Friday, October 16, 2009

Hope You're Getting Dis

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)

Yesterday on the way into work I was reflecting on the words ‘disenchanted’ and ‘disillusioned’. It occurred to me that these are usually related to negative experiences. In the larger scheme of things though, this process is actually a very good thing.

Think about it – we have been under a chant or an illusion. We have been fooled and blinded by that which is actually not true but an apparition that keeps us bound in a falsehood, however pleasant that apparition may appear. Of course the process itself is not too positive. It’s not great to know you’ve been hoodwinked. Knowing that something has been had over you for any period of time can be frustrating and annoying. However, the truth that sets you free to wake up to reality as it is can actually help to allow things to rest on a sound basis.

The experience of being under a spell can make you wary of being put there again and warn others off likewise. The deal with being disillusioned and disenchanted is not to allow that to become entrenched positions of being dispirited, discouraged and disappointed. Each new step in the world of reality maybe nerve-wracking and be tentative at first, but at least these are steps taken in the real world, at least the solidity and reliability of where you walk lets you know that it won’t lead to such an experience again.

Earlier this year I posted an entry about Keith Green’s Your Love Broke Through. I was thinking about it again recently in regard to this issue. It is one of the saddest things in the world to know that the god of this world has blinded people’s eyes to the gospel. The concept of being blinded is so evident when people are being captured by different pursuits so completely that they are wrapped up in it. The illusion is complete by the apparently beatific looks on their face as they engage in their chosen passion. It is apparent by the way I can be so deceived and were it not for God’s abundant mercies a rang of fads and phases could have overwhelmed me.

That is why I’m so glad for the opportunities to see the eyes of people opened by the reality of the gospel and the need to follow the way that Jesus makes clear. As I take further steps on this journey with some tricky paths ahead, I trust that I will not fall into a spell of legalism or the enchanting tones of licentiousness. I trust that my heart will not be deceived by independence, or crippled by unhealthy dependence on others. I trust that as Paul continues to say in the same section of scripture that the light will shine out of darkness in the face of Jesus Christ.

For His Name's Sake



Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Only Pressure In Teaching Is From You

There’s quite a lot to consider in teaching those from the post-compulsory age (i.e. post 16). No wonder some go crackers when you consider the level of paperwork involved. In fact there is so much involved I wouldn’t be surprised if teachers are responsible for most of the trees decimated. It is understandable to some extent to work through some of the paperwork, but it does really come across as too much. I often consider if there’s any real time for creative work in putting lessons together.

Then you consider the different learning styles of the learners in the class, you consider their individual learning profiles, characters and personalities. You know that for the lesson to work it has to be shaped around those who are learning and sometimes that may require stretching beyond the realms of that with which I’m comfortable. It is not easy being a teacher.

Yet what I learnt more than anything today was the only pressure from teaching came from the teacher. It’s a bit like Jesus’ directions about discipleship. It’s about sitting down and counting the cost. Once that cost has been calculated and you begin to go down the street of the teaching deal then the only applicable pressure applied is from the teacher. The paperwork is not the core of the teaching, the academic progress is not the key at least at first. Where the real deal starts is the initial assessment but more than that it is about recognising what our limitations are and allowing others to work and get their own learning.

In a very real way, the only pressure comes from within. That is why it is so important people passing by are aware of what’s going on within. Sometimes our mind plays tricks on us and that which we think is pressure is not pressure at all. Sometimes we need to know what’s going on behind the scenes so that all fears can be allayed and actually the teacher can go on with the teaching. It is not easy, biut it is possible where the focus is clear and straight. Knowing that this is where the real deal is can help in determining where to invest in the resources.

Pressure can be a good thing if it produces fruit, but this in itself is an internal matter where it is determined what are we doing for Jesus reasons and when they are selfish whims. There’s no excuse in the light of the factor that thte pressure comes from within. Now for the process of getting wholeness whilst looking to share with others that which has been learnt.

For His Name's Sake



He's My Brother

Today my only biological brother celebrated his 31st birthday. David joins my father and I in not being that much bothered about birthday celebrations. Then again the whole point about these things is that you don’t have to be bothered when other people will be bothered for you. When it comes to being bothered about David Dryden I make a habit of it.

I trust my brother. I implicitly trust him in a way that I trust no other human being with the exception of my wife. I trust my brother like I trust no other man including my own dad. When everyone else gave up on me, my brother never gave up on me. When everyone else misunderstood me, my brother stuck around and even when it was a case of others not wanting to stick around, he stuck up for me like no other person has ever stuck up for me. The Bible suggests that faithful are the wounds of a friend and my brother has been faithful in challenging my beliefs, deflating my ego and on occasion giving me some hard home truths.

There was a point in which I hoped he and his beautiful wife Nicola would stay with me in the area. It is a point of how highly I regard him that I desperately wanted that to be the case. As it happened it worked out for the best that he chose to remain in Milton Keynes as it has meant I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy many great weekends down his yard and seeing what it is to enjoy the Sabbath rest, have wonderful warn relaxed fellowship and good food.

David as a brother has been brilliant this year in the understated ways as well. This year has been crucial for him to grow up and he’s risen well to the challenge. It is the greatest joy to know he’s made it being a father. The devotions he has and the undoubted love he has for his wife and his son are a quality trait to be admired by most men and I’m glad he’s not made some of the elemental early mistakes that I made in a similar position.

My brother remains a man of integrity committed to the truth at any cost especially on himself. He’s been willing to walk in places that few would dare to tread on the basis of his conviction of his beliefs. He’s taken that road alone at times, but he has shown incredible strength of character to not only persist in the area but also to gain strength and wisdom from it.

It is his character development over recent years that have been particularly pleasing to me. His skill and talent were never in question, but his priority of character over theses has allowed him to pay some costly prices in this regard. That bravery is something I hope will be a hallmark of his son and others. I pray that his circle of influence will indeed continued to be impressed by his character.

David faces some hard days ahead and I’m sure wouldn’t say no to prayers for him and his family, yet I remain confident in God that my brother will walk through these challenges with a great commitment to the truth and expression of it in his daily life. I know I continue to appreciate his advice and words of wisdom that remind me of what it’s all about. I know these will be entrenched even further because of his choosing his path of righteousness.

He’s a great friend to me and means far more than flesh and blood. I trust he will go from success to success in every aspect of his life. He ain’t heavy …

For His Name's Sake



Monday, October 12, 2009

What Is The Narrow Road?

For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:14)

Should God spare my life and give me the opportunity I would love to write out my spiritual journey as fully as I can more as a testament to the greatness of God rather than an ego-fest of how I’ve got close to Him. It is amazing to recall some of the key episodes that have brought me to this place and in all of this as so many things have been questioned and reinforced and changed His faithfulness and grace to me has only grown.

I find the concept of the narrow gate and hard way still difficult to swallow. What makes it even worse is how few people are actually finding it. I was reminded of it when I came across this cool song on the subject by Jon Gibson. The way itself is not difficult to work out because this is what Jesus has been talking about since He started teaching this sermon. Poor in spirit? Merciful? Pure in heart? Loving your enemies? Secret devotional life? Seeking first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness? Not worrying about basic necessities? Not being judgemental? Taking the log before sorting the mite? Living one of those things is challenging, living several of these is a stretch – the whole package, and the others as well is just crazy to expect from people. Talk about hard – hard doesn’t cover it.

Not only that but there is the issue of how much this will cost us in this life? Rejection, hatred, persecution, misunderstanding, and that’s just a part of the bargain. Gaining new desires from that which satisfies the self to that which satisfies God is a hard process and doing that in the light of an expression of success which doesn’t fit those around us also makes it the more difficult on the surface. I find it involves hard decisions not just in the day to day issues of temptation, but the larger scheme of things like commitment to lifestyle choices, relationships, connections and the like. This can sometimes call for traumatic changes in life that affect things at a deep level, then the question always emerges, what is at stake?

It is not a joyless task and it is character defining that involves a greater appreciation for joy in the truest sense of the word. It also allows you to learn contentment more and more and celebrate pictures of God’s grace wherever they shine from whatever weird angles. I am really glad for the people I’ve come across on the journey who have been good indicators of where I am and where I should go.

I realise above all, though, that it is the Good Shepherd leading me to learn a life of rhythm – rest, recuperation, walking and disciplining towards the feast ahead. In His wisdom, He does what it takes to ensure that all His flock ever need is Him. He does what it takes to show that all the flock could ever want is Him. So even in the hard times, He knows best and He becomes more and more all that I ever need.

For His Name's Sake



Who Are You Not What Are You Good At

I finally got to watch The Wrestler recently. I saw a film that told a wonderful morality play along the lines of what happens when you invest your life into something at the cost of everything and you are defined by what you do rather than investing in who you are called to be as a character.

This is particularly poignant if we are particularly good at what we are doing – if it gets us acclaim, fame and that glimmer of glory that is like a whiff of something intoxicating, alluring and compulsively addictive. We are good at it, so we become one with it and no longer have the emotional or character skills to deal with life when we are no longer the best at what we do and there is nothing left to life for us.

Someone said that it was a film that dragged for her, but to me it travelled at a measured pace ticking all the journey marks of a good story – tell the basic areas of the character’s life, introduce the main character, let us know what the main theme of the brother’s life is, give us the crucial up and down points, lead us to the finish. It does this well, it takes us on an emotional rollercoaster but in no way at a stomach churning pace.

So I enjoyed watching the film and came away thanking God again that He has delivered us from any other preoccupation other than being His sons, so that I don’t find my identity in anything else than that – not what I do, or who knows me or how well I am known. I also left hoping others would likewise be set free from such a dangerous clinch on the world and the things of the world.

To be lonely is a very sad thing and there we don’t have true love that forgives, that puts relationships as a priority and that can allow us to find contentment in the simplicity of life and not be wracked by a need to be fulfilled by the temporary.

So I was reflecting on some of the lessons I learnt from The Wrestler and continued reading the book of the moment which is the autobiography of Eric Bristow I was walking home and as usual thinking. The Bristow book is definitely about a man who became obsessed with something he was good at to the cost of virtually everything else. Whilst taking all that in, I thought again about King David’s issue with Bathsheba (found in 2 Samuel 11 and 12).

There is a reading of the story that goes as follows. David took time off from doing what he’s always meant to be doing, i.e. leading the troops. Because he took that time off he was susceptible to being caught off guard and hence the whole mess and so the lesson to learn is to always be at our post doing what we’re meant to be doing so we don’t foul up as David did.

The problem with that reading is that it doesn’t actually address the fact that David’s actions with Bathsheba exposes the dark heart of what David is capable of to himself more than anyone. It exposes his spiritual bankruptcy and vulnerability to the many sins that plague a lot of men. To leave it down to the brother taking a break actually reinforces the sort of thinking that makes the Protestant Ethic such a popular thing for work-a-holics.

There is something to be said about being where you need to be, doing what need to be doing so as not to be caught out. In this case, however, there is more to it than that. It fits a better picture of our growing understanding of what the life of every faith-traveller reveals – after the initial encounter with God others follow like this that are not meant for someone’s elevation but again to bring the traveller to an appreciation of their utter dependency on God because of the deeper issues in life.

I trust that out identity will continually be tried by God so that all the dross is dealt with, in whatever season of life and we won’t be dependent on something we’re good at or something we desire of limited value. Rather our desire will again be determined by God telling us that we are His and He is ours.

For His Name's Sake



Sunday, October 11, 2009

Management, Meekness, Moses and Me

Recently I attended a meeting that was set up to organise a function to be held soon. I like to keep it vague so that no one gets hurt. Kinda.

Anyway, one thing that became very clear to me as I entered the meeting and noticed the atmosphere from the people in attendance was that there remains a great truth in the saying power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. There is something about the whiff of power that can turn people’s heads. It can make them think of themselves as ever so slightly superior to others, with the clout that they have and the ability to exercise it whenever they want. Not only that but that faint promise that they can truly have whatever they want in that sphere of existence.

I am aware of myself. I am aware of my nature and tendencies and I am not one to suggest at all that the whiff of power would not entice to me likewise. As a result I’m very wary of any area that might give me that impression. Many a story has been told of people who enter positions of power with noble intentions who are very soon compromised by the many factors involved in the executing, maintaining and progressing of that power.

That’s what makes the story of Moses all the more fascinating. Here was a guy who was aware of his destiny from a young man and only his impetuous nature and anger management issue made him try to act before his time. His intentions were no doubt noble, but it was such a serious misfire that from a position of power and prominence in the super power of the known world he was on the run in the middle of the wilderness.

Whatever happened in the ensuing time, what is clear is that the man who was called in the Burning Bush episode was no longer the bravado social justice hero messiah figure that he would have been 40 years earlier. It is not to say he lost the ability, the intelligence, the rhetoric style or anything else. What it is to say that by the time God commissions him on the great work of the era he is ready to be used by God. That is the key to meekness as I read it. It’s not to say it is about weakness, but it is implicitly based on that humility from experience that due to our unerring ability to mess things up, it would be good to actually give the controls back to the owner rather than try to play by ourselves.

Of course Moses’ own anger management issues would be his own downfall preventing him for stepping into that which God had promised his people.

That acknowledgement leads me to the point about management and the issue with the power trip. I notice Jesus wasn’t big on people getting ideas of power and the whole trip of titles and position. Indeed He was more than happy to show that the power of love was in giving it away, not hoarding it to exhibit as an ego trip. The problem with power unattached to responsibility is that for some reason rather than making a decision because of our stewardship call, we begin to believe that hype that maybe we are good enough to be in charge, to wield the power, to be the big chief making all the big decisions. That problem is quickly remedied by the ever helpful reminder that without the Creator in control, and giving the instructions to make sure we go the right way in our management there is a great likelihood that a mess will be in the offing sooner.

The management mentality and meekness goes together well then – that which we have is not our own, it belongs to the Maker of all things. That we are able to exercise some level of engagement with it at all is not something to take lightly, but something to place in the context of the relationship that made it possible. Does that make it look like a restricted, dour existence? Not if it is actually an invitation to live a joyful life of freedom allowing us to be whatever we are called to be to contribute to making life worth living in preparation to a better one to come.

That of course, then, just requires me to do the small thing of learning how to be meek all of again and not making the mistake of thinking that by myself I can make it. I blatantly cannot and life is much better in His will than without it. God help us all.

For His Name's Sake



Friday, October 09, 2009

What Is It About The Teaching On The Mount?

It’s fair to say what is often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount has not always captured my imagination.

Indeed I got a bit bored with people taking snippets from it and having them as poster campaigns for their own agendas. Like the ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ mob that defiantly went about telling others they couldn’t be judged as only God could judge them. Or the ‘golden rule’ crew who just went about thinking it was a decent ethos to go about saying do to others as you’d have done to you. I was brought up in a church was a bit of a stickler for getting the Word right.

Not that we got the Word right ourselves, after all our church hardly grew out, in, up or down – that’s not a slight, more of a general fact. In any case as a stickler for the Word it wasn’t always cool seeing people nick these bits and pieces without getting the whole thing. Not that I ever thought about getting the whole thing myself.

That changed in 2006 though. I’ve yet to write about how significant a year that was in my own spiritual development but it was a renaissance period for me in a number of ways. One of those ways was to go back to basics again checking what it was to love God – for who He revealed Himself to be in His Word rather than the faith of my father or the doctrine of the church in which I was brought/dragged up.

One of those fundamental building blocks was an appreciation all over again of the Beatitudes. You’ll know it’s something when I committed them all to memory and let it soak in me especially the fourth one that focussed on hungering and thirsting after righteousness. I got in major deep into that section of scripture and realised just how much I had to start from the beginning in cultivating a living relationship with God through His Son. As you can imagine it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. More on that in a future blog I hope.

That as you may have calculated was three years ago and since then I’ve had my fancy taken with other scriptures and theological concepts. In the background however has always been especially that Beatitude and the issues that spring from that, for example a definition of righteousness that doesn’t capitulate to having right this or right that – a bit too tautological for my liking.

Anyway along life’s journey since then I’ve come across a book or two on what I prefer to refer to as the Teaching on the Mount. (After all at the start it says he taught and at the end people were amazed at what he taught, it occurred to me that perhaps calling it a teaching might be a tad more accurate. Having said that it’s obviously later scholars who referred to it as a sermon just as some bright spark referred to the first part as Beatitudes.) As this year has proceeded I was drawn again to the theme of this tremendous teaching.

A friend of mine came across a dude who majored on the piece of scripture and that caught my interest and I began to be a lot more interested in seeing the Beatitude in its context. As love would have it then just as I was skirting round the edges the whole topic became the subject of our recent 13-week study. So now I get the chance to mix life, business and pleasure and share what I love about it as I study it and reflect on how I put it in practice and how it convicts of the areas that still are in need of better practice.

On reading it as regularly as I am at the moment the thing that catches my eye about this brilliant monologue is how Jesus is not just outlining and clarifying how the law was fulfilled when it was a part of our hearts turning us into the character of our Father, but how He Himself typifies all that we talk of. The point of worship is to show love for God and that is first expressed in the profession of faith in Jesus and here He outlines what that faith means for our heart’s attitude to God and to others.

Also as I read it, the thing becomes ever clearer to me in terms of how it should be read as one. Not just a collection of random thoughts by Jesus as to what would Kingdom life be like, but one coherent piece pointing people not just to the Kingdom or Kingdom living, but to the King Himself and how He stands as an example for us to follow. I’m drawn by the counter-intuitive and counter-cultural quality of this teaching. I’m drawn to how it challenges me to be light and salt not by conforming but by being distinctive and a clear beacon to others of who God is. I’m excited by the power of the secret life of prayer, fasting and giving and how that helps us to get priorities straight in not worrying about temporal worldly stuff, but getting caught up with the things that matter.

I love the areas that remain a bit mysterious – what the pearls and swine bit all about really? I’m sobered up pretty quickly by the definition of a hard way through a narrow gate. I’m particularly made sharp by the reality of professing Christians being called workers of lawlessness because Jesus does not know them as evident particularly from their fruits. I don’t just read, I envisage Jesus teaching it whilst using word imagery to get people’s heads grasping what He’s saying. I get caught up with the flow of the piece and am brought to a sombre yet stimulating close by the house analogy. I can easily see why people get carried away with it, it is a brilliant piece of work. As I explore further I hope to share some of the things that come to me and let it settle with you.

For His Name's Sake



Peace and Love

Coming across songs that don’t have that great a public exposure but have a solid lyrical message with a brilliant musical hook is a great joy to me. Now this is all about connections.

You’re aware that I’m a Jon Gibson fan. Yeah, you know that. I love the man’s music big time and I obviously don’t blog about him enough. On an album he did not too long ago he worked with a brother called Tommy Sims to do a song I’ve treasured ever since I’ve heard it called There For You. If you remind me I’ll blog it and share the goodness.

Even more scandalously is the lack of Marvin Winans that has been evident on this blog. Now here is a brother who’s talent for singing and writing quality songs has helped me a great deal in life. All I have to refer you to him is a brilliant spoof of the guy by a Christian comedian called Broderick Rice.

Well as love would have it, Tommy did an album displaying his undoubted music talent and who should be his guest vocalist on the main track? So just thought I’d take the time to allow you to enjoy it for all it’s worth and I really will have to do something about the lack of quality music on this blog. By that I’m talking quantity, not disrespecting the stuff that’s already here!

Enjoy this beauty about two of my favourite words outside ‘baked’ and ‘beans’.

For His Name's Sake



Thursday, October 08, 2009

He Gets About

I was recently reflecting on just how God is in everything. Not in the deist sense of things where He is the trees, the river, the birds, etc. I mean it in the sense that if I have the eyes to see and the ears to hear I’ll experience Him in every situation I face in life. Whether it’s His commitment to joy seen in the playfulness of my girls, His character of compassion seen in the young people crying out for love at the YMCA, the call to patience and perseverance when I’m on a shopping trip with all the female members of the household and they’re being a pain of one sort or the other. He gets about. That He shows me glimpses of His character in these events reminds me of my responsibility to seek Him in all aspects of my life. It also reminds me of His incredible grace and mercy

For His Name's Sake



Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Be Careful What You Blog For

You remember me talking about needing nothing but a relationship with Jesus even at the detriment of my creature comforts like dear relationships and connection to me laptop. Well would you believe that today me personal laptop is currently undergoing some technical difficulties which means it is not available to me at this moment. Inconvenient? Yes. Pain in the neck? Definitely. Refreshing, liberating and challenging in a stimulating way? Absolutely.

Life goes on and you get on with it somehow. At present the wife is allowing me to use her machine, which is very generous of her, even if like her it’s a cute little thing with keys far too small for my fingers!!

So I be just blogging in gratitude to the fact that sometimes God gives an insight into foresight that we appreciate in hindsight and it remains all good

For His Name's Sake



Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Laying The Ground Rules

Ah this is more like it. It’s a Tuesday. It’s late night. I’ve ministered to the wife’s needs and heard her day. I’ve had the day at work and the evening at the session and I’m ready to write.

We learnt a fair amount of stuff today in the session, legislation, communication and the importance of referral systems to support the learner in their holistic approach to effective learning. Among other things we learnt today was the importance of setting ground rules with the learners in our given class. As we discussed some of the things to be stated in any set of ground rules I found it intriguing how much for granted people took their own values, almost as though their own values should naturally be followed by others just because it’s the standards of their day. What’s also fascinating is how on the one side imposing views and beliefs on others is a bad thing, but in actuality that’s what teaching seeks to do by one means or another. Nothing is rigorously challenged about those beliefs and they are taken on face value. What lies beneath however, is often something that appeals to an objective authority. It is as if it is good because it was good for me and my parents and the upbringing I had.

Ground rules, however are important in any given venture. A certain understanding of the guidelines and necessary boundaries to experience the best of what’s available can only be a good thing. The alternative of feeling anything goes and finding out it’s hugely detrimental effects can make any venture fraught with danger after danger. Ground rules are cool, ground rules are important. In the sense of being with a group of learners who you want to empower in their understanding and overall development sharing the experience and having ownership of the making of the ground rules can only be a good thing.

As I thought further on the subject I looked at it in the light of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount. In a very real way these can be considered the ground rules for access to the Kingdom of Heaven and His ability to teach them obviously left his listeners amazed at the level of authority with which He spoke. When you read it out – not as if you’re reading a menu, but as if you’re reading someone teaching – when you read it that way it is quite something to see how connected it all is and how challenging these ground rules are. Imagine being told that the way is going to be hard, imagine being told that only a few would ever find it – that doesn’t exactly sound like an inclusive deal does it. That doesn’t sound all-embracing really. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not making out that Jesus had an agenda that fell neatly into a right-wing version of heaven brought about by as many wars and offensive behaviours as possible. I’m definitely not making out that Jesus was applauding those with a mentality to completely opt out of the world as we know it and live in communes and enclaves and even worst Christian ghettos where we have Christianised versions of world products and lifestyle.

What I am suggesting, back to my desire about wanting to teach people who want to be taught, in as much as I want what I teach to be accessible to people of different backgrounds and style, there is actually something about the content and it’s challenge that not everyone will live up to or want. Them are just the ground rules.

For His Name's Sake



Getting By With A Little Help ...

Well here we go, This is a bit unusual, but here I am blogging at this time of day and it made a whole heap of sense to do it.

I’ve noted on maybe a few occasions that my tendency is to be a bit of a loner. It is nothing to me to be in my own company carrying along merrily with whatever task I set my mind to – reading a book, watching a movie, writing a blog, studying me Bible, whatever. My own company is brilliant – solitude has not really been an issue to me.

Yet over the years the value of relationships, companionships, friendship, fellowship and all the other ships in the same company have come to the fore and I enjoy being able to call someone, email someone or even that quaint notion of sitting down and face to face sharing with someone. I love it. This has even contributed to the number of personal tributes I’ve made to special people in my life from my darling wife to my dear friend (you didn’t think I forgot that trip did you?) Mavia.

The growing realisation is as well that I am the product of other people. I have aspects of me that are unique and God-given and the like, but for the large part I’m a result of the impact of other people. The book that influences me is the mind of another person. The food that gives me satisfaction how mechanised the process is still the labour of love of another person. The television programmes and web-sites are obviously the product of another person. I am indeed not a rock or an island by myself It would be the height of being foolhardy to discount just how many people have made me who I am today.

So in reflecting on that I came across this familiar song and thought it appropriate once more the celebrate good friends and the blessing that God has given me in being a relational being to realise that I get by with a little help from my friends. There is of course a friend who sticks closer than a brother, so in that case I’m also indebted to the enormous help that has got me by from Jesus.

For His Name's Sake



Monday, October 05, 2009

What's Really Important

Do you ever ask yourself what’s really important? Do you ever answer yourself by a changed life – not drastically, but noticeably? Do you catch up on yourself when you said you would do something, or be somewhere and then find that you’ve wandered far from that goal, despite still having a desire to achieve that goal?

It’s fine if you don’t ask those questions or engage in that sort of inner-monologue, we’re not all meant to be that reflective, for some people it’s too much to deal with. I am intrigued by how many people I know have an active life that keeps them busy so that they don’t ever stop to consider these things. They are irrepressible in their zeal to get the job done, whatever it is. Their energy makes them almost indefatigable in their conquest. Yet when life happens as it invariably does with those things that arrest us all of a sudden we’re not prepared to answer those issues, yet have to be forced to develop the capacity to do so or face a miserable time looking to avoid it.

Stuff happens in life that allows me to recognise how attached I am to material things. It is a bit like the songwriter suggests in the inimitable voice of Joni Mitchell – you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. As you may note, I enjoy the pleasures of being able to write and save stuff and publish it online. I love that whole thing and have been tremendously blessed with the resources I’ve gained online whether it’s audio works or pdf files on interesting subjects.

I have thus invested a considerable amount of time on this here ICT equipment and a considerable amount of my creativity and energy. As with anything of this nature, that means the stuff becomes valuable because I’ve invested myself in it. Unsurprisingly hard-drives and computers have become very important to me. Yeah, take me telly. Take me Skybox, take some of my books and other than that there really is not many earthly materials that I have to my name. Touch my hard-drive, though and that becomes an issue. I’m making progress in this area.

I remember not so long ago a friend of mine sought to help me out with some difficulties I was having with my hard-drive and subsequently went and got the thing irreparably damaged. It was like a death in the family. It was as though someone had ripped my heart out because all that time and effort that I had saved and deposited on that hard-drive was just gone. Now that to me was more valuable than money, than jewels, etc. it was me that was gone – or a large part of it.

Sadly that’s not the only time hard-drives have failed me for one reason or another. Yet with each time, it’s as though I’m given a reminder of that question I asked at the top – what is really important in life? What could I not live without?

My friends mean a lot to me, I so appreciate their company and companionship. I remember asking God for friends and now recalling the ones I get to engage with, I’m really grateful for them. Yet I could live without them (not that I’d want to but you get my drift). My daughters are incredibly precious to me, but one day soon as they get older I appreciate there will come a time when they will fly away and have families of their own. Even my wife, herself, the very heart-beat of our family and love of my life has a death contract on her – no it’s not a serious threat by the Mafia, it is the inevitability that we are all destined to die. So I’ve learnt and am learning, whenever I forget and get hung up on things, that the things that are important are the things that last forever. Values of love, peace, justice, hope and faith. More importantly relationships that last forever – the source of all that I enjoy and respect.

My friends and family are vitally important, I know however that when they fail and when hard-drives pass away, the love of Jesus lasts for ever. Now it’s the tricky thing of shaping and moulding my life around that conviction. God help me.

For His Name's Sake



Sunday, October 04, 2009

Remembering Love

I’ve been on a weekend conference. Now that sounds posh doesn’t it? What other phrases can I chuck in there? We did lunch and cracked the deal that should see millions flooding in. Not true, but it sounds right in the context of a weekend conference.

In any case, you may remember the talk I’ve been making about confessional community and I had a glimpse of what that looked like this weekend with a group of people I don’t know. They were more than happy to share aspects of their lives that were hard to share. Really confessing some deep stuff that they have struggled and overcome and in some cases yet to overcome all in an atmosphere that celebrated the freedom that we have to share these things and more importantly, that which brings it above self-help, our complete dependence on Jesus to help us in these things. Funnily enough that was not the sole point of the weekend, indeed it was looking at some interesting aspects of the time to come.

So I enjoyed the weekend. I enjoyed it a great deal and one of the highlights of it was the opportunity to share in communion. Now that’s a whole topic in itself in terms of my position on that in comparison to some other approaches. I won’t go into it now. What I will go into is the run-up to it. There was talk about the importance of love as the motive for all we do. A love that forgives our enemy. A love that endures all things and believes all things. A love so rooted and grounded in being loved first that we no longer love for what we want from others or a self-indulgent desire to be loved, but knowing we are already loved we give.

Nothing typifies this greater than the three crucial images of a follower of Christ – the cross, the empty tomb and the right hand of God. The journey all disciples take in their realisation of the greatest love there has ever been. This love is only possible because of what Jesus has done for us to be reconciled to the greatest lover in the universe. On realising this again and remembering this I recall the most moving expression my dad ever had about love through tears and thanksgiving and likewise I burst out in tears of thanksgiving.

So I see how love makes me appreciate my family and other loved ones. I see how love set me free to be one who loves. That is my heart’s desire and privilege one day, one conversation, one relationship at a time.

For His Name's Sake