30 September 2013

The Ninth Doctor

Christopher Eccleston took over the helm of the TARDIS for the series' revival in 2005.

For the new series, Russell T Davies presented what has been described as a 'stripped down' version of the previous Doctors, an effort to reintroduce the character to a brand new audience. The Ninth Doctor was different again, speaking with Ecclestone's distinct Northern accent, and dressed in a dark leather jacket and jeans. Far less eccentric than some of his predecessors, subtle elements of his personality began to emerge, revealing aspects of character that were definitely not human...

This particular Doctor lived solely for the present, keen to share his life with Rose (Billie Piper) but somehow avoiding discussing his own past because "there's some pain there". This series would later reveal the reason why -  he carries guilt about the Time War which saw the destruction of his own race, the Time Lords, occurring sometime before the series relaunch. The reintroduction of the Daleks during this year's run and in the concept of regeneration in "The Parting of the Ways" makes this a very powerful series. Although Eccleston's Doctor only ended up featuring in ten stories (thirteen hour-long episodes), handing over to David Tennant at the end of the final show, his characterisation gave the show a very strong relaunch.

19 September 2013

Fellowship: Defined

Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren't rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice.” ― Rick Warren

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 meetings
Church/Corps social gatherings
Committees in the voluntary sector (a variety of these!)
Family get-togethers
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

Dark Night Of The Soul

Ever feel like God is a million miles away? Well, you're not alone. Actually, you begin to discover that it's often a common thing in your spiritual walk. There will come periods in your Christian experience where God is so close that He's almost tangible; other times when He is apparently absent for what seems an eternity; where your prayers seem to go unanswered. It will become very dark indeed...

I have discovered that some notable pieces of literature have been written about such experiences. For instance, 'The Dark Night of the Soul' ('La noche oscura del alma') is a poem written by a Spanish poet and Christian mystic called Saint John of the Cross, way back in the 16th Century. Read a little more about the poem here . And you will find there's a whole bunch of other examples available...

You may ask - why has God apparently abandoned you? Why do you seem to be going through trials and tests, like Old Testament character Job, without any hope of rescue, of respite?

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.

There's more. He wants you to step out in that faith. To step out of that boat (see yesterday's blog entry) and walk towards Him. To praise Him despite the storm. 

Yes, sure, the whole experience might well be painful and disconcerting. But God wants to lead you into a deeper level of maturity. Are you up to the challenge?

Hebrews 13:5b-6 (The Message)
Since God assured us, “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” we can boldly quote, "God is there, ready to help; I’m fearless no matter what. Who or what can get to me?"

13 September 2013

Dancing In The Rain

It's been a particularly busy couple of weeks. In addition to doing my bit for 'The Big Collection', I've also been out and about to a whole variety of different places with my job. I've met up with so many different people; made new friends; re-established contact with others. At one of the venues I came across the little phrase in the attached picture. I thought it was excellent. I didn't realise at the time how apt this phrase would be for today's blog...

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

Using My Time Wisely

This blog entry was initially inspired from a post that I read on another blog. It challenged me to think of time as having a 'physical aspect' — we have a limited supply of this precious commodity that we can give out to others.

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 Peter Principle

Ever heard of it? It's a theory that suggests that there's an absolute ceiling on anyone's ability to achieve, to succeed. It's often summarised as "Employees tend to rise to their level of incompetence."

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

A Great Secret

Matthew 6:2-4 (The Message) 
"When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You've seen them in action, I'm sure—‘playactors’ I call them—treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out."

'Nuff said.