Sunday, August 27, 2006

On Pluto

Thanks to Karen for this observation on the demotion of the ninth planet of our solar system to the status "dwarf planet":

And the winner is...
Gustav Holst. His suite The Planets is no longer out of date, astronomically speaking. Instead it turns out to be ahead of its time.

Though I might add I feel a pang of regret that there are now no major planets named after Disney cartoon characters.

And have all the plutocrats suddenly become wealthy dwarves?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Passion For Your Name

I have just had two well spent days at the Passion For Your Name conference. 1200 people with hearts to worship Jesus and to learn more of how to do and live the same.

Highlights were: an hour of worship led by Mark Beswick, in a black Pentecostal style; getting to sing some of Tim Hughes' new songs; a challenge by J John to evangelise; time with friends; being prayed for; and much more besides.

In particular, as I was prayed for one evening, I felt the Lord speak to me about courage. Sometimes, I know something I want us to do as a church, but as I try to lead some new creative thing, I see a couple of scowling faces and I shrivel inside and end up doing a cautious, passionless version of the thing I intended. My courage vanishes and I am (literally) dis-couraged. I have never seen "discourage" as a "courage" word before. But surely it is: for being discouraged normally means I lose my ability to be creative as fear wraps itself around me, and being "en-couraged" again re-equips me to serve well as I have my courage renewed.

Does that make sense? I was left thinking - O Lord, give me courage! Let me not be dis-couraged and prevented from acting in faith; let me be en-couraged and enabled to be creative and fearless and a worshipper who would walk your paths after you, whatever else may be going on around. Let the scowls not win! Let the courage you give me bless the whole church here. And may we be a church that can, a place of en-couragement for all who come here, a place that builds up every member.

Let's see how that gets answered.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Rooney and Ronnie Show


Day two of the new Premiership season (that's soccer for my faithful US readers!), and United thrash Fulham 5 -1. Enough to bring a smile to the weariest face. And I publicly eat my words after the World Cup, when I was decidedly amongst those who wanted Ronaldo out of Old Trafford. Today was the Rooney and Ronnie Show, and (though I confess to finding it hard to actually like Ronaldo) the Portuguese lad's play alongside Rooney was great to see.

Football is often said to be a modern equivalent of tribal warfare; if so, the World Cup always affects who belongs to which tribe. But now that Nationalism has been put away, and again we are free to enjoy the clearer allegiances of commercial materialism - sorry - Club, Rooney and Ronnie's summer spat is history. It's a heart-warming tale of forgiveness, a lot of money, and a manager that both players are scared of.

Plus, for a while all United fans are free to dream again of glory days: enough of this sunshine nonsense, and roll on the winter, season of rain, mud, red cards and goals galore!

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Love's loss, time's wound, a powerful, powerless, aimless, aching wellspring. Grief is an outpouring of emotion, a scattering of words: enough emptiness to fill a world.

Four and a half years ago Charlie breathed and breathed no more, slept and slept no more, was and was no more.

You'd think I'd get over it; he was just a dog.

And I can't. I try, and I can't. Surely I can have no tears left; yet I cry on.

Grief claws into my soul: if I lie still, he goes deeper; if I struggle, deeper still. I hardly dare think of Charlie now because of this pain; so grief robs me twice of my friend, my companion, my shadow.

Love is... my dog.

Grief's a bitch.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Book thoughts

Reading a friend's blog I came across the follwing questions, which made me think a bit. I wonder what your answers would be - here's mine.

1. Name one book that changed your life.
Well, clearly I am going to go through the same issues as my friend in working out whether or not it's OK to choose something other than the Bible here! But given the Bible, two books come to mind for different reasons. As a young Christian, David Watson's autobiography "You are my God" was life changing. Reading it made me a charismatic before I knew what one was. It really transformed my understanding of God and of what it meant to be a Christian, and it propelled me into my adult faith. And the second book... forgive me, it's my own - Salvation's Song. Not because I think it's a great read, but because writing it changed me dramatically. The year it took re-shaped my ministry and life, and gave me for the first time a theology of the cross which really works for me.

2. Name one book you have read more than once.
So many to choose from! Some of the Bond novels, so many books of the Bible, or my favourite book of George Herbert poems: but perhaps the evocative and wonderful "The Dark is Rising" by Susan Cooper will do. I loved it as a thirteen year old, and I still love it. Dark, moody, wintry, exciting and mystical. A great children's novel, with plenty to satisfy adults too.

3. Name one book you'd want on a desert island.
And now I think I will plump for that collection of George Herbert poems. I'm presuming I have the Bible and Shakespeare anyway, as they are to be found on every desert island. And tempting as taking one novel would be, I think eventually it would grow tiresome. Herbert's poems always have new light, and require being read out aloud, which would be a good discipline in such an environment.

4. Name one book that made you laugh.
Anything by Jasper Fforde. I've just finished "The Fourth Bear", and he never fails to make me laugh. I shall try for ages to find a reason to use his "right to arm bears" line in a sermon.

5. Name one book that made you cry.
Where to start! Maragret Atwood and Amy Tan manage it with every novel. But I think I will choose "Firesong" by William Nicholson, the third in his "Wind on Fire" trilogy, because Chris Holmwood got him to sign a copy of the book for me with a reference to Charlie, my old Springer, who had recently died. Four years on, I can't pick that book up without a tear coming to my eye!

6. Name one book you wish you had written.
Anything by JK Rowling; the bank balance would be a lot healthier! Or anything by Tom Wright - just for the insights he has into Scripture. Or "The Unquenchable Worshipper" by Matt Redman, a tiny, thin book which has a weight of understanding and experience of worship and a commitment to Jesus to which I rarely come close.

7. Name one book you wish had never been written.
Ooh, tricky. Let's find my inner book-burner.
Two close run things and a winner.
First - and forgive me , this is really controversial: what if there had never been the Koran? Would the world be a better or a worse place? I can argue that both ways, so having thought the thought, I shall put it aside and move on.
Second, and also just failing to make it: Silence of the Lambs. Yes, it was a book first. And my sister made me read it - and on the printed page the words and ideas so messed with my imagination that I gave it up and threw it away!
Third, and the winner: the Da Vinci Code. Not because of any theological point, but because if it had never been written the whole world would not have had to sit through the second most tedious movie ever. (The most tedious movie ever being Pirates of the Caribbean, based on a ride rather than a novel.)

8. Name one book you are currently reading.
"Simply Christian" by Tom Wright. It's his basic Christianity book, and has a lot I like and some aspects I dislike. If you are looking for a good Tom Wright book to start with, his "the Challenge of Jesus" was for me far more satisfying. And any of his commentaries in the SPCK "Matthew for Everyone" series will do you good too. I've just finished "non-stop" by Brian Aldiss; good grown-up sci-fi, as well written and thought out as Aldiss always is.

9. Name one book you have been meaning to read.
I could put something pretentious down here, but by now it has become clear I read mainly novels, some of which are children's novels, and a few light theology books for good measure. I have been meaning to read Tom Wright's "Jesus and the Victory of God" for quite a while, but the size of the book makes it unlikely. And I have been sent a book on bereavement which I do mean to read - when I can pluck up the courage!

The post finished there, but I'm going to add a tenth point.

10. Name one book which you thought you loved - but which you hated when you re-read it.
"Cather in the Rye" is an easy answer for me. As an angst-ridden, zit-faced adolescent, I loved it. Really loved it. Thought it summed up the world and all its problems perfectly. Coming across it in an airport, I bought a new copy two or three years back, started to read it, and found myself wanting to throttle poor Holden Caulfield and to tell him, lovingly, to GROW UP! I disliked it (and him) so much I gave up half way through. Whereas, having hated HG Wells' "War of the Worlds" as a teenager, I picked that up at an airport last year and revelled in its sweet and melancholy prose. A beautiful small book that deserves far better even than Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg!