Monday, 31 December 2012

Clearing the air (4) - Mental Health

I've saved this for (almost) last as it is one of the most contentious issues I get to deal with on a regular basis. But, as one of those who have a history of mental health issues so accurately put it: 'The mad will always be with us and they will be our friends, colleagues, family and . . well, probably . . us!'

The spectrum of mental health issues is wide and generally misunderstood. If you don't believe me find someone with depression and ask them how many people have told them to 'cheer up'; find those who have different issues and you'll find that they've been told to 'pull themselves together' (or better still, to 'ignore it and get on with life').

I am privileged to be in a place where a great many of those around me have mental health related needs and rather than limit the ministry of, or from, the Church I find that their experiences (and troubles) are nothing but beneficial. That said, around me I see centres closing and services 're-aligned' such that they are in effect removed and this is something that the Church must stand against and also take up the challenge and stand in the gap.

I have sat in the corner of a room whilst the 'caring professional' before seeks merely (or so it seems) to find that caveat which excuses them from offering care. An example of this being a series of questions aimed at a man suffering from depression which, as the interview went on, descended into questions about smoking and alcohol. When the answer to the question, 'Have you ever drunk chemical-based cider?' was in the affirmative the 'professional' stopped the assessment and, handing over a leaflet for the local drink and drug support agency, told their would be client that they couldn't help and terminated the assessment.

I later asked the same person why this was the case and they said that any indication of alcohol abuse meant that they could 'pass on' the person to a different agency (even though this person is obviously suffering from the effects of quite bad depressive illness).

To make things even more interesting, as their symptoms increased and the illness deepened, the same person found that they were no longer eating or sleeping, to which one of the GPs merely proscribe a three month supply of sleeping pills and told them to come back in a couple of months!

Now I understand what it is to have a heavy workload and know that the cuts means that care and post-care support services are overstretched, underfunded and hard to find,


i. I am no longer prepared to walk away when I hit the brick wall that the mental health 'professionals' put up when they wish to neither be accountable or discuss the situation (and I always have a letter from the patient asking for disclosure and dialogue),

ii. I am not prepared to see those who need support services left to their own devices, but will move heaven and earth to create a safe space and find ways of providing what the system doesn't where I am,

iii. Mental illness cannot be 'caught' (as one moronic minister once said) and it does not create a bar to being a fully functioning member of the Church (except of course where behaviour and stuff does - and even then there are ways of making it work) - We have within our walls (Church universal) people with damaged bodies, missing limbs, cerebrally controlled limitations and, of course, mental illness. It is just another illness and just as I don't give sugar to diabetics or ask those with the effects of Polio  remaining in their bodies to 'run over to the shops', there are considerations when dealing with the mentally ill (have, are or perhaps will be) and this is to realise that it is merely just another illness with its limitations and considerations accordingly.

So, 2013 is knocking at the door - so are those with mental health issues; one you can't stop and the other you surely can't ignore. Can you?

Daily Office - Dec 31

John Wyclif, Reformer, 1384

Psalm 102
O Lord, hear my prayer and let my crying come before you.
Hide not your face from me in the day of my distress.
Incline your ear to me; when I call, make haste to answer me,
For my days are consumed in smoke and my bones burn away as in a furnace.
My heart is smitten down and withered like grass, so that I forget to eat my bread.
From the sound of my groaning my bones cleave fast to my skin.
I am become like a vulture in the wilderness, like an owl that haunts the ruins.
I keep watch and am become like a sparrow solitary upon the housetop.
My enemies revile me all the day long, and those who rage at me have sworn together against me.
I have eaten ashes for bread and mingled my drink with weeping,
Because of your indignation and wrath, for you have taken me up and cast me down.
My days fade away like a shadow, and I am withered like grass.

But you, O Lord, shall endure for ever and your name through all generations
You will arise and have pity on Zion; it is time to have mercy upon her;
surely the time has come.
For your servants love her very stones and feel compassion for her dust.
Then shall the nations fear your name, O Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory,
When the Lord has built up Zion and shown himself in glory;
When he has turned to the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their plea.

This shall be written for those that come after, and a people yet unborn shall praise the Lord.
For he has looked down from his holy height; from the heavens he beheld the earth,
That he might hear the sighings of the prisoner and set free those condemned to die;
That the name of the Lord may be proclaimed in Zion  and his praises in Jerusalem,
When peoples are gathered together and kingdoms also, to serve the Lord.
He has brought down my strength in my journey  and has shortened my days.
I pray,
‘O my God, do not take me in the midst of my days;  your years endure throughout all generations.
‘In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,  and the heavens are the work of your hands;
‘They shall perish, but you will endure;  they all shall wear out like a garment.
‘You change them like clothing, and they shall be changed;  but you are the same, and your years will not fail.
‘The children of your servants shall continue,  and their descendants shall be established in your sight.’

Isaiah 59.15b-end
Truth is lacking,
   and whoever turns from evil is despoiled.

The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
   that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one,
   and was appalled that there was no one to intervene;
so his own arm brought him victory,
   and his righteousness upheld him.
He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
   and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
   and wrapped himself in fury as in a mantle.
According to their deeds, so will he repay;
   wrath to his adversaries, requital to his enemies;
   to the coastlands he will render requital.
So those in the west shall fear the name of the Lord,
   and those in the east, his glory;
for he will come like a pent-up stream
   that the wind of the Lord drives on.

And he will come to Zion as Redeemer,
   to those in Jacob who turn from transgression, says the Lord.
And as for me, this is my covenant with them, says the Lord: my spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouths of your children, or out of the mouths of your children’s children, says the Lord, from now on and for ever.

John 1.29-34
The next day he saw Jesus coming towards him and declared, ‘Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John testified, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.’

The Collect
Almighty God,
who wonderfully created us in your own image
and yet more wonderfully restored us
through your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as he came to share in our humanity,
so we may share the life of his divinity;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Spiderman, Jesus, Captain America and the Hulk

What's the difference between Spiderman, the Hulk, Captain America and Jesus?

Is simple - only one of them is a real superhero!

Not only that but three of them are Marvel whist the other is marvellous!

And best of all - only one of them really existed (and amazingly still does - let me tell you about Easter!).

Sunday Worship - Christmas 1

Here we are on the sixth day of Christmas and we are not only celebrating Christ's birth in Bethlehem (and His resurrection some thirty odd years later) but looking towards His second coming and best of all, singing carols!

Here is one of my favourites (yes, we are singing it today):

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Clearing the air (3) - Homelessness

Another of the issues that cause me grief is that of homelessness.

A few years back (2006) the town in which I find myself serving had one of the local characters freeze to death in a bus shelter as he endured a night in the cold conditions. At that time some of those in  the town decided that they would set about 'doing something' and yet here we are, almost seven years on from his death (January 7th) and nothing has changed.

One of the town's key officials at the time told me that, 'There are no problems surrounding homelessness in the town.' This was a true statement for when homeless people arrived they were given the fare to one of two places away from here to find a hostel. The opinion was that if we 'didn't encourage them to stay, then we didn't have a problem!'

Last year we had a homeless man whose tent had been burgled and his possessions taken. Now I don't know about you but I can't imagine being reduced to living under a canvas shelter only to find your stuff has been nicked - talk about being at the furthest end of the food chain!

Anyway, at first I tried to set him up with a proper tent, food and other stuff, but this was met with opposition from some of the locals in the place I tried to site him for the night (I needed to get him somewhere safe for one night so I could see what could be done to provide a more stable and safe environment).  In fact, not only did they call the police but they told them that there were two vagrants (me being the other) who had dared to set up camp in their nice little village!

The upshot of this was that I got him moved and the church let him stay in a building until such time as he could be housed - and he was, for after some seven weeks, the day before Christmas Eve last year, the man got a flat (where he remains) of his own!

So this is how it is:

1. Many of those who find themselves homeless are in that state becuase of circumstances that are not always of their own making,

2. Many of those who are homeless also suffer from mental illness and are in need of more than a handout, they need help and support to establish them, safely, within the community,

3. Many of those who are homeless have actually been members of the armed forces of this land and are often where they are because of life outside of the forces, and

4. If we took the trouble to listen to the stories they have to tell, we would find that the majority of those who are homeless are no different from you or I (in fact one, an former pupil at a prestigious public school and former legal type had suffered a major breakdown and was was in fact probably much better off, and better educated, than many of us before his tragedy).

So here's the bottom line on this topic - I will not stand by and see people treated badly from now on. Where I find homelessness and nothing being done (whether it be church, council or community) or worse still, steps being taken to act against them - I will shout and make sure everyone who has ears hears, and will keep doing so until something happens.

What about you?

And for those who are homeless and have served - a little reminder (and spur?) for the rest of us:

Daily Office - Dec 29

Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, Martyr, 1170

Psalm 19
The heavens are telling the glory of God
and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.

One day pours out its song to another
and one night unfolds knowledge to another.

They have neither speech nor language
and their voices are not heard,

Yet their sound has gone out into all lands
and their words to the ends of the world.

In them has he set a tabernacle for the sun,
that comes forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber
and rejoices as a champion to run his course.
It goes forth from the end of the heavens
and runs to the very end again,
and there is nothing hidden from its heat.

The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure
and gives wisdom to the simple.

The statutes of the Lord are right and rejoice the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure
and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the Lord is clean and endures for ever;
the judgements of the Lord are true
and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,
more than much fine gold,
sweeter also than honey,
dripping from the honeycomb.

By them also is your servant taught
and in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can tell how often they offend?
O cleanse me from my secret faults!

Keep your servant also from presumptuous sins
lest they get dominion over me;
so shall I be undefiled,
and innocent of great offence.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be acceptable in your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.

Psalm 20
May the Lord hear you in the day of trouble,
the name of the God of Jacob defend you;

Send you help from his sanctuary
and strengthen you out of Zion;

Remember all your offerings
and accept your burnt sacrifice;

Grant you your heart’s desire
and fulfil all your mind.

May we rejoice in your salvation
and triumph in the name of our God;
may the Lord perform all your petitions.
Now I know that the Lord will save his anointed;
he will answer him from his holy heaven,
with the mighty strength of his right hand.

Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we will call only on the name of the Lord our God.

They are brought down and fallen,
but we are risen and stand upright.
O Lord, save the king
and answer us when we call upon you.

Isaiah 57.15-end
For thus says the high and lofty one
   who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
I dwell in the high and holy place,
   and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
   and to revive the heart of the contrite.
For I will not continually accuse,
   nor will I always be angry;
for then the spirits would grow faint before me,
   even the souls that I have made.
Because of their wicked covetousness I was angry;
   I struck them, I hid and was angry;
   but they kept turning back to their own ways.
I have seen their ways, but I will heal them;
   I will lead them and repay them with comfort,
   creating for their mourners the fruit of the lips.
Peace, peace, to the far and the near, says the Lord;
   and I will heal them.
But the wicked are like the tossing sea
   that cannot keep still;
   its waters toss up mire and mud.
There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.

John 1.1-18
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (John testified to him and cried out, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” ’) From his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. The law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.

The Collect
Lord God,
who gave grace to your servant Thomas Becket to put aside all earthly fear and be faithful even to death:
grant that we, disregarding worldly esteem,
may fight all wrong,
uphold your rule,
and serve you to our life’s end;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Made me laugh - should carry a health warning!

This is one of those things that made me (and others who saw it) laugh out loud - it's one of those amazingly simple to do and yet incredibly funny things and the thought alone keeps you chuckling.

So take a deep breath and read on:


Land Rover at Crem'

Coming out of the Crematorium just now I chanced across one of the nicest Land Rovers I have seen for some time and I thought it merited sharing, so here it is:

Left with the gift of envy (of which of course I repented immediately  and a sense of loss at no longer having one myself.

Happy Friday

Made me laugh - Children tidying up

Thought this was a most fitting image (especially after wife got out of bed and saw the state the house was in yesterday):

A big 'Thank You' to all those extremely patient people out there who wait for us to get the clearing up and tidying sorted!

Daily Office - Dec 28

The Holy Innocents

Psalm 36
Sin whispers to the wicked, in the depths of their heart;
there is no fear of God before their eyes.
They flatter themselves in their own eyes that their abominable sin will not be found out.
The words of their mouth are unrighteous and full of deceit;
they have ceased to act wisely and to do good.
They think out mischief upon their beds
and have set themselves in no good way;
nor do they abhor that which is evil.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens and your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness stands like the strong mountains,
your justice like the great deep;
you, Lord, shall save both man and beast.

How precious is your loving mercy, O God!
All mortal flesh shall take refuge
under the shadow of your wings.
They shall be satisfied with the abundance of your house;
they shall drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the well of life
and in your light shall we see light.

O continue your loving-kindness to those who know you
and your righteousness to those who are true of heart.
Let not the foot of pride come against me,
nor the hand of the ungodly thrust me away.

There are they fallen, all who work wickedness.
They are cast down and shall not be able to stand.

Psalm 146
Praise the Lord, O my soul:
while I live will I praise the Lord;
as long as I have any being, I will sing praises to my God.

Put not your trust in princes, nor in any human power,
for there is no help in them.
When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth;
on that day all their thoughts perish.

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth, the sea and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong and bread to those who hunger.

The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;
he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Baruch 4.21-27
Take courage, my children, cry to God,
   and he will deliver you from the power and hand of the enemy.
For I have put my hope in the Everlasting to save you,
   and joy has come to me from the Holy One,
because of the mercy that will soon come to you
   from your everlasting saviour.
For I sent you out with sorrow and weeping,
   but God will give you back to me with joy and gladness for ever.
For as the neighbours of Zion have now seen your capture,
   so they soon will see your salvation by God,
which will come to you with great glory
   and with the splendour of the Everlasting.
My children, endure with patience the wrath that has come upon you from God.
Your enemy has overtaken you,
   but you will soon see their destruction
   and will tread upon their necks.
My pampered children have travelled rough roads;
   they were taken away like a flock carried off by the enemy.

Take courage, my children, and cry to God,
   for you will be remembered by the one who brought this upon you.

Matthew 18.1-10
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

‘If any of you put a stumbling-block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of stumbling-blocks! Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to the one by whom the stumbling-block comes!

‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than to have two hands or two feet and to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into the hell of fire.

‘Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.

The Collect
Heavenly Father,
whose children suffered at the hands of Herod,
though they had done no wrong:
by the suffering of your Son
and by the innocence of our lives
frustrate all evil designs
and establish your reign of justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Clearing the air (2a) - they're shooting the horses!

Following on from the 'shoot horses' theme I see in today's news that there has been as drop of almost 25% in the number of older people using day care centres in England over the past three years. This figure comes from Age UK who say that the numbers of those availing themselves of lunch clubs and other day care provision is due in the main to financial pressure on councils.

The report highlights the potential for the elderly to find themselves "'Living out their last years in loneliness'. Meanwhile, the government says that councils received sufficient funding to protect services and that there was no justifiable reason for such services* to be cut.

It seems to me that removing services from the elderly is a simple exercise for these are one group who rarely have a consistent or effective voice. Something is closed and all that happens is that the people who used the services are confined to home and their voice is unheard. It is an easy win for those who are seeking to cut costs as the people affected just appear to vanish and, because there is little outcry, the deed goes relatively unnoticed.

Age UK say that during the previous financial year, council spending on old people's services had dropped by £500m - no doubt diverted to more important services! The reality is that the critical and high-dependancy needs are being met but those who are able to potter on are now being left to their own devices and this, regardless of the financial situation, has to be wrong.

Where I am we offer free tea, coffee, cake and biscuits two mornings a week and have an afternoon club for the older people around us and whilst this is something, it's not enough ('but where do we find those who are willing to come and open the doors and do the stuff?' cries a voice somewhere in the recesses of my mind)).

If you read this (and so apparently will) can I ask you to take an hour from your busy life and check on what is on offer where you live? See what your church, council and other organisations are doings and if the answer is 'nothing' then start making noises - get the councils, the churches and others off their backsides and help to reverse this diminishing provision trend; not because of some charitable thing, but because it is the right thing to be doing.

Happy Friday

*day centres, lunch clubs, exercise classes, hairdressing, podiatry, social activities and respite care all come into this category.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Clearing the air (2) - they shoot horses don't they?

Another of the issues that has caused me great problems this year is the fact that those who now form part of the 'older' generation of our land appear to be regarded as merely spent and expendable. After all, they have little to offer in terms of revenue generation and are another burden that demands time, money and attention from both the state and their own families.

But of course this isn't true and if you start to think about it logically, many of those who are the older generation have many years of work (and paying of taxes and National Insurance) behind them. Not only that but there are many who have paid out for the nation in another way, that of having served it in some form of military (or other) service!

So let's look at what the older people have on their CVs and consider how we should be regarding it:

Eighty (and over) - b. 1933 - 1900
There's the second world war - growing up in a time of depression and many other hardships that were faced by this group. They know the value of family (and are often the glue of their families) and generally worked hard to pay their way. These are the people who paid financially and with their own lives and the lives of those they loved to make the sixties the libertarian and relaxed age that it was. They paid in and now it is surely their turn to reap the respect and care of the nation.

The Seventies - b. 1943 - 1934
Still wars, but not to the same scale as those before them. Still knew the value of stuff and still exist as the focus of the families and communities in which they live. Paid more in many ways as the NHS and other social care and concern provisions became available for everyone in a real and established manner. Accepted that paying NI and taxes meant a lifetime of care both medically, in social housing and in old age.

The Sixties - b. 1953 - 1944
'Sixty is the new forty' (or so I'm told) and this group are now looking at paying, and working, for longer before they get their go onto the provision roundabout, that is if we still have a social health service and anything that looks like 'old age care' by the time the youngest of this group actuallty reaches seventy. Many of these will have paid and worked all their lives (but not all as Thatcher's job cuts and the various trough, trough and recovery have played their part) for something others wish to deprive them of. Trendy and living on credit is a greater reality for this bunch but they've still (in the main) played their part.

What do they have in common?

Unlike horses and other beasts of burden (which used to be shot but now find themselves in 'sanctuaries') these people have worked and contributed to the well-being of our society. they have produced children, been in gainful employment and paid their taxes and National Insurance to provide for those before them.

The State told them that they were entitled to 'cradle to grave' care and support, but no one told them that the grave might just be enticed that little nearer to reduce costs; neither did they realise that services and places of care would mean that we would end up with a 'can't pay - can't live' society (such as that I saw many years ago in a certain Western nation where there was wealth and health and poverty and early demise on the menu).

The Bible tells us that 'we don't muzzle the ox that treads the grain' (Deuteronomy 25) - meaning that when you do the work you should also benefit from it. Well those in the three groups above have done (and in many cases are still doing) that and they have a right to expect the best in care, provision and support. In fact, I would argue that legally, having paid in to the system, if services are withdrawn there must be a case for reimbursement of the financial components for them as they have paid money for something that isn't on offer (it's called 'fraud' when it doesn't relate to the government!).

One of the things that defines a nation is the way that it cares for the poor and needy; well if some of my visits to places around the country are anything to go by, we are to be judged as wanting. If some of the stories I hear (and have seen for myself) are anything other than isolated exceptions then there is a cynical streak that seeks to save money on the lives that actions designate as 'worthless' because of the age of the person.

Be warned - 2013 is the year when I will shout loud and make a stand for the older folk around me and where services are not forthcoming then I will be making this known; where charities fail to uphold their end of the bargain (a bargain which the giving of others has made possible) I will waste no time in pointing to it.

1 Timothy (chapter five) talks about providing for our relatives (and members of our households too) and it says that those who fail to do this  have denied their faith and are 'worse than unbelievers' - sadly in a land where unbelief is applauded and financial probity is championed as a reason for poorer standards in old-age care, these words are appearing truer every day - another reason that we need to make this land a place where faith is applauded and reason, truth, love, justice and mercy are valued.

I close with the words of the apostle Paul as found in Galatians (six) - my words:

"Brothers and sisters, if you find someone acting wrongly, those of you with faith in God (and living by His Holy Spirit) should correct them gently. But take care  that you are not tempted to do that wrongly yourselves.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."

We need to care for the older people of our nation - it is their right and our duty!

If it isn't being done then we need to start doing some 'correcting' (the right way) - don't we?

Words and pictures - The Express

It is always fun when words and pictures come together to tell one story but illustrate another.

The Daily express has managed that with a heart-warming story of Christmas Day and our troops getting the full Christmas meal.

Sadly though, the soldiers featured in the image appear to be from the  Czech Republic:

For those who are wondering how on earth you can tell where these well camouflaged men come from (it's difficult I know) the clue is that we have a little union flag on our uniforms.

Still - was a great story (and it made me smile) Perhaps the caption should have been 'someone's brave troops'?

Happy Thursday and Veselé Vánoce!

Daily Office - Dec 27

John, Apostle and Evangelist

Psalm 21
The king shall rejoice in your strength, O Lord;
how greatly shall he rejoice in your salvation!
You have given him his heart’s desire and have not denied the request of his lips.
For you come to meet him with blessings of goodness and set a crown of pure gold upon his head.

He asked of you life and you gave it him, length of days, for ever and ever.
His honour is great because of your salvation;glory and majesty have you laid upon him.

You have granted him everlasting felicity
and will make him glad with joy in your presence.
For the king puts his trust in the Lord; because of the loving-kindness of the Most High,
he shall not be overthrown.
Your hand shall mark down all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
You will make them like a fiery oven in the time of your wrath;
the Lord will swallow them up in his anger and the fire will consume them.
Their fruit you will root out of the land and their seed from among its inhabitants.
Because they intend evil against you and devise wicked schemes which they cannot perform,
you will put them to flight when you aim your bow at their faces.

Be exalted, O Lord, in your own might;
we will make music and sing of your power.

Psalm 147.13-21
Sing praise to the Lord, O Jerusalem;
praise your God, O Zion;

For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and has blest your children within you.
He has established peace in your borders and satisfies you with the finest wheat.
He sends forth his command to the earth and his word runs very swiftly.
He gives snow like wool and scatters the hoarfrost like ashes.
He casts down his hailstones like morsels of bread; who can endure his frost?
He sends forth his word and melts them;
he blows with his wind and the waters flow.
He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and judgements to Israel.
He has not dealt so with any other nation; they do not know his laws.

Exodus 33.12-23
Moses said to the Lord,
‘See, you have said to me, “Bring up this people”; but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. Yet you have said, “I know you by name, and you have also found favour in my sight.” Now if I have found favour in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favour in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.’
He said,
‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’
And he said to him,
‘If your presence will not go, do not carry us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favour in your sight, I and your people, unless you go with us? In this way, we shall be distinct, I and your people, from every people on the face of the earth.’
The Lord said to Moses,
‘I will do the very thing that you have asked; for you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.’
Moses said,
‘Show me your glory, I pray.’
And he said,
‘I will make all my goodness pass before you, and will proclaim before you the name, “The Lord”; and I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But’,
he said,
‘you cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live.’
And the Lord continued,
‘See, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock; and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by; then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back; but my face shall not be seen.’

1 John 2.1-11
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, ‘I have come to know him’, but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, ‘I abide in him’, ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word that you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new commandment that is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining.

Whoever says, ‘I am in the light’, while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness.

Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling.

But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.

The Collect
Merciful Lord,
cast your bright beams of light upon the Church:
that, being enlightened by the teaching
of your blessed apostle and evangelist Saint John,
we may so walk in the light of your truth
that we may at last attain to the light of everlasting life;
through Jesus Christ your incarnate Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.Amen.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Great Christmas Presents - 1 Pickmaster

One of the most amazingly brilliant presents I got this year was a weird looking pair of pliers that turned out to be a 'Pickmaster'. Take a look at the video I've made of it, and beneath it, there's the results of my efforts (in another Christmas present -  a Pick case)!

Now I know what to do with all those expired or useless bits of plastic that often hang around the house and now I have a few to get through (and experiment with) as well.

What a stunningly ace present :-)

Clearing the air (1) - the disabled are a burden

Having a chilled day and thought I'd pin a few colours to the mast over the few days between now and New Year. I have done it with 'Happy Holidays' and now I feel the need to respond to people like Geoffrey Clark, a man who was standing as a candidate for UKIP's National Executive Committee, until he opened his mouth and put his foot squarely in it by calling for the compulsory abortion of all foetuses that have been identified as having the potential to be born with Down's syndrome or spina bifida.

As if it might make things better the man supported his opinion by stating that the reason for the views he held were merely 'financial' for he was concerned that such children would be 'a burden on the state and the family'. Mind you, the man's amazingly sad utterances didn't stop with children born with health issues for he also (apparently) thinks that the state should re-assess the care given to over eighties as it was 'extraordinarily costly'.

Now whilst I am happy for the man to hold his views, and happier still that he voices them, because that is what democracy does - for it gives minorities and people with different views a voice and the right for it to be heard - it also demands the right to dialogue with the views and to engage in rejoinders. So here's mine:

I write this as someone who has, for as long as I remember,  been 'pro-life'. This is a position that has attracted a fair amount of conflict in the past as I have been engaged by those who wish to demote babies into 'just a mass of cells' and render them to be an abstract 'foetus' as they support what is often little more than social engineering! [I invite those who support the aborting (not 'termination') of a child because it interferes with holidays and changes careers, lifestyle and financial circumstances.

Over the years there have been many who have accused me of being able to have my views based on their premise that: 'it's alright for you because you haven't got a handicapped child'.

Well, this is probably a food time to 'fess up and explain that I have not only held my views for a long time, but that I held them long before I became the father of a severely handicapped child who was with us for just under ten years. Ten years that taught me a great deal about the value and place of the handicapped among us and only confirmed my original views regarding the value of live and the contribution that some of the most damaged can make to the lives of the most able.

There are times when tough choices regarding life and death are forced upon us, and when these appear, the Church needs to be present to offer pastoral and moral support. There are times when the continuance of an obviously non-viable pregnancy that threatens also to take the life of an otherwise healthy woman come knocking at our doors. At some stage we may well find ourselves engaging with others who have the spectre of an abortion somewhere in their life story. What do we do when this is our reality?

I would consider that the first word to think of is always 'Love' regardless of the reasons or outcomes before or behind them.

I have decided that 2013 will be a year when I seek to turn those with 'righteous anger' away from it into a place of 'righteous love'.

The second thing to think of is the fact that in Exodus chapter Twenty we are told that we must never take life 'feloniously' - by which I mean, 'do not murder' - but where life must be taken (and it seems that there are times when the word 'must' is very much a reality, but reliance upon man's laws and the assumption that they overrule the requirements of God's is a flawed, and dangerous, state of affairs.

The third thing to remember is that God calls us to protect the weak, the vulnerable, the widow and the stranger in our midst and that we should do this courageously and without counting the cost. Too often we bring discussions regarding life down to one issue, 'quality of life', but what is really meant here is more often than not one of two things:

What will it cost - financially, emotionally, practically


What can they contribute - financially, emotionally, practically

I have seen a cerebrally palsied child, unable to speak, feed or toilet themselves communicate and contribute so much to the life of those around them.

I have seen the very best of people, sometimes in what appears to be the very worst of people, brought out by their encounter with frailty and helplessness.

To  consider only the difficulties that children with major disability and handicap will bring to us in terms of negative numbers - be they financial, emotional or time - is to see past our own humanity and reduce us to nothing more than components. It is to remove the heart and soul from our society  something which (with apologies to those humanists and secularists this might offend) is becoming more commonplace and more acceptable as our netion distances itself from being a people of faith.

So Mr. Clark (and those who might support your views) all I can say is that I am grateful that there isn't a 'Geoffrey Clark test' for those children who are yet unborn, and am glad that it wasn't on offer when you were as them, for each of us regardless of flaws and disability have within us that image of the invisible God that we need to treasure and that ennobles us and makes us and our society all the richer (regardless of financial cost).


What did you learn during advent?

This was a question I found myself facing earlier today.

And the answer?

You're NOT supposed to blow the bl**dy doors off!

Daily Office - Dec 26

Stephen, Deacon, First Martyr

Psalm 13
How long will you forget me, O Lord; for ever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I have anguish in my soul and grief in my heart, day after day?
How long shall my enemy triumph over me? R

Look upon me and answer, O Lord my God; lighten my eyes, lest I sleep in death;
lest my enemy say, ‘I have prevailed against him,’ and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

But I put my trust in your steadfast love; my heart will rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord, for he has dealt so bountifully with me.

Psalm 31:1-8
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Incline your ear to me;
make haste to deliver me.

Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me, for you are my rock and my stronghold;
guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.
Take me out of the net that they have laid secretly for me,
for you are my strength.

Into your hands I commend my spirit, for you have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.

I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
I put my trust in the Lord.

I will be glad and rejoice in your mercy, for you have seen my affliction and known my soul in adversity.

You have not shut me up in the hand of the enemy;  you have set my feet in an open place.

Psalm 150
O praise God in his holiness;
praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts;
praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the blast of the trumpet;
praise him upon the harp and lyre.
Praise him with timbrel and dances;
praise him upon the strings and pipe.
Praise him with ringing cymbals;
praise him upon the clashing cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.

Jeremiah 26:12-15
Then Jeremiah spoke to all the officials and all the people, saying,
‘It is the Lord who sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the words you have heard. Now therefore amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will change his mind about the disaster that he has pronounced against you. But as for me, here I am in your hands. Do with me as seems good and right to you. Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will be bringing innocent blood upon yourselves and upon this city and its inhabitants, for in truth the Lord sent me to you to speak all these words in your ears.’

Acts 6
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.

And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said,
‘It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait at tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.’
What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke.

Then they secretly instigated some men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us.’ And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

The Collect
Gracious Father,
who gave the first martyr Stephen
grace to pray for those who took up stones against him:
grant that in all our sufferings for the truth
we may learn to love even our enemies
and to seek forgiveness for those who desire our hurt,
looking up to heaven to him who was crucified for us,
Jesus Christ, our mediator and advocate,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Santa or Jesus? - take your pick

And celebrate as you will!

But in case you aren't sure - ask yourself this question:

What did Santa ever do for me?
Now ask yourself this question?

What did Jesus ever do for me?

Still not sure?  Let me help with a small graphic and ask you another question:

What's wrong with this picture?*

Hint (if required):  CHRISTmas  NOT Santamas

*and it's not that the catalogue is out of date - just didn't have time to copy in a new one this year)? 

Christmas Wayside Pulpits (3) - 'No Christmas for you!'

Not sure what this did when I saw (having just read a post from a cleric complaining that "Christmas doesn't only have the midnight services but another one on the Christmas morning (and that is just too much!)" this:

Come on people get a life - happens once a year and if you weren't 'doing it' you'd still be at it wouldn't you?

You would still be going wouldn't you?

Daily Office - Dec 24

Psalm 45
My heart is astir with gracious words;
as I make my song for the king, my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
You are the fairest of men;
full of grace are your lips, for God has blest you for ever.
Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one;
gird on your majesty and glory.
Ride on and prosper in the cause of truth and for the sake of humility and righteousness.
Your right hand will teach you terrible things;
your arrows will be sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies,
so that peoples fall beneath you.
Your throne is God’s throne, for ever;
the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness.
You love righteousness and hate iniquity;
therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.
All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes and cassia;
from ivory palaces the music of strings makes you glad.
Kings’ daughters are among your honourable women;
at your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.
Hear, O daughter; consider and incline your ear;
forget your own people and your father’s house.
So shall the king have pleasure in your beauty;
he is your lord, so do him honour.
The people of Tyre shall bring you gifts;
the richest of the people shall seek your favour.
The king’s daughter is all glorious within;
her clothing is embroidered cloth of gold.
She shall be brought to the king in raiment of needlework;
after her the virgins that are her companions.
With joy and gladness shall they be brought
and enter into the palace of the king.

 ‘Instead of your fathers you shall have sons, whom you shall make princes over all the land.
‘I will make your name to be remembered through all generations;
therefore shall the peoples praise you for ever and ever.’

Psalm 113
Give praise, you servants of the Lord, O praise the name of the Lord.

Blessed be the name of the Lord, from this time forth and for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its setting let the name of the Lord be praised.
The Lord is high above all nations and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the Lord our God, that has his throne so high,
yet humbles himself to behold the things of heaven and earth?

He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ashes,
To set them with princes, with the princes of his people.
He gives the barren woman a place in the house
and makes her a joyful mother of children.

Isaiah 52:13-53-end
See, my servant shall prosper;
   he shall be exalted and lifted up,
   and shall be very high.

Just as there were many who were astonished at him
   —so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
   and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations;
   kings shall shut their mouths because of him;
for that which had not been told them they shall see,
   and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

Who has believed what we have heard?
   And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
   and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
   a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him of no account.

Surely he has borne our infirmities
   and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
   struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
   crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
   and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
   we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
   and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
   Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
   stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
   and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
   and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
   he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
   Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
   The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
   and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
   and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.

2 Peter 1:1-15
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,
To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:

May grace and peace be yours in abundance in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Thus he has given us, through these things, his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of lust, and may become participants in the divine nature. For this very reason, you must make every effort to support your faith with goodness, and goodness with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love. For if these things are yours and are increasing among you, they keep you from being ineffective and unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For anyone who lacks these things is short-sighted and blind, and is forgetful of the cleansing of past sins. Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you.

Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.

The Collect
Almighty God,
you make us glad with the yearly remembrance
of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer,
so we may with sure confidence behold him
when he shall come to be our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Two Women - a lifetime apart

Mary, a 'virigin' like the prophecy foretold,
you can take the word as unsullied,
you can take the word as young,
either way she fits the bill,
and the prophecy is done!

Elizabeth, in her old age,
her hopes of babies gone,
two women at opposite end of life,
but both of them with songs.
One hoping, one fearing,
one upheld - for that what having kid did,
the other facing condemnation - and possibly death.

The stage is set,
the message given,
and what does Mary do?
She says,
"I'll do it it if it's what God wants,"
but what would the answer have been
if it was me or you?

Would we today have been celebrating Rachel, 
or Rebekah,
or another,
as the mother of God?

If we were you know it wouldn't be odd,
for the only name to fit the frame
was the one who said 'Yes' when Gabriel came.

So today as we hear of Jesus and John,
of Elizabeth and Mary,
of pregnancies - fulfilling and scary,
Stop and think who Mary is,
and what she did,
and how we should applaud her as a hero of the faith,
the willing and submissive maid,
the theotokos (that's God-bearer to you),
And thank God for her.

I know I do (she's not just for the RCs you know)

And a a piece of sublime music to go with it.

Friday, 21 December 2012

The end date explained

For those expecting the end I think I might just have found the answer to it all:

I've just found a jar of salad dressing in my 'fridge and it appears that indeed it is true, the 'end by date' is 21/12/12. 

Perhaps that's why they call it 'Mayannaise'?

Christmas Card (2012) - 6

Well it certainly made me chuckle (and that has to be a good thing):

Daily Office - Dec 21

Psalm 121
I lift up my eyes to the hills; from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.

He will not suffer your foot to stumble; he who watches over you will not sleep.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord himself watches over you;
the Lord is your shade at your right hand, so that the sun shall not strike you by day,  neither the moon by night.
The Lord shall keep you from all evil; it is he who shall keep your soul.
The Lord shall keep watch over your going out and your coming in,
from this time forth for evermore.

Psalm 122
I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’
And now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem;
Jerusalem, built as a city that is at unity in itself.
Thither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord,
as is decreed for Israel,
to give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For there are set the thrones of judgement,
the thrones of the house of David.

O pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
‘May they prosper who love you.
‘Peace be within your walls
and tranquillity within your palaces.’
For my kindred and companions’ sake,
I will pray that peace be with you.

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek to do you good.

Psalm 123
To you I lift up my eyes,
to you that are enthroned in the heavens.
As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,
or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
for we have had more than enough of contempt.
Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant,
and of the contempt of the proud.

Isaiah 51:17-end
Rouse yourself, rouse yourself!
   Stand up, O Jerusalem,
you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his wrath,
who have drunk to the dregs the bowl of staggering.
There is no one to guide her among all the children she has borne;
there is no one to take her by the hand among all the children she has brought up.

These two things have befallen you
   -who will grieve with you? -
devastation and destruction, famine and sword-
   who will comfort you?

Your children have fainted,
   they lie at the head of every street like an antelope in a net;
they are full of the wrath of the Lord,
   the rebuke of your God.

Therefore hear this, you who are wounded,
   who are drunk, but not with wine:

Thus says your Sovereign, the Lord,
   your God who pleads the cause of his people:
See, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering;
you shall drink no more from the bowl of my wrath.
And I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
   who have said to you,
   ‘Bow down, that we may walk on you’;
and you have made your back like the ground
   and like the street for them to walk on.

2 Thessalonians 3
Finally, brothers and sisters, pray for us, so that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified everywhere, just as it is among you, and that we may be rescued from wicked and evil people; for not all have faith. But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
Now we command you, beloved, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to keep away from believers who are living in idleness and not according to the tradition that they received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us; we were not idle when we were with you, and we did not eat anyone’s bread without paying for it; but with toil and labour we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate. For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.

Take note of those who do not obey what we say in this letter; have nothing to do with them, so that they may be ashamed. Do not regard them as enemies, but warn them as believers.
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you.

I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. This is the mark in every letter of mine; it is the way I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.

The Collect
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Christians - 21st Century Revolutionaries

this is what we are called to be
this is why we are counter-cultural
this is why why don't want Church to look like the world!



Happy Holidays (not for me thank you!)

One of the people with whom I rarely find myself in conflict with (and in fact still don't even though they have prompted this post) has written that:

"Happy Holidays" is a recognition that Christians are not the only ones celebrating a major festival at this time of year. In a multifaith society this is important. 

Its origins are, I believe, in the US where the significance of the Jewish community's celebration of Hanukah is acknowledged. Of course, here we also have Diwali which seems to move about a bit date-wise but occurs mid-winterish. This doesn't (or shouldn't) stop Christians witnessing to the birth of our Saviour, but I am always very pleased to receive my annual card from a local Islamic organisation wishing me "Happy Holidays"."

He also writes that Birmingham's failed 'Winterval festival' (which I have dealt with before) was never intended to replace or redefine Christmas and I have acknowledged (more than once) that it was nothing more than a bit of cynical marketing to try and attract various of the major faiths (and those of no faith) into Brum for a bit of shopping and perhaps even a spot of culture! The goal was to develop an extended period of commercial opportunity by stretching things from Diwali to Christmas [and perhaps beyond]) not create,  or do away with, any of the festivals but as it wasn't going to mention any by name any longer, this would still have been the outworking even if not the desire!

Anyway, all I said was  (tempted to do 'Life of Brian' here, but will resist) that it was cynical (and it was) just as the 'Happy Holidays' tosh is pretty much an exercise in cynicism, too!

So let's look at the 'including all faiths' piece of 'Happy Holidays' for 2012. It appears to encompass:
Diwali = 13th - 17th November (at the very earliest edge of things)
Hanukkah = 8th - 16th December (some early coalescence)
Advent = 2nd - 24th December
Christmas = Christmas Eve to Epiphany (6th January)

For so many of us these days Christmas starts early. Where I live our town's Christmas lights went on on the 17th November and the week leading up to that saw a christmas tree festival in the parish church too! I have Jewish friends and whilst they are happy to get Christmas cards along with their Hanukkah cards, they are very definite that it is not 'Happy Holidays' either.

And regardless of whatever reason some might have introduced this into the US the reality is that for many it is more about not doing the 'Christ' word and that for me is more than sad making - it is something much, much, much  (overactive Police Academy gene - sorry) worse at a number of levels for a number of reasons:

A couple of years back I was wished 'HH' by one of the members of a call centre and upon asking why they'd done it was told that it was company policy because it was less offensive to people who didn't celebrate it. Being that sort of a person I rang the head office and eventually got through to someone who informed me that it was policy so as not to offend the many 'non-religious people' who might find the Christian festival offensive that it was merely referred to as 'holiday'.

"Are there many of them? " I asked. The person on the other end said they weren't sure but it was company policy and had come from 'someone upstairs'. So I ask to speak to someone in that place and eventually found myself chatting to a director (about thirty minutes) who listened and promised that, on the balance of our conversation, they would revisit their policy. I left assured (in my mind) that nothing would really happen and was stunned when I got a call from the same call centre to be wish a 'merry Christmas'.

As for being offensive my many friends and acquaintances from other faiths not only insist on referring to Christmas but have also been extremely vocal (and far more active than the Christians) when they have perceived that Christmas might be being weakened or threatened. The reality being that members of the world faiths (and that include a great number of Muslims by the way in case there are any Daily Fascist readers visiting) are supportive of those who hold other beliefs. It is called tolerance - something that many secularists and humanists appear to know nothing about!

With that I take this early opportunity to wish you and yours a wonderfully blessed and peaceful Christmas and a prosperous and happy New Year.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Card (2012) - 4 & 5

As I missed yesterday I thought I'd let you have two of those I've enjoyed this year (both considered by some as a little risque I'm sure ;-) ):


Happy Thursday - not long now before the Saviour comes :-)

Come let us sing - don't they know it's . . . ?

This morning I could not contain my excitement as I ran around my study doing my Lancaster impressions and called out to God and was glad in his presence, singing songs of joy and interceded for the world and all within it it!

No, I hadn't gone more bonkers than normal but the words of Psalm 46, which are to be found as a hymn set to the 'Dambusters' tune, and the 'Venite' (psalm 95):

'O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. . . . '

Just set me off on a roll. How could I not sing His praises and sing out joyfully in psalms and songs of praise?

How could I be silent as all around me those who claim to have no Christian belief are singing songs about the LORD (the ultimate, absolute and everything being) coming to earth in flesh as one of us to reveal His solution to ALL the world's problems? Of course, they (generally) think that what they have before them is Argostide, the season formerly known as 'CHRISTmas' (also featured as the  'Oooh, it's for the kiddies!' event of the year!).

People who would wish to deny the reality of Jesus and would distance themselves from His birth by use of the banal 'Happy Holidays' (what on earth does that mean?) it's as crass as Birmingham's 'Winterval' as they seek to lump people of differing faiths and none!

Mind you, they make sure they can display their contempt for the season by:

i.    getting as drunk as possible as often as possible,
ii.   by engaging in acts that deny the message of love, peace and reconciliation, and
iii.  by corrupting the humble gift of love that is Jesus; the sacrificial giving of a long-gone bishop (Nicholas) and making it about money and stuff.

So, are you one of those who will stand by today and tomorrow and keep silent or will you be singing out for the LORD I wonder.

I know what I'm going to keep doing - after all 'they don't know it's CHRIST's mass (appeal) time?

And whose fault is it if they don't I wonder? (hint - have a look in the mirror and ask them too ;-)  )

Daily Office - Dec 20

Psalm 46
God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble;

Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth be moved,
and though the mountains tremble in the heart of the sea;
Though the waters rage and swell,
and though the mountains quake at the towering seas.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place of the dwelling of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her;
therefore shall she not be removed;
God shall help her at the break of day.

The nations are in uproar and the kingdoms are shaken,
but God utters his voice and the earth shall melt away.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Come and behold the works of the Lord,
what destruction he has wrought upon the earth.
He makes wars to cease in all the world;
he shatters the bow and snaps the spear
and burns the chariots in the fire.

‘Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations;
I will be exalted in the earth.’

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Psalm 95
O come, let us sing to the Lord; let us heartily rejoice in the rock of our salvation.
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving and be glad in him with psalms.
For the Lord is a great God and a great king above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth and the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands have moulded the dry land.
Come, let us worship and bow down and kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For he is our God; we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice:
‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, on that day at Massah in the wilderness,
‘When your forebears tested me, and put me to the proof,  though they had seen my works.
‘Forty years long I detested that generation and said,
“This people are wayward in their hearts; they do not know my ways.”
‘So I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter into my rest.” ’

Isaiah 51:9-16
Awake, awake, put on strength,
   O arm of the Lord!
Awake, as in days of old,
   the generations of long ago!
Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
   who pierced the dragon?
Was it not you who dried up the sea,
   the waters of the great deep;
who made the depths of the sea a way
   for the redeemed to cross over?
So the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
   and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
   they shall obtain joy and gladness,
   and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

I, I am he who comforts you;
   why then are you afraid of a mere mortal who must die,
   a human being who fades like grass?
You have forgotten the Lord, your Maker,
   who stretched out the heavens
   and laid the foundations of the earth.
You fear continually all day long
   because of the fury of the oppressor,
who is bent on destruction.
   But where is the fury of the oppressor?
The oppressed shall speedily be released;
   they shall not die and go down to the Pit,
   nor shall they lack bread.
For I am the Lord your God,
   who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
   the Lord of hosts is his name.
I have put my words in your mouth,
   and hidden you in the shadow of my hand,
stretching out the heavens
   and laying the foundations of the earth,
   and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’

2 Thessalonians 2
As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.
But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word.

The Collect

O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Daily Office - Dec 19

Psalm 144
Blessed be the Lord my rock, who teaches my hands for war and my fingers for battle;
My steadfast help and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield in whom I trust, who subdues the peoples under me.

O Lord, what are mortals that you should consider them;
mere human beings, that you should take thought for them?
They are like a breath of wind;
their days pass away like a shadow.
Bow your heavens, O Lord, and come down;
touch the mountains and they shall smoke.
Cast down your lightnings and scatter them;
shoot out your arrows and let thunder roar.
Reach down your hand from on high;
deliver me and take me out of the great waters,
from the hand of foreign enemies,
Whose mouth speaks wickedness
and their right hand is the hand of falsehood.

O God, I will sing to you a new song; will play to you on a ten-stringed harp,
You that give salvation to kings and have delivered David your servant.

Save me from the peril of the sword
and deliver me from the hand of foreign enemies,
whose mouth speaks wickedness •
and whose right hand is the hand of falsehood;

So that our sons in their youth may be like well-nurtured plants, •
and our daughters like pillars carved for the corners of the temple;

Our barns be filled with all manner of store;
our flocks bearing thousands,
and ten thousands in our fields;
Our cattle be heavy with young:
may there be no miscarriage or untimely birth,
no cry of distress in our streets.

Happy are the people whose blessing this is.
Happy are the people who have the Lord for their God.

Psalm 146
Praise the Lord, O my soul:
while I live will I praise the Lord;
as long as I have any being,
I will sing praises to my God.

Put not your trust in princes,
nor in any human power,
for there is no help in them.
When their breath goes forth,
they return to the earth;
on that day all their thoughts perish.

Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;

Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong
and bread to those who hunger.

The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;
he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion,
throughout all generations.

Isaiah 51:1-8
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,
   you that seek the Lord.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
   and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
   and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
   but I blessed him and made him many.
For the Lord will comfort Zion;
   he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
   her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
   thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,
   and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
   and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
   my salvation has gone out
   and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
   and for my arm they hope.
Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
   and look at the earth beneath;
for the heavens will vanish like smoke,
   the earth will wear out like a garment,
   and those who live on it will die like gnats;
but my salvation will be for ever,
   and my deliverance will never be ended.

Listen to me, you who know righteousness,
   you people who have my teaching in your hearts;
do not fear the reproach of others,
   and do not be dismayed when they revile you.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
   and the worm will eat them like wool;
but my deliverance will be for ever,
   and my salvation to all generations.

2 Thessalonians 1
Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy,
To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

We must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. Therefore we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and the afflictions that you are enduring.

This is evidence of the righteous judgement of God, and is intended to make you worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering. For it is indeed just of God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to the afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, separated from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be marvelled at on that day among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, asking that our God will make you worthy of his call and will fulfil by his power every good resolve and work of faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Collect
O Lord Jesus Christ,
who at your first coming sent your messenger
to prepare your way before you:
grant that the ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may likewise so prepare and make ready your way
by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,
that at your second coming to judge the world
we may be found an acceptable people in your sight;
for you are alive and reign with the Father
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.  Amen.