James’s Blog: In Gratitude for Dianne Tyson.

James’s Blog:  In Gratitude for Dianne Tyson.

I didn’t ever meet Dianne, but that didn’t matter.  She didn’t even reach sixty, but that didn’t matter either.  A lot of things about Dianne didn’t seem to matter.  The fact that she was plagued with crippling health problems and constant pain – that didn’t matter either.  She had a lot to bitter about, but she didn’t let those things matter.

She spoke openly about her suffering, but she was a fine example of someone who didn’t let herself be defined by the things that had happened to her, but instead redefined those things in the light of who God had made her to be.  She was physically inactive, but spiritually active.  Not just spiritually active, I suppose, but spiritually vibrant; spiritually contagious even.  For those of you who don’t know, she prayed faithfully for me and many others on a regular basis, and those prayers did matter.  When Dianne phoned you and said, “I was praying for you yesterday and I felt like God was saying…”, well, you’d better have listened.  She was the sort of person that caused Satan to break out into a cold sweat.  That may sound a touch melodramatic, but I have experienced first hand how God used her to thwart the enemy’s little schemes, and I know I’m not the only one.

Of course, like all men and women cut from that beautiful cloth, she would be nonplussed and embarrassed to read such things written about herself, but that’s all part of the deal, isn’t it?  Brokenness and humility are both the things that God uses, and the things that prevent us from getting carried away by our usefulness.

I didn’t ever meet Dianne, but I will miss her and part of me wishes she was still here.  We are poorer without her and there’s a lot of work still to be done, but she’s earned her rest.

One day I’ll thank her face to face, because – one day – we’ll have that first meeting.

James’s Blog: Two Types of Fire.

James’s Blog:  Two Types of Fire.

God has given me two types of inner fire.

A few months after I became a Christian I was attending a men’s prayer breakfast at my church. During prayer, I experienced what I can only describe as a warm, tingling sensation in my chest. The best effort to put it into words can be found in the Bible, on the lips of one of my older brothers as he and a friend talked about their encounter with the risen Jesus: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he explained the Scriptures to us?” It’s happened to me frequently over the years, mostly during prayer. It’s comforting rather than anything else, and I’ve come to associate it with an awareness of the Holy Spirit. It’s just one of those practical, concrete hooks on which I can hang my faith.

The other fire, however, is different. It’s what I might call ‘the squirming inferno’. Again, the best way to describe it can be found in the Bible, this time as the prophet Jeremiah complains. Frustrated by how much trouble God had caused him, he handed in his notice. “Find yourself another prophet,” he says to the divine. But it’s not that simple, and Jeremiah discovers that the message of God will not be smothered. It was, he said, like a fire in his bones. Sometimes (more often than I would like) I find myself restless, and tortured by the feeling that there is some important truth I should be getting out there. The problem is that it’s a time-consuming, difficult and painful process to set it free. Often it’s like realising that its your job to slay a giant dragon, and not even knowing how to begin. Those are the worst times. The only way to keep it quiet is to actually try and do something with it, however feeble my efforts, but it’s never satisfied. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to completely pay off its debt – the squirming inferno is probably here to stay.

They’re both from God. One is His way of saying, “I love you, and I am always with you”; the other is His way of saying, “But I’m not going to let you get away with being lazy.” I am loved, but I am lazy. I am genuinely thankful for both of these flames, because I need the warmth and the refining.

James’s Blog: Self-Pity and Lolly-Sticks.

James’s Blog:  Self-Pity and Lolly-Sticks.

Like all the best people, I’m prone to self-pity. “Why me…?” I might say, or maybe “Everyone else has it better than me…” or “They never have problems, unlike me…” and sometimes “Why can’t I just get a break?” etc. It feels quite good, but it’s really just a way of saying, “Life isn’t treating me the way that I’m entitled to be treated”, and as such self-pity is nothing more than cleverly disguised pride.  Well, for me, at least.  I’m sure that for you your whining is entirely justified. Read more

James’s Blog: “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth is it to have an Ungrateful Child!”

James’s Blog:  “How Sharper than a Serpent’s Tooth is it to have an Ungrateful Child!”

Shakespeare must have had a thing about ingratitude. As well as contributing the title of this blog entry (it’s from King Lear, fact fans), he also wrote the following:

“Blow, blow, thou winter wind.
Thou are not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude.”

That’s from As You Like It. All I can say is that he must have been on the receiving end of some very insincere thank-you-for-my-birthday-gift letters. Mind you, he’s a fine one to talk seeing as the only thing he left his wife upon his death was his ‘second best bed’.

Many years ago there was a shipwreck off the coast of Evanston in Illinois. The students of nearby Northwestern University helped with the rescue operation. One particular student, Edward Spenser, personally saved the lives of 17 people that day. A long time later, when Spenser was an elderly man, a reporter asked him what was the one thing about that incident that stood out in his mind. Spenser replied, “I remember that of the seventeen people I rescued that day, not one of them ever thanked me.”

Imagine that. A day in which you personally saved 17 lives and all you are left with is the memory of ingratitude. Blow, blow, thou winter wind indeed.

Nothing kills a gift quicker than ingratitude, and a lack of gratitude is a sure fire way to kill the gift of the Spirit of God. In Colossians 3:12 Paul is in the middle of spelling out how followers of Jesus, ‘holy and dearly loved’, should live. By the end of verse 17 Paul has instructed us three times to live gratefully. Three times in three verses actually. Thankfulness is a mark of being ‘holy and dearly loved’. To be holy, we must put on gratitude.

But of course, God gives generously to those who don’t deserve, holy and unholy alike.  In Luke 6:35 Jesus reminds us that God is ‘…kind to the ungrateful and wicked’, but I think it’s rather telling that he lumps the ‘ungrateful’ in with the ‘wicked’, don’t you?