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Showing posts from November, 2013

From Thankfulness to Watchfulness

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My 30 Days of Thanksgiving has been a bit sporadic, but my last one is to you for sticking with me... 
But now, as we enter into advent I would invite you to continue with me in 25 Days of Watchfulness; watching and waiting as an "attentive pilgrim" looking for signs of grace in the world around us... For a couple of years a number of friends of Crookedshore participated in a shared exercise of advent watchfulness under the title of "Mockingbird's Leap"... It was a useful discipline, and I resurrected it last year on a patchy basis here on VM. I thought it would be an interesting experiment this year again following on from the 30 Days of Thanksgiving... I hope you  find it helpful in the midst of the pre-Christmas madness. To kick it off here is a reblog of a piece I posted last year. It is inspired by the last set of prayers in David Adam's wonderful wee book "The Rhythm of Life" which are a short set of devotions for a Saturday night, under the …

Another Birl to Burns

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This time last night I had the pleasure of sharing a Thanksgiving Dinner with our friends from St. Luke's UMC Orlando FL... To which a friend and colleague on FB commented "You've a great life!" And I do... And I am thankful for that...And tomorrow night we will be having another celebration... this time "An Alternative Burns Night" at the Agape Centre... It's alternative in that it isn't Burns Night, its St. Andrews Night, the bookend to Burns night when not only does haggis hunting season begin, but also that series of celebrations that the Scots have cooked up to see them through the darkest months north of the border (with a little help from the Water of Life) There will be no liquor tomorrow night (it being Methodist Trust premises) but there will be music and poetry and reflections on the thinking of Burns... I've written before on the fact that we overplay some aspects of Ulster-Scots culture, but we underplay others, including Burns. I'…

Creativity, Compassion and Communication

I've been having a bit of a black dog day today, exacerbated by a long day yesterday (that crept into today) and a few little "challenges" today (let me just say the words "car", "heap of scrap" "insurance" and "daylight robbery" featured in my conversation too much for my own good). But I am feeling extraordinarily blessed and thankful this evening, having been at a fundraiser for Re:Play Theatre Company, in the Skainos Centre, where my wife's choir was singing...
Not only were the ladies in particularly good voice tonight, but the company we were there to support is a totally unique and inspiring venture... The artistic director of both the choir and theatre company is Anna Newell. I've always enjoyed what she has drawn out of the (unauditioned) choir, but the work that she and her collaborators do with Re:Play is of a different order altogether... Watch the following video... and if you don't weep go to the cardiac d…

Into the Neighbourhood

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I post this, in part, by way of a thank you to my mother in law, 20 years down the line.  It's an adaptation of something I wrote for the Methodist Newsletter for December and shared with our own congregation last Sunday as part of our Home Missions Service, but anyone who has been listening to me over the past 20 years or following this blog in more recent years, will have heard/seen bits of it before. I make no apology for that... It is too important to say once, and I will say it again... Twenty years ago, when I was a mere ministerial student helping out at Sydenham Methodist, my mother in law gave me an early Christmas present that not only helped me in an emergency, but has also helped shape my ministry from that day. She had arrived on the Friday before Christmas, but early the following Sunday morning I got a phone call  saying that Brian Fletcher, the minister at the time, had taken ill and asking me to speak at the two services that day… Since I was only a student I didn’t…

One for the Road - Revisited

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We're celebrating "Home Mission" Sunday a week late in Belfast South Methodist, but as part of it we are exploring what loving our neighbour means for us seeking to love our neighbourhood on the Lisburn Road... As part of that we are trying to hear what Jesus said in a story based on another road 2000 years ago.
I originally wrote the following dialogue, which we will be using this morning, for the "Connexions on a Journey Event" at the 2004 Methodist Church in Ireland Conference in Dublin, as a partner piece to the "Companions on a Journey" poem I have recently reposted. I went back to find this dialogue and discovered that it got a whole 2 hits the first time I posted it... It's probably due a reblog...


Voice 1: A lesson on the road…
Voice 2: A dangerous road…
Voice 1: A difficult lesson…
Voice 2: One which we haven’t learned 2000 years later…
Voice 1: What must we do to inherit eternal life…
Voice 2: That’s easy “Love the Lord your God with all your h…

This Week's Psalm - A Psalm Celebrating the Reign of the Lord

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This is a bit later than I promised this week due to a number of factors, but the liturgical theme for this coming Sunday is "The Reign of Christ/Christ the King" and the recommended Psalm is Psalm 46 or Psalm 122. However, I've used Psalm 46 quite regularly recently, and indeed will probably be using it again on Sunday evening as part of a service of prayer and reflection for the Philippines organised by the South Eastern Health Trust, Stormont Presbyterian, in recognition of the massive effect of the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan on the large community of Philippino nurses and ancillary staff who work in the trust and particularly the Ulster Hospital.  
But on Sunday morning in Belfast South Methodist we will be celebrating Home Mission Sunday (a week later than our sister churches) and I thought that the following Psalm was an appropriate one to cover that theme and the "Reign of Christ."


Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love…

Indiscriminate Act of Kindness

I post this video as a follow up to yesterday's post, with thanks to Ann Cobbe who reminded me of it... and reminded me to dig out more of Foy's stuff from his first album "Hope"... (If you haven't heard it before it is definitely worth the £7.49 download price, if not the slightly more expensive price of an CD)




The lyrics are:

She came from the cold
Dropped her luggage bags
Looked the concierge in the eye
Said, "I need a room for the night,
But I don't got no money.
Would you take payment in kind?"
He said, "It's alright
I got a room here, you can share mine.
Make the bed in the morning and that'll do fine.
You can change in the bathroom,
Hang your clothes on the line."
A tear came to her eye
She thought how could he be so kind
How could he be so kind (x2)
She sat down on the bed with a needle
He said, "I'd hate to see you bleed,
Just fetch a warm towel,
I'll sit with you til you're dry."
She started to cry
Said, "Why? why?…

Acts of Automotive Kindness

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My 30 Days of Thanksgiving has been a bit sporadic for various reasons... I think that if I repeat it next year it will be a twitter or facebook exercise rather than a blogging one primarily as November is just too cluttered with other things for me to blog consistently (without taking into account other things cropping up).
However, I have no problems posting a brief "Thank you" in the wake of an unexpected act of kindness yesterday... As friends on facebook/followers on twitter will know I started my day off yesterday with news from my son that the gear box on my wife's car was giving problems. So I had to go fetch it from school and nurse it back across town to our local garage, anticipating yet another outrageous financial outlay on this increasingly decrepit vehicle... This not only filled me with horror at the potential cost, but the chaos that would have ensued this week without having two cars available. They said they would try to look at it yesterday, but that…

Thankful for an Unsettling Night at the Theatre

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Whilst the great and the good were round the corner in the Waterfront Hall rattling their jewellery in appreciation of Van the East Belfast Free Man, I was in the cosier surroundings of the MAC Theatre watching an uncomfortable play based in East Belfast... or at least the outer reaches of East Belfast, my former "parish" of Dundonald/Ballybeen. This isn't a review as such, since there is only one matinee and one evening performance left, although if you can get a ticket I would recommend that you should... it is an excellent production, with four very good performances. I would particularly recommend it if you aren or are considering becoming, a minister... Earlier in the run the blogger Alan Meban posted a perceptive review, and in conversation with his wife, fellow cleric Cheryl, the suggestion arose that perhaps theological training colleges should have taken out a block booking. I doubt that happened, but there were a small coterie of clerics in the audience last n…

What you will never read in the tabloid headlines...

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12,000 patients left for 12 hours on trolleys - Daily MailTwo-tier plan to solve crisis in A&E service - The GuardianNHS Nurse Shut Baby in Cupboard - The SunDoctors Deserting A&E - The TimesForeign NHS Cheats Push Aside Cancer Patients - Sunday ExpressHospital Hit by Fresh Fears over Falsified Cancer Records - The ObserverHospital Food Investigation as Patients Fed on £4 a Day - The HeraldBabies and Mothers at Risk from Midwife Shortage - the iWarning to Doctors as Threat of Superbug Resurfaces - The HeraldCrisis in Maternity Care 'Putting Lives at Risk' - The IndependentBoy Victim of Hospital in Police Probe - Daily MailHospital 'Fakes' Cancer Records - the iHospitals Full to Bursting - The TimesHospital Faces Claim of Cancer Care Cover-Up - The Guardian
That is just one week of front page headlines from the national daily newspapers... And this is by no means the worst for NHS-kicking.  I've said it before and I will say it again, and again and again, th…

A Psalm for the Week - A Song of Thanksgiving

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This is to prove that do listen to others... occasionally.A few of my freeloading colleagues (you know who you are) have said that they really like the responsive Psalms I put up under the reading of "A Psalm for Sunday" but that putting them up at 8am on a Sunday morning is too late for them to use them in worship that Sunday, especially when they are based on the lectionary readings, as they often are.  So, to give people a whole week to stumble on them and use them for worship the following Sunday, I am now, when I remember/have time, going to post the relevant responsive Psalm on a Monday morning for readers to use as they wish. Today, ironically, the psalm I've taken from the lectionary this week isn't from the book of Psalms itself but based on the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 12... It is however, effectively a Psalm of Thanksgiving:
I will praise you, O Lord:
You were rightly angry with me,
yet you have averted your anger and come to comfort me.
God is my sure and …

An Awkward Thanks

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I've effectively been offline for a couple of days thanks to ongoing technical difficulties together with a lack of time in which to address them properly... I'll be back on the phone tomorrow... Anyway, that has meant I've missed a couple of days of "thanksgiving" as per my most recent self-imposed blogging discipline... Had that not be the case yesterday I would definitely have been thanking those who helped out at our Coffee Morning at the manse and those who donated to the Save a Heart Campaign which we were raising money for, a scheme whereby a team from the Royal Victoria Hospital Cardiothoracic Department are helping to revitalise cardiac care in Nigeria. In the light of that, on Friday I had planned to put on record, yet again, my thankfulness for our own wonderful, if much-derided, National Health Service and the privilege it is to work as a chaplain within it. But I may well come back to that later in the month... But for today I offer an awkward thank…

10 Day You Challenge - Day 10: 1 Picture

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Well, I made it... And here is the one picture of me... 

It's the first picture of me that I possess... And I post it thankful for all the (many) years that have passed since then... and all the people who have helped to shape this handsome young man into the shambling wreck that I am now... parents who taught me the value of hard work... brothers who opened my eyes to the wonders to be found within books and exposed me to an eclectic assortment of music... a wider family who encouraged me in all my endeavours... teachers who inspired me to learn more and more about this wonderful world... preachers, sunday school teachers and older friends who prompted me in my journey of faith... friends with whom I shared adventures in sport, theatre, the great outdoors and in love... colleagues in ministry, lay and ordained, who have been with me through thick and thin... a wife to whom I owe more than I can ever express... 2 boys who I am so proud of... and the God who is woven into it all...

10 Day You Challenge - Day 9: 2 Songs

Getting near to the end of this meme, and out of thousands of songs of all styles that I like I am supposed to pick 2!?!?!  Well, here goes - I've mentioned both of these in a previous meme, and neither of them is a hymn or Christian song, but (observing my Thanksgiving discipline) I am particularly thankful to have encountered them at different times... They are both by Scottish female singers (I clearly have a thing for Scottish females)...

1) The Right Place, by Eddi Reader: which has come to me at a number of times as a song of uncomfortable assurance.. (this is a live audio version)





2) Sorry, by Karine Polwart: which wrestles with the whole difficult area of forgiveness, which is (due to the job and the province I work in), a constant theme...




Cheers

Thanks for the Vote...

It has become a cliché to say that the last person to enter parliament with honest intentions was Guy Fawkes, but on this day when people remember the infamous "Gunpowder Plot" and the involvement of this honest man in it, I am thankful that I live in a parliamentary democracy.
Like many I enjoyed the barnstorming performance of Russell Brand in his interview with Jeremy Paxman last week. If you haven't seen it, here it is in full, including Paxo's somewhat sneering introduction:


Despite his introduction and usual contrarian approach, Paxman subsequently admitted, on that searching current affairs vehicle, the Graham Norton Show, that he agreed with Brand that people in Britain are really disenchanted with politics and the oppositional approach of contemporary adversarial politics. This in part was prompted by comedian John Bishop's assertion that
"You shouldn't be a politician unless you have had at least one job." (which as more than one colleague…

10 Day You Challenge - Day 8: 3 Films

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In an attempt to keep to the brief of the 10 Day You Challenge and my own self-imposed 30 Days of Thanksgiving, here are 3 films that I am thankful for having seen, for various reasons:

1) THE SEARCHERS: My mother loved John Wayne, and this, in my humble opinion is the best John Wayne film bar none. He may have got an Oscar for "True Grit", but that was because of his larger than life performance, and if truth be told, the recent Cohen Brothers' version is probably better. But "The Searchers" is a wonderful story with beautiful cinematography. Some have condemned it as racist because of its portrayal of the Native Americans in it, but it was a film of its time and probably reflected real attitudes in the old west... and actually is much more nuanced than many other old westerns. But I'm thankful for this film, not only because of itself, but also because of memories of my mum.



2) IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: If you don't like this Frank Capra classic Chri…

A Song for Communion Sunday

In the reformed tradition we generally use terms like Holy Communion, or the Lord's Supper, to describe the sacrament instituted by Jesus on the night before he died, calling on us to remember. Other traditions use the term "Eucharist" from the Greek word meaning "Thanksgiving."
Today in Belfast South, as we do on the first Sunday in every month, we will be sharing in this act of Thanksgiving at 11am instead of at our usual time of 9.30am... You are very welcome to join us. In our continuing series looking at the Gospel according to Luke and our President's theme of "A People Invited to Follow" we are looking at Jesus telling his disciples about his impending death and inviting them to take up their crosses and follow him (Luke 9: 18-27). In the light of that, the following hymn by my friend Kristyn and Keith Getty and their longtime collaborator Stuart Townend seems appropriate, especially where it says: And so with thankfulness and faith we rise
T…

10 Day You Challenge - Day 7: 4 Books

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How on earth is it possible to reduce all of the books I have ever read or want to read to a list of 4? Well, within the parameters of my self-imposed 30 Days of Thanksgiving here are 4 books that I was particularly thankful to have received as a gift from someone at some time or another. Again, those watchful for my spiritual soundness, please note that I have received many Bibles as gifts down through the years and have been thankful for most of them (the NEB which we received at our wedding left me a little cold) - If you ask me to narrow it down to one then the most influential would probably be the Message by Eugene Peterson, which I first received in its NT form from my mother-in-law 20 years ago, although given the recent book burning in North Carolina, there are probably those who would regard that translation as a book worthy of burning because of its heresy...

1) THE FLAVOUR THESAURUS by Niki Segnit. Given my love of food and a bizarre personality that has both a heavily pr…

30 Days of Thanksgiving

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About halfway through November last year I noticed that various American friends who didn't know each other were posting daily thanksgivings on twitter and facebook... It only took me a few days and a bit of internet surfing to discover that they were all participating in a movement asking for 30 Days of Thanksgiving during November instead of (or as well as) the usual festival of gluttony on the last Thursday in the month. I thought then that it wasn't a bad idea, but that it was a bit late to join in, but it prompted me to engage in 25 Days of Watchfulness throughout in December as a way of observing advent. This year I plan to have another 25 Days of Watchfulness, but that before that I would also observe 30 Days of Thanksgiving here on Virtual Methodist...
So, throughout November I'll be posting short blogs that are marks of gratitude to God and to others who are channels of his grace... including this post where I want to put on record my thanks to those who put this…