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?
Whoever gave us adrenaline and told us to live life to the max
is surely responsible
for all our irresponsibility.
© 2003 Nick Lear

in case

I noticed recently that my mobile phone was getting a bit bashed. It had dropped out of my pocket a few times and the casing was a bit chipped and scratched. The screen had survived (thankfully) but I wondered what I should do to enable the phone to survive at least beyond the length of the contract.

I looked online at different options. In the past I have bought a case for it that covered it completely and opened up a bit like a book but found that it was a bit cumbersome and awkward for those moments when I actually wanted to use the phone like a phone and talk to someone with it. Also, if truth be told, the case I bought was rather cheap and did not last very long.

I did look at whether I could buy a replacement casing for the phone and just replace the innards. I could buy a new back fairly cheaply but because it has a touch screen and that is bonded to the innards replacing the whole thing would be very difficult and expensive. And the bits that were chipped and scratched were the bits that were bonded to the screen that was bonded to the innards.

Then I found what I felt was the ideal solution. It is a cover that slides over the casing and also covers the edges that are chipped and scratched. It will protect the casing from further damage and, while rugged is also lightweight so I don’t feel like I am holding a brick against my ear on the occasions when I actually want to use the phone like a phone and talk to someone. I bought the cover online and it arrived very promptly, is built specifically for the model of phone that I own and looks quite good too.

However (didn’t you just know that there was a ‘however’?) there is a drawback. I have a holder for my phone in my car so I can use it hands-free and also utilise the satellite navigation app. Now that there is a cover on the phone it is just a little bit bulkier than the phone holder can comfortably accommodate. It’s marginal and I only discovered it when I was driving along and the phone jumped out of the holder and landed edge-first on my knee cap (painfully proving how hard the cover is). I have had to improvise a solution that includes a couple of strategically placed elastic bands pulling the arms of the holder together in order to keep the phone where I want it.

At this point, for those who have not switched off because of boredom, you will almost certainly be asking yourself (and me ‘virtually’) what the point of this little bloggage is. It’s not about phones, covers, or protecting what we own. The point is that life is a bit like this little episode. We find that one action has implications and repercussions for us in other areas. I have found that in accepting the call to a new role has implications and repercussions for my church, my family and for me. It also has implications and repercussions for my new colleagues and the churches I will be serving. On a less significant level, for example, getting locked out of your house might not only mean that you have a long wait outside, it may impact your neighbours (if they take pity on you), other members of your family (if you ask them to come and let you in) and for your health (if you get wet or sunburnt). [I should add that the second illustration is purely hypothetical and any similarity to actual events is purely coincidental.]

DESCRIPTION: Texting with God CAPTION: And the second way in which it is a bit like life is that we also have to improvise a lot. We don’t always know exactly what to do and have to improvise what we think is the best thing to do in the circumstances. Sometimes we discover that the implications and repercussions of the actions of others cause us to improvise a response.

So, if you are still with me at this point, let me make one more point. It is in the form of a paraphrase of part of the Bible (Romans 12:1-2, from The Message):

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Be blessed, be a blessing

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.