A Word On Headphones

Some people prefer earphones to headphones. They like the way it can fit snugly and provide the quality soundscape they are looking for.

I don’t mind earphones, but I prefer headphones. They make a statement and create an atmosphere far beyond the desire for more bass.

A statement headphones often make is that you may be in the world, but you’re not necessarily of this world. For in as much as you are visually attuned to your surroundings, you have bathed your hearing in something else. Sometimes that something else compliments what the visuals portray, but often it does something different. Whether music or spoken word those headphones declare you have cut yourself off to tune your head space in something else. What that head space is tuned into can affect your perspective radically.

That head space is cocooned while the body looks free. Yet that cocoon is not limitation or restriction. It can be therapy or the genesis of something. It can be a refuge or a delight. It speaks volumes far greater than the earphones.

To observers it might appear off-putting or anti-social. It may appear to isolate rather than integrate. It might appear like the loner’s dream come true. This, however, is not always the case. Within that head space may be percolating something that embraces rather than rejects. Within that head space could be the thing that individual needs to get on better in the world.

That’s why I prefer headphones. That’s why I love headphones. Sometimes we just need to spend time being in the world, but because of our head space, we are not of it.

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Appreciating Other Perspectives and the Indefensible

I can imagine it can be a thankless task – Being a defence lawyer when  the person being defended is definitely guilty.

That cannot be a job you can do and sleep that well at night unless you have set up some strong coping mechanisms. Ones like saying you are performing an important part of the judicial system that gives everyone the right to legal support. There could be a sense in which you feel that as long as you play your part in offering the best defence possible, then it’s really down to others to effect true justice. Whatever the argument, that’s a tough gig, especially when it comes to the more heinous of crimes.

Some would think that being part of such a system as somewhat indefensible.

What is indefensible?

That question  becomes more pertinent when you are given the opportunity to consider another person’s perspective. Spend a little time seeing things from the other person’s point of view, or better still just taking yourself out of your own view and seeing alternatives.

I have a good friend who consistently provides another perspective. He doesn’t do it to be awkward or contrary at all – in fact his appreciation of the alternative viewpoint makes our conversations better informed and stops me from rushing to a conclusion. He is great for me in that sense.

Even he, however, would suggest that there is a time when alternative viewpoints do not cover that which is indefensible. He has a standard in mind that makes something truly indefensible.

Is there a standard that can be applied to all? Who decides that standard?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Praise and the Defeat of Discouragement

Not that long ago I shared how I didn’t always take scriptures in their proper context and treat them properly. Lately, I was challenged about another oft repeated verse.

I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34:1)

It won’t take too long to be in certain church circles and hear that verse utilised as part of the ‘pump up the praise’ efforts that characterise some gatherings of the saints. What tends to happen along with that is a pep talk and a subtle or sometimes not so subtle suggestion that not making a ‘joyful noise’ is disrespecting God.

It’s a pity that there’s a kind of razzmatazz, cheerleading, football crowd approach to praise. It’s a pity because there’s so much more to praise than that. Indeed the challenge to bless God at all times with continual praise on the mouth is not something designed solely for the corporate settings.

There are people who use the church gatherings for escapism. The world outside is nasty and brutish and in the couple of hours in the building they can make an effort to get away from it all. Indeed once the singing, whooping, hollering and other noise is over they will slip back into their world of mediocrity. Sometimes the suffering is in silence, other times the release valve is in complaining. Complaining about what they see as broken promises, broken hearts and broken dreams. Complaining about why they have to watch loved one scramble and suffer, while others appear to prosper. Complaining about the life they could have had, but missed out on for so many reasons. They are complaining and even those surface complaints are covers for deeper issues of despair, disillusionment and discouragement. The two hours with pumped up praise and a pep talk ain’t working out in the face of the challenges and the discouragement.

Yet even beyond this there is a story – one marked by responses to disappointment that made room for discouragement. Just like responses to the juicy morsels of information about someone else made room for gossip. Just like responses to sexual urges and desires lead to making room for lustful wanderings in the mind and beyond. This is not to say, however, that being discouraged is a sin or something that shouldn’t be associated with being a follower of Jesus or life in any case. Being discouraged comes with the territory. It’s how we respond to the discouragement that can make the difference to how we come out of the episode.

For some they have made room for the discouragement. Such is its inevitability that they make room for it and expect it to take residence in their life as though it belongs there. Not long after accepting that they also have to allow fear, intimidation and a gnawing sense of inadequacy to take up residence. Not always making a noise, but not only do they take up residence, they don’t bother paying rent, they don’t contribute to the groceries, they make a mess of everything, they consume and give nothing and in their wake they leave perpetually perplexed people pondering possibilities but procrastinating as their life peters away in potential passed.

The source of all this is an incredibly self-absorbed and self-centred approach. That cycle of defeat set off again by never looking beyond self for a better response to discouragement.

Praise makes a difference, because it takes the focus off from self and directs it to someone who is more interested in us than we are. It’s just that His interest is one that expresses itself in creating you in a way to see there being more to life than being self-absorbed. He displays this Himself – lovingly pursuing His people, rescuing them from slavery, establishing their nationhood, distinguishing them not because they were of any worth in and of themselves above other people, but purely because He wanted to display His desire for humanity through them. Through His longsuffering engagement with them He highlights His qualities of mercy, enduring love and overcoming grace – a suitable platform for the emergence of His Son to live a life of mercy, enduring love and overcoming grace – overcoming even on the cross.

Recounting His greatness and seeing His extended invitation to partake in a life far greater than one we have ever considered before, is reason enough to fill the brief time we have on this earth with a passion for praise. Yet there is more to it than that. In praise we remind ourselves of who He is and what He has done. We remind ourselves because we need the reminder and we need Him. We not just remind ourselves but in the songs recounting His greatness over history both in our lives and the lives of others over millennia, we begin to encourage ourselves. We actively work to dispel the discouragement. We at the very least expel it and say there is no room for it. It no longer belongs in us, it can no longer take residence.

In praise we make a very bold declaration that actually the residence that is our mind and heart is under new management who takes up full occupancy. He is not just the Lord in our time of convenience. The Lord rules and has full occupancy over every aspect of our life and as we praise Him – as we tell Him who He is, how great He is and what He has done is doing and will continue to do, we practice the reality that greater is He that is in us that the discouragement from the world that threatens to take a grip by looking to take up residence again. As we praise Him, we are saying we no longer belong to ourselves, we don’t have absolute sway, but the one who does sees us in our discouragement. He not only sees but can, over time and through his mercy, enduring love and overcoming grace, lead us beyond fear, despair and intimidation to exercising love, power and a sound mind which we have been given by the great one who lives inside us.

The invitation to praise is a one that is accomplished by relying on Him. As we do so, the words that flow are not the manufactured typical cliches – they are deep, real, expressions in tough times and great of the God we grow to know, grow to love and grow in praising and adoring.

Indeed praise isn’t just about words uttered from our lips and so there’s a wide avenue of options to express praise open to us. So wide is it that we are invited to invest all our time and continual verbal expression to praise. It’s a challenge and an invitation that’s very much worth us dispelling discouragement to consider and embrace.

(Photo: Unsplash) 

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

 

Will The Circle Ever Be Broken? Sandra’s Story

Sandra was not going to be like her Mum. 

At school in her early teens, Sandra’s brash attitude rubbed some the wrong way, but there were some who saw the talent and ability through the bravado. She was cool with the encouragement, she just didn’t want to be told what to do. Especially seeing as though the main person who kept trying to boss her around was her Mum who was a loser still scrounging for any penny she could get from the benefits or from the occasional short-term lover. Sandra was sure she was not going to turn out like her. 

The defiance could not cover her failings and one of them was her inability to concentrate on her courses. She was persuaded by her friends, though, that she didn’t need school to do well, she could make it on her own. So she let time at school pass her by, making friends but not bothering to do much else. 

As it turned out, she was able to start with a decent job after school. She had no illusion that this modelling career would take off, but the occasional job paid well and she came across people who offered her advice as to other ways of supplementing her income. Sure, some of it stretched legality in a few areas, but it was harmless. 

There was this really good sounding project she was encouraged to join in on. She was told of she paid the ‘small’ start-up fee, she would be raking in thousands a month, within the year. Though usually sensible, on this occasion Sandra got caught up with the respectable front of the scheme. By the time it became apparent that things were not as it appeared, she was up to her neck in debt. 

Looking at being on her last legs, a friend offered some help until she got back on her feet. The two soon became more than friends as she began to feel he could meet her deepest needs and he felt he finally found someone he could rescue and support. They meant well, they thought they loved each other until she told him she was pregnant. 

At first he said he would be supportive and he was the picture of paternal responsibility until it became apparent that Sandra was giving their baby girl Chloe, so much love he was taking second place too often. Sandra no longer needed to be rescued and so he felt left out. Being too proud to beg or humble to serve, eventually he left a WhatsApp message table saying he would still support the baby financially, but he was needed elsewhere. 

Sandra was devastated. 

But being committed to the front of appearing tough and defiant, especially for Chloe’s sake, she steadily lowered her standards and accepted whatever would come her way to help them survive. As Chloe grew up, though, she gradually saw her Mum as a loser. 

Chloe was not going to be like her Mum. 

(Photo: Unsplash) 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

An Apple. 

The saying goes an apple a day keeps the Doctor at bay if you hit him hard enough with it. 

It didn’t take me much to like apples. They’re a great fruit. It has so many uses. It is arguably the most versatile fruit. It is important, however, that it is used well or else it will just be left to rot. 

Think about it. 

(Photo: Unsplash) 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Is It Fit To Fit? 

I must confess that I have been guilty of taking some scriptures out of context. One is the glorious saying in scripture “Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord.” (Zechariah 4:6) It is worth checking that verse in its context for yourself. 

My misuse of the verse has seen me have a relaxed approach to things because I have been of the opinion that my might and power will get nothing done, so I just need to rely on the Spirit. Now that last bit is spot on. I do need to completely rely on the Spirit. Yet I took that first but too far and as a result let myself go in some areas that God is still interested in. For example He is still interested that I use this physical body properly – after all it is a gift from Him, so it is a good way of saying thanks by not letting it just flounder under the misguided impression that my might and power will be of no use at all. 

In fact as He has shown on a number of occasions, if I get that bit in check then it is amazing what I will have the might and power to witness Him accomplish by His Spirit! Another way of looking at it, is that it is all well and good Him doing great things, but a flab-tastic Christopher won’t have the energy, stamina and capacity to enjoy it if he hasn’t looked after God’s gift that is the body. 

You will be glad to know that doesn’t mean I am about to be narcissistic, constantly craving the Adonis figure. There are more important things than that. It does mean that, thank God, I am paying attention to the hints He has dropped over recent weeks like my daughters calling me ‘fatty’ and acknowledging increasing fatigue and not just thinking God’s grace is covering me and not address the issue. 

Being fit, however, is pointless unless it has a function and a purpose. As the athlete gets fit to compete to an excellent degree, I was given an insight recently on why it’s important to get fit. That capacity to be at a good physical condition improves the chances of being fit to fit into the places where I can make His presence known. There’s certainly a connection between mental and physical well-being, which is for the purpose of making the most of opportunities to fit in just when I need to. Fatigue and accompanying loss of awareness truly does mean we can’t be there when we’re needed.

That, however, is not just an encouragement to get physically fit. It’s an invitation to take opportunities to be fit in every aspect of our life seriously so that we will be fit to fit in. Alert and reactive to show that act of kindness when needed because our hearts are fit. Alert and ready to contribute to a worthy cause because our conscience is fit. Alert and responsive to the needs around us because we depend completely on the Spirit and have developed that degree of sensitivity by training through intimate encounters with our Lord and Saviour. 

Fitting in isn’t about being conformed to the world, it is about being fit for Kingdom causes at all times, however they emerge – whether in a gathering of the saints in a church facility, in the workplace, at the place of study, in a pub or even in a gym. 

That approach to being fit for Kingdom purposes causes us to reject any notion that we can do things independently and recognise that depending on the Spirit will call us to interdependence with those in the Body of Christ and even those who are people of peace who we can connect with to see everything fit as God views it. 

I hope to keep you informed with how this current fitness drive develops. In the meantime I have every intention to look to Christ to help me to fit right where He wants me. I am assured He will do this – not by might, not by power … 

(Photo: Unsplash) 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

There’s More To It Than That

Sometimes I can have an extended season of interest in something. I’ll be all over it and fascinated to find out about it. Some of those things become a regular standby for me. I can venture there in my mind whilst waiting for a loved one to finish their engrossing conversation about something or other.

One of those things is the sci-fi television programme, Dr. Who. It recently finished it’s tenth series since its return to the television screens in 2005. Ten series – each made of 12 episodes – if you don’t include the Christmas specials. That’s 120 episodes. That’s a whole heap of hours engaging in various stories and adventures with the Doctor and his friend(s) in his mysterious transportation pod that travels in space and time. Ten years, four main leads, various friends, highs and lows. It’s always intriguing and yet …

Of late I had noticed that there were very familiar themes that dominated through all ten series. To the degree that as the current lead actor is about to depart it signals a time for the programme to undergo change and a change that can go far deeper than just the main character. Maybe it could recognise a greater breadth in storytelling to a relatively limited scope its explored in the ten seasons.

Anyway, there’s another place where I could go a lot more into the specifics where that’s concerned. The point of raising the point is that it reminds me that some people can get so familiar with something that it narrows their scope of the something. No wonder people speak about getting bored about something because their scope on the something is so narrow. You tell someone that they could live forever and a point raised is that the thought of it would be boring.

This however, shows a tremendous ignorance.

This is seen in no better an issue than the issue of learning to love God. The Apostle Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3 was his desire that the saints would discover the width, height and depths of the love of God. That invitation to explore was a quest into the unsearchable riches of God. People think that there’s so much to explore in outer space, yet we haven’t even scratched the surface of the amazing love of God operating in our inner space – our inner intimate space with God and each other. That invitation is one to know the love of God that doesn’t change and yet it is so vast and diverse that we can never truly be bored by it. It’s deep, it’s rich, it’s true and just when you think you know there’s more to know and settling for what you already know limits the scope of something that is eternal and infinite in nature. That’s a massive disservice and hugely wasted opportunity.

My desire in knowing the love of God in concert with other brothers and sisters in Christ is that I won’t settle for what I know. Whilst appreciating what I experience and fully engaging in the presence and present tense of it – I don’t want to set up a memorial and a mausoleum to that thing that happened way back when and just walk around it. Remember it sure, thank God for it, definitely – but there’s so much more to know. It should mean that we don’t go for a long time and just pander over particular expressions as though that’s all there is to know about God.

There’s more to it than that.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden