Sunday, August 31, 2008

Links

Lins has posted a couple of links related to the Garry Brotherston song I posted (below), but as you may have seen from the comments page the links were unmanageably long.

The links he was trying to post are as follows:

Garry's Album Reviewed: here

&

An article about Garry: here.

thanks Lins!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Temporary fix

A temporary solution to my PC woes has been found! Although my PC still won't talk to my camera (or in fact to any camera I have subsequently discovered), it has no problem opening the files from the camera's card, via a card reader. I have been lent (thanks, Mum!) a card reader to test this out, and need to now get one of my own. The thing that still mystifies me is my computer's random distaste for other pieces of hardware. Last year it took an permanent dislike to the CD/DVD drive, and now this camera issue. Our local balding Glaswegian computer genius
cleared the system up and made it run much faster, but even he was a little mystified by the camera issue declaring, "there's something strange going on in this computer". Strange indeed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Progress!


The builders are making big strides forward in the completion of our church premises - every week it changes. Having a look around the site yesterday we counted about 50 empty bottles of Irn Bru, that lethal cocktail of sugar, caffeine and girders; perhaps this is the power behind the progress.

One of our neighbours stopped me this week to tell me a few tales about Jimmy, an eccentric previous occupant of our house. He didn't know that we knew a thing or two about Jimmy despite the fact that he died more than fifteen years before we came to Perth. Our neighbour told us about the night in the early 1980s when the old building of Perth Baptist Church burned down, and how upset Jimmy was that day. I can't help wondering what he would have thought if he had lived long enough to see this new building - not exactly rising from the ashes of the old one - it's a mile or two away; but certainly serving the same purpose!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Noggin!

Eleven years before I was born, children's TV looked (and sounded) like this. Though it is dated, quaint and decidedly low on technology and special effects - and scenes change very slowly in comparison with today' shows - my kids have decided they that they love Noggin the Nog! Several years ago we were bought a box-set of old Noggin videos, and the whimsical Tolkein-for-under-5s nature of it, kept a wry smile on my face for many hours. I never imagined though that Boris, Norris and Doris would not treat this as anything like a musuem-piece unworthy of their attention. Although they live in a world where baddies are blown to a zillion pieces with high-intensity lasers, they seemed equally delighted when Noggin's evil uncle (Nogbad the Bad) was banished from the Land of Nog for ever - and went to stay with his Granny in Finland.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Photo


An astute reader has asked about the lack of photographs appearing on this blog. The answer is that my camera and my computer have had a falling out. What I hoped was a minor tiff, that could be cured with a little cooling off (ie re-starting windows) has proved in fact to be a major disagreement and the two pieces of hardware have not been on speaking terms for a few weeks.

If you are an I.T. genius perhaps you can help me! Let me assure you first of all that I have tried various cameras with various cables, I have checked that the USB ports work with other things like iPod/printer, the drivers are installed correctly, and the camera can detect the presence of the PC and go into 'USB' mode ready to export pictures - but the PC still cannot detect their presence. Can you tell me how to PC to speak to my camera again?

Monday, August 18, 2008

Hideous recommends...


As some of you know, I have been delving into Ecclesiastes of late - that great Old Testament book of questions, probings, and explorations, and the Bible's unique contribution to pessimism literature.

One resource which I would highly recommend is Peter Lewis' sermon series on the whole book. Wise, scholarly and pastorally-warm it deals with this most difficult book in the most helpful way I have come accross.

The good news is that these sermons are available for purchase from http://mlj.org.uk . The bad news is that they are only available on audio-cassette (which for those of you too young to know better, was a short-lived replacement for the wax-cylinder). The really bad news is that when that website stops selling tapes at the end of this month (when they go completely digital) these sermons will then be completely unavailable.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Book Notes: The Reason for God by Timothy Keller

Tim Keller was greatly influenced as a young Christian by C.S. Lewis' apologetic work, Mere Christianity. As such, he has sought for many years to make critical engagement with the culture, beliefs, doubts and questions of the people he meets, a central part of all his communication. His church services in New York have Q&A style discussions after the sermons which have obviously had an influence on the way in which he seeks to engage.

His new book, Reason for God, is the fruit of many years of presentation of the gospel, and discussion with its detractors. His aim, is to engage with the questions of today's post-modern culture, as effectively as Lewis did in modernity. Keller is keen that the church is involved in answering today's questions, and as his church (Redeemer Presbyterian) has gained a reputation of being a place where sceptics are welcome, and whose questions will be listened to, respected and engaged with - he has kept a close ear on the changing nature of doubt and 'stumbling-blocks' to belief. This book seeks to provide a coherent Christian response to those questions. In lots of short chapters - each designed to address a single point, he draws on a fascinating array of texts - Biblical, historical, literary, scientific to furnish his argument. Most readers will find some chapters more persuasive than others, however I'm sure that all will be engaged and educated, and no doubt some angered.

The first half of the book is involved with objections to faith, questions rooted in relativism, multiculturalism and materialism - and demonstrates (on the whole very well) the problems, flaws and implications which lie behind the beliefs which generate the specific questions. Keller believes that most of the people who come to his church to debate against Christianity, refuse to subject their own assumptions to the same degree of scrutiny as they do to Christianity - but asks them so to do. The first half of the book asks the reader to do this - in the hope that creating a 'level playing field' will enable the reader to open-mindedly engage in the second half of the book - Keller's reason's for believing in Christ as a coherent and viable alternative to the prevailing secular mindset which is most people's default world-view.

As ever, with such books, most readers will not change their views much. Anti-God polemics tend not to convert believers, and most atheists will not agree with much of this. Even so, I hope that this books is widely read, because it demonstrates thinking-belief, in the face of a culture that seeks to impose a false dichotomy between those two things. One of the problems is that thinking-belief like this is so often confined to weighty theological texts which are as inaccessible as they are unattractive to the general reader - who is about as unlikely to buy a hugely expensive obscure book constantly lapsing into NT Greek - as I am likely to subscribe to the Journal of Mechanical Engineering. As such, Keller's book should promote a coherent view of what Christians believe and respectful engagement on the issues at stake, altogether more pleasant than the shrill tones of the Dawkins/Hitchens school. I hope Christians read it too, because Keller's engagement with doubts is helpful, for thinking Christians who are always probing their beliefs and subjecting them to scrutiny. Penguin books have (rather unusually) put up a website to promote the book, which is here, along with the usual study-guides etc.

One of the best parts of the book is Keller's description of what Christianity is, over and against what he has discovered most people outside of the faith think that it is. The crucial difference is that while from the outside the faith looks like a system based on morality, self-righteousness and gaining approval from God by religion (which must by default look down upon those who 'fail' to meet the standards of the group); Biblical Christianity is a grace-orientated belief which begins by the great-leveller, of common-sinfulness, and the liberation of the knowledge of a God who loves sinners. As such, Christianity might attract the worst sort of people, those who have no pretension that they do not need to be saved - but are overwhelmingly aware of their own sins, failures and shortcomings. Indeed, it is the very humility that this view of grace demands, which inspires the respect for others, which Keller models in his respectful apologetics.
Tim Keller

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bo'Ness

"We could go for a ride on a train" suggested Norris, "Even better, a steam train" Boris responded, during a family meeting convened to discuss what to do on yet another rainy day. This is no doubt related to the fact that last weeks incessant rain led to the long-forgotten Hornby train set being retrieved from the back of the cupboard. It has taken up residence on our dining table which now no longer resonates to the clink of plates and cutlery, but to the whine of tiny electric motors and the 'shhh-click-shhh-click' of little wheels on jointed track.

The Bo'Ness & Kinneil railway is the nearest place to us that you can see live steam, and although their line is pretty short, it's quite steep in places so the old engines have to work hard - which makes the noise and smoke which the kids enjoy so much. Bo'Ness itself is, let's be honest, not a picture-postcard town (!), and although the ride is pleasant along the banks of the Firth, it is not as exciting as the views offered by its rival The Strathspey Railway under the Cairngorms. This place though does have two other things in its favour, one is the Birkhill Fireclay Mine, in which underground tours are offered for not too much cash from the station at the top of the line. (The tour of the old mineworkings is fascinating - but perhaps a little slow and with too much information for younger visitors). The other bonus is the Scottish Railway Museum which is behind the station at Bo'Ness, a couple of big exhibition halls stuffed full of ancient engines, carriages, real points to operate, signals to control, trucks, artefacts from long-closed stations and the like. Boris, Norris and Doris were particularly taken with the sorting office from the old travelling post-office which they got inside and explored (cue Auden: "This is the Night Mail, crossing the border/ Bringing the cheque and the postal order").

Another bonus is that the drivers on the railway still invite kids (and their fathers it seems) up into the cab of the engine while it is in full steam. Doris seemed a little wary of the engine's cab - that tiny space made in 1928, devoid of any comforts, raging with heat from the fire, with steam billowing from valves and smoke filling the air. The boys were fascinated with their quick guided tour of the controls of the great beast though. The kids insisted on waiting on the footbridge in the rain for the engine to depart beneath us, enveloping us in steam and heat, before they would get back in the car to dry out

Best of all, it was a great 'so-called summer' day out, which the kids hugely enjoyed. It was fun despite the weather, didn't involve hours of travel to get to, and cost just over £10 for the tickets for an adult, and two kids (Doris still goes free).

Monday, August 11, 2008

Perspective in two seconds

Elaine Storkey's "Thought for the Day" on Radio 4 caught me by surprise. I was driving somewhere and waited for the usual bland thoughtfortheday platitudes to wash over me, but was surprised when the message was different from the standard 'on the whole it's better to be nice' and 'being nasty isn't a good idea' excercises in S.B.O.* which are their standard fare. Storkey, who is the President of TEARfund spoke about the 'economics of enough' - and the text of her talk is here.

Two things have made me unable to forget Storkey's talk. The first is that during the summer, one of our church members was inspired by it to research the area further and base a service around it, adding not just a lot more facts, but biblical and theological reflection on it too. The second is that I have just discovered a website which brings a sense of perspective to these issues in two seconds flat. The Global Rich List is a simple but effective little device. You type your income and currency in, and the graphic shows you where you are in the world's wealth ladder. The results, although I suppose predictable, are a quick and shocking restoration of perspective at a time when accelerating inflation, rising taxes, fuel, food and utility bills and falling assets, make us overly concerned with our own margins at the expense of the bigger picture.

So try it - click here and see where you fall in the world's rich-list, it takes about 2 seconds.
* stating the bleedin' obvious

Friday, August 08, 2008

Quoheleth-Worlded



Click on the image to enlarge and see it properly!
This wordle-image is the NIV text of Ecclesiastes chapter one. Which even as I worlde it, happily assures me that all such wordlings are wearisome - a chasing after the wind!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

One Dream : Freedom




"The enemy of the people is not those who hold guns in their hands,

but those who hold the Bible in their hands"


-Jiang Zemin, President of China 1993-2003.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Canvas, Rain and a Field Full of Nutters!

The Hideous Family have just returned from the church youth camp, tired and happy in equal measures after a wonderful four days in the company of good friends, a load of new friends made, and my word - some characters! A couple in our church, sometimes referred to on this blog as the 'Lucans' own a magnificent field at the back of their house which is perfect for camping, sports, games and the like. Around an assortment of DofE, BB, and Scout tents, and large BB marquee we laughed, prayed, played, watched films, studied the Bible, had competitions, performed in our own dreadful talent show, sang, played football and tried to sleep as the rain drummed the tent roofs.

I have been at several of these before and it was wonderful to be back. Mrs Hideous has only camped one night before but was thoroughly into it by the end of the week. Boris, Norris and Doris took to it like Ducks to water, and were all looked after wonderfully by the young people on the camp, who let them join in with their games and generously made allowances for the "midgets" !

We tied the games and the messages around the Olympic theme, and our logo above was not the glorious runner of the Beijing games, crowned with success, but Jesus crowned not with fame but with thorns. This was a great way of getting into some of the Bible's 'athletic' metaphors about the Christian life, like "Run the Race". Also there is a good illustration of sin "Only the Athlete who competes according to the rules receives the crown" (unlike Dwain Chambers!) - which was a stirring message brought to us by singer/songwriter Garry Brotherston, with powerful illustrations from his own life. We experienced God's presence with us, and young people and leaders alike were spiritually refreshed, challenged and blessed.

There was a wonderful atmosphere in the camp all week, and unlike the pessimism of the Lucan's neighbours, having 25 teenagers camping in their backgarden didn't lead to mayhem, (although it may have been noisy!) but instead to everything from hilarious water-fights to times of quiet and thoughtful consideration of the messages and prayer.

One morning I looked around the campsite and realised how many gifted people were contributing to the huge team-effort that pulled it off. The Lucans, had prepared the ground and performed extraordinary feats of plumbing, I&J were working in the mess tent, D was dozing in his tent after being up all night on duty, DrJ was administering medicines and planning, the S brothers were putting on a fab entertainments and activities programme, A,I, D & R were all in the thick of the sports competitions, while K was chatting to some of those not into the sports, the band (young people with Mrs Hideous on guest keyboards) were rehearsing, J our new youth worker was preparing a PowerPoint for the evening meeting, A&F were recording bizarre comic videos by the table-tennis table for evening entertainment, and H - Queen of Tents and camp organiser, worked herself into the ground pulling all these strands together; and then a brilliant group of young people who seemed to really enjoy the whole thing. There were others too, all doing their bit not in my view at that moment, but all part of a really wonderful team!