Journeyman Journal: Pursuing in Prayer Together

Recently I reflected on the role of walking with my Dad. In it I referred to how my brother and I would often walk with him when he went for his walks.

Looking on that in the light of life today got me thinking about the beauty of praying together. It never fails to amaze me what can happen when people following the Saviour get together and devote themselves to seeking His will and making their requests known together. There is something that develops in that sort of camaraderie. It’s like being on the walk and get instructions to make a certain turn in a direction and be prepared to engage in something exciting and challenging.

From reading in scripture about the birth of the church and its expansion emerging from prayers of people together, to reading in history of significant movements and projects that came about because people were praying together. It’s so inspiring and encouraging to know that our prayers can connect us to the walk God wants us to be on together. It’s all of those things and it stands as a challenge. Are prayers merely putting wishlists to God to grant, or whether can we appreciate that there’s a conversation God invites us to. That conversation, in the hurts and pains we go through, is to seek for His Kingdom to come and will done. Not just praying for it, but seeking it together and getting to practice it together.

The point of the Journeyman is not for solo wanderings. In  prayer, it is about what can be achieved in concert with others on the journey.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

About Blaming Circumstances 

Words. 

They open and they close. They illuminate and they conceal. They console and they provoke. Their effect on the attitudes,  behaviour and condition of people cannot be underestimated. 

Something happens. The words we use describe a picture and a narrative that we buy into. That narrative can do much to see how we will respond to what happened. We arrive at the things that happen with a narrative already running in our head. The words we buy into either reinforces that narrative or changes it in subtle or dramatic ways. 

The words that should really matter are the words from God that can help in the shaping of the narrative we should be buying into. However, there are plenty of other options available – and we are only too happy to explore those other options rather than give the truth a chance. Nevertheless, it is what we do and as a result we veer away from what would lead to peace in the light of what happened. 

There is something about what leads to peace that should appeal to us, especially if words we hear can drastically change our approach to what is and leads us to realise what can be, if we pay attention. 

There are those days when I just want to complain. True story. I can talk about what could have been. I can wish things were better for me and my family. I can mope and grumble. That is well within my locker. Recently, however, I was challenged again with this question: who is really writing this story that is my life? If I am the main writer, then no wonder it’s never good enough, no wonder I can’t see right for all the wrong. If it’s all down to my words, I am in a whole lot of trouble. 

What if I acknowledge there’s a better writer. What if I acknowledge He has a narrative that is as much about what He reveals about who I am now as what there is to be later? Trusting life in the hands of the Word is a good way to allow my perspective on my circumstances to be one that leads to peace is a better way of living. 

In the meantime, enjoy some good … 

Words. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

A Place for Grace 

It is only when I think of the grace extended to me that I begin to recognise just how crucial grace is for life. 

There are times when people do some things and they are well up for the lambasting. Their behaviour was wrong, their attitude stank out the place, they should have had the book thrown at them twice. Forget being read the riot act, some of these people should have been tuned into Riot Act Reading on a 24 hour loop for a year! Rather than that being their portion, however, grace was extended to them to have the opportunity to carry on with the access to resources to carry on their efforts. 

Sometimes it feels as though it’s not fair, until the spotlight is turned on my life and the episodes where great kindness was shown in my life. That kindness wasn’t shown because I deserved it. That kindness was shown as ongoing expression of how grace operates. It’s times like that where I am grateful that His love is not dependent on my actions. Despite how we often work on  that premise, it is the challenge of holiness to act in the same grace that God shows to us. 

There is still a place for grace. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Journeyman Journal: God and His Works of Art

Relationships matter. People are a great way that God shows His love and goodness. They’re an insight into how creation really is a work of art as well as a work from the heart. 

I was having a conversation with a dear friend of mine. She shared her heart to be responsive to God in contributing to the Kingdom cause. It was inspiring hear her heart to bless individuals and also make an impact on the larger picture in which people find themselves. It evoked in me the image that you can fish, you can hire fishermen to fish or you can own the sea. Obviously by owning the sea, I am not suggesting you can ease the Almighty from his ownership of the waters. It is about being significant in the infrastructure to the degree that you make a positive change to how the whole thing works. 

That is about pictures you have. It’s not for everyone to see the same picture, but influential individuals can bring the pictures to the hearts and minds of people to engage them in a way far beyond the humdrum approach of getting money to make a living. It helps people to see that if they fish they play a vital role in the existence of man. If they employ people to fish, they are not masters over servants, they are enablers who serve those who play a vital role in the existence of man. 

The beauty of the Kingdom of God as presented throughout scripture is how it impacts all the pictures of life, if we have but the heart to feel this new rule of Christ. 

From that awe inspiring conversation with that woman of God, I had the great pleasure of returning to a former love of mine. That love is the love of chess. For a season in my life, I absolutely adored the game. Was a part of the school chess club, even went and did work experience at my junior school and helped run the chess club there too. Man, it was a lifetime and a half ago, but a good memory. Another dear friend of mine is also a chess aficionado and when I discovered that, I was keen to connect with him on that score. So after years of waiting, we finally got to sit down and have a game. Doing so reminded me of why the game fascinated me so much. Here is a game based on conflict, a conflict that involves the pictures you have of how you can best progress to your desired outcome. It’s a responsive game based on strategy and tactics. The ability to enact both and knowing how to apply the latter to serve the former is the key to progress. Being flexible to changing circumstances is so useful as well. Those kinds of experiences spoke a great deal to me especially regarding a number of frustrations and challenges I am engaged in even now. It was great to be reminded of the game again and to play it with such a humble, kind and meek friend. Those kind of experiences are ones I am privileged to note, grateful for the way in which these relationships and experiences bless me tremendously. 

The challenge now, however, is to be faithful to what these words from God say to shape and direct me in this particular season of my life. It is the word of God that makes the difference to enable me to see the picture I need to see and work towards. In doing so I also appreciate I need to be aware of the conflict ongoing between the forces of darkness and the Kingdom of Light. That conflict is one I can witness victory in as I follow the true Grandmaster, in the moves He makes and the steps He directs me to take. 

Meanwhile I am forever grateful to Him for the pictures in which I find myself. I am grateful that His pictures continue to be glorious works of art. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Things In The Dark Come Out In The Light 

There is this thing some of us do to protect people. We don’t tell them everything. Now what is true is this – people don’t need to know everything. They don’t. It is not for them to know each and every aspect of everything we have ever done. 

That, however, is not what is really meant by not telling people everything. What is usually meant is that we withhold information from those who get close to us to protect them from the truth of what we have done and even worse what we are still doing that would damage people’s opinions of us if they found out. So to protect them, oh sure and to protect the self too, we just withhold that information. In time we also go onto reason to ourselves that what they don’t know won’t hurt them. Before long, because we can keep it going, we even justify it because things are great as they are and don’t need to be spoiled. So we keep it going. 

That’s fine with those who we think we can manage that way. It is not as simple as that in our relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact one of the most fearful and liberating things about life in Christ is that He is the light and in Him there is no darkness – that means that habit of withholding to protect, which, sometimes in the honest moments is us choosing to stay in the darkness – is confronted with irrepressible light. At that moment Jesus offers us a hand out of the darkness. He offers us a hand out by forgiveness, He shows us the way by His grace. In following Him, He assures us that rather than investing efforts in  protecting our image, it’s worth embracing the new creation we are in Him where there is no condemnation. That means there’s no need for the secrets. No need to hide. 

That is not about going around giving full disclosure to everyone about what we did last summer and the summer before that. It is, however, the joyful sound of freedom if we want it to turn from the darkness to the light. 

Meanwhile, there is the reality that some of us won’t be able to get to that stage, because we have convinced ourselves that things are alright as they are. No need to rock the boat. Just keep things going as they are. In fact we love things just as they are. No need to change a thing. Even if that brings us to reject the very light that could lead us to a better way of life. 

Either way, though, sooner or later, what is the dark will come to the light. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

No Compromise: You Ain’t Bowing 

If I were to challenge some to think of a time in scripture when people were told to bow and some resisted, one of the first incidents people would refer to, would be the occasion when Daniel’s three friends – Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah – refused to bow to the image of Nebuchadnezzar. It is a classic episode of peaceful civil disobedience. 

I was struck recently, however, by another episode of non-compliance. Arguably the most influential figure in the book of Esther is her uncle Mordecai. He does a great job with his niece and he is strategically located throughout the story. It is his act of defiance that also leads to something greater emerging for the people of God even though it takes the threat of state-sponsored genocide to bring it about. It didn’t have to happen this way, but it was all about Mordecai refusing to bow to the recently promoted Haman. 

What’s fascinating about this act of civil disobedience from Mordecai is that he was breaking the law. The King had decreed that folks pay due homage to the new guy at the top. Haman was well within his rights to expect it from everyone – including this geezer who blatantly refused to comply. The book of Esther is renowned for not having the word God mentioned in it at all, but God is so prominent in the piece there is no way of getting it without getting the God of Israel. That is first pronounced by this act of rebellion by Mordecai. Is he refusing to bow because he doesn’t like Haman? That’s not implicit in this at all. 

Mordecai literally takes a stand on this issue because he knows, other than paying due respect to the King, he bows to no one. He knows who he is and he won’t compromise that stance. 

When you know who you are that emerges at times when folks and situations expect you to bow before them. They expect you to bow because they think they are greater than you and it’s about time you recognised that. They expect you to bow because they think they are worth considerably more than you, so it’s about time you recognised that. They expect you to bow because they think they have the backing to demand it, so it’s about time you recognised that. 

When you know who you are and whose you are, others might bow and urge you to do the same. Well meaning folks who assure you it doesn’t mean anything will encourage you just to ‘play the game’ and give them what they want. When you know who you are and whose you are, you will hear through all of that and still refuse to bow. It’s nothing personal, it is everything spiritual. You know you will take a stand because of righteousness. You know you will take a stand because you know to whom reverence is truly due. You will take a stand because there are times deliberately set up to provoke the real you to emerge and inform the earthly powers that you serve a greater cause, that you bow before the Almighty alone. You take a stand because you know what it is to give to Caesar what belongs to him, and give God what belongs to Him. 

You take a stand at the risk of losing everything. You take a stand even when others won’t stand with you. You take a stand when those close to you edge away from the resulting flak. You take a stand knowing that you are never alone in that stand, for your stand expresses devotion and commitment to the one true and living God. 

It will not be easy. It will be tough especially when they look to increase the pressure and even look to hurt your nearest and dearest. In it all and through it all, God teaches you to trust Him – no compromise, He has your back. Through it all God teaches you to seek Him – no compromise, He will make a way. Through it all God teaches you to worship Him – no compromise, He will get the glory from the situation. 

It is in these experiences of taking a stand against the norm for the sake of righteousness that you see you emerge. You see you emerge as the character of Christ – who did not compromise and did not bow – meekly, graciously and faithfully shines through. Sure we would prefer it if it wasn’t so costly, but in the light of what we see in God, that cost is more than worth it. 

It’s worth it to see God come through in such great ways. It’s worth it to know that your stand for God is not in vain. It’s worth it to know that your stand today will  influence generations to come. It’s worth it to know your stand for God, as dedicated to God and inspired by Him is pleasing to Him. 

It’s worth it as you emerge to know that you know when it comes to it God is developing the character of fortitude that says when it comes right down to it – you’re gonna take a stand – you ain’t gonna bow. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Living Beyond Ourselves 

OK a brief football reference, then I will move right on, honest. 

So, Wayne Rooney is the leading goalscorer for his club, Manchester United and his country. He has won every trophy there is to win in the game at club level and has scored crucial goals in the run up to that. Yet for all those accomplishments there are some who are not convinced he really lived up to his potential. A friend of mine who supports United (keep praying, keep fasting), suggests that Rooney sacrificed himself for the greater good of the team he played for. Whilst others progressed to bigger and better things, he remained even as his role diminished, but he persisted and made himself available in whatever position he was called to play. 

Beyond football, there are some really good examples of folks who know what it is to live sacrificially to advance the cause of the wellbeing of humanity. The best examples I have found are from those who do not need and have never sought the limelight or needed the accolades for their efforts. Their reward is in their faithfulness and desire to serve. They are happy to see others flourish even if they are forgotten in the celebration. 

The heart of the servant living beyond themselves is a great way to see what it is to follow Jesus. He who laid His life down for His friends and did it so they would know what it was to serve and to love to the degree far greater than any love seen before. We follow in that way by seeing others around us, however flawed we are,  as possible friends rather than potential foes. In the light of the possibility simply exploring how to be a platform for the other to flourish in all they could do to be a blessing to the world. 

Part of being that platform is to invite them to consider this example of endless and selfless love that can make those who feel like the least be treated like they’re the most. Most precious and valuable in the eyes of a loving Father. Not for their egocentric boost, but so they can join in the joy of sharing this great news in deed and truth at work, at home, at college, on the bus, in the coffee shops (whilst drinking orange juice, obviously), in the park, sitting next to the homeless beggar in the city centre, watching the classic with the previously lonely widow who never thought anyone cared, supporting the child with severe learning difficulties on the brink of being excluded from another school, standing up for justice and righteousness for the poor and marginalised in the community. All of that not to draw attention to yourself, but point the light on Jesus. 

Whether Rooney really did sacrifice his career to advance the cause of his teammates will remain a point of contention. What is irrefutable is that God in Christ showed us how we can live in a way where others experience the amazing love of God. That is the way of living beyond ourselves. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden