'For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord….'

Archive for October, 2009

Moleskine phenomenon….

Is it just me or has Moleskine made a fabulous comeback?  It seems as though everywhere I look (coffee shops, offices, schools, pubs etc.) I spot these delightfully smart items being used by the modern man or woman about town.

Moleskine is of course the legendary notebook that the European artists and intellectuals who made twentieth-century culture used.  Matisse, Céline, Hemingway, Chatwin and other chaps I know very little about, picked up this tradition and made it famous.

A simple black rectangle pad with squared or lined pages, endleaves held by an elastic band, an inside pocket for loose sheets, a binding in ‘moleskine’ which gives it its name, this trusty, pocket-size traveling companion guarded notes, stories, thoughts and impressions before they were typed up into their trusty laptops.

Chatwin, indeed, used to buy his Moleskines at a Paris stationery shop in Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie.  He always stocked up on them before travelling and once declared, ‘Losing my passport was the least of my worries, losing a Moleskine was a catastrophe’.

In 1986, the last producer, a small family concern in Tours closed down.  Now, the Moleskine is back again, to satisfy the cultural demand once more.  Could this be due to a mutiny against technology?  No, it’s just for folk who are 40-something and not as Mac savvy as the younger generation.

High quality notebook for pastors…

Of course, the other place you will spot a Moleskine notebook is at a Newfrontiers church or conference of some sort.  It perfectly accompanies the standard NF Pastors kit-bag (including a MacBook Pro, iphone and a smart pair of specs).  The Moleskine is indeed fast becoming the essential accessory of 2009.

Just a bit of a leg pull!  Bought one myself recently.  Really nice they are.  So much so, I bought a bulk pack to hand out to my fellow pastors (all of whom are 40-something)…..

Mood food…

One of my favourite ways of relaxing is watching cooking programmes, and then having a go at reproducing something on the plate.  Some of the most entertaining  and inspiring TV programmes are ‘Saturday Morning Kitchen’, ‘Masterchef’ and ‘Nigel Slaters Simple Suppers’.

There have been a few successes over the years (which are oft-repeated!), and I like to think I can give most dishes a bash.  When I say success, I mean the kind of food that you can toss together pretty quickly, chuck in a few spices and hey presto!  Something like this, which is a hot favourite in the Davis household.

Jamie's chilli prawns!

Jamie's chilli prawns!

More recently I’ve been watching Nigel Slater’s offerings on the BBC.  Aside from the gorgeous photography, his slick patter and smart kitchen (ridiculously oversized & minimalist), the food combo’s are really equisite.

This time of year, with the days shortening (quickly it seems), what we need is ‘mood food’ apparently, and this pithy statement got me thinking.  Food is comforting, satisfying  and mood-changing.  There is a lot to be said for a lamb hotpot with steaming dumplings and a side of savoy cabbage on your plate on a wet and windy Sunday lunchtime!  No?  That’s just me then!  Of course, this needs to be acompanied by a large glass of claret and a 20 minute nap for it’s true effectiveness to to be fully enjoyed.

Mr Slater - 'You need mood food!'

Mr Slater - 'You need mood food!'

Am I pandering to the ‘mood’ thing?  Has the season (Autumn to Winter) got the better of me?  Is it sending me into a spiral of depression that can only be asuaged by culinary skill and adventure?  Yes, if Nigel Slater is to be believed, and his offerings aim to lift the mood.  To a certain degree, I have to concur.  A hearty dish of something tasty really helps.

Feeding the flesh is really only part of the story though.  What actually brings real radical change to my attitude to life is the genuine ‘mood food’………bible truth in all it’s variety.  Completely satisfying, meaty, sometimes spicy, in every way transforming.  It defys all seasons, times and places.  It never fails to fulfil completely.

Jesus taught that He is the bread of life.  The original ‘mood food’….  He was talking about spiritual matters of course.  ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life…’ (John 6:54).  Many of His followers didn’t understand, because they were thinking too much about their physical needs.  He was actually teaching that believing and obeying His words would give them eternal life.

From that day forward, many went away from Jesus.  But Peter said, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also, we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (John 6:68-69).   It was pretty clear to Peter that the food Jesus had on offer was of ultimate sustenance.

Want to lift you mood in this season of shorter and cooler days?  By all means enjoy the seasonal fare (hot pot, roasts, hearty soup etc.), but dont ignore the real stuff……. the ‘mood food’ that Jesus offers, which He invites us to feast upon.


On a recent day off, Ali and I decided to go and see Ricky Gervais’ latest cinematic offering, ‘The Invention of Lying’.  Oh dear.  I cant lie to you……..whilst it had it’s moments (amusing & poignant), it was generally low quality viewing.

For fans of Gervais’ wry humour (famously the Office & Extras), it certainly had the cleverness of wit and observational comedy throughout, but the plot line was pretty weak.  As one critic puts it, ‘the film deserves high marks for cleverness, but low ones for humanity and warmth’.  And that is about right.

But more interestingly for me, as a Christian I was challenged on all sorts of levels.  Some of the content was unnecessarily crass (as is quite a lot of Gervais’ humour!), and this guts me because he doesnt need to be.

A few years ago, the standup comedian Frank Skinner decided to do all his shows without one blasphemas utterance or profanity, and was acclaimed for it!  I dont want to come across as a freakish ascetic but some of it is really not necessary.  I’m often stunned at the certificates awarded by the BBFC, and for this to be a 12A did surprise me a bit (or did it?  Uh oh, I’m sounding old!).

But the moments of offence were counteracted by some observationally funny ones, and I found myself laughing out loud in the darkened room (cinema).  However, the power of the film (of what there is of it) comes from staring plain in the face the desperation and futility of the human condition without God.  But of course, I’m observing it from my gospel world-view, seeing how Jesus and the cross are the remedy for all these failings.

The premise of the film is this.  Nobody tells lies – everyone must tell the truth.  One day, Mark (the Gervais character), tells a lie and finds that he is believed without question!  It becomes an incredible power which he uses to his personal gain.

But things come to a head when he visits his mother on her deathbed and, in an attempt to console her fears of passing on into a void of eternal nothingness, he tells her of the beautiful afterlife awaiting her that he claims to have been told of by an otherworldly presence that he refers to as ‘the Man in the Sky’.  However, word of his story gets out and suddenly the entire world is eagerly lapping up his every utterance, even the seemingly contradictory ones, about the afterlife, morality and why the person responsible for such much happiness in the next world can also be responsible for so much misery in this one.

Mark (Ricky) lies to his dying mum

Mark (Ricky) lies to his dying mum

Most folks understanding of Christianity in our culture, is a misunderstanding.   And Gervais’ understanding of gospel truth is certainly that.  He has a terrific grasp of worthless religion though, and his swipe at it (having initially made my blood boil) is spot on.  What a terrible existence it must be, to feel you must earn points with creator God and be tossed into hell for not performing to the standards of ‘the Man in the Sky’ (as He is dubbed in the film).

Funny that.  A film about lying, and there is Gervais perpetuating the big lie that we must earn favour with God to have any hope of ‘a mansion in heaven’.

I discovered that Gervais studied philosophy as a younger man, and is a fierce atheist.  He is actually an Honorary Associate of the Secular Society.  He self-confesses his atheism in a ‘5 mins with…’ interview which you can watch here, and of course it’s his blatant swipe at religion that makes this film interesting if you hold a gospel world-view.

My conclusion?  Possibly worth seeing on DVD, but dont rush to rent it.  But thanks are due…….

Thanks God that I’m free from the chains of religion.  Thanks Ricky for reminding me.  Thanks Jesus for pleasing ‘the Man in the Sky’ for me….

Great value…

I really appreciated the considered comments made by Dave Bish (of Frontiers Exeter) on the value of building effective Small Groups in our churches.

Like Dave, I totally believe in Small Groups as the essential fabric of church life.  Being in community is not our made up scheme, but actually God’s design.  He exists in community, and the model is there for us to observe and draw from.  We also see it outworked by the early church in Acts 2:42-47.

Small Groups are one way the church carrys out effective pastoring.  If you are actively engaged in a Small Group, then you are ‘known’.  When you are known, you can enjoy the spiritual, physical, emotional and practical care of skilful shepherds whom Jesus has given the church.

I also believe in preaching, and the power of God to change people in their seats through it.  The challenge for us is connecting ‘preached truth’ (pulpit-pastoring) with real life outside of Sunday.  Small Groups need to be the context for making this happen, and seeing moments in God truly outworked in an atmosphere of grace and accountability.

When we dont think hard about or neglect the Small Group element of building church (in whatever form it takes), we fail to create sanctifying, gospel-centered communities that strengthen our foundations.

Here are Dave’s helpful thoughts (paraphrased a bit by me!) that argue for the value of robust community-building frameworks :

~ The impulse to avoid painful growth by disappearing safely into the crowd in corporate worship is very strong

~ The tendency toward passivity in listening to a sermon (ie. being provoked but taking no action) is part of our human weakness

~ Listeners in a Sunday crowd can more easily evade redemptive crises.  If tears well up in your eyes in a Small Group, wise friends will gently find out why, but in a large gathering, you can just walk away from it

~ Listeners in a Sunday crowd tend to neglect efforts of personal application.  The preach may touch a nerve of conviction, but without someone to press in (like a Small Group pal), it can easily be avoided

~ Opportunity for questions leading to growth are missing.  Sermons are not dialogue……nor should they be.  But asking questions is a key to understanding and to growth.  Small groups are great occasions for this

~ Accountability for follow-through on good resolves is missing.  But if someone knows what you intended to do, the resolve is stronger

~ Prayer support for a specific need, conviction or resolve goes wanting.  How many blessings do we not have because we are not surrounded by a band of friends who pray for us?

Small Groups provide great value and build strong church communities……..