Journeyman Journal: Dad and the Walks

Dad did a lot of good things for me. A lot.

One of the best things, though, was to get me into enjoying walking. No not the rambling kind of taking a stick and needing hiking boots to walk up and down the mountain. Nah, not that kind of thing, just taking a stroll through the area we lived. If it was up to him he would walk everywhere. Having the car was a necessary inconvenience. He would walk it if he could and he loved the walking. It was among the best experiences of my life on a summer Saturday afternoon just spending time walking with my Dad.

Walks didn’t always mean talks. It could just be walking. The walking was something that Dad knew about, roughly, but I had no idea. I didn’t know where he was going and when we took certain directions I recall having looks of confusion and  being bemused. So I would ask Dad where we were going and he would feel under no obligation at all to inform me. He would just tell me to keep following him and the destination would be clear in the fullness of time. Those walks would involve a variety of terrain even if it wasn’t mountain hiking. Different scenery would bless the walks. Sometimes urban, sometimes countryside. Passing other walkers, or just us on the path. He was not in a rush. He wasn’t in a race. If it was done for health reasons it wasn’t about fitness more than it was about the health in enjoying God’s planet.

Walks could however include the occasional talk. Ahhhh those walks with conversations. Those conversations that would sometimes be as winding as the walks themselves. Topics wide and diverse. Dad wouldn’t be waxing lyrical putting the world to rights, but he would contribute, make the passing comment, asking the incisive question. It wasn’t just the two of us on the walk. Sometimes my brother and even on the rare occasion my Mum and sister would join us for the walk. If it was just us males out on the walk Dad could set up something that would get my brother and I talking and rambling around in conversation almost oblivious to where Dad was taking us.

In it there was something that Dad knew about the journeys we were taking. He was assured about them without having to spell out what what was going on and those journeys would take us on so many interesting paths. I am so grateful for my Dad setting me up for life in appreciating it’s all about following the Father along paths of righteousness that He takes me on.

Reflecting on those walks and considering where I am now, I appreciate how important it is to trust that the Father knows where He’s leading us. The paths of righteousness are not supposed to be smooth – they take us through some really rough and trying places. We’re going through those places for a reason – one particular one being that it was here that the Father found us and so we can see others who need to get on this path as opposed to ones they’ve been travelling before. The variety of paths He leads us along also reflects how multi-faceted His creation is – appreciating that is appreciating Him.

Where I am at on the journey is not quite a desperately pivotal crossroads, but it is at a stage where a change of terrain is up ahead. No, that’s nothing to fear in itself, it is something to get very excited about, but it’s something to be all the more careful to follow in the footsteps of the One who leads, so I don’t stray off the path.

The Journeyman’s trails continues … Thanks Dad.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

About Blaming Circumstances 

Words. 

They open and they close. They illuminate and they conceal. They console and they provoke. Their effect on the attitudes,  behaviour and condition of people cannot be underestimated. 

Something happens. The words we use describe a picture and a narrative that we buy into. That narrative can do much to see how we will respond to what happened. We arrive at the things that happen with a narrative already running in our head. The words we buy into either reinforces that narrative or changes it in subtle or dramatic ways. 

The words that should really matter are the words from God that can help in the shaping of the narrative we should be buying into. However, there are plenty of other options available – and we are only too happy to explore those other options rather than give the truth a chance. Nevertheless, it is what we do and as a result we veer away from what would lead to peace in the light of what happened. 

There is something about what leads to peace that should appeal to us, especially if words we hear can drastically change our approach to what is and leads us to realise what can be, if we pay attention. 

There are those days when I just want to complain. True story. I can talk about what could have been. I can wish things were better for me and my family. I can mope and grumble. That is well within my locker. Recently, however, I was challenged again with this question: who is really writing this story that is my life? If I am the main writer, then no wonder it’s never good enough, no wonder I can’t see right for all the wrong. If it’s all down to my words, I am in a whole lot of trouble. 

What if I acknowledge there’s a better writer. What if I acknowledge He has a narrative that is as much about what He reveals about who I am now as what there is to be later? Trusting life in the hands of the Word is a good way to allow my perspective on my circumstances to be one that leads to peace is a better way of living. 

In the meantime, enjoy some good … 

Words. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Journeyman Journal: God and His Works of Art

Relationships matter. People are a great way that God shows His love and goodness. They’re an insight into how creation really is a work of art as well as a work from the heart. 

I was having a conversation with a dear friend of mine. She shared her heart to be responsive to God in contributing to the Kingdom cause. It was inspiring hear her heart to bless individuals and also make an impact on the larger picture in which people find themselves. It evoked in me the image that you can fish, you can hire fishermen to fish or you can own the sea. Obviously by owning the sea, I am not suggesting you can ease the Almighty from his ownership of the waters. It is about being significant in the infrastructure to the degree that you make a positive change to how the whole thing works. 

That is about pictures you have. It’s not for everyone to see the same picture, but influential individuals can bring the pictures to the hearts and minds of people to engage them in a way far beyond the humdrum approach of getting money to make a living. It helps people to see that if they fish they play a vital role in the existence of man. If they employ people to fish, they are not masters over servants, they are enablers who serve those who play a vital role in the existence of man. 

The beauty of the Kingdom of God as presented throughout scripture is how it impacts all the pictures of life, if we have but the heart to feel this new rule of Christ. 

From that awe inspiring conversation with that woman of God, I had the great pleasure of returning to a former love of mine. That love is the love of chess. For a season in my life, I absolutely adored the game. Was a part of the school chess club, even went and did work experience at my junior school and helped run the chess club there too. Man, it was a lifetime and a half ago, but a good memory. Another dear friend of mine is also a chess aficionado and when I discovered that, I was keen to connect with him on that score. So after years of waiting, we finally got to sit down and have a game. Doing so reminded me of why the game fascinated me so much. Here is a game based on conflict, a conflict that involves the pictures you have of how you can best progress to your desired outcome. It’s a responsive game based on strategy and tactics. The ability to enact both and knowing how to apply the latter to serve the former is the key to progress. Being flexible to changing circumstances is so useful as well. Those kinds of experiences spoke a great deal to me especially regarding a number of frustrations and challenges I am engaged in even now. It was great to be reminded of the game again and to play it with such a humble, kind and meek friend. Those kind of experiences are ones I am privileged to note, grateful for the way in which these relationships and experiences bless me tremendously. 

The challenge now, however, is to be faithful to what these words from God say to shape and direct me in this particular season of my life. It is the word of God that makes the difference to enable me to see the picture I need to see and work towards. In doing so I also appreciate I need to be aware of the conflict ongoing between the forces of darkness and the Kingdom of Light. That conflict is one I can witness victory in as I follow the true Grandmaster, in the moves He makes and the steps He directs me to take. 

Meanwhile I am forever grateful to Him for the pictures in which I find myself. I am grateful that His pictures continue to be glorious works of art. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

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 

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 

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