Our Common Humanity

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Imagine the thing that is most precious to you, then think how you’d feel if it were twisted and used against you for evil purposes…..That’s how ordinary Muslims feel when Islam is hijacked, distorted and abused by terrorists who want to justify the murder and maiming of innocent people. Muslims not only feel the pain and suffering we all do, they also feel that something sacred has been defiled. If that double-whammy wasn’t enough, there are those who would spread hatred and promote Islamophobia for their own agenda. Let’s celebrate our common humanity and be peacemakers, because that’s what the world needs above all else.

Article 50 & Brexit Reflections

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Last year the people of the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the European Union by a small majority. This immediately divided the nation in a number of ways and plunged the UK into a complex crisis, not least constitutional. These divisions seem to have deepened and there are ominous signs pointing to a potential breakup of the United Kingdom. The UK government also seems to be pursuing a ‘hard’ Brexit, that is leaving the single market in addition to the EU. I voted for the UK to remain in the EU, believing that to be the best way forward for the country and Europe as a whole.

One thing that concerns me is that such a huge change could be carried through by only a simple majority. Surely something so far-reaching should gain acceptance on at least a 60% threshold, or possibly even a two thirds majority? With the UK split roughly 52/48 (and then not geographically evenly) there was bound to be division and tension with such a slender majority.

But worse was to follow the referendum. There was an immediate political vacuum, with no plan for what a post-Brexit UK (or disUnited Kingdom) would look like. In addition to this, it emerged that politicians (especially in the Leave campaign) mislead the population with promises from which they backtracked.

Many will say this was the democratic will of the people, but there is more to this than meets the eye, and more than I have the time or inclination to go into. Suffice it to say that many voted Leave for a variety of reasons (some simply as a protest vote) and some regretted the decision, not realising we would actually leave (unbelievable, but true), or became concerned for the negative consequences – for which we were warned.

One of the most worrying concerns of Brexit is the increasingly negative atmosphere towards immigrants and refugees which has resulted in increased hate crimes. We can all do something positive to help by reaching out in solidarity and respecting everyone.

I write as a concerned individual, seeking for ways to be positive and working together with others to make our land and continent a better place for all its citizens, especially our children and grandchildren. As the date for triggering Article 50 has been announced today I’m disappointed, but I believe there is hope for our nation if we and our political leaders work for the common good of everyone. Ultimately, we are were we are and we have to make the best of it.

An Unfortunate Geek Fail

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For a while now my Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 has been stuck in a reboot cycle, it restarts for no obvious reason, and is therefore totally useless. I was unable to perform a ‘soft’ factory reset because the tablet restarted before I could get to the appropriate menu item. It was possible to get to the ‘hard’ reset menu by pressing a combination of keys after the tablet had been switched off, but then the factory reset option always failed. I installed Samsung KIES synchronisation and update software on my PC, but again the tablet rebooted before I could connect the two devices. The last option was to reinstall the latest Android operating system from Samsung via Odin software (again on my PC). Sadly, this failed several times (see screenshot above) and so I’ll have to take the tablet to a local service centre in the hope that something can be done that won’t cost too much.

On the plus side though, I found out that PC World were doing a good deal on the Amazon Fire 7″ tablet: 16GB plus case plus 64GB microSD card all for £59.99 as a bundle. I’m enjoying using it, the quality isn’t as good as the Samsung (unsurprisingly), but it was a great deal. The only downsides are that they try to sell you lots of stuff (the tablet is basically a shop front) and the tablet won’t let you install Google apps via Play, but there are always workarounds for a geek!

Salsa Recipe

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Last Sunday evening in worship we watched another video from the excellent NOOMA series by Rob Bell entitled Tomato. In the video he speaks about his wife making the most wonderful salsa, here’s the recipe from the notes:

Put ingredients in the blender in this order:
1 chopped jalapeño pepper, seeds removed
leave the seeds in if you like it hot
1 small to medium onion, cut into quarters
1 handful of coriander
8 Roma tomatoes, cut into quarters
1 squeeze of lime
1 generous pinch of sea salt
Blend just until the tomatoes start to get blended. You want the tomatoes to still be chunky and not pureed. Pour into a bowl and eat right away.

Obviously the salsa is merely an illustration of something deeper, and the description of the video is as follows: Do we try so hard to be something we are not, that we miss out on how to truly live? We all get consumed with ourselves; sometimes we’re not even aware of it. We learn from a young age that life is about winning and impressing. We pick up that our worth and value come from how good, how smart, and how skilled we are. So, we twist things in our favour, making us look like we have it all together. Every day we have the choice to prop up these false ideas about ourselves or to let go of them. Jesus invites these parts of us to die, the parts of us that tell us our worth comes from the things we say and do. Maybe it’s only when we let these things die, that we truly begin to live.

Getting SAASY

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My vocation as a Salvation Army Corps Officer centres on being a pastor and preacher, but (inevitably) there are other duties and roles I have to undertake and fulfil as a Minister of Religion responsible for a worship and community centre in Wallsend. One that doesn’t sit comfortably with me is that of administration and particularly accounting, but it’s a role I have to fulfil in the absence of a treasurer (although I have an excellent Corps Secretary who works with me as a volunteer).

The finance system the Salvation Army uses goes by the wonderful name of Agresso, and is soon to have an upgrade to SAASY (Salvation Army Accounting SYstem) at the start of the new financial year. Today I attended a training day for the new web-based system, with an excellent buffet lunch provided by my Divisional Headquarters. By the end of the excellent training day my eyes had well and truly glazed over, but only because I can only deal with finance in small doses.

So, what’s my initial verdict? Well, it’s a lot for everyone to get their heads around, but I think (ultimately) it will be an improvement all round. I just feel sorry for those who prefer to do their accounting in a ledger with a pen! What are the thoughts of my colleagues?

Be afraid America

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Be afraid America…and the rest of the world. By sacking Attorney General Sally Yates (who acted with integrity in upholding the rule of law and the constitution), replacing her with with a yes man, as well as calling her a ‘traitor’ who’s weak on security, Donald Trump has given notice to all American public servants that if you don’t say what he wants to hear you’ll be fired. This isn’t a TV game show anymore, so be very afraid. There are vital principles at stake here which transcend party politics, and we ignore them at our peril. Truth needs to be held up to power, well done Sally.

Inauguration Day 2017

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Whilst not always agreeing with Barack Obama, I have huge respect for him and his family. He brought intelligence, thoughtfulness, class and grace to the office of President of the United States. These qualities are today being replaced with mediocrity, impulsiveness, crass attitudes and spite. I really hope Donald Trump does well for everyone’s sake, but on the evidence so far I’m not holding my breath. Short and sweet, but that’s all I have to say. God bless America.