Saturday, 23 June 2012

...And Now For Something Completely Different...

I was going to put up a post today, as I often do. Normally, I tend to write posts weeks in advance so I always have something to post, but today I feel like just being spontaneous and writing something off the cuff so to speak.

I've just returned from a very nice short break to North Wales, where I stayed in Llandudno and travelled to places like Llanrwst and Conwy, which are all beautiful little towns; I've never been to Llanrwst before and it was a pleasant surprise alltold.  All three places have lovely views and all have nice places to eat, nice pubs and things to see and do. Here's a picture of Llanrwst I took:

It really is a lovely place and like so many towns and villages in North Wales, as you can see, it's not that far from beautiful countryside, hills and small mountains, farms and rural settings.  Llanrwst is particularly like this as if you look on google map, there's nothing else much around it, just farms and countryside and perhaps the odd little village tucked away somewhere well off the beaten track. It was my first time in Llanrwst, but definitely not my last.

I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast in Llandudno for the duration of my stay which I always do, as it's very good value for money and the breakfasts are really good.  Then I travel by a pretty good transport system, always the bus, to places here and there. There's so much to do in Llandudno itself that you could easily just spend three days there without going anywhere else.  But as it's my umpteenth visit I tend to want to go to other places.  There is a place in Llandudno called the Great Orme, which is a big hill which rises up above the town which I always pay a visit to at least once while I am there.  Here's a picture taken on the Great Orme:

There's a few nice pubs in Llandudno, one called the King's Head and another called the Queen Victoria, amongst many others.  I went in both for my visit.  Here's a picture of the bar in the King's Head:

I also visited a town called Conwy, which is probably my favourite town in the whole of the British Isles; it's got a castle, old Mediaeval walls, reputedly the smallest town in Britain, a few really good pubs especially the George & Dragon, loads of places to eat and is so quaint and picturesque that you might just marvel at how wonderful such a place can be.  There is also a church with a churchyard there, with a very unusual 'gravestone' with the mysterious legend 'We Are Seven' painted on it.  Here is a picture of it:

In Llandudno, there is a long pier and there is a long promenade, both of which are enjoyable to walk along whatever the weather.  I was fortunate on my little mini break as the weather was good while I was there even though just before it was cold and rain-swept and afterwards it's been cold and rain-swept too.  I always walk along the promenade at least once while I am there.  Here is a picture of the promenade and beach:

Well that's my little tale of adventure.  I wrote this because I think sometimes we all need to spend some time doing something fun and spontaneous, and not just worrying all the time about where we are going or how we are going to make it, or how we are going to plan for our futures, and so on.  Sometimes we might need merely to have faith in God that He knows all the answers and He knows where we are going and what kind of wonderful future we all have if we are Christians.  God is about fun, good times, peace, enjoyment and the simple things in life, simple things which might after all give us the most real pleasure.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Dreams of Greatness

For many years, possibly because of coming from a poor background, I have had dreams of greatness.   For a long time I wanted to be a successful rock musician, and become wildly rich and famous; now, I want to be a successful published author, but I don’t care so much about the rich and famous bit, although of course I want to earn a decent living.  For much of my wild dreams of wealth and success, I never really included God; I neglected my faith, in fact I was completely faithless.  Now I’m a Christian who just wants to serve the Lord on a daily and on-going basis.

What does this all mean for my dreams of greatness, my dreams of being a published author and my dreams of success?  I still believe I, like anyone else, have the right to dream of a better life and to be doing very much in life what I want to do, and what I want to achieve, but now it’s a God-centred dream rather than a self-centred dream.  How does that work out you may ask?  I think in the first instance that God is in actual fact the shaper of our dreams, goals and any vision of a better life we might have; in fact I pray regularly for a better life.  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NIV)  So God is a source we can call on and rely on.  Secondly, being God-centred and not self-centred, I can do things for the right reason rather than purely selfish reasons.  That means that I am motivated for honest reasons and that at the same time I don’t do anything that goes against God, other people and my Christian faith.  It’s possible to be a Christian and want to be successful after all.  Thirdly, I come from a poor background, and like anyone who comes from such a background, I need to get on and make money and put bread on the table.  It seems that even in democratic and modern Britain, there is an often unspoken assumption or emphasis that only those already wealthy and privileged have a right to get on; when ordinary people aspire to better things and dream of better lives, we challenge this unfair assumption.

Far from believing that God wants His followers to somehow be justified by living in some kind of want or poverty, I have come to the understanding that God is the perfect source for nurturing all our dreams, adding that much needed touch of reality certainly, but that with God in our lives we might very well see our dreams realised and He can take us to places we never even dreamed of or imagined.

But, what of dreams of greatness?  Well, that’s another story entirely.  There is a danger in certain kinds of feelings of greatness that can be distorted into very selfish aims that are all about ego and self and little to do with God’s greatness; the danger even for Christians is that we can confuse the two and mix the two and start to get self-important and think that we are super-special and that our destiny is to be great and important; sometimes that thinking can be totally wrong and take people out on a tangent, really into a wilderness of their own making.  Being a Christian should make us genuinely humble, not seeking greatness or importance, usually self-importance, but seeking God’s will for our lives, whatever that may mean.  Within this reality we can and certainly should pray about our ambitions and goals and shouldn’t think that we can’t have dreams and ambition as Christians; on the contrary, God is the very person who we can build our whole lives on, not just our spiritual lives.

So many people I think do have dreams of greatness; their lives are ordinary, mundane, everyday and even perhaps boring.  Nothing out of the usual happens, we have the same food week in week out, we don’t expect anything really out-of-the-ordinary to happen to us and guess what it doesn’t, and the only real drama in our lives at times seems to be that on the soap opera we just can’t stop watching; what’s the answer?  Sometimes we have to live in the ordinary, no matter who we are.  Life is found in the ordinary; getting out of bed in the morning, doing what we have to do, eating our tea, having a routine if possible, and then going to bed till the next morning when we probably do it all over again. 

Is there an exciting life to be had, and does it involve money?  I think faith and living the Christian life is exciting, even if we find our present circumstances seem anything but exciting.  There are many questions to be asked here, and I can’t promise answers because I seek them myself.  The first question is what do we want out of life.  Do we want to do something with it?  Do we want to accept that life isn’t always wonderful but still after that can we make our lives better?  Is God in fact the provider of a better life?  I believe He is; it starts with trusting Him and having faith in Him, even when our lives might be humdrum, miserable and even in some unfortunate cases dangerous.  For many people in fact, even if they are not living in wretched poverty or a violent rundown area or city, life can be a stream of negative experiences punctuated by one kind of unpleasant reality after another in seeming regular succession; life is hard, we can’t get on, we don’t know how to get on, we can’t find a job, we have no money, we can’t do anything without money and so life is hard; it can be a vicious circle if we let it be just that.

So what’s the answer?  The answer is surprisingly to first of all count our blessings and be grateful for what good things we already have in life, whatever that might be; a roof over our heads, good family and friends, enough money to provide for our general well-being and so on.  Secondly, if you really do have a dream or ambition that you want to achieve then first of all a prayer or two might not go amiss; but I stress you should be honest about what you want out of life and be certain it’s what you really want, what you really really want!  I have found to my bitter experience that if you merely want something because someone else has it or wants it, you might regret wasting time on something that you didn’t really want in the first place; so a degree of honesty is vital here.  Thirdly, I think you must be realistic; if you have no connections, no wealth behind you, no particular expertise in the field you are trying to make it in, the chances are it will be a lengthy struggle to achieve your aim and ambition; it’s as simple as that.  Fourthly, make time for whatever it is you want to achieve; a writer who doesn’t write will hardly succeed, a sportsperson who doesn’t train will not likely achieve anything, a person who doesn’t put in the time is almost certainly not going to accomplish their dreams.  This is just food for thought and stuff that I have thought about and written about before.  There’s no reason why a person from a council estate or poor upbringing can’t succeed any more than a person from an affluent background, if they put their mind to it.  And us Christians?  Well we can pray about matters too, usually a matter people leave till last, but my belief is that God can nurture our dreams and bring them to fruition.  He is the shaper of our goals and dreams in my belief.  And of course, get all the help and advice you can, read up as much as you can on the field you are hoping to achieve in; there’s nothing like timely advice from someone who knows.  Lastly, I repeat if you are Christian, then merely have faith; a better life is for you if you really want it.