Getting needled

needleOn Saturday I performed some magic at a local village fayre. I was delighted that it was indoors as just as we were about to leave the house the heavens opened and there was a deluge of hail and rain. I was also quite pleased to be on the stage in the village hall, as it meant I could be comfortable about important things like people being able to see.

However, without giving anything away, one of the tricks was almost scuppered by an unscheduled needle on the stage floor. It got into my shoe and as well as being uncomfortable almost prevented me from being able to do a brand new trick that I had never before performed in public.

In the UK we have a saying to describe trying to find something that is small and well-hidden: “It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack.” Well it seems to me that the best way to find a needle is to walk around on a stage when the last thing you want to happen is to find a needle in your shoe. It will find its way to you. (Of course, if you have lost a needle and want to find it again it is  not likely to be on a stage if you weren’t on a stage in the first place, this plan only works if you need a needle and can’t locate one).

It is amazing how it is often the small things that can have a big effect. The Apollo 13 near-disaster was caused because 5 years previously the designers had changed the voltages and one component manufacturer was missed. One tiny thermostat in that massively complex space craft failed and it almost led to the deaths of the three astronauts.

There is an old rhyme that goes:

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

(The opposite of my needle problem).

Details are important. Details matter. Logistical planning is vital. That goes for any venture in life, but here’s a possible scenario for churches:

“For want of a question the sad news was lost.

For want of the sad news the person was not prayed for.

For want of the prayer the person felt unloved.

For want of love they left the church.

For want of that person others left too.

And all for want of a question.”

It’s not an unrealistic scenario, sadly. I am acutely aware that I need to pay attention to the details in peoples’ lives as well as having the ‘big picture’ in mind. But in the scenario above that chain of causality can be broken at any time by grace and reconciliation. If we needle someone (deliberately or unintentionally) a gracious approach, an honest apology and graciously requested forgiveness are needed. And alongside that, plenty of prayer that God’s grace will abound.

We’re all human. It’s part of being human that we make mistakes. How we respond to that (either as the cause or the victim) reveals God at work in us.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

>Blue Screen Of Death


Yesterday our home computer decided to show us the Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD). For those of you who have Apple Computers, stop laughing. For those of you who run Windows and have never seen the BSOD – how have you avoided it? Here’s a picture of what it looks like for the uninitiated…

Essentially it is your computer’s way of getting your attention and telling you that something serious is wrong. I like to think I know my way around computers a bit, so I decided I could solve the problem. From my former job at Baptist House and observing the tech support genius there (Hi Paul) I know that what you do is turn the computer off and then back on again!

Actually the computer did that on its own. I got it to restart relatively successfully and thenlogged onto my user profile (we each have one in our house) and watched it load up the different programs. Just as I was breathing a sigh of relief… BSOD again!


The computer went through the same process again with exactly the same result. This time I was ready for it and when it tried to reboot I got it to do it in Safe Mode (less whizzy bits to go wrong). I checked to see if there was any recent software install that may have caused this instability but that did not seem to be the problem. Just as I was getting to the point where I was stumped I had an epiphany.

I remembered that just prior to the BSOD one of the family had been uploading photos from a memory card that goes into the little slot at the front of the laptop. I checked and it was still there. I ejected it and then did a full tech support style remedy (aka reboot). This time it worked fine, and the BSOD has been banished again. I think I know why the little memory card was causing the problem but won’t bother you with a long tech support explanation.

The point is that something apparently small and innocuous was messing up the whole system. I know that is true of my spiritual health as well as my computer’s health. Something apparently small and innocuous, like a sin that no longer bothers me, can wreck my spiritual wellbeing. I have not yet encountered a BSOD in my faith, but I find myself feeling more distant from God, less comfortable with myself, even dry.

So, whatever it may be, eject the small and innocuous as well as the big and obvious. Ask God to show you what it may be and help you to remove it. He gives us more than a reboot, he forgives, cleanses and looks on us as if it never happened. We are restored. You will notice the difference!

Tech support really helps – these come from an article in the Wall Street Journal…

1. Compaq is considering changing the command “Press Any Key” to “Press Return Key” because of the flood of calls asking where the “Any” key is.

2. AST technical support had a caller complaining that her mouse was hard to control with the dust cover on. The cover turned out to be the plastic bag the mouse was packaged in.

3. Another Compaq technician received a call from a man complaining that the system wouldn’t read word processing files from his old diskettes. After trouble- shooting for magnets and heat failed to diagnose the problem, it was found that the customer labeled the diskettes then rolled them into the typewriter to type the labels.

4. Another AST customer was asked to send a copy of her defective diskettes. A few days later a letter arrived from the customer along with Xeroxed copies of the floppies.

5. A Dell technician advised his customer to put his troubled floppy back in the drive and close the door. The customer asked the tech to hold on, and was heard putting the phone down, getting up and crossing the room to close the door to his room.

6. Another Dell customer called to say he couldn’t get his computer to fax anything. After 40 minutes of trouble-shooting, the technician discovered the man was trying to fax a piece of paper by holding it in front of the monitor screen and hitting the “send” key.

7. Yet another Dell customer called to complain that his keyboard no longer worked. He had cleaned it by filling up his tub with soap and water and soaking the keyboard for a day, then removing all the keys and washing them individually.

8. A Dell technician received a call from a customer who was enraged because his computer had told him he was “bad and an invalid”. The tech explained that the computer’s “bad command” and “invalid” responses shouldn’t be taken personally.

9. An exasperated caller to Dell Computer Tech Support couldn’t get her new Dell Computer to turn on. After ensuring the computer was plugged in, the technician asked her what happened when she pushed the power button. Her response, “I pushed and pushed on this foot pedal and nothing happens.” The “foot pedal” turned out to be the computer’s mouse.

10. Another customer called Compaq tech support to say her brand-new computer wouldn’t work. She said she unpacked the unit, plugged it in, and sat there for 20 minutes waiting for something to happen. When asked what happened when she pressed the power switch, she asked “What power switch?”

11. True story from a Novell NetWire SysOp:

Caller: “Hello, is this Tech Support?”
Tech: “Yes, it is. How may I help you?”
Caller: “The cup holder on my PC is broken and I am within my warranty period. How do I go about getting that fixed?”
Tech: “I’m sorry, but did you say a cup holder?”
Caller: “Yes, it’s attached to the front of my computer.”
Tech: “Please excuse me if I seem a bit stumped, It’s because I am. Did you receive this as part of a promotional, at a trade show? How did you get this cup holder? Does it have any trademark on it?”
Caller: “It came with my computer, I don’t know anything about a promotional. It just has ’24X’ on it.”

At this point the Tech Rep had to mute the caller, because he couldn’t stand it. The caller had been using the load drawer of the CD-ROM drive as a cup holder, and snapped it off.