Thursday, 29 May 2014

Say no to bullying

Bullying occurs in many workplaces, churches, schools and families. Some people I know have suffered for years in an actual situation, and still further years in recovery from situations where they had no control over the abuse that they experienced and the lack of support and protection from those who abdicated their responsibilities. Yet, through  God’s loving care, the love and care of others and a determination not to let the oppression of some determine your own life and destiny; recovery is achievable. Healing and a life of faith, love and happiness is very much available.

" Say no to bullying" - author unknown-copied from the website of a lovely, caring young lady.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Waiting on tables.

In the sixth chapter of the Biblical book of Acts, we learn of a problem which was facing the early church. The church was growing rapidly, and demands were being placed on the twelve apostles to organise care of the widows within the fellowship, and settle disputes arising from this. Wisely, the apostles realised that they needed to give priority to teaching the word of God and to prayer. They therefore decided to delegate some of the responsibility of caring for the flock to others chosen for the task.

In the same way, back in the book of Exodus, chapter 18,  Jethro advised Moses that he would become worn out by acting as a judge for the tribe of Israel, trying all day long to solve issues of disputes and relaying God's will for his people whilst they were camped in the desert. He advised his son-in-law to handle difficult cases himself, but to appoint representatives to assist him otherwise.

The appointment of Stephen, in Acts chapter six, demonstrates for us that in God's kingdom there are many different opportunities for ministry within the body of Christ. Distributing food might at first appear to be a fairly menial task, however it seems that because disputes were arising, the disciples saw the need for those who were "full of the Spirit and wisdom."(v3).

Stephen, it seems, was a great choice, consecrated to his task through prayer and the laying on of hands by the disciples. The chapter goes on to tell us that as the fledgling church expanded, he was full of God's grace and power and performed great wonders and signs among the people. He obviously had a great love for and dedication to the work that he was assigned to do.

The Bible tells us Stephen was a skilled apologist, being able to give an excellent account when challenged about his beliefs, so much so that his opponents in the Sanhedrin had to bring false witnesses against him. Stephen's speech to the Sanhedrin in his own defence, detailed in Acts chapter 7, like that of Peter's speech in chapter 2, is inspirational in its eloquence and boldness. Again, we see how the Holy Spirit empowers Christ's followers with the right words to say in a testing situation.

Stephen remained filled with the Holy Spirit right up to the point of his death at the hands of a cruel mob. He was given a clear vision of heaven, a source of comfort to many, and like Jesus, pleaded for forgiveness for those killing him. His conduct no doubt remained as a witness in the mind of a young man named Saul, who stood by watching his death.

What can we as a church body learn from the story of Stephen? I think this story demonstrates the need for members of the body to support their pastoral team by allowing them time for prayer and preparation and teaching of the word. Sometimes in churches we expect the pastoral team to be available 24/7 and to be responsible for every aspect of church life-  a sure path to pastoral burnout.

Stephen's example also demonstrates the need for many within the body to utilise their gifts and contribute in ways that assist the pastoral team and minister to the congregation. There is no such thing as a spiritual hierarchy within the body of Christ- just different giftings and ways of ministering to others.  Stephen may have been waiting on tables, but he obviously saw it as a great opportunity to minister to others and display God's wonder and power. Simple tasks performed for the glory of God can have great effect and be a significant witness. God designed His church to live in unity and operate using the many and varied talents of its members Not everyone is a theologian, or a people person, or a number cruncher or peacemaker, or musician (although most are able to be part of the cleaning roster!).

As Paul tells us:
" For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly" (Romans 12:4-6)

Friday, 23 May 2014

Influence and friends

Friends and influence. Two things that most people would like to finish their lives saying that they had. As a young teenager, Dale Carnegie had neither. Yet at the end of his life he left a legacy of success that continues to benefit many throughout the world today. He decided that he wasn't content to be shy and socially inept. He learned all that he could about interpersonal relationships, put what he discovered into practice, and taught others some steps that they could take to overcome shyness, build life affirming friendships and work well with others.
As a young teenager myself, I purchased a 1938 edition of Dale Carnegie's "How to Win Friends and Influence People" in a second hand shop. I still have it in my bookcase. It's been one of the most significant books that I've read and I still refer to it for basic strategies that help me in my work and social relationships.
Here are a few of Dale's ideas:

Be genuinely interested in others.
Use their name.
Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
Talk in terms of the other person's interests.
Make the person feel important and do it sincerely.
Show respect for the opinions of others.
Try to see things from the other person's point of view.
Be sympathetic.
Call attention to mistakes indirectly.
Ask questions instead of giving orders.
Give praise and honest appreciation.
If you are wrong, admit it. 

There are many more suggestions in the book, which is still in print and I would encourage you to purchase a copy.

To me, the ideas contained in this book are quite in cohesion with Biblical principles. Too often the world we live in gives us the false notion that we should concentrate on ourselves and our own success. The Bible encourages us to be empathic, to consider our neighbour as much as ourselves, to be honest and to consider carefully what we say. The book of Proverbs has many adages regarding personal relationships, whilst James reminds us that the tongue is a powerful instrument for either encouraging or wounding others. The Bible also teaches us to develop an "attitude of gratitude"- to be thankful to God for who He is and for all He has done for us through Jesus Christ.

As Christians, we want to influence the world for Jesus. Maybe some of Dale Carnegie's strategies will assist some to make friends and be that influence in their lives.

"How to Win Friends and Influence People" Dale Carnegie Pocket books, 2010 (paperback) Vermilion 2012 (hardcover) also available CD and download. 

Some of my best friends have fur and four legs- Felix, Astro, Paris and Seb.  

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Had the time of my life

I haven’t posted anything for a while because I’ve been studying. For my work in community health, I’ve recently been involved in some studies in the area of palliative care. It’s interesting to note that when one observes the various models and practices of palliative care, a holistic approach is usually adopted, embracing not only the physical needs of a client, but also their psychological, social and spiritual needs.

It seems that palliative care is one area of health care where it’s acceptable to discuss spiritual values, where we acknowledge the spiritual component of a person and the strength and comfort and positive effects on overall health that spiritual values impart.

I am pleased that spiritual needs are considered in a palliative approach to health care, but realize that for some people, it takes a confrontation with their own mortality before they really think about what they believe and where they are going. Because Christianity isn’t a life insurance policy that you cash in at death, as many people seem to view it.

Jesus said “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full.” (John 10:10).

Abundant life in Christ begins at conversion- repentance and faith in Jesus. It’s the fullest, most rewarding relationship you will ever experience. Some people have the idea that they should enjoy what this world has to offer as long as they can, and that conversion will result in constraint of the things that make them happy. What they fail to realize is that this world offers temporary and fleeting happiness that fails to satisfy the longings of the human soul for relationship with the One in whose image we are crafted. Every hour, month and year that we delay finding that relationship is time that we have denied ourselves living the fullest life we possibly could.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6)

We who are committed to God know the joy of His presence every day. We’re not promised an easy passage through life as a Christian but we know the guidance of His Holy Spirit which indwells us as Christians in every aspect of our lives. We know His protection and guidance. We grow in knowledge and relationship with God through prayer, Bible study and fellowship with other Christians in a caring Christian community. And He empowers us to impact others in this world for the good that only He can bring.

“He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death- that is, the devil- and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” (Hebrews 2:14,15)

The above words relate not just to physical death, but also the fear of evil and all that it brings. We must remember that Christ has the ultimate victory over sin and death and that He promised “"I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25).

The Bible promises us that as Christians God is with us, for us and will never forsake us. I’ve seen the peace and comfort that Christ can give as people approach the end of their lives. I’ve also seen and known the joy that a Christian life can provide throughout life.

“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9).

If you don’t know Jesus as your personal Saviour, I invite you to further investigate what it means to be a Christian by talking to a Pastor at your local church, checking out some Christian websites on the net and reading the Bible. The Bible book of Mark gives a succinct account of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Many churches offer short introductory courses such as Christianity Explained or Alpha, which help those who are seeking God or have questions about the Christian faith to learn more about who He is and how we can be in relationship with Him.

Don’t wait until your deathbed to discover that you missed out on the greatest life of your earthly life.

Monday, 5 May 2014

At long last, a beautiful daughter!

Letting Go

Little children
Precious gifts from our Father in heaven
Conceived in love
and born into their parent’s waiting arms
We brought you home
and sheltered you from harm
we watched you grow
delighting in your life
and loving you so
a skipping girl with long blond hair
in braids, becomes
a bride so fair
A boy with trains and cars
becomes a man
and now, husband and wife
with dreams and plans
with happiness to share.
we watched you growing every day
and came to know
that you would leave and go away
as it should be
and learned, as all wise parents do
to let you go and live apart
is still to have you stay
for you will always, each and every day
be with us  in our  prayers and hearts

© Jo Collett 17/12/11