I 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!!).
Following on from yesterday’s bloggage, today is the day when the shed is going to be put up. The nice men from the shed company have just arrived and the heavens have opened! We’re on the lookout for groups of animals moving around in twos.
It has been said that there is no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothes. That may be true normally but when work needs doing outside the weather can be wrong. Crops require the right weather to grow and then we need the right weather to harvest them. When England play at cricket we need the right weather (sadly sometimes it’s a need for rain to avoid a defeat). Sun dials don’t work well in the rain. And when blokes turn up to put up a shed they need it to be less than torrential: otherwise they may be tempted to build it upside down and turn it into a boat!
But is it the wrong weather? Or is it that our lives are insufficiently flexible to enable us to change in response to the weather? I recognise that events like harvesting crops are relatively fixed but so, on the whole, are the seasons to enable farmers to plant, grow and harvest so there is limited flexibility even there.
You may be wondering where this line of reasoning is going. I wasn’t sure myself when I started. But the thought struck me (given the British obsession with the weather – it gives us something to talk about when we’re stuck for subjects) that perhaps we need to relax our modern lifestyles and obsessions with time and timeliness. Perhaps we need to be more flexible (I can already hear administrators and event organisers screaming) about things. The Bible has the concept of Kairos – God’s timing. And it is clear through the Bible, through history and in my own life that God’s timing is not always what we hope or expect but it’s always good. And wise people will adjust their timing and expectation to fit in with God’s.
Last night I took part in a competition. It was the Mid Essex Magical Society* Stage Magic Competition. I have never competed magically before and was not sure what to expect. It’s not about seeing who can find the most cards a spectator has thought of (I could name 52) or how many ladies you can saw in half (one). Each competitor had 10 minutes to perform a routine that was judged by a panel of three non-magicians.
I was happy with my performance (I didn’t win but was pleased with my placing) but let myself down by over-running. A warning horn honked after 8 minutes and I was in the middle of my final trick – sawing a lady in half. When the bell went at 10 minutes I should have been finished but if I had stopped then the lady would have been left with a jigsaw with a 10 inch blade in her abdomen so I thought it was better to finish.
There are people in my church who would rather like a timing system like that for my sermons. But it is not easy. I have worked with a traffic light system once when I was speaking at a conference. I was taking the Bible Studies and had carefully timed what I was going to say so that it was within the allotted time, bearing in mind that I had an interpreter alongside me which would also take time. On the first day I was pleased that I finished before the green light turned amber.
I knew that the Bible Studies on the next two days would be the same length as I had the same number of sheets of paper from which I was speaking, so was rather perturbed when, as I was speaking on the second day, the amber light came on before I had finished. I kept going and just managed to finish before it went red but it did fluster me somewhat. After the session was over I spoke with the Production team and told them that I was confused about how I could have been that much longer without having said any more. The Producer then admitted to me that because I was so much under on the first day they shortened the time they had allowed me to that amount for the next day, but had neglected to tell me. I was actually well within time! The Production Team are good friends of mine and I forgave them, but it would have been nice to have been told!
Timing is such a tricky thing, yet somehow in my experience God gets it right every time (pun intended). He unexpectedly brings me together with people ‘at the right time’. People send messages of encouragement ‘at the right time’. Things he inspires me to say in sermons speak to people ‘at the right time’. And so on.
And, since the Christmas shops are open and the ads are all over the TV, it’s worth noting that Jesus was born ‘at the right time’. He was born in an era after the Greeks had conquered much of the Mediterranean region and beyond and established a common language. He was born in an era when the Roman Empire provided a fairly stable political landscape and had opened up secure trade and transport links across the whole area. He was born in an era when his people had a heightened sense of expectation that God was about to do something amazing. And isn’t it amazing that he was born just as BC was giving way to AD?!!
These, and many other factors, meant that people were ready for his message of reconciliation with God, freedom, peace and love. After his death and resurrection his friends were relatively easily able to take the good news about him across the whole region and talk to almost anyone about it in a language they understood. And when the records of his life, death and resurrection were written in Ancient Greek (not King James English) they could be understood by anyone who read them or to whom they were read.
It’s not always easy to see ‘the right time’. We often have other ideas about what that time should be (usually ‘now’) when we are waiting for God to respond to our prayers. But with faith and patience (both gifts God’s Spirit gives us) we can learn to wait (im)patiently for God’s perfect timing. And wonderfully he often reveals to us afterwards why the time was right.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
A rich man offered to pay for a new church building for his local Baptist Church, on condition that they allowed him to design the interior. He promised it would be appropriate and sensitively designed and unsurprisingly they agreed. The day came for the opening and the Minister arrived early – desperate to see what it looked like.
When he went in it was tastefully decorated and instantly he knew it was a place in which it would be easy to worship God and sense his presence. The only problem was that there was just one pew at the back. Given that the rich man had put so much money and effort into the church building and how tastefully designed it was the Minister didn’t say anything. Nor did any of the congregation. They dutifully filled up the back pew (don’t they always) and once it was full there was a click and a whirr and it glided to the front and a second pew appeared at the back it its place.
The Minister was thrilled. Now the congregation would always be at the front and there wouldn’t be six empty rows in front of him. He was so inspired that when he stood up to preach he got rather carried away.
After 15 minutes he noticed a yellow light came on on the pulpit. He carried on.
After 18 minutes the yellow light started flashing. He carried on.
After 20 minutes the yellow light turned red. He carried on.
Then there was a click and a whirr and the pulpit slowly sank into the ground.
*If you are in Essex and are planning a fundraising event have a word with MEMS – we can provide a magical evening that will raise significant funds for your charity. Have a look at their website and follow the link there to send an email to find out more.