Monday, March 31, 2008

Are you still learning?



On Friday I saw my friends Duncan and Sonja. In the course of the evening Duncan shared an extraordinary thing about his grandfather. At the age of 98 he has taken up the piano. How incredible is that.

6 Reasons why Pastors should blog

Here is some excellent advice on why pastors should blog from Abraham Piper.

The Worship Industry



Brian Maclaren is someone I have enjoyed being challenged by and he has made me think. Here are his thoughts on Worship sent to me by Jane who I was at college with and is one of my 19 new friends on facebook.....

Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Giggles



Last night, despite being determined to get my essay done I was worn down by my friends Si and Clare to come for supper and in the end gave up. We ate together (v. good spag bol) and caught up and then they had planned to watch a DVD. We all then realized that the clocks were going forward hence the DVD was out and so for some reason Si went and dug out his much worn copy of Adrian Plass He started to read out chucks of it to us. I cannot tell you how much we laughed. I laughed and laughed and laughed until it hurt so badly I had to beg him to stop reading.

This book alone is reason enough to 1) become a born-again Christian 2) become a Charismatic. You see to not be both of these is to miss out on one of the great joy-giving gifts to humanity-namely Adrian Plass. If there were a Pulitzer Prize for Christian books this would have to win. I shouldn't wonder if when I go to glory I may not find the Lord himself thumbing through his copy smiling with bemusement over what we have made of the Christian life.

Become a Christian and join the local church, just so can enjoy this book. Everything else will follow.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Giggles

You know those moments when you just can't help laughing. Here is Charlotte Green on Radio 4. Give yourself a treat and listen HERE. Hearing this reminded me of the greatest giggle moment of all time which is Brian Johnson on Test match special. This was one of Jimmy Tarbucks Desert Island discs and is in my view an inspired choice. Listen to it HERE.. Can't find ..'.the batsman's Holding the bowler's Willey..'.which is actually the greatest moment but this will surely do.

Anyone know where I can find it?

Laughter is so good for the soul.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Facebook

I have joined up to facebook.

Now, I have in the past been very rude about facebook and at the time I think with good reason. I called it 'social pornography' among other things as I remember. Firstly, I was in a state of anger (never wise to offload opinions when angry) because someone signed me up without my knowledge and caught me on a bad day (not their fault at all) and I had, and still have, strong views on what I think real friendship is. But I also realize that sometimes you are able and allowed to change your mind. I am after all in the 'changing your mind' business.

This is one of those times, prompted in part due to some thinking, listening and reading I've been doing about blogs, technology, social networks, getting the message out and church. At a clergy training day recently, one of our number told us that his Vicar has no mobile, no email, no internet connection and will only answer the landline when he is not with someone else. He clearly has an extreme discipline and view on communication!

So, perhaps wary of my own propensity to become such a being, I have decided to join up and see.

Am I forgiven?

Prodigals, Deacon's and Facebook

Tim Keller's new book called the Prodigal God is listed on Amazon for pre-order. Out in October. Found this post on what it means to be a 'Deacon' which was insightful. Also, listened to an interesting sermon about Facebook, Teens and New Technology which is called Push-Back Part 5 and I think it would be good for anybody trying to understand all this stuff in a biblical context.

Habits-The seven habits of a semi-effective preacher

I found Explosive Preaching to be a hugely helpful book and plan to spend the next month re-reading it, applying it and really squeezing the juice out. This is an Alexander Whyte "Sell your shirt and buy this book" and my thanks to my pal Simon Ponsonby for putting me on to this. For those who may never read it, here are Boyd-MacMillan's own habits that have helped him over the years.

1. Voyage around your lectern with the giants

I love this one. He says get yourself a lectern and literally perform aloud the sermons of a great preacher. He recommends 20 Centuries of Great Preaching as source material.

2. Develop a daily liturgy

His includes an opening prayer, St Anslem's prayer, The McCheyne Reading Plan, some poetry, art, hymns etc

3. Keep a tiny verse book

He learnt this from a Chinese Christian. You need to read the story!

4. Find suffering people to teach the faith to you

5. Read a great book each week

6. Use phylacteries for praising

A phylactery is a small leather box containing Hebrew texts. He suggests finding find something physical to help you praise- stones, finger beads etc

7. Build yourself a cell

Again he learnt this from a persecuted Chinese Christian called Wing Ming Dao. Being locked up for 20 years drew him to the Lord and his advise is...'Simplify your life, so that you have time to know God

The last chapter of the book is an account of how the persecuted church do discipleship called the Chinese are coming which is worth the price of the book in itself.

If you are a preacher BUY THIS BOOK

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Shaping Church



I have enjoyed reading this post from Joe Thorn and was struck that it was similar, in part, to Life-shapes, (great You tube to watch ) as developed by Mike Breem at St Thomas Crooks and now in his book (Christian product-tastic I notice) to be found here at 'The Passionate Church'. It seems that since Mike left England he has had a marketing make-over and gone all mega-church dot.com which must be a first for an Anglican clergyman. When we did life shapes at St Barnabas it was all plastic ring-binder files and paper. There you go. Maybe great things really do start on a napkin after all! Check out the napkin test.

Tapping-toes on Thursday

Here are a few selections. One of the first albums I bought was an EP by Billy Bragg who was one of the musical architects of socialist rebellion in the 80's. Remember socialism....Anyway, here he is at the NME awards playing his best known anthem New England with Kate Nash ( to warn you it does have an expletive in the song). His new album is called Mr Love and Justice



Because I bigged up a Danish band Tina Dico, I thought Sweden might feel a bit left out. This band are called Raymond and Maria and I have no idea what they are singing about but I love it.






And check out REM in the Radio 1 Live Lounge. You've got to love the acoustic bass. And to finish.....KT Tunstall in the Live Lounge.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Explosive preaching


The best book I have read for my massive essay is this one. If you want one book that unpacks the history of preaching and offers some excellent tips on finding improvement then read Explosive Preaching.

It has always struck me that in my whole selection experience for the Church of England no one ever asked me if I could preach. This is surely quite an important question. They wanted to know if I was the right sort of person to give out communion but seemed disinterested in whether I was the right sort of person to stand in the pulpit. They require a slightly different skill set do they not or have I missed something? As P T Forsyth once said, the history of preaching is the battle between the altar and the pulpit. This might explain why my lifetimes experience of sitting on an Anglican pew so often left my heart unmoved by God's word by the person supposedly tasked with doing just that.

The other extreme is to suggest that Expository Preaching is the one and only form a sermon must take. This was the way I was taught at Oxford and seemed to me rather narrow and dismissive of other forms, Now, of course, if by expository preaching we mean preaching from a text then I agree with John Stott that all preaching must be expository. However, I rather like this quote I found from Fosdick which made me smile.

“Only the preacher proceeds still upon the idea that folks come to church desperately anxious to discover what happened to the Jebusites” ....he continues ....."If people do not come to church anxious about what happened to the Jebusites, neither do they come yearning to hear a lecturer express his personal opinion on themes which editors, columnists and radio commentators have been dealing with throughout the week"

For Fosdick the trick was to start with the NEED.

There are lots more where this came from so do get hold of this if you can.

Church Websites, Sin and the Danes

Here are a few links that might be interesting. A pal of mine Will has just relaunched his church website at St Andrew's Oxford and it looks pretty cool . He got the idea for it from Al, who we were at college with, and who has planted a church in the US called City Church Charlotte. If you think you have a good church website check out this which lists the 80 Best Church Websites. There is nothing like a bit of mega-church to astound you on cold Wednesday in March.

There is an interesting article entitled 'Has the notion of sin been lost?' in USAToday and The Reason for God gets a quote

Music wise, I happened upon this splendid woman called Tina Dico who is a Danish singer songwriter and who is really very good. Her album is called In the Red and is getting rave reviews. Now, come on, name me any other Danish singer.

I thought so.....



Here too is a great duet between Ray Lamontagne and Damien Rice worthy of a listen again.

The Ten Commandments

I am doing a project for my Curacy training (which will apparently get me another degree). My chosen title is 'What are you doing when you preach?' which seems a good question to ask. In my reading today I came across this quote which I liked and hence share.

‘In her beautiful novel about Maine, The Country of the Pointed Firs, Sara Orne Jewett describes the ascent of a woman writer on the pathway leading to the home of a retired sea captain named Elijah Tilley. On the way, the woman notes a number of wooden stakes scattered about the property in random fashion, with no discernable order. Each is painted white and trimmed in yellow, like the captain’s house. Curious, she asks Captain Tilley what they mean. When he first plowed the ground, he says, his plow snagged on many large rocks just beneath the surface. So he set out the stakes where the rocks lay in order to avoid them in the future. In a sense, this is what God has done with the Ten Commandments. He has set out the stakes where the rocks are. He has said, “These are the trouble spots in life. Avoid these, and you won’t snag your plow’

from John Killinger's ‘To my people with love’

Monday, March 24, 2008

Comments

Someone complained they were not able to make comments on my blog. I have found the button that allows you (although I know the 'you' actually means a readership numbering almost as many as the fingers of one hand) to have your say. But, as Mrs Merton used to oft say on her chat show.....'Let's have a heated debate....' Well, at very least, let the silence in light of my poor music choice, dull books, random You Tube selections and admiration for Tim Keller be broken.

Schism

The church is in the midst of a huge theological debate that is one about how you view scripture, how you view culture (western/developed vs developing seems to be the divide as it plays out) and what you view as orthodoxy. It may very well rip my dear Anglican church apart. As the J I Packer decision unfolds itself in Canada, this is one issue that will definitely not go away.

To the vast majority of the non-church going population this is an irrelevant issue and confirms their worst fears about religion and its perceived prejudice and bigotry. On the other hand, some do believe this is a good, challenging and proper debate about what it means to follow Jesus and how this works itself out in lifestyle decisions and choices- whatever the prevailing culture may or may not think about them. I am, on this one, orthodox in my views, but that does not mean I am unengaged with nor unsympathetic to those who hold very different views from my own. Of course, this is complex (were it not, we would not be having such a cerfuffal about it) but for those who wonder what on earth all the fuss is about here is the BBC to shed some light on things.

You don't have to be a church leader to care about this because, in time, what we decide as a church will have potentially enormous consequences. In the meantime we must hold on to our hats and watch this space.....

Easter thoughts and links

I enjoyed this Easter thought which cautioned against Easter as a recruitment event. I think we got Easter about right (I am sure someone will tell me if we didn't) and it was a wonderful church family time.

Here are the Christianity Today book awards and I am pleased to say that Eugene won for The Jesus Way. A friend said my song selections were poor but I have been enjoying 'Giving it all' by Michael Gungor and love the line"..with just one word I am free....".

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Somewhere over the rainbow.....

Happy Easter to all. He is risen indeed.

An English Pope?



I read an interesting piece in the Spectator profiling the man some are speculating may the head of the Catholic Church in the UK. He seems to be a thoughtful man and I greatly enjoyed reading about Huw Gilbert. Here are a couple of my favorite bits and I especially liked his wonderful postcript email.

‘We need to go back to the patrician period, the period of the fathers of the Church, to see how they dealt with the culture. Our culture is in many ways antipathetic if you like to the work of the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit is still the Holy Spirit and can still, well, raise up children to Abraham out of the stones.’

Dear Mary,

You may well have decided that I was not worth ‘profiling’, which I would quite understand. If not, am I allowed a little follow-up?

I like the idea that beauty and holiness are the apologia for Christianity. The beauty of Christianity needs to shine out more; this is where the celebration of the liturgy becomes central. And the goodness of Christianity, i.e. the holiness of self-giving love (the witness of charity) and of prayer, needs to be sustained and developed. And this too, certainly: that the one thing Christianity has to offer is Easter. Simply: Christ is risen!

Sincerely,

Fr Hugh



In the same issue, Philip Pullman is quoted as saying ‘“Thou shalt not” might reach the head, but it takes “Once upon a time” to reach the heart.’ which I liked. It seems that so often the atheist crowd (Hichens, Dawkins et al) see the Christian gospel and religion as the same thing which of course they are not. Grace is a difficult thing to grasp for all of us but Pullman the atheist has happened upon a profound thought that the biblical story is indeed one that starts 'Once upon a time' and then tells it not as fable but as truth.

I have also enjoyed watching White Gospel which is the story of Southern Gospel music through the years. It is worth watching just for the bit on Sacred Heart singing in four parts. Spell binding stuff.

Some are often moaning about the erosion of our Christian culture. I am actually quite encouraged this Easter. The Sport Relief song by Leona Lewis is Footprints which is great and also the Passion on the BBC and the Daily Telegraph gave out a free NIV gospel. That's enough good news to be getting on with.

Friday, March 21, 2008

A few links

Here are a few links. I have enjoyed writing a journal for years and love to use a Moleskine and here is one guy's analysis of how to do this effectively. I have come across this book for anyone landing in this holiday season stressed and thinking that things should be different. It's called the Four Hour Work Week. My film recommendation is Once which some friends watched this other night and said was fantastic. I was sitting in my local coffee shop which always has Magic Fm (always a worry when Magic FM plays the familiar...) playing constantly and they played this song by Kelly Clarkson which has been ringing in my head ever since. She has a belting voice.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

10 days to war


I have been watching the short 10 minute dramas the BBC have produced reminding us we have been at war for five years. The one I particularly enjoyed was one on Tim Collins called 'Our business is North'. It contains one of the most famous speeches of recent times which you can read in full here or watch the programme.

Keller @ Google

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Paul Potts



I confess that Britain's Got Talent passed me by hence I missed a whole chunk of popular culture. This man is a legend. Apparently, he used to work in the Carphone Warehouse in Cardiff. I just love the judges faces which are, initially, so judgmental and dismissive- but oh how that changes. You see the tears start in the faces of the crowd and you know a talent is born. Enjoy. By the way, by all accounts he won the whole thing. Good on him.

Tuesday toe-tapping

Here are one or two things I have been enjoying. Glory by Essie Jane, The Ballad of the Old Town Cryer, Stella and my favorite from a Swedish band from Gottenburg called Subtle Changes.

Indescribable



My friend Julie sent me an email enthusing about Indescribable by Louie Giglio and said that she thought it was so good she has bought me a copy. I am looking forward to seeing it. I have been listening to the radio quite a bit and while driving this morning enjoyed 1968 Myth or reality. Now, whilst of course I was not involved in these protests, (being so very young!) they clearly set the tone for much that played out in later times. Or did they? What impressed me was at least in 1968 people got passionate about something, rather than today's prevalent apathy to most things. Or is it that I am missing something? What do people stand outside student unions and protest about? I hope it is the Aids pandemenic, global poverty, the enviroment and obviously the fact that I can't use my Oyster card on the tube and the overland railway. Now there's one for Boris, Ken and friends....

Monday, March 17, 2008

J I Packer on a right Anglican pickle in Canada

If you want a taster on what's possibly coming with Lambeth- check out J I Packer's news. One of the great theologians of his generation has made a decision on where he stands.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Perfection

Having my day off on a Tuesday this week because I am off to listen to Jackie Pullinger on Friday. Tuesday is a rubbish day for a day off particularly due to my lack of planning and because normal people are at work- but such is my lot this week. Think I might see a film that has been highly recommended called We are Together and pop to a gallery.

Recently, I read a book by Andy Stanley which a couple of friends had been bigging up called Communicating for a Change about sermons and given that he felt confident enough to tell others about how to do it I thought I would watch (not listen, this is mega-church!) one of his talks to North Point Church. I have to admit he is a gifted chap but all seemed far to professional for my liking. Real community is surely better smaller, more messy, and allows you to know by people by name rather than pick them out by shirt colour from an auditorium I listened to 'How to get Great-Part 2 of which the take out from the Good Samaritan was 'How can I help?'. It blessed my though but you be the judge.

Found a Keller talk worth listening to from his book tour and also a good documentary on The Four Seasons on Radio 2. Also, watched an amusing documentary on BBC iplayer called Dawn gets her Man on one women's search for perfection. Doesn't exist apparently which is something of a relief.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Toe-tapping Thursday

It has been a good week. Yesterday, I went to Christchurch Fulham where a number of Pastor's meet every couple of months to encourage one another and pray. It was fun to see a few old friends. Stuart spoke on wisdom and revelation and how we discern the difference. The places for the May conference and filling up so for anyone interested now is the time to get ourself booked in. Keller has been speaking to the employees at Google which seems to have gone down well.

Here is some new music that I have been listening to and enjoying. A New York singer songwriter called Jay May who sings the wonderfully catchy Gray or Blue and a lass called Nitasha Jackson. A couple of others are a band called Okkernil River and Black Kids whose song 'I'm gonna teach my boy' has a guitar rift that reminds me of the Cure.

Had fun in my friend Sonja's school speaking to them on their 'Vocations Week' about what it means to be a Vicar. I told them my story and then did half an hours Q&A on anything they wanted to ask me. Spoke to six classes and just loved it.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Trouble with Christianity

Here is the excellent series of talks called 'The Trouble with Christianity' that have been released with the Reason for God publication by Tim Keller.

What should Anglican's do?

Found this bit of advice and observation on what Anglican's should do in light of our current crisis.

Eugene Peterson in Conversation


I have blogged about Eugene Peterson more than any other person. My time at theological college was in interesting one and much more by luck than judgment I was most impacted by someone who wasn't actually one on my Professors. This happened by curiosity prompting me to check out a set of tapes from my college library. (remember tapes!). Fortunately, my car is so low budget it still has a tape machine and everywhere I drove for two years I listened to the teaching of Peterson. He has become like a familiar friend and is I think one of the wisest buzzards around.

Here he is in conversation. Watch it just for the story about Bono ( thanks to Steve Mckoy for putting me on to this). But watch it because this man is a gift from God and has been an enormous blessing to me.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Going a bit Dada


A few weeks ago I read an article about a new exhibition at the Tate Modern of Dada art. The Dada crowd had the idea that they could make anything art and so they took the most bizarre things (a urinal for example!) and wrote their name in it and called it art. The exhibition is called Duchand, ManRay and Picabia and is thought-provoking if nothing else. I confess I am one for the headphone guide even though you look a bit of a dork you do leave the gallery rather better informed.

My spirituality tutor at college said that one of the places he goes to feel closest to God is the Mark Rothko room in the Tate Modern. So, as I was there, I decided I would find the room and have a sit and see. I must admit it was rather good for the soul-do give it are try