Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Living For Spiritual Highs - Walking Through Spiritual Lows

My church background is pretty interesting and the things that I’ve learnt over my time in Stoke-on-Trent and especially at the YMCA has been eye-opening for so many reasons. I’m extremely grateful to God to be exposed to these things and experience a lot of them as well as observe them. The more I see new things and they connect with God the more I’m amazed at how wondrous and beyond my comprehension He is.

Something I’ve noticed is how certain corporate experiences in services and the like. In some settings there’s a great anticipation and expectation for something significant to take place. Sometimes when that expectation is met it knits people together in amazing ways that would not have been applicable in another setting. People have some memories they share of how God moved in their situation and it’s brilliant.

There is no doubting that the power of God is able to deliver people instantly from things that have been plaguing them for years. It is a reality that has been witnessed and celebrated time and time again. In all that expectation and anticipation it can sometimes, appear as though Christians live for spiritual highs. Almost as if occasions like that is their fix. The concern here is because of the painful work of sanctification that requires slower process work and it’s more about brothers and sisters supporting each other by being there for each other challenging and consoling one another as they bear each other’s burdens.

Although it is prevalent in New Testament epistles it does not appear as emphasised in the Christian experiences as the wonderful charismatic moments. It’s not an either/or situation, it is a both/and gig where there is an appreciation for what both brings to the table.

It’s a concern that comes from hearing and seeing people talk of an amazing move of God only to see them struggling to maintain any semblance of a Christian life afterwards. Rather than growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus, it just appears as though they’ve got their fix and just wait for the next one to come along. Is that what following Jesus is really about? Isn’t there something about actually changing in character from a selfish, sinful, slob of a slug of a sentient being, to a humble, mourning, meek, hungering & thirsting, merciful, pure and peacemaking personalities? Doesn’t that further reinforce the loving attitude that’s then developed with each other and the Spirit-filled life that comes from that, rather than an almost addictive power-driven desire for spectacle for self-gratification?

From this I have a desperate desire to see liberated people of faith gradually addressing their flaws and exercising their gifts and having an expectation and anticipation for God to show up, but not just in the wham, bam, thank you ma’am of charismatic events, but in the hum, drum, pedigree chum of regular life.

For His Name's Sake



Monday, November 23, 2009

You Don't Have To Roll The Old Chariot Along

I had one of those trains of thought lately that you don’t ignore because it gets you thinking about something that you often take for granted. OK, you may not being the ever observant, considered and thoughtful person you are, but until I grow up to be just like you, I’m left with these occurrences.

Who was the writer who put together the song Roll The Old Chariot Along? (We sang it differently, but then that’s to be expected, we’re always different we are.) I’d like to know what on earth was going on in his head. I know my parents’ era loved that kind of song. I can still see it now in a typical service where people get all emotional and high on the song, obviously with the appropriate beat and musical accompaniment. Given the right atmosphere some people may get all carried away ‘in the Spirit’ with the thought of rolling it over him.

Has anyone checked the lyrics to that song, though? I mean really, what on earth is the old chariot? Why can’t we look behind? Who wants to roll an old chariot along? What’s in the chariot that makes it so special? Where is the liberty given to use the vehicle as a weapon of demonic aggression?

What do you expect to do in rolling it over the devil? You ever noticed how Jesus engaged with demons by expelling them from whomever they were inhabiting, but you’ll notice he doesn’t destroy them. You’ll also notice the complete removal and destruction of the forces of evil is scheduled for the end of time. Our engagement and encounter with the aforementioned forces of evil is one in which by the power of the name of Jesus we are able to overcome evil with good and victory is enjoyed when we do that good and then the enemy is obligated under spiritual protocol to do a runner having met his match with the Creator of the known and unknown universe. You’ll notice that the running over of those opposed to the venture of discipleship with an aged chariot is nowhere prescribed.

That would be bad enough, but then to go as far as to promote the use of such vehicular violence on people opposed to your forward progression is surely irresponsible and may be a subliminal support to the enjoyment of games such as Grand Theft Auto.

Here the new generation could give new lyrics to the traditional favourite. Here it is the case of speed the latest pimped up ride to the location of choice and rather than rolling it over the opposition proceed to use souped up weaponry to dispose of any who are likely to prevent that progressive propulsion.

Of course with the local law enforcement officers in hot pursuit the advice to never look behind may indeed prove to be ill-chosen if the constabulary happen to be right on the rear and about to exercise their duties in placing you under arrest.

The song may have worked for the militant civil-rights, establishing our place on the planet strongly generation, but those of us who actually want to be peace-makers and realise that the only violence required for that is to forcefully enter the Kingdom then such as song really is unnecessary and actually pointless.

If you’ve read this and you’re wondering with that quizzical look if this guy’s for real welcome to one of my regular trains of thought that takes you to destinations you don’t know through some stations that make sense and some that do not. There’s enough to be getting on with, so make of it what you will.

For His Name's Sake



Sunday, November 22, 2009

Divided Loyalties

Sometimes when I watch movies, especially James Bond ones, I listen out for when the title of the movie will be mentioned. (Obviously in my opinion Roger Moore always delivered his best of all the Bonds, that raised eyebrow just convinced me from the start.) I think that sometimes it is whilst writing the narrative or some dialogue in the narrative that the title for a book or a movie emerges, just as a significant theme in a song that is repeated can lend itself as the song title. In the same way I was engaging in a conversation when the phrase of this blog entry came to mind.

I said it to the person and it had a resonating effect on me. This dear friend had said some things around looking forward to spend more time with the family. I was thinking, however, that the reason why things have come to this point is because there’s always a competing force for the attention that means the family suffers.

I also thought that it’s not just this person who suffers from divided loyalties. To some extent there is an overriding interest that takes up the heart, even if the time is otherwise taken with other activities, the mind is just going over that issue again and again. It is so often the case that someone is physically present and to some degree engaging in the activity of the time, but it’s obvious that they are elsewhere either in spirit or mind. Their mind is taken up with their own thing of desire.

As ever Jesus exposes the issue slap bang in the middle of his famous teaching on the mount where he simply says,

No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:24)

That which captures the heart and takes up the attention has virtual mastery over us. It’s funny really, we run away from the sense of anyone owning us or telling us what to do. We make a big deal of being autonomous, independent, free-thinking individuals when in most cases, (come on it’s presumptuous and arrogant to say all in a blog like this when you’re not that brave yet) we’re actually not that autonomous, or independent or free-thinking. Sooner or later some master will take us under his wing – especially the enticing allure of money and all it can seemingly buy and what it can mean in the sight of others. We come under its wings and before you know it moods, thoughts, decisions, temperament, life activities and relationships are determined by what masters us.

Not only that, but it’s not as if there’s choice to be mastered or not. All this liberalism and free country jargon may keep us warm in our thoughts at night, but slavery has not been abolished, just either blatantly ignored in the so-called Third-World, or made to be far more sophisticated in the so-called First-World. Slavery and mastery is wrapped up with the whole human psyche and it’s then a case of discovering which mastery will give us the best chance of not being oppressed, compressed, distressed, depressed, repressed and even negatively possessed.

That sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it. I’m not going to make it any softer, though. Think of it this way, though. As a slave if your master is responsible for upkeep and takes that seriously to ensure that your working conditions are as conducive and constructive to your benefit as possible and you are just required to be obedient to instructions that are actually to your overall benefit, how is that a bad thing? If the Lord who has mastery over us instructs us … commands us to love each other and empowers and equips us to do that how is that a bad thing? If the Lord who has mastery over us instructs us … to find the truest sense of liberty in being like His Son by linking with Him and allowing Him to carry the bulk of the burden how is that a bad thing?

Obviously it’s a bad thing to us because we don’t appear to be in control, even if we’ve been deluding ourselves in thinking that the autonomous, independent, free-thinking position has improved our situation. It’s got to be a definition of madness to think that illusive and elusive living is somehow any better.

The divided loyalty continues though and in reality it’s not that divided at all, whenever something else other than that which is meant to be occupying the heart is there, then we’re always giving cheap second-hand service to everything else. The funny thing is, under the Lordship of the creator there’s more than enough time to look after the family. There’s more than enough time to be effective at work. There’s even enough time to pursue pastimes that help you in building relationships and the like. Indeed under this mastery all of those activities are effused with life and purpose possible because it’s rooted in acknowledging first and foremost the Lord who makes it all possible.

Until then, though, it’s the ongoing challenge of seeing where the heart is and asking this kind, forgiving and liberating Lord to help us find our hearts in Him.

For His Name's Sake



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Happy Christophermas

On this day a child was born, at this time a son was given and his name was called Christopher Luketon John Dryden.

Up until last night I wasn’t particularly bothered about putting together a blog about a day like today. I don’t think I’ve done it in the past. That all changed when I got the package from my sister which turned out to be my birthday gift. On the back of the packaging she put on a greeting that I couldn’t ignore. The text on it basically said Merry Christophermas! I’ve never had that before and it got me thinking about how good it is to celebrate someone’s birthday on his birthday! That’s a novel idea, might work in other areas as well if it was called for.

Anyway on this Christophermas Day I give God thanks for all the contributors to the life of Christopher Dryden. Thanks to my wonderful parents who invested their lives into making me a man who feared God and understood that without Him I would not make any progress in life. Thanks to two precious siblings who kept me sharp and have stuck by me, encouraging, scolding, rebuking, consoling, inspiring and sharing life with me.

Thanks to the church in which I grew up in Wellingborough which was a reliable stalwart of faith during those crucial formative years and brought a lot of smiles to my face and grounded me with an appreciation for the Bible.

Thanks to those schools that kept me occupied in those crucial formative years of my life – Croyland Nursery, Hardwick Infants, Victoria Infants and Victoria Junior. Thanks to those teachers who oversaw what educational development I made in those years. Thanks to the neighbours in Minerva Way and others in that Queensway estate who for me made my first seven years of existence appear in mind’s eye to be rather idyllic.

Thanks to Wrenn School for the years spent from naïve youngster to naïve know-it-all teenager. Thanks to the great teachers who irrevocably impacted my life not just with their love of education and teaching, but their obvious delight in helping people. Thanks to the other pupils whose engagement with me over that time was memorable for one reason or another.

Thanks to Essex University for the essential growing up years that needed to take place in exposing me to the big bad and good and indifferent world. Thanks for the people who opened my eyes to the fact that people don’t fit easy boxes and life is so wonderfully messy, diverse and complex. Thanks to the Windsor Fellowship and the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (at the time) that also significantly gave so much in terms of work-life

Thanks to the folks at the church in Peckham who took me in during the university years and made me feel a part of them. Thanks to the love and grace of some people who took me under their wing and tried to help cultivate someone still very rough around the edges. Thanks to the care, attention and wider perspective of fellowship and church than I had previously known.

Thanks to the people on the CAMP Committee and in the CAMP Choir for years of insight into worship and offering God the best in song and through music. Thanks for the lessons of voluntary team work and administration – commitment and being at your best giving all you can and not performing to impress others.

Thanks to the British Conference of the Church of God (Seventh Day) that has given me the foundation of the faith in which I grew up. Thanks for the many characters who over my time on earth so far have made this journey so eventful, rich in incident and fascinating in its insight in religion, spirituality, culture, fellowship, worship, organisation administration, leadership, communication and building corporate identity.

Thanks to those who have journeyed with me in my years in Stoke-on-Trent – UCB/Cross Rhythms, Blue Mountain Housing Association, Staffordshire University Library and Learning Resource Services, MA Broadcast Journalism at Staffs University, North Staffordshire Racial Equality Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Manchester Metropolitan University Education Unit, North Staffordshire YMCA, North Staffordshire African Caribbean Association, Saltbox Christian Centre and the various partnerships made with individuals over that time. Thanks to the various individuals I’ve come across in this time who have tremendously enriched my life through their example, conversation and inspiration. Thanks to the friends that I’ve made over this time who have really impressed me with the love they share and the way it has changed my heart and head.

Thanks to the members, associates and friends past and present of StokeCOG who have all played their part in affecting my whole understanding of what it is to be church. Thanks to that faith network that has made life so rewarding even in its darkest hour. Thanks to the exciting journey of church development and walking and talking the faith.

Thanks to all those people who popped up on the journey in those one shot moments of life never to be seen again but whose input has undoubtedly help write the story thus far. Thanks to the characters, personalities and figures across various media – books, magazines, web-sites, blogs, music, TV, radio, movies, etc. who have imprinted their creativity into my psyche.

Thanks to two delightful daughters who give me the honour and privilege of fathering. Thanks for their uninhibited love and smiles which they unfurl to melt my heart. Thanks for their stubbornness and insubordinate behaviour that hardens my resolve to let them know how out of love I need them to change their ways. Thanks for their capacity to learn and grow and their infectious spirit of life that reminds me that the purpose of life is to live so that others may enjoy their purpose to life.

Thanks to the partner of days that changed my life and my whole way of seeing the world around me and showing me that true love is more costly and more rewarding than could possibly be imagined. Thanks to the lover of my life who has such a huge heart that overwhelms me in its manifold expressions of that love. Thanks to the companion on life’s journey who loves to offload the issues that oppress and depress as well as excite and delight. Thanks for this supporter of her husband who has dedicated the rest of our days together to love in all of its fullness.

Thanks to the Heavenly Father who has allowed this wayward son to blunder from mishap to tragedy and been there to console and pick him up. Thanks to Him for calling me His son and marking an identity for me and giving me a purpose with gifts and abilities to assist but an innate dependence on Him for all that He is and does. Thanks to the Son who stands as a role model and focus of faith whose self-less life, passionate ministry, dynamic teaching, engaging healing, solid companionship, brutal death, triumphant resurrection, magnificent ascension and glorious return gives more than hope for life lived now. Thanks to the Servant King for showing grace and truth and equipping me with that desire and ability to keep that Kingdom agenda going in all of my life.

I have been a noted loner, but as already evidenced in this abbreviated roll-call of times and places, there are so many different faces that have been a part of the story and made it what it is today. Thanks to those and so many others who may have been overlooked. Thanks for your input good and bad. Thanks for making this a happy Christophermas.

For His Name's Sake



A Jacket - A Prophecy

I looked at the jacket. It had been worn for years, it was fraying on the shoulder and there were holes apparent everywhere on it. It was just about wearable but it was obviously on its last legs. If it were an animal it would be mercifully put down.

There was an evident need for something new to cover in a way suitable for the season ahead. The next step would see changes made, that process would necessarily be hard as letting go of something that has served for so long is hard to let go. Yet it was clear that the old has past and it was time for the new to come.

For His Name's Sake



Friday, November 20, 2009

Prayer - Taking A Load Off

It’s another Sabbath evening. These are precious, precious times. Times to physically, mentally and spiritually unwind. The rest offered on this day is one in which I am refreshed in the presence of God. It’s as though as I relax further I’m able to give him all the week’s stuff and He in return gives me peace of mind and rest. Were you to be made aware of the stuff that’s been on the menu of my life this week, this is a most gratifying and relieving activity in which to engage.

I did have it mind to write on another subject this evening, but just before I got to blogging I did the evening devotion with the girls. Sometimes I read from their Children’s Bible, sometimes we watch some bible cartoons or sometimes I’ll just make up a story on the spot. This evening I chose the latter. As I held both close to me it gave me a chance to meditate and ponder with them in some quiet. As I did so I reflected on the power of prayer and made up a simple story on the lines of how essential prayer is in every walk of life in whatever we’re doing.

We obviously prayed to end the session and on tucking the girls to bed a new song entered the consciousness. By new I mean old, but it was new in my head at the time after another song had dominated for a fair while as you’ll see in a later post.

The first song that popped in me head was Tis The Blessed Hour of Prayer, the second was Sweet Hour of Prayer then of course the third was Did You Think To Pray. Sometimes being so far from home, my parents and the old way of living and doing church I forget some of the old favourites that my dad loved singing to himself. These three compliment each other very well and as you look at the lyrics you notice them really selling the virtues of taking the time to pray whether it’s when your life is dark and dreary or as a balm when you’re weary or even as one on whom we can cast every care.

It is so reassuring to know that God offers all of this through prayer. So once more I salute my parents and my old church for embedding these songs into me so that even now as I look to solve some complex and deep issues, and also enjoy the rest made for man, I am reminded that prayer is the route through which all that I need can be found. In the light of that conversation the rest is made even sweeter, the joy is even richer, the peace is even greater as I can engage as friend to friend as well as son to Father.

So enjoy these reminders (even one modern updating) and remember you can take a load off through prayer – talk, He’s listening, listen, He’s talk, stop He’s embracing you and giving comfort even in the hardest times and whatever your life situation He is right there to live it with you.

For His Name's Sake



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From Pride To Repentance: Why It Is So Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry

Get this for a link – only last Friday night I’m watching a interview programme with the rock/jazz/pop group Chicago. I had recorded it from a few days before and it was an opportune time to watch it. I’m not the biggest fan of Chicago, but they’ve done a few tunes that I’m familiar with that I like and I’d seen them in some videos with Earth, Wind and Fire and they were alright. I like Earth, Wind and Fire – not everything you understand, but I like them. Then to find out Bill Champlin who plays for Chicago also wrote After The Love Has Gone that EWF popularised was a nice connection.

Anyhow, so I’m watching the interview and am not really that impressed by the level of knowledge that’s coming from it, but I am impressed by the music that they play some of which I hadn’t heard before but are apparently part of the group’s greatest hits, if you will. So I finish at that and think nothing of it.

Then on my way home from the teacher training session last night I’m reflecting further in preparation for last night’s blog and I’m walking through a walkway in a shopping precinct and I pass a pub that’s playing Hard For Me To Say I’m Sorry. It’s one of those occasions where a song just sticks to your head. You get me? You may have had a tune before, or a train of thought, but that is interrupted by the distinctive song that you actually like. (Yeah, I know it works with songs you don’t like as well, but let’s keep it positive.)

So I’m going back home with this song in my head from a group whose interview I’d seen last Friday, but it still doesn’t connect with me yet what it has to do with anything. Indeed when I got home and put together the blog the song was no longer dominant in my thinking for as I wrote the blog I was also watching an episode of Columbo that I’d also recorded from Sunday. (Have I mentioned what a blessing the SkyPlus box is? Especially when there’s nothing on to watch!)

However this morning I wake up and in my head I’m thinking back on the entry I’d written and I thought to myself in all I wrote about frustration and the like I wasn’t quite sure I’d expressed the sorrow I had in actually partaking in something hazardous to my relationship with God. In a sense I was blocking God out. Shutting off a relationship that means life to me. And I hadn’t said I was sad about that, or even sorry, or even repentant.

Although I hadn’t expressed it in the blog, however implicitly you want to read into it, I was and am sorry about it. Not that it was essential to blog it, but the thought in my head was around the process of reconciliation which requires some level of acknowledgement of hurts made and a desire to build bridges to re-establish that healthy relationship.

As I thought further I considered why it is so hard for me to say I’m sorry (ahhh you see how it all connects now, eh?) and this may just be me, but there’s something about saying sorry that acknowledges failing on your part. That requires a level of humiliating yourself, lowering yourself, placing yourself at the mercy of someone else. For it to work effectively for the health of the relationship this lowering of self has to be genuine and not only expressed in words but reinforced with action to follow.

Thus in a very real way sorry works with repentance. That is to say I really mean I’m sorry when I turn 180 degrees from the wrong (misguided, ignorant, stubborn, pig-headed, rebellious, contentious, argumentative, selfish) direction that I had set for myself, and walk in humility towards reconnecting and doing whatever is necessary great or small to do that. Yet there is the rub, who wants to really admit they are wrong? Who really actually wants to put away their agenda, genuinely for the interests of the other. And I mean for the interests of the other, because situations can be manipulated only too well that seeks to get our agenda done anyway by going through an appearance of repentance. That is why for me it is so hard to say I’m sorry, because it feels as though I lose.

Then again that highlights the same point I was making yesterday that it reveals the true nature of my heart – how self-centred, self-satisfying, self-justifying and self-gratifying I am to the cost of anyone else. Thankfully, as I’ve found from occasion to occasion, when the love breaks through, those issues are swept away to be replaced by that awesome character of Christ that is humble, meek, gentle, approachable, flexible, patient and in every way that which makes for peace. My ego, reputation and desire to be right is blown away to actually desperately wanting to maintain and enjoy this true life-giving relationship with God through Jesus.

As a result the best position for me to be in as a follower of Jesus is a repentant one as experience by experience He shows me His way as opposed to my way and how turning to His way from my own works in our best interests.

For His Name's Sake



Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Frustration and Melancholy

I’m quite clear that not all the blog entries on this blog are great. Maybe not even good. Perhaps there are one or two that would be considered sub-standard, not really all that interesting or missing something somewhere. What keeps me blogging though is the discipline of getting the thing done from my head and/or my heart and put it out and motivate further thoughts for future blogs or at least keep the rhythm of thinking to write going. Sometimes it inspires me to consider day to day issues and connect to others and see where it goes.

Today for example two streams of thought ran through the day almost concurrently but one flow was in greater ebb at the beginning of the day than the end, and the other was rising towards the end of the day although had connections to the beginning.

This morning I was frustrated. I didn’t help it. I rather wallowed in it and were it not for the book I was reading on my way to work and subsequent distractions of work and the like, I would have reasoned myself into self-pity and a justified morose attitude. I flung myself in a huff to myself at the sense of injustice that caused the source of frustration. Sadly for the frustration, however, then I got a good word that was actually linked to something that nagged me about the frustration.

The good word was that frustration is an expression of anger. As I pondered on that further and the negative connotations of that it began to make sense. After all it is not in my experience that frustration has been associated with godly character and conduct. Usual bed-fellows of frustration include annoyance, irritation, impatience and pent up anger as well as that sense of injustice.

Digging further behind the reasons for frustration I also saw that frustration is something that comes along when a much desired outcome has been postponed – I can’t have something perhaps, or there’s been an issue that prevents some situation from taking place. Either way, my sense of control and passion to have things my way has been thwarted and that is not to the liking of my ego. Now I can mask it, perhaps divert energies elsewhere, but it still resides in my system unless it is resolved properly and I get over it, or I do something I regret. As far as I’m aware today I didn’t do something I regret, but that was only because of that good word that reminded me of where frustration really comes from.

What’s worse, though, is that there is something about frustration that makes a claim on who the most important person in my life is. I can hardly claim to love Jesus wholeheartedly when my reaction to plans thwarted is to throw my dummies away, get upset and refuse to co-operate with life as I should. That is a clear contradiction. That is to say frustration is an obstacle to real worship of God and a healthy relationship with Him. Obstacles to healthy relationship with God are a problem.

By deduction then, frustration is not really a God thing. After all, how can God get frustrated when He knows His plans will work out anyway? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure God expresses feelings throughout scripture – that’s clear. For all of that, however, there is an element in which He knows His plans are never thwarted and the place of frustration is never needed if full confident faith is placed in Him like a child entrusts herself to her father. So frustration at times can be an expression of missing the focus of faith.

Of course this kind of learning can be on the surface of the mind without being embedded in the heart and I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn this and allow the Spirit to embed it deep into my persona as my place of trust for Him.

Oh and about the melancholy. On this score I heartily approve of seasons in life where melancholy is present. I don’t condone a life lived in melancholy, I don’t even see the value of extending a season of melancholy beyond its time, but I do believe that melancholy should be digested from time to time. I find melancholy can often be a good way of reflecting and contemplating how changes in life necessarily upsets the previously known order of things and can often require the departure of familiar friends – even if those friends are regular routines and habits.

Departures and goodbyes should be treated seriously, just as there should be joy and thanksgiving for whatever benefits have been received, so there should be that sense of loss that will happen as a result of the departure. That’s why we don’t dwell on melancholy we don’t want to get things out of perspective, but it’s exactly the desire to get things in perspective that should allow us to spend some time walking through with God in the attic of past things.

And on that note I must extend thanks for your time In reading these jaunts, it’s been a pleasure blogging for you.

For His Name's Sake



Monday, November 16, 2009

Playing Out Of Position - Part Two

Reading, I love it. I was sitting down the other day in one of those neat straw made deals in a conservatory in Salford and for the best part of an hour or so I was just chilling and reading the Michael Foot biography. Kenneth O. Morgan (I wonder if he get upset if we miss that crucial O.) did a fantastic job on the book in making it engrossing reading, I hope I get round to doing a review of it when I’ve finished it.

So whilst I was on the throne recently and had an opportunity to read more about Foot it reminded me of a text I’d sent to a dear friend of mine. By the way as a small diversion, isn’t it a privilege to have dear friends, you know the sort to whom there is a connection and a repartee on a given subject. I love those kind of dear friends. I haven’t always had them and I thought my brother would be the only one at one stage, but God in His kindness allowed me to link with some others, really nice of Him.

Anyway, so I text this dear friend earlier before my stint on the throne and I said to the friend that Foot was the right man at the wrong place at the wrong time. In fact what I should have said was that Foot was a good man in the wrong place at the wrong time. There is no era in the 20th Century or any stage of the Labour movement when that brother would have been the right leader. Sure things may have been worse if Healey or Shore had taken over in 1980, but seriously what kind of message are you sending in letting a scruffy, old, rhetorician anywhere near the keys to power?

As I reigned on the throne, however, I saw that point as the ideal way to get us back on where we were and the links between part one of this two part series. Quick recap – we can play players in their best positions and hope for the best, or we can have a system for which we select certain players at certain times even if it’s not playing the brother at his best position. We linked that with the current Liverpool malaise and the less we say about that the better.

So here’s the link. As you may recall back in April I made a Statement of Intent which was basically reiterating a phrase I’d come across at the beginning of 2009 – In my element for my season. Rooted in Psalm 1:3 this was all about a renewed commitment to being planted exactly where God wants me to be physically, socially, spiritually, vocationally, relationally, etc. etc. Making the statement is one thing, living up to it is another thing. Uncovering what that costs is an even more tricky thing when we consider it in greater detail. As I have discovered and continue to discover this can be a very costly business.

It’s costly, but it is worthwhile and here’s my contention on the issue. I’m sure some people are predestined to be misfits and malcontents – their role in the larger scheme of things is to make people uncomfortable by asking awkward questions in awkward ways and appear somewhat on the fringes of the mainstream. Thankfully God gives us biblical dudes who fit that bill like Elijah and John D. Baptist (is it the only biblically acceptable denomination? You decide. OK actually God does, but you can have a good guess, as a hint it doesn’t start with ‘y’).

This calling, though, is pretty specific though and you’ve got to be very well equipped emotionally, mentally and relationally to deal with the flack, rejection and abuse that comes with it. In a very real way you have to be designed for the task. That leads neatly into another underpinning scripture behind the desire not to see people play life out of position. Ephesians is a book in the bible worth serious study – when you’ve read it once, read it again and then one more time to even begin to comprehend what on earth Paul is saying and its vast implications. One little verse in there gets to the heart of what I’m all about with the playing in position deal.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10)

First thing that I notice about this is that it is not an individual call – it relates to a corporate call to be about the business for which we’ve been made. Implicit within this and to further explained later on in the letter if the corporate is going to be effective in getting on with its business, the individual parts need to be in their place functioning as they need to function. Or as Paul puts it

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15, 16 emphasis added)

Now for each part to be working properly and with the recognition that we’re different parts of the growing organism there is great importance on discovering what our place is. That discovery process is not superficial but gets to the core of who we are as defined by God not by personal experience, friends, family, denomination, etc. although these can contribute to the process.

The deal then is about going back to the Coach to discover what our best position is, because He would have the best idea of where we fit in the team. Everyone wants to play up front and hog the headlines, but thankfully the Coach knows best. He plays us in different positions, sure, but He knows that you’re a right back or a left winger or a tough tackling midfielder or a commanding defender or a creative maestro just behind the front two, or the goal-poacher.

He knows and once you know He knows and He lets you know then not only do you find out but on playing in that position you feel at your best. Each position requires discipline and an understanding of what the position demands, but these demands are not imprisoning and confining, indeed these are Garden of Eden opportunities where you can eat the fruit of any tree – you get to enjoy all the garden and then discover that it contributes to others also being released to do what they’re called to do. Before you know it, everyone is in their place, everyone functions out of love and joy in Christ rather than dictation or obligation. Then you’re pinging the ball around and playing the lovely football of life enjoying sharing and serving each other, setting each other up for goal scoring opportunities whilst covering for each other to prevent break-aways.

It’s a joy. It’s a delight. It’s a pleasure. It’s an honour. It is no longer mind-less routine or ritual. It is no longer drudgery or confusing hypocrisy as you kid yourself with the fake-it-till-you-make-it psychology. It is being in your best position and enjoying Christ in it. It is then having an impact on the lives of others by doing that.

I am convinced in my brief time on planet earth that far too many people … far too many Christians … far too many eager well-meaning followers of Christ are playing out of position. Far too many accept their circumstances, background, institutional and inhibitive or deceptive doctrinal demands from work, home and church without any consideration to where God actually has placed them to be as His workmanship.

I know only too well how soul-destroying it can be. I know only too well how real it seems at the time and how it appears to be all there is your life and it’s a status quo you can live with, when in actuality it takes the love of God to break through to help you move on with your life to be rooted and grounded in Him. I know only too well how miserable and unfulfilled and unfruitful this kind of living can be. So it’s no surprise that I have a desperate desire to see people awake to who they are in Christ and then join Him in the steps towards real freedom, real service, abundant living by fruitful serving by the character of Christ being formed in us.

It’s not a utopia that gives us our selfish gratifications, but it is a real godly Kingdom in which who we really are becomes further revealed in us as we give our lives completely to Him. That won’t necessarily help Liverpool win the Premier League, but it will certainly help followers of Christ to enjoy the Kingdom that we’ve been translated into.

For His Name's Sake