27 February 2014

How I Know I Am An Introvert

One of the major milestones in my recent life was coming to terms with the fact that I am an introvert. It actually changed my life considerably. It explained so much!

Since discovering this, I've been keen to embrace this aspect of my personality, to ensure that I am not acting contrary to my own nature. I've made friends with some fellow INFJs, many of whom are Christians like myself. My son has also done some work on this, realising he is also an introvert. I wish I had known about this topic when I was his age. It would have saved me so much heartache in my teens and twenties, trying to be someone I am not.

There is quite a good article about this here. The article mentions that there are often as many as 23 tell-tale signs that a person might be an introvert. It's more than just needing time alone.

So, how do I measure up?

1. You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.
Tick. I blogged about this in depth a couple of years ago. Here's the link. I do find this difficult but I am working hard with techniques to help overcome this problem.
2. You go to parties – but not to meet people.
Tick. I'm not a party animal but will go if I am invited, but usually end up working - say, in the kitchen washing up. I'd much prefer to have a job to do than stand there 'exposed'. Or you might find me chatting in the corner of the hallway, far away from all the noise...
3. You often feel alone in a crowd.
Tick. Very often!
4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.
Tick. I find it very hard to network in the modern way - it just seems so false! Ugh! Incidentally, I have just been listening to a podcast on this very topic - some good ideas here for introverts. Check out Episode 20 of 'The Introvert Entrepreneur' here.
5. You've been called 'too intense'.
Tick. Or does that mean these people are just too shallow?
6. You're easily distracted.
Tick. Aren't modern offices such noisy places? Thank goodness for a day filled with complex spreadsheets or lengthy data input - I can get away with putting in my headphones and shutting out the hubbub from the others.
7. Downtime doesn't feel unproductive to you.
Oh, tick. I need to recharge! I love those mornings that I allow myself time to just 'potter' around the house. Or to sit down with a pile of (real) books. Bliss!
8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.
Tick. Remarkably true. I tend to keep myself busy after a large church gathering, even if I am not participating. Meeting so many people 'one-to-one' is positively exhausting. I try my best.
9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench – not in the middle.
Tick. I laughed out loud at this one. You see, on a train journey, I'll usually sit on the seat that will allow contact with the minimum amount of people. A two-seater is the ideal.
One evening I took the train home and sat in a carriage where all the lights had fused. Pitch black. Nobody wanted to sit in there. I did; it was great!
10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.
Tick. I find that I can push my own boundaries quite a way before things start going awry, however I admit to 'zoning out' when I push myself just a bit too far. Trying to save the world gets costly...
11. You're in a relationship with an extrovert.
Tick! Have been married to Christine for over two decades now. We complement one another...
12. You'd rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.
Interesting, haven't really thought much about this one. Most bosses try to get their staff to be a 'jack of all trades', so that they are useful in all areas of the workplace, not just one. Guess there might be something in this.
13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.
Tick. Horrible prospect!
14. You screen all your calls - even from friends.
Tick. Thank heavens for Caller ID on phones! Sometimes I do refrain from picking up a call (even from someone that I like!) if I am not in the mood for it at present. It's even worse when someone knocks at your door, 'dropping in' unannounced, just waiting at your doorstep expecting to be welcomed in. That's often where I need my wife to screen them for a while until I can get my head together...
15. You notice details that others don't.
Tick. And it's amazing how many people get annoyed about this - I've been accused of 'nitpicking', when all I was doing was using my 'keen eye for detail'...
16. You have a constantly running inner monologue.
Tick. Do I have to explain that?
17. You have low blood pressure.
Wow, are you sure? Apparently a Japanese study concluded that introverts tended to have lower blood pressure than extroverts. :)
18. You've been called an 'old soul' - since your 20s.
Really? I was called a 'silver fox' last week...
19. You don't feel 'high' from your surroundings.
Parties aren't really my thing, so Tick I guess.... I do find a busy environment to be draining rather than stimulating...
20. You look at the big picture.
I suppose so. I'm interested in the idea, in the overall concept. I do work well with details, but I need to agree with the whole concept if I need to 'buy in'.
21. You've been told to 'come out of your shell'.
Sadly, yes. Tick. I've had it drummed into me for many years that there was something wrong with me because I'm not as outspoken as others. I'm just differently gifted.
22. You’re a writer.
Tick. Welcome to my blog!!!! I used to write short stories when I was younger, reams of articles for a science fiction newsletter, and now have found blogging as an outlet. I cannot not write (if you understand that)...
23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.
Tick. I love to be busy, filling every spare part of my day with things to do. However, suddenly I find I am simply too busy and desperately seek time on my own. Sometimes I will simply work through my lunch hour - other times I can't wait to get out of the office for some down-time. Haven't quite worked this aspect out yet.

24 February 2014

An Awesome Promise

Jeremiah 32:27 (The Message)
Then God’s Message came again to Jeremiah: "Stay alert! I am God, the God of everything living. Is there anything I can’t do?"

I need to hold tight to these words this week.

The situation may seem unlikely; unfeasible; impractical; impossible.

But nothing is impossible for God.

Prayers would be welcomed. Hopefully I will explain later...

Because all things are possible...

19 February 2014

Journey To The Centre...

I've been doing some preparation for the coming weekend, as I am responsible for leading this Sunday's worship at my Corps. The reading I have been doing for this week's theme has led me to reflect on 'finding your centre'.

The phrase is used a lot nowadays when talking about spirituality, usually in terms of where 'you' are and where 'you' want to be. Now I'm not talking about a physical place, but in terms of reconnecting yourself to a place of equilibrium deep inside yourself. A little place of calm, of certainty.

It's important that we all try and find our own centre. You'll need it when everything starts going crazy; when your world falls apart; when all around you are 'losing it'.

I understand that your 'centre' is that special place where you and God finally connect. It's where you find that inner strength in times of trial. Inner peace.

"Jesus, be the centre
Be my source, be my light

Jesus, be the centre
Be my hope, be my song

Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in these sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus, Jesus"

(Michael Frye)

18 February 2014

I Know Who My Friends Are

"So no one told you life was gonna be this way
Your job's a joke, you're broke, your love life's D.O.A.
It's like you're always stuck in second gear
When it hasn't been your day, your week, your month, or even your year, but..."

I've had opportunity to take stock after a rather chaotic few days which featured a couple of unexpected and challenging occurrences... and, as ever, it is in looking back that you begin to get a different view of what exactly went on ...

At the time, I couldn't really see any 'silver linings' in the thick clouds around me. However, in hindsight I can give real thanks because I am truly blessed by some of the people that I know! 

Of course, my family have been there for me, however I must give particular thanks to my son, John, who has been a particular tower of strength to me over the past weekend. He certainly went the extra mile. I'm proud of him and for what he has done for me and my household. He's my son but he's also a good friend.

I am so pleased to have some good friends close by; you know, the ones who are there for you, amidst the rubble and the chaos! Thanks, guys. You know who you are.

And I am also encouraged by some 'long distance' friends - it amazes me that sometimes the person that lifts you most on a difficult day is someone who you know exclusively over the web; who you have never met face to face!

"I have been and always shall be your friend."
(Spock from Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan')

"I'll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I'll be there for you
(Like I've been there before)
I'll be there for you
('Cause you're there for me too)..."
(Lyrics to the theme tune to 'Friends')

14 February 2014

Pray Until Something Happens

Occasionally I will wear a wristband with the letters P U S H printed on it. The initials stand for 'Pray Until Something Happens'. However, this isn't meant to be a showy adornment to my wardrobe. I use it when I need a reminder that some problems in life take persistent prayer to overcome them; this then prompts me to further prayer.

Do you ever get exasperated because some prayers seem to take so long to get answered? Issues that perhaps you have been praying about for quite a while... months? Years?

Why God doesn't answer prayer straightaway? Does the Lord have issues with some of the things that you and I are praying for? Psalm 37:4 tells us ...
'Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart..'
That does not mean He will give you the best car, the nicest house in the street; lots of material things. That's not the way He works. He isn't concerned with such things. Instead, He wants you to 'delight' in Him, to spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study.

Prayer isn't an opportunity for you or I to give God a prayer 'shopping list' of needs and wants. Prayer isn’t a highly sophisticated magic trick, a supernatural means of achieving a fast track to success in life. It's somewhere where we are brought to humbly realise we cannot control the universe or bend it to our will. We cannot control the Almighty. There are no magic words, gestures, mental attitudes or verbal gymnastics that we can use to get the Lord to do what we want.

And yet, the Bible contains the marvellous news that God has promised to give you the desires of your heart... Psalm 37 continues ...
'Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.'(vs 5-7)
"Wait patiently for Him." I accept that God works things out according to His own perfect timing. I therefore need to trust God, have patience and not to worry. He loves to give us good things. However, sometimes God has to put the right people in the right place before He can deal with the request. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says...
'There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.' 
So God's answer to your prayer may include a period of time before He reveals his response. In our House Fellowship we have been studying the book of Esther; the account reveals that it took quite a long time for God to get Esther into a position of influence for 'such a time' that He could use her to save her people.

I am encouraged to trust in God and allow Him time to work things out in my life. I need to make myself available to Him; allow Him to use me.

Try this: write down your prayers and keep it somewhere safe. Then, come back to it in six months time or a year's time; reflect on God's amazing provision for you, how far He has brought you in that period. God is faithful, trust Him. Trust His perfect timing.

12 February 2014

Visions Of The Night

Acts 2:17 (NIV)
"In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams."

What actually are dreams? According to Webster's Third New International Dictionary, dreams are 'a series of thoughts, images, or emotions occurring during sleep. . . . having ideas or images in the mind while asleep'.

Scripture goes a little further and calls them "visions of the night" (Job 33:15, also Isaiah 29:7-8).

The fundamental question for today has to be "where do these dreams come from?". Sigmund Freud believed that dreams were a window into our subconscious mind. Scientific minds will tell you that dreams are most abundant and best remembered during the R.E.M. stage of sleep. One theory has it that dreams are our brain's attempt to organise the previous day's thoughts and experiences. The truth is - the human brain is so complex, we may never truly know how it operates, waking or sleeping.

However, I've been reading up about methods of testing whether a particular dream is coming directly from God. A "Vision Of The Night". Is it possible? Well, if God is truly God, of course He can communicate in this way! It needs to be considered.

Now, I don't believe all dreams are inspired by God. Dreams are used by our subconscious to order our thoughts. For instance, after a good night's sleep, you find you can think clearer about a particular topic. However, I believe that our Heavenly Father can prompt us in the right direction from time to time... Of course, it's then up to us to decide whether to act on such a 'prompting' from a dream. Or to discard it as just your imagination. If this is truly from the Almighty then I would strongly suggest you should take note.

I understand that if this is from God then the dream should be:

- In line with scripture: God never does anything which is contrary to His word.
- Convincing: your emotions are strongly affected, you are certain that there is a message here that needs further study.
- Lasting: the memory of the dream keeps coming back to you. The images linger...

8 February 2014

Great Responsibility

Another bizarre train of thought on the way home recently... a question: "How would you react if you suddenly got super powers?" (Not that I am expecting that to suddenly happen, I hasten to add...)

On a good day, of course I'd do the right thing. I'd probably do all I can to save lives, catch crooks, fight for truth and justice, get cats down from tall trees. The usual hero stuff. Make a difference in the world.

But, on a bad day? If I were tetchy and irritable? If the pressures of the day had really got to me? Then I fear that there may be people who would run the risk of getting blasted to kingdom come; zapped off to a remote island; struck down with some bizarre disability.

And that worries me. Because, as well meaning and altruistic as I believe I am, I can still sense that potential within me for chaos, mayhem and sheer self-centredness. If I started manifesting that sort of power, I would need much greater abilities for self-control before I would be safe to leave the house. I would live in fear that my 'dark side' might emerge.

There's a particular episode of 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' that explored this subject well. Check out 'Hide And Q' when it's next on...

A great man once said that "Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Or, as the legendary Stan Lee once put it, "with great power there comes great responsibility".

As for me, I need to work hard on improving my 'bad days'. I really can't spend all the time locked up at home when there are people that need me... Need to work on this now, before my powers kick in...

Because I can still make a difference in the world, even now. :)

7 February 2014

Alone Again (Naturally)

It's amazing, the things that run through my mind sometimes...

As I have been reflecting on my last blog post about Knight Rider, I couldn't help but dwell for a bit on the concept of the lone adventurer, seeking to right wrongs in society. It's a popular theme in 20th and 21st Century popular culture, isn't it? The white-hat-toting Western sheriff; the detective who doggedly stays on the case; the time-traveller who appears just in time to sort out a problem; the fearless superhero. Those are my generation's role models.

As I eluded to in my last post, being alone and being lonely are two different things. As an introvert I have learnt the hard way about the importance of including some 'me time' into the equation, in order to escape from an increasingly noisy world - but that doesn't mean I want to be lonely. You can be alone without being lonely. However, you can be lonely in a crowded room!

Loneliness is, therefore, a state of mind, an emotive reaction to feelings of separation from other human beings. If you are lonely you feel isolated, cut off from your peers. Perhaps you lack like-minded friends; a supportive community; the love of a family; a soulmate...

It's a common theme. The title of this blog entry comes from a 1970's song by Gilbert O'Sullivan. An introspective ballad, it tells the sad story of a man left at the altar by his prospective bride. Left on his own...

Scripture talks about loneliness, of course. In the Old Testament one Hebrew word for loneliness is badad which means isolated, separated, withdrawn. This word is used in Genesis 2:18 which says: "it is not good for man to be alone."

Another Hebrew word for loneliness is yahid which means solitary or isolated. This word is used in Psalm 25:16 - "I am lonely and afflicted."

No one felt loneliness more keenly than King David. His own son rose up against him, the Israelites massed against him and he was forced to flee, leaving behind his house and the rest of his family. David cried out to God in his loneliness and despair; pleading for mercy and for God’s intervention (Psalm 25).

It is interesting to note that the word 'lonely' is never used in the New Testament to describe people. In the New Testament the Greek word for loneliness is eremos meaning abandoned or solitary. For example, Luke 4:42: "He departed and went to a lonely place". It refers to desolate places, like the wilderness where Jesus went off to be alone.

Thus, the Bible reveals that there is often a positive side to being alone. It's an opportunity to retreat, rest, and to talk with God. Jesus did this frequently, therefore I take this as a sign that we should do this, too...

Through our relationship with Christ, we have a special bond, a special fellowship. It's the sort of relationship that has reassured and encouraged those saints who have languished in prisons for their faith. He is a friend who "sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24), who lays down His life for His friends (John 15:13-15), and who has promised never to leave us or forsake us - He is with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

Anyone can face moments of loneliness - times when you long to be known and to be loved. But we are reminded that God knows us, loves us and that God hears our cries. God is always with us.

As for me, perhaps I am not Michael Knight, Bruce Wayne, or even the Lone Ranger. However much I feel inclined to be. However, there is one thing. I'm not out there on my own.

5 February 2014

A Shadowy Flight

"Knight Rider: a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist. Michael Knight, a young loner on a crusade to champion the cause of the innocent, the helpless, the powerless in a world of criminals who operate above the law." 
I've been unwinding in the evenings by reviewing some of the classic episodes of 'Knight Rider', a particular TV favourite of mine from the Eighties.  However, I find myself  looking at the show with slightly different eyes now...

The series now seems to be a very idealised vision of a modern-day knight. Liberated from his past, Michael is given a new identity, a second chance as he is 'born again' (he even gets a new face!), Michael is also given the necessary tools to right wrongs, setting off on a lone crusade to 'make a difference' in the world. Oh boy, even years on that still appeals to me. I really identify with the concept that 'one man can make a difference'...

However, with repeated viewing I also note that:
  • Pretty much nothing is ever said about Michael's family, his past life. Lone, I understand. Lonely, no thank you.
  • Technology always works in this series. His sidekick in the show is KITT (the Knight Industries Two Thousand, a virtually indestructible car with an artificial intelligence), who regularly saves his life week after week. Unfortunately, not so in the real world! I can't even rely on my mobile phone to keep my ringtone settings from one week to another, let alone trust it to keep me safe from criminals! 
  • In the show, Michael works for the Foundation for Law and Government (FLAG) - an independent non-government agency dedicated to the pursuit of justice, privately funded by billionaire Wilton Knight. Michael and KITT are brought in during situations where "direct action might provide the only feasible solution". Er... does that make him a vigilante and therefore operating 'above the law' as much as the criminals he's trying to catch?

It's still a great show, though...

4 February 2014

Thinking Outside The Box

It's a bit of a cliche, I know. Thinking outside the box is all about looking at life differently, unconventionally, laterally. This, I suppose, follows on from my last blog post. In my own life, I need to realise there are possibilities beyond those within my immediate reach; I need to try looking beyond these boundaries. Embrace some of the things that I believe God is telling me and trust Him to see them through...

Another great cliche springs to mind; blue sky thinking. This phrase dates back to a phrase first coined in April 1945 about speculative planning. Dreaming big dreams, and then trying to make them come true. Pushing out in the blue.

Acts 2:17 (MSG)
"In the Last Days," God says, "I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams."