Monday, 28 December 2009

The Wise Men

Step softly, under snow or rain,
To find the place where men can pray;
The way is all so very plain
That we may lose the way.

Oh, we have learnt to peer and pore
On tortured puzzles from our youth,
We know all the labyrinthine lore,
We are the three wise men of yore,
And we know all things but truth.

We have gone round and round the hill
And lost the wood among the trees,
And learnt long names for every ill,
And serve the made gods, naming still
The furies the Eumenides.

The gods of violence took the veil
Of vision and philosophy,
The Serpent that brought all men bale,
He bites his own accursed tail,
And calls himself Eternity.

Go humbly ... it has hailed and snowed...
With voices low and lanterns lit;
So very simple is the road,
That we may stray from it.

The world grows terrible and white,
And blinding white the breaking day;
We walk bewildered in the light,
For something is too large for sight,
And something much too plain to say.

The Child that was ere worlds begun
(... We need but walk a little way,
We need but see a latch undone...)
The Child that played with moon and sun
Is playing with a little hay.

The house from which the heavens are fed,
The old strange house that is our own,
Where trick of words are never said,
And Mercy is as plain as bread,
And Honour is as hard as stone.

Go humbly, humble are the skies,
And low and large and fierce the Star;
So very near the Manger lies
That we may travel far.

Hark! Laughter like a lion wakes
To roar to the resounding plain.
And the whole heaven shouts and shakes,
For God Himself is born again,
And we are little children walking
Through the snow and rain.

The Wise Men (GK Chesterton)

Sunday, 20 December 2009

nothing is impossible

Well done eXcel.
Everyone had their hand in this production and 2 weeks work has come together nicely (I think).

Love stoops

For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father's Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption. He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought, He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own. (On the Incarnation 1.8, p33-34)

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

If you think you have seen it all

We are wondering what to do for our 'end of term' House Group tomorrow night. We've got mulled wine, and thanks to Amanda, a non-alc version too. We'll have some food.
But what to do that is both fun and edifying?

Then I see this - the Rich Daddy God Table Game - and I know my search is over. All I need to do is source it now. I'm just not sure that Amazon will help me.


HT: Mandy Curley via Facebook

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Ordinary faith

The truth is that faith often feels like the very ordinary process of dragging one foot in front of the other because we are conscious of God. (Depression - A Stubborn Darkness by Welch, p 31)

Seeing the problem clearly is the start

Was He (God) to demand repentance from men for their transgression? You might say that that was worthy of God, and argue that, as through the Transgression they became subjest to corruption, so through repentance they might turn to incorruption again. But repentance would not guard the Divine consistency, for, if death did not hold dominion over men, God would still remain untrue. Nor does repentance recall men from what is according to their nature; all that it does is cease them from sinning. (On the Incarnation, p33)

Friday, 11 December 2009

Makes me want to go out and buy an ukulele!


Researchers (at a uni in the US) were conducting a study comparing the views of men in their 20s who had never been exposed to pornography with regular users.
But their project stumbled at the first hurdle when they failed to find a single man who had not been seen it.

“We started our research seeking men in their 20s who had never consumed pornography,” said Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse. “We couldn’t find any."
James Taylor links here to some free resources to consider using as we battle together for purity.

No silver bullets

Depression is a form of suffering that can't be reduced to one universal cause. This means that family and friends can't rush in with THE answer.

Like most forms of suffering, it feels private and isolated.

When your emotions feel muted or always low, when you are unable to experience highs and lows you once did, the important questions is, 'Where do you turn - or, to whom do you turn - when you are depressed?'

Suffering is not a journey we should take alone. There are too many places where we are tempted to give up and too many times we can't see clearly.

(from Ch 1 of Depression - A Stubborn Darkness by Welch)

Incarnate for us

You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word he is without body. He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of men, (On the Incarnation, 1.1, p26)

Thursday, 10 December 2009


Strength in weakness

A prayer of St Patrick which I only was drawn to this week.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.
I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.
I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me

From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.


So, on the path ahead, look for a partnership between whys and how tos. When the why questions appear, they will be religious - as all why questions are. They will be about God. Depression, of course, does that - it takes you back to the basic questions of life. Ignore them to focus on the how questions and you might find a temporary shortcut to mental relief, but your heart will still be famished. (Depression - A Stubborn Darkness, Welch, p14)

We can't pay ourselves more than we earn (Jim Hacker!)

Notes on Chapter 4 of 'Economics in One Lesson' by Hazlitt
There is no more persistent and influential faith in the world today than the faith in government spending. Everywhere government spending is presented as a panecea for all our economic ills.

Everything we get, outside of the free gifts of nature, must in some way be paid for.
So, it follows that every pound of government spending must be paid for by a pound of taxation (or more if there is interest to pay on loans) {inflation must kick in here somehow, but here at ch 4 we haven't got to that yet}

In this chapter Hazlitt is not addressing the need for public spending, which he upholds for 'essential govenerment functions' (by which he seems to mean, law and order (legislature, police, fire, army/navy/airforce) and roads). He is concerned with the idea that public works are a means of 'providing employment' or adding wealth to the community.


If an (unnecessary) bridge is built in order to create 5000 jobs at a cost of £10 million then the taxpayers have lost at least £10 million.

And they would have (in a complex web of individual transactions) spent that on other things that would have resulted in an extraordinary amount of economic activity and jobs elsewhere. Just we don't get to see that (again ... he is encouraging us to see beyond the 'here and now') ... all we can see is the new bridge and the 5000 jobs.

And that lends power to the argument that government can 'create' jobs and wealth. And that the country would be poorer without them. After all, look at the bridge ( or cheap housing or dam or whatever).

And just think, if these economic dinausaurs and reactionaries and obstructionists had had their way there would be no bridge. They are mere 'theorists' ... but look at this bridge ... it is a really solid economic achievement of THIS government.

So, what is the lesson? We need to train ourselves to see the unbuilt houses, unmade cars, dresses, unsold, ungrown foods etc.
If taxes are taken from individuals and corporations, and spent in one particular section of the country, why should it cause surprise, why should it be regarded as a miracle, if that section becomes comparatively richer? Other sections of the country, we should remember,  are then comparatively poorer.
The thing so great that 'private capital could not have built it' has in fact been built by private capital - the captial that was expropriated in taxes

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

The Climate Horror Show

Here is the conclusion to a long and quite detailed article giving an overview of where things are at with regard to 'global warming' and 'climate change':

Climate change is a genuine phenomenon, and there is a nontrivial risk of major consequences in the future. Yet the hysteria of the global warming campaigners and their monomaniacal advocacy of absurdly expensive curbs on fossil fuel use have led to a political dead end that will become more apparent with the imminent collapse of the Kyoto-Copenhagen process. I have long expected that 20 or so years from now we will look back on the turn-of-the-millennium climate hysteria in the same way we look back now on the population bomb hysteria of the late 1960s and early 1970s--as a phenomenon whose magnitude and effects were vastly overestimated, and whose proposed solutions were wrongheaded and often genuinely evil (such as the forced sterilizations of thousands of Indian men in the 1970s, much of it funded by the Ford Foundation). Today the climate campaigners want to forcibly sterilize the world's energy supply, and until recently they looked to be within an ace of doing so. But even before Climategate, the campaign was beginning to resemble a Broadway musical that had run too long, with sagging box office and declining enthusiasm from a dwindling audience. Someone needs to break the bad news to the players that it's closing time for the climate horror show.

And this is another very helpful article breaking down the different strands of argument that there are around this issue and evaluating them.

HT: Justin Taylor

This internet thing is amazing

Isn't it incredible that you can pick up a sermon delivered the other side of the Atlantic, in video, only hours* after it is preached? What a blessing!

*correction ... more like days! I misunderstood something there. But still. How would this have transformed Whitefield or Wesley's ministry?!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The Pope from St Albans - I never knew that!

Picture this and let the monsters under your bed be scared!

Thanks to Stu for bringing to my attention this arresting sentence, which he says (and I agree) describes Jesus wonderfully:
a sheep-herding dragon-slayer,
the One who can put all the wild things under His feet.
I think he got it from here (an article well worth a read - especially if you have young boys!).
And it caught my eye especially today, as I had been reading a prayer in The Valley of Vision this morning:

O God of my Exodus,
Great was the joy of Israel's sons,
when Egypt died upon the shore,
Far greater the joy
when the Redeemer's foe lay crushed in the dust.
Great Jesus strides forth as the victor,
conqueror of death, hell, and all opposing might;
He bursts the bands of death,
tramples the powers of darkness down,
and lives forever.

Following the action in prayer

Am I allowed to do this?

Thanks to Pete for putting this before our eyes:

Soft despots love “the fact that the citizens enjoy themselves provided they dream solely of their own enjoyment. It works willingly for their happiness, but it wishes to be the only agent and sole arbiter of that happiness. It provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs, directs their industry, regulates their testaments, divides their inheritances . . . After having taken each individual in this fashion by turns into its powerful hands, and after having kneaded him in accord with its desires, the sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations — complicated, minute, and uniform — through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way past the crowd and emerge into the light of day. It does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one’s acting on one’s own; it does not destroy, it prevents things from being born; it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupifies, and finally it reduces each nation to nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd”

Spend 2 minutes on the Department for Children, Schools and Familes Website and then return to this quote.


Or if you can't be bothered doing that, just ask yourself this question: why do we have a Department for Children, Schools and Families?

Monday, 7 December 2009

Not much to wryte home about

Below are some extracts from a very interesting article in the Times today:

"Sir, does spelling matter?"

Picture the scene: It is last period on a Friday, the final showdown of another long, exhausting week at the chalk-face. I am running on fumes and all I can think about is that first coffee after a lie-in on a Saturday morning. The clock seems to be going backwards. My nemesis class is in front of me, the one more than any other on the time-table that looms over me like a dark cloud and wakes me up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat. The register reads like a who's-who of school horror stories. And then it happens, the conversation that will surely haunt me all weekend:

Student: "Sir, how do you spell "education" ?

Mr Teacher: "You are twelve years old. I realise that I should help you but giving a constructive answer will force me to acknowledge the question, and my patience can't cope with that today."

Student: "Oh, ok. I know it anyway. It must be e-d-u-k-a-c-j-u-n.
I am reminded of the recent well-publicised comments made by Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy, the man at the helm of the country's largest private employer. He is rightfully concerned by the "woefully low standards in too many schools" and is frustrated that employers such as himself often need to retrain their employees in spelling and arithmetic. His views were immediately echoed by many top business leaders, including Asda's chief operating officer, Andy Clarke, who said: "“No one can deny that Britain has spawned a generation of young people who struggle to read, write or do simple maths. That’s why we’re finding packs of nappies discarded in the booze aisle, as the last few pounds are spent on alcohol rather than childcare.” Their comments were met with denials, howls of derision and claims of elitism from some quarters. When I heard what they had said, I simply nodded my head in knowing approval. This is because they are absolutely spot-on. The permitted standard of general education is at an appallingly low level. A massive percentage of the students I teach struggle on a daily basis with basic literacy and numeracy. Some are unable to communicate properly by any means.
A system that is churning out kids who cannot spell the very thing they ought to be striving for is the true face of schooling in this country. The numbers don't add up and, even if they did, too many of us would struggle to write the answer.

To follow what this teacher says regularly you can visit his blog Mr Teacher.
This resonates with our experience here in Tipton, through the work with young people we do at church and through edgehill. Reading a passage from the Bible can be a huge challenge for a number of our group, as can framing even simple prayers, and (though I am hardly one to talk) their handwriting is not much to write home about either. And it scares me.
The frustrating thing is that almost none of our young people lack the ability to do these things - they can memorise verses and in our recent weekend away grasped what the incarnation is, with reference to Arius and Athanasius. So what is going wrong?

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Mary: Magnificent and Marginal

In the Lord's goodness Justin Taylor put me onto this excellent piece by John Piper about Mary. It has encouraged me and extended my thinking about Mary, as I am preparing for preaching on Luke 1:39-56.
Piper is especially helpful in getting us to think about how Scriptures handle her. Minimally is the answer. And yet homed in on Luke Ch 1 as I am at the moment, she is also magnificent! (sorry for the poor pun there)
So far my direction is that she is 'a bumps and all believer' and 'a worries and all worshipper'. And my 'control' on this is the same as Piper's: Luke 8:21.

Incidently, partly inspired by Driscoll on Luke 1, I am using these images to help get us past the artist's impression of Christmas:

They seem more likely than these (!):