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I have volunteered to be the compère at some of the Mid Essex Magical Society‘s shows. In preparation I have been looking for some good ways to introduce my friends. I have found some lovely ones (which I am going to keep for the shows) but also came across these ways of introducing people (mainly after-dinner speakers) which made me chuckle. Some of them may take you a moment to get but I like the wit in all of them:

Before we begin, I want to point out the exits in case the fire alarm goes off – or the speaker won’t get off.

Character, integrity, principle. People want to know why she hasn’t run for public office. I just told you.

Here is a man who has done for banquet audiences what the Titanic did for the winter cruise business.

I’m not making a speech tonight, so I won’t put you to sleep. But after the other speakers are finished, I promise I will wake you up.

It’s always a pleasure to speak to a group so sincerely dedicated to limiting the growth of the money supply – a dedication I first became aware of when I discussed my fee.

Our next speaker is very active in Church… she squirms and fidgets and wiggles.

Our next speaker says a businesswoman has to be twice as good as a man. Fortunately, that’s not hard to do.

[insert speaker’s name] says the best years of her life were the ten years between 29 and 30.

No deep and meaningful thoughts accompany these, other than to ask you how you would like to be introduced: what attributes would you like emphasised? What would you rather was not mentioned?

Be blessed, be a blessing

the old joke I almost used on Sunday morning…*

golf holeA Minister decided he needed a day off (no, that’s not the joke). He woke up one morning, looked out on a beautiful day, and decided to play a round of golf (some of you are already at the punchline now). The only problem was that it was a Sunday.

He phoned his Church Secretary and pretended to have lost his voice. He croaked that he would not be able to take the service and received the sympathy of his Secretary. Then he put the phone down, picked up his clubs, put them in the car and joyfully drove off to the golf course.

Meanwhile, from above, two angels were watching. One, a novice, was seriously indignant: “Did you see that?” he blurted. “That Minister lied to his Church and is now off to play golf on a Sunday. We need to stop him!”

“Don’t worry,” said the other angel, a Wing Commander. “It will be sorted.”

The Minister arrived at the golf course and set himself up on the first tee. He swung at the ball, sliced it and it shot off to the right. It careened into a tree, rebounded onto the course and trundled happily up the fairway.

“Did you see that!” shouted the novice angel. “He lied to his Church, is playing golf on a Sunday, and now he’s hitting fluke shots.”

“Don’t worry,” said the Wing Commander. “It will be sorted.”

The Minister chipped onto the green and then sank a 15 foot putt for a birdie.

“Did you see that!” screamed the novice angel. “He lied to his Church, is playing golf on a Sunday, he’s hitting fluke shots and now he’s got a birdie!”

“Don’t worry,” said the Wing Commander. “It will be sorted.”

The next hole was a par three. The Minister lined up his tee shot, swung, and for once made a perfect connection. The ball sailed into the air, straight and true, and landed on the bottom tier of the green. It bounced a couple of times and then rolled up the slope towards the hole and stopped right on the very edge of the cup. Then, after a brief pause, the ball dropped into the hole for a hole in one.

“Did you see that!” fumed the novice angel, forgetting all about the serenity of heaven. “He lied to his Church, is playing golf on a Sunday, he’s hitting fluke shots to get a birdie, and now he’s hit a hole in one! He’s having the round of his life! He should not be getting away with this!”

“Don’t worry, it’s sorted” said the Wing Commander. “He may be having the round of his life, and he may have hit a hole in one, but who can he tell?”

Most of you got to the punch line well before you read it. And I get the feeling that this happens a lot with Christians. Not so much with jokes but with sermons and Bible Studies and the like. We know that the answer will be often one or more of ‘follow Jesus, share your faith, pray, and / or read the Bible’. That may be true at a superficial level, but in my experience it’s as I do those things that I find new experiences every time. Sometimes God takes the familiar things and applies them in new ways. Sometimes I need to be reminded about the familiar things and reapply them to my life. And then there are the ‘wow’ moments when I discover something new or am reminded of something I had forgotten.

If that joke was familiar to you the chances are you would not have remembered it until I told it. If it was new to you the chances are you would not have come across it anywhere else today. It may seem mundane to say ‘follow Jesus, share your faith, pray, and / or read the Bible’ but in doing those things we find the amazing, the exciting, the surprising.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

*I decided against telling the joke on Sunday, but I like it so much that I thought you deserved to read it today!

crossing roads

2012-05-31 08.48.00Not much time to blog today, so a philosophical question for you to consider:

Why did the Baptist Minister cross the road?

Possible answers include:

It was the chicken’s day off
She was tied to the chicken
To show the hedgehog it was possible
To get to the other side*
Because he didn’t know any good jokes
To jump in a big puddle

Be blessed, be a blessing (and be grateful that I stopped when I did!)

You must be able to do better…


*This punchline works if they get run over too (other side aka heaven)

A year with the Lears (2013 version)

Dear friends

letter c

A Christmas letter

It’s time for one of those lovely Christmas letters* from the Lears, where we bore you silly with our news and gloat about our successes. So, if you are kind enough to continue to read this we hope it might at least make you smile, and can guarantee it will make the cracker jokes you have tomorrow seem a lot funnier.


Nick has a new hobby: he is writing film scripts. So far he has written three blockbuster epics – a trilogy about an ordinary disgraced policeman who realises that a master criminal has bought the world’s supply of indigestion remedies and will only sell them at triple the price. Meanwhile his henchmen have altered the recipe for pastry in order to make crusts inedible and it’s up to our hero to stop them on his own. The trilogy is called ‘Pie Hard’.

Nick got banned from a local pub this year but had thought it was a compliment. He did a poetry reading and the pub landlord said, “You’re bard!” Next year Nick will be performing magic at an international venue. (He is sure that someone from overseas must have been to Maldon Town Hall and at some point so that makes it international in his mind).

He has just started on the 5.2 diet – where you eat what you want for 5 days and then fast for 2 days. He says that the first 5 days have been brilliant.

Sally asked her gym instructor to teach her how to do the splits this year. When he asked her how flexible she was she told him that she could only do Wednesdays.

She has given up her job at the shoe recycling centre: it was sole destroying. She got the job after visiting a local shoe shop having heard they were selling recycled shoes. She was struggling to get one on and an assistant said, “Try it with the tongue out.” And she replied, “Itth thtill too thmall.”

Thomas has been working on a new computerised payment system based at the Vatican: Papal.

He went to the doctors and asked him if he had anything for wind. The doctor gave him a kite. This year he has broken the world record for giggling at the most flatulence-related jokes and noises.

>I'm back dook

He was impressed by recent research into feet. Apparently ducks have webbed feet so they can stamp out forest fires. And elephants have flat feet to stamp out burning ducks.

Hannah is still engaged to Olly Murs, but there is no wedding date yet. We’re keeping it quiet so that she is not inundated with attention from Hello and so that she does not receive too many death threats from other fans. She wishes you all an Olly MrsMurs.

Next year she will finish the supercar that she has been hand-building in her bedroom and will be allowing the team from Top Gear to drive it around their track… once she has worked out how to get it out of her bedroom.

She went to the local bakery in order to set up a bank account: it was a currant account.

Her geography teacher asked her if Sally helped her with her geography homework. “No,” said Hannah, “she did it all on her own.”

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Be blessed, be a blessing (with tinsel on as it’s Christmas)

*Any resemblance to actual events is completely coincidental and should be ignored. The rest of the family wish to distance themselves from these jokes and would like you to know that it’s all Nick’s idea.

it’s a cracker!

christmas crackers

Why are Christmas Cracker jokes so bad? They seem designed to illicit a groan rather than a giggle. It’s almost as if they have a testing department and reject any that make someone smile. [Horrible thought – imagine being a joke-tester for Christmas Cracker jokes?!]


Someone somewhere is employed to find these jokes or even write them. Or perhaps now they have a computer that does that for them?


Christmas Crackers are a strange phenomenon aren’t they? A roll of paper with two crimps, a small explosive device, a paper hat, a small gift (to which we will return) and a joke. What an unusual combination, especially to celebrate Christmas. We don’t have them for the rest of the year, so why are they exclusively Christmas Crackers? Quick, down to Dragon’s Den with the idea for a company to make Crackers for all occasions…

Oh yes, the gifts. It seems that the only significant variable in a box of Christmas Crackers is the quality of the gift. The cheaper ones have a piece of plastic that has been moulded into a shape that resembles something in everyday life but which is entirely useless and will be thrown away with the rest of the cracker rubbish. The more expensive ones will have something that looks like it might be useful but will break the first time you use it. And the very expensive ones have things that we are sure will be very helpful but are priced out of the reach of most of us. If the gifts are the only variable then they must dictate the price of the crackers.

So here’s another idea to take down to Dragon’s Den (or perhaps combine with the previous one)… make another variable – the quality of the jokes! The cheaper ones will continue to have the ones that make you groan, but the more expensive you go, the funnier the jokes.

However, I want to subvert that idea even before you offer me £100,000 for 10% of my company. I would imagine that those who can least afford crackers deserve the funniest jokes and the best gifts. So my company’s USP* would be that the more expensive the cracker the worse the joke and the less useful the gift – playing on the expectation that crackers must be crummy – and these expensively priced but cheap to produce ones would subsidise the production of wonderful ones in the budget range.

Wouldn’t it be nice at Christmas that the first really are last and the last first?

Be blessed, be a blessing

There was a recent competition to find new, funny up to date cracker jokes. My favourite was “What does the Queen call her Christmas broadcast? The One Show!”

Closely followed by: “How did Mary and Joseph know Jesus was 7lb 6oz when he was born? They had a weigh in a manger.”

*Unique selling point

highbrow humour

How high are your brows?

How high are your brows?

I found this page in the Independent recently (it’s almost a month old, but as it is not an article about the news I think it’s okay. It is looking at the most highbrow jokes in the world. I thought would share some with you to counter any suggestions that this blog is dumbed down. Here goes:

A photon checks into a hotel and the porter asks him if he has any luggage. The photon replies: “No, I’m travelling light.”

There are 10 types of people in this world. Those that know binary, and those that don’t.

When I heard that oxygen and magnesium hooked up I was like OMg.

The barman says: “We don’t serve faster-than-light particles here.” A tachyon enters a bar.

Never trust an atom. They make up everything.

A Roman walks into a bar,  holds up two fingers, and says:  “Five beers, please.”

A classics professor goes to a tailor to get his trousers mended. The tailor asks: “Euripides?” The professor replies: “Yes. Eumenides?”

A programmer’s wife tells him: “Run to the store and pick up a loaf of bread. If they have eggs, get a dozen.” The programmer comes home with 12 loaves of bread.

What do you get when you combine a joke with a rhetorical question?

Argon walks into a bar and orders a drink. The bartender says, “sir, we don’t serve noble gasses.” There was no reaction.

Now that your brows are suitably high I will leave you with a brief reflection.

[glimpses himself in the mirror].

Be blessed, be a blessing

faith is a joke*

Stop right there! Please don’t start lobbing rocks (literal or metaphorical) just yet. Please read on and then decide whether what I have written has any merit. The title of this bloggage is a bit mischievous. It is open to misunderstanding, yes. But it was designed to get your attention, and it did, didn’t it? It’s my little joke.

What I mean is that some people declare that there is a problem with (Christian) faith because it is unprovable. You can’t distil God in a laboratory. You can’t prove him by mathematics. And that causes problems for people who like empirical proof. You can’t prove it, so it must be wrong.

So why is Christian faith a joke? Well, perhaps if I was being honest I should have made the bloggage title a simile: Christian faith is like a joke.

You see a joke is funny because it is. There is something within it that we find inherently amusing. It may be the element of surprise, dissonance with the norm, a clever word-play and so on.

You can analyse a joke. You can dissect it and see how it is constructed: the set up, the punch line and so on. You can decide what genre of joke it belongs to. You can count the number of letters or words. You can look through history to see whether or when it has been told before. You can analyse the level of laughter it causes. But you can’t prove that a joke will be funny. It may have all the right elements but still not be funny. And sometimes a joke will be funny because it breaks all the rules, which is why computer-generated jokes probably won’t work as well as those generated by comedians.

But when you do analyse a joke it loses some of its joke-ness. You can still appreciate it aesthetically, even be impressed by its clever construction, but it will never be as funny. And if you spend your time analysing jokes you miss the point of them. They are meant to make us laugh, to look at ourselves and the world from a different perspective, they are meant to amuse, entertain and be funny. Treating them to scientific rigour is missing the point.

And that’s where the similarity with faith comes. Yes you can analyse what we believe. You can consider the psychology or philosophy behind faith. You can look at faith in human history. You can do all sorts of tests on it. But if you do you are missing the point. Faith, like a joke, is to be engaged with personally not analysed in a lab.

If you ask someone why a particular joke makes them laugh they may not be able to explain why in a manner that satisfies investigative rigour… it just does.  It resonates with them. If you ask a Christian believer why they believe they may not be able to explain why in a manner that satisfies investigative rigour… they just do. It resonates with them. Like a joke, faith is more than the sum of its parts, it is about meaning in the same way that a joke is about laughter or music and art is about transcendence*.

So please can we step aside from the petty and pointless ‘science vs religion’ debates and arguments that are selling so many books? They are about point-scoring not truth-discovering and often seem to work on the basis of inaccurate summaries and caricatures rather than engagement with real people.

Please can we stop being disrespectful to people who do not believe in God, or to those who do?

Please can we stop feeling intellectually superior or spiritually smug about others?

Please let’s not stop discussing these things.

And please let’s not stop analysing and exploring the components of faith (or jokes). However, please let’s use the appropriate tools for the job – not using the scalpel of science when what is needed is the nutcracker of faith; not using the sledgehammer of faith when what is needed is the spanner of science.

Please can we simply be allowed to talk about what we believe and be as passionate and persuasive as we like but recognise that the other person / people may be equally passionate and persuasive about what they believe. This is not an argument for relativism or pluralism, but for respect.

My faith makes sense to me. I find that it stands up to the scrutiny of my conscience and my intellect. My experience of Jesus is foundational to my life. My faith in Jesus motivates me to want to tell others about him because I believe that my life is better with him and I believe that there is a life beyond this world that is open to all who choose it and I want others to have that too. I will be as persuasive and passionate about that as I can. But I won’t force someone else to believe it, I won’t stop being friends with someone who does not share it, I will not condemn someone who cannot accept it, I will respect those who don’t understand it or say it has not proof behind it. Even though I disagree with them.

Faith is like a joke because it has that intangible something that adds something to our life and takes us into the transcendent: something that dies if you dissect it.

Funny that!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

(This bloggage was written on 19th October but posted the following week while I am on retreat. The timing may seem to be cowardice, but it was mainly because it came to me while I was at home and I wanted to write it down before I forgot it and then thought I would send it into the world wide web while I am away on retreat so that those who actually enjoy my blog (you know who you both are) don’t feel too bereft in my absence).

*If you find the simile too disrespectful, I think the same process and simile works just as well for music or even art.