Friday, March 31, 2006

Too extreme

I think that it would be truer to say that:

what I think about parsnips
Image by Dave Walker.

Thursday, March 30, 2006


As Good Friday approaches, Zechariah reminds us of the impending sacrifice. I am inescapably conscious just now of having to deal with stress, which seems to comprise a number of issues each contributing its layer of angst, rather than a single identifiable cause. And it becomes difficult to subscribe to the view that becoming a Christian will consign all of your problems to history.

Lay your burdens at the cross - it would be nice - if only I could dump this Huge Bag of Worries on the grass, towered over by a wooden edifice - but I guess that, confronted by the sight of Jesus' suffering, I would be more shocked and in awe - perhaps I would forget what I was carrying on my back.

Actually, the verse I meant to link to was this one.

And, just in case anyone is in any doubt:

what I think about parsnips
Image by Dave Walker.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Somebody is trying to tell me something

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

And another prophecy - familiar sounding - but interesting that recognition only happens when the spirit has been poured out. We're often told that it is God's Spirit who opens people's eyes to the truth, but we usually behave as if it is our own efforts.

Friday, March 24, 2006

I guess that this speaks for itself

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

A question

Should we give up chocolate for Lent? God's answer seems to be, "Who are you doing it for?" And he goes on to say (and I hope that Eugene Peterson doesn't mind me quoting directly; this is Zechariah 7:9b,10 The Message):
Treat one another justly.
Love your neighbors.
Be compassionate with each other.
Don't take advantage of widows, orphans, visitors, and the poor.
Don't plot and scheme against one another -- that's evil.
I think that this is a message which we're familiar with from Isaiah.

And, good news at last!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


My dentist put in a filling this morning - my brain has turned to mush. And it isn't helping that to-day's passage - Zechariah 5 seems to me somewhat opaque. OK, God doesn't like thieves and liars. Jesus told a story about a man who knew that God doesn't like thieves and liars. And the BBC reckons that exposing estate agents as thieves and liars makes a good story. A little sad, though, when you read the story to the end, to find out that the people who suffered as a result of the BBC's story were the individuals whom the companies scapegoated, and who, presumably, didn't have the advantage of a second job as a TV reporter to fall back on.

The bottom line is that we all find ourselves in situations where it is extremely difficult to do the right thing. We are all, to some extent, thieves and liars. And Zechariah chapter 5 doesn't offer us much hope.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?

Springtime is the time of hope. Snowdrops bravely showing their white bells; crocuses spiking through the snow; soon there'll be daffodils, and tulips. I love snowdrops. One of the images stored in my brain is of a bank covered with them, which I saw one year when there wasn't much else to rejoice about.

But does life cycle like this? Or do we settle into a mud-and-water-filled rut, going nowhere, desperately trying to survive? No, I don't despise small beginnings - small beginnings would be better than no beginnings at all.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A hero

Nehemiah seems to have been a hero. He cared, he rolled up his sleeves, he finished the job. Good for him.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

An example

Under Nehemiah's leadership, the people of Jerusalem became exclusive, restricted the use of church premises, banned Sunday shopping, and refused to allow mixed marriages.

I listened to a sermon once where the preacher asserted that he never preached on Nehemiah (except on this occasion, when he had no choice), because he didn't like the book. I bristled at his approach to holy scripture, but I can see where he was coming from. On the other hand, have we got it right? We accepted Sunday shopping (although in our household it seldom happens, because it is known that it upsets Daddy, i.e. me) - it seemed legalistic to be in opposition to what people wanted - but has our quality of life improved? I'm always struck by the way that Eric Liddell is revered for the stand he took against running on a Sunday, and yet nothing is said about the simple fact that no Christian (that I know of) would seriously try to make the same stand to-day.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Friday, March 10, 2006


Is it really good for the soul? It was part of the great celebration that followed the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. A formal confession of sins is generally a part of the Anglican service at the church we attend. I notice that it happens early on in the service. I guess that we are expected to arrive with a sense of our unworthiness, not to wait to be challenged, for example, by the preaching.

Sometimes I wonder. Some years ago, I approached a friend, and asked if we could talk. My intention, which I carried out, was to let him know about a problem I was experiencing - a kind of confession. The meeting, effectively, ended our friendship. I don't know whether it was his reaction, or simply my knowing that he now knew something about me which I was ashamed of, but I hardly spoke to him again. I sometimes read the problem pages in magazines, and people ask - should I confess? Often, the answer is, reasonably - no - because to confess would likely do more harm than good.

We do need to be honest with God. I think that we need to do it privately.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


It isn't easy, reading and trying to understand the bible. I'm also reading Velvet Elvis, some of which I like, and some of which I don't like. But, in one regard, I agree wholeheartedly with the author - if you try seriously to read the bible, you'll find yourself engaging in one amazing wrestling match.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


As well as could be expected, thank you, Karin; just a matter of hunkering down for the long haul.

Nehemiah had to deal with a subtle temptation, reminding us that someone else had to face a time of testing. I don't know whether, as Christians, we encounter severer trials in the season of Lent. Probably not, but it is a time when we are more aware that we have a cunning enemy, who will do his best to divert us from the path we have chosen to follow.

Thank God that we also have a friend, who picks us up when we fall.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Turning from the enemy without to injustice within. Perhaps the church needs to turn from continually striving to gain recruits to thinking about how it deals with those who already belong.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Man of action

There are a number of bible stories which I simply do not like. One is the story of David and Goliath. What is the basic message? That we should all be like David - walking out alone, and lightly-armed, to face down the giants which threaten us. Those of us who shuffle along, mostly terrified of what might be just around the corner - we're failures. Just a wee bit of courage, or faith in a God who won't let us down at the crucial moment, and we should be out there, heads held high, every demon vanquished.

Life's not like that.

I don't know what to think of Nehemiah. I've learned that doing projects is not my strongest suit, and here we have - a project. And a man who approaches his task in the right way. He reconnoitres, he assesses, he (presumably) comes up with a plan, he shares it with his executives, and they get on with it. He makes me sick. With envy? With the feeling that his effectiveness highlights my uselessness?

It's snowing outside. Wonder if I'll have a problem getting home.

Thursday, March 02, 2006


Years ago, I was struggling. I was trying to read the bible every day, following one of the sets of notes produced by Scripture Union, but seemed always to be trailing behind. Faced with the prospect of devouring two or more readings in a day just to get back to where everyone else was (or so I assumed), I was tempted to give up entirely. The solution turned out to be a new discipline. I would read the reading for the day on the day it was intended for. No trying to work out where I'd got to. Just go straight to the page for to-day's date. The surprising thing was, from then on, I seldom missed a day's reading.

Since then, it has been a personal rule - if I fall behind, just pick up again, not where I left off, but where I should be. Possibly I found the One Year Bible difficult because I didn't want to apply my rule to this project. How could I - if I skipped passages, how could I say, at the end of the year, that I'd read all the way through the bible? And so I experienced again the misery of being always behind. I even tried to read ahead, but felt guilty, that I was doing something I wasn't allowed to do.

This morning, I broke my own rule. I read yesterday's reading in Encounter with God. And I read it in the bus, not at home. Why? Partly because I think that the current block of readings, from Nehemiah, make a good Lenten study. And partly because the notes have been written by someone I know. Perhaps 'know' is putting it a bit strongly. I knew him at University. He was, I think, in the year below me. And then I met him again, in Dundee. He was by then a minister in the Church of Scotland. I was deeply touched because he said to me that he was glad to see me. And now he is the minister of a certain church in Aberdeen, which I (and he) attended as a student. He has the unenviable task of succeeding the legendary Rev Willie Still. Dominic, if you're reading this blog, I salute you.

And thank you for suggesting that the book of Nehemiah has two themes - appropriately for this season - restoration and remembrance. We tend to think of Nehemiah in terms of repairing, or rebuilding, the walls of Jerusalem. I think that Dominic is indicating to us that we should see Nehemiah's task as, more fundamentally, restoring the people of God.

And, lesson number one, how does Nehemiah start? He prays.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Having eaten too many pancakes last night, what am I going to give up for Lent? Biscuits? Or should I follow the example of the dentist's receptionist this morning, who said that she was planning to give up work (though, apparently, her boss wasn't too keen on the idea)?

I'm not a great one for times and seasons. I can't think of a way of writing this down so that it won't offend someone, but, for me, every day matters, not just those that happen to fall within a certain season, or have a name attached to them in the Christian calendar.

Perhaps it's significant that on this, the first day of Lent, I didn't have time this morning to read the bible.