Friday Music

I am continuing the process of educating my children in good comedy: particularly the oldest. How can he navigate through the world of comedy- learn what is good, what is uplifting and what can be sniggered inanely at without neccesarily repeating back, word for word to his 8 year old brother?

So last week, I tried selected extracts of ‘Flight of the Conchords’ ;I have the complete boxset and I think it is one of the finest comedies I have ever seen (mind you, most things made by HBO tend to be good). It is not immediate, but nothing really worth it is. A good friend bought me the CD a few years back: normally comedy records are pants- this one wasn’t.

However, this song is enjoyed by all the male members of our household; so much so that the youngest printed off the lyrics and took them into school….

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That moment when…

…you start praying and pick up your Bible to find out a few moments later you are actually looking at your Diary. And then you realise that you have spelt the word ‘diary’, ‘Diary’…..

…and the alarm bells ring ‘Peacock: you are beginning to think that this is all about you and your efforts’….

My family

I saw a sticker like this on the back of a car a couple of weeks back.

My inner curmudgeon sees as much use for this as the old stickers that said ‘Child on board’ or ‘Baby on board’, which made me think ‘Thank you for telling me; I was just going to drive into you at 100mph- I’ll now do that to another car’.

I don’t ‘do’ cars- I can barely tell a Ferrari Testosterone from a Mini or a Hotpoint (I think you get my drift), but even I could see that the car was a very high end 4×4.

There was something heartrendingly tragic and unbearingly sad about that juxtaposition; ‘My family’, in a car that would write off anyone else’s family if it crashed into them, ‘my family’ in a car that could have housed many 100s of families in a developing country, ‘my family’ in a car that consumes so many resources and has such a low mpg so is hastening a global catastophe for many other families who you will never see….

Still, it’s my money, my home (and my car) is my castle and you have to do the best for ‘my family’ don’t you?

Hospitality

I have been carrying this quote for ages, meaning to post it:-

‘Hospitality is the virtue which allows us to break though the narrowness of our own fears and to open our houses to the stranger, with the intuition that salvation comes to us in the form of a tired traveller. Hospitality makes anxious disciples into powerful witnesses, makes suspicious owners into generous givers, and makes closed-minded sectarians into interested recipients of new ideas and insights.”

(Henri Nouwen, source unknown)

And before you or I nod, when was the last time we…..

….. invited someone in, spent time with someone or spent money on someone who wasn’t;

  • family
  • friends
  • who we ‘owed’ through social obligation
  • was like us
  • conferred some social honour or ‘reflected glory’ back on us
  • who we weren’t employed to ‘care’ for?

Long before Nouwen, someone else said:-

“The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbours, the kind of people who will return the favour. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing”.

 

Here’s hoping

For a week with:-

No more tears as curtains close and ‘goodbye dad.’

No more long, pointless and life draining meetings.

No more death and tired, grieving faces.

No more looking into faces etched with pain and not being able to take that pain away, knowing that no one can, but wishing you could anyway.

No more endless discussions about spending reviews and the future.

No more ferrying dog earred teddy bears from barred relative to hurting child.

No more listening to ‘times are hard and money is tight’ and secretly thinking ‘I would love-just for a day- to experience your financial ease.’

No more watching people, through ignorance, weakness and their own deliberate fault, hurting each other.

No more guilt ridden looks at my in tray, promises I made to see someone weeks ago, failure to return phone calls….

There have been plenty of good, life affirming times around these last few weeks, but there has been more than usual of the above. It comes and goes in cycles, but I’d love a week where for once not much happens, where I get to perfect the riff from ‘Here comes the sun’, where I get to read, learn my panto lines, pray longingly and lovingly, spend time with people without feeling ‘I have to dash’, mature and slow cook sermons and not microwave them, ease my insomnia and it just slows down a little.

 

Oh, the dangers…

When I first discovered blogs, maybe 10 years ago, I used to look at http://reallivepreacher.com/ fairly often. I found it unique: one of the first really honest blogs about being a Christian and being a leader in an evangelical world where honesty in public was a rare commodity. And then he stopped: stopped blogging, stopped being a pastor and stopped preaching.

He wrote about why on http://www.thehighcalling.org/faith/redeeming-sermon. Since he wrote that, over two years back, I have come back and reread it every couple of months. At the height of the Roman Empire, Caesars used to employ a slave who would follow them around on great parades as they received the adulation of the masses. This slave would whisper in their ears ‘You are only mortal’ over and over again. The raw honesty of this article has been like that for me.

This is something that we who aspire to preach could do with reading every time we do so:-

‘Preaching is a perfect storm of temptations for a first born, high achieving, approval craving, people pleaser like me. It is a public performance with an ancient history, bound on one side by exegetical rules, on another side by congregational tradition and expectation, and energized with personal charisma, creativity, and spiritual energy. The stakes are high. If you fail to inspire, people will sometimes fall asleep. But if you capture their imaginations and challenge them, they may come up after the service, obviously moved, and tell you that their lives have been changed.

Of course you correct them immediately and say, “If anything good came of that humble sermon, then it was the Holy Spirit and not the messenger who should receive the credit.” You say that, but it was your sermon. And it’s hard not to feel proud of your own work.

What a dangerous thing is preaching. It’s like dancing with the devil every Sunday morning’.

And if you click on the link, there is more; if you can take it.

 

 

Sir Rex Hunt

I led the funeral of this man yesterday who I had met on a few occasions and was the father of a friend.

It was a very moving ceremony and this from someone who does not ‘do’ pomp. I have never had military involvement at a funeral, but it was restrained and dignified. Even more so were the number of ex Falklands soldiers who turned out and saluted someone who they regarded as their hero.

I do not want to say much more, so I will just reproduce his obituary; here from the Guardian:-

Sir Rex Hunt, who has died aged 86, was governor and commander-in-chief of the Falklands Islands at the time of the Argentinian invasion on 2 April 1982. The ignominy that he felt in handing over authority to a foreign power – he refused to use the word “surrender” – was redeemed four months later, in the wake of a war that cost nearly 1,000 lives, when he returned to the islands in triumph as the colourful figurehead of re-established British rule.

Like most in the Falklands community, Hunt had half-expected the invasion; he had read the diplomatic runes and observed the naval manoeuvres. Definitive confirmation that an 11,000-strong Argentinian force was on it way came less than 24 hours before the event in a Foreign Office cable that concluded, “You will wish to make your dispositions accordingly.” With a detachment of 69 Royal Marines, the nominal military presence Britain maintained on the islands, supplemented by a volunteer defence force, the outcome was never in doubt.

Hunt sent his family and domestic staff away with only their most valuable possessions (his housekeeper took a picture of the Queen and a bottle of gin). A small but tenacious figure, he followed the progress of the invasion from his office at Government House, Stanley, taking shelter under his desk whenever the gunfire sounded close. He kept in touch with the islanders by telephoning in to the local radio station, whose manager, Patrick Watts, kept up a 16-hour live commentary on the crisis. When Hunt realised that the game was up, he took down a white net curtain, wrapped it round an umbrella as an improvised white flag and sent an aide out to discuss ceasefire terms. Then he put on his full ceremonial uniform, complete with plumed hat, and marched off to meet the enemy at Stanley town hall. “You have landed unlawfully on British territory and I order you to remove yourself and your troops forthwith,” he told them.

It was all to no avail. Hunt was dispatched via the Uruguayan capital of Montevideo back to Britain, where he sat out the war, only to return to the South Atlantic after the British military victory in June. Initially, his job title was redefined as that of “civil commissioner”, but in the final year of his posting, 1985, a new Falklands constitution reinstated the position of “governor”. Hunt was always proud to say that he had arrived and left the Falklands with that title.

His love affair with the Falkland Islands might have seemed unusual given his previous postings. Since joining what was then His Majesty’s Overseas Civil Service in 1951, he had served in Uganda (1962); Kuching, formerly the city of Sarawak, Malaysia (1964-65); Kota Kinabalu, formerly Jesselton, Malaysia (1965-67); Brunei (1967); Ankara (1968-70); Jakarta (1970-72); and Kuala Lumpur (1976-79). He was consul general at the British embassy in Saigon at the time of the fall of South Vietnam in 1975, and he and his wife – Mavis Underbank, whom he had married in 1951 – understandably described themselves as “confirmed tropical birds”.

But the Falklands offered promotion and a chance for Hunt to resume his beloved hobby of flying (the job came with its own Cessna aircraft). So Mavis set aside her doubts and they set off for the distant islands, 8,000 miles away in the South Atlantic. Hunt loved it from the start. He drove around Stanley in his official car, a red London taxi, and quickly became involved in the numerous activities – horseracing festivals, sheepdog trials, and the like – that meld together the small farm communities of the Falklands hinterland, or “camp”, beyond the capital.

To the islanders’ delight, and the irritation of Whitehall, Hunt also went native. He championed the Falklands cause at every opportunity and opposed Foreign Office proposals to negotiate a leaseback solution to the Falkland Islands problem with Argentina. In retirement, he chaired the Falkland Islands Association until 2005, was president of the Falkland Islands Trust for many years and remained a sturdy advocate of the islanders’ cause on the after-dinner lecture circuit.

Hunt was born in Redcar, Yorkshire, and educated at the local Coatham school. He read law at St Peter’s College, Oxford, before joining the RAF as a cadet in 1941. He was commissioned as a pilot in 1944, and flew Spitfires with No 5 Squadron in India in 1946 before transferring to Germany with No 26 Squadron in 1947. He left active service in 1948, but remained in the reserves, where he reached the rank of flight lieutenant, until 1951.

Hunt was knighted in October 1982. His memoir, My Falkland Days, appeared in 1992. That year, too, he was portrayed by Ian Richardson in the BBC television drama, An Ungentlemanly Act, about the Argentinian invasion, though it was not a performance to his liking. He last visited the Falklands in June 2007, for the 25th anniversary of the conflict, and this week the flag on Government House in Stanley was lowered to half mast in his honour.

He is survived by Mavis and his children, Antony and Diana.

• Rex Masterman Hunt, diplomat and colonial administrator, born 29 June 1926; died 11 November 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/nov/12/sir-rex-hunt

Friday Music

The story is well rehearsed out of my own mouth and on this blog.

I’ve always had a love of music; at it’s best it ‘recognises the pain in me’, as The Verve put it. When I was first a Christian, someone introduced me to Christian rock; very quickly I realised I didn’t like it. It seemed like a pale pastiche of the real thing; predictable songs, music-lite, no lyrical mystery and little recognition of pain or mystery since Jesus was always the (immediate) answer.

I have tried, really tried, over the years to listen to ‘Christian music’ that people have told me about. Each time I have come away disappointed; the styles may change, but to my ears it had the same flaws as I outlined in the last paragraph. In fact, the next time I hear sub Coldplay major chords, with a chorus lyric like ‘and we will rise up’, I may have to hit someone.

Over time I have discovered artists who may well be Christian but function in the normal market place and I have found some really interesting ones, making their own path. But each time I have thought ‘Surely there may be someone who tries to do something differently with the Christian music sphere?’

In time, I discovered Gungor- I featured an acoustic version of one oftheir songs a few weeks back. I managed to get their last album at a real cost to me of less than £2 (don’t ask) and it is really good. I think I might play it often. This one is a more upbeat one. They sound like….themselves….. but I hear echoes of Mumford and Songs, Sufjan Stevens, Damien Jurado, even a slight Sigur Ros.

The lead guy has a top blog as well….http://gungormusic.com/category/blog/ in which he often rounds on the ‘Christian music scene.’

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Pioneering

I often dress like this….

This ( http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/views/five-things) has been featured in loads of places, so in a sense this is an easy blog post. I like it very much. As one of the commentors says:

You’ve just described my entire life and ministry here – which is both encouraging (because other people do actually ‘get it’) and depressing (because it means nothing much has changed in the last twenty years)’.

I confess that I am not comfortable with the word ‘pioneer’ as it implies a rugged individual who ‘sees’- although the post talks about the importance of community. But overall I really like this post; it is encouraging as I feel hope and not alone- I have long held onto the mantra of ‘You don’t fit and that is your gift’.

Fences

Walking across Danby Moor a couple of weeks ago, I came across this.

It is a fence post, intricately wrought. I am not sure how old it is, but I would guess that it was once used to enclose sheep or to denote ownership of that part of the moor. Now it stands alone and on my visit at least, there were no sheep in that part of the moor (some farmers in these parts never went back to animals after the Foot and Mouth epidemic of a few years back).

At one point it was important and marked; what? Land ownership, territory that had been hard won over years or maybe a boundary under dispute. Now, on the wild moorland, whatever it marked is unimportant and forgotten.

And I wondered, the day after the Church of England stopped the prospect women bishops for at least another 5 years (why we have bishops and why anyone would want to be one confuses me. Why when you have allowed women priests 20 years ago and somehow women are still not ‘worthy’ enough to be bishops makes me wonder what planet you live on: do you know how stupid you make the rest of us look?), what other markers of forgotten disputes do we hold on to? We don’t know why they are there, they are not needed anymore, but the holding on to them seems to give us some security from trying to walk new routes across the wild moorland…