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Showing posts from September, 2014

What is the safest place on earth?

It is certainly not the White House. Earlier this week I read that there has been a staggering 35 breaches of the White House perimeter since the mid 1970s. The latest incident involves a decorated Iraq War veteran who scaled a fence on last Friday night and got into the White House. It was later reported that he had more than 800 rounds of ammunition in his car and was arrested in July with a sniper rifle and a map marking the executive mansion.
In truth, there is no place on earth that is truly safe because the safety of the place depends on the people who protects it. The Great Wall of China is thousands of miles long, 30 feet high, and 18 feet thick and was built as security against the northern invaders. It is a massive construction, and was intended to be impenetrable. In fact, impressive as it was, the wall was breached not by physically breaking the wall down but by a simple ruse: the gatekeepers were bribed.

Are you drunk?

A recent research study suggests that one drink a day could be enough to increase the risk of heart disease. The research found those with a gene variant that resulted in lighter drinking had lower heart disease incidence, contradicting popular claims that moderate consumption has a protective effect.  This finding adds to the general message that drinking costs lives, especially for those who get heavily intoxicated. That is on top of the tragedy we see on the roads from drunk driving.
The idea that drunkness is costly is infact at the very heart of Nahum’s oracle against Nineveh. Nahum starts by declaring that God's judgement is coming on Nineveh because through its oppression of God's people Judah it is actually at war against God.  Nineveh has embraced sin as its emblem and God will punish them. To be exact, Nineveh will punish itself : For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. (‭Nahum‬ ‭1‬:‭10‬).

Race in America (A Comment)

I am privileged to have a group of colleagues who like a bit of intellectual debate over ideas and current events. A month ago we found ourselves discussing the inequality of incomes in the United States in the context of Ferguson. We were curious to know the disparity of household incomes across blacks, Hispanics and White Americans.
In the course of that discussion we found that black people only make up 13% of the population, third behind Latinos (15%) and whites (72%). There was collective bewilderment. Apparently I am not the only one who was ignorant of this basic fact. I had always thought blanks represented something like 40-45%. That discovery led me to draw the following conclusions, as an African looking in from the outside.

How much is enough? (A Comment)

This is a rather late comment on an important book I read earlier in the year : 'How Much is Enough?: Money and the Good Life' by the brothers Robert and Edward Skidelsky. I say late because there's a long gap between when I read it and now, so my thoughts may be loose in places. For the same reason, this is a comment rather than a review, though the difference is subjective. 
The book is exactly as its title suggests. It is offered as a contribution to rethinking what we want out of life: what money is for and what is meant by ‘the good life’. To make their point, the authors reanimate certain philosophical and ethical ideas which they believe "have long been out of favour but which are by no means extinct".

Ten Tips for Taking Criticism

1. Understand the difference between constructive and destructive criticism. You need to learn how to interpret criticism. Is it positive criticism to build you up or negative to tear you down? Someone once said that constructive criticism is when I criticise you; destructive criticism is when you criticise me.
2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you can develop the ability to laugh at yourself, you will be much more relaxed when given or giving criticism. We all do some stupid and silly things. Blessed is he who can enjoy his blunders. We are approved by God; we don’t have to win the approval of others and look good in their eyes. We are not perfect people. Too many of us take ourselves too seriously and God not seriously enough.  

Taking life seriously

"Whether I do something really funny or really stupid, it is okay with me..I think that is what life is about. You can't take life itself too seriously...At the end of the day, nobody really cares. You're going to be forgotten anyway. The issues and problems that you think are like mountains that you have to deal with now, after time goes by, nobody cares...Might as well have a good time with it." Wesley Snipes  in a recent interviewafter the release of Sylvester Stallone's 'The Expendables 3'. The  'Demolition Man' star is  now back onon the big screen for the first time since his release from prison after doing time for three years after failing to file income tax returns. He began his jail term in December 2010.

A Parody of Faith

There's a fascinating scene in Man of Steel when the man who would be superman, Clark Kent, turns up at a local church seeking answers. He is sitting in alone when local pastor Father Leone asks what is troubling him. Here is where we pick up the conversation : Father Leone: What's on your mind? Clark Kent: I don't know where to start. Father Leone: Wherever you want. Clark Kent: That ship that appeared last night, I'm the one they're looking for. Father Leone: [swallows nervously] Do you know... why they want you? Clark Kent: No, but this General Zod... even if I surrender, there's no guarantee he'll keep his word. But if there's a chance I can save Earth by turning myself in, shouldn't I take it? Father Leone: What does your gut tell you? Clark Kent: Zod can't be trusted. The problem is, I'm not sure the people of Earth can be either. [walks away] Father Leone: Sometimes, you have to take a leap of faith first. The trust part comes later. As the …

Confess and go free!

I recently came across a statement by Nate Larkin inI am Second that was like a breath of fresh air. One question that has troubled me is this. How do I move beyond merely being forgiven by God and actually begin to experience healing and growth in areas that afflict me? Nate's statement has been very helpful : I don’t think I really believed the message of Jesus. I thought it was up to me to be good. I didn’t believe that God would forgive me. I begged God to forgive me. Every Sunday I cried and I cried, pleading to him for forgiveness, but I never really thought he gave it to me. Looking back, I see how wrong I was.

Why are you plotting against God?

I love conspiracy theories!I think part of the reason is that we live in a complex world with many questions and very few answers. The rise of social media has also generated unlimited opportunitirs of finding like minded individuals who share our paranoia and bizarre beliefs. A more obvious reason is one put forward by Oliver Burkeman that we believe in conspiracy theories because they infact do happen.
The Bible goes further and says we suspect conspiracies and duplicity everywhere because we ourselves are conspiratorial. It is a legacy of the fall of Adam. The Prophet Nahum was raised by God to speak against Nineveh's conspiratorial stance : What do you plot against the Lord? He will make a complete end; trouble will not rise up a second time. For they are like entangled thorns, like drunkards as they drink; they are consumed like stubble fully dried. From you came one who plotted evil against the Lord, a worthless counselor. Thus says the Lord,"Though they are at full st…

Risk

To laugh is to risk appearing a fool. To weep is to risk appearing sentimental. To reach out for another is to risk involvement. To expose feelings is to risk rejection. To place your dreams before the crowd is to risk ridicule. To love is to risk not being loved in return. To go forward in the face of overwhelming odds is to risk failure. But risks must be taken because the greatest hazard in life is to risk nothing. The person who risks nothing does nothing, has nothing, is nothing. He may avoid suffering and sorrow, but he cannot learn, feel, change, grow, or love. Chained by his certitudes, he is a slave. Only a person who takes risks is free.
JANET RAND

Where do you belong?

On 3 October 2013, a boat carrying migrants from Libya to Italy sank off the small Italian island of Lampedusa. Many of immigrants had come to Libya from other parts of Africa. When the Libyan uprising begun they sought to find greener pastures. Around 360 perished, with Italian Coast Guard rescuing 155. A week later another shipwreck occurred killing 34 people.

On the Kindle

This week I am kindling 'Be A People Person : Effective Leadershio through Relationship' by John C Maxwell. He has a great chapter on how to be a person people respect. A key part of having respect is "failure proofing" your life through listening for the “alarm bells” in your life. Here are Maxwell's 10 questions every leader must ask to help spot those warning signs.
1. Is My Personal Walk with God Up to Date? Every leader should be able to answer the question, “Do you have a word from the Lord that is up to date?” or “What have you been learning recently from the Lord?” We should have something that God is teaching me us today.
2. Am I Keeping My Priorities Straight? Countless numbers leaders have become “successful” only to discover the tragic price for their success was a broken marriage or loss of health. At some point along the road to success, their priorities shifted. Our priorities must be God, family and vocation - in that order.