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  • Democracy

    Like many others, I am pleased with the outcome of the UK government's vote on Syria.  I am less pleased with the tendnecy we have to say 'Victory for Party X' or 'Defeat for Policy Y'.  Why can't we just be grateful that sometimes democracy actually works?  It matters not to me who is 'in power' (I've never yet voted for the 'ruling' party in European, UK, Scottish, County, Borough or Parish elections, so I'm obviosuly not very good at this stuff!) or who it is that puts up the proposal; what matters is that there is enough serious engagement to make good decisions that echo the mind of the people... or at least that of those with the energy to voice their views.

    Having said all that, I'm equally aware of the power of vocal minorities, which can totally skew perception and cause problems for those charged with implementing the outcome of their demands. 

    And I am aware of the potential for vocal minorities on ocassion to be dangerous, such as some of the extremist groups, of all persuasions, throughout the UK.

    I think I just wish that we could recognise the wonder that democracy is, and rejoice when it seems as if it works without resort to language of winners and losers.

  • Blessed Perspective?

    This week I have heard a lot of gripes over minor things, which have annoyed me, because there are many, many major things happening locally and globally.  As is my wont, I started typing and this is what came out:



    Blessed are those who are bored at work; for they have paid employment

    Blessed are those who are stuck in traffic jams; for they have somewhere to go

    Blessed are those who grumble that food is not to their liking; for they have food to eat

    Blessed are those who 'don't have a thing to wear'; for they have many things to wear

    Blessed are those who hate double maths (geography/PE/other subject); for they have access to education

    Blessed are those who appointment is running late; for they have access to health care

    Blessed are those who grumble about government policy; for they have freedom to disagree

    Blessed are those who moan about the hymns/sermon/prayers; for they have freedom to practice their faith

    Blessed are we when life throws up minor irritations and even major annoyances, for so it is for all people, and, if nothing else, it reminds us how blessed we are that by accident of birth we live in a liberal western democracy.

  • Herod and Adam

    Today's PAYG was the commemoration of the beheading of John the Baptist - a cheery topic, not.  But as I listened to the story being read aloud, I found myself thinking of the Genesis 2 account of the forbidden fruit and seeing, if not parallels, at least touching points.

    In the Adam story that lamest of excuses 'she made me do it' (or words to that effect) are not so far away from Herod's actions 'because he had vowed in front of his guests' (or words to that effect).  In other words, in each case we have foolish men making bad choices but 'it wasn't my fault'.  Really?  I think you'll find it was.

    In Adam's story we have the woman beguiled - or at least misled - by the serpent; in Herod's the girl following (and adding to) the demand of her mother.  So in each case we have stereotypical "woman = evil" potential, and certainly female sin preciptating male sin.  Maybe we also have "male = numpty"...?

    On Sunday the speaker at the church I visited made some remarks about people making foolish (or apparently) foolish choices.  He spoke of drivers making rash decisions to overtake... then qualified this by saying it was men making rash decisions to overtake cars being driven too slowly by women.  You can see what's happening here... the blame is ascribed to the women driving below the speed limit (maybe with good reason) and subtley removed from the men whose actions cuold, literally, result in a car crash.

    I don't want to head off on some gender-related rant, I really don't, but we do need to be very careful that we don't slide into unhelpful and unhealthy dualisms and cliches that have the potenital to mislead our understanding.


    The Adam and Eve story involved two humans each of whom falls prey to the temptation to disobey the one rule they have been given.  It's a story about free will and choices having consequences; a story about God being sad and angry and compassionate all at the same time.

    The Herod and Herodias story is, in part anyway, about powerful people making ill-conceived grand gestures and feeling obliged to follow through - choices have consequences (so much the same story).  John, the annoying-but-intriguing prophet, is the innocent victim of Herod's foolishness, and maybe it is this aspect that ought to give us pause - who is it (individual or people group) that we find annoying-but -intriguing, infuriating-yet-attractive or whatever combination it is?  And how easily do we, like Herod, fear losing face more than acting aright?  Hmmm.


    Many years ago I heard the story of a teacher who told the Herod story to a group of Asian teenage girls (presumably Hindu or Sikh, certainly not Christian).  Asked what they would have done in Herod's place, one of them said, "I would have told them that John was in the other half of my Kingdom, the half I did not promise."  I have always loved this example of lateral thinking, and hope that it might, in some measure, shape my own.

  • Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

    This morning's PAYG was entirely focussed on Psalm 139... a contemporary sung version and then all but the final couple of verses read aloud (we never quite bring ourselves to include those unpleasant verses, do we?).  Like lots of other people, I really like Psalm 139, delighting in the sense of God's eternal 'with-us-ness', even if I am less sure about the sense of predestination it also carries.

    Today the bit that struck me were the verses about God knowing our unformed bodies and being present when we were knit together in our mothers' wombs.  Again, usually this is a very comforting thought, but today I found myself thinking more carefully about this.  How, for example, does this square with the reality that some people are born with gene mutations that will potentially or actually impact ther lives?  More personally (which was actually where my thoughts began) did God already know that I had cells that could or would mutate into cancer cells?  And if so, what, if anything does that mean?

    Last night I was watching one of my favourite bits of trash television - New Tricks - in which one of the new characters is a young woman with cerebral palsy, played by upcomging actor Storme Toolis.  It is good to see talented people proving that their lives are not pre-determined by accidents of birth, and good that societally we waking up to that, albeit alongside trying to develop tests prevent and techniques to prevent the birth of 'imperfect' babies (eugenics is alive and well and wearing a very respectable mask these days).

    So what does it mean to be fearfully and wonderfully made?  I don't think it refers to physical perfection or intellectual capacity, to creative potential or any other humanly defined category of worth.  Just to be born, alive and with the potential to live is miracle itself.

    Does God already know the day I will draw my last earthly breath?  I have no idea.  But I think that fixation on that kind of thing is an exercise in missing the point... if God is before us, with us, beyond us, then dates and times and places - and health and strength and who knows what - find their proper perspective, because ultimately there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God.

    I have no idea if this makes sense to anyone but me.  I have friends across the UK, in churches and out of them, for whom life is tough, bewildering, overwhelming, in all sorts of different ways.  Twee little explanations can't cut it - but the belief that God is present as much in the ***** as in the good stuff enables me to hope that in the end (which is beyond anything we yet know) it'll be OK.


    You were there, God

    As the sperm fertilised the ova

    And the cells began to divide

    And the embryo took shape

    And grew in the hiddeness of a mother's womb


    You are here, God

    As day turns to day

    As events and environment

    Shape the people we become

    And the hidden growth of hearts, minds, souls


    You will be there, God

    When lungs stop expanding with air,

    Hearts stop circulating the blood

    Life on earth ceases to be

    And we are hiddden in your eternal embrace


    So in the meantime

    Help us trust in your promises

    And live your love for ourselves

    And for others


  • Regional Variations?

    I was popping out to the shops today and bumped into my neighbour, also going out.  'I don't like this smirr, ' he said, adding 'I presume you know that Scots word by now.'  Erm, nope.  So he explained.  'Ah,' I said, 'yes, mizzle...' 

    We each agreed the other's word had merit and was a good description of the weather.  By the time we reached the gate it was definitely drizzle, and my neighbour asked if I was OK without a brolly.  "Oh yes," I replied, "I'm not made of sugar."  This, it seems, was a new saying in his experience so I had to explain it (not made of sugar, so won't 'melt' (dissolve)).

    There is the myth about the number of words inuits have for snow - but I have a suspicion it comes nowhere near the number of words Brits have for rain.