Archive for

January, 2013


Some slippery boots



Photo in the public domain, original on Pixabay

I love my boots. I’ve had them for ages: I remember wearing them in high school, so that’s at the very least 10 years ago (and yes, they still fit). For some reason, I forgot about them for a while, and rediscovered them a couple of years back. I use them when I need some warmth around my feet: canvas shoes just don’t cut it in the snow and rain. Which is pretty much all year round in Britain.

I have “broken into” them, that is, they are now shaped nearly perfectly to my foot. They are highly comfortable, and still waterproof, even though they look tattered. A bit of polish wouldn’t hurt, but I’ve never cared about looks that much.

The outer sole has lost a fair amount of its thickness, but still has a good inch on the heel (how thick they were to start off with, I have no clue, but it sure is impressive). The issue is, the tread has been worn through. The outer soles are now virtually smooth. To the point of being slippery over zebra crossings when it’s been raining. So imagine what it’s like with the recent snow and icy patches… (I only fell once!)

I am now convinced I need to go and see a cobbler (such a cool word) and try and get some new soles on them. And maybe give them a good polish all round, and new laces and everything.
Yet part of me is reluctant to do so:

  • reluctant to recognise that some form of change is needed. This is harder to do than just going to buy new shoes, because I could always choose that I don’t like my new shoes and go back to my old, tattered boots.
  • reluctant to recognise that that change will come from the outside. I will not have complete control over the type of sole, although I can be involved in the process (choosing, for instance, the pricier or cheaper option)
  • reluctant, ultimately, because even if it’s only the sole that gets changed, I will still have to break into it (the wearing off of the sole is irregular, there’s much more left on the inside). I will temporarily lose some comfort.

As you’re reading this, you are probably wondering where I’m going with this: no mention of the Bible, no mention of leadership, no mention of anything remotely Christian, and not one single mention of tea. The presence of “slipper” in the title should not really be enough to warrant being on here, either.

I could spell out the ways in which I think we sometimes have a similar experience in various aspects of our lives. I’m thinking particularly about Bible reading and theological hobby-horses because I feel, personally, that they are the areas that this attitude is the most dangerous, and the fall that follows the slip there is the most hurtful.

But I also think that this is the kind of experience that is extremely personal, and that it affects us all in quite different areas. So what I suggest, this once, is that you go back over this little story and think on all the details, how they might transfer to your own experience. Are there any areas where you got a little too comfortable? As far as the two areas I mentioned above are concerned, this should be transparent enough. And please, please share any insight.

I will highlight a few elements, by way of conclusion.

  • breaking into my boots was a good thing. Comfort was a good thing – until it left me hanging on to dangerous things. Intrinsically, there’s nothing wrong with looking for comfort!
  • my shoes were looking tattered. People could see that they were well worn, and (not in a mean way) someone had mentioned it. Looks sometimes betray a deeper problem – opening up to scrutiny could have helped before the snow fell.
  • the boots were completely safe, and still waterproof, as long as there was no icy patch.
  • I don’t have to replace all the boots – just the sole. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water!

10 ways the Bible is like Sellotape


For the benefit of my American readers (I love you, really. No, really.), what we call Sellotape, you call scotch tape (seriously, what sort of impression does it leave, naming office supplies after whisky?). Now that’s out of the way, here comes, in what is now a tradition for this blog, a list of more or less tenuous links between sellotape and the Bible.


Photo: woodleywonderworks (cropped), reused under CC license

1. Sellotape holds everything together. Just like it, the Bible helps bring a sense of unity, of direction,  and of purpose to lives: the Bible, in leading to God, helps holding everything together too.

2. Sellotape is clear, transparent, see-through. The Bible itself is transparent in two ways: through the Bible, we see Jesus. The written Word leads to the living Word. Secondly, it is a mirror to your own life. It is relevant, and we can see real things through it: it is not some arcane treatise that can be boxed in and where the thoughts triggered in it are sterile.

3. There’s many kinds of adhesive tape: duct tape, gaffer tape, etc. None is intrinsically better than the other, but some are better suited to different purposes. You won’t use masking tape to seal a box; you won’t use gaffer tape to put up a poster. Various versions are also suited to different purposes: you won’t use an interlinear Bible for your everyday readings; and you won’t use The Message to try and work out whether it was tourist high season in Bethlehem around the time of Jesus’ birth.

4. There’s some surfaces, it just won’t stick on. Some people who won’t receive the message of the Bible; and that shouldn’t be a discouragement to us; but also, some times in our lives, some mindsets where what we read just doesn’t stick. Identifying those moments is helpful.

5. Have you ever tried wrapping a present without using Sellotape? You can. A piece of string can do the trick if you’re gifted (and if you’re trying to wrap a book). I tried using candlewax once, when I was out of sellotape (it did not work. I think you need a special kind of wax for that. I ended up using electrical tape ‘cos I had some spare. It was ugly but it did the trick). So it is possible to live a good enough life without the Bible; indeed, some people do. But it is a lot easier to do with the Bible as both a moral guide and a motivator.

6. Sellotape leaves a mark, even when it is removed. Unless you buy some special sellotape, and even then, you gotta be careful when you peel it off. In the same way, after reading the Bible, you are (or should be!) a changed person. Regardless of whether you then reject what you have read or not, there will be something changed in you.

7. If there weren’t something to fix (or, in the case of sellotape, technically, to affix), we wouldn’t need it. The Bible points to Jesus; to God who came for sinners, people who are broken. The Bible itself brings healing, because it directs the heart to something better, and

8. Originally, it came in rolls. Now there’s some fancy dispensers which don’t use rolls; just like the Bible went from (sc)rolls to printed books to phone apps.

9. Unless you use it a lot, it’s hard to find where to start. Seriously, finding the end of sellotape and then getting hold of it in such a way that it can be used is a pain. That’s why dispensers are useful: they keep on feeding you, and cutting the sellotape into bits of usable, appropriate length. Dispensers come in many shapes – and there’s many things that can help you start picking up your Bible: sermons and preachers, but also Bible plans and commentaries (for instance, you could do the Uncover series with a friend)

10. When you’ve gone through your roll of sellotape, it doesn’t mean you’re done using sellotape forever. You can always pick up a new roll. And if you’re out, you can always ask your friend. And if you’ve finished reading the Bible (kudos to you), that doesn’t mean you can’t read it ever again. On the contrary, you will find you keep on using it. And if you don’t have a Bible, borrow one from a friend.

Add your own!

God of the small things

no comments

The story is famous: when Elijah went looking for God, he searched for him in the grandiose, in the mighty, in the massive. But he didn’t find him there – instead, he found it in the still small voice. One way to read this is to realise that, for instance, our busyness or our worries stops us from hearing God. Yet there is a lot more to the “still, small voice” than this.


Photo: adapted from Joe Lencioni, under CC License

The story also depicts us and our own expectations: it describes how we think God will show up in great and marvellous ways; and forget that he also shows up in the mundane. Ignoring God’s presence and action in the everyday life, may be just down to our desire to retain control over the mundane:

  • in remembering the miraculous (that Jesus fed the multitude with barely anything), we find an excuse to forget the example that is set (for instance, that people were fed and welcomed. Or that the start of it was food belonging to the disciples, not conjured up out of thin air.
  • in looking at the big miracles first – and yes, that includes the resurrection – we allow ourselves to box Jesus into someone who concerns himself only with the big issues. Jesus performed miracles, yes. But that is far from being his predominant activity over his three-and-a-bit-year ministry.
  • in thinking in terms of salvation first – whether it be issues of soteriology, eschatology or predestination – we shockingly allow ourselves to make Jesus irrelevant to our day-to-day lives.

The truth is far more beautiful: God is relevant to our lives: as a model to follow, someone to imitate, yes. But also, and just as importantly, God is a constant presence in our lives: someone who cares about the mundane and acts in the little things as well as the big.

I think it’s important to remind ourselves that our prayers should not be limited to the supernatural, the unexpected. I myself have a tendency to push prayer to the extreme:  to ask beyond my expectations of what might actually happen. And there is a place for such bold prayers. But not all prayers should be reaching for what we couldn’t do ourselves.

Because I’m afraid that if we do limit our prayers to what we couldn’t do ourselves, we quickly reach a stage where we feel we have to sort ourselves out before we can come before God. And then, those areas of our lives that most need healing, we cut off from the one person who can heal them.

When’s the last time you prayed for the natural rather than the supernatural?

Have you ever felt your situation did not merit God’s attention?

9 ways fireworks are like religion


New Year –  an occasion for celebration, and wishes of good health and happiness, but also for fireworks! Seeing the beautiful displays around the world and in town, and talking about them, got me finding parallels with religion. Here are nine:


Photo: David Dixon, reused under CC license

  1. There’s the beautiful fireworks, and then there’s the firecrackers: all noise but no show. The former are put out for the enjoyment of all around; and, yes, some level of noise is necessary  – sometimes even welcome, as it draws the eye to whatever display is on.
    But then, the latter are only there for the enjoyment of those who use them. They are selfish, puffed up – and the noise they make is rather annoying to those around. Worse, they are a distraction from the real thing.
    Just so with religion and religiousness. Some liturgy is helpful: it reins in the spirit (without restricting it) and directs to, for instance, beautiful prayers and allows the mind to focus on what is important. But when liturgy is done for its own sake, or when the focus shifts from God to puffing oneself up and making as much noise as possible; loudness becomes a distraction and serves or amuses only the person who is speaking.
  2. It is very easy for fireworks to turn into a challenge as to who is putting on the best display. Even with sanctioned liturgy, even with stuff that we know works, it is possible to focus too much on aligning your rocket perfectly, or having the perfect 16-part harmony for your choir music, or play your worship song in 15:16 (cos 15:16 is cool), or with 15 key changes. Or you could have sermons which are longer than the church next door. Or better signage. A better website.
    Measuring yourself against others can be helpful, but if your motivation in doing things well is rooted in doing it better than your neighbour, then there is a problem.
  3. If you don’t point your firework towards heaven, then you’re doing it wrong.
    Religion should point towards God, not towards ourselves. But, equally, it should come from us.
  4. If you don’t have your gaze fixed on heaven, then you’re doing it wrong.
    This is for the audience first. Imagine a fireworks where the audience is looking at the ground, rather than at the sky where they explode? Imagine a church where the congregation is looking at the preacher rather than at God?
    But it is important for the preacher too! Yes, the down-to-earth stuff is important too, and you should make sure that the service is well-prepared from that perspective too, but if you don’t have your eyes set on God throughout the service, then you just cannot deliver!
  5. Vanity. Tis all but vanity. The fireworks only last for so long. The church service only lasts for so long. Placing our trust in that is pointless, we need to look beyond the fireworks, to look beyond the service and to find something else to sustain us.
  6. What’s left over the next morning is not very pleasant to look at. Seriously, the streets littered with soggy cardboard cartridges that were used for the fireworks aren’t the most beautiful thing to see.
    Just so with religion. If all you look at is the mechanical means used for worship, if all you look at is the dead order of  service, well, they feel rigid and useless – rubbish, actually. Worship is meant to be lived, and shared – not to be looked at the next day.
  7. Organised fireworks look better! There’s a lot of effect that can be created from making different fireworks set off at different times, and the wisdom from pyrotechnics is not to be frowned upon to organise firework displays.
    Just so with religion, it is a congregational experience, and organisation of religion is a support, rather than a hindrance. Structure can be good.
  8. That doesn’t mean fireworks outside of the big, organised displays, are bad, or to be frowned upon.
    The two can work hand in hand. Just so with religion: it does not need to be grand, or “high” church, or even organised.
  9. There will always be someone to point out how much money is spent on fireworks, going up (literally) in smoke.
    But fireworks are still enjoyed by many. It’s one of the very few forms of entertainment free at the point of use; and are put on for the enjoyment of all, regardless of socio-economic status. And while some may think that money may be put to better use to sustain the physical needs of others, that’s not to say that the physical needs are the only needs to be considered.
    Churches are also open to all. Religion is there to serve the poor and needy, not to be served. And, hopefully, in their action, they serve their physical needs; but also their spiritual needs.

Are you behaving like a firework or like a firecracker?

Note: with this post, we’re coming back to the normal schedule of weekly updates on Sundays!

On the twelfth day of Christmas… twelve weird search terms

1 comment


People sometimes come to this blog with wonderfully weird search terms. Here are twelve of the quirkiest (with links to what I think is the relevant post):

  1. are doctor who‘s slippers predestined – you who Googled this – well, Yahoo!ed this, I love you.
  2. predestination innuendo – if you know a good one, please share it in the comments!
  3. it is ok we can sing ebenezer song at the churches – that one is not quite as surprising, but the wording brings a smug smile to my lips
  4. dont use comic sans – missing apostrophe aside, I couldn’t agree more
  5. phil drysdale church – see, Phil, you should start one and name it after you! (if you need to know, Phil is working with Bethel!)
  6. why people like tea – well, why wouldn’t they? Seriously, if you need to search for this, you’re either a PhD student with too much time on your hands, meaning you look for causes to natural fundamentals; or you just haven’t lived.
  7. why people don’t like making tea – don’t they, really?
  8. best way to cut grass that is too tall – this one can be understood; but sadly, my blog on 3-foot grass will not answer that question. Considering this is not the only search query to that effect, here it is: strimmer, shears – both will take a while, and the latter will slightly hurt your back – or, if you’re feeling manly and have that at hand, a scythe.
  9. slipper in the bible – now for this one and the next two, yes, I get how searching for “slipper” might lead to this blog. But seriously, are there studies about slippers in the Bible? There may be something in that, actually…
  10. slipper worship – if you’re doing that, you’re doing it wrong. But I’m flattered all the same.
  11. discipline slipper – ah, we are getting to the true use of the slipper: it is NOT to warm your feet, but to discipline those who bring up predestination.
  12. piano sex – just, what? Why anyone would Google that is beyond me. Why it then led to my blog is a further mystery!

Twelve weird search terms, eleven Twitter accountsten worship songsnine Christian memeseight books to readseven useful websitessix popular postsfive blends of tea!

Four posts by othersthree Christian jokestwo awesome apps, and a fun fact about the Bible