@Chiconomique: V pleased with new Opi polish bought for peanuts @tkmaxx Balham! #bargaincrazy #winterparty #shopping #mebyme #nails http://t.co/goxsH0iWJi

@thedevbalham: RT @questiononequiz: ‘Main’ is French for which part of the body? Relax, refresh & have fun @thedevbalham from 8pm for a #quiz #balham http…

@ClarkeTom: Mmmmm, @HacheBurgers is coming to Balham - this could be very dangerous... http://t.co/0O9A9COru3

@JacksonsSW: PROPERTY TO LET: Thornton Avenue, Telford Park, Balham £850 Per Week Fees Apply http://t.co/8BJFUsDP1w

@questiononequiz: ‘Main’ is French for which part of the body? Relax, refresh & have fun @thedevbalham from 8pm for a #quiz #balham http://t.co/lxgnEiERCD

Christmas is coming to Balham!

An afternoon of festive activities will take place on Sunday 30th November in Hildreth Street, from 1pm – 5pm to celebrate the completion of its stunning new makeover and to mark the start of the Christmas season.

The new look Hildreth Street and its businesses will be joined by a wandering Father Christmas and his elves. The afternoon will continue oozing Christmas cheer with community carol singing accompanied by local choirs and the Balham Ukelele Orchestra. Free mulled wine and cider will add to the merriment.

For the first time, Hildreth Street will also have its very own Christmas Tree, a 15’ beauty no less, which will be officially switched on by The Mayor of Wandsworth, Councillor Stuart Thom at 4.30pm. Also not to be missed are the beautiful new Christmas lights adorning Balham’s lamp columns in and around the town centre.

Flower Sanctuary owner, Lisa Carr, said ‘This is a really exciting development for Hildreth Street and will change the area
for the better’.

christmasjpg

The program for the day is as follows:

1pm onwards:
Hildreth Street Businesses In-Store Events & Activities
2pm–3pm
Wandering Father Christmas & His Elves (Featuring The Southside Players & Stagecoach Battersea Theatre)
3pm onwards
Mulled Wine & Music (with the Balham Ukulele Orchestra)
3.30pm onwards
Carols & Community Singing
4.30pm
Lights switch-on by the Mayor of Wandsworth
4.45-5.00pm
Event Finishes

In store promotions include:

-Free balloons at JN Money Transfer
-Warm winter cocktails & cheese fondue at The Lodge
-Boxes of celebrations at Julie’s Nails
-Christmas windows at FARA Charity Shop
-In-store tastings at We Brought Beer
-Robots, candy canes & sweets at E-Computing
-Red carpet with models and face painting at Balham Bou
-’Make your own wreaths’ at The Flower Sanctuary
-Christmas decorations at No. 9 Antiques

The post Christmas is coming to Balham! appeared first on Balham.com.

BBC Personality and Olympian join campaign to save Tooting Bec Athletics Track

TV and radio presenter Nicky Campbell and Olympic athlete Jade Johnson have joined Tooting MP Sadiq Khan's campaign to save a local athletics track. 

Tooting Bec Athletics Track has been earmarked for cuts by Conservative led Wandsworth Council. The announcement was made after a document leaked by a Wandsworth councillor, included the track in the long list of service closures being discussed by the Conservative council.

Sadiq's column in the Wandsworth Guardian (14th November 2014)

Sadiq joins Burntwood School for Armistice Day

Sadiq joins students at Burntwood school and helps them recreate their own version of the Tower of London poppy field.

#Keepthetrackrunning in the Wandsworth Guardian

Important update ahead of tonight's meeting!

Good afternoon, 

As you will be aware - the purpose of the meeting tonight was to allow us to get more information about the future of our track from Wandsworth Council – and to be able to put our questions to council officers. I am disappointed however to report that despite the best efforts of our local councillors, it now appears unlikely that a senior representative from the council will be attending, and we won’t get the answers we had hoped for. 

Christmas is coming to Balham!

An afternoon of festive activities will take place on Sunday 30th November in Hildreth Street, from 1pm – 5pm to celebrate the completion of its stunning new makeover and to mark the start of the Christmas season.

The new look Hildreth Street and its businesses will be joined by a wandering Father Christmas and his elves. The afternoon will continue oozing Christmas cheer with community carol singing accompanied by local choirs and the Balham Ukelele Orchestra. Free mulled wine and cider will add to the merriment.

For the first time, Hildreth Street will also have its very own Christmas Tree, a 15’ beauty no less, which will be officially switched on by The Mayor of Wandsworth, Councillor Stuart Thom at 4.30pm. Also not to be missed are the beautiful new Christmas lights adorning Balham’s lamp columns in and around the town centre.

Flower Sanctuary owner, Lisa Carr, said ‘This is a really exciting development for Hildreth Street and will change the area
for the better’.

christmasjpg

The program for the day is as follows:

1pm onwards:
Hildreth Street Businesses In-Store Events & Activities
2pm–3pm
Wandering Father Christmas & His Elves (Featuring The Southside Players & Stagecoach Battersea Theatre)
3pm onwards
Mulled Wine & Music (with the Balham Ukulele Orchestra)
3.30pm onwards
Carols & Community Singing
4.30pm
Lights switch-on by the Mayor of Wandsworth
4.45-5.00pm
Event Finishes

In store promotions include:

-Free balloons at JN Money Transfer
-Warm winter cocktails & cheese fondue at The Lodge
-Boxes of celebrations at Julie’s Nails
-Christmas windows at FARA Charity Shop
-In-store tastings at We Brought Beer
-Robots, candy canes & sweets at E-Computing
-Red carpet with models and face painting at Balham Bou
-’Make your own wreaths’ at The Flower Sanctuary
-Christmas decorations at No. 9 Antiques

The post Christmas is coming to Balham! appeared first on Balham.com.

November 2014 Balham Town Centre News

Read the November 2014 Balham Town Centre newsletter here: Balham November Newsletter

In this edition: Christmas is coming to Balham!, Small Business Saturday, Reporting Crime, Business Priorities Survey and a Warm Welcome to The Lodge!

The post November 2014 Balham Town Centre News appeared first on Balham.com.

November 2014 Balham Town Centre News

Read the November 2014 Balham Town Centre newsletter here: Balham November Newsletter

In this edition: Christmas is coming to Balham!, Small Business Saturday, Reporting Crime, Business Priorities Survey and a Warm Welcome to The Lodge!

The post November 2014 Balham Town Centre News appeared first on Balham.com.

Independent mindbodysoul combine and refurbish their spas at Balham High Road location

Independent mindbodysoul’s mummy & baby spa is moving!

They’d like to say a huge thank you for the amazing support Balham has shown them at their Ritherdon Road mummy & baby spa over the years and now have some news to share… Both spa locations will be brought together with the mummy & baby spa moved into their Balham High Road site from 3rd December.

Customers will be offered a one-stop hair and beauty experience, and the Balham salon will also be revamped with a new Garden Room for mummy and baby to enjoy!

You’ll still be able to enjoy a massage, facial, waxing and other treatments in the downstairs spa with your tot in tow and can make use of a travel cot in your treatment room, just like at Ritherdon Road.

For those visiting us without little ones, rest assured that the spa will remain the oasis of calm you expect with just the added extras of our new ‘garden room’ upstairs.

imbs

The post Independent mindbodysoul combine and refurbish their spas at Balham High Road location appeared first on Balham.com.

Independent mindbodysoul combine and refurbish their spas at Balham High Road location

Independent mindbodysoul’s mummy & baby spa is moving!

They’d like to say a huge thank you for the amazing support Balham has shown them at their Ritherdon Road mummy & baby spa over the years and now have some news to share… Both spa locations will be brought together with the mummy & baby spa moved into their Balham High Road site from 3rd December.

Customers will be offered a one-stop hair and beauty experience, and the Balham salon will also be revamped with a new Garden Room for mummy and baby to enjoy!

You’ll still be able to enjoy a massage, facial, waxing and other treatments in the downstairs spa with your tot in tow and can make use of a travel cot in your treatment room, just like at Ritherdon Road.

For those visiting us without little ones, rest assured that the spa will remain the oasis of calm you expect with just the added extras of our new ‘garden room’ upstairs.

imbs

The post Independent mindbodysoul combine and refurbish their spas at Balham High Road location appeared first on Balham.com.

September/October 2014 Balham Town Centre newsletter

Read the June/July 2014 Balham Town Centre newsletter here: Balham TC Newsletter Sep Oct

In this edition: New faces in Town Centre Management in Balham, public realm improvements update and reducing your business rates!

The post September/October 2014 Balham Town Centre newsletter appeared first on Balham.com.

September/October 2014 Balham Town Centre newsletter

Read the June/July 2014 Balham Town Centre newsletter here: Balham TC Newsletter Sep Oct

In this edition: New faces in Town Centre Management in Balham, public realm improvements update and reducing your business rates!

The post September/October 2014 Balham Town Centre newsletter appeared first on Balham.com.

Man arrested after "making threats to harm himself" in Balham - Your Local Guardian


Your Local Guardian

Man arrested after "making threats to harm himself" in Balham
Your Local Guardian
Police were called to Du Cane Court, Balham High Road, at about 12.30pm to a man allegedly threatening to harm himself. A man was arrested and crews from London Fire Brigade checked the address after the arrest was made at 3.15pm. Witnesses ...

and more »

instagram.com

I tried to run away to the country, and found myself in an episode of The Prisoner - Spectator.co.uk


Spectator.co.uk

I tried to run away to the country, and found myself in an episode of The Prisoner
Spectator.co.uk
My London flat now has so little space in it I've begun storing stuff at the dry cleaners. Back in May, I checked a huge winter quilt in at Viking's and left it there until the weather turned colder. There just wasn't anywhere, not a single spare nook ...

How to get the best from your small group Bible study

2014-10-05 07.19.54Our small group programme re-launched last week after a break over the summer. Wonderfully we’ve got lots of people who are new to the CCB small group culture. And so I thought I’d share with you five convictions that have shaped and strengthened that over the years.

So here are five principles that’ll help you get the most from the small group experience

1. Pitch up week after week

Small groups die through non-attendance. They need everyone to be absolutely committed to being there if they’re going to have a chance of really working. The first few weeks are inevitably awkward as people get to know one another. I’m not sure there’s any way to avoid that. But the time will come when everyone feels comfortable with one another and we can’t imagine why we wouldn’t want to get together with the rest of our group. But if people are infrequent and unreliable in their attendance, sending in an apologetic text moments before the group starts, then that messes with the group vibe! There’ll sometimes be unavoidable reasons why you can’t make it. Of course. When our employers require us to fulfil a work commitment, our groups get that. But it speaks volumes if they know that, given the choice, you wouldn’t miss your group for the world.

2. Participate in the discussion

Small groups die when no one contributes. They need their group members to get involved. So don’t be a spectator simply observing what everyone else is doing. Ask your questions. Make your point. Disagree. Help the group come alive through stimulating interaction. If you just look on then it’ll be the longest ninety minutes of your life. But if you’re actively participating you’ll get to half nine, wonder where the time has gone and wish it could go on longer. Not everyone is comfortable making a contribution in a large gathering of unfamiliar people. But hopefully you’ll get to know one another as the weeks go by. And any small group leader worth his or her salt will break the group down from time to time to encourage those of us who don’t like holding forth in a group to open our mouths and say something. And the group works best when we’re all involved.

3. Prepare in advance

Small groups die from lack of application. They need their group members to be asking ‘what does understanding this mean for us?’ and ‘What does this look like in practice?’ The purpose of small groups is not merely that you understand the content of the book of Exodus, for example. A complete pagan could do that and then lecture on it. And they could get it completely right. It’s all about getting to the place where we’re thinking through and praying about the implications. But if no one has done any work on the text then the danger is that most of the group time is spent understanding what it says rather than what it means. We’re all busy. And we’ve got lots on our plate. But is it too much to ask to read through the passage we’re going to study in our group before we actually get there? Imagine how much better your time would go if everyone had made some progress in thinking about what the passage is about and what the passage implies. You could then spend much more time in your group grappling with what we’re meant to do with it.

4. Pray in and for the group

Small groups die through lack of prayer. They need their group members to pray in them when they’re there and for them when they’re not. Small groups aren’t merely a gathering of friends with a common interest. It’s not like a five a-side footy team who happen to be committed to one another because they love playing footy. It’s a group of people committed to encouraging one another. And one principal way that we can do that is by responding in prayer. I’m not talking about the sharing of personal prayer requests, even though that’s important. I’m talking about praying in faith and repentance in the light of what the Lord has just spoken about in His word. It’s when we pray about the issues that have been raised in the study that we demonstrate that we’re serious about living with Jesus as Saviour and Lord. This is the barometer of the spiritual atmosphere in our group. It’s hard to pray in front of a group of people whom we don’t know very well. But that’ll change. And in the meantime you can serve your group by praying them in private on your own.

5. Personally care for one another

Small groups die through lack of concern for one another. They need their group members to be interested and involved in one another’s lives. I’m not talking about being meddling and intrusive. I’m talking about providing friendship, encouragement and perhaps even the gentle correction that we all need if we’re going to make progress in our Christian lives. We all have friendships. Some of us have lots of friends. And some of those will be Christian mates. But London can be a lonely place even for the most gregarious among us. And there’s something special about the bond that the Spirit creates between fellow church members. So get involved in each others’ lives in a good way!

There you go, five ways to get the best from your small group experience. But that’s not really the issue, is it? If every member of a small group was asking and answering a different question, we might not have needed this post. That question? How can I give my best to the small group experience.


What’s not to change?

HEADER-repentance1I spoke at our recent annual church dinner on the subject of repentance. A cheery night then? For sure people were thoughtful after I spoke. But a handful sought me out to express their appreciation at dealing with the issue. What follows is the text from which I meandered as the mood took me!

The theme I’d love us to think this year is the subject of repentance.

When I mentioned this to Alex, he gave me one of those looks with which I’ve become increasingly familiar over the last few months. Though very much unspoken, it clearly said ‘we won’t be doing that in Streatham!

And he might be right.

Repentance is one of those Bible words in the same category as remorse or regret. They don’t exactly conjure up a vision of the Christian life that’s instantly attractive, do they? Words like that colour the Christian life in grayscale. And who wants grey when you can have colour.

And yet, repentance is essential. In Acts 20:21, the Apostle Paul is recorded telling the Elders of the Church at Ephesus that he had ‘declared to both Jews and Greeks that they (simply) must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus’. He knew that repentance is fundamental to our Christian life.

The reason I want to talk about repentance is because I don’t think we’re very good at it! ‘But we do it every week’ was Alex’s reply when I suggested that. He was referring of course to that moment in every one of our Church meetings when we confess our sins and say words such as

Heavenly Father, you have loved us with an everlasting love, but we have gone our own way and broken your laws. We are sorry for our sins and turn away from them. For the sake of your Son who died for us, forgive us, cleanse us and change us. By your Holy Spirit, enable us to live for you, and to please you more and more; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

And I believe we mean them. But that’s corporate (it’s what we do together) and public (it’s hard to dissent) and verbal (it’s just words). We all say it because it’s the kind of thing you say in church. But I want us to think about individual, private and actual repentance. That’s much harder to do every week!

I think we’re much better at self-justification – presenting reasons why we don’t need to repent and self-deceit – pretending to everyone else that there’s nothing we need to repent of! But perhaps you think I’m being unfair or unduly harsh. Perhaps I’m just confessing my own sins. I am. But I don’t think I’m the only sinner in our church! So let me ask you some analytical questions.

  • Do you think our church is a place where it’s easy to admit that you’ve got something wrong? If so, when was the last time you confessed to something and asked for help in repenting? And if you’re struggling to think about when that was, ask yourself why!
  • Could you confess to a big sin and be as confident of receiving support and acceptance as if you’d committed a small sin? Or do you think you’d be shunned and side-lined?
  • Do you feel that you could be open about a besetting sin and get the encouragement you need to help you to repent? Or would you fear being viewed as a lesser Christian for doing so?
  • Let’s get really real for a moment. Could a wife commit adultery and be helped to repent here? Could a man be convicted for some form of abuse and be helped to repent here?

I hope so. But I’m not absolutely certain.  Are there some sins that we’d find manageable but some that would be simply beyond the pale?

If a bloke in your small group confessed to struggling with pornography and asked for your help in repenting, how would you respond? Initially we’d all be incredibly discomforted at his honesty. Deep down we might admire him. Some of the women might think he’s a borderline sexual pervert. But we’d all want someone else to be the first to respond, wouldn’t we?

Very briefly in the few minutes that remain let me define repentance, and describe what it might look like in practice

Repentance: what is it?

In his Systematic Theology, the theologian Wayne Grudem defines repentance as

‘a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ’

It involves our intellectual understanding that rejecting God’s rule over our lives is really wrong. It involves our emotional response of regret and a hatred of what we’re doing when we sin. And it involves our personal decision to turn from our sin. It’s nothing short of a complete turnaround and the reinsertion of the rightful rule of Jesus Christ into our lives.

Repentance: why does it matter?

It matters for two reasons. First and foremost, we cannot be saved without it. Scripture puts repentance and faith together as the one act of coming to Jesus Christ for salvation. Conversion involves both faith and repentance. They are two sides of the same coin. If faith is turning to Christ then repentance is turning from sin. And so when we receive Jesus as Saviour, at the very same time we’re submitting to him as Lord. When the Bible speaks about one, the other is invariably assumed. Repentance and faith can be distinguished from one another but they are never separated. They’re like the spiritual equivalent of Ant and Dec.

But I think we already knew that. Not the bit about TV’s finest early evening entertainers. The bit about the inseparability of repentance and faith. What we may not have thought about is not so much the initial act of repentance but the ongoing necessity of repentance. Repentance isn’t simply the way in to becoming a Christian it describes the way of living as a Christian. And whilst the decision to give our lives to Christ at conversion is not easy, doing that consistently is much more demanding.

And so we need a church culture in which repentance is encouraged and it’s commonplace. It ought to be normal that we repent. We’re Christians. That’s what we do. We don’t want to be a church where we’re all very good at justifying why we’re never in the wrong. And we don’t want to be a church where we all pretend that we’re not doing anything wrong.

And wonderfully we don’t have to be. Because the gospel not only requires our repentance it encourages it. Jesus assumes that we’re sinners, which is why he died for us. And he assumes that we’ll carry on being sinners, which is why he sent his Spirit to help us to live for him.

Prison Chaplains tell me that there are no guilty people in prison. Everyone says they’re innocent. That can never be the case in church, can it?

Repentance: what does it look like?

What would it look like for us to create a culture of repentance?

  • It looks like the man who’s failed to read the Bible with his kids or pray with his wife confessing to his Growth Group that’s the case.
  • It looks like the woman who’s been dating a non-Christian bloke say to her small group Bible study ‘I was wrong and I need your help to live wholeheartedly for Christ’
  • It’s the couple who only ever pitch up at church when it’s convenient making sure that nothing short of a contagious disease saying to their church leader ‘we got that wrong, we’ve been flaky and unreliable’.

I suspect our eyes might be out on stalks the first few times it really happens. But then we’d love the fact that people had been honest. And we’d do what we can to help them. And pray for them. Wouldn’t we?

I want this church to become a place where we’re all about the rightful reinsertion of the rule of Jesus in our lives. I think you do to. Together we can create a culture where repentance is expected and encouraged.


Beyond Welcoming

‘I don’t think we’re very good at getting people involved’.

Not my words. They could have been. But they weren’t this time. They came, not from a disaffected newcomer who was disappointed that we hadn’t provided her with the warm welcome she was hoping for. It was the mature reflection of a woman who’d been around at church for a while. As it happens, I agree with her.

One indication that we’re not the best at CCB at including the newcomers that the Lord has been bringing us could be their attendance over the last few weeks at our start of term events. I’m talking about things like the Autumn Bible School, the Annual Dinner, the Thanksgiving Prayer Meeting and so on. People have come on a Sunday. But they’ve not wanted to join us at the more ‘intimate’ family events.

Who’s to blame? Is it six of one half a dozen of the other? Or should we slice the percentage somewhat differently? I’m not convinced that’s a helpful approach. But what I am clear about is that there’s more that those of us who are part of the furniture could do to help incorporate newcomers into our church family.

I don’t want to teach Grandma to suck eggs. But at CCB, we don’t seem to have a surplus of octogenarians inhaling any ova! (Latin plural of ovum which, according to Microsoft Word Thesaurus, means ‘eggs’) It might be different for you at your church, which is great. So forgive me if you feel patronised but I’m going to remind us of some of the kinds of things that we could be doing to help incorporate newcomers into our particular body of Christ.

1. Seek out unfamiliar faces at church – you may have been doing church with them for donkey’s years and perhaps you should really know their names by now but every church is founded on forgiveness so we can afford to risk a few errors. Don’t let that stifle your efforts to approach people you don’t normally spend time with.

2. Engage them in conversation – ask them who they are, what they do for a living, how they came to hear of us, whether they’d normally go to a church, where home is and so on. Just ask, ask and ask. It’s the way to find out more, show an interest and get to know them!

3. Encourage them to join your Facebook group (if you have one) – I know; it’s awful isn’t it. But it’s actually a hugely effective way of getting to know people’s names as well as letting them know what’s going on. Stuff happens online. Virtual relationships get formed and then (who knows) they can be pursued in real life!

4. Get their e-mail and phone number – it’s quite forward but when the request is attached to an offer of meeting up for a coffee or dropping them a line about some of the things we do at church it won’t seem so odd.

5. Include them in an event – it could be a social event like someone’s birthday drinks or it could be an invitation to the Autumn Bible School. But we have a fairly packed church programme and a personal invitation from a member of the church family could make all the difference to them feeling included.

6. Invite them for a meal – you could meet up in town, near where they work or if you’re fortunate to have a home to which you can invite people for a meal then do that. It doesn’t have to be Sunday lunch but that’s as good a place to start as any!

This issue is a problem for us at the moment. But the bigger issue is whether we want to be part of the solution. Let’s pray that the God who has gone to incredible lengths to include us in His family might begin to see His character reflected amongst His people.


My Sunday Highlight – Before it’s Happened!

StreathamAll things being equal (ceteris paribus if my A Level Economic memory hasn’t failed me in the same way that it did in the actual exam), I already know what my Sunday highlight will be this week. The Lord willing. Somewhat unexpectedly, it has to do with Streatham. Now what were the odds of that?! But we’ll come to that in due course. First, an extended metaphor …

Last weekend Rosslyn, the kids and I were away with old university friends in Birmingham. It was a great time with great mates. Since we were so near, I decided that on the way back home we’d stop in and have a look at the place where the gang of us had met, mucked around and matured. And studied. We couldn’t have picked a worse day to visit the University of Warwick. Hundreds of parents in cars rammed to the gunwales with duvets, kettles and their kids’ favourite posters were dropping their offspring at their new residences. I’m not sure who was most anxious; the parents or their sons and daughters. No doubt the event was marked with the obligatory picture on Facebook. And one would imagine that the previous evening meals had been shared and words said to mark and celebrate the passing of a child into independence. Significant moments for a family.

On Sunday at CCB, we’re going to commission Streatham Central Church. Whilst the parallels aren’t exact (I’m not planning to drive Alex Lyell the Church Planter to his new digs, I haven’t given him a fully charged mobile phone to call me when he gets into trouble and I haven’t sat him down for a long talk about the perils of peer pressure and the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption), there are nevertheless similarities. This church plant, conceived within the loins of Christ Church Balham (now there’s an image to play with) is about to enjoy their independence. No longer will the plant be just an idea; a hope for the future. It’s about to become a reality. And we thought we should mark that in an appropriate manner.  Not this time with a celebratory meal at Pizza Express (though I did suggest this) but by commissioning those that are going and appointing Jon Stidwill as co-elder. And then on Sunday evening we’ll interview Alex about the plant so that we can pray for this work in its earliest days.

We’ve asked the whole church family to join us. This is a family celebration, even for the newest members at CCB. We want Streatham Central to know that they go with our encouragement, our support and our tears. This is a significant moment for our church family. I’ll let you know how it goes.


The Lodge pop-up to bring Alps to Balham - Event Magazine


Event Magazine

The Lodge pop-up to bring Alps to Balham
Event Magazine
The Lodge will open six days a week from 25 October, located near to Balham Underground and Overground station, and will serve Londoners fondues, hot cocktails and wild game. Garcia has enlisted the help of set designer Firecracker Works to transform ...

Five Reasons to be Careful with Facebook

facebook-logo-thumbs-upHere are five reasons I need to be careful with Facebook. The idea for all of them came from Tim Chester’s brilliant little book ‘Will You Be My Facebook Friend?

I don’t always fall into the trap that these potential dangers set. But it’s difficult not to. And so I do need to navigate my online life with a fair degree of caution.

1. Facebook allows me to portray a distorted image of myself

The harsh facts of the matter are that most of us are quite dull. And we live very ordinary lives. And that’s true of me. But Facebook offers me the chance to change all that. It allows us to present an edited version of who I am and the type of life that I lead. On Facebook I am my own spin doctor. I get to decide what version of myself I portray. I select what I post. Tim Chester says we are all ‘presenting upbeat propaganda versions of our own lives’. And that’s true, isn’t it? We don’t post all the photos we’ve got of ourselves, do we? Just the ones we want to be seen. We don’t write down everything that we think or say, do we? Just the stuff we want to be read. And when we find ourselves somewhere exciting one of the first things we want to do is not enjoy what’s going on but take a picture of what’s going on so that everyone else knows what we’re doing! My life looks much more exciting online than it does in reality.

2. Facebook allows me to exercise dominion in my own world

Social media is a place where I’m in control of my social environment. Facebook allows me to gather in one place, a virtual world, all the people that I want. Facebook calls them friends. But essentially it’s my audience. And even assuming that they are all close personal acquaintances, it would be nearly impossible to gather all of them in one place in the real world. The closest I’ve come to that is my wedding and my thirtieth birthday. And in this virtual gathering of all my nearest and dearest, I’m centre stage. It’s my world. And each one of us inhabits our own world where we’re very much at the centre of what’s going on. And when we post, we’re encouraged to think that everything in the world is in fact revolving around us. I’m in control of what happens. For example, Facebook is usually not a place in which a conversation takes place with very different people. It’s a place where my friends have been gathered to look at me and admire me for who I am and what I have to say. But how very different is real life in a church family. As Tim Challies has pointed out,

‘God has placed you together with the people in your congregation. You did not choose them: God chose them. And that diversity of personalities, backgrounds, social class and ethnicities is used by God to make you grow in Christ and to display the unifying power of the cross. But in cyberspace you are God. You choose who will be in community with you. You create your own communities of convenience that mean you are never challenged. Or, if you are challenged or relationships become costly, you can just scuttle off to a new relationship. As a result we never grow up. We are permanently immature’.

3. Facebook allows me to seek approval from other people

Facebook is biased. There’s no ‘dislike’ button. It’s all so affirming and positive. And being who I am, I get a perverse sense of satisfaction from saying something negative or inappropriate on Facebook simply because it’s not allowed. I usually get admonished for it. Invariably by the wife of a former colleague. But most of us thrive on the positivity we receive from posting the latest picture of ourselves or our kids. We feel good about ourselves because others have rated us and indicated that they have with a ‘thumbs up’. That sort of approach to life encourages us to make assessments of who we are by what others make of us. For example, if my personal blog receives thousands of hits, I can feel very influential. It doesn’t. And I don’t. And if my picture receives hundreds of ‘likes’ then I can approach the day with a spring in my step. I rank myself through the lens of others’ approval. When I get it, I’m fine. When I don’t, I’m not. It can encourage horizontal comparison. I know people who refuse to use Facebook because of FOMO; the fear of missing out. They’re worried that they’ll spend the time wondering why they’ve not been invited to a party, or why they weren’t at the event where all the happy, smiley people are pictured drinking cocktails. Tim Chester puts it this way,

I am defined by other people’s gaze, what they make of my face. The Bible calls that the fear of man. Our overriding concern should be what God thinks of me. But instead my concern is what other users of social media think of me. It is their approval that matters.

4. Facebook allows me to be satisfied with shallow relationships

At the last count, I think I have 761 friends. That’s nonsense.  Inevitably with most of those people I have nothing more than a superficial acquaintance. They’re not my friends, though we’re almost always friendly. But by not having to live with the limitations of a body which places me in one place at one time, social media allows me to have access to all of my friends all of the time. But those friendships are usually superficial, unlike the real face to face ones. And the danger is that if I spend all my time online interacting with my online friends, I won’t form the deep kinds of friendships that we need as human beings. Chester speaking timely wisdom once again,

Your idolatries, your selfishness, your struggles are never seen. Instead a lot of people get the sanitized version of you. Moreover most of us praise in public and rebuke in private. So, because Facebook is a public medium, people are generally going to make positive comments. Challenges to our behaviour are left unsaid. Facebook is a place to hide from real relationships.

5. Facebook allows me to escape to a less demanding world

In the real world, people make demands on me, my time, my resources and so on. But not online. My disembodied life online is a far less demanding place to inhabit than the real world. And so it’s tempting to run away and escape to an easier life for a few hours a day. But all I’m doing is temporarily suspending reality. Soooner or later I’ll need to come back to the real world. Tim Chester issued this challenge,

‘Men should be taking responsibility in their homes, workplaces, churches or neighbourhoods. But many young men today are spending hours on their Xbox and never really growing up. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with computer games. But many of us are playing with toys when we could be taking risks for Christ’s kingdom or leading the way in new gospel initiatives. Our culture encourages men not to grow up. It says: ‘Think of yourself as ten years younger than you are and you will be happy’. So men are spending evenings playing Halo when they could be serving in their youth group or moving into a needy area to serve Christ. They are opting for the pseudo-machismo of the virtual warrior rather than risk becoming warriors in the real spiritual battle’

I could spend ages preeening my Facebook profile so that I look good to my online friends. Or I could spend some time in the company of my friends doing good. But the better option of the two requires more effort. And self sacrifice hurts.

There you go. Five reasons to be careful about what and why you post on your Facbook account. And before you say it, I am aware of the irony of promoting this blog on Facebook!


Simon Astridge opts for a variety of raw materials in Balham House extension - Dezeen


Dezeen

Simon Astridge opts for a variety of raw materials in Balham House extension
Dezeen
Architect Simon Astridge employed a varied material palette of plywood, concrete, brick and stone to create this extension to a Victorian terraced house in London (+ movie). Balham House interior by Simon Astridge. The client asked London-based Simon ...

Home from the Holidays

Home from Malaysia, after an epic 36 hour flight back on Emirates. KL to Dubai leg was fine. Then we boarded the A380 at Dubai at about 3.00 for the 3.45 leg back to London. At 5.45 they took us all off the plane, having been delayed (1) by customer who had checked in, then never boarded, so they had to find their luggage and take it off the plane (2) then there was a problem with the plane's computer, which they tried in vain to fix, but no joy, so got a new computer, but also didn't work. So eventually they disembarked all of us and we sat around in the airport until about 9pm, after which they said we would be leaving at 7am in the morning and would be taken to hotels. Then we queued 4 times in total for the hotel vouchers, with each counter performing one small task on the hotel voucher. Each queue took about 30  minutes. In the end, I gave up on the last queue (which for the 10 minute bus ride to the hotel), where they were using just 1 10-seater minibus to transport about 200 people, and got some dirham from the airport ATM and took me and the kids to the hotel in a taxi. One good thing about DBX - they have a special woman taxi driver queue for women travellers, which I did feel much reassured about using, compared with having to drive off into the night with a male taxi driver in a strange place that you'd never intended to be in, in the first place. Another queue at the hotel to check in, where I had to throw a wobbly because after queuing for 15 minutes to get to the head of the queue, the guy at checkin promptly went wandering off without a word of explanation. Got to the rooms, the door cards wouldn't work, so had to go back down and get them both reset. Got to bed at midnight, fell on the bed and slept till 4am, then got the kids up and were on the 4.10 bus back to the airport. Entire flight fuelled by Burger King and McDonalds. Moderate throwing up by Sam and me. Very very glad to get back to UK. There were people on that flight coming from NZ, who had already been travelling for 33 hours BEFORE the delay in Dubai. With young children. The horror.

Now busy digitising the whole of my father-in-law's CD collection, which C is gradually transferring over to our house from Wolverhampton. He is in Wolvo today, helping MIL to clear out the house, prior to her putting it up for sale and moving back to Nottingham, after FIL's funeral.

Reading Talleyrand's Memoirs and Little Dorrit. Watching Series 1 of Merlin. Listening to Moby. Planning trip to Galways to see Smiggle and fulfil girls' fantasies of riding ponies along deserted Irish strands.

First Direct Update

Earlier in the week I talked about my concerns with First Direct’s new password policy. I got an email from them about this, but it really wasn’t very reassuring.

But I kept digging. And on Thursday I got a bit more information from “^GD” on the @firstdirecthelp twitter account. It still doesn’t answer all of my questions, but I think we’re a lot closer to the truth. Here’s what I was told.

The obvious question that this raises is why, then, do they limit the length of the passwords. I asked and got this (three-tweet) reply.

To which, I replied

And got the response

I thought that “as a business we are satisfied” rather missed the point. And told them so.

I got no response to that. And @brunns got no response when he tried to push them for more details about how the passwords are stored.

So, to summarise what we know.

  • First Direct say they store the passwords “encrypted”, but it’s unclear exactly what that means
  • It was a business decision to limit the length of the passwords, but we don’t know why that was considered a good idea
  • It still appears that First Direct believe that security by obscurity is an important part of their security policy

I haven ‘t really been reassured by this interaction with First Direct. I felt that the first customer support agent I talked to tried to fob me off with glib truisms, but “^GD” tried to actually get answers to my questions – although his obvious lack of knowledge in this area meant that I didn’t really get the detailed answers that I wanted.

I’m not sure that there’s anything to be achieved by pushing this any further.

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