Articles

Matt Bird

Have you ever felt slightly alone, overlooked or left behind? Perhaps it was your first day at a new school or university, that promotion you never got and never found out why or the party invitation that didn’t seem to find its way to your door.

I remember, as if they were yesterday, my sports lessons at school, where the two most athletic students took it in turns to pick people for their teams. The pool of talent got smaller and smaller until the two usual suspects were left. I was one of them. By this time the team leaders were of the attitude that they would rather leave the two of us behind.

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July 16, 2017

Participative Society

Christian Economic Forum

When the Israelite spies returned from the Promised Land, their warning was clear: “there are giants in the land” (Num. 13:32-33). In the face of adversity, the Israelites’ reaction was to retreat, protect themselves, and wait for danger to pass. They saw the physical giants and were paralysed by the metaphysical giant: fear.

Today, we face similar giants as individuals, cities, nations, and as a global village. In the face of uncertainty and adversity, there is a climate of anxiety that panders to our deepest sense of self-preservation. We are living in times when a rise in extreme individualism and nationalism threatens to erode our commitment to social responsibility.

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Christian Today

My hope is that I’m going to suddenly wake up and the traumatic events of the last few weeks and months will have been a bad nightmare. As hard as it is to accept and digest that is not going to happen. The Westminster Bridge attack, Manchester Arena attack, London Bridge and Borough Market attack, the Grenfell Tower fire and now the attack at Finsbury Mosque each resulted in a devastating, needless and tragic loss of life.

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Matt Bird

Commuting into work felt different. People across the train carriage were soberly reading the news about the attack in Westminster on their smart phones. I can imagine they, like me, were messaging their loved ones a little more than normal. Then across the public address system the train guard made the usual announcement, “If you see anything suspicious please report it.” You could have heard a pin drop. People stopped what they were doing, raised their heads and looked around the carriage, being careful not to look anyone in the eye.

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Imagine you were given a single wish and that with it you could ask for anything you wanted in all the world. What would you ask for? Love and peace? Family and community? Health and long life? A new home or home extension? Wealth and riches? For most people the only challenge would been choosing simply one wish!

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There is a story of an elderly couple who – in their 70s – believed God was asking them to undertake a huge adventure at great personal risk. They would be leaving the comfort, stability and security of their home and the country where they had grown up and stepping out into great uncertainty, with nothing more than faith to keep them going.

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Best gift

“Ding dong merrily on high, the Christmas bells are ringing,” sing the carol singers. The tree is up and your are enjoying a daily chocolate treat from the advent calendar. The shops are loaded with Christmas goodies but you are still stuck about what to buy that person in your family who has everything. Then you are practicing producing a genuine smile for when you receive that gift from your ‘auntie’ that you know is going to move on immediately to the charity shop.

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Matt Bird

Tomorrow is the first Sunday in Advent and the Church begins its countdown to Christmas. If the children in your life are anything like the children in mine then they have already started counting the “sleeps” until Christmas. The excitement and the anticipation has been palpable for weeks.

Christmas is all about love and relationships. It’s about being in contact with friends and loved ones we may not have spoken to all year; it’s about eating and drinking with family and it’s about buying presents to say, “you matter to me” or “I love you”. However, as we focus on rekindling relationships with those who are special to us, it’s worth remembering that the first Christmas was actually all about relationships between strangers.

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God's will

There is a story of a young married couple who were fortunate to have a patron who provided them with a new home and beautiful garden. They spent hours in the garden talking with each other and occasionally their patron would visit and they would walk and talk together. Their patron gave them complete freedom to enjoy their new home. He explained they could enjoy the fruit from any bush or tree in the garden but gave one stipulation: there was one tree whose fruit they should not eat because it would be bad for them.

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Relationships

Where did it all begin? I was invited to speak at a business conference on the subject of ‘networking’. I don’t know what you think when you hear that word but my insides cringe and crawl. I thanked the conference organiser for their kind invitation, and said that I couldn’t accept because I hate networking. I went on to explain that I find networking contrived and manipulative, but what I did believe in was building authentic, long term and high trust relationships. The conference organiser immediately asked me if I would speak on that subject.

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