28 December 2011
May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God's love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.
20 December 2011
18 December 2011
16 December 2011
However, today I discovered a new essential to have. One that makes my daily commute much more bearable. It's the Blogger app for the iPod!
Now I can gather my thoughts together for this blog straight away. Together with my Bible app, my Facebook app and my music collection, I have practically all I need in one place now!
And I wrote this entire post whilst on the 17:08 from London Cannon Street!
Stereotyping individuals - wrong! Accept it - people are all different, no two are alike. So why do some people insist on branding certain types of folk? They tell me that all benefit claimants are on the fiddle; all asylum seekers and street homeless are in fact secretly rich; that all long-term unemployed are lazy. Not so, not so. Why not get to know these folk as individuals, make your own mind up. Don't fill my inbox up with angry emails full of hatred and half-truths. Find out; then get out and do something about it...
When travelling on public transport, why oh why don't people let the departing passengers off the train first? There's always announcements about this. Why do some people insist on pushing past - have they got a more pressing need for a seat than I do? It makes me mad!
And another thing - why do some people ignore my emails? I send some people a whole host of queries about issues that I know are important, and nothing ever comes back. However, ignore just one thing of theirs and the complaints fly in. It's not fair!
No, it's not fair, says the still, small voice inside me. However, you still need to keep doing things the right way. That's your job. Don't conform to the world. Show them a transformed life. No point in getting mad; show them a different way. Live a selfless life; not a selfish one.
Glad I cleared the air a bit today....
13 December 2011
nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
since 'tis my God that leadeth me.
(He Leadeth Me, verse 3 - words by Joseph H. Gilmore)
Thinking back once again on the subject of contentment, I discover that it's a different concept from happiness, which is something that I guess that most people strive for. Understandable, I suppose - remember, it's engrained into our modern culture. Even the United States Declaration of Independence states that there are certain rights that we each have - among these are 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'!
No, what we are talking about here is something much more subtle. It's about learning to be content in your current situation. A situation which might best be described as 'less than perfect'. A situation that is made much more bearable because you are not alone. Christ is there with you.
And He is with you when you seek to help others, bringing that same sense of contentment to others when you minister to them, in His name.
1 Timothy 6:6-8 (The Message)
A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.
"The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment." - Doug Larson
12 December 2011
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds...
The above verse of scripture was emailed to me this morning - and only seeks to underline something that came to light following the meetings at the Army yesterday. You see, I understand all what was said yesterday about mission; the Great Commission if you will. I understand the sacrifice; I understand the need to minister to 'others'. No problem with any of that.
There's just one aspect that seems to be eluding me. An understanding of the joy that comes out of this service. The same joy mentioned in the above passage. The joy experienced and mentioned throughout the Christmas story.
And, looking back over this blog, it seems to be a subject that's been eluding me for a while. Is there something that I've yet to consider; something that seems to be robbing me of that joy?
Heading into the latter part of the Advent season, then, the goal then is to find that joy. That deep satisfaction that comes from knowing God, hearing His voice and obeying. The quality that allows us to be strong; able to face those kinds of trials.
In 1955, C S Lewis published a book which related the story of the author's conversion. It was entitled "Surprised by Joy".
That's the sort of surprise I am looking for this Christmas.
8 December 2011
There's a light at the end of the tunnel
The inside might be as black as the night
But at the end of the tunnel there's a light."
(from Starlight Express - music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Richard Stilgoe)
This week's turning out to be quite a dark one. After struggling with my 'sense of humour failure' last weekend, other things have happened in the last few days that have... complicated matters. I try to rise above it, laugh it off, but this week there's so many issues; they threaten to overwhelm me.
I'm very reliant on my Lord this week to see me through.
He assures me that there is, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel.
I believe Him.
But it's so dark that I just can't see it yet.
I strain to see... but I think I have lost my bearings.
I can't see which way to look.Which way?
I can't see it yet, but I know it's there. I know there's a light.
Psalm 107:13-16 (NIV)
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,and broke away their chains.
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind,
for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.
3 December 2011
However, I couldn't help but mull over a few stray negative comments during the day. It's hard to shake these off. Should I care? Am I suffering from what someone called 'sense of humour failure'?
Take it to the Lord in prayer? I certainly did. And He put the day back together again, putting the whole thing back into context. Worrying about such trivial things, well they're just not worth it. Look what you achieved today; how you told others about the Christmas message.
I still need to find the ability to laugh these things off - it's a quality I seem to have lost in recent years - but it's a start.
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 November 2011
After a fairly long period of things going so well for me, I find myself in a period of troubled water once again. All of a sudden, life seems incredibly difficult. Even the easy stuff becomes incredibly complex. In fact, nothing is easy. And I wish I knew why... what has happened? What has changed?
When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you
I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
(lyrics from 'Bridge Over Troubled Water', written by Paul Simon)
Lord, help me. Be that bridge for me, today. See me through this.
21 November 2011
Last night seemed to drag on forever. Throughout the night hours I was presented with reoccurring sequences from my own life. The cast was made up of former colleagues and acquaintances of mine, people I remember fondly - but this time these people were discouraging, disrespectful, even downright rude about my personal life, about where I am today.
And then I woke up. Realising the entire thing was only a dream helped somewhat, but the experience did unease me for a while. Is that what these people really think about me? Was any of what was being said to me in my dreams really true?
The Doug Horley song we've used so often to end Sunday School in recent years is on top of my mind tonight:
You are my shield, my protector.
I can lie down, go off to sleep,
Knowing You’re watching over me.
Wonderful Lord, wonderful God,
Help me to trust You forever.
I need not fear, ’cause You are near,
I can lie down and sleep in peace.
14 November 2011
So, how do you work out what is truth and what is fiction in your inbox? Tricky. Although it's a great way of keeping in contact, there's a whole host of misinformation, myths, and urban legends out there.
So, here's some good mythbusting sites which you may wish to use:
...and always keep an open mind!
"The most dangerous untruths are truths moderately distorted." - Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
9 November 2011
Although the study did show there were several luxury items in their final 'must-have' list (iPods, the right sort of trainers, satellite TV), the top five essentials included the use of a garden or open space and 'at least one family holiday away from home each year'.
The number one item which children most commonly missed out on in the 21st Century? It's pocket money, with more than a third of those polled (37 per cent) saying they did not receive any, and 22 per cent saying they missed having it (presumably, this means the children miss have spending money of their own, as the current economic climate means that parents have to watch their outgoings more closely).
You often hear people say that our children 'have too much nowadays'. Interesting, then, to see that the only one material 'possession' that appeared in the top five items was a personal music player. And I remember how important my transistor radio was to me as a teenager!
Here's the top ten they produced, which they've listed in order of importance:
• Some money that you can save each month
• A garden at home or some outdoor space nearby
• Some pocket money each week
• At least one family holiday away from home each year
• A personal music player
• Monthly trips or days out with your family
• A pair of designer or brand name trainers
• The right kind of clothes to fit in
• A family car
• Cable or satellite TV at home
Read the summary of the report here - and their conclusions!
7 November 2011
Recently I've passed a couple of important milestones in my life. The end of an era perhaps, one or two changes that I hope has finally resolved some of these matters. If so, it's an ideal opportunity for me to start again with a clean slate. It's a little early yet, however I'm keen to see whether the changes that have occurred will make the difference.
So it's back to basics for me. I'm studying my A, B, C in anticipation of the forthcoming week. Is it to be:
... A is for Acrimony?
... B is for Bitterness?
... or C is for Cautiously Optimistic?
So far, so good. :)
29 October 2011
If you follow me, then you can understand some of the difficulties with 'relative truth' that I've been working through for a while. It's because there's a whole host of different beliefs out there - even differences in opinion in how you follow individual beliefs. Surely, they can't all be right? No - some of these 'truths' are contradictory; some are misinformation, or 'spin'; some are simply 'best guesses'; some are opinions that might even be described as naive. Some - well, the court is out on these, no-one seems to know...
As a 'seeker after truth' I have sought help from others in order to follow the right path. Some of the paths I took as a young man I once thought were 'true' but these have clearly proven to be false. In fact, dead ends! However, I doubt whether many of the people (including my own friends and family) who advised me to take these false paths meant me any harm. Like the weatherman (see part one of this series), they're trying their best. And, the path itself may not have been wrong for all - but it was certainly wrong for me (it made me ill for a time!).
I read a quote by C.S.Lewis yesterday which succinctly summed up my current situation for me:
Here's a couple more quotes that have challenged me lately. As I continue to pursue the truth, dear reader, working it out in my own way and style, please do me a favour? Let me know from time to time if it looks like I'm going off course, okay?
Proverbs 4:7 (NIV)
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
"The pursuit of truth shall set you free - even if you never catch up with it" - Clarence Darrow (1857-1938)
27 October 2011
Putting this confusion aside for a moment, let's consider the question; do you think this is good advice?
I do. It rings true. I can see a ring of truth in this, the honesty in what is being said in Shakespeare's prose. However, as an adage, I'm afraid it simply doesn't go far enough. It's only true up to a point. We are, after all, how God made us, each with our own gifts, our own unique way at looking at life. But we need God in our lives to keep us on track.
Why do I think so? I reason it like this. We're like timepieces, watches that have been put together by a master craftsman. Each of us has our own unique gifts, our own peculiar way of looking at things, because each of us has a place in society. Each of us, if you will, is designed for a different purpose. We are a masterpiece of engineering. We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
However, even with the best watches you still need to check the time now and again! Left to run unchecked, a timepiece will tend to get out of sync and needs to be brought back in line. It may be only a second out, it may be two minutes or more; fast, or slow! It may not be for any mechanical reason - sometimes the clocks change! Whatever the reason, we all need correction from time to time.
Some of us are stopwatches, built for precision; others, elaborate pocket watches, or even everyday wristwatches. But all need checking from time to time.
Relying on our own inner self is great - but can only take us so far.
In the final entry to this study I'll wrap up my thoughts on the subject, touching once again on honesty and "relative truth".
14 October 2011
However, by His nature, God can see the whole picture all at once. We studied this a little last weekend, as the Sunday School lesson was about Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). He knew all about her!
To quote Julie Andrews, you need to 'start at the very beginning' - so I've begun by clarifying my own motivations, exploring my own character. How else do I expect to know others if I can't understand myself; begin to understand why I look at life a certain way...
From my studies on the subject it's clear that I'm an introvert (for those in the know I'm an INFJ), which explains my need for a 'time out' at regular intervals, just to recharge the batteries. I'm a bit of an idealist, ever striving to do my best and having to settle for second-best (or worse) much of the time. I struggle with my moods, possibly as a result of the last point. And I'll add for good measure the fact that I'm a seeker after truth (which won't come as too much a surprise to regular followers of this blog).
I'll unpack some of this in the weeks to come.
Polonius: This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.Hamlet - Act 1, scene 3
8 October 2011
"Yes it is, the weather forecast said so..."
"No, it's not..."
"Er... but it is..."
"No - it's - not!"
This was the essence of a conversation I overheard a few months ago. The exchange of dialogue has stayed with me, a good introduction to a topic I'd like to explore this week: that of having an honest attitude to life.
In the exchange above, we have someone's heartfelt but unspoken prayer that the rain would stay away, as it would spoil this well-planned open-air church event. And we also have another one who delivered a piece of authoritative information from the weatherman.
There's two schools of thought, aren't there, as to who had the right attitude here. Wishful thinking, coming right up against supposed facts. Hope against stark reality. Which way is better?
Is the attitude of the first speaker, understandably keen to have things go ahead without a hitch and therefore 'thinking positively' about the day, the way we should follow? Or should we be like the second speaker, who had been told a 'fact' and in all honesty was simply passing it on?
I'd be interested for your feedback. I'm mulling over the whole idea of stepping out in faith. Is that naive? Because I feel that blindly following the facts can also be wrong! (Particularly the weather forecast!) There needs to be a balance.
And, incidentally, on the day in question it didn't rain after all!
6 October 2011
Compare that to the report on Churchgoing in the UK published by Tearfund in April 2007 that showed that only 15% of the population go to Church at least once a month.
Confused by the statistics? I think the issue is more like people are confused about what a Christian actually is. Some think that if you live in a Christian country then you must be a Christian; some think you're a Christian only if you go to church, or only if you have been baptised.
What does the Bible say?
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
That's why people refer to Christians being 'born again'. Do you know where that phrase comes from? Here's where:
John 3:3-8 (NIV)
3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
4 “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”
5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. 6 Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. 7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
30 September 2011
No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.
A recent daily reading email that I received today spoke about dark times in our christian experience. These are the times when God tests us - removing some of the supports that we rely on to feel secure - career, money, friends and family, health - to see how you react. It concluded that these are preparation times. Greater things are just ahead.
Somehow, I know I'm in a time like this right now.
And I'm encouraged to simply trust God. Not my feelings, not my past experiences, not even other people. Simply to trust Him. Because even if my friends will let me down, God won't. God never changes. My feelings will come and go, but God is always with us.
The most scary part about the whole thing is that I know this will take time. How long? I don't know. Am I reaching the end of this testing time? Haven't a clue. Another way of thinking about it is as a "Joseph's Pit" experience, which is a reference to the sequence relayed in Genesis 37:23-24. In the story, there's nothing that Joseph could do about it. All he could do was pray and wait upon the Lord.
This week has been a pretty dark one for me. I'm trying to stay focused, keep praying. Holding on!
26 September 2011
My usual reaction to this is a simple, "Is that right?"
Because, sometimes, it's not true at all.
The trouble is - I'm not sure what it is that I'm most troubled about. The fact that a friend has told me something, as if it were true, that isn't. The fact that they haven't checked their information before repeating it. Or the fact that some people think I'm gullible enough to accept everything that I'm told without checking this out first.
I find snopes.com is a good place to start for dealing with internet rumours, circulars that tell you that Facebook will be charging for their services, that kind of thing. Worth bookmarking!
The rest? I keep an open mind about, until I can prove this one way or another.
23 September 2011
21 September 2011
Arriving at the 'nick of time' (at the last propitious moment) is an interesting phrase. Before the 16th century you used to refer to something or someone coming at 'pudding time', a savoury dish served first at medieval mealtimes. If you arrived at pudding time, it was just in time to eat. In Tudor times, when puddings were usually sweet dishes served at the end of a meal, this became 'in the nick', the nick in question referring to a notch or small cut on a 'tally stick', a reference to pin-point precision.
Why share this? Because of a really scary incident of a last-minute reprieve yesterday. Something happened during the day, a personal matter that threatened to scupper my evening plans. A really big deal. So many prayers were said during the course of the day; my wife was wonderful, running around on my behalf to resolve the issue, as I sat in the office at work.
And, yes, those prayers were answered, but literally only 'in the nick of time'. Yesterday's plans went ahead, business as usual. However, it's one thing to watch this sort of thing happening as entertainment, it makes for good viewing. When it happens to you personally, I find it most disconcerting!
I woke up this morning tired, head thumping from what I fear was the onset of a cold, and mind still reeling from the possibilities of what might have been. I like to plan my days, cramming them perhaps too full, but planning as best I can, so that I can more easily deal with those little 'bumps in the road' that come along from time to time. Yesterday evening's bump was a real mountain - and I only just avoided it!
Saved - in the nick of time!
17 September 2011
Throughout his life, Churchill suffered from bouts of depression, an issue that he used to refer to as "my black dog". It's from a phrase coined by the Roman poet Horace, later adopted by English writer Samuel Johnson in the 1780s to describe his own bouts of depression, and best known in modern society following use by Churchill.
Despite such difficulties, Churchill not only succeeded in battling The Black Dog but even found the inner strength to lead Britain through the darkest days of the Second World War. Wow.
I'm quite aware of some of the problems of being tracked by The Black Dog. It's a subject that needs to be well publicised. The charity SANE has more to read about the subject here .
16 September 2011
What I need to do now is to find the bottle within myself to push my way through it. You see, the problem is paralysis. Not of the physical kind, but mentally, emotionally. In some circumstances (which I can't go into) I can get almost paralysed by fear. It's probably fear of the current situation; fear of the unknown; doubtless fear of tedium because I've faced this situation so many times before! All of that seems to be rooting my feet to the floor.
I need to deal with this. I need the courage just to inch along, like someone on the edge of a precipice. Taking small steps, maybe, but steps nonetheless to get this issue behind me and move along.
I need to take courage!
I will be a warrior, fighting the good fight,
Battling ’gainst all evil in the cause of right;
Jesus, give me courage, make me true and brave
That the lost and dying I may help to save.
(SASB 859, verse 2 - Gladys M. Taylor)
12 September 2011
I've always been one of those people who keeps asking questions. It's how you learn! However the type of questions that I ask now are subtlely different.
Let's look at cars. In the past I used to ask God questions like "What car should I be driving? What job should I have?" And so on.
As I have gone along, I've realised that God is much more concerned about developing our character than anything else. Therefore:
- God cares more about how I drive than what I drive.
- God cares more about I behave to the neighbours than what kind of house I live in.
- God cares more about how wise I am with my money than how much I have.
As I continue to look at my own calling, I've stopped asking God what sort of job I should have. Instead, it's a case of looking at my own skills, identifying the person that I am now, and therefore asking of God "where can I be of the most use?"
I'll keep you posted as to the answer.
11 September 2011
My wife and the other Scouters in the party were getting to grips with practical matters like survival training, bat spotting, making bivouac shelters. I've been in the party, enjoying the scenery, the challenges, washing up, but my mind has been roaming elsewhere. All over the place.
I spent the weekend confronting my own worst fears, coming to grips with my introverted nature, analysing relationships and reactions, seeing God's awesome power in an exciting new way, wrestling with thoughts and theories about predestination and freedom of choice.
Weird. Where my mind chose to be...
9 September 2011
I've been thinking a little about the whole issue of commuting. It's not something I enjoy. I'd far sooner drive. But that's not an option. So I try and use the time I spend sitting on the train wisely. I read books; listen to music on the iPod; write blog entries for this very site. However, when I'm sitting on the train (sometimes standing, on some days you can't even be assured of a seat), stuck between stations, cramped together like cattle and wondering whether the train will get in on time, I wonder...
8 September 2011
These gifts also include wisdom, discernment, an imagination; He trusts us to work it all out and to choose His way. We have clear guidelines for our lives within the Bible; within those guidelines He gives us freedom.
But unfortuately I'm a lousy shot. Do I need to work on that, too?
6 September 2011
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that."
I've been reflecting on some of the plans I've made throughout the last few years. Many of these plans simply didn't work out, despite the fact that I was planning with the best of intentions. Reality didn't fit in with my vision of the future. It just wasn't to be.
James reminds us that we are not in charge of our future. God is. He has a clearer vision than I do as to what is best for my family; a perfect vision. I have to accept that, trusting in my Lord to lead all of us through tough and challenging experiences and into an unknown future. Leading me, and my family, one step at a time.
Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)
"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."
4 September 2011
Old Testament references to repentance (in Hebrew) were represented by two verbs: שוב shuv (to return) and נחם nicham (to feel sorrow).
New Testament Greek uses the word μετάνοια (metanoia), a compound word of the preposition 'meta' (after, with), and the verb 'noeo' (to perceive, to think, the result of perceiving or observing). These concepts combine to form a word that means: 'to think differently after'. More than just expressing sorrow, metanoeo implies a complete change of direction. This isn't a minor course correction we are talking about; it's "full reverse", a 180 degree change.
When trying to convey this concept to my family, I mention the fact that 'saying sorry' isn't enough. With constant repetition, the word starts to lose its meaning. No, for 'sorry' to mean anything, there has to be a change to go with it. It's not just 'sorry'; it's 'sorry and I'm going to ensure it will never happen again'. A change of conduct, a complete review and rethink to one's life are standard in such a change.
During SAFE Music School this year we looked closely at the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15). After coming to his senses, the son was clearly sorry about his predicament - but that wasn't enough. He had to swallow his pride, turn himself completely around and head back to his father. Repenting of his earlier lifestyle choices, he headed home. He was soon greeted by his father, overjoyed by the change and welcoming him back with open arms.
3 September 2011
At that point Peter got up the nerve to ask, "Master, how many times do I forgive a brother or sister who hurts me? Seven?"
Jesus replied, "Seven! Hardly. Try seventy times seven."
"Hollywood and the media has been intent in recent times on saturating our minds and mouths with the f-word. Jesus Christ has been intent on saturating our hearts with His f-word for 2,000 years -- forgiveness." - Gary Amirault
"Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another's control... to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else's nightmare." - Lance Morrow
"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future." - Louis B. Smedes
2 September 2011
A recent report from the British Psychological Society has suggested that severe mood swings aren't necessarily a bad thing, as they say that such changes in mood can actually bring benefits, inspiring great works of art, classics of poetry and prose. I'd be interested in hearing other people's views on the topic.
Read more on the report here .
1 September 2011
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths and superficial relationships so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
And the Blessing of God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon you and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more.
31 August 2011
"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." — Frederick Buechner
My pursuit of a tangible confirmation of my own particular calling has led me to some teachings from a minister called RK Castillo. His own spin on the subject suggests that you should work out what you are particularly adept at and use that for the Kingdom of God. That's practically a paraphrase of the Buechner quotation above, so I'm encouraged. However, Castillo recommends identifying four areas rather than two; where these four meet is where He needs you to be (or in Castillo's words "where you have been perfectly designed by God to make a huge difference in people’s lives"). His four areas are:
Passion : the one thing that you do that excites you, the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning.
Strengths : the special gifts that each of us have; your particular talents, the stuff you are naturally good at.
Needs : that area where you are particularly adept in meeting people's needs, fixing their problems as if it were second nature.
Calling : perhaps the toughest of the lot, this is identifying the specific niche that God is calling you to fill. The easy bit? To simply ask Him in prayer to clarify what you should be doing. He'll tell you. The hard bit? To take it in. To accept what He is telling you. So, are you listening? Do you want to hear what He is saying?
Read some more about RK's teaching here .
29 August 2011
A recent entry on the Armybarmy blog caught my eye and inspired this post. It was saying that the sole distinction between soldiership and officership should be 'availability' (according to Commissioner Wesley Harris). I understand that - each Salvation Army soldier (regardless of the colour of their epaulettes, or even if they wear any!) has made a decision to follow God, to be 'sold out' to God, to do what he or she can for the Kingdom.
The Commissioner states that those called to officership go that step further and relinquish their employment so that they can be mobilised quickly. It's not a higher or greater calling. It's just different. And just because one person is called to officership and another to soldiership in a Corps setting, doesn't make their individual calls any less.
Yes, I can say that I have received a call. I've been having a chat or two about my own particular call to mission, about all the things I am involved with at the moment. I am still working out where this may lead me, or whether in fact it doesn't lead me anywhere.
27 August 2011
There's some really great phrases hidden away in scripture. Or, as Paul has it, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
I sit and ponder these phrases, roll them around in my head. It's not quite as structured as 'Lectio Divina', but the method seems to work for me. Like with the phrase mentioned in the heading above, which has particularly helped me over the last month...
When Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to preach, one of the things he told them was that if people didn’t want to hear what they had to say they were to leave and "shake the dust off your feet." Now, in our modern-day way of thinking, this sounds a little odd. Does this mean that you should literally do that?
Looking a little closer at this phrase we discover that this is an Eastern idiom, meaning you need to shake off any animosity or bitterness that you may have toward someone, so that when you leave, you leave in peace and with no regrets, anger, blame or hurt. When people do not respond, you might well be upset with them. You may even be self-critical; what did I do wrong? "Shaking the dust off your feet" means that you don’t carry any of that with you. You leave it all there and go on your way. It's not your fault - you are simply a messenger, like the disciples were. You are not responsible for their response, merely to be obedient and to convey the message.
Shake the dust from your feet, and move on.
"If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet."
"And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them."
"If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them."
So they shook the dust off their feet as a warning to them and went to Iconium.
(All quotations from NIV)
26 August 2011
25 August 2011
24 August 2011
23 August 2011
A flashback now to a simpler time. As part of Watch With Mother, BBC's pre-school puppet show The Woodentops painted me a picture of the nuclear family from the Fifties, even though by the time I got to see the show it was well into the Sixties. I still remember Spotty Dog fondly to this say, but viewing it again on YouTube recently made me realise how much society has changed since then.
Nowadays modern children are presented with role models from Teletubbies and In The Night Garden. Clearly the acting is less wooden, but have pre-schoolers lost an essential message about the importance of family?
22 August 2011
Yet another Irwin Allen production, Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea first introduced us to the Seaview in a 1961 film starting Walter Pidgeon. The show subsequently resurfaced as a TV series starring Richard Basehart and David Hedison (pictured).
21 August 2011
"Open Channel D..."
The best employer in the growing world of spies in the Sixties had to be the good old U.N.C.L.E! This international organisation gave us a number of role models: you could be a Man from UNCLE like Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) or Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum), or a Girl from UNCLE like April Dancer (Stefanie Powers). Both of these series are seldom repeated, which is a real shame...
20 August 2011
Another classic series from Irwin Allen now. Reportedly, Time Tunnel was the most expensive television show on air in the US in 1966! Tony Newman (James Darren) and Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert) were two research scientists lost in a experimental time portal.
19 August 2011
Oh, and also not to wear red if it's your first visit to an alien world...
18 August 2011
Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) was an unauthodox but light-hearted detective show that satisfied my interest in quirky or offbeat TV series. Drawing on earlier works such as 'Blithe Spirit' and 'Topper' for inspiration, the show still has a strong fan following despite only lasting for one season. A remake followed in 2000 and a further US version is currently in preparation.
What do you think S could be?
17 August 2011
Hanna Barbera's animated western parody featured Quick Draw McGraw, a horse who was sheriff in a small town, assisted by a Mexican burro called Baba Looey as his deputy (both characters being voiced by Daws Butler).
Most Western cliches were covered in the show, even down to the inclusion of a regular Zorro parody, where Quick Draw assumed the identity of a masked avenger called El-Kabong, who carried a guitar instead of a sword.
16 August 2011
"I am not a number - I am a free man!"
Although this series originally aired in the 1960s, I didn't really appreciate the themes and deeper meaning of this show until I was much, much older. But even as a kid, I loved the style of the show, yet another twist on the spy genre. Worth revisiting.
15 August 2011
14 August 2011
13 August 2011
Back to secret agents now with "Mission: Impossible", a show that introduced us to the exploits of the Impossible Missions Force (IMF). This has been the subject of a few big budget movie versions recently, but I still prefer the original adventures, with the team led by Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) in the first season, and with Jim Phelps (Peter Graves, see picture) in charge for the other six seasons in the original run and in two more seasons in the 1980s.
12 August 2011
The show ended up with bizarre storylines more focused on the saboteur Dr. Zachary Smith (Jonathan Harris), the Robinsons' ten-year-old son Will (Bill Mumy) and their Robot (Bob May, voice provided by Dick Tufeld) than any of the others. Totally ridiculous. I loved it.
11 August 2011
One of the highlights of the TV week from the late Sixties was "It's a Knockout", an unauthodox competition that pitted teams representing UK towns or cities in silly games, often with lots of water, foam or oversized rubber suits. Winning teams then played against towns from across the Continent in the international version entitled "Jeux Sans Frontières", which was broadcast all across Europe.
10 August 2011
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8 August 2011
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3 August 2011
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23 July 2011
After eating and drinking well, they settled down for the night and went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his friend. “Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see.”
Watson replied, “I see millions upon millions of stars.”
“You know my methods. What does that tell you?” asked Sherlock.
Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. I think it's highly probable that some of those other planets may have sentient life. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Theologically, I can see that God is all-powerful and I'm simply in awe of the fact that He cares for us, even though we are so small and insignificant. Meteorologically, the blackness of the sky and the crispness of the stellar images tells me that there is low humidity and stable air and therefore we are most likely to enjoy a beautiful day tomorrow. What does it tell you?”
Holmes was silent for a minute and then spoke. “It tells me someone has stolen our tent!”
22 July 2011
There's the 'truth' that some people truly, honestly believe - however, it's simply not the same as your world view, either because their reasoning is totally different to yours or they've arrived at it from a different perspective. Who is to say they are wrong and you are right? I love to hear their views, it helps you to strengthen (or correct) your own.
There's the 'truth' that people accept that is solely based on others; they think this way because that's just the way other people have told them to think!
And, then, of course, there is 'creative truth' - i.e., downright lies and misinformation.
I find it reasonably easy to handle the first two in the above list, but have a real problem with the third. I stumble across it in varying degrees every day. I struggle with the spin I read in the papers, the deception I hear about, the 'little white lies'. I feel betrayed when I realise that I've been lied to, often by people who I feel should know better...
Why do I feel so strongly about this? Possibly because I detest it most when I see it in myself. Yes, I hate it when I catch myself being less than truthful. I wouldn't call myself downright deceptive, there's no tangled webs of deceit in my life. I'm becoming increasingly uncomfortable when I catch myself bending the facts a little to justify an action or an inaction. To protect my family. To protect my privacy. Does telling what is essentially a lie justify a particular course of action - even if I did it for the 'right reasons'?
It's nearly time for the summer holidays. Over the next few weeks I'm going to read up on honesty. I'll try and write something up about this for the Autumn. Honest.
John 8:31-32 (NIV)
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
17 July 2011
But those who wait upon God get fresh strength. They spread their wings and soar like eagles,
They run and don't get tired,
they walk and don't lag behind.
My family and I went along to the Divisional Fiesta today. And I came back with plenty to blog about! The theme of the day was 'strength', so I wasn't surprised to see many references to strength throughout the day. However, it was the study on another aspect of the verse that has got me thinking...
We all get weary and need to renew our strength from time to time, but Christians are encouraged to do this by waiting on the Lord.
The word "wait" used in this passage is the Hebrew word "קוה" (qavah). Literally the word means to "gather together" or "bind together", in the same way that many strands are bound together to form a rope. The more strands that you use, the stronger the rope. No one strand does all the work. The rope's strength comes from combining with others.
So - those who "wait" on the Lord - that is, are bound tightly together with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - will have strength far beyond those of a single strand.
14 July 2011
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
I've blogged about 'forbearance' before. The quality which is sometimes translated as 'long-suffering'. And it's a quality I'm thinking about a lot today. Sometimes it's little things, perhaps even trivial. Like when you take the effort to post a comment on Facebook revealing deep feelings and friends can only think of making jokes or even rude comments about it. More irritating than suffering, perhaps.
Sometimes it's a long term thing, like withstanding persistant and constant sarcasm or trying to succeed when conditions are less than satisfactory. It's so not fair. But you keep on going.
One definition of the term states this as "patiently enduring wrongs or difficulties". Patiently. Even though you may be wronged, you have to endure it. And keep patient at the same time!
It's not easy, but God's there to see you through it. It's character building! I keep coming back today to the following verses:
1 Peter 5:6-10 (New International Version)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
I'm looking forward to the restoration. Be strong, not long to wait. Just a little while, now... :)
12 July 2011
7 July 2011
I bring you love and Deeper Understanding"
(lyrics from the Kate Bush song "Deeper Understanding")
At last, the penny drops. Ever had one of those moments of realisation? A real 'light bulb' experience. Suddenly, you have got a clue about something; which puts a whole different perspective on the subject. A flash of 'deeper understanding'. Just what I have been looking for. Is this the answer, at last? Am I getting there?
Ease up. Hold on to that thought.
Continue to test it, ponder about it, pray about it. You're not quite there yet. This new information needs to be assimilated, tested, proved. If the answer came 'out of nowhere', definitely check it first. Maybe you are looking for answers in all the wrong places, so any answer you eventually come up with is bound to be wrong.
Of course, it may be the elusive answer that you seek. That's why you test it. However, the chances are, it's yet another red herring to throw you off track for a while...
Why am I blogging about this? Unfortunately, it's all due to personal experience this week. Another false alarm. Back to the start.
5 July 2011
It's interesting, then, to consider Mark 12:1-12 in the light of this... the parable ends us with a good reference for a local building expert to use:
Mark 12:10-12 (NIV)
Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture: "‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
4 July 2011
30 June 2011
29 June 2011
26 June 2011
Extremes of weather, from unimpressive cloud and rain to a scorching 30 degree heatwave.
Extremes of emotion, from moments of deep frustration, concern and despair, to the staggering heights where deep feelings of belonging and love kept breaking through!
Extremes of time; there was so much to do that the normal weekend lie-in was scrapped. Another session of burning the candle at both ends!
Extremes of experience; there's been some quite disturbing issues on my mind all weekend (most relating to the emotional input); all on an awesome weekend where the Corps met up with a returning cadet, ready for his commissioning as an officer in a fortnight's time. Food, fun and fellowship, with all the other things going through my mind all the time!
These extremes have been randomly cycling through the weekend; I'm left emotionally drained and empty. I have this evening to patch myself together for work tomorrow.