Week 17 miscellany: AI, U2, Hillsborough, Boaty McBoatface, Chernobyl, dinner parties

We went to a 1920s-style ball

David Conn has written thoroughly and powerfully about the Hillsborough disaster and the scandal that followed it.

As Artificial Intelligence becomes increasingly A Thing, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun considers how what we think about human life could affect the decisions we're going to be facing.

What does the Boaty McBoatface debacle tell us about the limits of representative democracy? Uri Friedman exposes the truth.

Talking of the limits of democracy, it's not often that I'll recommend you read Frankie Boyle but he's got it pitch-perfect on the doctors' strikes and those involved.

Talking of terrible decisions that lead to destruction and death, Karin Brulliard reports on what Chernobyl looks like 30 years after a nuclear meltdown.

Talking of finding life in a wasteland (kind of), Jen Wilkin encourages us to open our homes for hospitality, rather than entertaining.

Finally, Bono loves Eugene Peterson's The Message so the two of them got together to talk about the psalms:

Live review: Tongues at La Belle Angèle

It’s an inauspicious setting for Tongues: a venue filled with old music industry types who seem to have had a long day today. Two of the band have chosen egg shakers as the first instrument they’ll play, and all in all it seems like a false start is likely. Happily, nothing could be further from the truth as they launch into You Never Knew Me, showcasing much of what makes them such an exciting and intriguing prospect. A thick groove augmented with dashes of synth and loops, and an alt-pop-perfect sense of when to choose the minor note, the opener survives the drummer losing his place and builds to a powerful climax.

What frontman and founder Tim Kwant lacks in stage banter he more than makes up for with an attention-commanding physical performance that never wavers in its intensity. Sending his vocals through a multi-effects box is just one way Tongues keep your interest piqued: they seem perpetually on the edge of a dubstep breakdown, and each of the five tracks they play contain so many elements that it seems like we’ve heard much more than we have.

Latest single Religion, basking in its 500,000 Spotify plays (“No idea how that happened,” Kwant cheerfully confesses off-stage), hits with a ruinous bassline. Heartbeat follows in the same mould but ends up in a very different place, and then Spoken For changes the feel of everything: serene, spiritual even. This is a band totally focused on doing what they want, playing with absolute conviction.

Having held us close, they take a running leap into closer and standout track, Colours In The Dark. It’s a euphoric ending, befitting a far larger stage than the one they’ve illuminated tonight.

Week 16 miscellany: celebrity deaths, leadership disasters, tribalism, glory, and a really cool plane

Are more famous people dying? Tim Harford does the unpleasant number-crunching and explains why this will probably become normal.

A question you're less likely to have asked is, "Are bots the next big thing?" Casey Newton has been doing some investigating about the future of shopping, customer services, and things like that.

Christian leaders making terrible mistakes is awful, and causes a lot of confusion and grief among those they led or knew them. Russell Moore has some wise advice on how to cope if this happens.

Do we believe what we do because we've thought it all through, or because people around us have influenced us? The Mere Fidelity team discuss tribalism in culture and church life.

Here's a Saab Gripen jet looking super-cool, thanks especially to the gyro-stabilised technology holding the camera in place:

Michael Reeves interviews John Piper about his latest book, A Peculiar Glory, which is a fascinating discussion about how the Bible shows itself to be God's Word to us:

Food for (hopeful) thought

A promise in my morning’s Bible reading grabbed me:
“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’” (Isaiah 25:6-9)
As I chewed on this, as it were, more meals came to mind.

God put us in a fruitful garden at the first, where eating with Him in the cool of the day would surely have been part of the glorious routine (Genesis 1:29, 2:16, 3:8). We chose another meal and were thrown out of the restaurant into the wilderness. Food became scarce and hard to come by (Gensis 3:17-19).

Yet still God wanted us to eat with Him. Having rescued His people from slavery in Egypt (commemorated in the Passover meal, Exodus 12) and gathering them to Mount Sinai, He invited Moses and some of the other leaders to be with Him and eat with Him:
“Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.” (Exodus 24:9-11)
The Old Testament priests continued this practice in the Tent of Meeting, and later the Temple. They were to represent the people before God, and when they had made sacrifices to pay for their sins, they were to eat some of what had been given (Leviticus 6:25-26, Deuteronomy 18:1). This was not mere practice, it was a promise…

Psalm 23 is famed for its description of God as a shepherd. There is a feeding theme again (“green pastures,” verse 2) but then the good shepherd becomes a master chef:
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” (Psalms 23:5)
Isaiah’s prophecy that we started with continued and developed this idea. Is it any wonder, then, that we so often read about Jesus eating with people? Matthew throws a feast for Him (Mark 2:14-15), as do Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3), and Martha and Mary (John 12:1-2). God with us means us eating with God. These are unlikely guests of God, as Jesus explains in a parable:
"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son, and sent his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding feast, but they would not come.” (Matthew 22:2-3)
The parable concludes with the feast being eaten by those who never thought they would be invited in, as the king says:
“‘Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22:9-10)
All of this is in Jesus’ mind when He organises a last supper with His disciples. God’s original intention that we enjoy the fruits of His creation with Him; our rejection of His generosity; His condescension in allowing us to eat in His holy presence; His promise of a banquet to come unlike any other with rich food and good wine but no tears and no death to sour the taste; His knowledge of what it will cost Him to pay for that…
“And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. And he said to them, ‘I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 22:14-16)
So it isn’t just to prove that He is not a ghost that Jesus eats with the stunned disciples at several of His resurrection appearances (Luke 24:30-31, 41-43, John 21:12-13)!

We now find ourselves between meals. That glorious feast Isaiah saw is still to come. In case you had any doubt, the final book of the Bible reassures us that it is being prepared:
“And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ [Meaning Jesus and the Church] And he said to me, ‘These are the true words of God.’” (Revelation 19:9)
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month.” (Revelation 22:1-2)
 Next time you take the bread and wine of communion, then, remember that you’re recalling not just the past but the future:
“For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26)
This guaranteed promise is the hope of all who accept God’s offer of a feast through Jesus. It makes every meal an opportunity for worship. The provision of energy for a few more hours is pointing to eternal life, and the joy of delicious food and drink is a brief taste of the delight you will know forever in God's presence.

Week 15 miscellany: Jihad, masterpieces, moral phones, good sleep

This wasn't the only thing on display at our Tesco's local produce section, but it was most of it

Is Jihad the same as Old Testament warfare? Former Muslim Nabeel Qureshi explains how those are two very different things.

An inspirational interview for Christian artists, Jeffrey Overstreet talks to Terry Glaspey about his wonderful-looking new book, 75 Masterpieces.

If you feel uneasy about the way your smartphone is made, the Fairphone 2 may be of interest to you.

Lots of things contribute to getting a bad night's sleep; Mark Molloy reports on a formula to help get yourself ready to rest.

You probably have to be a certain type of person to expect others (or even yourself) to act in line with what they say they believe, and Derek Rishmawy puts us right on this.

Easter miscellany: forgiven Nazis, enduring suffering, looking awkwardly at yourself, Jesus and tears

Our church's graphic designer has done a great job, as always

In yet another week of evil in Europe, Mark Loughridge considers how massive an achievement the cross was, as he tells the story of the man who brought God's grace to the Nazi high command.

We may be less aware of suffering elsewhere but there are Christians at work in its midst all over the world. Simon Guillebaud is one of them, and it's the hope of Easter that enables him to persevere in the horrors of Burundi.

Easter forces us to look at things we'd often rather not consider, which Matthew Hosier realised as he ran around Barcelona.

If you want to do some serious theological thinking about what happened to Jesus on the cross, Derek Rishmawy has written about penal substitutionary atonement.

To feel the sweep of what happened at Easter, take an angel's eye view or consider how those on the ground were feeling on Good Friday evening.

Finally, don't miss out on Glen Scrivener's poem about Jesus and tears, Jesus in tears, and Jesus ending tears...

Your card for "The Meadows on a sunny day bingo"

  • Smoke from disposable BBQ
  • Scorched grass from a previous disposable BBQ
  • Hippy tightrope-walkers and jugglers
  • The sad faces of a conflicted student peering out of the University library
  • The backs of a diligent student in the University library
  • Boozy locals
  • Instagramming
  • Echoing sound of a busker on Middle Meadow Walk
  • Group sitting who will still be there way after sunset 
  • Schoolkids in blazers lost in their own world
  • Schoolkids in blazers desperate to move into the new world of student life
  • Spanish being spoken loudly
  • Frisbee being thrown with elaborate care
  • An overheated Barbour-wearer considering if this is the coat's last outing of the season (it won't be)
  • A friendly dog ignoring its polite owner
  • Rugby shorts
  • A flash of sunlight reflecting off the shaft of a golf club over on The Links
  • It being colder than it looks

Week 10 miscellany: skylines, judgement, vital truths, every movie ending

The light around here has been excellent recently.

God's judgement is one of His less popular attributes but Jason Micheli explains what we (and others) would lose if it didn't exist.

The author Jerry Bridges died this week aged 86. A few years ago, he shared the key five truths he learned as young Christian that he would want everyone else to know.

As Glasgow prepares for its skyline to get a serious makeover, Chris Leslie has been recording what has been.

Peter Salomone has a hypothesis: that Walk Of Life by Dire Straits is the perfect song to end every movie, ever. He's put it to test on over fifty films, so you can explore this at great depth, should you wish to. To get you started, here's The Lion King...

Week 9 miscellany: marriage, sin, immigration, batteries and cables

This weekend we're celebrating five years since this wonderful day.
I'm so grateful to God and to Deb for our marriage.

Talking of marriage, David Brooks summarises three ways that western culture looks at it.

Derek Rishmawy has been thinking about how we can actually get to understand sin, ably assisted by some brilliant quotes.

"Comparison is the thief of joy" Eleanor Roosevelt wisely said. It also makes for a very funny article by Tim Krieder.

As immigration continues to be a hotly contested issue in Europe, and a matter of life and death for thousands of people, Phil Whittall offers ten helpful observations.

Everyone worries about their phone battery, so Dan Frakes, Nick Guy and Kevin Purdy wrote a guide to what does and doesn't help keep it going.

The other thing about technology that might annoy you is tangled cables. Worry no more...

Week 8 miscellany: using your phone, Trump inspiration, crazy skiers, great photos

At last the evenings are getting lighter! I cycled up round the back of Arthur's Seat and saw this.

I know I talk a lot about how we're using (and being used by) our smartphones but it's important, and when Alastair Roberts gets going on a subject it's worth trying to follow him.

On a slightly more trivial note in the same subject, Vlad Savov argues that phone accessories are starting to be more interesting than phones themselves. He's not talking about colourful covers, by the way.

Can you be inspired by Donald Trump? Well, in one way, John Piper suggests, you can. Especially if you're as old as he is.

Ben Bailie explains why we all need some Martyn Lloyd-Jones in our lives.

The 2016 Sony World Photography Awards have some worthy entrants, introduced by Alan Taylor.

If you want to see some humans being absolutely ridiculous in the snow, watch this video from about the 20-minute mark...