Tag Archives: belief

Fame or Fortune or..

As a child of the sixties, it easy to look back at that era with rose tinted spectacles. Of course, in some ways it was a more innocent and cohesive time. Yet within that greater trust and togetherness we now know that there were many dark corners in our national life; areas which are only coming to light today.


This can no better be illustrated than the celebrities of back then. Most have faded into well earned obscurity. Others are pillars of society or, even more cringe-making, awarded the status of national treasure. However, a few have been found to have been the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing. Whatever – however they are seen today, none have retained their ‘god like’ status of 50 odd years ago.


Nevertheless, despite the experience of history, we continue to thrust divinity onto celebs, politicians and other ephemeral worthies. It seems then that the time-honoured wheel of human psychology demands we ever confer immortality on humanity.


Now I think I said not so long ago that when I did my Naval Instructors course, we were taught to start each lesson with something to engage interest. Well, that day in Lystra, Paul and Barnabas certainly did that (Acts 14.8-18). Yet, I have to say, by conducting such a spectacular curing, Paul and Silas did rather ask for the adulation they gained. I am not saying they courted it, but it was pretty obvious what the outcome would be. Nevertheless, they quickly realised their danger and to their credit soon put it right. They made clear they were but agents of the living God; a caring divinity that stood just outside of the pagans’ line of sight. And as a result of rejecting this unmerited fame, they returned to being the type of followers which earn the highest honour – that of being called ‘disciple’.

So where does the Lystra story leave us? How do find our place within the short lesson from Matthew (Matthew 10.37-42)? How indeed do we find greatness within the sometimes uncertain framework of being Christ’s disciples?


Well, rather as Paul did, we need to keep our eyes open. For there is little point trying to serve as Christ’s disciples to someone whose mind is closed. Instead, like Paul let us spot faith no matter how ill-formed or ill-informed it is and use it. Let us respond to an openness to things beyond self. Let us work within that space created by the sense of beyond. Since after all, few here would claim to absolute certain of their doctrine on this issue or that, yet we can lay testimony of Jesus’ present and curing in their lives.


Next, we need to let matters not lie there. Instead we need to move the another’s spiritual awaking to a sharper focus. It needs to be – front and centre – aimed at the life and teaching of Christ. Because in the false deifying of Paul and Barnabas the greatest danger was not in them becoming too big for their boots. No the real threat was the distraction – the distraction from a God who nurtures humanity, provides for humanity and wants every human life to have meaning, purpose and worth.


But then what can we cure?


The university faculty gathered for their weekly meeting. A professor of Archeology brought with him a lamp recently unearthed in the Middle East. It was reported to contain a genie, who, when the lamp was rubbed would appear and grant one wish.


A professor of Philosophy was particularly intrigued. He grabbed the lamp and rubbed it vigorously. Suddenly a genie appeared and made him an offer. He could choose one of three rewards: wealth, wisdom, or fame. Without hesitating, the philosophy professor selected wisdom. “Done!” said the genie and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.


All the other faculty members turned toward the professor, who sat surrounded by a halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispered, “Say something. What wise insight do you now have?”


The professor, much wiser now, sighs and says, “I should have taken the money.”


Today, most people would have taken not the money but the fame. It seems worth is popularly measured in fame and attendant wealth. And if they don’t have it, then they feel their lives are humdrum, unfulfilled even worthless.

Consequently there is a huge amount of people around who suffer from a lack of self-value. Moreover, there are many whose  abject sense of  inner poverty is a genuine handicap to living a full and free life.

Here then is an affliction,we as Christ’s disciples can aspire to cure



For the sixties are well behind us. And the years may not have brought fame and wealth. They most probably have not brought outward beauty. Yet they may well have brought the internal beauty of wisdom. The wisdom to see that in using  our godly gifts we  can bring real healing. The wisdom to know we can bestow worth and meaning and purpose with simple listening. The wisdom to offer, through Christ, the quiet encouragement that transforms – transforms the everyday into  the outstanding – transforms the commonplace into the priceless and transforms the  ordinary into true greatness.


Above all, we need the wisdom to be ourselves.


Since others will then see a priceless dignity in our ordinary discipleship,  they will find the living Jesus in our cheerful everyday-ness and they will rediscover in our godly contentment their own way to inner valuing and meaningfulness.  For Thomas Moore said that by learning to discover and value our ordinariness, we nurture a friendliness towards ourselves and the world that is the essence of a healthy soul.


So go and don’t just have an ordinary day, instead be someone else’s great day!



Can you risk looking foolish?

It all started one afternoon, in a small village in Tanga, Tanzania, when Erasto Mpemba and his friends were making ice cream. After making the dairy mixture, they had to put it in the freezer. There was one freezer in the village, they had to take turns using it.

Like most kids, Mpemba did not like waiting. One day, Erasto put his hot milk in the freezer without waiting for it to cool down. Other kids were already cooling theirs, but he could not wait.

After a little while, Erasto checked his ice cream in the freezer. To his shock, it had already frozen. Faster than his friends who cooled mixture first.

“You have stolen my ice cream,” one kid accused him. Erasto’s denial could not quench the accusation. His friends now labeled him a thief.

Determined to clear his name, the following day Erasto set to prove hot milk freezes faster than cold milk. It was absurd. Erasto put containers of the same size in the freezer, one with hot milk and the other with cold. Lo and behold, the hot mixture froze faster.

Elated that he has made a scientific discovery, Erasto shared his observation with the only physics authority he knew, his high school teacher at Magamba Secondary School, Tanzania.

“You were confused, that cannot happen”.
After Erasto finished his Ordinary level, he went for Advanced level where he studied physics. Erasto was relentless, he asked his physics teacher why hot water froze faster. Again, the teacher called him a confused boy.

“Boy, you did not understand Newton’s law of cooling.”

In his Advanced Level class, Erasto learned the scientific process. Erasto repeated his experiment using standard scientific practices. Again, there was more ice in the initially hot water than cold.

“If the teacher says you are wrong, then you are wrong,” Erasto later said in an interview.

When critics were shouting the loudest, something happened that forever changed Erasto’s life. In the late 1960s, Dennis Osborne, a physicist, was invited for a talk at Erasto’s school, Mkhawa Secondary School. Do not ask the professor your stupid questions, the physics teacher told Erasto.

After Dennis Osborne’s speech, students were invited to ask questions. Unfortunately, Erasto had been gagged. But it was not for long. Erasto disobeyed his teacher and repeated his question to Dennis Osborne.

There was a riot in the class. Erasto’s classmates viewed his curiosity as anathema, a cancerous growth that had to be suppressed by all means. The teacher wrongly assumed Erasto had asked to embarrass Dr. Osborne.

Although Dr. Osborne promised to look at the problem, he did not believe it was possible. It was not logical. Decreasing temperature from 68°F to 32°F should be faster than decreasing from 212°F, Dr. Osborne thought. Since he had made a promise, he repeated the experiment in his lab.

After graduating from high school, Erasto and Dennis Osborne published a scientific paper. Erasto’s observation is now called Mpemba effect. To date, no one knows exactly what causes Mpemba effect.

In 2012, Royal Society of Chemistry invited scientists across the globe to write an essay on possible explanation of Mpemba effect. They were more than 22,000 entries. This is how important a young boy’s 1963 observation in a small village has become.

Although Mpemba effect is illogical, it is true. Erasto might never know why hot water freezes faster than cold water, but his curiosity inspires thousands of young people in Africa. Again, his name has been forever inscribed in the annals of physics. At times, success is asking dumb questions and watch other people look for the answer.

Are you willing to be foolish?


(Extract from: The chronicles of the kid next door blog)

You are not what you eat!

We are what we don’t eat!

 Acts 11.1-18

Matthew 5.1-12

I have to say I have never watched it myself. But I am told that the programme – I’m a celebrity get me out of here- usually contains a scene where the contestants have to eat something disgusting. In a way I can sympathies with their reaction having once had to eat octopus tentacles on an official visit to Spain. Actually chopped into slices and deep-fried they are delicious. Yet such experiences raise the whole question what we like to eat and what we don’t, what we think we should eat for our health and not and, indeed, what we should and not eat for religious reasons. For such deliberations brings us to the heart of today’s lessons not just from Acts but Matthew as well.



So let’s start with Peter. Now he could be a black or white sort of guy. Moreover, he saw details as the foundation of the bigger picture. Even small things could either be seriously right or wrong for him. Thus, pre-Joppa, he knew exactly what he had to eat to be God fearing. He knew what all who obeyed God should eat if they were to be on the inside. In fact, he was trying to do religion then by paying attention to the little rules and hoping the bigger ones would take of themselves.


That’s why his vision that day at Joppa came to him as a huge surprise. Certainly, if he hadn’t had this revelation, Christianity would have faded out as a footnote in Jewish history. But that day he was given the keys to the Kingdom; he was made to see what the nub of every religion is all about. He was shown what the sacred must truly be founded on. He was made aware that what really matters to God is often not detail. Rather it is have a go at living the truly good life. It is having a bash at obeying God in a way that serves the big picture. Put directly, it is attempting no matter how unsuccessfully to live out not the minutae of religious observance but the beatitudes of faith.


Ah we say – but the beatitudes are not easy. Much easier to be concerned with what we can and cannot eat – what formula of rules we can obey to the letter – what boundary walls we can erect to keep people in or out. Since being poor in spirit and peacemakers and above all merciful are painful. Let’s not even start on being pure in heart! That’s just too hard! In the final analysis we say – the beatitudes are just impossible!



But, you know, the word ‘impossible’ is a strangely flexible sort of term. Since the famous science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke proposed three “laws” of prediction. These are known worldwide as “Clarke’s Three Laws.” Here they are:

Law 1- when a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Law 2 – The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Law 3 – Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.


If we say then that the beatitudes are impossible we are very probably wrong.


If we say trying to base our life rules on them will test us to the limit then we are right. But so is venturing beyond them. For then we will discover the possibilities of God.


If indeed we say the casting aside of our self imposed boundaries is impossible we forget Christ did magic – it’s just we call them – miracles.


And where do we need miracles today?


Oh there are a hundred and one such places!


Let me take the example I heard of only last week. For Cardinal Vincent Nicols has just returned from Iraq. He remarked that until recently that country was an intricate pattern of religions and faiths. Sadly, this relatively harmonious patchwork has been destroyed and the lives of Christians as well as other minorities are now at serious risk.


Here then in at least one place is where we need miracles. Miracles brought about not by obeying to the letter some rule or other. Instead miracles ushered in by living, offering and inviting others into the community of the beatitudes. Miracles opened up by casting barriers aside and embracing our common humanity under God. Because that is the only way to value all human beings no matter what they believe or where they come from.


Or as Maya Angelou wrote of the human family:


I note the obvious differences
in the human family.
Some of us are serious,
some thrive on comedy.

Some declare their lives are lived
as true profundity,
and others claim they really live
the real reality.

I’ve sailed upon the seven seas
and stopped in every land,
I’ve seen the wonders of the world
not yet one common man.

I know ten thousand women
called Jane and Mary Jane,
but I’ve not seen any two
who really were the same.

We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.


We are more alike, my friends,
than we are unalike.


So, how do we sum up?


Well, I think we need to acknowledge we are less what we eat than who we eat with.


We are less Christian when we obey rules and ignore God’s vision.


We are less human when we stop believing in miracles – the beatitude miracles – the miracle of the vision of Joppa – the miracles we can make happen through Christ. Since that is the food of God and the very taste of heaven!














































What’s inside us?

There was a man who made living selling balloons at a fair. He had all colors of balloons Including red, yellow, green. Whenever business was slow, he would release a helium filled balloons into the air and when the children saw it go up, they all wanted to buy one. They would come up to him, buy a balloon and his sales would go up again. He continues this process all day.

One day, he felt something tugging his jacket. He turned around and saw a little boy who asked,” If you release a black balloon, would that also fly?” Moved by the boy’s concern, the man replied with empathy.” Son, it is not the Color of the balloon, it is what inside that makes it go up.”

The same thing applies to our lives. It is what is inside that counts. The thing inside of us that makes us go up is our attitude.


From ‘Morning with Dilbert’ blog

Doubting this Sunday?

John 20.24-30


Here are some useless facts for you! This Sunday is often known in the church as Low Sunday. Why it’s called that isn’t exactly agreed upon. It might be because the passion, drama and wonder of Easter are over. Or it might come from a corruption of the first word of a Latin liturgy that is Laudes.


This Sunday also takes its name after the first few words of the Roman Catholic introit for today. That starts with the words ‘As if as newborn babes, alleluia’. In fact, the Latin version of the words ‘as if as’ was to give the moniker to a foundling in Victor Hugo’s’ epic about Notre Dame in Paris. Because on this Sunday, a baby is deposited in the Cathedral’s hallowed portals and is then named – of course – Quasimodo.


But one name I don’t think we can give to this Sunday is expectant Sunday. The reason is that the disciples weren’t waiting or expecting anything. As far as they were concerned – it was over. They with their friend Jesus bin Joseph had played the game and lost. The vision that they had was well and truly over. All hope and faith had died with the crucifixion of their leader. Albeit, it has to be said, there were some pretty rum stories running around.


Therefore, possibly the most telling name for this day comes from the eastern church which calls it Saint Thomas’ Day; Thomas being the famous doubter. Since he is the patron saint of all who have said -I’ll believe it when I see it. He is the symbol of faith chasing facts. Moreover, he typifies so many who are Quasimodo’s in their beliefs. For Hugo writes in his 1831 novel:



Archdeacon Claude Frollo, Quasimodo’s adoptive father, baptized his adopted child and called him Quasimodo; whether it was that he chose thereby to commemorate the day when he had found him, or that he meant to mark by that name how incomplete and imperfectly moulded the poor little creature was. Indeed, Quasimodo, could hardly be considered as anything more than an almost.



It is therefore constructive to see how Thomas passed from his ‘almost’ faith state into the apostle credited with founding the church in the east possibly as far as India.


For, a farmer had a dog that used to sit by the roadside waiting for vehicles to come around. As soon as one came, he would run down the road, barking and trying to overtake it. One day a neighbor asked the farmer “Do you think your dog is ever going to catch a car?” The farmer replied, “That is not what bothers me. What bothers me is what he would do if he ever caught one.”


Here then is a dog chasing an almost unachievable goal in entirely the wrong way. A dog that was yet to learn that life is hard by the yard, but by the inch, it’s an cinch




Well certainly, Thomas did not try to live the life of a fully formed faith by the yard. Instead he inched towards it and that was the cinch. Put simply – he took little steps. Since he started by being honest with his fellow disciples, being honest with God and above all being honest with himself. Because it is all too easy when doubts set in to camouflage them with a multitude of distracting issues. Yet, instead of doing that, Thomas genuinely faced what was truly challenging him.


Next he did not stop looking for answers. He didn’t turn his back on the astounding truth of Christ risen. He did not close his mind to the Lord’s presence. And the outcome was he received the gift of renewed faith in abundance.


Finally, he accepted all that faith demands. He uttered up – My Lord and my God. And with those watchwords he then went forth and changed the world.


If then, on this Low Sunday, we feel we are ‘almost’ in our faith, let us feel our way forward in the same way. Let us not chase impossible goals lodged in the peaks of belief’s Himalayas. Let us not try to bolster our ill-formed beliefs by leaping yards. Rather let us rekindle its flame in small and simple steps. And so, may we each be honest with what is causing our doubt. May we keep our eyes open for the appearance of the living Lord in our everyday. Then may we use what we have been given to perfect ourselves and the headlines around us.


James Moore tells of a cartoon, run a few years ago, showing a man about to be rescued after he had spent a long time ship-wrecked on a tiny deserted island. The seaman in charge of the rescue team stepped onto the beach and handed the man a stack of newspapers. “Compliments of the Captain,” the sailor said. “He would like you to glance at the headlines to see if you’d still like to be rescued!”


Well, sometimes the world’s and our personal headlines do indeed scare us. Sometimes we feel that hopelessness is winning. And so there are times when we have such doubts that Thomas is turned into the very model of blind faith.


Therefore, why not turn back to building faith – step wise? Why not turn your almost beliefs into the certainty by acknowledging that Christ is with us – here and now. And why not start by proclaiming without a shadow – My Lord and my God.


Since if we do these, we will give this Low Sunday its other name, which is renewal Sunday. Because, by these little paces, once more the resurrection is repeated, once more the resurrection reforms and once more the resurrection make us – perfectly expectant.