Total Pageviews

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NUMBER 9 is here!



Number nine in my list of
UNUSUAL AND CRAZEE HOBBIES is:

Trying to clock up the record for seeing
The Sound of Music the most times!
The title works better if you sing it in the 'Sound of Music' style.

The most ardent Sound of Music fans dress up to go the cinema to see it. I wonder if they dress up when they watch it on DVD in their own homes? Perhaps GROUPS OF FANS get together for special viewings in each other's homes, dressed up in the costume of their favourite character!

I once saw a photograph in the newspaper of a special cinema viewing where dozens of the audience were sat in a Nun's costume. Individually, of course! Not all collectively in ONE Nun's costume, that would have been strange!

Of course, dear reader, I realise that maybe one or two of you absolutely love this film, and so, especially for those of you who do, here's a few pics.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

HOW Much? ... !!!

A few years ago I ran a candle factory and employed a regular staff of around eight people, mostly female. One of the ladies worked very hard and was always ready to work any overtime that was going, which in the run-up to the Christmas Shopping Season, there always was. Her husband didn't work. He was unable to work due to a back problem. I never really fathomed out exactly what the problem was. It was difficult for me to understand because I have suffered from tremendous problems with my back due to a benign spinal tumour, and this also created mobility problems for me. Now, when I was really suffering, I really was unable to do anything! Even sitting or lying down was a problem. This lady's husband, on the other hand, managed to take on jobs for people working on their cars, painting, clearing gutters, doing carpentry etc., all of which required a pretty strong back to manage the crawling about, climbing, carrying, and so on. Still, who am I to say anything?

Now the point of this blog is to go back to the hard-working wife, doing all the hours she could get in order to buy Christmas presents for her grandson, whose mum, incidentally, didn't work 'cos she had a problem sleeping. So Grandmother was the only wage-earner in the home --- well officially, at least!). Up until she talked about the presents she was getting I used to feel sorry for her, but when she told me that she would spend in the region of £650 on the 3-year old that Christmas, (and remember this was about 20 years ago), all I could do was gasp open-mouthed,

"HOW MUCH?!!!"

Her response was to tell me that she considered it quite 'normal' to spend this sort of money, and anyway, what business was it of mine?

All these years later I still see people running up huge debts in order to provide their children with the latest, the newest, the most expensive, the designer labelled, whatnots. If only they realised that they are doing their children and grandchildren NO FAVOURS at all. What sort of lessons are they dishing up? This is one area of 'Home-Schooling' that certainly falls short when it comes to the teachers, don't you think? Isn't it better to dish out oodles of love and teach the kids about the real values in life, you know, the ones that money can't even come close to buying?

What do you think, dear reader? How much do you feel is the right sort of ceiling to set when it comes to buying for the kids? Let me know.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's going mad already!!!

I had to go to the local shopping Mall today --- UNFORTUNATELY! It was packed with people flowing into the shops with lots of hope and most probably a little bit of plastic, and with people flowing excitedly out of the shops laden with their latest purchases.

All this and it's still NOVEMBER!

When you talk to so many people about Christmas, the last thing that they either do or want to talk about is the real reason for it, generally speaking. When I was growing up the Christmas Nativity story was central to our Christmas. We heard about it in Sunday School of course, but we also heard about it at school and in our home. Yet somehow, with all the talk about presents and food and --- when you get older --- drink, the real message is lost a little. Sure, not all at once, but just as surely it gets chipped away at year by year until it's pigeon-holed into being a small part of Christmas rather than the story of what Christmas is really about.

Each of us has the opportunity to change that. If we return to making the birth of Jesus the centre of our Christmas, sharing that with others whenever we get the opportunity, then the pendulum will start to swing back somewhat. It won't be an easy task because it has rapidly become politically incorrect to state that Jesus is the Reason behind the Season, but then, do you really want to be politically correct? I'm certainly not interested in political correctness when it comes to fabricating things in order to hide or even abolish the truth. I lived in Zimbabwe at a time when the government was conniving with so-called 'liberal' governments such as Sweden, in order to re-write history, so I do know how evil political correctness can be.

But back to the real reason behind Christmas. It's simple isn't it? It's all about the miracle of God's love and the birth of the baby Jesus, a child that was wholly human and yet wholly divine at one and the same time. His birth is the beginning of a story of reconciliation --- the opportunity for sinful humanity to be forgiven of their sinful state and reconciled to God the Creator.

Now that was easy, wasn't it! Make sure your cards tell that story this year and you'll be helping to do your bit to spread the Word.

No thanks, I've Already Got One!

10 Presents for the Man With Everything
  1. A large hole, all ready for planting a tree in.
  2. A coaster that warns you when your glass needs refilling.
  3. A mirror that always makes you look GREAT!
  4. A hangover cure that you take before the party.
  5. A new lawn that needs cutting only once in 20 years.
  6. An OPPORTUNITY.
  7. An Exercise Machine that does it all for you --- without any effort.
  8. Some great lingerie (To give to his wife or girlfriend)
  9. Justice
  10. A velvet bag to keep his ego safe.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Do You Believe in Angels?

Some time ago I was invited to address a Ladies Circle at a church and decided to talk about angels. The first thing that I did was to question how many of those gathered there believed in the accuracy of the Bible, and not surprisingly almost every hand in the room went up. My next question was to ask how many believed in the reality of angels. Surprisingly, in view of the answer to the first question, only about a third of those present raised their hands, and some of those were very hesitant! Yet if you accept what the Bible teaches there is no option really, for angels are mentioned over and again in Scripture. There are some very significant mentions of course, such as the angel that appeared to Mary and the angel that appeared to the Shepherds, but also many more.

One of my favourite verses is found in the letter to the Hebrews in Chapter 13, verse 2:

'Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.' (NAS)

In Matthew Chapter 24, as Jesus addresses the disciples on the Mount of Olives, he speaks of angels:

' 30 ... Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and with great glory. 31 And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.' (NAS)
I believe that angels are all around us, although generally speaking many of us don't realise it. Yet they are there, looking after us, protecting us and keeping us safe.
Here's a story told to me first-hand by the lady involved:
This lady worked on the stall next to mine when I was a market trader, many years ago, in Ludlow, Shropshire. She told me how she had been running a fashion shop in a small Shropshire village which suffered during a financial depression. Not only did the building house her shop but she lived there as well, so the forced closure of her business in order to pay her debts dealt her a double blow. She didn't want to leave the area, and yet once her shop was closed and the building sold, it appeared that she would have no choice as there was nothing to let in the area and she would not have sufficient funds left after the sale to buy a new property.
With only a week or so to go before she had to vacate the property, an elderly couple came into the shop one afternoon. They were certainly fish-out-of-water, for the shop had always catered for those with a taste for high fashion. They started to chat to her and during the conversation they asked her where she would be moving to live. Sensing that they might be sympathetic listeners and needing someone to share her troubles with, she explained that there were no properties available to let, and that it seemed she would be forced out of the area she loved so much. The couple listened to all she had to share and then told her that if she went to the local Landowner's Agent she would find that they had a cottage for rent on the Estate. So saying the couple left. A moment or two later she left the shop to go to see the Agent. The old couple were nowhere to be seen. She asked a coupe of people on the way if they had seen them, but nobody had.
Arriving at the Agents she said that she understood that there was a cottage come up to let and that she was interested in it. The Agent was surprised that she knew about it because, he explained, it had literally just been decided that very afternoon that this cottage would be let.
The happy ending to the story is that the lady secured a long lease and so was able to stay in the area. Finishing her story she turned to me and said, "I'm absolutely certain that the old couple were, in fact, angels, sent to help me at a time of need."
I tend to agree with her. What about you?
If you have any stories of angelic experience why not email them to me and maybe I can put them into my magazine.

Here's NUMBER 8 in our CRAZEE HOBBY list!


Number EIGHT in my list of UNUSUAL & CRAZEE HOBBIES is:
Photographing & cataloguing molehills.
These are mini wonders of the world, appearing as they do overnight. You get up one morning, go out to look at the pristine lawn that you are so proud of and Hey Presto! some creature has been at work in the dark hours doing their best to destroy years of hard work. You will rarely --- if ever --- see the culprit, for by the time you know that you've had a subterranean visitor not only has the damage been done, but the mole will probably be busy anywhere but where you search for him.

Molehills are, of course, simply a by-product of the moles' industrious nature as he (or she) tunnels away underneath your lush, green sward. I remember sitting up one night, many years ago, in the garden of a country inn where I was living at the time, intent on actually seeing a mole break the surface as it was building a molehill. When I set out on the task I expected it to happen during the evening, but in the end it was about 5 o'clock in the cold, misty morning when I saw a movement. It was a long cold night, but my reward was to have witnessed something that most folk, tucked sensibly up in their warm, cosy beds, would never see. Mind you, probably most of them will not mind having missed out on the long cold wait to see something that will probably be shown one day on a nature programme!

Moles are fascinating creatures, much-loved by all except the owners of the beautiful stretch of green, especially the groundsmen who look after bowling greens, cricket pitches and golf courses. They have been immortalised for the many people who have read about ‘Moley’ in The Wind in the Willows. Molehill activity tends to be greatest between autumn and spring, and some parts of the country can be riddled with molehills and tunnels. On racecourses, grass airstrips and sports fields, molehills could conceivably present risk of injury to pilots, horses, riders, and others participating in sport.

Moles have been famously (and falsely) implicated in the death of a king. In popular folklore William III is supposed to have died after his horse tripped over a molehill. The incident for years after allowed Jacobites to toast the vanquishing creature as 'the little gentleman in black velvet'. Sadly for romance, the story is only partly true. Certainly William's horse stumbled on 21 February 1702 and the king broke a collarbone in the fall. However, he made a steady recovery from his injuries in the next couple of weeks, and was soon back conducting business, if not appearing in public. It was only on 5 March that the true cause of death-a pulmonary fever-became evident." (From the Dictionary of National Biography - William III).

If you decide to participate in this hobby you will need a good camera, a stout note-book (one of those with a pen or pencil attached by a chain is ideal) and plenty of patience. As a means of helping your concentration and yet allowing time for meditation and contemplation it's wonderful, and is to be highly commended. The main problem for the average participant is going to be the extreme cold that sometimes has to be endured in the pursuit of this hobby!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

How can people doubt?

God fashioned the world from dust.
and
He cares so much for His creation.

We belong to Him and

He cares what happens to each of us.

In the storms of life

He has us safe in His hands.


When we think that He's left us alone

He's carrying us.

He is our Father. He loves us and cares for us, for we are all His children.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

10 Reasons make this a GREAT day!


Today is going to be a GREAT day! How can I be so sure? That's easy --- I'm going to make sure that I miss none of it and appreciate all of it. It will most definitely be a GLASS HALF-FULL DAY and not a glass HALF-EMPTY DAY!
  1. I shall think about the people that I care about and the things about them that that make me care.
  2. I shall think about the people who care about me and be thankful for them all.I shall think about all the blessings of life, thinking of the POSITIVE and not the NEGATIVE.
  3. I will reflect on how my life has been changed in the years since I placed Jesus in the centre of it, remembering the times when I tried to take over the centre position and fell over my own feet.
  4. I will think about the beauty that is in the world, despite the ugliness of the things that try to destroy it.
  5. I will praise God for the talents that I've been blessed with and for the opportunities to give Him the glory as I share those talents with others.
  6. Even if it's a wet day I shall remember days of sunshine and keep that warmth my life.
  7. I shall share my day with the Lord, thanking Him for His ongoing provision for my life.
  8. I will consider myself blessed in the knowledge that I am Christ's man rather than my own.
  9. I will look forward to my wife returning from work so that we can share some quality time together.
  10. I will reflect on the blessings that I get from you, dear reader, through your reading of my blog and through your prayers.

If all of that doesn't guarantee that it will be a GREAT DAY then I don't know what will!

_____________________________


"If the moon could smile,

She would resemble you.

You leave me with the same impression.

Of something beautiful,

Yet annihilating."

-Sylvia Plath

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Talking turkey . . .

A very happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and readers in the USA! I hope that you are enjoying a really great Thanksgiving Day, and that you are blessed by all the love that you share and receive today.

Good Old Smithy!


Ian Douglas Smith, Prime Minister of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from April 1964 until 1979, has died in exile in Cape Town, SA, aged 88. I lived in that land from August 1972 until March 1984, and his passing saddens me greatly, despite his good age. Over the years I have been involved in politics in various ways, and have met many politicians of all flavours. Generally speaking, I've not been that impressed by most. Especially today, we have a breed of politician who is corrupt in some form or other, seeking self-promotion rather than the betterment of either their country or the lot of mankind, depite their posturing attempts to prove otherwise.

Ian Smith was different. I certainly didn't always agree with his politics, but I did greatly admire the man who said what he believed and stood by it, yet was also prepared to change if change was needed of him. I consider it a privilege to have had him as my Prime Minister for many years, the only politician probably that I would ever make such a statement about. He drew support from much of the black community as well as much of the white, and was a great pragmatist.

I know that my blog is not a political arena, and that is not what this post is about. However, I felt that I could not let this great man pass without some reference to him. To recognise his achievements you only have to compare Rhodesia then with Zimbabwe now, a once-beautiful land that has been systematically destroyed by the despotic tyrant Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Every government that grants him audience must share with him the horrors of his rule.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

20 Ways to Maintain a Healthy Level of Insanity

  • At lunch time, sit in your parked car with sunglasses on and point a hair dryer at passing cars. See if they slow down.

  • Page yourself over the Intercom. Don't try to disguise your voice.

  • Every time someone asks you to do something, ask if they want fries with that.

  • Put your garbage can on your desk and label it "In."

  • Put Decaf in the coffee maker for 3 weeks. Once everyone has got over their caffeine addictions, switch to Espresso.

  • In the memo field of all your cheques, write 'For smuggling diamonds.'

  • Finish all your sentences with 'In accordance with the prophecy.'

  • Don t use any punctuation

  • As often as possible, skip rather than walk.

  • Order a 'Diet Water' whenever you go out to eat with a serious face.

  • Specify that your Drive-through order is 'To Go.'

  • Sing along at the Opera

  • Go to a Poetry Recital and ask why the poems don't rhyme

  • Put mosquito netting around your work area and play tropical sounds all day.

  • Five days in advance, tell your friends you can't attend their party because you're not in the mood.

  • Have your co-workers address you by your wrestling name, 'Rock Bottom.'

  • When the money comes out the ATM, scream "I Won!, I Won!"

  • When leaving the Zoo, start running towards the car park yelling "Run for your lives, they're loose!!

  • Tell your children over dinner. "Due to the economy, we're going to have to let one of you go.

  • And the final way to keep a healthy level of insanity --- share this with someone else to make them SMILE!

It's Called! Therapy!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Good Time to be Grateful


This time of the year is a good time to be grateful.
This time of my life is a good time to be grateful.
This time in the history of mankind is a good time to be grateful.

There is so much to be grateful for:

There is the breath that I'm blessed with every moment of every day,
There are the people whom I am privileged to love
and
There are the people whose love I am constantly blessed by.

There is the joy of my family and the companionship of my friends.
There is my wife whose love recognises no bounds
and who is my joy, my lover and my best friend
all rolled into one gorgeous bundle.

There are the countless moments that God fills with so much more than
I can ever say about.

There is the blessing of answered prayer
and the knowledge that many are praying for me and for my ministry.
So much to thank God for as I offer Him myself as a praise offering in my daily worship.
"When is that?" you ask,
and if you listen hard then you will hear me breathe the answer:
"It's every moment that I'm blessed with life."
For without my God and my daily walk with Jesus I am nothing.
He is all to me because I belong to Him.

With Him I am an army,
without Him I am in a wilderness that has no end.
So here tonight, on this blog, I praise Him and say,
"Thank you, Lord. Thank you for all that You are to me,
and for blessing me far more than I could ever deserve.

You are always with me,
even at those moments when I doubt myself.
You are always with me,
even at those moments when I'm so undeserving.
You are always with me,
for You have promised that You will never leave me or forsake me.

So what else can I say but
"Thank You, Lord."

A GREAT Site!


I just found a great Blog site to recommend to you, called At A Hen's Pace. I really recommend you to take a look at this great Christian site, something you'll find well worthwhile, I'm certain of that.

A Hard Winter Ahead?

Sunday evening we drove through some very sleety rain, and it was very cold with it! We're not used to thinking about snow in November any more, although a few decades ago it would have been unusual if we didn't have it. How times have changed. I remember the long winter months of my schooldays when we came home in the dark and the streets of the town, once we got off the school bus, were alive with lights and sparkle. Somehow it brought a little bit of magic to life! No matter that it was cold and the pavements were wet; that only accentuated the magic with the reflection of the lighted windows caught up in the pavement puddles.
Although my favourite season is Autumn with its rich colours, nevertheless I like the Winter as well, despite the cold that it brings. Nowadays we have the benefit of central heating which lets us get up in the morning to a nice warm home, but when I was a boy, living in a fairly large house with no central heating, it could be a cold affair! Throughout the Winter months there would be ice on the inside of the bedroom windows, and stepping out onto linoleum rather than carpet helped to make you get dressed even quicker than you might otherwise have done!

So, what is there to like about the Winter then? Well, like I said before, the sparkle of the lights adds a touch of magic to the dark to the darkness, but I especially love it once the Christmas lights go up and the great trees appear in towns and villages festooned with sparkle. Yes, dear reader, I LOVE CHRISTMAS with all its glitz and glitter!

Often I call to mind Christmas times from the past, when the wonder of coming down Christmas morning to see the decorated tree for the first time, or gazing up at the old-style lights with their scenes from Disney painted on them --- Snow White, Bambi, and all --- or simply sharing in the fun of making decorations with my mum and brothers and sisters still at home. I love the sound of carol singers bringing the news of the Saviour as they sing out familiar and favourite carols, plus a few new ones for the more 'professional' amongst them. I remember one particular Christmas-time in Wales about fifteen years ago, when carol singers came and stood under the street light in the centre of our tiny hamlet, (there was only about seven or eight houses altogether), and they sang their hearts out whilst the snow swirled about their heads. As soon as they finished singing they were called in to the houses to warm themselves up with a bit of heat from the fire for the outside and a warm toddy for the inside, accompanied of course by hot mincepies. These are the moments that make memories!

What about you, dear reader? Why not share your favourite memory of Winter or Christmas with me!

Monday, November 19, 2007

CHRISTMAS IS COMING (3)

Q. What on earth do you buy somebody for Christmas when they are one of those people who already has everything they want?
A. Nothing!
Q. Why 'Nothing'?
A. 'Cos that's the one think that they won't have!

Seriously though, the question of what to buy for people becomes harder each year doesn't it. When I was a small boy, my presents, along with those of my brothers and sisters, were in neat piles on the curved window seat in my father's office, and we were not allowed to touch them until after breakfast. In fact, it was not a good idea to even attempt to go in and look to see how big your pile was! Now the word pile may well conjure up a picture of a large pile of gifts, teetering on the edge of falling down, but, dear reader, let me inform you otherwise. My pile in those austere days at the end of the last great War, consisted of (usually) the 'Beano' and 'Dandy' Annuals, a few farmyard animals --- these later disappeared after the scare of lead-based paints --- some socks, a few sweets and colouring book and pencil crayons. All in all, I guess that there was about seven or maybe eight items.
Of course, in the early of the morning, I had woken up to find a stocking (well actually it was just one of my socks!) which had been stuffed with goodies such as a tangerine, some nuts --- which you couldn't get to 'cos you couldn't crack them --- a comic and perhaps a small toy car. Somehow these few items seem to FILL the stocking up. The important thing about all this, however, is that I expected no more nor less than I got, and I was very grateful for it all. It never occurred to me to want more!

How different it all is nowadays in these times of plenty that we live in! With little thought about where the money is going to come from children, lured by the adverts on the TV, gaily request all sorts of HUGELY EXPENSIVE gifts, seeing them as some sort of right. Our 13-year old asked for a 32" Flat screen TV, pointing out ones in the adverts which were, after all, ONLY £345!!!
When simply everybody pointed out that it would be FAR TOO LARGE for his bedroom he disagreed with everybody.

Children point to all sorts of expensive things with no consideration as to how their parents might pay for them. But wait a minute . . . Whose fault is that? Surely, if there had been a bit of common sense applied from the earliest age then it would be different. The problem is that we live now in a very self-centred and materialistic society, and the way that many parents live, spending money they don't have as though there's no tomorrow, creates the lessons that the kids learn from.

We really need to move away from being so self-centred. Looking around quickly tells you that it's been a dreadful social experiment, one that has failed miserably when it comes to the real things that matter in life. One of the problems is that in wanting so much the little things tend to either be sneered at or simply discarded as worthless. Yet you can learn an interesting lesson in the true value of things when you give a small child an expensive toy which fits into a large cardboard box. Watch them unwrap it, see their eyes light up, and then watch them play with the box which, in their imagination has become a car, a fire-engine, a boat, a spaceship, or some other such thing!

Another aspect of this particular culture is what you get from your children, you know, those children who often have more disposable income than you do as a result of over indulgence by parents and grandparents. Turning once again to the far-off days when I was a boy, pocket-money had to be earned and yet we children still managed to buy or make presents for the rest of the family, and Oh! how they were generally appreciated! Nowadays, affluent teenagers will often have fat bank accounts and yet still expect Mum to buy the presents for them to give to everyone. If you succumb to this, what's the lesson in it?

It's time for a CHANGE!!!

Wouldn't it be great to get back to a time when other people mattered the most? We could do, but it's up to each of us to make the change. One thing I'm certain of, and that is that even though the transition may be painful, the result will be well worthwhile.

What do you think, dear reader?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Just Got Back --- On a HIGH!


I've just got back from a two-hour long service at Grace family Church in Liverpool, which I have to say was a truly inspiring experience. I went with a friend of mine who is involved with Voice Ministries, and from the moment we arrived we noticed the difference. First of all we were welcomed with such a warm welcome, not by one 'Greeter' but constantly by everyone we saw, right up to and after we were shown to our seats. There's certainly a lesson that many churches would benefit from learning there!
Lots of young people, but we certainly never felt like fish-out-of-water! The church is based in a revamped cinema building, and on a raised area where the screen once was, there were musicians and singers ready to lead the worship and praise. There were screens on which could be projected the words of the worship songs or brief clips of film. The church notices were given by means of a video of several of the young people announcing what was to be on in the following week, etc.
The message, delivered by a visiting pastor, was based on Matthew 24, and instead of the usual method of the preacher only speaking, there was an exchange between him and the congregation. A good learning experience for people. I was delighted to see that people had their Bibles with them, sadly not something that you see in the majority of our churches today. The things that I took away from the service were the welcome attitudes and a great sense of the joy of worship which was engendered there. I hope to have the opportunity to go there to another service in the future when I have another day off!

For a Change . . .

This is the last day of my holiday and so I plan to go to church in Liverpool for a change. One of the problems as a minister is that you are often so busy ministering to others that you don't get the blessing of being ministered to yourself. I sometimes joke that I don't often get the opportunity to go to church because I'm always working!
Anyway, today I plan to go to the Grace Family Church in Liverpool, which will be a great worship experience for me. They are a young, lively and vibrant church who praise the Lord with JOY! Sometimes it depresses me somewhat when I see the long faces of people on their way to the morning service at various churches (not that there are that many who do that any more, proportionately), and then, if you watch them coming out after the service, you can see even longer faces!!!

Now I think that to be able to join together and praise the Lord with your whole being is a thing of JOY! The true believer believes that where just two or three are gathered together Jesus is with them, and that's a wonderful blessing. What's to have a long face for then?

If people hear that some well-known personality is going to be in a certain place at a certain time, then they flock in their thousands to catch a glimpse. A lot of the pleasure will be derived simply from being in the same place as the personality. Yet at every Christian believer's service the Lord is there; the King of Kings whom you can meet and enjoy a personal relationship with! What could be greater than that!

So today I will be meeting with Jesus in Liverpool. But after that, as I leave to come home, I shall not leave Him behind, for I will continue to walk with Him the rest of the day and the rest of my life. I hope that you, dear reader, will have a truly blessed day with the Lord today, and that it will be a life-changing and life-improving day because of it.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Here's NUMBER 7!

Number 7 in my TOP TEN CRAZEE HOBBIES is:
'Counting Spots' on anything spotty!

As a beginner, the best thing to start with is something really easy like clothing with large spots.

Very soon the accomplished Spot Spotter will be able to graduate to far more difficult tasks such as small evenly spaced spots on umbrellas.

The real benefit of the hobby can only be really appreciated when you progress to a moving target, and what could be better than trying to count the spots on a basketful of spotted puppies? It's probable that only the most expert Spot Spotter will manage this task successfully, but it does allow you the opportunity to (waste) sorry, I meant to say spend several hours enjoying your hobby.

Does it make you a more interesting person? Well, only you can guess at the answer. Certainly you will be able to hold a long conversation on the benefits of spots over no spots, or what size spots are your favourites. Of course I can't promise you that you'll exactly hold your audience and enthrall them beyond belief, but you will certainly create a definite impression about yourself in their minds. If you want to avoid boring them then I suggest that you might consider spotting square spots as well as round ones, and even limiting your hobby to spots of certain colours.Another thing you could do is write about the hobby, much as I am here. Will it hold your readers enthralled? Only they know, and --- most of them at least --- will be far too kind and/or polite to tell you the innermost thoughts that they share about your interesting hobby. Perhaps, after all, that's the best thing anyway!

Have a great day!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Back Home!

I've just come back from Swansea where we had a wonderfully blessed Service last night, which was certainly Spirit-filled. It's always good when Christians get together to praise the Lord in song and through the Word. There was a good spread of age-groups there and the message that I delivered was based upon Acts 4:12. After the Service the folk from the Chapel had laid on a great spread of cakes etc., which went down well, so we had food for the soul and food for the body!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

His Voice, not mine

As soon as I've written this morning's blog I shall be getting ready for my trip to South Wales --- Swansea to be precise --- where tonight I have the privilege of sharing the Word of God at a Crusade evening. I expect that there will be some people who travel quite a distance to get to the chapel concerned. The thing that I have to be very careful about is making sure that I don't fall ito the trap of believing that they come to hear what I have to say, for the truth is that they will come to hear what God has to say through me. It's very easy to fool yourself into thinking that you are special because you have been blessed with the opportunity to share the Word, but the truth is that we are all blessed with the same opportunity; it's just that the method of sharing is different according to what God wants.

The first thing that I do each day in my prayer time is to hand myself over anew to God for the whole day. That way I can be sure that what happens in my day is right with Him, and if it's right with Him then it's fine by me!

So, dear reader, please send up an arrow prayer for me as I prepare myself throughout today. I shall be speaking tonight at Tabernacle Chapel, Terrace Road, Swansea, at 6.30pm (GMT), and believe you me, I value your prayers! I'll let you know how it went in tomorrow's blog.

In Swansea there is a statue to the man who is recognised as one of Wales' greatest poets, Dylan Thomas. I'm a great admirer of his writing, and particularly love the imagery in his play, 'Under Milk Wood'. I have a recording of it on tape somewhere with the wonderful voice of the late Richard Burton.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More 'Thinking Ahead' . . .

We had an meeting of our Church Elders yesterday evening, and one of the subjects that was raised was getting the Christmas tree for the church. It set me thinking about the whole factor of having a Christmas tree in churches.

There are probably three schools of thought on the matter:
  1. I think it's OK and they look lovely!
  2. It's all a bit of a Pagan thing!
  3. Bah! Humbug!

Some people have traced the Christmas tree back to the time of the Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah, although the decorated Christmas tree that we all know today only caught on in the mid-19th century, and is largely a Victorian creation. The Prophet Jeremiah condemned as Pagan the ancient Middle Eastern practice of cutting down trees, bringing them into the home and decorating them. Of course, these were not really Christmas trees, because Jesus was not born until centuries later, and the use of Christmas trees was not introduced for many centuries after his birth. Apparently, in Jeremiah's time the "heathen" would cut down trees, carve or decorate them in the form of a god or goddess, and overlay it with precious metals. Some Christians feel that this Pagan practice was similar enough to our present use of Christmas trees that this passage from Jeremiah can be used to condemn both: Jeremiah 10:2-4: "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." (KJV).

Opposition to the Christmas tree was strong in past centuries. In the 3rd Century, the early Christian Church strictly prohibited the decoration of their houses with evergreen boughs. Modern-day opposition continues: some condemn the Christmas tree because they believe it to be a Christian symbol; others condemn it because they believe -- quite wrongly as it happens -- that the custom of cutting down a tree, erecting it in the home and decorating it is a Pagan custom. In Europe, Pagans in the past did not cut down evergreen trees, bring them into their homes and decorate them. That would have been far too destructive of nature. But during the Roman celebration of the feast of Saturnalia, Pagans did decorate their houses with clippings of evergreen shrubs. They also decorated living trees with bits of metal and replicas of their God, Bacchus. Tertullian (circa 160 - 230), an early Christian leader and a prolific writer, complained that too many fellow-Christians had copied the Pagan practice of adorning their houses with lamps and with wreathes of laurel at Christmas time. For many people today, it's primarily seen as a secular symbol of hope for the New Year and the future return of warmth to the earth. Nevertheless, however the tree is viewed by some, its future is assured in spite of opposition.
The English Puritans condemned a number of customs associated with Christmas, such as the use of the Yule log, holly, mistletoe, etc. Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event."

In America, the Pilgrim's second governor, William Bradford, a Puritan, tried hard to stamp out all "pagan mockery" at Christmas time. Christmas trees were not used by Puritans in colonial times, and would certainly have been forbidden had the practise been considered. In 1851, Pastor Henry Schwan of Cleveland, Ohio, is believed to have been the person responsible for decorating the first Christmas tree in an American church. His parishioners condemned the idea as a Pagan practice; some even threatened the pastor with harm. But objections soon dissipated.

Although many people think that the Christmas tree is out of place in churches, I think that it serves a good purpose apart from being great to look at. We all know that many more people attend church services over the Christmas period, and it's a recognised fact that many of those people only attend one such service, and that in all probability it's the only service that they attend all year --- apart, that is, from occasions such as baptisms, weddings or funerals. One of the things that gets these people into our churches is the manner in which the church is decorated, and that includes a really pretty tree, of course.

So, is it justified to decorate the church and have a tree in order to attract large numbers of people to a service? Of course it is! The reason they come to the service in the first place is not really important, after all; it's what they hear and the impressions they gain once they are there that really matter. It's up to the regular congregation members to be living witnesses, showing warmth and friendship to the visitors, and it's up to the Church Leaders to ensure that the Gospel message is preached, strongly and in love.

So what about the 'Bah! Humbug!' people? How easy it would be to just ignore them and hope that they'll go away and not come back, but the real answer lies in the Christian love and fellowship that every Christian is called on to demonstrate. Even the worst 'Scrooge' is a nut that, however tough a shell, can ultimately be broken!

At Christmas 2000, the city manager of Eugene OR ordered that Christmas trees could not be erected on city properties because he considered them Christian religious symbols. He felt that their presence would violate the principle of church and state. This is just one of countless conflicts that have surfaced at Christmas time over religious and quasi-religious observances. Some religious sects oppose the use of Christmas trees and even the celebration of Christmas for their members. These include the Jehovah's Witnesses (The Watchtower Society), and until recently, the Worldwide Church of God. Part of the opposition is because the custom of decorated trees originated in Paganism, but they also oppose the use of the trees because of a literal interpretation of the quotation from Jeremiah.

We shall have a tall tree in our church once again, decorated with baubles, tinsel and tree-lights, and the congregation will view it, along with all the other Seasonal decoration, and give a satisfied sigh or a contented murmur of appreciation. What we'll achieve is a bit of a 'feel-good' factor, and that cannot be bad. As for the Christmas Message, well we shall have our Christingle Service, our Nativity Service, our Carol Service with it's Nine Lessons, and of course a midnight Communion on Christmas Eve. We shall have our Advent Wreath and light the candles as the weeks go by, culminating on the lighting of the central candle at the Christmas morning service, representing Christ's birth. And through all of this we shall proclaim to all and sundry what it's all about as we share both the story of our Lord's humble yet wonderful entry into the world and the important message of New Life and Salvation that He came to deliver.

Below is a picture of the Christmas Tree at First Baptist Church, LaFayette. Why not check out their site for pictures from previous years.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Hank & Slim --- 2 of the BEST!

I'm on holiday for a few days this week, and so I'm catching up on a few things that seem to have got left behind, not least of all posting several items on eBay, something I've been intending to do for the past couple of weeks. The problem is that there never seems to be enough time to do these things, which can be quite time-consuming!

Anyway, at last I've got it done, so now I hope that all I have to do is to sit back and wait for the pennies to drop like dew from heaven! (Well, at least I can hope!)

As I'm working at the computer I'm listening to one of my favourite singers, the late GREAT Hank Snow. It's not easy to get Canadian-born Hank's Cd's over here in the UK, because there's not supposed to be enough demand for his style of Country music. However, my darling wife came to the rescue a couple of birthdays ago, and she searched the Internet and found a place to buy. No mean purchase, either, for she bought me a special boxed set of 12 Cd's. WOW! I was over the moon, and re-live my joy every time that I listen to them.

Hank Snow has been one of my favourites, along with the great Slim Whitman, since I was a boy, and that, I might add, is quite a long time!!! Back in the early '70s I went to a live performance at Bristol Hippodrome to see Hank. What great memories I have of that show. In mentioning Slim Whitman, my other singing hero --- 'cos I LOVE the sound of the steel guitar --- I went to see his last ever show in the UK a couple of years back, travelling over 200 miles to get to Norwich where the very last show of the tour was played to a packed house.

Actually, whilst these two singers are amongst my all-time favourites, I guess the thing is that I simply love music and singing. As many of you know, I write lyrics and also turn my hand to composing music on occasion. I'm told by those close to me that I'm 'usually making some noise or other', which means that I'm humming, singing or whistling, my way through the day, although it's not always appreciated!!!

Someone once told me that a love of music, paintings, and beauty, proves that you have a soul. So, as I like all of those things, I guess that's good news for me! Seriously though, all of the finer things feed the soul, though nothing feeds it quite like the Word of God which sustains us always. When it comes to feeding on the WORD, then I guess that I'm not ashamed to admit to being a regular GLUTTON!

A little bit of Honky Tonk!

This morning I got the sheet music to a new song sent to me by my co-writer Greg Sheer. He and I have written quite a large number of songs together, both Worship songs and secular songs such as love songs and country songs. This one definitely falls into the latter category! It's a real 'Honky Tonk' number. I hope you enjoy it! Do let me know what you think of it please.
If you want to download the sheet music then you will find it on the Sheer Joy Music website later today.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thinking Ahead

I have one week's holiday this week which gives me a little more time to recover from my recent operation and, at the same time, an opportunity to get some of my Advent programmes for the church a little further on.

This is one time of the year when ministers and pastors, and priests and vicars --- in fact church leaders of all shapes and sizes --- are so busy planning the various Advent programme. Mind you, for some it's made easier by the fact that there are certain things that people like to remain the same, year after year. Things like this are labelled 'Tradition'. But is tradition always a good thing? Is there not a chance that the familiarity of the event in question will prevent people from really taking the message to heart? It's a difficult thing to do, but sometimes tradition has to be massaged a little, adding something new to the old in order to make people sit up and take notice.

Just imagine if we never did that! Why, the little girl who played the fairy in the Christmas Pageant and looked so cute when she was a when 5-year-old would not look quite so cute forty years down the line!

One of the things that I love about the Nativity narrative is that even though it's probably the oldest story that most of us remember, and of course goes back a little more than two thousand years, nevertheless there is always the opportunity for a new approach to the way that it's done. So we see a wide variety of styles which vary from the simplest approach by many Sunday Schools as they act the timeless story out in the Sunday Service, to the adventurous approach of taking the whole thing outside, using real animals gathered around a real manger. Some will even use a real baby.

The important thing is not the style of the nativity play but the sincerity with which it's performed and the Scriptural accuracy given to the whole event. In my Bible, which obviously differs from many a School Bible, there is no mention of Batman, Spiderman or the Ninja Turtles, when it comes to the Nativity story, yet all of these have featured somewhere in previous years ---and a lot of other characters too!

The problem for me is quite simple in all of this. You see, I believe the account in the Bible is an accurate record of the birth of our Lord, not simply a nice story, and so as soon as you start to add fictional characters to the Nativity play then it creates confusion in the minds of the children who fail to differentiate between the historical characters and facts, and the fantasy characters and fiction.

So I guess the whole issue comes down to this. Tell your children what the Bible says about our Lord's birth without adding to it. It's a beautiful and simple story as it is! As for Batman and Robin, well, of course they have their place in the storytelling world as well, but not as part of the record of Jesus' birth.

What do you think? Let me know!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Today we remember our fallen heroes.

Here in the UK it's Remembrance Sunday, the day when we remember the fallen from the wars of the past and also remember those who are involved in fighting the present day wars. I believe that war is always absolutely evil. Whatever our history, no Christian theology can glorify the experience of war. We can dress it up as a ‘crusade’; present it as a sanctified moral endeavour but violence will never be the chosen way of our God, or of his Son, Jesus Christ.It’s true that war can be justified by arguing that it’s the only way to preserve higher values such as the protection of our freedoms and our sovereignty from the assault of an aggressor.

Throughout the land there will be Services of Remembrance held at War Memorials such as the Cenotaph shown here, where wreaths in memory of the fallen will be laid by their comrades and by local dignitaries and representatives. Each service will be special, evoking many memories, painful, sad and proud, of friends and relatives who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Whenever I see such memorials I find myself checking out the names, and connecting with the sacrifice represented. I wonder in what circumstances did those concerned lay down their lives?

Today we also ask ourselves whether war is a justified response to potential threat, in order to pre-empt aggression. The question focuses especially on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the potential threat implied by Iran, although perhaps it’s an inevitable part of globalisation. What are our responses when alien ideologies and atrocities in other places seem to threaten here?

How we justify war has a direct impact on how we view the sacrifices we ask of people in military service. How do we justify the sacrifice we ask of such individuals and their families if we’re unsure of the basis of that sacrifice? It seems self-evident that if we devalue the moral principles which hold us back from war then we devalue the sacrifices which are made, and subsequently we devalue human society as a whole. This is not something which Christians, or indeed anyone else in our society, should easily ignore.

And here they are!

I thought to myself, how could I tell you about the wedding without letting you see a picture of the happy couple? So, here they are, pictured at yesterday's Blessing Service and looking very good indeed. Not only do they look great, but they are two of the nicest people that you could wish to meet as well.

We had a buffet in the evening and enjoyed the eats that were arrayed for our delight! All in all, a great day for us all.