Why give a bouquet of death?

May 13, 2020

My wife recently had a minor health problem which meant an operation in hospital as a day patient. As a result, our four children with their spouses all sent a lovely bouquet of flowers. With four lovely bouquets, our lounge looked almost like a flower shop. But, inevitably, after about a week all the flowers died and were then thrown out.

That is not a criticism of giving flower bouquets, it’s just a fact. I arrange a bouquet of flowers for my wife on every wedding anniversary. But when flowers are cut, although they look beautiful for a time, you have given them a death sentence. However nice they may be, and however long they last, we know they will die.

This prompted a parallel thought about our lives. From the moment we are born we are travelling a path that will end in death; death is the natural conclusion to life. Sadly, some die young, but we all hope to live a long, productive life. And even if we live to receive a telegram from the Queen on our 100th birthday, we know death will come.

A bit like the gloriousness of those flowers, we may have a glorious life, enjoy a nice career, live in a nice house, and drive a nice car. Whilst alive, we can have a real impact on the people around us, improving and uplifting their lives in a similar way as flowers do on a smaller scale. But where are the people who were the movers and shakers of the world two hundred years ago? The great men and women of history have faded like those cut flowers, as will the great men and women of today. We may be a household name in our lifetime but as our life recedes into history, who will remember us?

These flowers remind me of a statement in a book: ‘Yes, our natural lives will fade as grass does when it becomes all brown and dry. All our greatness is like a flower that droops and falls;’[1]  It’s an interesting comment on human life. When I read it, it made me reflect. How do I feel about enjoying everything life can offer me today yet having to prepare to fade into the dust like a cut flower when it ends? It’s uncomfortable. How about you? I’m guessing you might feel the same.

So is there any other way out of this inevitable end? I believe there is. And it’s an open door if you want to go through it. I believe this because of the very next part of that statement I just shared. It continues, ‘but the word of the Lord will last for ever. And his message is the Good News that was preached to you.’[2]

Maybe you have not heard or registered this message, maybe you’re wondering, ‘what good news?’. You can read this good message from another part of this book, “Truly I tell you, anyone who believes has eternal life.”[3] These words were spoken from the lips of Jesus Christ. This is the loving promise from a God who you may dismiss as a fable, feel has no interest for you, who you have never considered as having anything of value to offer. When you think of the alternative – death – what price would you pay for eternal life?

So what is the price that Jesus asks? It is as simple as belief in Jesus as the forgiver of your sins and the giver of your eternal life!

Next time you see or give a bouquet of flowers maybe you will think about this blog and ask yourself the question, do I just want to live a brief physical life or is it worth investigating just what else this book contains and how it applies to me?

Keith Hartrick info@because.uk.com

Keith is an editor at Because

[1] The Bible, 1 Peter 1:24 (TLB)
[2] The Bible, 1 Peter 1:25
[3] The Bible, John 6:47
Photo by Riz Mooney on Unsplash

A prophet without honour

April 8, 2020

Have you ever heard of William Edwards Deming? Probably not, but if you buy anything Japanese, he has impacted your life. Today, Japanese products are a byword for quality and a lot of that has to do with Deming.

Deming was an American business and management expert, who in the aftermath of the Second World War was told by corporate America to get lost! He was disliked and his advice rejected because he bluntly told American businessmen that poor quality products resulted mostly from their own failures, not from worker ineptness. You could say Deming was a ‘prophet without honour’, virtually ignored and unappreciated in the US until the 1980s.

In contrast, Deming went to Japan in 1950, the first of many visits, and the top business leaders came to his eight-day seminars. At the heart of Deming’s message was quality control, to “get it right first time”, not simply to have inspectors on the production line to pick up defects.

In the post war years Japan was a byword for low quality products designed to generate income from exports to earn money to feed the people and rebuild the country. But Deming’s approach suited Japanese culture where there was a more team-oriented attitude as compared to the aggressive individualism of American culture. Deming’s focus on getting it right first time made the person on the production line a key part of the process, they became a person that management and owners listened too. Their input was invited and welcomed because as the person doing the job, they could often see a better or more efficient way of doing things. This developed into what the Japanese called Kaizen, a policy of seeking continuous improvement in small but effective ways.

In June 1951, less than a year after Deming’s first lecture on quality control, the Japanese instituted the Deming prize for industrial achievement. It took 30 years for America to incorporate an equivalent award, established to encourage higher quality in American manufacturing.

By the 1950’s and 60’s Japan was not just listening to Deming, they were actively incorporating his ideas into the manufacturing process. One result was that by the 1970s Japanese motor bikes were such high quality that they virtually destroyed the UK motor bike manufacturers.

Today, whether it’s cars, cameras, consumer electronics or other products, the ‘made in Japan’ label equals quality. While Deming was not the only American expert who went to Japan in the 1950s, he was the first, most respected and most accomplished.

It took until 1981 before American manufacturers’ minds opened and Ford Motor Company hired Deming in a desperate attempt to stem their huge losses. Ford soon adopted the slogan, “Quality is job one”, and moved back into profitability. It had taken thirty years, but finally American business leaders began to listen. Just ten days before his death in December 1993, Deming gave his last seminar to America companies, finally willing to listen to his advice.

This whole story reminds me of another prophet without honour who also had a message about quality. A man rejected by people in power for his revolutionary ideas, yet years later his ideas quite literally turned the world upside down.

He was born and lived some 2000 years ago in the area we now call Israel. His name was Jesus Christ. So why do I say he was a prophet without honour? In his lifetime he was rejected by the religious leaders of the day and eventually executed by the Romans. Not all were ready to hear his message was about the need for a quality-checked life and a restored relationship with God.

At the end of his life he only had about 120 followers; you could argue that he did not have much impact at all, just as Deming had little impact on American business leaders.

But since Jesus’ death his message about a quality life and relationship with God has constantly grown. It has impacted humanity in amazing ways. Many people have been prepared to face hostility and even death because of their belief in his teaching. So much so that it is now estimated that around 2.4 billion people alive today call themselves Christians, or followers of Christ. Even more amazing to consider is that around 10% of those people facing active persecution for their beliefs remain faithful followers.

How about us? Is our mind closed like those American business leaders in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, to a message about quality? Is our life so good that we see no need for improvement? Or do you find yourself wondering sometimes what life is all about?

If there is something missing in your life, a feeling of dissatisfaction, that things are not quite right? If so, why not investigate Jesus’ message? Maybe your quality of life will be improved as a result; living life with greater meaning, so you enjoy today but also can look forward with excitement to what the future holds!

Keith Hartrick info@because.uk.com

Keith is an editor at Because

 

Spiritual workout

March 30, 2020

“Many people in their teens wonder about these big questions – what’s the meaning of life, what are we doing here – then somewhere in their 20s, they seem to say, ‘I’ll just get married. I’ll just have kids. I’ll get back to that later’. But they never do. For me, it kept boiling”. [1] Yuval Harari

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve noticed we are taking one lockdown rule very seriously: our rationing of one-days’ dose of a good, old cardiovascular workout, also known as exercise.

I’ve even been getting mine in. A brisk walk round my local park where I was witness to myriad forms of exercise along with creative ways to use park apparatus. And the exercise binge hasn’t stopped there. After 6 days of lockdown, social media has spawned numerous examples of how to keep fit. From the comeback of the 81 years’ young Green Goddess, to self-styled Instagram isolation games, we are a nation that’s staying fighting fit in this crisis.

But is there another type of exercise we can take advantage of in these times of isolation?

I once read an old adage that went something like this: “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way because it promises life both for the present and for the future”.[2] What do you think this means?

For me, I wonder whether it means something like what Harari was getting at in the above statement? Harari is a best-selling intellectual with books such as Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow where he delves into the most existential questions of our time. There is something familiar to what he asked; maybe at some point in our lives we’ve all flirted with these questions. Because why are we here, anyway?

But like Harari suggests, we may have got a little out of shape when it comes to the big questions – the spiritual questions – of life? In these times when we have something we seldom have – time – is it time to get on the transcendental treadmill again? Maybe do a little more soul-searching as to what all this life stuff is about? The second week of lockdown could be that time when we do some ‘existential exercise’. What do you think?

I  won’t patronise you by telling you where to start the search – maybe you already have an inkling, some place you’ve gone to before. But I would be interested to hear what you find.

If you want to share your thoughts and questions, I would be happy to hear from you at the below email address. And I’d be happy to share my journey – a journey where I didn’t get married or have kids (yet) but instead set out to find the answers to Harari’s questions.

Richard Fowler info@because.uk.com

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2015/jul/05/yuval-harari-sapiens-interview-age-of-cyborgs
[2] The Bible, 1 Timothy 4:8 (GNT)