (such as needing to go to a tropical beach in the Bahamas for three weeks) was, due to the "fundamental interconnectedness of all things", actually a vital part of the investigation.

7 August 2009

G is for Ghost (Randall & Hopkirk)


"Only You Jeff, Only You"

'Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)' was a late 1960s British TV series which starred Mike Pratt and Kenneth Cope as the private detectives Jeff Randall and Marty Hopkirk. The series explored new ground as the show's first episode saw Hopkirk murdered in the line of duty, returning as a white-suited ghost that only Randall was able to see or hear. The show was one of the ITC shows that dominated Sixties' TV in the UK, and was one of the better offerings. Only one series of 26 episodes was shot, however the show was repeated many times. A remake was made in 2000 starring British comedy duo Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer, but it's the original show I remember most fondly.

6 August 2009

F is for Fraud (Psych)


Our next detective is clearly pretending to be someone he's not! 'Psych' is an American comedy TV series starring James Roday as Shawn Spencer, a young crime consultant for the Santa Barbara Police Department. Shawn is the son of a cop, his father Henry (Corbin Bernsen) having trained him as a child in observation and deduction.

One day Shawn contacts the police with a tip on a crime covered on the news. They become suspicious of his apparent 'insider knowledge' and are about to arrest him when he uses his observations to convince all present that he is psychic. With no choice but to keep up the pretence, he teams up with his lifelong friend Gus (Dulé Hill, playing 'straight man' to Roday's eccentric 'psychic') and they form a pyschic detective agency, called 'Psych', working closely with the local police to solve cases.

5 August 2009

E is for Sue Thomas F B Eye


'Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye' was one of the few TV series to have featured a deaf lead character working a regular job. The show was loosely based on the true experiences of the real Sue Thomas, a deaf woman whose lip-reading skills landed her a job with the FBI doing undercover surveillance. The show featured deaf actress Deanne Bray in the lead role. The series picked up fans from two sources - those who were deaf or interested in issues affecting the deaf, and those who were interested in the issues raised by the show - such as international terrorism, slavery, or domestic abuse.

In addition, the Sue Thomas character's explicit Christianity received much attention in the dialogue. This is something that the actual Sue Thomas would have appreciated, since after leaving the FBI she became a missionary. The show can be seen on the Hallmark Channel in the UK.

4 August 2009

D is for Drebin (Police Squad!)


The popularity of the detective genre makes the subject prime for a parody or two. Probably one of the best TV detective spoofs only lasted six episodes. 'Police Squad!' was created by the comedy filmmaking trio Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker, who had previously worked together on The Kentucky Fried Movie and Airplane!. Packed with visual gags and non sequiturs and spoofing three decades-worth of TV detective shows, the show was quickly cancelled by ABC after just six episodes, doubtless because of its surreal quality. The show gained a strong cult following through repeats, leading to a film version in 1988 entitled 'The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!' and two further sequels. Leslie Nielsen starred as Detective Frank Drebin in the series and all three films.

3 August 2009

C is for Columbo (just one more thing...)


Imagine the whole idea of a detective show turned on its head - in almost every episode you know 'who did it' at the very start of the show. The show would then centre on how the murderer would finally be exposed and arrested by the detective.

The character of Lieutenant Columbo first appeared in 1960, but it was as part of the 'NBC Mystery Movie' series in 1968 that the character caught the public imagination, with a superb performance by Peter Falk. Columbo's rather scruffy appearance and absent-mindedness hide an excellent eye for detail and a meticulous and committed approach to his work which always succeeds. This show is one of my personal favourites.

Oh yes, and to answer the eternal question - yes, Columbo does have a first name - it is "Lieutenant".

2 August 2009

B is for Blade Runner


Loosely based on 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?' by SF author Philip K. Dick, 'Blade Runner' was a 1982 hit film by Ridley Scott. Set in 2019, the film depicts life in a Los Angeles where genetically manufactured beings (replicants) are used for dangerous and degrading work 'off-world'. However, following a replicant uprising, specialist cops called 'blade runners' hunt down and 'retire' (kill) escaped replicants on Earth. Harrison Ford stars as Rick Deckard, a retired blade runner brought back for one final mission. Rutger Hauer and Sean Young also star.

The film touches on a number of delicate issues, such as overpopulation, globalisation, climate change and genetic engineering. Plus it's a darn good detective story!

1 August 2009

A is for Alien Nation


'Alien Nation' was a 1988 SF film written by Rockne S. O'Bannon and directed by Graham Baker. The concept was used as the basis for a subsequent TV series.

The initial premise of both film and TV series is the crash-landing of a spaceship in the Mojave Desert - a ship that was carrying enslaved aliens. The story starts some three years later, by which time Los Angeles has become a new home for the aliens or 'newcomers'. The LA police assign detective Matthew Sykes (James Caan) with a newly-promoted Newcomer detective called Sam Francisco (Mandy Patinkin). The main villain of the film is an ambitious Newcomer businessman (Terence Stamp) who is dealing in drugs. The TV series followed more or less the same premise and starred Gary Graham and Eric Pierpoint (pictured).

Although essentially a police detective series with an SF premise, the show's storylines gave room to develop modern-day morality plays on the evils of racism and bigotry.

31 July 2009

A-Z: Watching The Detectives


This year's A-Z is on the subject that has increasingly become 'common-ground' within our family when it come to choosing what to watch on the TV - we end up 'watching the detectives'...

A detective is an investigator of mysteries or crimes, either a member of the police or a person who works on his own. In fact, private investigators ("Private I's", hence the phrase "Private Eyes") are such a part of our popular culture that is requires no explanation.

The first actual detective agency was reportedly 'Le Bureau des Renseignments', established in Paris by Francois Eugene Vidocq in 1833. Detective fiction has been a popular genre since Edgar Allan Poe wrote his stories of master French detective C. Auguste Dupin in April 1841, less than a decade later. Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary 19th-century character Sherlock Holmes is no so famous, some even think the bloke actually existed! 20th century private detective characters such as Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe and Mike Hammer became enormously popular. The genre also extends to fictional 'government agents', such as Ian Fleming's James Bond, and comic-book creations like Dick Tracy and Batman. Amateur detectives like Miss Marple and Jessica Fletcher complement the forensic specialists like Quincy.

We start with A tomorrow.

23 July 2009

Love

1 Corinthians 13: 1-3 (New International Version)
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

The imagery of 'moving a mountain' in my own life has been an increasingly regular theme within my devotions lately, and it's now starting to crop up in meetings, so I know this is an important concept for me to grasp. I know that God can do anything, so the movement of mountains within my own life should not be an issue. God can do it, I believe he can. I'm taking this thought with me when I go off to SAFE this coming Saturday, stepping out in faith once more, pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone. No matter what I do, if I have God's love, I can face anything with certainty.

20 July 2009

Hope

I've been looking at the concept of 'hope' today, and am reliably informed that there are two separate words used for hope in scripture:

The Greek word is elpis, which means:
- What is possible
- What we can imagine in the future
- What is wished for
- Expectation in the light of an uncertain future
- The opposite of fear of evil
- Characterised by uncertainty dependant on luck, fate or impersonal destiny

the Hebrew word is tikvah, which means:
- What is promised
- What God reveals of the future
- What God makes a reality
- Confidence in the light of the promises of God
- The firm expectation of good
- Firm relationship of trust in a loving God who determines the future according to what he has promised

(thanks to Richard Harvey's recent feature on WordLive for this information)

What sort of hope do you hold on to?

15 July 2009

Faith

"Faith, mighty faith, the promise sees
And looks to that alone;
Laughs at impossibilities
And cries: It shall be done!
And cries: It shall be done!
And cries: It shall be done!
Laughs at impossibilities
And cries: It shall be done!"

Chorus 118, SASB (Charles Wesley)

14 July 2009

Who is this superhero?

It has been announced that yet another classic superhero is making his way onto the big-screen, and he's our "number one super guy". According to reliable sources Alcon Entertainment are in the initial stages of producing a live action version of 'Hong Kong Phooey', with Alex Zamm directing. The original Hanna-Barbera 1970s cartoon TV series only ran for 16 episodes. Our mild-mannered janitor/kung fu crime fighter is planned to be CGI, with everyone else live action. It's in early development stages, so there's no release date as of yet.

10 July 2009

Stay Alert! Don't Quit!

Matthew 10:16-23 (The Message)
"Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.
Don't be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don't be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they've done you—and me—a favour, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don't worry about what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.
When people realise it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don't quit. Don't cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you've run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived. "

5 July 2009

One year on...


It's just about a year now since I started 'blogging' - 2nd July 2008 was my first attempt at it - and I have found it quite a useful exercise. The discipline of taking my thoughts, having to structure them and put them down in print has really helped me get things into proportion. And more...

You see, it's rekindled a few yearnings from the dim and distant past. I've always had a love of the printed word, but my need to write kind of got buried along the way. When I was at school there was always a possibility that I could have gone to journalism college - but that never worked out and I ended up in an office. I used to write short stories in my late twenties (usually light-hearted and packed with bad puns), which got published in some SF fanzines (usually under a pseudonym, I've never been comfortable with fame). When the kids came along, other things always got in the way.

Blogging has changed all that. Now I'm heading towards my fifties and looking for a new challenge. Perhaps I need to dust off the mighty word processor and have another go?

2 July 2009

The Total Perspective Vortex


Douglas Adams' classic 'Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy' talks about a machine called the Total Perspective Vortex, a wonderful piece of technology which is used to represent 'the most horrible torture device to which a sentient being can be subjected'. What is so horrible about this machinery is not what it might do to your physical form, but what it does to your spirit. As Douglas himself describes:

"For when you are put into the Vortex you are given just one momentary glimpse of the entire unimaginable infinity of creation, and somewhere in it a tiny little marker, a microscopic dot on a microscopic dot, which says 'You are here'."

I've recently been through the Vortex. The Vortex tried its best to make me look small. It showed me glimpses from my past where I had made decisions which have affected me right to the present day. Career choices, that sort of thing. It tried to ridicule me about the various 'issues' that I'm wrestling with at present, telling me how different it could have been. How it could be again, if only I would ditch my Salvationist principles. It demonstrated to me times when I had clearly been made to look small in front of others. And today, it showed me a website which presented me with details of a former mate of mine who I used to see regularly over twenty years ago. He's now a science-fiction author with a string of books to his name.

And what about me?

I'm looking at the future, not the past. I'm assured that the best is yet to come for me. I know that it's not fame, or glory, or even riches. So I'm excited to know what it could be.

29 June 2009

Trust In The Lord

I've been reflecting (once again) on Psalm 20 this evening. I find I have blogged on these words before, probably around the time my car was written off (see verse 7). Or it might have been when something particularly scary was happening to me. I won't therefore repeat the whole Psalm again, but just want to emphasise two verses tonight.

Psalm 20:4-5 (NIV)
4 May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.
5 We will shout for joy when you are victorious and will lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.


I'm still praying.

25 June 2009

I am reviewing the situation...

... and although I can see some progress, and drawn quite close to my Lord over the last few weeks, I still feel I'm not quite where I should be.

So, as the song has it, I am reviewing the situation.

"I think I'd better think it out again..."

24 June 2009

The Deaf Shall Hear!

Isaiah 35: 1-5 (New International Version)
Joy of the Redeemed
1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus,
2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendour of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendour of our God.
3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way;
4 say to those with fearful hearts, "Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you."
5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped.
Hallelujah!

21 June 2009

Fancy A McJob?

Something that was said after the morning meeting at the Army has got me thinking... this time about the state of the UK employment market. I am reliably informed that that the current jobs market is such that most adverts in the paper generate about 100+ applications for each vacancy. Well, I was informed this morning by a fellow Salvationist that McDonald's recently announced that it receives 2,200 crew applications per day, and of that number hires 140.
I was intrigued, so I checked it out on the Internet when I got home and found this article in confirmation on the Daily Mail website. This speaks volumes about the current position in the UK jobs market at present:
In the meantime, a report in this week's popular press revealed that McDonald’s are apparently serving 25 million extra meals this year. They served 470M orders since January - up from 445M in the same period of 2008. An increase in drive-through sales is up by 12%. Domino’s Pizza also reported a 25% increase in profits and KFC is also reporting strong growth.

15 June 2009

Unity and Harmony

Psalm 133 (New International Version)
A song of ascents. Of David.
1 How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!
2 It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron's beard, down upon the collar of his robes.
3 It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the LORD bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.

13 June 2009

Prayer Changes Things


A few very powerful quotations on the subject of prayer, discovered as part of my devotions and reading over this weekend:

"God will do nothing except in answer to prayer." - John Wesley
"Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer, support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the Throne of Grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down." - John Wesley
"Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused." - Charles Spurgeon
"You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God...This kind of prayer, be sure, the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame." - William Booth
"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go". - Abraham Lincoln
"All I know is that when I pray, coincidences happen; and when I don't pray, they don't happen". - Dan Hayes

I'm still praying.


:)

12 June 2009

Much More...

It's Day Three of my campaign of dedicated, persistent, specific prayer against certain strongholds in my life. Going to really ramp it up this weekend. However, just had to blog the following - after popping out to lunch today, the following chorus popped into my head by means of encouragement.
Much more hath God in store,
Much more, much more.
Greater glories we may yet behold,
Greater blessings as the days unfold,
Greater triumphs than have yet been told:
Much more! Much more hath God in store.
Chorus 44, SASB
I'd like that. Thanks to those friends who have passed on their encouragement as I get down to some serious business with God. I continue to pray.