Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Body Worlds

When we were still living in the UK we went to see the Body Worlds exhibition. It was absolutely mind-blowing. When it came to Cape Town, we wanted to go and see it, but couldn't afford to. After a few months, we managed to get free tickets, so went along to see it.

After the incredible experience we'd had in the UK, the CPT exhibition was very disappointing. It was far too small, and showed far too few exhibits. (There were also far too many people cramped into far too small a space, but that's another story.)

However, despite our disappointment, I still managed to learn a few things. For example, I was amazed by how tiny the uterus is normally. It's smaller than the bladder, and the bladder is smaller than your fist.

I was amazed at the animal exhibition they had - made up just of blood vessels - so many you could still see the entire animal. The nerve display was incredible. I always thought there were a LOT more nerves than that... I'm guessing that the nerve endings were too small to be effectively dissected out of the cadaver. I was also amazed by the display where the intestines had been uncoiled and laid out. The whole alimentary canal is about 8m long, of which about 7.5m is the intestines. I've known that for a long time, but seeing it laid out like that... it made an impression.

One of the exhibitions was a section (slice) from the body of a very obese man. I was amazed by how much fat he had, and where it was positioned. I mean, when you see a fat person walking away from you, you can see that they have back fat, but somehow, it never really registered with me that the sub-cutaneous fat layer was so large. Given that I recently discovered that women with belly fat (that would be me) are 27% more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes than women who carry their fat on their thighs, I'm currently rather fascinated by fat distribution and production/ metabolism.

Despite my disappointment, I would still recommend you see it, if you haven't. It's still mind-blowing. The whole process is incredible. I was thrilled to learn that UCT has a plastination unit which they use to create samples and specimens for their students to use (not for display). Here's hoping it helps to revolutionise the training medical students receive.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Don't just stand there, PRAY something

Years ago, I read a book by that title. While it was helpful, I think the most helpful thing (i.e. the thing that has stayed with me over the years, and thus the only thing to really STICK after reading the book) was to just get on and do it. Don't stand around doing nothing. Just pray.

Needless to say, I don't do that. Yup, confession time. I hardly pray. There are lots of reasons for that, and I won't bore you with the details - mostly because I want to get on with the point of this post.

Today, at church, I felt God challenge me on this (yet again... He's been challenging me on this a lot over the last while). We watched a clip of Bill Hybels (@BillHybels) of Willow Creek in Chicago. I was fortunate enough to have been to see him in person at a Willow Creek conference in Chicago several years ago when I was on the staff at The Ascension, Balham Hill. You can say what you like about him - he's typically brash and American - but you can't avoid the fact that Bill speaks truth to the heart. He has a passion for God and God's church that outstrips anything I've seen in the vast majority of Christians. (He's the guy who coined the phrase "The local church is the hope of the world".)

Anyway, sidetracking. Back to prayer. As Bill was speaking, I felt God nudge me again, with the title of that book. I want to see things change in this world. Heck - I'd love to see things change in my life, in my marriage, in my family, in my work! I felt God ask me (not in audible words; just as an inner voice, or an impression) how things were ever going to change if I did nothing differently.

You see, I've been on at my remedial class at school about exactly this topic. They're not stupid, they just either don't like the subject, don't have a work ethic, don't know how to study, or don't listen in class. So I've been on at them about how they need to DO something DIFFERENTLY if they want to see different results at the end of the year.

And God challenged me with exactly that same message.

If I want to see change, then I'm going to have to do something differently. I can't just stand around hoping it will change, or waiting for someone else to make it change. I have to get stuck in and be the change I want to see. The only way to do that is to pray.

So... in addition to my new attempt to get fit by running regularly, I have now diarised 3 prayer sessions a week - one for my work-related stuff, one for my local community, and one for the cell group that I lead. I have no idea whether I will be able to keep any of them (we all know how the devil likes to try to mess up our lives and distract us from the job at hand), but rather than fail to start because I'm worried about failing, I've decided to start and see what happens.

Maybe God will surprise me. In fact, I hope he does.

I'm ready to be surprised. I'm ready to have my life turned upside down again by the sheer generosity and grace of God towards all people.

Time to stop wading on the fringes of the waves and dive back in to the depths of the water.

To say I'm a bit nervous is probably about right. The age-old questions have already started to rear their ugly heads. What if God doesn't show up? What if my prayers just keep bouncing off the ceiling? What if it takes a lot of effort on my part before I see any results? What if I never see results? What if my loved ones think I've gone super-religious on them? What if I get hurt and more disillusioned?

Thing is, I've let those fears control me for far too long now. So I'm simply going to ignore them and carry on. I'll let you know how it goes, but in case I don't, feel free to ask. Better yet, why not join me? Let's make this experiment a shared journey. I dare you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

How to make a baby (email meme)

I received this email from a friend, and loved it so much I just had to post it here....

Canadian photographer Patrice Laroche surely will have
no trouble explaining to his kids about the birds and the bees.
During his wife Sandra’s pregnancy, the artist
created this hilarious explanatory photo series titled
“How to Make a Baby”. The creative couple planned and
carried out their project throughout the whole period
of 9 months, taking pictures in the exact same settings
as Sandra’s belly expanded. The pregnancy saga of
Sandra and Patrice basically denounces all the traditional
cabbage and the stork stories.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The butterfly effect

The Butterfly Effect is a chaos theory which says that small changes in the initial conditions result in large differences in a later state. The theoretical example always given is that a butterfly flapping its wings can result in a chain reaction that culminates in a hurricane, whereas the absence of the butterfly results in normal wind conditions.

I am a huge proponent of this theory, at all levels of life. One small, seemingly inconsequential, event or action can result in huge consequences affecting hundreds or thousands of people - for better or for worse. I was explaining this to my Gd 10s, as the 'hook' for explaining to them why they need to understand environmental studies. They may find it boring, because most of them choose Biology as a subject because they're interested in anatomy. However, their very small actions to protect or destroy the environment around them can potentially have massive consequences. My class were gripped as I gave them some examples, and I had one of those awesome lessons when you can feel that you're holding them in the palm of your hand, that they're all glued to their seats and totally engaged. I think they got the message. I'm just hoping that it makes a difference, and that in years to come, that lesson will change the way they choose to live their lives.

Just recently, I've come across two examples of the Butterfly Effect. The first was a story told during a sermon. A missionary went to live with a tribe in a remote land (and of course, now that I need to, I can't remember where this took place!). On arrival, he discovered that the tribe was actually split geographically into two. He felt led to live with the northern part of the tribe, but spent several hours every morning praying for the southern part of the tribe. After a few years, while on a trip to collect supplies, he met a man from the southern part of the tribe, who quickly came to faith. The missionary then spent two weeks teaching the man everything he knew about God. The man went back to his tribe, and the missionary went back to his tribe.

Five years later, a man from the southern part of the tribe journeyed to the northern part of the tribe, looking for the missionary. Thousands of people in the southern part of the tribe had come to faith, and they felt they needed the missionary to come and teach them more about God. At that time, only a hundred or so of the northern part of the tribe had come to faith.

A small action - going to get supplies, having a conversation with a fellow traveller. Huge consequences - thousands coming to know Christ as their Saviour.

Another example. You may or may not have seen this video of a cyclist on the Cape Epic who was attacked by a buck. Fortunately, the cyclist was wearing a helmet. The video ends with a photo of the damaged helmet, with the words - "This is why we wear a helmet." Within 3 hours of posting the video on YouTube, it had had 3 million hits. At the time of writing this post, it's been viewed nearly 14.5 million times.

A small action - choosing to video a cyclist, or choosing to wear a helmet when entering the Epic. Massive consequences - 14.5 million people have seen why wearing a helmet when cycling, EVEN WHEN there are no 'obvious' dangers around, is so crucial. That video might just save several lives.

So you see, small actions do count. You may not see the result for years, but you just never know whether a small action on your part could have enormous consequences - for good or for evil - on the world around you. Live every moment knowing that WHATEVER you do, whether it is seen by the world, or only seen by God, is important and valuable. Do it properly, and with integrity. Make it count, because you never know what might ultimately result from it.