27 February 2009

Self-Praise Is No Recommendation - part two

Nobody likes job-hunting. One job agency sent me an email to tell me this recently. We do it because we are motivated to do it. We want to achieve our full potential - although for some this may be expressed in terms of maximised salary & benefits rather than in terms of maximised skills. Updating the CV is a bit of a chore, but it's so necessary as it represents your 'shop window' - how you represent yourself to the world.

Job hunting is also a pain for employers, who are often inundated with CVs which they then have to sift through. With the job market as it is, employers are turning to a variety of methods to assist them in their final choice of the right candidate. These range from practical tests of computer skills to interviewing panels. Some firms even use Psychometric Testing to give them a further insight into the kinds of people that want to work for them.

Not everyone is looking for another job, of course. However, even those who are remaining with their current employer may be dissatisfied. The TUC announced on Friday that millions of British workers are putting in over seven extra hours of unpaid overtime every week, because they are concerned about losing their jobs.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, at this stage in my life and following what I experienced at DFL I've had to review my own CV. I am staggered to realise what a variety of diverse skills I have picked up over a series of jobs, both paid and voluntary, over a twenty-five year period. Even within my own Salvation Army Corps I've had about half a dozen different roles. I say this, dear reader, not because I want to pat myself on the back, not for 'self-praise'. I'm simply looking back in order to better see where I'm headed - I want to see where my next challenge might be.
I gave up the rat race myself in the mid-Nineties, coming to the conclusion that working just to maximise my own salary was foolish. Probably the most fulfilling job I have ever had was the one that earned me the least money. I'd probably still be working there today if it wasn't for the fact that I was made redundant.
It's clear to me now that God has something else for me to do - I hope this year will see this made clear to me. So where is the path headed? Clearly not for fame and fortune. And not for self-praise and congratulation, either. What I would like (God willing) is summed up by the song, "I want to serve the purpose of God in my Generation." (Mark Altrogge)

Job satisfaction? Well, we all need some sort of assurance in our lives. Do you need constant reassurance from others that you are doing things well, or are you trapped in a world where you never get any praise? Personally, I am far happier working behind the scenes than 'in the limelight'. Jesus himself points out that we should be seeking praise from God not from men (John 5:31-32). And so I'm seeking God's way, and looking for Him to make clear to me my path.

"What is on Your heart?
Tell me what to do
Let me know Your will
And I will follow You"

25 February 2009

Self-Praise Is No Recommendation - part one

When writing your CV or resume you are often instructed to present yourself in the best light possible. Some folk, I am told, actually lie when it comes to their CV, inventing aspects of their past in order to better secure that elusive job. And the right job seems most elusive at times.

Perhaps I am a little different when reviewing my working life, but in the back of my mind I always seem to hear the words 'Self Praise Is No Recommendation'. It was something told to me by a good friend years ago, and I think they are sound words indeed. When I am preparing my CV I find myself cutting things out all of the time, rather than inventing things to go in! That's because the ideal CV is, I am told, no longer than two sides of A4 paper. Any shorter and they think you haven't tried. Any longer and they won't read it at all. I'm also told that an average job vacancy will produce 100 enquiries, so that's a pile of 100 or so CVs for someone to read through!
If I think of the many different things I have been involved with in my working life, I can easily fill four or five sides! But what to cut...

As part of the DFL experience (see earlier blogs) my wife and I have had to take a look back at our lives, in order to better see a way forward. Which is kind of like preparing a CV of your life - only everything stays in, because everything may be relevant. In looking back through the tough times (the bits you wouldn't necessarily put in your CV) you may more easily see God's supporting hand. And we are assured by scripture:

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (NIV)

More later.

23 February 2009

Traffic Lights!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

God will make a way, Where there seems to be no way,
He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me,
He will be my guide, Hold me closely to His side
With love and strength for each new day,
He will make a way, He will make a way.
(Words and music by Don Moen)

The words of this song were used in our Sunday worship yesterday, and I've used them in my blog before (back in October 2008). Since then, God has definitely moved within my life and I am sure that I have a way forward in front of me. Kind of easy to see, really, as there is only one clear path, one road to take. Where the road leads me I am still unsure, but I'm following the road faithfully.

But I'm stuck at traffic lights. You know the sort, those temporary ones that spring up at road junctions all the time in my town, the sort where you sit in your car and wait. And sit. And wait.

Distractions come in all aspects of my life, and some of them are relentless. That's part of the reason I blogged recently about 'drawing a line in the sand', to ensure I didn't slip backwards - or in terms of a motor vehicle trip, that I didn't do a U-turn and try and find another way around 'the lights'. Whilst at 'the lights' I find I'm being challenged to search for a degree of 'mystical understanding' into my spiritual life, and it's all getting a bit interesting.

21 February 2009

And The Award Goes To...

By now, the stars and the paparazzi will be making final arrangements for all of the glitz and glamour of the Oscars this Sunday - but some the best of this weekend's awards will be announced tonight. Yes, it's the Razzies!

I first started following the Razzies about a dozen years ago, when I was hunting for news material for the science fiction newsletter that I used to help edit. Four times a year I submitted twenty or thirty pages of copy related to science fiction and fantasy productions in film and TV. Oscar season gave me little to work with, but the website run by the Golden Raspberry Awards team gave me plenty of material. You see, they give out awards for the worst in the field - worst film, worst actor, etc.

If you have been following my own 90% rule reasoning, you'll realise that there's so much more material to work with! Particularly with some SF 'masterpieces', some of which are often quite awful. The most memorable of the Razzies' awards ceremonies was when Halle Berry won Worst Actress for her portrayal of Catwoman (2004). Bless her, she proudly turned up to personally accept her award.

Further details on this year's awards can be found at

20 February 2009

Travel Steadily Along His Path

(read in my Daily Reading for today - more words that hit me square between the eyes, important words for today)

Psalm 37:34-40 (New Living Translation)
34 Put your hope in the Lord. Travel steadily along his path. He will honour you by giving you the land. You will see the wicked destroyed.
35 I have seen wicked and ruthless people flourishing like a tree in its native soil.

36 But when I looked again, they were gone! Though I searched for them, I could not find them!
37 Look at those who are honest and good, for a wonderful future awaits those who love peace.

38 But the rebellious will be destroyed; they have no future.
39 The Lord rescues the godly; he is their fortress in times of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them, rescuing them from the wicked. He saves them, and they find shelter in him.

Lord, remember me. Lift me from the miry clay...

17 February 2009

Drawing A Line In The Sand

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

John 8:1-11 (NIV)
1 But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.
3,4 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.
5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?"
6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.
10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"
11 "No one, sir," she said. "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin".

Following on from my own personal quiet time over the last couple of days, I've discovered further areas in my life that need changing. Well, we all have our own particular issues that we struggle with - there's not anyone who doesn't.

Well, it's now time for me to 'draw a line in the sand' on these issues. This particular phrase refers to establishing a limit beyond which things will be unacceptable. I'm declaring a boundary and letting everyone know that crossing it will cause trouble. I am stating very simply that there are certain parts of my life where I am saying 'Thus far, and no further'. And I'm assured that God is with me every step of the way. No condemnation, no threats, no ifs, no buts. It's simply time to deal with the issues.

So, how long will this last, this struggle, I asked God. I wasn't expecting such an instant response.

Back came the answer: 'As long as it takes'.


16 February 2009

What A Wonderful World

I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

The colours of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shakin' hands, sayin' "How do you do?"
They're really saying "I love you"

I hear babies cryin', I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world
Yes, I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Oh yeah
(George Weiss / Bob Thiele)

13 February 2009

With Christ Into The Future!

The phrase above was used as the motto for a Congress for The Salvation Army and is one which I am particularly fond. I have a paperweight at home with the logo on it, as pictured. I did have the logo on a tee-shirt with a starfield as a background and used to wear it at science fiction conventions when I went to them, but it fell to bits with overuse!

Much science fiction is of course set in the future - some visions depict a bright future, some a bleak one. The sixth Star Trek film made particular reference to the uncertainty of the future, calling it 'The Undiscovered Country'. This is a reference to Hamlet (Act III Scene I), and is used in the film to refer to a future where all races coexist in peace.

I mention this in this blog particularly as many Salvationists are now pondering the proposed Changes in Appointment for Salvation Army centres, announced officially today. These changes not only affect the officers that are mentioned in this document, but many others in our organisation. All of us need to work together, to walk together into an uncertain future - the undiscovered country.

I'm sure there will be many taking stock of where they are in their own Christian walk at times of change like this, and the words below are the ones that I keep close to me. They might help you too...

I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.

All my past is known to thee,
Lord, let me come.
All my future thou canst see,
Lord, let me come.
Take me, I can trust my all
In thy hands whate’er befall,
Then no tempest shall appal,
Lord, let me come.
SASB 285, verse 3 (Herbert Howard Booth)

11 February 2009

Love Lifted Me

I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore;
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me;
Now safe am I.

Love lifted me, love lifted me,
When no one but Christ could help,
Love lifted me.

SASB 336, verse 1 and chorus, written by James Rowe (1865-1933)

9 February 2009


The only way I can describe today is simply *wierd*! The dictionary definition is:
  • Having an unusually strange character or behaviour.
  • Deviating from the normal; bizarre.
  • An odd, unusual, and sometimes uneasy sensation.

Now that does not mean I have experienced uncanny or surreal events today, like fish falling from the sky or ghostly visitations. I simply mean that the events of the day seems much more uncertain than usual. I'm used to careering headlong through the day, rushing from perceived crisis to perceived crisis - but today just seems subtlely different, just rather odd. I wish I could put my finger on it - I'm banking on the fact that it means something important is about to happen, and I can't wait until I find out what it is.

Can't wait.

6 February 2009

Psalm 27

Psalm 27 (NIV) - A Psalm of David.
1 The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?
2 When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall.
3 Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.
4 One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.
5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.
6 Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the LORD.
7 Hear my voice when I call, O LORD; be merciful to me and answer me.
8 My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, LORD, I will seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, O God my Saviour.
10 Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
11 Teach me your way, O LORD; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.
12 Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, breathing out violence.
13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

5 February 2009

Snow, Ice And Water

Wrapped up to the extreme, I've put on my boots and stepped out into the snow, finding that my feet are buried up to the ankles. Walking hasn't been easy, and sometimes my normal brisk walking pace has been reduced to a slow crawl as I struggle to go about my daily life. A normal working week is disrupted by what is essentially frozen water!

Having battled my way through snow in the earlier part of the week, I now find myself battling with something far worse. Snow that has melted and refrozen. There's a part of my daily walk to work that is now something akin to a bobsled run. With public transport now back to near normal, I still have to take it easy just getting to the station. There's even talk of the risk of flooding when the thaw really takes hold.

And you know, it's the same with my daily walk with Christ. Certain parts of the path that I tread may be rocky or uneven, or even slippery. Parts that weren't troublesome to you one day may be treacherous the next. You run the risk of falling, or even getting trapped in the gunk or mire by the wayside. You could even get washed away. Many have to change the route they take, however some of us are trying to keep to a particular path. And it's tricky to stay on course - and to stay the course!

Psalm 69:1-2 (NIV)
Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.

Lord, lift me from the miry clay and put my feet firmly on the rock. Your rock.

2 February 2009

Let It Snow!

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!
(lyrics by Sammy Cahn; music by Jule Styne)

Following on from my earlier post about man-made plans, things certainly continue to be unpredictable - although the appearance of snow at winter time really must be fairly high up the list of possibilities, mustn't it? However, despite the weather I didn't turn over and resign myself to a 'duvet day'. I did my best.

  • I did get up this morning despite the breakfast show host urging me to stay in bed;
  • I did get dressed and get ready for work despite news that transport was going to be difficult and the persistent announcements that you should only set out to work if it was absolutely essential. (Isn't work and earning your keep essential?)
  • I did trudge down to the station in the snow (going carefully - didn't want to have another tumble)
  • I did try and travel to London - but there were no trains or buses at all. Not a hope unless I walked the fifteen or so miles up to town. Which would have taken me half the day in the snow. Not really an option.

I tried. But to no avail. So I turned round and trekked back home - then had a snowball fight with the kids (school was also cancelled) and helped them build a snowman today. That's me in the pic above. A great day with the family. Not planned at all. Great stuff.

1 February 2009

A Personal Faith...

I believe an important and significant aspect of my spiritual journey this year is going to be centred on my personal quiet times this year, and not on my outward service for God. This has been mentioned by a couple of close friends. It was finally confirmed to me at DFL this year, when through the weekend I finally began to see things much more clearly. However, I don't find these things easy. In fact, it's the toughest task of the lot. I'm the sort of person who is happiest when I'm doing something, however it's clear to me now that I need to do something a bit different this year. Be more like Mary than Martha (see Luke 10:38-42).

There is a brief period over the next few weeks when things are going to be a little slower at the Corps, as building works are carried out to improve our Hall building. I've already planned to allot the time I would have spent running around in my busy-ness to seek God and his business. The confirmation of that came on the way home this afternoon (after delivering Corps leaflets to some of our members who can't get to our meeting for one reason or other). The chorus of this song hit me square on:

I believe in You, Lord.
I believe You are the Son of God.
I believe You died and rose again.
I believe You paid for us all.
I believe You are here now
Standing in our midst.
Here with the power to heal now
And the grace to forgive.

(extract from 'I Believe In Jesus' by Marc Nelson)

I'm making a list of appointments out now. It's time for things to get a bit more personal. He's here right now!