30 September 2012

Do It Anyway...

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centred;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

Written by Kent M. Keith as "Paradoxical Commandments" and promoted by Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

29 September 2012

The Easy Way... Or The Hard Way?

Romans 7:14-20 (NIV)
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

The words of Paul there, talking about the sort of battles we face every day. You know the sort of thing. Confronting those aspects in your own life where you are clearly weak. Battles of choice, battles of habit. Whether to take the easy way ... or the hard?

It's obvious, isn't it, the way we should be taking. But it is terribly hard. In fact, it's "uphill and against the wind" all the way.

Today's the day of our Sponsored Walk, so I'll leave you with that thought as I set out today with my colleagues. And I'll also leave you with our sponsorship link (in case you are interested)...

www.justgiving.com/DartfordSAMen

22 September 2012

Guilty!

The accusation is clear and concise. It hits you square between the eyes. They present you with tangible facts to back it up. Caught bang to rights.

You protest. You start out as sure as sure can be that it can't be true.  But, in the light of all the evidence to the contrary, the case for any defence starts getting swept away. Strong foundations for any possible denial fail, quickly crumble to dust. Your own counsel advises you to plead guilty for a more lenient sentence. You begin to doubt your own memory; even to entertain the idea that your very thoughts are wrong;  that it must have been you all along...

You give in. Accept the consequences. There's no point in fighting it any longer. You're just too weak...

Ever had that experience? I sure hope not. It must be terrifying.

There's a particularly memorable two-parter episode of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' that comes to mind when I ponder on this sort of scenario. 'Chain of Command' includes a scene where Picard (Patrick Stewart) is taken prisoner by the Cardassians. Subjected to torture, his interrogator points four bright lights at Picard and asks him, repeatedly, to say that there are five of them (a homage to a similar scene in George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four').

Picard does escape his captors; he doesn't give in and say that there are five lights. However, he later admits privately that he would have told his interrogator anything to make the pain stop... and that, right at the end, he actually thought he could see five lights.

My mind is full of strange thoughts this evening... including incredible sadness for those who are totally innocent yet have been wrongly accused and convicted. Some may even go through life thinking they were guilty all along! I think I understand this issue a little better today. But it doesn't make me feel any better...

('Chain of Command' was written by Frank Abatemarco, who consulted with Amnesty International during his script preparation. Patrick Stewart is also an Amnesty supporter and this comes over in his portrayal. Worth a look.) 

18 September 2012

Who am I?

A really deep question for today... one that follows a few days of prayer and soul-searching. Who am I?

I already know part of the answer. It's in my description at the side of this very blog:

A member of The Salvation Army; husband and father of two; fan of popular science fiction; seeker after truth.

Perhaps, I ought to take into account what I do for a living? Now, I am well aware that most people categorise people by their jobs. I've had a whole host of different roles over the last  twenty or thirty years - paid and unpaid - however I must admit that I don't think I 'fit' any one of these roles in particular. In fact, the phrase that best sums up my opinion are the words "I am a human being, not a human doing". So, I dismiss that. What I do isn't necessarily who I am. It's who I am that determines what I do.... So, who am I?

Let's add in to the mix what I have learnt about myself over the past year or two. Things about my own temperament, the things I am gifted in. And of course there are the darker aspects of my life. My moods, my base nature. What makes me tick. Or doesn't. My strengths, my weaknesses.

And then of course there are those things about me that I am aware of from my journey of faith. The fact that I am loved by God, my spiritual gifting that comes from Him. The indwelling and inspiration of God's Holy Spirit which encourages me to do things for Him and to carry on even when others tell me it's pointless. Even times where an act of self-sacrifice gave me a joy quite unlike anything I've ever experienced!

However, deep down under all of that I find there's still something else... Something I haven't discovered yet? Something that is so obvious that I've simply overlooked it? A missing piece to the jigsaw that I need to factor in.

Can't quite see it at the moment. Prayers welcomed.

13 September 2012

What Is Truth?

In John 18:38, Pilate asks the question. "Truth? What is truth?", in response to Jesus' claim that he is "witness to the truth" (John 18:37). It's a terribly good question. In fact, it's one I ask myself a lot. Particularly in my everyday life when I often find myself surrounded by:
  • Lies
  • Half-truths
  • Myths
  • Misinformation
  • Opinions
  • Theories
  • Statistics
  • Humour
In fact, so often I get anything but the truth!

However, as they say in the X-Files, "the truth is out there". It can be found. You just need to keep looking for it in the right places.

I think the trouble is that we don't see the truth very often. This is probably because some many of us can't even be truthful to ourselves.

Just FYI today.

(Picture: inscription at the entrance to Sagrada Família Basilica, Barcelona.)


10 September 2012

Paradigm Shift

Ever heard the term "paradigm shift"? I hadn't until very recently. The phrase seems to be one of those marketing buzzwords that you pick up on from time to time. The term apparently dates back to 1962, to a man called Thomas Kuhn who wrote about progress in terms of a series of 'revolutions' - fundamental (sometimes, potentially violent) changes from one way of thinking to another. Each paradigm shift represents a transformation, a metamorphosis.

I understand the importance of transformation in someone's life - so perhaps that's why this stirred something deep inside me when I read it. Just think about it. A fundamental change to the way that you live your life. Reformation. Revolutionary thinking. Real, drastic, bold change. A paradigm shift.

After what has been an extremely challenging start to what always works out to be the busiest month in my calendar year - the thought of some drastic change in particular areas of my life sounds awfully attractive to me right now. But the actual process is more than a little scary! And what to keep, and what to throw away?


"I believe in transformation,
God can change the hearts of men,
And refine the evil nature
Till it glows with grace again.
Others may reject the weakling,
I believe he can be strong,
To the family of Jesus
All God’s children may belong."

(SASB 324, verse 2 - John Gowans)