Conscious Uncoupling & Coldplay’s heartfelt lyrics

 

After the high profile celebrity couple announced their separation yesterday, it seemed poignant to post Chris Martin’s latest release. Despite the hype surrounding the choice of words to describe their split, this song hints at the raw side of relationship breakdown.

For further thoughts on this, check out my latest article – Gwyneth, Chris and Conscious Uncoupling – over at Threads.

 

 

Unto Us// Mary and Joe


Unto Us
 is an absolutely compelling Christmastime gem. Set to the backdrop of modern day scenery and haunting ‘Oh Come, Emmanuel’ cello melody, the actors portray the sheer emotions of a modern day telling of Christ’s birth. In just one minute and fifty-nine seconds, the mystery, the mayhem and the glory of Jesus’ arrival is translated onto screen.

The results are impressive; I found myself being moved to the core of my being. For those who have seen multiple nativities or screen depictions of that one Bethlehem birth, and have perhaps lost the wonder of what really happened; this little film is an absolute joy to watch. Sit back and bask in the wonder of Emmanuel’s coming. If there’s one thing you share online this Christmas, let it be this.

The Greatest American Export

Creative Commons: dok1

Creative Commons: dok1

There are numerous American imports and influences which we Brits despise: fast food eaten sloppily on public transport or while walking along the street, relentless chewing of gum, the blatant misuse of the word ‘like’, the tendency to be loud and obnoxious, the wearing of white sneakers and baseball caps by middle aged, wealthy tourists… The list could go on. Surely every nation has a catalogue of deplorable habits or practices that are caricatured by outsiders?

But no matter how much one criticises American trends, culture and politics (George W and Sarah Palin being particular recipients of mockery), most of us still remain appreciative of the following: American movies, and sheer optimism.

Yes, love them or loathe them, Americans exude optimism and promote looking on the bright side of life. Unlike the British, renowned for our moaning and complaining (especially over our dull weather), the people on the other side of the Pond have an infectious inclination towards cheerfulness, positivity and resilience.

And why not? It’s running in their genes – the history of their forefathers, who against the odds set out across the Atlantic, suffered extreme weather and multiple setbacks, and went on to build towns and form a nation. Every Thanksgiving is a reminder of their former poverty in the face of their current abundance. The legacy lives on, through the ‘can do’ spirit of those who reject notions of giving up or settling for second best.

Excessive self promotion and flaunting of wealth may well be cause for criticism, along with consumption of too many doughnuts (yes, that’s how we spell it over here!) but in my view there is little more depressing than the constant whining and negative pronouncements from a growing class of disillusioned, disgruntled youth.

The internet age is a time of the greatest opportunity: Anyone can start a blog, sell on eBay, create an app, put a video on Youtube or promote photography on Flickr. The optimistic are pursuing these avenues and seeing how they can realistically make their mark. Is it any wonder that developers from the United States create more successful apps than any other country?*

Optimism is surely the greatest export from the States, not Coca-Cola or any other manufactured thing.  Like a breath of pure, fresh air, optimism is refreshing, pleasing to the soul and, best of all, free.

If only it would be promoted more in our education system and work ethic, and revived among the young, rather than the sugary, fizzy substances, which are now frequently peddled in school corridor vending machines.

* “In terms of engagement, American apps reign supreme, securing 70 percent of the total number of users and engagement this year.” (Source: Inc.com)

“Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things”, Philippians 4:8, the Bible.

From seedy to celebrated: the acceptance of porn into mainstream culture (and parliament)

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Today I’m privileged to have an article featured over at Threads, a really great site. Check it out!

From seedy to celebrated: the acceptance of porn into mainstream culture (and parliament)

Copycat Christianity – It just doesn’t cut it/ FaithWalk

Images from Tianducheng, central China – a developing city…
(For more images, see here.)
Credit: matthewniederhauser.com
Photo credit: photomonde.fr
French style apartments

Much like these images of a misplaced, replica Eiffel Tower and European architecture amidst farmland in central China, perhaps we would do well to consider the ridiculous and futile efforts we make to look like other churches, organisations or individuals.

It all starts with the best of intentions. You can just imagine the town planning meeting in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, as officials lay out their visions of a European style setting, complete with fountain, statues and monuments designed in the image of central Paris. “It will be styled on the exact originals!” they gush, as the participants marvel over the accuracy and likeness of the plans. “It will draw thousands of inhabitants and visitors! People will love it!”

Sadly, not so. As you see the photographs of the new Chinese town development, at first glance appearing to resemble the French version, on closer inspection it soon becomes apparent that the comparisons fall woefully short of the original. For what is the Eiffel tower, without the Seine river? What is the European style fountain without the feet and voices of hurried French people milling around? What is the intricacy of the apartment exteriors without all the other sights, sounds and scents of that unique hive of true Parisian culture and history?

Frankly, Tianducheng seems rather odd; it just doesn’t measure up. The Chinese mini-Paris is sadly lacking in so many aspects. Even the indigenous population has failed to be impressed with the design, while the developers have been disappointed that dwellers have not flocked to their copycat city.

And yet, even if it did manage to rid itself of the farmland, the dirt roads and the litter, it still would fall grossly short of the original. For there is also something in the atmosphere when you walk the streets of Paris. From the smell of fresh crepes and fresh baguettes to the music spilling out from cafes or street performers, to the traffic along the Champs Elysees or mopeds whizzing around the Arc de Triomphe, or the sound of gentle French language from the tongues of quintessential, stylish French people. All these things blend in to make Paris, Paris.

You would feel immensely cheated to find yourself holidaying in this mock version of the city rather than the original.

Most of us would likely think it would have been better if the Chinese had simply come up with some new ideas of their own, even if they wanted to base their plans on some of France’s structural or creative ideas. Why not design their own monument, their own water feature, their own stylish buildings? Why not instigate whole new expressions of culture altogether?

In similar fashion, it occurred to me that so often we feel the need to style ourselves on others. It’s easy to see the glowing talents, skills or ministries of leaders or high profile Christians and start to entertain thoughts of emulating their highly regarded traits or successes. But why do we do this? Why compare our gifts or abilities with others or even start wishing to be like someone else who may seem to have all the credentials of a successful Christian, when it’s quite clear that we are unique in our own right? Why try to build replicas of others’ works?

How crucial to remember that we each have our own gifts to develop, our own life vision to pursue and our own influence to shape those around us. We may not be the budding human equivalent of an acclaimed Capital city, but rather a quirky village or trendy town, or bustling street. But at least we can be an original – not some second rate version of somebody else.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10, New Living Translation)

The enormity of this Bible verse strikes me. God has envisaged some stuff for me personally to fulfil or create. He has a tailor made, individual plan for my life, which I need to discover through being sensitive to his leading and guidance. Yes, there may be some similarities with those around me, but there will always be specific or unique things that God has in store for me to fulfil. The images of my life should blend together to create a stunning masterpiece, designed by God himself!

If ever you’re tempted to doubt your own abilities or potential, or think it might be a good idea to be a carbon copy of another person, take a look at these pictures of a disastrous mini-Paris, Chinese style!

Bartoli and the BBC/ Words Matter

Marion Bartoli and Andy Murray at the Champions’ Ball

I dread to think what I’d look like sans make-up in a white mini skirt on Centre Court at Wimbledon, having run around like crazy, swiping balls back at my opponent for an hour and a half. Add in a few frowns of concentration and some beads of perspiration, along with several focused grimaces, and I’m quite sure I’d not look a pretty sight.

Most of us accept the fact that Marion Bartoli, the 2013 Women’s Singles champion, was not on court to look pretty and that that was the last thing on her mind throughout the tournament. Yet some of the vitriol directed at her by mindless would-be commentators at home and the thoughtless comment from the BBC’s John Inverdale, suggesting live on air that she was not much of a ‘looker’ is shocking and regrettable. No wonder 674 viewers responded irately to the insensitive gaffe. I didn’t come across any unkind comments in the news regarding male players’ appearance or attractiveness. Bartoli’s stunning transformation at the Winner’s ball after the Championship may well have silenced some of her critics, but I don’t see why she had to prove anything at all. It’s not like she had tried to win a modelling contract; she’s a tennis player for goodness sake!

Fact is, there are times when we should just keep our thoughts to ourselves. What right do any of us have to name call and belittle others on the basis of their appearance? Unfortunately Bartoli’s experience was not unique to her; countless women face judgements on their looks on a daily basis. Female politicians and high profile women in media or business are frequently subjected to commentary on their appearance rather than their capabilities. The rise in social media has in no small part contributed to people’s tendency to broadcast mean or critical comments that they wouldn’t dream of vocalising in public.

Although Inverdale and the BBC have apologised for the above quote, the effects of the words still linger. I once read an analogy about the power of words, likening them to toothpaste that has been squeezed out of the tube. Once the substance has come out, it’s incredibly difficult to push it back in without leaving a big mess. That’s what our words are like. We may try to retract them or to apologise, but once they’ve passed our lips (or keyboard), they are hard to ignore or forget.

I’m aware of this myself, having spoken countless thoughtless words and regretted them. Thankfully, I don’t appear on live TV or radio and only a few have been on the receiving end of my ill advised comments or outbursts.  I’m reminded of the old adage, favoured by grannies and those of a previous era: “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!” Wouldn’t it be good if that once again became a consistent maxim for the media – and for the rest of us – to follow before rushing to make announcements about people’s outward appearance? The BBC could perhaps also consider whether its presenters would benefit from some refresher training courses in how to avoid sexism and inappropriate comments.