31 May 2012

Madness and Sadness

I don't really know where to begin with this blog entry. Because I really don't know all the facts...

What I do know for sure is that the trains were disrupted on the way home tonight. The reason? A fatality at Woolwich. The power had to be turned off on the lines to and from London.

The reactions of the commuters on my train were, shall we say, mixed. Some were hopping mad, upset because their plans for the evening were ruined. Others set off to find other ways to get home. Some of them just sat there, seemingly not reacting at all.

I felt sad. I mourned the passing of this life. I have no idea how the individual had died (Some were telling their families that 'some guy had jumped under a train' but I noted that the announcements didn't state that. They didn't even specify a gender). It could have been a heart attack or an accident.

I felt for this person's family and friends. I felt sorry for the staff at Woolwich Arsenal station. And I felt sorry that some of my fellow commuters seemed incapable of even basic compassion. And that they were so quick to conclude what had happened.

"Except I am moved with compassion,
How dwelleth thy Spirit in me?
In word and in deed
Burning love is my need;
I know I can find this in thee."
(Albert Orsborn)

28 May 2012

People Watching

"I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It´s a very very
Mad world"
(lyrics written by Roland Orzabal)

Do you ever just stand and watch how people behave? I do when I get the chance - and I've had some good opportunities recently. I've seen how people talk to one another; how they interact. And I've learnt so much just through 'people watching'. I've met:

  • Men and women who wander aimlessly through life, literally walking in circles.
  • Men and women who briskly walk purposefully through life, striding towards their goals.
  • Colleagues who really care about others, going out of their way to help where they can, helping, checking to see if they're OK
  • Others who only do what they are bound to do and not one jot more; they couldn't care less.
  • There's those who are so attentive to the 'great and the good' that they seem to ignore the 'little people', wanting their picture taken with the stars to show their friends on Facebook.
  • And then there are these so-called 'little people', those who often take pains to stay out of the limelight, preferring to do what they can quietly and without others knowing too much.
  • Acquaintances who take time to seek you out , to go the extra mile to help you, to encourage you.
  • And so-called 'friends' who smile at you and then talk about you behind your back. 
Just in the process of working out my feelings on this subject. However, there's plenty of examples out there...

26 May 2012

From Darkness Into Light

I have been extremely privileged to be a part of this year's Territorial Congress in London, entitled 'I'll Fight'. This is of course a reference to William Booth's famous speech which he gave to a large gathering at the Royal Albert Hall in May 1912. A century after that event comes this very Congress, and the current General, Linda Bond, opened the proceedings this evening with those very same words in the very same venue:

"While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end!"

I was particularly challenged by the sentiment, realising that we as a movement - and therefore, myself as a member of that movement, are called to the dark places of society, the dens of iniquity, the haunts of sin and shame. This clearly aren't comfortable places to be. But where else can I be if I want to be true to my beliefs? And how can I ever handle that darkness that threatens to overwhelm? A darkness that I know too well...

By carrying the light within me. The Light Of The World.

Much to mull over tonight.

20 May 2012

Don't Be Afraid...

I understand that almost every book in the Bible has a "fear not" of some description within it. Some people actually state that there are at least 365 instances of "fear not", "do not be afraid", "don't worry" and so on - one for every day of the year! Don't know whether that's true or not, and I certainly haven't counted them, but it's certainly given me some food for thought today...

I am very aware that many people experience a problem with fear. It's an area that I don't find easy in my own life. I might have to face up to the fear of what people might think, might say. There's also fear of the unknown. Sometimes, even fear of the known!

However, God would have us to have faith in Him. I've heard many times that His perfect love drives out all fear (1 John 4:18). And so, tonight, as I start facing up to my own fears, I find myself turning to the Psalms for inspiration:

Psalm 56:3-4 (NIV)
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise — in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? 

What fears will be trying to take hold of me next week? What threats or troubles will I be facing? There's already quite a full agenda ahead of me; it's very daunting. My aim is to face it head on, and to start praying the same prayer as David.

When I am afraid of _________, I will trust in you, O Lord.


19 May 2012

Your Humble Servant...

The Corps' bible study group spent a while this past Wednesday looking at 1 Peter 5:6-7. I've been mulling over the passage since then. Here are the verses in the two translations that I use most frequently:

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (NIV)

"So be content with who you are, and don't put on airs. God's strong hand is on you; he'll promote you at the right time. Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you." (The Message)

I appreciate the need to have a servant mentality in all that we do as Christians, however humility needs to be included into the mix if it's all going to work. The aim is not trying to be something that you're not. It's not about fame, or glory. It's about acknowledging who you are; about how this can be developed.

The two verses mentioned are shown as separate sentences in the translations above, however it's clear there is a connection; they need to be considered as one. One scholar I read said that the Greek word for casting (ejpirivyantes) directly refers back to the previous verse, and to the command to 'humble yourself'. In fact, the study group did find one translation that effectively combined both verses into one sentence:

"And God will exalt you in due time, if you humble yourselves under his mighty hand by casting all your cares on him because he cares for you." (NET Bible)

15 May 2012

Compassion and Introverts

Compassion is described as "the virtue of empathy for the suffering of others." It's a truly fundamental part of showing love to our fellow man. I've needed to read up about this tonight, realising that reflection on this topic is vital to something I need to get to grips with in the next few weeks...

But how can anyone develop compassion? Yes, I understand that God is Love, and contemplation of God's love for us will help us clarify the feeling in ourselves. We love, because God first loved us....

However, I've also been encouraged in my readings to "spend time around people" in order to get to know them and therefore to develop concern for their well-being.


That's the bit I find... tricky. As a natural introvert, I don't find it easy to deal with situations where there are strong emotions in play. I find that I need a 'time out' to enable me to deal with such issues.

And yet I know there are many introverted pastors and chaplains in church ministry that actually thrive in these sort of areas, developing compassion and insight, and especially using their 'servant mindset' to help others.

Now, there's a target for me to aim for...

12 May 2012

Overview: Living Below The Line

I know that I can't come ever truly understand the sheer hopelessness of poverty, but I've had a brief glimpse of it. There's also a big difference between having only just £1 to spend on food and drink and buying everything (heating, lighting, travel) on that same amount. Many of these people even lack the simple necessity of basic shelter!

I know all this, however this week I've been attempting to do something about it. Will you do something in response to my five-day challenge?

"Go and do something!" - William Booth

Find out how to help at https://www.livebelowtheline.com/me/cmachan

11 May 2012

Day Five: Finishing Below The Line

It's the last day of the challenge and to celebrate there was eggy bread for breakfast!

Another particularly busy day, including a business meeting that took up most of the latter half of the morning. Got invited out to lunch and had to decline the offer - a good opportunity to tell others about Living Below The Line, however there were no offers to sponsor me. So, having seen my colleagues out of the door, it was back to my desk for my soup.

At least this week had been a glimpse of what it means to Live Below the Line. However, it's not a choice for some people - it's unfortunately the life they have to live.

It's not too late to sponsor me if you want to: any money raised by me in this challenge goes to support The Salvation Army International Development (UK)'s vital work in fighting poverty.
Just go to the link here.

In the meantime, it's one last meal of rice and mixed veg tonight!

10 May 2012

Day Four: Serving Below The Line

Woke up at my usual time so I quickly snatched a quick breakfast of toast before heading off for work.

A wholly unpredictable day, full of challenges and opportunities... thankfully I was able to get out of the office at lunchtime but I daren't head for my usual coffee shop to unwind and use their wi-fi. Doubt if they would understand why I wouldn't want to buy anything... Not this week.

The afternoon was pretty busy, fuelled by the inevitable packet soup. Sat on a crowded train tonight opposite a young girl with a bag of chips. (sigh)

My wife will be out tonight with her cub pack and I plan to be busy with a number of different jobs, so it's sandwiches tonight. Sadly, not a chip buttie. (another sigh)

9 May 2012

Day Three: Persevering Below The Line

It's the third day and I'm pleased to say this marks the half-way mark through the challenge. Woke up unreasonably early today so there was an opportunity to take my time over breakfast - a Scouting favourite, Eggy bread - before catching an earlier train into work.

Lunch was soup (again) which wasn't too bad... although the mere presence of biscuits in the office this afternoon made life somewhat difficult. I didn't succumb.

Rice and mixed veg tonight for dinner, before my wife and I head out for Bible Study.

8 May 2012

Day Two: Working Below The Line

It was much tougher today, a busy day at work. The toast I had for breakfast simply wasn't enough; I can allow for an egg or two during the week so that'll be the plan for tomorrow.

So far this week I've managed to get by drinking only water. Today saw a welcome change, as lunch was packet soup, made in a mug at the office. Just as well; even the cheapest sandwich at the supermarket down the road would have cost me £1!

The highlight of the day: beans on toast tonight!

To find out why on earth I would put myself through such inconvenience, why not follow the link here.

7 May 2012

Day One: Living Below The Line

I've been meaning to fundraise for this ever since I saw information about Living Below The Line at ROOTS a year or two ago. It's apt then that the first day for this year's campaign is on the May Bank Holiday - it was this time last year that I was at ROOTS with the family!

As it's was a Public Holiday today in the UK, I didn't do all the usual things I would normally do (which helped) but I particularly missed my morning cup of coffee. I resolved to remember to keep my fluid intake up, so today I have drinking more water than usual.

Spent today at Chislehurst Caves with some good friends. Didn't succumb to temptation when passing the sweets counter - although their offer of Nachos in their cafe hit me a little hard today!

Thanks to all those who have encouraged me; particular thanks to those who have sponsored me! For further info, follow the link here.

5 May 2012

A week's shopping for a fiver?

Just did my shopping this morning for 'Live Below The Line' which I start this coming Monday... It's amazing how little you get for a fiver! No possibility of coffee this week; it's a hard choice to make - but at least I have a choice...

For further information on what I'm setting out to do and the opportunity to sponsor me, follow the link here,

2 May 2012

Wet vs Dry

On one hand, we have the press confirming that April 2012 was the 'wettest since records began'; then, the same newspaper talks about hosepipe bans because of drought. The headline in today's Metro states "Sorry, but it's still not wet enough"!

How confusing is that to the 'man in the street'? An interesting discussion on this very subject before Singers' practice yesterday prompted further research from me.

Thames Water have been encouraging us to put the whole thing into perspective. "One wet month, versus two dry years", their campaign states. Richard Aylard from Thames Water explains: "The recent rain is a temporary and welcome boost for the environment and wildlife, not a long-term fix for water supply... It is likely that the current temporary use ban will need to remain in place for the rest of the year." Parched riverbeds and empty wells take a long time to recover...

It's true, isn't it, that it's often difficult for us to consider the bigger picture. We have trouble grasping concepts that span years, decades, eons... A week is often a long time!

Lord, help us to look at things in the right perspective. And not only in this context...