Monday, 25 July 2016

How is it they're jumping for joy?

Worship and praise are a curious experience.

So often the worship leader seems so full of joy, praise, exhuberance, happy gratitude. I wonder sometimes if I'm deficient as a Christian in some ways, that I don't overflow with 'joy inexpressible' to all around me. Am I a miserable git, sinful (OK, got me there) faithless and ungrateful?

Not really, but I can't seem to do the happy-overflow thing.

Sometimes it can drive guilt or feeling down, sometimes I can even accept it's who I am and that to be otherwise wouldn't be real. Occasionally I can feel a bit like it too, but that's somewhat unusual. Generally I try not to base life on feelings, but some things are intended to be outward expressions of feelings within, and those I'm not happy to fake so much.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Why did you just stop?

A post from Fernando about Bill Cunningham made me think about the desire to retire.

Bill C loved what he did, continuing to work into his 80s, when most would have retired 20 years or more before. I too love many of the things that I do, but there are times when the stress - the friction points - make me really wish I could just go fill shelves in Tesco.

I wonder if it's possible to find a way to live where the friction is dealt with, freeing us to just get on with what we're good at? This is really rhetorical, but it's also an 'I wish'.

p.s if anyone hears of any jobs going where I can cycle round a major city taking photos, then writing about them, please let me know. :-)

I should agopolise

The spelling on this blog, primarily due to typos, has been terrible recently.

Reading through posts from the last few weeks, I was somewhat horrified at the mistakes, especially as a spelling and grammar nazi. It is entirely my own fault, of course, however Firefox/blogger spill chucker does some odd things, failing to spot the switched spelling in the title, yet picking up on nazi.

So.... sorry.

We change.

There's a slightly uncomfy irony that, as one who wanted to reform the church for so many years, I now want a church where life and practice are familiar. And most of all, where I feel I can trust what's going on.

This is probably just a passing phase.

It's also true to say that I'm not the man I was - much more experienced, much more knowledge - though I still make the same dumb mistakes. More knowledge and experience aren't necessarily either good, useful or helpful things however, compared to faith and trust. And even fresh starts often prove not to be that either, of course, because we always bring ourselves.

More crypticism than a 'mummy' movie. ;-)

Monday, 18 July 2016

Recovering, which is good.

Last week I ended up with a nasty throat, which gave me a voice that would do justice to Wandring Star, plus a general head cold. However for the last couple of weeks my body has just been very very grumpy, aching in various places and not being at all happy. Likewise emotions have been generally dark, miserable and downward.

Hopefully that was all part of the same thing, and will now lift completely.

I'm giving running a break too. The swelling on one knee seems reduced and yesterday I managed to crouch a coupole of times, though it was very uncomfy standing up again afterwards. Not being able to get down without pain may be the price required for continuing to run.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Since you been gone.

So.

I'm told one should never start a sentence with the word 'so', but frankly, breaking conventions harmlessly is fun sometimes. ;-)

Playing bass does odd things to the way you look at music. So why does nearly every recent-ish worship song make me want to play the main riff for Since You Been Gone, at least from the basic chord structure? I picked up the chords for Matt Redman's Sing And Shout this morning, and although it's not written *quite* like that, it *feels* like it's written just like that. There was a bunch of about 10 songs that I worked through last night, and underlying most of the songs was this feeling that riff was coiled and waiting, ready to spring out at any time.

My fingers are also callousing up nicely from their soft girliness at the beginning of the week. 2 hours thrashinga round on acoustic guitar on Tuesday followed by more than an hour of bass last night (and 20min this morning) and I've already developed callouses on my fingertips. I've 3 basses to choose from, with the fretless 5 string having lovely smooth tapewound strings that are kind to the fingers,but requiring more accuracy in fretting than I'm capable of right now. I've got a Jazz copy that's got a skinny neck and smoother strings, but it's a bitt too smooth and rounded, and can sound a bit thuddy. Harshest to play of all is the precision copy, with a big fat maple neck and really abrasive strings (like running your fingertip over a rats tail file) but it's got a wonderfull growly tone from the musicman style bridge pickup, and sounds just so much better than the others.

So P type it is then.

*edit*
Delusions of adequacy - I just watched a Janek Gwizdala teaching video on youtube. Hah ha. Hah hah hah. Nope, not even close yet. :-)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

Seems it's a time of change.

So this week I seem to have joined an acoustic gospel blues band, which is interesting considering my antipathy to acoustic instruments. Sat in with the guys (and gal) in The Bell at Adderbury on Tuesday night, bought a slide on Wednesday and will be shortly trying to learn the set in time for next weeks gig at Shipston. Should be  'interesting' (I may also try to sneak in a home made 'micro' valve amp for solos once I know the guys a little more). They talked about Sister Rosetta Tharpe as one of their sources, but I'm not sure they're ready for anyone turning up with a white SG yet.

Sunday I'm playing at the celebration in Oxford, but this time probably bass rather than electric. I think I know around half the songs in the set, so that's going to be interesting too - there's going to be lots of concentrating on getting the notes right from the chords, since I can't hear where bass is pitched as easily as I can guitar.

Change is here to stay.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

I Am Legend

And there's been more than one of me.

It's a little grotesque (OK, actually rather a lot grotesque) but I also find this funny.

I'm amazed at the grace of God sometimes

And maybe sometimes I'm not aware of it, so I'm not amazed.

However. A couple of weeks back by lab-based job was coming to an end, simply because the claims made by a university for a particular technique didn't stand up to scrutiny - there was no diagnostic value in the process.

Another company here had a job going, and after no effort on my part at this point in time, I've been offered the position. There's some history with them in the past, and I've offered plenty of free advice & guidance, but nevertheless, this is still quite unexpected.

And I'm grateful.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Decisions, decisions.

Our holiday plans are still flapping freely.

Earlier in the year we'd decided to go back to India, and that really appeals still, but I just don't feel up to the hassle of sorting out out own tour, and we don't really fancy any of the pre-arranged ones that we can afford/aren't willing to spend that much on a personalised tour. However, as I write this, Chris is watching 'Marigold Hotel', so the debate may be over regardless.

So where else?

TBH I'm tired right now. Tired of facing work challenges that make me want to curl in a ball at times - not because they're unreasonable, but because I'm trying to cope with the odd emotional things that fairly severe exercise does to me.

In many ways Greece, especially going to Lesvos again, appeals. It's a known quantity, we've not seen Daphne and Iannis since 2009, the location is great and it's guaranteed relaxing. At the same time I know we'll start to get a little bored after a week, and we've mined out many of the island's attractions already. We could fly to athens for a few days first, see the acropolis etc, then get a boat across, but that's hassle again.

And then there's Turkey, where Ben's having a great time. I'm very very tempted to pick one of the really good deals on a flight/hotel/car through expedia and just go for a couple of weeks near Selcuk/Efes (Ephesus). There's LOADS to see - we could even drive over to Cappadocia for a couple of days - and see Ben too. But I dunno. Hassle again, and trying to cope with an alien culture where I don't speak ANY of the language.

Don't tell Chris, but I've even wondered about going to Scotland, while they'll still let people from the south across the border. Scrub that - last time I had a holiday where it rained all the time I hated it. :p

Guess we'l just have to wait & see.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Joggers nipple

Is not a joke.

7.5 miles in the rain, wearing a belt that held my singlet still against a moving nipple, is not kind. My right nipple was actually weeping slightly this morning. Should I have more sympathy for breast feeding mothers now?

Update Saturday - nipple no longer painful and scabbed over OK. :-)

Am I an innie or outie?

And we're not talking belly buttons now.

As it turned out, I didn't get a vote in this election, being a European. It's curious however, that although my inclination was that leaving was probably going to be a good thing, the reasons for leaving the EU as presented - and indeed everything I've seen of the leave campaign - seem utterly horrid, full of lies and misdirection, preying on emotion and gullibility. Doing the right thing for very wrong reasons is never good where people are likely to follow those reasons, and I suspect this has a strong potential to go bad. It might have also been better to wait another year & let a less foundational country fire the first shot across the EU bows, in the hope that reform could have happened.

I have already heard of the phrase "phased deportation" being used by a politician - breath taking. There is also a Youtube clip of Nigel Farage - one of the key leavers - declaring that a claim at the cornerstone of the leave campaign was a mistake and obviously not true.

It will be important to understand why the vote swung this way for future generations, especially as British society is so very mix these days. Immigration and a lack of integration is certainly a key part. It's also almost certainly a part of the rejection of 'the system' that America is also experiencing with Trump being a presidential candidate and over here with Jeremy Corbyn heading up the Labour party.

For now we wait for the dust to settle and see whether it is battle plans or negotiation terms that are being drawn up.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

You know it will make you uptight and grumpy.

I read the Backyard Missionary blog (see occasional blogroll) for the first time in a while yesterday. Hamo wrote one post describing a film he went to see with his wife, about refugees trying to enter Australia being effectively held prisoner on an island by the Australian government. He knew the film would leave him feeling out of sorts & helpless, and no surprise, that's exactly what it did.

So when I started reading that book on leading missional communities by Mike Breen and the guys at 3DM, the outcome was predictable.

After ordering a paper copy via Amazon I was also able to preview the first 1.5 chapters on the kindle app. The first chapter looked good in many ways, and talked about building extended family that more-or-less worked in a way that I'd seen previously. Great. The 'new church' buzzwords are springing up - like Oikos instead of family - to differentiate this from the old church, but that's how 3DM works.

So I started chapter 2 on the 4 foundational principles of missional community, the first of which is discipleship. OK, I can buy that, makes sense. So we then cut to an example of this, where a MC that had been serving food to homeless people, switched to meeting their needs of friendship because the city social services were already meeting those practical needs very well. The section then concludes reinforcing to us how vital discipleship is.

This was an example of discipleship?

What did I miss - is there a special revelation for the anointed? Is there some subtlety that I'm too stupid to get. This sounds like a missional community discovered that it wasn't being effective doing the obvious thing, so changed approach. Am I supposed to overlook the inappropriate example because I'm overawed that an MC (to use the book's abbreviation) is out befriending homeless people? Isn't there a practical example of discipleship that couldn't have been found & used instead?

Grump.

Chris and I talked about this - we saw this pattern clearly in Building A Discipling Culture, where examples are given that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic. I feel like the little kid shouting about the kings new clothes when I see this stuff, knowing all the adults watching are going to ignore me anyway. Are these guys charlatans, and if so, why do so many follow their movement? If they're not then why doesn't their teaching hang together? Do they just simply need an editor for their books?

Monday, 20 June 2016

Missional communities?

The buzz-phrase that hasn't gone away yet.

Shrug.

For my sins I've started reading another Mike Breen book, this time about leading missional communities, working on the principle of the devil you know is better than the one you don't, because they seem to be the future for our church movement. I want to know if they really are the next wave of God moving through the church (as the book authors suggest) or if they're just the latest fad in consumer church, making it possible to look like something vital is going on, when all we've done is drop a need to teach people and let people socialise every week without guilt.

So I bought Leading Missional Communities.

Wandered through the first chapter over dinner. As with all these things, there's a mixture. So I recognised descriptions of extended family that I've seen working in churches that I've been part of - typically when they were new, young churches, everyone giving themselves to each other. However that was always set against a backdrop of teaching and discipleship in a housegroup format, rather than a larger group of people whose stated aim was primarily mission.

There's another, more personal, thing that bothers me. My grandfather was a wonderful Godly man who got very grumpy with the church in later years, was extremely unhappy about moves of the Holy Spirit and resisted so many things. I have some of his character, and DO NOT wish to follow him in those ways. It makes me very cautious about what I follow and particularly, what I stand against.

I also remembered that I need to review What's wrong with outreach? that I mentioned in this thread.

In a nutshell, it's good, sensible and unspectacular. If, like me, you aren't a natural evangelist driven by a desire to be continuously sharing the gospel, then it may be freeing. There's nothing in there that should be controversial, but some will probably feel it undermines the drive for evangelism.

I grew up in a time when society was becoming increasingly inoculated against Jesus and faith generally, through nominally Christian stuff in school, through media presenting salvation through science and faith as being mentally defective. The churches response - up the ante - push a gospel harder and harder, through Evangelism Explosion, door knocking, various missions, initiatives to guilt-trip Christians into pushing the gospel at people.

This book explains why that wasn't really going to work (as indeed it didn't really). There's an irony mentioning it at the same time as LMC, because the kind of outreach it talks about is where the church stops withdrawing from the world, and instead lives with the world in order to show the world what Jesus was really like. I have a feeling that this is the real missional community that the church needs, but instead we are going to get to copy someone else's program.

Buy Keith Schooley's book - it's good, and a lot cheaper than LMC, though less hip.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Is youth wasted on the young*?

Do you ever have the feeling, assuming you are 50+ like me, that life has flown by, and what remains is a gradual slide into decrepitude as one's body and brain gradually fail?

We were talking about this a couple of weeks back, and I said that if possible I'd live the same life over again, experience the same things for the first time, even without the experience and wisdom I've collected on the way.

After Sarah's death it needed a deliberate decision for us to stay together, not because we'd fallen out about anything, but because the natural desire is to escape, move on, start again. The aging process causes something similar I suspect, a greiving for lost youth and strength. It's no surprise that middle-aged men leave their wives and families of many years to attempt to recover what they've lost, and all the sharp-tongued comments about the manopause and old men in sports cars only makes me feel more sympathy - though not agreement - toward them.

My grandfather had grown up in a world where older men of his background were respected for their experience and survival (to acheive 70+ in a working class environment was good going) yet was disappointed that, when it was his turn, no-one cared. The present world cares even less for 'old people', though rubs along with them them if they can still afford to live normally. While I'm maudlin like this, the future isn't orange.

*Terry Pratchett, who knew something about getting old & falling to bits, though who had no hope of anything better afterward..

Monday, 13 June 2016

Trying to sort out a trip to India

I'm reminded just how big a country it is, and how different the culture too. Not sure I'm brave enough to DIY instead of using a travel company - we'll see.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Good morning sunrise

Or it would be if it were not cloudy. Don't you love 5am airport runs, :p

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Looking at re-activating the photoxon blog

Trying out dynamic templates.

The one I'd selected a while back (Timeslide - that was 2 years ago!) shows titles of posts, requiring a click to view the content. This makes me run a mile when I view other blogs, and I have to REALLY want to read the conent to bother. Guess that's a miss then.

There's a bunch of other variations from the dynamic set, but most of them are dull/ineffective/not set up properly (my fault - ignorance can break nearly anything). However the classic version looks fairly good right now, so I'll give that a try.

Fonts are another question. Calibri is a clean modern font, not the easiest to read, but it's crisp and neat so I've gone with that. Colours are default, not because I can't change them, but they are neutral and ideal for viewing images. It was tempting to use an orange theme to tie into this blog, and also to put a big picture up as background. Neither are really desireable (do you view images in a gallery against a technicolour background?) even though both are tempting.

The plan will be to upload at least one set of images/article/review per week. Images to be primarily local and recent, though may occasionally pop up travel stuff too.

You're welcome to wander over to view the building site while I'm tweaking it, but there's a strong chance a lot of test posts will get removed before 'launch' (what a grand term for use).

*edit*

Well, that didn't last long. The dynamic pages simply couldn't be configured the way I wanted some I'm trying Blogger's 'awesome' template. Not completely keen on the pale blue border that I can't seem to change. :-(

*edit 2*
And it's done. www.photoxon.blogspot.com is now (just) live, though with minimal content so far (working on that too).

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Finally finished processing the images from Bosnia Herzegovina.

There's a lot of stories in there, and not especially ours. Bullet and shell holes, mosques and muslim graveyards in a Mostar that's also absolutely crammed with tourists. Grafiti that tells the reader that we still bleed, never forget & never forgive, the war isn't over. Empty, ruined buildings, a mix of new and shiny alongside old and patched cars. Ordinary people still working their small holdings, plant vineyards and build houses.

Then there's the youth work. Pics of happy teenagers, Bosniak, Croat and Serb, playing tabletennis and table-football together, beatboxing and drumming, sending messages on their phones. It's a contrast.

I may try to get some images up, if I can make sense and get a coherent thread.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

According to Endomondo

I have run 252 miles in the first 5 months of 2016 - on target for 620 miles (i.e. 1000km) for the year then.

I'm undecided whether to continue at the level I've been running or back off a bit, since it's been a big sink for time, cash and energy, plus my poor old brain has been a bit scrambled and I'm aware of mood swings etc. In some ways I'd really like to carry on, but it concerns me that the body is often achey and sore and I struggle to speak clearly and enunciate thoughts, almost certainly because of the running.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Today would have been a good day

To stay under the duvet. At least when people tell me they feel like they can't cope, I can quite understand that feeling.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Evening meadow

Had a little wander down to the water meadow at the bottom of the village this evening. Pass the chocolate box. ;-)


Sunday, 22 May 2016

A big thankyou

To those who left flowers yesterday, or sent messages. We really appreciate you remembering Sarah.

Friday, 20 May 2016

So the high street is a zombie

The suggestion I read today was that the high street, with its shops, was dying. Not, surprisingly, because of amazon and other online retailers, but because we've reached peak 'stuff'. There's nowhere for the economy to grow now because we all have more than we can use already, and with the downturn in wages, few are just buying more toys for the sake of more toys.

In some ways it's really good - less useless stuff being made so less materials are wasted. But it's also bad, because less stuff being bought means less jobs and income for many, and that steepens the downward spiral. That's no news to anyone, but it does beg the question about how and if we can restructure society to cope with less in the future.

Or am I forgetting human nature?

Are you the pigeon or the window?

Or neither.

This morning when I went into the coffee room there was the outline of a pigeon's head, beak, breast and one wing on the glass. It's not the first time that I've seen the evidence of a pigeon that flew into the window there, and it probably won't be the last. This time wasn't as spectacular as some, where the lines of both wings and the breast have been very clear in a kind of V with a bulge at the bottom, but in this pattern I could make out the beak being open and one eye that had hit the glass. Ouch.

What does a pigeon do, after it's hit the glass and bounced back? Give up flying?

So this Sunday for a variety of reasons I'm speaking at the new church in Banbury. No worries, lead this kind of thing loads of times, done it all before, right? Except that I was feeling very post-glass-pigeon like, no idea what to do, quite literally feeling a bit dazed and confused.

And then laying awake in bed at 4am Thursday morning it was as though I'd been picked up, put back on a branch again and told I could fly, including being shown how to use my wings.

There's some stuff behind this including a prophetic message from Martin Dunkely at the Oxford celebration last week, and connected to that asking God if He was going to use me to teach any more, or if that had all gone now as it seemed to have done. But much more than that, if you've read here recently I've been increasingly concerned that church has become just another organ-grinder experience, where we 'do the stuff' but lives don't change much, people feel good but there's nothing tangible at the end of it - people go looking for social liberal change because the 'spiritual' stuff isn't making a difference.

There's also been a bit of 'where your treasure is, there is your heart' for me, and I've been distinctly organising treasure a bit. Plus I've found myself behaving in a way that's fairly repellent at times, and in a way that I've seen in others and been quite critical of, hence ditching Facebook. Not that I'm suddenly and miraculously back on my feet (was I off?) but life is headed in a better direction. I hope.

Ramble? Yes, lets.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

GM foods are the work of the devil.

Or perhaps not.

This will probably not come as a surprise to those who would not have shouted 'Judas' at Bob Dylan 50 years ago.

Monday, 16 May 2016

Need my head tested

After managing to survive one half marathon I've been wanting to do another.

So tonight's training was a gentle 9.5 miler.

Frankly, I need my head tested - who ever thought that I could deceive myself so easily into thinking that regularly running for 1 1/2 hours + was fun and a good idea? So I dodged a bullet that first time, and now I like the idea of trying again? Madness.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

The frustrated togger.

Well sort of.

I've just finished uploading images from Bosnia Herzgovina (Bay-Hah as they call it) to the computer and done an initial sort through. There's some interesting pics in there, some of which I'm fairly pleased with, but it *felt* like I missed almost every good image that I saw because we were either travelling, in company or because I couldn't just go-shove a camera at people.

There were stories in the faces of so many people, and for the first time it really made me wish I had a nice small camera and a robust attitude that would let me just go up and ask for a picture. I did grab a few pictures covertly in the market of Mostar, but they weren't really the ones I'd wanted.

On the last day, while wandering through Capljina we passed an alley with a couple of tables set out. There were some guys drinking drinking there and on the wall at the end of the alley was a huge swastika and a nationalist slogan. The men looked about the right age to have fought in the war, and became aware of us just as I was looking up at them. There was a sense of tension in the air & we carried on walking past, even though there was probably no real danger for a couple of tourists carrying cameras.

We stayed with friends just outside the city, in a small suburb/village, and many of their neighbours were old with the kind of faces that showed a life of hard labour in all weathers. They were friendly and generous, but they weren't *my* neighbours to offend or upset, and I didn't feel able to ask for pictures.

I should have liked time to photograph many of the buildings and put together a series illustrating how the effects of the war are still visible. Looking through the images, there are a few that might work, but nothing really adequate. Mostar had the feeling of a city that used war damage as part of the draw for tourists: there were plenty of bullet holes and even the odd shell hole still to be seen, and of course it is well known for having been under seige in the war. But Capljina also had its share of war damage, even though it also had a shiny new glass and steel post office, giant bronze statue outside the town hall and new blocks of flats.

When we first saw the bullet holes, Chris's reaction was that the concrete was just showing signs of age and falling apart, but it quickly became clear that was not the case. Travelling through the country (6+ hours drive between Capljina and Banja Luka where we had the run) houses with war damage were to be seen everywhere until we reached the Republika Srpska; the serbian part of BiH. Here the countryside changed from mediteranean to alpine, and the buildings seemed in much better repair, cars newer etc.

BiH is also a place a beauty: amazing countryside in a wide variety of forms, interesting ruins and towns, spectacular hills and mountains, lovely flowers etc, but apart from a couple of occasions, somehow we just didn't quite get out there. We weren't there to take photos, but to visit friends and run that race, and it's important to remember that.

I've no idea if we'll ever go back. It's a possibility, but only a small one.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

It's our last Capljina evening.

And I'm slightly sad to be going, though looking forward to not feeling like we're in someone else's hair, even when they're as kind and generous as our friends here.

Wonder if there will be Cevapi on the menu? ;-)

Here's the waterfalls with water falling at Kravica earlier today.