Thursday, July 29, 2010

Queensrÿche - Resistance (Live '91)

Loving this band's back catalogue in part at least... I am particularly enjoying again their most recent effort American Soldier...

Enjoy, if you like that kinda thing, and I am all over again at the mo...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I'm Sorry

Nabbed the text of this post from Revd Lesley's blog. It moved me. I needed to share it.

I once heard a story about a woman who was a high powered executive. She was planning to take early retirement and had been training for five years as a practitioner of a particular type of massage therapy. She was planning to practice this in her retirement as it gave her great pleasure and she had now mastered the art. These plans were thwarted when she tripped over a poorly laid piece of carpet in her workplace and damaged her knee, meaning that she could no longer do the massage, as she needed to be able to kneel for this particular therapy.

She sued the company, and it went to mediation, and the mediator asked her what she wanted. Her reply surprised him. She did not mention money, she said she wanted an apology, for them to acknowledge how badly this accident had messed up her life. The mediator encouraged the company to apologise, and reluctantly they agreed. When they met with her they said, 'We're sorry that your fall stopped your little hobby'. Needless to say she sued them for a lot of money and their failure to apologise cost them tens of thousands of pounds.

One of the best things that faith encourages us to do is to say 'I'm sorry, forgive me'. I consider myself able to say these words as I sit here now. But often the moment comes when I think to myself, 'Now I need to say sorry', and it is incredibly hard to say. The moment comes when I am still feeling angry, or hurt, or misunderstood. The moment comes when I am feeling abandonment fears. The moment comes when I am feeling lousy about myself and want to bolster my pride. The moment comes when I want to be held and reassured and I fear the impact of an admission of guilt.

My friend, the mediator, says he is often amazed by the power of an apology. I guess it is in hearing an apology that we feel no longer misunderstood and isolated. The other is no longer trying to get one-up, but has taken a stance that is one-down. It takes courage, though.

It also made me think of this song by King's X

The lyrics read:

If I hurt you, I
don't mean to
Please forgive me
Got no excuse

Over and over again
Over and over
Over and over again
I let you down

I will hurt you,
it's what I do
Please forgive me
You don't have to

Over and over again
Over and over
Over and over again
I let you down

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Word as Wordle - Trinity 9

Well folks, here is the wordle of this coming Sunday's gospel reading from Luke 12:13-21...

'...Someone in the crowd said to him, ‘Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.’ But he said to him, ‘Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?’ And he said to them, ‘Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.’ Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.” But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich towards God...'

Monday, July 26, 2010

Marillion - Splintering Heart

I love this band...

I never loved this song really until I heard it live...

This is a particularly special version...

I was at this gig...

Happy memories...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Got this from the Amistadeal blog - the blog of the breeders where our wonderful puppy Hetty (in the picture) came from. Just the sort of thing needed for Sunday night...

It is reported that the following edition of the Book of Genesis
was discovered in the Dead Seal Scrolls. If authentic, it would
shed light on the question, "Where do pets come from?"

And Adam said, "Lord, when I was in the garden, you walked
with me everyday. Now I do not see you anymore. I am
lonesome here and it is difficult for me to remember how much
you love me."
And God said, "No problem! I will create a companion for you
that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my
love for you, so that you will know I love you, even when you
cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish and childish and
unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you
are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself."
And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam.
And it was a good animal. And God was pleased.
And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and he wagged
his tail. And Adam said, "But Lord, I have already named all the
animals in the Kingdom and all the good names are taken and I
cannot think of a name for this new animal."
And God said, "No problem! Because I have created this new
animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a
reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG."
And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and loved
him. And Adam was comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog
was content and wagged his tail.
After a while, it came to pass that Adam's guardian angel came to
the Lord and said, "Lord, Adam has become filled with pride. He
struts and preens like a peacock and he believes he is worthy of
adoration. Dog has indeed taught him that he is loved, but no one
has taught him humility."
And the Lord said, "No problem! I will create for him a companion
who will be with him forever and who will see him as he is. The
companion will remind him of his limitations, so he will know that he
is not always worthy of adoration."
And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam. And Cat
would not obey Adam. And when Adam gazed into Cat's eyes, he
was reminded that he was not the supreme being. And Adam
learned humility.
And God was pleased. And Adam was greatly improved.
And Cat did not care one way or the other.

St. James and Hospitality

Today is the Feast of St. James, but what do we know about him? James, son of Zebedee (died 44) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke state that James and John were with their father by the seashore when Jesus called them to follow him. According to the Gospel of Mark, James and John were called Boanerges, or the "Sons of Thunder” - reference to their temper perhaps? James was one of only three apostles whom Jesus selected to bear witness to his Transfiguration. The Acts of the Apostles records that Agrippa I had James executed by sword.

His remains are said to be in Santiago de Compostela in Spain and Saint James is the Patron Saint of Spain. The traditional pilgrimage to the grave of the saint, known as the "Way of St. James", has become the most popular pilgrimage for Western European Catholics from the early Middle Ages onwards. In 2008, 125,141 pilgrims registered as having completed the final 100 km walk (200 km by bicycle) to Santiago to qualify for a Compostela. When 25 July falls on a Sunday, it is a ″Jubilee″ year, and a special east door is opened for entrance into the Santiago Cathedral. In the last Jubilee year, 2004, 179,944 pilgrims received a Compostela.

According to ancient local tradition, on 2 January of the year AD 40, the Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia. She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and that pillar is conserved and venerated within the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain. Following that apparition, St James returned to Judea, where he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa I in the year 44.
The 12th-century Historia Compostellana commissioned by bishop Diego Gelmírez provides a summary of the legend of St James as it was believed at Compostela. Two propositions are central to it: first, that St James preached the gospel in Iberia as well as in the Holy Land; second, that after his martyrdom at the hands of Herod Agrippa I his disciples carried his body by sea to Iberia, where they landed at Padrón on the coast of Galicia which tradition says was covered in scallop shells, and took it inland for burial at Santiago de Compostela.



A friend - Cycling sabbatical trip from his home to Santiago de Compostella.
To qualify for a Compostella - the shell symbolising the pilgrimage, you have to have walked the 100 kms (or cycled 200kms) and traditionally relied on the hospitality of others, getting your pilgrims passport stamped en route.

Connexion between the scallop shell, the symbol of St James and the symbol worn by Pilgrims to Santiago and Baptism. Baptism as pilgrimage to a particular and specific place - to God through the landscape of life. The grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, eventually arriving at a single destination: the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela. The scallop shell is also a metaphor for the pilgrim.

There is a strong connexion between pilgrimage and hospitality - Hebrews 13:1-4: Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Mutual love - the love between people. 3 types of love: Philio - love of fellow, Eros - erotic, romantic love, and Agape. Agape goes the extra mile, love that is self giving, love that takes us out of our comfort zones, the love of God...

Hospitlaity is not just about entertaining guests... In Ancient Greece, hospitality was to be under the protection of Zeus, the chief God of the Greek pantheon. Zeus was also attributed with the title 'Xenios Zeus' ('xenos' means stranger), emphasizing the fact that hospitality was of the utmost importance. A stranger passing outside a Greek house could be invited inside the house by the family. The host washed the stranger's feet, offered food and wine, and only after the guest was comfortable could ask his or her name.

Hospitality of Abraham and Sarah to the Lord at Mamre on their way to Sodom (Genesis 18)... The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground. He said, ‘My lord, if I find favour with you, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on—since you have come to your servant.’ So they said, ‘Do as you have said.’ And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.’ Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it. Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate. They said to him, ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ And he said, ‘There, in the tent.’ Then one said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’ The Lord said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, and say, “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” Is anything too wonderful for the Lord? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.’ But Sarah denied, saying, ‘I did not laugh’; for she was afraid. He said, ‘Oh yes, you did laugh.’Then the men set out from there, and they looked towards Sodom...

Hospitality and transformation - the equalising of the status of stranger and host. The Greek concept of sacred hospitality is illustrated in the story of Telemachus and Nestor. When Telemachus arrived to visit Nestor, Nestor was unaware that his guest was the son of his old comrade Odysseus. Nonetheless, Nestor welcomes Telemachus and his party lavishly, thus demonstrating the relationship between hostis, "stranger," and hostire, "equalize," and how the two combine in the concept of hospitality. Also, in a sense Abraham and God changed through hospitality

Hospitality and us - the receptionist and the company. The warmth of our welcome, the quality of the coffee and biscuits, the genuineness and friendliness of our conversation echo that story and the story of God in Jesus who was prepared to go the extra mile in coming amongst us, revealing the love of God to us, and dying and rising to show us that not even death can separate us from the love of God. Offer hospitality, welcome, love. abundantly, freely without limit, for we might indeed might be welcoming St James or God himself unawares.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bill Viola - Rites of Passage

I was excited to find this video excerpt of The Messenger on YouTube. Bill Viola's piece excited me when I first saw it and a continued engagement with his art over ment years now, led to my MA dissertation which you can read here which I called "Rites of Passage: A Theological Reflection on the Contemporary Video Artwork of Bill Viola.

The summary of the project reads: It is clear that our culture is experiencing a time of crisis. Some have put this down to the death throes of Modernity giving way to Postmodernity. This paradigm-shift has led to the death of meaning, unregulated interpretation, and assertions of the will to power which disregard the Other. It is also a time where the sublime is re-presented. The postmodern sublime arises out of the gap between conception and imagination. There is a yearning to be able to bridge that gap, but not by longing for a non-existent Golden Age, but rather by re-presenting the unrepresentable with a disfigured form of the signifier itself. This whole project may be put down to a corporate crisis of Self.

It seems that the struggle we are witnessing today is not between moral beliefs or the legal system and individual freedom; it is between our inner and outer lives, and our bodies are the arenas where this is being played out. I will show that the mind-body problem is reaching crescendo latterly, as an ecological drama where the realisation that the environment and our bodies are one and the same. This ‘making strange’, which implies a distance between subject and object, has been the basis of Viola’s work. It is at this point of risk where art and science may be unified with all created activities. It is a point of theoria, transfiguration, and personal transformation where art recreates the viewer and moves us beyond the postmodern flux of the self.

Viola’s work is a meditation on states of consciousness and being in which dream and reality are indistinguishable but where what lingers in the mind is a state of confusion in terms of what is seen and in registration of external data. Viola demonstrates that states of mind and vision are one and the same.

I will show that a critique Viola’s work is based on the understanding of the confusion in postmodern culture between transcendence and the sublime. I will also show that the anthropology that underlies his work, and postmodern culture in general, is a sense of abjection – that is repulsion of the Self and the Other. This does not lead to a theoria, but rather a self-deluded postmodern narcissism in the guise of theoria. This is not in line with a Biblical understanding of the self, based on the Imago Dei in Genesis.

Whilst his work revolves around spiritual themes, I will show that this fascination with the Other is due to the tension in the Self. A critique of Viola’s project will involve a reclamation of the power of the Incarnation that incorporates the Other in the Self, which may heal the wound of gaping abjection in our culture.
(I can't believe that I wrote this...???)

His work gets all the more beautiful and dramatic...

Truly an artist and his art in a liminal space

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Metallica - Enter Sandman

Long time no hear! I heard this on the radio this morning. Takes me back to a transitional place in my life.

This came out in 1991. I left school in 1991 having failed my A levels. My parents had moved South from Lancshire where I had grown up, and I stayed on in Lancs with a friend and his family to finish off my Upper 6th. I had spent much of my later teens playing drums in the rock band 'Tom Foolery' (I know I know...), sometimes known as 'War and Peace', and if you were around the Blackpool rock scene then you might have come across us. I suspect that my mind was concentrated on the band rather than the revision...

After getting my exam results, I joined my parents in Somerset, where they still live, and decided what to do next. I was in a dark place. Uncertain of my present. Uncertain of my future. I had planned to have a year backpacking before so I decided to travel anyway. That in itself was a transformative time as it is then that I really became aware of the presence of God myself and I became a Christian.

This song is about childhood nightmares and the liminal space where the monster under the bed, the Sandman dwells. The places where the darkness that surrounds at night is transformed into a place of fear because of the presence of the Sandman.

It is all too easy for us to find ourselves as adults surrounded by darkness and to allow that darkness to be a place where we become fearful because of the presence of all sorts of things that frighten or worry us.

The song marks a transition for me from being a teen to being an adult. From being a non-believer to being a Christian. The dark that surrounds us like a cloak is a liminal place - but I have come to know those dark places of uncertainty in my life to be places where God dwells.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Listen. Learn. Live!

There couldn’t be a more appropriate gospel reading this morning as we prepare to host Leverstock Green’s 2nd Big Lunch later on today. A number of gardens locally have been growing things, a number of kitchens have been busy preparing things as we prepare to share lunch, conversation and friendship.

Lunch today will not involve any social nicities so to speak - grab what you’d like to eat and get on with chatting with others. I have only had one meal where I have not been sure which set of cutlery or which wine glass to use next. Those sorts of meals are governed by all sorts of unwritten social codes and etiquette. But actually all meals are enjoyed most when diners do things that are expected of them. We teach them to our children - always say please and thank you. Keep your elbows off the table. Eat with your mouth closed and never talk with it full etc...

Martha welcomes Jesus into the home she shares with Mary her sister. Jewish meals, in fact Jewish life was bound by all sorts of social and religious rules. Luke has placed the story in a particular place in his account to alert us to something special about Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is redrawing boundaries between men and woman within Israel – blurring the lines which had been clearly laid down; redefining what it means to belong to God.

The real problem between Martha and Mary wasn’t the workload Martha had in the kitchen. The real problem was that Mary was behaving as if she was a man. In that culture, as in many parts of the world to this day, houses were divided into male ‘space’ and female ‘space’ – and male and female roles were strictly demarcated. Mary had crossed an invisible but very important boundary within the house – and another equally important boundary within her social world.

The public room was where the men would meet; the kitchen, and other quarters never seen by outsiders, belonged to the women. Only outside, where little children would play, and in the marital bedroom, would male and female mix. So for a woman to settle down comfortably among men was bordering on the scandalous. Who did Mary think she was?

To sit at the feet of a teacher was a decidedly male role. We hear about the Apostle Paul sitting at the feet of Gamaliel in Acts 22. He wasn’t gazing up adoringly and thinking how wonderful the great rabbi was; he was listening and learning, focusing on the teaching of his master and putting things together in his mind. To sit at someone’s feet meant, quite simply, to be their student. And to sit at the feet of a rabbi was what you wanted to do if you wanted to be a rabbi yourself. Mary had the audacity to quietly take her place as a would-be teacher and preacher of the kingdom of God. And what is astonishing is that Jesus completely affirms Mary’s right to do so.

Jesus affirms Mary’s decision to step away from household duties and to sit at his feet and listen to his words of eternal life. She has completely understood what it means to be a disciple. Martha though is jealous - I believe that is why she complains to Jesus. She wants to be where Mary is, but whether she feels more bound by the rules and expectations of others or not, she allows her provision of hospitality to Jesus to be distraction for her from her heart’s desire - to learn from him. That is surely why she invited him into their home in the first place. Jesus, I want to be where Mary is, but I won’t allow myself... How often are we like Martha? Full of good intentions? Lord I will pray more, but first I need to... I will spend more time bible reading when I have first done... Jesus again and again when he teaches, says that we need to place God first in our lives. When we do, the rest will follow. If we want to deepen a friendship or strengthen a relationship we need to spend time with, talk to, listen to and give undivided attention to and be with that one person. The same is true with God. How often do we have Jesus to ourselves so to speak, and instead of taking the opportunity to listen and learn from him, to experience the love of God through him, to be a disciple, do we instead confine Jesus to an hour or so of worship on a Sunday morning? He longs to be with us and for us to be with him. Are we willing to put away the distractions of the tv, the computer, and like Mary, to make and take opportunities to meet with Jesus?

Over the course of this encounter, both Martha and St Luke the Gospel writer refer to Jesus as Lord on a number of occasions. This isn’t just more social etiquette. Lord or Adonai, is a respectful title of a distinguished guest, but the title was also used in place of the name of God - YHWH - written in the Old Testament scriptures. The Lord that Martha and Mary initially encountered was Jesus the Rabbi who would teach them about God and His ways. Later they and we are left in no doubt that we are being asked to discover this Lord is the same Lord who brought all things into being. The power of Almighty God, YHWH himself, is at work in and through Jesus of Nazareth. Where are we this morning? Are we hear to learn things about God from a good teacher, or are here to sit at Jesus’ feet and develop a relationship with him. A relationship for which he longs.

Jesus reassured Martha by her name. In Jewish society, what you are called or how you are named sometimes said things about you and your parentage, social standing, and family trade. When God reveals to Moses His name - I am that which I am - on Mount Sinai, God reveals everything conceivable about himself to successive generations. What's in Martha's name? Martha means 'Mistress.’ Our names are deep and precious to us, chosen carefully for us by those who love us. It is the things that are deep and precious in us that define who we are - our moral codes, how we speak or behave speaks volumes about us. To know someone’s name still, is to know something about them and invites them into a relationship with us.

Jesus called Mary and Martha by name into a living relationship with God through Him. It is a relationship that transformed life and death when their Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead. Jesus clearly dearly loved them. Jesus clearly and dearly loves each of us. He longs to go from being our teacher to being our Eternal Friend; from being recognised by us a provider of information about God, to us recognising the power of God at work in Him. This morning he calls us by name away from our distractions and beckons us over to sit at his feet. He asks for some of our time, not His Sunday time, so we can not only learn about eternal life, but as his disciples, can learn to live it. Amen.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

If you could do it all over again...

... would you?

Would you do or say anything differently?

If you could stop yourself from saying that; if you could prevent yourself from behaving in that way would you if you could?

I like to think that I am living my life without regret. But it is always lurking.

I am promised by Jesus that the implications of my actions and words have lost their spiritual power over me if I turn my life around and follow where he leads.

And yet today I feel regret. I feel remorse for things that I have done/said or not done/said...

There are a few past occasions that still fill me with regret:

1. A meeting recently when I should have called debate to a halt but didn't and that has had a costly affect on someone else.
2. Many times when I would have been far better in holding my tongue or thinking and not speaking some things and hurting those dear to me.

On occasions such as these the words of the prayer of confession from the Book of Common Prayer spring to my mind:

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred, and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires
of our own hearts.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We have left undone those things
which we ought to have done;
and we have done those things
which we ought not to have done;
and there is no health in us.
But thou, O Lord, have mercy upon us, miserable offenders.
Spare thou them, O God, which confess their faults.
Restore thou them that are penitent;
according to thy promises declared unto mankind
in Christ Jesu our Lord.
And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we may hereafter live a godly, righteous, and sober life,
to the glory of thy holy name. Amen.

I confess my faults. I am penitent again and again and again. I am restored today and long to be restored again tomorrow and the day after and the day after...

Kyrie Eleison.

There is loads more I could say... Now it's your turn...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

King's X - We Were Born To Be Loved

Oh yes folks. Another all time fave band. King's X... Hugely underrated, big Godly themes to the songs back in the day. Still a great, great band

Monday, July 12, 2010

Word as a Wordle - 7th Sunday After Trinity

Here's the Wordle of this Sunday's Gospel reading from Luke 10:38-42...

Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

Highlights having wordled the reading...

Named, Martha and Mary - to know someone's name is to know more about someone than what they are called, but says much about their parentage, social standing, and family trade. When God reveals to Moses His name - I am that which I am - on Mount Sinai, God reveals everything conceivable about himself to successive generations. What's in Martha's name? Martha means 'Mistress' and her sister is Mary. There is a noble tradition that places the sisters with their brother Lazarus living in Galilee, possible Magdala. Was Martha the sister of Mary Magdelene?

Distracted - Martha is distracted by household duties. Hospitality to visitors was an essential part of correct social etiquette of the day. How often do we have Jesus to ourselves so to speak, and instead of taking the opportunity to learn from Jesus, to experience the love of God through him, to be a disciple, do we instead confine Jesus to an hour or so of worship on a Sunday morning?

Lord - Martha, like the Gospel writer, refers to Jesus as Lord, Adonai, the title used in place of the name of God in the Old Testament scriptures. She and we are left in no doubt that we are being asked to discover what Martha and Mary came to know - that the same God who brought all things into being is at work in and through Jesus.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Gospel Spectrum

Thanks to Changing Worship for posting this. It's an awesome tool. Great for setting things in context...

U2's 'Magnificent': Bono's Magnificat

I love this song. Always have. Always will. The simple euphoria of the melody is infectious. "Magnificent" originated from the band's improvised recording sessions with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois in Fez, Morocco in June 2007. The track was created out of a series of chord changes in the midst of a jam. The Edge noted that "The basic chord progression had a power that got everyone inspired. I think we all knew that it was inherently joyful, which is rare." A group of Moroccan percussionists played along with the band, and the result quickly became a band favourite during the sessions.

Bono noted that the lyrics were influenced by both Cole Porter and Bach, and that the song is about "two lovers holding on to each other and trying to turn their life into worship."

Oh, oh, magnificent

I was born, I was born
To be with you in this space and time
After that and ever after
I haven't had a clue only to break rhyme
This foolishness can leave a heart black and blue, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar

I was born, I was born to sing for you
I didn't have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice from the womb
My first cry, it was a joyful noise, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
Justified, till we die you and I will magnify, oh, oh
Magnificent, magnificent, oh, oh

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love unites our hearts
Justified, till we die you and I will magnify, oh, oh
Magnificent, magnificent, magnificent

There are some who have made comparisons between this song and the words of Psalm 40 (which was probably the inspiration of an earlier U2 song '40')

1I waited patiently for the Lord; •
he inclined to me and heard my cry.

2He brought me out of the roaring pit,
out of the mire and clay; •
he set my feet upon a rock and made my footing sure.

3He has put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God; •
many shall see and fear
and put their trust in the Lord.

4Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, •
who does not turn to the proud that follow a lie.

5Great are the wonders you have done, O Lord my God.
How great your designs for us! •
There is none that can be compared with you.

6If I were to proclaim them and tell of them •
they would be more than I am able to express.

7Sacrifice and offering you do not desire •
but my ears you have opened;

8Burnt offering and sacrifice for sin you have not required, •
then said I: ‘Lo, I come.

9‘In the scroll of the book it is written of me
that I should do your will, O my God; •
I delight to do it: your law is within my heart.’

10I have declared your righteousness in the great congregation; •
behold, I did not restrain my lips;
and that, O Lord, you know.

11Your righteousness I have not hidden in my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; •
I have not concealed your loving-kindness and truth
from the great congregation. R

12Do not withhold your compassion from me, O Lord; •
let your love and your faithfulness always preserve me,

13For innumerable troubles have come about me;
my sins have overtaken me so that I cannot look up; •
they are more in number than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails me.

14Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me; •
O Lord, make haste to help me.

15Let them be ashamed and altogether dismayed
who seek after my life to destroy it; •
let them be driven back and put to shame
who wish me evil.

16Let those who heap insults upon me •
be desolate because of their shame. R

17Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad; •
let those who love your salvation say always,
‘The Lord is great.’

18Though I am poor and needy, •
the Lord cares for me.

19You are my helper and my deliverer; •
O my God, make no delay.

There are those who proclaim this song as U2's 'Magnificat'

1My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; •
he has looked with favour on his lowly servant.

2From this day all generations will call me blessed; •
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his name.

3He has mercy on those who fear him, •
from generation to generation.

4He has shown strength with his arm •
and has scattered the proud in their conceit,

5Casting down the mighty from their thrones •
and lifting up the lowly.

6He has filled the hungry with good things •
and sent the rich away empty.

7He has come to the aid of his servant Israel, •
to remember his promise of mercy,

8The promise made to our ancestors, •
to Abraham and his children for ever.

Mary proclaimed the greatness of the Lord in the whole of her being. Resultantly she became Theotokos, God bearer. My soul proclaims God's greatness tonight as I find myself singing Bono's words. May we too be Theotokos...

Thursday, July 08, 2010

God Spaces

I have just been reading Lesley Fellow's blog - always worth a read - and I spotted a like to the Pray-As-You-Go site. A site of daily prayer available to download on to your MP3 player.

One of the things that I am hoping for in the months that lie ahead is for all of us to take prayer seriously. I don't necessarily mean that it is serious stuff, but that as Christians it is our lifeline. Unless we are regularly, daily, constantly rooting ourselves in God, then we become more distant from Him. As we become more distant, we become less and less aware of His presence with us, His desire for us, His will for our lives.

Prayer is about stepping into a God-space, aware that we are there together, speaking listening and being.

There are some other excellent resources out there that I would encourage you to explore:
- The Sacred Space website
- There is a downloadable resource created by Bruce Stanley over at the ReJesus website
- There are some good resources on the Church of England's own website and also here and also daily prayer is available here
- If you are on Facebook can I also commend Mark Brown's 'Praying People' resources. An opportunity to post a prayer and know that literally millions of people around the world will pray for you and with you.

These are just a handful of great resources.

If you know of more, or find others helpful please post a comment...

Jesus Christ (Once Again) - Matt Redman

Morning world.

I woke up this morning with this song by Matt Redman as my earworm (for the uninitiated the 'earworm' is a piece on Shaun Keaveny's breakfast show on BBC 6Music where listeners are invited to reveal the music that was going round their head's as they woke up - most of it is tragic I hasten to add!)

Matt Redman, in my opinion is one of the finest Christian contemporary song writers, and he and Martin Smith especially have really opened up genre for me and revitalised my views of worship songs as opposed to more traditional hymnody. I especially appreciate that whilst the words are simple like the melody, they are rooted at the heart of a lived, non-triumphalistic Christian faith and his words often wrestle with life with it's doubts and difficult questions.

I hope and pray that you are blessed by this as you listen.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tears in heaven...

...seems and appropriate song to be playing today - the 5th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings in London.

I remember seeing the footage on the tv, seeing busses ripped open like sardine tins. Carnage. And I was nowhere near what was being shown on my tv.

How would I feel if caught up in it all? I have no idea, but I feel outrage at the fact that it could happen there, at Ground Zero, in Israel, Iraq or Afghanistan. The fact that we can do these things to one another in the name of religion or politics, or supposed freedom.

I am especially moved by the stories of people affected by this sort of tragedy and who find it withing themselves the power and/or need to forgive their perpetrators as the only way to move on and heal.

I was particularly moved by Gill Hick's story, from the Forgiveness Project website. She was caught in the blast on the Piccadilly line train and miraculously survived but lost both her legs due to the explosion.:

I wish the world would Stop – just stop and give us all the time to see what is happening. Why are we killing each other – everyday? It may sound naïve, simple, maybe too simple to take seriously – but – I don’t understand why we are ‘accepting’ and ‘tolerating’ war and destruction and famine and poverty and oppression. When will the final bomb explode? When will enough be enough?

The cycle has to stop – I can not hate the person who has done this to me; the cycle must end with me. I don’t see it as my place to forgive the act, yet I am compelled to understand – to offer an open heart, to try to hear and ask Why?

As I lay waiting, trapped in what resembled a train carriage – but was now a blackened, smoke filled indescribable ‘room’ of destruction and devastation – I was able to think. This period of time, some 40 minutes, was to prove to be the most insightful and blessed gift that I am yet to receive, apart from the ultimate gift of a second chance at life. As the blood poured from my body (despite the scarf I had tied on each leg as a tourniquet to stem the flow) I felt incredibly weak, fighting to hold on, to survive. There were two voices holding a very powerful, conflicting conversation in my head – one voice willing me to hold on, to remember those who love me and need me here, the other calling me softly to let go, to drift away into a peaceful deep and permanent sleep. Both sides were stating their case – asking me to choose between life and death. I thought about all the things that mattered to me –my then partner and now husband Joe, my brother Graham, my family, my dear friends – I wanted to spare them this pain. They gave me the strength to choose life. I made a decision and the conversation ended. I wasn’t going to die in the carriage, not there on that day; I had to wait for a light.

Help did come and each person who ’saved’ me did so not knowing who I was. It didn’t matter if I was rich or poor, black or white, female or male, muslim or jew, religious or not – what mattered to each of them – the police, the ambulance, the paramedics, the surgeons, the nurses –was that I was a life that hung in the balance, a life they were so desperate to save. I arrived at the hospital as ‘One Unknown’ – an estimated female.

When I awoke I was euphoric to be alive and to have survived. I feel like a very blessed person – filled with emotions of love and compassion and joy. I am able to appreciate life – but a different life than I had before, one that is rich and fulfilled and not consumed by anger and hatred.

I am committed to building Peace – to endeavour to eradicate ignorance in the world and to encourage mutual understanding. I don’t want to accept terrorism, we all deserve to live in a world that is not plagued by war and famine and poverty and oppression. We can change that – each and every one of us – each ‘one unknown’.

She has discovered an ability that most of us crave. To find our lives over-flowing with compassion and joy. This I believe is the power of forgiveness, the power to recognise each other not as 'unknown' but known to each other, and for those of us of faith, by God... Not the God of terror, or in whose name war is waged, but the God of love who accepted death, and transformed it into life and hope. I believe that every time that someone carries out an act of violence on another, on one of God's children... there are tears in heaven...

Forgiveness lies at the heart of the teaching of Jesus Christ. I hope and pray that I too might forgive like Gill Hicks.

New Bishop of Hertford announced

Good news today for parishes in Hertfordshire!

Ten Downing Street has announced that the Revd Canon Paul Bayes, 56, is to be the next Suffragan Bishop of Hertford in the Diocese of St Albans. Canon Bayes will be one of the two Suffragan Bishops in the diocese, assisting the Bishop of St Albans, and his ministry will mainly focus on the parishes and communities of Hertfordshire.

He succeeds The Rt Revd Christopher Foster, now Bishop of Portsmouth.

Speaking about his appointment, Paul said:

“It’s an amazing and slightly scary privilege to be invited to work with Bishop Alan and the team here as Bishop of Hertford. “It'll be great to reconnect with the heart of the church - our local parish churches, schools and congregations.

“I have loved my present job working for the two Archbishops. But it’s the priests and people working together in parishes who do the top jobs in the Church. I know the Archbishops would agree with that.

“So my first priority will be to get to know the clergy and the churches of Hertfordshire and find out how I can serve and help them as they do the work that really matters in our communities.”

The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Revd Alan Smith, said:

“Paul’s deep Christian faith and his ability to relate to modern life are valuable gifts for the diocese. With his warm personality I am excited about the impact he will have as he works in partnership with the people of Hertfordshire.”

Speaking from Portsmouth, The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Revd Christopher Foster added:
“I am delighted to hear the news of Paul’s appointment. He will bring to the diocese and to Hertfordshire experience of and passion for God mission. I know he will receive a warm and wholehearted welcome in the county and its parishes.”

Paul brings to his new role over thirty years’ experience in ministry, including over twenty years as a parish priest and five working as a university chaplain. Currently, he is the Church of England’s National Mission and Evangelism Adviser, travelling all over the country, seeking to help the Church make sense of proclaiming the Christian message of God’s self-giving love to rapidly-changing English society.

Paul Bayes was born in Bradford, Yorkshire, in 1953. He read Drama at Birmingham University and intended to become a theatre director. However while he was at university a series of encounters, including with two professors of theology, convinced him that God’s love was real and that Christian ministry would be his future.
Paul was ordained in 1979 in Newcastle Cathedral. After three years as a curate in the north-east he moved to London for a five-year spell as a university Chaplain.

Then it was back to parish life, in High Wycombe for eight years and then in Totton on the edge of the New Forest for ten. In both places Paul aimed for growth in the traditional parish churches in his teams, but he also established new congregations so as to reach new people.

In 2004 he began work in London as National Mission and Evangelism Adviser, working with diocesan missioners and others to provide inspiration, encouragement and a ‘can do’ approach to parishes of all traditions and in any setting – urban, rural or metropolitan.

He has also been one of the driving forces behind the Church of England’s Weddings Project, which promotes weddings in church as a really positive choice for couples. Research conducted by indicated that 25 per cent of couples who otherwise would not have a church wedding would opt for one if they knew that they could have one. People are serious about weddings and about God, and the ‘Weddings’ team works with local clergy across the country to take that seriousness seriously.

Paul is married to Kate, a drama teacher. They have three grown-up children. Kate is a Reader in the church.
Following a press conference at the Harlequin Centre in Watford, where the Church is deeply involved with the business, retail and leisure community through the Watford Town Centre Chaplaincy, Paul will spend the day travelling around Hertfordshire. The press conference will begin with a few moments silence remembering the 7/7 London bombings.

He and his wife will visit St Andrew’s School, Much Hadham, a Church primary school in rural Hertfordshire, typifying the service of the Church to rural communities over hundreds of years and providing primary education in the nation over two centuries.

Their next stop will be to Church Farm,Ardeley run by Roger and Wendy Waygood, both deeply involved with the Church of England in St Albans Diocese.

Paul is a lover of new technology and is on Twitter @paulbayes.

It is expected that Paul will be ordained bishop on 21st September in St Paul’s Cathedral and be welcomed to the Diocese in a service on Saturday 25th September.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Neil Peart - The Professor

I have had the pleasure of seeing Rush live a couple of times. I would love to have seen them more often but I suspect that they will not make it over to the UK again.

As a teenager I grew up on Rush. They were my musical and emotional touchstone. As a budding drummer too, what better person to sit at the feet of than The Professor!

Rush's music is off the wall to say the least. Far from conventional and not everyone's taste, but for the sheer musicality and talent you would be hard pressed to find any better...

I saw Neil Peart play this solo as aprt of the track YYZ at the NEC. It still sends shivers down my spine. It is worth watching anything else on the net of him playing. Another great example, but totally different musically, is him playing at the Buddy Rich Memorial concert. Footage of which is below...

Following a funeral today, I cannot think of anything more deliriously uplifting than watching this man in action.


Sunday, July 04, 2010

New look...

Thought I'd slightly update the look of the blog. I like it but would value comments...

On another unrelated note, this afternoon, we went over to visit our new puppy! Hetty II, for those of you who have been following this saga. If you haven't, the short version is that we had a retriever pup for days, before we had to return her because of a significant heart mumur. Really tough times...

Since then we have been searching.

We found details of puppies in High Wycombe - the blog kept by the breeders Jennifer and Stewart Thorburn can be read and followed here. We got on well with them, and loved their puppies!

Today we went across to choose ours. On our first visit Ben and I loved a particular puppy. I said to A this afternoon, wouldn't it be amazing if somehow that pup was still unselected by others...

Well, when we got there, we discovered that the breeders had been gently encouraging other owners away from the pup we had already bonded with. And there she was... Looking even more beautiful than ever, but then we would say that.

Judge for yourselves!

Who Me? 11 years as a Deacon - Luke 10:1-10, 16-20

‘...Deacons are called to work with the Bishop and the priests with whom they serve as heralds of Christ’s kingdom. They are to proclaim the gospel in word and deed, as agents of God’s purposes of love. They are to serve the community in which they are set, bringing to the Church the needs and hopes of all the people. They are to work with their fellow members in searching out the poor and weak, the sick and lonely and those who are oppressed and powerless, reaching into the forgotten corners of the world, that the love of God may be made visible.... We trust that you are fully determined, by the grace of God, to give yourself wholly to his service, that you may draw his people into that new life which God has prepared for those who love him...’

11 years ago to the day, Bishop Christopher Herbert (above) said those words to the congregation, me and others being ordained Deacon in the Abbey at St Albans. Today therefore is saturated with memories for me of the journey that God has and continues to lead me on in His service.

I can vividly recall not being ready for the occasion. I don’t mean arriving late and in a flap. I mean, having a very real sense of unpreparedness. I had only begun the formal stages of my journey towards that day 2 years previously.

NOTES: YouthWorker in France, In Feb ‘97 - +Henry came to ordain Curate to priesthood, ABM conf in July, College in September w/ head spinning, asking what am I doing Lord? Why me? That feeling lived with up to that day and continues to do so.

And yet on that day, 11 years ago, the Church was acknowledging that, no matter how I felt on the day or since, I had been identified, trained, and sent to a specific place with the specific responsibility of initially being a Deacon for a specific period of time. In a similar way, in this morning’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks us to consider carefully the mission, the task, he calls disciples to.

This morning we meet Jesus appointing 35 pairs of disciples to go from the comfort and safety of their life with Him, on a specific task, to specific places, for a specific period of time. This should not have been a shock for them. They will have been well aware that this day was coming. Luke records for us in the opening lines of the Gospel, ‘After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go...’ After they had experienced the equipping and sending the 12 disciples in a similar mission, after they had seen a huge crowd fed with 5 loaves and 2 fish, after they had heard Peter’s declaring that Jesus was God’s long promised saviour, after they heard Jesus foretell his own crucifixion and resurrection and referring to their own following of Him in terms of taking up the cross, after they had seen copious healings and miracles, after they had seen the way that Jesus was received by some and not others, after they had begun to become aware that Jesus was asking them to place God first in their lives - above family, friendship, or other social nicities... after all this, he identifies 70 of them to try it out his job for themselves.

Jesus appoints seventy disciples and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. This sending of the 70 was part of a strategic, planned mission not some random whim of Jesus. The places where these pairs were to go, were places on His’ agenda anyway.

Go, says Jesus, aware of where you are going and what people are really like. Go like lambs in the midst of wolves. Go attentive to your surroundings and the people you are amongst. Go with an openness. Go with a vulnerability.

Go also, not unprepared, but with little to tie to a certain place or people. Don’t take a bag, sandals, a purse or a money belt. Rely on the hospitality and provision of others - rely especially on God.

Go proclaiming a message of peace - a message of the saving love of God, of his holiness in the now; a message that God longs to be in relationship with all people whether Jew, Greek or Samaritan. Go with the message ‘God loves you. He wants to be with you. WIll you come and be with him?’ Go with this message to house and town alike. Go expecting to have your message received well, go expecting to have your message ignored and be drummed out of town. The 70 return rejoicing.

1. Appoints us acc. to our gifts & skills & thru our baptism
2. Go to where we are sent - strategically sent by God to our work, school, home etc to be disciples for him there.
3. Go, not relying on status, income, family but exclusively on God
4. Go, attentive to the people around us, what questions they are asking about life and the universe. Go with the same message - of peace, of wholeness, of the holy presence of God in the now. Go with the same message - God loves you, he wants to be with you, will you be with him?
5. There will be times when you get it wrong though says Jesus. There will be times where you long to leave a certain place, unsay certain things, where you wish to shake the dust from your feet and leave. Speaking of dust, in the past 11 years I’ve conducted literally scores of funerals. At most of them, I’ve felt that my words have helped a little, that those who are grieving most have experienced something that may be the beginning of the beginning of healing through the service. But the services I remember long afterwards are those where it has been clear that nothing has got through to the mourners at all…that I might as well have read the yellow pages aloud for all the difference my words and prayers made. I’d be surprised if similar things don’t happen for some of you…it’s tempting to allow ourselves to be weighed down by negative experience, to allow past failures to hamper future ventures. Churches can do it too…we tried that in 1974 and it didn’t work…so we’ve no courage to strike out now.
Here, Jesus gives us permission to set our failures aside and leave them behind.
If at first you don’t succeed….move on, move on…there’s a whole world that needs to hear the Gospel.

Strip yourself of all extraneous support, then set out in the strength that God supplies – and to Him be the glory.

Saturday, July 03, 2010