mmm… cookies?

cookiesNo, this is not a tribute to Homer Simpson or the Cookie Monster. It’s actually a reflection on how, through cookies* and the like, websites get to know stuff about us. If you search for ‘silly string’ (as I have done recently, watch out!) you will find that you start getting offered adverts for silly string on other websites you visit because of the clever sneakiness going on behind the scenes that tracks what you are interested in and offers you more of the same or similar (I still have no idea why I get offered hair products, though!).

At the moment I am gathering some items for a couple of new magic routines I am working on so the adverts are becoming quite interesting. I get offered gifts to go in party bags, fancy dress costumes and practical jokes. (I will leave you guessing what the magical routines are!)

I wonder why the clever sneakiness going on behind the scenes thinks that because we have searched for something once we want some more of the same? I have bought all I need for the magic routines, that part of my internet life is at an end. I won’t be buying any more but the adverts that are based on what I searched for assume that I want to continue purchasing that sort of thing.

Of course I recognise it’s very difficult for websites to anticipate what we will search for next – the only thing they can go on is what we have done in the past and try to extrapolate from that to offer us what we might want next. It would probably freak me out if every time I went online to search for something new my browser offered me exactly what I wanted before I had even searched for it. I would wonder how they had got inside my mind!

You and I are much more than the product of our past. We are shaped and influenced by it now and in the future. We even have to pay for it (eg loans). But the mistakes and terrible events of the past do not have to have so much hold over us that they define who we are today. We can choose.

Just because you are walking down a particular path does not mean that you have to continue to follow that path.


Changes of direction, turning around, fresh starts and freedom are available to us all. It can take courage, resolve and we may need help (either from friends or professionals), but it’s possible. I don’t write these things lightly and recognise the limitations of a blog that can’t hope to minister to all of you, but I have found these things to be true for myself as a follower of Jesus and share that experience with you. I hope you will find the same thing in a local Christian church.

Be blessed, be a blessing

*According to Wikipedia “Cookies were designed to be a reliable mechanism for websites to remember stateful information (such as items added in the shopping cart in an online store) or to record the user’s browsing activity (including clicking particular buttons, logging in, or recording which pages were visited in the past). They can also be used to remember arbitrary pieces of information that the user previously entered into form fields such as names, addresses, passwords, and credit card numbers.”

Not for turning?


The Chancellor of the Exchequer has been vilified for U-turns recently. He announced a range of tax changes in the Budget and has changed a number of those plans since then. Different groups and newspapers who have run campaigns against the proposed changes have claimed victories and credit for forcing the Chancellor to change his mind. The Shadow Chancellor made fun of him for all the U-turns, but welcomed the latest one in almost the same breath.

I understand that people want leaders who are decisive but is it so bad to change your mind? Doesn’t it show a certain amount of courage and character to do so in public after having made the initial announcements? Especially as you know you will be criticised are ridiculed for doing so!

Doesn’t a culture where people experience such a response to changing their mind lead to intransigence, stubbornness and encourage people to stick to following bad policies or unwise courses of action?

In churches I think we can suffer from a similar temptation… changing your mind can be seen as weak leadership rather than humble listening. It’s the sort of attitude that leads to ‘we’ve never done it that way before’-style paralysis. It’s the attitude that diminishes willingness to take risks because we sense God might be saying something to us. It’s the sort of approach that means we don’t stop doing things that are no longer working or appropriate for our current context.

And of course we need to remember that God loves it when we make U-turns. The Bible calls it ‘repentance’.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

A bloke received a phone call from his wife on his carphone.

“Be careful dear,” she said.”I heard on the radio that there’s a car travelling the wrong way on the motorway you’re on.”

The bloke replied, with a touch of panic, “It’s not just one – there’s hundreds of them!”