Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Thoughts from a Developing World

There was a big smile on his face. Almost as big as the rip in his jumper and the holes in his shoes.

‘Excuse me sir… are you Miss Turner’s father?’

I assured him I was.

‘Please say hello to her!’

And with that he was gone and I was back to mixing an endless supply of concrete.

I’ve been working in the orphanage town of Bulembu, Swaziland for the last two and a half weeks. Swaziland has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS in the world. A poor African country by any measure, it would be called ‘developing’ in our ‘PC’ world.

But maybe it’s more developed than we give it credit for? Life there is simple – and poor. But the joy in that boy’s eyes as he recognised me as Lois’ father (Lois used to work there) was wonderful. We can help build, help finance and more, but one thing they don’t need is the joy of living.

As our team of 20 from KingsGate Church return to the ‘developed world’, there is much to reflect on. Contrast the openness of the children and their joy of life with our selfishness and desire to accumulate (I am immersed into a season of Christmas adverts upon my return). Contrast the love and care shown sacrificially by the Bulembu staff when compared to the jingoistic, racially motivated rhetoric of many politicians in the ‘developed’ world. Contrast the smile on the boy’s face with the anger and language I witnessed last night from the man in the passport queue.

Is the developed world still developing? I’m not so sure. The real meaning of Christmas soars above the tinsel and the ads. Let’s be big hearted, giving, inclusive and welcoming this Christmas.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

The Human Population Through Time

This is a stunning graphical illustration of the growth of the human population.

It took 200,000 years for the population to reach 1 billion. It took just 200 years for it to reach 7 billion.

'And God said to them,“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”' (Genesis 1: 28)

Let's be careful how we interpret that command.

 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

I Still See Her Face

I still see her face. An innocent one-year old. Such trust as she climbed onto my lap and fell asleep. She had no idea as to what had happened to her and her family.

I’m so pleased that Amena’s story has made it into print. You can read my article on life in the Syrian refugee camps in the latest issue of Christianity Magazine.
By God’s grace, Amena and her family will find their way home to a peaceful country. In the meantime, let’s continue to pray.

Monday, 22 August 2016

What Are Mere Mortals That You Should Think About Them?

I love stuff like this.

Did you know that there are ten sextillion stars (that's 10 with 21 noughts after it!)? Did you know the tiniest quark is so small it's hard to describe? Imagine Wembley Stadium represents the size of one atom (and one hundred million atoms make up one inch). Now go to the centre circle of the football pitch (the atom) and pick up one grain of soil. That's the nucleus of the atom. Then divide the nucleus by 1000. And that's the size of a quark. (More on this in 'God-Life', chapter 4).

The Bible says 'what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?' (Psalm 8:4, NLT). What indeed. But He does. And when you see how small we are in the video, that's even more amazing.

Enjoy the video:



 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Explaining British Politics to an American Friend

American Friend: ‘Hey Ralph, what’s happening with you guys? Crazy politics!’

Ralph: ‘Yep. Not our most glorious moment as a British people.’

AF: ‘So what exactly has happened? Explain it to me.’

R: ‘I’ll have a go. But just to get things into perspective, you guys have got Donald Trump!’

AF: ‘Fair enough!’

So here is my attempt at an answer to my American friend:

BACKSTORY

There’s quite a backstory to this. A lot of it involves the press and their ability to spin a story. Our press are not neutral. We boast a free press, but with it comes a lot of baggage. Especially press intrusion, wild headlines and frankly, lies.

We have the BBC of course. Supposedly neutral. But probably not. It tends towards the left wing of British politics and is not averse to trying to get a scoop, seemingly at the cost of the truth. (Cliff Richard, our British pop icon, has been dragged through the mud on his private life- started by the BBC filming a raid on his home. Turns out none of it is true. Hope he sues).

All of this is to say, people believe the cheap headlines.

FROM BLAIR AND BROWN

New Labour had its day and lost the election. Not helped by a lacklustre Gordon Brown who probably should never have been Prime Minister.

The election results were a surprise though. It needed a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition to reach consensus on a new Government. They did a pretty good job. The LibDems stopped the more extreme right wing agenda of the Conservatives and the fallout from the 2008 world economic crisis was managed well.

THE LAST ELECTION

The last election changed that. The LibDems were punished by their supporters for the alliance with the Conservatives and the first past the post electoral system meant they paid a higher price in number of MPs that the actual vote for them suggested.

Prime Minister Cameron had freedom to introduce a right wing agenda, and he did.

But on Europe, he was caught by his own manoeuvrings. At a point of weakness and with pressure from the extreme right wing, he had earlier caved in to offering a referendum on Europe- should we stay in the European Union or not? That’s the referendum we’ve just been through.

LABOUR FAILURE

British politics needs a robust and effective opposition. There hasn’t been one since the demise of Blair and Brown.

The unions pushed through a vote on a new leader of the Labour party that favoured younger brother Ed Miliband over older brother David. That was the catalyst for Labours demise. Ed was not a leader and duly lost the election, spectacularly giving Cameron an unfettered government.

Before he left, Ed also ensured Labour would remain unelectable by letting in the £3 voters. These are people that can vote in a Labour leadership election by paying just £3. Sounds ridiculous? It was. The extreme left in the Labour party used the changes to their advantage and the unelectable labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn is the result.

IMPLOSION

And now the country has imploded. Based on a set of untruths, the vote out brigade won the referendum. Economic misery is the likely result.  All three major parties are in trouble: the LibDems don’t have the MPs. The Conservatives have Cameron’s resignation to deal with and infighting still on Europe. And Labour has to deal with an unelectable leader who at the time of writing is refusing to go, despite 80% of his own MPs asking him to do so.

Some on the extreme right wing have taken the vote as an excuse for racial violence. And just when we need a steady hand and a clear mind, no one is stepping up.

NEXT?

Not sure. Could be violence on the streets. Could be economic ruin. I hope not. There’s a gap in politics once again, for a middle ground / left of centre party. If that’s not Labour, maybe someone will be brave enough to start a new party.

Maybe the Conservatives will sort themselves out in time. And maybe the EU will drop the rhetoric and give Britain a good deal outside of their borders. Maybe.

But it could be worse. At least Donald Trump is the other side of the Atlantic.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Remain

It’s been a strange campaign.

The Remain guys seem to have focussed on fear and not so much on the obvious benefits of remaining. But that’s been surpassed by the poverty of the Leave campaign.

I was on the Syrian border two weeks ago, helping the refugees. To then see them used on a Leave poster as propaganda was definitely the lowest point of the campaign.

I’m not sure there should ever have been a vote on this, but as Cameron has decided otherwise, I’ll be voting tomorrow. I don’t believe in divorce. I’m voting for belonging, for inclusion, for welcoming others and working with them.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Leicester City - The Financially Impossible Story

An amazing thing has just happened in my city. Leicester City Football Club has won the Premiership. Outside of the usual ‘big spenders’, Leicester are only the second club to manage the impossible (Blackburn Rovers being the other club in 1994/95).

They won it on team spirit, togetherness, courage and determination. In the end, money can’t buy determination.

It’s worth looking at the financials here. The chart below, from the BBC, shows how Leicester stacks up in terms of cost, against the biggest spending club, Manchester City:



Yes, that’s right. Leicester has just won the Premiership with a team valued at 7.5% of the ‘top’ club.

And that’s not all. Leicester City have also attained the greatest financial ‘over achievement’ when measured against wages. Here’s the proof courtesy of the Financial Times no less (via Pensions Playpen):



Much has already been written about this impossible success. And I’m sure there will be more to follow. Cold finance says this achievement is impossible. The dreamers at Leicester City say otherwise.

All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.
T. E. Lawrence