Monthly Archives: June 2014

Physicist Speaks At A Funeral

I got this off a Facebook thread which had degenerated into irritating and patronising jibes between believers and atheists (it hadn’t started there, it was a really moving post from a pastor who had lost their faith).  This was a quote about an atheist at a funeral.

It struck me because it thinks it’s moving and beautiful.  The death in universe where energy is conserved is rather beautiful.  It’s not, it’s awful, too often dreadful.  I don’t care about the photons and the laws of thermodynamics.  I want them back.  I care that they are less orderly, that’s the bit I liked, that’s the bit I mourn.

It’s one of these posts that defeats itself, because all the time you know you don’t want any physicist showing up at a funeral and saying these things.  You realise how utterly crass that would be.

And there is another subtle thing there.  It has to be the physicist who says this.  This is the creeping elitism of so much of the new atheism, that you have to be really clever to get it, that the clever people are the ones who get it and everyone else really ought to just bow the knee at their superior intelligence, it’s a Church which worships IQ.  I am reminded that I would rather have the country run by the first 2000 names in the Boston telephone directory than by Harvard faculty.  Those guys are the new priests.

Here’s the quote:

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

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Systems Thinking in the Public Sector

From John Seddon

Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist – Keynes

I remember listening to Alan Milburn, then Secretary of State for Health, responding on the radio to the revelation of the fiddles that hospitals were using to avoid breaching the four hour waiting time targets in accident and emergency departments.  ‘Give me their names’ was the thrust of his reply.  I wrote to tell him that if he wanted to allocate blame he only needed one name: his own.  (page 10)

On game theory – teams learn to choose a win-win strategy… game theory’s selfish and competitive assumptions therefore look shaky at best. (page 12)



A few quotes from Karl Martin’s book “Stand.” (which reveals an extensive and well indexed reading history).

Today you are You, that is truer than true.  There is no alive who is Youer than you.  – Dr. Seuss, Happy Birthday to you.

‘But what about all the miracles?  The healints? Raising people from the dead?  Doesn’t that prove that Jesus was God?  You know, more than human?’

‘No, it proves that Jesus is truly human.’


(The Shack, William P Young).

…eye contact is the most intimacy two people can have = forget sex – because the optic nerve is technically an extension of the brain, and when tow people look ito each other’s eyes, it’s brain-to-brain.  (Douglas Coupland, Hey Nostradamus)

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Discipleship and Huddles

These were some of the gems I gleaned from the Mission and Discipleship training day that was run by Central Baptist.  There were many gems here.

First was the tension between covenant and kingdom, and how we love dualisms which separate these, rather than living in the tension between them.

Talked about the different triads that live within Covenant (Father, Identity, Obedience) and Kingdom (King, Actions, Power).


A lovely little aside that the move from Abram to Abraham and Sari to Sarah means that each one of them of is given part of YHWH’s name. Continue reading

Making Great Decisions

This is Ortberg on the 8th June 2014, transcript is here.

We make 70 decisions a day, 25,000 a year and 1.7million in a life time.  Decisions and the wisdom to make them are one of the most vital things in our life.

Begins with the story of Solomon, and wisdom being the thing that we ask for the most.

I really loved the use of James 1:5 – if any of you lacks wisdom then ask God – that God is in the business of not resolving circumstances with easy answers, of sending us postcards, of creating unthinking clones; God is not in the circumstance generating business as much as he is in the character generating business.

Uses the story of Elijah in 1 Kings to talk about the dangers of making decisions when you are fatigued (although not sure that quite fits with the passage, as Elijah doesn’t make any decisions, and doesn’t do what God ends up asking him).

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The cost of not honouring

This is John and Nancy Orberg on the 11th May 2014.  Transcript is here.

They talk about their maternal line, noting the links that have been passed down the generations, the struggles that these people did, the funny things that they did, the influence that they were in faith, and the way that they gave a foundation for the lives that John and Nancy now live, as well as the difficulties that they have had to experience.

The key mnemonic for honouring is Honesty, Acceptance and Gratitude.

Key texts are the fifth commandment and Ephesians 5 – that it may go well with you in the land, that this is just an ordinary rule of life.

Pentecost and Babel

From “Messy Church” by Jo Bailey Wells, this is as succinct a summary of the distinctions between Pentecost and Babel as I can remember:

It was the early church fathers who first saw divine reversal in the events of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2) compared with the primeval portrayal of Babel (Genesis 11). At Babel the one language was confused; in Jerusalem the many languages become comprehensible. At Babel the people were scattered; in Jerusalem “every nation” comes together. At Babel earth tried building its way to heaven; in Jerusalem heaven reaches down to earth. At Babel the human ego was condemned; in Jerusalem the human spirit is renewed. At Babel we saw divine frustration; in Jerusalem we witness divine delight. At Babel we look into a mirror; at Pentecost we gaze through a window — a window that reveals a glimpse of heaven on earth.