[un]conscious-stream[ing]

Psalm 144:4 Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow.

Category Archives: miscellaneous

My Sister

Abi Emmens-Green is my sister.

That is a good thing.

If you don’t have a sister, I recommend you implore your parents to give you one. If they are too old to acquiesce to your request, adopt one, find one, maybe even catch one, you won’t regret it.
If you have fallen out with yours, pull your finger out and make-up, you owe it to yourself and to her to patch things up because sisters are really a mighty blessing.

Sisters are incredible beings, speaking from >33 yrs of experience, I can honestly say that sisters rank among the top 5 things in the world (other contenders include God, parents, spouses, children).

So let me eulogise for a moment about the one blood sister I have. I do have one sister-in-law and a number of other females that I would class as sisters by marriage(s) in the family, all of which I have great affection and respect for, but, no criticism intended at all, none of them can hold a candle to Abi.

Abi & I are wired the same, in respect to humour, protestant work ethic, creativity, taste, (I could go on) and that definitely helps a great deal with us getting on, but most of all, I think the primary reason(s) that we get on so well is because Abi is older, wiser, more mature, more lovely and more humble than me.

Abi makes me laugh, she’s never made me cry (that I can remember, except tears of joy or laughter) but I’ve cried with her and for her and on her and have been a shoulder to cry on for her.

Abi builds me up. She is unselfish and kind and always has a sensible word to say, an apposite bit of advice to give, some astute guidance to offer. Whether we are together or apart, Abi always looks to uplift and encourage me and doesn’t try to pull the rug from under my feet or cut me down. Even when I need my feet putting back on the ground or bringing down a peg or two, Abi finds a way to bring out the positive and gently point me in the right direction.

A rare quality Abi has is in finding ways to be encouraging in any ‘criticism’. It is an incredible gift that she can inspire and be positive in the way she critiques or disagrees with things and that’s something that disarms me, stops me being defensive and then makes me a better person.

Abi is creative and wonderful to work with, I wish we could live closer together so we could work together on stuff more often because just being with Abi gives me lots of ideas.
In fact many of my ideas turn out to be crazy and one of the best things ever about Abi is that she can see / hear one of my crazy ideas and twist it slightly and turn it to deep, helpful, spiritual ends. It’s another gift she has and I remember it from way back when we had a small bible study group in London, when I was a student; I’d say something crazy / mad / funny, just for laughs, and Abi would turn it into some profound spiritual point within 20 seconds.

“This woman must be a saint” I hear you say! And you are right, and I’ll fight bare-fisted anybody who dares to contradict.

She may have flaws, but doesn’t everyone!? She is probably too dedicated / conscientious and probably a bit too generous and definitely has problems with saying ‘no’ when asked to do some things she probably ought not.

I’m not sure what prompted me particularly to write this but maybe I just thought Abi needed reminding how much she is loved and how much she is needed and she probably didn’t want it broadcasting publicly, but if I can’t embarrass my own sister by shouting about how wonderful she is then the internet shouldn’t exist!

Proverbs 7:4 says: “Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and to insight, “You are my relative.”

I’m going to do something very naughty by hacking scripture.

“Say to my sister, “You are wisdom,” and to my relative, “You are insight.”

Abi… You Rock.

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Word Power

“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!”

I have no idea who came up with that little rhyme, but you try telling that to a thirteen year-old schoolboy who is relentlessly, verbally bullied by his peers because of some minor difference in his life compared to theirs.
It won’t wash, very quickly, his eyes will glaze over or you’ll get a terse “whatever”.
Perhaps more accurate is the adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839:

“The pen is mightier than the sword”

Words have power. Written words have huge power as we can see from the intense and profound effect that the modern era and the printing press have had on our current ‘postmodern’ age. We still heavily draw on textbooks and written material in our education system, we place immense value on reading and writing in our society and those that fall short are often marginalised in the adult world of jobs and employment.

Perhaps not as widely recognised though, is the incredible power of the spoken word. Stories that we share are full of power and meaning, but more than that, the words we speak out loud have the capacity to shape not just our relationships and interactions, but our lives and the lives of others too.

Think of the power words have to break things in ourselves.

To speak out loud the words “hi, I’m Alex and I’m an alcoholic” names the person, the problem and gives ownership of it. All the rehab step-programmes use this style of introduction because something once secret or denied, when spoken out loud no longer imposes the same grip over us.
If we speak truth out loud, we expose the habit, problem or inner thought and make it public, maybe we are then slightly vulnerable and more importantly, we become accountable to those around us, which gives the words the power to re-programme our brains to overcome the difficulty.

Sometimes, we speak out to break a bad thing or air an issue we are having. Words are powerful.

Words are also powerful to build. When we vocalise the words “I can do this” or “I will overcome my addiction” or a relatively well known rallying cry of tour-de-France cyclist Jens Voigt “shut up legs”, we emphasise our ability to prevail. Speaking our thoughts out loud increases the power of the words and backs up the positive “I can do it”.

The same can be said for other people. If our own words can affect us so deeply, think how they can affect others.
The words we speak to our children have huge impact. Encouragement or chastisement, both are appropriate at different times but spoken out loud or even written down, they have incredible power.

And so also the words we use to each other are not just poignant or appropriate, but powerful and meaningful. A few words of encouragement to a friend can have incredible weight, but also, one word can slay people and destroy self-esteem or confidence.

So be careful what you say and maybe make the effort to think first to make the words that come out of your mouth ones that lift people up and spur them on rather than discourage and cut them down.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire…

…With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
James 3:3-6 & 9-10

Move over Tycho Brahe, Shaun Groves is my new hero

He may not be a world renowned astronomer, he may not wear a false copper-alloy nose, he probably doesn’t own an alcoholic elk, and I’m darn sure he doesn’t have a clairvoyant dwarf to entertain his dinner guests, but Shaun Groves is alive now and he has just released what I personally would describe as one of the most important albums of all time!!

If that sounds pretty extravagant in praise, you haven’t hear the album yet, nor do you know all the background behind it.
If you want to get the low-down on why and how this album was ‘squeezed out’ of Shaun, you really should trawl through the last few years of his blog. Not only is his music fantastic, but the thought processes behind it, the stories that have shaped it, the heart he pours into it are admirable, laudable and inspirational!

If you are a Christian, you need to hear this album because it will remind you of the kind of bible-based life you promised to lead when you said you would follow Christ.

If you are a non-Christian, you need to hear this album because it speaks the very heart of the Christian message in a way that cuts through all the rubbish that we Christians have piled up against it for centuries.

This album is beautiful, compelling, challenging, convicting and frankly AWESOME.

It’s easily worth several times more than it costs, which incidentally is another reason why I chose discretion over business acumen and avoided putting an affiliate link to it on my blog!

I’m going to review it in full over the next few days / weeks and post my praise of this piece of musical genius that I have not been able to get out of my head nor stop listening to for over a week now since it arrived on my door mat.

Oh, did I mention… I really like Shaun Groves’ new album!??! You really should go and buy yourself a copy.

You can find Shaun Groves on twitter @shaungroves or facebook/shaungroves too.

p.s. No, I didn’t get paid to write this, I just really love the album.

Inspire

Having been disappointed and depressed by the rioting, I’m sure that you would appreciate something inspiring and uplifting.

Not all the world is bad, mad or sad and it was incredible to see the community spirit of Manchester as hundreds of people, all ages, shapes, sizes, religions, races, colours, political views etc. got involved in the clean-up operation. Of course, it happened in all the other major cities as well, but I’m generally most concerned about my local news so I’m not going to link them all!

In the big clean-up, we have seen that there are plenty of young people that are willing to live sensibly and honestly, be good citizens and work as volunteers for the good of the whole.
Interestingly, the word volunteer comes from the Latin ‘voluntarius’, which has the root concept of ‘willingness’ or ‘of one’s free will’. In France, the word ‘volonté’ means willingness, which describes to me a level or joyful participation in an activity as opposed to having your arm twisted behind your back and even more apt is the French word for ‘gladly’ – which is ‘volontiers’.

Lastly, not wanting to be smug or blow our own trumpet, but I was really impressed by my Kids over the last few weeks of their school term.
Kate had a letter from UNICEF asking for support for their mosquito net programme to prevent malaria in Mozambique.
Jacob asked her what it was about and since finding out, he and Lily have been feverishly making Hama bead mats and selling them at school, at church, to grandma and anyone else they can find, to raise money for mosquito nets.
So far they have raised over £90 which I think is really great and as you can probably tell, I’m pretty proud of them for it.
It has also led to the most amusing quote of the year from one of Lily’s school friends.

Child: “Mum, can I have £500”
Mum: “What? Why do you want £500”
Child: “Well, Jacob has made these mats that kill flies in Africa and I want to buy some to help out!”
Mum: “What? I don’t understand.”
Child: “or £1?”

The innocence of children!

That inspired me to run my ‘Birthday for a cause‘ again and plenty of people have been really generous. I’ll be closing the ’cause’ on the 20th August so there’s still some time to give if you missed me mentioning it elsewhere.

Let’s be inspired by these young people and children to leave the world a better place than when we got here.

Riot

I had sincerely hoped I would never need to write this post. On Monday and Tuesday, I was (prematurely and inaccurately) heartened that Manchester had not fallen into the same disorder and desperate, woeful state that parts London, Birmingham and Liverpool had.

It doesn’t even make me angry any more, it makes me desperately sad.

I’ve read a lot already on this and some very insightful people have posted some apposite and informed views. (see The competing arguments used to explain the riots, Rosamicula and Kester Brewin.

It seems to me that we are all to blame in some respect. And in all the different areas of trouble, the variety of those people rioting and looting is astonishing, see the Guardian’s article on who took part.

Yesterday, listening to a BBC correspondent who had spent the day in a magistrate’s court hearing those arrested and charged from some of the London rioting, I was somewhat surprised to hear there were a lot of young professionals involved in the looting. A graphic designer, a care worker, someone who had just joined up for the army. Not all of them were from the local area, many had driven in, taken part and then, to quote the correspondent: ‘driven off to the next location to cause trouble in their Golf GTIs’.

Last night’s trouble in Manchester is also not all from some kind of ‘underclass’ there seemed to be plenty kids from ‘middle class’ families looting for all they were worth. Kids as young as 9 (estimated) were seen in gangs, separating in two, one group to divert the police while another group smashed in and looted a shop.

I think there are many, many different and complex reasons for this upheaval but it is endemic of a society that has lost it’s way.

Maybe we all need to take a step back and have a long look at ourselves.

Why are we all so interested in the news about the riots? Is it perhaps because somewhere within us there is a deep need to acknowledge that this kind of behaviour is the kind of behaviour that we are capable of? Is it that by reading and watching about it, in a voyeuristic way, we can somehow, exorcise it from ourselves? Are we somehow connecting with it for cathartic reasons, in that were it not for other people committing these acts now, we indeed could or maybe would?

At a push, maybe I could loot somewhere to provide for my family if things got really bad. And scenes like we saw last night are just a couple of rungs down the moral ladder.

In an interview with Jane Clayson of the CBS Early Show on September 13, 2001, Billy Graham’s daughter Anne Graham Lotz commented on the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 and I think that much of what she said is relevant here in the UK at this time. (I have yet to find a full transcript of the interview but you might be familiar with the paraphrasing.)

“I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has
calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”

What we see may be the result of many things building up to a flashpoint, but the one single common factor is the fact that by and large our country has turned it’s back on the values of true Christianity. The church is as guilty as the rest and I’m surely just as culpable.

We have turned our backs on God, we have not been careful about what we have let into our hearts and we have reaped the consequences.

A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Luke 6:45

For ‘mouth speaks’ read also ‘hands do’ or ‘feet follow’.

“You are what you eat” is the other phrase that comes to mind, and the diet that we feed our hearts and minds on surely impacts the actions we end up taking.

I am reminded of a story by Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek:

A man thinks he is a grain of seed. He is promptly taken to the mental institution where the doctors eventually convince him that he is not a grain of seed but a man. But, just when he’s apparently cured – convinced that he is not a grain of seed but a man—and permitted to leave the hospital, he comes back instantly, trembling with fear: his next door neighbour has just started keeping chickens and he is afraid the chickens are going to eat him. “Come now,” says the doctor, “you know full well that you are not a grain of seed but a man.” “You and I know that,” the patient says, “but do the chickens know?”

The point is, that most of us don’t need convincing that a new car or bigger house, pair of fancy trainers, plasma tv or a diamond ring will not make us happier or more fulfilled, it’s the structure around us, the magazines and tv programmes, the society we live in and participate in that needs convincing of these things.
For me that’s what church is about, creating an alternative structure that then convinces the chickens because of the way it operates.

Churches need to be alternative communities, places that poke holes in the lies of the world and say “that’s not true, and you know it’s not true” and through our relationships, through our living together in this alternative way, we can encourage each other to live a different way to the way the world pushes us.
We need to be careful we aren’t laughing at the materialistic consumerist society, condemning those chasing it, whilst at the same time fully participating in it, because people won’t listen to us if our lives don’t match up to what we say we believe. (I preached on this earlier in the year)

Now is the time for Christians in Manchester (and London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, etc. etc.) to kneel in prayer, for forgiveness that we haven’t yet enabled God to use us powerfully enough to prevent these dreadful things happening, for the wisdom to know what is right and the courage to do it.

We must pray that we can be seen to be instruments of God’s love. Conduits of God’s grace. Bringers of God’s restoration, renewal, and revival.

And lets, wherever we can get involved in the clean-up, not just of the cities, but also the minds and lives of the people who are so misguided and misled that they rampage through the shops looting things that perish and spoil.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.
Matthew 6:19-20

Hellraising

I’ve deliberately taken a long time to throw anything into the blogosphere regarding the recent furore surrounding Rob Bell’s most recent book “Love Wins(affiliate link)

I figure that firstly, I have no public voice or any kind of authority on the issues, secondly, I have no formal training in either theological college, bible school, seminary or other, thirdly, I didn’t want to get caught up in the nasty mudslinging that people calling themselves Christians seemed to be getting into and lastly, I hadn’t read the book.

My angle on the whole uproar isn’t actually on the theology or ‘correctness’ of what has been written, in fact it only really came to mind off the back of another book I haven’t read – “Erasing Hell” by Francis Chan. (affiliate link)
I listened to the Simi Valley podcast (by the same name as the book) where Francis and Preston Sprinkle (the other author), talked about the book and basically their response to Rob’s book. So I speak from this perspective.

Rob intimates in his interview with Cathleen Falsani and Francis directly says it in the podcast mentioned above that they both feel that the books they have written were prompted by God, that they felt like God laid it on their hearts to write what they wrote.

The only other thing I get from the two perspectives of the two – Rob and Francis – is that Rob does his thing and minds his own business, I’ve listened to the Mars Hill podcast for over four years and I’ve never hear Rob criticise another person, especially another Christian pastor. Francis is very careful with his words on the podcast but listening to the whole thing a few times, I can’t help but hear him say between the lines that he thinks Rob is a ‘false teacher’. I’ve seen plenty of other stuff over the web that calls Rob a ‘false teacher’ or ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’, and it seems that Francis and the other people on the podcast are effectively subscribing to the same view.

Now, how do we as ‘normal’, unschooled, non-professional Christians weigh up the two points of view?

Both men feel like God has laid their books on their hearts.
Both feel like the spirit of God has moved them to write what they have written.
Both are deeply spiritual guys who spend hours studying and praying alone and with other Christians.
Both have written books deeply embedded in scripture and with reference and knowledge of the cultural, historical and other influences on both the original bible writers and the church over the years.

But they have come to different conclusions on one issue of interpretation.

Do we go with the one we like, because it fits with what we have been taught and how we have been brought up?
Do we go with the opposing view to the one we always held because it is a majority view?
Do we assent to the less popular view because ‘when have the majority ever been right’?

It’s a tension, a bit of a pickle, the kind of tension my dear brother over at held.in.tension regularly wrestles with in his blogging.

So what are my opinions?

I don’t really know. The only thing I can say is to repeat the words of Gamaliel from Acts 5:38-39

“…in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.
But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

Murder

At 21:40 on Tuesday, Half a mile away from my front door, in a florist shop, on Shrewsbury Street, Old Trafford, a robber was stabbed and died shortly after.

You may find it shocking, scary, paralysing…

You might find it more shocking that I don’t feel any of those things.

When something like this happens, I’m not scared, I’m not petrified or shocked, I’m not paralysed by fear or worried to go out of my front door, but I am saddened.

This is my community and I love it.

I am saddened for two reasons:

  1. That there are people that want to steal from others
  2. That people still believe the myth of redemptive violence

Now, I’m not getting all ‘holy’ on you, I have no idea how I would react if someone came in to my clinic waving a gun around and trying to get my hard-earned cash from me, (I don’t have a knife in the place to stab them but who knows what else I might end up doing?) but if your first reaction to someone threatening you is to attack them, surely, somewhere down the line, something has gone wrong.

So what can we do about it?

Firstly, will you all pray for Old Trafford. As the Rector of St Brides said, “this place is really resilient”, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see consequences and repercussions in the coming weeks and months.

I can’t predict what will happen, but I can ask you to pray that all the churches, the mosques, the Hindu temples and other places of worship will find ways to connect with the local population to bring the peace and intimacy of God into their lives.

Moreover, I will ask that you petition our magnificent creator and loving, compassionate God to find ways to powerfully act through the Christian congregations and the individual Jesus followers in our neighbourhood to discover new and compelling ways to open people’s hearts to Christ.

There’s no way that we can alter the saddening and tragic loss of life that we have experienced this week, but there is a way that we can work to attempt to prevent this happening again.

Pray with me that we, as a community of believers at the bethel and as a wider community of believers in all the churches of Old Trafford, will be able to connect with and genuinely speak the words of Paul:

I have become [the Church’s] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.
To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.
Colossians 1:25-29

Let us be Christ-centred, Bible based and Active-in-love, open to the movement of the spirit of God among us, filled with the nature and person of Christ as he lives in us as believers (Romans 8:9), so that we can improve people’s lives by introducing them to Jesus, the way, the truth and the life.

May Jesus work in us and through us, may people see his face in ours as we see Him in their faces and love them the same way we would love Him.

“In another’s eyes I see my plea for forgiveness, and in a hardened frown I see my refusal. When someone murders, I know that I too could have done that, and when someone gives birth, I know that I am capable of that as well. In the depths of my being, I meet my fellow humans with whom I share love and have life and death.”

– Henri Nouwen, from With Open Hands

Moving

Our neighbours (from one side) are moving.

We’re very sad because they have been the most wonderful neighbours that we could have ever imagined. They are (were) both chaplains at the university and that in itself led to lots of great deep spiritual and philosophical discussions. They are considerate, kind, generous, patient, quiet, friendly, loving and caring to name but a few of their qualities.
Also, they have a daughter the same age as our daughter, and they go to school together and really love each other and get along incredibly well.

We’re really going to miss them.

Last week we had takeout from Yakisoba together and shared a wonderful evening (without the kids interrupting) and wondered why we hadn’t made more effort to do that before. Why is it that when you know time is limited you make more of an effort to do special things together and spend quality, quantity time together?

But then we would never have expected just how lovely our neighbours would be and we couldn’t have anticipated they would be as great as our previous neighbours who were quiet and kind and friendly and generally lovely.

So, whilst we love our neighbours dearly and we will miss them a lot, for their company, for shared faith, for shared tastes (in beer, food, activities etc…) we release them to their new work for God where they are moving to. We pray that God will continue to work powerfully through them that they can be a blessing to their new neighbours as much as they have been to us. That they will be a blessing to their new churches in their new jobs and that God’s spirit will continue to move in all our lives to His greater glory.

Nathan & Claire, Mahalia & Elise, we’ll miss you, we’ll pray for you, we’ll not forget just how great it has been to have you as next-door neighbours.

God bless your continued journey.

Re: The things my Grandma taught me

Abi

Re: The things my Grandma taught me

These are the quotes that immediately spring to mind.

“No time like the present”
“Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today”
“If a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well”

Other memories include the fantastic array of cakes and ‘chocolate
grandma’ that always accompanied them when they came to stay,
Grandma’s delicious and wholesome food, home made orangeade, the Twin-
Tub and her active, hands-on participation in bath-time when she used
to swish us up and down (or maybe it was just me) as the water drained
away. Lastly, the way she always remembered people, names and faces
and the incredible amount of letters she wrote to people, I imagine
for their encouragement.

Not sure what else you want to add or how to squeeze those into
something coherent.

Lots of love

Alex

next reply

Message & Media (part 7) – Online Resources

Yet another follow-up to the workshop, this post is basically a list of links that provide very interesting reading or short videos on the subject.

Mobile technologies are the future (at least in Africa)

Fernando Gros asks “Is Facebook making us stupid?”, then follows up by commenting on “The Distraction Economy“.

Tiffany St James on “The Social Impact of Technology“.

A fascinating interview with Shane Hipps entitled “Media and Message, Pixels and Faith“. This covers quite a lot of ground, some similar to the workshop.

A review of the possible deleterious effects of social networking Five Most Deadly Side-effects of Social Networking

A recent paper on the use of twitter – “Social interaction via new social media: (How) can interactions on Twitter affect effectual thinking and behavior?

A Killer article on social media – “The Twitter Trap” This is an absolute must read, thanks @benemmens for that one.

There is more out there, if you find anything else, please share it in the comments or email it over to me to include.

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