Wednesday, October 31, 2007

UK; Saudi visit.

There are occasions when I'm not so proud to be British. The way that the establishment rolls out the red carpet to leaders of oppresive regimes sickens me.

I really hope that someone, somewhere had chosen the music to accompany the arrival of the Saudi royal at Buckingham Palace as a kind of comment.

Remembering the saints

It's a strange day.

20 years ago today I had the encounter with an evangelist that would go on to reshape my life completely, and all because of a dear old saint who prayed.

Alma was one of those easily-overlooked-on- earth heaven shakers. Alma prayed and things happened.

It being Halloween, and Alma being what some would describe as a prayer warrior, intercessor, spiritually attuned (pick your favourite term, or tell me of a better one), she was certainly going to be at the prayer meeting in church that night, to pray for God to touch the lives of young people especially, and to ask his protection for those who might be opening themselves up to less than helpful spiritual experiences on that day when darkness seems just a touch darker still.

That early evening, as she waited for her bus, Alma spotted some graffiti left by a local gang, a list of names and tags. Alma, being Alma, took out a notepad and wrote down the names as best she could, struggling to make out what some of them were, but knowing that God knew anyway.

At 7.30 the prayer meeting started with some sung worship, followed by a chance for people to share prayer requests. Alma, got out her list, and spoke about how she wanted the meeting to pray for young people especially, and how she'd seen a list of names, so could we pray for those people.

Earlier that day I had been with a group of friends, a small gang who called themselves "The Rejects", a name that pretty much summed up how we felt about ourselves. We had been at the bus stop, it was newly painted, no-one else had tagged it yet, so we decided to list our names, and claim it as our own.

Later that evening, some time between 7.30 and 8pm we were on our way to a field where we intended to have a kind of firework fight, launching them at each other across the grass in the dark.

As we walked we passed a church hall, and, hearing some singing, looked in to see people with their hands in the air, singing, and one person even playing a tambourine!

It was simply too tempting.

We began to search for the right rockets to let off in their meeting, going through our bags, laughing, joking, building up the bravado to actually do it. The people inside stopped singing, they sat and talked and we had no idea what they were speaking about, our laughter became more raucous, and just as we were about to fire off some small rockets, out came a man called Dave with a warm smile, and a very pretty 18 year old girl called Michelle who seemed quite interested in talking with us, not merely shooing us away.

20 years before then, Alma had begun praying for a young man named Dave, who she was convinced God was calling to be some kind of an evangelist, even though he wasn't then a Jesus-follower...

Alma died in the mid-1990's and her funeral was a place of celebration, as the large congregation of the people she had prayed for worshipped the God who inspired her, and thanked him for her hidden ministry in our lives.

I thank God this time of year, every year, for the elderly ladies who pray, who are open to the nudges of the Holy Spirit, who share the love of the Father, and who point to the Son.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Advert : I am Product

Advert : I am Product

This coming Sunday in Cafe Church we'll be thinking about how advertisers seek to entice us into gaining our sense of identity through the consumer choices we make. I like this video on the subject, and may well use it on the night. The text is:

I am product.
Your senses reel at the sight of my seductive branding. Your feelings of inadequacy heightens without me. I complete you.

Arms laden with disposable carrier bags filled with me, you feel a sense of purpose briefly kindled in your lonely soul.

I am built in a plastics factory by unhappy people in a land you've never been to. Shipped in bulk, stacked high in warehouses nationwide, I provide you with a sense of individuality you could not otherwise achieve.

You are Target Market, my End User Consumer. You need me, feed frenzy, buy me use me break me. Buy another.

I am worth the vice grip stress of debt. You are worth what you paid for me. Indulge yourself.

Suckle on the post-consumer afterglow. Tell your friends. Key in your pin number, sign on the line. Put me on your overdraft.

Do not question, only feel. Through me you fund the further exploitation of unnamed people, out of sight, out of mind. You are what you buy, become me.

I am the illusion of choice in your funnel-trap life. Consumer Lifestyle Choice. Wrap me up to go. Bribe your offspring with me.

Believe in me, I am all there is.

What would you be without one?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Have you seen Andrew?

Andrew Gosden
Age at disappearance: 14

Andrew has been missing from Doncaster, South Yorkshire since 14 September 2007.

His current whereabouts remain unknown but it is thought he may have travelled to London.

There is great concern for Andrew due to his age.

He can call the Runaway Helpline on Freefone 0808 800 7070 for confidential advice and support.

Andrew is 5ft 4ins tall, of slim build with collar length, light brown hair and brown eyes. It is thought Andrew will be wearing black jeans, a black T-shirt and black trainers. Andrew is likely to be carrying with him a black canvas satchel with patches of rock/metal bands on it.

Any information 0500 700 700
24 hour confidential Freephone service

It's nearly halfway through October!

Seems like I’m forever catching up

Well some highlights since last posting, or from about that time but I haven’t had a chance to yet.

We had Ruth and Glen Powell come for dinner whilst they were touring the country. They live and work in Sydney, Glen for the Uniting church, encouraging fresh expressions, Ruth for NCLS Research, an organisation that researches church trends in Aus. Glen and I had corresponded through the youthmultimedia group I’m part of, and so it was a good chance for us to meet up properly, to hear about their work, to see if there are ways that we in Bromley might get involved with some of the excellent qualitative as well as quantitative research that Ruth does.

Another wonderful online connection. I searched on facebook for some old friends who we’d lost touch with from our days living and studying in Lancaster. They too had experienced fertility problems, and we were overjoyed to discover they had a daughter about the same age as our son, having had treatment in the same year.

There’s lots of talk about facebook in the blogsphere, especially critical of the redefining of the term “friend”. For its many faults I have to say that it’s proving to be a great pastoral resource, especially as I connect with some of the students around the country who have gone out from this church.

We also had a couple of wonderful unwinding weeks in the south of France, where the weather was hot (if a little windy) and the food and wine was great!

Driving in France, especially on the peage, is such a better experience than driving in the UK. On the toll road the speed limit is raised to 130kmph (about 82mph) in dry weather, dropping to 110 (about 70mph) in the wet. I’m not sure that French drivers are any better than British ones – in fact I saw plenty that would lead to an opposite conclusion – but the lower levels of car ownership, and the sheer size of the country mean the roads are less clogged, and there is the safety to do that I guess.

Well, summer is now over, the autumn is here, and plans and programmes for continuing the development of the church continue to be both clarified and worked out. I’ll blog separately on two key things for us right now – the way membership is changing and our current evening series on Robert McGee’s The Search for Significance.