There was this gay man and a fundamentalist Christian on a plane…

I had a lovely time on recently with a couple of friends. We were meeting up to have ‘that church conversation.’ You know the one- about how we are hungry to live a life that has passion and integrity- in the Jesus kind of way- but at the same time Church is ripping us apart.

There are all sorts of reasons for this- many of my friends have gone through it. It is about relationship, theology, styles of worship, boredom, leadership issues. And sometimes just a longing for more. For a better way of living out faith.

My heart goes out to these friends, as it is a painful time.

Don’t get me wrong- I am not advocating leaving church, neither do I think that the hurt and pain we go through in this process is good, like a partially healed wound that we pick at. But the transition to new things often means a process of separation from the old- even if later we are able to find ways to reconnect with the rich traditions that are part of our DNA.

Both of my friends described their own struggles and hurts. Many of them were familiar to me. One of them was not however- because one of these good people was gay.

And as a gay person, their connection to church was always going to be filtered through a different set of experiences. I hope that this person gets the opportunity to tell their own story in full- I have no right to do this on their behalf.

It set me thinking again about how we hurt one another in the name of ‘truth’. And of Joseph Nicolosi and his quasi scientific religious exploitation.

Then this evening, by chance I came across this. A story told rich in grace and humility. From outside the Church.  A voice from the margins that we need to hear.

A cheerful little poem about dying…

I sat in my office this lunchtime, thinking about death.

There is a lot of it about.

Not me of course. I will last for ever.

For most of us, death is a foreign country- one which we are unlikely ever to visit- Moldova or Uzbekistan.

So much of what we do is focussed on avoiding it, delaying it as long as possible, pushing it into the background.

It is no way to live.

So I wrote this poem…

Something is going to kill me

In the end it will polish me off

This machine comes with built-in obsolescence

And already my bearings run rough


Perhaps my blood will turn orange

Or my bones will powder like chalk

My brain is sure to malfunction

And my feet will forget how to walk


I may be squashed like a bug by a lorry

Or an elm tree will fall on my skull

An arrow of misfortune will stick me

As I am gored by a runaway bull


Perhaps we live  love then fertilise loam

And  this heaven-talk is really moronic

Or perhaps there is something aerodynamic in me

Shaped to go supersonic

A shed full of hope…

I have been busy!

Regular readers of this blog may remember some garden deconstruction in the summer…

It has been quite a job to clear the wreckage, along with all sorts of junk left behind by previous occupants of our house.

One benefit to clearing the space is that it revealed some graffiti art on our back wall done by Marcel, a Swiss guy that lived in our annex for a while. It spells out the word…


Which is kind of appropriate, as building new things always requires hope.

I need a shed.

All men need sheds- perhaps women too, but the place of contemplation and creativity for men of a certain age is often made out of timber.

I have another purpose to all this though- we are in the process of trying to reshape some of what we do to earn a living, and one of these involves the establishment of a craft co-operative with some friends. And so the cellar needs to be cleared out to allow the setting up of a couple of kilns. Tools go into what is presently the garden store, and garden equipment needs a new home.

So here it is so far, after three days hard labour-

And I need a workshop, where I intend to make stuff.

Simple stuff from driftwood and pebbles and rope.

In the hope that a new kind of life is possible.

Notions of a Holy Nation…

A few days ago someone commented on a post I wrote about Jean Darnell’s ‘fires from the north’ prophecy- you can read the post and the comments here. It set me thinking about the whole charismatic thing…

The original point of my post was to record something of my internal struggle with my previous experience of all things charismatic, and my relationship to prophetic utterances like the one that Jean Darnell made about Scotland. I think my feelings can best be summed up as ‘Sceptically ambivalent, but also trying to remain respectfully open.’

I suppose my position is post charismatic. I have been around a lot of these meetings- as a young man, alienated and captivated by the wierd wonderfulness of it all in equal measure. Then later as a worship leader.

There was a lot of mad nonsense. There may even have been some of God in the mix.

Along with the pursuit of experience however there was also a lot of associated converging belief, or world view. This increasingly have been driven by American televangelists. So along with convictions about the power of healing came ideas about how certain sins might get in the way and so if you were not healed then this was some how your fault- your sin or your lack of faith.

And then there was all the spiritual warfare stuff. The temporal world- politics, disasters, HIV or almost anything else- all had a deeper subtext in the spiritual world- that required ‘discernment’ to fully understand. And a lot of this is mixed up in ideas about the ‘end times’, and the role and place of Israel.

Sometimes it seems as though these ‘discernment’ goggles  all sorts of dreadful things and terrible suffering can be overlooked, and understood only on the basis of spiritual warfare or escatological implications.

Finally, there is a triumphalism often present- God is mighty, all powerful and will come in power and judgement, and revival is always just around the corner, if only we can somehow make ourselves receptive and worthy.

Coming back to the comment made on my earlier post, some of the themes above were present in the things that were said. I do not mean to criticise or judge this perspective- it is a very familiar one to me, and contains much that still fels precious and right- but one that mostly I am no longer personally comfortable with. Particularly the world view that seems to come along with it all.

So in this case, the comment was pointing to particular issues in Scottish history-

Just yesterday, the Lord prompted me to revisit the Scottish National Covenant of 1638 (a Covenant that makes Scotland unique, as the only nation on earth, outside of Israel, to make a solemn Covenant with Almighty God)

…That was the day that Scotland married God and, although she has long since walked away from her husband, he does not forget or forsake his covenants…

…Do you suppose the fires of Revival that God himself will light in Scotland are the lamps of the Hannukah menorah? – The lights of Rededication of the Temple – A Temple which is now his holy people…

Rather against my better judgement, as I do not think that we were ever going to find common ground on this one, I replied. I suggested that I did not believe that the New Kingdom would ever have an earthy location, nor that the Jewish people would ever be replaced as a Holy Nation by the Scottish or the Americans.

And I also have a problem with any spiritual understanding that builds it’s legitimacy on the ways of the Covenanters, who were fighting and killing in the name of Jesus at a time of great political and religious upheaval. The legacy of these troubles in terms of the Catholic/Protestant divide continue to be a stain on Scottish life.

Is it admirable to die for what you believe? To resist the imposition of a book of prayer, and a way of religious observance that belonged to a distant foppish king? Possibly. But how about to kill and slaughter to prove your point? And can we overlook this, even forgive it, if it suits our particular religious agenda, or spiritual understanding?

It is not a fair question of course- the 1640’s were different times.

And such discussions are rather pointless.

Because I think my commenter would say that he and I are seeing on different dimensions- his the deeper spiritual one, mine the limited one that lacks discernment and spiritual awareness.

He may well be right.

The chicken fights back…

A friends showed me this earlier.

And as husband to the keeper of the best fed chickens in chickendom, I appreciated the sentiments, and was astounded by the imagination and execution-

Here is how it was described in the Tatton Park programme-

“Horrifyingly beautiful, the installation suggests a new (or perhaps ancient) and menacing presence eminating from the cast iron oven. Coiling, pluming and creeping through the kitchen, the work feels weighty, meaty. The visitor at once is taken by the gorgeousness of the piece itself – the assemblage of ‘common’ feathers presented as something completely exotic – and the shame involved in discarding objects of beauty for a perfunctory dinner.”

This fantastic piece is by artist Kate MccGwire and is made up of feathers of all the different birds that would have been cooked in this oven over the years.

They are coming to get you…

Happiness and the making of daisy chains…

There has been more in the media this week about happiness. An old theme on thisfragiletent- see here and here.

The latest interest followed the release of a report suggesting the following-

A survey of 1,000 Americans found that happiness rose in line with salary, but only until people earned $75,000 a year, the equivalent of around £50,000.

Earning more than this did nothing to boost how happy people were, according to Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, who won the Nobel prize for economics in 2002.

Kahneman teamed up with Angus Deaton, an economist at Princeton, to analyse 450,000 responses to a daily survey on happiness and life satisfaction run by Gallup in 2008 and 2009.

The survey asked people to rate how happy they felt each day, based on their experiences of emotions such as joy, worry, sadness and fascination. They were then asked to rate their overall satisfaction with life, on a scale where zero was the worst they could imagine life to be and 10 being the best.

The researchers found that life satisfaction rose steadily the more people were paid. Happiness rose with income too, but plateaued when people reached an annual salary of $75,000. For those on more, happiness appeared to depend on other factors.


It raises lots of issues for me-

Why do we keep using MONEY as a measure of happiness? Sure, there is point at which poverty (our ability to meet basic needs- including those relative to those around us) will impinge on our humanity, but beyond this, sooner or later we all come to realise that accumulating wealth is simply a distraction from deeper stuff. In this instance, only 10% of the population earn more than £50K pa, so clearly this level of attainment is not a realistic or sustainable goal for wider society.

There was a great programme on Radio 4 this lunchtime inviting comment and discussion on this issue. The whole range of issues came up-

The millionaire who was adamant that his money DID bring happiness, and freedom to live the life he wanted.

The person living on £5K pa on benefits, who found every day a struggle.

The person who gave up her £50K job as she was unhappy- and returned to doing simpler things.

Happiness is a difficult concept for introspective mercurial types like me. I am happiest when I do not need to think about happiness. When I am at rest with people I love, or doing something creative, or catching a echo of the voice of the Spirit…

I am pondering again  how we as Christians are called to a different way of being- living to the agenda set by Jesus. Lives of Spirit-fruitfulness, including that word ‘joy’, which is not the same thing as happiness.  Not sure I can define exactly how it is different though, or claim to a complete experience of joy.

But I do worry about how we Christians get seduced by the same selfish consumer-oriented agendas. I think that rather than a life style enhancement (do you remember that term moralistic therapeutic deism?) learning to live as a follower of Jesus seems to me to be about seeking to live in an open way, connected to others, and to find ways of giving/graciously receiving.

All this striving for more stuff, and the chasing after experiences that give life shape and meaning- it just does not fit well with the the ways of Jesus that we learn from the gospels.

And because faith without works is dead, then Jesus calls us on an adventure- a mission. Fulfilment and happiness may be discovered along the way, but they are not the object of life, rather they might be encountered as a by product- in the midst of all sorts of other things perhaps? Suffering, persecution, friendship, pain, joy, etc etc…

On the radio 4 programme, someone said this-

Happiness can be understood as like making a daisy chain with flowers that are close at hand

A bit trite, but I liked the simplicity of this.

You are where you are, surrounded by the people you are surrounded by, and equipped with the gifts and talents you are equipped with.

In this mix, is it possible there are also seeds of great happiness?

Pooh sticking the summer…

Just had a lovely time at our Aoradh family day.

We share a meal, then someone leads some worship. Today Paul got us telling stories of  our summer, then thinking of what we want to keep, and what we would prefer to throw away- in the the form of a Pooh stick.


I found this bunch of berries- one of those that used to be a stamen of some interesting lilly thing, but is now rotting quickly away.

Like the summer.

As might be inferred from my earlier post, the black dog has been stalking me a little. And the approach of the dark season makes me apprehensive.

So my berry poo stick became a prayer for all of us whose mood is mercurial, and easily shadowed by winter.

A prayer that the decay of the old might still be followed by a time of new birth…

And in the meantime- my your fireside be shared with good friends.

As mine is.