Thursday, December 31, 2009

Another Step On The Journey

As much as I want to ignore the goings on of this particular time of year I don’t need to on this occasion – it plays into my favour.

My dad was never one for these kinds of thing – not a party man, not one for the big festivities and all that kind of jazz. He is a man who takes most things in his stride and takes every day as it comes. Each day was another day to him – another day to do things and enjoy his day as he does regularly – whether that’s working hard, or enjoying his church or really enjoying his allotment. It was just another day – each filled with the potential to be a good one and for each day he would find contentment. Even when it came to birthdays or anniversaries it was hardly a big deal to him. That level of equanimity really puts the fuss that people can make of days into perspective.

I really value those priceless times of life, and as I’ve written elsewhere, I’m a big believer in landmarks and milestones. It’s important to celebrate these things and mark them as steps along the journey of life. I like the thing we do for Lord’s Supper annually in getting to know the story behind the festival – why it’s a big deal not just from Jesus’ position but where it was coming from in the Exodus and how it was foreshadowing the great work to come.

That’s brilliant – that whole symbolism and involvement in the story of what has been that defines you and what that means for your identity as you go forward. It’s all very encouraging and to note that that is what certain times of year means for people males it fine with me to see people celebrating and having fun at this time of year.

For me, though, it’s not that big a deal because nothing significant has ever happened on the 31st December or 1st January. The year might be celebrating a birthday, but I’m not. Lots of things have happened over the year, but they in themselves will be things worth celebrating in themselves as the year comes around. For example, April is a special time for me, because I remember that as the real spring of my spiritual renaissance in 2006. December, as you know, is special because of the birth of my firstborn. August is precious as it marks the birth of my beloved wife. September is special as that is when my sister and my dad were born. My second daughter came along in the same month as my mother, so that’s special.

On it goes, special times to remember special things that have happened in life that are worth celebrating and rejoicing over and over. They provide the opportunity to remember the story of how it came to be, what it has come to mean and where it can help shape the future expression of the identity that it has established.

So it is on this evening I’m chilling in me crib with Abigail. We’re sorting out the washing and drying for most of the laundry that has clogged up over the last week or so. We’re catching up on some Dr. Who from the end season 3 with Martha and Captain Jack joining the Doctor in fighting the Master who has become the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Other than that there’ll be plenty to keep me occupied for the rest of the evening (you should see the laundry!) and then I’ll retire to sleep at the end of what my dad would tell me is just another day. Just the end of another day, at the end of another month, at the end of another year.

Oh but it’s more than that – it’s the end of another step in the journey. God has allowed you and me to see the end to another step and for whatever was in that step and however we viewed it, that we have made it here is worth being thankful for. It is not guaranteed that we’ll make another step and for some of us in some shape or form, just as it has been for us in life, it will be journey’s end. While there’s breath in the body, though, for all the highlighted special times, let us appreciate every moment of every day as another opportunity to enjoy another step in this mysterious, fabulous, frustrating and glorious journey of life.

Speaking of the end of journeys, this entry spells the end of the journey of blogging ... on Blogger. I’ve really enjoyed blogging on this and will always be grateful for the platform they’ve given – hey it’s free – to be able to put these witterings and wonderings for the past four years. As I’ve hinted at here and there over the year I’ve been thinking about alternatives and as you may have gathered, I’ve been blogging through WordPress for both Life Journey Notes and Among Friends and have found it to have a few advantages to Blogger (as well as one or two drawbacks). After wrangling over it for months, I came to the conclusion that it was time to give it a test run for this main blog. It’s a work in progress and obviously a few things will have to be ironed out over the time, but like a number of things occurring in me life it’s a time of new beginnings and so it should be for me blog.

I’ve been really grateful for the improved prolific writing this year on the blog. I think there’s been more good than bad over the year and hopefully in the year to come I can step up the level of consistency especially with the written material, accompanying the YouTube posts. To maintain this level of posts and have a level of consistency throughout the year, is my desire not for my own sake as me tagline suggests. I want to build on these things and see where we go from there. I didn’t have a clue just what would emerge in 2009, but overall I’m grateful to God for some good things that have come up with. So who’s to say what will happen in the time to come – whatever may come I hope to enjoy what happens and take it in some ways better than I have this year.

God bless you in whatever steps along the journey you make – hope you at least get to see His presence in them and like one writer be able to say, whatever your lot He has taught you to say ‘it is well with my soul’.

For His Name’s Sake



Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Power of the Story

I enjoy spending some time reflecting on the issues of life. It’s good for me. It keeps me sane when I want to go berserk. So anyway, today I was given that opportunity to do some reflecting and it occurred to me that the story has a lot to do with whatever success I have in life. I do like a good story. I enjoy a good story whether it’s true or not. Indeed some of the best stories are true and are good for helping me along in life and even some of the ones that don’t relate to reality.

When I think about the steps in life that I’m taking at the moment, it is amazing how they fit well with concepts of the story. It is fascinating how they work well in fitting in with so many things. So for example the story of the Beatles and their rise and fall up until that whole 1969/1970 fiasco is just so intriguing. Why did they fall apart the way they did? Why didn’t someone do something earlier to ensure the parting of the ways would be amicable? But in all those questions, what a story!

Then there’s the story of Manchester United. Now I’m not a United fan as you know only too well, and you’re also aware that as a Liverpool supporter, they are meant to be the enemy. Still, I like a good read and I like football so it’s only fair that I read up on some good stories. The story of Manchester United as written by Jim White is a really gripping insight into how the club that started off as a form of recreational relief for workers went onto become the multi-million pound going concern of the early 21st Century. The ups and downs, ins and outs, figures and personalities, principles and power-plays are not just about football or a city, but relate to elements of life to which we can all relate in some sense. Not only is it about where we were, it informs where we are and where we could go. All imaginatively and creatively outlined for us in the power of a story.

Lets face it a lot of people get concepts better through a story than they would through it being logically outlined and explained in a matter-of-fact way. Even lectures can rise above slumber-ville when inhabited with the characterisation of someone in a story form.

My own love for the word of God was not through the passionate preaching of our church pastor, or through the insistent children’s classes we had to endure back in the day. It all came about reading those interesting stories and even seeing them in comic form about this relationship between God and man, through the story of God and Israel. Then the widening of the relational picture through the mission of Christ and subsequent spreading of the gospel and the stories we read of the bigger pictures in the letters of the New Testament.

Now as I walk through life these stories inform aspects of it and help me to at least appreciate it in the light of a larger story. After all that is all that history records – what role we play in the story and we know that if we don’t learn from the lessons of history in some sad cases we can be in danger of repeating it. Who wants to live a bad ending?

So that’s the story of the story for the day and as you can see I’m glad to be back and blogging on a regular basis. As you also know I’m intrigued to keep on going with the blogging as an exercise in writing and bringing it together in whatever way I can. In the light of these passions and interests expect some more changes in the upcoming future ... but that’s another story!

For His Name’s Sake



Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Five Alive

For some reason when I thought of the title for today’s blog I was thinking about a fruit juice that I think was called the same name because it had five different fruits that contributed to the juice. I’m not sure if it’s still around or if it’s been taken off the market. It would be a pity if it has ... only for the purposes of this blog, not because I like it or anything. Those juice combinations didn’t always work out for the best and if my taste bud memory serves me faithfully that particular juice concoction wasn’t among me best.

All of which provides an insightful, though completely irrelevant set-up for today’s blog celebrating the fifth birthday of my firstborn child Deborah Dryden. I’m not sure if I’ve written that much about my experiences on being a father. I don’t think I have which is interesting when a significant part of my life and evident vocation is to be a father to my children. As me wife currently struggles and hobbles and waddles with our third child steadily developing in her tummy it is an apt time to reflect on the first one out of our relationship.

I didn’t prepare myself that much for marriage and even less for parenthood. I didn’t read up on it that voraciously. I didn’t do the usual sit down with the significant elders in my life who could pass on words of wisdom. Indeed the season before the firstborn’s appearance was a traumatic one for me and the marital relationship. So even if I did make the time to have those reads and chats I would not have had the emotional capacity to take it on. Such as it is then, at the most precious time in a man’s life when he beholds the miracle of childbirth I was not fully with it to appreciate it. No tears rolling down me eyes at the sight of this fluid covered baby.

Thankfully all that has changed significantly over those five years and whenever I look at Deborah now, I know the grace of God is real. Even whilst I was writing yesterday’s blog I was thinking about grace and how it works very much in the parental analogy. In a real way that child has done nothing to deserve the fuss made over her. She hasn’t worked for it, she hasn’t put in her hours, she hasn’t done anything and yet she is the beneficiary of being fed, clothed, catered for physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually by doting parents who evidently love to do it.

Therein is the rub – the bond is love. It’s not based on works done, it’s based on love. That is exactly how I often think it works with my relationship with my heavenly Father. He doesn’t love me for the things I do, He loves me because He is love and thus is the essence of loving out of His character. Thus to a large extent my actions and behaviour does not alter His character. Of course that doesn’t mean I then just stay in baby mode and just be a beneficiary taking it all in and only responding by crying when I’m hungry and belching when I’m finished with the food. The act of gratitude shows my active engagement in the grace exchange.

At five, though, Deborah has developed a number of attributes and characteristics that makes her quite a different being than the one that emerged from the womb of her mother all those years ago. Now she is a most verbose little girl quick to point out when something is not fair as well as give ongoing commentary on the many aspects of her busy life. Albeit a soft girl, she is very wily and knows what note to play at a given time. She is also a courteous girl, which delights me so. I do enjoy some of her verbal ramblings and her general conduct makes me pleased. Beyond that though, I still look at this now five year old girl and thank God for her. She is amazing and to know the circumstances in which she popped out and how that has not doused any sense of joy in her makes my heart glad. Seeing the creative developments flourishing in her and noting her God-given special characteristics makes it ever so exciting to be her dad.

So as five comes and goes today and as she milks being the centre of attention my heart’s desire is that she will still bear in mind that the real centre of attention is her heavenly Father who has given her so much good in her life. My prayer is likewise that her mother and father will also grow in being examples of that life of gratitude in the light of God’s grace, so that she will have an idea where to go as her own spiritual journey develops.

For His Name’s Sake



Monday, December 28, 2009

When God Says Lets Reason

I am a sinner. When AA was set up and started encouraging its members to introduce themselves by acknowledging the particular addiction from which they suffered, they were following a confessional tradition that has spanned the ages. I’m not arrogant enough to believe that Christians started it and initiated it and have a patent on it, but it is a crucial part of the confessional element of the faith. The first step of humility is this acknowledgement. Knowing who you are in the eyes of God begins with knowing who you are in the reflection of His holiness and purity and that is way off the mark ... or a sinner as the bible helpfully defines it.

Now you’ll notice that I never started this segment off with I was a sinner. Neither did I allude to being a former sinner. I quite clearly and deliberately stated that I am a sinner. It is not something I revel in, but something that keeps me ever in mind of the fact that I am in need of a Saviour, Redeemer and Guide. A Saviour to rescue me from my sinful nature, a Redeemer to take me from the sinful state to the state where I truly belong and a Guide to draw me ever closer to the source of my existence who helps me realise who I was always created to be.

These things I am in need to be mindful of constantly because it is just my way to slip out of that and get ahead of myself. It is just my way to consider myself as sorted and alright where others have not reached that point of spiritual and intellectual clarity and enlightenment. I catch myself in this state whenever I’m being critical of someone else whether my children, my siblings, my wife, my friends or the other vast cast of characters that comes in my life however fleetingly and for whatever reason. There I am pontificating even albeit internally on just how misguided and ignorant the person in question is from that which is true and how far they have missed the mark. Only to be graciously reminded of how I have been in that position myself and how my natural disposition would keep me there were it not for the love of God.

That’s why I love being a Christian. That dose of humility that you need to keep going and that realisation that it comes from a loving God whose mercy is without end saves us from the extremes of self-pity and despair as well as complacency and self-reliance. I love being a follower of Christ, because I’m invited into a relationship where my Creator seeks me out to lead me back to Him and to straighten me out and in that place I realise how good it is to love because you’ve been loved and how then spiritually it is possible to love without strings attached. Not easy, I said, but possible.

So I’m always perturbed when I read in the Bible the first chapter of the book of Isaiah and how the prophet outlines the charge against Judah for the first 15 verses. I’m perturbed because the allegations strikes every part of a nation’s life – political, economic, social as well as religious and spiritual. Especially the indictment of the religious hypocrisy that rampant throughout the country that made the people of Judah believe they could carry on with their rituals whilst beyond that their relationships were a mess. Now saying relationships are a mess is today translated as cultural breakdown, anti-social behaviour and the kind of circumstances that leads to pensioners bemoaning the fact that whereas back in the day you could leave your front door open, now you need an alarm, CCTV and several locks to keep you safe.

What’s worse about all this is that the charge that God makes in this chapter is against His own people. Not to strangers, not to people who don’t know, but those who have been engrafted in a relationship with Him by his saving power as seen in the Exodus. As seen in repeated episodes of His grace in action as time after time the spiritual adultery, deceit and outright rebellion has always been followed by His return to help whenever they call on Him.

To have similar complaints about the moral decay of countries like America and Britain actually neglects the fact that although there was the concept of Christendom these countries were never in the truest sense Christian – after all no such nation-state was ever due to arise since Jesus ascended. Instead God’s people would be a people out of a people who would come from all people and were not a people but became the people that Christ will return for as His Bride.

In the meantime concepts of a ‘Christian’ country have been misleading, whilst the called out people have slumbered on their ill-gotten political and social influence that has compromised their witness to the world of being called out of sin to be like their Saviour, Redeemer and Guide. So the very same charge that God levels at the people of Judah can often be levelled at the called out people. We make a song and dance of the ritual of church-stuff but the quality of our real relationships is shambolic to be a shame and bring disrepute to the name of our Saviour, Redeemer and Guide. This all comes because of a lack of recognition of that first step of humility. Remembering that first step and that first encounter with the amazing grace and yet startling holiness of God should convict us of the need to remain ever close to the One who has saved, redeemed and guided us.

I don’t say that in accusation to people out there. I say that because I get perturbed when I then read Isaiah 1:18-20.

Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Now why get perturbed at that, you may ask, surely it’s the good news of a God giving a second chance. Well the reason I get perturbed is because here we see that whenever God says let us reason it is not to sit and converse over things as equals, it’s actually to have the riot act read to us and giving a severe warning that unless we do what was always designed for us for our good then there are dire consequences. Oh come on, don’t be so pessimistic, Chris, I hear you remark. Yet I’m an optimistic guy by nature – in the context of where this text goes and what happens to the people, God’s request for reasoning is almost a last saloon time for His people. Reasoning with God is always a time for stiff reminder of how this walk is meant to go and how it’s not about self-pity or self-reliance, but about being like the publican who went away justified because his prayerful approach was to ask God for mercy.

That posture of the contrite spirit and broken heart doesn’t lead to miserable looking people forever condemning themselves for sinning yet again. On the contrary, it leads to compassionate, joyful, thankful people only to aware of being sinners saved by grace and so only too ready to help out wherever possible, but never compromising the call with which they have been called by Christ.

(It’s rather apt that I should be inspired to write this piece towards the end of the year as it bookends nicely with this piece at the beginning of the year about what we are like and why that should determine how we live.)

For His Name’s Sake



Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thanks For The Things That Last

As I’ve noted before I’ve just suffered for the umpteenth time the fact that me hard drive has been corrupted seeing the end of a lot of work over 2009 and usually bringing on a season of mourning and great sadness. It did cause considerable inconvenience over the time I was without it and I won’t pretend it didn’t hurt at the time. Yet unlike on previous occasions the feeling of loss wasn’t overwhelming and causing a sense of misery in me life.

Likewise as you may have noticed Liverpool have been doing poorly in the Premier League at a time when we were expecting them to be challengers for the title. Result after result has been disappointing as display after display has been less than good enough. I recall a time when these kind of results would cause considerable misery in my life and make my moods less than pleasant at the best of times. Yet unlike on those previous occasions the feeling of loss wasn’t overwhelming and causing a sense of misery in me life.

The nature of the move we’ve made has been quite traumatic and what it has involved has been really taxing emotionally, physically, relationally and spiritually. It would usually be my style to be thrust into an intense season of depression and inactivity where I feel rejected by those near and dear to me. That would usually bring about questioning and suspicion on anyone and everyone and a seeming inability to get on with my life. Yet unlike on previous occasions the feeling of loss wasn’t overwhelming and causing a sense of misery in me life.

You’ll probably notice a trend in recent events in the life of dmcd and there’s a good reason for that. This came to the fore of things recently. The wife and I were watching Gladiator yesterday. Now when I offered to watch that with her, she was concerned that I actually said Gladiators. Now let’s be clear, I’m not sure if you can two more opposing programme and media concepts as these two. I won’t try to look for similar things of great difference. On the one hand you have a moving tale of loss and retribution and on the other you have a tacky show of ‘athleticism’ with a catchphrase by one of it’s presenters that was ripped off from Red Dwarf.

In any case so we’re watching the movie starring Russell Crowe and enraptured with the story of a general of men who just wants to return to his home – his family, his wife, his precious son. Then because of political conspiracy and the insecurity of a power-hungry weak son, all that he holds dear is ripped away from him. We are left to wonder what can you live for when all you have is gone?

So what am I talking about? The extension of the question is, why invest in something that can be taken away from you so easily? How fragile is life? How temporary are the things around us – like the success of football teams, like hard-drives, like relationships? I’m not saying have a negligent approach to these issues. When it comes to relationships our whole time on this earth is to make the most of them and share those intangible qualities that make them so special. Herein, however, lies the point behind the different approach I’ve had to the above issues.

Those intangible qualities refer to the eternal characteristics of God – what makes a relationship worthwhile? Love. Unconditional, supportive, always faithful, always encouraging and in every sense a force that looks to see the positive and walk through the negative towards that positive. It’s not a tangible quality. It’s not something that is sold at this year’s sales before VAT rises. It’s not something that was being pushed that well when the recent season was being held. It’s not something that is popularised for what it is through the year, although it is often perverted and distorted to lure and entice mugs into their lair.

I’ve been able to cope a little bit better under these and other storms in life because I’m learning that the investment that matters most to me in life is the investment in life with Christ. The crucial elements of life worth living for are the eternal treasures to be found in the Kingdom of God as found in a relationship with Him through His Son by his Spirit with the promise that this will not be ripped away by the insecurities of man and the powers that be, but will last forever. When I invest in something like that, there’s just no way that I can lose, even if hard-drives, football teams and relationships go by the wayside.

For His Name’s Sake