Monday, 24 February 2014

One more catch up post - powermacs

Last week there was an auction through an industrial auction site that I've used for lab kit in the past. they have all kinds of things, including some stuff being sold off by ITV - the UK television company. Included in the sale were a bunch of Powermac G5 ali base units starting at £10 each (=£20+ when you've paid fees, VAT, delivery etc). I'd always wanted one of those cases, because they look lovely, but with a view to gutting and putting some worthwhile hardware in there instead of the PowerPC based stuff that's too old now.

I had to walk away from it, but it was hard.

Francis Chan - Crazy love. Marc - this is for you. ;-)

I'd heard a little about Francis Chan, about how he was radically on fire for God, and like I mentioned in an earlier post, wanted to read this book.

It's a real roller-coaster of a ride. Not in the traditional sense of a story, but in the way it alternates law and grace, compulsion and love, condemnation and delight. Chan is clearly battling both the enthusiasm/determination that 'us radicals' have for doing things *right* and also his background of fear of authority and punishment by a father figure that he refers to through the book. I align myself with him as a radical in the way he handles some things because I very much recognise that I have been like that too (you must, you WILL live under grace etc) although my line is much much gentler than it was, say, 20 years ago.

The basic premise is that we who are nothing but a fleeting moment, less than a footnote at the bottom of the page of history are yet precious to and part of the plans of the creator of the universe. How can we not therefore give up what we cannot keep in order to gain what we cannot lose: wealth, possessions, relationships, personal security, in order to be like Jesus. He's bang on about this, but there's a near-brutality about it too (understandable in a way, because how can the things you want to hold onto be of any real value compared to the things you stand to gain by losing them?) as he discusses western living by comparison with what it means to be a Christian who has given themselves to God.

There are funny moments - like the person who spoke to a friend of his about going out to be a missionary except that he would only be doing it out of obedience. And there are moments of 'depression' going through the list of  'the few, real Christians' and other parts.

To me, it's intense in a 'do this or die' kind of way, not encouraging or aspirational - I am sure this isn't how Chan wanted it to be, and it may well suit a North American readership much better. It wasn't unusual to find myself having to go back and find examples of the real things that God has done in my life, to be sure that I wasn't some fake Christian, pretending to be a follower of Jesus while lying to all around me.

Would I recommend it?

Tricky. Yes, for someone who was a new Christian, who wanted something to set their sights on and who could look back at their old life & see the worthlessness of it all, provided I were around to answer their questions and walk beside them as they picked up the pieces. Yes, for a mature Christian who wanted a radical look at what it meant to be a Christian, and who was secure enough in their walk with God to hear God's voice among the others that would come while reading it. Yes for someone who was just meandering through their Christian life, seeking to get radicalised for Jesus, and who could discuss their thoughts and directions with others to bring balance and a detached set of ears to help them hear God with.

But I could also imagine that someone who was not stable could get their knickers seriously knotted over this one, begin to have doubts about their faith or end up sleeping rough to avoid owning worldly possessions.

It's a challenging book, and that's good, but like I said, I found it a real roller coaster. It's almost finished - if the last few pages substantially affect my feelings then I'll add at the end of this post.

As predicted, the last few pages did affect my feelings, or rather, the followup section 'A conversation with Francis Chan'. In there is a bit more heart instead of simply hard-faced bible study. 

One of the more controversial bits if theology is his assertion that lukewarm Christians aren't Christians at all - it's something I've batted back & forth in my head from time to time too. I'm, not thinking of those who come to church for a bit, apparently make some sort of commitment, then drift away, but rather those who, as he puts it, swear a little less and drink a little less than those around them, but are otherwise indistinguishable. Parable of the sower 101 suggests to some that those who are Christians are the fruitful ones. Some people would say that it was all of the 'wheat plants' in the parable, but I'm not sure I could be happy to endorse that viewpoint, at least from a biblical point of view.

I do wholeheartedly want to see a return to simple church practice and new-testament style theology, which seems to be where he's headed. Maybe that shears away a lot of the excuses for being fruitless that we so often allow ourselves, letting us do religious service instead so we feel righteous, and is why he came across as a bit brutal?

That was a rather longer gap than expected.

One of the more curious things about having your own business is that it can become a bit of a world in itself, with all the dangers that come from living in a relatively socially enclosed space.

Work has been very slow too, from October and our disappointing holiday through to this month when things started up again, and that has caused a certain amount of introspection and thinking about the future. We had begun to ask if the business had a future and what the next steps needed to be. I was also not entirely keen to go back to doing some of the things I'd done: the pressures could become huge at times, and there had been points when it really had become too much. I don't seem to have the gene for continually working at maximum capacity 60+ hours per week with no end in sight other than a wooden box.

It's not all been idle though, and I'm wondering now about starting the photography side of things back up. Not to do weddings & portraits especially, but producing images for people to print & hang, or for web/magazine publication.

This was prompted, as much as anything, by someone here who also runs a business asking if he could have a couple of my pictures printed for his office: he'd 'take care of me for my time' plus the cost of the print. That's not exactly how things work in photography unless you're doing a wedding/commercial shoot, but it was really nice of him to ask. He picked out a couple of shots from the 50 or so I had that were suitable and chose the sizes. I arranged for them to be canvas-printed and the deal was done. They came back a week later and looked really nice, to the point where people then started suggesting I should get more printed to hang up around here as advertising.

Like I say, the 'proper' work side is picking up, but I now plan to create a proper web site for commercial sales. It's all taking time as I'm learning to get the best from the software tools I have for image processing, and because what I'm doing for some images is partly a creative process (rather than just the equivalent of D&P) then it takes even longer. Plus none of the computers I own or am likely to for a while are up to spec for this kind of work, and it all takes AGES while images import, export, render etc. Patience isn't just a virtue but a necessity.

Anyway, I've no plans to abandon the blog just yet!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Rowen Atkinson at the V&A

The statue of Marchese Spinetta Malaspina looks just like Black Adder!

Life without transport.

So here we are in London for Chris's birthday. Who could have predicted a tube strike and rain at the same time?


Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Just looked up an address on google maps

There's a landmark/house nearby that shows up as "sort out my visa".



I've been wanting to read Francis Chan's Crazy Love for a while, and recently noticed it in the chapel library. At the bottom right of the cover is the legend 'Overwhelmed by a relentless God'.

Words have different meanings to different people across the world, but for both Chris & mean that sounded like getting steamrollered by someone so intense that there is no rest or peace. I'm sure that's not what he meant, but curious none the less.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Inheritance and rubber boots

The dunnocks have begun their mating displays here now: 1 ball of fluff & feathers bouncing around behind another small bird that appears to be playing half-speed kiss chase.

I noticed this as I was tidying away my Wellington boots, or it would be more accurate to say the Wellingtons I have been using since I was about 12 or 14. They had been my fathers, and have been in existence as long as I can remember, even having his initials - AE - written in with red pen. Ben has used them too, so they really have been in use by 3 generations of our family.

I wonder if he will acquire & keep them when he moves out, like some of the tools I took and have been passed on to him too?

I wonder what else we pass on to our children.

My mother asked for a years subscription to Christianity magazine for Christmas and, true to her nature, has been passing them on to us with the commendation "they aren't stuffy at all", which is true.

There's something very striking about them - they conform to the spirit of this age in that they carefully avoid teaching anything solid, reliable, sound. Instead they examine issues with a view to provoking questions in the reader, and where there is a question of doctrine they very carefully present a range of views from middle of the road evangelical to liberal (in the couple I've read there was no conservative or moderate orthodox view expressed from the 3 carefully selected commentators).

Sure it's great to ask questions, but this is like the carefully philosophically blind trying to help other blind people explore their blindness. Makes me see why there are so many, many christian books published these days. I keep having come to mind the scripture where Jesus described that generation like children in the marketplace, with each one calling out their preference, but the others not taking any notice (I appreciate that's not the classical understanding of this passage, yet it seems to fit).

There was a review of 2 books on a similar topic, one of which was described as bombastic in the manner it provided answers for living, while the other was described in glowing terms as intelligent and nuanced for the way it asked questions. Interestingly, while the reviewer felt able to approve the book without strong answers, it was that one with the answers that was apparently going to be used to work with a mens group.

What kind of inheritance do we want to pass to our children?

While it's always good to ask questions and to be able to speculate, there needs to be answers, guidelines by which people can live by, rather than only a further series of questions with the underlying suggestion that as long as it seems OK to you at the time then it's good and right. Someone said to me in church last week that we had changed from hearing "this is how you should be living" to "this is how you can live like you should". I don't want to pretend to either have all the answers or that we even can know them all, but a nuanced ability to ask deep and meaningful questions is never going to help you to live well if you do not discover solid answers that result in action.

We as parents have a responsibility to live out the answers and to teach them to our children so that they have an inheritance that brings life and peace.