Archive for May, 2009|Monthly archive page

ARGUING ABOUT IDA

Well I messed up yesterday… Minding my own business in the staff room I was accosted by my atheist Deputy Head delightedly shoving at me a print-out of Ida – the 47 million-year old lemur fossil unveiled following discovery in Germany. The look on his face suggested I should be cowed and distraught at this final blow to my superstition. He offered to help me through the ’emotional withdrawal’ I would now clearly be facing having, I presume, just seen God effectively disproved.

Now, quite why this would be the case I’m not sure. I love those big scientific discoveries that get us all excited – they make me thank God for the endless complexity and wonder of our world. I don’t purport to be an expert, but I’m certainly not a ‘young Earth’ literalist, determined to resist evolution at all costs. After all, the foremost expert I know on evolution (and a passionate defender of that theory) is a fellow CCB member – a godly woman working at the Natural History Museum. Basically, I’m open to your views, whilst remaining happily and biblically convinced that God made it, God intended it, God controls it and God sustains it.

Anyway, how did I mess up?? Well my response was hardly Grade-A apologetics. Somewhat taken aback, I stammered that I had no real problem with evolution and neither did ‘any’ other Christians I knew (surely most untrue). At which point a further colleague started assailing me about how this evolution must have been pretty quick then, to have taken place over only a few thousand years! I denied that too – at which point he smugly asked then whether I believed humans to be evolved from apes, something I’ve opposed him on before. At which point an elder Christian colleague who I greatly respect rushed over to inform me rather forcefully that ‘Well I do know a Christian who opposes evolution now’ because he was indeed one – and he found the theory to be thoroughly full of holes… at which point I stammered something entirely unintelligible. I now had someone in either ear, both finding me woolly and unconvincing, but from entirely different sides of the divide. And then the bell went and the episode finished, me having effectively denied I believed anything at all…

Now if you know me at all by now, you’ll know I can’t leave things like that. Therefore, I am going to e-mail the following to those present! It’s not the gospel, so it goes against my own advice. But at least it shows I have a mind. I actually find the gospel to be ideally launched from the inevitable follow-up point where they ask why, even if there is a God, out of all the religions in the world I’m arrogant enough to think that mine is right!

THE E-MAIL: Chaps – regarding the brief episode in the staff room yesterday where you questioned me on Ida the fossil… other than looking a bit bemused I didn’t really say much of sense in response. I’m no expert on evolution, but I do have thoughts rather more formed than I managed to articulate yesterday, so I thought I’d just jot them down. This is done off the top of my head in good old Room 25 (instead of eating lunch!) so pardon my lack of academic rigour. However, I want you to know where I’m coming from…

  1. I’m not threatened by the idea of evolution. Yes I am a Christian and I do believe, as Colossians 1 says, that ‘all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’. However I have no problem understanding the start of Genesis as poetry rather than as science textbook and, if evolution is God’s chosen method, that’s cool with me!
  2. That said, it’s clear we’re all still finding our way in terms of fleshing out the theory of evolution as all-encompassing. Micro-evolution is well established and shown. Macro-evolution in terms of the emergence of new species from others  is still rather a case of ‘the science of the gaps’, true as it may ultimately be. In terms of Ida being the ‘missing link’, it will take more than a set of fingernails on a monkey to convince me beyond doubt that we are nothing more than apes with a voicebox. Neither am I sure that every adaptation of every species IS advantageous, nor that every biological feature CAN be credibly arrived at by minute steps. Neither am I sure that evolution explains the arrival of DNA as a complete, complex and fully understood code as present as now in all from the first single-celled beings.
  3. However, even if every aspect of evolution suggested were proved to be undoubtably true, I would still see no reason to ditch God from the equation.  Things have to have a starting point, unless they are either infinite or created from nothing – this would seem to necessitate, at the very least, a creative force working outside of our laws of physics. To have the world we do if shorn of God or anything else beyond our physical realm is clearly infinitely unlikely. For the Big Bang to have produced a stable, life-supporting universe necessitates a ‘fine tuning’ of forces and reaction speeds taking us into realms of probability exclusively featuring figures of at least one in million millions. No-one can reasonably suggest it happened straight off of its own accord. Atheists must start looking at multiple universes or multiple dimensions – neither concept seeming any more likely or provable than that of a creator beyond our immediate understanding. Given infinite steps all things become conceptually plausible, but only in the same way as the famous Shakespeare-producing army of monkeys with typewriters. I like the analogy of a poker-player whom, having played 40 consecutive straight flushes, pleads for his life by claiming that ‘in an infinite universe, this was bound to happen eventually’. To summarise, the ordered, stable, observable world we live in is a more likely outcome if there is a God, than if there isn’t.
  4. To finish, I do also have problems with Darwinism as a fully-realised worldview capable of replacing God in that it provides no basis for morality, nor furnishes us with any purpose greater than survival. Christianity (to focus upon my own faith) is not continuing to spread and thrive even under persecution (I think of the millions risking their lives by attending house churches in China) not because they need an explanation for creation. They do so because it’s a way of living and relating to others that works and gives purpose (as well as the fact they happen to be convinced of its truth – certainly the case for me despite the inconvenience and occasional ridicule it entails!). It is dangerous indeed to assume we can tell people they come from nothing, go nowhere and have no purpose, then believe they will remain accountable and responsible on the basis of some inherent ‘human goodness’ borne out in neither history nor current affairs. We do each have an awareness of accountability for our actions (conscience), in addition to a sense of wonder at creation – and its by these criteria the Bible says we know the reality of God. We each know there is an absolute morality that remains right and true even if both the government and population of the day deny it. And yet we each know we fail to meet our own desired standards despite our best efforts. I don’t think this can be explained by Darwinism alone, even allowing for the ever more stretched ‘meme’ hypothesis.
  5. Right, enough I think. I find it hard to stop once I start typing… at least you know I do think about this stuff – it’s a common misconception that those of faith are scared to do so. Feel free to respond or silently deem me mental! For what it’s worth, I’m glad Ida was found – knowledge is a good thing! (hence the whole teacher gig…)
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GODLY DRIVING

You will no doubt be aware of Matthew 7:12. It’s concept of ‘doing unto others as you would have them do unto you’ has so permeated the culture that even atheists refer to it as the ‘golden rule’. Admittedly they do so largely to make the point that the idea exists outside of the Bible… plus which they get it wrong because the ‘golden rule’ would actually be that which Jesus gives immediately beforehand – to honour God with our heart, soul and mind – but the point nonetheless remains; it’s big, famous and hugely important, encapsulating much of God’s holy law within its simple instruction. However, it’s also ridiculously tricky to put into practise; and never more so than when behind the wheel…

You see I am a different person when driving. Negotiating London’s congested, pot-hole riddled roads I seethe with barely contained rage. My competitive nature threatens to overwhelm me as all existence becomes boiled down to a race to make it through Mitcham’s one-way system without being overtaken. Hate I would withhold from society’s worst criminal sand blasphemers I focus entirely upon those who would use right-turning outside lanes to jump the queue, or those who would gain advantage by shooting the long-since red light. In short, there’s a lot of sin going on in my daily commute. It has been eased somewhat by this year’s habit of listening to MP3 sermons en route. After all, can you actually swear at the granny straddling two lanes before you at the same time as listening to RC Sproul explaining the Book of James? Quite possibly, but it lessens the likelihood…

Anyway, to return to my theme, I have recently realised the challenge of applying Jesus’ teaching to this area of my life. I doubt I’m the only bloke among my congregation with work to do here! Because, if we are serious about honouring God we need to consider the implications of those words above. What would we have others to unto us as we drive in the rush hour? I’ll tell you – we would have them let us out of a side road into heavy traffic. We would have them play fair and honour the rules of the road. We’d have them give us space when two lanes merge. We’d have them let us out at the roundabout and through when there are parked cars on either side. We’d then have them graciously smile as we acknowledge them for doing so. So what, then, should we do? Well, I told you it was a challenge!

Now, let me add, for those fearing a threat to their love of competition, it is fine to want to beat people. After all, in sport we would have others, unto us, try their hardest, give it their all, and take the potential outcome to heart. And so then shall we. It’s just that the roads aren’t really the place for pursuing such aims. I was particularly struck by a radio piece last week in which the caller introduced a phrase; ‘the shamefulness of speeding’. That is as it should be – not just because it breaks the law (and that’s enough), but because of the harm you could do to lives and families if going too fast in a built up area (I’m not sure I’d apply it to motorways, but one thing at a time!). So, I will try to drive as Jesus would have me do… It will be tough. It will be counter-cultural. It is important. Make sure you hold me to account if I give you a lift!

LOOK BUT… ACTUALLY, DON’T EVEN LOOK!

Who am I to give advice?? Well, I’m a married 30-year old chap which, in CCB’s evening congregation, pretty much puts me among the wise old heads. What’s more – I am someone who has by necessity put a long time and a substantial amount of effort into figuring out quite how it works being a man of God in a culture redolent with female flesh. In short; I, like so many others I’m sure, for a long time felt guilty about EVERYTHING and thus gave up on myself as a hopeless case, becoming a guilty prisoner to lust in all its myriad forms. I so wish someone had given me some honest-to-goodness decent advice on the issue. As it was, I felt so alone and helpless that I felt sure there was a demonic element in my inability to remain oblivious to the feminine allure as revealed around us in a thousand daily forms. I honestly believed I was possessed… turns out I was simply male.

So – first and foremost – as a heterosexual youngish man in the West, let me make clear that of which I am convinced: you can not and, barring some special gifting I am yet to encounter, will not remain oblivious to the physical charms of the fairer species. We are not wired that way. Of all God’s beautiful creation, the part of it we are most likely to appreciate is the female form. God intended and created it thus.  

And yet… whilst that realisation should serve as something of a relief, I’m afraid that’s as far as the allowance goes. We are fallen creatures in a fallen world. What’s more, due to the particular and extreme manifestations of sexual sin in our particular culture, we have each been further damaged by a visual and anecdotal over-familiarity with that which should have been kept hidden until marriage; female nudity and sexual behaviour, down to the act itself and beyond. We are therefore not to be trusted when it comes to keeping such observations of women sexless and pure. Anything beyond that initial recognition has to be subject to the greatest self-control and, in the case of the married man and the random stranger, ruled out entirely. In fact, the initial recognition must serve as our alarm bell. To let our eyes drift downwards at that point – not cool. To store the image for later lustful access – not cool. To later click through internet sites pursuing other such fine specimens of the gender – not cool.

Perks and others refer to this as the ‘second look’ approach, meaning that, whilst we may not be able to help the first glance we stumble upon, we very much stand accountable in going back for a second lingering helping. In simple terms, she isn’t yours. She is, in all probability, somebody else’s – or will be. In implicating her in your adultery (going by Jesus’s definition of the term) you are dishonouring her and the man she goes home to. As an engaged ‘semi-Christian’ I caused my wife-to-be a great deal of hurt, and effectively held up our wedding by a year, in admitting the mess I had become on this issue. I’ll say it again – I felt guilty for everything, including my being tempted in the first place. I therefore gave up on myself and ended up no longer trying. I hate to think of it – I was a secretive furtive pervert increasingly unable to look the girl I loved in the eye. There was a way out of the black hole – through honest communication, repentance and discipline that the world deems unfashionable and unnecessary. But the trap is always only one step backwards and I truly want Christian brothers to be ruthless with themselves in ensuring they do better.

There’s plenty I don’t know. If I was a single man reading this I’d be thinking that it’s all very well for me to write this knowing I share a bed with a beautiful woman – but how exactly are the unmarried meant to get relief? Truth is I don’t really know what to advise so I won’t claim otherwise. However, I do know that we must be distinctive and we must haul ourselves out of the gutter – the church is full of ineffective men rendered so because they are in chains of guilt and secrecy over lust. The answer is not to legitimise lust, but to hold one another to account. And by looking a woman in the eyes rather than anywhere else we will make ourselves so distinctive – we’ll be saying we value them for something more than what they offer sexually. As a teacher of teenagers I can assure you that will be different and valuable. As I’ve stated before, we are raising a generation of boys who routinely have hardcore degrading sex on their mobile phones from the age of 13 and they struggle to see girls in any other light. We must, for their sakes and our own, be different.

PS I was going to write about masturbation but the Lord stayed my hand. Ho ho…

PPS Any girls reading this – sorry… but I bet you read to the end!

HITLER WAS AN ATHEIST/CHRISTIAN!!!

A quick post here (well… ish), apropos of nothing. This issue really is all over the internet like a rash and it increasingly gets my goat. Neither am I alone – my oft-mentioned atheist blogger chum recently posted expressing similar frustration. SO much virtual ink is wasted; both sides of the Great Debate hurl impassioned rhetoric at one another as if the beliefs of one deeply depraved man will somehow prove to be the smoking gun by which God’s existence is ultimately proved or otherwise. Perhaps the fact I’m a History teacher will count for something here as I state the following…

  • Hitler was not an atheist – he spoke quote commonly about God and would seem to have been convinced by his existence. In Mein Kampf he wrote ‘I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator’. Some like Bernhard Rust in his party wanted to denounce all religion but Hitler, largely by way of political opportunism (knowing that most Germans were church attendees) refused to countenance such a move, opting to remain a member of the Catholic church even as he waged a campaign against the reputation of those who worked for it and shut down its youth organisations. As Albert Speer later wrote, ‘he had no real attachment to it’ (the Catholic church). However, he never made a single statement I know of that suggested avowed atheism.
  • Hitler was not a Christian – there is nothing to suggest he believed that Christ was the Son of God and had died for his sins. He actively placed himself in the place of Jesus in children’s’ prayers (‘Abideth thou long with me, forsaketh me not, Fuhrer, my Fuhrer, my faith and my light!’) and showed considerable derision for Christianity, stating that “The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity’s illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew”. (From ‘Table Talk’ – a series of Hitler’s conversations recorded by Martin Bormann). His subversion of Christianity was significant, installing Nazi ‘Reich Bishops’ and placing a swastika over the cross. Those, such as Martin Niemoller, who insisted upon preaching the gospel within a ‘Confessing’ Church ended up martyrs in concentration camps.

I’m not saying anything new here. For all the back on forth on discussion forums, most pages to come up via search engine on this issue will be eventually expressing the same conclusion as above. However, there is still a strong Dawkins/Hitchens-driven idea that, at the very least, the votes of the religious took Hitler to power and that the Catholic church stand accountable for their ‘deal with the devil’. The former is essentially vacuous, given the overwhelming majority of Germans who attended church and claimed religious affiliation as a matter of course, just as in the rest of Europe. That religion was the ‘done thing’ in no way suggests faith-based motivation for all decisions made by the general populations of Europe for the past thousand-plus years, nor lively life-altering faith in the majority. My History lessons are in no way unique when offering a primarily economic, reactionary and nationalistic motive on the part of the electorate. As for the latter… well, you’ll forgive me for feeling no great accountability for the actions of Catholic leaders, past or present. I am quite happy to believe that some Catholics are Christians – however, the two are not the same thing and I in no way endorse any of those things that set the former apart.

I don’t believe as a general rule that we Christians should steer clear of Nazism in our apologetics – after all, the lack of a basis for moral disgust at Hitler’s regime if we are to be shorn of an absolute external source of morality is one of the strongest factors in our favour when defending God’s existence. What’s more, there are certainly grounds for discussion in examining Hitler’s literal and discompassionate reading of Darwinism as applied to ‘species’ within humanity (this given that, practically speaking, Darwinian theory seems the closest thing to a replacement for an all-encompassing Christian worldview in the apologetic outworkings of many atheists). However, Hitler is a freak in terms of the extent and effect of his depravity – there is nothing to be gained for either side in lumping him in with us or with atheists… it’s clear he wasn’t significantly motivated by either view. Such to-and-fro can, on our part, suggest ignorance and cheap point-scoring, considerably detracting from delivery of the gospel message.

WHAT GIVES THEM THE RIGHT?

The third most popular radio chat show host in America calls himself Michael Savage. He is a well known and influential character with a best-selling book behind him. He is now famous on this side of the Atlantic having been named last week on a government list of those refused entry into the UK for ‘inciting hatred’ in their public pronouncements.

Why can’t Michael Savage come into the UK? Because his views are right-wing? Because he offends Muslims? Because he has made controversial statements regarding rape? This case is important – really it is. He is not a convicted criminal – in fact no-one has even suggested this man has committed a crime. He is not some bloodthirsty extremist inciting violence or murder. He is simply an individual whose views do not chime with the government of the day. The precedent is appalling, particularly when considered alongside the observations I have made regarding the increasingly politically incorrect standing of biblical Christianity. How long before the next preacher invited to speak at a London Men’s Convention finds himself barred entry for his ‘hateful’ opposition to homosexuality or Islam?

My point is not to defend the views of Michael Savage – I know little about him and, having investigated his website and Wikipedia, I feel little urge to know more. He lost me at once with his first pronouncement upon finding he was an enemy of our state; a lame and ignorant piece of sarcasm about how he’d been planning to come to the UK for ‘dental work’ and ‘fine cuisine’. Neither is my point to once again state that Christianity stands in danger of falling foul of our government’s worldview and agenda. No, what riles me on this occasion is simply…

What gives politicians the right to decide whose views are right or wrong??

What’s more, why is it so terrible for an individual or group to be offended or upset? Why, even within that, is it worse for the homosexual community to be offended than for the Christian community? Why, looking deeper, is someone’s sexuality more valid as grounds for offence than someone’s faith? There is so much selectivity in playing this game… The Bible offends many; so does eating meat; so do hip-hop videos; so do overly short skirts; so does pornography in newsagents; so does the show Big Brother. Are we to ban them all until we live entirely in bubble-wrapped ‘safety’?? Let the preacher preach! Let the BNP campaign and thus reveal their own idiocy unhindered! Let Michael Savage get his teeth done! And let people make up their own minds – punishing them only if their opinions lead to actions which infringe provably upon the freedom or safety of others.

I know it’s a cheap blow in the week of ‘Expenses-Gate’, but I really don’t trust Westminster to have the last word when it comes to making moral judgements. Why would I? Upon what is this morality based? Find me 5 people anywhere who do in fact see them as our moral authority… No, I’ll stick to the ancient but relevant, means tested, divinely authored yardstick of biblical truth. Shorn of it we are left merely with subjective opinions, and I don’t particularly trust that of the Labour Party leadership. Who does?

PS I am currently re-reading my favourite book; Orwell’s ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’. Expect a resultant spate of anti big government posts and ‘thought police’ analogies!

PPS Has your work bathroom now got one of those government signs giving step-by-step instructions on how to wash your hands? I mean, honestly… Why not remind me how to wipe up whilst I’m in there?

WRITER’S BLOCK!

It was the late 1980s. Film-makers Joel and Ethan Coen were in the midst of writing the ingenious gangster movie Millers Crossing when they got stuck. For one of the only times in their prolific career they had that most feared affliction, Writer’s Block (or Writers’ Block – there are two of them – Punctuation Ed.). Unable to figure a way to complete the flick, they hit upon an innovative solution. Putting the existing script aside for now, they instead began penning the story of a writer who indeed suffers from Writer’s Block – depicting his quandary as a kind of purgatory lived out in a festering 1940s hotel representative of his state of mind. The result of this approach? Instead of one critically acclaimed film, the Coens ended up with two. Barton Fink – the eponymous tale of the struggling scriptwriter – won the 1991 Palme D’Or at Cannes and was nominated for three Oscars, whilst the completed Millers Crossing is regarded as a genre classic still.

The point of all this? Well I have Writer’s Block and, by waffling on about the fact, I am rather hoping to shift the blockage, Coen-style. Neither is it just my blog that is suffering from a lack of inspiration. I may even be suffering from the rather over-dramatic sounding affliction of ‘burn-out’. I have given my all in coping and assisting with my wife’s recent operation and rather gruelling aftermath (although she is out of hospital as of this weekend. Yay!). However, in doing so I seem to have rather drained my appetite for everything else. When not attending to her, informing others about it or maintaining the flat and cat in her absence, I seem to have been left something of a tired and hollow shell, rather prone to aimless inaction (not that I’ve had much time to pursue this noble (in)activity). My usual default setting is to have too many things I want to do. However, over the past two weeks I have had literally no appetite for reading, writing, running, listening, working, playing (anything from online chess to PS3 football!), movie/TV-watching or thinking. I feel like some part of me is hibernating.

Regarding my Christian walk, the effect of this is interesting. I have maintained quiet times, but more out of a sense of responsibility – a head-awareness that this is when I need God most and that it’s certainly when I most need daily prayer for my wife. However, just as when I struggled to listen to the sermon last Sunday, my heart feels like it’s otherwise engaged. And yet in this I see a development of sorts. I used to be very susceptible to the ‘ups and downs’ of the Christian life – a period such as this would have left me worrisome and guilty… and would probably have seen me seeking to justify sinful indulgence. Not so much now… I know God is unchanging. I know I am saved. I know I am loved by a Father who holds all situations in His hands. I know that none of this is dependent on my present emotions. I know His care and design through the love of our church which has sustained me so. Perhaps above all, I know the hand of God in the wonderfully Spirit-filled response of my wife in these early days of a difficult recovery.

Having made this up as I go along I’m not quite sure of a conclusion… I think it’s probably this: In a time of great spiritual blessing (in the build up to the operation) I wanted to write (two posts ago) and say I know God is good and sovereign. Now, in a time of some stress, tiredness and spiritual difficulty, I want again to say I KNOW God is good and sovereign. And quite how the Coen Brothers fit into that I’m not sure! I’m not sure this post is going to win any awards, but it has led to a certain lightening of my soul…

THOUGHTS FROM THE HOSPITAL

1. The Mundanity of everyday life

Most days we talk about unimportant things as if they were the be all and end all. There’s nothing essentially wrong with that I guess – if not done all the time and if not without self-awareness… but hospital does at least lend a sense of perspective. Hang around the Neuro Intensive Care unit for long enough and you will become accustomed to conversations of great significance – staged in the most ordinary tones. Instead of hearing people leave or enter a room complaining that they wore the wrong shoes… or that Franz Ferdinand’s latest work just doesn’t match their early promise, you’ll hear them commenting that “she can’t use her arm or leg” or that “he remembers nothing from the past four days”. Everything that goes on in that room is really very life-changingly important to those in and around the beds.

I’m not sure I have a readymade point here linking this to the Christian life. Other than to say that we shouldn’t get too accustomed to trivialities. Particularly as most of those forced to face their own mortality do so without any assurance of salvation – something we must attempt to address in those we love before they take their turn. 

2. Death is real and not all that distant

Sorry to be morbid. But why should I apologise? It’s because death is seen as rude and inappropriate for polite conversation. It’s not the done thing to remind people. However, it’s one of the few certainties that await us. We all know this in an abstract way, but enough time at the business end of a hospital will bring the point home. I was listening yesterday to a couple of nurses. One enquired as to why an expected patient hadn’t arrived to claim her bed. The other replied that it was an ‘unsuccessful cardio’ and that she should therefore be crossed off the list. This was the end of someone’s life! The nurses weren’t being crass or unfeeling. It’s just that they see it all the time… Be ready! We are not immune! Have your death insurance in place… Jesus has picked up the bill! 

3. We really are made in God’s image. Or at least doctors are…

It’s not always easy to see man as God’s own image. However, in doctors we seem to get closest. He (or she, but he in our case this week) spares life and declares death. Every patient and every underling awaits the moment of his visit, his appraisal and his judgement. From him we crave attention; from him we expect an absolute assessment – based on a brief scan of surely incomprehensible notes… We scrutinise his body language when examining those we love; we hang on his every word; and we experience bitter disappointment when he moves on to the next hopeful patient – nothing having changed for us from before.

Only God knows. Only God can give or take life. He has imparted much skill and responsibility upon these medical magicians, but perhaps it’s because I know so many of them that I try to remind myself they too are deeply fallible! They, like the rest of us, are making up half of their job as they go along – hoping the rest of us won’t notice. I won’t buy into this idolatry, but it’s tempting! (Thank you God for doctors…) 

4. The Stuff of Beauty

It’s faintly obscene that the glamour mags – whether those aimed at women or the fuller-bosomed lads’ versions – are sold on site in a hospital. Digitally altered images of perfect skin and smiles? In this place? It’s so incongruous. After all, it is mightily refreshing that this is where society’s beauty flies out the window and yet a far greater beauty takes its place. Patients shuffle like the living dead – they are bandaged, swollen, unkempt and bemused. Doctors and nurses play along by shrouding themselves in shapeless sheets, their make-up selflessly sacrificed. Relatives yawn and sag – cheeks puffed and reddened by unashamed weeping. Respecting the tone, all on-site shops seem obliged to hire only the least employable or presentable staff London has to offer. Cosmopolitan it ain’t, but it’s more and better. This is where people love one another – full-time, and at cost to themselves. You’ll never see more heartfelt embraces nor greater appreciation between families and friends. You’ll never again see people give up day after boring day just to have someone know they are far from alone. So many bedsides tell a story of relationships touched by common grace. (And some bedsides are never visited at all – another challenge to consider…)

There should surely be more of the hospital and less of the Cosmo in our everyday dealings – interactions characterised not by the superficial and worldly, but more by the messy, tiring love of Christ – inconvenient beyond all reasonableness but beautiful beyond all doubt.

PS How did the op go? The op went well – the after-effects tough, ongoing but, God willing, temporary I’m sure…