Build or Knock

Life works because it has been built that way.

‘What do you mean by that, Christopher?’ you ask. I am glad you did.

I don’t know of any great life that was not the result of significant development. Building on what has been learnt to be a better person living life in a better way. By better, that’s measured by the standards of the one who gives life, defines life and is life. The more life reflects Him, the better it is. That’s a building job, though. That’s life under constant construction. That kinda life works.

So it’s no surprise that this kind of life is the hardest to come by. It’s also a hard job building it. It’s also an easy job knocking it.

However well the building may go along, someone will make a comment, someone will act in a particular way and it will put a halt to the work. Might even bring aspects of the work down. Those who don’t have a great life themselves make it a point of duty to try and bring down the work of others. As well as that, there is always the concern of self-sabotage whether through doubt, pride, fear or that gnawing sense of inadequacy. All these can jeopardise the project. This is why Life Himself is eager for all those who are about the building business to establish the project on good foundations.

It’s worth being around those who assist in the building work actively and intentionally. Experience teaches us, even as it taught David in his days before becoming King of Israel, that adversity can also support the building work – but even that requires a godly perspective and one that appreciates those who are with you in the building. The tools and resources on hand to help with the building are relational in nature. The outcome of it will be life that helps others in their building project also.

I am grateful for those who contribute to the Christopher Dryden Building Project. The construction work gets tough at times and has suffered setbacks before, but the very fact that you read this is evidence of God’s grace and amazing love in action through those who choose not to knock it, but to help build it. Certainly not for the glory of Christopher Dryden, but for the glory of God.

It remains my desire to be a part of the building project of other tremendous works of God. This is due to observing the fact that life works because it is built that way.

For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden

Sam’s 1st Epic 26 – Reinforcing the Lesson

“The Lord rewards everyone for their righteousness and faithfulness. The Lord delivered you into my hands today, but I would not lay a hand on the Lord ’s anointed. As surely as I valued your life today, so may the Lord value my life and deliver me from all trouble.” (1 Samuel 26:23‭-‬24 NIV)

A wise man once told me that repetition is crucial to learning. Although I heard him the first time, he told me again. And again.

King Saul had plenty of opportunities to learn the vital lesson of daring to oppose what the Lord had appointed. His quest against David should have been a straightforward victory. The forces of Israel versus the ragtag disgruntled group following a former shepherd. The odds should have been heavily against the ex-shepherd. Yet here he and his associate were going as far as being able to be in a position to once again kill the man who was hunting him down. Despite 3000 men surrounding the king, David was once more urged to take advantage of the situation and allow his nemesis to be eliminated.

Thankfully, David had a different agenda. As he confronted Saul once more highlighting his deference to him and yet showing how clearly God’s favour was on him, David appealed to Saul to apply his energies to things that mattered, not launching a hunt against someone of his little standing. The honour and respect David has for the king is exemplary and once more Saul had to acknowledge not just how wrong he was, but the favour of God on the life of David.

Doing the right thing does not always make you popular or get your adversaries off your back. As long as there is the knowledge of doing what is pleasing to God, even the opponents must be put to shame in the light of that which is right.

Learning that lesson even now is not always straightforward, so whether it is in recounting episodes like this or experiencing similar episodes in our own lives, God won’t have a problem using repetition to reinforce the lesson.

For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden

I Would Have Got Away With It If …

OK dear reader, I need you to follow me on a little journey in this entry.

I really enjoy watching episodes of Columbo. There’s little doubt that he is still my favourite television detective, just beating Sherlock Holmes and Detective Robert Goren of Law and Order: Criminal Intent. I don’t claim to be a walking encyclopedia on all things Columbo, but I did think I had watched all the episodes. Evidently I had not.

The man who gave us The A-Team  Stephen J. Cannell, wrote an episode of Columbo I had not watched before until recently. It’s always good to see an episode I had not watched before, just for the freshness of a new experience. Plus it was great to know it was written by someone who was responsible for many an enjoyable Saturday evening viewing pleasure.

Anyway, Columbo season 3 episode 4 is called Double Exposure and guest stars Robert Culp. It wasn’t his only episode of Columbo, either. In this one, however, the set up is delicious. The murder takes place in a way where the murderer has the ‘alibi’ that he could not have done it since people knew he was elsewhere providing narration on a film behind a curtain, although, in fact he had played part of his narration through a tape player giving him time to commit the act.

Now the beauty of Columbo is I can tell you all this and I haven’t really spoilt the episode for you. The premise of your interest in Columbo is not in any mystery of who did it or how it was done, it is in the thrill of the chase that Columbo will embark on not just in hounding the murderer for most of the episode, but how he will get that murderer bang to rights. At this juncture, I must confess, in as much as I love Columbo, I sometimes find myself rooting for the murderer to get away with it. I know, I am duly ashamed, but that’s sometimes how I feel watching it. Not because the murder was right or understandable, it’s more about how they interact with Columbo especially when it’s apparent that Columbo more than suspects them and now it’s about covering tracks or some other way look to outwit the lieutenant. When it’s done well, the murderer comes across almost a little hard done by when they are caught. The resolution to this episode was well done. That I will not spoil, but encourage you to watch that episode (watch it again even if you have watched it before).

All that to say, that the urge for honesty, integrity, truth and transparency in all things is not always a natural inclination. There is that element in a human’s condition that will seek to do the wrong and then see if you can get away with it. Where you can get away with it, there’s a tendency to go ahead and do it and in going ahead and doing it, there is a hardening of the heart and a slow erosion of the core of what makes the human experience so delightful. That is about the capacity to be free – free to be without any ‘hidden agendas’ and free from the need to cover the tracks to misdeeds and discrepancies. Living with that freedom is truly refreshing. So in as much as you go to see if you can get away with it, in so doing you only end up trapping yourself more.

That’s where the power of confession and the liberty that brings is a far better way to live than being ‘clever’ but only ending up with a mess to have to sort out eventually. Just when you think it’s only you, there are impacts it has on those around you that can make matters worse.

That’s obviously not just referring to murder – though when you consider the character assassinations that take place through gossip and refusing to carry out due process to establish truth and justice in grace and mercy there are a lot more murders that take place without Columbo ever being called for. This contrast between the need to cover tracks and the desire to live free from that burden us stark in the difference between both lifestyles.

In my brief sojourn on this planet, my walk with Jesus reassures me of the freedom in truth and the captivity of living in anything other than that. To be honest it still remains a challenge, but it’s exactly His grace and mercy that reminds me that this challenge can be one in which I experience victory because of the Truth who lives in me.

So all that came from watching Columbo season 3 episode 4 – Double Exposure. Oh and one more thing – remember, however clever we think we are, sometimes it won’t be for others to figure us out, sometimes our actions and words will betray us. Far better to not live with that risk and live in the light of the freedom in Christ.

For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden

Sam’s 1st Epic 25 – When A Wise Woman Works

David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord , the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. (1 Samuel 25:32‭-‬33 NIV)

One of my favourite women in scripture is Abigail.

We’re not told how she ended up being with a man like Nabal as a husband. It’s worth considering these marriages weren’t as romance driven as some modern approaches are. Nabal may have been a fool in a lot of things, but he obviously wasn’t that foolish when it came to his choice of wife. Here she is, though, lumbered with a fool for a husband.

Her actions in preventing David from shedding unnecessary blood is remarkable. Evidently her beauty was as much about what she had within her as it was about what she displayed. The appeal she makes to David is a great example of peacemaking and wisdom expressed. It’s clear that even David recognises this when he takes a step back from unleashing violent fury on the fool who disrespected the honour and respect shown to him and his herdsmen.

This episode is also a great example again of leaving things in the hands of God rather than taking matters in your own hands. It’s great to know that God has wise people on hand to serve us and keep us on track to fulfil what He points out to us.

For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden

Why It’s Good Reading About Life

Reading about the life and times of characters in the Bible is fascinating.

Going through the book of 1 Samuel a chapter a day gets me embroiled in the ups, downs, ebbs and flows of some pivotal people in the life of the nation of Israel. Seeing similar themes present there that takes place today is hugely informative. It’s reassuring to read of the depths people plunge to and God eventually rescues them from. It’s valuable reading of the range of despair and despondency people in positions of great responsibility can experience and the different ways they respond to that positively and negatively.

Working out and working through life’s various challenges is a lot less lonely knowing that themes that I wrestle with others have wrestled with to – some overcoming, some failing. Some being haunted by it, some refusing to be overwhelmed by it in the most trying of circumstances. Those choices and outcomes by people reputed to be chosen of God, highly illustrative.

That aspect of not being as lonely is so vital because it doesn’t just help me, but it motivates me to be mindful of others as and when I can. Takes me out of my situation to be in someone else’s, even as others choose to get in my situation for my good, not seeking to judge and condemn, but to support and encourage.

That’s why, for me, it’s good reading about the life of others.

For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden

Sam’s 1st Epic 24 – Right Where You Want Him

He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord ’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord .” (1 Samuel 24:6 NIV)

Considering his situation, it’s understandable why those around him urged him to take that course of action.

David had been pursued and hunted by King Saul, but all of a sudden had Saul right where he wanted him. As the king was about the business of disposing of his own biological waste, he was vulnerable to David and his men and he didn’t know it. David’s men knew there was something special about David. They knew the Saul was in the wrong and as his sworn enemy, David would be justified in wiping out his enemy. The argument was so compelling, David even took out the cutting device to deal the killer blow … to Saul’s cloak.

The Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth, features a man who is foretold rulership in his future. He also swallows some words that leaves him the impression that he will be virtually impregnable and invincible. Rather than waiting to let matters take their course in an honourable way, he is persuaded to take matters into his own hands, to help fate out by killing the reigning King and setting everything up neatly so he could capture the throne and rule as was foretold. As implied, however, there is a reason why the play is referred to as a tragedy. When you take matters into your own hands, sometimes you’re taking it out of the right hands.

David’s conscience kicked in to inform him of this just in the nick of time. This opportunity was a test of his character. Would he take matters into his own hands or leave it in the hands of the One who anointed his King. His subsequent encounter with Saul highlighted that deference to God and the anointed King. That character of servitude and humility was such that it reinforced for all observers how wrong Saul was to be about this manhunt.

God has his people right He wants them to prove Himself to them as well as proving their own character for His purposes. Even when the pressure of persuasion is strong to take matters into your own hands to ‘help things along’, there is great refuge and assurance in continuing to rely on the One who called you to finish His work in you and through you. Even your enemies will at times have to acknowledge the right in you when your godly conscience kicks in to refuse to take vengeance.

As David understood, though, even after Saul’s expression of remorse, you can’t always leave it to the moment to trust everything you hear.

For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden

Reflecting on Teamwork

Not long ago I was reflecting on partnerships and now it’s so appropriate to consider teamwork in the light of another humbling experience.

I have not played competitive sport for years. I love to watch it, read about it, offer my outstanding analysis on it, but I recognised a long time ago those were my strengths. Actually taking part in it physically was not one of my strengths. I have done it in time past and enjoyed it, but when it came down to it, the activity was just too much for me. So I wisely bowed out and left it to those that way inclined to pursue the matter while I reverted to the area of my expertise.

In recent times, however, it was gently put to me that it may do me some good as an athletic outlet to consider returning to it. So, I duly volunteered. No sooner did I volunteer than I was thrust into the mix. And what a mix it was. The memory of it is still raw for me now and allow me to put it this way, that the team I played for were involved in a thrilling game featuring 14 goals.*

For all that I was very grateful for the experience. I witnessed a group of people who complimented each other well. Knew each other’s abilities. Played to each other’s strengths. Were flexible to the changing aspects of the game. They played the game knowing when and where to capitalise on opportunities that came their way because they went about their business diligently to create those opportunities. They weren’t precious about who took the kudos, they were very deferential where that was concerned. As a result the image of a bombastic centre figure who commanded everything was absent. The less vocal players lead in their intuitive movements around the team’s movements. The more vocal players piped up to stimulate further interaction and movement and highlight impending dangers to their team mates. They were especially marvellous at encouraging each other throughout the match.

Witnessing those elements at work reminded me that it’s not only in the sporting context that those values can be expressed. Creative outlets like making audio or televisual programmes can display those qualities. Even better, communities of grace can, have and do express those values and more in the pursuit of seeing the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

After that humbling team experience, I returned home and came across some material that directed me back to how communities of grace can commit to those values in practice. It’s my desire to redouble my efforts to practice those in the opportunities God gives me. Not out of a desire to perform, or to aspire to a degree of accomplishment and notoriety for the world to see. Rather, because it’s something that appears so natural to what life in Christ together can display. I love those kind of things that can help bring that about.

So bear that in mind as you consider me in your prayers. Thanks muchly.

Oh and as for the sporting activity thing. Well I haven’t given up on it as yet, but I may not be available until all my aching limbs can function without me wincing, groaning or stopping to sing the chorus to the hymn ‘How Great Thou Art’, in a pained manner expressing to the great God, it would be great if He could heal me now! I think I will need a good team to help me with that.

For His Name’s Sake
C. L. J. Dryden

(*In that 14 goal bonanza, the team I played for got beat 11-3. Still at least we scored 3 to make it look somewhat respectable … Who am I kidding, saying we were crushed and demolished would be flattering to that exhibition of sporting annihilation. But it’s worth it to learn these valuable lessons. Well that’s what I keep telling myself for consolation.)