31 July 2015

A-Z: Spacecraft

Yep, August is just around the corner, and so is my summer break - an opportunity to set aside some quality time to be with my family. At this time of year, I put aside my regular blogging, choosing instead to set myself an alphabetical challenge on a topic that interests me.

This year it's back to science fiction - I've come up with a listing of spacecraft I have known and appreciated over the last 50 years as a SF fan. Some of these craft may be new to you - why not check out the shows or films mentioned?

Have a terrific summer.

22 July 2015

Nothing To Do?

We're entering a bit of a slack period at work. It's nearly holiday time, so things are simply not as busy as they usually are. There is time to breathe. Time to relax. Time to think.

It's awful. And I know why I feel that way.

I'm one of these people who need a degree of formal structure to their day. I like to be busy. Both at work and socially. Take away that structure, that busyness, and I start to struggle.

I've been looking closely at my social life today. And it's very clear to me that even here I've been particularly drawn towards structured activities over the years. Clubs, societies, voluntary work. Working as a steward at a large SF convention or at a church event. I've actually lost count of the number of different voluntary roles I have had.

Don't get me wrong - it has been good. It's taken me to places that I would never have visited without that impetus. And I suppose it has given me more control over my social life. There have been so many committees in my life, voluntary roles that gave me a role to play.

Or perhaps, one to hide behind.

Sure, these things have helped boost my self-confidence, however someone reminded me today that that was only in certain ways. If I take off my volunteer's badge, my steward's jacket, what am I?

Do I start losing my reason for being?
Do I start to drift?
Am I becoming Captain Dunsel?

That's my big fear. Without the safety of that form of structure, at work or socially, I end up a bit... well... lost. The world becomes a bit of a scary place. I'm exposed; vulnerable. In extreme cases I may end up without a clue what to say, or even how to behave...

I know quite a bit about time management, how to structure my day to maximise output, achieving deadlines which seem to get tighter and tighter. I pat myself on the back when I scrape under the wire to smash yet another tight deadline... squeezing another little job for someone into an already packed day.

What my real challenge is...

...is slowing down to do stuff for me.

Even when I have an evening off, I usually end up doing some little job or another. I start feeling guilty if I do something for me and mine. I really do.

It's something that I will be unpacking over the next few weeks. When I will have much more time on my hands... And it's my free time.

18 July 2015

Doing Something About It

" If you know someone who doesn’t have any clothes or food,  you shouldn’t just say, 'I hope all goes well for you. I hope you will be warm and have plenty to eat.' What good is it to say this, unless you do something to help?"
James 2: 15-16 (CEV)
There's a great deal of kindness and charity in our world which is expressed by good wishes; perhaps even good intentions. After all, not all of us have the means of doing something to help the poor and the needy, so we give a kind word. Or sympathy.
However, how does that change if we do have the means?

Or do we simply choose not to help?

James 2:26 (CEV)
"Anyone who doesn’t breathe is dead, and faith that doesn’t do anything is just as dead!"

15 July 2015

Amazing Grace

"My chains are gone, I've been set free
My God, my Saviour has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy reigns
Unending love, amazing grace...."

(chorus from the Chris Tomlin version of the hymn)

"I started doing some research on Amazing Grace, and I was blown away that the last verse (When we've been there 10,000 years bright shining as the sun) was written about 100 years later. The original verse by John Newton was The earth shall soon dissolve like snow, this incredible verse that I'd never seen in a hymn book. I started thinking about where John Newton came from, the slave ships, and what God had done in his life. We're all made slaves to sin in our life, but God has set us free. He has ransomed us from our slavery. I just wanted to add this idea that I hope brings freshness to the heart of the song." — Chris Tomlin

That last verse:
"The earth shall soon dissolve like snow
The sun forbear to shine
But God, Who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.
Will be forever mine.
You are forever mine."

13 July 2015

The Times They Are A-Changing

"Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'... "
(Lyrics of the song by Bob Dylan)

This post was inspired by my son John's recent post on his blog (now, where is that Watchmen DVD?).

Yes, things change. In fact, they never, ever stay the same. And time often moves far too quickly!
However, it's only becomes a really big deal when something that is good or useful in your life comes to an end. We mourn it, don't we? Often, we then take the trouble to try and recreate or rebuild it. Sometimes, in vain - it's gone for good. And we have to wait for the next opportunity... which hopefully is just around the corner.
And we don't really mind when bad or troublesome things reach their end. In fact, we are keen to celebrate their passing. It's party time!
The art is learning to embrace change when it happens. Or making it happen, when it doesn't. I blogged about this recently, here.

That's where I struggle - the whole concept of making things happen. It's tough. Some days it feels tougher than others. It sometimes feels like I'm pushing a boulder uphill (hence the picture). Which is interesting - when I went to the 'net to find a picture to illustrate this entry, I got into the Greek myth of Sisyphus, which is where we get the boulder reference from.  His punishment was having to endlessly roll a boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down again. Modern scholars say this has become an analogy for 21st Century life.

Is that how I feel? If I can change anything - can I change that feeling...

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.(The Serenity Prayer)

How did it get so late so soon?
It's night before it's afternoon.
December is here before it's June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?
Dr Seuss

10 July 2015

We Share This Earth

It's so easy to knock other people.

We seem to make judgements about people's actions or beliefs based on minimal information. Are we scared of finding out more? We jump to conclusions; allow ourselves to be influenced by public opinion or gossip; make up stuff that seems to it. All rather than take pains to form an informed opinion of our own. We are quick to dismiss other people's views, without finding out why they think that way. Perhaps it's because it's safer to stay within our own prejudices.

One of the podcasts that I regularly listen to touched upon this earlier this week, when talking about our experiences using motor vehicles. Comedian George Carlin made the following observation in one of his stage shows: “Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” It's true. Because we're safely cocooned in our cars, the other drivers are fair game. We hardly ever relate to the drivers concerned personally. So the 'maniac driver' who we will never meet face-to-face is a safe target (perhaps that's why we have such a problem with road rage - we're so used to - and even enjoy - being angry at other road users that we can't control it on those occasions when do meet up).

We do all have something in common. That big blue marble that we live on. We share this planet with so many different types of people. Some are markedly different from us; some are the same. We can easily identify with those who are the same as us. We find it tougher to find common ground when all when can see is a barrier rather than an opportunity.

The truth is - we are all unique. You and I. Everyone is different, and there is no one on this Earth who is quite like you. Someone could find you so different, that it could make them uncomfortable, even scare them. Could that explain why other people behave differently?

We all need to embrace diversity. Step out of our comfort zone. That's the way we can grow.

Star Trek fans have a simple way of summarising this into one symbol. The Vulcan IDIC (pictured above).

Infinite Diversity, in Infinite Combinations.

Let's rejoice in our differences. Be glad that we are not all the same. Learn from each other, not criticise.
Make this world a better place. Dare to be different.

8 July 2015

Less Is More

It wasn't quite right. And I knew it.

I wasn't actually sad - it was more like a kind of lingering, persistent melancholy. The world was no longer painted in glorious Technicolor, it was simply so many shades of grey. Even when things were going really well, there was something not quite right with the world.

Something was missing.

I tried to join in with other people's versions of 'a good night out' - they wanted to 'cheer me up'. However, it didn't satisfy me, the evening was 'empty'. I'd far sooner had a good chat in a corner of a room than go out clubbing all night!

I was trying far too hard. Trying to be somebody that I'm not.

I needed to stop, and take stock. Where am I heading to? What am I actually looking for?

The answer was very simple.

Less. And More.

Less activity, and more meaning.

Fewer friends. More real friendships.

Less phonies. More real people.

Less of what the world offers. More of what Christ offers.

Isaiah 55:2 (CEV)
Why waste your money on what really isn't food?
Why work hard for something that doesn't satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and you will enjoy the very best foods.

6 July 2015

The Light Dawns

I was acutely aware of the topic that I needed to blog about today. It was very clear in my mind.

Darkness and light.

One daily reading that hit my inbox today reminded me that “You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness” (Psalm 91:5-6). It assured me of my need for Jesus, the Light of the World (John 8:12).

All this I know.
But do I truly believe it? Live it out?

The pic was taken during Session 4 of the Boundless congress. Technical wizardry caused my wristband to glow.

But do I glow? Do I shine for Him?
Do I make a difference in a very dark world?

I certainly want to. I try very hard to. 

Commissioner Jane Paone's message on that day was encouraging us to shine. Not like a small candle, but like a streetlight. Bright and bold.

I am not sure I can do bold

I do what I can. And I am encouraged to do it as brightly as I can.

5 July 2015

Anger Management - Of Other People

I touched on this topic briefly last week, in the context of the hot weather. For reasons that are a little tricky to explain at the moment, the problem surfaced again on Saturday, giving me another chance to review my personal feelings on the matter. I didn't want to blog about it again - however, I'm gonna have to. I need to process it, get it off my chest. It's eating me up tonight.

It's all about anger. Specifically, other people's anger. It really upsets me! There's been so much of it lately. Sleepless nights due to the hot weather? Early starts and late finishes due to work commitments? Stress due to deadlines? Who knows the whole story...

Have you ever been in a room with a group of people when you know something is about to "kick off"?  I know that all too well. Most unpleasant.

However - if you know one of the people involved... then for me it becomes personal. You start to feel for them. Feel with them.

It escalates predictably. People start getting tense and raising their voices. They keep telling each other (over and over again) what they're going to do,  consolidating their position, neither side backing down.

I just want them to stop. I'm not afraid - because they're not angry at me. They're angry with each other. But it still rattles me, hours or even days afterwards. It's painful to watch, to be there as it unfolds. I've talked about this before, here's the post

And if I know each of them? Care for both of them? A little bit of me dies with each word uttered, with each increase on decibels in the subsequent rant. It just makes me feel ten times worse.

Can we all just get along? (sigh)

2 July 2015

Keeping Your Cool

The last few days in the UK have been a particular challenge. It's been so hot!

We don't tend to get such a long run of hot weather in this country, so tempers can get a little frayed. Nancy Molitor (assistant professor of clinical psychiatry and behavioural science at North-western University Feinberg School of Medicine) confirmed that hot and humid weather is known to be associated with increases in aggression and violence, as well as a lower general mood.

We all have trouble sleeping, battling dehydration and even problems travelling because of the heat. Is it any wonder people get a little snappy?

I know I do. So, if I have been ratty this week, I'm sorry. However, I know there have been others that have been as well. Perhaps a few things have been said that shouldn't have been.

Let's draw a line and move on.

Ephesians 4:32 (CEV)
Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ.