Category Archives: Musings

New Year. New Blogging Mojo

Blogs seem all so 2008.  I remember the days when a bunch of us used to blog, battering out ideas, sharpening each other’s viewpoints and perspectives. Something happened in the last couple of years as we (well some of us) stopped writing and more generally twitter and the like button overtook the blog comment.

Jaybercrow has had enough and has lit the proverbial firework up some of our backsides and so with a bunch of others – most of whom can be found in the blogroll on the right – I am setting myself the goal of blogging once or twice a month. It is something I find really helpful in clarifying my thinking and perspective and I’d love you to help me by:

  • reading and commenting – encourage the good, disagree (nicely), critique and make suggestions
  • joining us by starting your own blog

This blog has always been a bit of a fusion or mis-match of stuff. I know the blogging gurus say choose one topic to write about but my brain doesn’t work that way – I need variety!

Are you up for joining in?

simplified-blogging

Thanks to John Atkinson at Wrong Hands for a great cartoon.

Steve Jobs on freedom and porn (via Tim Chester)

Fascinating article on Steve Jobs attitude to porn. I may get to like apple more now…

Pete Sanlon has a fascinating post on Steve Jobs, Apple and pom: Jobs has argued that he wants his portable computer devices to not sell or stock pomography. When a critic emailed him to say that this infringed his freedoms, Jobs emailed back and told him to buy a different type of computer. Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs’ restrictions of customers’ freedoms. The CEO of Apple r … Read More

via Tim Chester

The soapbox has been on the move and will be back soon

Samson and GoliathThe last few months have been a whirlwind of constant movement and excitement. After 30ish years in the glorious east, I’ve had to say goodbye to the iconic cranes that remind me I’m home as I’ve packed up and moved to Dublin. Despite having spent half of the last year or two in and around Dublin’s fair city, and becoming practised in moving, leaving the city that has watched me grow up and has changed round me as I’ve grown up has been more difficult than I imagined. I’ve come to appreciate just how blessed I am in terms of the friendships I have and the people around me who I love, respect and have had the privilege of sharing life with over the past years. I know those friendships remain, but there is a wrench when you realise the possibility of nipping across Belfast to see someone is no longer there, and has to be prearranged into two/three day trips north. Moving (and going long periods of not spending more than 5 consecutive nights in one bed) certainly helps with decluttering lots of the stuff that I’ve accumulated, and giving a sense a freedom from the slavery of possessions.

The last months have taken in a wild variety of things – the encounter summer team, a holiday in Spain, Leading for Life in Vienna, leadership training with Cuban youth leaders, Summer Madness, U2 at Croke, Greenbelt and trying to write a dissertation on leadership development, never mind moving city and country. Oh and leaving the organisation I’ve worked with for the last 9 years. Apart from being ridiculously expensive I’m loving Dublin, the future is bright as I look forward to finishing my MDiv after 5 years, Innovista Ireland begins to come online, and a trip to Hong Kong provides space and celebration of all this change. Come 15 September I’m sure many of those musings and a wee review of Greenbelt will come to light, but for now the thesis takes over…

doctrinal purity vs grace

Does an emphasis on doctrinal purity rule out grace being the most obvious smell we give off?

I’ve been mulling this over a little over the past weeks. Is it possible for the two to live in tension?  I know it must but I have rarely seen it happen..

It seems than when our focus is on making sure people think/know/believe the ‘right’ things we become arbiters of what is ‘right’ and set ourselves up in judging and defining ourselves over and against others. It can be seen in lots of ways – both in those who are nervous about the gospel being diluted and those who wish people could see the bigger picture. In fact even when we want others to espouse a more gracious and liberating way of living we can become so focused on whether they are doing it right that we lose the gracious way of life we are trying to see more of.

I wonder if our focus is on doctrinal purity (of whichever sort that may be) if we can really live, breathe and smell grace?

The Moderators and the Presbyterian Mutual

I’m sure we’re all a little bored by the story of the collapse of the Presbyterian Mutual and the Presbyterian church’s quest to get the government to rescue it. Yes to get the government to bail out the church. I’m not as well versed with the goings on as Will and crookedshore. I’m also aware that it is very easy to take cheap shots at churches – or the institutional parts of them at least. So this post isn’t a cheap shot, it comes off the back of several conversations about a variety of things. One was to do with a view that the biggest challenge to leadership development in the church is sectarianism. Another invovled asking if the commonly perceived view that often the church turns people away from following Jesus because of its hypocrisy is not actually true, and that maybe the problem is that the church is living out what it believes. If that is the case then the gospel it believes bears little resemblence to the gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus spoke of. Another had to do with the old adage that you can tell what we value by what we do or speak up about. You may or may not be aware that 23 previous moderators of the Presbyterian Church wrote to the British and Irish governments asking them for help. Am I being too harsh in asking why when money is involved all these former moderators are happy to sign a letter? Where was such unity in speaking out against sectarianism, denials of civil rights to certain sections of the community, global injustices, in fighting for the rights of the poor and marginalised in our communities? Is this speaking out a damning indictment of previous silences? It begs the question what would I have done? What have I done? What are the things I am prepared to speak out on and get upset about? Despite what I say what does that reveal about the values deep in me and the true state of my heart?

The Party

The day of the party had arrived. It wasn’t a big affair, just a few friends and the odd neighbour coming for some Christmas drinks and hopefully some craic. The morning was spent finishing off the Christmas shopping, amidst the bustling hordes. Lunch was quickly downed with the knowledge that preparations for the evening needed to be made. Cleaning the bathroom and vacuuming the house seemed to take an age, and felt like gym workout. As the tidying progressed, dishes were done, dinner eaten, furniture moved, candles lit, and music chosen the house was transformed. When the last snacks and drinks were sitting on the table ready to be consumed, suddenly there was nothing left to do but wait for the first arrival. After the busyness and rushing around, the last minute trip to M&S, there was stillness. In the stillness, preparations made, we wondered who would come, how the night would go, would people get on? In the midst of the anticipation suddenly it dawned on me. This is advent. Waiting. Expectancy. Anticipation. An unexpected holy moment…

Relevance? or Reality?

Is the church relevant today? It the question being posed by BBC Newsline’s latest mini series on faith. With footage of a declining traditional church, a doom-mongering priest and of vibrant youth events with cool music and trendy speakers the impression given was that unless the church is ‘relevant’ it will die off. But what are we talking about when we talk about relevance? For many people and the BBC programme it seems to be about aesthetics – the church is relevant when it has ‘contemporary music’ (don’t get me started on my views of lots of ‘christian’ music) or cool visuals, or trendy speakers who sit on stools and dress down to give their talk. But if this is what we are thinking about when we think about being relevant to our culture I think we’ve got it all wrong. The church – God’s people on earth – his means of bringing the good news of the kingdom can never and should never be irrelevant. I think the problem is more the church is not dealing in reality. Too many churches and too many Christians pretend. The bible is full of the gritty questions of life, of meaning, of purpose, of love and loss, relationships, justice and injustice. God deals in reality and in the messiness of people’s lives. The message of the gospel is one of reconciliation that speaks into every part of our lives. The problem is that churches have become divorced from reality, many play at Christianity, pretending to live happy lives, not acknowledging the reality of how messed up things are at times, not admitting when they don’t understand. The show Christianity we see in many places, and many of us (me included) is almost a denial of the gospel which actually tells us that we aren’t ok, that building our life on anything other than God won’t work long term, that God became one of us and lived among us in poverty and oppression, that there is hope of redemption and resurrection through a path of suffering and death, that we are forgiven but won’t be perfect until Jesus returns.

So maybe the issue isn’t that the church needs to be relevant and have up to date music, glitzy multimedia presentations, and trendy TV show host-esque communicators, maybe for lots of us the problem is that churches don’t deal with the reality of people’s lives – if there was more honesty and dealing with the issues we all struggle with instead of peddling trite shite then maybe the church would connect better with people around them as it is speaking abut the issues they are facing and bringing good news into those situations.

If Jesus was present in many of our churches today (of course meaning more than just a Sunday service!) I imagine he would bring a dose of reality that may not make him very welcome…

A few thoughts in progress from a slightly fuzzy post lunch Friday brain…

identity crisis

Who am I?

A couple of things have been going on recently. The first seemingly innocuous. I met up with Vox to start sorting out a pension. As I’m about to hit the third decade (although technically i’m already in it) its time to think wisely about the future. Part of me did think, im getting a pension, that’s me sorted, the future is secure. In my mind my security was being placed more in finance than God, it was my attitude and the placing of my security there that is the issue, not the fact i’m being sensible.

Secondly and perhaps more importantly I changed job over the summer, well changed role within the same organisation (or movement to change the world as i like to think of it). As the newness wore off after a couple of months, I’ve been experiencing a sense of loss. The loss of some of the things I’ve been doing over the last seven years, a quarter of my life so far. The relationships I had built. The feeling of being needed by the students I was working with. Many of the parts of that role fitted with who I am and gave me expression of those gifts, skills and abilities. The time was right for a change but I loved what I was involved in. Perhaps my identity became wrapped up in my role, so as I changed role, as a new season in life comes, I have begun to question who I am. Had I become what I was doing – was my identity defined by what I was doing as opposed to who I was? As I explore new avenues I am feeling that sense of loss but it has also made me question whether my identity had become based on my doing as opposed to being? Maybe this time is a time for a rebuilding of proper foundations, of being as opposed to being defined by doing…How much of our doing is an expression of our  being and where does the balance lie?

The line of an old prayer I have used often, and seemed particularly relevant came back to me:

O Jesus, meek and humble of heart, hear me.
Deliver me Jesus….
…from the desire of being of being consulted….

Why God is better than the Police

So last night I had an encounter with the Police. It wasn’t pleasant and I’m £60 poorer and got a bonus of 3 penalty points on my license. Thinking back about it its amazing the amount of self-justifying I’ve been doing to make it out that I’m not a criminal and didn’t really deserve it and others are worse. It was wet, there were a set of traffic lights ahead, I was thinking ‘I’m almost out of petrol, hope i make it to the garage’ (the arrow was hovering on the empty edge of red) and just noticed the lights were amber, but (foolishly) thought, sure don’t know if i’ll be able to stop, i can squeeze through. First mistake.

Then a minute later, blue flashing lights in the mirror – ‘oh crap’.
I did think ‘well the lights were just changing, should have stopped, it’ll be ok’. Second mistake
After the chat about what happened, the ‘officer’ asked how long I’d had my license, if i had any penalty points, on my ‘no’ he responded – “that’s all right then, I’m going to give you 3 for failing to stop at a red light”. I thought it was pretty harsh, no warning or ‘well make sure it doesn’t happen again’ but bamm, straight in there with points. Bank balance, next years insurance and pride all going ‘ouch’. I also wondered if i had points would he have then not given me any? Or if I had been female…

Then to rub salt in as I was filling up having reached the garage, weren’t there some boy racers wheel spinning, burning rubber, and speeding off into the distance. I’ll bet they didn’t get any points last night. Bandits.

Of course I was wrong, should have been paying more attention, should have stopped, can’t really complain (although memories of friends getting a slap on the wrist for doing double the speed limit keep filling my head). It is shocking just how much I tried to justify and excuse myself. The black and white of it was that I was in the wrong and deserved it, but boy racers as a case in point, I felt the need to compare myself and make sure that even if I’d done wrong – there were others who were worse than me.

Made me pretty grateful how graciously God treats me – not the way I deserve, or don’t deserve as the case may be, that he is the God of the second chance, who is incredibly patient with his stumbling constantly getting it wrong children, not treating us harshly…