Category Archives: Life

apologies and confessions

Much like whynotsmile I must issue an apology regarding my previous post. The helpful people at my bank have now sorted out my problems. It now seems there were in fact no bandits thieving from my account. Some company has a sort code and account number only one digit different from mine and someone got a number wrong, thus the money left my account and not theirs. I am now able to breathe a sigh of relief regarding my banking security. I then did begin to (obviously as a result of living in a litigious blame culture) think “flip someone’s incompetence could have cost me a huge sum of money, what about my phone calls to the bank (a grand total of 3) and distress caused to me (here I was beginning to take on the vocabulary of the said blame culture and exaggerate something that gave me something to talk about but certainly didn’t lose me any sleep). When I took a step back and got some perspective – I realised that someone made a mistake, and here was me getting up on my high horse talking about incompetence and wanting to see what I could get out of the bank. I got my money back, which should have made me thankful enough that I had money to be taken out of my account. I make mistakes every day, and when I do its just a mistake, but when its other people its a flaw in their character, its a trait, its incompetence. I really can be an arrogant git. Much like my encounter with the police here I am again looking to make myself feel superior to someone else – who got one number wrong – big deal. I’ve been reading through the gsopels and realise that Jesus must have been so good to be around. Instead of shooting others down to make himself look important (well he certainly did remind some of the more arrogant of a few home truths) he saw where they were at, he saw things from their perspective and gave people dignity and lifted them up. It must have be so liberating. That’s what I want to be like, instead of someone so insecure at times I need to prove my worth by showing how superior I am to others when in reality i’m no different, constantly making mistake, and needing grace, the grace I maybe need to start demonstrating to others…

Some bandit is thieving from my bank account

I am officially a victim of fraud. Some light fingered bandit has somehow managed to swipe a significant sum of money from my bank account. I feel naked and vulnerable. And wondering how it happened and how to stop it happening again. For a moment questioning whether ethics or pragmatism should win in choosing bank. But just for a moment.

In it for life…

Best man speeches are a bit of a nightmare. You really do feel the pressure to try and make people laugh, and I’m no stand-up comic, although when you have friends who have done lots of amusing things it makes it much easier. Being best man for Tim and Susie was a real pleasure and a bit of a privilege, to be so involved as they commit themselves to each other for life. There was a great moment in the service where we – Tim and Susie’s family and friends also said ‘i do’ to helping them live faithfully with each other. It really impressed me as so often we are given the impression that once in a couple you have all you need but you don’t, you still need other people around you to cheer you on, to listen and be there when it all goes pear-shaped, and to share in the joy. I guess it was reminding us that just as Tim and Susie are in it together for life – we’re in it with them for life too as a community who will try to help them live faithfully. Rob Bell’s ‘Sex God’ has some really interesting stuff on relationships connected with all this but that’s for another day. I leave with one of the best photos (in my opinion – well apart from Emily the flowergirl – the true star of the show) of the day – kindly supplied by Colin’s photographic genius…

And the bride and groom
I’m trying to restrain myself to not posting some of the photos and video clips I used in the speech, I have a lifetime of dinner invites to think about…

No dumping!


As a student we had one of those ‘no dumping’ signs in our toilet which amused us no end. However it seems in Japan going for your daily constitutional could be hazardous, with a toilet manufacturer offering free repairs after some of their products have caught fire. Brings a whole new meaning to ‘a burning sensation while unrinating’… Not only is there a ‘World Toilet Summit’ every year – must create havoc in the sewer systems – but there is a World Toilet Day – so make sure you remember that next November 19!
Continuing the toilet theme this japanese toilet training cartoon is good for a laugh

I spent the weekend in the alien surroundings of Greenmount Agricultural College. Not often city boys like myself make it to farming school. I must admit it was pretty beautiful. I’m off to Peru for a month this summer with a bunch of students, going to work with my IFES counterparts in Lima and to build a community centre in one of the poor areas. Greenmount was the site of our orientation from the amazing folk at LatinLink. I was stunned to hear that there are 8 million people in Lima, living under a perpetual blanket of smog. Its one of those cities constantly growing as more people come from the countryside looking for work. I spent a month in Bolivia a couple of years ago, at an amazing place called IBSJ in Sucre. Bolivia is a stunningly beautiful country. We visited the mines in Potosi where miners still work in the conditions they worked hundreds of years ago. Bolivia, more famous for its President Evo Morales (and his jumpers) recently, is the poorest country in South America. It wasn’t always that way. Potosi used to be one of the richest cities in the world, and supplied two thirds of the Spanish Empire’s silver. It was one of those moments that I felt incredibly guilty for being European, as I realised just how much Europeans had raped and exploited what are now some of the poorest countries in the world.

You’ll be glad to hear the great fundraising drive begins soon, so expect to hear from me looking some sponsorship for running a leg in the Belfast Marathon Relay. Which reminds me I should get out pounding the streets again…

On an entirely different note i’m off to hear one of Zoomtard‘s heroes this weekend and looking forward to having my brain exercised (by Zoomtard and his wife-unit as well as the venerable McGrath on faith and science). I’m sure you’re aware of the hoo-hah around Richard Dawkins book – the God Delusion. I’ve just started McGrath’s response – the Dawkins delusion, although feel slightly lacking in integrity as I haven’t read Dawkins original. As a God-follower you’d expect me to not be the biggest fan of Dawkins, although i’m not alone as various atheists, Guardian columists and even the magazine that voted Dawkins one of the worlds 3 leading intellectuals have reservations about the God Delusion. McGrath is someone who you should take notice of – especially if you’re appalled by some of the shocking science from some of the louder Christian voices currently opening museums. Maynooth – the place to be this weekend.

Are you busy?


Take a deep breath. There is a rant coming…

‘Are you busy?’ appears to be quickly replacing ‘how are you?’ as a commonplace greeting. I’ve been noticing it more and more over the last few months, its been annoying me but its taken me a while to figure it out. ‘So what?’ you may think, but what does it tell us about who we are? It seems to me that this seemingly innocuous question is a symptom of something much deeper. No longer are people interested in how I’m doing, what I may be thinking about, the questions I’m struggling with. Instead all they want to know is if I’m productive – am I justifying my place on the planet by doing stuff.
Well excuse me if I happen to feel that there is more to me than what I do – phew some of you who are aware of my coffee drinking, talking about God career might think. It seems to me its a sign that our worth is not found in the depth of our character as Martin Luther King dreamed of but instead in how much we are doing. To stop in the fast-paced world we live in is almost criminal. The pressure to keep going, to do more, to work longer, to earn more, to keep learning keeps getting greater. Now I’m an activist and I love doing stuff, but as I get older, the more I realise how much I need to stop and take time out, to allow myself to slow down, and remember that the world revolves around God and what he’s doing, not me. Time to think and read is so valuable, to follow the model of Jesus taking time out is more important than ever with the pace of life we live today. To ask each other how busy we are simply confounds this lie that our value lies in what we do, not the content of our character, not in following a God who rests when his work is done and who calls us to a balanced not a frantic life…

On a slight side issue, the whole greetings thing is interesting, and I realise I’m pretty guilty of this so its something I need to work on. When I was in Tanzania (not a phrase I’ve used for a long time!) one of the things that struck me was the amount of time people made for each other, how they valued each other, how when they stopped to ask how someone was, they meant it and waited until they had heard everything. Today we ask ‘how are you?’ and don’t even wait for an answer or expect a ‘fine’ or ‘grand’, and not for people to actually open up and share what’s really going on. We’re good at the niceties but how much do we really care?

How prepared are we to take the challenge of thinking about what we say when we ask people questions and meaning what we say?

you know youre getting old when…


1. People who come to your Christmas soiree (and who are younger than you) bring their kids

2. You’ve been out of school (and yes its a pretty awful website) so long that the ‘class of 96’ has their 10 year reunion.

After almost getting the wrong night (another sign of getting old – or just not reading things properly), I rolled up to White’s Tavern last night intrigued as to what would ensue. To be honest I had feared it may be just a chance for people to let everyone know how successful they were, or that after the ‘so where are you living now?’ and ‘what are you up to?’ questions were exhausted it would descend into an awkward silence. I’m glad to say it was a good night – some people i hadn’t seen for 10 years, others I had. Its strange that most people outwardly didn’t seem to have changed that much (well, most of the guys have acquired a bit of later twenties spread) and some of those relationships were pretty easy to pick up again. Be interesting to know how much people really have changed. I know as I look back my time at uni was very significant and shaped a lot of who I am now. The shy geeky Samuel with the sideshade of 1M has become the slightly more opinionated (and still geeky) Sam who thankfully has lost the sideshade! I guess my last 10 years have been shaped by realising that if I believed God was real then I needed to take him seriously. That has meant launching into the journey of following Jesus and trying to figure out what it looks like to follow him. That’s taken in rebellion against the nice easy answer tickbox Christianity I grew up with, trips to Africa and South America have pushed me deeper into understanding how God and justice fit together, its taken me through some tough times of various sorts of broken relationships, and the more recent strand of trying to understand better who God has made me to be so I can figure out how best I can be part of what He is doing. Looking back the last 10 years have been pretty exciting, God has been doing a lot of work on me, bring on the next 10!

Road rage in the Christmas traffic


Sitting in traffic and driving in general can do strange things to us. It can turn the most mild mannered person into a raging psycho. I moved house recently and am spending more time in traffic. I can lack a little patience at times, so sometimes it can be interesting. Today, driving along the inside lane (which at certain times of the day is a bus lane), I started indicating to pull out to avoid a few parked cars. All of a sudden the car on the outside sped up – definately not letting me out. I casually glanced round to see the woman in the passenger seat angrily gesticulating at me. Maybe she didn’t quite get the bus lane is only in operation 8-9.30 and so figured since i was transgressing, no way was her hubbie going to let me out. It had a strange effect on me, overcoming the temptation to gesticulate back, it made me all the more determined to let people out as i drove along. Driving along can be a time when I am so absorbed in my journey and me getting there that i forget about others. Letting people out in front of me is a tiny way i try to teach myself and remind myself to be generous, to show grace to others. Today the example of ungrace or a lack of generosity drove me (sorry – unintentionally bad pun) to be generous in how i treated others on the road. Living generously doesn’t come easy – to me anyway – so its something i need to teach my self to do. I guess today was a start – just the rest of my life to go now…