What is a personal relationship with God?

relationsop paperclip

The widespread assertion of a ‘personal relationship with God’ seems to stem back to the arguments of the 95 Thesis of Martin Luther in the 15th Century. Whilst many passages in the New Testament have always pointed to God’s desire to relate to his people, is the true Biblical form of that relationship how many evangelical Christians view it nowadays? Today in most evangelical and charismatic churches it has come to mean a close, intimate and emotional relationship with one or more members of the Trinity. But was this really Luther’s point? What was it that he saw in the culture of the Catholic church of the time which he viewed as wrong and what was he seeking to propose as a more accurate Biblical view?

Today the UK church is dominated by women. A recent Tearfund survey showed the ratio to be 65:35 women to men. Further they predicted that at the current rate of decline that there would be no men in the UK church by 2028. The latter point should be taken with a pinch of salt, but the overall issue and trend is clear. The church in the UK is appealing far more strongly to women than men. I think this may have been disguised by the fact that the clergy are dominated by men. So why is the 21st century UK church so much more appealing to women than men?

People with Asperger’s, such as myself, are said to demonstrate a number of ‘extreme male’ characteristics. A pertinent example would be our greater connection to facts and philosophy than emotion and sentiment. Now that the church promotes us to have an ‘intimate relationship with God’ you can see why people such as myself feel increasingly uncomfortable. I can only imagine men nearer to the centre of the neuro-typical spectrum feel the same way, albeit to a lesser extent. But am I supposed to treat Christ as my sweetheart or my spouse? Is that the relationship that the Bible is pointing to, was it the view of Luther when he espoused the virtue of a personal relationship with God?

My experience is that there is a sizeable segment of doctrine within charismatic / evangelical church from which it has reverse engineered Biblical precedent (which is surely back to front?) The Charismatic movement started in California. I think it is clear to see that whilst financially successful, that the core culture of the USA is still one marked by immaturity. (That is not to say that there are not a good number of exceptions, but this view appears to be in the majority.) It is common for those still immature to follow their emotions and their feelings to a greater extent than knowledge and proven fact. In creative arts this is very positive. In matters of faith, I would suggest, rather less so. So we find a church culture driven by feelings rather than facts taking root in a culture which itself valued this approach. Perhaps because of the financial success of the USA or the global reach of their film industry, the culture of the USA has spread out to be admired by many other nations including the UK. It is said, and seems true in my experience that “When America sneezes, Europe catches a cold.” So we see the emotive interpretation of a ‘personal relationship with God’ spread to the UK in the 60’s and 70’s and become part of the mainstream by the 90’s and 00’s.

So this is where we find ourselves, and in this environment many men, including myself, find ourselves uncomfortable in the Evangelical / Charismatic church. Were it just me that were uncomfortable then I should look inside myself for the issue; However the statistics show the issue is much more widespread and thus we should look more closely at the ethos of the church rather than the quirks of this individual.

That’s a whole lot of preamble for me to get to my point. If you look at the writings of Luther his concerns were focussed with the indulgences of the Catholic church and that the church taught that salvation was via the church to God and not with God directly. The Catholic church of the time had taken advantage of their position of power to seek money (indulgences) as the price for them dispensing the forgiveness of God. To me it seems very clear that when Luther talks of a personal relationship he is not talking primarily about intimacy and emotion but talking about a relationship directly with God rather than via the mediation of the church. Thus I would suggest that today’s emotion driven movement has come primarily from the culture of early 20th century California. Of course emotion has its place, something that speaks to the core of our being should be expected to stir our emotions. I would suggest that outwardly expressed emotion was never supposed to be the endpoint.

So whilst the Bible teaches that salvation comes from personal faith, neither via works nor dispensed by the church, Jesus was never supposed to be my brother or my boyfriend. Read of love in 1 Corinthians and the word used is agape, not philia or eros. It is self sacrificing love, not the love directed to a brother or a spouse. It was good that Luther spoke out;  The pendulum of relationship was being restrained at one end of it’s swing for the benefit of the organisation that was the Catholic church of the time (not that of today). But as with many issues, we see that the pendulum has been now been encouraged to swing to the other extreme. The Bible is full of examples of the great value of balanced juxtapositions: Faith and works work together, as do love and reproach, confidence in God and planning, rights and responsibilities, dependence and hard work.

Correct this cultural bias, bring the pendulum back nearer its centre and hopefully we can again have a representative number of men of vision and motivation in the church to help build the kingdom of God.

The COVID Diaries (Weeks 3 & 4)

Here in rural Lancashire we are still a couple of weeks (decades?) behind London & Birmingham so we’ve not seen the direct impact of COVID-19 as yet, but the indirect impact on day-to-day life is now with us just the same as the rest of the UK.  Without doubt it is strange, but after two weeks under house arrest the ‘new normal’ is getting to be fairly well bedded in.

How to light a campfire

How to light a campfire, a great way to also teach the fire triangle and an introduction to combustion chemistry.

Home Schooling turns out to be a much better experience than I expected. With Junior being six I guess I have it easy.  He doesn’t have exams ahead of him and is missing his friends more than it matters that he missing his formal education.  I am finding that a project based approach, akin to the  Montessori  approach is working well for both of us.  Each week we have a project, or two, which acts as the framework for discovery and learning the skills needed to carry it out (maths, science, dexterity) and record it (maths, English).

We have been blessed with great weather thus far meaning that bike rides (twin solo, or with the tag-along) have been possible and have been a little longer than most folks 20 minute walks.  However around here it’s easy to self isolate on the back roads.

I am delighted that I was able to restock my (mini) alpine garden before house arrest too, and am starting to see the results of old and new.

dsc_1054

Church life has changed again.  My ‘live streamed’ drumming to an empty church  was not only the first but probably the last time this will happen.  Since then church buildings have themselves been closed and now our church, amongst many others, is streaming sections of each service from different members homes.  All credit to the people organising this at St James who are doing a grand job.  Canned music didn’t work as well as it might last week, the difference between performance (what you can get from YouTube et al) and leading a congregation, albeit virtually, is actually very significant.  For Easter we had a multitrack of keys, guitar and vocal, complete with video, from two different homes.  Much better. Next week there should be drums as well.  This afternoon I laid down four drumming tracks for someone to mix into next weeks multitrack song recordings.  I’m feeling the benefit of having an electronic kit.  Whilst it’s perfectly technically feasible to mike-up every drum and cymbal, it’s neither easy nor cheap to achieve this.  I can mix my drums within the Roland ‘brain’ and output the drumming track straight to a .wav file on a memory stick.  In theory this is a perfect recording. I can even choose my ambience!

Home Multitrack Recording setup

I’ve found some voluntary work on the day I’m not home schooling and it’s good both to be busy and to be ‘doing my bit’ for the community.  Finally, the wheat malt I ordered has arrived and I have been able to set up my home office and do some informal development work.  I cannot sell the results as I am on furlough, and then there is also the small issue of being unlicensed.  However, it’ll keep my tasting panel happy and keep my brain and taste buds ticking over.

Isolation Pale Ale

Brewing an IPA – Isolation Pale Ale!

Cheers!

The COVID Diaries (Weeks 1 & 2)

We are certainty living in “interesting times” and when writing in a newspaper in 1936, Sir Austin Chamberlain first coined the phrase, this was meant as a curse rather than a blessing. The world has seen pandemics before, but the last one was over 100 years ago and thus not part of my experience or that of my family for three generations. So, so as not to forget and to have something to pass onto Junior other than memes, I thought I’d keep a COVID-Diary.

Andrex Rear Gunner pic

Here is rural Lancashire COVID-19 had no obvious influence on life until the w/c 9th March (week one) when we all started washing our hands more often and with more care. (about the same care in my case because I work in a food factory) Apart from that, everything was running as normal at work, socially and at church. By the start of week two beer sales started to drop because of the uncertainty of whether pubs would be open by the end of the week, with our Boris asking that we stop going out to social venues. Work life as a vet for Mrs W remained as normal. Then in four days we went from normal to ‘all change’ with all the acceleration of a Bugatti Veyron. On Wednesday it was announced that schools would be closing, thus limiting my ability to work to two days per week (the days Mrs W doesn’t work – yes, I know we are very fortunate). This turned out to be OK with my workplace who wanted to reduce all of us to a three day week anyway. My two day week was agreed as I went home at 4pm on the Friday. Then an hour later, Boris announces that all pubs, restaurants and cafe’s are to close that evening until further notice. Over 80% of what Bowland Brewery makes goes into cask, so that put the tin lid on the business. We’ll be back, but no-one knows when.

Saturday left me feeling rather shell-shocked and melancholy. I tackled this by going out for a long walk in an unpopular part of the Yorkshire Dales to see plenty of hills and sunshine and very few people. I am reminded at times like this of the verse from Psalm 121

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help

Perhaps many would consider this a quote taken out of context, but given that I believe that God made and gave us a bounteous supply and variety of mountain-scapes, the hills speak to be of the creative generosity of the divine. I returned from my walk, without a post walk pint, but feeling a good deal better adjusted to the coming week.

All churches were closed for public worship, but again I was blessed. I was on the rota to drum in the band and had the privilege to be part of the first Live Streamed Service from our church.  It’s things such as this which I want to record.  It was very strange to be in a church with just a band, the Rector and a sound / video engineer. Mrs W and Junior watched from home and church started to prove itself to be a body of people, not (just) a building. At its peak Mrs W noted viewing figures of 120 (accounts) which given each viewing was probably from a group of at least two people suggests that the whole congregation was ‘virtually there’ along with a number of extra ethereal visitors as well.

So as I write this we are entering week three and I’ve been put on furlough (a term previously little used outside of missionary circles) and 80% pay. This is good news for us as a family, at least in the short term and for the business. It also means that rather than going to work to mark time I can look for opportunities to volunteer within the community for two days a week. It will be good to be continuing to directly enhance our community, albeit in a different way to making peoples Friday evening treat. Now also I can relax into the role of home teacher, even if this is not something I ever saw as my vocation.

I wonder what the rest of week three will hold for us…   …watch this space…

Reconnecting with life, reconnecting with happiness.

There is a lot of focus on mental health in the media at the moment, with people openly asking the question – “Why are the incidence of depression and anxiety rising so rapidly in the Western World?”

My aim in this post is to take Johann Hari’s 255 page “Lost Connections” book and distil a summary from this. Let’s start by outlining his list of connections:

Connections to:

  1. Meaningful work
  2. People and community
  3. Good values
  4. Status and respect
  5. The Natural World
  6. Hope for the future

If you consider the above list you quickly see that the direction that society is taking is reducing many peoples connections to a number of, of even all, of these areas. I have already found my way to items one, three, four and five. Lets unpack, rather more briefly than Hari, the above list, because if you can define the challenge you can look to work on solutions.

Meaningful work

A recent study suggested that only around 1/3 of the UK population enjoy the job which they do. That’s appalling! A key issue here is your extent of autonomy. Whilst autonomy might often rise with seniority that is far from always being the case.  There is a key difference between being told what to do and being told how to do it. Having someone prescribe the ‘how’ is a big problem, or at least it was for me. If you have staff reporting to you, trust them to know what they are doing. Depending on the role they may need different levels of direction, from broad-brush to specific. But within the needs of safety and quality allow them to do it their way. Not only is this better for mental health of the individual, if you are not using the thoughts and initiative of your employees you are missing out on a lot which they have to offer. If you want an automaton, buy a robot.

People & community

As a society we are becoming more individualistic. This is not a new phenomenon, you can see the roots of this in the thinking of the Renaissance, the replacement of monarchy by democracy and the birth of the Anglican and Non-conformist church. It’s not new. One of the key reasons why humans have flourished to a greater extent than other mammals is our ability to co-operate and work together. We have always worked best as a group or tribe, not as selfish disconnected individuals. Hari quotes an interesting study which shows that people who seek to promote the happiness of their community experience greater personal happiness than those who just seek their own fulfilment. Face to face interactions with friends are important too. Better to have 2-3 face to face relationships than several hundred connections via social media. By all means have both, but don’t – he mutes – allow the latter to overwhelm the former. Spend more time looking into the eyes of a friend than at a little screen in your hand.

Good Values

Depending on your cultural and faith background your view of good values may vary. But I’d suggest we could all agree on a list of junk values : consumerism, celebrity-worship, on-line curated popularity (i.e. having the perfect Instagram image), fast-fashion. What would you add to this list? That is a question I am meditating upon. What so many of these junk-values have in common is that their true role is to serve others and not us (or our community). We are becoming increasingly aware that these junk values are not just at our expense but are also at the expense of the planet and thus future generations.

Status & respect

Here Hari highlights that the happiness in countries where the gap between the richest and the poorest is smaller, happiness is greater. Read his book to know more. This one is a challenge, because as individuals most of us cannot influence these factors. However we can learn to be content with what we have and we can be more respectful of others. Also we could choose cast our vote for a leadership that shows preference to the poor rather than just the rich. Your view on who that is may vary.

The Natural World

There is mounting evidence that exercise and time outside is good for all aspects of our health. In addition it gives us a sense of perspective. It puts our challenges in their place and causes us to be less inward looking. If you’ve read much of this blog you’ll see how much I love the outdoors and spending ten months working on a sheep farm was instrumental in my recovery from burn out. Having a faith also helps with perspective, if you understand your position relative to your God that allows you to see things more realistically.  That the good in your life is bigger than your thought and the bad less significant than you give it credit for when you feel down. Even if faith is not your thing, ‘counting your blessings’ has been shown by the work of Dr Laurie Santos at Yale University to be highly beneficial to your well-being. Her interview on Radio Four is well worth a listen.

Hope for the future

Have plans, have dreams, think beyond tomorrow. “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” Increasingly we are being seen as part of a machine to keep the economy growing year on year. Stop conforming to the goals of the large corporations and set your own goals, challenging ones, and work towards them. But make those goals intrinsic rather than extrinsic. Do things which you love in their own right, not because of what they could lead to. I walk because I love the wild, not because it keeps me fit. I work for the satisfaction not simply for the money. I brew because I love the creative challenge, not because I want cheap beer.

I spent 13 years in school and seven years at University and was never taught any of the above. It’s time that messages such as the above were more widely known. Certainly they are concepts I plan to pass onto Junior. What has reading this summary made you think? I’d love to know.

 
 

10,000 Reasons

Our church set us a challenge.  Based on the lyrics of the popular Matt Redman song “10,000 Reasons” can we collectively (the whole congregation) list 10,000 reasons why we are grateful to God.  To get us started the Sunday School groups came up with 1100 reasons.  This got me thinking.  Could I come up with 100 reasons which would not cross over with anyone elses?  Well taking a chemists perspective – here is how far I’ve got.

Of the 118 elements in the periodic table, 92 are natural and thus created by our God. Of these 70 are a blessing to my life and here is why…

  1. I’m grateful for H ions because they are the active part of acids which makes lemons tangy
  2. I’m grateful for He because it’s low boiling point allows it to cool superconducting magnets which enables MRI scanners to work.
  3. I’m grateful for Li because it is used to make the battery which gives my mobile phone and my camera long battery lives.
  4. I’m grateful for Be because when included in alloys it makes springs last longer. Great news for my hybrid bike.
  5. I’m grateful for B because it makes glass stronger so I can have Pyrex dishes which are ovenproof
  6. I’m grateful for C because it is the building block for all of life on Earth
  7. I’m grateful for N2 because as part of fertilizers it ensures that higher crop yields are possible which helps feed a growing world population
  8. I’m grateful for O2 because it allows my muscles to work and my brain to survive.
  9. I’m grateful for F because incorporating this into a polymer makes drugs more effective and also helps stop my black pudding sticking to my frying pan (Teflon)
  10. I’m grateful for Ne because it glows red in an electrical discharge tube and enables colourful displays.
  11. I’m grateful for Na so I can put salt on my chips
  12. I’m grateful for Mg because when added to aluminium it forms a much stronger more easily worked alloy making stronger bicycle frames
  13. I’m grateful for Al because it is strong and light and allows large aircraft to be built and carry me to amazing places.
  14. I’m grateful for Si because synthetic oils allow the engine in my van to run for longer between oil changes.
  15. I’m grateful for P because it enables matches to ignite
  16. I’m grateful for S, because sulphites are used to preserve my food.
  17. I’m grateful for Cl2 because it is used to kills the bugs in my drinking water to make it safe to drink.
  18. I’m grateful for Ar because it is used in double glazing to keep my home warm.
  19. I’m grateful for K because it is vital to controlling the electrolyte balance in all my cells.
  20. I’m grateful for Ca because it is the major building block of my bones
  21. I’m grateful for Sc because it is used to make ‘daylight bulbs’ to light film studios so I can relax watching a film at the weekend.
  22. I’m grateful for Y because it is used to make lasers and superconductors. There is a laser in my CD player and I love music.
  23. I’m grateful for Ti because it’s oxide absorbs UV light and is used in sunscreens to protect my skin
  24. I’m grateful for V because when added to steel it makes strong tools to work with.
  25. I’m grateful for Cr because it is what makes rubies red.
  26. I’m grateful for Mn because it makes railway tracks last longer.
  27. I’m grateful for Fe because it is the element that carries oxygen from my lungs to my muscles.
  28. I’m grateful for Co because it is used to make strong magnets that then protect my food from the containing nuts and bolts that fall off from food processing plants.
  29. I’m grateful for Ni because it is used to make hydrogen from steam which then enables ammonia to be made which is used in fertilizers – this in turn allows us to feed the world.
  30. I’m grateful for Cu as it is used to stop my fence posts rotting.
  31. I’m grateful for Zn because it stops the chassis of my van from rusting.
  32. I’m grateful for Ga because the semiconductors it makes enables my computer to work.
  33. I’m grateful for Ge which enables the glass of the wide angle lens of my camera to refract light correctly.
  34. I’m grateful for As because I love murder mystery novels.
  35. I’m grateful for Se because it helps keep me free of dandruff.
  36. I’m grateful for Br because it is used in the fire retardant that makes my sofa safer in the event of a fire.
  37. I’m grateful for Kr because it enables the bulb in my study lamp to last longer.
  38. I’m grateful for Rb because it gives the purple colour to fireworks. As an inorganic chemist, I love fireworks and purple is my favourite colour.
  39. I’m grateful for Sr because it produces the brilliant red light in fireworks
  40. I’m grateful for Y because its compounds form superconductors which enabled the NMR machine I used as part of my Ph.D to work so I could study the mechanism of chemical reactions.
  41. I’m grateful for Nb because it’s oxide increases the refractive index of glass meaning my wife can have thinner more attractive glasses.
  42. I am grateful for Mo because when alloyed with Cr and Fe it produces a steel which is strong and flexible and is used to make the Reynolds 541 frame of my touring bike.
  43. I am grateful for Ru because it is one of the catalysts used to make acetic acid. The household name for this is spirit vinegar and I love this on my chips (alone with the salt, see No. 11)
  44. I am grateful for Rh because this was the metal on which my Ph.D was based which gave me the skills to carry out all the fascinating jobs I’ve had over the past 19 years.
  45. I’m grateful for Pd because it is in the catalytic convertor on my van meaning it’s emissions of carbon monoxide are minimized which is good news for our environment.
  46. I’m grateful for Ag because it is the basis of photographic film and I love photography.
  47. I’m grateful for Cd because it is used in the rechargeable batteries that power all my gadgets.
  48. I’m grateful for In because indium tin oxide is a transparent conductor that makes touch screen devices, like my smartphone possible.
  49. I’m grateful for Sn because it is used to make glass. Sheets of glass are formed on pools of molten Sn and my home and van would be much less pleasant without windows.
  50. I’m grateful for Sb because it is used in the hard alloy used in printing presses. Without this we could not have books and I love a good novel.
  51. I’m grateful for Te because it is used to make light sensors such as that in my digital camera
  52. I’m grateful for I2 because it is essential to the proper operation of my thyroid which regulates my metabolism.
  53. I’m grateful for Ca because it has a repeatable electronic relaxation time of just the right length to use in very accurate clocks – atomic clocks. These in turn are essential to the operation of GPS systems which I used to guide me when I’m out cycling or walking in the mountains.
  54. I’m grateful for Ba because Ba sulphate is the least soluble salt known to man and is very dense. This makes it ideal for radiological imaging. I haven’t needed it yet, but one day a barium meal might enable someone to save my life.
  55. I’m grateful for Hf because it is used for control rods in nuclear reactors. 20% of the electricity I use each day will have come from a nuclear powered power station.
  56. I’m grateful for Ta for its high resistance to corrosion. This enabled the first chemical plant I ever worked on to handle some very interesting materials – one of which was the catalyst that enables post-it notes to separate from each other.
  57. I’m grateful for W because the hardness of tungsten carbide allows all the other elements to be readily mined from the earth. It is the key to the most of the other blessings on this list.
  58. I’m grateful for Re because it makes jet engine turbine blades possible. This facilitates mass air travel and has allowed me to see the world.
  59. I’m grateful for Os because it gave me the chance to make one of the most significant scientific findings of my time in industrial science. Because potassium osmate is such a distinctive colour I was able to identify a new way to separate Os from Ru. This freed up Ru to make the high density HDD that made Classic iPods possible.
  60. I’m grateful for Ir because it makes the spark plugs in all my petrol powered garden tools last longer.
  61. I’m grateful for Pt because it is used to make silicon polymers which keep the flysheet on my tent both light and waterproof.
  62. I’m grateful for Au because it can be used to make objects of beauty.
  63. I’m grateful for Hg because it is the only metal which is a liquid at room temperature. This enables it to be used in level switches which enable my tablet computer to know which way up it is. It also enables the fluorescent bulb above my workshop bench to work and thus enable me to enjoy making and fixing things into the evening.
  64. I’m grateful for Pb because it is soft and resists corrosion and thus is a great material to seal the joins in the roof of our house so we stay dry.
  65. I’m grateful for Bi because it is used as it’s alloys are used as safety fuses in shops and hotels, meaning that sprinkler systems would kick in and keep my family safe in the event of a fire.
  66. I’m grateful for Po it is used to power satellites which enables me to know so much more about the world and to easily speak to friends in remote places.
  67. I’m grateful for Rn because of the role it played in helping Marie and Pierre Curie understand radioactivity. Knowledge we now use for many medical imagine and curative procedures.
  68. I’m grateful for Ce, because its oxide is what is painted onto the inside of my oven to enable it to be self-cleaning.
  69. I’m grateful for Nd because it can be used to make very strong magnets. These help my hifi sound great.
  70. I’m grateful for U because it is the basis of most nuclear power plants and electricity is vital to modern life.
  71. Finally, I am grateful for the extravagant variety of chemistry that stimulates my thinking, provides my career and enriches my life in so many ways.

First set with my Cajon

If you follow this blog regularly you could be forgiven for thinking that my one and only passion is cycling, and the uber-niche of recumbent cycle touring at that. My recumbent high racer is fairly new and thus something for which a beginners enthusiasm might be expected to abound. But I’m not just a cyclist – I’m also a Christian and a drummer. These two loves come together when I provide percussion to one of the bands which plays at our church.

I first took up playing drums around 15 years ago, in an attempt to be ‘part of the solution’ to a church stuck in the 1850’s in my home town of the time in Hertfordshire. I’m unsure where I picked up the following principle, but it is one that shapes me, that being ‘You only have the right to complain if you are prepared to help do something about the problem.’ Life moves on and as resident or guest drummer I’ve played with at least six different worship bands since then.

What have I learnt over this time you might ask? (i) That it is better to play with a nice group of people, than a great group of musicians (and if you can combine the two then that’s really good). (ii) It takes 45 minutes to set up and ca. 30 min to break down and pack a rock kit. (iii) One accessory that any drummer needs is either an estate car or a van!   But as of today, whilst (i) remains true, it may be that (ii) & (iii) are not necessarily true any more.

And so when get to the subject of this post – my first set with my Cajon. Firstly here is a picture.

Image

If you are not familiar with the Cajon as an instrument read this. If you want to know more about the instrument in the picture then look here as well. Whilst you may think as I used to – what can be so great about a plywood box? – let me enlighten you. My DG Bravo is a bass, snare, toms and rim shot all in one, 4 kg box. The tonal variety of a Cajon is simply amazing. Traditionally they would not have been strung as mine is, but this gives me a sharp ‘rock kit’ snare sound and well as an authoritative bass. It really is so much fun to play. I play traditional ‘rock kit’ 4/4 and 8/4 patterns on it, and it really lends itself to this. Interestingly it is also excellent for double bass pedal beats too. My current band is rather different to those I’ve played with before – as well as guitar, keys and harmonizing singers, we also have a violin and recorder. This give a rounded sound with the option of the solo voices of the violin and recorder to add zest to a song. Also, they are a great crowd and forgiving of a self taught drummer who cannot read music.

So how was my first outing with the Cajon? From the number of positive comments from the band and from the congregation I’d say it was a pronounced success. I too loved the whole experience. It is amazing to think that my small plywood box could fill a 300 seater church, but this it did. One thing that led me to the DG Bravo was the fact that the tone was as good when played lightly as when played hard and loud. This is key in a church worship music setting where the tone of our music needs to be anything from reflective to driven, punchy and powerful.

Turn up, unbag the Cajon, sit down it and just play – how refreshing is that, swapping a 45 minute set up time to 10 seconds and swapping a car full to a simple shoulder bag. The Cajon, short on hassle, big on sound – it really rocks!

Is computer familiarity what is really needed in rural developing communities?

I read with interest an article on a scheme to bring a mobile computer classroom to rural schools in Uganda.  It is flagged as good for the children as it opens up the opportunity for work involving such technology in the city.  But is this really sustainably good?  I don’t know the answer to this question, but it seems far from be ‘obvious and correct’ to me.  And I don’t say this to be negative, on two occasions on Christian Mission trips I’ve made to developing nations I’ve agreed to help teach basic computer skills – both in Honduras and in Mongolia.  I did as I was asked, but reading this article again opens up the question for me – should I have done this?  Was it really the right thing to do.  I am genuinely keen to hear peoples thoughts on both sides of this argument.

What worries me is the promotion of the movement of people from rural to city environments by such initiatives – so whilst, yes, if they go to the city these skills could help; should they be helped to go to the city?  From what I have seen of rural and urban environments in developing nations (and to a lesser extent in developed nations too) is that a higher morality is to be seen in rural areas than in the city.  So in encouraging urbanisation are we also encouraging a reduction in morality? If we are then this needs to be considered in the balance of costs and benefits of programmes like that outlined in the article above – and in the work I did myself.

I honestly ask the question – would it not be better to teach rural children the skills they need to have a sustainable future within their own communities?  This would provide work and wealth but at a lower moral cost (Matt 6:33)

Your thoughts please…