Thursday, 22 June 2017

tim keller on romans 1:18-32 and epithumia

The word [in verse 24] that the NIV translates 'sinful desires and the ESV renders 'lusts' is epithumia. Literally, it means 'over-desire', an all-controlling drive and longing. This is revealing. The main problem of our heart is not so much desires for bad things, but our over-desires for good things, our turning of created, good things into gods, objects of our worship and service.
....
How should God's people respond to these verses [verses 18-32], and the dark view of humanity they give us? .... [Thirdly,] we are to read these verses in light of 1:16-17, knowing that we do not need to fear God's wrath because we have received his righteousness. This gives us both the humility and the freedom to ask: What idols could be, or are already, jostling for position with my Creator in my heart and life? This passage prompts us to look for places where we are envious, slanderous, disloyal, lusting, and so on. These things are the indication that we are worshiping an idol; that something other than God has become our functional master. And so we need to ask: What would it look like to depend on my Creator in this area? How would I love and feel and live differently if I praised my Creator at that point, rather than serving a created thing? That is the way to turn our epithumia, our over-desires, into simple enjoyment; not serving as slaves what God has made, but appreciating them in praise of God in his world.

- part of what Tim Keller says on Romans 1:18-32 in his book Romans 1-7 For You.

Monday, 12 June 2017

the election, the dup and christians

I stayed up for the election on Thursday. As I've said before, accurate election polls took the fun out of staying up, but Twitter has put the fun back in. Once again people disbelieved the exit polls and they turned out to be almost exactly right; but the individual details of how it was right were fascinating as they rolled in; and Twitter was full of information and entertainment (if you were following the right people), and the opportunity to back-and-forth with friends.

But later on Friday, when it became obvious that the way ahead was some kind of Tory arrangement with the DUP, it turned more unpleasant. British media, columnists and Tweeters really got stuck in on what this unpleasant lunatic fringe party was like. What was most striking to me, however, was that the vast majority of the anti-DUP Tweets and links I saw weren't related to corruption, possible terrorism links, political incompetence or ineffectiveness, or NI Assembly implications, but to their socially and religiously conservative views, views similar to historic Christian beliefs. Even Christians were expressing their disgust and horror at these fundamentalist, misogynistic, homophobic creationists.

I felt very aware, however, that however much I might differ from any particular members of the DUP (and sadly I have no reason to disbelieve the kind of quotes and behaviour that were being cited), I fear many of those writing about or commenting on the DUP would not see any difference that mattered between me and them, and would apply the same terms to me (I guess that Christians agreeing with these criticisms either thought naively that of course they didn't mean Christians like *them*, or that they too abhorred their fellow Christians who had such old-school views and were being rightly described). There's not much room for nuance - we're just different shades of black. Think Sunday is different, think abortion is wrong, hold to what we shall call the historic understanding of what the Bible teaches about the role of women in church leadership and matters of sexual behaviour, think God made the world. Things like these used to be pretty much mainstream evangelical belief, but it is on the one hand decreasingly so and on the other increasingly unacceptable in our society (and, gradually, in the evangelical church) for anyone to hold those views. Tim Farron's hounding about his views on sexuality and then abortion, and his recanting of both, were brutal and salutary.

I decided on Saturday night that I would take a break from Twitter for a few days, because I expected things to get worse, not least because the next part of the new American serial dramatisation of The Handmaid's Tale was going to be on on Sunday. I'd already had a few weeks on Twitter - when it was coming in the US and then when it came here - of people seeing it as a documentary prediction of what evangelicals would like the future to be like, and adding fuel to the fire of an atmosphere of increased hatred of evangelical Christians; and I expected people to cross the streams for some DUP/Handmaid multiplication. (I haven't read the book yet; I've seen the older film, which I didn't much like.) It's really rather upsetting how many people hate Christians who are in the category I would be placed by them.

And a couple of things just on the general political points. Firstly, while all the GB coverage I was seeing was like people discovering monsters under a rock, the DUP is not actually a lunatic fringe party in Northern Ireland, but the largest party with increased seats and vote share. How do the Northern Irish view the DUP? As the newly-attentive GB does? Or something more nuanced? I don't believe they are going to turn out to be the monstrous bogeymen so many people seem to expect.

Secondly, it is possible to do business with people whose views are diametrically opposed to yours on particular issues, and it is possible for those people to be good and decent people who can be worked with (it is of course also possible for them to be thoroughly unpleasant, which can also be true of people you completely agree with). The DUP themselves offered a perfect example of that, as it happens, in the NI Assembly with Sinn Fein, as we were reminded earlier in the year when Martin McGuinness died and there was much coverage of how he and Ian Paisley had worked together (and some unexpected tributes to Martin from Ian's family members).

And it happens at an individual level in the other direction all the time: no major, mainstream GB party has, for example, a position on abortion which pro-life Christians would be anywhere near entirely happy with, but every party has pro-life Christians who are voters, members and elected representatives of that party. British Christians are political pragmatists, and just as they know there is no perfect church to join they know there is no perfect party to join.

(Interestingly, Sunday's Red Box political email from the Times said this: 'The Sunday Times reveals she [Arlene Foster, DUP leader] has a 45-point bucket list focused on health, education and infrastructure. Some fear the Tory party could become "toxified" if it bows to hardline DUP's demands on abortion or gay rights, but no such measures are currently under consideration.' Health, education and infrastructure.)

But there seems to be an increasing number of people who think that such Christians should not be members or elected representatives of respectable parties, and that is troubling and depressing.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

last night

Another awful terrorist incident last night, not far away. So sorry for the lives lost and affected, and impressed by the speed it was dealt with by the police.

There's a chance that I might die in a road traffic accident - and a much, much smaller chance that I might die in a terrorist incident - on my way to church today, or work tomorrow, or folk club on Tuesday, but I will still go to church and work and folk club. I will, as usual, look both ways when I'm crossing one-way streets and give second glances to unattended packages, but I won't spend a moment worrying about or fearing either of those life-ending possibilities. Because, honestly, what would be the point of that? :-)

Thursday, 1 June 2017

morris folk club - may

It was Morris Folk Club on Tuesday (30th May). Singing with pleasure all evening, of course, including songs by the choir and songs by everyone. But songs I sang by myself were Intro (by Ariana Grande), Where Two Hawks Fly (by The Corries) and (best of all, of course, since I prefer our duets) The Death of Queen Jane with Ginny (the version Karine Polwart sings, with a harmony of our own devising).

I thought I'd like to sing something by Ariana Grande, if I could, and when I listened through the songs on My Everything, which Maisie has, the lovely, short opening song, Intro, was most appropriate, so I learnt it. (It was short enough that I sang it twice.) I didn't give it much of an introduction, as I was afraid I might get a bit emotional (I really am turning into a bit of an old softy). There will always be very bad people, there will always be good people, and there will always be music. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Where Two Hawks Fly was written by Ronnie Browne, I suspect to show off his range, so you have to pitch it carefully. I made a hash of it - too high - when I sang it at Sharp's several years ago (on the night I first heard Morris Folk Choir, trivia fans), but it went okay this time. The other two went pretty well too, I think.

Full set list here.

Monday, 15 May 2017

laser eye surgery

So it became apparent as the doctor spoke to me that today's pre-op appointment for laser eye surgery was actually an op appointment for laser eye surgery.

(- 'Do you have any questions?'
- '[realisation dawning]... When will I have the surgery?'
- 'In about five minutes.')

(At my eye test earlier in the year it was apparent that the right lens had really clouded over and the sight had really deterioriated; I hadn't realised it until the eye test. This was not unusual, apparently, after lens replacement, and just needed the clouding lasered off; the optician wrote to my GP to refer me to the hospital, which they did.)

Quick, easy, painless, sight restored to tip-top condition. I love the NHS, and the lovely French doctor pinging away at my lens with her laser like some extraordinary video game. I could hear clicks in my head as the laser made good contact with the material.

Funniest thing, as always, is signing a surgery consent form which you literally can't read because of the drops in your eyes.

Funniest thing for me, that is. Funniest thing for everyone else was the fact that I went all the way home with the '*this* eye' arrow felt-penned on my forehead.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

the social network

On Friday 5th May Maisie and I watched The Social Network (which I'd recorded only the night before, though I had recorded it before on the old digibox and never seen it) - we both enjoyed it. It was very well done, for such a talky, plot heavy film (Aaron Sorkin scripted). Again, one wondered how close to the truth it was, but it couldn't be too far away from it, being the story of very wealthy living people.

action in arabia

On Monday 1st May - bank holiday - we all watched Action In Arabia, another DVD Maisie had given us for our anniversary, from a big reissue series of mostly minor films available cheap at Fopp. As with the Mr Moto film, it was short, and straight in and out, and rather better than we'd expected - certainly better than Mr Moto. George Sanders in particular added a bit of natural class to this wartime propaganda movie.

think fast, mr moto

On Saturday 29th April we all watched Think Fast Mr Moto on DVD, which Maisie had given to us for an anniversary present. It wasn't bad, and certainly rather better than I had feared it might be (although the representation of Chinese and Japanese characters, often by Western actors, not least Peter Lorre in the main role, was 'of its time', shall we say), but not good enough to make me think it worth going to Fopp to pick up some of the sequels which they also had there for £3. It was just over an hour long - a B movie, one presumes - and was striking in the way that it plunged you without explanation straight into the story and then just stopped once it was over, which may have been for necessity and, again, of its time/status, but I wish more modern films still did.

a quiet passion

On Tuesday 25th April I had the day off, as well as Bethan, and during the day we went to the Curzon Bloomsbury to see A Quiet Passion, about Emily Dickinson, which was pretty good, even though it was a Terence Davies film.

Friday, 5 May 2017

oblivion

On Monday 24th April Maisie and I watched Oblivion, the science fiction film starring Tom Cruise. It was pretty good, and had some interesting ideas and reasonable internal logic, though towards the end it rushed through plot unfolding for the sake of action scenes, and I'd have rathered the former.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

book-writers

I recently came across a little notebook with some bits and pieces in it which Maisie had said when she was wee, which I'd never transferred to the secret blog.

Here's something I saw today which she said to mummy: 'Me and daddy are going to be book-writers when we grow up - would you like to be in one of them?'

It pulled at my heart when she said it, as it does today. I hope that she manages to fulfil all the ambitions that she has.

Friday, 28 April 2017

the unimposing creator

Astonishingly, the Creator seldom imposes himself on his creatures. It requires attention and effort on our part to 'remember your Creator,' because the Creator slips quietly backstage. God does not force his presence on us. When lesser gods attract, God withdraws, honouring our fatal freedom to ignore him.
- Philip Yancey, Rumours of Another World.

I read something very recently - annoyingly, I can't remember where, I'd thought it was this book, which I'm still reading, but I can't see it - to the effect that if God had wanted to force us to believe then Jesus after his resurrection would have appeared to Pilate and Herod rather than the disciples.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

morris folk club - april

Bethan and Maisie came with me for some of Morris Folk Club on Tuesday evening, but left at eight without having heard me sing, lucky them.

By myself I sang Come By The Hills, Kishmul's Galley; Seth and I (with a rare outing for my guitar) sang Flower of Scotland; and our group sang Three Craws as one of the choir group songs. I think they all went fine.

Friday, 14 April 2017

1 peter; 2 peter and jude

On Sunday 19th February I finished the IVP Tyndale commentary on 1 Peter by A F Walls (introduction) and A M Stibbs (notes). It wasn't great; one of the least satisfactory Tyndale commentaries I can remember reading. It felt a bit less analytical and a bit more sermony/daily-Bible-notesy than the series usually is. The introduction wasn't bad, though. The current IVP Tyndale 1 Peter isn't the same book.

On Thursday 13th April I finished Michael Green's IVP Tyndale commentary on 2 Peter and Jude. It was a solid, sensible little commentary; interestingly, it still seems to be the current one, though it's quite old (a lot of my IVP Tyndales - as these two - are picked up secondhand so are not the latest version); perhaps he revised it at some point along the way.

Both these commentaries, of course, read in relation to what we're studying in our house group Bible studies. (Next up, Romans; have a number of commentaries to choose from on the shelf already, not sure whether to go for John Murray's old one or FF Bruce's IVP Tyndale (also old); Tim Keller's done a more popular commentary on it recently, I have noticed.)

now you see me 2

On Friday 24th March in the evening I watched Now You See Me 2 on DVD with Maisie (she'd bought it new recently); it wasn't great, even more preposterous than the first one (throughout one is disbelieving that these tricks/illusions/stunts/feats are doable in the real world of the film rather than just things created to look good on screen, which for me undermines the whole essence of the film) and more pointless. Maisie enjoyed it rather more than I did.

one chance

On Monday 27th March I watched One Chance, the Paul Potts biopic, with Maisie. It was quite good - pretty straightforward and warmhearted, which was fine by me.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

hoovering music

I appreciate the irony of singing 'I want to be anarchy - no dogsbody!' while I'm hoovering in the toilet, but it's an irony I'm at ease with.

Stayin' Alive by the Bee Gees also came up in my hoovering headphones. It took me many years to notice the quiet cry for help in the middle and end of that none-more-strutting anthem: 'I'm going nowhere, somebody help me.' It's really very striking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQwNN-0AgWc

author pen-names

Twitter fun of the day was 'Your author pen name is the name of your childhood pet and the name of the thing you are terrified of'.

J K Rowling's was Thumper Smallspaces, which I rather like.

I worked out my own would be N A Darkheart.

(N A Myown-Darkheart, to give it the full double barrels.)

Friday, 7 April 2017

divergent

On Thursday 6th April Maisie and I watched Divergent in the afternoon. It wasn't bad, although its underlying premise is as preposterous as when I read it in the book; I enjoyed the film more, perhaps because I had less time to think about the preposterous premise. (I'd read the book when Maisie got it, as a vetting pre-read, and it was fine, though in fact she says she didn't finish it in the end; I read it on the train back from Aviemore, where she'd bought it.)

Thursday, 30 March 2017

morris folk club - march

At folk club on Tuesday I sang Ophelia's Song (a setting of some of what Ophelia sings while mad in Hamlet, which I know from Jane & Amanda Threlfall's version) and Billy Taylor (there are a hundred variations on this song, this version was the one which Malinky did). They went okay.

Best of all, though, I got to sing Sweet Nightingale (aka The Birds In The Spring, this version also from Jane & Amanda Threlfall) with Ginny, and that went pretty well. I always particularly enjoy singing duets with Ginny, as not only does she sing beautifully but I think our voices go well together (they do in my head at least; I can't guarantee what it sounds like in the real world). (I pretty much always enjoy singing duets with anyone from the choir, of course, which is full of people with lovely voices, so that in itself isn't remarkable.)

Full set list here.