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Showing posts from February, 2011

Liberation Comes at a Cost

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What has a middle-eastern lentil dish got to do with liberation? Read on and you'll see. It's hard to know what to say about revolutions in the middle east and north Africa. I've blogged about this only once, in Revolution in Egypt, which drew attention to a good news story. Since then I've watched, listened and read, but feel ill-equipped to comment about the complexities of the situations. But I follow what's happening in the middle east and north Africa with concern, hope and fear. Especially Lybia today.


Will I continue to care when the world's media moves on to the next big story? I ponder the UK's involvement in supporting dictators and unjust regimes through our trade in arms and other 'defence' equipment. Since the UK is a democracy I have to say this is also my involvement. Should I feel guilty?


Today I was moved by this poetic response by Rachel Barenblat to the 2011 protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Gabon, Bahrain, Lybia and elsewhere.
FREEDOM …

How do you manage expectations?

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Look at the attentive expectation in the cat's eyes - expecting something, but what? Food? Attention? Love? It's easy to manage the expectations of a cat. You don't have to be an expert in the latest theories about 'Expectation Management'. What's that? It's management jargon defined on JARGON DATABASE.COM as
"A formal process to continuously capture, document, and maintain the content, dependencies, and sureness of the expectations for persons participating in an interaction, and to apply the information to make the interaction successful."Well, you knew that didn't you? Let's KISS (old-fashioned management jargon for Keep It Simple Stupid). Back to the cat and her easy to manage expectations. But how do you manage your expectations of yourself? Or what other people expect of you? I think my upbringing (especially school) programmed me to expect too much of myself and to some extent of others. I've had to learn to be kind to myself and…

Do some male evangelicals compensate for lack of brains?

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I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I read yesterday's post on 'Male Headship' on Suem's blog 'Significant Truths. Hers is one of the blogs I follow. I recommend it. She writes that recently she's been thinking"about the irony of the fact that so many evangelical men who believe in "male headship" are not terribly bright. In my experience, the sort of men who believe they have an innate God given right to be in authority over women seem to be very limited intellectually. It occurs to me that their belief in male headship may actually be a way of compensating for deficiencies in that area? I hope I am not being sexist, not to mention anti- evangelical here, perhaps I have just been unlucky - or has anyone else noticed the same?"I think that statement does read as sexist and anti-evangelical with some intellectual snobbishness thrown in. On the other hand - I do know what she means. That's why I laughed at the humorous video cli…

How to get real at Easter

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WARNING
THIS POST CONTAINS CHOCOLATE- as you can see from these Easter eggs
TOO MUCH CHOCOLATE MAY HARM YOU- but don't you like a little indulgence at special times?

Out of kindness to you who give up chocolate in Lent, I'm posting this before Lent starts (9th March this year). But it's not too early to start thinking about Easter eggs, chocolate or real.
In my childhood the special treat at Easter Sunday breakfast was real eggs soft-boiled in water containing vegetable dye. You can do it easily by adding something like red onion skins to the water. We 3 children would help add fun faces and hair before cracking the eggs and eating them. Probably much better for us than chocolate eggs, but we did get those too. Which brings me back to chocolate.
British supermarkets sell millions of chocolate Easter eggs each year, many ridiculously priced and with huge surplus of packaging. 2011 is the first year that some of them will sell 'The Real Easter Egg' - a fair-traded chocola…

Music Matters

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My great great grandfather was Precentor in a Free Church of Scotland congregation in Dundee. He led unaccompanied psalm-singing - the only music allowed. He used a tuning fork to help him pitch the starting note. He would 'line out' the psalm, singing one line, then the congregation would repeat it and so on. No musical instruments were allowed and no hymns or songs, other than psalms.
When my grandmother told me about this when I was a child, I was astonished. I couldn't imagine church without hymns and musical instruments. I thought that no singing apart from the Psalms and no musical instruments was a long time ago and everything is different now. Indeed it is, but not everywhere.
A Free Church of Scotland minister in Glasgow has resigned because his denomination recently agreed (November 2010) by a very narrow majority to allow hymn singing and musical instruments in public worship for the first time. His congregation has grown numerically under his care, which I find i…

Ban Valentine's Day?

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It's 14th February - Valentine’s Day - or hadn't you noticed?


Who was St Valentine? His popularity, at least commercially, seems strong. No one really knows who he was - or who they were. There are several legends.


One Valentine was a Christian clubbed to death on the Flaminian Way in Rome about AD 269 during the reign of the Emperor Claudius II. This emperor had forbidden marriage. He thought single men made better soldiers and he needed soldiers. Valentine conducted secret marriage ceremonies for young lovers in defiance of the emperor. This Valentine is said to have cared for persecuted Christians before his own conversion.


Another Valentine was a Bishop of Terni, taken to Rome and martyred. The accounts of both these martyrdoms are probably unreliable. So is the story that Valentine fell in love with his gaoler’s daughter and that when he went to his death he left her a note signed ‘your Valentine’. So, what’s the connection between this person or people and the celebration o…

Baffling Baptism or Baptism-lite?

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This font made c. 1500 is one of the treasures of St John the Baptist church, Snape, Norfolk, England. From the angle of my photograph it bars the way to the main body of the church. I was thinking that baptism is about welcoming people at the beginning of a journey with God, but the way the church presents baptism can be a barrier to starting that journey.


The Church of England Common Worship service of Holy Baptism is rich in biblical and theological images, possibly too rich. In my experience most parishes generally use the simplest forms allowable within this provision. I really enjoy baptising children and adults. But almost every time I long for a simple 'Prayer over the Water' the length of a short collect and not 25 lines long. But the only alternatives to the 'Prayer over the Water' are even longer and more complex.


There's now hope for revised material, thanks to yesterday's decision at General Synod. A few weeks ago the Daily Mail suggested the Church…

Conduct Unbecoming

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In my next sentence will be a link to an organisation (the BNP) whose policies I find obnoxious and do not wish to promote. Robert West (who I will not dignify with the honorary title Reverend) has said the decision of the Church of England's General Synod to ban clergy from membership of racist political parties is "a reversion to the Middle Ages". He might think otherwise if he studied some aspects of medievalism in Britain - its anti-semitism for example.


Robert West is the moderater of the so-called 'Christian Council of Britain'. As far as I can see there is nothing 'Christian' about the 'Christian Council of Britain' which seems to promote racism and have links to the British National Party. I'm all for free speech, but I think there must be limits to it where the freedom and safety of others is threatened. So I think today's move towards making BNP membership 'misconduct' for which Church of England clergy can be disciplined…

Salt and Light

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Salt and light are both elements with which everyone is familiar. They are essential to life. In the ancient middle east salt was sometimes added to fuel for cooking. Dried animal dung with added salt was shaped into fuel cakes, used in outdoor 'earth' ovens. The salt acted as a catalyst to help the dung catch fire quicker and burn brighter.


Was this something familiar to Jesus I wonder? In the Sermon on the Mount he tells his disciples, "you are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5: 13). Was he thinking of salt as preservative? Or as the means of bringing out the flavour in food? Or salt as symbol of a covenant? Or was it also the dung-salt cakes for the earth ovens, the remains of which would be "thrown out and trampled under foot"?


Perhaps all those things, but I rather like the salt in the cooking fuel idea, as it links with what Jesus said next, "you are the light of the world". So, for a community to be the salt of the earth is to help light and …

Revolution in Egypt

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Good news stories about Christians and Muslims helping each other tend not to make the headlines. But there are many untold stories of peace-loving peope co-operating with each other as neighbours and friends, in ordinary everyday situations.


The story behind this picture is more dramatic. It was taken in Egypt 2 days ago. The photographer @NevineZaki lives in Cairo. She tweeted this picture showing Egyptian Christians in Tahir Square, Cairo protecting Muslims while they prayed during the demonstrations. Both groups are showing courage and faith.