Friday, 20 July 2012

Let’s get it out there!

The Olympics haven’t kicked off yet, but the Games have already made headlines for all the wrong reasons. There was the G4S ‘scandal’, the omission of Becks from the team GB football squad, the ticketing debacle, the allegations against major sponsor adidas of paying “poverty wages” in Asia (which it firmly denies), the decision to allow former ‘drug cheats’ to compete, and so on and so forth.

Now I should probably explain that I am a massive fan of the Olympics. I was lucky enough to be working from home during the Beijing Games, so I managed to catch almost every event (as work-related research, of course). Even sports like hockey, which I detested at school, were fascinating to watch.

There is something incredibly special about having the world’s top athletes all in one place. About the fans travelling from around the world to cheer on their country’s best sportspeople; the face paints, the waving flags and the excitement that exudes from every pore of those watching live.

I’ve heard people complaining about the added security risks in London this summer, the disruption to travel services, and of the cost to the taxpayer. But I wonder whether people would make the same complaints if we were hosting the World Cup… I think the moaners and the groaners have simply failed to capture the thrill of the Games and the absolute privilege it is to have them on our doorsteps.

So here comes the shameless plug… The Olympics version of Sorted magazine is out now, and a number of people (including the mighty Bear Grylls) have said it’s our best issue to date. It covers everything from security to doping and features in-depth, exclusive interviews with Victoria Pendleton, Steve Redgrave, Tom Daley, Philips Idowu, Jessica Ennis and a host of others. It also tells you what’s on (and when) to ensure you don’t miss any key events.

And with all the other content – film reviews, gadgets, nutrition advice and great insights from our regular columnists – you’ll love it even if you’re not a sports buff. In fact, the front cover alone is worth the money!

But even more importantly, we’re giving away 10,000 free copies of Sorted across London in the next week. It will be available in bars, restaurants and tube stations as well as through the usual channels (online, in local newsagents and at WH Smith). Not only does this magazine offer a much more positive build-up to London 2012, it offers an opportunity to share the Christian message with people who might never hear it elsewhere.

The magazine presents relevant, engaging issues from a godly perspective without being in your face or cringey. There are no tambourines or sock-and-sandal combos. It’s a mag you could be read in public without any embarrassment and pass around your friends. And there has never been a better time to get it out there, with 11 million people expected to hit London in the next month.

If you share our vision of reaching people with a positive, God-focused message, then there are various ways you can help. Number one – buy the magazine and tell people about it. Preferably buy a bumper pack of 50 (for just £75) and give them to people in your church/local area/workplace.

Finally, if you’d like to sponsor some copies, we can get the magazine into the hands of even more people this summer. It’s not cheap printing huge quantities of magazines, and as this is our longest ever edition (108 stonking pages), the cost will be significant. But at Sorted we believe that you reap what you sow, and what you sow into this project financially could have eternal consequences.

Contact Steve Legg on to find out how you can get involved. And let’s make this Olympics one to remember for all the right reasons.  

Friday, 13 July 2012

What does it all mean?

Guest blog with Tim Childs

Perhaps people have been pondering that question since the dawn of time; I know I do from time to time anyway. To some people, life means nothing more than having a good time: drinking, laughing, eating good food and doing the things they very much want to do. That doesn’t sound too bad to me, to be honest. 

To someone else, however, life is more than just enjoying themselves; more than pleasure, more than what it is on the surface. I hasten to add that in my own life I’ve been the consummate pleasure seeker and the thinking philosopher. I’m not a holier-than-thou person; in many respects I’m just an ordinary bloke who likes to think about things.

How do we square the mundane world we live in with the Christian reality God wants us to live out? We are in two worlds: the world of secularism, of sport, of pleasure, of strife and competition, the world that is very much out there; and the world we need to live in as Christians, where God’s laws and rules are the things that set us apart from most other people. We are like two people, one pulled in one direction and one pulled in the other. Is this the Christian life and, if so, what are we meant to do about it? How do we live in two realities?

So what does it all mean? Do we ever really think about that? Do we ponder life’s mysteries and hope for answers, even if they never come? Isn’t it part of the human condition to think; to think deeply about who we are, where we come from, how we got here and how everything come into being? We don’t just need to eat, sleep, work and aspire to better things. We’re more than automatons; we need answers – even if they never come.

Are we to somehow ignore the nagging thoughts we have, to bury them conveniently so we can just get on with our usually complicated lives? What are we to make of the questions that need answering? Who can really say? Haven’t wise men and great philosophers, great ancient thinkers and great holy men and women pondered all this long before today? And if they couldn’t come up with any credible answers, if they could make neither head nor tail of it all, why do we think we might be able to?

And how many realities are there? There is the Monday morning reality, there is the reality of the deadline, there is the inevitable reality of being let down by family and friends. There are perhaps as many realities as there are human beings. But, for me, there is the growing reality of God. We can’t ignore Him because He always has a way of making Himself known; through creation, to answered prayer or in the seemingly random twists and turns of fate. We never see His face, but somehow we know we’ve encountered Him, even if we can’t quite put a finger on how.

But does any of it actually mean anything, after all? Where we are going and what we want to do with our lives; will it make any difference? If we’re descended from apes, as some scientists and evolutionists claim, then it really doesn’t mean or amount to anything does it? 

If we are, however, specifically created by a loving God, a creator who has only ever wanted the best for us, where does that leave us? Don’t we have a duty to find out what He wants from us? Whatever you believe, it is obvious that human beings stand apart from the rest of creation. We are special, we are different, we are restless and creative, never satisfied and wanting to push boundaries; it’s the human condition.

For me, becoming a Christian wasn’t the end of my journey, it was in fact the beginning of my journey; the beginning of finding out who I am, what I am about, where I come from and where I am going. It is a journey that involves an intimate relationship with my creator and one that starts anew each day. I still don’t fully know what God has in store for me, but I am eager to find out. It is more than religion, more than fulfilling a set of rituals, far more than being religious (whatever that means). It is a walk with God, a 24/7, day-to-day reality that shapes my life and defines who I am and what I do.

So again, what does it all mean? You know, I don’t have the answer to that question; not fully anyway. But I see light at the end of the tunnel, not darkness but light. If we want to know the answers to the big questions, then who better to ask than He who created us? I still have so many questions, but don’t we all? Question after question assails me, but I know one day I will have all the answers I seek. 

Find out more about life's big questions in the next issue of Sorted magazine.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Pornography: the elephant in the pew

The internet has made access to porn much simpler: 25% of all search engine queries are related to pornography (that’s 68 million queries a day) and 12% of the websites (24.6 million) available online are pornographic. 

So what’s so wrong about it – I mean it’s not hurting anyone is it?

Well Shaun Parker disagrees. He works with XXX Church, a Christian organisation that aims to help those who struggle with pornography. I asked him why people might be struggling with it and what they can do if they are.

Why is pornography a problem?
Whenever I speak to people who consume pornography and don’t have a problem with it, their biggest excuse is that it’s not hurting anyone.

XXX Church goes to the [pornography] trade shows, and last year I was in Miami at one of the shows. All these porn stars were on the stage and they were having to paint this picture of ‘it’s an amazing industry, we have complete control, we can do whatever we want’. And then as the girls were coming off the stage, you could literally see them crying, because they knew that there would be women that, from hearing those words they were saying, would be interested in joining the industry.

So my first thing would be that if they are consuming porn and they think it’s not hurting anyone, it is hurting people. I receive emails every single day from people who have lost their family, their work, their lives really, as a result of their addiction and consuming pornography. Statistics show that so many people are hooked on it, and so many people have had their lives ruined because of their addiction to it.

What makes it so attractive?
Everywhere you look, sex sells. I think part of it is that advertising has helped sell that really over the years, and from the people I’ve spoken to, it really creates a false reality. We’ve been desensitised to it. We have this idea that sex is like how we see it in the magazines, and then people go to their partners and say “why aren’t you doing this?”

What impact can it have on a relationship?
When I hear about a lot of relationships broken up as a result of pornography, that tends to be the number one reason. It creates a false reality and the man (or the woman) is expecting something that they’re not receiving.

Scientists have proven that porn addiction is like a drug. The chemical you get from consuming pornography is the same as you get from cocaine, I believe.

There is an element of cheating, because obviously they’re being relieved in a way that isn’t from their partner. We get emails from people on the website saying they have a huge problem with guilt, especially when they’re married.

What can be done about it?
Even before I was with XXX Church I was a big believer in accountability software. Not just because it protects me, but also for in the future when I have kids we have a system where you can actually receive messages the instant that someone accesses a website they shouldn’t access.

Are churches in denial about porn?
In America, and I’m sure the statistics are very similar to the UK, half of the male population of the Church would be consuming or addicted to pornography. And then you’ve got women – a third of the women are visiting these websites on a regular basis. It’s one of those things that keeps coming up, but we don’t really want to talk about the elephant in the pew. I think as a church and as a society, we really need to be talking about this issue.

Is it possible for people to be ‘delivered’ of this addiction?
You can definitely be free. We have people working on the XXX Church team that have been free for 10-15 years. You can be free of any addiction, but you have to be aware that that’s always going to be there.

You hear stories of people who are completely delivered; they’ve had one of those moments with God where He just comes and their desire for alcohol or desire for whatever is no more. So I totally believe that can happen, but a lot of people that use our software are recovered addicts that just want to make sure that everything’s covered; that if I have a bad moment, someone will be on my case and can help me out.

I think accountability, in general, is the key for living life.

Read more about Shaun’s work with XXX Church in Sorted September-October.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

What happens when a ‘houseperson’ gets sick?

Guest blog from Michael Clark

I say ‘houseperson’ with reason, because everyone knows women are so much better than men at being sick and managing to work.

My poor mum seemed to manage two jobs (one-parent families in the sixties didn't live the high life on benefits) as well as satisfying her houseproudness, which knew no bounds.

We all know that if men feel rubbish in the morning they just phone up work and say, "I’m sick". Of course, this often involves putting on a very husky voice, mumbling a lot and dropping hints about hideous bodily fluids – just so the boss knows this is the real deal and not just a common case of man flu).

Women have always been able to get themselves to work, and – if they lack the useful househusband appendage – come home cook for the kids, help with homework and so on and so forth.

So really, when I ask what happens when a houseperson is sick, I do mean househusband, because (irritatingly) the housewife just says, "So what?"

This question came to mind today by a lack of chipperness in Bozo when Mrs Bozo's alarm went off. Last night was a late one; Mrs B had spent it at a gala dinner hobnobbing with the great and the good (including the heir to the throne).

My own evening was less jolly, thanks to Spain and Portugal whose promised festival of football turned into a yawn fest. Alan Hansen commented: "Let's give extra time a miss and go straight to penalties – they will at least be exciting...". How right he was!

Anyway, having watched it home alone, I can say with total honesty that there was nothing self-induced about my dawn migraine! Poor Mrs Bozo departed sans tea, and I stayed under the covers with a throbbing head, paracetamol supply and a blackout eye mask. Until, at 10.34, a small voice suggested some tea might help nudge the headache off the radar.

Now it’s 1334, and in three hours I have managed to drink three cups of tea, two large espressos and write a blog and a half. Not bad going!


The kitchen looks like it was cleaned by Al Qaeda. The shopping needs doing, especially as I am cooking for our home group tonight and currently all they have to look forward to is a packet of spaghetti.

So this brings me back to the question... what does the godly househusband do when he is sick?

I suppose it is a big disappointment to read this far and see no magic button to press. But all I can recommend is this...
  • Take it slow
  • Ease into it
  • Don't be shy of painkillers!
  • Commit to achieving key things. After all, if this was a paid job and you were a driven employee, you know if you had a crucial deadline you’d make sure you met it...
  • Well, this is a crucial deadline – not all of it maybe – but some parts of it... So commit to those parts
  • Oh, and last but by no means least, pray, pray, pray because (as in any trial) it is not your strength but HIS that will carry you through.

Read about a full range of men's issues in Sorted magazine.