Wednesday, 30 March 2011

"Thank you Stoke"

Rarely do folk describe my current town of residence - Stoke-on-Trent in glowing terms so how nice to see a blogger I follow (a professor no less) all the way from across the pond sing Stoke's praises.

Via the magic of the Internet, comes the knowledge that at least one person, and probably only one person, reads what I write in the town of Stoke-on-Trent, England. I cannot imagine what this reader did to deserve international literary torment, but I appreciate the support. 
The mystery of why anyone would Stoke would care about anything I say caused me to follow Stoke and wonder about life there. My English friends will mock, but Stoke seems like the kind of place Englishmen take for granted and may even look down at, but it is oddly delightful. If you like gardens and pottery, and you should, then this is a great place to visit. 
Stoke, or at least the area around it, makes me happy when I visit. There is something bread-and-butter about it that fits me better than Disney-Stratford or more magical Oxford. Stoke is the sort of place a Reynolds could afford a house and still hope to see beauty. 
Arnold Bennett got rid of a town in the region, but wrote an excellent book on the five cities that really number six. The area is not really literary by English standards, but nothing in England is far away, by Los Angeles standards, from Shakespeare. 
Stoke somehow plays top-flight football or tries to do so. Having played badly in high school, I have never gotten over following soccer . . . I could not dignify what I did with the name “football.” Stoke has a long football tradition, but upset me from afar when they had the temerity to abandon their old field for a more “modern” stadium. Imagine the Packers tearing down Lambeau in order to move to the aesthetic equivalent of the County Stadium. 
Which makes me wonder if the folk of Stoke know how precious their heritage is. After all Victorian factories are usually more appealing than modern improvements. Sadly, unemployment has taken a toll, though I am told things are getting better, but then officially things are always getting better. 
God help the people if giant stores and strip malls overrun what is best in the countryside. Must every corner of England look like a London suburb without the money?
Still Stoke-on-Trent endures as a homely place with a certain grace. 
Since finding out that I had some connection, however tenuous, to Stoke-on-Trent, it has been my ideal “where I am not” place. Today may be about consuming Dollar-Store knick-knacks in Los Angeles, but there is a whole world of pottery making happening in Stoke. Today may be another warm day in Southern California, but it is cool and green in Stoke. Today may window may look out on a parking lot, but somebody is touring a garden in the Six Cities.
Or so I imagine. 
God gives many gifts, but in this age one of the best is the ability to travel, to stay in contact virtually, and to imagine more easily another way of living.
It makes me happy to pray just now: 
God bless Stoke-on-Trent.   Via: The Scriptoruim
God bless you JMR...

Monday, 28 March 2011

Do numbers reveal God?

If you could meet any of the teachers who taught me maths, you will quickly find out I was no brill kid at algebraic long division or doing fancy quadratic equations (and what was all that stuff about differentiation and integration and can anyone tell me how useful derivatives and trig functions are in everyday life... but I digress...). And yet despite this struggle with the much more theoretical aspects of maths, I still myself intrigued by how numbers work. Take this for example. This year, we will experience 4 unusual dates


Now try this out - take the last 2 digits of the year you were born plus the age you will be this year and it will equal...          111

Isn't that fascinating? Could this small example illustrate something of the inherent structure/order within creation and by extension, tell us something of the 'numerical' Founder of our world?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Joke of the week: Smart Welly

In 1870 the Duke of Wellington received a letter from Sir Charles Russell. He was restoring a certain church and had taken the liberty to put Wellington’s name down for a donation.

“Dear Sir Charles,” Wellington replied, “I too am restoring a church, and if we both agree to give the same amount, no money need pass between us. Yours, Wellington.”

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Quote of the week: No good waiting

He who waits to do a great deal of good at once, will never do anything.

Samuel Johnson

Monday, 21 March 2011

Cranmer, we thank you

Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians, to honour greatly those who are over us in the Lord. Today offers one such opportunity as it's the day when the Church remembers Archbishop Cranmer's martyrdom. 

Among his many achievements, Cranmer was instrumental in shaping England into a protestant nation and he also bequeated a wide array of prayers and liturgical phrases which persist to this very day. For a taster, see the video below and then follow that with the summary narrative of how he died

How fitting, that yesterday's collect was:

Almighty God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thank you Father for our brother Cranmer.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Quote of the week: Law and Gospel

The difference between the law and the good news of Jesus is not that law is about dry duty and Jesus is about groovy vibes.  They are both about love.  It’s just that the law only describes the life of love.  The good news of Jesus, when trusted, actually  produces it.

Hat tip: Love thy neighbour

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Even Dawkins is a fan...

....of the King James Bible.

We are a Christian culture, we come from a Christian culture, and not to know the King James Bible is to be, in some way, barbarian. (for the full quote see here)

Truly a Psalm 2:4 moment! When will these pagans realise their inconsistency? 

Monday, 14 March 2011

God loves cliffhangers

God's provision of a ram for Abraham [came] at the last minute...         As He tells the stories of our lives, we need to come to grips with the fact that God loves cliffhangers. The application that we should draw from this is that we should love cliffhangers too -- even though we are the ones hanging from the cliff.

Hat tip: When Gollum Bit His Finger Off

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Thought for the day: Christianity a prosperity religion?

Parts of the Christian blogsphere are abuzz with a new book that sounds like a must read. It is Niall Ferguson's book  Civilisation: The West and the Rest (Allen Lane, 2011). There was a Sunday Times review of this book by Dominic Lawson (former editor of the Daily Tory Telegraph) at the end of Feb. Dominic's review contains some thought-provoking comments such as this quote from a Chinese scholar who came to a proper realisation of what has led to the success in the West, to date:

At first we thought it was because you had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. But in the past 20 years we have realised that the heart of your culture is your religion. Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful. The Christian moral foundation of social and cultural life was what made possible the emergence of capitalism and then the successful transition to democratic politics. We don't have any doubts about this.

Ferguson refuses to take this comment at face value and decides to do his own empirical research (focussed on China). What he discovers is striking:

The most entrepreneurial city in China, Wenzhou, where the free market is given full rein and where the state's influence is minimal, is also home to almost 1,400 churches -- half a century after Chairman Mao boasted it was "religion-free". One of its most successful business leaders, Hamping Zhang, argues that an absence of trust had been one of the main factors holding China back; but he feels he can trust his fellow Christians because he knows they will be honest in their dealings with him. (Emphasis added)

All of which is simply to say, while we in the West we are doing our best to destroy our wonderful Christian heritage, the Chinese, are coming round to the view that it is precisely this heritage that has made the West so successful. And what's more the astounding growth in China seems to give credence to the widely held view that with Christianity comes blessing. Which therefore leads me to ask, is it time that we Evangelicals reconsidered their claim that Christianity is not a prosperity religion?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Lenten word

n. one who observes Lent