31 December 2013
30 December 2013
I must admit to a lack of confidence in some areas; I have trouble convincing myself that these bold plans will ever succeed. I don't possess the brash, arrogant confidence of youth (did I ever have it?). I lack cheek, nerve, bottle. I can't just breeze through life. I seem to struggle every step of the way. (Yes, I know struggling is character-building. How much more character do I need?)
During 2013 members of my church were involved in the 'Purpose Driven Life' course, which did trigger a number of ideas in my mind. OK, 2014 needs to be the year that I need to embrace my purpose - shake a few things up - reprofile my life. Let's only set targets in those areas where I know that I have a particular calling. And then, once set, I need to walk every step of the way with Him. Only then can I be sure of the ground that I walk on.
I need to believe in God's purpose for my life.
I need to fully embrace the truth.
I need to set targets to enable me to do this.
1 Peter 4:10 (NLT)
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
29 December 2013
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone home?
I've been reading up lately about feeling emotionally numb. Have you ever felt this way?
It's kind of like you can't feel things the same way you used to. Things that used to make you feel happy or content now fail to produce the same sort of positive feelings. Likewise, things that used to provoke feelings of anger or even tears now result in an apathetic response.
Life is just a series of shades of grey...
It's funny. It's not that you can't cope - life just seems to carry on, however things simply don't feel the same anymore. Not sad but not happy. Simply there.
Does that make any sense? Can you relate to this?
There is no pain you are receding.
A distant ship's smoke on the horizon.
You are only coming through in waves.
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.
When I was a child I had a fever.
My hands felt just like two balloons.
Now I've got that feeling once again.
I can't explain, you would not understand.
This is not how I am.
I have become comfortably numb.
(lyrics from Pink Floyd - "Comfortably Numb")
28 December 2013
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NIV)
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour:
If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.
26 December 2013
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30 November 2013
27 November 2013
One of the younger members of the office suggested that we should set up our own Fantasy Football League. Each of us could make up a team, form an office league and see how our squads perform. And, impressively, everyone else agreed. A bit of fun to brighten up the winter months...
So, how should I go about picking my team? As intimated earlier, my knowledge of The Beautiful Game is sketchy to say the least. Would I hastily try to digest pages and pages of info about the number of goals each player had scored? Pour over match stats? Pick a team totally at random?
Nope. In a moment of inspiration I picked a whole team of players whose surnames began with 'B'.
And with a mighty fanfare, The 'Banana Splits' made their Fantasy Football debut on Saturday 17th August.
Would my method of team selection be a viable one? We're just starting Week 13 and, out of a league of 10 my team is currently... er... 10th. Oh well...
However, this process has made me think deeper about the tricky task of allocating leadership positions within a small church. Unlike premier league teams with practically unlimited budgets, small fellowships like these attempt to build a great volunteer workforce from a restricted pool of people (namely, Christians who attend that church!). Similarly, in my footballing example, I restricted my choice only to players starting with one particular letter. Does that make my task of winning the league totally impossible? I like to think it wasn't.
In soccer, you need a good goalkeeper; reliable defenders; a versatile midfield line; assertive strikers to score goals. Each have their part to play. Without the right people in key positions in church, Sunday School classes are not taught, planning committees don't function, opportunities are missed. So how can small churches strive to get the right people in the right place?
The ideal candidates in either team should be purpose-driven, not reward-driven. They should not be trying to promote themselves but striving for something higher. This has to be something they are called to do. One writer I read recently said that such people "do not quit, and could not quit if they wanted to." I like that.
Team members should have integrity, not just an image to uphold. That's usually something that you only find out after months or even years of getting to know someone. More than just a good reputation; these people possess a character that speaks volumes about them. They should be committed, not just 'along for the ride'. Can they 'walk the walk'? Are they the genuine article?
Team members should also be compatible. There's no point in selecting a team of high-fliers if they can't work together. They need to fit. By way of example, let me tell you about Vince Lombardi, who was coach to the American Football team, the Green Bay Packers. A different kind of sport from soccer, but one requiring teamwork nonetheless. He once told his team, "In terms of skill and ability, every one of you is easily replaceable; there are plenty of players around with athletic talent to equal yours." He went on to explain that his team had something much more precious; an ability to complement each other. That's the way to turn diversity into unity. Can the team work together? Each team member helping each other to achieve their best so that they can reach their common goal.
Team members also need to be coachable. Just because you aren't doing exactly what you need to, doesn't mean you can't learn how. A good leader will choose individuals who might lack experience but will possess the other attributes - provided that they are willing and able to be trained, nurtured.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (CEV)
We should keep on encouraging each other to be thoughtful and to do helpful things. Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.
However, on reading the information myself this morning I discovered there was a piece of good news in the very same email. This pretty much negated the previous bad news. Overlooked.
How rubbish are we sometimes at seeing the good in any situation? It's awful. We seem to leap on bad reports with a particular fervour; criticise others with glee. If a particular situation is going well we seem to want to jinx it by saying "it's all going too well... bound to go wrong soon!"
The press fill our newspaper headlines with gloom and disaster. "Good news doesn't sell newspapers", they claim.
I want to do something about this. And I suppose,therefore, it needs to start with me.
Perhaps I need to open my eyes to see the good in any particular situation. Although I appreciate that in some cases I will need to look pretty hard...
Psalm 34:8 (The Message)
"Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see - how good God is. Blessed are you who run to him."
25 November 2013
I've been encouraged to stretch my own boundaries - to spend longer and longer outside my comfort zone. I think I have done very well. In the last seven days I have:
- talked calmly to people even though they had been extremely rude and offensive about me (is that justified?);
- tried to socialise with other people that I personally find it 'hard to love';
- spent time working out how to do the impossible in no time at all;
- continued to work through pain and tiredness (because I didn't want to let down others who were just as tired and pained as me!);
- gone the 'extra mile' when so many others said that I shouldn't;
- taken the tube when it was exactly where I didn't want to be (crowded, cramped, noisy!) ;
- been calm and pleasant in a hostile and threatening environment.
It's the end of a busy day now and, quite frankly, I've reached the end of my patience. I've had just about all I can take.
And I have to get up again tomorrow morning and probably do it all again.
Lord, help me.
19 November 2013
Jason Nesmith: What? What was that?
Alexander Dane: Uh, nothing.
Jason Nesmith: I heard some squealing or something.
Gwen DeMarco: Oh, no. Everything's fine.
Teb: But the animal is inside out.
Jason Nesmith: I heard that! It turned inside out?
[the creature explodes]
Teb: And it exploded.
(dialogue from 'Galaxy Quest')
Ever had one of those weeks where things just seem to go from bad to worse ... and then, somehow, even worse...?
Yep. Been there. And I know a few people close to me that know that experience, too. It's tough when it happens. Just one darn thing after another, after another. And then, just to cap it all, there's that one final event. The 'straw that breaks the camel's back'. Or, if you tend to look at things through the lens of science fiction, suddenly things just start to explode.
How can you carry on after that? It all seems hopeless. To all intents and purposes, all is lost.
Not so. That's a lie. Because you are now standing right in the middle of God's territory. In the midst of the impossible situation. God can still do something. Indeed, He loves to do something in such circumstances.
Trust Him; draw deeply from your resources of faith. Even if it looks hopeless. Even if the situation just 'exploded' right in front of you. Trust God and keep on fighting; never lose hope.
Luke 1:37 (CEV)
"Nothing is impossible for God!"
16 November 2013
"How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.." – Psalm 133:1-3 (NIV)
These particular verses were shared with me at a Salvation Army training course that I was fortunate enough to go to last month. The words keep reoccurring; cropping up pretty much every week ever since, so I guess I am meant to share it out to a wider audience.
As God's people we are called to work together to a common aim; not to fight, bicker or quarrel. As you might imagine this can be difficult, given the different personalities that make up a church fellowship... However, I am assured that it is possible, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit. And, best of all - if we can actually pull this off... work together in harmony, in unity - it's like a special anointing on all of us.
Aaron, Moses’ brother, was the first high priest and was anointed with olive oil on his head (usually this was just a drop or two). Such anointing is symbolic of receiving a blessing from God, a consecration for a specific task. However, the reading assures us that unity in the fellowship will be rewarded by a special and particularly generous blessing. Look at the symbolism - it's like the anointing oil is freely running down, cascading down the leader's face, onto his beard and even his clothes.
The 'dew of Hermon' mentioned in verse 3 is another symbolic description of an abundant, refreshing sprinking. Showers of blessing, indeed.
Isn't that something to be worked for?
12 November 2013
9 November 2013
More to follow...
4 November 2013
2 November 2013
That's why I was excited to hear about NOW.
National Others Week runs from Sunday 3rd November to Saturday 9th November. Participants aim to give a helping hand to someone in need; or to surprise someone with a random act of kindness. Perhaps it's a way to start refocussing your life...
Why not get involved?
31 October 2013
29 October 2013
- Ridiculing ethnic minorities by using derogatory terms for them, 'tarring' them all with the same brush.
- Pigeonholing people as 'tramps' or 'scroungers' or some such comment - without getting to know them, trying to understand even a little about their circumstances.
- Manipulating the truth, 'spinning' a story, just so you can put yourself in a better light.
- Deriding someone's activities at the weekend, just because they've made a different choice as to how to spend their free time.
22 October 2013
"You ought to live your life with such freedom and joy that uptight Christians will doubt your salvation." - Steve Brown, A Scandalous Freedom
"I define joy as a sustained sense of well-being and internal peace - a connection to what matters." - Oprah Winfrey
"Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation." - Rick Warren
21 October 2013
- The train carriage to work, where conversation was kept to a minimum. Some read books, others listened to music, caught 40 winks, typed on a laptop, tweeted. In a carriage of 150 or so, only two people talked. I wasn't one of them.
- The city streets, the hustle and bustle, where you make a beeline for your office, avoiding the 'chuggers' and free newspaper distributors. Hardly a problem. Probably well advisable to keep the headphones out if you are crossing the road...
- The workplace, where small talk about last night's football mixes with arguments over office politics and 'storms in teacups'. Ugh - can I put the headphones in again please? I promise to take them out if the phone rings...
- The coffee shop at lunchtime - here at last was a place of calm where you can relax and be yourself for a while. Not the person you 'need to be to get through the day'. Here was the place that I found people chatting. Yay! Although, even here I found the coffee shops were still a little noisy due to piped music. At least the refreshments were better than the office. Note: I understand that others preferred the pub down the road. That's fine, other places of refreshment are available...
As a society, we have exchanging the quiet chat with mates for solitary time with a soundtrack of 'loud noises'. Are we scared of letting others in? In letting real life in? In letting God in?
I've taking this on board as a bit of a challenge. Not for me to continue to 'shut the world out', but for me to come up with a way to help others to come back out into the world.
11 October 2013
Er, excuse me, who am I?
Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?
What do I mean by who am I?"
- the thoughts of the 'innocent sperm whale' from The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams.
I'm coming to the end of the book 'The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?' by Rick Warren - and have come up to the part where it asks you to define your purpose in life, to write it down to ensure you can retain your focus. Thinking about what to write has been at the back of my mind for a couple of days now - although it seems to be mixed up with a few other things - particularly the quotation about the whale from the Guide (my mind can be a strange and chaotic mixture of wisdom, stray thoughts and ephemera)...
In an effort to pin things down a little, I've been surfing the net to obtain additional background information on 'purpose'. Here's a few quotations that I'm mulling over today...
"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well." ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
"The purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better. " ― Robert F. Kennedy
"Remember that our Heavenly Father knows us perfectly and knows what's best for us .... Surely, His knowledge is greater than ours. We just have to have faith in Him. If we don't, well, that doesn't change what happened, it just makes us more miserable because we refuse to trust His will. Our Heavenly Father wants us to have joy. And happiness. But we need to look for those opportunities that give us joy. If we don't, what would be the purpose for existing?" ― Jeri Gilchrist
There's also something in the back of my mind which seems to be relevant to today's blog entry. Somehow. These are words from a worship song called 'The Power of Your Love' (by Hillsong). The words simply won't go away today. It's linked to this topic. The lyrics say:
"Hold me close
Let Your love surround me
Bring me near
Draw me to Your side.
And as I wait
I'll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your Spirit leads me on
In the power of Your love"
There's something inside me, so vital, so desperate to be heard, nagging away, insistent that I get ready to spread my wings; encouraging me to fly. Not just to plummet helplessly, like our friend the whale. To soar, unfettered, on the currents of air. This persistent prompting encourages me not to give up, to keep on trying. To that end, here's a smattering of quotations about flying - including another quote from Douglas Adams!
"If you hang out with chickens, you're going to cluck and if you hang out with eagles, you're going to fly." ― Steve Maraboli
"Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return." - Leonardo da Vinci
"There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. … Clearly, it is this second part, the missing, which presents the difficulties." - Douglas Adams
30 September 2013
19 September 2013
This is a quotation from 'The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?'; a book that members of my Corps fellowship are reading at the moment. Amazing, isn't it? This has really sparked something in me today...
The Greek word used in the New Testament is κοινωνία, usually translated as 'fellowship'. In Christianity it's a term used to describe the relationship of Christians to God and to other Christians. However, the Greek word could also apply to a business partnership, to the marriage relationship, to close bonding between friends, or between members of a community. Incidentally, the word in Latin is communio (from which we get the word 'communion', thus sharing in common).
All this made me took me back many decades; made me think about about the different gatherings of people I have encountered through the years. A huge range of different levels of acceptance and tolerance - some of these are definitely better at 'fellowship' than others! Some of these could do so much better. These are just a few I recalled today; these are in alphabetical order:
Bible Study/House Fellowships
Church/Corps social gatherings
Committees in the voluntary sector (a variety of these!)
Meeting old friends for coffee
SAFE Music and Drama School
Salvation Army Congresses and other large public meetings
Science Fiction club meetings
Science Fiction conventions
Scout camps and events
Social gatherings at work
Street Pastor duties
Theatre 'Friends' group
Much to ponder today.
15 September 2013
The truth is - God doesn't ever leave you on your own. Let's face it, we know through His word that He is everywhere. Omnipresent. However, God sometimes finds it necessary to hide His presence from you. He wants you to trust Him. To build up your personal faith in Him.
Hebrews 13:5b-6 (The Message)
13 September 2013
Unfortunately, I guess I got swallowed up a little by 'the storm' yesterday. Despite being in a busy Salvation Army venue (and just where I felt I needed to be) I started to feel just a little 'jaded'. Yep, I was tired, and something happened (I won't go into details) that started to discourage me. The negative thoughts kept gnawing at me for a while. Pulling me down.
Anyway, the day's work was over - so I started to pack up my stuff and to head back to my hotel. And then... someone was kind enough to come over to me to invite me to stay to the final Army meeting. I didn't need to be there, I had done my bit. It was a chance to 'take in' after a few hours of 'giving out', and it was a special meeting after all - the Territorial Commander would be preaching. It was a kind gesture and very much appreciated - so I was suitably grateful and I stayed.
I'm really glad I did.
The TC spoke about the incident when Peter walked on water. Here's the passage in the New International Version...
Matthew 14:22-33 (NIV)
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost,’ they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’
‘Come,’ he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’
Interesting - because the TC pointed out that Jesus did not calm the storm before Peter started to get out of the boat. In fact, He encouraged Peter to step out in faith while the storm was raging. Sure, He had the power to calm the storm. But He wants us to have that faith to trust Him even through the storm. And even though the storm may still be raging around us, He just needs us to keep on walking.
It was just what I needed to hear. Yep, things may get stormy in our lives once in a while. But, despite the things that happen, the things that discourage us, we need to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord, get out of the boat and walk.
Actually, all I really want to get out there and dance. To strut my stuff. But, I need to take my time. One step at a time... no dancing in the rain. Yet.
6 September 2013
This particularly resonated with me as this week has been a good example of creative time management. In addition to finding time for my own employment, I've had to fit in time for a doctor's appointment, preparing for the family going back to school - and also to consider whether to dig deep into my free time for The Salvation Army's 'Big Collection' - the door-to-door appeal where the money raised goes exclusively to the Army's social work in the UK. How do you think I decided? Yes, correct. I've been out in Army uniform most evenings this week.
And yet, in the middle of it all, there's been the need to carve out some important 'me time' - so vital for an introvert such as myself, to recharge my own batteries.
I’ve been accused in the past of being particularly bad at time management. Perhaps giving time to those that didn’t really value it. Not allowing time for my own loved ones. Or, indeed, for myself...
And just as I was drafting this, there was a thought from the book 'The Purpose-Driven Life' by Rick Warren, which members of our Corps have been reading... The passage I read this morning added another aspect to this - reminding me of the following verse of scripture:
Psalm 39:4 (New Living Translation)
"Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered — how fleeting my life is."
Hmmm... we are only on this Earth for a little while. It's up to all of us to use what little time we have the best way we can. To make a difference in this world...
2 September 2013
The term was first coined in a light-hearted book of the same name by Dr Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull, which has sold 6M copies since its initial publication in 1969. However, some have treated this theory very seriously indeed...they believe it.
I don't. Yes, I know that we see a whole bunch of examples of this sort of thing in society, however there simply isn't a 'golden rule' that such things will occur.
I do, however, see many examples of people who simply give up trying because 'the rules' tell them to give up trying, to quit. They don't go beyond their usual limits because they think they can't. And if they don't try - they're proved right.
Contemporary society evaluates people on the tangible things in this world: good looks, youth, a winning personality, your exam qualifications, the extent of your bank balance. However, these things will fail you; each will fade; you will find these will no longer useful to you.
However, when it comes to the value of people, God has a different attitude. He looks within. He sees you as you truly are. And sees your potential.
1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV) "The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."
(pictured: the 'pointy-haired' boss from Scott Adams' 'Dilbert' comic strip. Read more here)
1 September 2013
31 August 2013
The audio plays and books continued to develop the character until the TV series was successfully revived in 2005 - when Christopher Ecclestone took over the role as the Doctor...