29 November 2008

Get Me Out Of Here!

I don't know about you, but I've been interested in following the (edited) antics of the celebrities in the Australian outback this year. Well, to tell you the truth I've not been following it that closely, but I'm still mildly interested, y'know.

Usually when you start watching these sort of shows you get a fair idea in your mind what an individual is like from their public image - an image which of course is projected by their own agent or publicist. It's only when they're in an environment like this and the pressure starts getting applied that formerly hidden character traits stand revealed. Yes, I am aware some of the material that is seen on TV is often 'edited' to emphasise unrest or outrageous behaviour - this is after all what passes for entertainment nowadays. However, in some cases, some stars can really 'shine'.

It's funny that - it's only when you're really tested, when all the image and sham is stripped away, that the true character is finally revealed.

26 November 2008

Thought For The Day

Psalm 84:10 (NIV)

Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.

Lord, lift me from the miry clay...

24 November 2008


I've got a dreadful headache at the moment. And I've had it for a while, all weekend. In fact, after attending the Sunday meeting yesterday, I went home and slept all afternoon. Still no respite. So I thought I'd surf the net for a few pointers today...

"Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life. " Joan Lunden

I don't know what you think, but I'm of the opinion it's the battles I have with my own 'issues' which are causing these symptoms. So, I'm trying very hard today to keep cheerful, despite feeling lousy. Well, that's not easy, and I've got it wrong already today. Forgive me my friends when I get it wrong!

Remember, Jesus said "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick". (Matthew 9:12, NIV) Having consulted the Great Physician I have a fair idea of what to do now.

19 November 2008

Playing my part

Matthew 23:27, NIV
"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean."

Thanks go to WordLife's thought for today for sparking me off on my blog.

I understand that the term 'hypocrite' comes from a Greek word, 'hypokrinesthai', meaning someone who is pretending, acting a part. The Greek word 'hypokrit─ôs' in fact means actor. While I'm considering my part (and indeed learning my lines!) for this year's Corps Carol Service I am very aware of the difference between playing a part and revealing the real me. And revealing the real me is very scary!

I can understand why so many actors spend their lives as a recluse. They are practiced at 'playing a part' and often seem to be living their lives under a mask. Make a wrong move or a bad performance and the critics savage you relentlessly. Being pursued by the press would only increase the pressure on them. No wonder so many have problems with drink or drugs, the pressure must be unbearable.

It's tough sometimes to be honest enough to take a stand as yourself. But that's the way I'm being led, so I guess I have to get used to it.

17 November 2008

Never Mind, Go On!

Faithful be, delaying not to follow
Where Christ leads, though it may be through sorrow;
If the strife should fiercer grow tomorrow,
Never mind, go on!
Cheerful be, it will your burdens lighten,
One glad heart will always others brighten;
Though the strife the coward’s soul may frighten,
Never mind, go on!
(SASB 805, verse 2)

After an 'interesting' weekend, which has seen my main PC go up in smoke, and those close to me under extreme stress for a number of reasons, I have tried to stand firm to my beliefs, and understand that many of my comrades are 'dug in' alongside me, as we push ever onwards towards the goals we see before us. The CO preached a very apt sermon yesterday on this very subject and he gave me a verse to ponder on this week...

Hebrews 10:23
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

15 November 2008

Where Everybody Knows Your Name... part two

I've been encouraged a lot by some of the feedback I've received on the subject of community, and want to concentrate now on one particular community - that of a church, my church. Looking more closely at the criteria for a feeling of 'belonging', of a 'Sense of Community'...

The place where you feel you belong should be a place where you feel emotionally safe. I've recently read a book by Chick Yuill called 'Others' (a copy was on sale at our charity shop!) and in it Chick makes reference to three things that are required of church membership - people need to belong (be accepted as part of a caring and welcoming fellowship), believe (explore and discover a living faith for themselves) and behave (discern and embrace God's will in every area of their lives). And apparently these should be in that order. Of course, as a church we already have that 'common symbol system' that I referred to previously; both my religion and my denomination are of course steeped with symbolism...

Members of the church do get a chance to influence the leadership via regular and irregular meetings with the leadership team. Church members should feel that do have some influence in the group; however, I know from experience that if they feel they are ignored or not listened to then they will lose interest. However, they should also remember that a degree of influence by the leadership team on its members, and a suitable response, is needed for group cohesion.

Integration and fulfillment of needs
Members of the church should feel rewarded in some way for their participation in the community. The rewards would depend on your level of participation - "you only get out to it what you put into it". Thus, the rewards enjoyed by those who are 'committed' will usually be different from those on the periphery of the church fellowship.
Shared emotional connection
There are plenty of examples of members of my church having a strong sense of 'shared history' - you only have to go back to the recent 'Battle For Bull Centre' celebrations for that. Shared participation will of course depend on the individual, as discussed above.

A point to emphasise is of course to remember that as a Christian community, our own Saviour is an integral part of our fellowship. You may like to reread the four points above in the light of that. And remember that when we read about 'influence', it's often via biblical teachings that God influences us, even the leadership team, and for all of us to respond.

11 November 2008

Where Everybody Knows Your Name...

On Sunday night I listened to an interesting programme on the radio about the importance of a feeling of Community in a person's life, of belonging. This has set me thinking and pondering again this week... and as usual I've been exploring the 'net for other ideas on the subject.

Apparently, sociologists often talk about people needing to have an experience of belonging, a need for a 'Sense of Community'. Noted psychologist Seymour B. Sarason even called it "one of the major bases for self-definition." In layman's terms, you need to have somewhere where you feel you belong! Without that experience, it's as if you don't belong. This could well be your family home - a group or club - or indeed your local church. The title for this feature is taken from the theme song to 'Cheers', an American sitcom about a Boston bar, and the community that frequents it.

David McMillan and David Chavis have a published theory states that one's Sense of Community is composed of four elements.

The place where you feel you belong should be a place where you feel emotionally safe. Interestingly, psychologists also say that the community should have a 'common symbol system'.

This can be experienced both ways - members need to feel that they have some influence in the group, and some influence by the group on its members is needed for group cohesion.

Integration and fulfillment of needsMembers should feel rewarded in some way for their participation in the community.

Shared emotional connection
Members should have some sort of shared history and of course shared participation (or at least identification with the group's history).

As part of a number of community groups, each endeavouring to get others to feel part of the community and to participate, I have found it interesting today to note down these elements and to apply them to my own situation.

Some further quotations on the subject:

Chinese proverb:
One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade.

Mother Teresa:
Keep in mind that our community is not composed of those who are already saints, but of those who are trying to become saints. Therefore let us be extremely patient with each other's faults and failures.

8 November 2008

Useful tips - November

You might recall press coverage late last month about a Welsh road sign. Officials were looking to put up a new road sign near the Asda store in the Morriston area, and as is custom were obliged to prepare the sign in two languages - English and Welsh. You can see clearly enough what the sign said in English, however Swansea Council officials had to send for a Welsh translation, and fired off an email to the translators. Back came a reply, the sign was prepared and erected.

Unfortunately, the reply they had received was simply an automated e-mail written in Welsh that read: "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated."

They only realised their mistake when Welsh speakers pointed it out. "Our attention was drawn to the mistranslation of a sign at the junction of Clase Road and Pant-y-Blawd Road," said a council spokesman. "We took it down as soon as we were made aware of it and a correct sign will be installed as soon as possible."

Handy tip - always proofread what you are doing before you print or publish it. Particularly if it's in a language that you can't read.

6 November 2008

Burning Brightly

It's the day after 'Bonfire Night' and I'm recovering from 'keeping the home fires burning' by stoking the bonfire lit in my back garden for the evening, whilst Andrew set off the rather large pile of fireworks that we had amassed to entertain those gathered.

And once again the 90% rule seemed to be in force, with only a few of the pyrotechnics giving the crowd a chance to go 'ooooh' and 'aaahh' at their beauty. Sure, the display was fine and well-executed, but at the end of the day it was only the spectacular ones that we remembered.

I want to be spectacular and to burn brightly, too.

Psalm 18:28 (New International Version)
"You, O LORD, keep my lamp burning; my God turns my darkness into light."

4 November 2008

You'd Better Watch Out...

I am starting to look forward to Christmas already. I hear today that Aardman Animations has a new Wallace and Gromit short in preparation, entitled "A Matter of Loaf and Death". This will air as part of BBC's Christmas programming. I must admit to being very intrigued by the thought of this, as a big fan of both W&G and of the classic film "A Matter of Life and Death". Apparently, our heroes open a new bakery and soon become embroiled in a classic ‘who doughnut mystery’. The film will be created by Nick Park alongside writer Bob Baker (who co-wrote "A Close Shave" and "The Wrong Trousers"). Peter Sallis will be the voice of Wallace, with Coronation Street actress Sally Lindsay joining them this time round as new love interest Piella Bakewell.

3 November 2008

Just In The Nick Of Time

It's amazing, isn't it, that life's twists and turns mean things often don't turn out the way you had planned? Popular fiction of course relishes such things, often relying on the 'cliffhanger' ending to keep us on the edge of our seats, as the hero saves the day/the world/the ship/the girl just in the nick of time.

It's not just fiction, though. Lewis Hamilton's sensational Championship win in this year's Formula One season certainly falls in that same category. The final standings were still very much in contention right up to when the final Grand Prix commenced in Sao Paulo (Brazil) on Sunday, and it was very close throughout. It got even more exciting when rain started falling in the last few laps. And even when Massa (the race leader) had crossed the finish line and thought he'd also got the championship there was still a final twist in the tail, and just in the nick of time Hamilton clinched the title, right on the final lap of the course. Wow!

Trouble is, it seems all so clear to me that life is often like that, unpredictable to the uttermost. Just when you think that things are all sorted out, something happens to knock you back again. However, although we see such setbacks in our own lives, many of us don't seem to believe in the possibility that someone will be there to save the day, just in the nick of time.

Which hero will be there to save the day for you? I know who I am putting my trust in to save the day for me. And will He do it just in the nick of time?

In thee O Lord do I put my trust.