Daily Thoughts – Freedom and Slavery

Out of my distress I called on the LORD; the LORD answered me and set me free. (Psalm 118:5)

What is freedom? What is slavery? Hardly the questions you’re pondering over the regular morning cup of tea and yet scratching beneath the surface of day to day existence these themes are important to people from all backgrounds of life. Are you really free? How can we help others enjoy freedom? Over the month of October Daily Thoughts will share some tidbits on these topics to help explore these issues and how they affect life as you know it. In the meantime consider this – are you a slave to someone or something?

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
da man cd

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October – A Month In Preview

A notable step for October is the start of themed months for the work I do at the YMCA. I’m actually hoping the theme itself will be of benefit to life beyond the YMCA but it’s a good base to start. The theme for October is Freedom and Slavery. It’s fitting for a number of reasons including the fact that as October is Black History Month the time can be used to find out a bit more about that particular experience with slavery and Britain’s role in that of course highlighting the abolition deal the bicentennial of which was celebrated earlier this year. The deal of the theme, however, is to see the issue on a wider scale.

For years now I’ve known only too well that freedom and slavery are not just physical, economic, ethnic and social concepts but psychological, spiritual, relational and emotional realities that are expressed only too clearly in every day life. I’m hoping through the month to explore some of the issues surrounding the topic and give some biblical insight on the issue at hand particularly celebrating the freedom available in Christ.

Part of this deal is the return of the Daily Thoughts that was buzzing around in August. I hope to be able to post at least those daily thoughts as entries here through the month. As with September 2006 I’m hoping to post enough entries to cover every day of the month in a bid to step up the discipline of writing which I seek to enjoy and develop.

In the meantime thank you for the continued support to this blog. Reading it, praying for me, all of that kind of jazz really is a big deal for me and for al the busyness and activity I want you to know it is hugely appreciated.

As you remember me in the upcoming month pray with me that whatever activity will actually bring forth productivity that welcomes in all the things of Christ that can make the difference in people’s lives. And as ever it’s all …

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
da man cd

September – A Month In Review

So that was the September that was.

My sister Ruth turned 31. My father turned 74. My mate and mentor Hughie turned 45. Far too many birthdays in this month and just when I thought it was safe to get away from the birthdays October will see my brother turn 29 and my best friend at university turn the big 30. I’m sure there maybe other birthdays I’ve neglected to mention, but that’s enough to get my wallet groaning. (This is a figure of speech. I’ve not had a wallet since it was stolen a few months ago. I don’t miss it, but I’m sure another will be useful eventually.)

September has been a very interesting month. I got to see that best mate at university twice after not having seen him since my marital union to the beloved Authrine over four years ago (that be him pictured – oh he of Bury Abroad infamy). I started a special diet over the month for a set period of time to wean me off some of the unhealthy foods that’s too much of my diet. I took part in an interesting meeting of young people in Stoke-on-Trent from different churches who just wanted to do something different and together for the Kingdom. I got to say happy birthday to another friend in the capital city who turned the big 30. I got to play squash again for the first time in months.

The wife kicked off on her academic studies, going for a foundation degree in Youth and Community Services. Met the Regional Christian Spiritual Development Workers (CSD) and was inspired by the work done and the work we’re about to do. I met a guy who’s highly respected in YMCA circles and got to see him in operation which was most intriguing. There’s also scouting a football team that I am considering joining soon. Saw my son perform at the Royal Albert Hall (pictured) and whilst in the capital for the umpteenth time this month also met up with my brother and his wife for the first time in a while. Started a year long part-time training course on missions which I’m hoping will have huge positive repercussions for the work I do both at YMCA and COG.

I visited a dear friend and watched him preach and also shared ANOTHER birthday for a friend’s son who turned 1 year old. Attended another conference in the capital city and learnt a lot about church, also got to eat at a vegetarian restaurant for the first time in my life which was a great experience. Saw one of my fellow CSD’s spirituality workshop for the staff in Burton-on-Trent and I was suitably impressed to see what could be done in Stoke-on-Trent (hence the candle experience). I got excited further about web development through a visit to the guy who’s developed the YMCA’s web-site. I got to look after Deborah and Kev on my own as Authrine and Abigail spent some time in London attending a family member’s wedding. Finally September saw me complete the quarterly Saturday morning study we’ve been doing on Hebrews which marks the last time I’ll be regularly down as the teacher for 2007 with Hughie taking the next quarterly shift as I move to new projects.

It has been a packed month of activities and it doesn’t look like easing any as we go into October. What I am learning slowly but surely, however, is that activity is not necessarily the sign of productivity and some of the best times recently have been times where I can chill, reflect, engage with God in a still, silent, contemplative way and just learn to be and not so much of the do. That will remain the challenge in the time ahead and the coming responsibilities and requirements of me as things progress.

I sincerely hope and pray that October will be a really great month for me and all those I love. Of course with October comes the kick into the final quarter of the year where the clocks go backwards/forwards (delete as applicable I forget at the moment). That should make things all the more fun as Autumn turns inexorably towards winter.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
da man cd

Rubi-con and Dancing Mackerel

The other day I was out with a friend and while we were walking I noticed this advert. Now I’m not in the business of advertising products and I’m glad this ain’t the BBC or I’m sure I’d be censured for bringing this up. Anyway I took a careful look at what the key line states and thought to myself – what on earth does it mean 63% more people prefer? Prefer this to what? More people than what?

As I considered this sleight of hand in marketing – remember the percentage looks appealing, that’s quite some statistic – I got rather annoyed that there was no reference to anything else. What makes it all the more tragic was that actually I rather enjoy the brand’s mango drink – quality stuff. Yet this advert sucks. It’s such a sneaky little manipulative piece of advertising that I thought of some alternative marketing, i.e. ‘89% more people prefer Da Man CD’s blog’ or perchance ‘97% more people prefer baked beans’. You cannot sue me for that can you – my source could be anyone I choose it to be!!

Yet the moral of the story that I consoled myself with is back to the thing of truth and integrity. Some sucker’s going to read that advert and actually let it slip into their sub-conscious and fall for their cunning trap. My heart’s desire is that I’m not duplicitous in my language and deceptively manipulative – and believe me being a man who loves words the challenge is to remain transparent and honest in my use of them. The prayer is that through this the sort of life I invite people to live with me is one of wholeness birthed out of reality not fable or fabrication.

I’ve been meaning to post this picture up for over two weeks now. I’ll explain more about my friend Charles in a future entry. For the time being suffice to say on visiting him we chose to have a bite to eat here of all places. Quality stuff! What a name to call your establishment. It was just too good an opportunity to miss – so I didn’t! Thanks for that memory Charles. I hope to share more pleasant memories of my time with a dear friend like Charles soon.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
da man cd

Beauty and the Gospel

This man is Pip Wilson. He’s a hombre highly regard in YMCA circles and has been doing training to people on the edge for ages. He is of the belief that he is beautiful and so are you. He’ll go as far as to say so on a stage. Which is cool.

To enter into theological debate or not to enter theological debate that is the question. At the time I chose not to enter cos I knock about with a group of people who are kinda anti-doctrine, or who have been hurt by the heavy handed doctrine police who legislate the length of skirts to deem them as holy or not. I can appreciate that in the ‘just love them into the kingdom’ perspective there’s not too much time for thinking through why we do what we do cos we’re too busy doing. Fair enough. By that I mean it’s all cool with that approach if that floats your boat. Though I reckon there’s a small leak in said boat that eventually will sink it. That’s just a personal opinion though.

Here LIVE ON THIS BLOG I can do the theological debate! I am aware from a political philosophy perspective that classically there have been two roots for political ideology. One is that man is basically scum of the earth and what are required are laws and regulations to keep him from running wild. A bit of a generalisation but I never promised a sophisticated debate – do the course for that … oh but really read the books when you’re doing it not like others who rely on generalisations. The second classical position which underpins the liberal movement is that people are actually basically good people who require minimal regulation to protect their freedoms and rights to express their goodness. Yeah, shoot me down on the generalisations if you want, but when it comes down to it that’s what they’re all about.

Obviously there are problems with both positions. With the pessimistic approach if we’re so bad and need regulation how can we trust those who are regulating us if they themselves are subject to the same depravity? On the optimistic approach how do we reconcile this beauty image with the varying levels of inhumanity committed by humanity from debilitating behaviours like gossip, hypocrisy and malice to alleged larger atrocities like rape, exploitation and murder?

Guess what? I know this is going to surprise you but I actually believe the Bible has something to say about this! (Yeah, shocker n it?) From what I read the biblical account of humanity is one that is created to reflect God and so is capable of glorious pieces of beauty. The nub of the issue is however that disobedience to the requirements of God means that man is fatally flawed. There’s a bit that says that all has sinned and fallen short of the glory then there are various parts of the bible that points out that man is actually deserving of the anger of God because of this failure to meet His requirements.

So however many ‘good deeds’ we do it still doesn’t match up to the purity, holiness and perfection of the Creator. So by our standards some of us might be doing real well – what great works and teachings Mother Theresa, Gandhi, Buddha, Nelson Mandela, Florence Nightingale, Martin Luther King et. al. did – yet in the sight of the Creator it’s a whole heap more than deeds and on His perfect scales we’re all found wanting. Not only that but there is nothing we can do to resolve the situation – pop psychology, consumer driven techniques, meditation, yoga, etc. etc. Indeed the whole deal is that we go through life endeavouring to medicate for the problem and fall back on the chestnut phrases ‘well, nobody’s perfect’.

Yet there is someone who has done something about. Seeing as though the Creator has a vested interest in the pinnacle of creation He Himself made a way for reconciliation for the breach to be fixed and for that which we were created for to be actualised to the maximum. The tricky bit though is that we’re not preset to think that way and live in a society that promotes everything other than that setting. I mean after all where’s the attraction in giving up self-focus for God-focus? Giving up everything to find ourselves in the one who created us for His glory – that just doesn’t fit anyone’s agenda when left to themselves.

Ho hum, He’s done His bit and given us a way to experience lifelong and indeed eternal beauty for what it really is rather than pale shadows. Sometimes in my view the blanket statement of being beautiful doesn’t really strike to the source of that beauty. Nor does it reflect how marred the beauty is not due to a readjustment in our thinking through positive exercises and knocking about with positive people but the acknowledgement and total surrender to the true Source of Beauty, Holiness and Truth.

To me that’s why Jesus is so central to living and all this positive jazz is not out in the ether that we recognise in ourselves as something pleasant to us, but embodied in perfection in the character of Christ. Now you don’t have to buy it. You don’t have to believe it. No one’s forcing you and indeed you’re in good company because even the blokes who were following Him for the best of His ministry were a bit baffled by it and only began to get it when He left. Yet in checking what’s been said about Him and what He says about Himself there’s not the option of thinking that this guy is just a regular good dude with nice teaching or good works like the hombres mentioned above. There’s more to it that that and in my humble faith this is something worth selling everything to invest everything into it because He alone is worth it.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
da man cd

Books and Darts

Read a really interesting article by Tim Challies on reading. Reminded me of some things I can take into consideration when looking at the books issue. I want to take this advice on board and find a time to get more books!

Oh and as well as that you may remember my little celebration of reaching the awesome 180 blog entries with a tribute to Bullseye and Tony Green. Well I was in our local pub recently and usually I just go in, have a few J20’s, a packet of nuts and good chat with some friends. Recently I noticed that they not only have a dartboard but TWO dartboards AND one of which has an electronic scoreboard next to it! My mate knows the owner – top lass she is as well – and she plays darts and may teach me to play, although seeing her play I’m not sure if Stevie Wonder maybe a better teacher. More importantly on Wednesday nights they have competitions and they’re apparently the best pub in their league. What a great way to build relationships, get in the culture of the community and learn one of the games that has taught me more about theology than a lot of Bible studies I’ve had in my time. Bear that in mind when you pray for da man cd to be successful in these exploits!

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
da man cd