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 

Two Sevens on Life with Authrine

June 15th is a fairly significant date in the calendar of the Dryden Family for on this date in 2003 the union was made public and binding in a ceremony in front of witnesses.

The day got me thinking of something suitable to note in reflecting on the time.

  1. Life with Authrine has taught me just how selfish and self-centred I can be.
  2. Life with Authrine has showed me the benefits of truly doing life together.
  3. Life with Authrine has made me a better listener
  4. Life with Authrine has challenged me to be truly authentic in my relations – not hiding behind being glib.
  5. Life with Authrine has opened my eyes to consider at even more intimate level, how great life is when we think about another’s needs .
  6. Life with Authrine has made me appreciate simplicity a lot more
  7. Life with Authrine has highlighted just how gifted a maker of tea and coffee I can truly be.

Oh and just in case you thought I was done with the reflections.

  • Life with Authrine teaches me what faithfulness is about – and how utterly incapable I am to be faithful without God’s help.
  • Life with Authrine has taught me what sacrifice is about – and how totally blessed I am to be a recipient of it and learn more how to be a practitioner of it.
  • Life with Authrine teaches me why we need the fruit of the Spirit …
  • Life with Authrine has taught me greater joy than even I ever thought could happen.
  • Life with Authrine teaches me the power of grace and endurance.
  • Life with Authrine has taught me the importance of treasuring great relationships and great moments
  • Life with Authrine teaches me that the more you know and love someone should be the more you want to know and love them in serving them.

Ahhhh just a few reflections there on a great day to thank God for love, faithfulness, beauty, grace, wisdom, strength, forgiveness, patience, joy and of course the occasional bakewell tart (me) and cup of coffee (her).

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 

More Than A Group of Individuals 

There is something a little annoying about the focus on the individual. 

If human existence was just about the individual why on earth were we made as relational beings whose greatest expression is found in individuals getting together, working together, connecting together? 

Anyway, recently I was reflecting on the great experiences I have had at work in a team. It’s easy to be in a company where you are nothing more than a cog in a machine who is only useful as long as you work yourself to a frazzle whereby on the end of your usefulness you are disposed if for another cog. But that is not the case in every workplace. There are those sweet occasions where it is a joy to go and work because you are a part of a team of people who love what they do, love the people they get to work with and ultimately love to collaborate with their colleagues to construct something of great benefit to those they serve. 

It does not happen overnight, but there’s an intentionality about it that overcomes some significant odds to strive and thrive in supporting each other, getting the best out of each other and knowing they can depend on each other. It’s a beautiful place to reach and yet is the platform to something better. Far better as accomplishing targets and goals is seen in the greater light of the positive impact on the lives of people we serve by seeing us together as more than just a group of talented individuals. 

The bond, the jokes, the camaraderie, the cooperation, the knowledge that there’s no failure in this kind of team, there is always support. There is always care. There is always the stimulating for growth and releasing people to further fulfil their potential in other teams that will essentially benefit because of us in our team. 

No, I am not being idealistic or delusional. I know that which I speak of, I know it to be real and know it to be something worth making every effort to achieve in the glorious pursuit of fruitful life and productive work together. 

That thought certainly helps address the annoyance over the over-emphasis on the individual. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

A Word On Exploitation 

It was a privilege to be invited to dinner, but the conversation, for all the wit and humour flying across the table, was very sobering. 

There was a father of several children. He was devoted, considerate and caring to his children and in his community. When his wife died, with his children fully grown with families of their own, he eventually retired to settle down in his own home on a farm. A neighbour noticed he was on his own and struck up a deal with a female friend. She would get to know the man and eventually work her way round to getting married to him and eventually  use him, get all his stuff and sell the farm before ditching him. At present she has got such an influence on him that even the children are locked out of access to him to support him as he gets older and more infirm. It’s tragic to hear and made my blood boil. 

The conversation then turned to how countries around the world were exploited. Not just about rich exploiting the poor and the powerful exploiting the powerless. It was the way that people would overlook injustice for the sake of convenience and resourcefulness. While beautiful landscapes were being spoiled and natural resources raped and pillaged, people turned blind eyes because infrastructure was built and the promise of investment wafted across the airwaves. Even as cultural identities were being merged and overwhelmed, by the time people recognised what was going on they were too heavy in debt to do anything about it. That debt wasn’t just an obscenely financial one either. Plus it was not just a matter of ‘foreign’ forces exploiting the situation. There was just as much complicity between the indigenous people to their own downfall. 

In the conversation, there was concern that this issue was nothing new. Put down to human nature it depressingly came across as though there was nothing that could be done about it. Those who fought against it would feel the need for power to do it, accessing the power they would be consumed by the need to retain the power to do what they felt needed to be done. This however would soon lead to the impression that it was more important to retain the power than to do the good it was desired for. There is a saying that power corrupts, but the reality might be that the power exposes that which was already corrupt in us. 

Yeah, not the most upbeat conversation. 

Yet thankfully, for me, that was not the end of the story. That was not and is not all there is to life. I was reminded of a conversation I had earlier in the day where someone was talking about the recent concert in Manchester. One man blew himself up to strike terror into the hearts of a people. He blew himself up and killed others for a cause. My faith is built on a man who gave up His life so others could be cleaned from everything corrupt in them. He gave up His life so others wouldn’t die, but enjoy real, true, vibrant, peacemaking, joy-giving, amazing life. 

Part of that deal involves learning what it is not to use people and allow the corrupt within to corrupt without. Learning not to exploit for selfish gain and love to give for the true and honest development of others. It sounds lovely on the surface, but it does require an entire new me inside. A new way of thinking, a new way of living. It’s immense, it’s incredible, it’s hard, but it’s possible, because when we talk of human nature that nature is truly seen in the life and times of the suffering servant Jesus Christ. He expressed the true human nature – one incorruptible. Can we live like Him? Only if we trust Him and allow the same Spirit that lifted Him from death to lift us from that corroding, corrupting thing in us that only ever leads to one outcome. 

It’s about time. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden