Sarah Palin and Halloween…

This made me chuckle on the BBC news page- apparently the most popular costume that people will be wearing to Halloween parties in the US is a Sarah Palin suit and mask.

Check it out here

BBC NEWS | World | Americas | US Elections 2008 | A very political fright night

This kind of begs the question- what is Halloween about? What is it for?

I know you can get all historical and talk about all Hallows eve, which all sorts of Christian traditions had fun with. But then, the point was the relationship to All Saints day. (There is some stuff on Wikipedia digging into the different Christian responses here.)

It is this ridiculous Americanised commercialism that makes me grind my teeth. A celebration of plastic Hollywood ghouls and cuddly devils with strap on horns. What purpose does it serve? What is it about? I know Christmas has become a commercial de-Christianised affair, but at the heart of the secular version (X-mass) you can see some kind of value base- family, good will to all men, the giving of gifts and the stocking of soup kitchens. But Halloween???

You can even accessorise your pooch

You can even accessorise your pooch

And we Brits have bought into this big time. There is a DIY shop in out little town that has cleared half the shop just to make space for all the Haloween tat. Statues and lights and signs.

I am afraid that we have taken a decision to veto Halloween as a festival entirely.  We discussed this with the kids, and tried to have a discussion about how as Christians we do not appreciate the focus on demons and darkness, but as ever, the social pressure to conform and join in the endless round of parties and trick-or-treating is great. The kids end up feeling as though they are missing out, which does not feel good either. They are going to a party tomorrow that tries to celebrate light, but this will not fully compensate.

I think making sacrifices because of decisions made on the basis of ones faith is a good thing, when done with conviction and moderation. But I still wonder whether I am over reacting? Is it really only a bit of fun, a kind of release valve to allow us to take a sideways glance at our fears?

I don’t buy it though. Not even if it comes with free plastic demon horns…

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Ideological shifts for the free marketeers?


What is happening in the economic world? The news is full of competing ‘expert’ voices- some seeking to reassure and proclaim business as usual, others taking on the role of doom mongers, proclaiming the end of the world as we know it. If the later group are to be believed, then pretty soon we will have to throw away our plastic and start bartering with chickens and baskets of logs…

Whoever we believe, it seems clear that there are huge changes afoot. Here is a quote from this article from The Independent newspaper…

The Western world is in an economic crisis similar in scale to the oil shock of 1973. What we are seeing is nothing less than the unravelling of neo-liberalism – the dominant economic and ideological model of the last 30 years.

The disintegration of Anglo-Saxon-inspired markets has come about largely because of the confluence of two tendencies of the “free market”: speculation and monopoly capitalism. Contrary to received opinion, free markets – unless subject to civil regulation, asset distribution and persistent intervention – always tend to monopoly.

Similarly, there is nothing inherently efficient about free markets – they do not of themselves promote sound investment or wise management. Rather, when markets are conceived wholly in terms of price and return, and when asset wealth and the leverage that this provides becomes as concentrated as it was in the 19th century (which is a scenario we are approaching), then markets encourage nothing other than gambling masking itself as sound investment.


In the free market? What would Thatcher say?

Is this finally the time when the stranglehold that neoliberal thinking has had on the economic world for the last 30 years is broken?

Will the IMF and the World Bank stop deifying the free market?

There seems to be a resurgence of confidence in the old leftist politicians- check out this article from the Guardian newspaper- and the quotes taken from is below;

Sadly, I don’t think this will be the end of capitalism. But there is going to have to be a return to a much, much more interventionist state. As a system for the distribution and exchange of goods, you can’t beat the market. But the mistake a lot of politicians have made is to think that because the market was good at that, it could be good at everything: it could train workers, create infrastructure, protect the environment, regulate itself. Quite obviously, it can’t.

Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London.

I remember the 1930s. What the Depression did then was to stimulate antisemitism. I met Oswald Mosley in 1928 when he was a Labour MP. The next time I met him he was wearing a blackshirt. Where there is fear, there is scapegoating, and that is very dangerous.

Blair and Brown based their politics on a belief in the market: the market answered all your needs and the state had to be kept out. That confidence has now collapsed and New Labour is seen for what it is. You can’t, as New Labour believed, nurse capitalism.

Tony Benn

What next then? Is Tony Benn right, and we live in a time when fear could stimulate the rise of hate politics, where we look again for scapegoats, and we retreat into our tribal enclosures and look with loathing at those outside? History warns us of our tendency look for messiah figures who appeal to the base instincts of the human animal.

Time will tell…

But as for me, the uncertainty and fear that such change brings into our lives is combined with an excitement over the dawning of something new. Capitalism is not dead- but it will not be the same.

Jordon is a hard road to travel I believe…

Here is a piece of folk music played on all sorts of different instruments- including some virtuoso frying pan bashing…

I love the fact that eclectic eccentric music like this can find airtime- thanks to the Jules Holland programme on the good old BBC.

Folk music gets some bad press with some. But good music is good no matter what genre it anchors itself within. And for me- folk songs are our connection with where we came from- the music of working people of preceding generations.

This song has a strange beginning- it was thought to be written by a man called Dan Emmett, who performed it in 1850’s New York, where despite the controversy around slavery, white performers who blacked their faces as negro minstrels were very popular.

But like many folk songs, it was adapted and changed to speak to the times. It was sung by soldiers fighting and dying in the American Civil war, and by others since asking questions about the nature of life and suffering, and hoping for a better future- this side of Jordan, and the next.

I like this version of the words- not quite the same as those sung by Bellowhead on the clip below.

I looked in the East, I looked in the West,
For Fortune a chance to me accordin’,
But Fortune is a blind god flyin’ in the clouds,
Forgettin’ me on this side of Jordan.
Pull off your old coat, and roll up your sleeves,
Jordon is a hard road to travel I believes.

Thunder in the clouds, and lightening in the trees,
Shelter to my head no leaf affordin’,
Battered by the hailstones, beaten by the breeze;
Th’s my lot on this side o’ Jordan.
Pull off your old coat, etc.

Silver spoons to some mouths, golden spoons to others,
Providence unequally awardin’,
Dash it! – tho’ they tells us all of us be brothers;
Don’t see it clearly, this side of Jordan.
Pull off your old coat, etc.

Like a ragged owlet, with its wings expanded,
Nailed against a garden door or hoardin’,
That am I, by good folk, as a rascal branded;
Never hurted none o’ this side Jordan.
Pull off your old coat, etc.

Aloft a pretty cherub, patchin’ up o’ blunders,
My troubles and distresses is recordin’,
Will there come a whirlabout? better times I wonders,
E’en to me, on t’other side o’ Jordan?
Pull off your old coat, etc.


Another wild day on the Clyde…

View along the Clyde

View along the Clyde

Gale force winds last night again…

No Ferries, water lying everywhere, wind bashing at the leaves on the trees and hastening the autumn.


This time, we decided to watch the waves as they crashed on our little piece of shore.


Following up from the poster I used in my earlier post- I thought I would borrow a few more of Katiejen (at Emerging Grace)’s images– cos I like them. Thanks Katie!

I like them because they each capture something of a common journey that many of us have found ourselves on- and because they can be as simple or deep as you want to make them.

And there is the old adage about pictures speaking a thousand words- although I do love words…

(By the way- one word used here is EIKON- which is a lovely word, defined here as- ‘Eikon is the Greek for icon and refers to the visible manifestation of the invisible’

I suppose your reaction to them will depend on that usual combination of personality/thinking style/theological position…

Emerging Church/Missional church network- lets get started!

(Check out this series of posters- here)

I have posted some stuff before on our embryonic Emerging Scotland network (or whatever it comes to be called!) here.

Today I circulated a document as follows- if you want to know more, get in touch!

Emerging Scotland Network… getting things started.


It is clear in my mind that the proposal is for a facilitated network, which imposes few restrictions or obligations on members. We need to decide pretty early on what we would seek to embrace and include. My preference is for a very ‘generous orthodoxy’- and again, this seems to fit in with those who returned the questions.

The object is to support and sustain one another, share ideas, resources and find companionship and encouragement, and there may be grounds for formal/informal mentoring or partnership arrangements.

People may be part of existing church situations in which they are seeking new ways of being or doing, or they might be planting something new- or perhaps just dreaming of doing…


By a variety of means: websites, blogs, on-line networking, but also face to face meetings, retreats, information sharing events etc.

We are clear that the development of a website is a priority, but only to facilitate real human contact! Stewart has a possible way of making this happen- but might appreciate input from anyone who has skills/interest.

Sharing ideas/ skills/ resources – labyrinths, prayer rooms, musicians, poets, and people who know how to support and empower through prayer. Not to forget preachers and evangelists etc etc!

What next?

This is up to you!

Below is a list of dates. Michaela and I will facilitate the first couple to get us started, and then others can take their turn. Please give consideration to whether you could host such an event or meeting!

These meetings will have an open invitation, but for practical purposes, we will need to know numbers in advance…

What will we do at the meetings?

This too is up to you! I suppose it could be a shared coffee, or something more developed?

But I would suggest a combination of the things below-

Ø Business stuff- organisation of the network, ‘leadership’, accountability etc

Ø Creative prayer and worship

Ø A focus on key themes, for example- kids in the new context, the Bible, sectarianism, poverty, worship, rural/remote issues etc

Ø Specific local stuff relevant to the host area.

It might be that if you have an event or activity that coincides with one of these meetings (or we could make fit) then this is an opportunity for people to lend a practical form of support to one another.

So – dates… please put these dates in your diary, and we will try to fill them all… IF PEOPLE WANT TO SUGGEST OTHER DATES, let me know!





24th January, 2009


Borders Bookshop

Glasgow Fort shopping centre

Just off the M8


Meet and share session

A chance to check out the thing a bit closer- and find out more.

Sort out some business issues- fill some dates, and allocate some tasks,

Chris and Michaela Goan

01369 707009

28th-29th March, 2009

Chris and Michaela’s house

179 Marine Parade



A chance to spend some more in-depth time with people, and God. Come for the day, or for the weekend (we have room for quite a few, but obviously first come, first served!)

Kids are welcome, but we need to plan things around them- so let us know!

No cost- but you might need to bring some food along to throw into the communal pot.

This might include- quiet room, walks along the shore, worship sessions, specific group discussion times, sharing meals and sitting round log fires…

Chris and Michaela Goan

01369 707009

16th May 2009




27th June 2009




12th September 2009




21st November 2009




Chris Goan


Post charismatic Christianity?

I have just started this book, by Rob McAlpine.

I have blogged before about my own Charismatic background- here for example… So the title of this book grabbed me.

I have found myself wanting to re-examine much of my own Charismatic experience again- something I have avoided doing in any detail until recently. I suppose these experiences are full of all sorts of mixed feelings and emotions. They left me with such mixed baggage.

For me, the it began with a yearning for God in my formative years, that met the electric possibility of a God who was present and active and empowering through the Holy Spirit.

But there was always the hope for more, amid the hype and exaggeration, and the plain madness of some people and situations I found myself in. I was often an outsider- not able to experience fully what others were blown away by. And feeling attracted and repelled in equal measure.

As a worship leader, I could always hide behind a guitar… it was possible to be there, and to be seen to participate, but to only have the shape of participation, not the fullness of it.

As a young man- I thought I was alone in my doubts. I thought I lacked faith, and my sin was insulating me from God like a rubber blanket on a live cable.

There were also many times though when I caught glimpses of God. When I was as sure as I can be that he was there amongst us. There are many things that happened that I can not easily explain in any other way.

Here’s a quote from the book that captured some of my own experience;

They are tired of hearing the stories of the good old days, jaded from hearing too many prophecies about the great move of God that seems to be just around the corner, fed up with exaggerated or even fabricated stories of healings and miracles, and disillusioned with a view of spiritual formation that is lived through a weekly crisis moment at the front of the church…

Pg 17.

That is not to say that I want to reject or deny the work of the Spirit. May the Spirit have free reign to do with me as he will.

But I hope that it is possible to find my way to him, and his to me without all the baggage that has become so unhelpful to me.

And from my reading of this book so far- it seems that I am not alone.

Happiness and Ken Loach

Michaela and I have just watched the Ken Loach film ‘Happy go lucky’

If you have seen any of Loach’s other films, you will know roughly what to expect- beautifully filmed characterisations in intimate detail- with improvised scripts and wonderful acting. This film was no exception. Loach has this way of making you squirm uncomfortably, whilst you laugh indulgently, and in fully sympathy with the characters in all their very human flaws and failings. His films can be bleak, but somehow also kind, and life afirming.

This one follows the life of the main character- the wonderful Poppy, a teacher, whose niceness almost verges on the psychotic. But you come to love her even as you wince at her dizziness.

I heard Loach being interviewed about this film on release, along with a wider discussion about the nature of happiness, both as an individual, and in the collective. This is the source material for this film…

The research basis for the power of happiness is pretty compelling. Here is a quote from a BBC article which is well worth checking out.

According to Professor Diener the evidence suggests that happy people live longer than depressed people.”In one study, the difference was nine years between the happiest group and the unhappiest group, so that’s a huge effect. Cigarette smoking can knock a few years off your life, three years, if you really smoke a lot, six years.So nine years for happiness is a huge effect.”

Happiness seems to have almost magical properties. We have not got proof, but the science suggests it leads to long life, health, resilience and good performance.

Scientists work by comparing people’s reported happiness and a host of other factors such as age, sex, marital status, religion, health, income, unemployment and so on.

In survey after survey involving huge groups of people, significant correlations between happiness and some other factors are repeated. At the moment scientists cannot prove causation, whether for example people are healthy because they are happy, or whether people are happy because they are healthy. However, psychologists have been able to identify some very strong links.

Standard of living has increased dramatically and happiness has increased not at all
Professor Daniel Kahneman, University of Princeton.

There seems to be a strange truth in this research- if you are happy, if you set your life towards good and positive things- if you seek the good in people around you, and look to bring it out- if you spend time with your friends and love well- if you refuse to give up hope for the world around you, and choose to emphasise the good news rather than the bad.

These things will transform life. Even extend it.

This is not the same thing as living under the positive police, and is certainly no promise that you will not be hurt along the way.

So, lets all be Poppys. If not Polyannas.

It seems to me to have something of the Kingdom of God about it…

It is not easy for some of us mind.

Spiritual walking and pilgrimage

I had a good evening last night with our friends Nick and Lindsay- Nick fresh from travels to the USA. he had been to a conference for outdoor education/leadership types, and seems to have had a ball.

We have a project underway looking to create opportunities for meditation and reflection in the outdoors- using elements of the spaces we find ourselves in to bring deliberate attention to God, and to our journey with him. Some of this will hopefully become a book, if we ever get our acts together to get it finished.

Some of the meditations can be found here…

As part of this, I have been thinking a lot about the great traditions of pilgrimage.

People of all faiths seem to recognise pilgrimage as an essential spiritual practice. In researching WHY this should be the case, there seems to be very little complex theological reasoning involved. Pilgrimage, it seems, can not be easily deconstructed into theological structures- rather, it has to be walked, and experienced.

Pilgrimage appears to have meaning only in the life of those who walk it. It may have shaped whole counties and cultures, but it has not easy yardstick.

Some walk to escape, others walk towards.

Some walk in companionship, others alone.

Some always have an eye on a destination, others live for a far horizon.

For all- there is the outward symbolism of an inner journey. A decision to walk towards God…

We are all of us, sojourners. A long way from home.

What’s so important is the attitude of the pilgrim. And the attitude of pilgrimage is one of openness, one of allowing the unexpected and the surprise to be present with you, and to not be caught up in what your plans were, or the way things should be going, but rather what’s happening, and what the experience is giving you. I think the sense of coming to a pilgrimage site, it’s so awesome that you can’t but feel complete, or you can’t but feel invited in and a part of the millions and millions of people down through the ages, who have made a sacred track.

Lauren Artress