31 January 2009

So far, so good...

Well, here we are then. One-twelfth the way through 2009. And so far, so good. Well, to tell the truth I've had one or two little unplanned events that have given me some pause for thought this year:

* Our New Year's Day family get together was cancelled due to the 'flu (we've rearranged it and are having it this afternoon)

* At least two separate committee meetings I had planned to lead for the Scouts this month were cancelled or curtailed due to sickness/ clash of commitments.

* A rather uncomfortable four days off work with cracked ribs!

However, there have been plenty of other notable events this month that actually worked out very well - exceeding my own personal expectations in some respects. Design For Life, for one. A great opportunity to draw close to God and to each other, meeting some folk who have already become good friends! And I have something to aim for this year!

You know, no matter what we as fallible human beings plan to do, these man-made plans can be upset or curtailed by so many different circumstances. But there is a better plan to follow... one that will keep us close to our heavenly Father in whatever circumstances.

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Stay close to God. He's seen me this far through the year...

25 January 2009

All Part Of God's Design

Christine and I have just got back from the William Booth College in Denmark Hill after a particularly fulfilling weekend at Design For Life. It's an opportunity to look at God's particular call on your life - reviewing where you have been in your walk with God, where you are now, and exploring where you feel that God is leading you now. A weekend away without the children is something we've never experienced as a couple, but this is probably the best event we could go to as our first trip away from the kids in over a decade.

It has been good to share fellowship with Salvationists from all parts of the country, coming together with one aim - to find God's will in their lives. And as we are all individuals, we find we're all called to different things. Not all may be called to spiritual leadership, to officership, or local officership. Sometimes you may simply find confirmation that you are already on the right path. Some find that one partner may be called to one thing; whereas the other may be headed for something else altogether. The important thing is of course to be obedient to God - to hear his call to you clearly - and to respond. Like Samuel did in the Old Testament:

1 Samuel 3:10 (NIV)
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, "Speak, for your servant is listening."

We would recommend the DFL weekend to anyone who wants to consider what God's will for their own life should be. Further details can be found at www.salvationarmy.org.uk/dfl . If you want to know what the Lord wants me to do - keep reading this blog!

21 January 2009

Design For Life

I'm just thinking about packing, heading as I am for another step forward in faith this coming Friday.

Chris and I are headed to the William Booth College for a 'Design For Life' weekend. What does that entail? Well, here's the blurb from the SA website:

Design for Life (DFL) is a project that seeks to help people discover God's design for their life. It is based on the premise that everyone is called by God to be salt and light in the world, and that world is different for individuals: some people are called to be homemakers, some to be missionaries in the workplace; some people work out their vocation in schools or hospitals, others serve as ministers in a church or as Salvation Army officers; some people's journey takes them to other countries, others work in their home locality.

Am I cut out for 'greater things', excitement, adventure? To be a hero? One step at a time...

17 January 2009

I Get Knocked Down...

"I get knocked down
But I get up again
You're never going to keep me down."
Tubthumping by Chumbawamba

I've had a curious week this week, as I've been under instructions from my doctor to take it easy, and unable to rush around as much as I'm used to. I've been dependent on painkillers to make me comfortable, hugging a hot water bottle to my injured side like a child hugs a favourite teddy. My sleep pattern has been broken, and I find I haven't been able to sleep in my usual position, which is strangely alarming. And I've had bucket-loads of time on my hands - ideal, as Chris and I are set to attend a Salvation Army conference next weekend. It's been a time of healing, both physically and mentally, and I've prayed and read a lot this week.

Today is Saturday, and I'm starting to gear myself up to normality, getting ready for go back into harness next week. However, things are strangely different in my mind, and I am encouraged that things need to be different if I seek to move forward in my Christian walk. God's timing is, as ever, perfect. Romans 8:28 informs me that "all things are working together for good" if we love the Lord. Is my stumble on the path therefore something that God has used this week?

2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (New Living Translation)
We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

14 January 2009

All stop!

Sometimes you have to do more than just slow down. Sometimes you are stopped right in your tracks!

It got so bad on Monday that I decided to go to my doctor. If you know me well, you know things have to get really bad for me to make such a decision, and just as well... the 'little tumble' that I took last week which caused me to slow down did more than just knock the wind out of me. My doctor confirmed yesterday that I had cracked two ribs, and so I'm at home now on painkillers and strict orders to take it easy. I don't know what hurts more; my ribs or the fact that I'm so restricted in what I can do!

My body may need healing but my mind is still active, so I'm steadily working through a pile of books that I've been meaning to read. And that should mean I will have plenty to blog about soon.

Psalm 103:1-5 (NIV)
Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits - who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.

12 January 2009

Slow down

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy) is a song by Simon and Garfunkel, which is on the top of my mind today. The first verse goes:

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

I've found I've had to slow down today - following my little tumble last week I just can't seem to pick up any speed! I find I've still got plenty to do but I find I just have to slow right down in order to get anywhere. And just for the record I'd like to add that I don't feel particularly 'groovy' either!

It doesn't help matters when I know that my friends and colleagues have been telling me of the importance of slowing down for a while. I just wish that I hadn't learnt this lesson in such a *painful* fashion!

9 January 2009

Picking Yourself Up...

It's very icy underfoot at the moment, and the gritters are out in the evenings. However, you have to be so careful even walking along the streets - one wrong step and you can find yourself on the ground.

Unfortunately it even happened to me this week - thankfully there was no-one around to see my inelegant gymnastics and I seem to have got away with only minor bruising. However, I had somewhere to go and after checking that nothing was broken I got up and carried on down the path, with the words from my previous post, 'Never Mind, Go On', resounding in my mind.

On reflection the words of General Albert Orsborn come to mind. We all have times where we fail, stumble or falter. The important thing is to carry on...

Saviour, if my feet have faltered
On the pathway of the cross,
If my purposes have altered
Or my gold be mixed with dross,
O forbid me not thy service,
Keep me yet in thy employ.
Pass me through a sterner cleansing
If I may but give thee joy!

All my work is for the Master,
He is all my heart’s desire;
O that he may count me faithful
In the day that tries by fire!

SASB 522
Albert Orsborn (1886-1967)

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

7 January 2009

Onward To Victory!

In the fight, say, does your heart grow weary?
Do you find your path is rough and thorny,
And above the sky is dark and stormy?
Never mind, go on!
Lay aside all fear, and onward pressing,
Bravely fight and God will give his blessing;
Though the war at times may prove distressing,
Never mind, go on!

When the road we tread is rough,
Let us bear in mind,
In our Saviour strength enough
We may always find;
Though the fighting may be tough
Let our motto be:
Go on, go on to victory!

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!

When downhearted, look away to Jesus,
Who for you did shed his blood most precious;
Let us say, though all the world should hate us:
Never mind, go on!
Do your best in fighting for your Saviour,
For his sake fear not to lose men’s favour;
If beside you should a comrade waver,
Never mind, go on!

SASB 805, Richard Slater (1854-1939)

5 January 2009

Keeper Of The Flame

I'm blogging tonight in a pleasantly warm front room, beside a beautiful coal fire. Toasty warm! The kids are doing their homework, my wife Christine is sorting out her cross-stitch and I'm on the computer reflecting on the day. We've shut the sub-zero temperatures outside.

Yesterday's meeting at the Army was led by Major Howard Webber from THQ and was based on Leviticus 6:8-13. As part of his message he talked about the difficulty in keeping a fire burning. This certainly spoke volumes to Chris and I, who have coal-fired central heating here at home. In fact, I've been thinking about for most of the day today, where I have struggled to and from work through sleet and snow. Having a coal fire is a definite pain to maintain in the morning but I have been encouraged by Chris's running commentary during the day on how she's kept the fire going. Her work today to keep it alight has not only meant I have arrived home to a warm house, but has demonstrated the very message the Major preached from the platform yesterday!

As Christians, we believe that the fire of the Holy Spirit can indwell us and inspire us. However, it needs attention on a regular basis, otherwise if left alone it will go out! Without care and attention the fire within us will slowly die, until we are cold and useless. Properly maintained, a small spark can be fanned into a flame, which can keep us warm and effective - and can even be used to light other fires!

One last reflection now, from my childhood. Comics fans from the Sixties and Seventies will remember Stan Lee's acronym for those fans who recruited another to Marvel Comics fandom. Stan The Man gave us the right to add the initials KOF to our name - for 'Keeper Of The Flame'. It's thirty years later, and I find I'm still keeping the flame. And I am encouraging my family and friends to do so, too.

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

2 January 2009

Joyful, Joyful

Then the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it."
(Genesis 4:6-7, NIV)

These words from the familiar story of Cain and Abel hit me square on in my devotions this morning - a personal challenge for the New Year! The Bible translation that I was using this morning was The Living Bible, and said:

"Why is your face so dark with rage? It can be bright with joy if you will do what you should."

Having blogged previously about coming up against some strong ill-feelings last year, I'm really looking to capture some 'joy' in my life for 2009.

Joyful, joyful, we adore thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before thee,
Hail thee as the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the clouds of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day.
SASB 10 - Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)