Sunday, 28 October 2012

Pillars Or Rolling Stones?

The reliable Spurgeon.

Pillars Or Rolling Stones?:
Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from the lifetime of works from the Prince of Preachers, Charles Haddon Spurgeon.  The following excerpt is from "An Address For Sad Times," from the book "Only A Prayer Meeting!" pages 144-145.
"Once, ministers were esteemed for soundness, unction, and experience; but, now, men crave after popularity and cleverness."

All around us there is growing up in tangled masses the ill weed of "modern thought," which is nothing better than an infidelity too cowardly to wear its proper name. There are preachers, in Christian pulpits, who deny the authenticity of various Books of the Bible, and reject plenary inspiration altogether. There is not a doctrine of the Gospel which is not denied by some "thinker" or other, and even the existence of a personal God is by the more advanced regarded as a moot point; yet the churches bear with them, and allow them to pollute the pulpits once occupied by godly preachers of Christ. After having denied the faith, and plunged their daggers into the heart of vital doctrines as best they can, they still claim to be ministers of the Gospel, and ask to be received into union on the ground of some peculiar inward virtue which exists in them apart from all doctrinal belief. Men, who might justly be prosecuted for obtaining property under false pretences by violating the trust-deeds of our churches, may well wish to abolish creeds and articles of faith, because these are perpetual witnesses against their knavery. I would not care what became of the pelf if the churches were saved from error. I see this leaven of unbelief working in all directions, and many are tainted with it, in one point or another; it eateth like a cancer into the very soul of the churches. God deliver us from it!

It is hard to know what to do, for no one wishes to suspect his fellow, and yet a pest seems to be in the very air, so that it penetrates into the best guarded chambers. We hear of this man and then of another broaching strange notions, and those who were thought to be pillars suddenly become rolling stones. Who will go next? And what will happen next? In the midst of this confusion, our heart is apt to be overwhelmed within us. Is there not a cause? It is not our household, it is not our estate, it is not our bodily health which is in danger, or we would bow in silence, and bear it; but it is the household of God, it is the estate and Kingdom of Christ, it is the Church of God on earth, which is thus suffering; and well may those, who love the Lord, and His Christ, and His truth, tremble for the ark, and feel a holy jealousy burning within them. At such a time, the prayer of David is priceless, "Lead me to the rock that is higher than I."

Friday, 26 October 2012

Clean up your digital clutter

Possibly useful.

Clean up your digital clutter:
If you find yourself struggling under mountains of paper piles, you might also be yearning for the day when those piles are replaced by digital files that are easily searchable. That will mean less time sifting through documents and you’ll be able to find what you need quickly.
But, though it may seem that clutter is only attracted to the physical things you own, it can also creep into your computers and make a mess of your digital files. As Leo Babauta put it, “there are costs to such packrattery.” Whether you’re storing lots of photos, music, or documents on your devices, if you don’t have a system for easy retrieval (just like with your paper files), you’ll likely spend more time than necessary looking for the items you need. And, if you have an influx of files that you don’t use anymore, they will take up a lot of space and make your processor seem like it’s running on molasses.
To begin the digital clean up process, start by …

Purging duplicate files

Have you ever bought something only to discover that you already had it? Most likely, you just didn’t see the original or know where to find it, so you went ahead and got another one to replace it. Duplicate files can be like that, too. When you can’t find the file you want, it might seem easier to just download, recreate, purchase or somehow duplicate what you already have. You will then end up with multiple copies of the same thing, which can make using your laptop or PC more complicated than it needs to be. And, like unnecessary multiples of anything, they will consume space that could be put to better use.
Immediate actions:
  • If you find documents with the same name followed by numbers in parenthesis, like XYZ.doc(1) and XYZ.doc(2), they’re likely to be the same document that you’ve downloaded several times. Use Duplicate Cleaner, Easy Duplicate Finder, Double Killer, or Tidy Up (for Mac) to remove multiple copies of the same files.
  • Schedule purging sessions at regular intervals (once/month, once/quarter) to remove your duplicates.
  • Start tagging your files with names that are easy for you to remember, and consider using the same structure (e.g. YearMonthDay_filename.extension, 20121024_digital.jpg). Before downloading or saving a new file, use the search feature on your PC or mobile device to ensure you don’t already have it.

Remove programs on your mobile devices you no longer use

Grab your smart phone or tablet. How many apps are on the home screen? How many do you use on a regular basis? If there are apps that you no longer use or like, it’s time to give them the boot. Keeping them on your device eats up space, may slow down your device, and stop your phone from being backed up. In my case, I had too many pictures (along with some apps I didn’t use anymore) stored on my iPhone and iCloud declined to run the backup. After reducing them, the backups resumed.
Immediate actions:
  • Starting with your home screens, remove your unused apps.
  • After purging, take a few minutes to arrange the apps in a way that makes sense to you.
  • iPhone and Android users (with Apps Organizer) can group similar apps together in one folder (music, finance, games, productivity, etc).

Organize your contacts

Digital contacts, like business cards, can linger around long after they’re useful. This is another area that duplicates can creep in, so look through your contacts list to remove them.
Immediate actions:
  • Delete duplicates and update contacts with current information.
  • When possible, separate your personal and business contacts.
  • Keep your address book organized with programs like Google Goggles or Evernote Hello.
Cleaning up the clutter on all your devices may take a bit of time up front, but once you begin the process, maintenance will be easier. You’ll also immediately notice how much easier it is to locate specific information and you’ll have more room for the programs and files you need.
Like this site? Buy Erin Rooney Doland's Unclutter Your Life in One Week from today.


A blog I look at regularly. Notice the dog. Dachsunds are purposeful, which is why I like them.

Just a few pretty shots I’ve taken lately.  It’s so exquisite here, I walk around holding my breath.  I’m not going to exhale until spring.
By the way, it looks like I have a new bird to care for.  The above image is of the varied thrush I found in the forest today.  He can’t fly and Penelope nearly chomped him.  He seems to have a bite on his back, or a talon puncture, and his flight mechanism is broken.  He is sizeable — much larger than Titus McFlightus was — and has a slightly gamey smell to him!  His chirp is pure warmth and there is intelligence in his eyes.  I hope he recovers in the next day or so.  If not, I’ll have to keep him over the winter months and then bring him back to the Methow Valley to release him as my region of Idaho looks as though it isn’t a natural territory for him.  In the future, I should stop to ponder on how practical it is for me to make little things like this my responsibility but my mind seems to work so much more slowly than my hands and heart.  I just have to scoop these broken critters up and bring them home with me.
Also, I’ve been meaning to tell you of the Titus McFlightus encounter one of the smokejumpers had over at the base!  About a month ago, JT was using a leaf blower behind the para-loft when a grouping of waxwings flew into a nearby tree.  He kept on working and one of the waxwings flew over and landed on his hand while he was using the leaf blower!  JT said this little waxwing was missing the yellow parts of his tail feathers (which Titus also was), and the two of them just strolled all over the base together until JT set Titus down on a tree and the little guy flew away!  SUCCESS!  I was so delighted to hear that Titus had been spotted and that he was flocked up with his own kind and living the good life.  Doesn’t that just warm your heart like hot buttered rum?

Thursday, 18 October 2012

When crisis changes to chronic

Our lives are affected by chronic illness. Our family's had experience of this, probably yours has too. Here's Macca's reflection:

When crisis changes to chronic:
It began with a crisis. Taken to hospital, rushed through Emergency, hooked up to an ECG machine, off for x-rays, back for a CT scan, a massive fluid build up around the lung… looked like there could be a tumour. A whirlwind of people, activity and emotion. Within hours people were visiting, offering help, gathering to pray, preparing meals, picking up cars, contacting children. Within days I’d become the centre of attention, everywhere, it seemed! It was confirmed that I had cancer and the prospects didn’t look good. So many people from so many places turned up to see me. The nurses complained that there were too many people. Letters, cards, Facebook greetings, emails, came in from all over. Meals kept turning up at the right times. A small army of people unpacked our belongings and refurnished our house. Fifteen hundred students gathered in small groups at a conference to pray for me! It was intense! It was life and death in our faces every day.
I’ve seen our family cope pretty well with a crisis. We’ve had a few now! We made some very big decisions very quickly. We put new plans into place. We made the adjustments. We had the tough conversations without too many problems. We just did what we had to… and coped. We enjoyed the support from others. We were conscious of God’s strength and comfort and we prayed a lot.
Things have changed. The pace has slowed. The crisis has gone and left us with the chronic. It’s become three weekly by three weekly, rather than day by day. Life is now shaped by chemo cycles. One week sick, two weeks better. One week sick, two weeks better. On and on. It’s exhausting and we don’t seem to be achieving much else in life. Sometimes we feel like we’re just drifting with the current or stuck in a rut going nowhere. It’s not so much action that’s needed now, but patience and perseverance and gentleness and self-control. And that seems so much harder. It doesn’t come naturally. We absolutely need the help of God’s Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.  (Galatians 5:22-23)
In many ways the excitement of the crisis has given way to the mundane of the chronic. The daily grind is hard work. Perhaps, even more challenging than the mountain climb. In the crisis I think to pray. In the chronic I’m more tempted to forget. Gratitude easily gets replaced with grumbling. Matters of eternity give way to matters of trivia. Urgency steps aside for complacency. I can forget to number my days and begin again to take for granted my months or even years. Oh, how slow to learn I can be!
I think it’s harder for others also. Initially, people were making every effort to visit, bending over backwards to offer support… as we tend to do in a crisis. But as time goes on it’s harder to sustain the effort. Life fills up, another crisis gets in the way, we have our own lives to look after. We forget to drop in, make the call, check up on each other, see if there is anything we can do.
To be honest, it can be rather lonely having a chronic illness. You feel just as sick and powerless and needy, but you’re pretty much left to manage on your own. There’ve been times when I’ve felt disappointed in people. Why haven’t they called? It wouldn’t be too hard to drop in. It’d be awesome if they’d just ask Fiona if there’s anything they could do to help. I long to hear what’s going on in people’s lives. I’m interested in knowing about work or family or the latest sporting achievement. I’d love to have people offer to come and pray with me, or read the Bible and talk about stuff. Hey, I’d even be up for a regular game of real Scrabble! Even a quick phone call just to say they’re thinking of me!
Do I sound like I’m whinging?! Yes :) Well, I’m trying to be honest. And I’m learning. As I reflect on many years of pastoral ministry, I don’t think I had begun to appreciate what it was like for some people struggling with chronic issues. People with physical or mental disabilities, people with CFS unable to get out of bed for much of the day, women with debilitating pregnancies, people without transport or living in nursing homes. As a pastor, I was always up for putting on my superman cape and dealing with a crisis… but the chronic was often forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind perhaps.
Jesus is the Pastor Supremo. He came to overcome our alienation from God, which is the biggest crisis we will ever face. He did so at enormous personal cost, sacrificing his life on the cross to bring us reconciliation. But we also see Jesus caring for those with chronic disabilities, people who are outcasts and isolated from others. He was willing to hang with lepers, prostitutes, tax cheats, and those despised by the religious leaders of his day. Jesus had a pastoral heart that didn’t overlook the needy and he called those who follow him to have the same attitude.
12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  (Luke14:12-14)
Here’s a thought. Next time you think of putting on a BBQ, think about people you know who might rarely get invited out. Are there lonely people at work or church who’d love an invitation? Perhaps, there’s someone who’s not well and you can make a special effort to include them. Maybe even offer to take the BBQ to their place if that’d make it easier!
On another occasion Jesus told a parable to describe those who belong to him and those who don’t. They’re challenging words.
34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  (Matthew 25:34-40)
The mention of brothers and sisters shows that Jesus especially has in mind the way Christians are called to treat each other. If we’re part of the same family, then we’re called to love our siblings. There’s a lesson here for those of us in churches to care for one another in our times of need. It should never be out of sight out of mind. But, I wouldn’t be too quick to say this stops with how Christians should treat each other. We’re called to do good to all, as we have opportunity. Do you know someone needing a place to stay? Is there neighbour down the street who never gets visitors? Is there someone at work going through a difficult divorce? Is there old friend with CFS who’s been doing it tough for so long that they’re embarrassed to even mention it? Do you know a single mum who never gets any time to herself? Would a friend appreciate you doing some shopping, spending time in the garden, running a few errands, taking the kids for a while? Is there someone you should get onto right away, just to check they’re doing okay?
How can you make a difference?

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

What’s a Christian Business Owner Supposed to Do?

This link is from Justin Taylor. Christians forced to act against their conscience, or be driven out of business:

What’s a Christian Business Owner Supposed to Do?:
Mark Taylor (no relation, except first in Adam and now in Christ) is president of Tyndale House Publishers in Carol Stream, IL. He recently wrote in World Magazine about the penalties the federal government is seeking to impose on Tyndale in violation of their freedom of religion and right to act in accord with their biblically informed conscience:
My parents founded Tyndale House Publishers 50 years ago as a Christian publishing company. From the very beginning we have published Bibles, and we also publish a wide range of other Christian books. Our corporate purpose is “to minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through literature consistent with biblical principles.”
I’ve always thought—in a theoretical way—that I might someday face a situation where the government was asking or telling me to do something that was counter to God’s law as I understood it. If such a situation arose, I hoped I would have the backbone to stand tall and disobey the government mandate. Well, that day seems to have come.
Later in the piece he enumerates the costs to his company:
The HHS mandate became effective for Tyndale House on Oct. 1. If we did not comply, we would be subject to fines of up to $100 per day per employee. We have 260 employees, so the fines could be $26,000 per day. That’s $780,000 per month, and $9.36 million per year—all because our moral and religious compass says that it is wrong for us to provide abortifacient substances or devices under our employee health plan. The federal government is telling us to violate our conscience or pay fines that would put us out of business.
You can read the whole thing here.
Prayers against this ruling, it seems to me, are appropriate, in line with 1 Timothy 2:1-2: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” The HHS mandate prevents Christian companies from fulfilling their vocations in godly ways that respect human life and dignity, therefore we should pray that God would move in the hearts of those in high positions so that the government would fulfill its primary calling: the practice and promotion of justice.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Creativity (from "Barking up the wrong tree")

From the blog "Barking up the wrong tree".

What does the most comprehensive study of geniuses tell us about creativity?:

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For his book Creativity, noted professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi did interviews with 91 groundbreaking individuals across a number of disciplines, including 14 Nobel Prize winners.
In 50 Psychology Classics Tom Butler-Bowdon sums up many of Csikszentmihalyi's findings. Here are some highlights:
  • The idea of the tortured creative person is largely a myth. Most of his respondents were very happy with their lives and their creative output.
  • Successful creative people tend to have two things in abundance, curiosity and drive. They are absolutely fascinated by their subject, and while others may be more brilliant, their sheer desire for accomplishment is the decisive factor.
  • Creative people take their intuition seriously, looking for patterns where others see confusion, and are able to make connections between discrete areas of knowledge.
  • Creative people are often seen as arrogant, but this is usually because they want to devote most of their attention to their exciting work.
  • Though creative people can be creative anywhere, they gravitate to centers where their interests can be satisfied more easily, where they can meet like-minded people, and where their work can be appreciated.
  • Beautiful or inspiring environments are better at helping people to be more creative thinkers than giving them a seminar on "creativity."
  • School does not seem to have had a great effect on many famous creative people, and even in college they were often not stars. Many people later considered geniuses were not particularly remarkable as children, what they always had more than others was curiosity.
  • Most fell into one of two family categories: They were poor or disadvantaged, but their parents nevertheless pushed them to educational or career attainment, or they grew up in families of intellectuals, researchers, professionals, writers, musicians, and so on. Only 10 percent were middle class. The lesson: To be a powerfully creative adult, it is best to be brought up in a family that values intellectual endeavor, not one that celebrates middle-class comfort.
  • It is a myth that there is one "creative personality." Something all creative people seem to share is complexity -- they "tend to bring the entire range of human possibilities within themselves."
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Related posts:
What are the best books about creativity?


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Blood and Fire

An email to my friend, concerning the weekend just gone:

What a glorious weekend, in every sense.

Thank you for reminding us about the nexus between judgement and the resurrection of the Lord; and so the resurrection of our selves.

More thoughts on the cross: yes, it was neglected, in a similar way to which the resurrection has in times not too far gone been neglected amongst us.

Both neglects are negligent, but not fatally so.

Our orbit is around two suns: the death. the resurrection.

They are in essence the same sun (the day of the Lord). So to pay attention to one rightly, is to pay attention to the other.

But as they are separable chronologically, it is possible to pay attention to one in a way that excludes or depreciates the other.

We did sing of the cross, more than once, so that is good.


PS Perhaps we should take up the old Salvation Army motto, 'Blood and Fire', applied in this instance to the cross of Christ and to the final day of glory, the resurrection.

Monday, 1 October 2012

My choir on the wireless

We sang some Rachmaninov and some Eric Whitaker the other day on the wireless. Here we are. The link will be live until about the 20th of October if you want to have a listen.