Scrabble players worldwide were outraged when it was suggested that mobile phone-style text slang may become acceptable in this popular word game. Shortened words like ‘luv’ and acronyms like PCM (please call me) and CU NXT WK might be included, said the game’s makers, but the Association of British Scrabble players was vehemently opposed to the change. It didn’t honour the purity of the English language.
Texting is the new way of communicating. 58.5 million texts are sent each day in the UK. But many, especially of an older generation, simply don’t like its technological complications and the slang abbreviations that are often used. Some contemporaries of Jesus did not like his style. They felt that his way of teaching about God did not do justice to God’s purity and holiness. His origins too, birth in a stable of poor parents, did not seem to justify his claim to be speaking on God’s behalf. A criminal’s death on a cross seemed to some to be the final evidence that this man could not be God’s new way of communicating with human beings.
Nothing is good simply because it’s new. But sometimes our resistance to change inhibits the discovery of new things which will improve our lives. Let’s today be open to what’s new and hope to find it enriching.
Patrick Barrie is a former World Tiddlywinks Champion. “There’s a lot more to tiddlywinks than just flicking counters around” he says. “Tournament tiddlywinks games involve a lot of decision-making. Should you pot a counter, try to capture an enemy counter, or simply move one inch to the left? To win, it’s best to choose a shot that’s likely to be successful. It’s better to play easy shots, rather than more difficult shots. They are great if they work – but often they don’t.
In tiddlywinks, it’s better to take few risks and improve your situation gradually, rather than take big risks, even if they offer potentially high gains. If you can play difficult shots, then you’re a good player. But if you never need to play them, you’re a great player.”
Some will find this policy of minimising risk is also applicable to how they want to live their lives. Others enjoy the challenge and adrenalin rush of larger risk-taking. But the most important skill is the ability to come to accurate decisions, based on your knowledge of yourself and your levels of expertise in different areas, about the levels of risk-taking which feels comfortable.
“Playing difficult shots” energises some of us; others prefer a gentler strategy that avoids them. As we reflect today on the goals we have for our lives and how we’re going to get there, it’s worth having a strategy that recognises our own particular approach to risk.
In this photograph, Yin Feiyan is on a tightrope 80 feet high. She has developed by the age of eight an extraordinary ability to control her body and balance her movements. She has been tightrope walking since she was two. When she was four, she apparently successfully walked a tightrope 100ft high and 300ft long.
Most of us are still learning the art of keeping a balance in our lives though we’re considerably older than Yin Feiyan. In a number of areas, it’s easy to fall on one side or another: over work or laziness, thinking too much of ourselves or too much of others, letting our hearts rule our heads or being out of touch with our feelings. Only as we get to know ourselves better, do we become aware of the need to rebalance what are often our natural instincts so that we become more rounded people.
But sometimes what’s needed in our lives is not that we keep a balance but that we give up control. We can become so determined not to ‘fall off’ that we miss opportunities for our growth that involve letting go. We feel safer walking the tightrope than falling into what might be a new and more exciting way of living. When Jesus told his disciples they needed to lose their lives to find it, he was challenging them to let themselves go into the care of God and in so doing to discover something rich and unexpected.
Perhaps today there are aspects of our lives which we need to bring into a new balance.....and others where we might do well to risk losing it.
A D-day flypast at Sir Winston Churchill's former home will be staged with model aircraft because the real planes are all in Normandy. The Bickley Model Flying Club has stepped in to put on a display which will include a model Lancaster bomber with an 11ft wing span and a Spitfire measuring six feet across. ‘They’ll look just like the real thing,’ said spokesman Les Eagle.
Many of those 200,000 allied troops who took part in the Normandy landings must have felt that what they were doing was ‘unreal’. The Germans dominated the high ground along the coast. The chances of survival for individual allied invaders was very low indeed. The battle plan was ridiculously outrageous. Any realistic observer would have said the whole concept was beyond belief.
As the memorials take place over this weekend, let’s be grateful for those who risked everything 60 years ago. Let’s also celebrate others whose willingness to attempt the ‘unreal’ has enlarged human knowledge, widened our horizons or expanded our freedom. Perhaps there is something we are considering doing that others think is unrealistic – maybe they are right, but this weekend might be an encouragement not to hold back just because the odds seem against us.
Trapeze artists with the Moscow State Circus, whose tour of Britain starts at Hampton Court tomorrow, have been told to start wearing hard hats to comply with new EU safety rules. Jugglers, tightrope walkers and other acrobats have also been instructed to don safety head wear if they are working at heights greater than the average stepladder. The performers decided last week that the show would go ahead without the benefits of "Bob the Builder" headgear. Hard hats and trapeze artists simply don’t mix. Risk is an essential element in their act.
So it is of being human. It is only when we move beyond what is utterly safe and familiar that we grow. It’s also an important element in being a Christian. Faith flourishes when we rely on God for courage to stand up for love or justice, especially when, without God, we would not take the risk.
Today, a situation may arise where we face a choice between safety and doing what is right. To take the risk will be to deepen our humanity.