the loo roll hypothesis

Tomorrow hopefully will include admission into hospital for a long-awaited operation. This means that there will be a hiatus in the bloggage production while I am in hospital and for a little while as I convalesce. Just to warn you, however, once I have recovered a bit the frequency may increase (and I am offering no guarantees about the quality).

So, in order to prepare you for this, I feel I need to offer you a highbrow bloggage today. And I want you to consider the cardboard tubes inside toilet rolls (how highbrow is that!?).

Toilet Paper RollThese humble tubes have always led a double life. They spend some of their life as the centre of a roll of toilet paper, enabling the easy retrieval and removal of the paper at the moment of need (ahem). Then, when they have finished distributing toilet paper, many of them begin the second phase of their life as a staple part of many different children’s craft activities.

When I was a child it was rare for Blue Peter ‘makes’ not to include the holy trinity of ‘sticky backed plastic’, ‘double-sided sticky tape for speed’ and ‘a cardboard tube’ (they were too polite to refer to its previous life). The wonderful thing is that these tubes were universal in size so you could guarantee that they would be the right size for the craft project.

Recently Sainsburys (they need naming here) have taken the decision to reduce the diameter of their cardboard tubes inside the toilet paper. According to their blurb this means that they can reduce the size of the packaging while keeping the same number of sheets on each roll. That in turn means they need fewer lorries to deliver it to the stores and it takes less space on their shelves and in our homes.

Amazing – all that from simply reducing the size of cardboard tubes. But have they considered the impact on the children’s crafts? Did they consult Blue Peter? Have pre-schools and play groups been asked about this? Will all other toilet paper manufacturers follow suit, and while reducing the carbon footprint caused by our need to (ahem) they will be throwing the best laid plans of teachers and parents into disarray.

Start stockpiling the old size tubes now, before they vanish completely!

In case you have not picked it up yet, yes I am being facetious, ironic or even sarcastic. Of course it is a good thing to reduce the environmental impact on our planet caused by our lifestyles. If that means that craft activities have to be adapted or abandoned, so be it. One toilet roll changing size on its own won’t make much difference, but if millions of toilet rolls are changed, then there will be a measurable difference.

It made me wonder whether there are simple things I can change in my life that will make a significant difference. Not on my own, but if lots of other people do the same we can see change.

How about if we all take the time to say ‘thank you’ to someone else whom we normally take for granted? It could be someone in a shop or restaurant. It could be someone in our family. It could be our neighbours or friends. It could be in person, a phone call, a letter or card, or by one of the many electronic forms of communication. It could even be God! Let’s cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

And how about you make something for someone else each day. It may be something physical like cakes, a meal, a bed or something tangible like that (even made with toilet roll tubes). Or it could be something less physical. You could make someone feel loved or appreciated. You could make someone feel special. You could make someone happy by the way you serve them.

And what about doing something new each day that makes someone else smile? It could be a joke, or a cup of tea. It could be that you give them one of your smiles because they look like they are in need of one. It could be a hug or a compliment.

I reckon it’s the sort of thing Jesus did on a daily basis. In his praying he thanked, he made people’s lives better, and I am sure he put smiles on many people’s faces.

Thank, make, smile. 

Simple and humble, easy and adaptable. Just like cardboard tubes.

Be blessed, be a blessing

Hospital-related joke. (Yes I know there are some data protection issues with it, but it’s funny).

A woman called the reception desk at a hospital.

The receptionist heard the woman say, “Hello. I’d like to talk with the person who gives the information about the patients. But I don’t want to know if the patient is better or doing like expected, or worse. I want all the information from top to bottom, from A to Z.”

The voice on the other line said “Would you hold the line please, that’s a very unusual request.”

Then a very authoritative voice came on and said, “Are you the lady who is calling about one of the patients?”

She said: “Yes! I’d like to know the information about Sarah Finkel.”

He said “Finkel. Finkel. Let me see. Filch, Finch… Finkel. Oh yes, Mrs. Finkel is doing very well. In fact, she’s had two full meals, her doctor says if she continues improving as she is, he is going to send her home Tuesday at twelve o’clock.”

The woman said “That’s wonderful! She’s going home at twelve o’clock! I’m so happy to hear that. That’s wonderful news.”

The guy on the other end says: “From your enthusiasm, I take it you must be one of the close family.”

She said “What close family? I’m Sarah Finkel!! My doctor won’t tell me anything.”

the heart of the matter

Sorry about the absence of a bloggage on Friday and over the weekend. On Friday I went to visit a church near Southampton as part of my sabbatical studies, and it was so encouraging. Thank you Gordon and your church for the hospitality and sharing.

On Friday evening I stretched out my left arm at about 10pm and felt a twinge. By 3am on Saturday the twinge had become very painful indeed and my left hand was starting to feel a bit numb, so I looked at NHS Direct’s website and entered my symptoms. I was rather surprised that it suggested I should go to hospital immediately.

So I rang NHS Direct instead, and having spoken to two nice people they concluded that I should go to hospital immediately and, before I knew what was happening, an ambulance crew was knocking on the door. They wired me up and did not see anything too alarming but took me to the hospital anyway.

The hospital staff were great (I was feeling silly and a bit of a fraud, especially when the ambulance staff insisted on wheeling me in a wheelchair). They realised quite quickly what I was trying to say all along: that I had strained / torn / tweaked a muscle in my arm.

The problem was that the symptoms were such that it meant that the answers I gave to the person on the phone sounded suspiciously like the symptoms of a heart attack. Let me state here and now, on the record, I did not have a heart attack, I don’t have any heart problems, and other than a very painful left arm I am fine. Any rumours circulating to the contrary are false!

I am glad that our NHS system was so efficient and alert to the possibilities of me having a heart attack. I am grateful to all the staff who made sure that they were happy that I was not going to keel over before releasing me into the wild, rather than just taking my word for it. I am happy to know that my heart is in good condition. Better to be safe than sorry. At the hospital the doctor I saw could tell I was in a lot of pain and prescribed me some heavier duty painkillers for the pain in my arm – unfortunately they also make me feel dopier than usual.

But it did feel like a bit of an over-reaction. I only wanted some advice about what I could do to reduce the pain in my arm and ended up having an ambulance ride and a mini waxing (pulling off the electrode contacts from the ECG machine also removed a few body hairs).

I wonder if sometimes churches are the same. Someone may come to us asking for some help and before they know it they have been presented with a full explanation of the good news about Jesus, enrolled on an Alpha course and provisionally booked for a baptism. When people came to Jesus he was far more generous – he allowed others to set the agenda. He did not have a set routine of questions designed to diagnose their problem or a series of presentations and programmes to make them a Christian. Several times in the gospels he asked people, “What would you like me to do for you?”

That’s an amazing question to ask. It’s a dangerous question, a vulnerable question, and it’s a mission question. It leaves the power with the person who has come to him rather than him assuming control of the situation. It keeps the focus on the individual rather than on what we might think is the answer.

Yet at the same time we often find Jesus answering the wrong question. When four friends lowered their paralysed friend through a hole in the roof to get him in front of Jesus for healing, Jesus told the man that his sins were forgiven! He did not start with the physical healing, he healed the man’s soul. But then, to demonstrate that he had authority to forgive sins, he did the apparently more difficult task of healing the man.

Confusing isn’t it?

Yes and no. Jesus knew what was at the heart of the man’s needs. We may need to spend some time listening to get to the same point. But if Jesus’ mission question is not far from our lips we will be on the way to getting to the heart of the matter.

coincidentally God is at work

Colchester General Hospital

Yesterday I had a wonderfully strange experience. I had not planned to visit the hospital, but had been told that one of our members had been admitted, so I went over to see how she was (doing ok). As I stood at the nurses’ station, trying to find the lady I had come to visit, I heard my name being called. It took me by surprise, and I turned around to see a friend standing there (from nearby, but not from our church).

He had been admitted unexpectedly and had strolled up to the nurses’ station at just that moment to ask a question. What a coincidence! Or was I being gently nudged to be in the right place at the right time so I could chat with him and pray with him as well?

Sometimes people call these events ‘divine appointments’. I usually find myself chuckling gently when I think about them (they happen relatively often) because I imagine God whispering subliminal messages to me about when to go where without me knowing why. If that is the case, and I have no reason to suspect that it is, then it seems that by surrendering my will to God I am also surrendering control of my diary. Not a bad practice, I reckon, and if he wants to create an extra day in the diary for me at the same time, even better! Perhaps he is motivating me in response to prayers of others. Perhaps he is nudging me in a similar way to the way that he spoke to Old Testament prophets and told them to go to particular places.

But what if it’s not like that? What if it’s not super-spiritual? What if it is ‘just’ coincidence? Well, then the onus is on me to make the most of the opportunities that come along and be the best free sample of Jesus I can be in those circumstances. Either way, the outcome is hopefully that people are blessed and encouraged. How it happens is secondary. In fact I don’t see either explanation as less God-inspired. Either he is inspiring events, which is brilliant, or he is using coincidences, which is astonishing.

Be blessed, be a blessing (wittingly or unwittingly)

This joke requires little knowledge of American culture and business names…

Four expectant fathers were in Minneapolis hospital waiting room, while their wives were in labor. The nurse arrived and announced to the first man, “Congratulations sir, You’re the father of twins.”

“What a coincidence” the man said with some obvious pride. “I work for the Minnesota Twins baseball team.”

The nurse returned in a little while and turned to the second man, “You sir, are the father of triplets.”

“Wow, That’s really an incredible coincidence ” he answered.

“I work for the 3M Corporation.” My buddies at work will never let me live this one down.

An hour later, while the other two men were passing cigars around, the nurse came back, this time she turn to the 3rd man – who had been quiet in the corner. She announced that his wife had just given birth to quadruplets.

Stunned, he barely could reply. “Don’t tell me another coincidence?” asked the nurse. After finally regaining his composure, he said “I don’t believe it, I work for the Four Seasons Hotel.”

After hearing this, everybody’s attention turned to the 4th guy, who had just fainted, flat out on the floor. The nurse rushed to his side and after some time, he slowly gained back his consiousness.

When he was finally able to speak, you could hear him whispering repeatedly the same phrase over and over again.

“I should have never taken that job at 7-Up

“I should have never taken that job at 7-Up

“I should have never taken that job at 7-Up…