TV & Radio Goodies

ShedTalkHey guys, a couple of notable media events this week.  Did you catch Sunday evening’s kick off of the men’s program ShedTalk on Premier Christian radio?

Shed talk hosts Carl Beech, Head of CVM, live from the Shed alongside Jeremy and Dave as they banter about faith, men and the church.

…and if you did miss it here is a link to listen again when you get a spare 30 mins; ShedTalkThis is a weekly show – Sundays 9-9.30pm – catch it live next week!

Bear GryllsAlso, later this week sees Piers Morgan’s Life Stories focus on Bear Grylls (Friday 19th Sept 9pm on ITV).

Here is the blurb from the ITV website;

In this last show of the series Piers will be interviewing Bear Grylls as he reflects on his life and career as one of the most famous TV adventurers and all round action man. Bear talks to Piers about having to perform extreme survival challenges and opens up about serving in the military’s most elite force – the SAS, and his astounding ascent of Everest, at just 23. He also opens up to Piers about a freak parachuting accident, which nearly left him paralysed.

Bear is also a Christian & not afraid to talk about it.  So why not tune in and spark a debate with your mates at work!  After Bear prayed over food on his recent Channel 4 series ‘The Island’, the next day my work colleagues were keen to talk about it.  So don’t miss this opportunity!

Slow Down

Slow DownAs we take a break for summer – the next Strive events are in September – I’ve been thinking about slowing down.  So many of my friends and colleagues are running on empty… me too.  It’s about time we took a look at slowing down.

I took a look at scripture, and am stunned about where this appears… from start to finish and all in between!  So here is a synopsis of what I found & how it spoke to me;

 

First I found this in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing

‘Surrender my body to the flames’… I don’t know about you but when I work my socks off it can sometimes feel like that.  I’m even thinking maybe this is the source of the Monday morning feeling!  If work (or whatever is exhausting you) drains so much, then there is likely no love in it.  So how to change this?  I was led to Isaiah 40:28-31

31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

This is a stunning piece of scripture that speaks so much to me. Such power in the words.  Rest & hope in the Lord, soar on wings like eagles.  Doesn’t get better than that!

Worried that others will work harder & achieve more?  That’s covered in Psalm 37

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways

Being busy all the time inevitably means we miss God.  It seems we are called to pray and ask God for what’s on our hearts, and just as important; be still and wait patiently to hear from Him.  Not convinced?  Well He is the creator of all, look at Jeremiah 29:11

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

If He has the plans… why on earth would we not spend time earnestly seeking Him?!

Finally, what did the ultimate man do?  Well…

  • After a full-on day, feeding the 5000? He went off by himself to pray, do you ever do that after a tough day? Matthew 14:22-23  
    He also took the apostles off to a quiet place for some rest. Mark 6:30-31
  • Before choosing the 12 apostles?  He also went off to pray for this tough decision.  Luke 6:12-13
  • When he’d had just about enough?  Again he retreated to pray. Luke 22:39-43

The message seems loud and clear to me.  Even if you can only retreat (like Jesus in Luke 22) a stones throw away.  Even if it’s only for a few minutes.  Grab those minutes, take time out, and give it up to God.

We must strive to find a manageable pace of live.  We owe it to ourselves, and to those around us to be the best we can.  We also must make God the obvious centre of our lives – which looks nothing like working ourselves to the bone, but more about giving up authority and power to Him… He is the creator afterall!

God Loves Women

woman_leaderGod loves women (or more accurately @God_loves_women) is a twitter account I follow, and her thoughts are as important to me as that of, say, Carl Beech (@CarlFBeech) the head of Christian Vision for Men. The same could be said of many other female Christians (even non-tweeters!).

 The media has been full of negative stories about Christians degrading and undervaluing women recently, and to be quite frank I’ve had enough.

I guess this all started with the Bishop thing. Now, in my view, actually that motion in itself is good it didn’t pass. From what I understand it would’ve created a second class of Bishops for women, and that is wrong. Of course no women Bishops at all isn’t better, but equal women Bishops is what we need to strive for.

A few fays ago the Daily Mail negatively misrepresented a member of the female clergy. I say negatively misrepresented because people who know her have said this, not because it’s in the media.

Yesterday a storm brewed over the Bristol CU, apparently banning women speakers. Again on the face of it that is wrong, but I’m assured by people close to it this has also been misrepresented.

I don’t know about you but I can’t help but think there is a reason for this. How about an attempt to hide the real Christian agenda? What you may not have seen (though some have carried articles) in the papers are the uprising of campaigns supporting and fighting for equality and justice for women;

No more page 3  – a campaign to ban the printing of women with few clothes on in the popular national newspaper.  There is a petition here.

Make modesty wraps law – a campaign to enforce modesty wraps on ‘lads mags’ and the like to stop images objectifying women being in open display.  More can be read about this on this CVM post. Again a petition is here.

Restored – a campaign to end violence against women. Consider joining their First Man Standing campaign.

Anti-trafficking and also 27 million campaign – every 30 seconds another person becomes a victim of human trafficking, largely into the sex trade. Simply sickening.

Campaigning for women Bishops and another Synod vote. You can sign this petition.

Let’s be honest, what should be headline news, 27 million people trafficked or what’s going on in I’m A Celebrity?

I think we need a backlash to the negativity. Guys stand up, take action, support these campaigns and lift up women around you. Maybe not physically! But make it clear in your actions that women are both good enough to be our leaders and we also need & expect them to be in senior roles.  Don’t be a nice quiet Christian now, please take action. If enough people take action maybe the media will take to reporting important news accurately.  What are you waiting for? Sign up on those sites above, it’s a good place to start.

Oh and if you have a wife/daughter then make sure they know there is no ‘glass ceiling’, and support them in their calling. If you don’t have a wife or daughter, then go and tell a woman you respect that you support her, and follow it up with your actions.

After all God loves women.
(PS if you’re still not sure, have a good study of all the magnificent women in the bible, many of which were great leaders)

Cutting Corners

I Want You To Do Your Best

These following two readings came up in a single day, one in the UCB Word for today, and the other in my children’s Topz daily notes. In fact I was thinking through the Deuteronomy one whilst the Proverb came along. I do love when that happens… I need the message loud and clear, and clearly God knows that!

Proverbs 28:18 (The Message)

“If you care for your orchard, you’ll enjoy its fruit; if you honor your boss, you’ll be honored.”

Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (NLT)

“Today LORD your God has commanded you to obey all these decrees and regulations. So be careful to obey them wholeheartedly. You have declared today that the LORD is your God. And you have promised to walk in his ways, and to obey his decrees, commands, and regulations, and to do everything he tells you. The LORD has declared today that you are his people, his own special treasure, just as he promised, and that you must obey all his commands. And if you do, he will set you high above all the other nations he has made. Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown. You will be a nation that is holy to the LORD your God, just as he promised.”

So what is it about? In my mind it’s speaking about not cutting corners, in anything.  From keeping your house tidy, to finishing off a bit of paid work to the best of your ability. It’s easy to think that it’s just about doing the right thing at church, or just treating people right, but this is also saying it matters to God that you give your best at home to your wife and kids.  At work it matters too; not just in doing your best work, but also not gossiping, or bitching about the boss. The latter is why I chose the message version – quite clear about the boss! It occurs to me that the boss will be different people at different times – line manager(s), board members, vicar/pastor, team captain, wife, etc.

If you’ve read Codelife this fits well in IV – I will not cheat in anything, personal or professional. If you’ve not read or heard about Codelife yet, go and have a look at Codelife.org for more on that.

There are two sides to this though, in both of these texts. …you’ll enjoy the fruit; you’ll be honoured (Proverbs) Then you will receive praise, honor, and renown (Deuteronomy).  Do your best in everything, do everything He tells you (literally in Deuteronomy), and you will receive praise and honour. We’re not promising great riches here, the honour maybe only in heaven, but that is for eternity… Anyone told you to play the long game? Well there it is.

What is your screensaver?

Stunning image from desktopography.net

Stunning image from desktopography.net

Last month I challenged you to consider our wealth, free your wallet if you like!

This month the challenge is to free your mind! There are many ways that is a good thing to do, maybe we’ll have a series, but in particular I’ve been thinking of ways to create positive cycles, to make living positively easier. Like the opposite to cycles of negativity, let’s get into good habits.

So what is your screensaver? What is the background picture on your laptop, PC, phone or tablet? It’s something that stares at you, or at least is there all the time. A constant reminder. An excellent place to advertise the operating system, or your company’s logo.

People fill it with pictures of the family, favorite sports team, maybe a picture from a film or game, a celebrity or someone who looks gorgeous.

I’ll leave you to weigh up the pros and cons of each, but I challenge you to think about it. This picture is something that you’ll see a great deal of, even small glimpses of, but it’s always there. The bible has some direction on such things;

Luke 11:34 NLT

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is bad, your body is filled with darkness.

And reiterated in Matthew..

Matthew 6:22-23 NLT

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!

Suddenly that background picture seems more important! (If you want to read more think through Proverbs 17:24 and Proverbs 4:23-27)

It also occurs to me that late at night this may be the last thing you see before surfing the net. It could be the reminder you need to stay on the right kind of website, or even just turn off and go to bed.

Now I’m not saying it needs to be a big fat cross (nice though that may be), but maybe a family/friends picture, or a countryside scene of awesome beauty. What is important is the connection you make with it, the thoughts it evokes. I’ve used some great ones from desktopography.net – some superbly stunning pictures on there, like the one at the top of this post. It could even have some inspirational words, a subtle bible verse, or even just a single word that encourages you.

It’s about the little things that make living a good and positive life that much easier.

So let us know – what is on your background?

Privileged

Do you feel rich?  I don’t… or at least I didn’t.

I’ve not secretly hit The Times rich list, and the way I’m going I’m not likely to hit it either!  However I was absolutely shocked to find out my wage puts me within the top 1% on the global rich list.  Top 1%, that is staggering.

Here are some stats from the World Bank Development Research Group;

3 billion people in this world get by on less than $2 a day

1.3 billion on less than $1 a day

70% of those 1.3 billion are women.

How do those facts make you feel?  Overwhelmed, disconnected, helpless, frustrated, maybe even angry?  The problem I find is how to make it real in my life.  How do I understand and how can I make a difference.  It’s too easy to sit back and let the status quo tick over. Doing nothing can’t be an option.

So I took the ‘Live Below The Line Challenge’.  Five days living on £1 a day for food & drink.  It took a lot of planning, and even more self control.  Porridge, rice, pasta and lentil dhal became staples for me.  It was suitably difficult and really made me consider how fortunate me & my family are for being in that top 1%.  The planning made life more difficult, the lack of flexibility, even tea & coffee became absolute treats.

You may say this is a stunt, not making any change at all.  Well we raised a little money for Christian Aid, but beyond that I have physically experienced that I am privileged.  I need to be so thankful for all I have here, need to be a better steward with what I have & do as much as I can to support those not so fortunate to be given all the opportunity I have.  It has made me sit up and take notice.

Especially as Christians I think sitting back and doing nothing is not good enough.  I admit it is tough in this day and age of constant information bombardment.  A world full of need.  I encourage you to pick one thing and make a change, do a little and it might just make a huge difference.

So if it’s only 5 mins on an internet game, make it this one & get some food to those who need it FreeRice (see if you can beat level 20!)

Or a bigger challenge, have a go at the Live Below The Line Challenge.  I have found it life changing.

Generosity

The CVM guys Beechy & Willmott are back & the latest episode is a great one on ‘Gold’.  You can get their podcasts here.
We’re called to be generous, the bible talks about it in 2 Corinthians 9 & that podcast also struck a resounding note for me.  Not purely about money, but also following on from my last blog on time.
What if you find yourself with a little time on your hands… or you’ve taken that day off I spoke about previously and your loved ones are all good?!
Or you feel you don’t have time?  You may well be surprised what you can help achieve, even with a few minutes here and there.
Here are some ideas, some that take seconds, some longer.  There is such a variety & many more than I could put down here.  Have a look at some, search for things you find interesting, challenging & engaging.  Many of these will end up in you having fun, building people up & be a brilliant use of time.
Seconds to 30 minutes (Help From Home);
All sorts on here, using your skills & time on the internet.  This video intro will give you an idea;
Opportunities in our area (Do-it.org);
This website is superb for those looking to help our community.  Lots of opportunities, from buddying young people who need support, befriending the elderly, helping with local charities – the list is huge, even just in Warminster.
Encouraging practical acts for serving those with need.  The local coordinator is in Taunton & it would be superb to put the Warminster area on the map!
Raising money while you use the internet (Easy Fundraising);
This site has lots of charities to chose from… if you’re wondering who you may chose, Sambourne school is on there!  By renewing insurance & clicking through to the likes of Amazon through them we have raised over £100.  As a governor there I can tell you every penny of that is gratefully received & well used!
There are a team of people from Christ Church going out to Bulgaria in a few weeks.  Renovating, painting, tidying, supporting and caring for those in need.  We hope to bring you more on that soon, but have a look on the website for more details.
Raising money;
Guys need a challenge from time to time.  I know for sure I do.  Life is meant to be interesting, challenging, and it’s good to make it so!  While doing this we can raise money for charities – many fantastic organisations depend on it.  There are lots of companies that can help this.  The link here is for the company Andy & I used a couple of years ago.  We walked from Winchester to Salisbury – the Spire to Spire Trekathon over marathon distance.  It was a great challenge & we raised a stack of money for NSPCC, Help for Heros and CC21.
Lending money (Kiva.org);
The costs associated with loans are crippling developing countries.  Kiva is a good way to lend small amounts of money to projects around the world.  This takes very little time, a small amount of money & makes a big difference.  Collectively $301 million has been lent across the world!
The Church;
What about the church?  The church always needs more people with a wide skill set.  Yours is very much required, I can guarantee that personally!  It’s written in the bible in Romans 12.  From the sound and vision desk through prayer ministry, grass cutting, and especially Strive!  Chat to people who already do it & see if you can give it a go.
Let us know what you find – if there are ways to give you find, please do let us all know.

Time

Well I’m not sure about you, but I find time is a commodity I don’t seem to have a lot of.

I go through periods of being fed up that life is too busy, and others glad life is full. A wise man once told me a balanced life is like a bar of soap, as soon as you grip it, it’s gone again.

Recently I have been thinking you have to take hold of the moment to make things happen.  Oh, and it’s not as go-getting as that sounds! Let’s start with a simple question;

 

How do you spend your annual leave (or down time if you’re self employed/a student/retired)?

I think the answer to that is telling.   Pardon me if I generalise with this, please do adjust to your circumstances!

Most of us have 20-30 days a year to play with. Take out a bit for Christmas trips to family, summer break and maybe a spring one too making the most of a bank holiday or two. That may leave a few left over.

So how do you use those days?

Some guys from Strive are off to do some work for an orphanage in Bulgaria.  This is fantastic & we plan to post more on that soon. Serving is a great use of those precious leave days. Doesn’t have to be so grand, maybe take a few hours to help a neighbour? Or you don’t have to look far to find need for a helpful hand in the church!

I have recently taken a few days to build relationships, and they have paid huge dividends. I’d like to share them with you;

The first I organised a golf day with my brother and Dad. Courtesy of Groupon (a bargain finding website) it didn’t cost much & rebuilt our bond that was waining. In fact I’d go so far as saying I have a brother back I thought I’d lost.  It was the kind of event that has long been lost behind busy family lives.

The second was the best though. A day with my wife. No plans, no long list of jobs, and no kids (and you have to fight for each of those!). An annual leave day for ‘just’ spending time with my wife. It cost me exactly £0, just one of those ‘left over’ annual leave days. The result has been priceless, a reaction beyond any present or gesture I’ve given before. Go for a walk together, enjoy a slow cuppa & the papers, whatever, but listen hard to everything she says. This has been a revolutionary day for our relationship.

I think this goes to show that time is one of the most precious commodities in this day & age. How about lavishing some of your time on those you love? Give it a try & see what happens.

Have a laugh!

This lent I’m following the 40acts series & this was yesterdays, to share a joke!  It really made a big difference to my day, so I thought I’d share it with you guys too;

share a good joke

Psalm 126:2
‘Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.”‘

Christian comedian Tim Vine beat all comers at the annual Lafta awards for Britain’s funniest joke: “Conjunctivitis.com – that’s a site for sore eyes”. In 2010 he topped the Edinburgh Fringe with, “I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again!” He came second in Edinburgh 2011 with my personal favourite, “Crime in multi-storey car parks. That is wrong on so many different levels”.

Why is laughter so important? I am told that laughter helps our social lives, reduces stress and releases health-giving endorphins which also relieve pain. Apparently laughing 100 times equals 10 minutes on a rowing machine or 15 minutes on an exercise bike! And it lifts depression – although, as Ken Dodd once observed, “The trouble with Sigmund Freud is that he never played second house at the Glasgow Empire after both halves of the Old Firm had just lost!”

My baby girl is laughing long before she can talk. In fact children laugh up to 300 times a day, adults just 20 times. Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). Maybe one change this Lent is that we learn to laugh more, to cultivate this rich gift God has made part of being human. We are not just telling a joke, we are celebrating the life God has given us.

Take Action:
Why not learn a joke or a funny story that you can share? Post your favourite groan-inducers on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/40acts

I know I take life all too seriously sometimes. This has helped me grow relationships, ease tensions and essentially shine more of Gods light into the world.  So how about telling us your best jokes & spreading a smile?!

Spiritual Power Tools

Power ToolsSo what keeps you engaged with your faith and moving towards God?  Clearly the number one and two for me are (in order!) 1. God, and 2. Fellowship.
Why God?  Well by spending time with God, just like any relationship, that relationship builds.  I’m not blessed with a wonderful ear for Him, so really have to work at it.  Bible study, prayer times & right now challenging myself to add quiet times too – all every day.  Many of the tools below I use to just make me build this relationship up (& i mean make me!).
What do I mean by fellowship?  Simply put; spending time with other Christians.  I’m very lucky to have a strongly Christian wife too, but also the support of others from the small group I go to, and especially other like-minded men… Strive!  You guys keep me in check, challenge me (sometimes without you knowing it!) and uplift me.
Beyond those (or rather alongside those) There are a bunch of tools you can use to help.  I’d thought I’d setup a list & ask you to add to it.
Daily Devotionals
These are the sort of things that can help by prompting you every day;
UCB Word For Today – it’s one I use from time to time & can be a decent pep-talk when I need it.  Though I find no replacement for reading the bible, it really has helped my walk tremendously.  This comes in email, online or great little booklet sent to your home.
Wordlive from the Scripture Union.  Not one I have used, but have been sent a few & they look good.  May give it a go as a Word For Today replacement.
Codelife – from those men’s men over at Christian Vision for Men, a great way to connect with the bible & God.  You can pickup a little book that fits in your back pocket, and refer to it from time to time.  A great handy resource that I have found extremely helpful, connecting me to God in both a masculine & Christian way.
Bible Reading
Tools to help you read & connect with the bible;
Youversion – such a wealth of resources. Apps for most technology things (phone/tablet/i-thingys), this is my bible in my pocket of choice.  Also featuring some great reading plans (from a few days through to a year), so many versions of the bible, note taking, bookmarking, online events and audio bibles.  This is a truly amazing free bible resource.  I tend to have a reading plan on the go & ends up being the meat of my bible reading.  Can also fill the gap of daily devotional or even prayer & reflection.
E100 Challenge – a great way to cover the bible reasonably quickly.  50 old testament and 50 new testament readings, covering the main stories & themes of the bible.  Online blogs to support you and also a book too if that’s more your thing.
Soul Survivor Bible in A Year – You don’t have to be young to do this!  Great resources, videos & blogs to support your journey through the bible.  Just a few chapters a day & you’ll be done in a year.  Pick up from where they are & follow it back around, a great resource.
Holy Trinity Brompton Bible in One Year – very similar to that of the Souly one above.  Another great supporting resource.
You’ve Got The Time – 40 days to cover the whole of the new testament!  Just 30ish minutes listening to a free download of the new testament every day.  Listen and/or read the given chapters everyday & you will see an amazing impact on your life.  Our church has completed this recently & many people are re-doing it this Lent.  A great idea!
Prayer
Don’t let your prayer life go stale!  there are loads of resources out there to keep it alive, we’re not just talking about sitting in a quiet room and mumbling a few words to God here;
24/7 prayer – A huge community of prayers, post your own prayers on the wailing wall, pick up ideas for a prayer room or where in the country 24/7 prayer events are happening.
RevivalRun – get out & pray for your workplace, community or your neighboring town.  Someone has staked Warminster!
Creative Prayer – some great ideas on how to engage differently with prayer; drawing, writing letters, even smashing plates!  I have used this resource a lot & found some great ideas.
Podcasts
Great for a long journey, or having on when you work/doing your chores;
The Beechy & Willmott Drivetime Show – gone quiet since Christmas, but a new series expected very soon!  A superb collection of podcasts with guys talking about the bible & having a laugh along the way.
Church of England Podcasts – I have found some superb chats on here.  Not always my cup of tea, but many engaging topics covered.
Please let me know what you find useful & share more ideas!