Month: May 2010

Amazing Nathan

It turns out that asking friends for suggestions for blog posts is not necessarily a good idea. It seemed a bit strange to ask for ideas when I have 55 blog posts in varying stages of draft at the moment, but I wanted to post something fairly light and trivial. Most of those ideas need development (which I suppose is why they’re still drafts, not fully fledged posts). I asked a friend of mine, Nathan, for an idea for a blog post, and sure enough he delivered the goods. As it happens, he wants me to blog about how amazing he is.

Perhaps I should start with his amazing humility.

As I thought about it, it did occur to me that he is actually quite amazing. Not the most amazing person I know, obviously, but still amazing in a good way. For a start he can juggle, which is always a good start for anyone trying to be amazing. He also owns an impressive array of entertaining T-shirts. I don’t actually know if that’s true or not, but he has at least two that I’ve noticed, making him possibly the only person who owns any clothing I could describe. I’m not the most observant chap in the world.

But back to Nathan (after all, he is amazing). We met early on this academic year as he is a Christian fresher at the university of Reading. I don’t remember our first meeting, but we got on well from the start. It must be because Nathan is such an amazing conversationalist. We’re quite similar people in many ways (except that he is more amazing than me) so I think I’ve been able to relate to him better than I can to most people.

Technically, me and Nathan go further back than our time at university. Last summer I had the privilege of working for UBM in their Leeds office, and Nathan booked to come on a UBM team. Apparently he was in the background of a phone call I answered. His amazingness didn’t really shine through though, as he never actually spoke to me. Lucky him!

Another one of the many amazing things about Nathan is his sense of humour. It takes an amazing person to make their facebook profile picture a photo of them falling out of a car. It takes an amazing person to sit opposite me and not mind the extent of my sarcasm, and still make jokes which are actually funny. It takes an amazing person to take a video of me not-quite-dancing, and put it in an infinite loop online.

There are other things I could say about the amazing Nathan, like the fact his word of the day is both cheese and pencil today (but it’s still a singular word of the day, not multiple words). Thinking about it, that doesn’t really show how amazing he is, but he asked me to include it anyway. In fact, the reality is that there is only one more thing I actually want to say about Nathan.

As I’ve got to know Nathan more throughout the year, the main reason I think he is amazing is that I have found him to be a tremendous encouragement to my soul. He has been amazing, because he has supported me as I’ve failed God time and time again. He has been amazing, because he is so often able not only to sympathise, but also to empathise. He has been amazing in his comforting of me when I’ve felt very low, giving me very wise advice. He has been amazing in sharpening my Bible study in a way matched only by one other individual in the last three years. Most amazing of all has been seeing Nathan’s growth in Christ, which I think he is completely oblivious to.

I think ultimately the reason Nathan is amazing is because God has adopted him, and given him to me as a friend and encourager. By God’s grace, he’s doing a good job of it, so when I say Nathan is amazing, I think I mean God is amazing. And I’m grateful to Him for Nathan.

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Faithfulness not safety

Now I’ve finished my university exams I’m finding the time to read through some more of the information I picked up at New Word Alive. There were a number of Christian organisations there and one such group was Release International. The magazine they gave me contains the following quote from some Egyptian Christians who have been tortured.

Please don’t pray for us. Please pray with us. If you pray for us, you will pray for the wrong things. You will pray for our safety. You will pray that persecution will cease. But if you pray with us, you will ask God to bring millions of Egyptians to faith in Christ. You will pray that when the inevitable Muslim backlash comes because of our witness, we will be faithful, even if it costs us our lives.

Quote originally from Al Janssen in The Persecuted Church Taught Me to Pray

It seems to be a common message from the so-called ‘persecuted church’*. Our brothers and sisters who suffer don’t crave comfort and safety, but faithfulness and perseverance. May we be faithful in our prayers for them.

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Baby burning

It seems that standard practice in some Scottish hospitals is to dispose of aborted children by incinerating them with clinical waste. The health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, has reacted with suitable concern, as would be expected. Far more intriguing to my mind is a comment made by Sheila McLean, who is a director of the Institute of Law and Ethics in Medicine at Glasgow university. She is quoted by the Times as saying

If you believe the foetus is a person from the moment of conception, then clearly it would be disrespectful to throw it away with clinical waste. There will undoubtedly be people who, because of their belief in the status of the embryo, would find this tremendously distressing.

I do believe that foetuses are people from the moment of conception, but I am shocked by the suggestion that it is somehow worse to incinerate them than it is to kill them. Why do we afford greater respect to a dead child than a living one? The dead child is not affected by the decision. The dead child does not mind if they are ignominiously burned with used bandages or buried as part of a special ceremony. They are dead. They have been killed. Because their life was not respected.

I am pleased that the Scottish government will be reviewing guidelines, but I’d much rather see respect for the living (of any and every age) than for the dead. Wouldn’t it be nice to give respect while it still counts for something?

Spotify unlimited

Today I bought something I never expected to buy – a subscription to Spotify.

I didn’t go for the full premium version. Instead I went for the atrociously named Spotify unlimited, which at £4.99 per month is the same as the free version but with no adverts. I don’t get other bells and whistles like offline and mobile listening, just unlimited listening on my desktop computer. Do I think this is good value for money, paying a fiver every month to remove a few short adverts? To be honest, no, I don’t. But I do appreciate the product which Spotify give me, and I’d rather pay them than not have it. Spotify is a young business, and it isn’t exactly floating in cash. In the words of someone very dear to me, the labourer is worthy of his wages. I’ve been making heavy use of Spotify for quite a while, and it seems fair for me to pay for what I take.

If you want Spotify but can’t get it because you don’t know anyone with premium to invite you, you can now try Spotify open. This gives you 20 hours of listening per month with adverts so you can get a taster of the product.

If you want to compare the different versions of Spotify, there is a handy comparison table available.

Portal

A while ago a game called Portal was released, and a few days ago the kind people responsible for making it decided it should be available as a free download on steam. Who am I to refuse an offer like that?

The basic concept is nice and simple. You have a gun which can fire portals. One is blue, one is orange. What goes into blue comes out of orange, and vice versa. And, in the words of the in-game explanation, “speedy thing goes in, speedy thing comes out”. The aim of the game is to complete a series of puzzles by using the portal gun to cross otherwise impossible gaps.

It’s a very short game, taking only a few hours to complete. It introduces the gameplay gently, as it is very unusual, but quickly lets the player get on with doing their own thing. Throughout the game there is a narrator character who livens up proceedings with dark humour and a complete disregard for the player’s safety. The plot is basic to say the least, but simultaneously wonderful. And in case the game wasn’t good enough, the end credits are run to a fantastic song written specially and performed in the character of the narrator. Simple things.

If you want to play it, download Portal before the 24th of May and it will be free. But the cake is a lie.

Priorities of prayer and preaching

The Book of Acts is filled with prayer meetings; every forward thrust the first church made was immersed in prayer. Take another look at the church at Pentecost. They prayed ten days and preached ten minutes and three thousand people were saved. Today we pray ten minutes and preach ten days and are ecstatic if anyone is saved.

Ronald Dunn, quoted in Prayer: The real battle which I think is quoting Dunn’s book Don’t just stand there, pray something!

You may notice that the Acts 2 account of Pentecost doesn’t mention a ten day prayer meeting. The number comes from knowing the ascension of Jesus Christ was 40 days after His resurrection (Acts 1:3) and that Pentecost was 50 days after it (Pentecost was, by definition, 50 days after the passover, which was when Jesus rose from the dead. Leviticus 23:16 refers to Pentecost). This leaves a ten day gap. At the start of those ten days, we read the disciples “all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers” (Acts 1:14). In Acts 2:1 we read “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place”, and the idea that the intervening period was spent in prayer and supplication is an assumption.

Command and circumstance

When I am consumed by my problems – stressed out about my life, my family, and my job – I actually convey the belief that I think the circumstances are more important than God’s command to always rejoice.  In other words, that I have a ‘right’ to disobey God because of the magnitude of my responsibilities.

Francis Chan

I came across this quote on one of the blogs I follow, and it seemed very relevant to students such as myself at exam time.