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  • Fullness of Life

    Life in all its fullness - joy and sorrow, ups and downs, concern and celebration... this week, like any other has been a blend of those things.  I suppose, though, we only notice it when the spread of 'high' and 'low' is especially broad.  This week has had several especially wonderful high points, and one significant tragic low point, and I suppose that's why I am reminded what fullness of life really means.

    Rejoice with those who rejoice

    Weep with those who weep

    And in the in-betweens walk alongside one another in observant companionship


    Rejoicing with those celebrating new life

    Delighting in aspects of church life

    Praying for L and family, for peace and release.

    ... LORD, in your mercy, hear my prayer.

  • Sense and Spontanaiety

    I have always been, and continue to be, a 'head' person rather than a 'heart' person.  I like life orderly and planned - even if it doesn't always work out that way.  Despite that, since being confronted with my own mortality a couple of years back (OK more than 2.5 now) I have allowed myself to be more spontaneous, to do things on a whim, just because they are fun or I want to do them.  I've always been partial to eating ice-cream cones on winter's days or supping hot chocolate with all the trimmings mid-summer, and I guess it is that side of myself I have allowed more freedom.

    So last night spontaneity won over sense - it was a 'school night', sense said I should be tucked up in bed and asleep not standing in the cold cheering a pop star I'm not even that bothered about (sorry Mr B).  But spontaneity said this was a one-off, that it would gladden my heart, that 'what the heck, I can get an extra early night tomorrow'.  Of course that means sense has to take control today and make sure I do do that!

    Two and a half years down the track I am settled back into pretty much the routine I had before all this began.  That's good, it means I am well, healthy and happy.  But it's also potentially bad, it means I am in danger of forgetting what I've learned, of allowing sense (except where it conflicts with workaholism) to rule everything.  It ought not to take such brutal experiences to make people learn to 'seize the day' in ways that energising, but often it does.

    Compared with my life "BC" (before cancer) I am far more likely to go with my desires rather than always choosing the sensible option.  Red duffle coats, cake for breakfast (sometimes), late nights to cheer a pink Rolls Royce... these are among the good gifts, the silver linings, my experience has wrought.

    I still have my workaholic, perfectionist, practical and even pragmatic tendencies, but I think that moments like last night are a valuable counterpoint to that.

  • FAB Indeed

    My goodness it was cold standing outside the back of the Armadillo for two and a half hours, but it was fun!

    A few piccies to make you all jealous...

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    And just as importantly, lots of awareness raising and fundraising.

  • FAB 1 Million

    Every morning as I wake up, I listen to Chris Evans on Radio 2.  I have never met Chris but he comes across as a genuine and generous guy, and as he hales from Warrington where I spent some of the happiest years of my life, there is a vague sense of connection.

    Today Chris, along with James May, Gary Barlow and Prof Brian Cox are driving a pink Rolls Royce from Lands End to John O'Groats as the launch of a year long fund raiser for Breast Cancer Care, a charity close to my heart.  You can read more at the website here.  If you happen to live in, or near, Bristol, Birmingham, Warrington or Glasgow, you might want to get laong to see this spectacle - and for a £5 in the raffle win the chance of having use of the car for a day for you and a couple fo friends.

    As the SECC is so handy, even though it'll be a late night on a school night, I am hoping to get down there - and even, shock horror, put on a pink top!

    Oh, and if you wonder - yes, Chris did his show, live, this morning (almost certinaly by OB judging by some of the sound quality) before the extravaganza begins: mad or what?

  • Martyrs and Witnesses

    Yesterday's PAYG was based on the story of the stoning of Stephen, traditionally identified as the first Christian martyr, with martyr being understood as someone who dies, or at least is tortured or interrogated, for what they believe.  However, given that the Greek word translates simply as witnesses, we discover martyrs (witnesses) in the crowd who observe his execution:

    When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.
    But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
    Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"
    But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him.
    Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
    While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
    Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died.  (Acts 7: 54 - 60 NRSV)

    Witnesses are not passive observers, they are there for a purpose - in this case to oversee the execution.  As I was pondering the passage yesterday, and continued to overnight, I was struck afresh by the fact as members of a religious establishment, we find ourselves cast, not in the role of Stephen, but of Saul and the other witnesses.  The temptation is always to defend the status quo, to protect the ideals and values that have served us well, rather than to be willing to hear new things.

    Saul, later Paul, must have had plenty of opportunity to reflect on the events of that day, and though he presumably eventually came to terms with his own past, he could not change it.  Of the ministers I know, there are many, myself included, whose theological understandings have changed, sometimes dramatically over time.  We, too, have our pasts, with the bits that make us cringe or that we would now approach differently.  I think perhaps the challenge is to move from passive by-standing to active witnessing - both as we reflect on our own past, and as we observe what is happening around us.


    Lord God,

    Open my eyes so that I may see more clearly the reality of which I am part

    Open my ears to hear beyond the words, to the nuances and codes

    Open my mind to engage with challenges and conundrums

    Open my heart to the ache of sacrificial love

    Let me be no passive observer

    No pseudo-objective commentator

    Let me be a witness for truth

    Let me, even me. be a martyr for your cause