09 December 2009

Linked Data - queryable, extensive, public data

Tim Berners-Lee has done it again. This time it's not about hyperlinked text but about queryable data. In many ways this can be seen as the public domain, social software equivalent of Stephen Wolfram's proprietary system, WolframAlpha.

It's not hard to see that open will win out over proprietary once again.

Take a look at ReadWriteWeb's post on this topic. It's an excellent roundup. They recommend starting with Tim Berners-Lees's breathless presentation at TED, so do I. I've embedded it below for convenience. Then take a look at the DBpedia website to see how you can use the material for yourself. An online paper presents the technical aspects.

07 December 2009

Colworth (CU) - Advent

Dud led today's meeting and chose the topic of 'Advent'. He explained that it's an extra opportunity to reach people and that it's useful to consider how to approach different sorts of people.

Atheists, for example, have to decide whether to celebrate or ignore Christmas. Family records in an old BibleIn either case Christ is not central as far as they are concerned. They may be irritated, even angered, by the impression that believers are 'muscling in' on a festival that for most people is not about Christ at all. They might prefer that every person should decide for themselves.

Believers on the other hand will often be searching for ways of 'putting Christ back into Christmas'. If we want to avoid the excesses of present giving, card sending, eating, drinking and partying, here are some ideas that Dud had to offer.

  • Instead of or as well as giving Christmas cards, why not pray for the people we give them to? Make a note to pray specifically for them. Some people give Advent cards instead to encourage their friends to look beyond the snow, the robin, and the holly.

  • Read the Bible as a family, encourage each family member to read out their favourite passage.

  • Put Jesus back quite literally by making sure he is in everything you do or say.

  • Connect with your faith. Remember that Jesus was born in a simple way, and that his birth holds meaning and is highly significnt.

  • Go to a candle lit service. Remember that Christ is the Light in the darkness of our lives.
There's a welcome for every believer as an adopted son or daughter. We have a share in the life of Christ! This is indeed Good News! We read Matthew 1:1-17 and thought about the way the Lord had used all kinds of people in Jesus' family tree - many of them of rather dubious morals!

He clearly had no problem with human flaws or weaknesses, nobody is too bad to become one of his followers. All are welcome. We need to learn to let go of our flaws and give them to Jesus.

Finally we read Ruth 1:3-18 and thought about the utter faithfullness of this woman who was a Moabite (not even an Israelite).

04 December 2009

Newforms - Video meeting with Peter Farmer

Peter Farmer and I spoke for two hours online using Skype. Despite a number of drop outs and restarts we were able to cover a lot of ground in the time available. Connected networksI can recommend Skype for this sort of online discussion, it's very helpful to see the person at the other end of the connection at the same time as speaking and listening.

Focused on the King is a loose network of small groups in the Bedford, Cambridge, Northampton area and in our very informal way we are also connected more widely via Newforms, a UK-wide network of networks. Pete started Newforms in May 2008 and aims not only to connect the various networks of simple, organic churches that exist in the UK, but encourage further growth, provide training, arrange national meetings etc.

Some topics we discussed
  • Pete's travel to various parts of the UK which he calls Mission Britain, and his plans for visiting the London area in the next few weeks. I was able to give him some contact names. Another group we'd both like to have contact with is one in north east Scotland. They were visited by Alex Campbell and Floyd McClung in 2008 for training in church planting.

  • People and groups we know. We shared about local and UK-wide networks and individual groups. These seem to be developing more quickly now, and it seems to me that much of this growth is spontaneous. Pete mentioned the Salt and Light Network which I haven't come across previously.

  • Church of Two (CO2, see also Stories from the Revolution). I shared the basis of this with Peter, it turns out there are similarities and some overlap with the Pilgrims and Pioneers idea that he's been using in Nottingham.

  • International conferences and contacts. We exchanged some of our experiences from my Dallas trip in September, and Pete's trip to Delhi just recently. I put him in touch with contacts in the Netherlands and in Sweden and we talked about the work of Wolfgang Simson, Floyd McClung and others.

  • Meetings for the early part of 2010. We are considering some sort of gathering in our area in the first quarter of 2010, and Pete is planning two national meetings in the same period.

  • We also discussed training  and resources for making disciples and planting churches.
All in all it was two hours well spent. We both ended the conversation informed, encouraged, and connected. And staying connected was the reason for the conversation in the first place.

(You can also read Pete's notes on this meeting.)

    Eaton Ford (day) - Practicing praise

    Paul read 1 Peter 3:8-12 and we thought about the difficulty of forgiving, how easy it is to hold a grudge. Even though we know we shouldn't do it, Praise logosometimes it's hard and we wrestle with ourselves.

    We talked about friends who need prayer because of illness or other issues in their lives. And Roger raised the subject of praise; he said that we need to practice praise so that it becomes natural to us. The principle is similar to CS Lewis's description in 'The Great Divorce' of a persistent grumbler who runs the risk of eventually becoming, not a grumbler, but in fact merely a grumble. If we are persistent praisers perhaps we can finally attain the state of being a praise!

    Roger read Psalm 138 and I mentioned that we don't belong to ourselves, nor do we belong to the world, but we belong to one another and of course we belong to the Lord. Paul prayed for the Tough Talk meeting on Saturday week, then I referred to verse 8 and said that the Lord will fulfill his purpose for Paul, for Roger, and for me. Whatever he plans in our lives he will do. Referring to verse 3, Roger added that he will make all his people bold and stout hearted. We prayed for more of our friends.

    We thought about  the fact that there are two kinds of 'knowing' or relationship. For knowing in the mind reason, knowledge, and persuasion are the tools we need. But we need different tools for knowing people in the heart, they are things such as mercy, compassion, and love. Paul added feeling and understanding to the list. We need these to 'be there' for people, to understand how they feel.

    03 December 2009

    Eaton Ford - Small groups

    Jim was working very late today, Paul was unwell, and Mary couldn't make it so it was just Sean and me meeting this evening.

    We discussed the ideal size for groups of people sharing their lives together and thought that between twelve and twenty is the natural maximum. Greek icon of the twelve apostlesYahshua called twelve men to follow him and we know there were women who also followed him, so there is good precedent for twenty or so as a maximum. Larger numbers would make it difficult for people to relate closely and personally with one another. It's a good size for any kind of team - in business, sport, and it's typically the size of an extended family.

    We spent some time considering ways of reaching out to those around us. Both of us are keen to do this. We recognise that last summer's camp was one way to do this, and we know it was prepared and orchestrated by Papa, not by us. All we had to do was follow step by step. But we want to reach more people in the town and are sure that if we trust and expect to be led, the opportunities will come.

    I described what I'd learned about CO2 from John White and others at the House2House Conference in Dallas. Sean thought it sounded a great idea and is happy to try it with me so we plan to begin right away, do it for a week, and then see how we feel about continuing. We will do the VIRKLER exercise individually and report back when we meet to share what we think the Lord is telling us each day. And we'll step through the SASHET process at the same time.

    Here's a video of CO2 in action.

    C02 Overview from TSP on Vimeo.

    We'll let you all know how we get on. We hope to meet face to face two or three days each week for our CO2 sessions. On the other four or five days we will use Skype and/or Google Wave as communication channels. We'll also share how these worked for us as CO2 tools.

    Before finishing we prayed for our friends and specific things in their lives that we're aware of, particularly illnesses and family matters.

    01 December 2009

    Great Doddington - What is church?

    As we chatted over coffee and biscuits the conversation turned to thoughts about faith, healing, and salvation. What is church?Healing in particular seems to be quite common at some times and in some places, but not all the time and everywhere. So what should we expect in our own lives and those of people we know? What should we expect in our own towns, villages, and workplaces?

    Glenn shared about events in Argentina that he'd read about in a book years ago. Extraordinary events with strong evidence. And this prompted Barbara to tell us how she'd been praying for someone's health and had felt overwhelmed by a sense of peace, certainty, and faith. She'd been able to prayer in a different way as a result, knowing that her prayer was heard and answered.

    We also chewed over some of the great mysteries that are presented in the Bible. In particular Jody wondered how it could be that the Almighty would instruct Israel to utterly destroy defeated enemies like the ancient city of Jericho. To our human understandings there is a disconnect here. How can it be right to put  men, women and children to the sword? How can it be just? Obedience demanded it, but it seems a very odd instruction. Today it would be declared genocide and the UN would intervene.

    It's a good question and not easy to answer. It seems barely sufficient to argue that those were the days of the Law and today we live under a dispensation of grace. I pointed out that Old Testament events of this kind translate very powerfully into our own lives. Have I 'killed' all the dark and wrong things in my own heart? Am I clinging to remnants of my past, unsaved life? If so, they will surely come back to bite me. Yet there will be a kind of suffering (or at least discomfort) in giving them up. But the reason must be far deeper, something to do with the nature of Yahweh himself. He is love, but he is also jealous and just and pure and holy. He is gentle but also terrible.

    Another topic we considered was 'What is church?' We agreed that we need to grow into fellowship on an altogether different level. Are we really closely enough involved in one another's lives? If one of us feels lonely, or far from the Lord - how can we help one another? And are we reaching out into a lost world as we should?

    I recounted Floyd McClung's story about the young lady who asked for prayer. She said she wanted patience. He began praying for tribulation in her life - not at all what she had expected to hear. Some of us thought that asking for tribulation in someone's life was a dreadful thing to do, and I do understand why we might think so. But Floyd was not being unkind, he was encouraging her to understand the basis for the growth of patience in a person's life. It's not that our Father is being cruel to his children, he is actually working hard and at great cost to dig us out of the pit that we are in - but he didn't put us into that pit in the first place.

    We read Psalm 107 from verse 4.

    And finally we linked arms in a circle and prayed for one another.


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