Friday, 24 October 2008

The Scan

So I met my foetus yesterday for the first time.

As you may or may not be able to see from the photo “it” looks a bit like a cross between ET & Skeletor and has already developed David Healey legs after “it’s” father. We’ve known about our arrival since late August and it’s such a relief to be able to share the excitement with other people now.

Once again I can’t help, but turn to that marvellous Psalm, number 139, where David is praying to his all-seeing, all-powerful and everywhere-present Creator. That God is already at work in the life of our child.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully & wonderfully made” (v13).

I already know my greatest delight for Johnny or Annie Junior. It’s to see them grow to love and follow God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength.

I appreciate there’s a long way to go before their arrival in this world (never mind the hard work of adapting my life to sleepless nights and dirty nappies), but two things I am sure off…
1. God is good.
2. Newcastle will have another supporter by the end of the season.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Not as unique as I thought…

I like to think of myself as pretty unique. That God broke the mould when He made me. That I'm special. The only Johnny Bell around… But these egotistical hopes evaporated as I clicked on the following web page

According to their stats there are 302,354 people in the USA with Johnny as their first name, making it the 211th most popular. Thankfully 98.48% of these people are male, but who are the 4,535 female freaks with this as a first name?

Bell is even more common with 357,328 USA residents sharing this surname - although a small Scottish city probably has a similar number - with famous Bells including Alexander Graham (inventor of telephone) and Jamie Bell (aka Billy Elliot).

There are even 354 people specifically called "Johnny Bell" – although unlike Dave Gorman ( I have no desire to track them all down. Incidentally there are 43 people called Homer Simpson, 6 called Jesus Christ and 4 poor creatures called Ben Dover.

So if my name is as common as man flu in October or a new manager at Newcastle, what is it that makes me unique?

Well if God is to be believed, we are all individually, crafted masterpieces. The perfect workmanship of a loving Creator. Someone who knows exactly how we tick, what makes us smile & what causes us to flip out. If you don’t believe me check out Psalm 139.
“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb.

I thank you, High God – you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvellously made.
I worship in adoration – what a creation.

You know me inside and out. You know every bone in my body.
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

If we could only meditate on and integrate the words of this Psalm into the depths of our heart; our lives would never be the same again.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Are the British a miserable lot?

You can waste your life on the internet.
There’s always a story, article or game to help you procrastinate when there’s something more important to do. And so it was when I came across an interesting article entitled, “Why nothing makes the British quite so happy as being miserable?”

Eric Weiner (a Yank) suggests that “we are a nation of Victor Meldrews taking a perverse pleasure from our grumpiness” and as such we are one of the gloomiest countries on the planet. **

Is Weiner correct? Are we a grumpy lot? Do we revel in complaining? Are we a nation where the happy are strange anomalies and regarded suspiciously? Is this why we find David Brent, Jim Royale & Basil Fawlty hilarious? Do we scowl at everyone who laughs out loud on public transport or in a restaurant? Is happiness a sign that you are not intelligent enough to realise how miserable you should be?

Or is it that Mr Weiner himself suffers a sense of humour failure? Does he not appreciate our sarcasm genes, teasing and self-depreciating humour?

Are we actually miserable? And if so, how does this reconcile with “living out the Gospel”? Should it change how we read verses such as Philippians 2:14 - “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God”?

** Incidentally the five happiest places he claims are Bhutan, Iceland, Thailand, India & Switzerland (with all that Milka who couldn’t be happy?)

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

I found John Boyne’s book extremely powerful, so I’ve been eagerly expectant waiting for the big screen version.

What can I say about the movie? Well, I probably wouldn’t recommend it for a first date – it’s not exactly a snog-&-snuggle-in-the-back-seat sort of movie, but it is the most moving & remarkable film about childhood I have ever seen.

Bruno is the eight-year-old son of a Nazi officer. When his father is promoted from a desk job in Berlin to commanding a death camp in the middle of nowhere, Bruno can’t quite understand the sudden frosty tension between his parents, or why he is forbidden to visit the strange “farm” with the electric fences.

Exploring the area one day, Bruno meets Shmuel (a boy on the other side of the fence) and the two strike up a friendship. One review describes this relationship as having “the rhythm of a children’s adventure, spiked by unspeakable adult truths.” The boys laugh, talk, play games and struggle to understand the prejudices & propaganda that separate them.

The film evokes various emotions with several memorable themes arising including boundaries, betrayal, guilt & forgiveness and a non-forgettable moment when the words “thank you” have never seemed so powerful.

As a youth worker, I’m glad this book/film has been produced. It engages with the complexity of the Holocaust in a language that can move youth as profoundly as adults. Whilst there is the danger that this can be branded a work of fiction, it is important that as the “Holocaust generation” dies off, those successive generations never forget the horrific evils of the past. This movie should leave us with the chilling reality that these unspeakable events could happen again.