28 December 2011

A Prayer for 2012

May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most,
and by making you anxious to be there to help.
God's love, peace, hope and joy to you for the year ahead.


23 December 2011

20 December 2011

Expect the Unexpected!

Interesting phrase, eh? How can we ever predict what twists and turns life throws at us from time to time?

Take today. I'm writing this entry whilst sitting in my car waiting to be towed back home. My father-in-law, who is coming out to tow me home, should have been in hospital for admission today, but his stay was unexpectedly cancelled - but only after I had driven him to the hospital. By now I should be out helping my wife's Cub Scout pack, but I had to change my plans to pick up my father-in-law again from the hospital. My car then suddenly packed up, leaving everyone stranded, so he then had to make his way home to pick his car up, so he in turn could rescue me.

How ever could I have predicted that convaluted sequence of events? And it's not even 2pm. What else could happen today?

Watch this space.

18 December 2011


Luke 2:19 NIV
But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

I've blogged on this before, but there's more on this verse that came to light following the meetings today.

The first part of this verse uses the Greek word συνετήρει (sunetērei), which is here translated as 'treasured' but in essence means to keep close, i.e. preserve. The term 'pondering' in the original Greek is συμβάλλουσα (sumballousa) which means to throw together, hence to discuss, consider.

The English word we use for Mary's meditation on the extraordinary events of the Nativity is based on the Latin root ponderare, which actually means to weigh.

Reflecting on all these words, we have young Mary committing every detail of what happened to memory; keeping them close, turning them over and over in her mind, her heart. In trying to 'weigh up' all these facts, she took note of it all so that it could be quietly reflected on.

Interestingly, this Latin root also gives us the word 'pondus'. It's the word for a weight on a line used when a ship entered shallow water. It's how sailors used to find out exactly where the sea bed was. Hence the saying, 'to get to the bottom of it' - to be able to work out what is currently not obvious.

Following all those events in Bethlehem, Mary pondered, quietly obeying God without fully understanding what was happening, yet reflecting on it and committing it to memory. Which is doubtless how the Gospel writers recorded the events of Jesus' birth in such detail...

So that we can get to the bottom of it, too.

Happy Christmas.

16 December 2011

Blogging on the move

I can't stand commuting. It's tedious, time-consuming and there's too many tetchy travellers! I'd rather drive - but that's not an option at the moment.

However, today I discovered a new essential to have. One that makes my daily commute much more bearable. It's the Blogger app for the iPod!

Now I can gather my thoughts together for this blog straight away. Together with my Bible app, my Facebook app and my music collection, I have practically all I need in one place now!

And I wrote this entire post whilst on the 17:08 from London Cannon Street!

My Soapbox

I don't know why, but I feel like having a bit of a rant. Here's a few niggles that I need to get off my chest today.

Stereotyping individuals - wrong! Accept it - people are all different, no two are alike. So why do some people insist on branding certain types of folk? They tell me that all benefit claimants are on the fiddle; all asylum seekers and street homeless are in fact secretly rich; that all long-term unemployed are lazy. Not so, not so. Why not get to know these folk as individuals, make your own mind up. Don't fill my inbox up with angry emails full of hatred and half-truths. Find out; then get out and do something about it...

When travelling on public transport, why oh why don't people let the departing passengers off the train first? There's always announcements about this. Why do some people insist on pushing past - have they got a more pressing need for a seat than I do? It makes me mad!

And another thing - why do some people ignore my emails? I send some people a whole host of queries about issues that I know are important, and nothing ever comes back. However, ignore just one thing of theirs and the complaints fly in. It's not fair!

No, it's not fair, says the still, small voice inside me. However, you still need to keep doing things the right way. That's your job. Don't conform to the world. Show them a transformed life. No point in getting mad; show them a different way. Live a selfless life; not a selfish one.

Glad I cleared the air a bit today....

13 December 2011

Contentment - In Search Of A Definition

Lord, I would place my hand in thine,
nor ever murmur nor repine;
Content, whatever lot I see,
since 'tis my God that leadeth me.

(He Leadeth Me, verse 3 - words by Joseph H. Gilmore)

Thinking back once again on the subject of contentment, I discover that it's a different concept from happiness, which is something that I guess that most people strive for. Understandable, I suppose - remember, it's engrained into our modern culture. Even the United States Declaration of Independence states that there are certain rights that we each have - among these are 'Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'!

No, what we are talking about here is something much more subtle. It's about learning to be content in your current situation. A situation which might best be described as 'less than perfect'. A situation that is made much more bearable because you are not alone. Christ is there with you.

And He is with you when you seek to help others, bringing that same sense of contentment to others when you minister to them, in His name.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 (The Message)
A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.

"The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment." - Doug Larson

12 December 2011

Surprised By Joy

James 1:2 (NIV)
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds...

The above verse of scripture was emailed to me this morning - and only seeks to underline something that came to light following the meetings at the Army yesterday. You see, I understand all what was said yesterday about mission; the Great Commission if you will. I understand the sacrifice; I understand the need to minister to 'others'. No problem with any of that.

There's just one aspect that seems to be eluding me. An understanding of the joy that comes out of this service. The same joy mentioned in the above passage. The joy experienced and mentioned throughout the Christmas story.

And, looking back over this blog, it seems to be a subject that's been eluding me for a while. Is there something that I've yet to consider; something that seems to be robbing me of that joy?

Heading into the latter part of the Advent season, then, the goal then is to find that joy. That deep satisfaction that comes from knowing God, hearing His voice and obeying. The quality that allows us to be strong; able to face those kinds of trials.

In 1955, C S Lewis published a book which related the story of the author's conversion. It was entitled "Surprised by Joy".

That's the sort of surprise I am looking for this Christmas.

8 December 2011

Looking For The Light

"...there's a light at the end of the tunnel 
There's a light at the end of the tunnel 
The inside might be as black as the night 
But at the end of the tunnel there's a light."
(from Starlight Express - music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Richard Stilgoe)

This week's turning out to be quite a dark one. After struggling with my 'sense of humour failure' last weekend, other things have happened in the last few days that have... complicated matters. I try to rise above it, laugh it off, but this week there's so many issues; they threaten to overwhelm me.

I'm very reliant on my Lord this week to see me through.
He assures me that there is, indeed, a light at the end of the tunnel.
I believe Him.
But it's so dark that I just can't see it yet.
I strain to see... but I think I have lost my bearings.
I can't see which way to look.Which way?

I can't see it yet, but I know it's there. I know there's a light.

Psalm 107:13-16 (NIV)  
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. 
He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness,and broke away their chains. 
Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, 
for he breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron.

3 December 2011

Sense Of Humour Failure

Today's been a super day overall - it saw this year's first carolling engagement for the Corps. A great time was had by all, singing together; and we got a good reception from the passers-by in the shopping centre.

However, I couldn't help but mull over a few stray negative comments during the day. It's hard to shake these off. Should I care? Am I suffering from what someone called 'sense of humour failure'?

Take it to the Lord in prayer? I certainly did. And He put the day back together again, putting the whole thing back into context. Worrying about such trivial things, well they're just not worth it. Look what you achieved today; how you told others about the Christmas message.

I still need to find the ability to laugh these things off - it's a quality I seem to have lost in recent years - but it's a start.

Matthew 6:34 (NIV)
"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."