that moment when your computer needs to update and you need to use it… urgently

I usually prepare my sermons in the first half of a week. That gives me space to reflect on it and adjust things. I usually wait until the Sunday morning to do any final adjustments before saving it as a PDF and sending it to my tablet computer from which I like to preach. This is what works for me.

Yesterday morning I switched my computer on just before 8am and gone to get a cup of coffee. When I got back to my computer I was faced with a message that told me that Windows 10 was installing new updates and that it may take a while.


Sometimes you have to wait for ages for your windows to update


I needed to be on my way soon after 9.30am.

I did research options to see if I could intervene and stop the process but none of them seemed safe enough to attempt if I wanted to be certain of accessing my computer afterwards.

I then prayed. I prayed that the update might finish in time for me to access the computer and get hold of the sermon, or that at the least I might be able to remember enough to preach something close to what I had been working on earlier in the week.

I thought of an update(!) to an old joke that I could tell at the start of my sermon: A preacher’s computer decided to update itself on the Sunday morning so he couldn’t access his sermon. He had to go to the church without his notes. As he stood up to preach he explained the situation to his congregation and finished with these words, “… so today I will just have to rely on the Holy Spirit for my sermon. Next week I hope to do better.”

I posted something on social media via my phone so I could get some sympathy (with hashtags in case Microsoft monitors them) and perhaps some extra prayers. Other Ministers expressed that they were having similar problems – solidarity in frustration.

And I looked again at the passage from which I was preaching and tried to recall what I thought I was going to say.

By 9am I was entirely ready to leave: the car was packed, the satnav knew where to direct me, and I was clean and tidy. But my computer had only reached about 75%.

By 9.30am we were at 96%. But the final 4% seemed to be taking ages.

At 9.38am the computer announced that it had finished installing the updates. I smiled with relief and waited for it to boot up.

Except that the booting up was taking much longer than normal, presumably because it was still updating itself.

I managed finally to get into the computer and print off the sermon (on paper, not high tech tabletty stuff) and leave the house by 9.45am. I got to the church safely and on time and all went well from there…

This morning I tried to find out if there were settings I could change to ensure that this didn’t happen again. I couldn’t find a ‘ask my permission before installing updates’ setting. Instead there was a setting in which I declare my normal working hours within which Windows should not install updates. It had been set to 8am – 5pm. The updating process had happened just before 8am, but it took well over an hour and a half that took it into my declared working time. I have now adjusted that setting so that my declared working hours start earlier and finish later (at least as far as my computer is concerned).

So I offer a few reflections:

Did God speed up the updating process? I don’t think so. But he gave me the patience and serenity to cope in what was a very frustrating time. That often seems to be how he answers prayer – changing me rather than the circumstances.

Will I change the way that I work? Probably. I will transfer the sermon to my tablet earlier in the week so I have a back up I can use, but still do my final preparation on a Sunday morning and if necessary send a newer version to the tablet at that stage. Do we adapt ourselves to others or expect them to adapt to us?

What else have I learnt?

  • That God is more reliable than the other things I rely on to fulfil the calling he has placed on my life and I need to rely on him more and them less.
  • That it’s helpful having some good friends who offer good advice, prayers and (if nothing else) make me smile. I need to be ready to do the same for them.
  • The computer programmers who designed the software don’t appear to have thought through the implications of not asking us whether it is convenient to update at that particular time. How often do I pause to think through any unintended implications of my actions that may inconvenience others, even when they seem like a good idea?
  • It would have been helpful if a pop-up message had told me that they weren’t going to ask my permission to update in future so I knew what to do about that. How often does my failure to communicate fully with others cause them upset?

Be blessed, be a blessing

I was lucky to come third

Last night was the stage competition for the Mid Essex Magical Society and once again I entered. The some reason this year I was quite nervous. That was not the case in previous years and I couldn’t work out why I was nervous this year. I think it affected my performance a little bit but even so I came third. The competition was won by the brilliant Richard Jones and Jack Blackbourn came second. No disgrace in coming 3rd to them.

All right, I’ll admit it, there were only three people who were able to be there to perform this year but I felt as if I was lucky to come third because my performance had not gone as well as I’d hoped!

stew no backgroundThis morning (very early) I woke up with my mind running through the point when it all went wrong in one of the illusions. A deck of playing cards was being balanced on a knife (the flat side, not the edge!) and the knife was being held by Stew the Rabbit who I was holding. It probably sounds a bit more complicated than it was but at the crucial moment the playing cards fell off the knife. I think the reason was that I let my nervousness get to me. The slightest tremor in my hand was translated through Stew the Rabbit, along the knife, and caused the precariously balanced cards to tumble. Even though I caught some of the cards others fell to the floor and it was pretty obvious that something had gone wrong.

So why was I nervous? I’m still not sure. It’s not as if I am unused to performing in public – I’ve done it many times without these nerves. It is not as if I was nervous about being judged as I’ve entered the competition twice before and not had a problem with nervousness. I was fairly confident about the routines I was performing. In the end I think it probably was because I felt underprepared. I had worked out what illusions I was going perform previously but I’d had a busy day and hadn’t really had a chance to get my head around all that I was going perform in the evening. I hadn’t thought through my patter well enough so I was uncertain about what I might say. I didn’t rehearse enough (it’s best to get to the point where you can perform without thinking about the techniques so that you can concentrate on the presentation). I blame Stew the Rabbit (after all he can’t answer back!) And I also blame the chamfer on the  knife that I used which meant that the cards were even more precarious than perhaps they should have been.

The old adage says that if you fail to prepare you should prepare to fail. There is a degree of truth about that.

I wonder how many churches rush into things underprepared? And by “underprepared” I mean lacking in prayerful preparation. Living the Christian faith and sharing it is not about techniques or programmes or courses but about the strength of the relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ, empowered by his Spirit. If we try to do things in our own strength rather than dependent on God we should not be surprised if we fail.

Perhaps also we should not also be disheartened if the results of our endeavours are less than we had hoped: if we have been trying in our own strength because we had failed to prepare. If things didn’t work don’t give up, instead put more focus on the praying part and you might find things are different next time round.

Prepare prayerfully, act faithfully, respond thankfully.

Be blessed, be a blessing