don’t be scared

There is a piece of graffiti along the canal in the city that just says ‘Don’t be Scared‘. Don’t be scared is advice that I’ve always found hard to take heed of.
I’m scared of multiple things.

Men seem to either not get scared or else seem reluctant to vocalize the fact that they are fearful of things. Perhaps to admit that we are scared is to say that we don’t have a clue what to do and it puts us in a place where we have to admit that we need a miracle and that we’re not really in control of anything. We’re not sovereign, we’re not God. We don’t really like that.

Yet so many men seem to not stumble at the things that make me stumble that I sometimes wonder if  I’m a faulty model in that I don’t seem to work as reliably as the others. They don’t choke at the vital moments or go missing when needed. Or so it seems.


Perhaps that it why I’ve had this tune by Bell X1 in my head. It seems to vocalize some of the fear of living that I feel.

Will it be a fireball from the sky?
Or will we all take to the bed
Laid low by a new pox?
Or will the wrong guy get the codes?

Whose arms will I seek?
Whose eyes would I meet in the final throws
And say it was good to be human?
To be a human with you here

The world is a scary place and then end will be nigh some time. We can’t keep on running from it. Whose arms will I seek? Whose eyes would I meet in the final throws?

seal

The walk home along the canal brought someone I haven’t seen for year or more, the seal. I rummaged around in my bag for the camera as I had to capture him (why  exactly did I have to capture him on camera?) and by the time I had it switched on I had lost him, just a few grainy out of focus shots and a video of the waves.

Walking home I was reminded of  a Wendell Berry poem I’d read last night.
It has been a tough week with things that have kept me a awake at night. News of family friend in hospital far from home and  family, fear and panic, far from peace.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Wendell Berry
seal

printing out a funeral

I’m printing out the funeral
and it isn’t right

it isn’t right at all

for you could print out many funerals
have them ready to go
but what could you really say?
what could you really say?
to a grief-broken family

the printer stops
their world stops

think of the heart broken ones
 facing the grave in the morning
and the minister who must also face the grave
and witness to grace
I don’t envy her task
I feel for the family
God help them all

the stretcher

How much should you tell your computer? Tonight I don’t care.

Today was not a good day.  I don’t want life to be like this, but it is. It just is.

My girl is upstairs waiting for sleep to come, I know she is hurting, hurting so bad and what can I do? I can do nothing except what I usually do, be me stubborn and angry or angry and stubborn in the wrong way about things I can’t control, probably tilting at windmills, big wind generating windmills that don’t actually generate electricity or spoil the countryside or use more energy to make than they produce in their entire lifetime and there is always something isn’t there?

There was an old man who lived a few houses down.
He walked slowly along the footpath, I assumed on his way to the pub each day. In my head he was called Jim, hop along Jim.  He was lonely, or looked lonely. I knew he was lonely.

So what did I do?
I did nothing.  As usual I did nothing.

‘and at once I knew I was not magnificent’


The police stood outside his house today, then the white overcoats and face mask and on the way back from the shops a stretcher. I didn’t look. H___ wanted me to ask, but I didn’t.

As usual I did nothing. So I don’t know. But I suspect and that fills me with sadness. He was so lonely. Did he have any family?
Worse, you knew this or guessed this and what did you do?

Then there is THE ISSUE.
It’s there.
It can’t be ignored. And Jesus  and God and the Holy Spirit it’s killing us so can you cut me a bit of slack? Won’t us give us a break?

That’s unless of course you don’t really exist because it’s at times like this that it just seems so lonely and silent that I just can’t see it myself.  I tried to imagine you standing in the corner of the bedroom last week, what you actually might have looked like. I couldn’t do it. It was an Obi Wan Kenobi type hologram, a wisp of mist in the corner when what you want is a real and physical, for real flesh and blood, suffering yet risen reality. What I got was a shady corner of my imagination.

Or  a book, or books and letters and versions and exegesis and preachers and church on a Sunday morning with a pipe organ and red hymn book, blue ‘Glory to God’ and ‘The Source’ and cups of instant coffee in a soul less church hall with uncomfortable looking middle class people and  mention (probably) of The Queen’s Jubilee.

This is what we get. Jesus, it’s hard to believe.

How much can you tell the computer?

This much. And there’s more. But nobody will care.  It’s just lonely old men and the money you didn’t earn because you are you and there is no job that is good enough for you or suitable for you and you won’t go and work the production line of Moy Park chicken or something (because you’re busy tilting at big wind generating windmills or something)  and the work you do do is not valued as work because it’s not paid and competition and better train harder or ask the right questions and answer to prove that you are the most suitable person for the opening.

There is the money you forgot to put in the bank to pay for the rent that you remember about on a Saturday night on a special Bank Holiday weekend meaning that you will probably be charged by greedy banker, or something like that.  So you can work hard and still not get paid.

Thing is, stretchers and old men, banks, THE ISSUE, church of clay feet,me being me, entropy is not what I want defining and embittering me, or scaring me,  I don’t want that.

Miracle please…stretcher me through a hole in roof, I can’t do it myself.

 

married to the minister No.5 -‘You Gotta Walk that Lonesome Valley’

When you’re a minister in a large congregation death, pain and suffering are unavoidable.
Obviously death, pain and suffering is unavoidable full stop as ‘You Gotta Walk That Lonesome Valley’

In a church the minister is a sort of reference point for people in their pain. Marriage break-ups, cancers, funerals, job loss, ill health, addictions, abuse, adultery, the list goes on and on. This is one of the things that church should be doing, binding up wounds and proclaiming that the kingdom of dark doesn’t get the final word.

H____ (like most ministers) spends a good portion of her week visiting people and often these visits are to people going through hard times, very hard times.

So whenever H___ comes home and I say “You OK?’ and she sighs and mentions that she has been visiting someone (usually nameless) who is going through some type of pain experience
a) you wonder how do they carry around so much pain from different sources and does the tidal wave ever relent?
I often wonder the same about counselors and social workers. Part of you marvels, part of you wonders.

b) you can get depressed or dragged down because you are only too aware that pain and death are out there. And of course that plays on your mind.
Every minor ailment could be first sign of the disease that plunges your life into tragedy or pain. Or pain and disease are waiting to pounce on those you love. ‘Have I got a tooth ache or is it a brain tumor like so and so had? He only thought he had a toothache but the found a etc etc instead and he was dead with a month…‘ etc

The reality is that we can’t avoid these things, but if you hear about them day after day (whether first hand or from hearsay) the darkness out there seems over-whelming. Add to that the things you might hear on the news report and you can get scared and wither away from life.

I don’t want to wither away from life. Simone Felice was on the Bob Harris radio show the other night talking about having open heart surgery and how it has brought clarity to his life. Bob asks him (about 2.26mins in) how this experience has effected his art and Felice says
‘I sing every song as if it was my last night on earth and I’ll try to wake up every morning and feel like it’s my first morning on earth – you know So just trying to live for the moment and give praise for every breath…’

Those words seem like wise advice and of course we believe that there is redemption from the kingdom of death, which is the good news (or else it is nothing at all)

Still, if you’re naturally melancholic, partial to a bit depression or pessimism it can wear you down sometimes.

rainbow at easter

Today has been a strange day.
It’s the day when Christians gather to celebrate the rising and victory of Jesus over the grave, a day for celebration if ever there is a day to celebrate for a Christian.

Yet to put it simply, life still feels shit, the same as it did a few days before, in fact much blacker and horrible than I’ve had in a while. It’s a day of lead feet and an awareness of how ‘off target’ I’ve been with so much of my life, of confusing strength with being proud, of feeling let down by God while being very aware that I’m a let down as well.
In other words, I’m feeling crap and anything like celebrating despite it being Easter Sunday.

It’s hard. But you probably don’t me to tell you that as you’ll know that yourself, life is hard. This was going to turn into  another post about struggles and wrestling but I briefly  looked up from the computer and could see the tail of the rainbow out the study window. Some may put that down as a coincidence, but not me.
It happens on occasions that God whispers to me through creation, rainbows from windows and buzzards at the exact time I would need to see a buzzard, creepy crows and blackbird nests in the garden.

So yes, life is hard and I don’t feel like celebrating much, I often can’t see how the resurrection is going to help me find a job this week, or be a better husband, or why church is like grinding teeth sometimes or why the good news doesn’t seem very much like good news but today I’ll cling to the rainbow out the window, because it’s a whisper in the dark of something bigger, or perhaps it’s creation celebrating it’s future redemption and restoration and telling me it’s all going to be alright.