Tuesday, 30 October 2007
Monday, 29 October 2007
Sunday, 28 October 2007
And, yes, I am going to share mine with you!
Today in church we sang (well actually I didn’t) “I want to serve the purpose of God in my generation” by Mark Altrogge. The first verse is OK, as a statement of personal commitment; but for me it’s all downhill from there on. The last two verses start like this:
I want to see the kingdom of God
In my generation …
I want to see the Lord come again
In my generation …
The first problem for me is the view of the kingdom as something not yet present (more of that in another entry as well). But then, who do we think we are, to sing to God that we want the Lord to come again - if you don’t mind very much – in my generation! I’m dumfoonert!
What made it worse today is that our minister is preaching a series on “Disillusioning the Illusions” (sermon titles and series titles can wait for another rant!). Anyway, last week he was talking about the problem in our culture of “I want it my way and I want it now”. So how can we sing a worship song the following week, that starts every verse with I want, I want, I want…?
Or should we just switch off our brain when we stand up (or sit) to sing?
Saturday, 27 October 2007
"It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness" (Chinese saying used by Eleanor Roosevelt)
"To clasp the hands in prayer is the beginning of an uprising against the disorder of the world" Karl Barth
Friday, 26 October 2007
Thursday, 25 October 2007
Something a bit lighter after yesterday’s entry.
There’s something about my age – a mixture of dangerous nostalgia, searching for lost youth (I like to think of it as disappearing rather than completely lost!), and a modicum of disposable cash.
On one of our shopping trips to Newcastle a couple of weeks ago, I wandered into the Virgin Megastore to have a look at CD’s – OK I was never going to just look. Anyway they were selling some CDs at 2 for £10. Well, I had a tenner in my pocket – so how could I resist?
After a brief glance at the selection I knew that choice would be a problem. So many albums that I wouldn’t have dreamt of buying when they were first released, but now …. Well, I went for a safe choice - Who’s Next by The Who. It contained a handful of classics – Baba O’Riley; Behind Blue Eyes (my favourite Who song) and some previously un-released material. As soon as I listened to it I understood why it hadn’t been released before!
My other choice was a bit less safe… But it was 57 tracks for a fiver!! I mean you don’t get better value than that. Yes, I chose The Ramones Anthology!! And it’s great. More diverse than I remembered (no, really). It’s just perfect music for the gym - although the idiotic grin on my face seems to alarm people.
What can I say? Hey ho, Let’s GO!
(OK HTM, I know that it’s payback time - bring it on!)
Wednesday, 24 October 2007
We’ve just become aware of the BMS ‘In Transit’ campaign. It’s about human trafficking, but is aimed specifically at trafficking from Albania, where it is a prevalent practice. This strikes a chord with me because our link missionaries and friends are working there, and told about some of the issues. When they first went to Albania they were based in a coastal town, and in the evening fast boats would come in to take away the human cargo – usually women and girls.
I like the way that BMS are approaching this campaign. They are asking individuals to sign postcards (it’s not too late – you can send an e-card), which states:
- Personal opposition to trafficking;
- Supports the Christians in Albania who are tackling this issue; and
- Requests that the Albanian Evangelical Alliance is invited to join the Albanian government’s anti-trafficking committee.
This seems to me to be a positive and constructive approach, as opposed to soapbox campaigning.
Obviously there are issues for us all to face up to and tackling it at source is important. To put this into perspective (for me), Dolly D would be a prime candidate for this appalling activity if we were Albanian.
There is also a need to tackle the end users – and it’s chilling to think that it’s men like me that are abusing these women. I mean, relatively rich Westerners with disposable income. Clearly there’s a role in this arena for the church in this country as well!
Tuesday, 23 October 2007
“Our great problem is the problem of trafficking in unlived truth”
D L Moody
I was sitting in church on Sunday and thinking to myself - theology isn’t what we say, it’s how we live.
I think we often kid ourselves that theology requires huge intellectual capacity and 3 degrees from different universities (2 of which must be doctorates). But that’s daft. Yes, the words and thinking are important, but the lived out lives of Christians are always the best theology in my view.
I came across Camel Crossing, and was intrigued by ‘a conversation not a soapbox’. While the context was around blogging, I think that the thoughts can be applied equally to church and our mission. We need to find ways to have conversations not soapbox rants, both in church (hard to break the traditions though) and in our lives.
On the way home tonight I was listening to a Bill Hybels sermon. He said:
“When your back is against the wall, your true theology is revealed.”
I guess that’s when our truth is really lived, whether we like it or not – and after the day that I’ve had it’s ‘not’.
Monday, 22 October 2007
Shortly after reading His Girl Friday’s blog on reading, writing and arithmetic, I read this:
“Education that fills us with facts but often does not allow us to experience what is around is a poor education indeed and leads many to be bored with so-called learning. We need to keep glory and wonder in our lives as well as bare facts … life without glory is just meaningless and trivial.”
This is from a book that I’m reading just now called Mirror Images by David Adam.
As this week has seen some of the most beautiful sunrises that I can remember (and I do tend to because I drive straight towards them on the way to work), I’ve been thinking about the need for more glory in my life. More wonder, more music, more fun and less ‘bare facts’. I’ve probably been making progress in this dimension for a while now, but it’s always good to be reminded.
I find that playing around with my new camera helps, and I’ve started to juggle again when I get ‘a bit frustrated’ at work.
Multi-dimensional life is definitely recommended – something about ‘that they may have life and have it to the full’ (John 10:10).
Sunday, 21 October 2007
This week we’ve had a bit of stooshie (several steps short of a stramash) over a legal ruling in relation to the policy of Free Personal Care in Scotland. Now I accept that this is the field that I work in, and therefore, my musings here may be of interest to no-one but me. Two key issues emerge for me from this week’s events.
Firstly, the Scottish Government was criticised by the judge (admittedly in very polite, legal code) for not accepting his invitation to attend the hearing and explain the intention that lies behind the legislation. This criticism was seized upon by political opponents as a dereliction of duty etc, etc.
I’m glad that the Government didn’t send a representative to the court. As I understand it our legal system is built around an independent judiciary, making judgement on the basis of the legislation passed by Parliament. Any move toward Government explaining its intentions in court seem to me to be a dangerous erosion of the process and could be exploited for all sorts of political purposes. Instead, the legislature should make sure that the statutes that they pass are carefully worded to ensure that the policy intentions are adequately and competently described.
In other words – politicians should do their jobs properly, then the courts can do theirs.
Secondly, and something that I’ve been concerned about since this policy was introduced. Free Personal Care is not new and it’s not free. It’s not new since the provision of social care in this country is based on assessed needs, not ability to pay. The amount that anyone is asked to contribute towards the cost of the care provided to them is then (and only then) assessed according to their financial situation. For the poorest people this means that care has (generally) always been free. The advent of the current ‘flagship’ policy has meant that the more affluent users of care services have received more subsidy from the state. I’m not saying that this is a bad thing in itself, it’s just that the language used in this area is misleading.
For my tuppence-worth, I’d like to see our politicians refraining from political ambushes and one-up-manship and asking the big questions about the provision of care.
- Do we want to be socially progressive in this area?
- If so, should all care be truly free?
Then, when we’re clear about the way forward, we can amend the legislation so that it does what it says on the tin – without the need to explain the underlying intentions.
Saturday, 20 October 2007
"There are lots of quotes in this book and where I can I have tried to give due credit to their authors. The eighth commandment applies to words as well as things... For the unconscious use - or abuse - of any such material, I ask forgiveness."
Wednesday, 17 October 2007
Tuesday, 16 October 2007
"Attia seems to be ironic about the structures we struggle to erect as monuments to ourselves. He comments on the human instinct that drives us to collect possessions, and to protect and defend them against all-comers. Like the Tower of Babel of Christian mythology, he sees the fortresses of possessions we build as our weakness."
Monday, 15 October 2007
I have a problem with the exhibits at the Baltic. One had been removed altogether - more of that later; for another you had to read a safety notice before entering the gallery, where the "F" word seemed to dominate and the materials used included razor wire; another was based on images from pornographic magazines superimposed on images of women doing everyday household tasks. Maybe, I'm a grumpy old man - I just didn't understand where the works were coming from. Does art only have an impact when it shocks? Isn't there scope for pieces that focus on hope rather than moral decay and anger?
On returning to work today, I was reading "Holyrood" magazine which had come in while I was off, and was intrigued to read an article (opinion piece) about the Baltic. It turns out that the exhibition was withdrawn after one photograph was removed - by Northumberland Police. It was a picture of two young girls, one of them naked. This begs another more complex question (which I'm going to bodyswerve) - about when is an image pornographic or abusive for the child? The Holyrood article by Shona Main said:
"I will gladly defend the right of artists to be free to confront, enquire and capture. But they are not outside of society, they are part of it and they must reconcile their practice with the culture they detail and expose."
I agree with this - but would simply ask for some more positive examples to balance the position.
I like the Baltic - I think that the space that has been created in an old flour mill is fantastic, and I will go back the next time I'm in Newcastle.
I also liked the first exhibit that we saw - "Square Dreams" by Kader Attia - more of which on another day.
Sunday, 14 October 2007
Friday, 5 October 2007
Anyway I'm on holiday for a week, so need to go and pack etc etc. Going to our favourite place in Northumbria for a week (that's Northumbria, England NOT North Umbria, Italy).
Two moments of light relief before I go. And since this is inspired by Lins Honeyman, pride of place goes to him. Witty. topical and timely - no wonder the girls all love him.
Second, but by no means last (except in the sense of being last in this post) is Reverend Fun.
Off to iron, then pack. Bye for now!
Thursday, 4 October 2007
I had planned to have one final post from Out of the Storm – maybe it can wait. Tonight I feel duty bound to write about something else.
I’m feeling very drained as I write this. Emotions have been running high at work today. We’re introducing a new job evaluation scheme, so everyone’s job has been re-assessed. Generally it seems to have worked out OK, but there are a few jobs that have come out very badly. Quite a few of the ‘losers’ are in my service area.
So I’ve spent a large part of the day meeting with the staff concerned, explaining what happens next and how we plan to support them through the changes. The changes are not insignificant (up to 20% reduction in salary – after a 3-year period). It’s not that the jobs are overpaid just now – it’s simply the case that they don’t fit well with the new system.
I expected a very difficult time. In itself this didn’t worry me – I’ve been a manager for long enough to know that tough days are part of the deal. I’ve sacked people for a variety of reasons, I’ve been instrumental in closing down business units, I’ve told people that they’re not getting the promotion that they expected … but somehow today’s issue seemed to be less fair. These people perform well and have never caused any trouble.
But … I was completely amazed by the reaction that I received – without exception. Of course the individuals were emotional and angry and confused, but they behaved with decency, integrity and professionalism that I hadn’t thought possible. They have taken the bad news, processed it, asked the right questions and let us know in an honest but measured manner what they think.
At the end of a tiring day I feel very proud of my staff – and I have told them so. They have shown exceptional character and I will re-double my efforts to ensure that the impact of the new scheme is minimised for them. People often surprise me, but not usually in such a positive way.
Wednesday, 3 October 2007
“The Catholic church had become a cluttered marketplace where a variety of theological, ethical and psychological merchandise was being energetically hawked to a bemused clientele. It should not surprise us that this was so, for the situation today is not markedly different. Among the bewildering variety of Christian denominations and networks some are wedded to sacramentalist ritual, some espouse fiery Pentecostalism, some see themselves as caretakers of old buildings and traditions, some proclaim an intellectualised liberal theology while others trumpet an unthinking fundamentalism and there are those which would have difficulty defining clearly what they do stand for. Were Luther to return he would find few churches marching proudly under the banner of the biblical evangel whose discovery cost him so dear.”
When I read this I was a bit taken aback. Aye, I know that the analysis of the church and our denominationalism is not particularly earth-shattering; but is that how the church really looks? Are the things that divide us so prominent? Does this mean that what unites us is obscured?
Then I thought that the image of a marketplace might have some advantages in our consumerist society – you know, choose whichever church ‘tickles your fancy’. But I can’t convince myself of this. Maybe we need some consultants to solve our image problems – like a new logo or even change our name!!
Tuesday, 2 October 2007
When Luther gave men the open Bible he gave them permission – by the application of plain reason to the text – to challenge centuries of official Church teaching. Well, if the pope and his minions were wrong, who was to say that other authorities might not also be doubted? Without intending to do so Luther encouraged men to use their God-given intellect to question everything.
Question for today - I know I'm happy asking questions about everything - but am I happy listening to questions?
Monday, 1 October 2007
- What are we doing to support and nurture people exploring Christianity?
- What are we doing to keep on developing ourselves?
(Please note - I didn't say that the posts would be about Luther!)