the saga of the mouth scaffolding continued


not my mouth

Yesterday evening I was frustrated. You may be aware (if you read my previous bloggage) that I currently have scaffolding on my teeth (aka mouth braces) in an attempt to relocate my teeth to where God intended them to be. And it imposes limitations on me that I dislike (sometimes intensely).

One of the things about which I have to be cautious is what I eat. For example, I need to avoid hard, crunchy foods: “nothing harder than a pretzel.” That is difficult because pretzel hardness varies between types of pretzel. It’s not a universal constant and therefore is not an ideal benchmark against which to measure hardness of food. But I understand the point.

The wires on the braces are held to the mounting points by strong latex ‘elastic bands’ and I have to be careful because certain foods can stain the bands so that they are almost fluorescent. Chief culprit is Indian food, especially if it contains turmeric. My dentist advised me to abstain from curry until the night before I see her because of the staining effect, and since she changes over the latex elastics each time I see her I only have the glow in the dark mouth scaffolding for one night.

Today I am not scheduled to see the dentist. Last night I was performing some magic with a message for a men’s group that was meeting in a curry house. The curry smells made me salivate. The starters on the table looked so tempting. The menu was full of food I enjoy eating. But I resisted and instead had an omelette and chips. It was dispiriting to be eating a (nice) omelette and chips while my table companions were tucking into the food I really wanted to eat.

It reminded me again of the need for discipline (see the preceding bloggage), and the need to realise that a brief moment of enjoyment may have longer term consequences. I was aware of how easy it is to be tempted: starting with a poppadom and some mango chutney would be okay. And probably a small kebab as a starter wouldn’t hurt. And then the Bombay Potato alongside a kebab would taste nice. And if I have gone that far I might as well order a naan bread, and some rice, and I might as well have a curry because I have probably already stained the elastics so why not indulge myself.

Being disciplined at the start makes it easier not to give in to temptation later – personal resistance seems to diminish the further you slide down the slippery slope.

One of the things I am trying to do is not only listen for Wisdom’s voice but respond to it.

  • Staying up late to finish watching a film may seem harmless, but Wisdom suggests that rest of the film could be recorded and that we would benefit from a good night’s sleep which means that the next day we will be fresher and healthier. And Wisdom also gently reminds us of how grumpy we are when we are tired and how that will affect other people.
  • Having that extra doughnut may seem really attractive because we really like doughnuts, but Wisdom suggests that the doughnut looks better on the plate than it does on the hips, that we have already eaten enough and that a balanced diet is not a doughnut in each hand. And Wisdom also gently reminds us that someone else might enjoy that doughnut.
  • Running with your basket in hand to the till that is just opening at the supermarket so you can nip in front of the lady with her fractious child in the trolley and a big load of shopping may not seem that harmless. But Wisdom asks us whether we are really in that much of a hurry and to think about how upset the child already is. Wisdom gently suggests that by allowing her to go first the Mum can deal with her upset child sooner.
  • The other driver may have driven thoughtlessly and caused us to brake suddenly. They may need to be taught a lesson. But Wisdom whispers to remind us that we all make mistakes, that nobody was hurt and that the other driver may be really embarrassed by what they have done. Wisdom gently suggests that by giving them a bit more room rather than driving on their bumper flashing our lights we are increasing the amount of goodwill on the roads and that can only be a good thing.

These may seem trivial examples, but I believe that Wisdom (or God’s Spirit) speaks to us all the time, and it’s up to us whether or not we listen and how we respond. It’s easy for us to get caught up in a moment and ignore Wisdom’s voice. One of the ways in which we translate a word used for the Holy Spirit in the Bible is ‘counsellor’. Not as in ‘therapist’ but as in ‘adviser’ or’wise guide’. If Wisdom is God’s Spirit why would we ignore him?

Be blessed, be a blessing

becoming unhinged?

On Tuesday this week I spent the day with my good friend and incredibly talented joiner, David. We were working together to create a prop for the Magic Show I have been mentioning rather a lot in my bloggages.

The prop is my design of a classic of magic (you’ll have to come along to see it). David has helped refine the design so it packs down flat for transportation and storage. It was all going well until we got to a point where we were going to attach the hinges to the lid of the box (yes there is a box involved).

Hinged DoorAt this point we reached a snag because the hinge we had bought did not work in the design. We had overlooked an apparently minor fact which turned out to be very significant. No matter how we looked at it, talked about it, bent bits, dismantled and reassembled the hinge back to front and otherwise fettled, we could not make it do what we needed it to do.

We finished the day feeling somewhat deflated that we had been defeated by something as minor as a hinge and arranged to have another go at it next week.

The following morning I woke up rather earlier than usual with an idea about how to solve the problem. It was bouncing around in my head so I decided to come downstairs and send and email with that possible solution in it to David. As I was typing the email two other possible solutions also presented themselves to me. Suddenly it became obvious how we could resolve the problem (although don’t celebrate just yet as we have not completed the build).

I felt rather pleased with myself that I had been able to think around the problem and (literally) tackle it from a different direction. I was also rather impressed with my subconscious mind that, while my body was kipping, was busy nerdling away at a solution. As I say, I am not celebrating just yet as we have not applied the solution to the problem, but it looks more hopeful as at least there is one way of solving it – there may be more!

And that’s an approach I have sometimes applied to understanding difficult things in the Bible. I may not have come up with THE correct interpretation or answer, but if there is one that works it means that there is AN answer.

DISCLAIMER: At this point please note that I am not making a case for a literal or a metaphorical understanding of the Bible. The example I am using is intended as an illustration of the principle I outlined above. I have a view but will not be letting you know what it is because some of you would not read on because you would disagree with me.

Think about the flood in Genesis and the narrative about Noah (I don’t like calling it ‘Noah’s flood’ as it wasn’t his! There was an interesting interpretation of it on BBC TV at Easter). What actually happened? Was it possible? I read a theory a while ago that has been reported here which suggested that there was a catastrophic flood in that region about 7000 years ago caused by melting of polar ice caps and the rising sea levels overwhelming the land mass in a sudden surge. (Other cultures in the area also have stories of overwhelming floods.) Now listen very carefully. I am not saying that this is exactly what happened, but it is possible -Noah’s inland boat building exploits fit with that explanation of what happened. Because there is a plausible possible explanation I don’t have to worry my brain about what happened.

The question “Did it happen exactly as the Bible said it did?” (bearing in mind that ancient history was not recorded in the same way that we record it today) can be answered: “it could have.” Hopefully both sides of the argument can agree on that and then they could get together to work on the more important part of it – what does it mean?

Because there is a possible plausible answer it also means that we can concentrate instead on what the narrative means for us today: it speaks of God’s concern for what the world he brought into being, perhaps even having something to say about rising water levels caused by global warming; it speaks of God’s sorrow at human behaviour that excludes him, and the inevitable exploitation and violence that comes from greed and that has consequences for us; it speaks of the contrast between people who seek to honour God and those who don’t care about him; it speaks of taking God seriously; it speaks of God’s promises; and (if you read on into what happened when they had disembarked and started again) I wonder if it also speaks about the human struggle to understand what has happened in the face of natural disasters (Noah became unhinged and got very drunk).

What does it say to you?

Be blessed, be a blessing