Technology

And its drawback

If you’re reading this weblog, you will, more than likely, be using at least some of the same technology as me. Modern technology is wonderful; previous generations might have thought of it as magic but I’m not sure how many of us, myself included, use it to best effect.

A lot of technology is developed because someone thinks they can make money out of it. That doesn’t always mean it doesn’t help us do things easier, quicker and more accurately, it generally does this very well.

The problem comes not with the technology itself but how we use it. After we have accomplished something quicker with it, instead of taking the time it has given us to rest, relax or perhaps pray, we just find something else to fill up the time we’ve saved.

Worse, because we are now available twenty four hours a day, more and more of us are doing work at home, answering e-mail, texting, messaging and suchlike, which might be ok if we live alone but it isn’t really fair to the family, for those of us that have one. We even take our work on holiday now.

Jesus took time for himself when he needed to, and understood that everyone needs to completely relax once in a while, without constant demands upon them. It’s an old lesson that we need to keep alive, so perhaps it’s time to switch off communication devices for a while and use our technology to truly make things easier, instead of it just giving time to fit more things in.

If it weren’t that I need the time to answer just one more e-mail, I’d pray about it.

The New Places Of Worship

Worshipping at the altar of Apple.

ip7With the recent launch of Apple’s latest iPhone, in all it’s attendant hype and hyperbole , I began to notice something about Apple’s retail stores, at least the ones here in the UK. I assume those in America and the rest of the world are similar

Everything is carefully and neatly laid out, as you would expect. What struck me was the manner in which their undoubtedly fine, if expensive, products are displayed. In most stores, display tables are crammed with variety and volume. In Apple’s stores the tables are sparsely laden, showing off just one product on each table, albeit that it might be in various sizes. Apple’s tables are well spaced, displaying relatively few items on each table, or maybe I should say each alter.

That’s what the tables in the Apple stores remind me of; alters, at which the faithful come to worship the latest technological idol churned out by the world’s most valuable company..

It’s as if the followers of the cult of Apple bow down to their high priest, formerly the deceased Steve Jobs, now his successor Tim Cook whom they seem to be beginning to see as saints of the technology industry. For a while, it was almost as if Steve Jobs was like Obi Wan Kenobi, from the original Star Wars film. He became more powerful after his death.

Steve was a visionary (not literally or he might have become a saint), a tough businessman and the industry is undoubtedly poorer without him. Apple makes competent, well designed, stylish technology products but that is all.

Technology is a means to an end, or should be, not an end in itself. Apple makes good tools but a lot of people seem to worship the tool that facilitates, makes possible, amuses and entertains but is in the end just a tool that helps us to accomplish other things which are more important than the tool itself. And yes, I own Apple products.

The Virgin In The Ice

A chronicle of Brother Cadfael by Ellis Peters.

A review of the 6th book in the chronicles of Brother Cadfael.

Although this is the 6th book in the series, it is a complete story. It does not rely on having read earlier adventures of Brother Cadfael.

The year is 1139 and in November, in the midst of an already vicious winter Laurence d’Angers is newly returned from the crusades, to an England in the grip of civil war. Two orphaned children of noble birth are to be d’Angers wards after the death of his sister, their mother but the children have gone missing.

Yves and Ermina Hugonin left the benedictine monastery and convent respectively in Worcester to travel to Shrewsbury, but they never arrived. Their uncle, d’Angers an honourable man, is unable to seek them himself because of the English civil war. His attempts to obtain permission to enter the king’s territory to search for his wards are fruitless, so he has to rely on others to look for the children.

d’Angers sends an agent into the king’s lands to look for the children and return them safely. Brother Cadfael and his friend the Deputy Sheriff Hugh Beringar join the search, unknowing of d’Angers’ agent.

To tell more would give away too much of the plot. Suffice it to say that Cadfael has to contend with outlaws and distractions as he and Hugh Berengar search for the children. Are they found alive? You’ll have to read it to find out. There is an unexpected revelation for Cadfael in the final chapter, concerning d’Angers’ agent, which gives an interesting, surprising twist.

Although the sixth Cadfael tale, it was the first I’ve read. I enjoyed it and will probably read more of Ellis Peters Cadfael stories.

“In every decision there must be some regrets.”

Intercession Prayer

For Sunday Sunday 11th September 2016, the fifteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Spoken Prayer Audio will expire approximately 90 days after posting.


Prayer1-1-small.jpgGod of hope and goodness, father of our saviour Jesus Christ, hear our prayer offered in His name.

As children and young people return to school or higher education we pray that their studies prepare them for adulthood. Guide those returning to school and comfort and support children going to school for the first time. Bless the teachers and all who give time and energy to care for children, to give them a bright future in which they can thrive.

We pray for places where education is sketchy, non-existent, or is not free. Give everyone and especially children access to education to get literacy skills they need for their own futures and for the futures of their communities and countries.

Jesus told the parable of the lost sheep and, like the shepherd searching for his sheep, Jesus searches for us. Father in heaven, send Your Holy Spirit to be our guide, so that Your son need not seek us but we search for him.

Heavenly father we remember the attack on the World Trade Centre, 15 years ago today in which nearly 3000 people died. We pray for injured and dead victims of terrorism and for bereaved families and friends. Give us eyes and ears to be vigilant, to help prevent more acts or terrorism. We ask not for revenge upon terrorists but for justice and the safety and security of all people.

We pray that the initiative agreed between America and Russia will bear fruit, helping bring peace to Syria, at war with itself and Islamic State for more than 5 years.

God of the one and the many, who gives everyone the same love, support those from broken homes, those who cannot find their place in society, the alone, isolated and lonely. Give hope to those who fear for their children’s future.

God of true healing, we pray for the unwell, in hospital or ill at home; for people struggling with despair or depression and for all their carers. We think of people we know who suffering or recovering and offer these prayers for them,

Glorious and gracious Father, let our ears hear You, let our eyes see You and our hearts perceive your presence. May we dream Your dreams, reflect Your love, do Your work, empowered by Your Holy Spirit and may we taste Your peace.

Merciful Father, accept this prayer for the sake of Your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Download and print this prayer.

When We Were Orphans

A review of the book by Kazuo Ishiguro.

After reading The Buried Giant, I happened on When We Were Orphans by the same writer in a charity shop, so I thought I’d give it a try too. Most authors I have read tend to have a theme or style running through their books, even when they are not sequels or a series. This was completely a different kind of read to the first of Ishiguro’s books that I read.

Set between the wars, we first meet Christopher Banks a few years after the First World War, about to embark on establishing himself in the world, with ambition to become a detective. In time he will achieve his ambition, but will he solve the mystery that begun in his childhood aged 8, when he lived in Shanghai?

Much of the story is told through Christopher’s memories of his childhood. As children grow, detail fades from childhood memory and Christopher is no exception. This leaves Christopher to try to piece together scraps of his past as he attempts to unravel the mystery of his parents involvement in the opium trade. Don’t worry, this little snippet is not a spoiler as we are informed of it quite early in the story.

Unfortunately, although When We Were Orphans received good reviews and plaudits, I did not find it an easy read. I do not favour stories told in flashback or memory style, and this plot lost me a couple of times. Objectively, it probably deserves its plaudits but I did not enjoy reading it as much as I did The buried Giant.

Is Religion Man Made?

Making sense of God -sort of.

The title was a question posed in a discussion forum for an online history course. It raised an interesting discussion, that will never be answered definitively but this is my fourpennyworth on the subject.

I think it is first necessary to separate religion and faith. Secondly, who or what do we mean by God? I know I’m treading on dangerous ground here, but I am excluding man made gods and idols whether that be a statue like a golden calf or things we ‘worship’ today, like fashion, football and technology. So what are we now left with for God? Again treading on dangerously controversial ground, I dare to suggest that all religions ‘gods’, at least of the monotheistic religions may all actually be One God, who is given different names by different peoples. And that probably gives a clue already to my thinking on the original question.

Before going any further, I will state an assumption I make that, any/all atheists would argue that religion is man made. As an interesting aside, that I will not pursue here, is it a faith to believe that God does not exist or, put another way, does that mean that atheists have a kind of faith, which is not provable?

Having already separated religion and faith, I can say that I believe firmly that faith is God made, or perhaps better expressed as made available to us by God. Whether we choose to accept it is another matter entirely, as God that I believe in does not force it on anyone. Man has, on many occasions throughout history, tried to though; or has he? Is it faith man has tried to force on man, or religion? Whilst the instances of man forcing religion on man is somewhat less prevalent today, it is clear from the news media that it still goes on. What also clearly goes on, and has been reported on in news, is attempts to prevent apostasy, leaving a religion.

So, whilst faith is made available by God, religion is, I think, man made and God inspired. The need to answer questions that such a vast universe suggests to mankind, has led at least some humans to conclude that something or someone greater than they has been responsible for the creation. Religion then is perhaps humankind’s way of trying to make some kind of sense of the unimaginable, to our imperfect human mind. Man, not God, albeit inspired by Him, wrote the books about Him and devised the practices and rituals used to worship and glorify him. God gave us free will and the ability, often poorly or selfishly used, to think for ourselves, so we come up with wrong or incomplete answers, which is probably why there are different religions and even different sects within the same religion.

“Sometimes I believe 6 impossible things before breakfast”
“This is impossible” said Alice …..
“Only if you think it is” replied the Mad Hatter.
– from Lewis Carroll’s, Alice In Wonderland.

The Light Of The World

A reflection on William Holman Hunt’s painting.

William Holman Hunt painted The Light Of The World between 1851 and 1856. He based it on a short passage from The Bible’s book of Revelation, chapter 3, verse 20 which includes the words “Here I am, I stand at the door and knock”. It depicts Jesus as king with a crown and jewelled clasp on his cloak knocking at a door, carrying a lit lantern. It is interesting in a number of ways as it allegorical in nature but also contains ambiguity.

Jesus, to Christians at least, is the eponymous Light Of The World. There are multiple instances in The Bible where he is referred to by this epithet, and in John’s gospel (John 8:12 & 9:5) Jesus refers to himself twice this way. This is the first ambiguity I see in the painting. When Jesus himself is the light, he doesn’t need to carry a lantern, as in the picture, his halo perhaps being the source?

Jesus carries the lantern itself low, lighting his robe around knee level. A light to be followed, to guide the way, needs to be held high, so that it it not shielded from shedding its light in some directions. Certainly we can be led through darkness by a man carrying a lantern but it is the lantern we are actually able to see to follow, regardless of who carries it.

Jesus is depicted wearing a crown, however it is not shown a a single crown. We see a kingly crown about which is entwined a crown of thorns. Around His head is a halo, which could be the moon behind Him, if we didn’t look carefully enough to see it obscures the branches of some trees.

The door that Jesus is shown knocking at shows its hinges on the outside, with no apparent handle, suggesting that it can only be opened from within. The picture also depicts vines growing up the door and prolific weeds growing around the base, so it seems the door has not been used for a considerable period of time, months at least.

This depiction of the door has a surprisingly modern aspect. Consider how many 20th and 21st century houses are built with the main access at the rear and the front door actually getting minimal use.

Since it is to be presumed that someone lives in the dwelling, it is fair to assume there must be other access to within; there must be another door that we cannot see. Why then would Jesus knock at this door?

On the ground near Jesus’ feet there appear to be two apples. One green, perhaps freshly fallen or dropped, and one brown, maybe rotting. A reference maybe to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, eating from the tree of knowledge, beginning the fall of humanity from a state of grace.