Saturday, 16 February 2013

OCD & the Price of Perfection

We are human beings; we need more than food to satisfy us.  God made us complex, complex emotionally; we need to be excited and motivated by many things; music, art, films, hobbies, emotional highs and even lows.  We are ever restless, never satisfied and are always on the lookout for what will fulfil us or make us truly happy.


I have, and have had for a while, OCD: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.  In the past, it was washing hands and checking oven gas taps for the 8millionth time.  Now it’s intrusive thoughts that I just don’t want.  When I was younger, much younger, life seemed so much easier; no ambition, no stress, little hassle and little real need for any plans.  This carried me through early adulthood, but then as I left my teens I was struck with depression; I had a calling on my life from God yet refused to heed that calling; what a pure unadulterated jerk I was!  But, we all make mistakes.


Ah what a life we could live if we had no troubles; but troubles seem ever to cling to us and make us less than we could; or do they?  God never promises anyone an easy ride, and life for many people can be very hard.  But, if we could most of us would rather not be troubled.  Life is full of stresses; most of us have to get on, make money, do a job, pay rent or a mortgage, fall in love and then plan to raise a family; that’s how the script usually goes anyway.  Some of us break the mould, for one reason or another.  We find ourselves in some ways cast adrift; we don’t have a job, we didn’t have a big plan, we’re not in love and far from married life and all that that entails and all we may have, the one thing that might separate us from those around us, is our faith in God.  A faith in God; a blessing, or a curse?  We have to listen to God, whether we like it or not, and we have to be obedient, whatever the world does or doesn’t do we have to be obedient.


When we plan a better life for ourselves, whatever the plan might be, to start a business, get a better job or even just get a job, be a writer, photographer or professional musician, or indeed anything that we do and want to make a living at, it’s certain that we have to be determined to be pro-active at pursuing a better life.  Many professions are by their nature lonely and solitary, especially the writing trade; it’s just you and a blank screen and a keyboard, or pen and paper for those old enough to remember!  Some of us are happy in our own company, other people need company all the time.  The one reality most of us pursuing a dream is that it won’t come easy; it’s 10% inspiration and the rest, well you probably know the story.


Sometimes, pursuing a dream can be the making of us; it gives us a purpose, it gives us a reason to get out of bed and it can define our lives.  Sometimes though, especially if our expectations are too high or overly unrealistic, we can set ourselves up for a fall.  Also, if we have big plans of any kind, we must let God into them by praying about them.  I must stress something; we should never be cruel about someone else’s ambitions, or even dismissive of our own plans, even if they seem far out of reach.  Better to be realistically positive in all ways rather than unrealistically negative.  What I mean is this; if you say ‘I want to be a billionaire’ and you have no business experience, have little money to back this up and in the end have no real idea what you want to do or how you are going to do it, the chances are you won’t achieve such an ambition.  As well as this, an ambition or dream has to come from you, not from anyone else or for any other reason than it is a burning desire and ambitions of yours.  Otherwise it will probably also not see the light of day either.  Be ambitious, dream big, but be realistic and honest too.


The Price of Perfection

I know, Yahweh, no one's course is in his control, nor is it in anyone's power, as he goes his way, to guide his own steps.  (Jeremiah 10:23 NJB)  Some people are control freaks.  Some control freaks want to control and manipulate others, and many other control freaks just want to remain in control of their own lives.  In a chaotic, fallen and uncertain world, this can be understandable.  Who doesn’t want to remain in control, at least of their own lives?  In a deeply flawed and imperfect world, where so many people seem to be lost and many in the world live chaotic lives of one kind or other, it’s understandable that there are people who strive for perfection.  But does God want our perfection?  Can the desire for perfection be the actual catalyst for creating unhappy people who can never reach the goal of perfection?  Does the very aim of perfection help in fact to create imperfect people, people who are also unhappy because they have unfulfilled desires?  And perhaps the desire for perfection, whatever that truly means or amounts to, is the most unfulfilled desire of them all.


The price of perfection is always going to be unfulfilled because no human is ever going to reach perfection this side of Heaven; we all make mistakes, we all err, we all cock up now and again, no matter how much we try not to.  And the dangers of perfection?  One of the dangers of those proclaiming some kind of perfection is that they are often highly critical and highly judgemental of those they perceive as not being in any way perfect.  We see this in many countries and societies around the world.  God is not calling us to be perfect, He is in fact calling us to acknowledge our guilt before Him so we can seek forgiveness and redemption and begin to live truly Christian and holy lives.  Yes, He wants us to be as close to perfection as we can be, but in a fallen world we can’t yet be perfect.  Yahweh says this, 'Let the sage not boast of wisdom, nor the valiant of valour, nor the wealthy of riches!  But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this: of understanding and knowing me. For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love, justice, and uprightness on earth; yes, these are what please me,' Yahweh declares.  (Jeremiah 9:22-23 NJB)


Just Another Thought
It has happened recently throughout Europe that processed beef products like burgers, lasagnes, shepherd’s pies and many other products supposedly containing beef are actually horsemeat or contain horsemeat.  To the British, who generally do not eat horsemeat, this has come as a shock to many people.  In Britain, we tend to look at the way Americans are often taken in by televangelists and we sort of feel smug because it doesn’t really happen in Britain.  At the same time though, Americans are often much more savvy about the powers-that-be and have a healthy suspicion of those from the ruling elites trying to cajole or otherwise persuade people to believe in them.  In the British Isles, it seems so many people are gullible when it comes to our ruling elites; because they are Upper class, or they are well-bred gentlemen or rather otherworldly and posh, when they say or do something, ordinary people in their droves seem to agree without question.  The horsemeat scandal is I believe the tip of the iceberg, and I think we need to be far more questioning and have a far healthier and balanced suspicion in the British Isles of the people who rule us and the MPs who are supposed to represent us and indeed anyone in positions of high office.  Mark my words, other scandals will break.  ‘…Yahweh said to Samuel, 'Take no notice of his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him; God does not see as human beings see; they look at appearances but Yahweh looks at the heart.'  (1 Samuel 16:7 NJB)  We need very much in Britain to start questioning the nature of power, and why often certain groups of people seem to get the best jobs, the best education, the best housing and the best lives whilst usually the rest of us have to accept second best.  I am not condemning those who are wealthy and powerful, and those who make the laws and effectively rule over us for wanting decent lives and to have good careers, I am saying that more people have to be allowed to share in the prosperity of Britain; that’s all.

For those who have OCD, check out this website:

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Good and Evil

People have to understand that anyone can do evil things.  Some people might think that only German Nazis in the 2nd World War could be bad, or Russians under Stalin.  The fact is that evil is part of human nature.  When bad things happen to us, we can say we’ll never do that ourselves or we can go down the other path and repeat what we have experienced.  No one is above good or evil, and we all have the capacity for good and evil.  I know myself, I’ve done things I am ashamed of; I hasten to add I’ve not killed anyone or done anything bad to any human being, but I know that I have the capacity for evil and I also have the capacity for good.  Most of us aren’t going to commit the atrocities of Hitler or Stalin, but as we are two steps away from good, we are also two steps away from evil.


I bore grudges, heavy grudges, against women I perceived had rejected me in some way, especially after chatting to them in pubs and nightclubs, really hating them and being deeply resentful; and really, I was supposed to be a Christian.  Supposed to be at any rate.  I hasten to add, I never beat a woman or anything like that, but often I was filled with hatred for the opposite sex.  It has clouded my judgement about women for a long time.  I am slowly learning to see that women, like men, are just human beings; some women are no doubt unpleasant and treat men appallingly, but some men are also unpleasant and treat women appallingly too.  And of course, many men and women are decent people; in the last ten years of my life I have valued simple friendships, of both men and women, and come to understand that all people are complex, we have complex relationships, we are complex emotionally and we live in a fallen world full of unhappiness and certainly full of misunderstandings.  We need love, all of us, but because we’ve been hurt, especially in this area, we become prickly and over cautious, we stop trusting people, and often men learn to hate women and women learn to hate men, because of the occasional unhappy experiences we all get now and again.  Most of us aren’t evil, we are just hurting somewhat; with the love of Jesus we can get over the worst of experiences and have a healthy and balanced outlook on the opposite sex, and indeed towards all the people in our lives.  I have made some great female friends, as well as male friends, in the blogosphere, women who are Godly and decent and whose opinions and judgements I both need and highly respect.


Being obedient to God’s will means we please Him, we won’t come to any real harm and we are being good.  It was disobedience in the very first instance that set God against man, and caused a rift thereafter between most of humankind and God.  The sin we do that displeases God merely follows on from being disobedient.  People must remember this.  Like many people, I have a struggle in my life.  My struggle involves the idea that I must be celibate as a Christian.  I struggle with this, as often I see women all around me who I like, all different types of women, tall, short, red haired, brunettes, blondes, green eyed, brown eyed, black women, white women, American women, British women, Irish women, Italian women… well you get the picture; there are indeed lots of lovely women everywhere; and so little time!!!  Hey, I’m joking!  But my joke is getting at a serious point.  God I believe implicitly and explicitly wants us to be married, to one partner, of the opposite sex, for life; one sexual partner, for life.  For many people, this seems almost an impossibility; the rich, the powerful and the famous, often have multiple marriages, simply because they can afford to quite frankly.  The rest of us, who live in that stark reality called the real world, often have little option.  But what is God telling us through all this; firstly, He is to be obeyed quite simply.  Secondly, marriage is an institution that in no way is meant to be taken lightly; you marry someone, you marry someone you love in all ways, someone you like and someone who is also your ‘best mate’, as we say in England.  Thirdly, love is more than marriage, much more than sex, it is holistic, that is, it is all-encompassing; we love completely the person we want to marry, not just because they are a good match or because they are wealthy. 


I am still single, with no girlfriend on the horizon, but I am confident that when the right time comes, when God is also ready, He has prepared for me the perfect person, even if I have to go on a few dates; well such is life.  I’m in no hurry though.


The Gay Issue

You may say as a gay person ‘I don’t believe in God anyway so why does being gay matter to Him, if He exists?’  Well, God might have a calling on your life, He might have called you specifically to be His servant, to live as a Christian.  If this is so, sooner or later, your life will unravel like the ancient Israelites lives unravelled when they refused to take God at His Word, and you might wonder why.  I wish to say this is the first time I have written about the gay issue, and I think that even some good Christians go on about it too much, when all sin is abhorrent to God, not just the gay lifestyle.  I don’t particularly have an axe to grind here either, because two people living together in a gay or lesbian relationship is not going to harm me one way or the other, but I wanted to make a point.  Living in any kind of sin, especially if God has a calling on your life, is going to catch up with you; sooner or perhaps later.  We should never be smug about our own perceived ‘perfection’, and other people’s imperfect sinful lives; sometimes we need to examine ourselves first before pointing fingers at others.  Sin isn’t just the thing we do that is wrong, it is more importantly because we disobey God in the first place.  If you are struggling in any way with this particular issue, or any other issue for that matter, then you are not alone.  As I explained, I struggle with the idea of celibacy a whole lot, as a straight guy incidentally, and like most men I think about sex often.  I’m not married and so remain celibate, but I sometimes feel like I am missing out.  Yet I found, in my wild days, that loveless sexual encounters left me feeling empty and never fulfilled.  I have learnt a lesson. 


If we are to condemn sin as genuinely concerned Christians, then we must focus on all sin, and focus on disobedience as the beginning of all sin.  Also, we might understand that no matter how perfect a Christian we think we are, we are all capable of sinning and doing something wrong.  It is just when we think that we have no sin, that this is exactly the time when we might need to examine ourselves more closely.  Do you not realise that people who do evil will never inherit the kingdom of God? Make no mistake -- the sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, the self-indulgent, sodomites, thieves, misers, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers, none of these will inherit the kingdom of God.  Some of you used to be of that kind: but you have been washed clean, you have been sanctified, and you have been justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and through the Spirit of our God.  (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NJB)


Judging Others

The society we live in, the graded hierarchical ones like Britain and America, and many others besides, are often also highly judgemental; the poor, the marginalised, those living in rundown areas, the chronically long-term unemployed are there not because of a skewed social system or double standards, but because they deserve it!  I hope you detect my irony?!  It seems one of the ways those who exploit other people 'get away with it', is by blaming those they exploit for their own poverty.  It’s a neat trick that enables people with little conscience to get away with injustice whilst they make themselves wealthy.  Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who were poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.  You, on the other hand, have dishonoured the poor. Is it not the rich who lord it over you?  Are not they the ones who drag you into court, who insult the honourable name which has been pronounced over you?  Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme Law of scripture: you will love your neighbour as yourself; but as soon as you make class distinctions, you are committing sin and under condemnation for breaking the Law.  (James 2:5-9 NJB)  So it’s right there, in black and white; those who make class distinctions, far from being the great and the good, are adding more sin and injustice to the world.  Yes, every poor and oppressed person wants to see that.  Yet again, God is bringing to book the system many of us live under and showing it up for the illusion that it really is.  What is the answer to those who exploit others, or just look down their noses on other people?  Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.  (Matthew 7:1-2 NJB)  The world, and many people in it, often make all sorts of unjust distinctions between people, for their own selfish reasons.  It is to be understood that what goes around, may very well come around.  Christians should not judge other people for any reason.

Finally, each day God wants us to choose Him.  'Look, today I am offering you life and prosperity, death and disaster.  If you obey the commandments of Yahweh your God, which I am laying down for you today, if you love Yahweh your God and follow his ways, if you keep his commandments, his laws and his customs, you will live and grow numerous, and Yahweh your God will bless you in the country which you are about to enter and make your own.  But if your heart turns away, if you refuse to listen, if you let yourself be drawn into worshipping other gods and serving them, I tell you today, you will most certainly perish; you will not live for long in the country which you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  Today, I call heaven and earth to witness against you: I am offering you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life…'  (Deuteronomy 30:15-19 NJB)

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Equality, Fairness & Democracy

Because of the lowly background I come from, I have for a long time believed completely in equality, fairness and democracy; they are not just words, cosy platitudes bandied around by politicians on the make, they are or should be the very essence of the Western nations many of us live in.  Believing in such things such as fairness means very probably that we don’t otherwise harm other people, and we have a healthy and balanced outlook when it comes to our needs, and the needs of other people.  We don’t have to negate our needs and wants completely and just think solely about someone else, but we can be honest about them whilst accepting that other people have needs and wants exactly like us.  In Britain, we have lived for a long time under a class system, a system which heavily infers that the higher up the scale you are perceived to be, the more worthy and important you are.  As you go lower down the scale, the less important you are meant to be.  Anyone who is honest will say that class, like racism or in fact any division between humans, is institutionalised injustice.  If we turn a blind eye to one injustice, eventually we will probably turn a blind eye to others.


It’s not special rights most people want, it’s equal rights people want and cry out for.  The class system, just like racism, sexism and other prejudices is ultimately a hierarchy of worth, an unfair system imposed on people where those at the top and in the middle are seen as worthy of consideration but usually those perceived to be at the bottom are seen as unworthy.  Until we tackle this in Britain, we will remain a backward third-rate nation, forever losing any status in the world we might have.


My belief is that each person was created especially by God; there is in truth no inferior person and there is in truth no superior person.  Even this to some English people is a revelation!  But I believe that one of God’s gifts to those who live as Christians, is a genuine equality.  There is no favouritism with God.  (Romans 2:11 NJB)  Yes, often Christianity is about the seeming great and good, and about important affairs and important people; but often what we are seeing is the world appropriating religion, using what is good to excuse the vices and the abuse of power that makes up much of the reality of this often unfair, divided and unjust world.  But, is this really Christianity?  Kings and queens, popes and the high and the mighty?  It was in essence the powerful religious authorities who had Jesus put to death; yes, those who had power and claimed to be religious were the very people who rejected and murdered Him.  We should all remember that.  One day, God will fairly and completely impartially judge all of humanity; those who abuse power and harm or ruthlessly exploit other people may well come unstuck in the next life; we should all remember that too.


If we could talk about issues, if we could all talk openly about class, racism, all the differences that exist between people, we might all come to some truth, some real conclusions, we might all stop hiding behind masks, masks of superiority, masks of toughness, masks of anger, all kinds of masks that actually make us less than we could be; then we might find the truth, that we are all in fact only human beings.


Kind of Blue

I have written about this before, but as it is something often on my mind, I am going to write about it again.  I am a Christian, not a ‘holy Joe’ or anything like that, just an ordinary person who walks with the Lord on a daily basis.  I love secular things though, I love all kinds of movies, all kinds of subjects which I often read about and I love all kinds of music.  Once, I used to dislike Jazz a whole lot and had very little time for it; it seemed pretentious, overblown, often unmelodic and the sort of thing pseudo-intellectuals would go on and on about and bore anyone to death unlucky enough to encounter them!  Then came ‘Kind of Blue’ by Miles Davis.  This was a revelation to me.  The music is so profound, so rounded, so full of creativity and life and passion, that I was, and remain, hooked immediately.  I wonder whether I am loving things of the world too much, and yet at the same time feel that if we like something, be it a type of food, a particular climate or country, a person, or indeed a movie or type of music, we just can’t help the fact that we like it.  You can’t pretend not to like hot cherry pie and vanilla ice cream if you do, that would be silly wouldn’t it?  How can we pretend not to like Bacardi and Coke if we really like it?  One person may have faith enough to eat any kind of food; another, less strong, will eat only vegetables.  Those who feel free to eat freely are not to condemn those who are unwilling to eat freely; nor must the person who does not eat freely pass judgement on the one who does -- because God has welcomed him.  (Romans 14:2-3 NJB)  Perhaps it is all a matter of faith, of asking God about these things, and perhaps it is also a matter of all things in moderation too. 


We all have our own lives to live.  We should think about everything we do, everything we like, and even the things we don’t like.  Are we so certain when we condemn others for being this or being that, that we aren’t being hyper-critical or judgemental, when we should merely be kind and compassionate?  I believe that God created us for a life of genuine peace, happiness, joy unending and to live in harmony with other people.  It doesn’t mean we have a right to impose our will or ideas on anyone else.  There are many Christians who hold to different things, who belong to different denominations and different traditions; we are all different in fact; vive la difference!  The one who makes special observance of a particular day observes it in honour of the Lord. So the one who eats freely, eats in honour of the Lord, making his thanksgiving to God; and the one who does not, abstains from eating in honour of the Lord and makes his thanksgiving to God…Why, then, does one of you make himself judge over his brother, and why does another among you despise his brother? All of us will have to stand in front of the judgement-seat of God: as scripture says: By my own life says the Lord, every knee shall bow before me, every tongue shall give glory to God.  (Romans 14:6,10-11 NJB)


Que Sera Sera

Lord, Lord, what will tomorrow bring?

 Today I felt an arrow stinging in a wound so deep,

My eyes refuse to weep.

 What will tomorrow bring?

(Iola Brubeck)


No one knows what tomorrow will bring, and I believe this is a blessing.  The future holds many things for us, and for Christians who stay true to God, the future is bright with very good prospects.  Many of us in today’s economic climate however feel that there is no real future, and those like myself born to poor parents and the poorer Working classes may feel despair at ever escaping poverty and all that goes with that.  Even when a poor person does get a job it’s often that the wages are low, and so are the real prospects that go with it.  Life can be unfair; it’s the way the world and its corrupt system is. 


We must remember that though the world may write us off as of no account, God does not!  Even religious people might write us off because we are poor, or an ethnic minority, or not particularly cultured or urbane or educated, but God does not!  He is our Champion, our Saviour and He can move mountains for us, and give us a better life even when all seems lost and hopeless.  Yes, I know what plans I have in mind for you, Yahweh declares, plans for peace, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.  (Jeremiah 29:11 NJB)



I pray about a fault of mine and ask God every day to help me with it.  Doing this, admitting I struggle with a sin, means I think that God is merciful to me.  When people have a sin in their lives, but pretend or otherwise feel they don’t, it’s then that sin may take root, and a person can become deluded they are perfect.  And when some people think they are perfect, they often think they have the right to judge other people they think are not perfect.  I feel that much of when Christians are judging other people comes down to this kind of false spiritual pride; we should always examine our motives when we judge other people.


We cannot live in sin, any kind of sin, and then expect God to be favourable towards us.  This goes for your common or garden Christian, or whether you are a vicar or priest, an archbishop or even the Pope Himself.  There are no special clauses for Christians who sin.  So, let us endeavour to leave sin behind, and to ask God to help us sincerely if we are struggling with sin in any area of our lives.

We are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life.  (Ephesians 2:20 NJB)