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15 ways cricket is like Christianity

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Ah, the Ashes. One of the best times of the year for a cricket fan. And an apt occasion for a post about cricket…


Photo: Andy, reused under CC license

1. It has become associated with a standard of behaviour. Particularly when it has nothing to do with that behaviour. “It’s just not cricket” may not be used quite as much as “That’s not very Christian”, but also conveys an expectation of overall uprightness of behaviour and the following of unspoken rules.

2. It is full of tales of miracles. Such as a window breaking after a cricket bat was simply leaning against it. Or a 19-year-old trumping cricket giants in his first international game.

3. It is English at heart. (kudos if you can guess where the link will take you before clicking it)

4. Its expansion to overseas countries has a lot to do with colonialism. But that doesn’t make it an intrinsically bad thing.

5. It comes with its codes, which make it somewhat impenetrable to an outsider. But these codes also give the fans a common language and (for better or for worse) an identifying mark which facilitates immediate mutual clicking.

6. The Laws that come with it are generally considered dull and in most cases irrelevant; but there is still something exciting in them. It isn’t the silly things such as the fact that a batsman can be timed out, but what it points towards (a pure game where the players aren’t even thinking of playing for time) that makes them exciting.

7. The Laws aren’t what define the play of cricket. As was, ahem, made clear on Friday by Stuart Broad.

8. There are many forms of cricket. Twenty-twenty, county cricket, one day international, and my personal favourite, test cricket. They all have their different flavours, with the former being quicker, more prone to exciting batting; and the latter more prone to careful deliberation and safe batting. None of them are not cricket, but some may identify with one particular form.

9. There’s an American version of it, which has barely anything to do with the original.

10. To the outsider, it looks like an incomprehensible waste of time.

11. When explaining cricket, it may be better not to start with the Duckworth-Lewis method. When a friend tried to explain cricket to me (a long time ago), he started listing the ten ways to dismiss a batsman. I didn’t understand that there was a fielding team and a batting team. In the same way, if you start looking at Christianity by reading Revelation, or by talking about predestination, you won’t be able to understand (and live!) it quite as easily.

12. If you’re doing it properly, you should wear whites.

13. The hats give you information about the role of some players. They aren’t magically conferring higher powers. And it doesn’t mean that the hat-less people are any less important!

14. Even if you’re not in the England side, nothing is stopping you from playing cricket. Even if you don’t have a cricket ball – a tennis ball would do the trick.

15. Tea has a very important part to play in it.

Add your own!

Punctures and the Spirit: 10 lessons

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Sometimes, we feel deflated; like the Spirit (1) has left us; and it feels a bit like riding a bike with a flat tyre. In more ways than one, the simile is helpful:

puncturePhoto: SamuraiGhost, re-used under CC License

1. You can avoid punctures easily, by very carefully checking where you ride. The thing is, if you do, you might as well be walking, you’d be quicker.
There is a famous apocryphal story of a person who would engage in contemplative prayer before any decision, including getting out of bed. That sort of behaviour is safe, but not quite commendable.

2. Even without a puncture, tyres go flat. They’re porous. Therefore, they need regular top-ups. Just the same with our spiritual life: being baptised, or giving your life to Jesus, or whatever you did at the start of your Christian journey is still there. But on its own, it gets weak. Get praying.

3. A puncture needs repairing. You can try to bike on a flat tyre. It will be exhausting, especially uphill; and you won’t go quite as fast. Don’t rely on your own steam to get stuff done; make sure that you are relying on the Spirit. If you don’t, you may still get it done – but it will be far less pleasant.

4. Repairing does not need to be immediate. Especially if you have it in the middle of oncoming traffic. In order to carry out the relevant repairs, you need to stop and take the time to do it properly… and you can’t always do that in the middle of our busy lives. Don’t get me wrong, the repairs must happen, but it’s alright to finish off urgent tasks before dealing with the repairs. Get out of the oncoming traffic. But don’t use that as an excuse to keep on putting off the repairs.

5. Repairing requires the appropriate tools. If you carry them with you, it will allow you to have a speedier answer (I remember how a tour guide in Amsterdam carried around spare inner tubes). Biblical knowledge, prayer discipline, routine – all these are tools that can support your spiritual life. Find the ones that work with your type of punctures, and keep them around with you, even when you don’t need them. If nothing else, they can be of service to someone else with a puncture.

6. Having a friend with the adequate know-how can help. Someone to talk to, someone to support you in prayer, is always beneficial.

7. You need to deflate the inner tube a fair bit before you can get the tyres off. If you just keep on going at full steam, you won’t manage to fix the punctures. All you’ll do is pump air back into your tyre, and that will last every time less.

8. Most punctures are invisible. That’s why you do the whole inner-tube-in-a-bucket-of-water thing. If no matter what the amount of prayer you do, no matter your willingness to get closer to God, you keep on drifting away, there might be something holding you back. Find the hole in the inner tube, and fix it.

9. If you don’t make sure the inside of the tyre no longer has any glass shards in it, your inner tube will perforate quickly, although not necessarily immediately. Some punctures come from our daily habits, others from our environment, others from part of our identity. If we manage to repair, through prayer for instance, our inner tube, but go back to the same routine, we’re going to get another puncture quickly.

10. Even when a tyre seems to be flat, there’s still some air in it. Just because we don’t feel it quite as strongly as before, or even not at all, it doesn’t mean the Spirit has left us altogether! On the contrary, the Spirit is always with us, even when we don’t feel it.

Do you have any to add?

(1) Fittingly, the Greek for Spirit is πνεῦμα, which also means breath!

The Mysterious Switch – and seven lessons therefrom

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In the chaplaincy, where I spend most of my time, there is a switch that does absolutely nothing. As far as we know. Well, it does switch the state of things from order to chaos and vice-versa; but it doesn’t turn on any lights.


The other day, someone came around to fix it. After aeons of it not doing anything. The excitement was maximal. It wasn’t just fixed. It was replaced. And as the electrician came and replaced it with a brand new switch, we could see it was, indeed, wired. It was going somewhere. The excitement! As soon as the electrician was done, we tried the switch. And nothing happened. Someone then asked the electrician what the switch does (most of us wouldn’t dare). He had no clue – it had just been reported that the casing was broken.

1. Mystery is sometimes a better thing than purpose. Everyone in the chaplaincy community knows about the mysterious switch; and that event was described as one of the most exciting things that happened in the chaplaincy in a long time. Someone even came to the chaplaincy especially to see the new switch and brought friends with him! In more basic terms, that switch had become part of our local culture, something that unites us. So I’m glad that the magic hasn’t been destroyed and the switch found out to be just an old light switch.

2. The middle ground satisfies no one but is a precarious equilibrium that most will strive to keep. The old switch could, if you were careful, be balanced between Chaos and Order. While there are factions in the chaplaincy which defend vigorously that the switch should remain in their position of choice, only one person manages to balance the switch in the middle. And whenever it was balanced, it would remain balanced, even though it made no sense (what’s the midpoint between Chaos and Order?). Now that position is no longer tenable; as sometimes the middle ground is no longer tenable for the Church of England. But ridiculous though it may look now, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good position when it was tenable.

3. To outsiders, that mystery will make us look like a bunch of lunatics. Actually, you probably think that we are a bunch of lunatics (and, yes, don’t worry, I have exaggerated the importance of the switch). When the repairs were taking place, we just stopped in our tracks. And got excited for the rest of the afternoon. So that the electrician must’ve wondered what we had spiked our tea with. While it’s fine to have our own culture and in-jokes, we must be careful that these aren’t off-putting to others. And we must also remain that our own quirks will look bizarre to others before we judge other people’s behaviours!

4. Often, our jobs lead us to do illogical things. And we don’t notice, we don’t ask. We just do it. There’s the electrician who repaired a switch he didn’t know the purpose of; the person who requested that repair to be carried out too. In cases like this, it’s only a matter of wasted resources, and is of rather little consequence, other than making us look foolish. But sometimes, the consequences reach far beyond this. Refusing to help someone who hasn’t the right form; following directives that dictate you throw away food that simply doesn’t look its best – these are far more damaging. Think before you blindly obey.

5. A switch that appears to do nothing *will* be flicked. Seriously. Try this. Or this.

6. We repair and maintain things which have outgrown their purpose. Yes, tradition is nice and comforting and worth preserving for its own sake. But we need to be careful not to keep on doing things just for their own sake, at the risk of losing the purpose for which we did them in the first place.

7. The tiniest nudge will lead people to investigate; but that nudge is necessary. The switch had been accepted as the useless switch for a while now; but when it was fiddled with, renewed investigation to find out what it did was carried out – trying to find broken lamps, thinking of historical evidence, etc. To no avail, though :-(

If you were in the chaplaincy before my time, what does the switch to the right of the cupboard do?

Christian heptathlon


We like sport. We just put our own twist on it. Here’s what the Christian heptathlon looks like (with links to the event that was the inspiration for it).


Photo: AdamKR, reused under CC License

  • Bible hopping: quote as many separate and short Bible verses as possible to support an argument. Bonus points for quoting non-standard verses, especially genealogies or the minor prophets. In this contest, speed is of the essence: you do not want whichever passage you’re using to support your argument to actually speak to your listeners directly. Careful, some passages may trip you up, so never stray far from your usual turf.
  • Triple point: write any talk or sermon in a three-point structure. Bear in mind that these points should not be considered in any way that would allow anyone to continue after your work; and that if a four-point or two-point structure were better suited to your argument, such a work would be disqualified.
  • Javelin: use your talk, sermon or other document as a way to attack The Others – be it in terms of theological viewpoint, or in terms of societal issues. Current issues are disqualified, particularly shortly after schisms, where such attacks are far too easy. The Baptists made a commendable effort in 1689, but this effort was not homologated due to the circumstances at the time. You may wish to train by defending your church as opposed to other churches, and move on to a dissing of low/high churches (delete as appropriate) before mocking other doctrinal points.
  • Conceptual hammer throwing: talk about predestination, transubstantiation, cessationism or any other particularly heavy theological topic without explaining what it means, and with no other reason than that you like the sound of your own voice on that matter.
  • 1500s run: only use one theological reference from the 16th Century to inform your thinking – usually the Puritans. Also exists in other eras (100s run is particularly popular these days)
  • Sermon throw: make your sermon as far removed as possible from the text from which you’re meant to be preaching. This sport is commonly confused with the practice of throwing the sermon as far as possible from any form of relevance to the audience’s lives.
  • Service marathon: make sure everybody is keeping their Sunday holy by keeping them in church a minimum of 6 hours. Techniques include: readings which span many chapters; repeated verses and/or instrumentals and/or wo-ohs in hymns and worship songs; organ voluntaries put in the middle of the service; and, most easily, sermons with a minimal length of oner hour. Fringe improvements can be made by making sure that no one knows when their part is – this technique is particularly helpful with dramatised tellings of Bible stories.

Athletes competing in these will be checked for inhalation of incense.

In these especially, the first will be the last.

Add your own!

5 ways we can learn from children

This is the first guest post on this blog! It’s written by my friend Dorian. He is a kids worker at a North London church and studying Applied Theology with Moorlands college. In his spare time he enjoys recreational mathematics (don’t we all?), and usually mixes up American and British spelling. If you’d like to contribute a guest post, get in touch at

Theologians have given lots of different opinions about what Jesus meant when he said “whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it“. Most of them have talked about the importance of imitating certain childlike qualities; and interestingly, they usually talk about the importance of imitating the qualities that society of the day finds desirable in a child.


Rather than debating over which child-like qualities Jesus might have been talking about, I suggest actually learning from the children themselves. Here are five ways I’d suggest we can do so:

1. Learning as you teach children.

In order to pass on knowledge, you must first know what you wish to pass on! I’ve found that teaching in Kids church is a great way to to really learn yourself. The preparation needed to speak on a passage in a way that is both meaningful and simple enough for kids to understand is a challenging and rewarding way to learn.

Ok, so technically this isn’t learning directly from children, but it is seeking to learn as you teach. which brings us to:

2. Learning from the questions children ask

A good teacher lets their pupils ask questions, and children are great at asking. Children don’t have as much of a developed world-view as adults, so they are much quicker to notice discrepancies between teachings and actions, and ask questions that adults are afraid to ask.

Check out the story of David and Goliath in 1 Samuel 17: all of Israel was encamped against the Philistine army, but were too terrified to move against them. David, acting as a delivery boy for his brothers spots what’s going on, and asks the question “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” David, the youngest son of Jesse, had seen how the way the Israelite army was behaving, i.e. cowering in fear, was contrary to their belief that God himself went before the army to guarantee their victory.

By their questions children can have a prophetic voice, challenging the practices of the church, and pointing out where teachings don’t match up with actions, often because adults have become desensitized to the message.

Don’t be afraid of the questions children ask, but be willing to be challenged, and be willing to seek answers and learn.

3. Listening to their faith

Children often have a simple, yet powerful faith that adults can learn from. Check out 2 Kings 5. A important general was plagued by leprosy, and it was the passing comment of his wife’s Israelite servant girl that eventually led to his healing. This girl’s simple faith statement: “If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy” was listened to and acted upon, which ended up influencing the fate of entire nations, and bringing this general to know the Lord.

Children aren’t afraid to say what they know to be true. Neither should we be.

4. Learn from their mistakes

The Bible frequently calls believers in Christ “children of God”, and in a lot of ways our behaviour toward God is very childish.

One time when I was working in an orphanage, two girls had been taken out of their families and placed in our care. They had been in the children’s home for a very short time, when one night, during a thunderstorm they ran away. Thankfully the next morning they were found, though shivering cold and soaked to the bone.

I was quick to judge these girls, wondering why on earth they would run away from a place of safety and protection, into the darkness and a town they didn’t know, and during a thunderstorm no less! But the more I reflected on this incident, the more I began to see my relationship with God in a new light. How many times have I run away from Him, seeking my own way rather than the safety and protection He provides? These girls showed me how important it is to trust God, even when I don’t know what’s going on, and reminded me to repent for the times I have tried to live life by my own rules rather than His.

5. Learn from how children receive grace

The flip side of the story I just told, is how the two girls came accept the orphanage as their home. Even though they messed up big-time when they ran away, they realized that they were forgiven, and then sought with open arms to receive all the orphanage gave them. An adult who has been given a meal would want to repay this, either with money at restaurant, or by a gift or with reciprocity if invited round to a friend’s for dinner. But children usually aren’t able to repay what is given to them.

We could never repay our parents, or whoever in our childhood were the important adult figures were, for all the time effort and love they poured into raising us. And we could never repay our heavenly Father for the gifts he has lavished on us, especially not Jesus’ sacrifice for us. Instead, we are asked to freely receive his abundant grace, and live as best we can to the way he taught us. Children can show us how to accept a gift freely given.

If you want to know what Jesus meant we he said we should receive the Kingdom of God like a child, then I encourage you to spend time with children! Volunteering to help with Kid’s Church (or Sunday School, Kidz Klub, or whatever it’s called at your church) is one really great way to grow in your faith. Just remember that as much as you go to teach and serve, you also go to learn how to receive God’s Kingdom as a child.