A faith commandment

I think most christians have a favourite part of the Bible, for no logical reason, but for the simple fact that’s what clicks with you. For me it’s the book of Genesis. I love the stories of familes so different to our own, tales of pioneers who were the first to do everything. I like the narrative of the book, and particularly Noah.

I was re-reading the story again and (as often happens) I picked up on something new.

I’ve never realised how difficult it must have been to build an ark. In Chapter 6, verses 14-16 show all the structural details God gave to Noah and I guess I never really questioned how he worked with just this. For me, a guy brought up in a christian home having seen countless pictures of practically identical arks, I’ve never had to imagine what an ark looks like. Working from that image, I might in time be able to come up with something like a blueprint, but getting the ark from those instructions, not likely.

It had never clicked that although the instructions are specific, they are not complete. God hasn’t laid down exactly how He wants it to be, but He gives Noah some freedom. The size has to be sufficient for the need and only certain materials will do, but otherwise God gives Noah creative control.  There is no indication as to whether Noah had any carpentry experience, but he was almost certainly not a ship-maker. I imagine it was a big case of trial and error.

Despite all this, Noah still chose to do what God said. That choice was not a simple thought, but an active lifestyle change. He had to seek out new skills, scour the earth for animals and keep them alive, all to no specific deadline.

If that were me, I imagine my first reaction would be to pray for a clear plan. “God”, I’d say, “please show me what to do, so that I may glorify you.” I wonder if Noah did that for a bit too? I doubt he got an answer. That would probably have led to me going back to my normal life. I would have gone, “If you want me to do this, give me a clear sign of what it is.”

I don’t believe that Noah waited for that. It says in verse 22, “And Noah did everything that God had commanded him.”

This tells me two things. One, that Noah (or at least the author of Genesis, but by implication, Noah too) took these words as a command. It was a non-negotiable order, not just a suggestion that was in our best interest. It was not a picture of the sort of thing that he should do, but a direct instruction. That affected his whole attitude and gives an indication of how he reacted. A command implies that he didn’t just put it on his to do list, but it was his to-do list. A soldier is never issued 2 commands to do at once. They are given a sequence of events, to be followed straight away.

The second thing is that he did it. The story makes it clear that he built an ark, but this proves that he managed it. That means that if we get an equally obscure word, why should we dismiss it? If we haven’t got the skills required, we can always learn them.

It was 100 years after the command was received when the flood came. That is a long time to be doing something so unconventional without any proof he wasn’t wasting his time. That said, imagining the consequences of refusing is even more terrifying.

Preventing paedophiles

I read an article in the news a while back about the former lead singer of Welsh band Lostprophets being found guilty of committing various sex offences against children.

The story stunned me, as I’m sure it has others who’ve read it. Not because the guy was a celebrity, but because I felt sympathy for the guy.

I am not a paedophile, nor have I ever been. At some point in his life, that was true for Ian Watkins too. What happened to change him I don’t know. I doubt it was a sudden thing, that on one day he woke up and had sexual impulses related to children. I imagine it to have been a gradual slope down into addiction. The drink and the drugs were probably similar in that regard, like a thickening wedge.

I feel sorry for him because I believe he felt powerless to stop it. I feel sorry that he went through whatever trauma he did. I feel sorry that his fame has now been traded for infamy. I feel sorry that he will have to face people who will never forgive him. I feel sorry that he had nowhere to go for help.

Right now I feel a little powerless too. Child sex offences are in the news a lot these days, but the only solution I hear offered is a harsh punishment. We should be doing something to identify the problem at the root, before anyone gets hurt.

I know of online petitions written asking that rape be talked about in school. I think they should also talk about pedophilia. Many guys will experience sexual urges they cannot explain, why don’t schools teach people how to manage these? I admit that’s hard, but at least acknowledging that some people will have mixed up urges due to issues in their past would be useful.

Sex education for me consisted of saying what each gender has and that the men should wear a condom. In a school with a number of teenage pregnancies, I can understand why there was an unspoken assumption that people would have sex. They knew their pupils had urges to do it and that any child will break the rules to test them.

The children in school today have access to porn on their phones and are sexting. Their childhood is being swapped for sexual discoveries. When I was growing it was clear that “the conversation” had to happen about when puberty hit. Nowadays that may be too late, as some children as young as five are being excluded for sexual misconduct (source: Independent).

The big question is what can we do? The answer is whatever we can. Use what’s available to you, whether that being talking to your kids, writing to your MPs or setting up better parental controls at home. If we take responsibility for this rather than passing the buck, it will improve.

Blogging versus real life

I mentioned in an earlier post that I wanted to post one blog post a week, every Wednesday. Last week, I failed to meet this objective and the previous week it was late.

The curious thing is that I’m not bothered about this. I had an idea which I could have written about (India still needs aid even though it can afford a mission to Mars. Suggesting otherwise is to say all Indian charity work is pointless and everybody there does not deserve our help, simply because the government are spending money on rockets) but life got in the way.

For some people writing is their life. They have to do it else they explode and find it hard to contain themselves. That is not me.

I have to think and process new ideas. This is one of the ways that I process them but there are others. This week I have not slept well and spent many nights tossing and turning, thinking over the busy week. My imagination has been very active, but writing it down and sharing my internal monologues has not been necessary. I’ve had a few deep conversations with close friends and spent the weekend discussing this and that with my girlfriend.

Blogging is important to me though, mainly because I want to share what I think. I don’t believe I’m always right, but I do stand by the fact that I have something new to offer. If you’ve followed me for a while, I imagine you think so too.

I want to keep this up and as previously posted, become better at putting my ponderings to paper, or print at least. I’m therefore going to loosen up on the day of submission, but aim for once a week. I hope to post again before Sunday, but if not, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. Life goes on.

“Not bad”

Not bad is the only double negative I can think of that is acceptable in the English language. Despite the grammatical problems, this is a very useful phrase, particularly when being asked “How are you?”

I find this an incredibly bizarre phrase. It is simultaneously the most personal, intimate question and the most banal and bog standard one. How you are is a very complex question and covers all parts of a person’s life. It’s usage as an introductory statement is baffling. You may as well just say “Tell me everything”.

From now on, can we just agree to say what we mean? If you want to know everything and will listen, rather than interjecting with your own stories and anecdotes, please continue as you are. But otherwise, if you just want to hear me say I’m alright so you can continue to tell me what you did this week, then please just say something that makes this clear. How about “What’ve you been up to”, as this avoids anything about my feelings.

If you continue to use unclear sentences, then I will respond with an equally ambiguous answer and use poor grammar to boot.

Superheroes 2014

With Thor: the Dark World now out in cinemas,  there are now no more superhero films left to be released this year. It is therefore time to look forward to 2014.

There are four major releases to consider, but only two of these have released any footage.

First up, due out in April, is Captain America The Winter Soldier.

Cap is definitely my favourite of the Avengers, and this seems like it will test his moral courage (a term I heard on a recent training course and have become fond of). I’m slightly worried that the rest of film will be a bit by the numbers and that the Marvel formula is becoming tired. The scene with Black Widow is all too similar to the one between Tony and Pepper in the Iron Man 2 teaser, though this was later cut.

In August, their reputation could be saved by the bonkers Guardians of the Galaxy. This is Marvel’s riskiest film to date and the one I am most excited about. One of it’s main character is a gun-toting raccoon while another is a tree voiced by Vin Diesel. The footage shown at Comic Con was very humorous and I think this has potential to be as fun a ride as the original Iron Man.

Guardians of the Galaxy concept art

Before that the seventh film in the X-men series is due out in May.

This I’m also very excited about, as X-men is one of my favourite franchises. Sure there have been duds (Wolverine, I’m looking at you) but this film intends to unite them all. This is why the original director, Bryan Singer, is back and has promised to address some of the things in the films following his departure. You can see in the video that Wolverine has his bone claws as introduced in Wolverine origins, something I think will rile the purists.

The trailer however is frustrating. it has the makings of an awesome teaser with some well chosen dialogue which makes me eager to see these guys in action. The polish is missing though; I felt the music change and Wolverine’s scream were particularly clunky. I am hoping this is a symptom of the trailer being rushed out for excited fans and not due to studio pressure.

Also out in May is the Amazing Spider-man 2. A trailer is due to come out in front of the Hobbit Desolation of Smaug, so it will be a while yet before we see Spidey in action. There have been plenty of stills released though, including some showing Jamie Fox’s original take on Electro.
First Look: Electro in Amazing Spider-man 2
He’s not the only villain though, as Rhino and Norman Osborne are also to be introduced.  Whether this ends up going a bit Spider-man 3 remains to be seen, but I’m going to reserve judgement until I see it.

DC are only noticeable by their absence. Though with Batman Vs Superman (current working title) coming in 2015, I imagine that will dominate the year.

A nation changing testimony

Last week, I was aware that a cyclone was about to hit India. I didn’t know much, but it was going to be a big one, the size of which hadn’t been seen since 1999 when tens of thousands of people were killed.

On Sunday, in the morning service at church, God prompted me to pray for them. I was in worship at this point, and just started going there, spiritual-pedal-to-the-metal. I prayed for people’s protection, that they would be kept safe in Jesus.

Later that day, I’m eating lunch in a pub. I see on the news a story that 78 people have died during a stampede at a temple where people were praying about the oncoming storm. They had been rushing across a bridge and afraid it was going to fall.

I have a real heart connection with India as a nation, so this hurt. I once again asked God to protect this nation and then, because I’m not perfect, I just continued with my meal.

The next day I see an article numbering the people killed by cyclone Phailin at nineteen. 1. 9. Not 5 figures, but something I can count on my own fingers and toes. WOW!!!! The government had ordered the people to evacuate ahead of the storm and the number of lives saved is phenomenal!

Whether you believe that was caused by my prayer is actually irrelevant. The fact of the matter is it happened and who am I going to give the glory to for that? The weathermen who foresaw it and the ministers which acted so promptly to save the people they represented both did amazing work, sure, but God is the one I praise here. As I try to do in all things, I want to acknowledge His glory in what has happened.

The how and the reason are almost irrelevant. (I personally do think my prayer had an impact, hence the title.) If God did just sat back and left people by themselves to figure out how they could predict the weather, how to communicate at rapid speed across a nation and move them all quickly to points of safety, then that these created beings are capable of so much is still miraculous!

I am consistently astounded at how much we are capable of and what great things then human race can do.  We are made in the Father’s image and have been given very great power.

John 14:12
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

Slaves

She hesitated before hitting send. There was no way back and doing so could mean losing the few influential friends she had. It would make finding another job impossible and there was no guarantee that anyone would even  read it, let alone believe it. the chances of anyone acting were tiny.

There was still a chance though. This wasn’t about her, so she grit her teeth and clicked.

Maria lent back in her chair. It felt good to get it out there. Now all she had to do was wait for a response.

**********

Marcus Treadwell helped himself to a third mug of filter coffee. It was only half eleven, but he was shattered. He’d been in back to back meetings all day dealing with difficult customers.

Marcus was an employee of Simultron International, an wholesaler of automaton helpers. Their slogan was “Making work painless” and Marcus was a salesman. He worked on commission and today they were trying to cut a deal with McDonalds. The robots wouldn’t work out front of course, but they would be used to cook and clean in the kitchens.

There were five minutes to go before Marcus had to be in his next board room discussion so he decided to check his emails. He unpocketed his iPhone and found he had three new messages. One was a meeting request from his staff manager to discuss his possible promotion, which he marked as unread to deal with later. He had to focus and if he got this contract then a pay rise would be in the bag.

The second email was from a name he thought was familiar but couldn’t place. Maria Gibb was not an employee here, but that was clear from the email. It had just one sentence; Puppets not robots. Below that was an image, that was still loading. Slowly, it revealed a photograph of an eight year old Vietnamese boy wired up to a cybernetic suit.

Marcus scrolled down to see if this was a joke, but all he found was more pictures. Close ups showed the state of the poor child; tired battered and desperate for a break. He saw the company logo on the equipment.

He noticed there was an attachment as well, called Contract.doc. He started to download the file but was interrupted.

“Marcus, come on.” His boss was calling him in to the meeting. Marcus put away his phone, he’d deal with it later.

Marcus couldn’t let it go though. “Could it be true?” he thought to himself, where there children being forced to work these robots? If so, what could he do about it? He couldn’t take down a corporation this large. On the other hand, could he sell their products if there was even a chance these photos were legit?

Marcus didn’t have to worry though, as the email had already reached their clients who had stormed out. He went and joined the queue of people giving their week’s notice to HR.

——————————————————————————————————

Today is Anti Slavery day, the one day that the government has legislated to raise awareness of the real issue of trafficking. Unlike that story, it is a real issue and one that is happening all over the world. A report published yesterday shows the estimated number of people in slavery at 29.8 million.

There is a real chance that items we buy have been produced by slaves. No company would want this, but ensuring your whole supply chain is free from it is not always easy to check. This website lists some of the known products that have been produced by forced labour.

Anti-slavery day was brought in by law to raise awareness of this issue.  So, do some research into the issue, contact your MP or try to go fairtrade. I will be donating my day’s wage to an anti-slavery organisation and trying to raise awareness via facebook, twitter and this blog.

In that story, Maria is the real hero. She did something against the slavers, whereas Marcus just left them alone. What are you going to do?