31 December 2010

Making A Difference

"One man can make a difference..." - Wilton Knight (Richard Basehart) from the original pilot of 'Knight Rider' (1982)

I have spent an interesting week at home, reviewing the past year over and over again in my mind. An unfortunate side-effect of my period of recuperation is the sudden acquisition of bucket-loads of spare time. I can't drive; can't do those little odd jobs in the house. I am encouraged by family to 'take it easy'. So I took time to catch up with friends and relatives, find up what they are up to. At this time of year, you get updates via cards, or on Facebook.

Unfortunately, this made me feel quite sad. I started taking myself to task for all the things that I have failed to do during this year. Friends with which I have lost contact; family members who tease you about some event or other you've missed; good opportunities that slip through your grasp or pass you by. All those things danced around in my mind.

I spent some time in prayerful reflection of all these things. The words of 1 Peter 5:8-9 came to mind while I was doing this. And - with His help -I realised that there is quite another way of looking at this...

Instead of concentrating on those things that I failed to do, I realised that I should also be looking at all those things that I actually did! All the places I went to. What about considering all the people that I helped this year by doing the things I do - who would be there for them if I didn't do what I do?

Yes, there are things I can't do, can't seem to find the time to do. Sorry if I let you down. I'm trying the best way that I know to make a difference in this world by what I do in His name. I want to make a difference - and to continue to do so in 2011.

Can one man make a difference? Yes, I can.

"It's easy to make a buck. It's a lot tougher to make a difference." - Tom Brokaw

"Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does." - William James

This is my favourite...

"I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world." - Mother Teresa

1 Peter 5:8-9 (New International Version, ©2010)
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Happy New Year.

27 December 2010

The Doctor's Christmas Carol

The 2010 Christmas Day special for 'Doctor Who' contains elements of  'A Christmas Carol', 'Mary Poppins' and even 'Jaws', including for good measure references to Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe. There is an impressive performance by Michael Gambon and some beautiful musical pieces by Katherine Jenkins. There was a sleigh ride - but no flying reindeer here! All in all the show is a real roller-coaster, entertainment in the style of the traditional BBC Christmas Day blockbuster. It's not surprising that the show featured in the Top Ten shows viewed on the day.

However, was it 'Doctor Who'? Purist SF fans would doubtless be concerned about the number of time paradox issues that this particular episode raises. The whole plot seems to centre on the fact that 'time can be rewritten'... a concept that some fans may find a little difficult to swallow. There was a tangible peril - 4003 lives at stake here, needing to be rescued from a crashing 'Galaxy Class' starship (a Trek fan like me felt right at home)...

However, let's take this whole story as a parable... a story with a definite moral, set in a fantasy world based on a Dickensian earth colony. There's plenty to receive from this show. Here we have a theme of cheerful sacrifice, with Abigail giving up what remains of her life to save her family. There's the clear possibility of redemption, of completely breaking away from your past, with the Doctor helping to rewrite Kasran's life because he could see there was still a possibility; all was not lost! Combine that with the underlying themes of dealing with bitterness and lack of compassion from the original Dickens story (see my earlier blog entries) and there was plenty to digest over the rest of the Christmas night.

Underlying the whole story is the traditional Christmas message, told via the medium of popular carols like 'Silent Night' and 'In The Bleak Mid-winter', emphasising the hope that the arrival of the Christ child offers. This underscore is simply stated, the carols are used to inspire hope. Hope we can all share. It was a pleasure to hear these carols sung so prominently on a Christmas night.

And of course the music clearly attracts the fish. Strange creatures that swim up in the cloud layers in the sky, coming down on certain nights to swim in the Dickensian fog. Kasran is said to 'let a few through on Christmas Eve' ... I am particularly smitten with the fish, it's a nice touch. Fish attracted by the Christian music, to the music with such an important message... hmmm...

Remember. Time can be rewritten. 

24 December 2010

An Alternative Nativity

Happy Christmas, one and all. :)

21 December 2010

The Infant King

Usually, one particular carol that we sing over Advent ends up staying with me for the entire carolling period. It's been rather a peculiar season this year, the inconvenience of a broken ankle just at the start of carolling season has really fouled things up. I'm pleased to say it didn't stop me going out entirely, but there's only so much you can do when you're reliant on family to drive you around. You tend to lose your independence somewhat.

Anyway, the carol that has stayed with me this year has been 'The Infant King', which is often entitled 'Sing Lullaby'. The words were penned by Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, who is best-known for writing "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and "Now the Day Is Over". It's an English version of a Basque carol entitled "Oi Betleem!". Well worth another sing this year.

Sing lullaby!
Lullaby baby, now reclining, sing lullaby!
Hush, do not wake the infant King.
Angels are watching, stars are shining
over the place where He is lying:
sing lullaby!

Sing lullaby!
Lullaby baby, now a-sleeping, sing lullaby!
Hush, do not wake the infant King.
Soon will come sorrow with the morning,
soon will come bitter grief and weeping:
sing lullaby!

Sing lullaby!
Lullaby baby, now a-dozing, sing lullaby!
Hush, do not wake the infant King.
Soon comes the cross, the nails, the piercing,
then in the grave at last reposing;
sing lullaby!

Sing lullaby!
Lullaby! is the babe awaking? Sing lullaby!
Hush, do not stir the infant King.
Dreaming of Easter, gladsome morning.
conquering death, its bondage breaking:
sing lullaby!

Happy Christmas!

15 December 2010

Feeling Small

There have been many books, TV shows and films over the years about characters who find themselves shrinking in size. It's not just a subject to be found in science fiction; there are references in many children's tales, even the classic 'Alice in Wonderland'. Probably the classic SF film on the subject must be 'The Incredible Shrinking Man', produced in 1957. Based on Richard Matheson's novel, Scott Carey (played by Grant Williams) has to cope with being reduced in size from 6ft 2in down to - well, watch the film to see...

I feel very small at the moment. It's probably a combination of powerlessness caused by my lack of mobility, together with a couple of instances this week where I have been made to look rather small - admittedly by my own stupidity or lack of forward planning. Add to that the pain I am experiencing and you'll begin to understand why I'm only about three inches tall at the moment.

In the film, Scott's greatest enemy turns out to be himself, as he struggles to cope with changes in his life which are out of his control. As I deal with my own issues here, I hold on tight to the one thing that will ensure I will emerge from this situation not only victorious, but feeling ten feet tall!

Isaiah 66:14 (The Message)
You'll see all this and burst with joy
—you'll feel ten feet tall—
As it becomes apparent that God is on your side
and against his enemies.

14 December 2010

Seeking After Truth

Sitting here on the sofa, leg raised, waiting for your broken bones to knit together, is in fact incredibly frustrating. Your mind races ahead of you all of the time, and because you cannot do so much yourself, you end up sending family members on little errands to assist you. I think my family are already a little tired of this! However, that may not be happening so much this week, as much of the time I'm going to be on my own while the family is out doing other things. It's that time of year!

I don't know about you, but whenever I am on my own, I tend to take after Mary and I sit and ponder on particular things. With so much time on my hands at the moment, this week I have been sitting and pondering one of the ways that I often describe myself - as a 'seeker after truth'...

It's often difficult to separate truth from fiction: I understand that people sometimes circulate what they believe to be 'news' without realising that what is being circulated isn't in fact the truth. It is such an eye-opener when you come face-to-face with the truth, because sometimes the real facts bear little relation to what in fact is being touted as 'fact'.

A case in point? Here's one from history, as recorded in BBC's programme 'QI', one of my favourite TV shows. Who invented the telephone? I remember being taught at school that it was Alexander Graham Bell, however we are now taught that the actual inventor is in doubt. Many claim it was Antonio Meucci, an inventor from Florence who unfortunately did not manage to finalise the patent on his new invention. Bell did. This fact was only formally acknowledged in 2004.

I'd rather have the truth in any situation. Not necessarily to make me any more comfortable, but just so I have a reliable base-line.

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things - Rene Descartes

John 8:31-32 (New International Version, ©2010)
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

13 December 2010

Keep On Going

(Here's a thought that someone shared with me today. I post this on my blog as I feel its message is particularly relevant for somebody today. If it is for you, receive it with love!)

A lady was driving along with her father. They came upon a storm, and the young lady asked her father, "What should I do?" He told her to keep driving.

Cars began to pull over to the side, the storm was getting worse. "What should I do." The young lady asked? "Keep driving," her father replied.

Just a few feet in front of her, she noticed that eighteen wheelers were also pulling over. She told her dad, "I must pull over, I can barely see ahead. It is terrible, and everyone is pulling over!"

Her father told her, "Don't give up, just keep driving!"

Now the storm was terrible, but she never stopped driving, and soon she could see a little more clearly. After a couple of miles she was again on dry land, and the sun came out.

Her father said, "Now you can pull over and get out."
She said "But why now?"
He said "When you get out, look back at all the people that gave up and are still in the storm, because you never gave up your storm is now over.

This is a testimony for anyone who is going through "hard times". Just because everyone else, even the strongest, gives up,  you don't have to...if you keep going, soon your storm will be over and the sun will shine upon your face again.

Philippians 4:13 (New King James Version)
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

11 December 2010

Falling Over ... Again

A little after I posted up the first of my contributions to my recent Christmas Carol article, someone rather unexpected happened.

I slipped over and fractured my ankle. An anticipated six weeks in plaster.

I don't know what is worse. The pain from the ankle; the lack of mobility that now slows me right down to a mere crawl; the realisation that I am now able to do so much less than I had originally planned this December. Anything I can do I will still do, but the list of possible jobs is greatly reduced. But I am still able to do something. I need to do something.

My mind still works, however the body struggles and fails to keep up.  I've had some recent experience of this following my little tumble in January 2009, recorded here . I may be down, but don't count me out yet.

Psalm 37:23-24 (New International Version, ©2010)
The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him;
though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

10 December 2010

A Modern Christmas Carol - part three

Charles Dickens' short story 'A Christmas Carol' is universally recognised as one of the best seasonal tales, but there's so much more to it than that.

First published on 19th December 1843, the book was received by a public who were keen to explore the true meaning of Christmas. This was Victorian Britain, and puritan ways of the past were being quickly swept away with more festive celebrations. A wave of nostalgia led to rediscovery of carols, published in a series of carol books. New customs such as the Christmas tree and the sending of greeting cards were being introduced into the country. Dickens' addition to the season explored his own sympathy for the poor, and includes many ideas inspired by the Christmas stories of Washington Irving. The title of the work reflects the revival in carol singing at that time. It's partly a reworking on a earlier scene from Pickwick Papers (1837), where Mr. Wardle talks about Gabriel Grub, a sexton, who undergoes a miraculous conversion at Christmas after being visited by goblins.

Dickens' work goes far beyond the celebrations. It is a tale of one man's salvation, leading the reader through scenes of bitterness, coldness and death, and to a subsequent revelation by Scrooge - inspired supernaturally - that there is another way. His heart is warmed, and peace and goodwill come to the fore. A little further research into the book's history will reveal that Dickens clearly wanted to put forward a comment on how the poor were being treated, turning this from a simple story into a morality tale by publicising his own ideas of social justice.

Many see this as a secular vision of the Christmas season. I disagree; I see plenty of evidence that this clearly reflects the hope found in the Nativity story - and plenty more from the subsequent teachings and passion of Christ.

8 December 2010

A Modern Christmas Carol - part two

As a result of my experiences from last Saturday (see my last blog entry) and the fact I now find myself with a little more free time in my schedule (more about that next week), I have taken the opportunity to revisit the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens' short story "A Christmas Carol". Although the tale set in Victorian England, it still has plenty to say to us in the 21st Century.

Scrooge is so bitter, but why is he so? Dickens paints the picture of someone who has literally had the joy of living sucked out of him, because of a series of acts of circumstance and cruelty. His mother died in childbirth; his father then abandoned young Ebenezer to a boarding school, not even allowing him home for Christmas. The only family member he can even rely on is his sister, Fan.

Lacking the comfort of a strong family unit, Scrooge compensates by throwing himself into his work, however this obsession loses him the love of his fiancee, Belle. Fan then passes away, and these two incidents hurt Scrooge so deeply, he shuts himself off from any love he may have had for the world. Scrooge still has a nephew in the form of Fan's son, but they aren't at all close.

The loss of his business partner, Jacob Marley, some seven years earlier, leaves Scrooge to run the business on his own. Marley's death occurs on Christmas Eve, which is yet another reason for Scrooge to distance himself from the festivities. He drives himself still further into his work, becoming miserly as he strives to hold onto the one thing he has left in this harsh world. The business barely survives. Here is a man who is truly 'In The Bleak Mid-Winter'.

His business (which is never actually specified by Dickens) involves money; some say he was possibly a professional money lender. If this is so, this will doubtless explain his cold reactions to pleas for charity - he has heard it all before, and has probably been taken in just once too often. In fact, Scrooge would far sooner have the poor of London trying to eke out a living in the horrendous Victorian workhouses than have them knock on his door. His experience tells him this - he has been once hurt too often!

Not unsurprisingly, Scrooge dislikes the merriment of Christmas. Dickens has made the word "humbug" into a household word; it is linked inextricably to this work and to Christmas. Why does Scrooge use it? This phrase is chosen especially to highlight analyse Scrooge's hatred of Christmas. He uses it when faced with the charity collectors, who call on him on Christmas Eve to solicit a public donation. When Scrooge calls Christmas a humbug, he states that people only give to charity and therefore show kindness as a show - perhaps to delude others, perhaps to delude themselves. He fails to see why people would help others without an agenda of their own. He thinks that no-one really cares about anyone else (because no-one cares about him).

Scrooge considers every "Merry Christmas" uttered as yet another attempt to fool him. An invitation to share a Christmas meal with his nephew's family is quickly shunned - no doubt, he thinks that they wish to take advantage of him. Scrooge even begrudges Bob Cratchit his sole paid day off for Christmas Day. Scrooge can only see the loss of a day's work, not at the reason for the day itself. He sees this as "having his pocket picked on an annual basis".

Do you know someone like this? They are still about, even in the 21st Century...

More later...

4 December 2010

A Modern Christmas Carol

Here are some stray thoughts distilled down following the Christmas Tree festival that I attended this morning in town. We met, shared fellowship, sang carols to share together that old, familiar story. It was during the singing of one particular carol at that venue that I felt God really spoke to me, challenging me to face up to tackling an old familiar adversary in my life. And reminding me of yet another old familiar story...

It's the story of a miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge, who is just about surviving in a harsh economic climate. It's a particularly heavy winter this year, and despite having nearby family Scrooge deliberately sits alone, working until late in his counting-house. Relatives and friends try in vain to invite him to some seasonal festivities,but he simply can't see the point, he's too wrapped up in his own problems. Some visitors to his door receive a less than polite reply, loaded with bitterness and resentment. “Bah! Humbug!”

It takes a series of encounters with some supernatural beings to snap Scrooge out of his current cycle of bitter resentment and to instill a truly life-changing experience, just in time for Christmas.

I think I'd like to revisit this story again next week. Sounds like there's something I need to take from this...

2 December 2010

A White Stone With A New Name

Revelation 2:17 (New International Version)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

I've been pondering this verse for a while, particularly to the reference to a 'white stone', which seems to speak so much to me on various levels. Like so many verses in Revelation, it's left open for each of us to unpack this and to understand.  What could that reference to a 'white stone' possibly mean? I've read many interpretations in books and online.

This could be...
  • ...an admission ticket to public festivals in ancient times...
  • ...a pebble of acquittal used in Greek courts...
  • ...a pebble used in elections in ancient Greece...
  • ...a stone used in the high-priest's breastplate...
...and what about the reference to the new name being written upon it?  There's been several references in various places to the importance of 'names' in Scripture, and I had even made mention of this myself in recent days when I led a Sunday meeting at the Corps - I was preaching on Daniel chapter 1 and there was a reference to the importance of names yet again!

But what is this 'new name' that we are promised here? There's other references to this in Isaiah 62:2 and Isaiah 65:15. When something is made new, it gives us a brand new start, new opportunities, new possibilities. 'I am a new creation'...

At this time of year, I am eager to accept the offer of a new start for a New Year - that seems  to me to be most attractive. If that means the acceptance of a new name - or a new title - then I'm up for it.

1 December 2010

Taking Risks

"Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don't. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever." - Philip Andrew Adams

It's December the first. It's time to look back on some of the things we've done as a family for the greetings cards that we write to friends and family. So I've taken a good hard look at my own milestones of the year. What a lot of achievements! I have stepped out even further in faith, adding to the list of things I've done for the first time.

However, I can't stand still. There's still more that I need to do. In fact, I feel that in some areas of my life I may have to do something extremely risky before certain negative elements can be changed for the better or even eradicated. 

Timing is everything. In Revelation, it says that "Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches." I'm listening.

29 November 2010

Colourless Lives

Following on from my recent blog entry about the dawn, here's an interesting observation that follows on from this.

You know when you walk around in the dark. There may have been a sudden power cut at night, and the whole house in plunged into darkness. You stumble around looking for a torch, walking into the furniture, perhaps even into the wall! However, eventually your eyes get used to the darkness, and you begin to take advantage of lesser sources of light, perhaps a freshly-lit candle, the moonlight through the window.

You start to see quite well – after a fashion. But as you look around, you’ll find that the world will lack any colour to it. The walls and furniture will be grey, except for the occasional beam of colour from an external light source. You can see, but by and large without that added dimension of colour.

Perhaps you are living in darkness, a perpetual night, just waiting for the dawn to find you. The life you are living will probably be just as grey as the illustration above. There’s not enough light to make your life colourful, perhaps even to make it worth living. Some may even sit there in the dark, trying vainly to remember how life was when colour was the norm. We begin to forget what it was like to have a colourful life.

This isn't living. You’ve got to seek out the light, bring it into your life. With every new level of illumination you encounter, your life will take on a whole new aspect. You'll soon be able to put your current challenges behind you, perhaps become a means of illumination to others...

John 12:46 (New International Version, ©2010, the words of Jesus)
"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."

Put some colour back into your life!

27 November 2010

Darkest Before The Dawn

There’s an old saying that has been handed down to us across the years. "It’s always darkest before the dawn." If you think this phrase refers solely to the daily transition of night into morning, then I'm sorry to say it’s just not true. If you've been up and about at that time (as I have) then you'll see that there’s quite a brightening on the horizon before the actual sunrise – and even if you count "dawn" from when the light level starts increasing, it’s still not necessarily darker then than any other time during the night. The darkest time of the night is on those occasions when the moon isn't out - it's amazing how we miss even that softer gleam on those nights. Moonlight is, as you will know, sunlight which is reflected from the moon's surface. It's not as bright as light from the sun, but it does help.

If you consider this particular saying in a purely spiritual sense, then this phrase may be spot on. It tends to be when things get really dark that you really miss that light; when you realise you need to seek some assistance. If you're one of those folk who tend to suffer from depression or are going through a difficult time, chances are you've heard this phrase given as encouragement. Just hang on a bit longer, it'll soon be dawn...

Here's another way of looking at it. You don't have to sit around and wait for the dawn. That may be a long time. In the winter months, night can seem to go on and on forever. Why not set out to bring the light into your life! Let it illuminate your situation and brighten up your mood. There's nothing to beat the warmth of a sunrise, particularly when you've been waiting for a long period of night to end. But even a small glimmer of light can cheer us - even the light from the moon can provide enough illumination for us to see the way we ought to go.

John 8:12 (New International Version, ©2010)
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Jesus is the light that you need to seek. Fellow christians may provide you with some immediate illumination, however the light that we offer is light reflected from the Son. It's not as bright as light from the Son, but it does help.

22 November 2010

Lead Me To The Rock!

Psalm 61 (New International Version)
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.
1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
2 From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
3 For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
4 I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
5 For you, God, have heard my vows; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
6 Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations.
7 May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
8 Then I will ever sing in praise of your name and fulfill my vows day after day.

18 November 2010

Misleading Movie Descriptions

Accurate but deceptive summaries of popular films. Just shows how easy it can be to 'bend the truth' sometimes.

"Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again."
(The Wizard of Oz)

"Disaffected farm boy destroys military installation, killing thousands"
(Star Wars)

"A floppy-eared alien meets two robed humans who take him on a series of increasingly disturbing adventures, including an attempt to acquire a small boy on a bet."
(Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace)

"A former soldier tries to find someone in the Big Apple but is frequently distracted by the colourful locals and their interesting lifestyle choices."
(Escape From New York)

"Time travellers attempt to steal an endangered species just to save their own behinds."
(Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)

For a longer list, click over to Filmcritic.com


14 November 2010

The Iron Fetters Yield...

"He comes, the prisoners to release,
In Satan’s bondage held;
In Satan’s bondage held.
The gates of brass before Him burst,
The gates of brass before Him burst.
The iron fetters yield,
The iron fetters yield,
The iron fetters yield."
(verse 2 of 'Hark The Glad Sound' by Philip Doddridge)

Verses which came to me during the Divisional Prayer Meeting tonight. Very powerfully!

No Publicity!

Matthew 6:3 (New International Version)
"But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing..."

I find this phrase has particular significance to me at the moment. Picture the scene: you need to help someone, however your nearest and dearest proceed to kick up a fuss about it. Your relatives and friends try their best to prevent us from doing it. Perhaps for the best of reasons. They may feel we are going too far, doing too much. With the best of intentions they are there to save you from yourself. So, the answer from the Lord seems to be that you should do it anyway and keep quiet about it!

The passage from Matthew 6:1-13 (culminating in the well-known words of The Lord's Prayer) is not exactly teaching us what to do, but how to do it - without making a fuss or attracting too much publicity.  It's not telling us to be deceptive - to avoid the concerns of our loved ones - but to simply go about our work without fanfare or fuss. It's more a direct attack against hypocrisy, against an outward show in our faith without an inward commitment.  Remember, God knows what you do, and He has promised to reward us -  as a loving Father does to his obedient child.

Both faith and works should not be for fame or glory - but simply for Him!

13 November 2010

Future Plans

"Mary, I know what I'm going to do tomorrow and the next day and the next year and the year after that. I'm going to leave this little town far behind, and I'm going to see the world. Italy, Greece, the Parthenon, the Coliseum. Then I'm coming back here, and I'll go to college and see what they know, and then I'm going to build things. I'm going to build air fields. I'm going to build skyscrapers a hundred stories high. I'm going to build bridges a mile long." - George Bailey, in Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life."

As a Christian, I believe God has a particular plan for each of our lives. He equips you, prepares you and sends you out. Each plan is unique to each of us, to our gifts and personality types. If you aren't especially aware of any leading from Him on this subject, I would recommend you to follow up on it. Enter a dialogue with the Almighty; get to know what His plan is, grasp it firmly and pursue it. It's likely to be the most exciting thing you can do in the world. My wife and I went on a Design For Life weekend some time ago, and I'm still working out what was revealed to me at that weekend.

However, what if God's plan for your life is not to travel the world; to build the airfields, the skyscrapers. That's George's dream. Each of us may plan to do great things. It's like wanting to win the big talent show; to secure that high-paying job; to retire to that little cottage by the sea. Such dreams are common to many.

However, God may be calling you to ministry in a faraway land, to make a stand and really make a mark on this world. To go out and make a difference. If so, good for you. Go for it. God's plan for your life will be the greatest adventure...

But, what if God just wants you to do His will - right here. To boldly stay put (to coin a phrase)? Perhaps He's not calling you to change the whole world, but to be salt and light just where you are at the moment. Just to change your small town. Perhaps that isn't quite the adventure you were thinking of...

Would you say yes - even if perhaps it's the last thing that you would want to do?

Would you?

10 November 2010

The Right Time, The Right Path

Some stray thoughts at the moment, as I'm finding myself descending into the 'valley' after a exciting 'mountain-top' experience at Congress (all scripture verses are New International Version):

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."

Psalm 37:23
The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him...

Proverbs 16:9
In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.

Proverbs 1:33
...but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.

Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Isaiah 48:17
This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go."

Psalm 32:8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.

Psalm 48:14
For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

Isaiah 58:11
The LORD will guide you always...

3 November 2010

Called to Serve

"How did you get lumbered with that?"

That was the way an acquaintance of mine reacted when faced with the news that I had volunteered to do a favour for someone. The acquaintance merely saw it as an inconvenience to me, whereas I saw it as an opportunity to serve, a chance to do something new. It's not necessary to tell you what the favour is - I'm not telling you this to get any glory for myself - but simply to ask you a question: Who is right?

You see, in the incident related in Matthew 23:8-12, Jesus faced up to a similar issue. Here he was talking about a group of Pharisees who spent their day basking in their own glory, in their own self-importance. He simply gave us another alternative, a life of humble servanthood. We are not called to pursue titles and positions that glorify ourselves. Rather, our attitude should be that of a servant.

Matthew 23:8-12 (New International Version)
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one Instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

...and again...

Mark 9:33-35 (New International Version)
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

31 October 2010

Contemporaneous Circumstances

(definition of Contemporaneous: existing, occurring, or originating during the same time)
God is so good. Over the last fortnight (which has included a rather busy week's holiday from work) I have experienced so many blessings that blogging about these has been difficult, they've all seemed to have come as a rush, one after another. Some have occurred all at the same time! It's tough to recall all that has happened, it's been such a rush! Highlights include:
  • five separate opportunities to be 'salt and light' on the streets of  my home town after the hours of darkness, thanks to The Salvation Army, to Street Pastors and the local Council. Although sometimes this has meant 'burning the midnight oil', I didn't miss the sleep, this was more than made up for by some very unique experiences.
  • two occasions where I was privileged to assist my wife with her work with the local Cub Scout pack. Awesome - and often very noisy!
  • some wonderful experiences at the Corps - one young person kneeling in commitment and coming to faith during our Corps Anniversary; other young people really responding to a prayer invitation the week after; even an awesome send-off to one of our more mature soldiers at her funeral service. She completed over sixty years of valiant service; the Hall was packed!
  • several occasions where God has really got to grips with some of our family's more personal requests for prayer. Some of the answers have been right in front of us all of the time!
  • I've even found that 'little area of calm' that I've been looking for (see my earlier blog entry). And I found it within me, so the good thing about it is that it's portable!
As I start to prepare for still further opportunities to serve that will be headed my way at this year's Territorial Congress (next weekend), I'm intrigued to know what else God has in store. Because I'm so up for it at the moment!

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

(Thomas O. Chisholm - William M. Runyan)

22 October 2010

Inadequate Resources

Mark 6:30-44 (New International Version)
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest."

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."

37 But he answered, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?" 38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see." When they found out, they said, "Five-and two fish."

39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

It’s quite interesting to recall from this story that there wasn't any hesitation here about feeding the crowd -Jesus simply gave the job to His disciples to do! They would have really struggled with this. They were hungry too, because even they hadn’t found the time to eat (verse 31). They simply didn't have the resources to feed themselves, let alone the crowd. And Jesus knew it... The disciples' reaction was a common one, a human one. To give up. It's hopeless. It can’t be done, make them go away (verse 36).

Being a disciple will often lead us into situations where we don’t have the means to meet a particular need -however, He tells us to trust Him, and to do it anyway.

Do you, like me, sometimes feel overwhelmed with your current circumstances? Then take a tip from the disciples. Let Go and Let God. Let Him do His work. Focus on God, not on the problem. He has the resources that you lack; He can take the little that you have and make it a lot.

“God’s work, done in God’s way never lacks God’s resources.” - J Hudson Taylor

18 October 2010

Three Things

"Jesus promised his disciples three things - that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble." - G.K. Chesterton

I came across the above quotation on someone's profile on Facebook a few days ago and just had to blog about it!

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was very prolific in his writings, which include Christian apologetics, philosophy, fantasy and detective fiction. I like his turn of phrase. For example, he wrote: "Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it."

So lets take a few moments to think about the three things in the earlier quotation:

Christians will be completely fearless - Because of God's great gift of love, followers of Christ need not be afraid of anything. There's still a feeling of awe when each approach our Father in heaven, however that is not because there is anything to fear; it's more an act of overwhelming respect for God's almighty and majestic power.  1 John 4:18, NIV: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

Christians will be absurdly happy - usually expressed in terms of joy, this relates to the confidence that followers of Christ will possess arising out of their relationship with their Creator and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23, NIV: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Christians will be in constant trouble - it is almost inevitable that Christians, inspired by God's word and indwelt by God's Holy Spirit, afraid of nothing and  possessing a deep contentment beyond human reason, will end up 'upsetting the apple cart' most of the time. They will stand out because they behave differently; they will stand up for others and for their faith; they will stand alone if need be. With such characteristics, it stands to reason there is opposition; why there's a habit of getting into trouble. John 16:33, NIV: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

I'm incredibly encouraged by this. It probably explains why I get into trouble as often as I do...

Dare to be different!


14 October 2010

Going Back In Time

Strickland: You don't have a chance: you're too much like your old man. No McFly ever amounted to anything in the history of Hill Valley.
Marty McFly: Yeah, well, history is going to change.

When you are making a list of popular science fiction classics from the 1980's, then 'Back To The Future' has got to be included. The film presented its audience with a classic time paradox, however it did so in a way that it was popular with mainstream audiences. It was the most successful film of the year, grossing more than $380M worldwide and prompting two sequels, which were filmed back-to-back. The trilogy is regularly viewed at our house, providing us with an entertaining story about how one small event in the past can have repercussions, changing the way things work out in the future.

In fact, it seems this trilogy keeps on revealing new things.... a DVD set released this month to coincide with the 25th anniversary reveals that the original film's history could have been a whole lot different. You see, Eric Stoltz was originally cast as Marty McFly, and filming was already quite far advanced when director and co-writer Robert Zemeckis began to have some second thoughts. As good as Stoltz was in the role, Zemeckis was unhappy. On reviewing the footage, Zemeckis had to make a bold and 'horrific' decision. Stoltz's performance lacked some of the humour that he felt the film needed.

Some five weeks into filming, the role was recast and Michael J. Fox was brought in. In fact, Fox was reportedly the director's first choice for the role, but was heavily involved in the US sitcom 'Family Ties' at the time. A deal had to be struck with his agent to secure Fox, and a further deal made with the studio to agree for some expensive but now necessary reshoots. However, the popularity of the films helped Michael J. Fox become a household name that he is today.

How different would the film have been with Stoltz in the role? Would it have had the same impact, been as much a success? Footage of Stoltz in the role can now be found on the new DVD as an 'extra'. It's worth a look.

Remember, the choices that each of us make in life can have a profound effect on the way our lives turn out. Things could be drastically different from what we wish if we don't make the right ones. And we don't have the luxury of a time-travelling DeLorean to pop back and put things right if we make the wrong move!

Joshua 24:15 (New International Version)
But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

11 October 2010

Testing, Testing

1 Corinthians 10:13 (New International Version)
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

A blog that I read this morning pointed out that the Greek word for 'temptation' (pirasmos) can also mean 'testing'. This relates to a trial, a testing of your moral fibre. Some people have a difficulty with the concepts of temptation (usually because that usually is accompanied by the idea of someone who sets out to tempt us, not a popular concept in this modern age!), however I'm sure we can all appreciate that we come across issues where our patience or skills are sorely tested. Usually by whatever the world can throw at us!

As we go through life, some of these trials are unavoidable. 'Such is life', we often say. We all suffer from these sort of trials, they are 'common to man', as is mentioned in the passage above. However, we are promised that God will provide 'a way out'. Indeed, sometimes there are multiple ways we can take to solve each trial.

"Why am I being tested?", the Christian may cry. Well, God allows us to be tested because He wants us to succeed. How else can we pass the test if we don't sit the test? And when we are tested, will we choose to follow Man's way (either our own way or one that someone else has devised for us), or God's way? He wants to test the Christian's response to His word and His promises. God is by His own nature faithful, and we should be, too. Which way will we choose?

8 October 2010

Seeking Perfection - part two

Part two of my thread on perfection centres more on the subject I touched on briefly last time - that of procrastination. Seeking to be better in any area of your life is often a challenge, so it's no wonder that people so often put things off. Like tidying that cluttered room in your house! Sometimes it's a case of not knowing where to start - sometimes it's trying to finding the right time, the right circumstances.

The recent email about seeking perfection (remember my blog entry last time?) recalled a talk on the subject by Pastor Rick Warren, leader of a church in Southern California. A procrastinator, he said, is nothing more than a frustrated perfectionist. The logic went something like this:
  • A perfectionist is convinced to prove his or her worth by being perfect - to seeking to attain perfection.
  • The fear of being unable to achieve that prefection leads to procrastination.
  • Procrastination eventually leads to paralysis. You know what you need to do, even how to do it, but because you can't complete that first part well enough, you end up doing nothing.
Do you end up doing nothing because you feel what you do would be less than perfect? There is a way forward...

1. Realise that no one is perfect - no-one but God. You don't be afraid to make a mistake. Remember the quotation from Albert Einstein:  "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. "

2. Let go and let God! If it is outside of your control, then why not let God handle those things. It takes a lot of faith to let go of those things over which we have no control. Faith like that described in Hebrews 11:1.

3. Learn to be content in your current situation. Life can't be lived in some far-off perfect future. It must be lived today, which means in less than perfect circumstances. Accept that. Love the moment, and enjoy the journey. Dump the pressure that says you must be perfect to be accepted. Just listen to the following quotation: "I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do." (Edward Everett Hale)

The bottom line is - if you are seeking perfection, forget it. What you need to do is seek progress. Why not try and take the first step. Even if you fall over, you have probably gained a couple of steps in the process. Then pick youself up and take another, and another. Before you know it, you will be making terrific progress. Not perfection, but progress!

5 October 2010

Seeking Perfection - part one

We are all encouraged to do the best we can do in all that we do. However, a recent email on the subject of perfection has set me off thinking.

I wouldn't ever claim to be a perfectionist. Take the house for example. I do try to instill some semblance of order to my household (the phrase 'a place for everything, and everything in its place' has almost become my catchphrase, it's such a cliche amongst the family), but with a family of four and so many competing commitments for each of us vying for our attention, sometimes achieving perfection is the last thing on my mind. The place often looks like a bomb has hit it! Particularly during September...

Despite appearing to be a place of chaos and disorder, the house is indeed a home. Let's face it, it's the place where we as a family can let down our hair. Therefore a little disorder can be useful, as long as you can still find something when you need it! There's even a sign stuck to one of the noticeboards in the house: "A tidy house is the sign of a wasted life!"

I must admit to yearning for perfection in this area of my life at least, but with children in the house that can be difficult. I'm working towards a little area of calm in the house where I can unwind. I'm off work at the end of the month to do precisely that. This is an area of my life where procrastination always seems to set in. Regular readers will know that putting myself first is the last thing that I do.

More later...

29 September 2010

Be Careful What You Pray For...

"I prayed for strength, that I could be strong;
I was made weak, that I could be more tender.

I prayed for health, that I could accomplish greatness;
I was given sickness, that I could do better things.

I prayed for wealth, so that I could be satisfied;
I was made poor, so that I could have wisdom.

I prayed for power, so that I could rule the world;
I was given brokenness, so that I would depend on God.

I prayed for many things, so that I could enjoy life;
I was given, “new life,” so that I could enjoy many things.

I didn’t get what I prayed for, but I got everything I longed for."

26 September 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

Matthew 8:18-22 (New International Version)
18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake.
19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go."
20 Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."
21 Another disciple said to him, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
22 But Jesus told him, "Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

Followers of Jesus Christ are challenged to seriously consider the cost of their commitment - I've touched on this topic in earlier blogs. If we believe in what we say we believe then Christ needs to come above everything else. Discipleship requires discipline. Excuses shouldn't get in the way! The above passage gives us further food for thought on this subject. In this modern day and age, the request made by the disciple (verse 21) seems more than reasonable. After all, respect for one's parents is an important duty. However, let's look a little deeper at the context... the following paragraphs follow a number of hours research!

In Jewish customs and traditions, the deceased has to be buried within 24 hours, with a period of mourning for seven days afterwards. There are some very practical reasons for this - remember that Israel is a country with a hot climate. Burial (usually placing the body in a cave or tomb) will usually take place on the same day as death.

Most groups of scholars interpret the disciple's statement as an excuse; stating that he wanted to wait until his father, who was unwell, had died. That might mean a delay of days, or even weeks... Another interpretation that I read recently was that the disciple may be talking about a secondary burial, where the bones of a relative are moved from the tomb into an Ossuary, which could be as long as a year or so after death. If that was the case here, that could mean a delay of a few months...

Whichever the interpretation that you favour, the issue is all too clear. Christ's rather direct statement is not intended as an instruction to ignore family ties or obligations, to not show compassion. That would be contrary to other passages of scripture (e.g. Luke 7:11-15). No, this statement is in response to a man who's priorities were a little vague, unclear. There was a reason why he just couldn't fulfil the obligation. The disciple said he was keen to follow Christ's way, but when it came to the crunch, there was the excuse, delaying that tough final decision as to whether to follow Him. Christ knew that - and knew that there were others who could have performed that task for him. Those who weren't called to the sort of new life that Jesus offered. In fact, those who were 'spiritually dead'...

It's a bit of a cliché of mine, however I know that there are a thousand reasons why we should do anything, and a thousand reasons why we shouldn't. Perhaps it might be whether to go to church today, or to volunteer to help someone. If you want to find an excuse not to do it, they are pretty easy to find. However, deep down, you will know whether that reason is justified. Oh, and of course He will know...

What's your choice?

20 September 2010

Onward and Upward!

"Onward and Upward! To Narnia and the North!" — C.S. Lewis (quotation from 'The Horse and His Boy')

"I try to avoid looking forward or backward, and try to keep looking upward." - Charlotte Bronte

Slowly sinks the reign of darkness,
Yielding to the Saviour’s day,
When the slaves of sinful bondage
Cast their evil chains away.
Upward, Christward, homeward, Godward!
Millions who are now afar
Shall be brought into the Kingdom,
Where the Father’s children are.
SASB 776, v2 (Albert Orsborn)

19 September 2010


What is a pirate's favourite type of music?

Arrr and B!

It be International Talk Like A Pirate Day!


Have fun, me hearties!

17 September 2010

What's The Point?

I have always liked listening to the opinions of others. This all started in my teens, when I started listening to late night talk radio; I have found it helpful to shape my own views by listening to extremes of opinion. Nowadays, I seem to find myself reading other people's blogs. This tends to follow the same extremes!

One main theme that seems to recur in blog writing (usually when people have had a hard day, and are letting off steam) is to question the meaning of existence, crying out to those who want to hear "What's The Point?".

I have bad days, too. Tuesday was pretty awful in many ways; today has just been frantic! However, I find that my beliefs equip me with the tools that I need to see me through the bad times. It doesn't cushion you from these extremes. Just because you have a faith, doesn't mean that you're immune. We have the same bad days as others. How we handle these days is the key to victory. Just listen to this:

Ephesians 6:10-13 (New International Version)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
11 Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.
12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
13 Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Here's a collection of quotations that I have picked from these other blogs on the same subject.

"Life is mostly froth and bubble,
Two things stand like stone,
Kindness in another's trouble,
Courage in your own."- Adam Lindsay Gordon

"What do we live for; if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?" - George Eliot (a pseudonym of Mary Ann Evans Cross)

"Life is a grindstone. Whether it grinds us down or polishes us up depends on us." - Thomas L. Holdcroft

There's a truth or two in there, if you look for it. And if anyone is listening...

13 September 2010


Image: m_bartosch / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I've had such a great weekend. God has really blessed me - and is still blessing me as I am writing this. However, there's still some things I need to get to grips with. For example, the one thing that I really need at this moment to get a bit of bottle.

'Bottle' in colloquial British usage is used as a popular synonym for courage. It refers to one's capacity to cope with demanding or difficult situations. You said that you need to get some bottle in order to do something unpleasant or tricky. When you 'lose your bottle' and decide to give up, you are said to have 'bottle'd out'.

You will have probably realised that I am not adverse to trying new things, but sometimes there are times where the circumstances simply stop me dead in my tracks. After some thought I find it's not the new things that give me pause - I am keen to embrace them - but I find it's the old things. Little feelings of dread and despondency, confidence-shaking situations which tell me I'm not going to succeed, that things are going to go badly.

Paul spoke of a 'thorn in his side'. Perhaps that is mine...

As I have said before, this weekend has been a very positive one, with many highlights and some tremendous answers to prayer. Despite this, there have been lots of times when the 'old nature' seems to kick in. Standing firm and holding on in this particular aspect of my life is very difficult.

I just need a bit of bottle to deal with this, and all will be well... prayer support is welcomed.

"Courage brother, do not stumble,
though thy path be dark as night:
There is a star to guide the humble,
Trust in God, and do the right.
Let the road be dark and dreary
and its end far out of sight.
Face it bravely, strong or weary.
Trust in God, and do the right."

SASB 716 (Norman Macleod)

10 September 2010

Selfish or selfless - an update

This is the continuation of a blog entry that I made a year or so ago. I have gone back to this subject after reading an article from an online newsletter on a concept called the 'Disease to Please'. The term goes back to a book by the late Harriet Braiker entitled 'The Disease to Please - Curing the People-Pleasing Syndrome'. The book describes a 'people pleaser' as someone who prefers to ignore his or her own needs and to centre on satisfying the needs of others. That's exactly what I mean by selfless. However, the book then asks the question "Do you ever say yes when what you really want to say is no?"

It's all a question of motivation. Are you a good person - a hero - a 'nice guy'? Surely it's not a bad thing to want to be helpful... who doesn't want to be liked? And aren't we as Christians called to act with generosity, with lives of gratitude and service? Besides which, isn't it a bit selfish of us to say no to someone who needs our help?

Apparently, some doctors are now saying this 'Disease to Please' could actually harm us or even kill us. You end up in a situation where the answer is always yes, even in cases when it may inconvenience you. The emotional build-up of not being able to say no increases our stress. The adrenaline released as a result makes your heart beat faster than normal, your blood pressure rise and blood vessels narrow. That can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. Extreme maybe, but there you are...

Working out where you are with this 'condition' involves a bit of self-analysis. I'm told you start by looking at your real motivation. Try asking yourself "Why am I doing this? What am I expecting in return?" If you can answer 'nothing' then your motivation is pure. If there's another answer then it's worth giving this further thought. Have you got a hidden agenda?

One problem with a selfless lifestyle is that your own needs could go unaddressed. Don't forget to programme in some 'me time' in your schedule... Remember that your own family deserve to have a share of you as much as anyone. Perhaps you need to block out some time for them, too.

Then comes the matter of assertiveness. Try saying no once in a while - and then sticking to it. If you have a problem in saying no, then at least don't say 'yes' straight away. Buying time is at least a start. Nothing is so urgent you cannot take time to think about it.

Comments are most welcome!

"But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself"
(chorus to 'Garden Party' by Ricky Nelson)

6 September 2010

Kairos time - further thoughts

An interesting article that I stumbled across last evening... Further food for thought when thinking about Kairos time...



5 September 2010

Nothing's Gonna Bring Me Down

"I'm out and about, so I'm in with a shout
I got a fair bit of chat but better than that
Food in my belly and a licence for my telly
And nothing's going to bring me down..."
(lyrics from Pencil Full Of Lead, written by Paolo Nutini and Paolo Giovanni)

It's been a mixed weekend, lots of ups and downs ever since Thursday night and there's a fairly high probability that we may be entering a prolonged period of chaos over the next few weeks as September has always been fraught with challenges. Since Thursday night I've personally seen and experienced the following:

On the minus side: multiple bouts of sickness, aches and pains, a series of disappointments and discouragements; accusations and arguments; even a death (the children's hamster died this morning). 

On the plus side there has been encouraging signs from earlier requests for new workers at the corps; long-standing prayers that are being answered; plans which now appear to have started to show fruit; great results from Saturday's standing day despite several setbacks; awesome possibilities for future service. There's even been a chance to take part in a penalty shootout with a giant football in a car park (!)...  

The lyrics of the song mentioned above are particularly apt (the song was playing in the car today) - despite all the negatives, I need to remember that I need to regularly count my blessings, as I know that if I don't there is a good chance that the negatives in my life may try and overwhelm the positive.

God is good. All the time.