31 March 2011


It was my turn to give the bible reading at the end of Singers practice this week and I chose Joshua 1, one of my favourite passages, as it speaks of being "strong and courageous". This thought has stayed with me for the past few days, throughout one of the busiest periods in my workplace.

It was pointed out that this phrase is repeated (with slight differences in emphasis) three times in this passage, just to underline it. To help us remember that "the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Or indeed whatever you do.

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear - Ambrose Redmoon

28 March 2011

Dry Bones - still searching

I found myself at the Exploring Leadership day at the William Booth College yesterday. A good opportunity to take time out and try to listen for that still, small voice. Actually, there were loads of voices there, talking to one another, talking about prayer, about worship, about responding to God's call. But no still, small voice for me. No direct "it's you" experience, no blinding light. However, I keep looking and listening. I know there's something that I still need to find, because there's a prompting there that still won't go away.

Meetings were led by Lt Col Alan Burns, and he preached on Ezekiel, the well-known prophecy about the dry bones. I posted the relevant verses up on this blog earlier today. Can these dry bones come to life?

Something in what he said began to resonate inside me. Another little prompt for me to pray into, to consider. A still, small prompt. But something definitely there. And it all fits in with omnipotence; 'Nothing is impossible for God'!

More on Ezekiel I think, this week!

Dry Bones

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (New International Version, ©2011)

1 The hand of the LORD was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! 5 This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’”

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

22 March 2011

Close To You

I am spending a large proportion of my quiet time in simply sitting still (sometimes lying still in bed!) and letting God minister to me. I have often felt that simply can't be enough; as a 'doer' I have striven for the right words to say; the right feelings to hold in my heart. The perfect formula for prayer.

Blogs that I have read lately and good friends I have met have both stressed the importance of simply being with God; of letting Him love you; for Him to be close to you. 

No agenda; no lengthy prayer list; no formula. None of that is top priority at the moment. He already knows our deepest needs. He just wants me to be draw close at the moment. 


21 March 2011

More Thoughts On God's Omnipotence

Nothing, and no-one, can stop God’s plans.
Job 42:2
"I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted."

Therefore you can't plan around Him, or against Him.
Proverbs 21:30
There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the LORD.

He knows best!
1 Corinthians 1:25
For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

What God starts, He always finishes.
Philippians 1:6
...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

(all scripture quotations taken from the New International Version, ©2011)

20 March 2011

Must Try Harder

"Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all"
(SASB 136, verse 4 - lyrics by Isaac Watts)

The last verse from 'When I Survey The Wondrous Cross' echoes through my mind tonight as I write this blog entry. I am trying hard to get down what I feel while it is still fresh in my thinking.

We've been reflecting on periods of 'darkness' during this week as part of our Lent reflections, preparing us for Easter which is just around the corner. I must admit to times when I struggle with my own times of darkness, fighting my own inadequacies, bouts of foul mood. I have certainly felt it this weekend. I try my best, however it never seems to be good enough and I end up feeling frustrated. I do some preparation for use during the weekend but at the end of the day it simply wasn't up to scratch. I battle on, trying to go the extra mile for people and end up feeling physically drained as a result. I can't even seem to press the right button on a keyboard when I have to. Why is this part of my Christian walk seem to be uphill most of the time? Feeling very weary tonight.

And then I hear stories about followers of Jesus who win through despite worse conditions that I suffer. Heroes from within my own church who excel, who do wonderful things. Contemporary saints who face physical danger and even death to help others and to tell others about their faith.

I feel so inadequate. I end up giving myself 3 out of 10, 'must try harder'. I want to be out there with these 'heroes', doing what they are doing, but it all goes awry. Praying hard tonight, as I certainly echo Jesus' words, here:

Matthew 26:41
(New International Version, ©2011)
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."

17 March 2011

Economic Theory and the Pig

I had a meaningful discussion with my son today on the subject of pigs.

Did you know there used to be a practice in the Middle Ages of trying to sell off a baby piglet at a market in a drawstring bag, known as a 'poke'? Ill-advised consumers would simply take the bag and pay the money, assuming that the vendor was honest and they were getting all that they paid for. As you might think, he probably wasn't, and when getting the goods home the bag would be opened to find there was a cat inside. What is interesting is that from this ancient example of consumer advice we get two phrases which are still in common usage:

"don't buy a pig in a poke" (always check out the goods before buying)
"letting the cat out of the bag" (revealing a secret)

Another example of everyday common sense, handed down through the generations that can still teach us a truth today. Economists also learn this truth in their studies, however they use the Latin phrase 'caveat emptor' (let the buyer beware!).

Truth can be found in all sorts of places. Even in our everyday language. :)

15 March 2011

Transferable Skills

Anyone who has been looking for a new job recently will be well aware of the need to update your CV (résumé) with all the skills you have learnt through the years. These include abilities picked up from one sort of job which can be used in another. Transferable skills, they call them.

A pretty good example of these can be found in the story of Saul. According to a commentary on Acts that I stumbled across a few weeks ago, Saul was essentially a 'bounty hunter', tasked with the job to track down and take down all the Christians that he could find, 'dead or alive'! You would need to have initiative, local knowledge, good contact with the authorities and commitment to the task at hand.

Just imagine then the impact of his experience on the Damascus road (Acts 9). It must have been awesome, truly life-changing. And career-changing! He then took all of his commitment, skills and training and turned them to the service of God. He turned from Saul The Bounty Hunter to Paul The Apostle. Transferable skills, indeed.

14 March 2011


Well, what a weekend! So many things happening, things to do, things to plan for, things to act on, things to pray for. What could I possibly blog about? The answer came on Sunday night, when I found myself in my daughter's bedroom, sitting on the floor, sorting out felt tip pens. How can one little girl have so many pens?

The answer is easy. Like so much, these things are inherited. A whole host of these pens were my son's, passed down in time to my daughter. Many were my own, from days past when I did art, sketching and cartooning. Doubtless some of these pens were also my wife's. I must have picked up well over two hundred of the things!

However, the hoarding instinct is also inherited. I'm terrifically bad at throwing away stuff, preferring to keep it just in case. I'm taking some steps to 'declutter' my life at present, and am working with my family to organise ourselves a little better.

It's not only things that get inherited. Behaviour can, too!

*Note to friends and family: no more felt tip pens! Thanks

10 March 2011


[om-nip-uh-tuhnt] adjective; almighty or infinite in power.

As part of my prayer time over the past few days I have started reflecting on the omnipotence of God. It's an issue that I am well aware of consciously, however unconsciously there is a tendency to restrict God's power. You don't pray for something, because, deep down, you think the situation is 'impossible'.

Nothing is impossible for God. I'm trying to remember this every day this week - particularly when I'm in a situation that is really pretty bad. I'm asking Him to go to work in my life, to sort some stuff out. To do a miracle or two.

I know He can.

Jeremiah 32:27
"I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?"

Matthew 19:26
Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

(all scripture verses from New International Version, ©2011)

7 March 2011

Broken Pottery

Have you ever had one of those days where you can't seem to do anything right? That was yesterday.

In hindsight, I know that that there were a lot of good things that came out of yesterday's activities, but I must admit to being selectively blind to this; I could only see the wrong things when I got home. Things that had gone awry; important things that had been forgotten; even things I thought I had done OK, with the best of intentions, that I was later told I should have done completely differently. I had to really work hard last night to see the good next to the bad. To realise that yesterday was a good day!

Is this what my life is always to be like? Always seeing the glass as half-empty? And in my own mind, never achieving, always missing the mark? Is this my 'thorn in my side'? I want to do better!

That's probably why I was so challenged by the message from the platform yesterday. Zoe preached on Jeremiah 18, about the Potter's Hands. And she mentioned how the clay resists the hands of the potter, who reworks the material into something useful.

I'm not resisting. Rework me Lord.

Jeremiah 18:6 (New Living Translation)
"O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand."

6 March 2011

By Love Compelled

The title at the top of this entry comes from a piece of Salvation Army music by Ray Steadman-Allen. I feel it's quite an appropriate title!

The last few weeks I've been reading up on sacrificial giving, as today (in most Corps) is the Army's Self-Denial Annual Appeal Altar Service. I've been looking up examples from scripture on which to base further study, looking at individual motivation.

First on my list is Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10), a short man with a burden at least twice the size of him! His job was to collect taxes, a particularly unpopular job even then, and to top it all he wasn't too honest about it. Listening to Jesus' teaching had prompted a change of heart, and Zaccheus resolved to give back much more than the law dictated. He gave sacrificially...

There was Mary, the sister of Martha (John 12:1-6), who gave the gift of precious perfume to anoint Jesus. This was a gift she had really saved up for, the equivalent of the cost of a year's wages. Certainly sacrificial!

And there's Barnabus (Acts 4:36-37), a disciple who happened to own a field. There were a great deal of folk around at the time who were in need, so in response to that he sold his land, placing the money sacrificially at the disciples' feet in order to meet the need. Being a Levite, Barnabas had the right to be supported by others (Numbers 18:21). Instead, he made a conscious decision to give, to help others.

Let's also consider the members of the Macedonian churches (2 Corinthians 8:1-6). They gave sacrificially to help fellow Christians in Jerusalem. They gave joyfully, even beyond their ability to give, and even begged to do so! Phenomenal!

What motivated these guys to give so freely? To give so much more? In the case of Zaccheus, it could be argued that there was an element of guilt involved. A need to make amends, to recompense for his misdeeds. Well, I understand that Jewish law already make restitution an essential anyway - however Zaccheus' response goes far beyond legal requirements...

And what about Barnabus? The Christians in Macedonia? We know nothing of their individual backgrounds. Surely there must be looking for something other than just guilt.

Whatever motivated them to such extremes of sacrifice must be something pretty powerful. Could it be the awesome power of the love of God within them? The power of the Holy Spirit, transforming them, compelling them. Encouraging them. Sacrificial giving is their response to such unconditional, sacrificial, agape love.

What is your response? What is that still, small voice telling you?

"Go without, for those going without" - taken from the Self-Denial Appeal envelope, 2011

3 March 2011


I got quite a bit out of the Corps Bible Study yesterday evening. The CO led the session on the subject of 'hope', and we explored various passages relating to hope and expectation in scripture over the course of the evening. He mentioned the story of how Horatio Spafford wrote 'It Is Well With My Soul'; although I know the song well, I'd never heard the story before. Read all about it here.

A comment during the evening on 'joy' started me off on yet another train of thought. Is it possible to be joyful, even if you are going through unhappy times? Does that even make sense?

Happiness is a topic that I've touched on before in this blog, but I've never quite understood the difference between happiness and joy. And there is a difference.

Happiness is a temporary condition, based more on circumstance or good fortune than anything. When things are going well, you are happy. Joy on the other hand goes much deeper. It speaks of emotional well-being. Winning something in a competition may make us happy, but joy comes from deep relationships, like those with a loved one, and of course from God.

Joy does not depend on having more money, a new car, new job, or that luxury holiday. It's a state of mind, an attitude to life that wells up from inside you.

Although I haven't quite suffered as much as Horatio Spafford did those many years ago, I can admit that today wasn't by any stretch of the imagination a happy day. But I'm pleased to say that I still have that joy that comes from knowing my Saviour within me.

And that, to complete the link back to last night, gives me hope.

Romans 15:13 (New International Version, ©2011)
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

1 March 2011

How To Be Invisible

(from the title of a track by Kate Bush, found on my iPod today)

Lord, my instinct is to want to be invisible. Most of the time I find I can manage this, working quietly into the background. Just another figure in the crowd. Being different brings with it so many questions, conflict and pain - I find difficult to cope sometimes.

I also know that you don't want me to be invisible. You have put me on this earth to be seen, to witness for you, to stand up and be counted. Lord, help me to accept this fact, and to be the person that you want me to be. Help me when I need to make that stand, to be visible for You. Help me to cope. Amen

Luke 8:16 (New International Version, ©2010)
"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light."