24 July 2011

RESPONSE: Norway and Amy Winehouse

Almost a hundred dead in Norway following a bomb and a shooting spree, and a great singer/songwriter dead before the age of thirty. Two tragedies that are not connected - or are they?

The Oslo bombingThere's no direct link of course, yet there is a common element (as we shall see) and the tragic events took place just a day apart.

On 22nd July Anders Behring Breivik set off a huge home made bomb in central Oslo and followed it up with a multiple shooting on the island of Utøya about 20 miles away.

On 23rd July Amy Winehouse was found dead in her London home.

Amy WinehouseI feel deep sympathy for the victims of both tragedies, and for their friends and families who will be struggling emotionally and in practical ways to cope with the new reality of life without a loved one. Life with an unfillable hole in it. When my wife died in the mid nineties I was aware of a Judy-shaped hole in my heart and in my life. And I knew that our daughters, our parents, and our friends also carried similar holes within them.

In time (be it short or long) the hole will mend. My prayer for those suffering loss is that as the hole eventually fades it will fill in with many happy memories. These will remain for ever - they do for me.

Paul, writing to the Corinthians, explained that faith, hope and love remain. 'But', he wrote, 'the greatest of these is love' (1 Cor 13:13). In your losses cling to all three, but focus especially on love.

Lack of love (or a perceived lack of love) is always a killer. So is a sense of failure or defeat.

We read that Anders Breivik was a Christian fundamentalist of some kind. But Jesus told his followers to love the Father, to love one another, and to love their enemies. Paul wrote this description of the nature of love...

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

Whatever Anders Breivik is, he clearly doesn't understand what Christ meant by love. If Jesus' love is in a person's heart, murder and harm are not among the possible outcomes. The immense harm he has done is not compatible with the word 'Christian' in its true sense.

Amy Winehouse, on the other hand, needed to know that she was loved. How can it be that a young star with a brilliant career ahead of her could throw it all away with drink and drugs? She was loved by friends in and out of the music industry and by family members. Many would have done anything to rescue her. But addiction is a trap that is hard to shrug off, even with willing help and support from close family and friends. It takes much more than human help and willpower to break free and build a new sense of worth and value.

We live in a broken and desperate world. It's a world in which anger and fear, hatred and despair, violence and loneliness are always crowding in and wanting to own us. Often they have their way with us as these two tragic events highlight.

The answer is more love, not less hatred; more light, not less darkness; more life, not less death. As with a serious illness, treating the symptoms can never cure the underlying cause.

The cure for a broken world is Jesus. Not a Jesus preached in church on a Sunday morning but a Jesus living in the lives of his people, making a difference in the world by pouring out abundant love, light and life.

Jesus said, 'I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life' (John 14:6). The Father 'is love' (1 John 4:8).

If you are a follower of Jesus, let his light shine! Let his love and light and life pour out from your heart daily and extravagantly. Let his love pour out on good and bad alike, just as the Father does. And remember, where your ability to love falls short, his goes right on. If Jesus is living in your heart he will fill any gap caused by your own limits. Trust him!

29 June 2011

X-treme Camps - The problem

< No earlier items | The problem >

It's time to write about X-treme Camps again. This year's camp takes place at the end of July; although I'm only slightly involved this time I sense that Father wants me to write down some of the early history and review progress so far.

The first camp involving young people from St Neots was in July 2009 and this year's will be the third. But the story begins back in the summer of 2008 when I read an article in a local newspaper, the Hunts Post.

Local press articleThe article is no longer on the paper's website, but the gist of it was this. A couple in their thirties living in Mallard Lane in Eynesbury had been attacked by youths ranging in age from eleven to eighteen or so. Let's call them Joanne and David (not their real names).

Jo had become ill and needed a wheelchair. Dave had given up his job in order to become her full-time carer, and they were regularly seen in the area between their home and the town centre shops. They were good, friendly people struggling with a distressing problem and coping with serious difficulties.

The trouble began with name calling; a group of youngsters shouted out that Jo was a 'lazy cow' because she was in the wheelchair. At first, Dave had tried to talk to them and explain, but that only seemed to offend them and make matters worse. After a while the name calling developed into something more serious. The group began throwing stones at the house, hitting the front door and windows. The stones grew in size until one night a brick came through the front window and landed inside the house. Although the window was soon replaced it was broken again just a week later and in desperation Dave reported this to the police. The problem just got worse and worse.

The press came round to interview Jo and Dave, the story appeared in the paper, and I read it. Here's what I wrote in response at the time.

I simply couldn't leave things like this. I wrote an unsealed letter to Jo and Dave and asked the local police to pass it to them. A few days later Dave phoned me and we had a good chat, I stressed that I wanted to do whatever I could to help. Dave explained that they were about to be moved into housing in another town and I told him that I would pray for him and for Jo and that I would see if there was any way of engaging young people in the area in more useful and less destructive ways. I've lost contact with them since they moved away.

Now, I am not a youth worker and would be hopeless at engaging youngsters in anything. All I could do initially was pray and expect Jesus to show me what to do. Imagine my astonishment when he answered that prayer in a way that demonstrated he had it all planned out from the beginning.

< No earlier items | The problem >

11 May 2011

TECHNOLOGY - Chromebook is coming!

Chromebook? What's that?!! It's Google's plan to replace operating systems with a device that does nothing but browse the web. It's a simple machine that runs the Chrome browser without a fully-fledged operating system and without any other applications. It's the ultimate in cloud computing.

The ChromebookThe Chromebook will start quickly when switched on, it needs no data backup because everything is stored in the cloud. No virus scanner is required. It never needs upgrades, security updates or anything like that; it will simply update itself when needed. This will make it extremely easy to manage and use - for example, if you lose your Chromebook you can simply buy a new one, log in, and all your documents, photos, music and other data will be just as you left it.

And just how will you create a document or edit a photo with no word processor or image software? You will use applications in the cloud. There are already perfectly adequate word processors, spreadsheets, presentation packages, email clients and much more - all using web pages for user interaction. Google Docs and Google Mail are good examples. The range of applications is growing and their capability is improving all the time. All the standard office productivity tools are readily available.

For several years I have been steadily using more and more in the way of web applications and cloud storage. I like working this way and I'm keen to get my hands on a Chromebook. The internet is almost universally available in the UK now, particularly in towns and cities so there are few places where a Chromebook would be unusable.

For the detail on Chromebook read Google's announcement and Information Week's news article. Or you can just view Google's promotional video below...


Comment - Running applications on remote servers has been a long term goal in the world of computing. From the 1980s mainframe or minicomputer displaying its output on a remote terminal, via client/server X-windows systems and Citrix servers running Windows applications remotely, to the web and cloud computing, and now the Chromebook.

In the past these systems have never quite made the big time despite the great advantages they offer IT managers in the business world. Will the Chromebook become the success that Google craves? It's hard to say.

Google has had previous good ideas but results have been mixed. Chrome and Android have done very well, Wave and OpenSocial have not. Chromebook could really fly but first it must convince ordinary non-tech users of the advantages. Since many users already spend more time browsing the web than they do working with other applications, and since web applications are already popular (especially email and social networking), there's a very good chance of success.

Time will tell.

Updates

02 May 2011

About Chris

Welcome to 'Journeys of heart and mind'. I hope you'll enjoy your visit. You'll find contact details and some background information about me here. The rest of the website has a wide variety of links and articles.

My home town is St Neots in Cambridgeshire, UK. It's a typical English market town and has a population of around 30 000.

St Neots Market SquareI'm retired now, but used to work for Unilever on web technologies and before that worked at LARS, a horticultural research station near Bristol. I'm married to Donna with two daughters, two sons-in-law, three granddaughters and a grandson who all live near the beautiful city of York in the north of England.

I follow Jesus and recognise him as my King. I'm in regular contact with other members of his kingdom in this little corner of England and we meet to share our lives and hearts together as often as we can. There's no organisation or structure beyond an open network, we are just one big, happy family.

My interests include life and the way things work including archaeology, astronomy, church, family, history, photography, science, technology, travel, and more...

Contact details
Bibury, a Cotswold Village
Bibury, a Cotswold Village

Links

  • Gospels - Daily readings with comments
  • Home page - A starting point for articles and more
  • JDMC - Following Jesus, a rethink
  • Photos - A selection of my photos
  • Quote - Sayings and writings that I really like
  • Toast - Places I've been, people I've met, thoughts


The Cotswolds
I was born and brought up in Cirencester, a pretty Cotswold market town with a history back to at least Roman times. I'm one of four children; Dad helped with the family business and Mum was from Northern Ireland. School was followed by four years at Bath University.

Career
For much of my life I worked at Long Ashton Research Station (LARS, now closed). I began there as a biologist working on willow and poplar growth, then moved to work on plum and apple pollen tube growth and fruit development, next via plant hormone research to electron microscopy, then X-ray microanalysis, and eventually computing. Today, the site near Bristol is a housing development. I left LARS in 1998 to work as a web developer for Unilever. I retired in 2010.

Church
Most people think in terms of an old building with a tower, but that's not really what I mean by 'church'. For me, church is a community, people interrelating with and caring for one another. The essence of church is that it is active in society, representing Jesus in daily life. I'm heavily involved and love every minute of it.

Why 'Scilla'?
You might be wondering about the domain name 'Scilla'. This is a Latin term for a kind of bluebell. Donna and I love bluebells and our front garden is full of them, growing as a carpet in the shade of trees and bushes every spring.

When we chose a domain name for this and other websites, we thought 'Scilla' would be just perfect.

RESPONSE: The death of Osama bin Laden

We live in a violent world. Today's news that United States forces have killed Osama bin Laden in a reinforced hideout in Pakistan just emphasises that. What are we to make of it?

Osama bin LadenViolence seems to be everywhere. A civil war is under way in Libya, pirates are active off the Somali coast, in Iran retribution is quick and severe for those who dare to oppose the authorities, the battle continues in Afghanistan and Iraq is racked by shootings and bombings. Closer to home trouble is stirring again in Northern Ireland and in Bristol there have been clashes between protesters and police over (of all things) the opening of a small, local Tesco shop.

Let's face it, there's nothing new about violence, it's as old as the human race. But it certainly hasn't gone away!

The latest news about Osama bin Laden's death is astonishing and raises many questions. You can read some of the background in an article by the BBC's Mark Mardell. No doubt more detail will emerge over the coming days and weeks. There is also likely to be strong reaction from Pakistan and perhaps from Russia and China too.

The principles - But what about the principles involved? For those with no faith it just comes down to a matter of morality and personal opinion. Is it reasonable to kill someone who has done bad things? Is it acceptable to mount a raid into another country, even if the purpose seems noble? Everyone will have opinions on these matters and we will not always agree.

Many religions teach that violence is wrong or that it is justifiable only in certain circumstances.

Love and forgive - But what for those who follow Jesus? Three things, I think.

First, it's clear that we are to love the Father. We are to be like him, pouring out love on one another and even on our enemies. Yahshua told Peter that those who choose to live by the sword will die by the sword. It is surely better for us to die by love than to die by the sword. As we judge, so will we be judged. 'Be like your Father in heaven', is not a suggestion - it's a command. But be warned, loving may cause us to die. If we truly love we will certainly die to self. But we may also die physically in situations where violence might have 'saved' us. It's better to be saved by grace than to be 'saved' by violent action.

And secondly, we are to forgive as we have been forgiven. If someone murders my wife or my child I am to forgive them. That's hard, isn't it? We are not called to seek revenge or punishment. We are not even called to seek justice. We are called to forgive.

Forgiving a wrong often seems like excusing evil. In fact forgiving and loving our enemies pours fire upon them. Forgiving is harder than lashing out with the tongue or with the fist or a firearm. Grace and patience lead us to love and forgive. Anger leads us into sin.

The actions of others - And the third point is this. Not only are we to forgive our enemy, we are not to judge others who make different choices.

So what about Osama's death? It's not for me to say. All I can say is that it would have been entirely wrong for me to kill him, but others must decide for themselves. My Father gave us freedom of will, freedom to choose. He expects me to extend the same freedom to others. I may not judge, I may only love and forgive.

05 April 2011

RESPONSE - Obedience matters!

This is in response to a brief post on the Nomad Blog. By being obedient the team were able to do exactly the right thing without even knowing there was a need. Yahshua is, frankly, awesome!

A bouquet of flowersHere's an extract from the post on Nomad.

We felt God prompting us to go into a local housing estate, but we all felt a bit discouraged at how quiet things were. Two of the team felt God draw their attention to a certain house. They knocked on the door and asked the lady who answered if they could pray for her. She began crying and said that her husband had died a few weeks before. The team spent the rest of the afternoon listening to her story and praying with her.

The next day someone gave the team an undelivered bouquet of flowers to use. As we prayed a number of us felt God saying to give the flowers to the lady we’d met the day before. So two of the team went back to her house and told her that Jesus wanted to give her the bouquet. She began crying and told us that it was the day of her 40th wedding anniversary and her husband’s birthday! Again the team was able to spend the afternoon praying with her. God’s perfect timing!

There are several things to notice about this.

  • The team were prompted in a general way - to go into a housing estate. We may not get the guidance all at once. If we begin to follow, more will come as and when it's needed.
  • They felt discouraged as nothing much seemed to be happening. It's easy to feel discouraged, but it's important not to give up.
  • Two were drawn to a particular house. There's no certainty about these things, but they went prepared to see what would happen. We all need to learn to do this.
  • They knocked on the door. We have to take the initiative, we have to go for it! There's no point in wimping out; if there's a door knock on it; if someone comes smile and speak to them. People are unlikely to approach us; we must approach them.
  • They asked if they could pray. Bless people, don't discuss the Bible or tell them they are on the path to death or that they need to repent. Bless them! How simple can this be? Pray, listen, care, love - those are the things we are called to do. God is love. If Jesus lives in me love will leak out everywhere I go.
  • They listened and prayed with her. Nuff said.
  • Someone gave them a bouquet. Expect things like this to happen. Don't take the flowers home and put them into a vase. They were given for a purpose, ask Jesus to reveal it.
  • They asked Jesus what to do and he told them. How important to trust him like this. He will not let us down. He is teaching us to trust and expect.
  • Two went back and delivered the flowers from Jesus. Not from us - from him. We need to invite him to live and act and speak through us. Christ in us, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).
  • More prayer, more listening, the right time. HalleluYah!
More? You want more? Good! Also read this Nomad item and then ponder a couple of questions.

Yahshua sent out the disciples in pairs and told them to share the good news, cast out demons, and heal the sick. In other words he told them to do what they had seen him do. (Luke 9:1-6)

Q1 - What does he want you to do?

Q2 - Oh, and while you're at it why not listen to some of the truly excellent stuff on the Nomad Podcast?

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