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By now you’ve seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge all over the internet, and chances are you have dumped a bucket of ice over your own head.

i had seen links to the challenge for more than a week all over Facebook and the Twitterer before having any clue what it was about [largely due to our lack of internet video-watching ability as we had just returned to SA and were trying to get set up] and when i finally did figure it out, my response was largely like Morpheus himself:

morpheus

Because the way it was presented by the time i saw it at least was that you could either choose to donate money to charity [specifically ALS which as you all know, stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis [more commonly as Motor Neurone disease in the UK and also Lou Gehrig's disease based on a famous baseball player who suffered and eventually died as a result of the disease] or you could throw a bucket of ice water over your head.

Which seemed really crazy at first, because all of the videos that i saw links to seemed to be videos of people with ice buckets, not cheque books or big wads of cash.

So you’re telling me you are choosing to do this ice bucket challenge for the purpose of NOT DONATING TO CHARITY???

Didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me and in fact seems quite counterproductive if that is really what people are doing.

Turns out a huge number of people ended up doing the donating and the ice bucket challenge [cos who wants to watch a video of someone signing a cheque or doing an internet transaction, right?]

It also turns out that this particular viral challenge brought in the big guns.

From celebrities like Oprah Winfrey,  Tom Hiddleston and Ben Affleck to singers such as Justin Timberlake, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber and even a former United States president in George W Bush, and big money men like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, it seemed like this was something that was really catching the hearts and support of the people.

i’m a big fan of Jimmy Fallon and no surprise that he made his nomination [from Justin Timberlake amongst a host of others] into a theatrical event which he did alongside his guest, his voice-over guy and the whole Roots band:

Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters had one of the most creative with this recreation of the famous prom scene from the horror movie Carrie [which was fitting as he challenged Stephen King as one of his three]

Matt Damon did his with toilet water as he did not want to waste regular water by dumping it on his head [reminding us in the process that most US toilet water is cleaner than the water a lot of people in the world have access to]

even Homer Simpson got into the swing of things:

So it has gained huge viral attention and been hugely entertaining and some people have started getting really creative with their nominations, but so what? Is it making any kind of difference?

TURNS OUT IT MIGHT WELL BE

So i was a little skeptical, to say the least, until i came upon a number of articles and stories that seemed to suggest that this might in fact be a good thing.

According to this BBC news story, which you can read in full here ‘From 29 July to 28 August this year ALS received $98.2m – compared with $2.7m donated during the same period last year.’

The United Kingdom was apparently seeing similiar figures, ‘Pre-ice bucket, the MND Association would receive on average £200,000 a week in donations. From 22 to 29 August, it received £2.7m.’

Other charities also started to benefit, with a significant one in England being Water Aid which ‘has seen a spike in donations, including £47,000 in one day – 50% higher than it ever received in a single day before. The money came in part from people bemoaning the water wasted in the challenges.’

Not just from the money side which is obviously a huge benefit to those working in research in terms of trying to find a cure and better ways to deal with the disease, there has definitely been an increase in awareness which was one of the original intentions of the campaign. The fact that it somehow caught the attention of celebrities was a huge boost to this in the social media sharing age we find ourselves in, helping it to spread at phenomenal rates.

It was also very helpful for me to hear from those suffering from the disease and their families:

“I have had MND for 10 years now and for anyone affected by this disease the ice bucket challenge has been the most wonderful phenomenon,” says Euan MacDonald, the founder of Euan’s Guide, a website that features information and reviews about disabled access around the UK.

And this was one of the best articles i read on the topic from the perspective of a family of an ALS sufferer and their thoughts on the Ice Bucket Challenge, which includes a 10 point ‘Mile in ALS shoes’ guide to give you some perspective on what it is like to suffer from this disease.

Finally this ABC news story sums it up:

 

 

So, the Ice Bucket Challenge? Have you taken part? What are your thoughts on it?

From my side, it does seem to have brought a lot of awareness as well as a huge financial boost to those who are working in areas related to the disease and that can only be a good thing.

I would however, suggest that the negative side of the Ice Bucket Challenge is that a week from now the majority of people will have moved on to the regulars of cat videos and internet memes until the next viral buzz comes along and that it might be more helpful for individuals to have a more longer term involvement when it comes to charity [possibly choosing one and supporting it well rather than jumping on every new thing that comes along] and i am still going to agree with my friend Morpheus here…

LATE EDIT: Just came across this article which interestingly gives the percentage breakdown of how the ALS Association spends their money which is eye-opening to say the least with figures for executives ranging from :

  • Jane H. Gilbert – President and CEO –$339,475.00
  • Kathi Kromer – Director of State Advocacy – $110,661.00

Hm. Definitely grateful to be part of something like Common Change where i know that 100% of the money i donate actually goes towards meeting needs. Not that other charities that need to pay  salaries and overheads are a bad thing, but it just feels great knowing where your money is going.

morpheus

Well, actually this is a two for one offer. The first one is another spot on Stepha Pastis moment of how many of us think of diets or our personal ‘trying to eat good’ plans:

Pearls before Diet

And the second one, you probably have to be a Pearls before Swine to fully appreciate, but if you are it is a classic look at just how plan bizarre Stephan can be [quite possibly when he has not had his morning coffee]

Pearls before Weird

[For a different Pearls Before Swine cartoon dealing with Accountability, sort of, click here]

[For another Pearls before Swine strip that looks at People hearing what they want to hear, click here]

i didn’t.

strangely the world has not ended yet, but we ARE on African time, so maybe give it a few hours.

in fact, we’ve been back in South Africa for three weeks now and are yet to attend a sunday gathering [gasp!]

some people are not okay with this, and we’re okay with them not being okay

i don’t imagine i will be standing in front of God one day and He will be looking down at me [cos that's the posture you take when you ask this question] saying, “So, skipped three weeks of church in a row, eh?”

gotochurch

what i did do this week was read my Bible – i have been working through 1 and 2 Peter, reading them the whole way through again andagain, trying to get a feel for the whole letters in context and dig a little deeper than a single visit will do for me. i did this with Philippians once, where i read the whole book [yes, all four chapters!] every day for a month. surprisingly i didn’t get bored, but found that the more i went through it, the more i started to see. once you get to know the main bits and get familiar with them, then things that were hidden in the background start to surface and often surprise you and get you thinking and acting a little more deeply.

another thing i did this week was pray. for my sick wife [still sick]. for my best friend with cancer [really struggling this week. conversations with God about why He doesn’t seem to heal people when i pray for them. invitation for God to help me be more patient and less snappy with my beautiful wife. prayer for a number of friends who have lost loved ones this week. prayer for the right opportunity of the what-next for my life. asking God to just generally reveal Himself to me and increase my faith during what can typically be a tough time of transition. and more.

one thing i did this week was show hospitality. to friends i know and friends of my family who i didn’t know before. from simply inviting them into our current home to making them tea and coffee or hanging out with them and hopefully helping them have a good time.

i also took some time to encourage some people online. from friends i know who are sick to strangers i don’t know who commented on a blog piece i wrote and seem to be in a place of struggle. nothing revolutionary perhaps and certainly quite easy to do, but hopefully in a way that conveyed love and shared hope and helped bring some life.

we broke bread and ate together with family and had conversations dealing with God and mission and how to use money well and more. wrestled a little bit with the types of shows that we watch and how each of us probably has our own hypocricies in terms of what we think people should not be watching, but what we are okay with. great food for thought and an opportunity to share ideas and learn from other peoples’ decisions.

we worked together on training up children in the way they should grow [Val's sister's kids who we are currently living with] and tried to love God and love the people who crossed our paths [whether they were beggars at the traffic lights or the Jehovah's Witnesses who interrupted this blog post by ringing the doorbell to hand me a tract to invite me to a meeting to inform me why we need a one world government] and said sorry for when we had hurt someone or got it wrong. we cared for the sick as best we could [even though these sick were our own which made it a lot easier to be motivated for].

and some other stuff.

i imagine if i asked one of the early disciples of Jesus if they had gone to church today, they would have looked at me a little bit funny or completely confused.

“Go to Church? Go to Church? How do i possibly do that?”

And sure, they had the example of the temple and then later on had the practice of home gatherings [where according to Acts 2 , 'They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.']

i’m not convinced they had the concept of ‘Sunday church’ because it goes on to say, Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.’ [Acts 2 Parts of 42-47]

i am not suggesting for a moment, that the sunday church meeting and larger context of congregation or community is bad. no, i think it is great, especially when it is.

what i am suggesting is that maybe there is more to it than that.

did i ‘go to church’ this week? i did not.

but was i church this week? absolutely.  in some many ways that count.

and it is possibly that many people who ‘went to church’ this week spent the majority of their week not being the church? i would suggest that, given the evidence, that is a strong possibility.

i can imagine someone standing in front of God one day and hearing the words, ‘You were not the church. Depart from me and continue in the life you have chosen for yourself.’

Sunday [or whenever you have them] meetings or gatherings of Jesus-following people are the pit stops to get you ready for the rest of the week – for the work of being church – salt and light and the fragrance of Christ everywhere you go. Whenever the Sunday meeting or gathering or even group becomes ‘the thing’ then i seriously believe we have missed the point.

so please, feel free to invite us to your Sunday gathering – we do hope to visit a number of church meetings and gatherings to see what God is doing in the Western Cape – but please don’t feel the need to judge me right now for not ‘going to church’ and i will do my best to not judge you because you do.

bechurch

 

 

Well it’s like a joke or favourite movie really, right? How do you possibly pick just one?

i feel like i have so many that i really dig and so would maybe have to break it down into themes…

My all-time favourite Gary Larsen [of 'The Far Side' fame] is definitely this one with the unfortunate spider incident:

spiderlarsen

As you know by now, i’m a HUGE fan of Pearls before Swine by Stephan Pastis and have a whole gallery of his strips that i enjoy over here and it would be hard to have a favourite Pearls tha doesn’t include the Crocs, my favourite characters:

pearlsbeforeglass

croc

But, to be honest, among all the great ones there are, this is the one that jumps out at me when i think of a favourite Pearls:

pearlsdad

Then there is a cartoon strip called Buttersafe that bounces between amazingly funny and completely random but it really does do misdirection well, which is one of my favourite forms of humour:

buttersafechessGarfield is a lot of really hit or miss but when it hits it is great and when it features this particular topic, then even better:

garfield

 

And then of course there is Calvin and Hobbes which was just pure greatness but my favourites tended to be his snow-related ones:

snowbowl snowfood snowsharkAnd so many more, because let’s face it, there have been some great comic strips…

But i want to know what your favourite is… currently my favourite strip is Pearls before Swine. Do you have a best ever? Or a current fave?

Stick an example or add a link in the comments section and let’s share the cartoon strip love…

Oh Stephan, you get me, you really get me. This Pearls strip pretty spot on with ca directional voice finder thingy:

PearlsbeforeGPS

However, life is not all about Pearls before Swine. Sometimes life can be about Poorly Drawn Lines and how spot on it can be on occasion:

internet

[For a different Pearls before Swine cartoon looking at sneaking into the afterlife, click here]

[For some of my favourite Poorly Drawn Lines strips, take a look over here]

I imagine there are more than seven ways to live a successful life. But I also think it is of extreme importance to push the pause button every so often and take a look in the metaphorical mirror [or the actual one] and see how the life you are presently living measures up to the one you could be. So grab a cup of coffee [or some freshly squeezed organic kiwi and butternut juice, with cumin] and take a minute on each of these… and consider for a moment if your life could use some change…
success

I don’t know who Andy Singer is, but this cartoon shows that he gets it. The ‘Successful’ person is often viewed as the one who is working so hard and so cut off from family and friends and personal life passion [often in the interests of providing well for family and friends] that they have actually had the life sucked out of them. If what you are doing to make money is robbing you of all the things it was meant to provide, there might be some tough but necessary decisions ahead. It’s not too late to do something else.

passion

Imagine how different your life will look at the end with a scorecard that reads, “Clocked 24000 hours on World of Warcraft” as opposed to, “Discovered cure for Ebola virus” – now for most of us, what we actually end up achieving or being part of will be significantly somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. I am personally hoping for a life that ends up closer to the Ebola virus side than the ‘became really good at useless skill’ side of things.

to succeed

I hate that somewhere along the path of life, disillusioned adults seem to feel the need to tell young people to stop dreaming and believing that change is possible. Perhaps it is whatever convinced you of that, that is actually the real reason your dream wasn’t realised. Aids and the conflict in Gaza and extreme racism and human trafficking do seem like such huge impossible mountains to climb but if you were able to sit with someone from the 1800s for sixty minutes and just see their reaction when you try to explain to them things like airplanes and mobile phones, google glass and microwave ovens, I imagine you might start to consider what other impossible things are waiting to be achieved by those who refuse to believe they can’t be done.

success beging

Very simple but very profound.

Is there something you have always wanted to do but never [yet] got round to starting? It is probably not too late.

Is there something you started and then life got in the way and so it was pushed into a folder, or to the back of a drawer and you simply need to carve some time and get it out and really push through and finish it?

wait

I really love this one. It is true. Time makes no apologies. Sentences that begin with “I’ll do that when…” are so fraught with danger, because they anticipate or hold out hope that life will somehow slow down or become easier or less cluttered. It begins with leaving school, then finishing university, then getting married, then having our first child, then when my child starts school and and and… Don’t wait until. Start now. If you are feeling changes need to be made, get going with them. Seize this particular day. Seize it now.

yolo

What a stupid saying. And what an incredible way of summing up the point of what it should be. Are you doing something with your life now that matters? Because you don’t get a do over!

love

Above all, this is what life is meant to be about. Loving God and Loving people is all good and well. But there needs to be some action involved as well otherwise it is all just a pretty [and useless] Hallmark Cardin your brain. And when I talk about being significant and doing significant things, that doesn’t mean all of us will be curing Aids or reaching lost people groups or affecting the whole world. For some of us being a parent well is a significant thing. For others of us it might be affecting a local school or community. Maybe even just the people on your street or in your apartment block.

I hope you found something in here useful. I hope this will encourage you to greater success. Now go.

writing

in December of 2012 i wrote a short blog piece talking about the TFTW [Thort for the Week where 'Thort' is simply phonetic for 'thought' as in a thought i have on some aspect of following Jesus] that i used to send out regularly.

in the three years of being in Americaland, TFTW soon became TFTM [month] and then TFECOM [Thort for Every Couple of Months] before almost dying out completely, except when i would randomly decide to send one out.

i decided yesterday, now that we’re back in South Africa and are connected more regularly to the internet, to send out a TFTW and as i was writing it i decided to ask the question if anyone still wanted to receive it. While the list has about 3500 names on it, i have absolutely no idea how many people still receive them and if any at all still read them on the very intermittent occasions when they appear.

to be honest, i was expecting two or three people to respond [of which one would be my dad] and that probably would have been enough for me to continue with them [after all, that is where i started] and to be honest most of my focus in terms of writing is on my blog these days.

but i was really blown away as within three minutes i had three people saying they were in and an hour later maybe 5 to 10 more… a day later and i still have emails coming in telling me they read about one in three, or they have found them useful in sermon planning from time to time or they get to one in 5 and it was just such an encouraging thing.

so not quite 3500 emails, but a whole lot more than 2-3.

it was a huge encouragement and so i am definitely hoping to get into a more regular rhythm of sending the thorts out.

If you want to take a look at the group on Yahoo and i think get access to any of the last 10 plus years of messages, you can take a look over here: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/Thortfortheweek/info

If you would like to sign up for these messages you can send an email to thortfortheweek-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or else you can like the Thort For The Week page on Facebook where i also post each message.

i hope these continue to challenge and encourage people who are trying to be followers of Jesus to live every aspect of their lives for – how are you using your gifts to share with the people you love the things that God has done and is doing in your life? so many exciting different creative ways to do so and sometimes it just takes one little step in the right direction.

 

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