Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas

A very special welcome to everyone who is visiting after receiving our annual newsletter and wondering what the Derbyshire household are up to over Christmas. Well we have been hanging items on our Jesse Tree for most of advent and it will soon be complete. This year Nettes did a brilliant job of painting some branches that she found and we have one or two new figures. Having just had the living room plastered and painted we are wondering where to stick our autumn leaf card holders and I am getting ready for one of the big food shops early tomorrow morning.

I think we will start our family tradition of our twelve days of Christmas on Sunday. We have twelve nice meals and exchange small gifts each day usually after the meal. Our most special meal we will have on Monday and this time it is a Thai Green Vegetable Curry. This year will be a bit different as Nettes is doing a spot of agency work and will be helping out in a care home on Tuesday and Wednesday (Christmas Day and Boxing Day) and maybe on a couple of days the following week. But we are happy with this and will no doubt enjoy all our twelve days equally well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Golden Compass

Nettes & I recently had a night out watching the Golden Compass, the first film adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s trilogy: His Dark Materials, thanks to Ruth who babysat for us. Being a fan of science fiction/fantasy and having read these brilliantly written thought provoking novels some years ago I certainly enjoyed this adaptation. It is never quite the same watching a film after reading the books, the story did seem to whiz by far too quickly and I must admit to feeling a little cheated as the final scenes of the first novel have been held over to the next film. Nevertheless it was acted, well written and the special effects were breathtaking. I would say that it is well worth seeing.

It is not surprising that some Catholic organisations are calling for a boycott of the film as the baddies are a religious authority albeit in the film called the Magisterium rather than the Church. One thing I enjoy about His Dark Materials is the way that it shows that there is a place in our culture for stories that discuss serious issues in allegorical ways. I just cannot understand Christians who demand boycotts or banning of something just because they might disagree with its message. But as it is a children’s film the question this raises is if we disagree with its message should we take our kids to see it? If you watched the film you might wonder what all the fuss is about. Many films rely and magic and portray behaviour that we wouldn’t encourage in real life. What is disturbing about these stories is much more subtle than this.

You see there is actually a lot in these novels that is good but there is a sting in the tail, so to speak. Pullman critiques the abuse of religious power well even exposing that the force behind it is spiritual and that it can give a false hope in the afterlife. I think that we must be careful not to misunderstand and therefore defend what Pullman rightly criticises. I would see the story as a modern day allegory akin to the fall of Babylon in Book of Revelation or Jesus' parables that criticised the Pharisees. What Pullman offers as an alternative to this false belief in the end is a belief in human freedom. This is a good point but it ultimately stops short the true spirituality that is my own experience. It is not really until the final pages that Pullman’s fervent atheism becomes crystal clear as he preaches, and he does preach, about the ‘Republic of Heaven’ which is ultimately a secular humanist message that I must reject.

This raises an important question of to what extent we should shelter our children from ideas, messages and worldviews with which we differ. On one hand we have a responsibility to teach what we believe to be the truth. But on the other we need to make it plain that there are many other beliefs and ideas out there. They need to be familiar with these if they are ever going to have an impact for God. And as they learn about these we need to trust God that he will lead them into the truth. There are dangers in not letting our children watch the movie that we appear like the Magisterium who hush up dangerous thoughts. Yet if we do choose to encourage seeing this movie we would need to feel conversant enough with the issues raised to be able to discuss them meaningfully with our children and to encourage them to discuss this story with others putting forward their faith as the true answer. With older children who are already secure in there faith this could be helpful both as a critique of power abuse and as a discussion starter with their friends as long as parents are willing and able to enter into these sort of discussions with their children.

So should you take your kids to see it? You've heard what I think. Here are two very good articles discussing the issue further. Kester Brewin says yes. Simon Dillon says no. The choice is yours.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Homegroup on Mission

Last week our homegroup was discussing some of the past teaching in the church. Our focus was one message on Mission. We were saying how practicing the presence of God then this will enable us to have an influence for good on those around us. Luke 4 shows us that Jesus came to deal with poverty (spiritually and physically) and to bring insight and bring liberation from oppression and debt. Yes, we too have the same mission. Where are we doing this? We talked about projects such as our kids club and youth club but also our partnership with Karis Neighbour Scheme. But also we can help the poor and oppressed by changing our shopping habits e.g. consider how products are made or farmed, buy fair trade & not trade with companies that oppress people. We also noted the importance of peace (Hebrew: shalom = wholeness) in John 20::21 "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you." and that Jesus gospel involves teaching all principles including shalom and liberation not just what we thing of as ‘the gospel’ in Matthew 28:19-20 "Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you". We were asked at the end what one thing we could put into action this week as a result of this word. I said that we would buy fair trade coffee for the church on Sunday morning before anyone else got a chance to buy any other coffee!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Men's Breakfast with Hudson Luwi from Zambia

I’ve just got back from a men’s breakfast with Hudson Luwi from Lusaka in Zambia. Seven of us ate and chatted with Hudson at the Reservoir Café and then we adjourned to the Ledbury Centre. I was struck by how Hudson is so humble and unassuming. It was only as the morning progressed that I realised that he leads a church of about 300 and then later that he has responsibility for a few other churches of similar sizes and teaches at a Bible College. It is clear that he lives by his motto of leadership that it is relational, that we lead by influencing people and that we can best influence people by having relationship with them.

How had he managed so much with so little resources? In the West we have so much that our first port of call is to those resources. When we have no access to these things then our first call must be on God. Another insightful comment that he made about Britain is that Christians talk about their faith very quietly. He was saying that we should not be ashamed but be proud to be Christians and not divide our spiritual life from our ordinary life. He encouraged us to be talking about spiritual things at work say just as we do at church.

Hudson was talking about how his church was active in the community for example by giving away clean water. Rather than expecting people to come to their meetings they were actively going into the community not so much to knock doors or preach in the streets but to be available to serve people. He said that they had seen big evangelists breeze in and make many ‘converts’ whom they never saw again. He would rather see Christians building relationships, having one-to-one conversations and serving people.

But what is our ‘clean water’ with which we can serve our community? I wondered. Hudson was saying that rather than making great plans and budgeting lots of money they had followed Jesus’ call to come and follow him. When Jesus called the apostles they knew that the end result would be but not the exact steps to get there. Jesus led them one step at a time. In the same way he talked about how he had taken one step at a time to build their church building from which they are now giving away the clean water and how with God’s help they had even survived opposition from urban gangs.

I am looking forward to seeing more of Hudson and his family on Sunday.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Spiritual Formation and Mission – Part 3

At last here is the long awaited third part of my treatise on evangelism.

I think a very important aspect of my spiritual formation is reading and meditating on the scriptures and sharing my thoughts on these with others. The Bible is my spiritual food so why do I starve myself by avoiding reading it or thinking about it's implications on my life? It is not just reading and re-reading the Bible that is important but understanding what it means to me so that I can apply it to my life. Over the past year once a month in the small groups we have been discussing how what we are learning as a church can be applied to our lives. One theme that keeps coming out in our group is that it is important to take the next step and discuss these issues with those who do not share our experience. A scary thought. Yet passages such as Luke 10 remind us that God sends us out into the world on a mission and though we sometimes feel he is distant actually he is always present. Our security stems from God’s parental care for us. He gives us a secure base from which to venture into the world and initiate such discussions. Often we are afraid to make these true two way discussions. The world has plenty to learn from us and God’s presence with us means that we can learn what is good from anyone as God will lead us into all truth.

But of course sometimes it can be difficult to have meaningful discussions with people unless we have some form of relationship with them. It is very easy to be an inward looking group and just relate with other Christians. In my teaching on the psychology of relationships I point out that there are two important factors in who we tend to relate to. We tend to form relationships with those that are similar to us and think the same as us. And we tend to form relationships with those who we perceive to have desirable characteristics. I think that this is very relevant to Christians. Our teaching often implies that those outside the faith are different and offer nothing except to fulfil our need for evangelism and could even lead us astray. So it is no wonder that we tend not to develop genuine relationships with them. And that we don't see them as equals with whom we can have an honest two way discussion when it comes to talking about spiritual matters. If we cannot even cross this divide how are we ever going to reach those that differ from us in other ways such as in culture, sexuality and class? Perhaps it is time that Christians learn the true meaning of agape, caring for, having fellowship with, facing up to and having spiritual discussions with people that are outside the church just as we do with people in the church.

Any thoughts?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Book Preview: Everything Must Change

From reading reviews about Brian McLaren’s new book ‘Everything Must Change’ it appears to basically look at how Christians can engage in our culture to change the world. Brian sees Jesus message as one that is revolutionary to the world and has implications both sociologically and politically. It’s a great step forward for an American Christian to talk about fair trade and to attack the fast food industry. Where I hear caution about this book in the free use of ideas from Latin American Liberation Theology. I think he might be in danger of being dismissed by American fundamentalists as going liberal. I understand that his view of the end-times is what is called a transmillenial position so that he thinks that even the second coming and resurrection have already happened. I struggle with the implications of this for our individual eternal life. Perhaps he is merely redirecting the focus to a 'Kingdom Now' viewpoint. If so he's saying nothing more than many of us have said for a long time. Elsewhere Brian says that he does believe in the need for hope beyond death but as far as I can see he does not take this to be what salvation is all about. Perhaps he overstating the point but nevertheless this book does appear to be a very interesting landmark in Christian publishing that really does suggest ways of bringing in the kingdom at an international level addressing such areas as our damage to the environment, lack of peace in the world and the growing problem of proverty.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spiritual Formation and Mission – Part 2

I am struck by the verse where Jesus pointed out that we are to love the LORD with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). I am to love God with everything I’ve got: my emotions, my thought life, my behaviour, my body, everything. Spiritual formation touches every part of me including those parts of my life that are on display to others. This is a normal response to such an amazing God that will appear abnormal to those who do not perceive him. God transforms me from someone who is controlled by his appetites and by guilt. He rewards me. He disciplines me. He shapes my behaviour and my thinking to be more like his own. He heals my body and my emotions. He encourages me when I am discouraged. He gives me the confidence to take risks again when I fail. He restores my sanity. He enables me to overcome my anxiety. I sometimes wonder what people who do not have this experience of God make of all this?

I cannot say that I have endured the trials and tribulations of suffering or persecution that some have. But sometimes in the pressures of everyday life as a teacher and a parent I have felt crushed. Yet somehow I have managed to cope. It is these uncertain situations that God often uses to develop me spiritually. And he does this in my workplace and neighbourhood in front of other people. One thing that I am learning is the way of shalom – the way of peace – the way of non-aggression. I still shout at people sometimes but God is showing me how to live at peace with all people slowly I think I am learning how to overcome my own natural tendencies to assert myself aggressively. God has had to teach me to unlearn some lessons I have learnt in life, to be different from the crowd and not to give in to the pressures around me. I hope that I am getting there. I hope that I am beginning to see how to be the man that he has intended me to be with my friends.

Yes, of course talking to our friends about God is vital too. I’ll discuss that next week.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Spiritual Formation and Mission – Part 1

'Spiritual Formation' and 'Mission' are a couple of terms that I have been thinking about recently and I am beginning to see how they are related. Spiritual formation is a term that is becoming increasingly popular in Christian circles and has always been an important aspect of Christian discipleship. It refers to how we develop spiritually whether for good or for bad. God wants us to develop for good and for Christ to be formed within us (Galatians 4:19). But influences from the world around us may be forming our spirits in different ways. Romans 12:2 says that we can overcome being conformed in this way by the renewing of our mind and so be transformed into God’s image. This refers to the whole of our life and behaviour. Worship, prayer, meditation, Bible study and fellowship all help this process yet ultimately spiritual formation is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual formation is not just an individual process but also as a corporate one. I am fortunate to be part of a church that is really a simple organic group of believers attempting to organise ourselves on New Testament principles. I have to remind myself that what we have as a church is very precious. Today groups like ours are flourishing even though the traditional church in the West appears to be waning. But there is still ground for us to take. For too long we have lacked an emphasis of interacting with our world and our culture. As Christians this is our mission on the earth today. I think that during the twentieth century the Western Church in an attempt to ‘not be conformed’ has withdrawn from the world and so we have neglected our mandate to transform those around us. This is a trend that needs to be reversed. The conclusion that I am coming to is that discussing spiritual issues with those who do not necessarily agree with our world view is a much neglected aspect of our spiritual growth as Christians.

To be continued…

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Time With God - Autumn 2007

Our church has just had our ‘Time with God’ - 24 hours of prayer. As usual I did a stint through the night. As before there was music, candles and art materials laid out so that I could chill out in an atmospheric environment while focusing my prayer drawing some graffiti - on paper I hasten to add not the newly painted walls! But this time the rooms were also swathed in sheets with pillows and there was a number of prayer stations. We could add a paper fish we the name of someone to pray for following the theme of being ‘fishers of men’. We could sit on some concrete slabs to pray for the persecuted church seeing a reminder of prison bars. There were plenty of places to write words or prayers or names of people to pray for all around the rooms. There were prompts on the walls pointing us to passages and a material cross on one of the walls. All this added to the experience. I felt that we stepped up a gear or two from the times when there was just flip chart paper to write on. The creativity in the rooms made praying through the night a breeze. Thanks to Andy and Emma who set the whole thing up. We are clearly moving on.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Birmingham Artsfest

Last Saturday I took Callie to look around Artsfest – Birmingham’s big free arts festival inside and out in various venues around the city centre. The programme was indecipherable so we just went to where we knew things were happening.

We ate out packed lunch in Brindley place during a fashion show of all things. After that we saw some Fallon Gong – a demonstration of Chinese exercise/meditation. Rather than stopping in Brindley Place where we could have made a mask or a lantern we walked towards the museum.

On the way we heard some excellent world music from one of the main stages. We peered into a bar where another really good act was performing but I didn’t really want to stop with Callie. As we carried on we then began to meet characters from Peter Pan: Captain Hook, some pirates and then just as we were wondering if to actually go into the museum the lost children came up to us shouting, ‘Are you lost?’

Gathering at the foot of the stairway in one of the galleries of the museum was quite a crowd. So we sat down and were treated to an excellent children’s choir – the Ex Cathedra Juniors – performing a blend of high church music and children’s songs. Callie sat spellbound for half an hour.

On our way back we met up with Nettes who briefly popped into the stall promoting recycling. It was a treat walking past so many more things going on and then back up the canal home.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Greenbelt 2007 – Part Two

Our Sunday lunch at Greenbelt was a picnic at mainstage listening to Psalm Drummers. We came back to the arena to watch some episodes of Shaun the Sheep on the big screen before going to a family communion at the New Forms Café. Can you spot us on these photos? After which, Nettes look Callie to see Fischy Music while I staid there chilling on a beanbag with a cup of coffee. I think I nearly dropped off but soon the next service started and we were being encouraged to welcome people of different ethnicities and religions in our churches. I then met Nettes and Callie for tea at the Performance Café and I ended the day watching a classical concert of John Tavener’s music.

Monday morning saw me up early queuing for Callie’s token and then having breakfast with Callie outside the Taize worship tent. While she was in her Children’s Festival I went to an amazing workshop with Isaac Everett on how to use a computer as instrument in worship. I was inspired to get my laptop playing and to join the musicians in church. There was still time to look at an exhibition about Forgiveness before I had to pick Callie up. There were some very large decorative kites flying as we went to lunch in the YMCA Café and the largest snake I had ever seen was on display as I queued for our baked potatoes.

After lunch we looked around more before going to a second family service at the New Forms Café where Callie painted a picture of heaven while there was lots to keep the adults occupied on the theme of ‘heaven in the ordinary’. I caught the end of Dan Wheeler’s set at the Performance Café, had a bite to eat and got ready for the final evening. Unfortunately I was so tired after the whole weekend after listening to Ian Archer on mainstage, a bit of drumming at the Chai Chapel and beginning to explore what was left I decided to go back to the tent. Sounds of Delirious could be heard drifting across the campsite as we settled down to go to sleep.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Greenbelt 2007 - Part One

Greenbelt was amazing, as usual. For us as a family it ran really well. We got there set on Friday morning, get set up and had time to look at our programmes. I registered Callie for the Children’s festival and put her to bed while Nettes looked around and listened to Billy Bragg.

I slept really well and spent the next morning, after a coffee at the Tank – Greenbelt's Cybercafé – exploring the exhibitions and shops and stumbling across a guy teaching some kids how to do graffiti. And in the afternoon I went to a service on the grass at the arena – the sort of second/overflow stage. We sat in groups and were given numbered envelopes with instructions which we followed to the numbers on the screen. There were icebreakers, discussion questions and activities including breaking of bread.

In the evening I went to Soul Space - a room at the highest point of the festival for some evening prayers in the theme of the four seasons. Then after failing to get into Bassline Circus I decided to go to ‘The God Delusion’. Although very philosophical and not easy to get my head round it was presented in a way that kept my interest – with stories, puppets and a giant woman with wearing woollen clothes that were unravelling – a picture of how your faith can unravel with doubts and questions but rather than lead to nothing can be re-knitted into something new. Picture by Becky Garrison

Normally I would head off to the tent at ten o’clock but somehow I was awake enough to listen to a gig by Lies Damn Lies and go to the start of Christian Aid’s candle lit vigil for climate change. Of course this meant I was tired the next morning. But we still got to the main communion service albeit the overflow in the arena. I got us a couple of cups of chai from the Tiny Tea Tent and enjoyed the graphics on the screen which we would have missed if we had been in the mainstage area.

To be continued...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Off to Greenbelt 2007

What is Greenbelt? For the uninitiated think of a cross between Glastonbury Festival and a Bible Week and add in some creative worship. It all takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse. One thing that I like a lot is the café culture. A couple of good places that I’ve found to hang out are the Performance Café and the NewForms Café. In the Performance Café there are a number of Christian musicians that I wouldn’t mind seeing after scanning their profiles on the Crossrhythms website. The NewForms Café host two or three creative worship services that I wouldn’t mind going to and it would also be good if Callie could get to these as there are a couple of family services.

This year I want to make sure that Nettes get to see what she wants to. So I’ll be getting up really early to pack the car. When we get there I’ll help set up the tents as much as possible and encourage Nettes to look at the programme in the afternoon and beleive me it takes some looking at - as you have so much choice and need to plan in times to just chill. I want my choices to fit around Nettes and queuing up to get Callie into the children’s festival. I think in the last couple of years I’ve been so excited about what was happening that I didn’t actually give as much thought to Nettes and Callie. It’s probably understandable since it was all new to me, but this year I’m determined to be more thoughtful.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What a friend we have in Facebook

This summer a long with a few others in our church I’ve been enjoying the internet’s latest and greatest social network application - facebook. I’ve also just hooked up with some people at college, staff and ex-students. I’ve now got a network of over 30 friends who are kept posted on what I do on facebook. There are also links to this blog there and anything else that I might have found of interest. On my facebook profile I’ve posted a couple of youtube videos, put up a bookshelf, added a couple of movie quotes. It feels a bit like decorating your room with posters and filling it with stuff.

It began as a way for me to keep in contact with people over the summer as not only does college go on holiday but there are so few people in the church around. In fact there are so many away that instead of hiring the community centre for meetings in august we are just having socials. Last week I bought the veggie burgers and salad as my contribution to a barbeque, this week I really enjoyed the treasure hunt around the reservoir and next week we’re having a picnic in the park. People have also organised a murder mystery evening and a shorting stars party which were both great.

So actually, together with playing with facebook, we’ve been doing a lot!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Time with Callie

This summer I’m spending some time with my little daughter Callie.

Last week my wife Nettes was away all week on a summer school with the Open University working on her psychology project so I had Callie 24-7. Amazingly I managed to keep on top of the housework and take Callie out on a day trip to Weston-Super-Mare with our local Sure Start. We also got out a couple of days to have a meal either at Sure Start or at our Community Centre. I don’t know how I managed it but I also taught Sunday school and led the discussion in the house-group with people coming round for a meal before hand. Interestingly we were talking about parenting what we learn from our children. By Friday I was exhausted.

Nettes is now back so she can take Callie some of the time over rest of the summer. But she is now busy looking for a job to help support herself while she does her NVQ next year. So I am still seeing plenty of Callie. We’ve had some good walks down the canal into the city centre. Both Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Ikon Gallery run time for children to draw or paint as well as look round the exhibitions so we’ve visited both of those and may go back again next week.

It’s really good being with Callie but it can get tiring so I’m really pleased that she’s booked into a summer play scheme for the following week.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Anger Management

For the first week of my summer break I spent a few days at Fircroft College doing an anger management course. Not that I’ve got any great problem with rampaging around. But I enjoy studying and wanted something that would give me some practical insight into myself. It was a men only course with eight students and one male tutor. I found it a very good environment and felt able to discuss matters deeply in a relaxed manner.

The basis of the course was transactional analysis popularised by the book ‘I’m OK, You’re OK’. Interestingly we looked quite a bit at assertiveness training which all about expressing yourself in a way that so that you get a ‘win, win’ outcome rather than being passive and/or aggressive. You see, if we can express our anger assertively we don’t bottle it up or just lash out we actually use it very positively to effect change in our world.

In the course we looked at some scenes from the movie ‘Anger Management’ with Jack Nicolson. And I bought a copy at a discount price but I haven’t watched it all through yet.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sunday School Church

My wife Nettes and I have just led another family service. This time it our remit was for the kids in Sunday school – which Nettes leads - to share what God had been teaching them. After talking to the kids we came up with a service that basically followed the pattern of what we do in Sunday school with songs interspersed throughout the morning.

First one of the boys went round with a roving microphone asking people what had been happening to them that week. Then we played a game based around John 3:16 which the children had been learning, which brought out the competitive side of the church. We then told the story of Jonah with a couple of children reading. Then we got everyone to discuss and possibly have a go at acting it out in small groups. We then got people out of their seats doing a choice of craft activities based on the story or looking through some of the Sunday school material. We were amazed how much people participated and felt that we had broken through a barrier of getting people to do different activities in church. All this was supported by PowerPoint with photos of the children, their work and quotes from them about what they had recently learnt about God.

We were really blessed with an email we received just after the service saying from a couple saying how much fun they had and that they came away grinning.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Cross Rhythms Reviews

Cross Rhythms Homepage

David Derbyshire reviews albums on Crossrhythms under the name Dancin' Dave Derbyshire. He teaches psychology part time at Sutton Coldfield College and is a part time stay at home dad. He is an active member of Church Alive - a church that meets in an urban community centre and in people's homes.

David's reviews on Cross Rhythms:

Abundant Life: How Loved --- 8/10 Pop
The Afters, Mercy Me & Sonic Flood: Three --- 8/10 Rock
Bebo Norman: The Best Of Bebo Norman - Great Light Of The World ---9/10 Pop
Bethany Dillon: Waking Up --- 8/10 Pop
Bishop G.E. Patterson: Having Church With The Saints --- 8/10 Gospel
Boomshots: The Best Of The Underground --- 7/10 Hip-hop
Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir: I'll Say Yes --- 5/10 Gospel
Carman - Two For One: The Standard/Mission 3:16 --- 7/10 Pop Chosen - That's Not Funny --- 8/10 Hip-Hop
Donald Lawrence Presents The TriCity Singers: The Grand Finale Encourage Yourself --- 8/10 Gospel
Dr Onionskin: Live & Kickin --- 6/10 Dance/Electronic
The Clark Sisters - The Definitive Gospel Collection --- 7/10 Gospel Eve: In The Waiting --- 6/10 Pop
Four Kornerz: Gonna Make It --- 9/10 R&B
Isaiah Katumwa - Sinza ---9/10 Jazz - New
Mission Six: Superhero --- 8/10 Pop
Larry Norman: Confiscated --- 8/10 Jesus Music
LeJuene Thompson - Metamorphosis --- 8/10 R&B
Rebirth - Episode 6 --- 8/10 R&B - New
Kierra Sheard - Bold Right Life --- 9/10 R&B - New
Paul Simon & Friends: A Night Of Gospel Glory --- 7/10 Gospel
Secret Archives of the Vatican - Babylon Halt --- 9/10 Dance/Electronic
Shawnte: So Faithful --- 8/10 Gospel
Shirley Caesar - The Definitive Gospel Collection --- 7/10 Gospel
Steve Jones: No Looking Back --- 6/10 Rock
Strive: The Story before --- 8/10 Rock
The Revolve Tour: Inside Out --- 9/10 Pop
ThingamaKid: Giggle Toons --- 6/10 Children’s
Toby Mac: Made To Love --- 9/10 Pop
Various - Songs 4 Worship Holy Ground Special Edition --- 5/10 Pop
Greg Wollan - Architect Of Beauty --- 8/10 Roots/Acoustic - New

Articles on which David has commented

Signs Of The Times
The Forida Outpouring With Todd Bentley
The Golden Compass
Equality Act (Sexual Orientation Regulations) 2007

Favourite Presenters
Mike Rimmer

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Dancin’ Dave is Back

I’ve now got some new reviews – under my old moniker of Dancin’ Dave - on the crossrhythms website after a hiatus of a few years. I’ve just received some more CDs to review so i guess I’m doing a good enough job to be kept on. Of course I’ve been following Christian music in the interim. I still listen to Mike Rimmer on Crossrhythms radio – especially his programme Profile Special that many years ago I used to help put together.

And tonight I’ve just got back from listening to Aradhna who are awesome. They were in Birmingham this evening so I was able to hop on a bus after work to hear them. Thanks Ruth for babysitting! It was good to get to chat with one of the members while we were being plied with wine and onion bargees. I love their chilled Asian fusion worship and they had some great insights into distiguishing Hindu culture from Hindu religion.

There is some great Christian music out there, you know.

Friday, May 11, 2007


Originally uploaded by dave & nettes.
Last weekend we went to Glastonbury for an arts festival Grace 07 organised by three churches in our network. On the Friday night I went to a gig with Bosh and Brother John. It was amazing what Bosh could do with his voice and Brother John rocked out with some good lyrics.

On Saturday with Nettes and Callie, I walked to the top of the Tor and down the other side to visit the meditation gardens. Then back at the festival the story tellers kept Callie occupied while I queued at the barbeque. And then later there was circus equipment such as diabolos to keep me occupied while Callie queued to have her face painted and her hair braided. In the evening there was an acoustic set where singer/songwriters told the stories behind their songs. This was housed in the atmospheric Abbot’s kitchen in the ruins of the Abbey. I enjoyed Shaico’s folksy political protest songs but the standout was little Sarah Lehman’s big voice that wowed us all.

Sunday morning we visited Mid Somerset Community Church. Callie was drafted into flag waving that appeared to be a hallmark of their worship. And their potluck meal was a good chance to catch up with our old friend Detta. The worship continued in the afternoon and included a dance troop from Sanctuary in Bristol. In the evening I was inspired by a talk on spirituality in contemporary art by Vincent Stokes.

On Monday as a family we looked around the Abbey museum and ruins before meeting Detta for a bite to eat in the tea rooms. Finally, in an art workshop with Tony Martin, I drew my interpretation of a psalm before heading home the Birmingham on the motorway with a Callie who had had her face painted and hair braided again.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Our church prayer meeting this week took to the streets around the area where we meet. We walked around in four groups praying about our relations with other organisations and churches as well as for God’s presence and wisdom. So we not only looked for other churches to pray for but also places such as schools and police stations and even potential church premises for ourselves. We had been encouraged to look out for inspiration on say posters or vehicles as we walked. Our group saw a skip filled with rubbish. As one of us was an artist who has used rubbish in her art she led us in a prayer about God transforming people’s lives in a similar way. As it was going dark we noticed that every now and then there was a house with a light on. This reminded us that there were Christians scattered around the area shining for God. We also noticed that one house to let was owned by Royal Estates. So we prayed for God’s kingdom to come in the houses around. Finally we thanked God for all these metaphors and more that had been a great encouragement in our prayers that evening.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Church Weekend Away

We’ve just got back from our church weekend away at Cloverley Hall. It was great to get see our old friend Detta - who now lives in Glastonbury. It was our pleasure to ferry her from and to Crewe station.

It was good to start Saturday off with a prayer time as I'd missed Friday's meeting putting Callie to bed. After breakfast we listened to Ian Rawley on a term that has been so overused in our circles as to become meaningless: being a prophetic people. Refreshingly he reinterpreted this as neither withdrawing from our culture or being so immersed in it that we become ineffective but instead being shapers of our culture.

In the second half Carole Rawley did an exposition of Ephesians based on Watchman Nee’s ‘Sit, Walk, Stand’. After lunch and after the Easter egg hunt - for which Callie got a runners’ up prize for her basket - we had a reflective workshop session. There were four stations with various questions and activities relating to what we had been looking at. I chose to identify three scriptures to stand in prayer with. I felt to pick Luke 10:2-3, Proverbs 6:6-5 and Ecclesiastes 11:6 on the theme of work and harvest. All this and a talent show in the evening with Nettes and Callie performing 'Eat Your Peas'. What a day.

Thankfully the Sunday morning prayer meeting was 8:30 rather than 8:00. After breakfast there was worship and reports from areas of the church. Then Steve, our elder, spoke on increasing our involvement in the community around where we meet and working in partnership with other organisations and churches. Over lunch I was thrilled to hear from the creche workers that Callie had been asking deep spiritual questions. And in the afternoon we broke bread and briefly prayed about some issued raised that morning - again using four prayer stations - before departing.

Phew! A great weekend!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ten Things I Did For Easter

1. On Palm Sunday, Nettes & I taught the kids in our Sunday school, using pictures around the room to illustrate the story.

2. As a couple we did Bible reading and prayer times each night throughout the week including an interesting activity.

3. On Good Friday we broke bread with Matzo crackers together round our coffee table with nibbles to remind us of the last supper.

4. On Saturday Callie and I helped build an Easter garden for a local parish church.

5. Then in the evening I went to their Easter vigil service – a very dramatic lighting of the Pascal candle in a darkened building.

6. On Sunday morning we boiled our eggs with dyes. The one tie-dyed with a red onion skin worked best.

7. I encouraged Callie to wear her Easter Bonnet to church – a hat she had decorated herself.

8. We enjoyed the Easter service at our church especially the talk aimed at the children.

9. For lunch I cooked a leg of lamb and Callie made the table decorations.

10. On Easter Monday a dozen or so of us played 'C is for Chocolate' - a murder mystery jigsaw puzzle game.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A Day at the Museum

We’ve now broken up for the Easter so I’m off college and Callie is off school. And today the men arrived to install our solar panels. So to get Callie out of the house we went to the Museum and Art Gallery. We walked into the city centre down the canal at the end of our road. After changing Callie’s books at the library we crossed the square into the museum…

There is a wonderful three dimensional optical illusion in its foyer that I loved. Up the stairs we met the centre-piece of the whole museum: an impressive sculpture of the fallen angel Lucifer based on Paradise Lost. On our way to and from the Edwardian Tea Rooms for lunch we looked at an interactive Mandela in the Buddha rooms and some wonderful stain glass windows. We spent hours exploring the museum looking at exhibitions of candlesticks, chalices, jewellery etc. as well as exploring the galleries. I was struck by how much religion and especially Christianity is a theme in art – even in some contemporary art. We stumbled across a pair of storytellers telling the story of Ezekiel in front of a painting of the Valley of Dry Bones. Callie sat at the front enthralled for about quarter of an hour. In the archaeology section we found a game of Nine Men’s Morris to play. There were some other children’s activities including some dressing up but Callie’s favourite was making an Easter card.

After our long walk home we are both very tired.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Using Art in Prayer

Last night in our home-group we spent some time meditating on the word ‘lost’. Jesus told parables about a lost coin, a lost sheep and the prodigal son. This fitted in with my prayer on Sunday for those that had left our church over the years and are now journeying on a different path from us. Our meditation involved us creating a collage each on a big sheet of paper with the word lost at the centre. We could look through some newspapers to cut out words and phrases and glue them on our sheet. We could draw, paint or crayon on our sheet but I chose to make a stamp out of some plastic and a piece of string to stamp a pattern over the words which proved very effective. I found searching through for the words and creating the collage an interesting way to pray. My mind focused on those that had rejected and so lost friends as their life had unravelled over the years.

I want to continue the idea of using art in prayer is a theme tonight in our Time with God. I’ll be getting up in the middle of the night to spend a few hours tonight in our church building. In the light of Amazing Grace Sunday I feel to pray for the slavery that still exists such as people trafficking and have in my mind the raising of Lazarus. My prayer is that God will not only bring life into these areas of death but also ‘unwind the grave clothes’ bring freedom to individuals across the world. There usually are some art materials available so hopefully I’ll be able to make a picture.

Friday, March 09, 2007


Last week I was looking at the work of Strauss & Howe on Generations. It makes a good evaluation of the material on adult development that I am teaching my second years. Just as a man’s (or woman’s) life goes in seasons from pre-adulthood spring to the winter of old age so history goes in similar cycles of about 80 years.

Their theory sees the crises of the depression and World War 2 giving way to the high of 50s prosperity. This was followed by a time of revolution starting in the 60s the time of civil rights, hippies and the charismatic renewal. After going through a time of ‘unraveling’ they said that we will face another crisis at the beginning of the 21st century. This is now interpreted as the war on terror.

So I wonder, as a Christian, what we can learn about our time from looking at other crises. Perhaps there are parallels between what we as Christians can be doing today and what heroes of faith were doing in their crisis. For instance, Bonhoeffer comes to mind, standing in opposition to the Nazi’s. But what sort of political involvement could we be involved in today? These thoughts have partly led me to look more at faithworks again and to sign up as a member.

Could this be one way to be discerning of the times?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dorothy on Leadership

Recently Callie, Nettes & I went to see the Wizard of Oz at the mac with our church’s midweek house-group.. at the weekend!

The colour sequences were amazing to see on the big screen. They have cleaned up very nicely. Callie was a bit scared of the Wicked Witch but I think she really enjoyed it. She recognised 'Somewhere over the rainbow' as we had just been watching a performance by Tori Amos on YouTube

Interestingly enough I was just stuck by what this film has to say on the topic of ‘leadership’.

Don’t be like the Wizard who is threatening and makes a show of his power but is really a little man hiding behind a curtain.

Who should we be like then?

Dorothy of course.

What a teenage girl as a model of leadership? A girl that is bewildered and lost in a world that appears to make no sense to her?

Yes. You see Dorothy doesn’t pretend to know any more than she does. She has been told that the Wizard may be able to help and that the yellow brick road leads to the Wizard’s emerald city. She is on a journey herself and invites others to join her, because if the Wizard might be able to help her, he might - just might - be able to help others too.

Perhaps we could all do with being a bit more like Dorothy.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Children's Work Conference

Yesterday, Nettes and I drove down to Dunstable for a Children’s Workers Conference which asked some hard hitting questions like ‘Have you read your church’s child protection policy?’ and ‘How does your church engage the children in worship while they are in the main meeting?’

Guest speaker John Hardwick stressed the value of keeping families together on Sunday. I thought that he did a good job pointing out an important key getting all ages involved: story-telling. Stories can work on many levels teaching deep principles and keeping us entertained at the same time. He encouraged us to think of creative ways to tell Bible stories, such as imagining a story from many perspectives, as well as including other creative elements such as hot-spot interviews, action memory verses and even BSL signing. He also suggested having a planning team for All Age Services that included all ages i.e. at least one child.

Sam Donohue from Viz-a-viz talked about his work doing school assembles, RE lessons and after-school clubs. I liked the way that he explained the importance of not coming over too dogmatic by having class discussions and prefixing your statements with ‘I believe....’ and ‘Some Christians think....’ etc. I thought this was a good point for generally for chatting with your friends too. Interestingly he thought that using items that the church finds cringe-worthy and hackneyed, like drama sketches and puppets, could work well in mission work with kids who are seeing them for the first time.

A good day albeit tiring.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Tipping Point

This week I mentioned to my students one of my presents over Christmas a little book that I read avidly called The Tipping Point

It’s an interesting book about how changes can occur in our society very suddenly with apparently little effort. The drop in the New York crime rate that was brought about by zero tolerance on minor crime such as vandalism is a case in point. The book identifies three rare types of people who are influential in such changes: ‘Connectors’ who at the hubs of social networks, ‘Mavens’ who are knowledgeable about the issue and ‘Salesman’ who will persuade people, consciously and unconsciously, to make the change. As such it is a good discussion of minority influence. There is also plenty of other psychology such as a discussion of the bystander effect. There is a chapter on pro-social media influence that looks at how people have communicated such ideas in memorable ways.

Incidentally, one idea in this book is that 150 is a maximum number of people that an individual can have a genuine relationship. Apparently this is taking off in Christian circles as a good size for a church to spit.

An excellent book, highly recommended.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Role Play of Luke 10

Last night in the midweek home-group that meets in our house we were looking at Luke 10. But this was no ordinary Bible study. Each of us was given a card with a character briefing of someone in the passage – a disciple, a healed person, a neighbour, someone from another town etc. First we read through the passage trying to imagine it from our characters viewpoint. We then had some nibbles and for half an hour or so we role played the character. Just like in one of those murder mystery parties. I was, aptly, the host of the party who was giving hospitality to the disciples. As I circulated it became apparent that the person from the other town had been at the receiving end of the disciples ‘woes’ as they were rejected in that town. You’ll have to read the passage. The conversations gradually came together as one group and the disciple was defending the gospel against the criticisms of the out-of-towner. This sparked off some interesting discussions about the gospel of the kingdom, healing, etc. when we came back for our ‘debriefing’. We rounded off the evening praying about the gap between the faith and experiences of the 1st century Christians and us in the 21st century. We all really enjoyed the evening and were challenged by the topic.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

This is Our Church

I just found this little QuickTime video about our church with Steve and Helen Watts who lead it. It’s a pity that the producers used the title Pastor on the video – they’re just Steve & Helen. Technically Steve’s an elder but we don’t use it as a title anyway.

On the video you can see some good shots of our ‘developing city’ making it look very nice with the continental style bars and restaurants all along the canal. I was wondering where the graffiti was. But seriously they pointed out some important things about our church which I feel we are beginning to get a get a grasp of. Of course there is still further to go:

•Even though geographically we are very widespread we are a family based churched living our lives together and having fun.

•We are also church that loves to be involved in the community. With a kids club and a youth club as our mission projects, I think we are getting there.

•Yes, God has blessed us with so many creative people such as a professional mime, playwrights and artists and we are beginning to use these talents in our worship. Nettes and I have a heart for this as can be seen in the Family Services that we’ve done.

•Also it’s true that Birmingham is such a multi-cultural place. We’ve got a lot of refugees and asylum seekers. There is a lot of opportunity here to establish the kingdom. So let’s go for it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Twelve days of Christmas

We had a great Christmas. We all opened our many presents from each other and a few from friends and family. We worshiped with a couple of our local Church of Englands (our church wasn’t meeting). We cooked several special dishes of food. We had friends visit. We visited family. Tried out their Wii. We even went out for a meal and Callie went to the Wacky Warehouse. Phew!

What all on one day? I hear you ask. But …

Well, our secret is that we have twelve days of Christmas. We are so aware of the pressure that comes with one day that we decided to spread our festivities over a longer period. We de-emphasise the actual day and don’t do too much then but have some really nice meals on other days in the twelve. After each meal we exchange small gifts – so Callie gets a present to open on all of the days. We like to keep decorations low key too mainly just displaying the cards. This year Callie and I decorated the card holders with shapes like autumn leaves. For a tree with have a Jesse tree decorated with items symbolising Jesus ancestors. And also this year an advent crown and some flowers.