Showing posts from October, 2009

New? Life Transforming? Bible-Reading?

Among the huge pile of sludge fiction I took with me on holiday this year, were 2 or 3 books I wouldn't be embarrassed being seen to be reading by anyone who actually knows me. One was this offering by Richard Foster, chosen by our church book group as their summer reading.

However, whilst I am not one to judge a book by its cover, two things annoyed me with this book before I opened it. First was the fact that the author's name is printed bigger than the title. This, to me, speaks of the alarming trend in Christian literature, as in the rest of contemporary literary culture, to treat respected authors as brand names to be exploited to the full, resulting in some very poor books being released under such brands. This feeling was further enhanced when I noticed that this particular book was written 'with' Kathryn A. Helmers, although to notice this you had to look very carefully as her name is less than a 12th the size of Foster's and in a much lighter type, indicati…

Toleration of the Intolerant

Managed to turn up for my live radio slot on Downtown yesterday morning without my pre-prepared "Review of the Week"... Ooops... so I had to quickly write it from memory... and given that this was at 7am, even with an extra hour in bed it was a miracle that I wrote anything vaguely coherent...

Here is an amalgam of the pre-prepared script and my improvised one...

Should we show tolerance to the intolerant? Should we afford the full rights of a democratic society to a party, which, if they gained power even for a nanosecond, would completely overturn that democracy, in the same way that the Nazi Party did in Germany in the 1930s? Were the BBC influenced by their respect for the 1,000,000 people who voted for the BNP in the recent European elections, or by the thought of the extra 4,000,000 viewers they were likely to get for Question Time by stirring up a media storm around it? And did Nick Griffin's subsequent appearance reveal him to be the "squalid racist" and…

The Wise and Not So Wise Builders

A sketch for children requiring 2 readers, 2 builders, 4 children acting as “walls” for the wise builders house, all the same size with small umbrellas, 4 “walls” for the not so wise builders house, of various sizes with napkins, 2-4 children acting as “rainclouds” armed with water pistols.
Reader 1: There was once a wise builder…
Builder 1: Good morning!
Reader 2: And a not so wise builder
Builder 2: Bout ye!
Reader 1: And one day
Reader 2: Both of them decided to build a house
Reader 1: The wise builder studied the plans
Reader 2: Tested the ground carefully
Reader 1: And dug the foundations deep down on to solid rock
Reader 2: He built slowly and carefully with the best of materials
Reader 1: Because he wanted his house to last
Reader 2: Meanwhile the not so wise builder
Reader 1: Got started as quickly as he could
Reader 2: He built his house on a nice level piece of sandy ground
Reader 1: And he used anything he could get his hands on
Reader 2: So he could get finished as soon as possible
Reader …

A Brief overview of the Bible

Actually posted this almost a year ago, and was planning on using it this Sunday... however, can't seem to find a way of downloading it... Any ideas?


Psalm for Bible Sunday

The Bible Society has ordained that this Sunday is "Bible Sunday". Don't know what was wrong with the old tradition of having it on the second Sunday of Advent, apart from the fact that with everything else in Advent it gets swamped by the approaching behemoth that is the modern Christmas. But anyway, for those celebrating it this weekend, over the next couple of days I'll be posting various resources we are using this weekend... Here's a responsive psalm to start with:

The law of the Lord is perfect, strengthening the soul.
The promises of the Lord are trustworthy, offering insight to all.
The signposts of the Lord are straightforward, bringing joy to life.
The commands of the Lord are clear, giving light to walk by.
The fear of the Lord is right and good, enduring for ever.
The decisions of the Lord are sure and altogether unquestionable.
His word is more precious than gold,
than a bank vault full of gold;
His word is sweeter than strawberries in summer,
Tastier than rip…

Real Talent

I wonder what Simon Cowell would make of this? Being a little under the weather over the weekend I ended up watching the nonsense that is "The X Factor" and remembered again why I loathe these programmes... What passes for talent in Britain's pop culture these days is so mass-manufactured and over-produced that it has no real depth or authentic poignancy. That is occasionally subverted in the auditions and more frequently in "Britain's Got Talent" but in both, the genuinely talented is more than swamped by those who are simply wanting to ape other artificially produced celebrities and those who are more to be pitied than scolded. The following entry from "Ukraine's Got Talent" would never make it within a million miles of its British equivalent because of form, subject matter and, most importantly, its length ("Sorry dear, it has to be less than 3 minutes...")... It's long even by the standards of most of the things I post here…

That's Entertainment...

As promised I am returning to the "Top 10" format again... this time my favourite cinema musicals... I know that making such a list immediately casts my masculinity into doubt, but who cares. As with my previous list there's a house rule... no animations, or partial animations (I feel another list coming on), which excludes Mary Poppins (which might have been excluded on the grounds of Dick van Dyke's accent anyway)... But that said here's my choice for what it is worth:
1) Singing in the Rain: It's funny, the dance routines are amazing, the songs are memorable, and it takes a huge rise out of the movie industry. What's not to like?2) High Society: Take a great film like the Philadelphia Story, add some great songs and a wonderful cast, and you got jazz!3) West Side Story: The only version of Romeo and Juliet I like (despite being a huge Shakespeare fan)... A superb score and book, great dancing and a grittiness that was unseen in musicals up to that point…

Top Ten Funnies

The Radio Times and the BBC, in an exercise in cheap TV have resorted to that old perennial of "Top 10..." in this case the Top 10 Comedy films of all time. First they compiled their top 100 then asked readers/viewers to vote for their favourites... The results can be found here... But it got me thinking about my top 10, and why. In order to thin them out I imposed a few rules over and above those imposed by the Radio Times list
a) No Musicals... even though many of them may be funnier than the others on the list (eg. High Society or Singing in the Rain)... I might do a top 10 musicals when I'm bored some time.
b) No Animated Features... as above.
c) As few as possible by any one writer/director, leading to the impossible choice between Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles and The Producers, or Life of Brian and Holy Grail.
d) Nothing with Ben Stiller in it or Judd Apatow directing... like any of them were going to feature anyway!
By the way, if you are expecting any percepti…

Dishonourable Members

Over the past year MPs and public representatives in general have taken a bit of a hammering for their acquisitiveness, racking up huge and unjustifiable expenses claims while so many people are feeling the pressures of the credit crunch. And the attempts of some MPs to resist the findings of Sir Thomas Legge's enquiry will not endear them to the public at large, particularly after a few weeks of party conferences where they have cheered to the rafters various proposals to put the squeeze on public sector workers and those claiming benefits...
But whatever claims for moat-cleaning or multiple-homes have occurred, most of them pale into insignificance when compared with the selfishness of John Ward MP who, many, many years ago, owned a large part of Dagenham. When he died, among his papers there was said to be found the following prayer which he had written.

“0 Lord, Thou knowest I have mine estates in the City of London, and likewise that I have lately purchased an estate in fee-si…


Today we're having our harvest services, as many churches are, but like many urban churches it is often a little surreal, as our church sanctuary becomes transformed, for one day only, into a giant greengrocer's shop. That isn't happening in our own church this year as we have asked members of our congregation to either support the Belfast Vineyard Church's "Storehouse" programme by bringing along unperishable foodstuffs, or to support our "Nets for Nets" Fundraiser with financial donations, to help purchase mosquito nets for Zambia. This has caused a little disquiet among some of our older members, particularly those with a farming connection, as it won't quit seem like a proper harvest service for them...

But if harvest services were to truly reflect the nature of farming in Northern Ireland these days, the piles of fruit and veg at the front would be largely supplanted by large plastic wrapped bales of silaged grass!

Increasingly though, those …

Peace in our Time?

Over the past 4 weeks, each Tuesday morning a significant proportion of Northern Ireland has had the unfortunate experience of waking up to my dulcet tones (with the notable exception of our own house where, mysteriously one Tuesday the clock radio reset itself to Radio 4 and I awoke to the much more appealling and perceptive words of Joel Edwards). Over those weeks I've been pondering on various anniversaries (I think it's a function of my time of life)... my own 20th wedding anniversary, the 40th anniversary of our local church, the 30th anniversary of Pope JP2's visit to Ireland, and finally, last Tuesday, the 30th anniversary of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Dalai Lama...
But that was before the bombshell of this year's Peace Prize announcement. Now many already know that I lean towards Obama politically, but I'm not convinced... Many suggest that he is effectively recieving it as a reward for not being George W. Bush... others suggest that is simpl…

Think on Such Things...

Last night something happened to me that, thankfully, rarely does... After a couple of hours of fitful sleep I woke up around 3 am and could not get back to sleep. As a rule I don't get a lot of sleep, but that is usually due to working into the wee small hours and then the rest of the world expecting me to function within the usual hours of 9-5. But normally when my head hits the pillow I sleep the sleep of, if not the just, then the sleep of the just exhausted... I don't know what caused last night's anomally... whether it is a side effect of the flu jab I had a few days ago, another bug at work on me, or some sub-conscious anxiety (although the last is very unlikely as most of my anxieties are very conscious...) But no matter what I did I couldn't get back to sleep for ages... the time dragged and my mind was filled with all the things that I really didn't want to think about in the middle of the night... various pieces of work I've got to do... pastoral iss…

Jesus, Robbie Williams and Gok Wan

A couple of days ago, Terry Wogan, in the midst of his early morning witterings, played Robbie William's latest ditty, "Bodies", asking after it had finished "has Robbie got religion?" A few moments before, Owain, my teenage son, had asked a another question: "What on earth is he on about?" I'm not sure about the answer to either question... Even less so after looking at the lyrics below for longer than I should have...

The words are all there: God, Jesus, died for me, save me, perfection, rapture... Assembled in a different order they would be perfectly at home in a revivalist tent-meeting... (Although the reference to a Bodhi Tree clearly owes more to Eastern religion/new-age pick and mix spirituality)

But what's all this stuff about looking good naked? That certainly owes more to Gok Wan than the gospel, although it may be an easy summation of what the gospel is up against in modern western culture. If the big questions that others are asking…