Monday, 31 August 2009

Monday morning

Well, I think the change is in progress. In a funny little vignette last night I was introduced to someone as "a priest of the diocese", not as a Rector. It felt slightly odd. Not as demoted exactly (I'm sure that certainly wasn't the intention) but almost...stateless? It also feels a bit funny not to have a therapists appointment, but I have a number of plans to push out and just have to get on with it.

That reprobate subversive leftist Bill Brockie (Peace be upon Canon Fidel!) gave me a "Lady Thatcher dies" postcard: the back is marvellous! Addressed to "Elizabeth Windsor", it proclaims to Hanoverian Betty:

"In the event of Margaret Thatcher
being given a state funeral, I will

Demonstrate along the route. This will include
co-ordinating with others to sing

"Ding Dong, the Witch is dead" throughout the entire procession.

Let off fireworks.

Hold a BBQ by Westminster Abbey wearing a comedy apron.

Hire ventriloquists to throw their voices, shouting
"Why is it so dark in here?"

Throw coal at the coffin.


Sunday, 30 August 2009

New Era?

The official announcement has been made today that I will not be returning to post in Falkirk and I'm very grateful for the time and space that was made available to me to reach that decision. Of course, in some ways the future is just as unclear now as it was 6 months ago. As of 1st October I shall be jobless (so application is underway for benefit support as well as ongoing job search). But it may help to list to date the progress that has been made:

I am on sick leave due to depression.
Parish ministry is not for me.
Living in a small town isn't for me.
Living alone does not make me happy or fulfill me as a person.

I have not drunk alcohol for almost 6 months.
Until, yesterday, I hadn't smoked for 6 weeks. (Starting stopping again as from today!)
I have attended therapy twice weekly since May
and am very gradually and (with much pain and resistance) am getting somewhere. I think.

My therapist is on holiday for a month. So I need to start putting some other bits of activity in to my timetable, so I don't regress into an isolated cupboard. Like building on the volunteering I did at the Festival of Spirituality and Peace. Like taking up an activity or joining a social group. I might be on the dole as of the 1st October, but I'd better try to organise my life so that I have one again. Parish ministry means that your social life tends to withdraw into a small circle of like minded people in the same area. I need to build out and not depend on the Church for my self identity as much. Or rediscover John the person as opposed to John the Priest, the Rector, the Role. Which is sort of what has been going on slowly in the last few months but it is seriously a work which has begun and is far from complete. So we go on. But it does seem possible now, which it really didn't before.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Augustine of Hippo

"My heart is restless, until it finds its rests in you"

He is one of the bogeymen of modern theology. If it wasn't St Paul's fault, it was his! No self respecting lesbian/gay feminist liberal inclusive theologian type goes for long without having a pop at Augustine of Hippo. The forefather of the Inquisition, bad news for women, dreadfully stuffy about sex etc, etc, etc.

And also the author of this:

"Too late have I loved you, O beauty so ancient and so new, too late have I loved you! Behold, you were within me, while I was outside; it was there that I sought you and, a deformed creature, rushed headlong upon these things of beauty which you have made. You were with me, but I was not with you" (The Confessions, Book 10)

Why do we want theologians of their time to think exactly as we do? Augustine was a child of his time and situation as we are today. Can't we see some of his attitudes which we regret as the products of a time and place and a context and instead of writing him off completely, deploy our critical faculties and work round them? His writings on grace and faith, his reflections on the dynamic between Church and state and the honesty and passion of his autobiography give him an abiding value.

God of love and compassion,
stir up in your church the spirit you instilled in St Augustine.
Then we shall thirst for you alone,
the fountain of true wisdom,
and seek the heavenly love that only you can give.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen

Nun think.

Not that I have ever paid much conscious attention to the idea of gender balance, this reflects the chance appearance of this little pearl from Sister Joan Chittister OSB in my reading:

"A great deal of mental, psychological and spiritual health comes from learning to endure the average heat of the average day and to wear both its banes and its blessings with a tempered heart".

God give me a tempered heart soon.
Happy St Augustine's day!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Monk think.

I went along to an address at the Book Festival given by the Abbot of Worth, Dom Christopher Jamieson OSB, who "starred" in the BBC documentary/reality show "The Monastery". The theme: "Finding Happiness". It was interesting to hear a defence of the classical ethical world view of Plato and Aristotle (The highest good is to behold that which is true and beautiful and to do it) as opposed to the Liberal post enlightenment utilitarianism of Mill and Bentham (Minimise suffering, Maximise pleasure) and hear it used as a preventative to hedonism. And it was equally fascinating to hear the Cardinal Virtues of Justice, Temperance, Courage and Prudence extolled as a world view that would have stopped the credit crunch dead!!

However, the thought that teased my brain was his provocative throwaway line that "spirituality is not enough - you need to be religious". That ran plain contrary to my experience that any mutt can be religious - it's spirituality that transforms it. But when I think about it I can see a level at which this is true.

In the pick and mix, eclectic age in which we live, people choose their own ethics, world view and "spirituality" according to personal taste, preference or convenience. Often it comes out of a self help book or some potted wisdom manual and is a pallid travesty of the real McCoy. Much of the New Age approach does this. It lacks the depth and rigour say of full blooded Buddhism or Hinduism. If "spirituality" (whatever its source) is to be authentic, then it must be earthed and grounded in the actual praxis of a living faith community. Anyone can adopt the breathing techniques and stories of Sufi mysticism, but it can be pure self indulgent poseur-manship unless it is grounded in the daily prayer and practice of that faith. You cannot be a Sufi mystic and omit the diet and set prayers 5 times daily of a good muslim, can you?

To put this in the context and language of the Christian theology with which I am familiar: spirituality must be incarnated if it is to be authentic. To say "I'm a Christian - I follow Jesus but I don't go to Church" is, at a pragmatic level, deeply nonsensical. Christianity is not primarily assent to a collection of doctrines or the adoption of certain ethical standards. To believe in God and not to join in the life of a community of faith is to miss the key to understanding the whole venture of the journey of religious faith. One must both profess the faith (know the beauty of truth in the Platonic sense) and do good (living the Aristotelian ideal in accordance with the ethics of the faith). To do good and live in accordance fully with the tenets of Christianity or any other religion, requires not only ethical behaviour but also the praxis of the religious obligations of that faith. How can one be a Kabalist by simply following the lifestyle of Kabbala without also embracing fully the religious practices of Judaism?

It actually throws an interesting light on the recent case of the US Episcopal priest who regarded herself as both a Christian and a Muslim and was deposed by her Bishop. The point was made by a commentator who had been an RC priest and who had become a Muslim that it was actually impossible to be both due to the claims of both being mutually exclusive. Christianity: Jesus died and rose again. Islam: Jesus did not die on the Cross. You cannot believe both. But one can draw inspiration from both spiritual traditions, provided that one remains earthed in one solidly.

That said, I am pastorally uncomfortable with telling someone unless you combine religious observance with your doing good and believing in God, you are not really a Christian. It seemed to spring from the way and pursuit of religious and spiritual perfection that is implicit in the religious life. The monastic ideal contains much wisdom that is applicable to daily life and living, but it is a counsel to perfection and intrinsically the monastic life is about how one soul relates to God. Yes, it is about community and living well together, but at its' heart is the monk in the cell alone with the reality of God and the reality of self. It clashes somewhat with the reality of 21st century, multicultural, post-modern Scotland. But then, the way of the Religious Life is always and rightly counter cultural and challenging.

The deep wisdom (rather than the apparent dogmatic arrogance) of the Abbot's line is to recognise that the spiritual life cannot be privatised, individualised or reduced to mere posturing if it is earthed in the ongoing life of a faith community, be that the life of the Monastery, the parish or the Ecclesial Base Group. There is always the temptation to pick a spirituality that suits us and to reduce it to a notional and self indulgent shadow of itself, if we seek to be spiritual in isolation and not religious in community. "I say my prayers to my God" is something of a cop out. I genuinely wonder how these individuals who have got themselves ordained in Independent Catholic Churches function. How can one operate as a priest in isolation? Communion with a larger whole, relation to a community of faith is of the very essence of priesthood in any sort of Catholic understanding.

But I digress. It's late. Thanks Father Abbot for getting my theological juices flowing!

Listen and learn

Once again, my Tuesday evening group has turned out to be a good support. Hearing how people had moved through difficulties and then moved onto building a new life. It was good to go out afterwards with others and just enjoy socialising. I had kinda failed to realise just how mentally and emotionally isolated from others I had become over the months leading up to going "boink" and edging back into having a life feels very strange - but good! I am becoming quite the connoisseur of places to enjoy a tomato juice in central Edinburgh.

Today it's the CAB and a bit of the Book Festival, so more from that later.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Sunday, Sunday

What a busy Sunday that was. Off to a later Mass than is my usual custom, with a wonderful setting of Dvorak in D. Then to the pictures to watch a big screen double bill of "Where Eagles Dare" and "The Bridge at Remagen". Hardly pacifist fare, but a real trip back in my mind to childhood Sunday afternoons watching the telly. Richard Burton's voice was incredible: "Broadsword calling Danny Boy. Broadsword calling Danny Boy" - it really was a Commando comic on film - and Clint Eastwood seemed to knock out half the German Army single handed. Quentin Tarentino has a high kill rate? Nothing on this!

Then it was an excellent folk concert with a very talented youth band called Bodega. Only one wee question: why is a Scottish folk band named in Spanish? Not awfully folky really. Still they were very good, so it is a truly minor quibble.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

The joys of Chopin.

Caught a marvellous Chopin concert tonight by the Polish fellah who was discovered whilst working as a Janny at Glasgow Uni. He was recorded tinkling the ivories on the Chapel piano and snapped up by an agent. He was splendid: Chopin in not a composer I am particularly familiar with, but his lush, heart-stirring Romantic lyricism really suited the splendid sort of Georgian setting of St John's Princes Street.

Also the Blue Brazil got their 1st 2nd division points by not losing to Alloa. Here's to next weeks' derby with East Fife.

Friday, 21 August 2009

A cinematic discovery (for me).

For many years (being a wee bit of a film buff), I've been aware of the reputation of the director Derek Jarman. Left of centre politically, homo-erotic, artistic and visionary, got right up the Thatcherite regime that used to run the country's nose. Sort of thing you'd imagine a right thinking, high Church leftist like moi would make a bee-line for. But up till now I hadn't had the pleasure. So, when I was offered the chance to attend the 1st showing of his re-mastered "War Requiem", I jumped at it. The music is Britten's piece of the same name and it all hangs round the war poetry of Wilfred Owen.

What a treat! The Britten was recorded and conducted by BB and with Peter Pears, so it was gloriously authentic. The poetry I know well from my O Grades in English and History. And the imagery was incredible, visceral at points (sheep being actually butchered is a bit strong) and certainly something of an 80's period piece with footage of the Falklands campaign and gallant brother mujaheddin in Afghanistan biffing the Bolsheviks. They'll be the ones we're trying to bomb in Helmland then? Footage of dead soldiers with brains hanging out mean it isn't really for the faint hearted or queasy. Stunningly shot, very powerful and breathtakingly clever.

The cast was startling: Laurence Olivier (who came out of retirement to appear in this, his last ever screen role), Tilda Swinton (shook hands with her at the showing), the fellah from the Inspector Lynley mysteries as Wilfred Owen and Sean Bean as a dead German. It was the sort of thing I should have watched at Uni 20 years ago and didn't. Glad I've finally caught up.

Compassion and realpolitik

No surprises that the release of the Lockerbie bomber has caused a mighty and understandable stink. Victims families outraged, fury at the hero's welcome in sunny Tripoli. But it's worth quoting what the Scottish Justice Minister said.

"Mr Al Megrahi now faces a sentence imposed by a higher power. It is one that no court, in any jurisdiction, in any land, could revoke or overrule. It is terminal final and irrevocable. He is going to die.

In Scotland we are a people who pride ourselves on our humanity. It is viewed as a defining characteristic of Scotland and the Scottish people. The perpetration of atrocity and outrage cannot and should not be a basis of losing sight of who we are, the values we seek to uphold and the faith and beliefs by which we seek to live.

Our justice system demands that judgement be imposed, but compassion be available.

Our beliefs dictate that justice be served, but mercy be shown.

Compassion and mercy are about upholding the beliefs that we seek to live by, by remaining true to our values as a people. No matter what the severity of the provocation or the atrocity perpetrated."

I am not a Nationalist, but I agree with this. It is as fine and clear a statement of liberal principle as one could expect from a Government based in the Home of the Scottish Enlightenment. When we sink to the vengeful level of the enemies of reason , democracy and tolerance then we have lost the battle and ceded the field to the opposition by default. This speaks to "the better angels of our nature" - words written by a great American. Well said and done Kenny McCaskill.

Of course, the Libyan regime have abused the freedom with their "hero's welcome". But that was not unexpected. It doesn't detract from the rightness of the decision.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Political diversions

From time to time I make the odd comment on matters political - well in my youth in the Liberal Party I did the odd bit! So two comments tonight.

Firstly, wur Justice mannie, Kenny MacCatskills-mountain-high has let the Libyan loon convicted of the Lockerbie bombing out of jail on compassionate grounds (Muhhamad Al wossiface being in the process of going to have a chat with Allah via prostate cancer). Billary Rodham Clinton (aka the one Yank cabinet member who has noticed there are other countries in the world apart from POTUS) is not a happy quine. Whilst deploring the Justice ministers dithering earlier in the week, I think his decision was the right one and it was right and indeed courageous of him to choose not to reduce justice to a bare concept of retribution. I am no great fan of the US Justice system at the moment, due to the appalling case of a Texas appeal judge refusing to hear a last minute plea for a stay of execution because she wanted to get home for a workman. The Times noted that she was a Republican appointment - is that an excuse? Oh, that and having heard a Fringe show on Rendition. Land of the Free?

Secondly, praise God for Glesga Cooncil! The Weegie City Faithers have voted to severely reduce the number of Orange Walks in the city from over 200 p.a. to 20. About time too. I dislike the LOL and what it stands for. However, I acknowledge their right to assembly peacefully and celebrate their "culture". But 200 walks? As opposed to 20 Republican waddles. And the Polis budget running amok - no, this is a right and overdue decision. Three cheers for the Weegie Cooncil!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Night thoughts 2

Of late, I've been using the "Simple Office" from the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield to supplement my prayers. Tonight, the hymn was "Lead, kindly light" and the Blessed John Henry was a great comfort. His words are sublime:

Lead kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
lead thou me on;
The night is dark and I am far from home,
lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet, I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.

I was not ever thus,
nor prayed that thou shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path
but now lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

So long thy power hath blessed me,
sure it will still lead thou me on.
O'er moor and fen, o'er crag and torrent,
till the night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

Newman underwent profound change and indeed torment: he has always been my personal favourite of all the "Oxford Apostles" as Geoffrey Faber called them. Pusey was too skewed by scruple and grief for my taste and I never quite understood why so capable a scholar turned his back on German Biblical criticism which he had studied and became so profoundly conservative. It was something of a disaster for Catholic Anglicanism, which it has never fully recovered from. Keble was too much the Tory Country parson for me and I never did quite get into his poetry (although I am hugely proud he was made a Canon of Cumbrae). Hurrell Froude was just a silly wee boy, but Newman had the power of mind, the beauty of soul and the dignity and grace under trial that has always spoken deeply to me. So I am quietly commending myself and all who seek after truth and suffer to the intercession of the Servant of God John Henry Newman tonight.

A night thought.

Well, I was certainly carried by the group tonight and perhaps in my own way helped to carry someone else. Dunno. There are times when you simply cannot gauge or be aware of the significance of the contribution you make. And I think I was carried by Compline too. The words are so familiar that they slip out without reference to the written text. Again, the truth was told to me many years ago, that if you stick to the Office, it will carry you when you cannot find words of your own with which to pray. So it was tonight.

Words matter to me for good and ill. They are the tools I have used to define, defend, cloak and comfort myself. And to castigate and condemn. But the words others have used matter deeply to me as well, especially when I cannot fully trust my own. As many have found before me, the Psalms say what we sometimes cannot. Tonight we prayed Psalm 27. 2 verses reached out to me:"You speak in my heart and say 'Seek my face'. Your face Lord will I seek" and "Wait for the Lord, be strong and brave and put your hope in the Lord" . Wait and seek. Action and stillness. Movement and calm. You need both.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Keep taking the tablets.

Perhaps the stress of working things through in the last few days meant that this was always likely to happen, but today really has felt like being back in a particularly dark bit of my own personal hole. Simply put, a sense of paralysis and fear has seized hold again and I really thought I had got past this bit. I did push out to do my volunteering bit and came back again but this has not been a spectacularly good day. But these days do pass. That said, I got back to find two letters of support/good wishes which I hadn't expected and it struck me (again) that you get what grace you need, when you need it. Often it is just enough grace and sometimes only just enough. So just thanks be to God that tonight is a group meeting and I can go and be encouraged and draw strength from their strength.

Actually, I suppose that is the nature of Church really. When we gather to be the body of Christ it is sometimes the strength of the body as a whole which bears the weakest member. Learning to live with that when you have been seen (and seen yourself) for so long as one of the bearers, rather than as one of the borne is terribly difficult. Learning to accept frailty rather than bluff your way through, acting as usual is horrid and right now to be quite frank I really could go a smoke for the 1st time in weeks. Actually, its been a couple of days since I even had any of the nicotine gum, so it is definitely time to chew a nicorette thing and maybe let a little of the angst react with some chemicals!

Monday, 17 August 2009

Justice Secretary = Gutless windbag.

Faugh! The Scottish Justice Secretary is flipping and flopping over the Lockerbie bomber like a filleted halibut because Bill Clinton's wife is nipping his bonce on behalf of the Land of the Free and Home of the Crazed. No harm to HC, doing her job and failing to accept that oddly British concept of compassionate release rather than die in the slammer as a legitimate response to mass murder. But our mannie is being so dithery from day to day it make you despair. Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay...oh, hang on, he works for Alex Salmond. Question answered.

Made it to and through the therapy session. Big relief feelings on the bus back. If it doesn't kill you... it might heal you.

Looking into the mirror and seeing the scary.

It is what you can only describe adequately as a "dreich" day. To non-Scots, that's damp, grey and wet in a semi-Calvinist sort of way. The sort of day when the prospect of another session with the therapist fills me with dread. It hurts, I don't want to go, I want it to stop and get better. And yet I also need to go. I know I am learning to name and acknowledge some of my deepest fears and unexpressed desires aloud at last. And that is liberating. But it leaves me feeling raw and pained. My chest tightens even as I type. The thought that struck me after noting last week that I lived in a state of "constant conflict" and asked the question: which set of feeling are real? (Answer: Both.) was that I am getting to some of what I think of as the "unhallowable" parts of who I am. My theology tells me this isn't true and that God's love redeems us all totally. But it also tells me that the unassumed is the unredeemed. But actually within myself and with reference to myself, I don't really believe that the wholeness of my human nature can be loved, assumed and redeemed. I hope it will, I pray it will and I want what I profess to be true. But I don't really believe that is or can be the case. But as we go through the process I can only trust that things will change and grow in a better direction. Still, you do laugh in the turmoil. To Friday observation that I have problems with sex and money issues, I could only think: "I'm a middle aged Scottish male, what the heck would you expect?" Then "Fabulous, I'm turning into Woody Allen"!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Mass, Mosque and Curry Sunday.

Up the hill to my local SEC establishment for the Holy Mysteries this morning. Hymns: conservative (dull), celebrant decently catholic (and female), sermon content ok (delivery a tad academic, but hey, the Team Priest has a PhD), intercessions ARRGH!

They got off to a bad start: with 4 possible passages of Scripture to choose a lectionary theme from, we got - animal rights??? How we got there from the 7 Pillars of Wisdom and the Bread of Life I know not. Responsory? That changed with each petition - which only works when they are ALL printed for the whole congregation to use. They weren't, so the congregational response varied from sporadic to inaudible. And content? Sigh! I gave up when we were bade to pray that we struggled with being vegetarian and not being vegetarian. I don't. Sorry, I struggle with depression, sexuality, faith, why God doesn't do things to Robert Mugabe involving a bleeding great thunderbolt and whatever happened to Rowan Williams spine. I don't agonise over my love of bacon rolls and inability to eat tofu with any sense of sharing in God's bounty. Not so much the prayers of the people, as a hobby horse ride over Bruntsfield Links. Haven't heard such well-meaning liturgical ineptitude since I was a Coates Hall student and I told a fellow student I hadn't left chapel at the peace because she was a woman reading prayers but because I refused to pray heresy. I've mellowed - stayed put and went to coffee afterwards and didn't get "angry", I just acknowledged this was not my problem and let God worry about it.

From there back to base to cook bacon for the brunching masses, before leaving (brunchless and drooling) for the Mosque. I did change my shirt before leaving, thinking it might not be terribly tactful to toddle in ponging of cooked pig. My reward: a 1st class curry in the Mosque kitchen before the guided tour and and a look at their excellent exhibition on Islam. And it was a real delight to be there. A big poster stated bluntly that racism and sexism are condemned in the Qu'ran. It was good and cheering to see that there is such a thing as a sensible tolerant face to Islam in Scotland in spite of much of the tosh spouted in the Press. Hugely enjoyable. This is why I think life in the City is where my future is: small town Scotland isn't for me really. The diversity and the buzz of city life are what I need.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Miss and Hit.

Or a typical night at the Festival! The performance poetry and songs gig left me puzzled. Sorry, just didn't get it, but I did enjoy the piano playing. But the folk gig - A1. If you get the opperchancity to catch either or both Kim Edgar or David Ferrard, do. Beautiful stuff, deeply moving and you can make out the words! (Grumpy Old Man mode is alive and well and functioning in Dougal!)

My morning reading these days is a commentary on the Rule of St Benedict by Joan Chittester OSB. The other day was on the section about admitting priests to the Monastery: this bit seemed profound to me: "it is hard to let go of the past, and yet until we do, there is no hope whatsoever that we can ever gain from the future. Everyone has to put down some part of their past sometime. Everyone makes a major change at sometime or another. Everyone has to be opened to being formed again. The only thing that can possibly deter the new formation is if we ourselves refuse to let go of what was. If we cling to the past, the future is closed to us."

Food for thought indeed.

America the...somewhat annoying!

I like America. And I like Americans. But, just at the moment, they are being thoroughly annoying to the Brit bit of me. First, there is the palpable ignorance of the NHS and the taking of the wonderful creation of Sir Will1am Beveridge in vain by the US Right. OK, it's probably caused by the fact that they are stupid right wingers, rather than the fact that they are Americans. "This is socialism" they thunder. And your point is? It is a "socialism" supported at its inception by Winston Churchill and currently defended by David Cameron. God, their ignorance and arrogance inflames me!

Then, Hilary Clinton is nipping the Justice Minister's heid to say don't free the guy who was convicted of blowing up the jet at Lockerbie. Fair enough, but it sits ill when the US are going to extradite a British computer hacker to stand trial for mucking about with the Pentagon mainframes in spite of pleas to try and hold him here because he has Aspergers syndrome. The US at a national level have a horrible self-righteousness. Surely a deal can be done over the geek? It's not as if UK law is soft or our prisons a doddle. If the guy has buggered up the US Defence Dept Computers and compromised security, lives and cost a lot of money, then by all means let the law take its course, but with compassion and mercy rather than vengeance as a guiding principle. "The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle dew from heaven". Better still, give the guy a job in improving your computer security!

The US is a wonderful and on the whole good place. Not perfect, no nation is. Read the Bible: Israel was chosen, yes and favoured and beloved, but perfect? No way Jose! But like every nation state (and the British are absolutely no different by the way) prone to self deluded and arrogant behaviour from time to time. So, whilst never saying smite the Great Satan O Lord, perhaps le bon Dieu could help them to get a grip already? So we pray!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Positive Thinking.

It was an interesting but strangely unsatisfying workshop today. Some very basic psychology for a framework and an emphasis that we can change the world by changing our perception of it. That hasn't been my life experience and I wondered about it. What was missing? Then it hit me: the sense of there being a higher power outwith ourselves capable of transforming situations or us. It was all very "me" focused. "I can change". But some of us can't under our own steam. We try and try and try - and fail. Thinking of thought as an energy - fine, power of the mind to change it's perception - doesn't sound too clever to someone who knows their mind can be wounded and utterly dysfunctional due to depression. Yes, meditation etc can help prevent this but it isn't the exclusive answer. It's something of a solution for the whole people, but it's too damn heavy a burden for the wounded to bear successfully. Self-consciousness self awareness, self knowledge are all good, but on their own they are not enough.

All that Augustinian heritage of the necessity of grace makes me firmly programmed agin the idea that we can save ourselves. But we do need to co-operate with the power that comes from outwith ourselves: it's not Pray and God, like the good fairy, waves a wand and bingo we're painlessly fixed. No, unless we co-operate with grace we cannot grow. We can resist or refuse grace. We can depend on self and come eventually to despair. We are co-workers with God in the work of our salvation - indeed, in a sense, we are our own co-redeemers. We cannot save ourselves but God could, had he not chosen to work with us in and through Jesus Christ.

That said there were certain bits of common ground: the answer being in our own backyard ties rather with the Benedictine idea of redemption lying not in a distant journey but in the place where we are planted. It was by no means a pointless our worthless exercise. But I don't think Yoga struck me as much of an alternative to the Gospel.

Looking good!

That's a reference to me rather than any job prospects! Twice this week comments have been passed to the effect that I look better than I did (lost weight and clearer complexion) or don't look my age. Which is nice unless they are fibbing! Am vaguely thinking of attending a workshop on feeling positive today - might pick up some tips there!

One of the surprises about helping at a Festival venue is that you see shows you might not book into. Last night there was a display of traditional South Indian dance and music. It was terribly good. I'd never in a decade have deliberately gone to it but thoroughly enjoyed it anyway - the skill was impressive. Nothing like keeping the old mind open.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Steady as we go.

I'm pleasantly surprised to report that the Blue Brazil played OK and went down principally because we lost 2 players to red cards. So 2-1 to Arbroath isn't as bad as it sounds. Or am I spin doctoring?

Spent the weekend at mum's which was fine. Another couple of job applications in which is a step in the same direction I've been taking. So the week ahead may not be with out news (I hope).

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

We arra peeple!

Shock, horror! The Blue Brazil have just been promoted. Admittedly, it is because Livingston FC (or Meadowbank Thistle in the Country) were not exactly solvent at the end of last season and were forcibly demoted from the 1st Division to the 3rd. Accordingly, the BB go up into the 2nd div and Airdrie United (Airdrieonians Really) go 2nd to 1st. Splendid - except this was announced TODAY and the season starts on Saturday. So instead of playing East Stirling in sunny Larbert, we are hosting Arbroath at Central Park. Don't you just love the efficency of the Scottish Football League? No, because the vital buying close season was done with the prospect and the funding of the 3rd Div in mind and people who might have signed for a 2nd div club or even stayed have been missed. Darn it- this is sloppy.

Good news.

Some great news for a chum who has been in the line of fire for the last wee while. Kenny has been firing off recently at the local orange mob in his West of Scotland patch and vocally opposing the proposed Walk. This has led to some extreme and frightening nastiness, if not from the office bearers of the LOL and RBP, then from their more unpleasant and Neanderthal associates. Reassuringly, the hierarchy has been supportive and there has been a victory of sorts for Kenny, in as much as the Cooncil have taken Polis advice and have withdrawn permission for the march. They are appealing against the decision and the local Sheriff hears the case tomorrow. Congratulations to Kenny and continuing prayers, as there is always the danger that this is not the end of the nastiness.

On the moving forward front, it was ages ago that the Careers service suggested I get some current voluntary work experience under my belt - good for getting back into a work routine and helps with job refs. But motivating myself to it - ay, there's the rub. Quite possibly I was much more depressed than I knew or cared to admit. But I have just been accepted as a volunteer for the festival of Spirituality and Peace in Edinburgh and I am looking forward to the experience. At least I'll be engaging with people and somewhat re-skilling myself. It may be that I go up and down as I move out back into the real world and engage again with other human being but it does feel (the noo onywies) that I have moved a wee bit and in a good direction. Especially since last night, instead of rushing off after a support meeting I went out with some of the group for a tomato juice and a social chat. The fact that I didn't need a chaperone or someone to prompt me was again a small move in a good direction.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Tasty Tips!

A tip if you feel like a light meal: jazz up the scrambled eggs! I wasn't especially hungry tonight, so I thought that scrambled eggs on toast with a little bacon would do nicely. But scrambled eggs are (no disrespect) bland and horridly Vicarage before bedtime-ish. So some garlic was shot into the mix and the late discovery of a small daud (a technical measurement in Scottish cooking - The Ed) of Roule in a Tupperware led to positively Gallic scrambled ouefs for supper. Vive la cuisine! Well, I recall reading about something similar in a Lionel Blue recipe book, so I'll tip a hat to the good Rabbi! Obviously, he skipped the bacon!

Incidentally, the Yanks really have decided the Moratorium is over: in the Episcopal elections in Minnesota and LA the slates include LGBT candidates. Of course, the respective electorates may decide to desist from electing those candidates (or simply and reasonably decide that the individuals nominated are not the best available candidates for the post) and delay the inevitable rumpus in the Anglican Communion. But part of me hopes not. That'll be the "lets get this sorted once and for all" bit. Once we know who we're in a relationship with vis a vis the Anglican Communion we can simply get on with it and let the assorted factions play in the sand if they so wish or get on with being the Body of Christ they are called to be. I hate the thought of split and division, but this really has gone on quite long enough and the time to decide where we are going (US or Lagos) is approaching. I'll pick the one I don't need jags to go to thanks!

Surprises galore

An unexpected 1st on Saturday: whilst visiting Mum I discovered the Blue Brazil were playing Morton at home and I took myself off to the game. That doesn't sound very exciting, until I recall that I haven't been anywhere near a game since March and the last time I tried, I suddenly clammed up and cowered in the house all afternoon and evening. Perhaps being able to sail under my own steam to Central Park is a measure of some level of recovery. A pity we lost 3-1 and are out of that cup competition. And the steak pies were overcooked. Bummer!

Totally out of the blue, friends from my Glasgow days I haven't seen for ages turned up. They were on holiday and had gone to Falkirk expecting to find me at Church but tracked me down via the Wardens and dropped in. I was utterly gob smacked and delighted. Scarily, their tiny daughter whose teddy bear in a Franciscan habit I used to bless at the altar rail is now 17 and looking at University campuses. God, I am getting older! Still M is proof that one can go out of parish ministry, survive and still have a life and be a priest. Maybe they were sent as much they came. Thanks God.