A proverb for every occasion

I’m still persisting with the Bible in one year. It’s a challenge to remember it and not infrequently I end up doing three or four day’s reading in one sitting.

The OT has been surprisingly accessible, I’ve quite enjoyed the story of the Exodus (although the rituals, genealogy lists and laws have got a bit much) – currently the Israelites are on the cusp of entering the promised land. Similarly, most of the NT readings have been fine, because they too tell a story.

What I have struggled with (to my surprise) is Proverbs. I ended up reading the final 11 chapters in one go last night (this blog was my motivation in the end). It’s so hard to read something that’s essentially a list of statements.

However, I enjoyed it a lot more once I’d made it my mission to collate some of the more bizarre advice:

16:7 “Better a meal of vegetables where there is love, than a fattened calf with hatred.”

18:8 “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels, they go down to a man’s inmost parts.”

20:1 “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.”

20:5 “The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters,but a man of understanding draws them out.”

25:16 “If you find honey, eat just enough—too much of it, and you will vomit.”

26:15-16 “A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the windor grasping oil with the hand.”

Also, I am particularly pleased that the book of Proverbs has gifted us the word ‘sluggard’. Who would want to be without it? It appears 14 times in 31 chapters, my favourite example being:

26:14 “As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.”

However, I’m sensing this probably isn’t exactly the spiritual enlightenment I intended to derive from this particular mission!

The ‘R’ word

I don’t believe in resolutions.

They only serve to make people feel like failures before the first month of the year is over and clog up the gym with temporary fitness freaks at the start of every year.

I like to set myself the ocassional challenge – like my Advent mission, which I intend on continuing – but I’m already good enough at chastising myself for my failures without needing to set myself up for a fall at the start of every year.

The other day I mentioned that I’d had various resolutions suggested to me by friends and that I was rejecting all of them. However, it seems that this is coming back to haunt me as now on January 4th, I seem to be taking two suggestions seriously.

Firstly, the ones that didn’t make it:

– Learning to drive. My sister suggests this every year, and has now created a campaign group of various friends to encourage me at intervals. However, for as long as I live in central(ish) London, there’s no point. End of story.

– Be less sarcastic. A friend suggested this to me and I in turn suggested it (in a pot calling kettle black way) to another friend. Anyway, it would be pointless & impossible to keep, so no.

– Read the Bible in a year. A good friend of mine did this last year, stuck to it resolutely & said it’s the best thing he’s ever resolved to do. However, it involved morning & evening readings, which given my track record for Bible reading, I’d never manage.

However…

I’ve discovered (thanks to TallSkinnyKiwi) an online Bible in a Year, which is interactive and appears on my google reader, which basically means I’ve got no excuse. I started it yesterday (and caught up on what I’d missed) and think this could be the way forward. I’ll read almost anything online in a quiet moment at work and can’t cope with toting extra books around in my handbag, so hopefully this will become routine very easily. Plus, it’s available as an iphone application so it strengthens my resolve to acquire one of those beauties later in the year!

And on January 2nd another friend suggested a resolution, which though met with a loud cry of dismay (literally) on my part, has been put onto my to-do list. However, it’s a secret and I’m not spilling any details right now! In theory, it shouldn’t be hard – all I’ve got to do is have a conversation with someone, but I’ve been procrastinating for over a year and it could mean some major changes…intrigued??

Neither of these are resolutions though, ok? They’re just things I happen to be doing right now because it seems like the right place and time. And I suppose I should just be grateful that I have friends who care about me enough to make such improving suggestions!

Hollywood goes all Micah on us

I’m not a big fan of action movies, but last night I watched Iron Man and was very pleasantly surprised. Not only was it quite funny (not to mention the presence of Robert Downey Jr.), it actually had a message that’s pretty rare in Hollywood.

The main plot of the film revolved around the change of heart a director of a weapons company had when he saw the damage his creations did at first hand, and how his attempts to use his technology for good were ignored by his colleagues (the baddies). Ultimately, he created both a cyber-heart and the Iron Man, both of which were improvements on WMDs.

But how unusual is it for Hollywood to produce a movie that acts out Micah 4:3?

“And He will judge between many peoples And render decisions for mighty, distant nations. Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they train for war.”
[Note: I did actually have to look up the quote, my OT Prophets knowledge is not that hot!]

It got me thinking about one of the aspects of Irresistable Revolution that touched a chord with me. Shane (the author) went to Iraq with Christian Peacemaker Teams and saw the hurt his country (and ours) is causing the people there. He writes about America’s attitude towards the war, especially from within the church, and the associated patriotism. How every soldier’s death is commemorated, but not the plight of the Iraqis.

He writes:
“Originally, I thought that I went to Iraq for the Iraqi people and the kids in my neighbourhood. But as I have traveled, I have come to see that I also went to Iraq for our friends and family members in the military. Over and over, soldiers have come to me with tears in their eyes, pouring out their inner conflict as they feel thier spiritual and national allegiances collide.”
[p.220. You can read more of Shane’s experiences in Iraq here.]

It sometimes feels that within a society that reveres the actions of its armed forces, there’s no space for pacifism or even Just War Theory. A soldier is killed in Afghanistan on Christmas Eve and it’s the first item on the news – but what about the 1000s of civillians killed in conflict around the world every day?

There are many, many films that seem to glamorise war, and only a few that seem to challenge it. (Particularly Shooting Dogs for its depiction of UN Peacekeepers in Rwanda and to a certain extent, Jarhead for showing the impact the Gulf War had on troops.) But Iron Man, for all its action movie credentials, really goes for the ethics of war and weapons, pretty impressive really.

So that’s my rather profound response to 2 hours of mindless movie watching last night! Needless to say, the guys I watched it with didn’t quite get to that level when we talked about it. In fact, both seemed just to want their own Iron Man suit and pretended to fly around the room! Then the Oxford Physics Graduate guy started to explain exactly why most of it couldn’t actually have happened…therefore be glad that you’re reading my response to the film and not his!

A strokable Bible?

Speaking as someone who owns a pink & orange leather bound Bible, I like a Bible that’s both aesthetic and functional.

However, I think I draw the line at furry Bibles. Or rather, in this particular case, furry collection of Bible stories. Of course it’s aimed at children, and features “Tiny Bear”, but still. The Tiny Bear Bible is available from all good bookshops.

I spotted this creation on a visit to the bookshop I used to work in and pondered (for about 20 seconds) on whether I should buy it for my Godson’s 9 month old little brother. Then I had a look inside…

It contains 11 Bible stories, but manages to include Tiny Bear as one of their characters, which is an interesting theological device. The book closes with the words:
‘No matter what, no matter where, God is with us, Tiny Bear.’

I work with under 6’s, so I have some appreciation for the level at which you need to pitch Bible stories. However, do you really want a furry book that’s ultimately going to become matted with a biscuit/juice combination?

But, according to one of my former colleagues, the book is in fact the current best seller in the children’s religious section. There’s no accounting for taste.

Returning to childish ways

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Not strictly true.
When I “became a man” (or, “grew up” as the inclusitivity police would have this particular passage re-phrased) I only gave up my childish ways to a certain extent.

I still throw strops – but only when I have good cause to.
I still have moments when I feel the only recourse I have left is to cry.
I still think Haribo mini-mix is one of the best sugar related products around.

And, as was evident last night, I can still graze my knees with the best 5 year old.

All I did was trip (not on my trousers, which has happened before) but on my shoes, or the pavement, or something. I ended up with a huge graze (through jeans) on one knee and another on my ankle. Not the best start to an otherwise fun evening.

But, as I’d behaved like a child I am continuing to reason like a child.
They still hurt & I’m complaining about it loudly (not so much in a bid for attention, but because I want others to feel my pain too!).
The graze on my ankle requires a plaster and therefore I am using the most childish plaster I can get my hands on – unicorn ones a friend gave me last week! Wonderful.

Today is a great day for acting my shoe size (8) not my age (27).