Monday, 24 August 2009

No longer "lost"

The other day I got to speak at a local church about how Jesus can bring salvation to people who are lost (from Luke 19:1-10). This was a big part of what Jesus came to do, by his own admission: When people ask why he has gone to spend time with Zacchaeus (who had been, basically, a sneaky, selfish swindler, a loser, who everyone hated), Jesus says he has brought salvation to this man then and there, and then explains why he didn't just go to all the best and brightest people: "The Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost".

This is wonderful news! Jesus came from God his Father for people who are lost in living wrong ways of life (like Zacchaeus was), ways of life that God hates. He came to save them, and make a way for them to be forgiven! And He came for those who are written off, to be their light and rescue.

The crucial thing then is to respond to Jesus as Zacchaeus does - gladly receiving Him, joyful that he has come to save us.

This requires more than just occasionally thinking of God. Like Zacchaeus, we must turn our lives around and follow this Jesus. He is the one who saves us and rules us. This means changing the way we think and speak and act and committing to Him, above other things we are committed to. Above money, our dreams, the ways we want to live which God says are wrong.

Because Jesus is Lord, and can bring us salvation too if only we recieve Him.
So the question is - will we respond as Zacchaeus did?

If you'd like to think this through a bit more, you can listen online to the talk here - it's called "The right response" (from 16.08.09). Also, a second talk by me will soon appear online on the website for my home church on the hope Christians have for the future because of what God has done for us to rescue and save us. Let's set our sights on the Lord we have, the saving one, Jesus!

Update: the second talk mentioned here took a while to appear online, but you can find it, entitled "Peter 1 23.08.09"

Friday, 7 August 2009

Music review: "Version" by Mark Ronson

You got to pick this one up. A bold album of upbeat alternative pop and RnB, it relies on some excellent drums, jazzy trumpet, brash or soothing synth (even some saxophone), and of course guest vocals (everyone from Amy Winehouse to Kasabian), to bring great energy to an exciting mix of cover tracks. Impeccable production by Mark Ronson throughout keeps things moving, and although many tracks are far from ground-breaking, they are catchy and fresh. The track on there to bin is “Pretty Green”, childish in its execution and repetition, whereas personal favourites include the cover of “Amy”, a great tune, well updated, and 2 of my favourite ever collaborations: “Stop me” with Daniel Merriweather, and the superbly funky “Apply Some Pressure” with Paul Smith from Maximo Park. As a whole the album plays like someone’s eclectic iPod track list, modernised and pulled together with a thread of brass and bass rhythm running through the punked-up lot. When choosing music to take on holiday I couldn’t conceive of a better or a more varied pop album from the last couple of years to take. Time to brush up your air-trumpets, and turn up the volume!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

52 review

Here's the best comic you've never heard of. It's an experimental weekly comic book called “52” which I always loved the concept for, and have been enjoying in the past few months (- it's collected in four large volumes, which I had some trouble tracking down).

Over the course of a year, which included events like Hallowe'en and Christmas as they happened in real life, the comic book, published once a week in the US, switched between multiple story-lines starring a host of interesting B-list characters in various roles while DC's most recognisable characters Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are either away or out of action after a big storyline called Infinite Crisis (check back for more on this soon). So it is set in their world but without them there to sort things out in the face of the next disaster. It all feels pretty fresh, and is pretty easy to get into for newcomers, I think. In a bizarre space-story, Animal Man (who learns how to absorb alien creature's abilities on other planets) has to try to find a way home to his wife and kids, while on earth, international politics are uneasy, all kinds of people try to pull crowds as the new heroes of the earth (some to defy their family's wishes, some with reluctance, many for glory), and some of the world's greatest scientists are going missing...

An amazing read, full of mystery, sadness, suspense, broken and difficult relationships and plenty of action, it stars characters who have shone in cameo roles or long-forgotten series and fleshes them out some more, from the shamefully self-centred hero Booster Gold, to the ex-cop Renee Montoya (from Gotham Central), to the dark and brooding prince of the Middle Eastern country Kahndaq, Black Adam. The ending, which I thought was going to tie things up on a small-scale for all the characters we grow to care about over the year, surprised me by potentially having as much an impact on the direction of future DC comics as Infinite Crisis itself and left me reeling from all the crazy overlapping stories. Brilliantly the publishers have included some "behind the scenes" notes on every issue from the writers (Johns, Waid, Rucka and, my favourite, Morrison), artists and editors of this massive and life-consuming project, which offer an insight into the problems the ridiculously talented team had to wade through.

I recently picked up a follow-up to one of the story-lines in 52, which looks at the aftermath of Luthor's project to mass-produce superpowers – for anyone who pays for the treatment. The short collection, Infinity Inc: Luthor's Monsters, is great fun, and has some ultra-modern fluid art, expressive of the turmoil of the characters: a broad range of emotions from rage to self-doubt to jealous affection.

Starring some barely functional teenagers who develop the strangest powers and stranger outlooks on life, it's basically a thinly veiled look at madness, where the strongest and most well-adjusted hero, is clearly neurotic about her father leaving her and blaming her for her past mistakes, while others have issues with gender, self-obsession and purposelessness, by exhibiting some of the strangest superpowers you've seen... Try being in denial about being able to split into two identical versions of yourself, and the fact that one of you is a bully. Or try being able to escape and live someone else's life, becoming addicted to pleasing other people falsely.

And I guess this slim volume has done what Spiderman comics originally did, in that they examine the way wierd, fantastic and potentially disasterous superpowers, have a huge impact on everyday life and situations and on being "normal", potentially screwing everything up. Perhaps some of the copious X-men comics Marvel now publishes should take a step back and look at this interesting theme again...

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Anime: New Iron Man and Wolverine series!!

So Marvel is working on 4 new anime series with Japanese studios. And here are the first two - they definitely went for the obvious (and coolest) choices first then!

OK at this stage, who knows if this will be any good, but the animation is so exciting that I reckon the action may put the first Iron Man movie in the shade, even where that was such a fun film. Just look at it!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009


Here's that poem I've been working on - please let me know what you think!

At this rockswell,
Crowned with jagged brambles,
The earth secretly breathes.

You can hear sighs from stacked rock
While creaking ferns point back
To worn beaten track.

The earth is thin here.
Creature-calls and rustles mark time
For the bandits peering at us from the sky;

A mosaic in green,
Where birds stand, hiding,
Hoping to swoop at any new invasion.

Up there, a world of leaning leaf,
Treetops blown outward by buckets of air,
Pressurized by staring stones below.

Dry grass sat there on rocks
Shaking slightly, in the confrontation
Between the air and myself.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Norfolk holiday thoughts, part 2

Here’s something else I learned from my holiday in Norfolk: I really love to seek out good design, or art, or things to look at – and often this can absorb me more than meeting new people. Not sure if this is good or bad, really…

Either way, I’ve decided to include some shots of the beach at Winterton, which was so sandy and had so much space, we went there twice. Check out the old-world seafront buildings at Great Yarmouth too, and the castle in the centre of Norwich, built in the 11th century at the command of William I with stones carted over from Normandy. There was an amazing piece of modern art in their gallery as well – a giant jigsaw of the local area made up of pieces from lots of different commercial jigsaws and fitted together into one new image. Got to admire the dedication in that and the creative way it has been composed.

Holidays are a great time for taking stock too. I had plenty of moments to realise just how much I have to be thankful for, during trips out and about, and when chilling out right at the end of some full, fun days out.

In times in the Bible recently, I have again realised how influential my time with Dave Anthony in Ephesians 1 and 2 was during UCCF’s training programme “Relay”: Particularly in seeing what I was, and would be, without Jesus, and what incredible grace has been given me, and what an awesome position I now have – all this still really helps me grasp God’s goodness in a real way.

I am only what I am now because of Jesus’ goodness. May I rely on him for strength to live well, and take every opportunity – by his power, and not trying to do it alone – to grow in becoming like Him.
Thinking about what prayer is has been helpful too – and praying big prayers for change in people’s lives. It is God’s world, after all. May I see each day as a chance to bring friends and family and churches and work situations to God in prayer, seeking his blessing – because he is good and faithful.

There is much to be thankful for – I hope I remember this now I’m back at work!

(We also visited somewhere called California too - it had a narrow beach, and by it, here, is my brother Tim.)

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sailing & meeting different species (in Norfolk)

Without any airs or graces, my parents, on holiday in Norfolk, rented a longboat to sail on for a day. It was a fun time of just being “me” and taking time out with my family.

There were plenty of moments of fun piloting, working out routes and enjoying the feel of cruising along. We saw the houses of the rich, and admired the buildings, and saw herons standing stock still in the water, and ducks pushing themselves ahead out of our way at the last minute, silly things.

I enjoyed letting creation speak to us of our powerful, artistic, meticulously inventive and providential creator. At a brilliant wildlife place, check out how close I got to the tiger - and the gibbons, crocs, alligators, peacocks and hornbills too!
Sadly the bizarre “red panda” was photo-shy, and I only saw a glimpse of the whole thing walking along a branch high in a tree, before the pair retreated further into the foliage.

How do we respond to such marvellous creatures? Fragile and cute, elusive and elegant, majestic and proud, bold and playful - they seem to have personalities all their own. I guess really that’s us trying to make them more familiar and comfortable…

And I guess we tend to respond by sharing the joy with one another we get when we see these creatures recognise us, or, when we see them living in happiness and comfort and interacting with their fellow creatures. Or we become curious wanting to understand all about their alien way of life.

Or we take more pictures!

More tomorrow – and I managed to finish a poem I’ve been working on so that will be posted here soon, too.