Ira Glass receives an award for his, ‘stupid magic trick’

The name Ira Glass probably doesn’t mean much to many people outside of the US, but his radio show This American Life, is a wonderful repository of modern storytelling that deserves to have a global reach.

Ira’s unique ‘conversational’ tone of voice isn’t what you would expect from a radio host, but it works. It works, not really because of what he says, but because of the stories the programme shares.

Just take a look at the list of favourite shows.

  • Show 360: Switched at Birth (25th July 2008) – On a summer day in 1951, tow baby girls were born in a hospital in small-town Wisconsin. The infants were accidentally switched, and went home with the wrong families. 
  • Show 241: 20 Acts in 60 Minutes (11th July 2003) – Instead of the usual “each week we choose a theme, and bring you 3 or 4 stories on that theme” business, we throw all that away and bring you 20 stores-yes, 20-in 60 minutes.
  • Show 175: Babysitting (5th January 2001) – Stories of babysitters, and what goes on while mom and dad are away that mom and dad never find out about.

Anyway, this week Ira was given an award for what he describes as his, ‘stupid magic trick’, putting quotes together in an order with some music, by the Academy of Arts and Letters. I reckon his acceptance speech is worth a watch.

Finding our place in the world

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading’ – at least, that’s what the website says. Contributors are given 18 minutes to give ‘the talk of their lives’, all of which are recorded and shared for free through the TED website.

Just occasionally someone of faith gets a slot to make a contribution, and occasionally that person of faith is a follower of Jesus.

This video is of Chris Seay, a Native Houstonian, Founder of Ecclesia Houston, Pastor, Teacher, Progressive Thinker, and Storyteller – or so his bio says. Enjoy…

HT Eric Bryant

Future church, Southampton

For those of you who weren’t able to make it along to the Future Church event held in Southampton last month. The audio from Mike Frost’s three main sessions are now available for download from the Facing the Challenge website.

The event was awesome and I had lots of conversations with people who are serious about changing the face of church. I’ve already blogged about some of my concerns, but there have been positive outcomes too with smaller groups emerging to discuss and implement some practical steps to making the church more missional.

I’m really keen to see a practical outcome. I think I grew up believing that the church was a talking shop, with all the right things being said but nobody prepared to put in the graft to make a change. I hope that this doesn’t turn out to have the same result. Oh, and yes, I do realise that I am as implicit in making a change as the next person.

In from Iran

This week has been international induction week at the University. While it’s really difficult to get everyone to turn up on time with papers and qualifications it’s good to see students arriving. For some it is their first visit to the UK so I’m quite pleased that the weather in Southampton has been good. It has to be a shock getting on a plane in Lagos at 8pm and getting off a plane in London at 8am, the temperature difference is quite significant.

Some of the students have arrived in the office with their luggage, looking for somewhere to live, others are sorted and are quite keen to get in and out as quickly as possible. There’s a lot of waiting around to register.

After a while of seeing lots of students you start to notice trends in nationalities. You know that problems that certain students are going to face just from the passport. Some of my stereotypes have been reinforced (which is a shame) others have been challenged and changed, for good I hope.

The most significant is the three students from Iran. They were each polite, friendly and comfortable in our office. I’m embarrassed to say that this wasn’t what I was expecting. They smiled and chatted about life and living in Southampton. One even brought a present of Pistachio nuts to say thank you.

After talking to each of them I have started to wonder if the difficulties between countries are being created by the few for the many. While our governments are posturing and facing up to each other the ordinary people are getting on with their lives, trying to make a living and to contribute in some way to the communities in which they now live.

This has been reinforced by this week’s This American Life podcast. If you don’t listen to this you’re missing out on a treat. Episode 340 The Devil in Me can be found on their website, and tells the story of Sam, who joined the US Army and ended up serving in Iraq. What happens to him there really clouds his view of Iraqi Muslims and makes his life back in the US really difficult. That was until he enrolled in his local college and has to face up to his fears by joining the students’ Muslim Association. Listen to it, it comes highly recommended.

9/11 remembered

My memories of September 11th 2001 are mixed. I remember the weather being pretty good and work being fairly ordinary. I remember someone saying about a plane crashing into a skyscraper in New York and us all trying to get on different internet sites to see what had gone on – but the connection being so slow. One colleague was looking at the BBC site and I had managed to get into the New York Times but updates were infrequent.

Then the second plane crashed and I guess that we all felt that it wasn’t just an unfortunate accident. Then the towers collapsed and another plane crashed into the Pentagon and I started trying to get in contact with friends who may have been in Washington.

That evening I watched all the news until it became too boring and repetitive, realising that the world had changed, but not really knowing how.

I have lots of thoughts about September 11th 2001, but today isn’t a day for thoughts. I have memories of those big black clouds and the dust that was left afterwards, and the days afterwards and the growing picture walls of missing people.

On September 11th 2001 almost 3000 people died when two planes flew into the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, another was flown into the Pentagon and a fourth, flight 93, crashed in Shanksville PA. Today there are many people who still feel the pain of losing someone they loved in that attack and tonight my prayers are for those people.

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ASBO at Greenbelt

I read with great interest that ASBO Jesus is going to be at this year’s Greenbelt

I wonder what kind of reaction he’ll be able to get out of this? Maybe not the same reaction that his worship leader cartoon manages.

I was brought up to think that there was something very wrong with Greenbelt. Strange thing is, having just poked around their site for a while, I’d really like to be able to go this year.


Bono: “That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.”

Read the rest here

Wearing Sunday best

I know that there are a whole variety of opinions around what to wear to a church service. Some people are still suit and tie, others a little more informal. However, I’m sure few people would decide to wear a crown as part of their Sunday garb. Well, somebody did this morning. An African looking gentleman sat through the service wearing a crown and a very large medallion around his neck. Maybe he was an African king, or just decided that his Sunday suit could do with a little ‘bling’.

I have my doubts that the crown was real gold. He managed to nod in agreement at a few points during the sermon. I doubt he’d have been able to do that if it was solid gold.

The Beautiful Nun – Reviewed

That was a good evening. I’ve seen worse shows in proper theatres, so this was a nice surprise, because the cast and the script were pretty good.

The plot revolved around three groups. One was the Catholic school, run (or ruled) by the beautiful nun, Sister Mary Anthony. Then there’s the army, ruling the country and commanded by Captain Gonzalez; opposed by the rebel force, run by Consuela Lopez.

The actors were superb, especially considering that this play was part of their exams, which must have increased the pressure quite a bit. The exceptional actors were Sister Majella, played by Hannah Taylor, who managed to make you believe that she was a fifty year-old nun, and Captain Gonzalez played by Rob Chapman – who even managed to stay in character to the bitter end when the cast were taking their bows.

As a plot it was pretty full on with quite a bit of long dialogue, which I don’t think helped the actors. However, there were some interesting issues, and questions raised through the play.

The army are seen as the custodians of the state, where as the church run the school but don’t necessarily hold any power in the community. As was said by Captain Gonzalez, “all that was accomplished by turn the other cheek was crucifixion.” The response to this really comes in the second act, when Sister Mary Anthony argues that, “some must die for others to be saved.” The question being, exactly what part should the church play in society? Conversely, there’s the question of what part does the army have to play in the care of the people.

The resolution to the play came with some rapid death, and loud gunshots. I think the script could have brought out a lot more in the second half, instead it seemed to try to pull together a lot of strands very quickly.

I don’t know if the Beautiful Nun will ever make commercial release, but if it does it’s well worth a look.

Mike Frost UK Tour

I blogged a couple of days ago about my interview with David Couchman of Focus.

One of the people I really wanted to interview on my world tour was Mike Frost, but he was over in the UK at the time of my trip (such bad planning). Mike’s the Founding Director of the Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission at Morling Theological College in Sydney and Focus are working with the Evangelical Alliance to bring Mike over to the UK on a speaking tour later this year.

There’s a short promo video below. Tickets for the Southampton event are available from the Focus website, where you can also meet me… won’t that be a delight.