bruised orange

 

 

“Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)”

My heart’s in the ice house come hill or come valley
Like a long ago Sunday when I walked through the alley
On a cold winter’s morning to a church house
just to shovel some snow.

I heard sirens on the train track howl naked gettin’ nuder,
An altar boy’s been hit by a local commuter
just from walking with his back turned
to the train that was coming so slow.

You can gaze out the window get mad and get madder,
throw your hands in the air, say “What does it matter?”
but it don’t do no good to get angry,
so help me I know

For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
wrapped up in a trap of your very own
chain of sorrow…

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

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?

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.

structural evil / corporate evil

…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…


Captured by the consumerist imagination of the Empire.

Slaughterhouse 5

I’ve made a terrible stab at reading fiction the past year or so. There was a time when I enjoyed reading fiction, a time before Myspace – Facebook – Twitter.

Maybe its the way that our computer screens flicker and change so rapidly that anything beyond a poem or a page has a hard time holding our attention. Or maybe that is just me.

So I am trying to gently get back into the swing of things and last week in a charity shop up Cookstown Main St I stumbled across a copy of Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf for the tidy sum of £1.

Anyway, I just finished Slaughterhouse 5 which is a short book and a good one to start with.
At times funny but completely tragic, absurd and sad.
I don’t want to do a big analysis of the book except to say that 135,000 people died in the bombing of Dresden towards the end of the Second World War. Obviously this is a novel with flights of fancy but the fact that 135,000 died in the firebombs is what stays with me. Horrible

This quote from Vonnegut borrowed from the Wikipedia page which lifed it from an special introduction a 1976 version of the book
says what he thought of it all

“The Dresden atrocity, tremendously expensive and meticulously planned, was so meaningless, finally, that only one person on the entire planet got any benefit from it. I am that person. I wrote this book, which earned a lot of money for me and made my reputation, such as it is. One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed. Some business I’m in.”

War.Good God y’all! What is it good for?Absolutely Nothing!