Tuesday, 28 February 2012

27 Million

intro to 27 Million: LZ7 & Matt Redman
[Edited 29 February - music video pulled by YouTube! Download the song now!]

27 million people enslaved across the world right now. Are you one of them? If you're reading this then probably not - or is that too simplistic?

I'm not against slavery as a concept. In an absolute theoretical sense it is neutral.

If you're screaming at your screen right now unable to believe that anyone could condone slavery I've probably lost you. Just hit replay on the video above [or download the song below...] and ignore what I'm about to say...

If you've ever read the Bible from cover to cover, one thing you might have noticed is that nowhere is slavery condemned. Instead it is treated as a fact of life and there are a lot of laws introduced to regulate the practice of slavery and ensure - where those laws are followed - that the life of a slave is one where the slave can actually prosper.

The problem is simply that for 99.9999% of slaves - those laws are never followed and the slaves are abused.

Does that make slavery wrong? No. 

Right now in the UK and many nations we pay billions to imprison people for what are essentially petty crimes. Why do we pay to imprison these people? Where is the justice in that?

At one end of the scale, people comit crimes. At the other, some people simply need discipline. Slavery can be a solution for making people compensate and repay the damage they have caused; it can also be a solution for some who thrive on serving - and where that service is rewarded rather than punished.

Why are there so many laws written in the Bible relating to slavery - because people abuse their slaves. They did so thousands of years ago and are still doing so today - even now, in the UK, despite slavery having been abolished!

Slavery seems to be a situation where legislation just doesn't work. It is too easy for those in the position of power to let that power corrupt them.

How do you feel about 27 million people being enslaved? What are you going to do about it?

Monday, 27 February 2012

A game of thrones

In the mid nineties, George R. R. Martin published the first of his fantasy novels: A Game of Thrones.

I suspect he received a tiny advance, very little publicity and a great deal of satisfaction at having people begin to finally buy his novel.

Over a decade later and someone wants to buy the TV rights to what is now a series of books. His books now top the best seller lists and he has entered the Kindle sold a million club!

I started reading A Game of Thrones in February and I'm now hooked. I've found the first novel as readable as a John Grisham or dare I say JK Rowling. But this is fantasy for adults only. Violence, sex and language are all 18 rated. There won't be no kiddie covers for these books.

I don't normally read fantasy but this reads like any thriller. Multi threaded, well conceived characters, a world that is not too far removed from our own. I've just started the second novel and am struggling to put that down as well...

Saturday, 25 February 2012

Turning 40

Up till the New Year I was looking forward to the big four O.

I felt the same about turning 30. I can't recall the months before the big date but for years before I saw it as a positive milestone - in Christian tradition Jesus first public miracle occurred when he was 30.

Turning 30 sparked off a mid life crisis. I was married with two children, a mortgage, no savings and was struggling to find any job that would pay enough to support us as a family; let alone one that would allow us to save for our childrens education or a pension.

I decided I needed a career. Some formal training and direction to give me a fighting chance of turning not interested letters into job offers.

Ten years later; a lot of hard work and it has paid off. I went to night class, got my first higher education college certificate. I took on contracts that on paper I was underqualified to succeed in and spent evenings and weekends improving my knowledge and skills to enable me to complete those contracts and gain valuable references.

I kept studying and last year completed a degree course. I'm now earning a good contract rate and have achieved more than I imagined possible ten years ago

By many standards I have succeeded and I have been wanting to celebrate this year. But the current work project I am on has proved even more challenging than I imagined and since January I have again been working evenings and weekends just to keep up.

Having written a first draft of a novel last November I have wanted to review it and begin work on the second draft but I've had no mental or physical energy left to tackle that.

The weeks before my birthday I began to get severe headaches. I attributed these to stress of the project and while I now think that was a major contributor - days after my birthday I realised the headaches had dramatically eased.

Was I really that stressed about turning 40?

I see these major milestone years as an opportunity to take stock of what has happened and make plans for the future. I'm not quite ready to either reflect or plan but God willing I will make time to do both this year - I have proved to myself that considering the past and setting clear goals are equally valuable.

I don't know what I will be doing or where I and my family will be when I turn 50 (or even 60!) but I intend to be writing and continuing to develop new skills.

When it comes to those milestone birthdays though - I may just head off and find a quiet cave or lonely mountain for a few weeks...

How do you find your age affects your planning for the future?

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Giving up F words for lent

I like words like flabbergasted, flummoxed and fumigate. I won't be giving up those but there are other F words that have crept into my vocabulary which have no rightful place.

One of my twenty goals for 2012 was to give up swearing. I haven't been terribly successful so far this year.  I feel it has become a growing issue in my life. F words and S words and B words which add nothing to the meaning of what I say.

Even worse, I seem to have lost control over when I choose to use them. A few weeks ago I went climbing at Glasgow Climbing Centre. We have been experimenting with jumping off from the top of the wall with some slack on the rope to get more used to the feeling of falling (which will hopefully allow us to take reasonable risks in order to reach harder holds). We've also been supplementing that with actually falling...

Anyway, I was lead climbing and needed to clip my rope in at the top to complete the climb and add another safe hold for the lower down. My belay partner could not see me from the angle of the wall. I had really been struggling to climb and once I had clipped in decided to just throw myself off and experience another short fall.

The only problem was I hadn't warned my belay partner - he hadn't seen me clip in and thought I was pulling on the rope to reach up to the clip. I fell maybe five or six metres before he was able to pull the rope back and stop me. I'm fairly sure everyone in the centre must have heard the F word I shouted out.

We learned a couple of important lessons about climbing safety that night - when belaying always hold the rope rather than letting it slip through fingers; always warn your belay partner before letting go. I was also struck by the thought that if my belay partner had not stopped me, did I really want that word to be my last?

I analyse everything and when I analyze my speech I find that it has stopped making sense. Have you seen Battlestar Gallactica? To get around the TV censors and possibly to add a bit of otherworldliness to an otherwise American society they replaced the F word with frak.

To all intents and purposes the BG f word was identical. It was used in the same situations: "Do you want to frak?" "Frak off!"

One of those statements makes sense, the other doesn't handle analysis very well. What does someone mean when they use the term frak off or the more common version? Go away? You fool? Good joke? Get out of my sight, if I ever see you again I'm going to kill you?

Is it possible that we are now using words and terms that have no meaning unless we can hear the tone of voice and see the body language?

As someone who loves reading and aims to publish several novels I find that a scary thought.

In my favourite Steve Martin film: Roxanne - at one point he challenges a man who insults him with: "Is that the best you can do?" He then goes on to give twenty inspired suggestions.

Is it just laziness that causes me to reduce the extent of my vocabulary to a few words that I don't want anyone to hear me muttering during high stress situations?

I've decided to give up swearing for lent. I considered giving up alcohol but I've already started cutting back. I honestly think that cutting out chocolate could kill me.

But - what do I replace those words with? Even more important, what do I do about the situations and emotion that gave rise to those words? I've also decided to replace my cursing with blessing. I can still mutter away to myself causing my colleagues to worry about my sanity but I'm fairly sure that choosing to seek God's blessing on situations rather than cursing them will have a positive impact on mel; and my experience tells me it is likely to improve the situation around me as well.

It was the first day of lent yesterday. I only half managed to strangle the F word last night when I fell off a horizontal overhang and turned upside down... Lord forgive me! (and may Glasgow Climbing Centre prosper!)