Friday, 23 March 2012

Does Prayer Work?

Yes. No. Maybe. It certainly doesn't "work" in any kind of scientifically testable or verifiable sense, but that's because prayer is a relationship and relationships don't tend to work like that.

I've prayed plenty of prayers that haven't been answered in any kind of way that I would recognise, but I've also prayed some that have. Some would say that if you pray enough prayers then - statistically speaking - one of them is bound to get answered eventually. The following is a true story of something that happened to me last weekend. Perhaps it was just a co-incidence or a statistic. What do you think?

Last Saturday I lost my wedding ring. I knew I'd taken it off some time in the morning to do some DIY and I discovered it was missing at about 6pm. I hunted all over the house for it. I thought I'd probably put it in the coins pocket at the front of my jeans, but it wasn't there so I hunted everywhere else I could think of. I also knew the coins pocket wasn't entirely safe... I keep my keys there as well and had noticed previously that when I take the keys out, the ring can occasionally catch on the keys and go flying across the room. I should have stopped putting my ring in that pocket after that... But I hadn't...

I knew I'd taken the keys out three times that day - once to lock the gate that bars my back door so I could leave the door open as I was busy around the house, once more to open the gate again when I decided to close the door a few minutes later because it was colder outside than I had thought, and once when I changed my trousers at the end of the day. I hunted all over the bedroom in case the ring had flown out somewhere. I hunted around the kitchen, near the back door, and even outside in case the ring had flown out the door and into the yard.

My wife also hunted everywhere - she's often better at finding things than I am - but without success. So having looked everywhere either of us could think of, we prayed! I said sorry to God for my negligence in not taking care of the ring more carefully, acknowledged that He knew where it was, and asked Him if He could please show it to us.

Having prayed, we had our evening meal and went out to a friend's house for the evening. On the way back I thought about the ring again, but instead of worrying about it I considered once more that God knew where it was and somehow I felt confident that He would show it to us. As I thought this I felt a brief but re-assuring sense of His presence come very close to me.

As we walked along the back street towards our house - before we even got to the house - Emma happened to look down as something on the ground caught the light from a street light. She bent down, picked it up, looked to see what it was, and was a little shocked to discover that there in her hand was my wedding ring!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Beauty is where you find it

Everything below is an extract from Mark Powley's Consumer Detox blog. I think it speaks for itself and I liked it so much I've simply reposted it. You can find the full (and much longer) Washington Post report here.

In Washington, DC, at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes: A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent – without exception – forced their children to move on quickly.

After 45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour: He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:
  • In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
  • If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
  • Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
  • If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made, how many other things are we missing as we rush through life?