Scaffolding and Stained Glass

This Sunday at THE MESSAGE (which is the evening service at Rothwell Baptist Church), I am to give a talk about Nicodemus. Nicodemus was the Jewish leader who went to see Jesus at the dead of night to find out what he was all about. Famously, Jesus told him that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven he had to be “Born Again” (You can read all about this conversation in the Gospel of John, Chapter 3).

Also, yesterday, I volunteered for a second time to be Wakefield Cathedral’s “Photographer of the day” in their “366 Days” project (http://www.366days.org.uk). If you didn’t know, Wakefield Cathedral is going through an extensive refurbishment programme; when I took photographs earlier in the year, they were removing the old pews, yesterday they were removing a load of scaffolding and it was interesting photographing the building works with the stained glass windows in the background.

When the Wakefield Cathedral project is complete, it will be a transformed space suiting its role as a working church at the centre of the community. It occurred to me that this project of transformation is like a re-birth analogous to what Jesus was talking about to Nicodemus. Jesus went on to say that what he meant was a spiritual re-birth, the life transformation that happens when someone becomes a Christian. Projects like Wakefield Cathedral however, take time, old infrastructure needs to be removed and painstaking work to re-build and preserve takes months, if not years.

It occurs to me that this is the same for anyone who becomes a Christian. Rather than instantly changing into a wise Jesus-like, figure who can do no wrong, they will learn and grow as they come to know God. We, with our rough edges and worn-out ideas are each long-term projects for God to transform. However, like the Cathedral we must let the builders in first and be prepared for radical change in our lives. In this analogy, the master builder of course is Jesus Christ and my suggestion is that if you haven’t done this already, you get him in as soon as possible to do a site survey!

Higgs BosonI was really excited today when I learned this morning that CERN scientists have finally “discovered” the illusive “Higgs Boson”. Well, to be absolutely precise, they have, with a scientifically recognised degree of certainty, discovered a new particle that looks very much like it could be a Higgs. But, lets not split hairs and congratulate CERN on an amazing discovery.

Of course the Higgs is important because scientists think that according to the “Standard Model” (the scientific theory covering the way the Universe hangs together at a fundamental level), it is the particle that gives the other particles mass. It converts the universe from a mass of random high-speed particle “soup”, to one with mass and structure, one capable of giving rise to suns, planets and of course life. For this reason, it has been misleadingly nicknamed the “God” particle.

Does the Higgs Boson prove the existence of God? No. Does the Higgs Boson mean that God isn’t there? Again, No. Hence, I think this nickname is misleading.

The whole process though, did get me thinking. This famous “Standard Model” is a scientific theory that is quite a way short of being fully formed or proven in any sense. The discovery of the Higgs will certainly move the science on to a considerable degree though and so this uncertainty doesn’t stop the scientists believing in their theory and this, to me, looks very much like faith. Of course, this is not blind faith because through the maths and experiments, the scientists have got very good reason to think that they are working, pretty much along the right lines.

Sometimes faith in God is criticised as being blind faith. But, just as the CERN scientists have good reason to have faith in their model because of the evidence of experiments and proven prediction, I have good reason to believe in my God.

Believers have the evidence of history, personal experience and the experience of others though testimony and so faith can be approached with your eyes very much open. I think that the discovery of the Higgs Boson and other incredible scientific discoveries over the years show the Universe to be a pretty amazing place. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to believe that there is someone pretty amazing behind it all!

We have just finished watching a recording of “King of Kings” which is a 1961 film describing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  While I winced at the liberties they took with the story as told in the Bible, the heart of the producer was in the right place and I enjoyed this epic “big production”.

Near the end, I was surprised at one particular innovative scene.  Instead of covering the final sentencing of Christ by Pilate, the scene was in the jail where Brarbbas was being held.  Now Barabbas obviously thought he was about to be taken out to be killed, but instead the guard said he could go free.  Explaining that the crowd had chosen him to be set free rather than Jesus, the guard finally said, “Go, look at Him who is dying for you”

And that was great, one poignant scene, summing up the point of the whole story.

Feeling very much the idea of burger and chips for lunch today, imagine my delight that today was the day a new branch of the Hand Made Burger Co. was opening not 100 yards from where I work.  Yay!

So, come lunchtime and feeling sufficiently peckish, I set-out through the sunshine (yesterday forgotten) to sample it’s delights.  Now, this isn’t McDonalds!  It’s an eating place of the popular genre of themed chain restaurants like Nando’s, Frankie & Benny’s etc.  I had not been to one of these before, but I was talked though the menu and system by the very helpful waitress.

This is not fast food either, I think they must have to go out to catch a cow AFTER you order.  Fair do’s though, this was their first day and I guess the staff must be on a learning curve.  It was real food, thank goodness; you know when after eating a McDonalds, you get that after taste that tells you what you have eaten was not strictly wholesome?  And, afterwards you are also somehow not fully satisfied?  Well, I am pleased to say there was no such sensations after eating the wholesome burger and chunky “hand cut” chips at this joint.  It was a good job I didn’t have a glass of wine or beer with the meal, or else I really would have gone to sleep in the afternoon.

All in all, an excellent meal, very tasty and good service.  They also do a very delicious line in skewers and I can’t wait to try a minted lamb burger.  Mmmm.

I really needed my run this evening to burn off those calories.

I’ve been dying for an excuse to use this photo, which I took in Bulgaria (and that quote from Groundhog Day) for ages and today seems appropriate.

When I woke up this morning it was chucking it down with snow.  I needed to get to Bolton for 9:30 so I set off at around 7 to give me plenty of time, thinking the snow won’t really take hold on the Motorways.

Over the top on the M62 was mayhem with traffic moving at about 15 miles per hour (when it speeded up), a jack-knifed truck blocking the road completely on the east-bound side and an absolutely raging blizzard.

Thankfully, I arrived in Bolton at about 10:00 which isn’t bad going.  I am just about to set off home, so lets hope things will have got better over the day.  I can’t wait to be back in the warmth of home with my wonderful wife!

Its sobering to think that no so long ago, the idea of buying a pre-made, pre-packed sandwich from a supermarket just wouldn’t have even occurred to anyone.  Lunch was something you did sat-down in a canteen, pub or home.   Otherwise, you would be having a picnic or packed lunch, with lovingly prepared home-made sandwiches, pies, pasties and more.

These days, Lunch is “on the hoof” a hurriedly purchased hermetically sealed pack from M&S, Tesco’s, Boots or Sainsbury’s.  In these places you now have to cope with the latest horror of the 21st Century, yes, you’ve guessed it, the MEAL DEAL!

Never really took much notice of Meal Deals until one day at M&S the helpful till assistant (remember this is M&S), kindly pointed out that if I added a bottle of water to my purchases, the total cost would actually go down.  Now think about that, what she was saying is that they would actually PAY me for taking this bottle of water off their hands.  Bottom line it had a negative price.  This got me thinking about how this particular business model stacked-up.

One feature of Meal Deals that I have always disliked is that in order to get this discount you are obliged to purchase a packet of crisps (maybe Walkers are secretly subsidising these deals).  Imagine my delight when (again in M&S), I discovered that you could substitute the crisps with a “piece of fruit”.  So there I was with my sandwich, drink and apple (carefully selected from the fruit counter), ready to reap the benefits of my careful analysis of the lunch purchasing options.  But NO, sorry, this didn’t qualify because (as the helpful assistant pointed out), you have to select a piece of fruit from the Meal Deal Counter, NOT the Fruit Counter.  She kindly escorted me to the appropriate display (Remember, M&S), and proudly pointed out an empty shelf where, apparently, apples were once displayed, each one of them sporting a bar code that wold entitle the buyer to a Meal Deal discount.  Alas, no more were available condemning me to paying full price for the meal.

My second encounter was in Tesco’s where I was more careful.  Wanting a wrap rather than a conventional sandwich, I carefully scrutinised the small print to check that yes, wraps are included in the package.  At the checkout, everything went swimmingly until, the bill was presented and yes, you guessed it, full price.  This time the problem was that I had selected the wrong kind of wrap, what I should have done is check that the shelf on which the item was, had a “Meal Deal” sticker on it.  Otherwise: doesn’t count!  Apparently this was my fault, claims that it was misleading fell on deaf ears and the assistant looked very much like she was ready for me so I backed down (I emphasise, NOT M&S).

Finally, back to Mark’s.  A carefully selected my package from all the right shelves, checking everything and yet again, no deal!  Then it struck me that maybe, it’s simply not possible to configure a Meal Deal on your own, maybe unless its pointed out to you by a well-trained operative, there is no physical way a mere mortal can do it.

Maybe its all a marketing ploy to make you think it’s a good deal, when in fact, you always end up paying full price.

Maybe I’m going mad.

Maybe I should take a packed lunch!

(Thanks for reading, got that off my chest now).

Is it possible to be addicted to running?  If you look at the FaceBook posts of someone like me, you might well think so.  Though over the last two days, I haven’t been running. Why? Because I am preparing for the Thirsk 10 mile race tomorrow and I really want to be fresh for this race.  It’s really strange not being out there pounding the streets.  This morning I marshalled at the Leeds Park Run (nearly messing everything up bydropping a bundle of finishing tags) and how odd it was not running!

So, this afternoon I took a stroll, not even power-walking around the neighborhood.  When you walk, you take things in, things that you don’t notice when you are speeding along.  Spring is in the air, people are out gardenning,  parents are out with the kids along the path by the little stream, and it occurred to me what a nice place to live this is.   Praise God for the blessings he places upon us lets try not to complain too much.