Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Salvation Army on NPR...some thoughts

I’ve been listening to this little NPR show about The Salvation Army, having picked up on it from a Tweet by my good buddy, J D Blundell.

As a Salvationist I found myself troubled on a few points:

First off – even at this busiest of seasons in The Salvation Army calendar – it’s important that you have a genuinely representative voice speaking on your behalf.

It’s probably safe to assume that author Diane Winston is a friend of The Salvation Army, but I didn’t get the feeling she was an authoritative voice or even fully up to speed on all of the details of some of the situations being discussed.

Secondly, although Winston’s assertion that
“Theology is not big in the Army. I mean, once you get past that they're rock-hard Bible believers, it's what they do that really counts”
is not wholly without foundation, it’s a way too simple assessment of our relationship with theology. More needs to be said by solid representatives who speak from an authentic and global viewpoint. I’m certainly not qualified to do so, but the statement is unsatisfactory, and needs way more unpacking.

My next worry was Winston’s assertion that
“The Army is a fundamentalist Christian group”.
I baulked at this description of the movement.

To me that seems way less than accurate and open to erroneous interpretation. The word “fundamentalist” comes loaded with meaning and puts us in a largely negative place, which seems to be at odds with what we really are at our heart.

Fourth up, there’s the hot potato of The Salvation Army’s various recent “controversies” that have been played out largely on the internet.

We’ve been hit hard – really hard - online, and opinions have become more embedded about who we are and what we believe. Blog posts have fed on blog posts (some are so off the hook, it’s scary), and the viral nature of it has allowed fact & fiction to merge into a fuzzy mess on the web and other media.

In relation to The Salvation Army supposedly being anti-gay, it is a label we’ve been saddled with in the last few years – I think unfairly, but I can see why it’s happened.

It seems in the US we’ve become public enemy #1 for many of our brothers and sisters in the gay community, and for me this is a great source of sadness.

(Check a few more thoughts on the subject here)

As a movement, our stance on the sexuality of members is reasonably small c conservative, pretty much in line with the Anglicans, Methodists etc in the UK, most Protestant denominations in the rest of the world etc. It’s also not exactly one of the big issues which define us, though. There are many many more significant barometers for measuring The Salvation Army’s corporate persona.

I say this, not to defend our position, just to say it’s not unique to The Salvation Army. I think the reason we’ve got the anti-gay label goes back to the fact that we are a Church…but we are also – particularly in the US - that a Social Agency that employs people – all kinds of people.

As a 46 year old man who’s been involved with the SA my whole life, I can barely remember hearing any negative teaching about homosexuality from our platforms and pulpits. (Although I have heard preachers preach about being welcoming to gay men and women, and exhortations for us to be ashamed of ways we may have failed to be inclusive). I have heard plenty of preaches about our responsibility towards the poor and the marginalized though.

In my own experience, I have almost always seen all people treated with kindness, love & grace, although I’m beginning to wonder if The Salvation Army needs to find a gracious, informed, global – rather than exclusively North American – and most of all Christlike response to the kind of hammering we take periodically

As far as I’m concerned we’re called to love God, and love others.

I guess my final point of concern about the broadcast may be the one many fellow Salvationists will struggle with. I’m becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the word “Evangelical”, not because I have issue with being evangelical (with a small “e”) about my faith, but rather that I am becoming nervous of the connotations that come with being labelled “Evangelical” with a large “E”. I don’t want to be burdened by the notion that somehow we as a movement become attached to or aligned with a particular political word view that is too closely associated with one political party, or locks this international movement of which I am part to a North American mind set.

Don’t get me wrong. I am huge fan of the US and its people. I really am, but it’s wrong for people to look at The Salvation Army as a wholly American institution. To do so creates an erroneous impression of how the Army globally & locally thinks, breathes and lives.

It’s wrong too to closely associate our movement with any particular political worldview. Salvationists come from all sides of the tracks politically and within the local context they find themselves in.

Most of all, we need as Salvationist to see ourselves and be seen as people who follow the way of Jesus.

HT to SAYNETWORK for the pic

8 Years!

Eight years ago today I married my wonderful wife.

Janet has given me so much.

We are blessed with two amazing kids.

We have a home that is filled with laughter

We try to hold each other up as we walk the way of Jesus together

Life is good!


Monday, December 07, 2009


I survived the Grim Challenge!

It was tough going for this newbie runner, who likes the occasional pie, but I got to the end...eventually!

My inspiration for the run was my buddy Andy Greig who blogged at Grumpy Old Git, so this one was for you, mate!

Looking the worse for wear, I'm pictured with Andy's sister and brother in law, Lindsay and Mel.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Charles Lee, Boot Camp Three

I’m delighted that The Idea Camp’s Charles Lee is going to be speaking at The Salvation Army’s West Coast Youth event Boot Camp early in 2010.

…some nice synergy there…

HT to BC3 for the image

Digimission...a rambling response

I’ve been trying to find a few minutes to scribble down a few thoughts on the excellent Digimission day put together by the Krish Kandiah and his team at the EA to explore how we Jesus followers navigate the digital age , but it’s been mad busy since.

Right off the bat it’s important to say how good it was to have even seen such an event in the taking place at the moment in the UK. I think it’s fair to say that in terms of how the Church is engaging with this new digital age we’re a little behind where people are at in the US.

Having said that, there was enough of a good cross section of folks present at the London event to encourage me that there are people who are really getting to grips with what it means for us individually – as bloggers, Facebook and Twitter users –corporately as Churches, organisations, tribes of all sorts…as we wrestle with how we do Church today.

The mix of speakers was pretty good, each bringing a slightly different perspective to the table.

Jonny Baker was first up and for me seemed to be the most comfortable and familiar with this new “low control” Web 2.0 environment. A long time, influential & well known blogger in the area of missional Church and Alternative Worship, Jonny inhabits this world with a sense of ease that means that his experience seemed to be more integrated into the whole of life, rather than absorption with the technology for its own sake.

So, there wasn’t much of a feeling of “this is the tech, and here’s what to do with it”, but rather a more expansive and ultimately more helpful exploration of interconnectedness, mission, social media and relationship in the West in the 21st Century that drew in “Small World Theory”, networks and the writing of Clay Shirky.

Top stuff from Jonny!

Maggi Dawn’s approach seemed to be to start from a different but no less inspiring place…from that of a writer, and the “Vicar” of her blog.Clearly the relational – even Pastoral - aspects of blogging are high in Maggi’s priorities, and I liked fact she described blogging as a relational form of writing, a real point of resonance for someone like me who values so highly the level interaction and engagement that is possible now.

We heard too from Adrian Warnock via a pre-recorded video, which of course meant something of a one way dialog, which perhaps was slightly at odds with the “connected” thread I was taking from Jonny and Maggi. Interesting footnote for me that Adrian had intentionally switched off his comments on his own blog. I guess I’ll have to do some detective work to see if I can figure out the back story there, as I’m less familiar with Adrian’s web presence than I am with that of Maggi & Jonny.

Third up in the flesh speaker was Mark Meynell from All Souls Langham place. Mark’s approach seemed to me to be rooted in his missional heart. There seemed to be an intentionality about Mark’s approach that was interesting.

Ahead of the event, and one of the deciding factor in getting me to attend at all was knowing that Shane Hipps would be featured – albeit via a live online hook up from Phoenix AZ – where it would have been a great deal warmer than the freezing venue.

Shane’s Flickering Pixels has been on my book list for a while now, so it was good to hear what he had to say. I’m looking forward to checking out the freebie book that came my way for being an early bird booker to Digimission.

Krish himself wrapped up the day. He’s no techno-slouch, so I would hazard a guess that we will continue to see more days like this in the future. Bring it on.

The bottom line for me is this is the world we’re living in. We have to engage with it, and understand it. We need to speak the language.

Fabulous to hook up with Richard Hall and the guys from Kore (a website well worth the look)

Thanks to all for a great day!

• More lucid and sensible reviews than mine from Everything Christian, Church Mouse, Richard Hall and Andy Moore• Watch Digimission here:

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The St Peter’s Brewery Story

Knowing that my good friend, Jonathan D Blundell was recently about to publish his first book - St Peter’s Brewery - I was fascinated to hear the back story of the book, and wanted to find out more.

I shot JD a few questions so he could unpack it a little for me:

JL: What were the seeds that made you start in the first place?

JD: As far as the seeds for the book, I guess it really depends on how far back you want to go. I've wanted to write and publish a book for some time now. I never really settled on a topic though as far as non-fiction goes and started 2 or 3 other projects along the way that never really went anywhere. I even started one a while back that I blogged as I wrote but I lost interest in the storyline and moved on.

When I heard about, I decided I'd take them up on the challenge. Essentially the challenge is to write a novel in one month (the month of November). Write at least 50,000 words and you "win." I wasn't sure I could do it, but having a deadline and focusing solely on writing and not going back and editing along the way.

I initially came up with the idea of a drifter, or a loner who worked at a post office (not sure why) who comes to find out the importance of community along the way. A few ideas led to another and St. Peter's Brewery was born.

As I wrote, I found myself calling on a number of situations and experiences I've had personally, as well as the experiences and stories people have shared on our podcast. So in many ways, the book I wrote is biographical, just the names, times and exact situations have been changed :-).

JL: I'm not sure if I've properly understood the process that even got you to this point? Did the book evolve in a planned way, or have you found yourself at the point of publishing almost by accident?

JD: Once I finished writing the book I wasn't totally sure what direction I would take with the book. I knew I'd like to see it through to publication, but wasn't certain about it. I decided to take a month of, do nothing with it and essentially let it lie. I did however print out the initial draft in "book" form at our local copy shop. I printed a copy for my mom for Christmas as well as Laurie (JD’s wife), Trucker Frank and myself.

Their responses were very positive so I decided to move forward with preparing the book for publication.

I asked for volunteer editors and sent the book to 4 or 5 people as well after the first of the year. I received 2 edits from those 4 or 5 and I began my own process of editing the book. Editing is not something I get a huge thrill out of (as I've mentioned on our podcast :-)) so it became a bit of a chore for me. I had hoped to have the book edited, corrected and ready to print by summer but it just kept getting pushed back further and further.

Finally as November 2009 approached and I debated taking part in NaNoWriMo again, I decided to take the month and really focus on finishing the book.

So the past few weeks I've finished all the suggestions I found in my original edit, the suggestions made by those who edited the book for me and read through, edited and corrected it again 2 more times (and I'm sure people will still find things we've missed :-)).

After that, it was a matter of getting the format right and finalizing the cover. I've laid the book out in InDesign and designed the cover in Photoshop and formatted the Kindle version with HTML. Now it's just a matter of finalizing the cover and we're off to the races.

Of course self-publishing has its drawbacks. There's no giant marketing arm behind the book, no upfront money, just me, word of mouth, what publicity I can get on social networks and

Of course the upside is, using, my book will automatically be added to Amazon's vast catalog, I'm not out any money up front (it's a print-on-demand service), and I get more money per book that I sell (vs. a contract with a publisher).

JL: It’s the 1st time I’ve read a book using the familiar author’s technique of using elements of real and known people to form the characters of the novel, so it’s been very cool - as I know the author - to recognise some of the guys in there.

Aside from those snippets of real life that have made it into the St Peter’s Brewery in one way or another, what other literary influences do you think you may have thrown into the mix?

JD: I'm not sure I have too many varying literary influences, but there may be some in there that I'm not fully aware of.

I've started reading more and more over the last few years but I read very little fiction. I read "The Shack" by William Young this past summer (2009), after my book was already written. Before that, I re-read the "Chronicles of Narnia" series right before the first movie came out and also read Frank Peretti's "Piercing the Darkness" in 2005 or so. Other than those few books, I primarily read non-fiction, which probably influenced content much more than style.

Of course I should probably point to my Mass Communications degree and several years of working at local newspapers as having a big influence on my writing style as well. Journalistically, I always try to let the subjects in the story tell the story. I try to keep my thoughts and opinions to a minimum. That's probably why you see so much dialog in the book.

JL: What’s next for JD the writer?

JD: Well, I guess to begin with, a lot of grass-roots marketing! :-) Self-publishing definitely has it's ups and downs. One of the downsides is you're not only responsible for the writing of the content but also the editing, layout, design and marketing of the book.

So I think I'll see how well this book does and then go from there. I've had a couple people as if I'll write a sequel to the book. I'm not sure I want to go that direction yet. I imagine everyone will want to know what happens with Jimmy and Kim but I also like leaving that door open to the reader's imagination.

I was very tempted to start another novel this past November as part of the 2009 NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month) but decided to hold of this year and get my first novel ready for publication first. Perhaps next year I'll take another shot at a novel.

At some point I'd like to take a stab at non-fiction. Perhaps something related to church history, current issues of our faith or maybe even something biographical. There have been a couple folks I've considered really delving into and researching, so that may be the next project down the road.

It'd be great if I could figure out a way to make a decent living off of my writing (both with books and my blog) and focus primarily on it and the podcast but until then, I'll stick to my day job.

JL: If St Peter’s Brewery was made into a movie, and there was a trailer playing in the movie theater, what would the voice over guy with the deep voice be saying about it?

JD: Wow. Great question! Do I get to pick who plays the various parts?

Whenever I think of the movie guy it always reminds me of over dramatic or horror movie trailers. I'm not totally sure that would fit this particular story/movie but let's see if I can answer your question either way.

A young man... trying to escape his past...

A pub.... in the most unlikely of places...

A group of friends... all finding sanctuary...

Within St. Peter's Brewery... a sanctuary for all.

Based on the New York Times bestselling book, by Jonathan Blundell.

Take a fresh look at an old love story.

St. Peter's Brewery

Coming to a theater and pub near you.

Christmas 2010.

Ha ha! Maybe I should have used that for the back cover instead! :-)

• JD would like to invite anyone reading johnnylaird to come join in the discussions on the St Peter's Brewery website whether they've read the book or not.

• Join in with the Flickr group and share pictures of your own favo(u)rite sanctuaries

• St Peters Brewery at Amazon’s Kindle store here, with paperback version on the way soon.

• JD Blogs at Stranger in Strange Land and is co-host of the Something Beautiful podcast with Headphonaught and Stewart Cutler

The Peace of Jesus

There are not many of my posts that I would intentionally repeat, but this one bears repeating this Advent and again and again..

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

May you and yours feel the peace of Jesus this CHRISTmas time...