What Kind Of Man Are You? In Pursuit Of Love

Love or fear.

Generosity as a characteristic is incredibly attractive. Something I’ve noticed is that generosity is not based on material goods. Some of the most generous people I have come across would not be classed as rich in most people’s eyes. Yet they were never in lack and hardly ever in a place of discontent even when circumstances looked tight. They were always desirous to give something especially if it was something as valuable as their time and attention for you.

The opposite quality is being stingy. There is something about that characteristic which has looked to hide itself behind terms such as ‘prudent’, ‘cautious’ and even in a highly presumptuous way ‘wise’. The stingy nature, however, requires a self-centred attitude. And an attitude based on ‘concern’ for what would happen if, then in the light of that ‘concern’, they rationalise that rather than giving and losing, they might as well keep.

That ‘concern’ is a disguise for fear. Fear that drives people to withdraw and withhold at just the time when the opposite is needed. Experience, however, reinforces those ‘concerns’. You give someone your trust and they betray it. You give someone your time and they effectively waste it. Not to mention what they do to your heart if they ever get that close to you. So, understandably, for safety reasons, it’s best, so we reason, not to give much away.

One of the compelling qualities of Christ is His love. This love brought Him into the lives of twelve men and He entrusted His life to them. So much so that one was close enough to betray Him. So much so that He even knew they would desert Him and yet He entrusted Himself to them, called them friends, washed their feet and modeled the kind of love worth pursuing. This kind of love was never deterred or rationalised away because of fear. It didn’t ignore fear either, it acknowledged the very presence of fear and overcame it because the darkness of fear could never overcome the light of love.

This model is also evident in the love that the disciples would have for each other. Persecution and opposition did not defeat it, it only let it spread to wider parts of the known world. People captured by this love began pursuing it and expressing it and found life so much more fulfilling in sharing and experiencing the blessing in giving rather than receiving.

Fear still looks to hold people in their grip ad as they withhold and withdraw. The tragedy continues to be that the more they withdraw and withhold, the more they shrivel and look to make the world around shrivel too. Living in fear is no life at all.

The life that Jesus offers is about a love that trusts and gives. He gives and broken lives are made whole by it. He gives and emptiness turns to overflowing by it. He gives and the oppressed are set free.

This is why this kind of love is worth pursuing, it’s the kind of thing worth making life all about, it’s just the kind of quality that should define a man.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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The Greatest Commandment (9): Valuing Life

Do we really value human life?

There is enough incendiary material on the issue of abortion, infanticide, capital punishment and euthanasia to keep a fire stoked for a lifetime. These might not be the only life and death and choice issues, but they certainly dominate some people’s thinking when it comes to the matter of valuing life.

Jesus says something really interesting on the matter of murder.

It’s not unreasonable to suggest Jesus equates valuing life with the issue of our temper and the quality of our relationships. Anger is not prohibited here, it’s the extent of the anger and subsequent emotions and words that are highlighted.

Not only that, though, the issue of valuing life is seen in the desire to reconcile, to make amends and restore right relationships with one that may have been hurt by something we said or did.

It’s worth reflecting on the high value Jesus puts on life beyond the contentious issues that can dominate the conversations. It’s worth asking ourselves, in the light of what we feel towards others, if this is really real love in action.

This helps us see if we really value human life.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s Lovely

My guy Stevie Wonder wrote a song about his daughter. He put into song the delight he took in this newborn baby and her growing impact on his life.

I enjoyed the song anyway, but when my firstborn made her appearance on the planet, the song took on a whole new level of resonance. It’s a good thing too, because for a while I thought the term ‘lovely’ was a girlie thing. (I’ll just stay right here as you throw your bricks in my direction.) Yeah, I didn’t think ‘lovely’ was something for men.

Thankfully appreciating the blessing of having a child and then subsequently having others have made me appreciate just how appropriate the term ‘lovely’ can be for men. In fact, when I relax a bit and enjoy the word lovely, I get into the vibe of actually being able to see it’s the sort of things in life that makes me grin, or beam and say somewhere whether out loud or in my mind, ‘I love that’.

So …

  • I love the miracle of birth and the wonder of children – that’s lovely.
  • I love that taste of a good can or bottle of ginger beer consumed fairly swiftly – that’s lovely
  • I love that laughter you hear among friends when they recall something truly hilarious – that’s lovely
  • I love the calm of the early morning to just engage and embrace that stillness in that time of the day – that’s lovely
  • I love that thing of reading an article and thinking how great it was to read it, like it was a genuine honour to have those words affect my thinking and behaving – that’s lovely.

To think about what’s lovely in life is an invitation to put a big ol’ grin on your heart. It’s one thing to have it on your face, but it’s even better when it reflects what’s going on inside.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s Admirable

Imagine that you and I are seated in the front room. We’re in those couches are armchairs designed to help you relax. Whatever refreshments we want are on the coffee table in the middle of the room, but we can just sit back and feel comfortable whilst some steady and smooth music plays in the background.

There’s no hassle and no rush, we can just enjoy each other’s company. So you ask me what in life do I find admirable. I smirk. You know you asked the right question as you see the smirk broaden into the familiar grin for which one or two people have found as much a part of me as my name. I love the question and you see the love across my face as my eyes close and I drink in the question to breathe out this answer.

I admire: Consistency and longevity. My parents have been married for over 40 years, which is a considerable feat when you consider the age my Dad got married. They have been by each other’s side supporting each other and loving each other in all circumstances. Their love for each other has poured itself into the lives of their onlooking children who have benefited from the relentless consistency and faithfulness our parents showed to each other and to us. I admire that consistency and longevity.

I admire: Passionate people passionately pursuing their passions whenever and wherever they can. This life can be stifling if it’s left to a mundane routine of living to get enough money to get enough mod-cons to just shuffle from one meaningless leisure activity to another. That’s why I love those people who have a passion for something and pursue it with all their heart. My friend loves his poetry, loves his battle rap, loves his creative communication and whenever the time affords him he is immersed in those passions and I find it so admirable. If you’re going to live you might as well live with passion worth pursuing. The kind of thing is hugely indicative of the kind of approach I look to take when it comes to Kingdom matters – so it’s a blessing to see examples of that in action.

I admire: The love of my wife. It never ceases to amaze me how she has just remained devoted to the marriage and to the reality of God granting the union and able to sustain it. We haven’t reached 20 years together yet, let alone the 40+ that my parents have hit, but her loyalty, her faithfulness, her devotion, her commitment, her investment, her encouragement, her faith, her resourcefulness, her prayers, her integrity, her strength of character, her vulnerability, her honesty, her beauty – I observe all of that and to think that she still actively chooses to invest those in the direction of the most precious union humans face this side of eternity in me is … well it’s admirable. I applaud her to her face and I love to applaud her behind her back like on blog entries and stuff.

I admire: Great music, good football, delicious food, intriguing reading material and gripping storytelling. All of these are the fruits of significant investment in creative outlets and I love to admire those kind of things. I appreciate more and more that these products are not always guaranteed and there is a plethora of average to garbage material that I could wade through and endure. Yet it’s worthwhile when I come a creative piece of work that hits that sweet spot.

I admire: People taking a stand for justice and righteousness. Not following the trends of the day or looking to be popular to gain attention – they just see the example of Jesus and see the need to be peacemakers which often requires taking a stand. The bravery and courage it calls for as well as a selflessness to see Kingdom values as being of far greater worth than any earthly desires – witnessing this in ways that won’t grab people’s attention but is no less significant in the larger scheme of things is humbling.

That’s what I would open up with to consider the things that are admirable and worth thinking on. That would be my offering in our comfortable front room encounter.

What do you find admirable? (And don’t stop me from letting you grab another cup of that beverage you love while you share.)

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Disconnect and Dialogue

He’s a writer. If his talk is anything to go by, he’s a very good writer. In any case, he’s a writer and talks well about aspects of writing.

He was speaking about the purpose of dialogue in performing arts and in writing. He said something I hadn’t paid proper attention to previously. Conversation and dialogue are not the same thing. Conversation is a larger sphere in which the concept of dialogue is located. When it comes to writing, all dialogue is purposeful and intentional. He made the point that it’s not like a lot of conversation that takes place in every day life which tends to feature a lot of wasted words. That was a sobering truth to digest. How tragic is that – a lot of wasted words.

In any case dialogue is purposeful, it is intentional and it should not be included if it does not serve a function of character development and plot movement – which he said previously should be one and the same when it came to storytelling.

What he said afterwards was also particularly intriguing. Namely that in good writing, the dialogue operated best when it was about a disconnect. Harmonious and cordial conversation didn’t always make for the best writing. Compelling scenarios would unfold when there was the element of disconnect – the protagonist facing opposition to her cause; some degree of misunderstanding heightening tension in the hero’s journey. It’s not to say that every piece of dialogue needed to have that – but those types of dialogue, written well, tended to make for the better types of writing dialogue.

Fascinating stuff.

There is something in me that sees great interest in the disconnect as a reason for dialogue. Something is not right. Something doesn’t fit. Something does not have the feeling of completion and being sound. That, for me, nudges towards asking questions and engaging in uncomfortable dialogue. Not that everyone’s up for that of course. Not that I’m always up for it when my daughter asks similarly uncomfortable questions. But I would much prefer that and exploring those issues of disconnect and dialogue than frittering away the gift of communication on wasted words.

That kind of approach has tended to lead to some significant character development …

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s All In Your Head

It’s worth mentioning that this blog isn’t always that concerned to keep up with current affairs. If there are special occasions and events of one sort or another, I don’t feel obliged to mention them. So it is just one of those things that this entry so happens to happen on the same day as World Mental Health Day.

I am currently reading the autobiography of the former footballer and current football pundit, Ian Wright. Known for being a bubbly and chirpy character, so it was interesting coming across this quote.

In general, you’ve got a society in which men put up barriers around themselves and won’t even admit to being depressed, let alone talk about.

A Life in Football, Ian Wright: My Autobiography

He wasn’t writing about himself, more about the culture he was in where especially among professional footballers there were many barriers to talking about depression. It’s not that culture alone, though, that suffers from that problem.

There is a sense in which followers of Jesus shouldn’t be depressed or suffer from similarly debilitating mental illnesses. In certain Christian circles it’s almost as though you’re not Christian enough or don’t have enough faith if you are depressed. This obviously doesn’t help anyone, so those who suffer will tend to do so in silence, whilst being told all the time to rejoice in the Lord always and again he said rejoice.

There are cultural expectations of what it is to be a man both in church circles and the world that makes no room for ‘weakness’. There is little acceptance for vulnerability and so things like depression and feelings of inadequacy and even suicidal thoughts are not talked about openly and so barely addressed.

That is not to deny that in some cases there are some very real spiritual issues going on that need to be addressed and there may be a plethora of factors that contribute to a person’s perspective on themselves and subsequent seasons of doubt and despair. Even here, though, it would be great to know that there is a community who loves and cares and is capable to offer either effective support in themselves or signpost you to where to get the support you need. The kind of community that makes it easier to be vulnerable and share those tough times. The kind of support network that appreciates that there aren’t always quick fix solutions to these issues and just because one person is supernaturally healed immediately it doesn’t mean everyone should be or indeed will be. The kind of community that seeks to understand and then be sensitive in a proper compassionate response that is not about belittling the situation and the individual, but endeavouring to help them out even by just being a loving presence.

Men get depressed. Men of God get depressed. It happens. It’s a reality and to dismiss it or seek to avoid it is only building up for greater trouble at some point down the line. Not only is there a need for awareness, there is a need to shed light on what can be done to show love in deed to those who are going through.

As someone who has experienced a number of very dark times of the soul, I can agree with the casual dismissive comment that it’s all in your head. That is correct. That is where it is. It is really there and as long as it is there life cannot continue as others want it to be. Saying that it’s there does little to change anything other than the level of irritation that’s felt about such a disrespectful and negligent remark. Now that it is there, what can be done about it? What can you do to make a difference?

I am able to write this here and now today, because there were good people around me who exercised great patience and grace as I walked through some tortuous seasons. It can be a struggle sometimes, but to have people to support and feed love in situations like that is worth so much in itself.

Trusting God and believing in Him is to believe that He wants us to be whole and on the journey there we can walk with others and compassionately and sensitively seek to understand them.  Even when we cannot, we can at least learn how to love in word and in deed as these times of life proceed.

Perhaps being a part of the community that is intentional about giving people the space and environment to be able to share these things will be a step in the right direction. Ensuring that men and women can feel free to be vulnerable, unsure and afraid can be tremendously helpful as initial steps on what might be a journey that lasts for a lifetime. Yet with love inside shared on the outside at least it will be a life-time and a life-time full of love at that.

It might be all in the head, but what can we do to see the head-space full of darkness, and bring a little light to it?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

How Do You Mourn Well?

A few of us have been making our way through the Beatitudes. To go through any study at all, I am grateful I have some prayer support. What I enjoy about the prayer support is the one I get from one of my favourite people on the planet at the moment. I love this brother so much and he has a superb way of just bringing godly calm and peace to any situation.

So, I explained the plan to him, and he duly prayed for God to be glorified in the study that followed. In our conversation I shared my desire that the study would help those going through it to see the role that mourning should play in the life of the believer. As it transpired, the next day my good friend suffered a loss in his family. It brought matters home to me about the issue of mourning.

It was significant as well considering the exploration the few of us made in the issue of mourning. I love it when people question the Bible – not in an accusatory fashion, in a genuine wondering why fashion. We looked at the people of Israel’s response to the death of Moses and how the record stated that the people mourned his passing for 30 days. Someone wondered, “Why did they spend that much tie mourning over him? Surely not all of the people mourned for that long. I mean I can imagine a lot did for a while, but all the people, for that length of time? Why?”

Exploring issues like that got us to appreciate why mourning individually and corporately is important. It was also cool to address how Christians mourn too, because there was reference made to what Paul of Tarsus suggested that believers should mourn differently to others. That didn’t mean that there shouldn’t be mourning, though, because when Stephen died there was mourning by godly men for a godly man.

All those issues came together in a big challenge to me again about what it is to mourn well. It feels as if in this day and age nothing is really given to help with mourning should look like. I am not by any means suggesting there is a one suit fits all approach to to mourning, but there is something that surely we can learn from history and from others as to what it is to really mourn.

So how do you mourn well?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden