Friday (Birthday) Music

It is my annual birthday today. I will probably go walking: I increasingly like wild places and solitude. Around 9 in the evening (as I am childminding up to that time), some stragglers from the pub may make it to our house for malt whisky and cheese. Almost a perfect day.

Every Friday I put a piece of music on here that means something. As it is my birthday, I will cheat; you can have 5. All of these, played together sum up my life, hopes, aspiration, philosophy and theology.

Yes: there are no happy songs & they tend towards the morbid and introspective. But so do I. Listen to 1 or listen to all 5. Remove sharp objects first…


Low:Death of a Salesman

A song about longing & not being conformed, even if trying to be different leads to being crushed…



U2: I still haven’t found what I’m looking for

I still struggle with the Christian artist who changed the words to ‘I finally found what I am looking for. This will be at my funeral.



Leonard Cohen: Anthem

Maybe another funeral song and the only artist on here I have not seen in concert. The lines ‘Ring out the bells that still can ring; forget the perfect offering. There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in’ have become something of a mantra.



Martyn Joseph: Turn me tender

This song, from the moment I first heard it, made me stop and gulp. It still does: perfect. In November he played our village hall and deviated from the set to play this as I told him it was a song that saved my life.


The Smiths: Panic

I have applied this song to music, life, theology and art…. struggle to see, hear, sing,take part in stuff that says nothing to me about my life.


Some old stuff I rediscovered:2

You can tell the old, old story in a way that satisfies your audience but causes a neutral to yawn. You don’t really care as your audience pays your wages and gives you acclaim. What I like about this writer is that he often shocks with a turn of phrase or an idea (he sometimes infuriates as well).

Without equivocation or hesitation I fully and completely admit that I deny the resurrection of Christ. This is something that anyone who knows me could tell you, and I am not afraid to say it publicly, no matter what some people may think…

 I deny the resurrection of Christ every time I do not serve at the feet of the oppressed, each day that I turn my back on the poor; I deny the resurrection of Christ when I close my ears to the cries of the downtrodden and lend my support to an unjust and corrupt system.

 However there are moments when I affirm that resurrection, few and far between as they are. I affirm it when I stand up for those who are forced to live on their knees, when I speak for those who have had their tongues torn out, when I cry for those who have no more tears left to shed’

I love this story he tells as well:-


Some old stuff I rediscovered:1

Grey-Wolf.jpg (1280×1024)

I was looking through my files to find some old sermons. I like filing: ordering & categorising stuff as a barrier against an uncertain world. I found a couple of good bits (ok: I preached them: so the stuff around the good stuff was simply stunning….). Here is one- an old story that I may have used before:-

‘One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, ‘My son, the battle is between two wolves, which live inside us all. One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, lust, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.’

 The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf wins?’

 The old Cherokee simply replied, ‘The one you feed’.

(source unknown, cited in Pimlott (2008) p96 ‘Youth work after Christendom’)


When we meet for worship in church, we pray for ‘others’. Just another way to stop us making God in our own image and forcing us to look outwards.

Sometimes this does not grab the imagination: it becomes the ‘dull’ part of what happens. Sometimes I wonder what it ‘does’. Then I got to thinking about a series of articles about the floods in Somerset and the number of churches opened up to provide relief and a safe place. Also, the above image came to mind in the Ukraine. It struck me that there are 1000s of stories like this that get under the media radar: Christians and others of faith/goodwill serving, taking risks and otherwise acting against self interest.

Is this ‘proof’ of prayer? I don’t really want to get into that: it seems to me like making the statement: ‘Prove music’- that is not the point: you just listen, play and join in..


Broken Heart Red Cartoon

I get to meet lots of people: it is both amazing and humbling. I guess because of what I do, I get to hear stories a lot more than most. This is unbelievably precious and often I echo those words spoken long ago in the Old Testament: ‘Take off your shoes, for this is holy ground’: there is so much going on. Often there are the most moving stories of grace and dignity.

A few times in the last week, I heard the old Northern Soul classic: ‘Tainted Love’: mostly by Duke Special, but the Soft Cell cover of the same song resonated through my head as well. In many of the stories I have heard these past few days, that song has echoed a lot. Most of us have lived through instances of tainted love: when something hoped for has not turned out like we expected.

I read this and it seems so true:-

Love makes us vulnerable and open, but then we can be hurt through rejection and separation. We may crave love, but then be frightened of losing our liberty and creativity. We want to belong to a group, but we fear a certain death in the group because we may not be seen as unique. We want love, but fear the dependence and commitment it implies; we fear being used, manipulated, smothered and spoiled. We are all so ambivalent toward love.

(from Jean Vanier: ‘Community and Growth’. I ‘need’ to read some of his stuff)

I wish it were not so, but the longer I live it seems to be so.

The Blessing

I have done a lot more reading than usual recently. Most of it has been rediscovering books that have lain about in my study for months, even years.

Searching for something this week, I came across the above book. I encountered the writer back in 2008 when I was on a sabbatical (they are compulsory in what I do!). He was the leader of a large church without the ego to match. I found him honest, open and vulnerable. His love affair with U2 helped. So I picked up a book of his: it wasn’t the usual one from such a leader with a title like ‘How you and your church can be an utter success if you are only like me’. Instead it was poetry. I have grown to trust poets and singers more and more over the years.

This speaks to me and is refreshingly jargon free:-

May you who are restless

find rest,

and in rest, restoration

and the healing

of your hollow soul.

May peace be yours.


May you who are frozen

find freedom,

and in freedom, the strength

to face the fire

and the thawing

of your ice-gripped heart.

May peace be yours.


May you who are conflicted

find convergence,

and in convergence, confidence

to be the one new child

of your old divided self.

May peace be yours.


May you who live in tension

find tenderness,

and in tenderness, the tendency

to kindness

and the miracle

of majoring in mercy,

May peace be yours.


And you who are God-less,

may you find God,

and in God,

the grace and growth you need

for fruit and fullness

and the love that will last you

through the long haul

of a lived-for-others life.

May peace be yours.

(‘The Blessing’- GerardKelly from ‘Spoken Worship‘)


Friday Music


Ok: it is the same musician as last week, but my post on Monday said that it is the nature of gig going that you live in the memory for a long time.

I liked this song when I first heard ‘Oh Pioneer’ a couple of years back: not least for its honest take on what it is to be human. I like honest songs: I loathe airbrushed songs, theology, opinions, emotions etc etc. Rawness is often more healing.

He played this live last week: stunning.

Other version:-


I like trains….

Underneath this wry exterior, avid blogger, affected leftfieldness and faltering attempts to be a ‘right on rev’ lies a terrible dark secret: a love that dares not speak its name: I like trains.

There: I said it. I still have a (sadly not used in 10 years due to space) railway in the attic, some books & an inner pedant that will see a railway on a tv show or a film and attempt to resist the urge to say ‘Of course GWR Castle Class locos did not have that livery in 1955. The thing is, I thought I was free of it; other things occupy my time more now.

Then a couple of days back I took my children to Shildon (the other base for the National Railway Museum: honestly- what other nation has so many railway museums?) to see the ‘Grand Farewell’: the last time that the 6 surviving A4 locos will be together in the same place. There were unbelievable crowds there: as we left, a queue of cars approaching 2 miles long and a foot queue of several hundred metres. I say ‘I took’: I ‘dragged’ & ‘cajoled’.

And then it happened: as I caught my first sight of them, I seemed to get grit in my eye and had trouble swallowing. I thought I was past this: rusting hulks of metal and steam and I am back to being 11 again. I could have stayed all day, gazing and queueing if I had not been gently ushered to the exits by my adolescent son:: ‘Come on dad, I think you have had enough.’

I still have  problem then…



gravy_01.jpg (1600×1200)

I have taken to making gravy. It is a solitary thing in our family: no one else will have it or even try it, but I like it.

I like it as a roast dinner (Sundays only)- whether made from dead animals or vegetarian is ‘dry’ without it. Though I think I like it more as it takes time to make it; I have no exact recipe: stock cube, various herbs, red or white wine, pepper etc: whatever seems to ‘work’. Sometimes it is lovely: I suprise myself and sometimes it would be best thrown away.

Sometimes I/we don’t allow food to be ‘slow’: it is fuel consumed to give the energy to do things. It is rarely paused over and savoured. Food ceases to be sacrament- prepared with care, eaten round an open table and with conversation and meal savoured. I don’t mean by this, the increasing wave of ‘food porn’ (airbrushed beyond recognition, expensive ingredients, ‘perfect’, watched by many on TV or in a newspaper who will never ever prepare anything like it or get caught up in anxiety trying) which is as far from a meal as reading books about travel whilst never leaving your armchair.

So each time I attempt to make it, I am saying ‘slow down’, ‘savour’, ‘enjoy this moment’ to myself. I wish I could have more ‘gravy’ moments in every day….