30 May 2009

Needing a map...


I've just arrived back home after a very busy week camping with our local Scout group - this was a special one, as it's our local group's Centenary - we spent the time as a Scout campsite in the Peak District. There have been various adventure activities for the 22 Scouts and Cubs and 10 leaders on every day (no chance for a rest!) but the one that has stuck in my mind with relation to this blog has been our day out doing map-reading with some of the Cubs. We were showing them how to use their maps and compasses, some basic orienteering skills. However, my daily reading for the same day was taken from Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) and the verses in the Living Bible translation said:

18 Open my eyes to see wonderful things in your Word.
19 I am but a pilgrim here on earth: how I need a map - and your commands are my chart and guide.
20 I long for your instructions more than I can tell.


These verses spoke to me very strongly as I was in unfamiliar territory, armed only with a compass and a map for guidance. How lost would I have been without those two. It's the same in my Christian walk - my chart and guide in the Word of God. My only compass is the one which I have inside me, pointing to my Lord. However, how can I help others in their own walk unless I am sure that my own compass and map are being used correctly?
Lord, I long for your instructions more than I can tell.

21 May 2009

SAFE!


I'm currently making preparations to attend the SAFE School of Music and Drama, held later this year in Cheltenham. SAFE stands for The Salvation Army Fellowship of Endeavour, which provides help and support for those with disabilities and their carers. SAFE has about 1,000 members countrywide. The annual school of music and drama is a week of fun and fellowship in beautiful and fully accessible surroundings, where delegates and volunteer carers share in singing, brass band playing, drama, sport and craft activities.

I've got some experience in dealing with people with disabilities having spent three years working in the care industry, and feel increasingly drawn to explore this aspect of the Army's ministry as an Escort. From what I've learnt so far at DFL, this could be an important step for me this year.

19 May 2009

A Rebel Generation

(These words were spoken at an United Churches prayer meeting this evening. I just had to blog this before I went to bed tonight!)
Isaiah 30:8-18 (New International Version)
8 Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.
9 These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD's instruction.
10 They say to the seers, "See no more visions!" and to the prophets, "Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions.
11 Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!"
12 Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says: "Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit,
13 this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant.
14 It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern."
15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.
16 You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.' Therefore you will flee! You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.' Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
17 A thousand will flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill."
18 Yet the LORD longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the LORD is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!

18 May 2009

Who Sinned?


John 9:1-5 (NIV)
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth.
2 His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
3 "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
4 As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.
5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."


The thoughts here come from reflecting on some of the discussions from a course I'm attending on Wednesday nights, and brought once again home to me once again as part of my daily reading on Thursday morning (see WordLive ). It's interesting to read this passage after reading the book of Job last week.

When things go well, we're often very pleased with ourselves. ‘God is blessing me’, we might say. However, what about when things go horribly wrong? What have we done wrong? Interestingly, that's exactly what the disciples thought in the passage above. They assumed the man’s suffering was due to God’s judgement, but the Lord puts them right here. I know enough about disability from what I've learnt over the years from my own family members and from my working life not to make these sort of assumptions, however it's interesting to see what Jesus teaches us here.

You see, Jesus doesn't give out blame, he goes out of his way to give blessing - he takes the opportunity to make things better, not to make them worse by pointing fingers. There's something for all of us to remember when we review this from within the 'blame culture' that we see all around us.

12 May 2009

Half empty or half full?



I've been thinking lately (always a bad move) - is the glass half empty or half full? The idiom recognises that perception is unique to every individual. You see, for most of my life I've been a glass half full person, always playing the optimist. Perhaps unrealistically so. However, looking back on some of my recent blog entries, I think I've noticed a trend - am I turning into a 'glass half empty' person?

Hmmm - perhaps I've got to work on my attitudes a bit... or am I just turning into a grumpy old man?

Things could be worse...


I was miserable, then someone told me "smile and be happy, things could be worse". So I smiled and was happy...and they were right, things did get worse!

I suppose the person who told me not to worry today had the best of intentions in mind. But the words he chose have stayed with me for most of today. "Don't worry - things could be worse". He then proceeded to give me a list of things that would be worse than the current issues that I'm working through at work... however, I couldn't help but remember the phrase at the top of this entry. Those who read this blog regularly know that I'm seeking to trust God more and more in all aspects of my life. Psalm 55:22 (NIV) says "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall." Therefore, I am trusting Him to see me safely through the mire that I see all around me. I'm assured that those that wait patiently for God do not wait in vain. What I don't know is God's timescale, or how He's going to do it. Or even if things could get worse before they get better.

Lord, hear my prayer.

8 May 2009

As Patient As Job


Let's face it - this week at work was not easy. Plans that I had made to deal effectively with this week's workload were quickly scuppered by several sudden changes of plan, a series of unexpected computer bugs (aren't they always unexpected!), and the fact I felt grotty due to a pounding headache and sickness for most of the week. Deadlines queue up to be met, relentlessly. There have been a couple of highlights this week, but these have been few and far between...

There have been several references made at work today to the character of Job, who you will recall from the Old Testament had his faith severely tested. At one time Job was one of the most prosperous and happy of men, faithfully praising God for His goodness. Trying to get him to curse God, Satan destroyed all that Job owned, killed his children, and struck Job himself with sores from head to foot.

Reading up on the character of Job, I find there are references to him in several works of ancient literature. His name comes from a Hebrew word meaning “persecuted.” As well as the references in Old and New Testaments, Job is also mentioned as a prophet in the Qur'an. The story of Job crosses many cultural boundaries and still speaks to us today, exploring the themes of injustice, suffering and bitterness.

However, by far the biggest encouragement to me tonight is the fact that Job remained loyal to his beliefs throughout, and refused to curse God. I'm encouraged that the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning and he lived 140 years (Job 42:10,17). And although I can well understand the concept of 'Job's comforters', it is Job's steadfastness and hope that I take away with me. I'm re-reading the book of Job tonight.

7 May 2009

True Happiness


"There’s joy in following Jesus all the way;
There’s joy in following Jesus every day;
His love is like a rainbow when earthly skies are grey;
There’s joy in following Jesus all the way."
chorus 206, SASB

I've learnt that real happiness does not come from the accumulation of material possessions. And I am assured that God can provide you with everything you need - even things that money can't buy! This particular truth is one that is regularly mentioned in the choruses we sing like the one above, as well as in scripture verses.

So why do so many that I know and read of in the blogging community seem to have a difficulty with this truth? I don't deny they have a relationship with God, that He is walking with them. However, they seem to refute the possibility of happiness, stating that living life by Christian values will make life more difficult - giving a sense of fulfillment. I'm seeking more than just fulfilment - I'm seeking joy.

True joy, lasting joy, comes from an abiding personal relationship with Jesus, and trusting in His provision. Here's some quotations:

Romans 15:13 (New International Version)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 Peter 1:8-9 (New International Version)
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

I therefore conclude that Jesus wants me to be happy, to experience true joy. And that's the joy of following Him.

3 May 2009

Happiness is...


Happiness? Well, I think I know where I should be looking for happiness. And the sort of happiness I'm looking for can't be found in the pleasures of this world; it's not in the comforts of a life spent solely for self-gratification. It's very interesting, then, that I have encountered a similar posting to my last one on a Salvationist website, hosted on the other side of the Atlantic. It was posted within hours of my own, and on the same topic. It's truly a global village, isn't it. And God is right there, active and right in the midst, on both sides of the pond. Wow!

1 May 2009

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness


The phrase mentioned above is a most familiar one, coming of course from the United States Declaration of Independence. Signed in 1776 on the same day that Chris and I were married (although some 216 years earlier) the second section of the Declaration reads as follows:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In recent weeks I have been reflecting a good deal on my own personal Christian walk, and on how I measure up - chiefly with my own standards, my own good intentions. I get frustrated with failures, get depressed when things don't work out the way they should. Most of the time the reasons things don't work out aren't my fault (as my colleagues and family tell me constantly), however that doesn't make me feel any better. In fact, when it is clearly something that I have done, it feels much, much worse.
It's time for a change, and by that I mean a change of emphasis. I have identified three things that I need to aim for in the next few weeks. Surprisingly, these can be categorised under three simple headings. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
More later.