Friday, 30 December 2016

My New Year's Resolutions

I don't usually make New Year's Resolutions, but this year I am, and I am sharing them as a reminder to myself.
1. Spend less time on trivial matters.
The definition of trivial matters is pretty vague, but is almost certainly going to cover social media. Apparently I pressed the Like button over 10,000 times this year, which alarmed me. I've just deleted the Facebook app from my phone - let's see how that goes. And I probably won't be spending any time playing computer games.

2. Give more than I receive.
Not the same as spend more than I earn, but to have less stuff by the end of next December.  My family and I have been given so many things by so many people over the last 12 months or so, and we've been passing stuff on, but we've still seemed to receive more than we've given and I've commented, "We can't give stuff away fast enough." This year, I aim to actively de-clutter, donate and give more than I receive. Maybe my computer game collection will be the first to have less in it...

3. Repair not replace.
Make do and mend, in other words. In addition to this, I'd like to work on getting the best and the most out of what I already own (computer, piano,  synthesiser, camera, and so on) instead of reaching for the next new thing.

4. Produce more than I consume.
In short, this probably means less YouTube and Facebook, and less TV, and instead, more writing, blogging, calculating and composing. This may not be not possible, (after all, we have two ears but only one mouth) but to at least strive towards a better balance.  We're all creative creatures, and I aim to spend more time creating instead of just watching TV or browsing Facebook every evening. 

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Advent 3: God With Us

Throughout the Old Testament, we see the ongoing relationship between God and the nation of Israel (God's chosen people).  We see how the Jews learn about God, as He shows Himself to them in a number of ways.

For example, they had seen "God for us":  they'd seen Him rescue them from Egypt, through a series of plagues against Pharoah and the Egyptian people.  As another example:  David, taking on Goliath, knew that God was fighting for him:  David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head."   1 Samuel 17:45-46

The Israelites had also seen "God above us" during the 40 years of marching through the wilderness between Egypt and the Promised Land.  God led his people with a pillar of cloud by day, and a the pillar of fire by night.  They knew God was above them: "Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other."  Deuteronomy 4:39.  

Sadly, the Israelites also knew about "God against us", when, following their unrepentant disobedience, God had to punish and discipline them.  Their cities were beseiged; the people were enslaved, or were taken into exile.

However, the promise that God gave his people through the prophet Isaiah is "God with us" - Emmanuel (Isaiah 7:14). Previously, God had worked remotely, from heaven - speaking to his people through the prophets and through signs.  This wasn't a lasting fix for the separation between God and His people - a separation caused by sin - and so God knew that the time would arrive when He'd come to be with His people:  "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." John 1:14

No longer just "God above us", "God for us" or "God against us", but now, God with us.  And he was named Jesus:  "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  Matthew 1:21.  And the only way that God could save His people?  By coming down to Earth and being with them: Jesus is Emmanuel.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Advent 2: Names and Titles

I've been thinking recently about identities and titles - who I am and how people think of me.  For example (and this list is growing):

"Mr Leese" to the people on the phone who ring up to try and sell me stuff
"David Leese, Online Optimisation Manager for EMEA" to people who work in the same field as I do
"Lizzie's dad" (this is becoming an increasingly common one, although recently I was introduced as "Isaac's dad" for the first time)
"Naomi's husband" to Naomi's friends
"David" to my colleagues
"Dave" to my friends and family
"Dad" to my children

So I have various 'identities' or various titles depending on who's thinking about me or speaking to me.  All of them are accurate, and they all show part of who I am.  My name is David Leese; my titles are varied (and not well known).  Some people have even more titles and even longer ones.  For example, at the moment, the UK's most senior politician is "The Right Honorable Theresa May MP, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", although I doubt her husband calls her that.
Images Credit: The Telegraph
 The US President is addressed as "Mr President" (or "Mrs President" if the president is a lady) although there has been historic debate about calling him (or her) Electoral Highness or Excellency (the idea did not catch on).  To quote the official White House website:

"The President is both the head of state and head of government of the United States of America, and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.  Under Article II of the Constitution, the President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress."
So, if we were to list the President's titles, you could start with these (I am sure there are more):

President of the United States;
Head of State, Head of Government;
Commander in Chief;

Responsible for execution and enforcement of law.

The President isn't called by this lengthy name plus title every time he meets somebody for the first time, nor when he's conversing with friends.  That's probably why it was decided that he should be addressed Mr President.  Currently, the name of the US President is Barack Obama; his title is extensive, and each part of his title describes what he does and what authority he has.

If you think that's a lengthy title, then an even more interesting example is Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II.  Not only does she have a lengthy title as the Queen of the United Kingdom, but each country in the Commonwealth has its own title for the Queen.  The full list is here on Wikipedia, but here are two examples of titles for the same person:

Grenada (since 1972): Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Grenada and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.

New Zealand (since 1952):  In Māori: Kotuku; translation in English: The White Heron

Now, bearing all these names and titles in mind, it becomes easier to understand the frequently-read Christmas Bible passage in Isaiah 9, which prophesies the coming of Jesus.

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end."  Isaiah 9:6 

['The government will be on his shoulders' means, in modern day language, that he - Jesus - will be in charge - be the head of government of literally the whole world.  The other titles are slightly easier to understand, and there's more information here.]

The titles and descriptions all refer to authority and position, and they all address one person - not by name (his name isn't exactly "Jesus Wonderful-Counselor Josephson"), but by title.  In the same way as Mr May probably calls his wife Theresa, and Barack Obama's children call him 'dad'.  Conversely, if I talk about "The Queen," then it's clear that I'm referring to Elizabeth Windsor (though I'd rarely refer to her in that way).  

On Earth, we give powerful people lengthy and meaningful titles to go after their names to address them properly, acknowledging their power and authority; Jesus (who is the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and so on) is no exception.