July 9, 2007
It was a good weekend overall in the end – we headed up to the North Coast of Northern Ireland yesterday with the whole of the Johnston clan – it was a good family time. My energy levels were lower than normal, and my feelings of helplessness for others, for our church, for myself were frequent…and so waking up this morning, I was praying that God would strengthen me for the week to come, that divine appointments would be made readily available, and that I could be used in great ways for the Kingdom.
And three hours into the working week…I have already messed up here and there….
But I did come across this amazing video which I have seen a couple of times before, which serves to focus our minds and hearts on who we are serving, who we are living for, and who we have got on our side, as Christians. I hope you gain as much encouragement and strength from this video clip, and from being reminded of the awesome majesty of Our King!
Keep looking heavenward folks.
July 8, 2007
As I reflected on some of the things I have written and talked about in the previous blog entry, I realised that I hadnt provided much sense of hope or guidance on how to be dealing with some of the situations that people I have been spending time with over the past week, have been living with…so this morning’s thought for the day from Max Lucado provides a little bit of help maybe…
“Those people who keep their faith until the end will be saved.”
Are you close to quitting? Please don’t do it. Are you discouraged as a parent? Hang in there. Are you weary with doing good? Do just a little more? Roll up your sleeves and go at it again. No communication on your marriage? Give it one more shot…
Remember, a finisher is not one with no wounds or weariness. Quite the contrary, he, like the boxer, is scarred and bloody. Mother Teresa is credited with saying, “God didn’t call us to be successful, just faithful.” The fighter, like our Master, is pierced and full of pain. He, like Paul, may even be bound and beaten. But he remains.
The Land of Promise, says Jesus, awaits those who endure. It is not just for those who make the victory laps or drink champagne. No sir. The Land of Promise is for those who simply remain to the end.
A lot to learn in the space of a week: changing my attitude…agnosticism…mask-wearers…divine appointments…so much to do
July 6, 2007
The weekend has arrived. At some points this week it felt as though it would never come…
It has been an unusual kind of week…one filled with many conversations, divine appointments and catch-ups with a range of different people…and each conversation has left me feeling challenged, convicted, saddened, joyful, and impatient…all in varying degrees. Here’s a brief insight into some of the conversations…
Work continues to be a challenge, requiring an ever changing attitude as each day brings new adventures, new pressures, new situations in which I could choose to blow a gasket, or I could choose to take a big deep breath and act with grace, compassion and patience. It is not easy. And I have messed up as per usual on numerous occasions. I have failed over the last three months to take time to reflect on my experiences…I have forgotten to listen to God each day on what He wants me to be doing, how He wants me to be acting, who He wants me to be reaching out to…instead I fear I have got consumed in ME – what am I getting? what am I achieving or not achieving as the case may be? why am I not being listened to? what am I not able to change things for the better? Me, Me Me…And then I have a meeting with my business mentor and friend – an amazing man who is experienced in the business world, who is a passionate Christ follower, and who has a gift to ask the right questions (albeit pointed at times), to listen for the right amount of time, and to give guidance and space for me to reflect…and the result? A challenge and conviction to change my attitude, to trust God more, to lift my gaze from my belly button and look to heaven, to start doing something about my quandries and difficult situations, rather than taking a tail spin downwards into self-pity and me-centred griping.
I had an amazing meeting with an old friend that I hadnt seen in about 7 years – a true blast from the past this week! And the more I think about, it has been a real divine appointment. I had the opportunity to spend a good couple of hours with this guy, listening to his successes and adventures in life, sharing a wee bit about where I am at, and enjoying some engaging conversation about my faith, my belief in Jesus and the need to be living for Him. And it was then that I was introduced to the concept of agnosticism (is this the right way to spell it?), the view that Christians are just positive thinkers, that the Bible is made up of many wonderful, but grossly exaggerated stories, that there could be a heaven but definitely no hell, and that church is actually more like a middle-class club, where you are judged, where masks are firmly in position (never allowed to drop) and where you have to put on an act to fit in….I was deeply saddened and challenged by this conversation as well…it definitely got me thinking about what I believe and why I believe it…and it also provoked a deep desire within me to reach out to this guy, who has been very successful thus far in his young life, and share with him more about the reality of being a Christ follower, and what a church of believers should be about. It got me thinking about my own church – are we a bunch of middle-class, mask wearing, judging, hypocrits? It scares me to think that we might be? What impact is that having on those that might want to step into the church, but are too scared about what they might come across? We have a lot to do.
Today I met up with a guy that I knew from university days. We chatted, we caught up, we prayed…and we discussed everything from working life to church life, from our spiritual journeys to the challenges that women can pose, from the thorns in our sides that can so easily entangle, to the need to keep faithful to God and his leading. This young man, a teacher – has served God faithfully during his first full year of teaching…he set up a men’s bible study for teachers, he was not afraid to have conversations with students and his fellow colleagues about his love for Jesus, and he was determined to make a difference to the lives of many that he was interacting with on a daily basis. I was encouraged and challenged to do likewise.
And then I have also been struck by the number of people around my age that are deeply struggling with illness – I have questioned at times why this can be so…and than have had to catch myself on – who am I to ask such questions. Major illnesses, mental pressure, stress and anxiety, loneliness, insecurity, unhappiness…so many hurting people…so unsure as to how to help all of them…so much to do…where do we start?
I guess the Sunday School answer is right at the foot of the cross…laying all of these things before our Father God…for only He can give us the strength to get through each day, to give us guidance and direction when we’re not sure where we are headed, to give peace and rest when health begins to suffer…but it’s difficult sometimes. My hope is that we will all become more real than we have ever been before, not being afraid to drop our masks completely, sharing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another, loving one another wholeheartedly…
So much to do…
For those of you that know me well, it will come as no surprise when I say that I am a BIG Max Lucado fan – in fact, some would think that I am on commission when it comes to recommending some of his books. He is a truly gifted writer, and for those with a simple mind like me, he paints some wonderful pictures to help explain parts of the bible and the teachings of Jesus that previously I have not been able to fathom. You can check out more about Max Lucado on his website which is updated daily: www.maxlucado.com It includes daily thoughts for the day as well as daily one minute podcasts that are easy to listen to. I am also signed up to his monthly newsletters, with longer articles and excerpts from his many books…and is one of these that I wanted to share with you below…enjoy.
Diving into Life Headfirst
by Max Lucado
Steve Lyons will be remembered as the player who dropped his pants.
The White Sox were playing the Tigers in Detroit. Lyons bunted and raced down the first-base line. He knew it was going to be tight, so he dove at the bag. Safe! The Tiger’s pitcher disagreed. He and the umpire got into a shouting match, and Lyons stepped in to voice his opinion.
Absorbed in the game and the debate, Lyons felt dirt trickling down the inside of his pants. Without missing a beat he dropped his britches, wiped away the dirt, and … uh oh … twenty thousand jaws hit the bleachers’ floor.
Within twenty-four hours of the “exposure,” he received more exposure than he’d gotten his entire career: seven live television and approximately twenty radio interviews.
Fortunately, for Steve, he was wearing sliding pants under his baseball pants.
Now, I don’t know Steve Lyons. I’m not a White Sox fan. Nor am I normally appreciative of men who drop their pants in public. But I think Steve Lyons deserves a salute.
I think anybody who dives into first base deserves a salute. How many guys do you see roaring down the baseline of life more concerned about getting a job done than they are about saving their necks? How often do you see people diving headfirst into anything?
Too seldom, right? But when we do … when we see a gutsy human throwing caution to the wind and taking a few risks … ah, now that’s a person worthy of a pat on the … back.
So here’s to all the Steve Lyons of the world.
Here’s to the Miracles, a choral group out of Memphis, Tennessee, made up of the mentally retarded and the stout-hearted. Just see if you can listen to them and still feel sorry for yourself.
Here’s to the hero of the San Francisco marathon who crossed the finish line without seeing it. (He was blind.)
Here’s to the woman whose husband left her with a nest of kids to raise and bills to pay, but who somehow tells me every Sunday that God has never been closer.
Here’s to the single father of two girls who learned to braid their hair.
Here’s to the grandparents who came out of retirement to raise the children their children couldn’t raise.
Here’s to the girl, told by everyone to abort the baby, who chose to keep the baby.
Here’s to the doctor who treats more than half of his patients for free.
Here’s to the heroin-addict-turned-missionary.
Here’s to the executive who every Tuesday hosts a 5:30 A.M. meeting for Bible study and prayer.
Here’s to all of you reckless lovers of life and God, who stand on first base because you paid a price to get there.
So what if you forget about pleasing the crowd and get caught with your pants down? At least you’re playing ball in the pros.
Most of us aren’t even in your league.
July 4, 2007
Every so often, just the right combination of conditions and events occur to create an unbelievable event – in the case of the picture above, an F/A-18 Hornet passing through the sound barrier. Not only were the water vapour, density and temperature just right, but there just happened to be a camera in the vicinity to capture the moment. Navy Ensign John Gay made this phenomenal photograph on July 7, 1999, while aboard the carrier USS Constallation as Navy Lt Ron Candiloro flew by. The plane is actually in transonic flight, with normal shock waves emanating from behind the canopy and across the wings and fuselage. The condition will last for only an instant, and once supersonic flow exists completely around the aircraft, sharp-angled sonic cones replace the normal shock waves.
Why do I share this piece of potentially useless information? No – I haven’t become a plane spotter in my old age…nor have I just completed a degree in quantum physics or engineering. Instead, I have been struggling with a number of turbluent issues recently in my personal life, spiritual life and working life as well, which have served to put my whole body (physcial, spiritual and mental) under pressure – it sounds dramatic and it probably isn’t as bad as it sounds – there are many many more folks out there who are suffering in unimaginable ways…but these pressures have served to challenge my thinking, increasing my questioning of the everyday circumstances, dragging me down when things are not going the way I had planned, and distracting me from listening to God’s still, small voice of guidance, of direction and of encouragement.
On Monday night this week I had dinner with some of the folks that I am working with in Source2Resource (feel free to check out our website: www.source2resource.net). I also had the privilege of meeting some international visitors from South Africa (John and Kathleen Potter) and from the US (Steve and Pauline Goundry). We had a time of bible study and prayer after the meal, and during this time, John Potter talked about a picture he had in his mind of a jet plane, which was on the verge of breaking the sound barrier. Once the sound barrier has been broken, the aircraft can glide through the sky at break-neck speed – supersonic flow exists completely around the aircraft. But up until that barrier is broken, the jet undergoes extreme turbulence, deep deep pressures occur putting extreme strain on the aircraft itself…and there needs to be a coming together of all the right conditions, at the right time, for the sound barrier to be broken through. The analogy was made with our own lives – pressures, strains, extreme turbulence can get us down…choppy waters can make the journey seem very uncomfortable…but we need to stay strong, forging ahead and looking always to God – His plans, His timing, His leading are perfect…we may not understand what is happening around us…but in due course, and in His perfect will, we will break that sound barrier, we will be pushed on in our spiritual lives to continue the purposes and plans that God has called each of us to do, and our momentary trials and turbulences of life will be nothing compared with the joy and adventure of going supersonic.
A simple analogy…quite a cool picture perhaps…a challenge to me to keep trusting God through the turbulent times at present as my spiritual adventure becomes supersonic.
July 4, 2007
I wonder if Jesus was here on earth, and as he looked around and remarked on how unhappy and troubled many of us are, I wonder what would he do to bring encouragement, to put a smile on our faces, to help lift our gaze from the ground to heaven? I just wonder amidst the grey-ness and monotony that sometimes pervades our everyday lives, would he buy us a brightly coloured windmill, stick it in our gardens and let the wind have its way…and in so doing, give us a fresh perspective on life, give us encouragement and strength for the day ahead, and give us a smile on our faces that says to a grey world that with Jesus, we have hope.
I’m just wondering who are the people in our lives who need a bit of encouragement right now, who are struggling with personal stuff, who are unhappy with the way their lives are going, who are silently screaming and crying out for someone to listen to them…and I’m just wondering what are we going to do about it? What small act of kindness that speaks volumes of Christ’s love can we do to help someone? Who needs a windmill of encouragement right now?
“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives. The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” Matthew chapter 11, verses 28-30
July 3, 2007
I love quotes – sometimes as I am reading through books, quotes seem to jump out at me when I least expect them to…and they get me thinking…and from time to time I write them down. I have been reading a great book recently called “The Irresistable Revolution – living as an ordinary radical” by Shane Claiborne. It’s a deeply challenging read…and as I have been reading it, a multitude of quotes have been leaping from the pages. I wanted to write down a couple this evening in my blog, and share them with whoever cares to read this. If you have any thoughts, or any other quotes which you want to share with others, feel free and write a comment or two. It would be great to get a trail of profound and thought provoking quotes going…you never know, they may bring encouragement and challenge to others.
“Love without courage and wisdom is sentimentality, as with the ordinary church member. Courage without love and wisdom is foolhardiness, as with the ordinary soldier. Wisdom without love and courage is cowardice, as with the ordinary intellectual. But the one who has love, courage, and wisdom, moves the world.” Ammon Hennacy, Catholic activist, 1893-1970.
“…In college, one of my professors said, ‘Don’t let the world steal your soul. Being a Christian is about choosing Jesus and deciding to do something incredibly daring with your life.'” Shane Claiborne, The Irresistable Revolution
“…we live in a world that has lost its appreciation for small things. We live in a world that wants things bigger and bigger. We want to supersize our fries, sodas, and church buildings. But amid all the supersizing, many of us feel God doing something small and subtle. This thing Jesus called the kingdom of God is emerging across the globe in the most unexpected places, a gentle whisper amid the chaos. Little people with big dreams are reimagining the world. Little movements of communities of ordinary radicals are committed to doing small things with great love.” Shane Claiborne, The Irresistable Revolution
“All power in heaven and on earth is given to me. So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptise them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you, and I will be with you always, even until the end of this age.” Jesus Christ (Matthew chapter 28, verses 18 to 20)
June 16, 2007
“Hello world!” That was the greeting that I was met with as this blog of mine got set up late last week. My eyes have been opened to the brave new world of blogging…and I’m not quite sure whether it’s something I should be doing or not…but what the heck – I will give it a go for a wee while and see where the adventure leads!
Do feel free and add your comments to the site…any top tips on how to get fully up to speed with the blogging world would be much appreciated. Is blogging a really big trend in today’s world? Is it a specific trend to young folks or are golden-oldies getting into it as well? What are the key things for a successful blog? Answers on a postcard please :)…..
I’m off now to muck around with my site and get it up and running properly…and for those of you that are interested, the picture along the top (which may change in the next couple of weeks) is of Portstewart Strand, Northern Ireland – one of my favourite places in this wee country I call home!
Take care for now, I will add some more thoughts over the next couple of days.
Mark – a brave new explorer in the world of blogging!