Last market for Typewriters – Prisons

The Indian press reported this week that the inventory of typewriters at a company called Godrej & Boyce is down to 500 units.

“We stopped production in 2009,” said the company’s general manager, “and we’re the last company in the world to manufacture office typewriters.”

Not so fast, says New Jersey-based Swintec.

“We have manufacturers making typewriters for us in China, Japan, Indonesia,” the firm’s sales manager Ed Michael tells Minyanville.

Apparently, Swintec has found a growth market.

“We have contracts,” Mr. Michael says, “with correctional facilities in 43 states to supply clear typewriters for inmates so they can’t hide contraband inside them.”

Popular with guys who wear orange jumpsuits…

Hey, a market is a market…right? Even if your business model depends on your government continuing to imprison its own population at a rate greater than any other in the world.

Work it and hang onto those old typewriters – they may become collectors items.


We Have Met the Enemy and He is Powerpoint

In the last week I have spent a lot of time preparing powerpoint presentations for my time here at Overseas Ministry Study Centre here in New Haven CT.  So as you can imagine I was very interested to discover this New York times article about how much time officers in Afghanistan spend preparing powerpoints.

Complexity in Afghanistan

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the leader of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, was shown a PowerPoint slide in Kabul last summer that was meant to portray the complexity of American military strategy, but looked more like a bowl of spaghetti.

“When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war,” General McChrystal dryly remarked, one of his advisers recalled, as the room erupted in laughter.  Read the entire article

What is Emerging in our Culture?

Yesterday I participated in a synchroblog on What is Emerging? referring to the emerging church movement and the changes we see happening in our churches and faith communities.  It was obvious that many of us continue to grapple with these issues.  For some they are never far from our thoughts.

This discussion raised other questions for me that I think most of us spend less time thinking about.  They are questions that are central to who we are and what we do at MSA – How is our culture is changing and how we as God’s people will continue to need to change in the future to be more effective followers of Christ.

Some of the changes coming at us are scary – especially the rapid changes in social media that we talked about in the last MSA Seed Sampler on technology and social media and its implications for the future.  And in light of that I wanted to share a recent MSA blog post by Matt Stone in Australia.  He blogs at Glocal Christianity

…do we as Christians see a role for ourselves in the emerging ethical conversations prompted by these new technologies and cultural shifts? Do we seek to have a leading role or a lagging role? Can we imagine some constructive applications, particularly with respect to this social networking technology? Or do we just follow the ways of the world? If we are as into relational community as we say, can we envisage how social networking technologies could be used for good? And can we anticipate some of the pitfalls before we fall into them? 2020 isn’t that far off.  Read the entire article

Matt is one of the most thoughtful and challenging bloggers I follow regularly.  He has also just posted another thought provoking article entitled What Can Google Trends Tell Us About Ourselves

I was scanning Google trends this week and I was noticing a curious trend across many keywords associated with religion.  Read the entire article

Technology & Social Networking – April Seed Sampler is Here

The MSA a Seed Sampler for April was published yesterday.  The topic is a hot one – Technology and Social Networking.

As Andrew Wade our Seed Sampler coordinator says in the introduction

It seems appropriate that I would be working on this edition of Seed Sampler in the same month that Facebook’s market share overtook Google’s and the Apple iPad is launched. “Technology & Social Networking” is a huge topic! We won’t even pretend to be covering this in detail in this issue, but we do want to touch on a few tech-trends, possible implications, and questions we, as Christians, might want to consider as we attempt to navigate the onslaught of technological advances hurtling toward us from the future. We also want to provide a few imaginative responses to the challenges before us.  Read the entire Seed Sampler here

There is a great line up of articles that you might enjoy and though I am probably biased I do think that this is the best Seed Sampler ever.

Seed Smile | Flutter
Seed Story | God’s Kingdom and the Coming Immersive Web – Jason Fowler
Liturgy | Rest For Your Souls – Andy Wade
Reflection | The 10 Commandments of Computer Ethics – Rosie Perera
Seed Share | Telling Stories with Technology – Mike Geertsen
Seed Share | Socialnomics – Erik Qualman
Seed Share | Computer Ministry Grows Like Mustard Seed – Susan Passi-Klaus
Seed Share | High Tech – High Touch – Pathways to Housing
Interview | Transforming Theology Interviews Steve Knight about ‘Theology After Google’
Author Interview | Grown Up Digital – Michael Vaughan of Better Management Today
PBS Reports| Digital Nation – PBS Frontline
Resources | Tech Resources

Virtual reality, virtual faith

Last week I posted a link to an article on search engines as the future of evangelism.  At the same time I have been carrying on a discussion with members of the MSA futures watch group on web trends and the implications for the future.

Why are we concerned is probably the question at the heart of both these discussions? Life is going virtual and we are more and more immersed in the web and its tentacles.  We engage in virtual philanthropy by clicking a button on Facebook.  We participate in virtual friendships that result in real divorces and disruptions to other face to face relationships.  We participate in virtual wars and disasters that make us feel we should be able to control the real disasters that beset our planet without any pain or real engagement.  And of course we attend virtual church without feeling the need for commitment or real discipleship.

Our devotion to the web increases exponentially with each new app and technological tool we embrace.  And part of the problem is that we do see these as tools rather than as value systems that are competing with the values of God’s kingdom and the way of life Jesus asked us to follow.

As Jason Fowler commented in a recent email the real problem is that we cannot have two masters – Jesus and the web.  What tends to take our time also tends to take our hearts.  Which brings us back to the questions that French philosopher Jacques Ellul first raised 50 years ago – technology is not neutral.

I think that part of our problem is that we have defined “being Christian” as a decision we make in our minds rather than as a commitment to a way of life.  What we need is radical discipleship material that educates us into the ways of Jesus and into the ways of God’s kingdom.

God took the children of Israel into the desert so that they could be educated into a new value system and a new way of life and we need to be educated too.  This is part of what the season of Lent is about.  Lent is a 40 day celebration because it commemorates the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness and also reminds us of the 40 years that the nation of Israel spent in the wilderness.

This is the season of the liturgical calendar which we are meant to devote to serious study of what it means to be a follower of Christ, not so that we can increase our head knowledge but so that we can join Jesus on the walk to Jerusalem, committing our life purpose, our resources and our time to God’s kingdom ways.  Serious discipleship should challenge us every step of our journey drawing us into a counter cultural way of life that is as all embracing of life as the immersive web can be.

And that for those of us who spend so much time on the web means seriously evaluating how that time and that commitment helps or hinders our walk with Christ.  Do the virtual relationships we establish undermine the real ones?  Do the virtual causes we champion move us away from real life commitment to real causes of brokenness and pain?  Are we becoming virtual disciples with little commitment to the ways of Christ in the real world?

These are questions that we need to take very seriously during this season.

How do we follow Jesus in this walk toward the Cross?

Social Media and the Church

Bosco Peters made me aware of these videos recently which are very sobering news for all of us who aspire to communicate our message to others and really does make me wonder how effective our social media communications are.  Is it just a way to connect to people or can we really develop meaningful relationships and help people move into a more intimate relationship with God in this way?  What do you think?

Part of what I struggle with is do we unquestioningly take on the tools of the culture without really thinking about their impact on us and our faith.

First the challenge: there are more and more competing voices out there.  How do we convey our message about Christ effectively so that we are actually reaching those that have never heard the message?  On the internet I often feel that I am only talking to the converted.  How relevant is what we say to those who are listening – are they indeed listening or just browsing and flitting quickly through?

Now as the techy in our family I am always the first to embrace new technologies but I still struggle with some of the tensions I see between them and my faith.  Is virtual church really church?

Twitter as a Spiritual Practice.

The July MSA Seed Sampler was published today.  Its topic is Writing as a Spiritual Practice and there are several articles that I wanted to share with you over the next few years as an introduction to the summer series What is a Spiritual Practice.

Gerard and Chrissie Kelly

Gerard and Chrissie Kelly

The first article is by Gerard Kelly the founder of the Bless Network with his wife Chrissie who live in the Netherlands, where he is Senior Pastor of Crossroads Amsterdam, a church of 40 nationalities. Gerard is an incredible poet and has blogged some of his poems at Spoken Worship more recently he has shared some of his verses through twitter under the name twitturgies.  I have wanted to publish this article on my blog ever since Gerard sent it to me but knew that I needed to curb my impatience until it came out in the Seed Sampler.  I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did


As reported in London’s Independent and around the world, Ireland’s top Catholic Cardinal Sean Bray has urged his flock to use Twitter as a means of prayer. In a speech in honour of the late Father Patrick Peyton, the Priest famous for coining the phrase “the family that prays together stays together,” Cardinal Bray insists that a new movement of prayer can arise using new technology and social networks.

Publicity-seeking hype, or a genuine call to prayer? Can social networks genuinely become part of spiritual discipline in the 21st Century?

My own experiment with prayer on Twitter would suggest that they well might. At the end of February this year, I was reflecting on what value Twitter might have in my own life. It was just days after the Amsterdam air incident, when a Turkish jet crash-landed in a field a few kilometers from my home. Many people from our church community were involved in the rescue efforts and in treating the victims as they were rushed to local hospitals. And many others were astounded by the speed at which Twitter users were able to inform others of the crash. This was a week in which Twitter, in more ways than one, got everybody talking. And it got me thinking. Two things happened to me as a result. The first was a prayer that rose in my heart: “This day, Lord, be born in me. This day teach. This day heal. This day win, in death, surprising prizes. This day rise, this day rise in me.”

The second was a word: Twitturgies. Why not use Twitter as a means of prayer, all the time accepting the constraints of communication in less than 140 characters? In essence I simply took the Twitter question “What are you doing?” and translated it as “What are you praying?” taking the prayers I was praying in any case and crafting them into personal liturgies.

Two hundred and twenty-four Twitturgies later, the result has been an unexpected change in my own life of prayer. Others have expressed appreciation for the prayers they have received on Twitter, but the real benefits have been in my own spirituality. By allowing my commitment to Twitturgies to force upon me the regular question, “What are you praying?” the practice of writing Twitturgies has blown a fresh breeze through my prayers.

There are three key ways in which this has really helped me: Firstly, it has empowered me to pray frequent, short prayers, peppering my day with snatched moments of prayer, rather than waiting for the rare occasions when I can spend focused hours praying. I still seek out those times when I can, but I am praying more overall by adding these shorter prayers. I don’t update Twitturgies at fixed times, but they are often early-morning or late-evening “tweets,” with whatever opportunities I can find in between to use my computer or phone to pray.

Secondly, the forced constraint of 140 characters brings incredible focus to my prayers. On many occasions I have been surprised by the clarity that emerges. Twitturgies are shared with others, so they have to be interesting, accessible, and easy to understand—criteria that should be perhaps applied to prayer more often. Twitter posts are the new Haiku, and as the Japanese have known for centuries, the constraints of form do not stifle creativity: they give it depth. The challenge of expressing heartfelt prayers in such short sentences has been a new discipline in itself.

Lastly, the practice has made me newly conscious of my own prayers and longings. My aim is that Twitturgies be authentic—that is, that they genuinely reflect something I am praying about. They are prayers, not poems as such. I have to ask myself, “What do I want to say to God right at this moment?” “What is on my heart today?” The questions become part of the discipline. The result of this is that I am both a reader and a writer of Twitturgies; the construction of these prayers speaks to my heart also. And because they are short and sharp, they capture very succinctly what is going on in my soul at a given moment. I archive all the prayers so they are also a kind of spiritual journal. I can look back over a day, or a series of days, and see a pattern in the prayers that have emerged. “Reading” this pattern against the events of that day or days helps me to reflect on my own spiritual journey more deeply.

Twitter has become, for me, a vital part of my prayer life. Because it is intended to be a mobile medium (I write as often from my phone as from my laptop), it is a go-anywhere prayerbook. I have prayed “twitturgically” in between appointments, walking home from the office, during a coffee break, in a worship service, and in the last moments before sleep. Perhaps Twitter can become a kind of technological breath-prayer, a “pray without ceasing” application for any of us.

Busyness Consumes me

This morning I have read my email, checked out twitter updates, read through the latest posts of my favourite bloggers through Google reader, synched my Blackberry (yes still no iphone) and done a new blog post, all before 8am…. and that is just my internet connections   What a contrast to yesterday my Sabbath day when I don’t do email, twitter or blog.  So now I am sitting here wondering what my life is really all about and whether these modern technological tools really improve my life.  Now don’t gt me wrong, I love tchnology and was definitely created for the computer aid, but I realize too that it is easy for me to allow my technological tools to consume and control me.  In this context my Sundays away from the internet are so valuable for they help me to keep the important things of life in focus.

Questions I like to reflect on each Sunday are “What am I most grateful for?” and “Where have I been most aware of God this week.?”  These questions help me keep life in perspective and keep me deeply rooted in God’s purposes for me.  As I looked at my answers this week I realized that most of what I see as important revolves around relationships- with friends family and colleagues near and far.  I need to remind myself that technology is a way I stay in touch.  It is not an end in itself and hopefully I will continue to remember that.

What helps you keep God’s perspective in view?