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

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Heartily Applauding The Leader

They stand up to give a hearty applause.

Here in Britain, we are approaching the end of the Autumn Conference season. By that I am referring to that time of year where the major political parties have their gatherings.

There was first the Liberal Democrats, then last week there was Labour and this week it’s the Conservative. For an aspect of my life that I have found fascinating for years, it’s surprising how little I have blogged about politics.

And this isn’t going to be one of them.

Kinda.

I mention the conference season, because I have had the chance to watch the leader speeches. Watching them is sad and amusing. It’s amusing seeing just how often the attendees will applaud what’s been said. In one of them, I am fairly certain that the audience applauded to stay awake. But, not that I condone the activity at all, should I have engaged in a drinking contest to take a sip of a mild alcoholic beverage every time audiences applauded, I am fairly certain I would be in hospital right now having gone way beyond alcohol poisoning to having my blood taste of that mild alcoholic beverage. Look, I am all for encouragement and support, but applauding everything??

It’s also there that I came across some sadness. I get it, as I have got it from political conferences for years, this gathering is about cheering each other and backslapping or at least passing it off to do our best to look alright if things aren’t going well. I get it. But it is still sad to watch pandering and petty shots called against opponents and offering little in the way of … #NevaMind

It got me thinking, though, about the leader I endeavour to follow. I would like to think that I applaud Jesus for everything He stands for and speaks about. What I find reassuring about him, though, and it was prevalent in his earthly ministry, he wasn’t pandering to anyone. Even at the height of his apparent popularity with the people, it was nothing for him to turn around and say something that even his closest followers would struggle with. He loved people, he served people, he rescued people and he did it sharing a message that at the same time gave them hope and challenged and baffled them.

Consider it – you could be forgiven and healed, now you must go about forgiving and healing even your enemies! Hope and a challenge.

Consider it – you could be supernaturally fed with good bread and fish and to really live you need to eat of the real bread from heaven and he means it.

Consider it – you could experience the blessing of being accepted by the father and so it shouldn’t be a problem giving up everything you hold dear, take up your cross and follow him.

Those are not the catchphrases or policies that would win votes and longstanding ovations. In fact those challenges to the status quo and to our comfortable way of living lead him to be set up by his own and rejected to the point of the cross.

Even now, however much there has been an effort to sanitise his words and make them culturally acceptable, generations of disciples still are stirred to read the words of the Messiah and see again that he wasn’t promoting the American Dream. To see he wasn’t advancing capitalism and consumerism. To see he wasn’t clamouring for a socialist model of government. To hear he wasn’t pursuing a liberal democratic ideal. To witness again that the invitation to the Kingdom of God is a challenging way of existence that can only come about by yielding to his rule, submitting to his way and embracing his life as your new life by his Spirit.

Honestly I struggle to applaud everything Jesus says. I struggle because it’s hard. I struggle because it does go against a lot that I took as normal – and I was brought up in a Christian home. The reality remains for me though that following Jesus highlights just how entrenched I was in the rule of someone other than him. Just how much his rule changes my life if I submit to him.

The good thing about following him, though, is that he doesn’t ask for applause. He looks for us to relate, for us to grow in knowing and loving each other and for us to grow fully aware that I won’t get it all the time. Things won’t click into place all the time and there are some things I will struggle with. Yet there is the grace of God available to grow and in time to reach the place where there is proper heartfelt applause for all he says and all he does.

In the meantime, I certainly heartily applaud his kingdom coming and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven. I heartily applaud his promised presence with us in all issues of life. I heartily applaud him as my brother, as my Saviour, as my friend and as my Lord.

That’s something I can heartily applaud.

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Celebrating the Gospel

The birth of a new born baby, a wedding, a wedding anniversary, a significant birthday, passing a big test, winning, achieving, being honoured and of course Thursdays – all valid reasons to celebrate.

Lately, however, I found myself singing even more about the gospel of Jesus Christ. What happened at Calvary. What God achieved in the life, death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah. The more I sung, the more it became so moving to reflect on what was achieved in the good news. It is something worth sharing and celebrating. Just a note on a few things I found worth celebrating in the gospel.

  • Jesus is Lord
  • Sins have been forgiven
  • Mercy is expressed at its greatest
  • Grace is revealed in its most profound
  • Right relationship is restored directly between man and God through the Son
  • Death is defeated
  • Hope is extended to the hopeless
  • The lonely are given the great invitation to belong to the family of God
  • The poor receive an everlasting Kingdom
  • The wicked are dealt with
  • The King rules in righteousness, peace, love and joy
  • Any misery and suffering experienced now is not the end of the story at worst it is a comma in a sentence that goes on to a grand crescendo that makes everything before the comma insignificant in comparison.
  • New life is offered to those who believe and embrace the news that the old has past with the hang-ups, addictions, crippling mindsets and devastating lies that were the crutches of life for so long.
  • One day the rule will completely take over and for eternity …

I was going to finish that statement but got too happy. Tears of joy got too much for me to keep writing. It’s one thing to celebrate the birth of a beautiful baby, it’s profound to celebrate marrying the love of your life, it’s mind blowing to celebrate 50 years of marital unity. They are all amazing and worth the celebration.

But seriously to me, writing just a snapshot of the reasons to celebrate the gospel of Jesus Christ, nothing else compares to it. Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

I am grateful for the love of the Father to send His Son so that by the power of the Spirit the victory would be won. Jesus is Lord – He rules over all – all authority in heaven and earth is given to Him. He rules in righteousness. He rules for real peace to spread around all His creation. Grace and mercy flow like an ever gushing river.

I could go on and on and on. Oh how marvellous, oh how wonderful, is my Saviour’s love for humanity.

That good news is definitely worth celebrating!

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

The Rise and Fall of Asa: 5 – A Wholehearted Life for the Giver

There is a difference between a skilled person using their skills well, being known for that skill but with a character that lacks and a person who may not have outstanding skills but commits their life to having an outstanding character.

The end of the life of Asa is tragic. Tragic because of the character he displayed for the vast majority of his life. This was an outstanding character, one that impacted his country for good because it was not in pursuit of power, fame or riches. It was not desperate for acclaim or to boast in a lofty position. It was not even fussed about security and maintaining a quiet life in the status quo.

The life and character of Asa leaves a challenge for any serious observer as to how they will spend life. Half-hearted meandering between different interests leads to nowhere of any substance or worth. Wholehearted devotion to the wrong cause in as much as it can be commended for commitment, would still be a life wasted.

There is a reason we are given life. Recognising it is a gift should lead us on a wholehearted quest to seek the Giver. When we find the Giver and understand how He wants us to make the most of this life that devotion should lead us to make radical decisions. Even in the face of overwhelming opposition, that connection with the Giver should lead us to trust Him. That connection should lead us to utilise all positive outcomes to reinforce our commitment to the Giver and learn to be givers ourselves leading others to the Giver as well as being givers themselves.

Asa leaves a strong legacy of a life committed to God. It is a precursor to a king who would spend His entire life committed to inviting people to a righteous rule founded on the Giver. It’s an indicator of the life that is available to us as we pursue something wholehearted rather than just a life given to using a skill well but with a lacking character.

Asa’s life is a good one to consider again as one that pursues the Giver wholeheartedly.

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

On The Run: The Old Run

The route was a familiar one, carved and conditioned over time.

Something would happen to upset me and I The running continues)would set off to run in that direction, on that route to that destination. It became automatic. I would make the run to that place and before long I would nestle again into that old and familiar habit. I convinced myself that here was safety. No one else was involved. No one else had to know and I wasn’t hurting anyone else as far as I knew. I could cope when I ran here. It was my shelter from the hurt and a place where I didn’t have to engage with any of that which caused the pain.

Sure there was something that didn’t quite feel right and in as much as it provided escape and it was a coping mechanism, it didn’t make things any better. It didn’t provide any healing or hope. The peace it provided was more about the cessation of hassle but not the inflow of wholeness. The escape it provided was hollow. The way out was illusory.

But this was my place. My place to run to. And I ran there often. The run brought with it a thrill to find something there that I was used to, however ultimately empty it would prove to be. At least it would mean I wouldn’t have to deal with the pain at that moment.

That was the old run. To be honest, from time to time I feel like going on that run again.

What’s wrong with that? People need to have their way of coping. People need to have that place to escape to from the hurts and pains of life. What could possibly be wrong with that?

(This keeps running …)

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Play A Song For You

He looks and he knows what is needed.

Picking it up with his left hand and setting it on his knee, his left hand around its neck formed different chords across the frets. Meanwhile his right hand would gently strum at times and other times his fingers would negotiate the picking of the strings in rhythmic fashion.

He didn’t need to sing. The tune being played was familiar by itself. But the simplicity of this acoustic rendition felt like it was moulding the atmosphere with a cry. A cry for the injustice to stop and the pain to end. A cry for the weary to find rest and for the lonely to find love. Every string plucked was as much a string on the heart as it was on this instrument.

When the song was over, the melody lingered on …

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden