31 July 2010

Thank You For The Music...


It's time once again for our regularly scheduled summer break, and I'm concentrating this year on music.

The musicians that we listen to as part of our recreational time are often lifted up as role models to our generation, who follow their pop idols to incredible ends, often showing the sort of devotion that is akin to discipleship. And yet this is often at odds with a culture in an age where we prefer to remove our heroes from their pedestals. We remember the Stranglers' song: "Whatever happened to the heroes? No more heroes any more!"

And yet this world still needs good heroes, or at least good role models. So over the next month I'll be sharing with you a few examples of some musical role models that I have encountered across the years ... with some of my own comments for good measure.

22 July 2010

Road Of High Adventure

There’s a road of high adventure,
There’s a Kingdom fair to gain,
There’s a cross to follow bravely,
And a warfare to maintain.
For the splendour of his service
To the youth of every land,
God’s own trumpeters are sounding;
Who will heed the great command?

Chorus
By the pathway of duty
Flows the river of God’s grace;
By the pathway of duty
Flows the river of God’s grace.
SASB 868, verse one and chorus
(Will J. Brand - verse, Sidney Edward Cox - chorus)


Have you ever had a word that won't go away, that follows you around everywhere you go? I can't explain it, but I know it happens. Some call it coincidence. I know what I would call it. And I've experienced it again this week.

There's a great deal of change happening this week. My children are excited because school is ending, summer has arrived. There's changes in leadership at our Corps, with Graeme and Zoe taking over the reins of our fellowship. The most acute anticipation for me is the planning for the SAFE Music and Drama School next week, because I know God has something quite phenomenal to do with me and for me during that week. The signs are there, they are so evident to me the nearer I get to Saturday... it's awesome!

The word that keeps coming back to me is the word 'adventure'. The word was especially mentioned in the United Churches prayer meeting last night, when we were challenged as to whether we wanted to stay in our comfort zones, or to really step out in faith, to go on an adventure with God. The words were also mentioned in Graeme's most recent blog entry, as he moves out of the Training College into the Corps quarters today. I'm really eager now to embrace what God has in store for me!

An adventure is described as an activity that is perceived to involve risk, dangerous or exciting experiences. Those who know me well will know how much I'm up for this. I'll give this further prayerful consideration as we head into August. I'll be blogging my usual A-Z over the summer break, however I promise you a full report about the excitement after the summer.

14 July 2010

If You Want It - It's Yours

Are you somewhat sad and wish that you were happy?
Real contentment has a special set of laws;
Joy is not for sale, it’s only found in Jesus;
If you want it—it’s yours!

Chorus
If you want it—it’s yours!
If you want it—it’s yours!
Do you want the power to be a better person?
If you want it—it’s yours!
SASB 244, v3 and chorus (John Gowans)

Philippians 4:11 (New International Version)
I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Regular readers of my blog will understand my retiscence to use the word 'happiness' when considering where I currently am in my walk of faith. I have seen some great opportunities for service come my way in recent years, however I'm not where I need to be... yet. Some 'strongholds' remain despite much effort and prayer to eradicate them. In some of these areas I am aware that a change needs to be made from within. It's a change in my own attitude of mind that is needed for me to progress, to achieve what I seek. However, if I cannot achieve 'happiness', can I at least achieve 'contentment', the word that I used in a recent blog?

I've blogged on happiness before, but never on contentment. Psychologists say that the formula for happiness is: pleasure + engagement + meaning. Who am I to argue with that? However, contentment seems to be subtlely different. One definition for contentment refers to a lasting quality that has more to do with achieving peace of mind than actual pleasure.

Part of the key to unlocking this is found in General Gowans' lyrics, mentioned at the top of this blog entry. 'Real contentment has a special set of laws'. One thing that I have shared before is a growing understanding of the freedom that Christians enjoy. You see, many friends and colleagues define who I am by what I do - or in some cases, by what I don't do. "You don't drink - you don't gamble - etc". I am encouraged to look at life with an understanding of who I am, not what I do.

When I blogged about life being a game, it wasn't because I wanted to ignore the rules. It was because I didn't want to play by other people's rules. There's another set of rules to follow; these are rules based on a living relationship with your creator, not just on do's and don't's. And as I seek to follow these new rules, and learn to trust Him more and more, He will lead me where I need to be. And in the meantime - He will help me to be content, whatever the circumstances. And I really need that...

Lord, I would clasp thy hand in mine,
Nor ever murmur or repine,
Content, whatever lot I see,
Since ’tis my God that leadeth me.

Chorus
He leadeth me, he leadeth me!
By his own hand he leadeth me;
His faithful follower I will be,
For by his hand he leadeth me.

SASB 725, v3 and chorus (Joseph Henry Gilmore)



11 July 2010

For Better Or For Worse

Over the last eight or nine days I have experienced a number of different aspects of the life of a Christian, each one rapidly one after the other. The way these events have impacted upon me has been profound, crashing into me like waves breaking across the rocks on the coast. They have left me breathless and quite emotional. What a rush! The words that come to mind when I try to put this down in some semblance of order for this blog are simply the traditional words we use in our marriage vows. They are probably fresh in my mind as Chris and I have just completed 18 years of married life together, our anniversary being at the very start of my startling 'rush' . I am pleased to have her working alongside me. Let's just think of each of the phrases from the vows:

for better - the opportunities that God has opened up to me this week! Wow! There have been two separate offers to explore new avenues of Christian service. There have been examples of serendipity which I can only explain in spiritual terms. There have been times of celebration; times of victory; times of real joy in working for Him. Yesterday I was privileged to attend Commissioning again, watching Graeme and Zoe Smith (soon to become our new COs) take their ranks as Lieutenants in The Salvation Army.
for worse - there have also been lows. Plans that haven't worked out the way I would have hoped; news that was full of half-truths and misinformation; painful good-byes; disappointments where friends or colleagues let you down; times when I've had to give in to compromise and now live to regret it.
for richer - there have been examples of such generosity, where people have been so kind to me and to my family. And there's been such riches that I have discovered in my quiet times this week, promises that I am holding tightly to for the future (Jeremiah 29:11!)
for poorer - there have been issues where we've had to tighten the belt even further this week, struggling to deal with rising bills and unexpected expenses. One bill has risen by 100% this month!
in sickness - there have been times of incapacity with relations recovering from surgery; unusual rashes; lumps and bumps (probably due to my own inability to move quickly enough), and even one day when even I took a day off sick from work (and those who know me well can tell you - that is such a rarity!). 
in health - thankfully there's been times this week where I have found the strength to not only give of my usual commitment, but to 'go the extra mile' and draw on extra resources that keep you serving both by day and by night.

It's been very tiring; very emotional; often very hot! Today saw the departure of Andrew and Tracey Bale as our Corps Officers. Mixed emotions, joy and sadness.. The old order changeth - but God never changeth!

As I consider the Christian path that I walk - a very narrow path - am I content to continue on this way, with the joy and the sadness "until death do you part?" Am I prepared to continue along this path that I've chosen right the way to the very end, till I reach the end of my days?. Oh yes.

Matthew 7:13-14 (New International Version)
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

8 July 2010

Still On The Throne

God is still on the throne,
And He will remember His own;
Though trials may press us and burdens distress us,
He never will leave us alone;
God is still on the throne,
And He will remember His own;
His promise is true, He will not forget you,
God is still on the throne.
Chorus 122, SASB(based on words by Kittie L Suffield)

6 July 2010

Serendipity

ser·en·dip·i·ty (noun) - a word first coined from its possession by the heroes of the Persian fairy tale "The Three Princes of Serendip". It is said to be the phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things that you are not currently looking for. Although the word originates from 'Serendip', the Arabic name for Sri Lanka, the modern usage was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754.

I experienced a remarkable case of serendipity this morning. I was sitting on a train, on the way to work, when someone got into the carriage and sat right next to me. This was someone I needed to contact that very week to discuss an issue related to the SAFE music school at the end of the month. Coincidence? I doubt it...

"When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't, they don't." - Sir William Temple