Tuesday, 10 May 2011

New Blog

I'm consolidating this site and Notes On A Scandal into a brand new one over at Stevangelical. Whether I'm more prolific in posting or not is another matter entirely... Read more!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Everyone loves a happy ending...

Everyone loves a happy ending. Or so it seems.

I just finished watching Terminator 2 with Amy today as a fundamental part of her upbringing (Marvel, James Cameron, Spielberg, Jedis, Tolkien, etc - all in the name of parental education) and it got the 3 of us talking. You see, Amy became concerned about 3/4 of the way through the film that this "bad" Terminator could actually win the day and the "goodies" might actually die. Well, yeah, that's part of the tension that good writing should evoke for a decent pay-off, but it did occur to me that there must have come a point in my own formative years when I happily accepted a film that DIDN'T end happily. Not all do.

Kids would be devastated if Bambi, famous for its matricidal moment, also ended with the young deer himself being eaten with a side of Thumper stew. It doesn't of course, but what if...

So, I was trying to recall the first downbeat-ending film I'd seen and how I felt at the time as I walked away. I'm not talking about bitter-sweet endings - I couldn't include Empire Strikes Back since there's still hope at the end - nor films with "sad bits" like E.T.. No, I'm talking about films that haunt you because the resolution you'd hoped for never arrived. I have a funny feeling the original King Kong was my first. And I think I coped pretty well.

As for more recent films that have the same tenor: some I accept, and still enjoy a re-watch, others I struggle with. Atonement, Revolutionary Road, American History X, Chinatown, Thelma and Louise, Das Boot, Oldboy, One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest... The list goes on (and I've left others out to avoid spoilers!), but these endings work because they have a story to tell, they remind us that life isn't always happy, and we can accept what they show us. Others, like the The Vanishing (the original! Hollywood did its usual), Se7en, Rosemary's Baby, The Mist or The Wicker Man I personally find a bit too cynical. In fact, Jennie and I sometimes prefer ambiguous endings - or at least wish the film-makers hadn't tried to tack on an extra few minutes to sugar it up. Leave Source Code and A.I. Artificial Intelligence at a certain point some minutes before the end = even better films. I quote Orson Welles: "If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." 'Nuff said.

But why, ultimately, do we all love a happy ending? Because there is a sense of justice deep inside all of us and when it is not served, we feel cheated. I'm a Bible-believing Christian and the Bible says this: no, life is not always pain-free, and our individual stories do not always end happily, but there is a bigger picture. And that is the most glorious happy ending you could ever experience. Justice is served. And the redeemed live happily ever after. Go check it out.
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Monday, 20 September 2010

Three-way Marriages FTW

I had the privilege of preaching at my great friend Darren Blaney's Herne Bay Baptist Church yesterday - my first "away match". It went well. I think. Ask them.

ANYWAY, I preached a version of my sermon on the church being the Bride of Christ and the implications of such for us today - it is far more relevant than its seemingly abstract metaphor/pretty picture suggests. I've had some interesting post-sermon conversations as a result (which I love - it means people are engaging with Scripture!) but one caught me out a little unawares.

A gentleman approached me afterwards and asked for advice about prospective marital partners...! I see the connection, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The gentleman was a widower and has romantic inclinations for a couple of ladies and wanted my advice. Um, moi?

Appreciating his candour, I answered as best I could - and we can always think of better answers some hours later, eh? So I mentioned the usual "Does the thought of her make your heart skip?", "Can you not only see the two of you sharing the rest of your lives together, but actually desire it (as opposed to finding a simple compatability and convenience)?", "Is she thinking the same?"(*) etc, etc. But I had to share with him that always, always, always the bottom line must be this:

"Does she love Jesus more than she loves you?"

If not, she AIN'T the girl for you...


(*always helpful in a prospective spouse, I feel.)

PS - I'm assuming prayer as being THE key element to seeking guidance and clarity in life! I hadn't forgotten it, and I did include it in conversation with the gentleman concerned :)
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Thursday, 2 September 2010

A Prayerful Attitude.

"Dear Lord,

So far today, I am doing all right. I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish, or self-indulgent. I have not whined, cursed, or eaten any chocolate.

However, I am going to get out of bed in a few minutes, and I will need a lot more help after that. Amen."*

How's your attitude today?

(*from John C. Maxwell's Today Matters) Read more!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Ad Nauseam Tracks

You know how you get that moment when you're driving in the car and the music's cranked up and *that* track comes on? How the raw energy and musical genius blend into this spiral of pure class? How the system's volume is at that perfect cliff-edge between filling your head and tipping into distortion? How, as soon as that track finishes, you have to repeat it? And again? And again? And again?


Oh. Must be just me then.

Anyhow, I have certain tracks that grab a hold of me and won't let go until I've played them ad nauseam. I've just sat down to scribble out a little list of them and observed a pattern emerging: each of them demonstrate real guitar craftsmanship - guys truly at the top of their game - and feature guitar parts that I've always wanted to master and never had the time. So I've given up trying - more important things to do - and just enjoy them. Again and again.

These are great, great songs, so I thought I'd share them with you. Just in case you like them too. (no particular order)

1. Ghost - Slash
2. Summer Song - Joe Satriani
3. Locomotive - Guns & Roses
4. No World For Tomorrow - Coheed and Cambria
5. No Respect - Extreme
6. Star - Extreme
7. Bleed American - Jimmy Eat World
8. Bleed It Out - Linkin Park
9. Suicide & Redemption - Metallica
10. Black Magic - Reb Beach

(Observation #2: many of these aren't very positive-sounding titles...! I do wish song-writers out there would put uplifting lyrics to ridiculously good guitar riffs. Yarp.)
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Saturday, 24 April 2010

Ejaffacake and the Bulgarian Fun Bus™





However it's supposed to be pronounced (I prefer "Fag Ash Rita"), the Icelandic volcano and its spurious offspring, the Cloud of Doom™, have taught me a few things since they made an appearance on our radar 11 days ago.

The 5 of us (myself, Jen, our Amy and my parents-in-law-in-tow) had been enjoying a lovely time at our Bulgarian retreat and our flight cancellation was initially a small issue. We could make up our hours at work within reason and accommodation was, by nature, free for as long as the extended stay needed to be. However, it soon became apparent that due to the horrendous backlog seats on any flight, once the airlines were willing to risk "passive smoking" of Rita's ash cloud, were not going to be available until well into May. To make a meal of a story into something more bite-sized, we ended up booked on a (what eventually became 45-hour) coach journey from Sofia to London. The trip took us through Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary (barely), Austria, Germany, Belgium and France - some of which had tight border controls, and some of which really didn't care. And here's what it taught me:
  • God can whip the tablecloth from beneath your carefully laid table-setting at any time. Nothing can ever be assumed or taken for granted. Things like this keep us humble, reminding us that we aren't the ones in charge around here.

  • God is good and does good (Psalm 119.68). He's the only reliable constant and He'll always keep his children safe. Worry has not been on the agenda throughout the uncertainties of the past week at all.

  • If it hadn't been for Fag Ash Rita, we still wouldn't have got round to seeing Sofia properly. We're usually just passing through. It's rather nice.

  • If it hadn't been for Fag Ash Rita, we'd never have travelled through Europe by road. Serbia is really beautiful. Austria even more so.

  • Our little Amy (6) is a star traveller.

  • I inadvertently cuddled Amy's Pinky the Elephant for the entire duration of France.

  • You still get to see customs officials take back-handers with your own eyes. (Not telling you where, but your guess will probably be very warm)

  • Forty-plus hours on a coach with no toilet is actually not as bad as it sounds. And I still fancy crossing India on a train. I may be doing that one without Jen or the others though...

  • When your drivers start buying souvenirs in each country you visit, your confidence in them having done this before takes a bit of a dive.

  • When they borrow a passenger's laptop to use her mapping software, that confidence sinks lower than current interest rates.

  • And when the driver's simple task of taking us from ferry passport control DIRECTLY onto the ferry itself involves driving us back OUT of the terminal towards Calais, INTO a short term car park, and BACK through passport control again, you give up on them entirely. Bless.

  • And so this simply proves: every day is most definitely an adventure. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?
    (Apologies for the near-lethal overdose of metaphors. It's been a looooong journey).
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