The year started with New Zealand’s South Island being struck by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. Less than three weeks later, Japan suffered a quake measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale – the worst to hit the region since records began. A massive tsunami followed, killing 16,000 people.
Looking west, the developed world witnessed huge disasters as a series of tornadoes ripped through the heart of America in May and Hurricane Irene struck the Caribbean in August.
Monsoons battered much of Asia throughout the year and heavy flooding left more than a million people homeless.
But it’s not just the weather that has been dramatic.
“Money Makes The World Go Round”
If such a statement is true, then we can expect to witness the earth being thrown off its axis and plummet into deep space during 2012. The financial crisis is more or less, a global one.
Sadly the Western world – especially America – doesn’t seem to understand the simple principle that you can’t borrow money forever.
If I lent you a million dollars every day for 2000 years, you still wouldn’t be anywhere near the amount of debt the US government is in. The National debt has increased by $3.94 billion per day since 2007.
Natural disasters and unnatural debt. But to top it all off, as 2011 draws to a close, the very people responsible for disseminating these important news stories are corrupt!
The Hacks Have Been Hacking!
As if to prove to the public that they will sensationalize anything they can get their hands on, the UK press has spent the last 6 months sensationalising the very story they are caught up in. Millie Dowler, Ian Blair, Steve Coogan. The question is not “who’s phone has been hacked?” but “who’s phone hasn’t been hacked?”
So if that great staple of British democracy (newspapers) is under threat and Levison is serious about the government regulating the press, where can we look for inspiration in these dark times?
Arab Spring- Unprecedented Phenomena
When a 23 year old fruit seller by the name of Mohammed Bouazizi had his business shut down by a corrupt Tunisian police force, everything changed.
Inspired by Buddhist monks, Bouazizi set himself on fire. This is surely the most tragic form of protest imaginable, yet it turned out to be the most effective.
Within months, all of Tunisia was in an uproar. The Tunisian’s righteous indignation at an oppressive regime was adopted by their Arab neighbours in Egypt, Libya and now Syria.
The West loves democracy, and Obama and Cameron have been acting like excited kids at Christmas as the news of toppling dictatorships reaches our shores. They loved it so much, they joined in the fun and started taking out dictators, who only a few months ago we were more or less friends with.
Many European politicians worship democracy, and are pleased it is coming to the Middle East. But as the great Winston Churchill once said: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except all the others that have been tried.”
The situation in Iran is hotting up. The country has been hanging homosexuals and threatening to nuke our only true and dependent ally in the Middle East (Israel) for years – but we didn’t care. Oh no, it wasn’t until the Iranians attacked the British embassy in Tehran that we all started paying attention.
To summarise, there have been wars, rumours of wars, earthquakes, nations rising against nations, an increase in lawlessness (look at the London riots if you don’t believe me) and an all round lack of love and respect.
No wonder Harold Camping decided to pronounce, “the end is nigh”.
Here’s The Hope
Right now you’re wondering where the hope is, right?
I dare you to spend a few moments thinking about what Christmas means, because ultimately the true message is one of hope.
Jesus was born during similar times to our own. Both then and now, the world had gone totally mad! 2000 years ago, the King was issuing orders to kill all the baby boys in town. Oppression was everywhere. Yet some ordinary and mainly working class Jews discovered the greatest man who had ever lived and had their loves totally transformed for the better. They dedicated the rest of their lives to spreading this “good news” about Jesus.
Now one quarter of the world worships the Jewish messiah. Perhaps it’s fair to say us Christians are able to celebrate Christmas better than any other group of people. Maybe we understand the meaning better than anyone else. But we won’t like to think like that, because the point of the Christian faith is this news about Jesus isn’t just for a select few people…it’s for everyone. And that’s why we’re happy to let the whole earth join in and celebrate Christ-mas with us.
This isn’t dull, meaningless theology. Jesus offers hope now. His message of hope wasn’t just offered to some shepherds and wise men in a stable. The message was never only for a chosen select few. His message is eternal and inclusive. As relevant today as it was then. Hope has come.
While we eagerly await a coming time where there will be no more floods, tsunamis, famines, earthquakes, financial crisis, corrupt politicians and journalists…Oh yes, such a time is coming. But the hope of the Christian message doesn’t start when we die or when the world ends. It’s already here.
What is this message of hope? Click the above picture for more info, or click here for some music. Both should help answer that question.
This evening I ran through the streets of Southampton during total darkness, in the rain and without my glasses on. Two thoughts crossed my mind.
1) This is fun, even though I’m panting like a dog.
2) This is crazy, I can’t see where I’m going.
I’ve always thought of myself as a long distance runner. (I use the term ‘runner’ lightly. It’s the same with ‘musician’. In reality, I’m neither of those two words. I’m just a guy who likes to run and likes to play guitar…though rarely at the same time. Hmm wouldn’t that be interesting…?)
I’ve always struggled with shorter runs and can’t outrun anyone in a 100m sprint. So during my mid teens it was normal for me to run for over an hour. I look back on the days where I would run half marathons with great fondness. I still talk about them a lot. People probably think I’m boasting, and maybe I am, but I like to think of it more as reminiscing.
You see the truth is, although I’ve been getting back into running I’ve yet to manage those longer distances. But that’s OK, cause the shorter runs have been kind of fun. So this leaves me with a dilemma, do I focus on these 3-5 mile runs and try to increase my speed, or try and reach those giddy heights of 10-15 miles, eventually working to achieve my dream of running a marathon?
Maybe I can do both. Either way, I’ll be able to track my progress using an amazing Garmin Forerunner watch my parents got me for my birthday. Time, distance, route (it’s got GPS enabled) and even calories burned are calculated and uploaded to my laptop after every run. For the first time in my life I actually know exactly what pace I’m running at. It’s beyond useful.
Will Sam go long, or stay short? I welcome your suggestions as well as any ideas on why I’m getting a stitch in my upper back. I’m not joking. As I breathe in I get a strange pain around my latissimus dorsi. (No I haven’t become a doctor with special knowledge of the human anatomy, I just know how to use Google properly)
Finally, a word to all you non-runners. Yes I was being serious when I said running was fun. So don’t laugh at us runners. If you got off your backside for more than half an hour and gave it a go, maybe you’d understand what we’re all banging on about. I’m buzzing, man.
Ok I’ll go now…
What’s it like being blind?
I have a couple of friends who are blind or visually impaired and I have often tried to imagine what life must be like for them. I even convinced myself that I would be able to empathize with their position, if I thought long and hard about the challenges they face. It turns out experiencing what blind people face, just for one hour is a much more effective method!
Dialogue in the Dark will change your perceptions of what it’s like to be blind. On arrival, our group put our mobile phones, watches and anything else that emits light into a locker and stepped into total pitch black darkness. Our guide was a blind man who walked and talked us through a series of challenges, including working out where we were, getting on a boat and ordering a drink in a bar.
The people there were incredible, so hospitable, welcoming and generous. My main reason for going was to visit my girlfriend Stacey as she was volunteering for a church there for the year. As I met her friends and spent time in the town, I realised Joplin was a very very special place.
Last week, Stacey went back to Joplin for a short visit. Two days ago I woke up to the news that Joplin had been struck by a massive tornado. Thankfully, Stacey and her friends were fine, but much of the city has been completely wiped out. The devastation is widespread. Please click here for photos. My words mean nothing without looking at the pictures. So please follow that link.
As you can appreciate I’m shocked and deeply saddened by this news. It’s a place that is very close to mine and Stacey’s hearts.
Already some incredible stories have filtered through which show how despite this terrible disaster, God has protected many people from certain death. Joplin is a small closely knit community and it’s times like this that church can make a significant difference in people’s lives.
Enough reading. It’s time for us all to do something together.
- Firstly be informed and read Stacey’s blog about what happened to her. The reason I say this, is it’s helpful to read a personal account about what is really happening, rather than news reports which can often lack emotion.
- Please pray not just for her, but all the people who live in Joplin and will have to deal with this disaster for months and years after Stacey has flown safely back to the UK.
- Finally please consider giving something (however small) online. It will take 30 seconds, but can make a massive practical difference. Just click here and remember you are giving in dollars, not pounds!