29 May 2015

Keep On Asking

I've been personally reminded today of the need for persistence in prayer. God is pleased when we are truly focussed on our prayers and don't give up. Which actually does make some sense. Because He puts tremendous importance on faith.

"Why hasn't God answered my prayer yet?" That's not for me to say. Perhaps He has answered it, but not in the way that you had expected. Or maybe, He is waiting for something else from you. However, I do know that He does want to hear from you.

Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7? Encouraging us to ask, to seek, to knock? Fantastic words to remember, however some translations don't emphasise that well about the need for persistence. Listen to the same verse in the New Living Translation:

Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you." - Matthew 7:7 (NLT)

Keep at it. Show Him that you are serious.

Show Him that you trust Him enough to continue praying again and again and again.

Show Him that you have faith in Him.

Here's some more words from Jesus:

“There was a judge in a certain city,” he said, “who neither feared God nor cared about people.
A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, ‘Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.’ The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, ‘I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I'm going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!’” 
Then the Lord said, “Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?” - Luke 18:2-8 (NLT)

27 May 2015

The Obstreperous Environment Of An Open-Plan Office

I think that a couple of my colleagues were still in a bit of a playful mood after their weekend away. Don't get me wrong, they are great people, but tend to get a bit carried away when thinking of ways to improve things... Suddenly, they had a brilliant idea. Why not take away all of the dividers between the desks and make the office truly open-plan? Wouldn't that be great?

My heart sank.

My office can be such a noisy place at best of times. Can you imagine what work could be like without these dividers, designed to reduce the sound levels? These dividers give each individual a little bit of precious privacy, a chance for a break from distractions - and each can be 'personalised' somehow so that staff can get their own special workspace.

It doesn't bode well.

Open-plan offices are great for extroverts, people who thrive in more lively environments. These are the ones who say this will lead to better camaraderie, better communication. They love the buzz - even a radio in the background on certain days.

However, open-plan is not so good for introverts like myself. We need to be able to focus, and an open-plan layout simply means constant distraction - and yet another blow for privacy in the workplace.

There's already been some talk of talking it one step further, and of introducing 'hot-desking' - that's where employees don't actually have a fixed desk, but use a different one each day. (Incidentally, I understand the method now used for this practice in the US is "hotelling").

And there's even talk in our office of allowing more staff a chance to work from home one day a week - perhaps allowing more employees to be employed at fewer desks. That could well be the only positive in the whole idea...

I shall see how this progresses. 

25 May 2015

Fill Me

Yesterday was Pentecost: the birthday of the church. The anniversary of the day the Holy Spirit came. And we were reminded during our church meeting yesterday that you and I can often consider ourselves as small and insignificant. Just like an uninflated balloon. Lifeless, insignificant. Not much to look at.

However, if we take that balloon and fill it - just like God did to his people at Pentecost, filling them with His Holy Spirit - they can be transformed. They are fully rounded, beautiful to look at. They are filled with life.

But there's more that just an outward appearance. These balloons are also filled with power. Untie it and let the balloon go, and the power is released. With tremendous force. In fact, we never know exactly where the balloon is going to go, but we know it’s going somewhere.

And this is the part of yesterday's meeting that has particularly stayed with me. If we release a balloon, and it flies away, it can end up anywhere. The point is this: God did not fill those first disciples with the power of the Holy Spirit so that they could just stay behind locked doors. They were empowered by God’s Spirit to move out into the world in order to make a difference. It happened then. And it still happens today. 

When the power of the Holy Spirit is released in our lives, we may not always know where the Spirit is going to lead us. We just need to trust that it's where God's Spirit wants us to go. 

And unlike the balloon, we can be constantly filled and refilled with the Holy Spirit. Filled with power, filled with life.

Fill Me. 

23 May 2015

Making A Difference

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” ― Catherine of Siena

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ― Edward Everett Hale

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." ― Dr. Seuss

22 May 2015

How Not To Be Seen

"This is Mr Nesbitt of Harlow New Town. Mr Nesbitt, would you stand up please. (after a pause - nothing happens) Mr Nesbitt has learnt the value of not being seen. However he has chosen a very obvious piece of cover." (The bush explodes and you hear a muffled scream.)
(taken, of course, from Monty Python)

I've been thinking a lot over the last few days about being seen. Obviously, I suppose, it's obvious after a full day at the exhibition yesterday, standing at the front of an illuminated display stand.

Do I want to be invisible? Not to be seen?

Actually, I do. There are many times when I want to retreat back into the background. It's very exposed and scary being alone and illuminated and different. Deep down, I want to be hidden and invisible and safe. The breaks I take from the limelight (relative, of course) are precious, however I am driven by my faith to return to that place because I have a job to do. I need to stand up and be different. But it's uncomfortable.

Yes, I am aware of the number of scripture references about being a light on a lamp stand. And to do the things that I have to do, I need to be visible.

But here's the thing. The very people that I want to reach out to, the marginalised, the lonely, the shunned, are invisible too. Not seen by so many.
So, should I embrace my invisibility more?

By which I mean - is there a role where I can be more effective and yet less visible?

21 May 2015

Exhibitions And Faking It

It's that time again. Time to man the company stand at another busy exhibition. Not the best sort of day for me - but at least I understand now why I'll find it tough. Because I'm a natural introvert.

Exhibitions like this one can can be difficult for me, as I rapidly lose energy in such a busy setting. I know that I am only at my most productive in a quiet environment - somewhere that I'm unlikely to find much over the next couple of days.

And what about the others at the event? Because it tends to be a sales-based exhibition, most of the stands will probably be manned by extroverts, eager to sell their wares. But are they? Because I've discovered a lot of introverts cover it up - faking extroversion. I used to do it myself!

It's because modern-day society is positively geared towards extroversion. Susan Cain has written about it in her book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking". Here's the quote -

“For the same reason that Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique in 1963. Introverts are to extroverts what women were to men at that time – second-class citizens with gigantic amounts of untapped talent. Our schools, workplaces, and religious institutions are designed for extroverts, and many introverts believe that there is something wrong with them and that they should try to “pass” as extroverts. The bias against introversion leads to a colossal waste of talent, energy, and, ultimately, happiness.”

Thanks to Susan and many others, introversion is starting to be accepted more and more. It's OK for people to be this way. This is the way that God has made me.

So, I expect this exhibition will be noisy, with hundreds of people milling about and with loads of small talk (ugh). It's going to be more endure than enjoy.

But I do intend to enjoy some of it.

It is a Christian Exhibition, And so I know there will be a precious oasis of quiet somewhere at the venue. And I know God will be there.

I'll be looking out for Him. And He'll show me something great.

16 May 2015

Avengers: Marvel, Movies and Marshmallows

The other week, I went to see "Avengers: Age Of Ultron" with my family. Terrific, we all loved it. I definitely need a copy of the film for my DVD collection. I appreciated all the work that Joss Whedon and team put in to the production, developing some of the characters. I loved to see new members of one of my favourite superhero teams introduced and brought to life; characters that I had known since my teenage years as a young comics geek.

However, to tell the truth - if I had to find a fault it would be with the action sequences, well crafted though they were. There was just too much on the screen, so some of these were a little too much for me. Everything went by as a blur, particularly those shots where multiple Avengers were on screen at the same time. I'm going to have to sit down and watch some of these scenes again, just to pick up all of the detail.

I have since read other reviews of the film. One stood out to me. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said, "Although this movie is effective moment to moment, very little of it lingers in the mind afterward. The ideal vehicle for our age of immediate sensation and instant gratification, it disappears without a trace almost as soon as it's consumed."

Instant gratification. I want it now. Isn't that the catchphrase of the modern world?

Walter Mischel developed something called we now call the 'Stanford marshmallow experiment' to test gratification patterns in four-year-olds. In this study, children was offered a choice between one reward (say, a marshmallow) provided straight away, or two rewards if they waited for a short period of 15 minutes. He discovered that having an ability to resist eating the marshmallow immediately would indicate success in later life.

The modern 'action film' is fast-paced and breathtaking. Each new release tries to top the previous one. So, in order to attract a modern audience, new action movies need to be faster and have lots of exciting sequences, hoards of menacing foes, fiery explosions chasing people down a corridor. That has to be there to get the crowds in, I know. Yes, that particular 'marshmallow' is sweet - but I personally want something else from my films.

I want a good storyline. I want something to think about when I head off home. I want to be able to lose myself in their world for a couple of hours. I'm looking for emotion, for teamwork and, above all, for truth.

So, I don't see every movie that's at the cinema. I pick and choose something that's special to me. Something worth waiting for. Something that's definitely worth two marshmallows.

Oh, by the way, on the same day as I saw the film, I also picked up the DVD box set of 'Firefly', Joss Whedon's cult TV series. I'm currently working through the box. There's plenty there!!!

15 May 2015

Conversational Ping Pong

Sorry, guys, I'm afraid that I am not a brilliant conversationalist. In fact, I can find myself at a total loss at times - usually when the chatter progresses like a game of ping pong. Back and forth, back and forth, across the table.

It's not that I have nothing to say. It's just that it's got to be the right thing. However, I usually think of the perfect thing to say ... 10 minutes after the conversation has moved on. And I haven't got a time machine, can't rewind...

However, I've learnt to be happy with it. It's just the way I am.

Put a piece of paper and a pen in front of me - or a computer screen and a keyboard - and I will write for hours. Pages of text. This blog is proof enough of that! However, in a prolonged three-way conversation, I'm usually the one diligently listening. If I haven't already managed to found the door... leaving them to it!

I'm told that I'm not alone. Many introverts struggle with verbal communication. It's because we like time to think before we speak. And sometimes there's so many strands of thought that it can take a while to pin them all down. By the time we've sorted it out in our heads, the moment is lost.

Actually, although I'm rarely that vocal - be warned. The conversation may be on a niche topic that I'm either quite knowledgeable or particularly excited about. And then the whole thing becomes quite a different ball game. I could talk for hours... you may be surprised!

14 May 2015

So, What Happens Now?

Life is finally getting back to normal following the recent Parliamentary election campaign. There has been loads of opportunities to read literature from the candidates, chat to them on the doorstep and on the street corner, listen to what they had to say in the hustings, and to prayerfully consider where to put your cross on the ballot paper. It's been interesting.

But what happens now? A week after polling day...

During the last month I've received literature reminding me of my duty to "Show Up" on the day to vote. But I'm increasingly convicted of my need to "show up’ in everyday life too.

Being there, making a difference in the world.

Sure, I'm don't feel that I'm in a position to influence anyone on a grand scale, through the world of politics. However, I know that I can make a difference on a small scale, in fact wherever I am. I can stand up and be counted.

And sometimes, you have to stop and ask a few hard questions.

"As Christians, we need to not just be pulling the drowning bodies out of the river. We need to be going upstream to find out who is pushing them in." - Desmond Tutu

12 May 2015

Slowing Down

Life seems to be one long succession of deadlines and crises. A whole load of complications and unexpected difficulties all coming together. You know what I mean. Suddenly, it's all kicking off.

And here I am in the midst, trying desperately to stay focused, stay anchored; let's face it, to stay sane...

All is changing by the minute. It can be a full-time job just keeping up. And yet, the most important question for me right now is:

Can I hear God’s voice above all the noise?

I need to be still. To find that little niche of calm, of reflection on what has proved to be another chaotic day. I'm trying to slow down, but find my mind still racing...

I need to wait upon the Lord. To seek Him in silence and solitude, to hear His voice.

Regretfully, there's not much quiet on the 1627 to Dartford, this evening. (sigh)

Help me find that calm, Lord.
Help me find you tonight.
Help me to slow down.

The Joy Of Missing Out


Through one of the weekly podcasts that I listen to, I've discovered a great truth. And it's based on the way modern society now works. On the FOMO principle. Hat tip to my friend, Don, who loves these sort of acronyms. :)

FOMO has been coined, because of the tactics of 21st Century culture. Because modern day life is filled with a variety of different opportunities. "Try this new product. Come and see this film. Visit our restaurant. We'd hate you to miss out." We are bombarded with ideas and images all of the time.

Sure, I've been sold things via advertising before. I've been subjected to it for pretty much all of my life.

However, here's the difference. Now they'll sell it to you with a large side order of guilt. You're going to kick yourself if you miss this." And it's not only the traditional forms of media that's giving me this message. I get it from my Facebook wall, from the emails pouring into my inbox. Friends will 'like' a particular page, thus producing an ad on my Facebook wall and trying to get me to come along for the ride.  "One last chance to join in. Hurry - this is your last chance. Don't be disappointed..."

It's FOMO they are spreading. The Fear Of Missing Out.

And technology makes it worse. Because we are increasingly aware of what others are doing, and sometimes in minutiae, we become terribly aware of all the stuff that we aren't doing.

Thankfully, one bright spark came up with JOMO.

The "Joy Of Missing Out".

The wonderful realisation that you are not going to be there because you have made a positive choice not to go.

The incredible power that you have when you realise you don't have to do something, just because everyone else is doing it. You can be different. It's more than OK.

The delightful feeling that you have turned down something that matters, because something in your own life matters a whole lot more.
 
If I can truly embrace this - then all of a sudden I am wonderfully empowered - to say No once in a while. And not to feel guilty about saying it.
 
If I can do this, then regret no longer has any influence on me.

Wow!

9 May 2015

Why Life Can Be Overwhelming

Sometimes, it's all just too much. Too much happening. Before long, everything becomes so intense that it all becomes overwhelming.

If this is a feeling that resonates with you, then this post is definitely for you. Because it's okay. Some people are simply more sensitive to certain events than others.

It could be something small. For instance, I find that if there's an overpowering floral scent, I just can't stand it for very long. There are certain perfume shops in the local shopping centre that I simply have to avoid!

It may involve a combination of senses. Perhaps it's just too busy; there's simply too much going on. Things get too intense (too noisy, too cramped) or they go on for far too long. You can stand it for a little while, but after that you simply have to get out of there... that's why some people can last all night at a busy party, while others look for the exit at the earliest opportunity.  I'm definitely in the latter category!

The reason is simple. You're more sensitive to certain stimuli. It's the way you're wired - you reach your saturation point far quicker than other people.

Studies have shown that 'highly sensitive people' (often abbreviated to HSPs) show substantially greater blood flow to relevant brain areas than is seen in individuals with low sensitivity during the same period.

So, there's nothing wrong - it's just the way you're made.

Read up on it, see if this applies to you.

5 May 2015

Something Amazing, I Guess

Yesterday morning, my family and I were up and watching "The Incredibles"

However, there was this one scene in the movie that truly resonated with me....

It was the scene where Bob Parr comes home from his dull, suburban day job as an insurance clerk. Bob is capable of so much more, and he knows it, but he has had to keep his secret identity as Mr Incredible secret. But the little kid from down the road was onto him...

One day Bob catches the kid watching... 
"What are you waiting for?" 
The kid replies - 
"Something amazing, I guess." 
Bob sighs, and agrees - 
"Me too, kid."

There's something good, just around the corner.  Don't know exactly what, or exactly when. An opportunity to go out and really do something amazing. There's even a fear that that day may not ever come. Bob knows it. He has something special, but he thinks nobody wants it. He's just waiting for that opportunity to go out and make a difference. 

And on that day, we can all shout, like that little kid down the road. 
"Oh man. That was totally wicked!"

I'm waiting, too. 

4 May 2015

Choices

I don't know about you, but my brain is filled with hundreds and hundreds of possibilities.
Maybes and What Ifs, Could Bes and a whole load of Must Dos. All conflicting, all jostling for position.

The problem is - I don't want to do just one thing. I want to do them all. I want the new experiences, a whole load of the challenges, and all the regular stuff that I love to do as well. I want to live life to the full.

And that means I struggle between doing new things and carrying on with my existing commitments.
As I have already established in a previous post, I only have enough time to do some of what I can do. Or enough energy. So I need to choose, and choose wisely.

Let's say, there is something important in the list of things that you have to do. Wouldn't you want to do it? But you can't do everything. So, you'd need to drop something. In extreme cases, if the thing was very, very important, you'd need to drop everything else.

Attempting to pull yourself in too many directions is the single quickest way to failure. And putting your all into a single direction is the quickest way to success.

If you want to follow your dreams, you have to say no to all the alternatives. It’s not easy, but that's the price of success.

Matthew 13:45-46 (NIV)
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it."

2 May 2015

You Gotta Have A Dream...

This week I have been encouraged to step out and claim that tremendous promise mentioned in Mark 9:23 (NIV) — "Everything is possible for one who believes."

However, in order for me to step out in faith, I need to have a clear vision of where I need to be. And, let's face it, it has got to be God's vision of the future, not anyone else's. There's plenty of political commentators campaigning about next week's General Election who are keen to make promises about the way things are going to be over the next few years. What better guidance - what surer guide can I have than the Creator of the universe?

My vision - my dream of the future - has got to be right.
  • It shouldn't be some rose-tinted view of the years ahead
  • It shouldn't be a utopian fairy-tale where 'we'll all live happily ever after';
  • It shouldn't be an idealistic 'pipe dream'...
It's got to be realistic, it's got to be from God, it's got to be true.

In the words of the song from 'South Pacific' - "You gotta have a dream, if you don't have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?"


I believe that I'm here on Earth for a purpose. If I don’t have a dream to work toward, it's just 'existing'. And that's not living.