I broke my fast

There is a bit in the Good Book that talks about ‘Do not display your piety before people’. It is meant to stop us looking ‘holier than thou’ or trying to appear more perfect than God is.

Last week; I broke this- I said how I had made this pledge in Lent not to buy ‘luxury items’. Then I had several days where my view became clouded and I wasn’t seeing stuff clearly (I am not out of that: in general the way I am made is not so much to ask if the glass is half full or half empty, but rather ‘I see no glass’). I made the offhand comment that Amazon had reduced the complete remastered works of Leonard Cohen from £45.99 to £17.99 (11cds! Leonard Cohen!) to my wife. She said ‘Just buy it then!’ See- Genesis 2 had it right; it is always the woman that leads the man into temptation (there may be a touch of irony there)….

Buying Leonard Cohen can’t really be a luxury can it? It is more like soul food…I think….

It is an utterly fabulous experience….. completely. I went and found my all time favourite Cohen song; one I want played at my funeral (perhaps so most people can say ‘What is that b****y noise?).

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The song starts from around 1:10. I would not be able to clap after this; merely stay silent in awestruck contemplation.

That chorus has become a mantra for life:-

‘Ring out the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack, a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in’

Jargon 6

(please get me out of here…)

Jargon is a shorthand to communicate something quickly to an audience in the know. Or should I say ‘folk’ in the know.

It has often puzzled me why it is possible to refer to ‘people’, ‘audience’ or ‘congregation’, but in Methodist circles (they are like normal circles, except less precise than geometric ones and usually involve drinking more tea), this word is changed to ‘folk’. Someone who normally communicates using the words ‘people’, ‘audience’ or ‘congregation’, switches the word to ‘folk’ in a Methodist context.

I don’t know why this should be the case; is it a yearning for an imagined bucolic past when simple souls related gladly and thankfully together or another example of trying to speak a different language when referring to church stuff? I suspect it is the latter; I have tried never knowingly to use it in this context. Indeed, whenever I hear someone refer to ‘the Methodist folk’ or the ‘good folk of Bogg Street Wesleyan’, as a good ‘I’ on the Myers Briggs scale I inwardly wince and think ‘get me out of here’; outwardly I smile, thin-lipped. At 46, my inner Victor Meldrew grows stronger each day….

If there is a good reason for it, leave it in the comments so I can learn something. If there isn’t- at least when I’m around- please speak normally; church is God’s agency in the world, not God’s seperate planet.

Of course one should only use the word when referring to ‘folk music’. I was going to say one should only happily use the word when referring to folk music, except I would be lying as folk music does not make me happy; it makes me dread….

Spring:2

And what I didn’t mention yesterday was the first true sign of spring:-

The English cricket season began yesterday, albeit in Abu Dhabi. But it is the cricket season. In England. And it is starting!

This time of year always gives me hope; hope of endless long warm days and cricket. And hope does not meet expectations with rain, rain and more rain and cold winds being the norm of most English summers. In addition a lifestyle that does not allow for many long summer days, sipping ruminatively on a pint and slowly falling asleep whilst watching a spinner wheel away on a slow turner surrounded by close fielders….. bliss.

Hope is still hope: especially at the start of a season…

Spring

I took these yesterday :-

I am no David Bailey; this was just shot quickly with an ipod.

 I started clearing some of the weeds and was about to pull up this plant that after a long period of failing seemed to have died, but life had started to come forth from the dead twigs.

 This is from the apple tree that had grown wilder, more shapeless and uncultivated than the average minister’s hairdo (actually ‘hair don’t’; we all know that a sign of holiness is very bad hair) until I hacked and shaped it during a mild winter. Someone told me that I was unwise to do this as I would kill it.

Suddenly a couple of days back I noticed buds; life. Owing to my fading 46 year old near sight, this picture is authentic since I first saw the buds as blurred. If not apples next year, then next.

I am sure there must be something vaguely devotional or a deep message in there somewhere…help me out….

Gird your loins: It’s Monday!

First thing Monday, it always feels like a hangover. Not that I have ever had one you understand…ahem..ahem …move along: nothing to see here….

It is just that the sheer creative exhaustion from Sunday kicks in. This is as it should be I think. If preaching/leading worship means something, it will ever be thus….

This then is an inspiration to climb out of the trenches again then…. of course I believe in Grace and ‘underneath are the everlasting arms’…but sometimes it is bloody hard work…

‘I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.’

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

A fragment of a hymn

(bizarrely this is not a picture of the hymnbook, but of a cake someone has made of the hymnbook. I thought I had seen everything…)

I haven’t sung this yet, but I loved this verse:-

‘You challenge some to leave their nets

and follow unfamiliar ways,

but most are called to live their faith

in humdrum tasks of working days’

(‘Singing the Faith’ number 659 v4 ‘As dawn awakens another day’ by Clare Stainsby)

I like it because there is a way of preaching or leading worship that tells of only ‘big stories’ of famous Christians or ‘success stories’ of major things overcome. We need those stories, but sparingly: we need far more stories of the humdrum ordinariness and decisions taken in the grey of a cold Thursday afternoon as that is where most of us live most of the time. If we have only the big stories we cannot see the sacredness in our little stories.

And I love how this verse from this hymn seems to capture this….

Old friends

If I had any practice in Lent it was to abstain from luxuries. I don’t claim any virtue for this: partly it was financially driven, but there was a little bit of me that looked at my house and thought’ Do you really need all this stuff?’ I am trying (and failing) to follow the Christian Aid ‘Count your blessings’ scheme.

One of my many temptations is Amazon Marketplace; I stack stuff up in my wishlist and once it drops to a price where I think ‘That wouldn’t break the bank’ I buy. I have now overflowed my capacious CD rack. This Lent I haven’t bought anything. I am listening to old stuff. I have started to relisten to Eels ‘Blinking Lights and Other Revelations’ (2005) that is one of my favourite albums ever. It never fails to move me: simple chords well played, gravelly voice, irony, sadness, despair, death, the absence of God and some hints of redemption- that covers most bases for me.

This song is elegaic and beautiful and frequently moves me to tears:-

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jargon 5

 

In the last few years I have noticed the rise of the qualifying objective to underline a decision. For example it is no longer any good to say that a decision has been made on economic grounds or social care principles (now there is a whole host of pure and impure motives hidden behind jargon…), but rather ‘sound’ or ‘robust’ economic grounds/social care principles.

Does this mean ‘more than’ economic grounds? Does it mean ‘more carefully researched’ economic grounds? I suspect neither; more likely that a decision is reached, opposition is anticipated or even those making the decision being unsure about it and hence the addition of adjectives to deflect opposition or give the proponents ‘dutch courage’.

And so pastoral reasons or mission principles become ‘sound’ or ‘robust’.

Please; stop it. Just as I know that when I appear strident or over certain it is a mask for internal confusion or uncertainty; learn a little honesty or openness. It won’t kill you; the strident voices may bray a bit more but most of us will embrace you even if we don’t agree with you.