Tuesday, 22 April 2014

NETWORKING?

All over  this small market town, new signs have appeared consigning the motorists in many side roads to a 20 mph speed limit. And when I write 'all over town' that is what I mean. As far as I know it is in many other Lancashire places as well. What enormous expense? And who will police it? When we came here 12 years ago yellow lines were painted along this quiet  close, whereas on the adjoining road, where there is through traffic and often double parking, no yellow lines appeared. What a waste of money! Meanwhile old people's services are falling apart. What 'brains' are behind these vainglorious endeavours, no doubt motivated more by someone's CV ambitions than public safety.

Having got that grumble out of the way, and not feeling particularly better for it, I will move on to more positive thoughts.These come in two ways, both to do with namedropping, or passing on information. Some years ago a local church were looking for an organist; a good friend (an excellent organist in our joint opinion) was not fully engaged in one place. So I dropped her name at a chance meeting with representatives of the church. Before long contact had been made and to this day a most happy relationship exists.

Then more recently, a chanced to read the e-newsletter from a One World organisation some miles away.I  noticed that they were seeking an 'Intern' to do six months work for them on the issue of fairtrade and in particular fairtrade chocolate. I casually passed this information on to our daughter Christine(looking to get back into Fairtrade/One World work). She applied and is now in the job.

My point is that we never can tell when we seek to connect people to others, where this can lead. In this way many friendships are formed and enterprising things started. I think it is a good idea to speak of good ideas and commend things to others. Once again those famous words: 'We never know...'

At weekend we go back to Bolton -le-Sands. I have to choose carefully what to take as reading matter. One book is commending itself to me for early purchase.It is about a commander of a parachute brigade in 1944, who was badly wounded and admitted to hospital as a POW. He was helped to escape by a Dutch resistance worker and smuggled into hiding with a brave Dutch family- three unmarried sisters and their niece and nephew. After his recovery, he cycled to the coast and escaped. The book is entitled  'I Was a Stranger', the man in question became a General and a Knight of the Realm. It it sounds a good read.

I like to read of these adventures, partly the excitement of the escape but particularly the sheer unselfish idealism of those Dutch women who risked everything to save the life of a stranger.It encourages me because in my work through the Just Connections Fund it is all about taking in 'strangers.'

I am always thinking of new enterprises and one that holds my mind is to compile a book with short accounts of retired minister's lives. THere are many fascinating tales that are never told and I for one would like to hear them. It would involve  gathering a faithful team to help do this, but I think I have people in mind for this challenge. I will say or think no more until I safely pass my annual PSA test (the seventh) later in May.
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Monday, 21 April 2014

EASTER MONDAY

Going out this Easter Monday morning was refreshing with a light breeze and bright sunlight. Equally pleasing was the quietness that reigned in roads and shopping centre that tomorrow will return to extreme busy-ness. The calm is wonderful and reminds me that once upon a time quietness was part of our daily lives. Mind you, it has to be a mixed blessing because if we had not become busy would we have had all the achievements of medicine, science and technology to enjoy.

(there is much in the news today about the incidence of skin cancer, and in particular malignant melanoma. I know all about this from its fatal visitation 38 yearsago. The news today is that 8 times as many people get it, but more than three quarters of sufferers survive. Back in 1976 only a tiny fraction escaped its deadly touch.I think there may be a lesson here- medicine advances, but at the same time we do not reap the benefits as we should because of careless lifestyles, in particular the search for a tan. My piece yesterday about a look obsessed society may have a tiny relevance here).

Going back to where I started, another comment on that which we seem to have lost and find it hard to recover. Quite soon we will see the swallows return and the wonderful sound of leather on willow, meaning the cricket season starting again on my local playing fields. I have commented before on the contrast between stood on that field watching football and having to listen to an endless stream of obscenities from the loud mouthed young men, to the gentle applause and calls of the 13 players on the cricket pitch at any one time.

In church terms there is a passion for new songs, a development I admire and support. But not at the cost of discarding the old favourites. Indeed I started my Sunday Address yesterday with my hope expressed in the line of an old hymn: 'Tell Me the Story Slowly, that I might take it In'.

So what? Just this thought: that whilst enjoying the new, we must return sometimes to the old and trusted whether in occasions, visits, preferences. Not for nothing are they sometimes referred to as 'golden oldies.'

Sunday, 20 April 2014

EASTER DAY

This morning I am off to the village of Knott End to conduct the morning service, which will include Holy Communion. There will be an address, relevant hopefully to this greatest day in the Christian calendar. I will attempt to direct our thoughts to the ways in which the entire Easter event (past, present and future) exhibits evidence of God at work. Putting this another way, to see beyond the human actions and responses to another presence in it all- evidence of a God at work.This I will look for in three ways- the actual stories of that first Easter(more mysterious than we might first think) ; the experiences that arise from it (then and through history) to the present) and the hope it implants in human hearts.

I need to keep lifting my thoughts beyond the story. I need to go beyond the happy and safe childhood understanding of the story( whilst still retaining the story of course) to the far bigger issues they represent. So what do they represent? The first notion in humanity's history when death was not seen as the final chapter, but the doorway to a life beyond.  In a world of suffering and tragedy it represents the prospect of joy in the midst of it all. And- a matter that can be seen by all people, whether believer or not- light following darkness, love triumphing over evil. ( Even if some doubt that Jesus rose from the grave to a new sort of life, there can be no doubt that his followers were charged with new life of joy and vitality).

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I have been following the diary of a reporter who fell from her horse, breaking her neck and back and becoming a tetraplegic. This week she is remembering her pre- accident times of constantly looking in the mirror becoming over familiar with all her features. Now she looks in the mirror and sees no one there but a folded up figure with a haunted face. This week's piece is about the sadness disabled people feel  when the able bodied young complain because they do not fit with the expectation of celebrity beauty.There is a comment too about our look obsessed world, and how she (the writer) now had deep regret how  she 'courted the mirror, twirling, criticising. self loathing. Instead of being out there, living.'

The piece concluded with this trenchant comment: 'Relish your bodies while you have them, smile more and waste not a moment agonising over your looks'.

Easter is a mirror in which we can look at ourselves afresh, seeing love, joy, possibilities in us and all around us. It should indeed be a season of light and joy, and yes even if this day finds us in the midst of sadness.

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 Last evening we saw the programme about the Foundling Hospital, and the philanthropist who was angry about the abuse and state of children, and his utter determination to do something about it. Allied with this, the altruism of a famous painter and the music of a great conductor. What a mixture it was of the arts, philanthropy and music. Each one reflecting all that Easter Day is about- the blessed triumph of love beauty and light. And those who recall the old, much loved 'Methodist Hymnbook'will know that many hymns were taken from 'The Foundling Collection'.

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Saturday, 19 April 2014

HOLY SATURDAY

On this Saturday let me share with you a poem, or extracts from it, written by John Betjemen many years ago.It was called 'Three Crosses'

And when the time of trial drew near, His other friends ran off in fear.
Have you known what it is to be, liked and respected? So did he.
And then known what it is to fall. Into contempt? Christ knows it all
Have you done what you didn't ought, and then unluckily get caught?
And sent to Gaol not merely fined? 
Well keep this healing thought in mind.
Jesus did nothing wrong, but he was stripped and nailed upon a tree.

I well can understand that thief, who gave his agony relief
But calling from his cross, Art thou
The Christ? Well save three of us now.

Three crosses stand upon a hill, so black against the sky and still,
So still and black against the sky
The three of them and we stand by.
After the pain the blest relief
After the doubt the firm belief
After the dark, the dread the sinister
The moment comes when angels minister
The sap is rising in the trees, a scent of spring is in the breeze
Good Friday passes. After gloom
Christ bursts in glory from the tomb.

A good poem, I think. The triumph of hope over despair. And this Easter time there can be no greater places of hope than Christian churches. And we must be people always looking out for hope and hopefulness.

Just going back to my campaign to give away the little books about Book Aid International, I have visited 7 or 8 places and not one contact recognised Book Aid. That is despite 150 million books over 60 years and the patronage of Prince Philip. I don't blame them , of course, because in this needy world there are so many worthy causes.But hopefully, my books will awaken a little interest somewhere. On Thursday I got a little encouragement- a lady told me that as a result of reading my book about Credit Unions, her son had deposited several thousand pounds with his local Credit Union. So our humble efforts, often seeming to be a waste of time, can result in little benefits. The words must be 'We never know'.


Thought for the Day

  Strange things are mentioned in the Gospel stories about the happenings when Jesus died. There are reports of earthquakes, darkness, graves being broken open and the dead coming to life again, even walking around Jerusalem.We need not take this too literally but one report I do find interesting- darkness and the huge storm. Was it simply coincidence that when Carl Jung died there was a huge storm. In the same  way there was a terrible storm  when Beethoven died. Question: was nature in some way responding to great minds that touched upon the life of the spiritual world?It is a question. No more than that. But an interesting one.
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