31 October 2014

Halloween Thoughts

I don't know where you stand on the subject of Halloween. I've heard all sorts of opinions and arguments about the topic this week.

Personally, I don't want to celebrate it. Our family don't celebrate it. Partly because we're too busy celebrating my wife's birthday which is on the 31st October.

However, here's a good summary of a few points worth thinking about concerning this day:

27 October 2014

Keeping My Cool

As the clocks change and the nights draw in, the cycle of the seasons will start to indicate when I'll need to wear a thicker coat when going off to work. It's nearly time!

However, there's no indicator to tell me when I need to 'keep my cool'. And I really found it hard today.

Hard to stay cool when chaos reigns during a particularly busy day in the office. Raised voices and lots of phone interruptions made the office far too noisy for me today! Thankfully I wasn't one of the raised voices!

Hard to stay cool when someone asks you to help them - five minutes before you're due to go home. Sorry, I can't stay late tonight, another commitment later... it'll have to wait until tomorrow.

Hard to stay cool when it's standing room only on your train, as they cancelled the one before and this one only has four coaches... and add to that the fact that the kids are off school and all the noisiest ones are in my carriage. It's cramped, noisy, hot. Horrible.

Because I'm on the train now. Nothing to see outside, the winter nights have descended. On go the headphones, so that I can try and find my own little oasis of calm before my evening's voluntary commitment. I'm concentrating on writing some words for my next blog entry. These very words.

Enhance your calm. Breathe. It'll only be a little while longer.

Keep cool. :)

22 October 2014

Waiting For A Response

It's nice to get a "thank you" now and again, don't you agree?

I can't possibly recall the number of times that I've been thanked - on the whole, people are usually quite kind. In response to a kindness shown, a gesture of sympathy, a gift given. It's nice to get an acknowledgement back .

However, there are one or two people that never seem to do this. And you are left feeling unsure whether the thing that you did was well received - whether it was somehow 'lacking' - whether the gift was discarded, thrown on a pile of other unwelcome gifts - or sometimes, if they ever received the gift at all!

And it's not just me (as I used to think!) - others tell me similar stories. Some people don't say "thank you".

I'm feeling for these people today. Actually, to tell the truth, I'm trying to understand them...
  • Are they ungrateful?
  • Do they expect my kindness as 'the least I could do'?
  • Do they feel that it is below them to show any kind of appreciation?
  • Is this lack of gratitude actually a sign of arrogance?
I read the summary of a study which was commissioned by Avery a few years ago, and published in the London Evening Standard. It revealed that as many as one in four employees had never had a "thank you" from their employer. Bosses in the city seem to take 'going the extra mile' for granted. Or worse - they make an effort to say "thank you" without truly meaning it, whilst continuing to give out increasingly impossible jobs with unrealistic deadlines...

However, I still keep coming back to the conclusion that has been revealed to me in my quiet times. It doesn't matter. In fact, it's me who needs to respond. With forgiveness. Sure, sometimes I don't get those thanks. Or even any acknowledgement. But that's no good reason for me to stop caring.

I need to keep on trying. One day, I might get a heartfelt response when I least expect it.

20 October 2014


I'm usually okay - but sometimes I am not. I get tetchy, irritable. It's probably because I'm tired.

It's usually after a particularly demanding day. There's been lots of people to talk to. Now that's all over, I just want to be left alone to recharge. It's nothing personal; I know what I need.

A half-hour might be enough. It might be longer.

Just leave me be. I will be fine.

17 October 2014

Pruning and Reviewing

"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."

(lyrics from 'He Leadeth Me' by Joseph H Gilmore)

I've had the privilege to sit back and take stock of my life lately. I've needed to carve out some time in my schedule, so I've had to savagely cut back on my commitments to enable me to do so, but I've now managed to 'ring-fence' off some precious 'me-time' to enable me to do so.

And I've asked myself - and my Lord - some pretty hard questions.

  • When I first set out on my Christian walk those many years ago, did I ever think it would work out quite like this?
  • And at that particular starting point, would I have ever had dreamt that I would do some of the exciting things that I have done?
  • Am I truly content with where I am at the moment? (see above)
  • Am I truly willing to allow more severe 'pruning' to allow me to grow further? Can I withstand the pain? 
  • How do I resolve the contradictions - a strong sense of wanting to take a particular path, yet the appearance of a solid brick wall preventing me from taking it (note: at the moment...)
  • So, what now?

This review is a work in progress.

14 October 2014

When I pray...

“When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don’t pray, they don't. ” - William Temple

I was on the way home the other day, reflecting prayerfully on how God could use me over the next few years.

There was one simple problem - my own inability to see things from anything other than my own point of view.

God’s answer came in the form of a quotation that I stumbled across on an internet page. A coincidence, that I would encounter this page? I don't think so.

It was describing God’s perspective by comparing it to the three-dimensional chessboard that was featured in the original Star Trek series.

“We're the pieces, and all we can see is the next move in front of us,” the writer explained. “God, however, sees every piece, every move, and every level. The world is at his disposal. He can move people and resources wherever he needs them to fulfill his good purposes.”

When we pray, God is gracious enough to allow us to be part of this. The choice is up to us.


13 October 2014

A Brief Story

A martial arts student approached his teacher with a question. “I’d like to improve my knowledge of the martial arts. In addition to learning from you, I’d like to study with another teacher in order to learn another style. What do you think of this idea?”

“The hunter who chases two rabbits", answered the master, “catches neither one.”

11 October 2014

Divergent: What Makes You Different, Makes You Dangerous

One movie this year has contained themes that have continued to make me think, long after the film was over. This was 'Divergent', based on the book by Veronica Roth. Although opening to mixed reviews from the press, there's something in the storyline that has appealed to me.

As the story opens, we discover that society in post-apocalyptic Chicago has been fragmented into five factions, each based on a particular virtue:
  • Abnegation (the selfless)
  • Amity (the peaceful)
  • Candor (the honest)
  • Dauntless (the brave)
  • Erudite (the intelligent). 
We follow Beatrice, who is born into the Abnegation faction, but never really feels that she completely fits in. However, there's a big choice coming up. At the age of 16, all young people are tested to see which faction suits them best. And you can choose - you can stay in your faction, or switch factions. The problem? Switch, and there’s no switching back. Also, once you switch, you leave your family and friends behind.

The test changes everything for Beatrice. She's told that she ranks for three virtues, not just one. She’s a Divergent - and therefore dangerous. Hiding her true nature, she quickly chooses to switch to Dauntless, renaming herself Tris. She soon begins to unravel a mystifying plot to bring down the whole society.

The author has written three books in the series - I'm currently getting hold of the trilogy and will be working my way through them soon. I suspect these will be well worth a read!

Are you a Divergent?

6 October 2014

Sometimes The Bear Gets You

I don't know anybody who deliberately sets out to have a bad day. Every new day is pristine, new, unwritten. A blank canvas to paint on. A fresh start.

But I can think of plenty of people who try their very best to help others, only to have that help thrown back in their face - suddenly, they're on the receiving end of a tirade of abuse. My heart goes out to these caring people. They don't deserve that sort of treatment. It's awful - but it happens.

The title of this blog entry comes from a misquotation of a comment from Elwin Charles "Preacher" Roe. He was a pitcher who played Major League Baseball between 1938 - 1954 (apart from his military service in World War Two). He was renowned for his amazing control over the ball. But even he had his bad days.

On one occasion he was taken out of the game very early on, saying "Sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you".

It's very true. Some people can be rude, obnoxious, downright unhelpful. Sometimes 'the bear gets you' and you're suffering, hurt, questioning why someone could be so ungrateful...

But that's no reason not to keep trying to help them ... and that's why I keep coming back to the "Paradoxical Commandments", a reading that I blogged about a year or two ago.

Just Do It Anyway. Make a difference.

3 October 2014

Let's test that...

Somebody on a forum that I subscribe to asked this question this week:

"Do you tend to 'test' others? If so, in what way?"

Boy, that got me thinking. Do I need that sort of reassurance that things are going well? If I answer yes, does that mean I am insecure? And what happens if they pass or fail?

So I did a little social experiment. Well, in fact, three small ones... there were three jobs that needed to be done by Saturday. Nothing life-threatening, nothing that vital. Three tasks that I didn't have to do myself, but that I usually end up doing. I simply didn't do them. Well, not until I was asked.

I didn't run round after my peers. Instead, I simply waited for these folk to contact me. Let's see if they come back to me! Just to see what would happen...

The result. 33%

Example 1: One person (and I must admit he's terribly well organised!) emailed me just to check that I was still OK with doing the job - and wondered how I was (because I hadn't contacted him!).

Example 2: Apologies, I bottled out, and eventually rang him up at 6pm. He's coming around at 9.30pm tonight. He needs what I have by 10pm tonight.

Example 3: I'm still waiting!!! The job never got done.

Interesting, eh?

2 October 2014

More Questions Than Answers

"There are more questions than answers
Pictures in my mind that will not show
There are more questions than answers
And the more I find out the less I know
Yeah, the more I find out the less I know"
(song, written and recorded by Johnny Nash)

I've been mulling over some of these tricky questions over the last week. And it's so true - every answer seems to bring with it further questions! That final, ultimate answer never seems to be within my grasp, it's so elusive...

Add into the mix the fact that I'm been a little unwell during the week; it's clear that I've been overdoing things a little which is why my head's been everywhere and my emotions all over the place. Sadly I'm never a good patient so I must give my perfuse apologies to my family, too! But knocking me over for a while did give me time to take stock of my life and put things back into context.

I'm feeling a bit better now - mostly because I've taken a few hours off and reduced the number of commitments in my day - but partly because I've realised that I've been trying too hard to reach that elusive answer. The following quotations kind of sum this up - these was a couple of words of wisdom I stumbled across:

"Try to love and live the question itself. Don't search for the answer. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer." - Rainer Maria Rilke

"I don't pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about..." - Arthur C. Clarke

What do you think?