31 December 2008

Happy New Year

Revelation 21:3-5 (NIV)
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

Revelation 21:3-5 (The Message)
I heard a voice thunder from the Throne: "Look! Look! God has moved into the neighbourhood, making his home with men and women! They're his people, he's their God. He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. Death is gone for good—tears gone, crying gone, pain gone—all the first order of things gone." The Enthroned continued, "Look! I'm making everything new. Write it all down—each word dependable and accurate."

A time for new beginnings. May you grow closer to God in 2009.

30 December 2008

About me

Between Christmas and New Year is a particularly busy time in our family. However, we're not busy doing things out and about - it's a time we look around our own house and try and rid ourselves of a lot of clutter. The bins are filling up. However, it would appear we need to do the same to our own email boxes, which are increasingly full of junk as well! One email that hit my intray this morning consisted of a series of questions about me and requesting that I should spam all my friends with my answers, however rather than litter I thought I would use part of this for my blog for today. Who knows, you might find out a bit about me...
  1. What do you usually have for breakfast? Toast, and a cup of coffee.

  2. What food do you dislike? Smoked Salmon.

  3. Favourite sandwich? Cheese (Cheese and pickle, cheese and ham, etc)

  4. Are you a morning person or a night person? Definitely morning.

  5. What did you want to be when you grew up? A journalist. I love to write.

  6. Are you a Summer or a winter person? Definitely summer.

  7. Coffee or tea? Coffee most of the time. But I might surprise you...

  8. How many years at your current job? 7 years to date.

  9. How many towns have you lived in? Only one.

  10. Favourite Bible verse? Jeremiah 29:11. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

28 December 2008

Over The Rainbow...

As a present to our family, we were fortunate enough to see a production of 'The Wizard Of Oz' at the Palace Theatre in Westgate-on-Sea yesterday. As is usual at Christmas-time, something rather magical happened. You see, I never knew that the song 'Over The Rainbow' had an introduction:

When all the world is a hopeless jumble
And the raindrops tumble all around
Heaven opens a magic lane

When all the clouds darken up the skyway
There's a rainbow highway to be found
Leading from your windowpane
To a place behind the sun
Just a step beyond the rain...

Somewhere, over the rainbow, Way up high
There's a land that I've heard of
Once in a lullaby
Somewhere, over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true ...

Music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by E.Y. "Yip" Harburg

Apparently, the introduction is regularly used in stage versions of the show, but doubtless everyone is more familiar with Judy Garland's version of the song (the classic movie omits the introduction). At least at the moment - I hear that Andrew Lloyd Webber is rumoured to be planning a stage revival of 'Wizard Of Oz' in the West End in 2010.

25 December 2008

Bravo, Doctor!

It's always tough when you build something up and then have to wait to see whether the finished article lives up to its own hype... and a prime example was laid before us on Christmas Day, with the latest 'Doctor Who' Christmas special. We've had some quite gripping specials in the past few years ... and at least one which completely failed to grab my attention, so which would it be for 2008? The hype began as far back as November, with a three-minute teaser aired as part of the Children In Need programming. The promise of multiple Doctors peaked our interest, but would it be enough to carry the BBC One Christmas night schedule?

Having seen the show this evening, which successfully interwove Victorian Christmas imagery with Cybermen, a funeral scene and a hot air balloon, and topped it off with 'steampunk' references (a sub-genre of SF that I particularly like), I found it most entertaining. Yes, the promise of the appearance of the 'Next Doctor' was the carrot that was dangled quite effectively. I won't reveal how that works itself out - for those who haven't watched the show yet. We do also get images of all the Doctors (Classic and new series) - an important milestone.

However, did this hour-long entertainment present us finally with a moral? Tonight's show seemed to be centred on emotions, from the fearsome threat of the robotic Cybermen, through to a very personal trauma of a father who loses his wife and family, and eventually his identity. Throughout the tale we are working alongside the Doctor, who aims once again to help. The father learns he can find the hero within himself, and not by pretending to be someone he is not. At the conclusion of the adventure, we find our cast are brought together around a Christmas dinner table. And, for once, that even includes our lonely Time Lord.

A Magic Christmas

You don't have to go far on the internet to find a variety of views on any subject under the sun. One example - a most timely one today - is the birth of Jesus. If you Google 'nativity' you soon get various references expressing incredulity on the 'supernatural' elements of the tale, which is all too familiar to many of us. In recent weeks I have been reminded that the whole account has supernatural elements throughout - multiple appearances of angels, guidance through dreams, guiding stars. And that's without mention of the prophecy written hundreds of years beforehand his birth by the prophet Isaiah.

Personally, I don't have an issue with the supernatural parts of the account. My God is beyond all natural laws (it's in the job description!)and is therefore capable of everything mentioned. However, there are people around who do have a problem with this, I can see that.

So to those people, I say - just re-read the story once again. There's two separate versions in Matthew and Luke's gospels. And forget what you have learned in the past - read it for what it is. A government census that forced people to travel miles to register themselves. The tale of a mother who had to have her baby in less than perfect circumstances. A group of scared shepherds on the hillside. Latch on the basic, human story. And then, perhaps, things will come clearer.

I hope you have a truly magic Christmas this year.

22 December 2008

My Christmas present

Well, the Corps Carol Service went well, so that means we can now stop rehearsing lines and music and can start concentrating on building up our own festive celebrations at home. So we went Christmas food shopping today. I thought I'd left it a bit late but judging by the queues at the shops I haven't - everyone seemed to be there today!

The Christmas telly schedule doesn't enthrall me quite like it used to in my youth, but my highlight for this week is still going to be the Wallace & Gromit special on Christmas Day - I can't wait. Just like a big kid! Blatant product placement to the left here, with the web address where you can more about this year's masterpiece.

What a cracking present!

20 December 2008

Useful tips - 2008 review

Well, it's the end of the year, and what a year! So much has happened in an 'interesting' twelve months, that I'm so looking forward to a new start in 2009! The following are all stray thoughts and words of wisdom that I have learned in 2008 and share with you now (all bible verses are from the NIV):

January & February: 2008 began as 2007 ended - with much the same going on in my life. Life can be a bit like 'Groundhog Day' more often than not: you get up, go to work, come home, go to bed. Each day is much like any other. Oh, there are times when you do something a bit different... my good friend Elizabeth lent me the book 'If You Want to Walk on Water, You'Ve Got to Get Out of the Boat' by John Ortberg, which indicates a little of what I have been trying to achieve in my life. At least I've started to get my feet wet this year....

March was probably the first occasion in the year where I boldly stepped out in faith and left my comfort zone during 2008, trying to explore new possibilities in my Christian service. It was the 'Exploring Leadership' day at the Wiliam Booth College. Well, little steps first! I know now first hand what was meant when the songwriter he wrote "Lead us, heavenly Father, lead us, O’er the world’s tempestuous sea". I knew I was being led somewhere, but wouldn't yet know how rough the sea would get ...

April: some more foundations laid, when I was fortunate enough to attend a meeting to discuss the possibility of a Street Pastors initiative in Dartford. A very promising start - I'm looking forward to seeing some fruit from this one day!

May: Another step of faith was my weekend away to ROOTS in Southport over the early May bank holiday, which gave me further confirmation as to where I should be looking... This was followed by a very pleasant family week away in late May, camping in Wales - the first time I had ever been to that beautiful country, and hopefully not the last! How wonderful that the campsite had no TV or mobile phone reception, I'm sure that's why it was so peaceful!

June: A string of memorable events occurred in this month. Firstly, my first all-night of prayer, which proved most illuminating and uplifting. More, please! Secondly, and more devastatingly, was the shock of having my car written off in mid-June (at about three in the morning), and the subsequent damage to the courtesy car almost exactly a week later by a hit-and-run driver. In both cases the cars were parked outside my house at the time. You can understand that I was a little 'sensitive' that month - all these particular highs and lows all occurred within the same fortnight! Psalm 20:7 says: " Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God."

July: It's incredible what modern technology can do, for it was in July that I started this very blog. Some say they start blogging as a type of therapy, some because they have a need to write. I think my reasons are a little of each. Wow, what an eye-opener - I've been quite surprised about who gets to reads it and who passes comment!

August: As further opportunities of service that I tried to explore in late July didn't exactly work out, I spent much of August taking stock of my life, exploring what Andrew and Tracey Bale called 'sabbath rest' - a difficult concept. At least this meant I was able to take a short break away with the family at the end of the month, before the Annual Appeal... a good time of peace and quiet in Canterbury. And some really good Olympics coverage!

September: is of course the Army's Annual Appeal month, and thanks to a very good team the collecting went so very well this year, despite the 'credit crunch' and we even saw an increase in donations. September also saw the Corps celebrate the Battle For Bull Centre Centenary, a very uplifting event for the entire fellowship.

October: This seems to be a time of 'pruning' in my year, removing so much dead wood in my life, and this was reiterated at Harvest time. I've also been learning how to 'declutter', which is also quite tough, and getting the kids to do the same has been even harder!

November: Another great opportunity for me has been this trip to the Territorial Congress in Birmingham, which proved to be a further confirmation of where I should be headed. Some tremendous advice has been given to me by friends and colleagues, but nothing can beat the famous phrase "Don't lose your Dolphin" (thanks Don for these impressive words. They will stay with me always).

December: I've learnt this month (and indeed this whole year) that if you have a choice between two things, choose the one you haven't done before, the thing to take out out of your comfort zone. Leo Buscaglia said: "What we call the secret of happiness is no more a secret than our willingness to choose life." Looking back, I can see how far out of my comfort zone I have moved this year. Sometimes not by choice, but there you go.

Here's to a better 2009 - one full of the right choices....

17 December 2008

Good things, good times

"You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between"
(Johnny Mercer/ Harold Arlen)
I have achieved a remarkable first today. It was the first time that I ever completed three Sudoku puzzles in a row in the 40-minutes or so that it takes me to get to work in the morning. One easy;one moderate; one challenging. All in the free Metro newspaper. That might not mean much to you,but it's a memorable thing for me. A milestone achieved!

If I have learnt anything this year, it's that I can be my own worst critic. It is often true to say that 'self praise is no recommendation', but I find it too easy to find fault in my own work - and there's plenty around who are ready to help. I am encouraged enough by what I have learnt in the past year that God's got something special for me to do. I'm keen to embrace it!

2009 is just around the corner, and I'm already aiming high. Good times are ahead!

12 December 2008


Are you interested in etymology? That is, the study of the history of words — there's a great BBC programme called 'Balderdash And Piffle' all about this. Anyway, it's one particular word that has sparked me off to blog today.

The term 'gullible' apparently stems back from 1793 and is probably connected to 'gull', a slang term for a dupe or a sucker. It is perhaps derived from the name of the actual bird, or from the verb gull (meaning 'to swallow', 1530, from the old French word goule, or from the Latin gula meaning throat or gullet). This means it probably refers to someone who will swallow anything thrown at them. There's also a Middle English dialect word gull meaning a newly hatched bird (1382).

The term goes a long way back, doesn't it? So we should be well aware that we need to be careful and sensible when dealing with others who may appear to be one thing but in fact are quite the opposite.

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves." (Matthew 10:16)

"Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves." (Luke 10:3)

"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." (1 Peter 5:8)

Let's go out and do His will - but remember to be careful out there!

10 December 2008

Saved To Save

I am a regular reader of the Armybarmy blog (see link to the right hand side) and am often particularly challenged by some of the entries there. Today's comments included a reference to a book entitled "My Business Here Below: Shared thoughts on Soul Winning" by Brigadier Bramwell Darbyshire. The following incident is recorded there...

General William Booth expected his soldiers to be soul winners. On one occasion one Salvationist mentioned to him that the Ss on the collars (now the lapels) of every soldier meant that soldier was "saved to serve". It's a phrase I've heard before.

The Founder was reportedly 'very cross' when he heard this - for William they meant "saved to save".

I hope those soldiers who read this and wear their uniform proudly never forget that. There is a constant reminder that as soldiers we are indeed saved to save.

6 December 2008

Compassion for others

The words of Albert Orsborn are resounding around my head today (SASB 527):

The Saviour of men came to seek and to save
The souls that were lost to the good;
His Spirit was moved for the world which he loved
With the boundless compassion of God….

Except I am moved with compassion
How dwelleth Thy Spirit in me?
In word and in deed
Burning love is my need;
I know I can find this in thee.

5 December 2008

Here's to 2009!

I've finally chilled out after another particularly hectic day, where tempers have been fraught, bad decisions have been made, circumstances have conspired against me. I've tried my best but it's not been good enough. I've upset friends and comrades, failed to complete what I set out to do.

It's now 9.30pm. I've finally unwound, having soaked in the tub for half a hour, and am sitting down with the family at last.

I've decided that looking back on today - or indeed this year - will do me no good; it's best to start looking forward. Really looking forward now to the New Year, a real new start!

The past is history, but tomorrow's a mystery. Here's to 2009!

3 December 2008

One Of Those Days

Ever had 'one of those days'? You know, days where nothing ever seems to go right. That's me, today. Amongst the things that I have experienced - or have endured today - are:
  • Despite getting to the station for my train ten minutes early this morning, the train arrives at its terminus ten minutes late. Stands to reason that I had to be in on time today. And today was the day my boss got in early!
  • A chance meeting during the course of the morning with a cardboard box which I myself had stored produced an unexpected shower of black toner that subsequently ruined my tie, and probably my shirt.
  • The journey back home again was pretty uneventful, however my son, who was due to meet me at the station when I arrived, had 'forgotten about the time'. I did however wait for him - that was another ten minutes delay!
  • When I arrived home, there were phone calls and emails that I had to attend to - plus the kitchen sink was blocked. So I rolled my sleeves up and got down to it again. No chance to relax, now!
Now I don't claim that this was anything else other than 'one of those days'. But life is indeed a battlefield, and it is of course how we handle days like these that show 'character' or 'persistance' in our lives. We carry on - determined to do the best we can for our family, our friends, our Saviour.

Psalm 63:5-6
"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him.
He alone is my rock and my salvation;he is my fortress, I shall not be shaken."

2 December 2008

Looking back

As the year draws to a close, many of us take the opportunity to review the year that has gone. Well, it stands to reason - the TV, Radio and press are full of reviews of the year; we grab our diaries to write letters to our friends bringing them a potted history of the year to slip into the Christmas cards. I've done the same in previous years, but find that I can't help but take a sharp intake of breath this year when looking at 2008. What a stormy year!

I've already drafted out my blog entry for the end of the year, but am finding difficulty in finding many 'upbeat' things to say. My good friend Anna is always telling me to concentrate on the positive. Perhaps I'm a bit blind to it at the moment, but I find there's little to smile about nowadays.

I'm working on it though. The verse that comes to mind is one we have used before in Sunday School:

With Christ in the vessel
You can smile at the storm
Smile at the storm
Smile at the storm
With Christ in the vessel
You can smile at the storm
As we go sailing home

Sailing, sailing home.
Sailing, sailing home.
With Christ in the vessel
You can smile at the storm
As we go sailing home.

It's still stormy but I'm putting my trust in God to see me through.