recycled blessings

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In order to try to save trees and do a little bit towards helping the environment I try to do a couple of things: I try to print double-sided (saving paper) and I try to re-use bits of paper on which I have only printed on one side – using them as scrap paper. I started the double-sided printing a while ago, but I had started the reusing single side-printed paper as scrap a while before I found out how to make my printer print on both sides, which meant that I have had a modest stock of single-sided paper to use as scrap.

However over the weekend I reached for a piece of scrap paper and found that I had more-or-less exhausted my stock of scrap paper. It wasn’t so much that I had used it more frequently as that my double-sided printing had reduced the amount of paper available for scrap. I hadn’t expected that side-effect. In the end I had to use a pristine piece of paper to write on. It felt wrong (recycling-wise), and at the same time there was something lovely about writing on a clean piece of paper with a nice fountain pen. (Yes I am that sad).

So often there are unexpected consequences to our well-intended actions. You stop your car to let someone pull out in front of you and someone behind you gets angry that their journey is delayed. You make a phone call on your mobile while on the train to let someone know you are thinking of them in a time of difficulty and someone else on the train is upset that they have to listen to one side of your conversation. You walk to the shops rather than driving in order to keep fit and reduce pollution but the journey takes longer than anticipated and you miss an important phone call at home. You perform a magic trick on stage to entertain an audience and make a 4 year-old girl cry because her granny was the one sprayed with silly string at the end*. You get the idea.

The unintended and unexpected consequences do not make our original actions wrong. They do not mean that we should not have done those things (except perhaps not spraying granny with silly string). But we need to remember that we do not exist inside a bubble, we live in a society with lots of other people. Perhaps we should think more widely about our impact on other people: who else is impacted by our actions?

And while we are contemplating that are there ways in which we can expand the positive scope of our actions? That’s one of the questions that led to the establishing of the Fairtrade Foundation to enable people to buy goods that will more directly benefit the producers as well as the vendor and purchaser. Another way, I think, is by seeking to reciprocate and pass on the positive impact when we are the beneficiary. It blesses me no end if, after I have let a car pull out in front of me in a queue of traffic, the person I let pull out does the same for someone else further along the road.

Can you imagine the impact on our society if we all acted in that way, rather than in self-centred and selfish ways? Not just letting people pull out in front of us, but everyone seeking to bless others. In the Bible there are lots of ways in which we can do that for one another. These are some I have identified

one another image

I wonder whether this is part of what the writer intended in the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 10 (my emphasis):

23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Is this also part of what Jesus meant by us being salt and light in our communities – adding savour and enhancing the brightness so that people “may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven”? (Matthew 5:16)

I’m not sure how all of this will help my scrap paper problem (except to say that I don’t need donations!) but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think that is as important.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*Yes, to my shame, I really did that!

con sequences

dominos - permission for blogOver the past couple of months in our morning services we have been looking at the Lord’s Prayer. That’s the one that we used to say in school assemblies at Primary School (it was a church school) and where we knew the rhythm better than the words; the one that we say at weddings and funerals because it is a familiar prayer; the one that many Christians can recite without really thinking about it; the one that I had eschewed from saying often in church because of those reasons.

I have changed my mind on this, and now the Lord’s Prayer is part of my daily routine (I say it at 11). I have rediscovered the depth and breadth of the prayer. I have found that regular recital does lead to familiarity but that leads to security not contempt.

And perhaps because of this I am finding that aspects of the prayer are constantly coming up in all sorts of places. Sermons on Bible passages and subjects other than the Lord’s Prayer naturally invoke aspects of the prayer. Daily activity leads to me remember parts of the prayer.

That happened to me this morning. I was awake earlier than I had intended and was pondering. It would be wrong to say that I was praying, but I was thinking in a God-orientated way (which for purists is not related to prayer, but in my mind is at the very least a sibling!). I was musing on the parts of the prayer that speak of us forgiving as we are forgiven, and of us not being led into temptation.

The thought occurred to me that one of the reasons why so many of us humans end up doing things that we regret, for which we need to ask forgiveness, is that we have a very short-term view of things. A hedonistic approach to life suggests that we try to get as much pleasure out of life as we can and never mind the consequences. That approach (to a greater or lesser extent) seems to lie behind a lot of ‘falls from grace’.

The con sequence is ‘Go for it, enjoy yourself: don’t worry about getting caught, don’t worry about what will happen… just do it.’

High profile ‘celebrities’ have been convicted of sexual offences. Why did they do it? Why did they risk their career, family, reputation? Because they were living in the thrill of the moment and never mind the con sequences.

Alcohol-fuelled injuries (it is one of the leading causes of accidents and fights) are the unexpected and unconsidered con sequences of enjoying the moment and over-indulgence: “Wouldn’t it be funny to dance on that table?” is not something we often think when sober!

So what’s the answer? A puritanical approach that condemns all pleasure? No – God has created us with senses to be stimulated, and with the ability to enjoy life. He invented adrenaline and seratonin and the like. Jesus even changed water into wine so was probably not teetotal.

It seems to me that perhaps we should listen to his Spirit a bit more – that little voice that asks us ‘are you sure about that?’ when we are tempted. It’s quite easy to ignore him, but it’s also quite easy to listen to him if we want to. If we ask him to (and the Lord’s Prayer encourages us to do that) he will speak, but whether we listen to him still comes down to our choices – short term thrills may have long term con sequences.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

The following pome (sic) is another example of me trying out irony…

X-stream thoughts
Who’s responsible for ‘extreme sports’?
someone must be to blame.
Who first thought it was a good idea
to throw themselves off a bridge
with their feet tied to an elastic band?
And who decided it would be fun to hurtle down mountains
on a tea tray?
Or jump off them with a parachute?
Which allegedly sane individual imagined that climbing sheer rock faces
without so much as a safety net
was a bit of a laugh?
Was there a committee responsible for the idea that riding a bicycle down
tracks shunned by mountain goats
would be kinda neat?
What made someone think,
“Let’s ride the rocky rapids
in a flimsy rubber boat?”
And who said it has become cool to pull terrifying tricks
on a roller skate strapped to a plank?
Who’s to blame for this seemingly endless stream
of new ways to nearly kill yourself, yet live to tell the tale?
Usually.
Whoever gave us adrenaline and told us to live life to the max
is surely responsible
for all our irresponsibility.
© 2003 Nick Lear

virtual God?

>computer users - a parable?Why do we think that the ‘virtual’ world of the internet and cyberspace is any less real than the physical world we inhabit? It seems to me that some people believe that because it is less tangible it is somehow less real. Is that why some people post abusive, threatening and menacing statements on social networking websites – because they don’t think they are real? They think they are just messing around.

Is it why, during the riots a few years ago, young people posted messages on social networking websites saying that there was going to be another riot somewhere – they thought it was all a joke.

Is it why some people have made inappropriate comments about others at work on social networking websites, or have criticised their bosses online – it’s not real, it’s virtual?

Is it why some people explore the seedier side of the internet because they think that the images and videos are not real?

Because it’s ‘virtual’ people don’t think about the consequences of their actions.

But the hurt, fear and stress caused is real. The threat perceived is real. The possibility of inciting violence is real. The damage to reputations is real. And so are the consequences. People are prosecuted for making threats online, for defamation online, for inciting riots online, and are sacked for comments made online. The people who are exploited to gratify the desires of others are real. The world may be virtual but the consequences of our actions are real.

I think that’s the same with our relationship with God. Doesn’t it sometimes feel ‘virtual’? We can’t physically see him, we can’t physically touch him. Our relationship with him can seem less real because of that. But simply because we can’t see or touch him does not make him any less real, it doesn’t mean that the relationship is less real, and it doesn’t mean that the consequences of ignoring him are less real.

If we are honest with ourselves there are moments for all of us when it feels like our relationship with God is virtual, intangible, unreal. He seems remote, distant, more of a good idea than a reality. But do our thoughts and feelings invalidate the reality? Are the consequences of the actions of those who think that cyberspace is not real any less real because they don’t think about them? Just because you don’t think God is there, or you can’t feel him, it does not mean that he isn’t. It just means that you need to reconnect. Start by reading a Gospel and see God in flesh and blood interacting with people like us. Jesus is not virtual!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

smell you later

A couple of days ago a chilli con carne was being prepared in our house. Actually technically it was in the kitchen on the stove, not all over the house. All the ingredients were prepared, put into the pan to cook, and left to simmer gently.

The family settled down to watch part two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on DVD. Halfway through the film the phone rang and (since it’s a cordless model) I took it out into the kitchen so that I did not disturb the rest of the family. As I entered the kitchen I realised that the chilli con carne may have been slightly overcooked. It hadn’t reached the ‘plumes of black smoke’ stage but there was an incredibly strong smell of burnt chilli.

After the phone call we attempted to clean up the debris and the pan was scrubbed. The chilli con carne was rescued (part of it anyway) and the burnt scummy charred remains were deposited in the bin. Over the next few days there was a persistent lingering smell of charred chilli con carne in the kitchen that tried to sneak its way into other rooms of the house if doors were left open. I tried using air freshener to mask the smell but the pungent smell always  won. I tried using the air freshener that claims it seeks out unwanted odours and latches onto them, smothering them and preventing them from ponging (I think they have a slightly more technical description) but it seems that the pungent pong was more powerful. If anything, it smelt like the acrid smell was growing more powerful.

Last night I hit upon an idea. I emptied the bin. Since then the odour has been decreasing and her nostrils are no longer assaulted when we enter the kitchen.

One of the many wonderful things about God is the depth and extent of his grace and forgiveness. When I get things wrong and turned back to him he will always forgive, always restore, never stop loving.

But if I leave it at that there are times when the consequences of what I’ve done wrong can be ignored. Sometimes the aroma of hurt lingers. Sometimes the grace of God needs to be accompanied by my own action – putting right the things that I have done wrong for others. Only then will the true and full extent of God’s forgiveness and grace be experienced by everyone involved.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Two new chemical elements have recently been discovered. Here for the first time is a description of their properties.

Element Name: WOMAN

Symbol: WO

Atomic Weight: (don’t even go there!)

Physical Properties: Generally curvy in form. Boils at nothing and may freeze any time. Melts whenever treated properly. Can become bitter if not treated well.

Chemical properties: Very active. Highly unstable. Possesses strong affinity to gold, silver, platinum, and precious stones. Violent when left alone. Able to absorb great amounts of exotic food. Turns slightly green when placed next to a better specimen.

Usage: Highly ornamental. An extremely good catalyst for dispersion of wealth. Probably the most powerful income reducing agent known.

Caution: Highly explosive in inexperienced hands.

———–

Element Name: MAN

Symbol: XY

Atomic Weight: (180 +/- 50)

Physical properties: Solid at room temperature,but gets bent out of shape easily. Fairly dense and sometimes flaky. Difficult to find a pure sample. Due to rust, aging samples are unable to conduct electricity as easily as young samples.

Chemical properties: Attempts to bond with WO any chance it can get. Also tends to form strong bonds with itself. Becomes unstable when mixed with Kd (Element: Child) for prolonged period of time.

Usage: None known. Possibly good methane source. Good samples are able to produce large quantities on command.

Caution: In the absence of WO, this element rapidly decomposes and begins to smell.