when coffee forces you to make an urgent decision

Yesterday I managed finally to perform a classic of modern living. I have not really been able to perform it fully until now. I have occasionally managed a smidgeon of the act but have somehow always managed to catch myself and pull back from the brink. Yesterday I indulged fully.

Image result for spill coffee
covfefe spillage

I spilt a mug of coffee on my computer keyboard. It’s not the one that’s on the laptop but a lovely wireless one that is full-sized and sits on my desk to enable me to work more ergonomically. I had just made myself a lovely cup of coffee and placed it on my desk near the keyboard and then was distracted by something on my right. I turned to deal with it and as I turned back to the keyboard and screen caught the mug full on with my left elbow. Cue the deluge.

I called for help and my wife came running, armed with cloths to mop up. We did a fair job of limiting the flow of the coffee to the keyboard and its immediate vicinity. Thankfully nothing else was baptised by the coffee and after the diligent application of tea towels, paper towels and other drying implements I thought I had salvaged the keyboard too. It seemed to work okay.

But within a few minutes it started becoming unresponsive in different areas. Some of the keys stubbornly refused to tell the computer that they were being pressed. Others decided to disguise themselves by telling the computer than another key altogether was being pressed. And slowly it dawned on me that the keyboard was dead.

The problem is that I use the keyboard all the time when I am at my desk so from the moment when I admitted defeat and allowed the old keyboard a dignified end I realised that there was an urgency for a replacement. I know that there are some online companies that promise next day delivery and I am subscribed to the South American river service. But in order to qualify I needed to order within a short space of time.

So began the hurried yet diligent search for a replacement. I did not want to make a hasty decision I would regret, but I did want it to arrive today so could not afford to take too much time over the decision. I narrowed down the search by focusing on the keyboards that had the highest rating by purchasers and limiting the price range (you can get some REALLY expensive keyboards!). In the end I chose a keyboard that seemed to tick all of the boxes for my needs, and which was reasonably priced. It wasn’t a premium brand, but came very well recommended.

And it arrived today. I am using it now. And it feels good to type on. It does have ‘light up’ keys that change colour all the time but given that most of the time I don’t look at the keyrfohgs keyboard when I type (ooh, get me!) it doesn’t bother me, and there is the facility to turn that off if I want. It is connected to my computer via a usb cable rather than being wireless, but that’s not a problem (and means that the money goes on the keyboard quality not the bluetooth / wireless link).

So why am I telling you this boring tale, other then as an exercise to test the keyboard? (it’s more productive than typing ‘hello’ into my wordprocessor) Well, it’s the whole thing about having to make urgent and important decisions. When we can take our time, pray (even people without faith sometimes do that), consult other people and listen to their advice, weigh up the options and come to a wise conclusion then decision-making can be a blessing. Of course, if it’s a corporate decision in a church, a business or another organisation there is also a need to ensure that the ‘stakeholders’ are involved in the process of consultation, praying, listening, weighing-up and wise-concluding, which also takes time.

But there are times when we have to make an important decision quickly. I was with a church leadership team recently where this had been the case and they were reviewing what had happened and why some people had struggled with the process (but not the outcome). I suggested a couple of principles that may help:

First, break it down into bite-sized chunks. If there is important information to be communicated then make sure that it’s shared in a way that everyone can understand. For example, if a decision has to be made about buying something expensive but urgently needed explain – why there is a need, why it’s urgent, the options that have been explored, and the potential cost. If you present it all as one item you will lose people (or yourself) along the way. I needed a keyboard and set some parameters around the purchase to help me decide what to get (cost, rating, not bothered about brand).

Second, make the decision as small as possible and allow time for the rest to be decided later. For example, your car may need some work to get through the MOT (a car roadworthiness test) today and the garage may also suggest other work that could be done which is not urgent. If you’re unsure, get them to do the minimum work needed to get through the MOT and say that you’ll have a think about the rest. You don’t need to get all of the work done urgently so if you isolate what is urgent and focus on that you may well find that it makes the decision easier. For me the question was simple – I needed to get a keyboard that would be delivered today.

And finally realise that there are very few decisions that will be catastrophic if you get them wrong. Of course we want to make wise, sensible and correct decisions but most of them can be rectified. The process of putting it right may not be easy and may cost a bit more in time, effort and money, but there are not many issues that cannot be resolved. I may regret buying this particular keyboard and may have to buy another one, but for the time being it works, it does what I want (and it has pretty lights).

Be blessed, be a blessing

whispering

When I left my last church in order to take up this post a friend gave me a book. It’s The President’s Devotional by Joshua Dubois, and is a year’s devotional reflections that he wrote for President Obama and sent him in a daily email for him to read first thing every day. The thought for this Sunday is as follows:

‘“Let every one of us cultivate, in every word that issues from our mouth, absolute truth. I say cultivate, because to very few people – as may be noticed of most young children – does truth, this rigid, literal veracity, come by nature. To many, even who love it and prize it dearly in others, it comes only after the self-control, watchfulness, and bitter experience of years.” Dinah Craik, A Woman’s Thoughts About Women.

‘“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32 (ESV)

‘Truth: the sieve through which our every action must flow. Yes, it’s allowable; yes, it’s beneficial; yes, it’s profitable; but is it true? Only we know the answer – and to this standard we must keep. “Let every one of us cultivate, in every word that issues from our mouth, absolute truth.”

‘Dear God, grow within me the desire for truth in all things so that I might be set free from the bondage of falsehood. Let veracity be my nature. Amen.’

Aside from the challenge of the thought, the fact that each day the President of the USA is receiving a devotional thought like this is encouraging. It reminds me of the role of a slave (perhaps known as an Auriga) in a Roman Triumph whose role was to stand behind the victorious commander and, whilst holding a laurel crown on his head also whisper “Memento homo” in his ear – “Remember you are a man.”

seals whispering

The Bible for us can be like that slave. Through it God’s Spirit whispers in our ear and helps us to keep the right perspective:

When things are going well and we are tempted to pride and self-reliance he whispers in our ear, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

When things are tough and we are tempted to give up he whispers in our ear, “The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship*. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:15b-17)

Let’s always pay attention to the Spirit’s whispering in our ear through Scripture!

Be blessed, be a blessing

*‘sonship’ here indicates the bestowing of the full legal rights of an adopted male heir in Roman culture

well said

HomeSometimes someone has said it better than you can. This comes from UCB’s Word for Today on 11 September 2013:

Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

For things to change for the better, you must ‘change the way you think.’

For example:

a) View setbacks as detours, not dead ends. Winners don’t just face adversity; they embrace it, knowing it leads to future success.

b) Tune out the critics and focus on doing your best. Anybody who accomplishes anything worthwhile has to overcome naysayers.

c) When you’re afraid, praise God until your faith rebuilds. It may take a while, but praise and thanksgiving never fail, and they strengthen you to go on.

d) When you fail, look for the lesson and remember all the times you’ve succeeded. Weed out self-doubt and replace it with scriptural self-talk.

e) When you’re heading into battle, visualise yourself winning in God’s strength—with Him ‘…all things are possible’ (Matthew 19:26 NIV).

f) Instead of focusing on the past and worrying about the future, focus on the now—that’s where your influence is greatest. Remember, God said, ‘…As your days, so shall your strength be’ (Deuteronomy 33:25 NKJV).

g) Instead of complaining, work on identifying solutions, and more will come to you.

h) When you’re distracted, focus on your breathing, take a walk and clear your mind, think on what you can control, and surrender the rest to God.

i) When you’re lonely, remember the people who’ve helped you this far and who love and support you.

j) When you’re fatigued, take time to rest—but never ever give up! Finish strong in everything you do.

k) When you’re under pressure and under scrutiny, smile and have fun. You only live once. Life is short… so seize the moment!

Be blessed, be a blessing

Time to reflect

This weekend was the fifth anniversary of my Induction at Colchester Baptist Church. Time has flown by!

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of my Ordination. Time has flown by!

So as I am in an anniversaryish mood, I wondered what advice I would give the newly ordained me if I could borrow a Tardis and nip back in time…

  • 9 o’clock is the watershed: phone calls before 9 o’clock in the morning or after 9 o’clock in the evening are not usually good news.
  • Don’t respond hastily to criticism: weigh it, sift it and ask for grace. God might be trying to say something to you and this may be the only way he can get your attention!
  • Greeting people ‘on the door’ afterwards requires you to be an octopus (to shake all the hands), and elephant (to remember everyone’s names) and a woman (to multitask). Or you could get someone to help you.
  • Emails will be very useful in the future, but don’t imagine that by sending an email you have communicated successfully.
  • Computers will be incredibly useful to you, but keep them as your servants not your master. (They will always crash at the most inconvenient of moments.)
  • It’s always a good idea to check your flies before you go into church.
  • Don’t forget dry underpants when packing for a service of Believer’s Baptism.
  • You won’t be able to please everyone: seek to please the One instead.
  • God gave you two ears and just one mouth for a reason.
  • Everyone has already heard the story about the little girl who said “I know the answer’s Jesus but it sure sounds like a squirrel to me.”
  • Encouragement is a better motivator than guilt.
  • This too will pass.
  • You’re not in charge.
  • Always check the bread before Communion (see here for reasons why)

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Getting into hot water

ContrastFollowing yesterday’s bloggerel about things I wish I had been taught when I trained I thought I would share some of the things I have learnt from experience as a Minister for over 15 years:

The baptism water is too hot when your legs are lobster-red when you come out.

The baptism water is too cold when you shiver so much in the pool that you create waves.

If you drench the front few pews with the baptism tidal wave the pool might be a bit full.

Crusty wholemeal loaves are not ideal for breaking by hand during communion – especially if they are not pre-cut.

Don’t catch a friend’s eye when something goes wrong in a service… especially if they wink at you.

Going ‘off-script’ from a sermon is when you need to concentrate most: few people are blessed by the image of God “almost wetting himself.”

Printers will always break when you need them most, ink will always run out before you have printed the last page of your sermon.

Only God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnicompetent. Don’t try to pretend or imagine you are.

Be a blessing, be blessed.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5… er… 10,000

abacusSometime over the weekend it happened. One of you probably did it but have not confessed. Was it you?

Astonishingly someone made my hit counter on the blog tick over to 10,000 hits! My flabber has never been so ghasted! It seems incredible to me that people have thought it might be worth paying 10,000 separate visits to see what rubbish I am spouting forth. If you are one of them, and by virtue of the fact that you are reading this, then you are, thank you, bless you and… why!!?? Haven’t you people got anything better to do?

This is not false humility. Honestly. I am genuinely surprised and flattered that this number visits have been paid to the Nukelear Fishing blog. Of course there is no way of knowing how many of those were people who had arrived by mistake. Perhaps some search engines have been directing people here because they think it is a website about fishing or nuclear physics. I guess those people won’t be staying very long!

We can never know the full impact of what we say or write. Words can be incredibly powerful – positively or negatively. It is possible to say something that we consider to be insignificant that really blesses and encourages someone else. It is also possible to say something inconsiderately that upsets or disappoints someone else.

When I was a child my parents had many maxims that they tried to get me to adopt. One was “Engage brain before opening mouth.” Now I realise how wise they were… It is said that when we are teenagers we knew that our parents knew nothing but it is incredible how much they learnt by the time we were 21!

It is my prayer that my reflections each day will help me walk closer as a follower of Jesus and be a better free sample of him to the people I meet. If I have written anything that has blessed or encouraged you on one of the 10,000+ visits then I am delighted. If I have upset you then I am sorry. 

The young couple invited their aged pastor for Sunday dinner. While they were in the kitchen preparing the meal, the minister asked their son what they were having. “Goat,” the little boy replied. 

“Goat?” replied the startled man of the cloth, “Are you sure about that?”

“Yep,” said the youngster. “I heard Dad say to Mum, ‘Might as well have the old goat for dinner today as any other day.'”

I was not sure where this blog entry was going when I started…

On my way to the Conference Centre yesterday I had a tyre blow out. It is not as dramatic as it sounds, nor as bad as it could have been. I had just come off the motorway onto an A road and was only doing 40mph when I heard a rumbling from the back of the car and pulled over to investigate.

not actually my car!

I was confronted with a very sad-looking rear tyre with all the air out of it, and left with the task of changing the tyre. It only took about 15 minutes to do, but I do find it funny / ironic given the theme of yesterday’s blog. I could have done with a team of mechanics to change my tyre at the speeds they do it in Formula 1 (about 4 seconds!).

I have now arranged for a mobile tyre replacement man to come out and replace the offending tyre while switching the others around so that the spare is on a ‘normal’ wheel and the remaining part-worn tyre becomes my spare… I hope I can explain it better to him when he arrives.

There are moments for all of us when we feel like all the air has been expelled from within us. Sometimes it is by events beyond our control. Sometimes it is by things that people say to us. Sometimes it is because we cannot believe our own daftness.

What do we do in those circumstances? I could make a cheesy analogy with God coming to change our spiritual tyres. But that is not a fair analogy. If we feel like my flat tyre we can’t simply be replaced and sometimes we cannot be easily reinflated. Sometimes we need someone we can trust with whom we can share how we feel and who will listen without judging us. Sometimes we need someone who can offer us a different perspective on our experience and help us to see a way ahead. Sometimes we need someone who will covenant to pray for us and stand with us.

I am reminded of the time when, just after the Israelites had miraculously been led by Moses through the Red Sea and God had provided water from the rock, Moses was visited by his father-in-law Jethro (Exodus 18). Jethro’s first reaction when he heard all that had happened was to praise God and express faith in him (I suspect he had not been a believer before then – he is described as ‘a priest of Midian’).

The next day he watched Moses at work as leader of the people, sorting out all their disputes, and he saw that what Moses was doing was daft – it was going to wear him out and was not going to be enough to be an effective leader. He was not omnicompetent and needed to delegate.

That outside perspective from someone he knew and respected and who was prepared to speak (lovingly) and advise Moses possibly saved him from burnout and perhaps made the task of leading the people through the wilderness achievable.

Oh that we might have the wisdom to know whether we need to be Jethro to another or listen to him/her…

And why was it that Moses led the people around the wilderness for 40 years? Even in those days men would not stop and ask for directions!

Be blessed, be a blessing