27 November 2012

Not A Good Place

My regular readers will be well aware of the fact that I struggle with my moods. Other folk will simply say that there are days when I "don't seem to be in a good place". So I thought I would sit down and jot down exactly how things appear to me when I'm having one of my bad days; perhaps that might throw a bit of light on what exactly goes on in my head. There were a couple of days earlier this month... so I've taken the opportunity to study the way I feel, objectively.

What sets it off? Oh, I think I've worked that one out. The last few 'bouts' have occurred either on the day or even a day or two after I've had a really busy period. Occasions when I have been 'pushing it' - working just a little too hard, going just a little too long without a break. OK, then, overdoing it! However I doesn't happen every time - and often I find it's something really small and insignificant that just tips the balance. A small comment, maybe. The straw that breaks the camel's back?
The best word I can come up with to describe how I can feel during one of these bouts is "overwhelmed". Little problems can seem to be big ones; big problems are just too much. I start to brood - have you ever seen Michael Fassbender's terrific portrayal of Erik in "X-Men First Class"? That same brooding silence that you see in one of the early scenes, when Erik manipulates the coin between his fingers. I struggle against the mood, try to make sense of it.

However, I don't lose my faith on these occasions. It's been well proven to me that the Lord is in the darkness with me. I'm not alone. I am never alone. I seek out my Father's presence as I pray into my situation, crying out for a break, wanting something to change. The feeling claws at me, clinging to my legs as it tries to pull me down. It feels like I'm struggling through mud, or clay. My body aches, I'm far more sensitive to pain than usual. In the meantime I try to maintain "business as usual" but some days even the normal routine seems exceptionally difficult. Even easy tasks get increasingly hard. However, I still carry on. It shouldn't last long... Doesn't usually.

There's something else, though. During this time something odd happens. I become acutely aware of other people, of their behaviour. The fact they are saying to one thing to one person, something totally different to another. It's a bit like I'm in a soap opera, and not a particularly good one. And I am an unwilling and remote observer, hypersensitive to detail. If I feel I can, I'll try to do something, anything, to make a difference. When I try to do the right thing, more often than not, it fails. Was it meant to be? I sigh, try to pick up the pieces. Sometimes I just sit there and watch as the inevitable unfolds before me.
When my mood subsides and the bout is finally over, I begin to think freely again. Invariably I will try and do something dynamic, perhaps even a little out of character, just to kick-start some energy back into my life. Get myself moving again! I launch into frantic activity - start to plan, even start to blog more.

Does any of this make any sense?

23 November 2012

Would It Spoil Some Vast Eternal Plan

I've been thinking.

I can quite possibly spend up to an hour a day just checking over my bank account, making sure everything is going OK. Making sure all the Direct Debits have gone of the account without incident. Finding alternative ways of getting a quart out of a pint pot. Working out how to afford good things for the family. You know the routine. I doubt if I am alone at the moment, in the current economic climate...

I know I'm not particularly gifted in finances, but it never fails to amaze me when I reach the end of the month and realise that all the bills got paid.

I give all the credit to my Father in Heaven for his mercies here. Answered prayer, indeed.

However, it got me thinking... Why are things this way? Surely I could be so much more effective in my daily life if I didn't have to spend so much time trying to reason out how to make it work... And what about the things I'd love to do - places I'd love to go - but I simply don't have the disposable income.

What about that, Lord?

I keep coming back to the lyrics of "If I Were a Rich Man" from Fiddler on the Roof (written by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock). In the film version, Reb Tevye (Topol, pictured above) talks to God about his dreams for a more comfortable life. His heart's desire to spend more time studying God's word, which in his words, would be "the greatest thing of all". Can't disagree with that. Of course, it's really tough to come up with many examples of any 'rich men' who spend their time in scriptural study. I think most of their time is spent in shareholder meetings, in estates management. Those kinds of distraction.

I would like to think that I could do so much more if I had more resources available to me. I could provide for my family much better. I could give much more to my favourite causes. Give it away to comfort the poor and the needy. Make the world a better place.

And yet - my Father in Heaven has "decreed I should be what I am". He has placed me in one of the richest countries in the world; therefore I will never know real poverty. He regularly challenges my thinking, teaches me about the truths of scripture, shows me 'the pearl of great price'. He reminds me that I am a work in progress. And that His provision in my life may be seen as much by what He doesn't give me than by what He does.

18 November 2012

Charity Begins At Home

The guy shrugged his shoulders at me on Friday night when I came into his pub, giving him an opportunity to donate to the Army's work. "Sorry, mate", he said, "charity begins at home."

Indeed it does. 'Charity' is of course the old middle-English word for love - specifically for sacrificial, brotherly love, that particular type of love that in Greek is translated as "agape". I have blogged about this before, here.

So the statement is quite correct; that form of love begins in the home with your family. If it thrives there, then it will easily be shown outside your home to others. If your children learn to love and help those nearest to them in their early years, they will love and help their fellow men when their grow up. In other words, charity begins at home, but it does not end there.

Or was it simply that the guy was just too hard-hearted to give me anything?

4 November 2012

Is This The Hill You Wish To Die On?

During the Sunday morning meeting today we were each presented with a challenging question. Do you feel so strongly about something that you believe in that you would be happy to make the ultimate sacrifice to commit to it?

Admittedly, the phrase "Is this the hill you wish to die on?” is actually a new one to me, however I understand the sentiment very well. And it's a formidable challenge... Pick your battles carefully. However, you should be awfully sure of your stand before you commit to it. Are you so sure of your facts that you are prepared to stand firm on them, no matter what. No turning back? Really?

In truth, there's aren't very many battles around that are as clear cut as that. Is this one of them?

I spent a while this evening Googling the phrase, eager to explore more about this. I came across a reference to the US Marines who use the saying, "Choose the Hill you want to die on.". And then I discovered these quotations:

"If you must fight about something, if there must be that thing that will make you raise your voice, grind your teeth and pound your fist on a desk, let it be something that has to do with respect, dignity and integrity; or someone's attempt to deny another of one or all three of those things."  - Demitri C. Kornegay

And then there's the Founder's words, from a century ago, which I blogged about after the recent Territorial Congress a few months ago:

"While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while little 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!" - General William Booth, May 1912

Choose your battles. Is it trivial? Forget it. Is it persistent? A storm in a teacup? Is it bothering others or only you? And - here's the clincher - when you come to the end of your life, are you always going to regret that action? Or are you simply going to regret never doing it... never having tried?

I'll end with a brief quotation from Rick Warren's book,"The Purpose Driven Life" - which I am reading through at the moment. I used this very quotation in the prayer meeting that was held at the Corps prior to the main meeting. Awesome, eh?

"It is impossible to do everything people want you to do.  You have just enough time to do God’s will.  If you can’t get it all done, it means you’re trying to do more than God intended for you to do..." - taken from The Purpose Driven Life (Zondervan, 2002).

Work it through. Clarify your thoughts and intentions. Ensure it's only that thing that God wants you to do. Then commit to it. Nail your colours to the mast.