// an end and a beginning

Back at the end of March I announced that I was taking a few months off this blog to work out whether or not it was something worth continuing with or whether it was time to give up. As it turns out, it was time to give up.

I’ve appreciated everyone who has been a part of this blog over the past few years and want to thank you all for your comments and encouragement over that period.

I’m not giving up blogging entirely and will carry on over at Food, Music, God, which will be more of a space to share recipes, songs and theological observations than this site, although will be updated less frequently. Give it a look – I’d love it if you could be a part of that community too.

I’ll keep the archives of this blog online for reference purposes, but to all intents and purposes, this is goodbye. So thanks again for everything – it’s been a pleasure.


// Martin Luther King and THAT quote

I got this quote from Soul Survivor’s Mike Pilavachi via. Twitter earlier, which has apparently been sent to him by a number of people today:

I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

It’s apparently unsubstantiated, but it turns out it’s been adapted from a 1967 speech in Atlanta which is known as the “Where Do we Go From Here?” speech, where MLK says this:

I’m concerned about a better world. I’m concerned about justice; I’m concerned about brotherhood; I’m concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can’t murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can’t establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can’t murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that.

Perhaps it’s an adaptation to make it more pithy and to fit it on Twitter.

Well, it wouldn’t be the first time.

// sabbatical

I’m taking a break from this blog for the next few months. I’ll see where I’m at in July, but the combination of work pressures, personal circumstances and a feeling of being stuck in a rut have got me thinking that it’s worth taking a breather for a while. I might post sporadically, but I wouldn’t expect anything regular.

I hope the last two years have been useful, and if you’d like to write something in the interim, feel free – just send me a message and I’ll pass on the details.

See you in a few months. I might start a new project sometime soon too, so keep your eyes peeled for details on that too.

// sunday music: spring

Okay, three miscellaneous picks that made me think of Spring this week, in celebration of the fact that the sun has come out.

First up, from Jon Foreman‘s “Spring EP”, the breezy and cheerful Baptize my Mind. I was shocked this didn’t make Foreman’s album – I think it’s one of his best EP tracks and I love the Dave Matthews feel about it. You can grooveshark it here too:

Next up, because Spring often makes me feel melancholy for some reason, Colin Hay and I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you. Might seem a little downbeat, but there’s something in his wry, knowing wistfulness that just seems right for the season. Beautiful song, perfect in Garden State. On Grooveshark here:

And, finally, David Crowder Band‘s magnificent and breathless live version of a song called I will not be silent (make a joyful noise), which is the most joyful thing you’ll hear all week. It’s incredible. Grooveshark it here and there’s a video below:

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There you go – that should set you up nicely for the start of spring, whatever your mood is.

I’ll see you on Friday!

// saturday round-up (19/03)

Okay, I’ve been pretty unreliable at posting a Saturday round-up for the past month for a variety of reasons, but that means that this week it’s really a best of the past month. Which is good, as there’s some pretty excellent stuff on here.

As you’d expect, plenty on Rob Bell too, but I’ve tried to keep it to a minimum.

* * *

// 11 ridiculous things that keep youth groups from growing – Brilliant, brilliant insight from REyouth Pastor, which constitutes essential reading if you’re involved with youth.

// greatest church mural ever – I recently redecorated the youth room at our church. I wish I’d done this, though:

// london coffee – On the trip to New York City I took this month, I had the best cup of coffee that I’ve ever tasted. Honestly, it was so good it made me kind of emotional (it was at Everyman Espresso and is at 136 East 13th St, incidentally, but keep it quiet…)

There were no words. However, if you’re in the UK, I suspect jonnybaker’s map of London coffee hotspots will provide something comparable.

// youth ministry essentials – teaching students the story of the Bible – I love youthministry360, and this is part of the reason why. Since becoming a youth worker I’ve really rediscovered my evangelical roots, and this is a great help in planning a teaching programme…

// Rob Bell – I was actually at the live webchat Rob Bell did in New York and my chief thought was about how annoying he was, unable to give an answer in less than 500 words. That said, I’ve read Love Wins and although I don’t think its ambiguous writing style is going to help Rob’s critics – or some of the people reading – it does actually have some really decent insights in. I think it’s worth reading, but only if you can face the inevitable long (and possibly pointless) arguments that everyone will have with you as a result, regardless of your position.

Incredibly, though, there is a typo in the penultimate word in the whole book. And it’s a typo on the word “love”.

More interesting, perhaps, is the debate that’s been raging around it. Krish Kandiah’s thoughts in an article entitled “Grace, Truth and Rob Bell” are well worth look at, and as are Eugene Petersen, who, having endorsed the book, is unmissable. The summary that Tall Skinny Kiwi posted of the debate is a good overview of the varying positions and is a welcome invitation to avoid Al Mohler’s view on the whole thing. A great article from Jonathan Keck at Theology 21 is here and most of Jesus Needs New PR’s coverage has been pretty balanced too.

// to Ephesus and beyond – The lent reading series by John Stephenson has been thought-provoking this week, so worth looking at. I’m new to the blog though, so I can’t comment beyond that.

// vertigo – If you’re involved with youth work in Oxford in any way, please add this to your blogroll – your involvement in the community we’re trying to grow will really help especially because things are going to really kick off in the next few weeks.

// Friday – Oh, wow. This is something else:

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And that’s all for today.

I’ll see you tomorrow for sunday music!

// will there be coffee shops in heaven?

In Heaven, will we still sit around in coffee shops talking theology?

For those of us who love to sit around talking books and discussing ideas about God and who have that as a part of our God-given personality, when we get there – wherever there is, although for the record I do believe there is a there – will we still do it, or will there no longer be any point?

When we know fully, even as we are fully known, will there be anything left to talk about or any difference of opinion? Or will we be so amazed by what we have seen and heard that we will keep speaking about it with a sense of wonder?

And if all discussion ceases – then what on earth will we do for eternity instead?

// clarity, commentary and a Belle & Sebastian graphic novel

Last weekend I went to visit a friend in Bristol, and one of his housemates had this Belle and Sebastian graphic novel called “Put the Book Back on the Shelf”. It was incredible – a bunch of artists had sat down with some of my favourite songs and reimagined them, bringing out themes and lyrics that were there beneath the surface. Belle and Sebastian were, I think, the first band I ever loved, and so seeing somebody else’s vision of the words I knew so well gave them a fresh clarity and brightness. It was like hearing them for the first time again.

I feel like I need that pretty often; new angles or new presentations of the same thing. I get easily bored, or numb to things, and the quest for the new and the fresh is a strong desire. But I’m not sure where that leaves me when it comes to faith. I’m not so sure that’s a good thing these days.

You look at the list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 11 or Romans 12 and you see a whole load of different roles in the church, according to the gifts that God has given people. And if I’m honest, I always thought of myself as a teacher, thought that giving people new angles to see things from was a valuable skill, but ever since this furore with Rob Bell over the past few weeks I’ve been reflecting on it again.

What I admired about Rob in the first place wasn’t so much the conclusions that he drew but the attitude – the willingness to ask questions and see things from slightly sidelong angles, as well as his ability to see the end results of our actions and heart-attitudes. Paul did something similar in Romans 3, reflecting on the broken nature of humanity, and it seems to me like Jesus did too – pointed out exactly where we’d end up if we were left to our own devices and weren’t reliant on God. That seemed valuable, and I thought that kind of discussion would get us somewhere, that the questions were headed towards something.

But over the past few weeks people have raised some good points and now I’m stuck. I think that the best teachers are the people who have wrestled with the material, thrashed it out and got to a place where they feel like they can teach it adequately, but getting there necessarily takes a lot of wrestling and probably a few mistakes in the process. At the same time, I think that teachers have to know what they’re teaching, too, or at least what they’re teaching for – what the point of it all is.

Because what use is perpetually questioning unless it leads you somewhere? And on the same note, what use is tweaking your theology unless it’s going to lead you to worship – real, active, whole-life, heart-changing worship?

See, like with my Belle & Sebastian graphic novel, there is value in a new presentation of a thing provided it sends you back to a fresh appreciation of the original. But when it doesn’t, it’s just commentary for commentary’s sake, and that’s going to get us nowhere.

Last week I wrote briefly about paralysis, and I did that because I don’t know that any of this is really achieving much. I know we have to wrestle, but we also have to pick a point when we’re going to go out and live it, too, and I don’t know how we get past this debate (or this kind of debate, at least).

“We are justified by faith apart from the works of the law”, as Paul writes in Romans 3:28, and the faith that he’s talking about there is a real, active faith, a Hebrews 11 faith. It’s a case of believing the truth of what Christ says about us and then being willing to let that reshape everything in us, from the inside out.

Sure, being justified by faith might start with a decision to trust, but it also implies a continual decision to trust, to keep trusting and to keep going out – going in Christ.

I wonder if I got stuck in commentary, and have been for a while. Too much talking and not enough living, especially sad because the living is, in its own way, pretty straightforward (if not easy).

And I wonder too who – or what – it is that I really love. Whether it is God, or whether it is the philosophical complexity or literary power of this age-old faith tradition. I want it to be God, and I want to want Him more, but I feel like He might be getting lost beneath the noise, and the commentary might be getting detached from the original.

Oh God, that You would direct me back to Yourself. As the old hymn puts it,

“Be Thou my vision, O lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light…

Be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart:
High king of heaven, my treasure Thou art.”

God, let that be my prayer – and all of ours.