Saturday, May 26, 2007


I've been thinking a lot about my "online footprint" in recent days.

A proportion of the British press have expressed concern over Google's future plans, most significantly the Independent, which carried this worrying story on it's front page this week. When I think of all the different sites that I am registered with, all the online groups that I am part of... even under a plethora of pseudonyms, I realise that I have a fairly significant presence. I'd argue that among the people I know closely... none of them is as established on the Internet as myself. I'm not boasting... it is not about any delusions of "celebrity", it's just that I have been much more thorough in exploring the cyber neighbourhood than they have. That is the trouble with being an extrovert trapped in an introvert's body.... you grow rather fond of armchair expeditions.

An example of how worryingly accurate Google's algorithms can be arrived in my statistics page this week. Half a world away from Nick's Sanctuary, I regularly visit a bulletin board under a pseudonym of one of the knights of the round table - Galahad. Now another description of a sanctuary can be "safe haven". The other day, Google directed somebody to my blog simply on the search term "Galahad's safe haven". I performed a search on Technorati and a cached Google advanced search, specific to the url for Nick's Sanctuary. Guess what? I don't refer to Galahad at all... Google knows me well enough by association... the same is true of other handles I travel under - scary.

Google's chief executive has revealed the following corporate vision:

"The goal is to enable Google users to be able to ask the question such as 'What shall I do tomorrow?' and 'What job shall I take?'."

It is bad enough having a "nanny state" without having to worry about a "nanny site". The Independent has also pointed out that Google has bought up a genetic research firm - 23andMe and is also bidding for DoubleClick - a cookie web tracking software company. It does all sound rather worrying.

However I didn't just want to look at potential corporate Orwellian threats... I wanted to make people think seriously about their blog content, particularly fellow Christians.

Footprints are funny things... you can walk along a shoreline and leave a set of hundreds of personal impressions in the sand, knowing that when the tide comes in... they will all be long gone. Yet there are places on this planet, where footprints endure long beyond the time they were created - in the form of fossils.

The question I wanted to ask is this: when you leave your marks on the web, which ones will remain? Which articles are going to be the ones that people remember and actually have an effect on others... and which ones will simply wash away with time and tide?

You may never know. So I encourage you all to write from the heart, the things that really matter... the more important things you write down... the better chance that your better qualities will be preserved - set in stone.

For Christians this idea carries extra depth. I spoke about former US president Jimmy Carter the other day... in my research I stumbled upon a question that had been a key motivator in his early development:

"If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?"

It has become a cliche... but the truth behind it remains all the same.

Now I want you to think about the famous poem "Footprints" - the story of a man walking with Jesus along the beach who at times of hardship and stress, discovers that one set disappears. Jesus points out at the end of the journey, that in those times... he carried the man on his shoulders.

The question I want to challenge myself and any other Christian reading is... of all the experiences I/we write about... do people see two sets of footprints (those of Jesus as well as our own), in our blogs? Also, do we have the conviction to write about the hard times in such a manner that people can see Jesus carrying us through our difficulties?

I'm not talking necessarily about content here... but attitude. There are many Godcentric blogs that make me wretch - one or two even have the bare faced cheek to claim to be speaking as Jesus in the first person in terms of spirituality and also political endorsement. They seriously need a reality check.... they come across like the "super apostles" who Paul had a problem with.

When I visit a blog, especially a Christian blog... I am less worried about the subject matter and more interested in seeing how the personality of the author comes across - and where applicable, how their relationship with God is conveyed in their style of writing.

When I write, I want people to know I'm totally on the record..., yes I want them to see God... but I also want them to know I'm a genuine human being too... I want to relate to others. I want to walk among them not upon them.

Isn't that what you want?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Bible Really is Graphic!

I was looking at some of the Google searches that have led people to the Sanctuary recently... one of them was a person looking for "spider woman prophecy bible". Hmm I don't recall ever seeing Jessica Drew in the Bible (heh maybe she was one of the Nephilim), but I hope that whoever it was found what they were looking for.

On the subject of comic books, I've recently been pondering buying a copy of the Manga Bible as part of an idea that I am working on. I've volunteered to do a seminar at the Scripture Union camp I am a team member on. With the recent revival of the superhero movie genre, I want to introduce the young people into a new way of looking at the characters they read in comic books and watch in the cinema or on DVD.

In case you hadn't noticed I'm very fond of using analogies from popular culture to illustrate biblical points... in fact it is one of the reasons I enjoy blogging so much. On face value the Manga Bible looks visually stunning. Here is an image from an E card that shows both versions of the New Testament (The Old Testament is still in the pipeline):

I've read graphical representations of the Bible in the past, they are OK... but they tend to be a little lacking in artistic flair... they tend to play it straight and not experiment with visual styles. One of the reasons I loved the old BBC animation series "Testament" and its follow up film "The Miracle Maker", is that they used a wide variety of animation styles to tell different elements of Biblical tales. Another artist whose work on Christian projects I am fond of is Rodney Matthews (even though I am not a metal head, nor do I even maintain any illusions that I could one day pass myself off as one). He adds fantastical elements to his work and adds an ethereal quality to them... something that makes you aware that what you are looking at is exploring subjects that transcend human nature with all it's wonders and flaws.

Having looked at a few spreads of work that you can download from the Manga Bible website, I am suitably impressed... but then the project is the brainchild of Siku, a former 2000AD and Judge Dredd artist, so we are clearly looking at someone who enjoys working with artistic style as much as he loves the scriptures he is trying to portray to his audience.

Ideally, if it turns out as good as it looks... I'd like to hand out copies to all the young people who contribute to the seminar (even if that's just a case of them listening while I speak). I've worked out I can get a basic copy at an Amazon associate dealer for about £2.79 a copy... but I figure I'd probably need 30-40 and then there is postage to consider. So it isn't something I'd consider lightly... not on my budget!

Have any of you read it? What are your opinions on the matter?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Get Carter?

Does anybody else see the irony in the Bush administration taking a swipe back at former President Jimmy Carter for his staunch opposition to the Iraq War?

Carter has argued that the decisions leading up the Iraq War and the subsequent occupation, have effectively ranked George W Bush's presidency as the worst in US history.

A White House spokesman responded by accusing Carter of "reckless personal criticism".

However, one has to ask which is more costly... reckless personal criticism of a single man... or a reckless personal war with an entire nation? The worst that can happen in the former, is that President Bush's ego might be a little bruised. What we actually have in the latter, is that tens or hundreds of thousands of lives (depending on which figures you accept), are snuffed out in the name of neo-conservatism.

It is quite clearly a case of the pot calling the kettle black. My advice to the White House press office would be to read this:

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
Matthew 7:3-5

Carter clearly believes that the Bush administration has inverted America's values and tarnished the good elements of its international reputation. Yet the Bush government is so delusional, it is completely incapable of questioning the righteousness of its actions.

Tony Fratto speaking for the White House on Sunday argued:

"I think he (Carter) is proving to be increasingly irrelevant with these kinds of comments."

That is incredibly rich coming from a political leadership that has managed to isolate a significantly large amount of its own countries electorate by making poor policy decisions. If anyone is irrelevant... surely it is George W Bush!

You would think that I would side against Carter... because of his criticism of the UK's blind subservience to the current US administration. However on these issues at least, I am in agreement with him.

Carter appears to have been a humanitarian first and foremost - certainly his achievements in that field have been publicly recognised. For that reason alone he commands a certain amount of respect with me.

George W Bush and Jimmy Carter. Two very different men who have both claimed an active belief in Jesus Christ and have been open about it in political life. However, which one would you argue has demonstrated good spiritual fruit in their policies and actions? What I wonder is your opinion?

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Peace and Unrest

There's been a growing trend at my church in the last few weeks. We have begun to ask God for more of his peace. It is something that I believe to be fundamentally important in terms of the local area's spiritual growth. The reason I feel so strongly about that, is because I really do believe a "spirit of unrest" (for want of a better expression), exists and currently thrives in my hometown.

It is most noticeable for me, when I have been absent for some time... such as in my case - last weekend. Things seem to make people (including myself) more prickly - and they can be silly things really. Recently I have looked at the people around me, and it occurs to me that many appear to be in a state of unrest. The reasons are many and varied. For some it is worry, others it is anger, for some it is grief and still others, it is depression. I've recently spoken to a friend about the history of Alcester - principally about the supposed curse that was put upon the town in the Middle Ages (sometimes ascribed to St. Chad and sometimes ascribed to St. Egwin). Many historians don't take it seriously because they say that "saints don't curse towns". However, if you read the account it says that Chad/Egwin couldn't preach because the people of the town were to rowdy and jeered at him... so he left "shaking the dust of his feet" - this, believe it or not is a biblical concept:

"When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere."

Luke 9:1-9


"When you enter a house, first say, 'Peace to this house.' If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. "When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 'Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.' I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Luke 10:5-12

So I'm not as dismissive of the historicity of Alcester's curse, as others are. However, I don't want to focus on that. Instead I want to focus on the importance of God's peace. In the the passage above, we find that Jesus commanded his followers to invite peace into the house. In fact it seems to have been an important ministry tool.

When I think of the work the church is supposed to in the community, I realised what an important role the spiritual fruit of peace plays:

How can people in active rebellion to God hear his voice, unless they learn through peace to be still and know that he is God?

How can those who mourn find comfort if they cannot first find peace and come to terms with their loss?

How can the broken-hearted and depressed know that there is hope - that night will follow day, if they first do not learn to be at peace in the situations that choke them.

How can those plagued by sickness, death, loneliness, worry, pain, sorrow, hardship and the like, find hope in Jesus... if they do not learn at first to trust that God is sovereign over all these things?

Most important of all, why should they believe that they can even receive this peace... if we do not demonstrate it ourselves? If we do not, they will just believe us to be con men.

Jesus said:

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God."
Matthew 5:9

We as Christians need to make peace available to the people we meet... and we will only be able to do that, if we allow ourselves to abundantly receive it from the Spirit's gracious infinite supply. If we are to be peacemakers... ten we need to be men, women and children of peace.

If I'm honest, in the last couple of weeks I've felt pretty disrupted and I have faltered. I've had that horrid feeling in my stomach again... that I'm born to struggle and that even if I need something I won't get it... because God wants me to just scrape in. I seem to have this problem with thinking I'm an exception to the rule. I need to wake up and stop falling into that pitfall. God wants me to live as abundantly as the rest of his people. I need to stop bringing myself down... because if I don't... I won't be able to lift others up. Too often I have become self destructive - I start to look at the past... sometimes even the present and assume I don't have a future. This causes me to become dejected. However I have no real reason to do this because this isn't what God says to me.

A word that God put on my heart on my birthday came back to me in timely fashion on Thursday night... and it has remained with me:

"There is a future for the man of peace."

You can find it in some translations of the Bible in Psalm 37:37.

Of course in order to become a person of peace, one must cease being a person of conflict. So I leave you with a parting gesture... for myself as much as all of you.

May the peace of God that passes all understanding, rest upon you and remain with you now and always...


Tuesday, May 15, 2007


I just accidentally deleted a rather large article I was working on with regard to "peace". It was an epic!

It's going to have to wait for a day or two now I'm afraid. I'm really not happy about that, but it wasn't meant to be.

So I'll leave you with two nuggets of news that are a lot more lighter and may provide a "jovial buffer" for what is about to come.

I was running around the house this morning looking for the work trousers I was sure I had ironed ready to wear for my first day back... I failed to find them and had to wear some old rough looking ones. It later transpired that my mother had run off with them. She discovered this while trying to wear them to her own work.... and promptly disappeared into the 35" leg hole. Bless her, she really is struggling at the moment. She noticed a neighbours dog in the garden earlier... but identified it as their previous dog who had died probably a decade ago.
Secondly, I have written to Cadbury on a personal quest to discover just what happened to their Chocolate Animal Biscuits. These days, all you seem to get are those useless party packs for kids.

"Unsatisfying rubbish snack"

Do Cadbury not realise that I need the traditional sized pack in times of dire stress? Do they not understand that there must be a massive student market out there for them... or that they were by far the most popular biscuits that I took to church on days when it was my turn to do coffee (and that was just when the adults grabbed them). I don't have many vices and it is quite annoying to have lost this little throwback to my childhood, from which I have derived so much comfort over the years.

"Now this is much more like it!"

Come on Cadbury, get your act together.

Ahem... normal service will hopefully resume shortly. Having lost that big article on "peace" I could just do with an animal biscuit now!


Sunday, May 13, 2007


I neglected to let you all know that I was going away this weekend to take part in an informal training programme for the Maze Scripture Union Holiday Camp, that I am part of.

Needless to say it was a pleasant experience meeting up with friendly faces, both familiar and new. It seems as always, each new year spent at The Maze throws up a new set of challenges and this year looks like being no different. It is sometimes hard to think of myself as being a bit of a veteran, this will be my fourth year and yet in many ways I still feel more like a greenhorn.

A couple of people who I have felt I have a had a good rapport with in the past sadly won't be there this year. These are people whose counsel and companionship I have valued greatly in the past... despite only having really been in their presence for an average of about a month, isn't it amazing how quickly we can take to other people?

It has only just really occurred to me that maybe at some point... younger leaders might feel the same way about my counsel when it is their turn to take bold steps forward. That is one heck of a responsibility... and a very sobering thought.

I'd recommend working at a Scripture Union camp to any Christian, it really is a worthwhile experience and you'd be surprised at the number of different positive ways you can influence the development of young people.... and show them new and exciting ways of looking at the Christian faith. If you are at a loose end this summer, give it some serious thought.


Now I'm going to hit the sofa for a long earned snooze.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Counting the Days

I'm sure it will come as no shock to you that I am awaiting the end of the Blair regime with a certain degree of pleasure.

He may be a Labour Prime Minister, but his policies are more in line with centre right authoritarianism. Will things be any different - better or worse, under Gordon Brown? It is true of course that Gordon Brown has pledged to continue the Blair reforms... however we can live in hope that perhaps he was just paying lip service to keep the influential Blair allies at bay. If he had openly talked about returning to a socialist agenda... I'm sure his potential accession would be fraught with many more hurdles.

It is certainly an encouragement to me, that members of the Blair cabinet are stepping down from their posts... perhaps they themselves fear and believe that Brown is going to make a sharp turn back to the left and wish to get out of the way to avoid carrying through policies they find distasteful. Of course it is also possible that they just think Brown is going to make a severe mess of things and do not wish to be tarred with the same brush. If they are not part of the cabinet then if/when everything hits the fan, they can wait in the wings like quasi-messianic figures (I certainly believe that is John Reid's game plan).

Sadly, experience and skepticism lead me to suspect that whatever leadership style Gordon Brown utilises... his policies are probably going to be the same. It is quite bleak when you consider that in terms of economics, in Britain we have very little spectrum of choice. All the major parties are now right wing when it comes to financial decisions... it is only their social policies that differ. Now maybe that is just a reflection on the way our society is developing... but that doesn't mean I have to think that it is a good thing, or indeed agree that it is right.

Certainly as a Christian, I find it hard to understand how other believers can easily reconcile the harsher aspects of capitalism with their faith. The early Church was very community minded, both in social and economic policy (if you disagree, take a good look at the book of Acts some day). It worked... so why do we find ourselves running away from that? Pure religion is taking care of widows and orphans... that is what the Good Book says. Is that something to really be uncomfortable about? I would think a society that valued such a principle would be a good one to live in. Don't you?

It's not that I have less respect for Christians who are strong supporters of right wing economic policy... I just want them to think long and hard about whether those policies actually reflect what we are supposed to believe and how we are supposed to act.

I want to conclude by returning to the Blair/Brown handover though. After all is said and done, I suspect (to quote The Who), that it may well be a case of:

"Meet the new boss, same as the old boss"

Time will tell though... time always tells.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Visual DNA (Nick jumps on the bandwagon)

I'm afraid I couldn't resist having ago, so I clicked on a few images and do you know what? It was pretty close to the mark. It's a lot of fun and it has a few good ideas, especially when it comes to shopping for gifts. Even if you aren't into that, having your personality represented in a few snapshots is quite a cute thing in itself.

Here endeth another light hearted post by Nick.

A Little Light Relief

As I'm sure you have noticed, a lot of the outbound traffic from my blog of late has either been sombre or theologically heavy going... sometimes it's been both.

I thought it was high time to post something on a somewhat lighter if not brighter note...

My mother has struck again! I was hoping to do my laundry as usual on Saturday evening (I don't think my colleagues would approve if I turned up naked), and was struggling to find any detergent (we normally use liquitabs). So I pestered mum about where they might be. Now, seeing as she had become thoroughly absorbed in a chat room, it is fair to say that she was not overly impressed. She insisted - with a heavy dose of righteous indignation, that there were definitely some liquitabs in the cupboard and that I needed to look harder... and that she would be pretty cheesed off, if she had to come in and find them for me.

Needless to say, I didn't take the hint.

So into the kitchen stomped Mum, who promptly produced a pack of liquitabs from the cupboard... looked me squarely in the eyes and said "what do you think these are?"

To which I pointed out that what she had in her hands were dishwasher tabs, not washing machine ones.

Blank look for about 10 seconds.

Which was followed by a mild profanity and the admission that she had been doing all her laundry for a week with the dishwasher detergent.

As a friend later pointed out... at least her smalls were all squeaky clean!

It's not even as if they look remotely the same though:

Would you get them confused?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Friendships Forged in Compassion

I was thinking the other day, about the things in my heart that cause me to connect with others in deep and special ways.

This came about because there is somebody I am not particularly close to... in fact I barely know them (a rueful neglect I am keen to amend), who I have suddenly felt highly compassionate towards. The change in my attitude came through a simple kind gesture of comfort (a hug) between us last week, although to be perfectly honest I'm not totally sure who was comforting who.

Reflecting back on that moment, it has suddenly hit me. My deepest friendships and relationships have always been cemented in compassion... through a shared experience when either myself, or the other person has been suffering and the other gave comfort. In truth, I think some people would be very surprised to know how closely I regard them... and there are other friends who think they are close... but really have barely scratched the surface and are not in the same league as "the few".

It all reminds me of something the apostle Paul once said:

"I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead."
Philippians 3:10-11
It sounds a little masochistic doesn't it? However I believe what Paul is talking about... is striving to know God in a deeper way. Sometimes the price of that is very high... and Paul knew all about that. Jailed, beaten, flogged, rejected and eventually beheaded for the Gospel... he truly did put his relationship with God, above his own personal welfare.

I think you'd find it very hard to argue that Paul had a deep friendship with God.

Furthermore it says in scripture:

"The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit."
Psalm 34:18

He draws near to people who are in pain and takes compassion on them. People forget that when Lazarus died, Jesus didn't just casually walk up to the tomb and raise him from the dead... he was "deeply moved" and "troubled in spirit first". In fact the shortest verse in the Bible comes from that passage... and although in modern society it has been abused and relegated to a cuss phrase when something goes wrong... still it remains one of the most moving revelations of Jesus as a person:

"Jesus wept."
Luke 11:35

So God shares in our pain and comes close to us when we are hurting, if only we let him.

So you might be thinking... "oh great! If I want God to love me... I have to get the crud beaten out of me"; however, that is not what I am saying.

Remember I said earlier that my strongest friendships were based on times when either myself or the other person suffered and the other had compassion.

God desired our love and compassion so much, he became the suffering party... through his son Jesus. For me personally, Christ's sacrifice binds me to him above all others. No one has suffered as much for me and nobody loves me as much as him. nobody is as deserving of my love as him.

If you wish to experience that love, it is all there for you to take. All you need to do is recognise that you aren't right with God, repent of the way you have lived. Then, believe in Jesus and take him at his word. If he settles your account it is finished.

I realise that makes it sound like a recipe for making a cake but it really is that simple... as long as you are earnest in doing it.



Thursday, May 03, 2007

Paint it Black?

Man I love that Rolling Stones song.

Truth be told, I was going to switch back to the traditional purple today... but I don't know, I'm kind of getting attached to the darker physical aspect of the blog. I get the impression it might be a little bit easier to read as well.

What are peoples opinions? If you want to compare, the old purple is still to be found down the sidebar in various modules (of course they will have to go black too if this stays permanent).

I value your input.



Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Debtwatch 7: Tetelestai!

Yes, I know... a bit of a random subtitle.

I wanted to put something similar to the last post's title... but I didn't want to confuse two completely separate issues.

Fortunately in my bible notes the other day, I came across the word the Greeks use to describe that same phrase Jesus spoke... Tetelestai.

In ancient times this phrase was used to declare that an account had been paid in full. It was customary after a debt had been paid, for the debtor to present their bill to the creditor who would then write across it "Tetelestai."

Paid in full.

Apparently the tense used in the Gospel would render it something like "it has been and will for ever remain finished."

So in a small way, my worldly debts have now joined my eternal debts in being forever paid off by Christ.

Its been an interesting and surprisingly brief journey. I have worked hard and by God's grace alone have been faithful in seeing this through. To think that it all started with the destruction of a Vauxhall Astra back in July... when up until that point I had been dragging my feet and staring at the ground in a spirit of defeatism, astounds me.

I don't just consider the financial aspect of this debt removed... everything that caused me to be in that position in the first place is gone... forever. Anything I do now does not carry with it the millstone of consequence.

It is a new dawn, a new day... maybe even a new age.

The past is nothing more than prologue and no longer casts shadows on my path. I walk free. Once more I have freedom of choice. What I do with that choice is now an open book. Having made stupid mistakes in the past, I don't intend to walk again down the path of self destruction again. In a sense this should also be our attitude to God's saving grace. Having known the damage our sin caused us... and having known the price Christ paid for it... we should not casually stroll down the path of our mistakes ever again. We may stray onto the path from time to time... but if our faith means anything at all... we shouldn't deliberately mistreat Christ's total repayment of our crippling and destructive eternal debt.

Balance left on debt: £0.00
Cash in short term savings reserves: £100.00
Cash left in current account that I hope to spare for debt repayment: N/A
Estimated balance for next Debtwatch report: N/A
Original Finish Date for completion of Payments - October 2007
Estimated Completion of Payments - "TETELESTAI!"

I just want to conclude these meditations on my finances by reaffirming my absolute conviction that, just as God helped me to clear my physical debt; he also has the ability to wipe out the debt of your sin... forever... permanently.

In fact he has already done it, by paying for it all in full on the cross. All you need to do is accept and believe it.... and a new day, a new life shall begin.

Are you ready to do that?
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