bouncing some thoughts around about flags

The flag situation is complex but maybe that’s because we’re not dealing with something we can untangle by ourselves with some bright political thinking, like sitting down with tangled up Christmas lights and getting them eventually straightened out again and up on the tree.

Maybe we’re dealing with supernatural forces that blind people or have our eyes blinkered by the kingdom of darkness and we’re powerless to stop them and our call is to overcome them by suffering?
We can’t untangle the political Northern Ireland Christmas tree lights all by ourselves and if people are as broken as we’re told they are in the Bible then we never will.

I guess that wonder how society can be so dark when we think about how many churches and Christians we’ve had and still have, even if the numbers are falling.

Part of me wonders how things seem quite so dark. But then maybe we just don’t realize how dark the human heart is. Is your heart dark? Mine is despite all the faith stuff. If a church has someone like me in it then it shouldn’t be so hard to see why we haven’t been peacemakers.

I guess that my take on why things are so dark is that many of our politicians (just like any of us) like the power and want to be in control. They don’t want the power stripped away because they are fearful of what would happen then.

The loyalists/unionists/whatever the correct definition is are fearful because they are seeing that things are slipping away from them, the balance of power which they enjoyed for decades is ebbing away. Suddenly decisions are being made that would never have happened in the good old days.

It’s all very Lord of the Rings with people looking to hold the one ring that would bind them all.

I want to be in control and cling to power as well of course.
Not being in a position of power means that you’re not in control and you have to trust God to be your refuge and strength.
That is a hard place to be in though because it makes you ask the question

‘Do I really believe this stuff or is it just fantasy?’

The answers might be scary because of the weakness of my faith. If something happened because of something would I trust God, would Jesus be enough?
I’m afraid to find that out sometimes so cling to my own sense of being in control, trust my own way of doing things.

I’m not sure about Christian display power, or what power means from a Christian point of view. There are a group of Christian planning to pray outside Belfast City Hall on Saturday morning. I should like this because we’re witnessing to a counter-cultural way of doing things and it seems like a really good Christian response to the darkness.
Yet I still feel a bit weird about it truth be told.
Is it like we’re going to try and prove that there are more of us Christians that those who would disrupt our peaceful society?
Are we trying to show how powerful we are compared to the darkness?

I’m not sure why this makes me feel uneasy. Praying is good,praying for peace in our land is good as well.
But what does praying for peace mean?
Will our land be peaceful if we pray that the loyalist rioters go back home and the dissidents disband?

That would be great but if that happened we still would be far from having a peaceful society.
What about the economic war for instance? How many lives are being wrecked and prevented from flourishing by the advertising on billboards beside the flags. We have divided society into labels like ‘shirkers’ vs workers’ or ‘skivver v striver’ and how much harm has that done? Does greed up the Malone Road offend God just as much as some teen with limited opportunities and throwing a brick. The message might be that the kid just needs to prove himself and pull his socks up, change his ways and start competing.

Not sure what is bothering me, it’s great people are praying for peace. But I guess that if we think that the only violence and trouble that is inflicting Northern Ireland are to do with Union flags or sectarianism then maybe the devil has pulled another trick out on us. Maybe that way middle class people look down their noses and sneer, or patronize is just as bad.

church upon church

My faith is on unsteady ground at the moment, everything seems so unsure about it.  Things play into it and for the life of me I don’t see what makes Christianity ‘special’  sometimes. The flag protests this week played into that because here I am sitting in  an area with so many churches, church upon church where people like me have been encouraged for weeks, years, decades to worship God and yet what difference has it made to our society?  What difference do I make to the world?

We seem to specialize in wars over the way we do the catering in the church hall, like should we use the china plates or paper plates, or who gets to use what room, or in being ‘pastoral’ at the expense of never changing things around. So we have to bring people along with us slowly slowly, gently gently. Of course we do, but maybe we don’t? Maybe we just need to say, no, this is daft and there is no need for it any longer.

Anyway, I don’t know how it is we have so many church buildings and so much Christian in general yet we seem so lead footed and faith clumsy. What difference does this make to life, what makes us ‘special’?

competition,Jesus and pacifism

Forgive me for what I am about to blog (I know not what I do) but I can’t sleep and the sky has brightened up in that gunmetal grey, Ulster way and here I am blogging at 4.37am ( which is guaranteed to lead to an mess of a post ) possibly with things I don’t really mean or sweeping statements that I may regret writing.
Anyway, I’ve thoughts on my mind.
Today I was thinking that if I loose my faith it’s probably going to be one of two things that push me over the edge.

Number One.
Suffering and pain, especially the silence of God in suffering and pain.But I expected that to be challenge.

Number two. What feels like the ‘unworkability’ of  Jesus’ commands in day- to-day life.

I had expected the first threat, the silence and feeling that God wasn’t there or was just a phantom.
But the idea that it might be the voice of God that pushes me over the edge is something that I’d never considered.

It may be the thing that wears me down because unbearable suffering and sorrow doesn’t happen every day,
but the day-to-day, (tomorrow morning when I wake up for example) does happen everyday, and it’s  in that day-to-day that I’m expected to live life,
and it is also in the day-to-day that a Christian is supposed to be living out commands such
‘..turn the other cheek
or ‘..give him your cloak as well
or ‘do to others what you would have them do to you‘. …everyday.

A Christian is called to follow Jesus.

How is a man supposed to mesh  this sort of crazy counter-cultural stuff in the dog eat world streets of Lisburn City?

How a Christian is supposed function in this panicking, worried and fearful atmosphere without compromising and keeping his holy bits for Sunday morning?

Every step seems to scream that life is a competition.
Well not every step, but large and very important segments of life seem based on competition such as the job market.

(Ah, another duel at dawn with my old arch-nemesis ‘the job market’.)

I’m looking for a job at the moment, or paid employment .

But the only way I can effectively obtain a job is by getting more competitive,  by sprucing up my cv and applying for jobs and hoping that I fill in my application form better than someone else,
or that I am more eloquent in an interview,
of competing and hoping that I am a stronger  ‘more suitable’ candidate that someone else.
My hope is to be more alert in spotting an opening or opportunity than someone else and force my way through the merest c rack, thereby proving my worthiness.

Or else what?
Just sit here and hope for a surprise phone call,
or for some kindly benefactor,
or to have a chance conversation with Ireland’s only urban farmer who offers me a chance to learn the trade on the spot,
or to try and risk it on some hair brained scheme?
No,that won’t work, life doesn’t work like that. You have to earn it and prove that you are worthy and better, a hard worker. Don’t sitting on your arse,  get out there and show the world what you are made off.

There might be a job in a very caring charity doing very caring work,
yet you have to compete for that position and prove that you would be a more caring person than someone else. You have to trample and gobble to serve.

Or to become a minister or pastor and tell people about God’s grace  and unmerited favour that you can’t  earn, (‘Only by grace can we enter etc.’)  you must  pass exams to prove that you can do it and earn your way in.
So  only by qualifications and high enough marks can you enter, only by academic gifts can you stand.

But is Christianity compatible with competition and competing?
Is it not something much closer to community and co-operation, with sharing and grace, with gift and service?

For example I might see a job opening and would like that job to earn some money and go on holiday, pay the rent, learn to drive.

But at the same time I also know that x other people would like that job as well so that they can go on holiday, buy the kids Christmas presents, get some dignity from paid employment etc. and that makes things difficult.

So what do I do if I am to  take that whole ‘do unto others what you would have them do to you‘ command literally, that whole bit about loving your neighbour as yourself seriously?

It almost suggests that I should go into the interview with a view to giving up my rights to the job. I might be equally well qualified, even more qualifed but if I am following a God who gave up his rights and majesty does that have implications for job hunting.

Or are there different levels of neighbour?
Like is it OK to compete and strive and fight and trample over your neighbour if you are doing it for the sake of your family?

To even voice that seems dodgy, the perceived wisdom is that of course you should do anything to protect and look after your loved ones, it’s your responsibility to provide. But who are our loved ones? Who is your brother, who is your mother?

I found this article earlier on  and it quotes from someone called Donald Hagner

“Love for one’s neighbour means acting towards others with their good, their well-being, their fulfillment, as the primary motivation and goal of our deeds”

I thought it might be the silence of God that would send me over the edge,but it might just as easily be the voice of God, the trying to build your house on the rock and not the sand.

Although he was writing about Gandhi and pacifism George Orwell expressed something of the practicality of Christianity in the real world.

‘In relation to the late war, one question that every pacifist had a clear obligation to answer was: ‘What about the Jews?Are you prepared to see them exterminated? If not, how do you propose to save them without resorting to war?’ I must say that I have never heard, from any Western pacifist, an honest answer to this question…’

It’s all very well having lofty ideals but how do you propose it working in real life?
Jesus, it’s all very well saying turn the other cheek or do unto others but how do you propose it working in real life?

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.