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.

old-man-window
Sometimes you have to wait for ages for your windows to update

Oh.

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

s l o w m o t i o n . . .

snailI had an interesting experience yesterday. I was preaching at a church where I had previously done a magic show for their leaders and their partners. Yesterday one of them told me that he had taken a video of some of the show, and in particular had a slow motion video of a ‘knife throwing’ illusion that I performed with Stew the Rabbit. Initially I was a little bit alarmed as I thought he would say that the slow motion video showed how I had managed to perform the illusion.

Then he showed me the video.

The video is about 38 seconds long but captures what probably only took about 10 seconds in real time. At first, because the action is slowed down so much, nothing seems to be happening. In fact for the first ten seconds you can’t tell whether or not the video is running – other than by watching the counter at the bottom of the screen tick over.

Then, slowly, imperceptibly, the illusion unfolds and (I am rather chuffed about this) even in very slow motion you can’t see any of the sneakiness I employed. Sadly I can’t post video on my blog site as I am too cheap to pay the extra needed to be able to do that, but if you are interested you can watch it on youtube (spoiler alert you will see part of one of my illusions).

Watching the video reminds me of how, because we live life at a fast pace, we can sometimes think that nothing is happening when what we really need to do is wait patiently. We hear about negotiations between parties who are at loggerheads (nations, employers / employees, partners) and because we don’t hear how things are going we think they are failing when significant progress is being made behind the scenes. We make plans and because we don’t see instant results we think that the plans have come to nothing. We pray and because we don’t get an instant answer (or the one we want) we imagine that God’s not bothering to respond this time.

But just because, from our perspective, we can’t see any visible results it doesn’t mean that nothing is happening, or that nothing will happen. Patience is a virtue for a reason (it’s something God’s Spirit enhances within us – slowly)! Perseverance is commended in the Bible because we see things in real time on a linear space-time continuum rather than from God’s perspective beyond time (and yet with us in it too).

Don’t give up just because it looks like nothing is happening, be patient, watch and pray. (This is also good advice if you have lit a firework and nothing seems to be happening!!).

Be blessed, be a blessing.

being a good patient

waiting-for-my-planeThis bloggage is nothing to do with my surgery or subsequent transformation into a Minion (see previous bloggages if you don’t know what I mean).

Way back in February I ordered an illusion from a manufacturer in the USA. And they sent it off to me in the post. I waited.

And waited.

I was patient.

And I waited some more.

Eventually I ran out of patience and emailed the company to say that it hadn’t arrived and we agreed that it was not going to arrive so they said they would send another one. The thing is that they make the illusions themselves so they had to make another one before they could send it.

Time passed.

Eventually they told me that another one was on the way.

(It was now May)

So I waited.

I was still patient (mostly).

I waited some more.

And eventually I contacted the company and they agreed that it was not going to arrive.

So they made another one…

And I waited.

Then (at the beginning of August) they sent the third one, just as the first one arrived back at the company marked ‘undeliverable’ with no explanation about why that was the case.

So now, guess what?

I am waiting.

I now have a tracking number that enables me to know that the package is currently at Chicago’s O’Hare airport waiting to cross the Atlantic.

But I have no idea if or when it will make it to me, especially as we are moving house on Tuesday next week and while I am redirecting the post I don’t know if this will be included in that.

They say that patience is a virtue.

I think it is more than that. I think (agreeing with St Paul in the Bible) that it is a fruit that God’s Spirit grows in us as we allow ourselves to be open to him. And I am not just talking about patience in waiting for parcels, events or even people. I think it is primarily about patience in waiting for God’s timing. That comes with a growing acceptance that God (who sees everything) has a far far better idea of what is going on and what the best thing would be than my best and most certain plan ever could be. It comes with a willingness to pray ‘Thy will be done’ and mean it. It comes with a willingness and determination to wait for THE moment even if it means staying in a slimy pit, walking through the darkest valley or even being willing to remain there until we shuffle off this mortal coil.

That’s not easy. But it’s much more than a virtue. It’s hard. It’s robust. It’s a determined attitude. It’s a willingness to surrender to God. It’s not easy to understand. And it’s not something we can manufacture.

But when we really do allow the fruit to grow (and help create the right conditions for it to flourish through a ‘Thy will be done’ approach to life) we will find that it is also a source of peace, strength, comfort and hope.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

pacing

TrafficHow do you feel when you are driving along a single carriageway road and someone in front of you is driving way below the speed limit and slower than is necessary in the prevailing weather conditions?

It is one of the things I find irritating when I am driving (but am praying for patience to grow). I can understand it if there is a vehicle like a tractor at the front of the queue of traffic that is unable to go above a certain speed. Indeed there’s something almost comical about the tractor driver trying to urge every last mile per hour out of his powerful vehicle that probably has more horsepower than any of the cars behind it but has gearing designed for off-road driving not on-road.

That’s not what am talking about here. What I find difficult is when a car that is perfectly capable of reaching the speed limit for that road is being driven much slower than necessary. And because of the layout of the road (or the roadmarkings) nobody is able to overtake them. They acquire a queue of traffic behind them that is forced to drive at the speed of the car at the front. There’s one road in Colchester that seems to attract these drivers. It’s a road with national speed limit signs at the start (aka 60mph) but many drivers seem to think that the speed limit is 40mph.

In those circumstances, to try to calm myself down, I try to think of reasons why they are driving so slowly. Perhaps their car is in ‘limp home mode’ and is electronically restricted to a reduced speed in order to protect a sick engine. Maybe the driver has only recently passed their driving test and is still a bit anxious. Perhaps the car is a pedal car and the driver is pedalling as fast as they can…

Whatever the real reason, it does mean that everyone else is reduced to travelling at the speed of the car at the front.

Sometimes travelling at the speed of the slowest person is not such a bad thing. In collective decision-making it is often good to try to move gently enough for everyone to understand and be ‘up to speed’. If you are walking in a group it is best to travel at the speed of the slowest person so that nobody is left behind.

And I am grateful that Jesus walks with me on the journey of life at my pace. He doesn’t race on ahead or hang behind. He paces himself perfectly to walk with me.

I have commented before that perhaps my favourite passage in the Bible is Luke 24, where Jesus walks alongside a couple of his friends after his crucifixion and resurrection. For the whole journey they did not recognise him but he walked at their pace and taught at their pace. It’s a brilliant narrative.

Through whom is he accompanying you today? Or who is he accompanying through you?

Pace yourself.

And I will seek to be more patient behind the wheel of my car (especially as I will spend a lot more time there in my new role!).

Be blessed, be a blessing.