h lear n

When I was at school it was compulsory to have name labels sewn into all items of school uniform, sports kit and so on. This meant that a lot of name labels were needed – double the amount because my sister was also at school and needed name labels too.

My ever-resourceful Mum came up with a clever money-saving plan. She order a number of embroidered name labels with “H LEAR N” on them. This meant that for my sister’s clothes she could fold over the ‘N’ so it said ‘H LEAR’ and for mine she would fold over the ‘H’ so it said ‘LEAR N’. Clever, eh?

What it also meant was that in all of my school clothes was a reminder of what I was there for: LEARN, LEARN, LEARN, LEARN, LEARN!

ClassroomI am not sure how much attention I gave to the name label learning imperative. If I am honest I didn’t spend a lot of time looking at the name labels. But they were there nonetheless and so was the message.

I was reminded of it recently when I was watching a golf instructional video on YouTube in the vain hope that I might learn the secret of how not to slice the ball. In the opening titles to the video were some words including ‘learn’. I thought it was lovely that they had produced the video just for me!

I wonder whether all of us could do with name labels like that? All of us can learn: all of the time. Indeed the moment we give up wanting to learn we surrender one of the things that makes us human – inquisitiveness. It is that inquisitiveness that led Og and his friends to learn how to make fire. It is that inquisitiveness that led to the invention of the wheel that led to the invention of the axle that led to the invention of the cart that led to the invention of the animal harness that led to the ability to move people and heavy loads over long distances that led to… you get the idea.

It is that inquisitiveness that is leading some scientists to explore the particles that make up the particles that make up the particles that make up everything in this Universe, and is leading some others to look into the vastness of space and discern the origins of this Universe.

It is that inquisitiveness that leads a child to ask ‘why?’ (over and over again).

It is that inquisitiveness that makes us ask ‘why?’. Why are we here? Is there a purpose to life? Is there something or someone behind everything?

I have said before in bloggages that I do not see any conflict between science and faith. Both of them are ways of exploring our Universe. Both of them enable us to use our God-given inquisitiveness and discover more about life, the Universe and everything (42?). Both of them (if they are honest about each other) are human attempts to make sense of what we see and experience. But both of them (if they are honest about each other) are explorations of the infinite that are limited by the finite.

We won’t know everything. We can’t know everything. Our brains are amazing but no one person can contain and access all of the facts in the known world at the moment, never mind what we will discover. But we will keep exploring and learning.

We won’t know everything about God. We can’t know everything about God. But we can keep exploring and learning. The wonderful thing is that he has made it easier for us by limiting himself to our capacity, making himself comprehensible and at the same time sorting out the biggest problem that we humans face – death and separation from him. Want to learn more? Read a Gospel!

Be blessed, be a blessing.

the cup of tea, the robotic dog and the precocious child

Christmas was brilliant. It was great sharing the Christmas Day service with my colleague Lynsey (taking a quick break from her maternity leave). We had a lovely day together as a family. And on Boxing Day we posted Sally’s relatives (Sheila, Norman, and Pat).

Christmas Crackers 1

We even managed to play a silly game during lunch. We all chose the name of a person, place or object and wrote it on some rather silly headgear for the person on our left. We each then had 20 questions in order to try and work out who we were. [If it wasn’t for the two sentences before the last one you might have thought we were trying amateur psychology!] The catch was that we could only ask questions that would result in an answer of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. That all added to the fun and games. There were some very creative ideas – my mother-in-law Sheila had to work out that she was a cup of tea; my son Thomas was K9 (the robotic dog from Doctor Who); and I was Karen from Outnumbered.

I was particularly interested in the artificial parameters around the game. It would have been considerably easier if we had been able to ask any question at all rather than being constrained to asking questions that could only be answered ‘yes’ or ‘no’. It seems to me that we are often guilty of applying the same sorts of artificial parameters to life. We want cut and dried answers to our questions. We hope that we will be able to come up with simple and yet comprehensive answers to complex scenarios such as how God can allow suffering in his world. And we insert an artificial dichotomy into the apparent debate between science and faith.

Somehow when it comes to the big questions of life we forget that life is almost always about fuzzy edges and grey areas. Why is it that we assume that we can come up with clear and concise answers to the most complex of questions when we struggle to answer simple ones with ‘yes’ or ‘no’? So, I have heard very intelligent people mocking those who articulate their faith in Christ because “you can’t prove that God exists using scientific methods and standards” and yet they are quite comfortable with the notion that there is no easy answer to the question posed by Thomas as K9: “Am I alive?”

For the most part when you look at Jesus’ teaching he does not offer us unequivocal answers. [Please put down those virtual stones until you have finished reading this bloggerel, at which point you may throw them if you still feel that it is appropriate.] When asked whether it was right to play Roman taxes Jesus did not say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, instead he offered a principle that we should follow. When asked about how to get into heaven he did not give three simple steps, instead he turned the question back on the questioner and, when pushed further, told the story of the good Samaritan which challenged preconceptions. On another occasion when he was asked about the route to heaven he did not offer a roadmap or even a first century satnav, he said that he was the way, the truth, and the life and that no one could come to the Father except through him.

I do believe that there are clear answers to many of life’s questions. But they’re not always simple, often aren’t concise, and because they are of a different order may not stand up to interrogation by scientific methods. But then again neither do appreciation of beauty, unconditional love, grace, serenity in the face of tragedy, or forgiveness.

Be blessed, be a blessing.

Cracker jokes (you have been warned!):

How do hedgehogs make love?
Very carefully.

What did the Policeman say to the stomach?
You’re under a vest

What wobbles and flies?
A Jelly-copter.

What goes ha ha ha clonk?
A man laughing his head off.

What do you get when you cross a cat with a lemon?
A sour puss!

“Waiter! This coffee tastes like mud.”
“Yes sir, it’s fresh ground.”

What athlete is warmest in winter?
A long jumper.

Why did the man get the sack from the orange juice factory?
Because he couldn’t concentrate.

What has four legs but can’t walk?
A table!

Why did the hedgehog cross the road?
To see his flatmate!

What goes up and never comes down?
Your age.

What do you give a man who has everything?
Antibiotics.

What did the fish say when it swam into a wall?
Dam.

What’s brown, steams and comes out of Cowes?
The Isle of Wight ferry.

What is Good King Wenceslas’s favourite pizza?
Deep pan, crisp and even.

Why would you invite a mushroom to a Christmas party?
He’s a fungi to be with.

Why was Santa’s little helper feeling depressed?
He had low elf-esteem.

On which side do chickens have the most feathers?
The outside.

What do you call a woman who stands between two goal posts?
Annette.

Did you hear about the man who bought a paper shop?
It blew away.

How do snowmen get around?
They ride an icicle.

Who hides in the bakery at Christmas?
A mince spy.

What do you call a penguin in the Sahara desert?
Lost.

Did you hear about the two ships that collided at sea?
One was carrying red paint and the other was carrying
blue paint. All the sailors ended up being marooned.

What’s ET short for?
Because he’s only got little legs.

Where do Snowmen like to dance?
At Snowballs.

What did Cinderella say when the chemist lost her
photographs?
Someday my prints will come.

What does Santa suffer from if he gets stuck in a
chimney?
Claustrophobia!

What kind of motorbike does Santa ride?
A Holly Davidson!

What does Santa do with fat elves?
He sends them to an Elf Farm!

What do you get if you cross Santa with a duck?
A Christmas Quacker!the

What’s the most popular Christmas wine?
‘I don’t like Brussels sprouts!’