A Small Matter

I came across a statistic yesterday that really surprised me, so I asked my teenaged children about it, something I’d encourage you to do as well.

“What percentage of the British population self-identify as homosexual?”

Their answers ranged from 20% to 40%. Each of them know boys and girls who say they are lesbian or gay (LG) and each of them seem fairly comfortable with that fact, but none of them, when asked to count, could justify their assumption that 20-40% of their acquaintances were LG. Additionally, they were stunned when I shared the figure reported by the UK Office of National Statistics (ONS). Take a look at this excerpt from the ONS website.

Office of National Statistics

In 2015, the Annual Population Survey found 1.7% of adults in the UK identified themselves as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB). This comprised:
• 1.1% who identified themselves as gay or lesbian
• 0.6% who identified themselves as bisexual

Consider the first bullet point. The actual number is nowhere near 40% or even 20%, and my children could not believe that only 1.1% of the UK population is homosexual, indicating a profound discrepancy amongst the young between the perception of homosexuality and the actual figures. My own little “survey” was admittedly a bit small to generalise for the population as a whole, but I don’t think my kids are out of touch with the sentiments held by their peers. I would be curious to hear what you find amongst your own family, so I’ll save comment on this important subject until I hear back from you. In the meantime, answer the survey and have a look at two follow-on reports below.

For further discussion of the ONS Report see:

The Guardian.com


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Charlie Gard

Today’s news brings the announcement that the parents of little Charlie Gard have made the decision to end their fight to allow him to travel to America for an experimental medical treatment.  They will spend his last days together as a family, making the most of what remains of his tragically short life.

I’ve been watching this case with interest over the last weeks, and with deep sympathy for Charlie’s parents.  There’s no way to imagine what they’ve gone through.  Debilitating illness in a new-born child is every parent’s nightmare.  For Charlie, and for his parents, Connie and Chris, it has been twelve agonising months in the neo-natal intensive care.  Words fail to describe this kind of heartache.

But, I’ve been watching the case for another reason.  There is something far more significant going on here than a parent’s yearning for the welfare of a child.  Charlie’s welfare stopped being a matter of his health a long time ago.  When his parents first appealed to the courts they made it a matter of his human rights, and the courts, first the Family Division, then the Court of Appeals, then the UK Supreme Court, and finally the European Court of Human Rights, repeatedly ruled against them.  It seems that the justice system was unwilling to think in terms of rights and, in agreement with Charlie’s doctors, were determined to keep the matter focused on his health.

Is health a human right?  We live in an age that expects every problem has a solution and that, if only enough resources and effort are expended, any problem can be solved.  But, when a problem can be solved, and isn’t, or is declared insoluble, is someone to blame?  When a line is drawn stating that every conceivable effort has been made, especially in the matter of healthcare, does that mean someone has had their rights denied?  From the moment of his birth, and indeed, in the nine months that preceded it, Charlie has had nothing but preeminent, world-class healthcare.  He has been denied nothing.  But, in the end, his doctors agreed that his health, and his life, could not be saved.

British citizens are entitled to health care, but no one is entitled to health itself.  Health is not a human right, and it cannot be dispensed or guaranteed by the government, nor can a legal appeal to a higher court fix a health problem.  In Charlie’s case, I believe the courts were wise not to contravene the wisdom of the medical profession.  The legal system is intended to protect human rights, not human health.

I grieve for little Charlie, and for his parents.  They are facing a tremendous loss, and nothing can change that.  But, blaming the medical profession or the legal system won’t make their pain any easier to bear.  For Charlie, relief will come and, in death, he will find the rest and peace he has needed all his life.  I only pray that Connie and Chris will find the same for themselves.

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Coming Out in Stripes

gay pride flagMy friends are coming out, in stripes.

My Facebook friends that is.  They’ve altered their online appearance by superimposing a rainbow flag over their profile pic.  I didn’t quite get it when I saw the first one, but then there was another, and another, and finally one who carefully explained that it was a show of support for the recent decision of the US Supreme Court to legalize gay marriage.

Oh, that…

America is now the 21st country in the world to do so.  It may well be the biggest one too.  By sheer numbers (319 million) it dwarfs the influence of many other countries who have preceded them, including my own, Scotland (5.3 million).

But, this is not about numbers, it is instead about the powerful and pervasive influence of American culture and the way in which the gay community has so effectively used the media to influence the hearts and minds of so many people around the world.

There is a document that ought to be required reading for anyone interested in the gay rights movement.  It was written in 1987 and was later expanded into book form, called, The Overhauling of Straight America.

It is a remarkable and prescient document outlining a strategy that has now proved more effective than its original authors could ever have hoped or imagined possible.  Reading it now, it is plain to see that the discussion of gay rights and its ever growing presence in the media was not accidental, but carefully, even masterfully planned from the beginning.

I’ve lifted a few quotes that now ring so true.

The first order of business is desensitization of the American public concerning gays and gay rights. To desensitize the public is to help it view homosexuality with indifference instead of with keen emotion…The main thing is to talk about gayness until the issue becomes thoroughly tiresome.

 Are you tired of discussing the issue?  I once listened to a preacher who was so long winded that, before the end of his sermon I was ready to agree with anything he said, if only he would shut up.

The writers were conscious that many found homosexual practice offensive and cautioned that early exposure might be counter-productive.

 In the early stages of any campaign to reach straight America, the masses should not be shocked and repelled by premature exposure to homosexual behaviour itself. Instead, the imagery of sex should be downplayed and gay rights should be reduced to an abstract social question as much as possible. First let the camel get his nose inside the tent–only later his unsightly derriere!

Does the gay movement have an ‘unsightly derriere’ that it’s trying to hide?

In his book, Can Man Live without God, Ravi Zacharias quotes, eighteenth century Scottish political writer Andrew Fletcher who said, “Give me the making of the songs of a nation and I care not who writes its laws.”  Fletcher argues that compared to the arts, the law is virtually powerless to win the hearts and minds of a nation.  The arts, Zacharias goes on to say, have the power to by-pass the intellect.  For changing minds, there is no medium more effective means than the visual media.  The writers of “Overhauling” knew this intuitively and exploited it to maximum effect.

Where we talk is important. The visual media, film and television, are plainly the most powerful image-makers in Western civilization. The average American household watches over seven hours of TV daily. Those hours open up a gateway into the private world of straights, through which a Trojan horse might be passed.

A Trojan horse?  Need I pose the question, “Why is such language employed for a cause we now all agree is so harmless, even virtuous?”

The paper continues by suggesting that the gay community endorse and exploit its status as a persecuted and oppressed minority.

Gays must be cast as victims in need of protection so that straights will be inclined by reflex to assume the role of protector…the plain fact is that the gay community is weak and must manipulate the powers of the weak, including the play for sympathy.

The paper goes on to talk about the need to solicit funds before introducing gay issues in the public forum.  The introduction of gay characters in movies and television is essential, as is the running of openly gay political candidates.

Advertising, testimonial, celebrity endorsement, the vilification of its opponents and victimization of its adherents all form part of a larger plan to re-cast the image of the homosexual in American society.

The strategy is summarized in this concluding statement.

We have sketched out here a blueprint for transforming the social values of straight America. At the core of our program is a media campaign to change the way the average citizens view homosexuality.

 The most interesting part of the paper is that it never attempts to address the question of whether homosexual practice is right or wrong in any fundamental or absolute way.  We have devoted countless thousands of hours in the church and in the public arena to arguing over whether homosexuality is an aberrant lifestyle choice or a harmless function of genetics.

But, the authors of the paper never intended to prove it one way or another.  They only wanted to change the public image of homosexuality.  Their success lay in the fact that homosexuality was being discussed at all.  The debates themselves, not their outcome, had legitimized the cause.  It had come out of the closet and was now an authentic part of American culture.

As I said above, it is a remarkable piece of work, all the more so in its practical success on a national and, I believe, international scale.

The moral question has, over and again, proven an impenetrable thicket of controversy and speculation, and it is certainly not my intention to argue in this paper ‘for or against.’

With some alarm though, I do want to raise the issue of how easily we’ve all become stripy.

For what other cause would we so publicly alter our own image?  It’s not just a ‘Like’ or a throw away comment about our devotion to the Longhorns or the delicious steak we’re happily munching.  Putting stripes over a profile pic is a comprehensive image change.

See how completely effective the ‘Overhaul’ has been?  The strategy, the method, the execution was brilliant.  But, what if something else was put into that great machine of change?  What else could we be convinced of?

We might be convinced that the world is dying and we’re to blame.  We might be convinced that infanticide is the most constructive way to build happy families.  We might be convinced that Jesus really is the answer to the problem of human suffering, or alternately that he is the most insidious menace the world has ever known.  We might be convinced that ISIS has our best interests at heart.  Or, that fat, not sugar is the real enemy of public health.  Or, that if we all carried guns, the world would be a much safer place.  Or that race is an early indicator of one’s predilection for violence.

And, we might be convinced that people who disagree with us are actually very dangerous and must have their freedoms curbed.

Something has now shifted in the homosexual debate and the gay community has, for better or worse lost an essential part of their identity: if they ever were, they are no longer a persecuted minority.  They no longer have any legislative enemies, no more battles to fight, no more enemies to conquer.  The movement has simply won.

What remains is to see what they will do with the victory.

Posted in coming out, Comment and Politics, Gay debate, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Chasing After the Wind

Wind turbine.I have a few concerns about wind power. I’m not opposed to renewable energy. It would be wonderful to think we could one day supply all our energy needs with renewables, but we cannot surrender our reason in the process. I believe wind power is highly problematic and I invite you to consider some of my reasons.

The Energy in Brief 2013 report from the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) states that wind turbines currently generate 0.8% of our nation’s energy needs.  The contributions of all low carbon sources is 11.9%, of which 7.4% is nuclear (yes, nuclear is considered a low-carbon energy source). Bio-energy is second with 2.9%, the remainder, including wind, generates 1.7%. The rest of our power is generated through the traditional means, primarily coal and natural gas. [1]

Wind turbines are fickle and generate power only when the wind is blowing within certain parameters. They require wind speeds of at least 7.8 mph (cut-in speed) to begin moving and reach full generating capacity at approximately 31 mph. Wind speeds above 55 mph (cut-out speed) can damage a turbine and so they are brought to a halt. [2] This is why, even on windy days, you will often see wind turbines at a standstill. And, when the turbines are not turning, they are not generating any electricity.

Because they are inconsistent they need to be backed up by other sources. The National Electrical Grid needs to supply a constant level of power, with an excess available for periods of peak demand. When one source fails, the others must be able to fill in the gap. So, when the wind stops blowing, there needs to be another, more reliable source alongside to meet the demand (coal, oil, gas, hydro, nuclear, etc.). Failure to provide an energy backup would risk blackouts during periods of calm or storm.

Wind farm owners are naturally paid for the electricity they generate, but they are also paid to turn them off when power is not needed for the grid. Known as “constraint payments” these monies are passed on to wind farm owners when the National Grid cannot absorb, or does not need the electricity generated by the turbines. It’s hard enough for me to justify paying wind farm owners not to run the turbines, but paying them more than the value of the electricity that would have been produced?  In April 2011 payments were made to a number of Scottish wind farms nearly 20 times the value of the electricity they would have generated. “In total approximately £890,000 pounds was paid over a few hours to six wind farms, these costs being ultimately destined to pass on to the consumer.” [3] Why?

Then there are pylons. These are the towers that support electrical lines. It remains very difficult to store masses of electric power for any length of time. There are no industrial strength batteries we can charge with wind power to use on a still afternoon, or during a storm. Power needs to go directly from the turbines to our homes via the country’s electric grid. Because wind farms are often located in remote rural areas where demand is low, the electricity must be carried from the farms to population centres with high demand. This means stringing massive new power lines up and down the country, lines that will inevitably cross through some of our most scenic natural areas. The new pylons will stand 160 feet high, as high as a 15 story tower block. [4] The aesthetic value of a wind farm is debatable, but I’ve yet to find anyone to argue that power lines are “easy on the eyes.”

Wind farm subsidies are huge, almost beggaring belief. Presently the government channels £1.2 billion per year into renewable energy subsidies, the vast majority of which goes to wind farms. You’re paying for them and so am I, which is at least one reason that my utility bill is higher and higher every year. Presently every household in Britain is paying £47 per year to subsidize the construction of wind farms, monies collected through our utility bills. [5] That’s less than one pound per week, but considering that energy costs have risen 92% since 2002 [6] one begins to wonder why we are being asked to pay more for an energy source that contributes so little? And they will go on costing us, totalling an estimated £100 billion by the year 2030. [7]

Another problematic factor is a turbine’s relatively short lifespan, 10 to 15 years at most, with output falling with each passing year. [8] What will happen with our wind farms over the next twenty years when they are worn out? Will they be replaced by new turbines, or will we be left with forests of derelict turbine towers that cost more to remove than to restore? America gives us a picture of what that might look like. “We need only cast our eye across the Atlantic to see 12,000 turbines rotting in the Californian desert.” [9] Who will bear the cost of removing these towers? Or worse, will they be left to rot like dead trees?

What is most worrying to me is the number of wind farms needed to meet our renewable energy goals. Quoting a DECC planning report, the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) revealed that onshore wind farms currently generate 5.1 GW of power, while offshore farms create 2.4 GW. The plan is to increase those totals to 18.5 GW and 11.4 GW respectively. [10] That means we will need at least three more onshore wind turbines and nearly five more offshore turbines for every one that exists today. This does not factor in the number of current wind turbines that will have exceeded their lifespan in the next ten years. These figures are not hypothetical but represent both actual planning and present construction. It may soon be difficult to find a place anywhere in the countryside or along our coasts where one can’t see a wind farm.

I’m told that Britain was once covered in a continuous forest of trees, so many that a squirrel could go treetop to treetop all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats. If we’re to meet present our wind power goals we will soon be covered with a similar forest of wind turbines.

Wind turbines do work, they do produce some electricity, it is renewable, makes use of an energy source we have in abundance here in Britain and, relative to their fossil fuel burning cousins, generate almost no carbon dioxide. If these were our only goals it would make sense to go on building more and more of them. But what about the economy? We’ve been limping badly for five years now and need real money, not government subsidies, put back into the economy. Wind farming is, at the end of the day, a subsidized industry that shows little potential of weaning itself from government dependency. At what point to do we decide to stop pouring money into an industry that does not and very likely will not ever be self-sustaining? I suggest that time has come.

[1] Available at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-energy-in-brief-2013

[2] See Wind Power Program at http://www.wind-power-program.com/turbine_characteristics.htm

[3] See this article from the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/231-high-rewards-for-wind-farms-discarding-electricity-5th-6th-april-2011

[4] See “Giant Pylons for Wind Farms Planned for National Parks.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/9351382/Giant-pylons-for-wind-farms-planned-for-National-Parks.html

[5] See “Wind farm subsidies equivalent to £100,000 per job.” http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/2013/06/wind-farm-subsidy-equivalent-to-100000-per-job.html.  See also “Spread of Wind farms threatens historic landscape says local campaigners” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/9653542/Spread-of-wind-farms-threatens-historic-landscape-says-campaigners.html which forecasts an increase to £53 per year by 2016-2017.

[6] The Energy in Brief 2013 report states that real prices of electricity have risen 65%, heating oil and gas have increased 165% and 122% respectively.

[7] Costs are based on the Renewables Obligation (RO), a complicated system that is effectively a tax passed on to the consumer to fund renewable energy development.  The Department of Energy and Climate Change estimates the 2013-2014 RO at £2.6 billion. http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/238-the-probable-cost-of-uk-renewable-electricity-subsidies-2002-2030

[8] See the REF report entitled “Analysis of wind farm performance…” http://www.ref.org.uk/publications/280-analysis-of-wind-farm-performance-in-uk-and-denmark

[9] For an analysis the above REF report see the following article from The Courier.co.uk entitled “Wind Turbines’ lifespan far shorter than believed, study suggests.” http://www.thecourier.co.uk/news/scotland/wind-turbines-lifespan-far-shorter-than-believed-study-suggests-1.62945

[10] See “How much more on shore wind power…” http://www.ref.org.uk/ref-blog/276-how-much-more-onshore-wind-power-will-be-consented-and-built-in-the-united-kingdom

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For the Sake of Freedom

One of the great surprises for me in moving to Scotland was to discover that Margaret Thatcher was and is for many a loathsome and divisive public figure. As a teenager I grew up with Ronald Reagan and his partnership with Britain and Margaret Thatcher in particular was hailed as the strongest since Roosevelt’s friendship with Winston Churchill. I was never more proud of my dual nationality that when the US/British alliance was credited with the downfall of Communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union. Most Americans believed then and now that she was a good leader and an effective Prime Minister. Of course, Americans only know a portion of the story and coming here and reading a bit of history has made it plain to me that her record on the home front was decidedly mixed.

I am writing neither to defend Margaret Thatcher nor to castigate her. There’s enough commentary in the media and in the coffee shops without my adding my two cent’s worth. What I would like to do is help us consider her role, and the role of any government in light of what scripture teaches us. Romans 13:1 is quite plain on the matter, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”

When Jesus was talking with Pilate only hours before his crucifixion he urged Jesus to speak up in his own defence. “Don’t you realize that I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” And Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above,” (John 19:10-11).

During the time of the Babylonian exile, when the Israelites lived under the heavy hand of their Babylonian oppressors they had every good reason to hate the government, and yet the prophet Jeremiah counselled them to pray for their city that it might go well with them, (Jeremiah 29:7).

It’s a strange thing to consider that it is God who establishes kings and governors over us. It is easy to praise God when our leaders are good and fair and just, but not so easy when they make decisions and do things that are unpopular or evil.

15 years ago when President Clinton had disgraced himself with his affair with Monica Lewinsky a nation watched incredulous. I’d voted for him in two elections and was appalled that he could stoop to such a level. Someone asked me for my thoughts on the matter. “How can you respect him after all he’s done?” “Well, if you can’t respect the man, then respect the office he holds as your President.”

Friends, I know that the Thatcher government made decisions that brought pain and devastation to individuals and communities across Scotland, but when we celebrate her death with street parties, when we sing “Ding, Dong the Witch is Dead,” when children as young as four are taught to chant angrily, “Thatcher is dead, Thatcher is dead, Thatcher is dead,” we disgrace ourselves and abuse our freedoms in this nation.

We cannot begin to understand the tremendous luxury and privilege we have with the freedom to speak out in protest against our own leaders. We cannot begin to grasp the tremendous gift we have with the power of the vote. “Throw the bum out” as the expression goes and leadership is passed on from one party to the next without bloodshed or disruption in our way of life.

Things are very different in North Korea. I quote a young woman named Lee Hyeonseo who escaped from North Korea with her whole family.

The North Korea that the government hides from the outside world is characterised by food shortages, indoctrination, military paranoia and labour camps where thousands toil to stay alive; locked up for showing even the slightest dissent.

Attempting to escape the country is a capital offence. The regime is determined to keep its iron grip on the population.

Defectors send messages home revealing that the outside world is not determined to crush North Korea and that people do not need to live in a twilight of perpetual shortages.

Some do make it, accepting they will never see their families again. They spend their lives living as anonymously as possible; a picture of them in the south on any type of media would condemn their families at home to instant imprisonment.

In North Korea punishment lasts three generations. A husband and wife, their children and their grandchildren will all be punished, will all be locked up in the camps. (Ramsay, Stuart. North Korea: Defector Reveals Harrowing Escape. 12 April 2013, Sky News Online)

I don’t always agree with the decisions of the government, nor can I understand their reasons for making them, but I give thanks to God that I can express my opinions freely and without fear of repression. Some of our governments are better than others but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they are trying to lead with the best of intentions. I am also grateful that someone is willing to step into the difficult role of leader, for we all know too well the embarrassment of looking round the room with shifty eyes and nervous coughs when no one is willing to stand up and say, “Here am I, send me.”

I invite you to pray with me for our leaders and for our nation…

Our heavenly Father, you who establish and secure our governments and direct our leaders, we give you thanks and praise this day that we are blessed to live in a nation that enjoys unprecedented freedoms. Democracy remains a new experiment in world governance. For too long nations have lived under despots, dictators, kings and queens whose sole intention is to glorify themselves and not you. We give you thanks that our own Queen is a woman of faith whose commitment to the welfare of our nation has never wavered. We ask that you would guide and defend her in that role. We give you thanks for our Prime Minister David Cameron and ask your blessing on him and on his government.

We may not always agree with these people or the decisions that they make. We may believe they are unfit for office or incompetent or selfish and uncaring. But, we give you thanks that they are trying to lead us through a painful and difficult time in our history. We give you thanks that we have the freedom to complain and protest and we give you thanks that we hold the power of the vote and we give you thanks especially that in our country governments change without bloodshed or warfare.

We pray for the vulnerable in this country whose lives are directly impacted by the decisions of our government and we pray for the courage to speak and to act on their behalf. Let us glorify you not by complaining from the comfort of our living rooms, but by standing to serve and to give our time and energy and resources to act for effective change.

We pray for the people of North and South Korea who have for sixty years lived beneath the dark cloud of a sham state of war against one another. We pray for families long divided and for those in the North who even now languish in prison camps, for those who are starving and for those who live their lives in constant fear. We pray for their leader, Kim Jong-un, that he would stand down from the insanity of nuclear warfare and that he would consider instead the grave needs of his own people. We pray that in his nation and in every nation swords would be beaten into ploughshares and spears into pruning hooks and that we would study war no more.

Forgive us, collectively for the disgraceful protests and celebrations of this past week. Let us, whether we loved her or hated her, honour her in death as we would have our own enemies honour us in ours.

Let us be mature in our faith and trust that all things will be made well in your time. We pray in the faith of children who have been forgiven that we might forgive others, who have been served that we might serve, saying “Our Father…”

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Practicing the Presence on Holiday

Lord, you have promised to meet those who seek your face. Come now and reveal your presence to me as I make myself present to you. In the name of Jesus Christ my Lord, AMEN.

This prayer captures the essence of what I’ve been thinking about the last week: being present to God in Christ.

For many years I have begun each day with the reading of scripture and prayer, sometimes journaling as well. I was surprised then last week on holiday to find myself reluctant to continue doing so. It wasn’t that I’d lost faith in the value of the practice, it’s just that on holiday it seemed too much like work. It’s an occupational hazard as a minister that faith practices are work oriented, reading the scriptures for next week’s sermon or an upcoming lesson instead of just receiving it as daily bread. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with finding inspiration for work that lies ahead. Many times I have been directed to teach from what I’ve learned in my devotional hour.

But, when devotional time is reduced to a search for appropriate material, or when the practice of prayer and scripture becomes too closely aligned with the routine of the work day something is lost. On holiday I needed to step back.

Thankfully, I was counselled some years ago not to feel slavishly devoted to the practice and, when those days came that the inclination was missing or had waned somewhat, it was ok not to do it.

The difficulty is in finding the balance. All too often I have found that missing a day or two or three leaves me feeling ragged and more vulnerable to the temptations of my sin than I’d like to be. I feel less of the man Christ wants me to be.

I remember hearing a professional musician talk about the discipline of daily practice. “When I miss a day of practice, I notice the difference. When I miss two days, my audience notices the difference.” Likewise for my devotional practices. When I miss a day, I notice the absence. When I miss two my irritability and discomfit becomes noticeable to others, at least that’s what it feels like.

This is not the first time I have experienced this on holiday. Because I stay up later and sleep later and lack the familiar comforts of my devotional time and space, it’s easy to let it go. But, I need it.

Having holiday time is like receiving a gift. You are meant to rest and take time away from the usual routines, no matter how edifying you believe them to be. Holiday time is about not doing so that you are better able to do upon return. Coming home “tan, rested and ready” is what it’s all about. The fact that we often return more tired than when we left is a testament to the fact that holidays can be as much work as staying home. The strain of travel, poor sleep in strange beds, excessive food and drink, new activities and the demands of parenting children who are equally divorced from their routines have a cumulative effect. Adding the worry of missed devotional time is just not going to make it better. So, this last week I allowed myself to skip the routine and leave my prayer books and bible on the shelf. Instead I simply took a few moments to be present to Christ and to be present in the moment.

My time and energy is often divided between two poles: worry about the past and anxiety about the future. I perpetually visualize things I would have done differently in the past and dwell ad nausea on my perceived failings. At the same time I think about work that lies ahead, preparation and planning undone, apathy to be overcome, worry about potential disasters that rarely if ever come to pass.

The result is that there is often very little of me in the present. I am emotionally unavailable to my loved ones and often unable to enjoy the pleasures that lie in front of me. Holidays come and go without being real holidays simply because I do not allow myself the privilege of letting the past be the past and the future be the future. Vanity and the illusion of control in both these spheres makes it difficult to enjoy the now.

And, it makes it difficult to be present to the joy of Christ. Christ holds our past and our future in his hands redeeming the one and hiding the other so that we might know him right now. Dwelling anxiously on the past or the future blinds us to Him. It is selfish really, a turning away from Him.

I know about “practicing the presence” of Christ. I’ve read about it and tried to do it many times. It’s just that last week, on holiday it became something new for me. It was like receiving a gift and enjoying it like a child who has no conception of adult preoccupations with time past and future. Christ gives time to those who will receive it and he gives it generously and joyously and not just on holidays.

I’m not always sure I understand what it means to walk with Him, but He has promised us that his “way is easy and his burden is light.” Trying to feed the insatiable demands of the past and future is neither easy nor light. It must not be Christ.

Carlo Carretto in his book In Search of the Beyond writes these words that seem apt.

“As for me, I began to know Jesus as soon as I accepted Jesus as the truth; I found true peace when I actively sought his friendship; and above all I experienced joy, true joy, that stands above the vicissitudes of life, as soon as I tasted and experienced the gift he came to bestow on us: eternal life.”

Eternal life is now, right now.

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The French Connection

As are most High School students, son David (13) is troubled by his French school work.

“Dad, can you help me with this assignment?”

Asking me is a real sign of desperation. My French is adequate for little more than personal introductions and vain conversations about the weather. Help with French homework usually ends in my confession, “Ooh, la, la. Il fait tres difficile, n’est pas?”

Last night I suggested David contact his pal Logan in France. The two boys met this past summer when my childhood friend Andy came for a visit. His two sons, Logan (12) and Alek (6) were raised in a bilingual household and are consequently fluent in English and French.

David and Logan were on Skype last night trading notes. I wasn’t home for the conversation but had coached David to prepare some questions to ask his young tutor. When I got home later last night I learned that it had been a fairly short and very productive conversation, especially for David.

Apparently Logan suggested, “Just type out what you want in English and I’ll type it back to you in French.”

David’s school teacher will no doubt be impressed with his miraculous overnight comprehension of the many nuances of the French language.

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2012 in review

These statistics came to me from WordPress regarding my blog this year. In spite of my lack of entries the blog still drew considerable interest. Have a look yourself at the power of the web.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Christmas Leftovers

I’ve never seen a queue at the tip (line at the dump) but, three days after Christmas the cars were backed up into the street. Everyone was dumping their Christmas leftovers: boxes, wrapping paper, old electronics bumped out by the new stuff. It was incredible and the containers were all piled high.

I was there doing my bit times four. Not only did I have bags of Christmas rubbish, I was also disposing of the remnants of Lisa’s latest redecorating project, emptying my trash bin that, in the midst of a foggy Boxing Day hangover, I’d forgotten to bring to the curb for pickup on Wednesday, and lastly, there was a gallon of used motor oil from the past summer’s oil change.

I was glad to be rid of it, all of it.

It is astonishing though, how much stuff gets dumped. We are fortunate to have a tip with multiple skips for the recycling of glass, metal, wood, yard waste, oil, clothing and electronic equipment. But, the largest pile is for “non-recyclables.” Anything that arrives in a bin bag (trash sack) goes here and this was the one piled highest today.

After disposing my oil I backed the car into an available bay and commenced off-loading my unwanted Christmas/decorating/weekly rubbish. It wasn’t long before the task was complete and my car reverted from garbage truck to people carrier.

As I drove out of the tip the entrance gate closed with another string of cars waiting to get inside. Apparently it was time to change the skips and bring in more empty ones. I hope someone somewhere is happy to get leftovers for Christmas.

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Gun Control

How long America, I ask you how long will you believe that guns make the nation a safer place?

Check out this article and pay close attention to the statistics about guns and accidental death, suicide and murder, not to mention little incidents like Newton. I couldn’t have said it better myself…

America’s Deadly Obsession with Guns

Posted in Comment and Politics | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments