29 September 2010

Be Careful What You Pray For...

"I prayed for strength, that I could be strong;
I was made weak, that I could be more tender.

I prayed for health, that I could accomplish greatness;
I was given sickness, that I could do better things.

I prayed for wealth, so that I could be satisfied;
I was made poor, so that I could have wisdom.

I prayed for power, so that I could rule the world;
I was given brokenness, so that I would depend on God.

I prayed for many things, so that I could enjoy life;
I was given, “new life,” so that I could enjoy many things.

I didn’t get what I prayed for, but I got everything I longed for."
(anon)

26 September 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

Matthew 8:18-22 (New International Version)
18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.
19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
20 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
21 Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

Followers of Jesus Christ are challenged to seriously consider the cost of their commitment - I've touched on this topic in earlier blogs. If we believe in what we say we believe then Christ needs to come above everything else. Discipleship requires discipline. Excuses shouldn't get in the way! The above passage gives us further food for thought on this subject. In this modern day and age, the request made by the disciple (verse 21) seems more than reasonable. After all, respect for one's parents is an important duty. However, let's look a little deeper at the context... the following paragraphs follow a number of hours research!

In Jewish customs and traditions, the deceased has to be buried within 24 hours, with a period of mourning for seven days afterwards. There are some very practical reasons for this - remember that Israel is a country with a hot climate. Burial (usually placing the body in a cave or tomb) will usually take place on the same day as death.

Most groups of scholars interpret the disciple's statement as an excuse; stating that he wanted to wait until his father, who was unwell, had died. That might mean a delay of days, or even weeks... Another interpretation that I read recently was that the disciple may be talking about a secondary burial, where the bones of a relative are moved from the tomb into an Ossuary, which could be as long as a year or so after death. If that was the case here, that could mean a delay of a few months...

Whichever the interpretation that you favour, the issue is all too clear. Christ's rather direct statement is not intended as an instruction to ignore family ties or obligations, to not show compassion. That would be contrary to other passages of scripture (e.g. Luke 7:11-15). No, this statement is in response to a man who's priorities were a little vague, unclear. There was a reason why he just couldn't fulfil the obligation. The disciple said he was keen to follow Christ's way, but when it came to the crunch, there was the excuse, delaying that tough final decision as to whether to follow Him. Christ knew that - and knew that there were others who could have performed that task for him. Those who weren't called to the sort of new life that Jesus offered. In fact, those who were 'spiritually dead'...

It's a bit of a cliché of mine, however I know that there are a thousand reasons why we should do anything, and a thousand reasons why we shouldn't. Perhaps it might be whether to go to church today, or to volunteer to help someone. If you want to find an excuse not to do it, they are pretty easy to find. However, deep down, you will know whether that reason is justified. Oh, and of course He will know...

What's your choice?

20 September 2010

Onward and Upward!

"Onward and Upward! To Narnia and the North!" — C.S. Lewis (quotation from 'The Horse and His Boy')

"I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward." - Charlotte Bronte

Slowly sinks the reign of darkness,
Yielding to the Saviour’s day,
When the slaves of sinful bondage
Cast their evil chains away.
Upward, Christward, homeward, Godward!
Millions who are now afar
Shall be brought into the Kingdom,
Where the Father’s children are.
SASB 776, v2 (Albert Orsborn)

19 September 2010

Yarrr!

What is a pirate's favourite type of music?

Arrr and B!




It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day!

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

Have fun, me hearties!

17 September 2010

What's The Point?

I have always liked listening to the opinions of others. This all started in my teens, when I started listening to late night talk radio; I have found it helpful to shape my own views by listening to extremes of opinion. Nowadays, I seem to find myself reading other people's blogs. This tends to follow the same extremes!

One main theme that seems to recur in blog writing (usually when people have had a hard day, and are letting off steam) is to question the meaning of existence, crying out to those who want to hear "What's The Point?".

I have bad days, too. Tuesday was pretty awful in many ways; today has just been frantic! However, I find that my beliefs equip me with the tools that I need to see me through the bad times. It doesn't cushion you from these extremes. Just because you have a faith, doesn't mean that you're immune. We have the same bad days as others. How we handle these days is the key to victory. Just listen to this:

Ephesians 6:10-13 (New International Version)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
12 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.
13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Here's a collection of quotations that I have picked from these other blogs on the same subject.

"Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own."- Adam Lindsay Gordon

"What do we live for; if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?" - George Eliot (a pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans Cross)

"Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us." - Thomas L. Holdcroft

There's a truth or two in there, if you look for it. And if anyone is listening...

13 September 2010

Bottle

Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I've had such a great weekend. God has really blessed me - and is still blessing me as I am writing this. However, there's still some things I need to get to grips with. For example, the one thing that I really need at this moment to get a bit of bottle.

'Bottle' in colloquial British usage is used as a popular synonym for courage. It refers to one's capacity to cope with demanding or difficult situations. You said that you need to get some bottle in order to do something unpleasant or tricky. When you 'lose your bottle' and decide to give up, you are said to have 'bottle'd out'.

You will have probably realised that I am not adverse to trying new things, but sometimes there are times where the circumstances simply stop me dead in my tracks. After some thought I find it's not the new things that give me pause - I am keen to embrace them - but I find it's the old things. Little feelings of dread and despondency, confidence-shaking situations which tell me I'm not going to succeed, that things are going to go badly.

Paul spoke of a 'thorn in his side'. Perhaps that is mine...

As I have said before, this weekend has been a very positive one, with many highlights and some tremendous answers to prayer. Despite this, there have been lots of times when the 'old nature' seems to kick in. Standing firm and holding on in this particular aspect of my life is very difficult.

I just need a bit of bottle to deal with this, and all will be well... prayer support is welcomed.

"Courage brother, do not stumble,
though thy path be dark as night:
There is a star to guide the humble,
Trust in God, and do the right.
Let the road be dark and dreary
and its end far out of sight.
Face it bravely, strong or weary.
Trust in God, and do the right."

SASB 716 (Norman Macleod)

10 September 2010

Selfish or selfless - an update

This is the continuation of a blog entry that I made a year or so ago. I have gone back to this subject after reading an article from an online newsletter on a concept called the 'Disease to Please'. The term goes back to a book by the late Harriet Braiker entitled 'The Disease to Please - Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome'. The book describes a 'people pleaser' as someone who prefers to ignore his or her own needs and to centre on satisfying the needs of others. That's exactly what I mean by selfless. However, the book then asks the question "Do you ever say yes when what you really want to say is no?"

It's all a question of motivation. Are you a good person - a hero - a 'nice guy'? Surely it's not a bad thing to want to be helpful... who doesn't want to be liked? And aren't we as Christians called to act with generosity, with lives of gratitude and service? Besides which, isn't it a bit selfish of us to say no to someone who needs our help?

Apparently, some doctors are now saying this 'Disease to Please' could actually harm us or even kill us. You end up in a situation where the answer is always yes, even in cases when it may inconvenience you. The emotional build-up of not being able to say no increases our stress. The adrenaline released as a result makes your heart beat faster than normal, your blood pressure rise and blood vessels narrow. That can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. Extreme maybe, but there you are...

Working out where you are with this 'condition' involves a bit of self-analysis. I'm told you start by looking at your real motivation. Try asking yourself "Why am I doing this? What am I expecting in return?" If you can answer 'nothing' then your motivation is pure. If there's another answer then it's worth giving this further thought. Have you got a hidden agenda?

One problem with a selfless lifestyle is that your own needs could go unaddressed. Don't forget to programme in some 'me time' in your schedule... Remember that your own family deserve to have a share of you as much as anyone. Perhaps you need to block out some time for them, too.

Then comes the matter of assertiveness. Try saying no once in a while - and then sticking to it. If you have a problem in saying no, then at least don't say 'yes' straight away. Buying time is at least a start. Nothing is so urgent you cannot take time to think about it.

Comments are most welcome!

"But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself"
(chorus to 'Garden Party' by Ricky Nelson)

6 September 2010

Kairos time - further thoughts

An interesting article that I stumbled across last evening... Further food for thought when thinking about Kairos time...

http://anamcuardach.blogspot.com/2010/09/thoughts-on-time.html


:)

5 September 2010

Nothing's Gonna Bring Me Down

"I'm out and about, so I'm in with a shout
I got a fair bit of chat but better than that
Food in my belly and a licence for my telly
And nothing's going to bring me down..."
(lyrics from Pencil Full Of Lead, written by Paolo Nutini and Paolo Giovanni)

It's been a mixed weekend, lots of ups and downs ever since Thursday night and there's a fairly high probability that we may be entering a prolonged period of chaos over the next few weeks as September has always been fraught with challenges. Since Thursday night I've personally seen and experienced the following:

On the minus side: multiple bouts of sickness, aches and pains, a series of disappointments and discouragements; accusations and arguments; even a death (the children's hamster died this morning). 

On the plus side there has been encouraging signs from earlier requests for new workers at the corps; long-standing prayers that are being answered; plans which now appear to have started to show fruit; great results from Saturday's standing day despite several setbacks; awesome possibilities for future service. There's even been a chance to take part in a penalty shootout with a giant football in a car park (!)...  

The lyrics of the song mentioned above are particularly apt (the song was playing in the car today) - despite all the negatives, I need to remember that I need to regularly count my blessings, as I know that if I don't there is a good chance that the negatives in my life may try and overwhelm the positive.

God is good. All the time.
:)
      

4 September 2010

Take Up Your Cross

Mark 8:34-37 (The Message)
Calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

(words that I picked up from my week at SAFE this year)

:)

2 September 2010

More Quotations About Time

"Better three hours too soon, than one minute too late." - William Shakespeare

Educated people are those “who manage well the circumstances which they encounter day by day, and who possess a judgment which is accurate in meeting occasions as they arise and rarely misses the expedient course of action" - Isocrates, in 'Panathenaicus'

"Don’t be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of. One man gets only a week’s value out of a year while another man gets a full year’s value out of a week." - Charles Richards

"Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein." - H. Jackson Brown