23 May 2011

Deep Joy

Ever heard of Professor Stanley Unwin? A comedian and writer, he invented his own bizarre language of "Unwinese". A regular sight on British TV in the Sixties, he appeared in films like 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang' and even in a little-known Gerry Anderson TV series called 'The Secret Service', speaking his own particular brand of gobbledygook You can find out more about him here.

One phrase that's particularly associated with Unwin is the words 'deep joy'. The words are emotive, capturing a feeling of lasting contentment. That sums up exactly what I've been looking for. The sort of satisfaction that doesn't slip through my fingers before you know it. A lasting assurance that I'm precisely where I need to be.

It came up to the top of the to-do pile yesterday when the following quotation was shared with me - this sums up better than I can where I need to be in my christian walk. Here, the writer is talking on the subject of 'vocation':

‎"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." — Frederick Buechner, from the book 'Wishful Thinking'.

Buechner concludes that God usually calls you to the kind of work
(a) that you need most to do and
(b) that the world most needs to have done.

I'm drawing out Venn diagrams even as we speak. Where these two aspects meet - that's where I need to be! Or is that gobbledygook to you?

21 May 2011

Hell Is Other People

The above is a quotation from Jean-Paul Sartre, taken from his 1944 play 'No Exit', in which three individuals are punished in the afterlife by being locked into a room together. Purgatory for them is eternity with these others. (Whoever would have thought I would be quoting Sartre in this blog?)

Have you ever heard people say that things would be just great if it wasn't for 'the others'? I've even said so myself! You know, when you get days which would otherwise have been okay, if it wasn't for the actions of 'other people'? The folk who drive their cars oh-so-slowly when you are running late; the people who never return your phone calls when you ring them up and leave a message; the awkward customer who complains when you can't give them the answer they'd like straight away. 'Other people' cut corners and bend the rules and always seem to get away with it.

I've been challenged today as to what the 'other people' in this phrase really represents. And I keep coming back to the quote from Sartre. His vision of hell was centred on a situation where there is no possible means of escape. Trapped forever with people you don't get on with!

There's another way to look at this. Because, if hell is other people, then it is probably because your outlook on life has made it so. What exactly is it that is stopping you getting on with these people? If you feel trapped, is this in  reality a probably a prison of your own making. A prison of 'self'.

You may have heard the story about General William Booth who, in the 1900s, reportedly sent a one word message by telegram to encourage his officers around the world. The word? 'Others'.

'Others' is the reason that many of us do what we do. 'Others' is the whole reason why you update your Facebook page, for social networking. 'Others' is the reason you do voluntary work, give up your time to make someone's life a little bit better. I write the words contained in this blog for me. 'Others' is the reason I publish it.

It's how we as Christians should live our lives - for 'others'. Not for what they can do for us, but what we can do for them. We should take our example from the Servant King.

It's also 'church' should be. A group of like-minded people, all different, yet all living together in community. Because that reflects the concept behind The Trinity. And therefore is a vision of how Heaven will be like.

The quotation said "Hell is Other People". However, I can now tell you that Heaven is Other People!

Matthew 25:40 (New International Version)
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’"

16 May 2011

Made In His Image

This past weekend has been extremely busy, however I'm so glad that I was there for last night's Divisional meeting. The subject being aired at the conclusion of the meeting was an important one for me to hear. It emphasised that we are all made in the image of God.

The theme beautifully complements a book I am reading at present, so you can see how the subject matter caught my attention. The book mentions that many of our spiritual problems stem from an incorrect image that we may have of God. If this image is wrong, this in turn affects our own self-image. We try and become more like our God, but the image we have of Him is wrong, so we end up aiming for the wrong thing! As we get to know God better through His word, our image of God improves and we are remoulded in His image.

The following quote from Colossians was then used:

Colossians 3:4-5 (The Message)
When Christ (your real life, remember) shows up again on this earth, you'll show up, too-the real you, the glorious you. Meanwhile, be content with obscurity, like Christ. And that means killing off everything connected with that way of death: sexual promiscuity, impurity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like it, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. That's a life shaped by things and feelings instead of by God.

These words simply wouldn't go away when I went up to bed last night and are still working through me as I review the verses again in The Message translation this morning.  Guess my mind is in the Potter's Hands. Today I am giving Him my feelings and leaving Him to remould them.

God is at work.

14 May 2011

Mountains Out Of Molehills

Do you know someone who always seems to make a big deal out of a small issue? I do. He always seems to be doing it. Using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Coming down hard on others for a small mistake or an error in judgement. They call it "making a mountain out of a molehill", a phrase has been in common usage since 1548, so it seems that this has been going around for a while!

Is it me, or is this sort of over-reaction getting more and more commonplace? As an individual who struggles a bit with his own moods, I tend to look twice at any situation just to be sure I'm getting it right. I don't want to over-react. I don't want to be like that bloke; I'd much prefer to think things through and to get it right.

Some people have said that we are now living in an age of 'over-reaction'. The daily papers are filled with extreme statements, reacting to every act in the political arena or on the cinema 'red carpet', making instant, snap judgements about everyone. And just think of the problems we face from the extremes of health and safety risk assessments! If we listened to every one of these, some of us wouldn't ever get out of bed!

Or am I over-reacting? Comments are welcomed.

James 1:19-20 (New International Version)
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

10 May 2011

A Problematic Day

"Problems, problems, problems all day long
Will my problems work out right or wrong?"
from 'Problems' by The Everly Brothers, lyrics written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant

It's one of those days today. The issues are coming thick and fast; no sooner as one problem gets resolved does another get raised. I don't know whether I'm coming or I'm going today. And I think I'm getting a headache!

The one thing that keeps me going today is my faith in my Father in Heaven. He's the reason I can survive today.

1 Corinthians 10:13 (The Message)
"No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it."

9 May 2011

False Advertising

Heading home today after a pretty busy day in the office, I realised that the chances of having a proper evening meal were pretty low. It was to be the launch of our Men's Fellowship tonight, and we had planned to go ten pin bowling. I'd worked through lunch, and snatched a sandwich at my desk. By the time I would arrive home, I'd have less than a hour to change, freshen up and get the car out to drive to the venue. Hence I felt peckish on the way home...

Sheepishly I eyed up the baguettes at London Bridge station and succumbed to temptation. A Cheese and Tomato baguette. Imagine the shock then to be refused service! Sorry, they had no baguettes left. Puzzled, I pointed at the pile of food on the counter, but it was no good. These were dummies; replicas in the display to make it look full. They had in fact nothing much left to sell, and I went away disappointed.

I doubt whether my lack of sustenance will make a great difference in the Great Scheme of Things, but it does confirm to me yet again that things aren't always what they seems in this world of ours. Just because you see something that looks great right there in front of you, doesn't mean to say it's isn't just for show.

I did manage to snatch a quick sandwich when I got home, and had a burger while I was out. But the baguette would have been so much nicer... probably better for me, too!

At least the Men's Fellowship went well!

6 May 2011

Bible Blessings

Hebrews 4:12 (New International Version, ©2011)
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

After returning from ROOTS, I have been reflecting on the ways that the Word of God influences us in our daily lives. Apt, perhaps, as this very week sees the 400th anniversary of the completion of the Authorised Version of the Bible, commonly known as the King James Version. This was the third official English translation of scripture, but a translation that continues to be used to this day. The popularity of this version helped to make God's word accessible to English-speaking people throughout the world.

The King James Version has been described as "the most influential version of the most influential book in the world, in what is now its most influential language". It has contributed 257 idioms to English, more than any other single source, including Shakespeare.

Four centuries have now passed, and accessing the Bible is easier now than it has ever been. I have counted over a dozen separate translations on my bookshelf, including an Annotated New Testament in the original Greek. I receive Bible verses daily via email from WordLive (which are very good, follow the link here for more details). My iPod has a podcast version of the New Testament entitled 'You’ve Got the Time' (courtesy of the Bible Society, see link here). I even downloaded a Bible App for the iPod this morning.

We are really wonderfully blessed by the multitude of ways we can access Scripture today.

And yet there is still a challenge. Unless we make regular use of these resources to read or listen to the Word of God, how can we expect God to work through us? It's still down to us to make time for His Word. If this resource is truly 'alive' (see the reading above), it's up to us to absorb it, enabling us to pass on His blessings to others.

3 May 2011

Burning The Candle At Both Ends

I have just arrived back home from a truly amazing experience at ROOTS 2011. This is a regular conference run by The Salvation Army, and this year I have been fortunate to be able to take my family to the event (thanks to William and Catherine getting married, this allowed the children to have an extra day off school and to travel. So we all went along!). In order to get the best out of the weekend I have had to push myself a little harder than usual - and anyone who knows me, knows that's tough - so I've definitely been burning the candle at both ends! However, what an experience! In just four days my wife Chris and I have seen:
  • My daughter really enjoying her time in Kids ROOTS, including her involvement on stage performing 'The Way It's Gonna Be' to hundreds of delegates
  • My son involved with Youth ROOTS and a 'flash mob' dance event in the middle of the conference
  • Some terrific teaching that has given us a new enthusiasm for The Word, and what it can say to us and through us
  • An awesome live Praise Party led by Noel Richards!
There's so much more to mention to you, and new challenges for me, but I need to rest for a while. Just need to sleep... zzzzz