Wednesday, January 30, 2008

sometimes you do get something for 'nothing'

very happy to receive a text last night from O2 - my mobile provider - telling me that from next month I would be getting three times the number of inclusive minutes on my tariff and more than twice the number of inclusive SMS messages - at no extra cost. deal! How often does that happen in this day and age? Hats off to O2. They just went up in my estimation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Bonza Music Bonanza!

Today is a good music day. Downloaded two albums I'm genuinely excited about listening to and making part of my life.

Firstly, Tom Middleton's 'Lifetracks' (artwork for it above (picturing St Ives bay (which is enough to get me interested!) is available here) is just gorgeous, sumptuous electronica. It had me involuntarily nodding my head and looking like a right chump in the coffee shop where I was working just now. Couldn't help it. First rate stuff, some of which will be making its way into our gatherings soon no doubt. It's available on iTunes+ (sorry - don't know how to do the clever link to iTunes that opens the app for you and takes you to the right place. You'll just have to search!). Listen out particularly for 'Optimystic' (now there's a title - could be my theme song right now!)

Secondly, courtesy of Jonny's Proost label and site (which is absolutely fab by the way - if you haven't checked it out yet then why not?) is the new album from our friends Church of the Apostles in Seattle. It's called 'Laudamus' and it's an album of music to accompany morning and evening prayer. This follows on from their previous release - 'Ordo' - which was music for the eucharist. As we have come to expect from COTA it is highly original and creative and very professionally produced. There's some songs we already use at Home as well as plenty of new ones. There's even a cover of one of our tunes (St Patrick's Breastplate) which is ace. Get on over there and download it for the princely sum of £6.99. Cheap at twice the price.

the wedding at Cana

Yesterday, as all you nu-liturgical types will well know, was the fourth (and last) Sunday of the Epiphany season.

The Wedding at Cana is a traditional mainstay of the Epiphany Season and although it wasn't the 'official' gospel text for yesterday (not this year anyway) we went ahead and used it anyway.

Epiphany is all about the disclosing of Christ's true identity. And so it contains stories that illustrate this - like Christ's baptism etc. And the Wedding at Cana fits because it's the first miracle. I suggested, though, that it was an important story not just because it's Christ's first miracle but because of what it reveals of God. The kind of God that God is. A God who knows how to party, who loves festivity and celebration.

So we spent a lot of the gathering talking about joy - the difference between joy and happiness (joy is an internal state independent of circumstances, happiness seems to be connected to the external), how we can cultivate more joy and festivity etc. particularly as the church seems to have largely forgotten.

We framed the service with the gospel story and also passed around drinks, in cups like the one pictured above (in case you can't see it there is a quote on one side from Barbara Ehrenreich's fascinating book - 'Dancing in the Streets: A History of Collective Joy' - which says "Christianity is a danced religion"). We began - fittingly enough - with water, then grape juice a little while later, then red wine, then champagne (at the peace) and then finally communion wine as we celebrated our participation in that which brings us into fulness of life - our communion with Christ in death and resurrection.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Thirty More Years/libidinal failure

Good to be with my old friend Mary yesterday in Hatfield for her 40th Birthday celebration. I know a number of people who are turning 40 his year or next. Myself included (next year). Some are at peace with it and some are struggling a little. It is liminal space for sure and crossing the threshold from the first half of life to the second is perhaps not easy.

My spiritual director and I talked recently about 'libidinal failure'. He wasn't meaning it primarily in the sexual sense but in a sense connected to this transition from the first to the second half of life. For many people - particularly guys - in the first half of life we think we are invincible: there's nothing we can't do, the world is at our feet. We feel that everything is within our grasp and we are very powerful. That's the outlook of the young man. One of the painful things about moving from the first half of life to the second is the realisation that we're not as powerful as we thought we were and that we can't do everything we would like to be able to do. That's a difficult reality for guys to cope with and we rail against it.

My life has been enriched recently by the poetry of Wendell Berry. Here's one I read the other day that touches on this subject and I offer it here for my friends who are transitioning...

'Thirty More Years'

When I was a young man,
grown up at last, how large
I seemed to myself! I was a tree,
tall already, and what I had not
yet reached, I would yet grow
to reach. Now, thirty more years
added on, I have reached much
I did not expect, in a direction
unexpected. I am growing downward,
smaller, one among the grasses.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

It's been a long time coming...

8 long years of hurt were over last night as my team - Tottenham Hotspur - finally beat our local arch-rivals Arsenal to secure a place in our first Wembley final this century.

Boy did it feel good.

And I got to see it all in HD in the pub down the road from where we live (football in pubs is going a bit upmarket then!).

And, as if to make up for lost time, we beat them 5-1. So not just a win then but a rout (I think we could call it that).

Well done fellas!!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Power of Now

Just started reading Eckhart Tolle's book, 'The Power of Now', which by all accounts has become a bit of an international best-seller. I'm enjoying it so far.

What I find interesting about it is that I think he is basically talking about contemplative prayer without using religious language. The language he uses is more akin to 'self-help' terminology.

He talks about this (briefly) in the introduction and says that the reason for that is that religious language carries so much baggage for people that he would rather talk, for example, about 'Being' than 'God'. To a certain extent I am sympathetic to this point of view. It's very hard for people to get past the 'school assembly' associations of religious language (and I would be quite happy to use Being as a synonym for God who is Being itself).
He is very clear though that one of the things he sees himself doing is helping people of faith (he mentions Christians and Buddhists) to go deeper into their own tradition, not to leave it.

I think I'll blog some more about it as I get further into the book.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

digital copies of DVD's

following on from my last post, I'm really disappointed to see it taking so long for DVD's to come with digital copies as standard. If you don't know what I'm talking about there's an explanation here but basically it means that inserting a dvd into your computer and copying the film to your iTunes library so you can watch it on your laptop or transfer it to your portable device should be as easy as doing the same for an audio CD (without the need for ripping dvd's and then trying to get them into the right format and all that nonsense)
Thankfully it seems like they are beginning to include digital copies on DVD's but it should have been standard practice ages ago if you ask me.
rant over!

the presents keep rolling in

Christmas - the gift that keeps on giving.
Due to the wonders of online shopping I am still receiving Christmas gifts.
Through the post this morning arrived 'Heima' the Sigur Ros DVD, described in The Observer as "staggeringly beautiful").
Thanks to the mrs for that one.
Can't wait to see it - I think it'll be one to set the projector up for!
(you can watch the trailer on YouTube here).

Monday, January 14, 2008

Baptism of Christ

Preached a rare sermon on the Baptism of Christ at Home yesterday. Word must have got out as, inevitably, it was the week when pretty much all the Home regulars decided not to come - someone must have tipped them off and coordinated the action.

Anyway, I enjoyed it! And it was great to get some country music in the service too - Alison Krauss's version of the old folk song "When I went down to the river to pray" seemed most appropriate.

In the sermon I went for the angle of the unconditional affirmation of the Father (remember, this event was before he did any of the stuff) setting Christ free to engage in 'pure action' i.e. not being controlled by people's opinions of him, or trying to manipulate people to get stuff from them (getting his needs met) but doing whatever was appropriate in the moment.

I suggested that contemplative prayer was a way of taking the bartering out of our relationship with God (I do good stuff, you do good stuff back etc. - the whole reward/punishment thing) in that through it we are becoming more aware of God's love and listening for God's approval, setting us free for pure action too.

Monday, January 07, 2008

the West Wing effect

I don't know if it's just because I'm loving the West Wing but I'm finding myself increasingly interested in the unfolding story of the race for the US presidency.
Rather worryingly - and perhaps tellingly in terms of the state of our culture! - I know very little at present about what the candidates actually stand for in terms of policy. For me (and I suspect many US citizens judging by some of the reports I've read) it's a battle of personalities - the big two being Hillary and Obama. I'm not satisfied with this though and feel compelled to know more about what the differences between them in policy actually are. Can anyone point me to a good idiots guide?

John O Donahue

Sad to hear last night of the sudden passing away of John O Donahue - Irish priest, author, theologian, poet and mystic. Loved listening to him at Greenbelt just a few months ago - so full of life and energy and wisdom.
I felt I was only just 'discovering' him and was looking forward to hearing him speak some more. He was a strong contender for inclusion in my own private Jedi council, and perhaps will still make it in. Funny...just the other day I was standing in Blackwells flicking through a book of his poems.
Thankyou God for the life of your servant John, he will be missed.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Heads up Sigur Ros fans

some good telly on tonight....

Peter Owen Jones' 'Extreme Pilgrim' is on BBC2 at 9pm. Sounds really intriguing (and I've really enjoyed his books ('Bed of Nails' should be required reading for anyone going to theological college, and 'Small Boat, Big Sea' was his journal of his curacy which was great as well). Here's the blurb from the BBC site:

Peter Owen Jones has been a vicar in the Church of England for 14 years. He has three parishes in the beautiful Sussex Downs, and is happy with his rural ministry. But Peter feels that spirituality - a closeness to God - is almost absent from religious life in the UK. In a series of three tough, physical journeys to the extremes of world religions he seeks to discover and experience spiritual enlightenment for himself.

And for all the Sigur Ros fans out there there is a Culture Show special, again on BBC2, at 11.35pm

enjoy, telly fans!!
(or watch again on the iPlayer if you're reading this tomorrow)

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


This Sunday we celebrate Epiphany. You are very welcome to join us if you live in the area.