Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A light read?

As if my reading list wasn’t already long enough, I recently volunteered to join two virtual reading groups. I find it very valuable to discuss texts as widely as possible – especially with groups of people who come to the subject from different perspectives.

My first assignment came from responding to a Google+ post from Sam Radford. His group at Mosaic Sheffield have just embarked on a study of Michael Lloyd’s ‘CafĂ© Theology’, which they’re going to be reading and discussing face-to-face at their bi-weekly meetings. I suggested I might read along with them, and Sam graciously agreed. I’m just through the first chapter and will be writing up some thoughts in the next few days. I’m really looking forward to hearing what the others in the group have to say.

The other project was started by Jeremy Myers who blogs at . It’s a Blogging Book Club – a synchronized reading/blogging exercise, explained in detail at Jeremy’s blog and Anthony Erhart’s blog. Other participants are more than welcome to join up – see Jeremy’s post for details. We’ll all read and blog as we go along, cross-referencing each others’ posts.

The first book we’re going to be reading is ‘The Theology of the Book of Revelation’ by Richard Bauckham. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this, as I’ve not studied Revelation in detail. I’ve been warned to expect controversy.

I hope others will dive in to read and comment - let us know if you want to get on the team.

Monday, 26 September 2011

That Monday feeling...

"It’s so unfair!”
(Please read in a Kevin the Teenager voice).

Aren’t Sundays wonderful? The anticipation of a restful day, a choice of three church services to attend, the children keen to go to their own activities. A feeling of peace and calm descends on the family. Our spiritual life is on full-throttle; the trials and tribulations of the past week have faded into distant memories. Sundays are Different. Sundays are Great. Sundays are for God and our relationship with him. Exodus 20:28 “Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy”.

So why do Mondays have to come along and spoil things?

I’m lucky –God has blessed me with a job I enjoy. I’ve been a consultant in IT for the past 13 years, and have had the privilege of working with clients in a whole variety of businesses. My specialism is in Programme Delivery Assurance, and the client I’m currently working with has given me exposure to the transport sector, which is a whole new area for me. I think I’m pretty good at what I do (I must be, otherwise people wouldn’t hire me and re-hire me) and it’s not a chore. All in all, I feel blessed that I’m able to use the skills and experience God has given me in order to support my family and give back to him through the Church. I’m pretty well in tune with Colossians 3:22-25.

Getting to work, though, is the part I dislike enormously. Try as I may, I’m failing to see God’s glory on the 0719 to Waterloo, or on a crowded London Underground train. Today was extra-busy due to the wet weather, and I had the pleasure of someone’s armpit a few inches from my face most of the way. I reckon I’m just getting too old for the rat-race. Especially when it takes up nearly four hours a day, every day.

So today especially, I’m considering what changes are afoot. Whilst I can take occasional advantage of remote working with my current client, they’re not particularly keen (they’re a transport company, after all…). With God’s blessing, I hope to transition to a more amenable work pattern. I need to establish a network of clients for whom I can work mostly remotely, and gear myself up for full-time home working whilst remaining sensitive to everyone’s needs. This should free me from the rat-race, give me more time for the family and allow me to get more involved with Church and the community.

Whilst God is with me throughout the day whatever day of the week, I crave the space to be able to respond to him. These changes, with the support and prayers of those around me, will mean that Mondays can become less of a shock to the system and every day can be a bit more like Sunday.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


The little 4 x 2 inch box most of us carry around all day shouldn’t be called a mobile phone. It should be called a mobile distraction machine.

For a start, its predominant use these days isn’t to make phone calls. A glance around my train carriage of a morning proves that. 90% of the passengers are hunched over their little distraction machines. Some of them are communicating (by email or text message, perhaps), some are socialising (updating their Facebook status, sending a Tweet), and others are playing Angry Birds or some other game-of-the moment. Nobody is making a phone call.

And they’re all using the machine to distract themselves from the boredom of the train journey. 

The modern world is already full of distractions. But we buy and feed these little boxes to provide even more.

So is there any wonder, when Simon, our Pastor, was speaking last Sunday about how he was distracted from reading the Bible by emails, Facebook messages and Rugby scores, that he blames his distraction machine?

It’s not the machine’s fault. It’s ours. The machine has an ‘off’ button. You can leave it behind, and (here’s the revelation) it probably won’t matter. Your Facebook friends can wait a few hours for the latest bit of essential news about your life, and if you don’t find out until tomorrow that your sister-in-law’s son’s cousin’s relationship status has changed to It’s Complicated, the world won’t end. We buy these machines to provide us with distractions, and then complain when we’re distracted.

The footie scores won’t change if you wait to see them on the television or read them in the paper. Angry Birds will be just as Angry if you don’t play with them today. And if your virtual crops wither a bit, you can always plant some more.

Now I’m just as guilty. My distraction machine is sitting next to me as I type this, and if its light flashes at me I usually can’t wait to see what it’s got to tell me. But what I do know is that I’m in charge of it, not the other way round – the people at the other end that *really* need to get hold of me for something more important than telling me who got most drunk at a party (along with photographic evidence) still can even when I switch it off.

So back to the Pastor. He reads the Bible on his distraction machine. So do I, as a matter of fact – I have the YouVersion app which gives access to way more translations than I will ever read, allows searching, highlighting, sharing, access to reading plans and probably a load more things that I’ve never discovered. The companion website adds side-by-side parallel versions, too, which comes in very handy for study purposes (I’m doing a theology degree by distance learning). It’s a great piece of technology, there’s no doubt.

But is it right to bundle God's word along with all the distractions that our little box brings us? Is the Bible a distraction, competing for our attention with email, Facebook, games and sports results?

When it’s personal devotional time, or family fellowship time, I put away the distraction machine and reach for my trusty leather-bound NIV. It doesn’t tempt me to look at emails, check Facebook or read sports results. It doesn’t need charging, never crashes, the screen doesn’t freeze, and it never needs updating.

It presents God’s word in a simple, timeless, clutter-free way that lets me concentrate on the message, not the medium. And it allows me to feel much closer to God than I ever could with my distraction machine in my hand.

Photo (C) theOOBE on Flickr CC BY-NC-SA-2.0 Some Rights Reserved

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