A while back, I woke from a brief Sunday afternoon powernap to find a black spot on my arm. I thought it was a piece of mud, but it would not come off. When I looked closely I realised it had legs and was moving. Alone in the house and unable to remove the tick sucking my blood, I did what any man would do, I drove to St Peter’s A&E. As I was driving I kept watching the tick closely to see if it was burrowing its way into my arm. I imagined it disappearing into my bloodstream, like something from the film Alien.
Sitting for two hours in casualty did not improve my peace of mind. The nurse who saw me admitted having removed several from herself in the past, but only managed to pull the body off leaving the head inside my arm. She called a doctor who, with the aid of a magnifying glass and scalpel, performed microsurgery, removed the head, cleaned the wound, insisted in showing me there was nothing left in my arm and prescribed a heavy dose of antibiotics. Continue reading →
You either love it or hate it but The Office is one of the most successful TV comedy series of the 21stCentury. Called a ‘mockumentary’, it was filmed as a ‘fly-on-the-wall’ documentary and set in the offices of Wernham Hogg, a paper merchant in Slough. Written by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, The Office catapulted Gervais to stardom in 2001, winning two Golden Globes, one for his acting and one for the show itself. “The humour is very simple. It comes from observations about mundane office life, humour basically at the expense of all the different types of people working in the office.” (Jago Wynne). The characters are clearly stereotypes but if you have ever watched the programme I am sure you will have seen similarities with colleagues in real life. In fiction, it has all the ingredients necessary for an entertaining comedy series. In real life, it has all the ingredients for a perfect storm in your office, in your home, or indeed your church too.
Apart from the resurrection of Jesus, the feeding of the 5,000 is the only other miracle recorded by all four gospels. This suggests it has some significance. Not least because of the numbers who witnessed and, indeed, participated in it. Perhaps this is why the story is so well known today. Or is it? Lets test you. How many were fed that day? We are told by Mark that the number of men who had eaten was 5,000. What about the women and children? A conservative estimate would actually put the figure closer to 10,000 or more. But there is more to this miracle than numbers. What was the context? What is the conundrum? What were the consequences? Lets begin with the context.
Three questions: The Beaufort scale measures…. wind speed. The Richter scale measures…. earthquakes. The Engels scale measures… faith. That’s right – faith. The Engel scale was developed by James F. Engel, as a way of representing the journey from no knowledge of God, through to spiritual maturity as a Christian believer.
Everyone in the world, and everyone who has ever lived, is somewhere on the Engel’s scale.The Engel’s scale is helpful in identifying where people are in their spiritual journey and how best to help lead them to Jesus Christ. Continue reading →
I wonder what you consider to have been the biggest business failure of all time? Toys R Us? Poundworld? Blockbuster? HMV? Jessops? Comet? Remember Habitat or Oddbins? And I forgot Readers Digest, MFI, Woolworths, Homebase, Poloroid and or course, MG Rover. But the biggest failure? Or perhaps rather the company with the greatest number of failures? How about Dyson? If Hoover became synonymous with the vacuum cleaner, Dyson has become synonymous with… the dual cyclone, bagless, vacuum cleaner, the bladeless fans, the uniball wheelbarrow, the quickest, most efficient hand driers in the world, the most powerful and lightest rechargeable vacuum cleaner and … probably the greatest number of failures in the world as well. Check their website out and they admit they are failures – indeed they are proud of it:
“Most people think testing is all about durability and reliability. Of course that’s a big part of it. But before that happens – before you even have something to beat the hell out of – you need an idea that works. Dyson engineers get those ideas often by trying the ridiculous. Most of the time it ends in failure. That’s good. Failure sparks thinking and the extraordinary.”
A small farming village was threatened with drought because the rains had failed to arrive. On a hot and dry Sunday, the pastor told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.” The people returned to church the following Sunday. As they sat down the Pastor gently rebuked them. “We can’t worship today because you do not yet believe,” he said. “But we prayed” they protested, “and we do believe.” “Believe?” he responded. “Then where are your umbrellas?” Faith is made visible by our actions. So let me ask you this morning “Where are your umbrellas?” Do you have umbrella faith?
Bertrand Russell once said, “Most people would rather die than think; in fact, they do so.” A recent research study at the University of Iowa, seems to confirm that. Researchers found that people are reluctant to change their minds and adapt their views, even when new information has been presented. This holds true even if they stand to lose money.
The phenomenon is called “confirmation bias” and apparently operates at a subconscious level at all times. The new research confirms numerous previous studies which show people invariably stick to their original viewpoint even when new facts contradict those beliefs. When faced with facts that don’t fit, we tend to ignore or change them to fit our beliefs.
In our gospel reading this morning, Mark 3:20-35, we see confirmation bias at work. Faced with the same facts, people reach very different conclusions about Jesus. Continue reading →
“Treacherous colleagues, competitive friends, bloody-minded commuters – it’s a war out there. And according to Robert Greene, it’s a conflict we’re ill-equipped to deal with. After analysing the moves of history’s great military leaders, he’s written a rulebook to achieving victory in life’s daily battles.”
Spanning world civilizations, synthesizing dozens of political, philosophical, and religious texts and thousands of years of violent conflict, The 33 Strategies of War is a comprehensive guide to the subtle social game of everyday life informed by the most ingenious and effective military principles in war. Abundantly illustrated with examples from history, including the folly and genius of everyone from Napoleon Bonaparte to Margaret Thatcher, from Shaka the Zulu to Lord Nelson, and from Hannibal to Ulysses S. Grant, each of the thirty-three chapters outlines a strategy that will help you win life’s wars. Learn the offensive strategies that require you to maintain the initiative and negotiate from a position of strength, or the defensive strategies designed to help you respond to dangerous situations and avoid unwinnable wars. Continue reading →
You will probably be well aware by now of a new European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which is being introduced later this month. This is about your data protection and privacy. You have probably received several emails and letters from organisations and charities asking you to respond if you wish to continue to receive communication from them. If you don’t, they will no longer be able to contact you, legally. As the founder and director of a small Christian charity, Peacemaker Trust, www.peacemakers.ngoit has consumed a lot of time and energy to comply. But as the recipient of a large amount of junk mail, I think it is a positive step. We are fascinated when secrets are revealed in the media – except it seems when they are, our own.
Those deeply personal things that matter the most to us – our children, our family, our bodies, our emails, our text messages, our age, our photos, our income, our bank accounts, we keep these private, and in many cases wisely so. The more important, the more personal, the more sensitive the information, the more likely, we will want to keep it private, confidential, or concealed. And many people feel the same way about their religious faith. Its personal. Its private. And it remains concealed.
Did you watch the crime drama Maigret recently on TV? They were adapted from the novels by Georges Simenon and portrayed the French detective Jules Maigret. What made the new series stand out from previous ones, however, was the main character. The role of Mairget was played by Rowan Atkinson. I think Rowan portrayed Maigret very well indeed, but I kept expecting him to turn to the camera, open his eyes wide and grin like Mr Bean. That is the challenge for an actor portraying a serious role when he is associated with a very funny one. Rowan is in fact a very good hypocrite.