groundsel and tutsan

I’m worried.

I don’t try not to be worried because I don’t really know what to do when it descends like it does. Ride it out?

Or perhaps I need to consider groundsel, creeping buttercups, tutsan.
I was out in the garden today trying to restore order. I have been struggling with what to plant and when to plant it. I am trying to practice crop rotation. The pieces don’t fit harmoniously, there are gaps that should have vegetables. Where there are gaps there are weeds eager to fill space. It seems chaotic.

Except what is a weed?
What is order?

There is one corner that is a complete mess if you think of an orderly garden that gets mowed at least once a week.
I went to cut it a few weeks ago but stopped short. I stopped short because I’ve noticed that goldfinches like to eat the seeds of the weeds. If I sorted out those ‘weeds’ and had a lawn there I wouldn’t have goldfinches to surprise me when washing the dishes on dreary Monday mornings.

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I was hanging washing out today and heard an unfamiliar whistling noise coming from the tree. It was a female bullfinch. She took off, her partner joined her and landed on my spade. Then they both jumped on to the weed in the corner that the goldfinch liked and munched a few seeds.

I’ve not paid enough attention to flowers over the years which is a bit of a sin I suppose. I’m not sure what the weed is.
Looking for its name on a website  I stumbled across the names of a few other plants I noticed in the garden today and which I am going to try to remember:- tutsan and groundsel.
And I’m going to learn more names. I am going to consider the lilies of the fields and the weeds of the garden and look at finches feeding on the weeds and read these words again.

“…what’s the use of worrying? What good does it do? Will it add a single day to your life? Of course not! 26 And if worry can’t even do such little things as that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

27 “Look at the lilies! They don’t toil and spin, and yet Solomon in all his glory was not robed as well as they are. 28 And if God provides clothing for the flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, don’t you suppose that he will provide clothing for you, you doubters? 29 And don’t worry about food—what to eat and drink; don’t worry at all that God will provide it for you. 30 All mankind scratches for its daily bread, but your heavenly Father knows your needs. 31 He will always give you all you need from day to day if you will make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.’

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goddisgoode

I like this bit in ‘English Bread and Yeast Cookery’ by Elizabeth David. It reminds me that a good loaf (or beer) is something to say thanks for, a gift of grace.

“In Chaucer’s England one of the names for yeast or barm was goddisgoode ‘bicause it cometh of the grete grace of God.’These words imply a blessing. To me that is just what it is.It is also mysterious, magical.No matter how familiar its action may become nor how successful the attempts to explain it in terms of chemistry and to manufacture it by the ton, yeast still to a certain extent retains its mystery.”

why this man struggles to go to church sometimes

That article in Reach Out magazine about men not coming to church anymore got me wondering why men aren’t coming to church anymore.Then I thought:-
‘I haven’t a clue, I’m not even sure that men aren’t coming to church anymore….but as a man who sometimes struggles to come along on Sunday mornings so why is it hard for you?’

1 I am a bit of a day dreamer, my mind tends to wander and wonder. It did during school, university lectures, any talks that go beyond 5mins. I find it hard going to the cinema to watch a film the whole way through (unless I have an intense interest in it for whatever the reason).
So the reality of sitting down on a seat or pew voluntarily for at least an hour every Sunday morning is a challenge because I just have to sit still and just listen (apart from the singing).
My favourite recurring vision in any large church building is a football being crossed in from somewhere near the pulpit and me catching it with a perfectly timed right footed scissor kick volley which bounces of the wall. It often happens half way through a sermon. That is typically what is going on in my head during a sermon, any sermon.Back in my teens I imagined the building upside down and what it would be like to walk on the roof.

Interestingly I’m reading a book at the moment (Thinking Slow, Thinking Fast by Daniel Kahneman) that was making me wonder if there is something about a typical Presbyterian church service that demands we use parts of our brain that we don’t use that often during the week? Or in other words what ever happens on a Sunday morning worship doesn’t seem to engage all parts of your humanity but rather seems rational and about using your mind.

2 Hymns and praise songs are hard sometimes. I never  really sing during the week. Does anyone sing during the week?
Perhaps I’ll hum along to a song under my breath. But I’ll rarely if ever ‘mean it’ and it won’t be coming from deep in my lungs. Then you walk into this strange building on a Sunday morning where you are expected to sing out and with enthusiasm to God you can’t see. Singing is a foreign activity to me (and this is coming from an erstwhile singer-song writer who tried to write songs at one stage and sing them…).
That is before we even begin to think about things like words or tunes, how the actual music sounds. So I struggle with the amount of singing we do at church.

3 I’ll cut to the chase and say that I often just wonder if it is actually all true. At the end of the day we’re worshipping a man (who was fully God) who we’re saying rose from the dead and is God and created the Universe and who is King of the Universe. We make such mind blowing claims on a typical Sunday morning yet the whole church thing just trundles along as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The doubts about whether it is true are especially bad on weeks when I’m looking around at the state of the world and wondering how a loving God could allow this or that to happen. Perhaps this has intensified with the online revolution or live TV in which bad news can be on  a 24hr cycle. Perhaps I’m more depressed by hopelessness or something and then you go into some weird building to close your eyes and pray to God you can’t see. Which is apparently the best solution to the untold suffering from war or natural disasters.

4 This is probably related to No1 but when you go to church you are putting yourself in a position in which you aren’t in control, and you are doing this voluntarily. For example I might spend a lot of mental energy trying to block out the noise of a baby screaming, on trying to be graceful to the mother who is letting the baby scream because you know that she is tired and struggling in life. You voluntarily go to something on a Sunday morning in which there are people who might rub you up the wrong way or who are a bit boring (in your opinion). If you feel like you’re not in control of your life with regards to work or family and then you have a Sunday off are you going to be willing to go to something voluntarily to sit and not be in control in some strange looking building? Maybe you might prefer to go fishing or read the Sunday paper and have croissant. There are so many things in life where people don’t feel in control are they going to voluntarily submit to another thing that might make demands on them? Like you might be tired from your normal 9-5 job and then you find that your church are saying that you have to do more and get more involved in visiting or volunteering and that sort of thing.

5 Sometimes our talk in Christian circles often seems to be abstract and not based in the real world. Or it ignore vast areas of life that you might consider really important.  How do you apply scripture passage from 2000yrs ago to computers and smart phones? Does Jesus have to say about economics? What about climate change?

6 You don’t feel like you can be yourself. You feel like other people aren’t being themselves either.
At the same time you might be scared if people are themselves because you’re not sure what that might mean in terms of what you should do as a Christian. What if they tell you they are struggling financially or with some addiction?Would you be willing to support them and that sort of thing? If you’re tired and all over the place, or feel you ready know lots of other people like that or have neglected friends you already have the prospect of more and more people coming into your life with more and more needs seems daunting.

Those are 6 struggles I  have with coming to church. Do you have any?

the Word

If I am being honest then I am wrestling with what I think about  the Bible and phrases like ‘The Word of God’.

I just don’t know if I have the same conviction that the Bible is the fully authoritative Word of God that many  believers in the reformed, evangelical, Presbyterian church I am most familiar with seem to have.

Or to put it another way, I am just not  sure why Jesus is called ‘the Word’ in John’s Gospel while we also call the Bible ‘The Word of God’. Is Jesus the ultimate Word of God or is the Bible?  Or when a minister is preaching the Word what does that mean? What do courses like ‘Handling the Word’ mean? Is it more important to know how to ‘handle’ Jesus or the Bible? Are they the same thing?

The first time I remember wondering about this sort of thing was at a youth work conference about 10yrs ago called ‘The Bible Centred Youth Worker’.
There was and still is something about that title that rankled with me because it seemed to be focusing on the wrong thing. In my mind it seemed to make much more sense for it to be called ‘The Christ Centred Youth Worker’ or something like that because it was all about Jesus.
Was the ultimate purpose of  a church youth worker to be ‘centred’ on Christ or on the Bible? Was my goal to get young people excited about the Bible or Jesus?

I got thinking about it a few weeks ago when picking up a book called ‘Discovering Biblical Equality’ in a 2nd hand book shop in Cork. I was excited to read it but something about the first line in the preface put me off:-

‘Discovering Biblical Equality is the result of a collaborative effort of evangelical scholars united here by two convictions: that the Bible is the fully inspired and authoritative Word of God..’

I am just not sure that I am on the same page when it comes to what I believe about the Bible.
Is Jesus the fully inspired and authoritative Word of God or is it the Bible? A hymn I’ve sung many times says:-

‘You’re the Word of God the Father, since before the world began’.

Is the Bible the same as Jesus? Could we sing that hymn about the Bible? It’s the interchangeability of the phrase that confuses me.

I was wondering again last night while flicking through a  PCI ‘What is a church member?’ leaflet. According to it:-

‘ Believers trust Jesus Christ with their lives. This involves believing truths about him and having a personal relationship with him. The Bible, which Christians believe is God’s Word…’

Well that is just it, I am not sure that I believe that The Bible is God’s Word – so does that mean that I’m not a Christian? I believe that Jesus is the Word but I’m not sure that I have to believe that the Bible is God’s Word to be a Christian.  Do I have to confess the Bible is Lord to be a Christian?
There seems to be a reverence and respect for the physical book of the Bible that goes above Christ. It seems to be more important to understand scripture than Jesus. There is that bit where Jesus tells the Jewish leaders:-

’39 You study[c] the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

 

Another thing that I often wonder about is that verse that always got wheeled out in discussions about the Bible from Paul’s letter to Timothy:-
‘All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

The way that I see that verse is that Paul can only have been talking about the Old Testament as ‘all scripture’ as the 66 book of the bible didn’t exist.  So why was it always quoted at me as if Paul was referring the 66 books of the Bible? Should we not have heard a lot more sermons and talks on the Prophets for example if all scripture was God – breathed and Paul can only have been talking about the Old Testament?

 

 
I

Batman broccoli,wok and work

I’ve been trying my hand at growing some new vegetables in the garden.
These choices have been based on a value for space ratings provided in Joy Larkcom’s excellent and informative ‘Grow Your Own Vegetables’.

One of the vegetables that got a high rating was broccoli raab aka broccoli rabe aka rapini aka cime di rapa . The name ‘cime di rapa’ means ‘turnip tops’ in Italian. I planted about 0.5 sqm around  mid March and about 2 months later this is what I got, a sort of raggedy leaf with spindly shoots and florets…Image

Ideally I think that the plants are supposed to have more of a floret but as they where starting to flower it seemed like a good time to bring them in.

I’ve cooked it twice, once in a pasta and sausage dish and today with a beef stir-fry  It tasted good to me, like a sort of Batman broccoli, dark and broody, sort of bitter and complex.  I like it and will grow it again though it might be a bit heavy/bitter for some taste.

( broccoli raab = 430g)

For the stir fry I also took the 2nd cut of some stir fry greens after getting about 100g of young leaves for an oriental salad a few weeks ago.

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The main thing I couldn’t help noticing about the stir fry greens was how beautiful the leaves are to look at. It seems a shame to eat them.

(370g stir fry greens)

I was out watering the vegetable beds this morning at about 8am, it was so beautiful and peaceful, the closest I’ve had to a ‘quiet time’ in a long time.
Then my sense of peace and contentment is nagged by thinking that it’s all very well for me to watering plants at 8am but if I was a real man I wouldn’t have time for so much gardening, I’d be careering of to a job like my neighbours, I wouldn’t have time for faffing around with mizuna and broccoli raab or writing a blog.

So often I wrestle with God in the garden. It is an odd mixture of guilt and delight, pleasure and pain.  What is work? What is a job?

The questions comes thickest in the carrot bed. I’ve weeded that carrot bed so many times already, the weeds keep coming up.I’m aware of the threat of carrot flies. If I’m lucky for hours of work I’ll get 50 about carrots. I can buy a bag of  them up at Joyce’s for 39c.Is it worthwhile investing precious hours on growing something which has  a combined worth of about €4 according to Joyce’s?

They might be loss leaders or whatever but that nearly makes it worse. Carrots are being treated as a commodity or bait to encourage people to spend their money on other more worthy groceries and good.
In a world where our value and worth to society is  measured by the benchmark of money and the Market weeding a carrot bed for 50 carrots throws up questions, questions about what is worthwhile work or who gives value to work, what work should you be engaged in.
Are you crazy or is the world crazy?
Is this just a middle class privilege thing or is their work of true value in growing a turnip?
Turmoil in the turnip patch, serpent in the garden.

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voting

Sometimes I look  at the pile of election leaflets cluttering the hall and the string of posters from here to Galway and wonder who would Jesus vote for or if Jesus would even vote?
Someone I was talking to got annoyed with me for wondering if Jesus would vote.

They pointed out how many people around the world would love to be given that opportunity living as they do under tyrants and despots, having no choice in who rules them. They also said it was our responsibility to society, to make sure that we don’t get far right parties or selfish parties or parties that look after the powerful and wealthy before the weak and poor. They also said that we’re not called to be Jesus but to be his disciples and that I was saying this from an idealistic position and that I never want to get involved with stuff like politics, being an avoider of real life and that sort of thing

I guess that most of the people I know would disagree with me, and I probably will end up voting on Friday, still I wonder sometimes.

My main problem with is that I find that most politicians are asking me to endorse behaviour and values that I don’t really agree with, they are competing and looking to get into power, they are often seeking to influence the world by values that I don’t find in tune with what I understand about the Kingdom of God. Power seems to the thing many of them crave, even if they want to use that power for the common good. So  I feel uneasy giving my support to that sort of behaviour. 
It seems to me that by voting I am endorsing the type of hyper-competitive, race to the top, power-seeking world that seems to be removed from the world of grace and humility. And which is the real world?

There is that bit in Matthew 25 that Jesus tells the disciples:–

, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave’

If that is what he told the disciples about how it should be among them what does that mean about voting for A or B?

The other thing about voting is that it is my attempt to force my values and point of view, those things which I agree with on the world. I am hoping that such and such gets in so that what I want to see happen happens in the world. Is forcing my values on the world and those who disagree with me the way my heart should be working when faced with social injustice?

I know it’s a dangerous think to imagine Jesus as we might put our preconceptions on him and try to make him in our image but I still can’t imagine Jesus voting just as I can’t imagine Jesus shooting a machine gun on a battlefield.

 

 

scorn

Unfortunately I’m becoming such a cynical, sneering scornful person especially perhaps with people in church or my particular denomination.
It is a horrible way to go with people (and myself) as Jacques Ellul reminded me last night.

Help me change.

‘To scorn is to condemn the other person to complete and final sterility, to expect nothing more from him and to put him in such circumstances that he will never again have anything to give. It is to negate him in his possibilities, in his gifts, in the development of his experience. To scorn him is to rip his fingernails out by the roots so that they will never grow back again. The person who is physically maimed, or overwhelmed by mourning or hunger can regain his strength, can live again as a person so long as he retains his honor and dignity, but to destroy the honor and dignity of a person is to cancel his future, to condemn him to sterility forever. In other words, to scorn is to put an end to the other person’s hope and to one’s hope for the other person, to hope for nothing more from him and also to stop having any hope for himself’