30 April 2009

Little Paxton - Eating the scroll

Sean wasn't able to join us this week, so Jim and I sat in the garden and chatted. We enjoyed the view and the balmy evening. Jim's back garden overlooks a footpath, Part of a scroll of Isaiahand beyond this a large stretch of the Paxton Pits Nature Reserve; what a beautiful, peaceful place.

We talked broadly about the terrible state of Britain today - young people who are more and more doing whatever they want, not respecting other people, uncaring, and often selfish - parents who have largely been responsible for this behaviour by not raising their families properly, broken homes, single parents struggling to cope, living on benefits, having no self respect - the economy in a dire state, mostly due to a borrow and spend mentality encouraged by the banks and a consumer-driven society.

We hold all these things before the Lord in prayer. He is the only place we can turn! We don't want to see people suffer, we want to help wherever we can, but the problems are too big and are way out of control.

Jim read out Ezekiel 1 which had greatly impressed him when he started the book on his own earlier in the day. It is an amazing display of Yahweh's power and glory. It seems strange, almost unintelligible, yet it speaks volumes about the Almighty.

Chris remarked on the parallels between Ezekiel and Revelation. There is the scroll with words of lamenting and woe, it tasted sweet like honey but turned the stomach sour (Ez 2:8-3:4, Rev 10:8-11). And there is mention of shepherds and sheep in Ezekiel and the Lamb on the Throne in Revelation (Ez 34, Rev 5:1-14, 14:1-5). There's the fallen Jerusalem in Ezekiel and the new Jerusalem in Revelation. Then there is the water flowing out from the Temple gate, the River of Life, and the trees on the riverbanks for the healing of the nations (Ez 47:1-12, Rev 22:1-5).

And we also considered that amazing passage about the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14), and how the vision is being played out today in the coming together and remaking of the church. The end result will be a mighty host of the newly alive, ready to function and serve. Now that is indeed something to look forward to!

28 April 2009

Wolfram Alpha

Wolfram Alpha is about to hit the streets (or at any rate, a computer screen near you). The Wolfram Alpha query screenCreated by Stephen Wolfram and his company, Wolfram Research, it will look superficially like a search engine but is fundamentally different in nature.

Like a search engine it comes with a text entry box where you can type in a query, like a search engine it goes away and thinks and then spits out results on a webpage. But what goes on behind the scenes and the nature of the returned webpage couldn't be more different.

Wolfram Alpha depends on two earlier developments from the same stable. Mathematica is software that enables mathematical manipulations to be entered, processed, and displayed on a computer, while NKS (which stands for 'A New Kind of Science') is an alternative to the normal tools used by scientists to model the way the universe works.

Using both of these innovative tools, Wolfram Alpha takes a free text query, decides what the user wants to know, looks up the relevant information in its enormous collection, processes the information to create an answer to the original query, and builds a webpage on the fly to display the response. The webpage may include text, images, graphs and charts etc. The end result is a tailored report that might have been written by an expert. Indeed, in many ways Wolfram Alpha is an expert!

Steven Wolfram is an extraordinary person. He is, frankly, a genius - one of a handful of truly great minds in our own time. He looks at things in new ways and comes up with fresh insights, testing them, proving them, and then publishing them. Here, in his own words, is how he's spent his life so far.

Major periods in my work have been:

• 1974-1980: particle physics and cosmology

• 1979-1981: developing SMP computer algebra system

• 1981-1986: cellular automata etc.

• 1986-1991: intensive Mathematica development

• 1991-2001: writing the book, 'A New Kind of Science'

(Wolfram Research, Inc. was founded in 1987; Mathematica 1.0 was released June 23, 1988; the company and successive versions of Mathematica continue to be major parts of my life.)

You can see right away that he is not a man in a hurry. He is not afraid to spend five years or more on a single project. Learn more about his background and work from Wikipedia.

Not everyone agrees with Wolfram's work on NKS, a range of reactions are included in the Wikipedia article on the book.

In the end, 'wait and see' may be the best advice for both Wolfram Alpha and NKS. As far as Alpha is concerned, we'll all get a chance to try it and draw our own conclusions when it's released. Hopefully that will be next month (May 2009).

Meanwhile you can watch video of Stephen Wolfram demonstrating the new technology at Harvard on 28th April.

For news about the new tool, take a look at the Wolfram Alpha Blog which will be updated regularly with further announcements and background information.

27 April 2009

Great Doddington - Unexpected life

This was another great meeting, full of rich thoughts and the touch of the Spirit. What a privilege to be present!Flowers on bare wood

At first we drank tea or coffee and shared news of family and friends. As we talked and prayed, several Bible texts were mentioned, in particular Psalm 31 ('let your face shine on me' - verse 16), Numbers 6 ('the Lord make his face shine upon you' - verse 25), and Psalm 37 ('he will make your righteousness shine like the dawn' - verse 6).

Sherrelea prophesied, 'Do you not know? Have you not heard? You will soar on wings like eagles, you will walk and not be faint.'

Chris had a picture of a tree and shared it. So many trees lose their leaves in the autumn and are bare all through the winter period, then in the spring they produce fresh, new leaves. But the tree in the vision remained bare after all the other trees had come into leaf. It looked dead. But then beautiful flowers burst out of the dead wood and the branches were smothered in pink blossom. And only then did the new leaves begin to grow. Sometimes when nothing seems to be happening the Lord can touch us just like the barren tree and a new season starts unexpectedly in our lives.

Rachael saw an old water mill though it wasn't turning because the water had been blocked off. It was flowing along the river, but not to the wheel. Father said that the wheel on its own is nothing and produces nothing, and the same is true of the water. But he said, 'When my water of life reaches people, my power reaches them and fills them'.

Barbara read Mark 11:22-26 and then prayed for salvation for one of the people we have had in mind. We must ask and believe, and have hearts filled with forgiveness.

Jody had seen a TV program about Nepalese tribespeople collecting honey from wild bee colonies on the sheer face of a forest cliff. These bee colonies were enormous. The method used was to lower someone on a rope to get them close to the nest, and then they would use a knife on a long pole to cut out part of the honeycomb. The idea was to catch the falling honeycomb in a basket suspended from a second rope.

The people know to take no more honey than the bees can cope with so that the bees will be able to survive the winter and collect honey again the following year. In the same way God has given us all we need in our current position. Father reminded us, 'Don't worry about the supply, don't worry about tomorrow'.

Glenn expanded on this idea, the bees coming back are like the next stage in our life. We have no children, later we have children, and eventually grandchildren. Glenn read Lam 2:11,19, and he thought that whatever we go through we have to defeat it because of our children. Our attitude should be, 'How dare the enemy attack my children?'

Chris saw treasure lying on a path, and Father said, 'Some people trip on the treasure and curse it, some step over it without even noticing that it's there, and yet others see it but think that it's worthless. They think if it was real treasure it wouldn't be lying there on the path. But you, my people, have seen the treasure, recognised its worth, and have made it your own. You have found the treasure.'

24 April 2009

Eaton Ford (day) - the hills

Lift your eyes to the hillsWe shared news and thoughts about the various friends and family members we regularly pray for.

Once we had done this we spent some time in prayer before moving on to more general thoughts.

Jules read Psalm 121 which is quite short, but really very encouraging. The first two verses read...

I lift up my eyes to the hills -
Where does my help come from?

My help comes from the LORD,
The Maker of heaven and earth.

We though about our own situations too. Roger explained that he'd attended the PCC meeting in Offord d'Arcy, and told us how he had felt about it. We shared some thoughts on meetings at home, and particularly hoped that Roger and Ruth might have an opportunity to host such meetings themselves.

23 April 2009

Eaton Ford - Japan

Sean told us about the trip to Japan he'd made with his son Joe who is learning Japanese. Cherry blossom, Mount Fuji, and ShinkansenThey spent some time in Tokyo and also in Nagasaki which Sean felt is a beautiful city.

Apparently you can't buy a car in Japan unless you can house it off-road, so car ownership is less common than in Britain and city traffic is not as congested as it is here. Public transport is good. They travelled by train while they were there and were impressed by the punctuality, the politeness of staff, and the respect that people show one another.

We talked about meeting at home in small groups and the sometimes subtle differences between church home groups, the cells of a cell church, and a network of house churches. Jim felt there is a real need for a group to feel like a family.

We also discussed holding another Moggerhanger-style meeting. If we do, Jim thought it would be useful to ask each group to share something about the style of their meetings, how they got started and so forth.

Jim explained that in the River Church's life group they had looked at Psalm 19. Verse 105 is especially striking, 'Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path'. The psalms have themes, for example comfort is the theme of Psalm 23. It's important to recognise we have light for the journey.

Chris mentioned Job 23 which he'd read recently. It's clear that Job wanted a chance to meet Yahweh so he could put his case before him. The problem for Job was that Yahweh was unavailable. Wherever Job searched he was nowhere to be found. And the 'thick darkness' Job speaks of is mentioned a number of times in the Old Testament. This darkness (or hiddenness) prevents the contact Job so craves. Yet we learn from Paul that we are now 'hidden in Christ', in other words we are now on the other side of the veil of hiddenness, and that explains why the world cannot understand us. What a privilege we have!

Jim ran with this thought, reminding us that we know where we're going because Jesus has gone before us to prepare a place for us. His love is so deep, so high, so long and so wide! HalleluYah!

20 April 2009

Great Doddington - We're nothing special

Right at the start we talked about friends and family who needed prayer. We also discussed the need Britain's Got Talentto help our neighbours without neglecting one another in order to do it.

Chris mentioned that it's not really about us at all, it's all about Christ. And although we know how grubby and ugly we really are, even so - he loves us!

Jody explained how they'd visited Fountains Abbey as a family and although the foundations and much of the walls remain, the whole place is being reclaimed by nature. Grass is growing between the pillars, and it's absolutely glorious! She said that it's just like Christ in us, we are becoming absorbed into him. We need to allow his living nature to overtake and overwhelm our dead nature.

She also mentioned Susan Boyle, the newly discovered singer made famous by the TV show 'Britain Has Talent'. This amazing woman has no great natural beauty, but when she sings it really does come from the heart. In this she is a picture of us as believers, we are nothing special in our ordinary day-to-day lives, but there is something very special in our hearts.

Jody shared a picture of something that looked like blueberry jam with a slice of white bread floating in the middle. But instead of jam it turned out to be black tar! Sherrelea was reminded of a bird floating on an oil slick, unless somebody rescues it it will eventually sink. She felt that the Lord has brought us together in this little group to support one another and rescue one another from the blackness. And like the bird in oil, the rescue demands more than just picking us out from danger, it also requires patient, gentle, careful cleaning, feather by feather. And we need protecting while we recover and regain our strength before we can be set free.

Jody prophesied, 'You are new wine to be poured out for a new purpose to show the world who I am and what I will do. Despite the credit crunch, and war, and distress of all kinds, I have come to bring you (and them) to be in the light and love - to share - to take and share. Don't put it in a cupboard or under a blanket, take my joy forward. Be my servants.

We listened to a track from Nicky Roger's first CD, 'Colour Scheme'. The song 'One Thing' reminded us that Jesus is the 'One and Only', and he is the one, the only one who matters in our lives.


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