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Showing posts from February, 2012

A Lenten Leap

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Well, it’s that strange phenomenon of the 29th February once again… Our TVs and radios are filled with “human interest” stories about people with birthdays that only come round every four years, meaning that a father may have had fewer birthdays than his son, or the hoary old chestnut concerning this being the day when women can propose marriage to men. Originally it actually applied to the whole leap year, but it has wisely been restricted to the single day -can’t have women behaving like men for a whole year! The beginnings of this has been variously attributed toSaint PatrickorBrigid of Kildarein 5th centuryIreland, although there was never any reference to this before the romanticisation of Celtic Ireland 19th century. The earliest reference is actually to a 1288 law in the name of the infant QueenMargaret of Scotlandwhich imposed fines on a man if a marriage proposal was refused today, with the compensation ranging from a kiss, to £1 (a substantial amount in those days – think I’d…

The Past, the Present and Prizes

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Sunday was a day for prizes... Not only did my beloved Liverpool win a trophy at long last (despite their best efforts to throw it away), but Northern Irish artistic endeavours had been rewarded by two different august bodies.
In Dublin the Irish Theatre Awards had given my friend Conall Morrison the "best director" prize for his production of "The Crucible" which opened the new Lyric last year, while over in LA Terry George et al won the Oscar for the Best Short Live feature for "The Shore" (not best documenary as BBC1's man on the spot announced this morning).
Saw "The Shore" last night and it is a deceptively simple piece about personal reconciliation, set against the background of Northern Irish scenery at its best, with beautiful panoramic shots of Belfast Lough from Black Mountain, and the Mournes and Dundrum Bay from Coney Island. It was apparently devised with a very definite business plan in mind, centred on producing the film chea…

Thinking about Arachnophobia

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Are you and arachnophobe? The irrational fear of spiders which is believed to affect as many as half of women and girls, and up to one in six males? Our church building seems to host a range of quite large spiders, especially during the autumn season, and our congregation seems to include more than its fair share of confirmed arachnophobes, because when one of our eight-legged residents marches down the aisle during a service I see people scattering in all directions. Last week I read about a study of arachnophobes, which found that the worse their condition the larger they estimated the size of spiders they were shown. And while it may seem ridiculous to those of us who aren’t reduced to jibbering wrecks by an 8 legged creepy crawly, I'm sure that this disproportionate perception of things that we fear must apply to more than just spiders, and we’re all fearful of something or other, to a greater or lesser extent… with me it’s dogs, needles and tax returns! All fears have some …

A Psalm for Thinking Day

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It's Thinking Day today in our church (yes I know it's a week late, but we've had a bit of a traffic jam of special Sundays recently) and this is a Psalm reflecting on God's thoughts... We're not actually using it this morning, but I thought I would post it anyway: It is good to praise the name of the LORD To make music to gladden your heart, O God Most High, to proclaim your love as the light of sun dawns in the morning and sing of your faithfulness as the darkness falls at night, to strum our guitars to your glory and use our pianos to praise you.
For all that you have done for me makes me glad, O LORD; I sing with joy at the work of your hands. How great are your deeds, O LORD, how profound your thoughts! The wisest of men show themselves to be fools in trying to out-think you, The wicked may flourish in this world but destruction is their destiny.
But you, O LORD, are eternally exalted. And those in a right relationship with you are like a well-watered tree …

Saturday Supplement

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To keep you going incase you have nothing better to do on a Saturday here are a few links to material that has made me think this week. First on the whole "Fasting from Facebook" malarky, Steve Stockman went off on one... I posted the link in a comment earlier in the week, but incase you missed it, here it is again. Here in Northern Ireland there were three big news stories in the past week. 1) The death of Frank Carson - who, whilst he seems to have been a genuinely nice man, I was never really a fan, so I didn't really follow up on any of the stories, 2) The effective collapse of a £6 million "Supergrass" trial against loyalist paramilitaries, which has generated a lot of ill-informed ranting on all forms of news media, but doesn't fit my current "whatever is good" filter, and 3) The passing of permission to build a golf course near the Giant's Causeway. This too has generated a lot of comment across the board, and frankly I have no particu…

Always in haste but never in a hurry...

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It's been a busy old week... I often find that the week after a break is always (or at least seems) outrageously busy. Some of it was catch-up, but some of what happened this week just jumped out of the hedgerows to ambush me... But unlike this time last year I am coping better with the busy times because I am taking seriously the idea of sabbath rest, with my sabbath being a Monday... That way I am not only resting from work, but working from rest... A friend (who kindly facilitated our family's mini-sabbatical on a houseboat in London last week) posted on her facebook status the following quote from a 1777 letter from John Wesley:
“Though I am always in haste, I am never in a hurry; because I never undertake any more work than I can go through with perfect calmness of spirit.”
I wish I could say the same... And there is a danger inherent to Methodist spirituality, that we can be far too busy for our own good about what we see as God's business.

But probably the busiest M…

Attending Angels

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One of the rationale's behind this season of Lent is that we remember Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness. Matthew and Luke offer us blow by blow accounts of Jesus' temptations there, while the third of these so called synoptic gospels, Mark, makes much less of it saying that after his baptism:
At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert for forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. Mark 1:12-13 (ANIV) We tend to concentrate on the activities of Satan in this episode in Jesus' story, but in keeping with the "whatever is good... think about such things" principle that I'm trying to dwell on over Lent, I would love to know more about the attending angels... But then again I saw them in action this morning, as I was doing my usual round of the Ulster Hospital as chaplain. Many people there, and in other health care establishments, feel like they are lost and alone in a hostile wilder…

Some Dusty Reflections

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"dust you are and to dust you will return." Genesis 3:19 (ANIV)
There's cheery!
But those are the words that are used at "ashing" ceremonies the world over this Ash Wednesday. Words that have shaped Christian funeral liturgies: "earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust"
Traditionally that is finished off saying: "in sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life" or words to that effect, or, if for whatever reason, the officiant is hedging their bets they will, instead, say something like: "commending them to the grace and mercy of our heavenly Father God."I reflected last year on the "dustiness" of our existence, following a particularly moving scattering of ashes one morning... It contrasted with another burial of ashes later that same day, which was conducted in the pouring rain, with little sense or expectation of life beyond this one... In the first the deceased and their family all had a strong faith in Jesu…

Not Giving Up - Reflections on Fat Tuesday

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A number of my friends and colleagues have decided to opt out of facebook over Lent... a highly laudable discipline on their part, but while I admire and will miss them over the next 46 days I will not be joining them... I hope I won't be on facebook so much, but that will not be because I'm giving it up, but because I intend doing more positive things... Including more physical exercise, more reading and giving more attention to this much neglected blog... So, throughout Lent I plan to blog daily again, but, for the most part to offer positive reflections and resources for other's reflection and worship, rather than my all-too frequent vituperative rants. One of the consistently most popular posts on the blog over the past couple of years was a brief post at the beginning of Lent 2010 entitled "It's not just biscuits". I was always slightly puzzled by this as it was a relatively flimsy piece... For some time I thought it was because people were looking for a…