Tuesday, 24 April 2012

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth… So help me God!

A study from Essex University suggests the British have become less honest in the last decade and einsurancegroup.co.uk claims we lie six times a day, on average.

The insurance firm challenged fellow Bristolian Jamie Donald to take up the ‘integrity challenge’. He was asked to keep a diary for a week to show whether he was able to tell the truth and only the truth.
I had a difficult conversation with my dad in which I had to be honest and tell him I didn’t want to attend a family funeral. Usually I would have lied to protect his feelings and now I feel incredibly bad for causing him unnecessary hurt.

My evening was spent avoiding people that I’d rather not have similar uncomfortable conversations with. Just one day in and already being honest has changed the conversations I have with people and who I want to talk to.

It’s lunchtime and I’m sat in work eating my sandwich when a colleague who is unaware of my truth challenge asks “Do you like me?”. Luckily I do, and answer “Yes”. Thankfully it wasn’t someone I didn’t like that asked.

Later that evening my wife shows me some clothes she has bought. I know what’s coming, but it’s still painful when she asks if I like her purchases. “No” I tell her, “sorry, I don’t actually like any of it”. I go to bed on the sofa wondering if honesty really is the best policy. 

I attend a pub quiz where we receive our lowest ever score after marking all our answers honestly. It’s a real eye-opener to see just how relaxed people are with being so brazenly dishonest.

So far this week I have been able to pass off sharp comments as a joke. However, this evening I upset a close friend that asked for my thoughts on a change of appearance. I’m increasingly of the opinion that some people expect to be lied to and welcome it on occasion. The honesty baton is beginning to become a heavy burden.

I am managing my employers Truth or Dare campaign that rewards honest drivers. As part of this project I provide everyone with a completely honest expectation on delivery dates. Everyone responds much better than I expected.

I am no longer staying on the sofa after a phone call with my wife, during which she thanks me for being upfront with her and apologises for the argument. I begin to sense that my week of honesty is now paying off on both a personal and professional level.

My optimism evaporates when my wife calls again to ask if I mind the in-laws coming to stay at the weekend. I use every conversation trick I’ve picked up this week to avoid lying without causing offense. I say “It’s quite short notice”, and the wife answers with “It’s only a few days”. I respond with “Ok”. My chastity belt of honesty remains intact.

Saturday and Sunday
I begin and end this weekend tiptoeing around the in-laws, and careful sentence construction is sorely needed. By Sunday, my honesty nerves are fraying and I feel myself becoming increasingly blunt.

As I end this challenge I am glad to have achieved a week of honesty, but the last seven days have been incredibly difficult, with the most simple of conversations proving to be potential banana skins.

Pants on fire
I wonder what would happen if we were all to take the same challenge. I know I’d find it difficult. It’s hard telling people things they clearly don’t want to hear.

But I’m also convinced that the truth sets us free (John 8:32). A few weeks back I bumped another car. It was dark and there was no-one else around and I’m ashamed to admit my first thought was to drive on. The car was an old banger after all…

I knew that I couldn’t do that, so I left an apologetic note on the windscreen. I can’t promise I wasn’t hoping for heavy rain or that it would somehow blow away, but my conscience was eased. The next day I got a call from the car owner who said he was really touched by my honesty and that I should forget all about it. I was so grateful and glad I’d owned up. I even got a chance to take him some M&S goodies and invite him to the Easter service at my church.

This confirmed to me that it’s not always the easiest or most natural thing to do, but telling the truth (in love) is definitely the way forward.

Read more from Joy in the upcoming issue of Sorted magazine. Our Father's Day special is out now and you can buy 50 copies for just £50!!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Who’s the daddy?

With Father’s Day approaching (June 17), I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a good father. I can’t draw on the experience with my own dad as, despite his immense potential, he has spectacularly failed as a father figure.

But the Bible gives us a host of fatherly figures to look at. I’ll start with the not so good and lead up to our best inspiration: our Heavenly Father.

The bad and the ugly

  • Noah got hammered and passed out naked, then realising his son Ham had spotted him, cursed Ham’s son Canaan and all his descendents
  • Lot volunteered his daughters to be raped by a mob in a bid to spare his two male guests from the same fate
  • Jephthah killed and burned his innocent daughter having made a foolish vow to God
  • Isaac and Jacob both caused major problems in their families through favouritism
  • Eli, Samuel and David all had problems with their sons because they did not discipline them properly. Eli’s sons both died on the same day as a result of their disobedience and brought judgement on the entire family. Samuel’s took bribes and corrupted justice and David’s son Absalom killed all of his brothers and later tried to overthrow and kill King David himself.


The good
It wasn’t easy to find good father figures, so I just picked one. Although Joseph wasn’t Jesus’ biological father, I think he did a number of admirable things. First, he honoured Mary, Jesus’ mother, even though she was pregnant and he wasn’t the father. In The Message it says he was “chagrined but noble”. Second, he went on and married Mary but resisted consummating the marriage until Jesus was born. Third, he listened to God’s warnings and protected his family from Herod’s influence. Fourth, we presume he taught his son the family trade – carpentry – as well as self-discipline and a strong work ethic.

The outright perfect
From the beginning of time, we – God’s children – have made bad decisions and rebelled against his guidelines for life. Unlike Eli, Samuel and David, though, God disciplines us carefully; not to hurt or humiliate us, but to allow us to become more mature, reliable, honest and committed. Like Joseph, he protects us, is patient with us, and gives us the knowledge we need to live full and fulfilling lives.

God knows how to give us powerful gifts in a way that no earthly father could. That’s because he knows our every thought, dream and, most importantly, what is good for us. Added to this, the Bible says He will never, ever leave or forsake us – something many of us struggle to believe because our own fathers have let us down.

While God totally allows us to make our own choices, He has also come up with a plan for when we make the wrong ones. By sacrificing His own perfect son, Jesus, He allowed us to become part of his family – children of God and co-heirs with Christ; the apple of his eye (Zechariah 2:8).

Over to us
So what does a good earthly father look like? Well, first he should love God and honour his own father and mother. Second, he should love his children as Jesus did, welcoming them with open arms whether it’s convenient or not and reassuring them he will always be there for them.

Third, he should patiently discipline his kids so that they will avoid future heartache and train them well so that they stay on the right track (Proverbs 22:6). And dads should also have fun with their kids; laying work and other concerns aside to make time to spend time and laugh with their children – whether they are in nappies or all grown up!

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine - it's a Father's Day special! Buy your bumper pack today and get 50 copies for just £50!

Friday, 13 April 2012

Olympic security is no game

Peter Daulby has been tasked with overseeing the military contribution to the Olympics. 

The military’s role will be to support the police; to provide capabilities and resources that the police don’t have. Peter's personal mission is to ensure that the nation remains safe while the athletes compete and the world looks on.

He told Sorted: “The military’s large involvement – currently 13,500 servicemen and women – wasn’t a surprise to me. All three services contribute daily to the safety of UK citizens and visitors to our shores as normal business.

“The Olympics is very different, but the military contribution to the Olympics builds on existing UK resilience process and plans. The Olympics is vitally important to the UK’s reputation; it is right that the military are doing all they can to contribute to a safe and secure games.” 

Peter’s personal role is chief planner for the entire military contribution to the Games. “That sounds very grand, but it means I have the job of ensuring that I take strategic guidance from the higher levels of the MOD, who themselves are taking guidance from the government,” he explains. In practise this means turning this guidance into actionable plans, missions and tasks that then flow down to the military’s tactical units in the land, air and sea. 

I ask him how much it is possible to prepare in advance for the potential dangers out there. “Defence has been planning its element of the Olympics for years. Preparations have included designing, testing and activating a maritime security plan, primarily in the Thames and in Dorset; the same in the air, although more wide-ranging, and preparing for many security tasks on the ground,” he says.

“We provide the police with what they are not able to provide: typhoons patrolling our skies is one such area. However, we don't just have to prepare ourselves; we have to prepare local communities. Military equipment can sometimes appear aggressive. We are working hard through the media and face-to-face with communities to reassure the public that we are there as a deterrent to anyone who seeks to disrupt the Games. Our mission is to ensure that Britain enjoys a safe and secure Games.” 

There has been quite a bit of criticism about the UK hosting the Olympics with the risks it may be opening up, and with the cost to the taxpayer, but Peter feels it is important to do so, and should be considered a privilege.

“We have lived with the threat of terrorism in our nation for many years and as a nation we have always been determined not to let any such threat stop us from living life to the full,” he says. “The Olympic Games are a spectacular opportunity to celebrate who we are as a nation and to put on the greatest festival of sport in the world. The Olympic Games coming to London is a once-in-a-generation opportunity that Britain will fulfil with professionalism, enthusiasm and resilience; it is an exciting time.”

As a Christian, Peter says it is no different bringing God into his work from bringing God into his marriage. He relies on his faith to help him make good decisions, to stay strong through adversity and to be morally upstanding in his dealings with superiors and the teams he leads.

“My faith runs through my veins,” says Peter. “It seems completely natural to me to pray on the way into work and to cling on to God's 'coattail' when I need to be pulled through a difficult time. People sometimes question whether Christians should be in the armed forces. It has always felt to me that God wants to be a part of ensuring that a potent force has a moral compass. I influence that moral compass in whatever way I can.” 

Read the full story in our Olympic edition of Sorted. It’s going to be a belter!

Friday, 6 April 2012

What’s so good about Good Friday?

I wasn’t sure what to write my blog on this week, but seeing as it’s Good Friday, I thought I’d see how people around the world are marking the occasion. Some of the stories I found were pretty shocking...

In the Philippines, 17 Catholics have been 'crucified' in a re-enactment of the death of Jesus. Apparently this ritual has been going for 26 years and attracts thousands of people each year.

Nails are driven into the participants’ hands and feet in a bid to atone for their sins or to give thanks for ‘miracles’. However, the Catholic Church has condemned the practice. I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus meant when he told his disciples they were to take up their cross and follow him (Luke 9:23).

In Trinidad and Tobago the tradition is to hang effigies of Judas Iscariot on telephone poles. These effigies, known as bobolees, represent Judas’ betrayal of Jesus. In rural areas these bobolees are often attacked and disfigured as a punishment for his actions.

In more positive news, $3.4 million had already been raised for Melbourne’s Royal Children's Hospital Good Friday Appeal by 3pm in Australia. The charity is hoping to beat last year’s total of $15.1 million. The money will be used to buy much-needed machinery that can be used to provide both MRI and PET scans.

Meanwhile, Catholics in Cuba are celebrating Good Friday with more rigour than usual this year as the communist country agreed to mark the special day with a public holiday. Despite the fact that religious holidays were cancelled in Cuba after the 1959 revolution, and fewer than 10% of Cubans are practising Catholics, it seems the recent visit of Pope Benedict has had an impact.

In the UK there were several stories of marches being carried out to mark the day of Jesus’ death, but other than that it can often feel like any other day – apart from the fact we get the day off of course. Will people spend time remembering what Jesus achieved on the cross or is it just another holiday for gorging ourselves on chocolate and booze?

Considering the incredible sacrifice Jesus made, we should go out of our way to celebrate his death and resurrection. Why not invite someone to your Easter Sunday service, or arrange for people to come round and watch The Passion of the Christ? Or even just post on Facebook what Easter means to you…

Easter isn’t be about self-crucifixion, revenge or even raising money (although there's nothing wrong with this), but about the forgiveness, healing and freedom Jesus provided for us when he gave his life in our place.

John 3:16-17 says: "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

“God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again” (The Message).

Read more from Joy in the next issue of Sorted magazine.