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

unsettled

My youngest  brother and his wife left today for at least a year away from Ireland, to explore and have a change of scenery over in Australia (and if you’re reading this you’d better have a good time, stay safe and come back again…) so I’m feeling a bit sad and unsettled I suppose.

We took the Christmas tree down earlier and packing it up I was wondering if that was the last time we’ll have the tree up in this particular house. From the 15th January on H___ is free to be called as a minister with her own church. I’m not sure how to phrase that.

Obviously it wouldn’t be her church as the idea isn’t that she would finally be promoted to looking after her own church like passing a driving test and  finally being allowed to drive on your own more that congregations who are vacant and looking for a minister can start approaching her more formally and saying ‘Would you be interested in being our minister?’

This has the power to unsettle me a lot as I have no idea where we might end up. I think we’d both like to move to a church in the south of Ireland but this last few years have been so tough on us the idea of moving anywhere and wondering if it will be as bad as the last few years has the power to keep me up at night. And it has.

 

insecurity..

‘Constantly comparing your lot with others, especially those who have more than you, is not a prescription for feeling safe. IF you are always worrying about whether you have enough money and the right appearance, or seeking fame, you are digging a hole for yourself which can never be deep enough – the proverbial bottomless pit. You will have a nameless sense that there is something else you should be doing, a free-floating anxiety. You will be depressively running yourself down because you do not do as well as other, moving the goalposts if you do succeed. At the same time, you may deal with your sense of inadequacy by falsely building yourself up (exaggerating your wonderfulness in a narcissistic compensation and by desperate attention-seeking’

Oliver James, Affluenza

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?

trying to walk the bread line

this morning
I’ve been reminded
(once again)
that we live completely
by the grace of God

as usual that part of the Lord’s Prayer
‘Give us this day our daily bread’
was the spark

each time a believer  we prays those words
they’re asking God to provide their daily nourishment
to give them enough for today
and they’re admitting that our daily bread
is a  gift of God’s grace
something we’re powerless to provide by ourselves
for it is a product of the soil, the rains, the sunlight,
that we can never provide
like manna in the desert

It’s  a reminder to myself
on mornings like this morning
that  when I want to lash out at things
to make my own way in the world
to be strong
to be he-man
to  seize the day
to grab my piece of the pie
that the Kingdom  works on different rules
and that this man should work on different rules as well

not that it’s easy
to trust
being on the bread-line

knowing that although you’ve bread enough for today
that tomorrow is a new day
and the day after that

there will be a lot of faith required down the line
and your faith is weak

each day you will pray
‘Give us this day our daily bread’
in faith and trust

do I have that much faith?

we had that those verses
from Matthew six
about not worrying about tomorrow
or the clothes you will wear
or what you will eat
and considering the birds
who neither sow nor reap
and to seek first the Kingdom
and his righteousness
read to us on our wedding day

it is a command of the way we should go

yet  seeking the kingdom
and his justice
in this economy is hard
so hard

writing and topping up your cv
seems to me to be like
playing ‘Top Trumps’
against your neighbour
and at his expense

if it’s true that we receive our daily bread by grace
(like we pray as Christians)
how does this competing for daily bread
(that seems to be the way the economy is designed to work)
come into it?

how do you walk the bread line?

it’s not about making money
it’s about making a living
yet it feels so hard to make a living
in this economy and culture
without engaging that culture and economy
on it’s terms and by it’s rules