Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Build this house

Lou Fellingham's new CD Treasure is very well worth getting. This song is typically beautifully sung, but more, is a challenging prayer: [mp3 sample]

All I have and all I am is Yours
There's nothing that I have on earth
that doesn't come from You
I lay aside my pride and wordly worth
To serve You is the greatest thing
that I could ever do

    For unless you build this house
    I am building it in vain
    Unless the work is Yours
    There is nothing to be gained
    I want something that will stand
    When your Holy fire comes
    Something that will last
    And to hear You say well done
    Giving Glory to You Lord
    Glory to You Lord
So easy to desire what others have
Instead of seeing all the gifts that
You have given me
So help me fan the flame which You began
And burn in me a love for You
that all will clearly see

"What do you do?"

There are many strange perceptions out there about what a CU Staff Worker might do.

I do not do this [HT: Fearners] I'm not aware that anyone does think I do that, but just to set the record straight.

There's nothing like a good communications strategy...

CU member: Who are you?
étrangère: I'm the new Andy Weatherly, only shorter, blonder, more Northern Irish, and female.
CU member: Nothing like Andy then.
étrangère: Well, no, not really.

So why not let the CU members define the job?

CU member: Who are you then?
étrangère: I'm the CU Staff Worker :-)
CU member: Oh, you're the one who takes them for coffee? [With a nod towards the 2 leaders]
étrangère: Something like that [2 leaders smile brightly]

Or the university multi-faith centre chaplains?

étrangère: Hi...
Friendly Chaplain: Yes, I know you!
étrangère: Em, I don't think so...
[FC has a moment of insisting he knows me, followed by the realisation that he doesn't. Then...]
FC: Good to meet you - you'll know all about me! [Aside to students:] They get briefed on Chaplains, you see. [Back to me:] Andy will have sent you all my emails!
étrangère: Er...

Well, why don't we see what non-Christians think?

Orchestra member: So what do you do?
étrangère: I help students study the Bible to check out who Jesus is and what they're going to do about it.
[After a while, he calls me back, indicating the lady beside him]
Orchestra member: She's a vicar's wife!
'Vicar's wife': Hi. He says you're 'some sort of Christian' & that you do Bible studies?

Driving instructor: What's your job?
étrangère [concentrating hard and going into 3rd gear]: I work with students...
Driving instructor: We'll be turning right at the next junction
étrangère: ...I help them [check mirrors, signal] investigate the Bible, and [mirrors, slow down] who Jesus is, so [down into 2nd] that they'll trust in him...
Driving instructor: SLOW DOWN - how much of the road can you see?
étrangère: [slow down, take corner]
Driving instructor: Well done.
étrangère: ...and know how to follow him.
Driving instructor: Ah, ok. ... Well I won't be asking you any more questions as you clearly can't concentrate on the road at the same time.

I gather the explanation doesn't get any easier as time goes on. There's something on it here, but there's only so much you can...

Sunday, 24 September 2006

Profoundly tagged

Jonathan flung tagliatelle my way across the blogosphere (I know, how rude). It means I'm supposed to answer the following questions (and he expects me to be profound!) Here goes...

Why do you blog?
It helps me think through things more carefully (in putting them in writing) and introduces the accountability of making the thoughts public - so I can check that I'm analysing things in a gospel way and for the building up of the church and God's glory. I also find it helpful to keep track myself - if I haven't posted in a while, it forces me to question, 'Have I not learnt anything? Been challenged by anything?...' Then hopefully sharing such things does build up others and leads to helpful interaction which does me good too. Oh, and it's fun.

How long have you been blogging?
It looks like I started on 7th July 2005. Which I did. So that's... oh you work it out; I did a maths degree.

Self portrait.
A self portrait doesn't have to be of the artistic variety, does it?
Why do readers read your blog?
Well? You're reading this - why? I'm not a mind-reader! Anyway, not all readers read my blog. The vast majority of readers read books and have no idea my blog is here. Good for them.

What was the last search phrase someone used to find your site?
If I found out site stats I'd be captive to them. I know me - I'd start trying to get more, or I'd feel proud of what I have (or probably both). So I've deliberately no idea if anyone ever used a search phrase to find my blog. I rather doubt it.

Which of the entries gets unjustly too little attention?
Justice has very little to do with the attention given a blog post. I mean, how often do you hear of someone falling down on the ground with a despairing cry of, "If there was any justice in the world, people would comment on my post on the price of cheese!" Deary me.

Your current favourite blog?
Tough one. I do visit Dave's often for his gospel-full posts, and Ref21 is always helpful & interesting, and sometimes has me in fits of laughter also (usually at Carl Trueman's alter egos). But that's judging blogs partly on frequency of visiting, and there are others I love for other things.

Which blog did you read most recently?
JB's obviously, only to see I was tagged! Who made up these questions?

Which feeds do you subscribe to? Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Which 4 blogs are you tagging with this meme and why?
I really don't like tagging people. OK, if you're reading this and want to do it, consider yourself tagged - comment to say so, if you like.

Saturday, 23 September 2006

Flag waving

Dave Bish made me the banner you see above. Thank you, Dave! He has admitted to having a cunning plan to make the blogosphere look a bit nicer on the eye, and so far, so nice.

As you can see, his banner inspired me to a whole new colour scheme for étrangère. I like to think that it hints at the various cultural influences in my strange foreigner composition. I'm in England (see profile), with a penchant for things Belgian or at least francophone (see title), and hail from Nor'n Iron (er, stretch the politics to geography for a minute and see colour scheme). I'm also an stranger on the earth because I'm no longer estranged from God (see content - I hope). But if waffle isn't your thing (hmm, waffles), ignore that.

Yes, I know it's not long since my last redesign. Ah, such a transient world.

Confessions of a bibliophile

I confess...

I'm finding English novels boring. Correction, contemporary English novels. I can delight in a C.S.Lewis (and do - I can go on about Till we have faces, Perelandra, The Great Divorce or Narnia for a considerable length of time). I started devouring Milton the other day and am eagerly awaiting when my copy of Paradise Lost will drop through the letterbox (admittedly poetry not novel). And I lost count of how many hours sleep I lost in teenagehood reading and re-reading Tolkien. But Shriver, who has won so many awards? And Coupland, who has had such insights into our culture? I couldn't get into them.

I'm not disparaging those who do: we have different characters (praise the Lord!) and find different things interesting!

With me? Well, I can be intrigued by a plot, and want to know what happens, but if the use of language isn't brilliant, the technique fascinating (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time), the characterisation so well done that you think you know them in real life (La Neige en deuil), the world so well-crafted that there isn't a hole in its whole history, culture or linguistics (The Lord of the Rings), or the ideas philosophically meaty (Perelandra; not the self-obsessed psychobabble that pop novels come out with), I'm bored. I'll vaguely want to know what happens, but I'll be bored while I find out.

I have laugh out loud with delight moments at a beautiful sentence or phrase, a brilliant philosophical idea, or a grace-ful character.

Generalising again, I love French novel style. I think it's because francophones care for their language. And not just in the particular Academie Française way, but they love it. They romance it. They enjoy it. The writing of a novel is not in the plot - it is the art and science of écriture. There's also an element of classical education. The French novelist commonly assumes the reader is familiar with Judeo-Christian, Greek, Roman and French philosophical & cultural references. Philosophy, politics & anthropology is often played with like the mention of the weather in an anglophone novel. Now obviously that can be dull, but in those I've read, it adds deep colours to the palate which make the painting dance with richness beyond the contemporary.

I'm not just francophilising. I know there are so many great English novels out there that I haven't read yet (this isn't difficult to fathom, as I've read relatively few of the classics). I never thought otherwise - I read very few novels at all. I enjoyed relaxing last year to reading Vanhoozer's 'Is there a meaning in this text?' (it's a delight to read). Only, I had thought to engage more with pop culture by reading a contemporary English novel every so often. And I'm now not sure I can do it: time is too short for boredom. So I'm on a hunt - tell me your favourite 'greats' (go on, surprise me with contemporary greats!), and why. You may think me a moron and have different taste, but tell me why I should enjoy your 'greats'.

Thursday, 21 September 2006

The 'Pope', the 'Prophet' & the 'Peaceful'

Well, it was all over the news, and here are a few blog posts about it:

Piper offers 10 points on 'How Christians Should Respond to Muslim Outrage at the Pope's Regensburg Message About Violence and Reason'. His post does what it says on the tin (I do like that: his messages always tell you in the title what they're about!) - he outlines some of what was actually said by the Pope (something we don't hear in the Muslim critics' war cries), discusses it and gives some suggestions for how we should respond.

Rick Phillips, over at Ref21, posted a couple of interesting secular American opinion articles, notable of which was Anne Applebaum's after which Rick named his post: Enough Apologies! (I do feel like it's missing an 'already' - as in, 'Enough apologies, already!'. Yeah, like, watevver.) Good piece. Rick concludes, 'See - there still are real men in America, even if most of them are women.'

The first of these to post was I think Challies, with his aptly titled, "Who's reinforcing negative stereotypes?" which is about the non-reaction of those thousands of 'good peaceful' Muslims of which we're told, who complain that it is politically insensitive comments which reinforce violent stereotypes of Islamic culture/politics /Islam, but who don't complain as much about reality of violence within Islam. Which probably brings us back again to some of Piper's 10 suggestions on how we should respond.

Grace & peace.

Monday, 18 September 2006

Be a dolphin

Dave's got some great tips for freshers (and I'd say not only freshers) over here.

Monday, 11 September 2006

Glory Days

Some students asked me for a top 5 books for this term. That's a hard question (though I'm loving it) - usually different people need different books at different stages of life, thought and maturity. I'm still pondering it - at the time I only managed to say Cross-examined by Mark Meynell. Now I've definitely got another to add: Glory Days by Julian Hardyman.
[From the publisher review] You love to paint but Christian meetings fill up all your free time. You could cut it as a professional sportsperson but think missionary work might be a better use of your life. You’re interested in party politics but worry that it’s not much of a spiritual pastime.

Many believers subconsciously divide their lives into Christian activities (church, prayer, Bible study and evangelism) and everything else – the glory bits and the rest. Julian Hardyman shows that God is just as interested in our work and family, our hobbies and skills, our politics and sporting prowess, as the things we think of as spiritual.
Your suggestions on a top 5 books for students would be welcome in comments. Just bear in mind it's Fresher term and we're talking students from many different church backgrounds - I'm not necessarily asking for your top 5 books, or top 5 Christian classics. Current contenders apart from the 2 above are Let the Nations be Glad!, Out of the Saltshaker (which seems like the Marmite book on evangelism - love it & find it life transforming or hate it and know you're not Rebecca Manley-Pippert), Know & Tell the Gospel, Pure, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, Dig Deeper!, & God's Big Picture.

Saturday, 9 September 2006

Bring the books!

Oh ok. I don't think I've referenced Pyromaniacs before. They're BIG in the reformed blogdom... anyway, that's irrelevant. Phil Johnson, who's the big cheese and original Pyromaniac, has quoted Spurgeon on Bring the Books! AMEN & woohoo!

Tick, tick, tick, bomb!

Just back from FORUM 2006: Ignition. It rocked. The gospel, faithful and challenging Bible teaching from Graham Daniels & Rico Tice, and around 500 student CU leaders, Relay workers and CU staff workers, a big top tent, lots of washing up, a whole evening of prayer for world mission, and an open mic night which rounded off with an incredible post-punk lyrical performance from Dan Peterson (new CUSW in Scotland).

I had a particularly nostalgic moment. My first time at FORUM, we sang 'There is a Day' [mp3] by the Fellinghams. It's an excellent song full of Scripture pointing us to long for the day when we'll see Jesus face to face and be like him (even if the fill-in 'oh yeah, o-oh yeah!' rather amused my friend & I). Then this FORUM, my first time as a CUSW, didn't we have Lou and Nathan Fellingham along to sing some new songs to us (including some from Lou's wonderful new album Treasure), and they sang 'There is a Day'. All it lacked was my friend struggling not to laugh at the Oh yeahs.
Oh yeah.
I would say things come round in circles, except they don't: history is linear, heading to the goal of being under one head, even Christ.

Things Of Note (or TON, not to be confused with Thon, which is tuna, in French) -

STUDENTS get great discounts on great books courtesy of a UCCF student card. GRADUATES get a special conference - to equip you to live for Jesus and speak for Jesus in the workplace - with The Don (Carson) and Stott speaking.

Dieu traqique

Si j'ai bien toute ma mémoire
Disait Dieu dans un coin du ciel
J'avais commençé une histoire
Sur une planète nouvelle, toute bleue
Bleue, pour ne pas qu'on la confonde
Je vais aller m'asseoir sur le rebord du monde
Voir ce que les hommes en ont fait

J'y avais mis des gens de passage
J'avais mélangé les couleurs
Je leur avais appris le partage
Ils avaient répété par cœur
«Toujours» ! tous toujours dans la même ronde
Je vais aller m'asseoir sur le rebord du monde
Voir ce que les hommes en ont fait

Je me souviens d'avoir dit aux hommes
Pour chaque fille une colline de fleurs
Et puis j'ai planté des arbres à pommes
Où tout le monde a mordu de bon cœur
Et partout, partout des rivières profondes
Je vais aller m'asseoir sur le rebord du monde
Voir ce que les hommes en ont fait

Soudain toute la ville s'arrête
Il paraît que les fleuves ont grossi
Les enfants s'approchent, s'inquiètent
Et demandent «pourquoi tous ces bruits ?»
Sans doute, Dieu et sa barbe blonde
Dieu qui s'est assis sur le rebord du monde
Et qui pleure de le voir tel qu'il est !

Dieu qui s'est assis sur le rebord du monde
Et qui pleure de le voir tel qu'il est.

- Francis Cabrel, 6/6/93
J'aime beaucoup la chanson française et j'adore ce CD de Cabrel qu'on m'a donné - Samedi soir sur la terre. Mais il faut dire, son idée de Dieu est triste. Il me semble qu'il a l'impression que ce monde est tragique, qu'il manque de sens («Est-ce que ce monde est sérieux ?»); et Cabrel projette cette image pour imaginer Dieu. Son dieu est impuissant et triste face au péché de l'homme. Il dit même (dans La cabane du pêcheur),
Y a sûrement quelqu'un qui écoute
Là-haut dans l'univers
Peut-être tu demandes plus qu'il ne peut ?
Mais pourquoi imaginer un dieu impuissant ? Si on reconnaît l'existance de dieu ici, c'est sûrement à cause de son création, qui manifeste son pouvoir ! Non, en ce cas, ce n'est pas principalement qu'on a oublié son pouvoir de créateur suprême - c'est parce que nous nous sommes élevés en comparaison - d'après nous - au niveau d'autorité ! En declarant fort notre liberté à faire du mal, nous imaginons que nous avons fait de dieu un impuissant. Ah, le pauvre dieu, il se perds un peu face à notre rébellion.

Euh, ramenons-nous à la réalité ? Genèse 3 ?

Si on reconnaît qu'il existe un dieu bon et créateur, et que nous sommes pécheurs, qu'il soit triste et impuissant est attirant. C'est tragique. On peut écrire des chansons au sujet. Ca n'aide rien, ni change rien, mais on sent un peu mieux. Pauvre dieu.

Mais un dieu bon et créateur, qui face aux pécheurs est puissant et fâché; de cela on n'écrit pas de chansons.

Gloire à Dieu tout-puissant qui nous a fourni un solution au problème de notre rébellion et sa colère, de lequel on peut bien chanter !
Jésus Christ... existant en forme de Dieu, n'a point regardé comme une proie à arracher d'être égal avec Dieu, mais s'est dépouillé lui-même, en prenant une forme de serviteur, en devenant semblable aux hommes; et ayant paru comme un simple homme, il s'est humilié lui-même, se rendant obéissant jusqu'à la mort, même jusqu'à la mort de la croix.

C'est pourquoi aussi Dieu l'a souverainement élevé, et lui a donné le nom qui est au-dessus de tout nom, afin qu'au nom de Jésus tout genou fléchisse dans les cieux, sur la terre et sous la terre, et que toute langue confesse que Jésus Christ est Seigneur, à la gloire de Dieu le Père.
- Philippiens 2:5-11

Friday, 1 September 2006

Flemish mayor bans French

The mayor of Merchtem, Belgium, has just banned French from being spoken in schools in the region.

Mais pourquoi ? Maar waarom ?

This is understandable and will help integration. Belgium has 3 federal communities - Flanders (north, near the Netherlands, speaking Flemish), Wallonia (south, near France, speaking French), and Brussels (middle, supposedly bilingual, in effect 85% French speaking). Merchtem is in Flanders. The schooling is of course given in Flemish, and with a fair number of francophone Belgians settling in the area, he wants to preserve the Flemish culture of the schools and ensure that the francophone children integrate rather than forming a francophone sub-community within the schools.

This is petty and seeking votes. The Flemish currently resent Wallonia because Flanders is currently economically stronger, and resent the Walloons for settling in Flemish towns and francophonising them - the communes [think local council regions] in & around Brussels are the particular sore point. So a strong line for Flanders does well in elections. Next communal elections? October.

Two sides to any story eh?

Meanwhile, the British government is providing council literature (health care, schooling, etc.) in immigrant languages so that they don't have to learn English and integrate. In Belgium, English is frequently the solution - the neutral language everyone learns and speaks well so they can communicate between the official languages. In England, it seems English is the problem - the official language no-one learns and speaks well...

But perhaps it's the reverse culture shock speaking.