Friday, December 30, 2005

Farmyard News

Did some work at a derilict farm this morning. I was just adding my pair of hands to several others who have been working for a long time now to turn the old farm into a home for young people with disabilities. Today, it was pouring with rain so we hid inside and helped scrape down the walls. The place is a complete dump but they've finished a couple of rooms already and they look great. By complete coincedence, today the project hit the front page of the County Times. So, cos I forgot to take my new camera, here's the online report as evidence.

Watched Collateral last night, which gets my thumbs up. For the anonomous person who wanted more pressie pics I'm happy to oblige. Any other requests? Hmm, that's dangerous.

Finally, I'm 99.5% sure to be travelling to the Bay for New Years tomorrow - weather permitting of course.

May you have a good new years to welcome in the wonder of 2006.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Mission Bell - Fragile, Handle With Care

I've finally had the chance to savour the latest album from one of my fave bands, Delirious?. And I have to say I was quite concerned after a couple of listens that 'The Mission Bell' really was a non-event. Nothing stood out. I'd also heard many others offer rather negative views.

But I didn't give up on it, and a couple of weeks on I think I've discovered a thing of beauty. The album really needs time and space before it begins to shine. It's gentle and tender. I would label it - 'Fragile, Handle With Care.' The album does not make great background music because it just vanishes. But when given your full attention, preferably through headphones, it gradually stands up tall holding it's head held high.

I do still reckon the album lacks a couple of big guns, and it is not their best. But my advice would be to give it time to mature and I reckon you'll reap the rewards.

Lyrics always play a big part in any album for me, and The Mission Bell has many real and honest moments. Here's an example from what's probably my favourite track, 'All This Time'.
I’m a father and a son; I’ve been a lover with just one,
But this world can get me all undone,And I’m frightened I’m the only one.
I wrestle with the thoughts I keep,
If I sow the seed of arrogance then it’s loneliness I’ll reap,
Please don’t leave me stranded here,
With a head of lies and a heart of fear.
My life’s a show on Gods TV,
The world an audience, watching me.

So wake me, shake me, keep me sharp,
As I touch the power of Gods great harp.
And this world can fill your head with praise,
That steals me from eternal grace.
So how can I serve God and wealth?
I can captivate an army, but I can’t control myself.

Ghostly figure out at sea, I hear a voice that’s calling me,
To walk upon the waves of faith.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

LIVE 8 - More than songs in a park

For the last couple of nights I've been watching the BBC's review of Live 8. As I've watched I've felt great frustration and joy, and I've realised just how much that week in July meant to me. So if you don't mind I'm going to try and offload some of my thoughts in the next few minutes. Please bare with me.

2005 on a world level has been an incredibly eventful year, with a lot of incredibly painful catastrophes. It started with the Tsunami, then there have been hurricanes, earthquakes, famine, bombings and much more. And yet throughout this year there has been a continuing heartbeat for justice and good lead by the Make Poverty History campaign. And then for one day in July the world united to get the message home. Tony Blair said it himself that the best response to the London bombings was sealing the deals for Africa at the G8 summit.

The summer’s promises kept could mean:
290 million people freed from debt slavery
malaria deaths halved - that's over half a million people each year
9 million people who need them with AIDS treatment drugs by 2010
12 million orphans with proper support
every child with access to free primary education
Africa with $25 billion more aid every year

How can we be sure that a rock concert influenced these promises? I don't know. But why do we always need proof for everything? This isn't a Maths equation! Only in England did the Live8 organisers experience so much hassle from petty arguements. When the purpose for the concert was so important who really cares who's playing, or whether there was swearing in the afternoon, or whether they overran and people couldn't get the train home, or whether the BBC wishes to remain impartial? Surely, we only worry about this in England! Don't we??

A comment about Bob Geldof stands out for me from the programmes. It said that in every little petty argument and conversation Bob never lost sight of the big picture of why they were doing it. He was so stubborn and uncompromising in the face of the English saying, 'But what about damage to the grass?' He would not let it bring him down because the cause meant SO much to him. That for me, makes him an inspiration. If we don't dream big, very little will happen.
When the next generation looks back at Live8 in History textbooks they won't read about the squabbles and the scepticism, but they will being reading about whether the promises to change lives were kept.

For me, God was right at the heart of Live8 and the Make Poverty History campaign, whether the people involved knew it or not. Why? Because God is justice. How else do people organise 10 concerts around the world in less than 10 weeks without some divine intervention? In Russia the politicians asked whether Live8 wanted them to put some pressure on bands to get them to play! The bands were supposed to be putting pressure on the politicians.

Do songs in a park really make a difference? Not without the movement for action before and after the event. But in 2005 Live8 was just a part of a much larger thing that was happening. It was the part that caught the world's attention. 'Away with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry.'( Amos 5:23-24) Live8 HAD to be more than songs in the park and I think it was was.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Free as a Bird

I've been feeling like I'm trudging through treacle recently, to be honest with you. As you can probably tell from the blog, the exciting daily events have dried up and I keep reaching the end of a day feeling like, 'There goes another one.' I guess it's partly to do with missing Uni, but I think it's more to do with not knowing how to rest. I keep persuading myself that I need to rest but then I end up watching T.V or playing Championship Manager. After several hours of these I really do not feel rested.
So last night I did what most people do when they're generally feeling sorry for themselves and looked back through happy memories. And I was struck by the following pictures.

These people do not look like they're trudging through treacle...they're as free as a bird. You can see it in the faces. What happy memories.

So today I'm making a fresh start again in an attempt to not completely waste the next few weeks. And I start by putting some healthy disciplines in place. So I got up at half 7 this morning and I've been for a short jog. I've cleared a space from my desk and I'm going to do some reading. Oh, and I've put the Championship Manager CD firmly out of reach for a while.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Aslan is on the move

I went to see the fantastic Narnia movie last night. It's quite simply brilliantly made and there really is something for everyone in there. There's the quaint English fairytale; there's the battlescenes; there's the comedy; there's the computer graphics; there's the scenary; ... and it might get kids reading?
But most of all there's a lot to learn from the film. And I think most of you know that I do like a film where you can draw out some parallels and learn a few things.
Well, Narnia has enough in there to keep church youth groups entertained for months.

Whilst I was listening to Radio 1 last week I heard the following report on Newsbeat. They were reporting from the premiere of the film and said, 'Narnia's not without it's controversy because it does have a religious side. Infact some see Aslan as representing Jesus.'
Before the film was made many were worried that a comercialised Narnia film might gloss over this important central message. Well, it certainly doesn't and for me it came through loud and clear. Aslan sacrifices himself in place of Edmond. Watching this almost moved me as much as when I watched the 'Passion of the Christ'.
Infact, I dare any adult to watch both films and not notice the similarities.