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Matthew 20:1-16

I recently had the opportunity to preach on Matthew 20:1-16. I’ve never preached before, though I have given plenty of “talks”.  We are doing a series on parables and I was allowed to choose whichever one I wanted. I’ve also felt a little pissed off by this parable so this was a good opportunity to explore that.

The audio of the sermon was recorded on my phone and it’s not of the best quality but here it is anyhow.

I had written a little parallel to the parable based in an Emergency Department waiting room as it seemed fitting. I didn’t use it in the sermon but here it is below.

A doctor went out into the A&E waiting room early in the night shift to speak to the patients who’d just arrived with their sprained ankles and sore throats. He explained the waiting times, the fact that there were no beds, the fact that there wasn’t enough staff. He then apologised and promised that he would get to everyone by morning. The early-comers thanked him for their explanation and waited patiently.

 

A few hours later he came out again and explained again to the new arrivals with sore ears and back pain that it was a very busy night and that everyone was waiting a long time. The newcomers took their places amongst those waiting and settled down for the long wait. As the sun began to rise on the waiting room, a couple of smelly, dishevelled, patients arrived by ambulance, clearly intoxicated to various degrees. The doctor went to them almost as soon as they arrived and these patients were brought into the main department.

 

As the sun rose and the morning staff arrived the rest of the patients were all seen and treated before the end of the shift as promised. Yet those who had waited from the beginning of the night grumbled and complained that they waited in the cold and the dark and smell of the waiting room whereas those junkies and riff raff went straight to the front of the queue.


The doctor replied, “friends, i told you that you all would be seen and you all agreed to wait. Am I not allowed to decide who gets seen first? Or are you envious because I treated those patients first?”

The book I found the most helpful was Craig Blomberg’s Interpreting the Parables. 

The Shed

One of the joys of working part time is that you have time to do stuff other people don’t. You don’t have the money to do much with that time so you end up building things instead of buying them.

I spent the past month building a shed. The one that came with the house was the usual crappy, bought off the shelf, wooden number that had a hole in the roof and most of the timbers were rotting.

With the advice of our friendly tall Scotsman I figured I could have a go at something a bit better.

First off the original shed needed dismantled

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Lorraine enjoyed this bit as you can tell. This was how we spend our wedding anniversary. A family that dismantles sheds together stays together.

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We were left with this base that I dragged across the garden and converted into a temporary “tee pee” to hold all the stuff till the new shed was built.

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Next step was clearing the ground so I could put down hardcore and a concrete base. This was probably the hardest bit of the job but very much worth it.

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Jurgen lent me his “mattock” from his gardening days and that made the job a million times easier. There were blisters as you can imagine. There was also some help from the other 2

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Next came the hardcore, nearly 3 tonnes had to be wheelbarrowed from front of the house to the back and then spread out evenly under Martha’s expert supervision

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Speaking of Martha, most of the timbers used in building the shed were pulled out of the walls of her house when she was getting it refurbished. Waste not want not, though I did have to spend an awful lot of time with a crow bar and angle grinder removing all the old nails.

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I had watched a lot of youtube series on making sheds by this point so i felt fairly confident. Though there a lot of plans drawn and re drawn and even resorted to having to  look up terms such as hypotenuse in order to work out all the angles involved

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Me and Jurg hired a plate compacted and a cement mixer and in went the base

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This dried fairly nicely and smoothly and then it was time to start building the different frames that would be bolted to the concrete to form the walls of the shed.

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It took ages getting the ground prepared and doing the concrete. Putting the frames together and connecting them took about 2 hrs in the end.

Next came the roof sections. These were kind of tricky and it took a few goes to get the angles quite right as I didn’t really have anything to measure them by. Not ideal I know but it worked out pretty well in the end

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These were then fairly easily lifted onto the walls of the shed and secured

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There had been some initial debate as to whether to put a felt roof on or a steel one. The steel one was undoubtedly the better job and bizzarely actually worked out cheaper than the felt one. I confess I hadn’t much of a clue what I was doing with the steel and it took me a while to figure out the best way to connect all the different sections. There was also the breathable membrane that needed fitted before the steel too.

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There’s a little bit of silicone between each piece to try and make it a bit more water tight

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The final bit i needed for the roof was a custom made ridge piece that went on top.

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The walls came unpainted from a saw mill down the road. Once these were painted they were easily fitted to the frame.

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I had to leave space for windows and in the photo below you can hopefully see the little frame I made to hold the glass (preserved from the original shed)

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This is the (pretty much) finished product. There’s just a little bit of touching up to be done to the paint. Ultimately I’m going to put a walk in lean to on the right hand side of the shed for the bikes to be kept under as it’s a pain the bum taking them in and out of the shed all the time.

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As liz says a few hanging baskets on the side should finish it a treat. incidentally the door of the shed is actually the front door off the house as we replaced it. I went through nice new circular saw blade trying to cut out the frame too…

At the minute I’m starting to organise the contents and fit some work benches (which are left over from the original kitchen of the house).

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All in all a fun job for a 16 by 8 ft shed that’s probably better put together than the extension that came with the house…

Costs

  • Steel roof €160
  • Shiplaps for walls €390
  • Timber €80
  • Screws €40
  • Concrete floor €200
  • Paint €40

005 ‘dying well’ versus ‘the good death’

I’ve just started my M.Litt dissertation.  My supervisor suggested the practice of writing something every day, something akin to a journal entry rather than a formal academic piece.

I have neither the time nor energy to write every day, but I will when I get the chance and I suppose why not put it out here for the 7 people who read this to see it, critique and hopefully give me some feedback to make it better. 

The basic idea for the thesis goes something like this:

How does modern medicine’s domination of how we die form problems for the Christian tradition of Ars Moriendi

Here’s what I wrote today:

 

While on the surface it’s perhaps difficult to see the difference between the two terms

  • Dying well

  • The good death

Yet, if I’m correct (and it’s yet to be seen) then there’s an important difference to be drawn out.

Like most phrases like this, it all depends by what you mean by them. Both are so short as to carry very little specific meaning. There is some specific content to them but it’s also how, and by whom the two phrases are used that helps to bring out the differences.

Dying well has its origins in the Christian ars moriendi literature already discussed. The ars moriendi means the “art of dying well”. It was a specific body of Christian literature, coming in the time following the great schism and the black death. It was popular literature for those unfortunately accustomed to wide spread, horrific death.

Christians can die well, so the ars moriendi go. There may be temptations to avoid, and virtues to pursue but we can at least die well. There are many modern day Christians and non-Christians who continue to use the phrase ‘dying well’ as a goal for those confronted with their own mortality. Given the rampant medicalisation of our deaths, the contemporary idea of dying well has been a welcome asset. Palliative care is perhaps the best example that the medical field has put forward, with a focus on symptom control and dying at home. [Not that palliative care is without its problems as I’ve previously mentioned.]

The good death is (i hope to argue) a somewhat different term. Sitting on my shelf is a book of the same name, subtitled ‘the new american search to reshape the end of life’. The subtitle tells a tale in itself. When I talk about the good death, I’m taking about the modern notion that the good death is the death that is freely chosen. The modern emphasis on the self and on autonomy is the key here. What people often fear most in the contemporary world is the loss of choice, autonomy and independence that ill health brings. The only way that such a situation might end well is in the death freely chosen.

It is no coincidence that the language of the good death is perhaps most prevalent in those talking about ‘assisting dying’. One of the ways to make it slightly more palatable is to rephrase what we think about death. If death is ‘natural’ (hard to argue against) and so is childbirth then surely death is just one part of the journey. Indeed, death is the most natural thing in the world. We can avoid the nastiness surrounding our death by taking back ownership of it.

At present I have no real idea if that’s really what the new good death literature actually says. I may be painting a horrible caricature of it. But what I’m going to attempt to say is that as Christians, we can die well, we have all kinds of spiritual and moral resources available to us that perhaps not everyone does. However, I don’t think we can sign up to a good death. There was never anything good about death and yer man Thomas was onto something when he asked us to ‘rage against the dying of the light.’ Paul was onto something similar when he said his bit.

004 On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I’ve just started my M.Litt dissertation.  My supervisor suggested the practice of writing something every day, something akin to a journal entry rather than a formal academic piece.

I have neither the time nor energy to write every day, but I will when I get the chance and I suppose why not put it out here for the 7 people who read this to see it, critique and hopefully give me some feedback to make it better. 

The basic idea for the thesis goes something like this:

How does modern medicine’s domination of how we die form problems for the Christian tradition of Ars Moriendi

Here’s what I wrote today:

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross [via the Simpsons]

On Death and Dying is so famous that even the Simpsons have covered it. This book, written in the hay days of medical advances of the the late 60s and early 70s, tells of insights gained by talking with the dying.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was a psychiatrist who set up a seminar (prompted by several theology students with an interest in the topic) in the university to be attended by students and staff from multiple disciplines. The idea was to get insight into how to talk to those who were terminally ill. Typically this took the form of a recorded interview between Kubler-Ross, the patient and often a chaplain. This was usually viewed by a group of students through a one way glass to make the patient feel slightly less intimidated.

The book works its way through the chapters outlining what Kubler-Ross saw as the stages a patient went through when faced with their own death. Most stages are presented in the form of the transcribed interview and from this some conclusions are drawn about how we react towards death. It is summarized in the (slightly dodgy) graphic below.

The book is remarkable as one of the first major contributions to understanding of how we die in the modern age. As already discussed, modern medicine has radically changed how we die. We die later in life, and in many ways we only allow ourselves to die when modern medicine says it is OK to do so.

Death is frequently a medicalised event that takes place not in the home but in the hospital. There are always opportunities for family to visit but this is usually strictly controlled by the hospital until the point is reached that the doctor decides that there is a change from curative to palliative care.

This is the medical context of death but this is surrounded by a much greater, and more pervasive cultural change to how we understand our lives, ourselves and our purpose.

On Death and Dying is effectively a qualitative, observational study. From an empiricists point of view, this type of study is not designed to describe causality, it merely describes people’s reactions to dying, not why they are reacting in such a way.

http://xkcd.com/552/

One of the underlying and unspoken assumptions in the book (and underlying the project of modernity) is that the story of your life is whatever you make it to be. You, as the autonomous self, the agent, are the free and unencumbered individual. This agent can be abstracted from the cultural and contextual ‘you’ in greater society. As Hauerwas puts it, “the project of modernity was to produce people who believe they should have no story except the story they choose when they have no story.”

It appears (though I cannot find it clearly stated as a purpose in the book) that the ‘steps’ or ‘stages’ of dying have guilt-free acceptance as their end point or telos. For example, “if we tolerate their anger, whether it is directed at us, at the deceased, or at God, we are helping them take a great step towards acceptance without guilt .” [Kübler-Ross, Elisabeth. On Death and Dying, Routledge, 1973, p159.] As stated above, this book is a qualitative observational study yet the conclusions drawn, at least implicitly, are that these stages should be normative for modern man. This is the telos of our death – a guilt free acceptance.

A guilt free acceptance of the end of our lives is no bad thing, yet, for the Christian, it is not the whole story, and indeed it deals insufficiently with what has gone before. If the telos in On Death and Dying is only directed at the death then it is insufficiently telological to provide to help us become people able to die well.  Modern death narratives, even at their very best as exemplified here, fail us by not paying sufficient attention to the life that comes prior. A guilt-free acceptance of death is no doubt a grand thing, but dying well may be much more than this.

003 The ars moriendi

I’ve just started my M.Litt dissertation.  My supervisor suggested the practice of writing something every day, something akin to a journal entry rather than a formal academic piece.

I have neither the time nor energy to write every day, but I will when I get the chance and I suppose why not put it out here for the 7 people who read this to see it, critique and hopefully give me some feedback to make it better. 

The basic idea for the thesis goes something like this:

How does modern medicine’s domination of how we die form problems for the Christian tradition of Ars Moriendi

Here’s what I wrote today:

There are various phrases that come up in any contemporary discussion of death. ‘Quality of life, ‘A good death’, ‘Dying with dignity’, will all crop up in any such discussion. While it is by no means clear what we mean when we invoke these phrases, all are trying to get across the fact that how we die is somehow important.

This is hardly new, and throughout history the death bed has been scene to some important last words and defining moments. Christianity, it appears was no different. In the late 15th century, there arose a form of what could only be called popular literature on death. This became known as the ars moriendi, or the art of dying well. This had particularly Christian origins in an anonymous tract rejoicing in the name of the tractatus artis bene moriendi. This was a brief devotional piece, reproduced extensively across virtually every European language, often with detailed images to help communicate the ideas to those who could not read.

This developed over time, particularly in the English Protestant tradition into significant moral and theological works. It changed over time from its origins as advice to avoid avarice or pride on the death bed into a deeply thought out theology of life. “one thing is very clear about the protestant ars moriendi: it is a literature that was very much alive to the human and spiritual needs of people for whom death was a harsh, often brutal fact of life.” [Atkinson, David William. The English Ars Moriendi, Peter Lang Pub Inc, 1992. p9]  If they can be summarised briefly then it would be thus: if one wants to die well, one must live well.

Christopher Vogt makes the argument that what these authors were doing is now what we might call virtue ethics. The repeated and practised habits of the Christian are what will enable one to die well. Vogt writes, “all of these authors saw a strong need for the development of patience as a lifelong preparation for dying well.” [Christopher Vogt in Lysaught, M Therese, and Jr Joseph J Kotva. On Moral Medicine, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2012. p 1070]

Christians have long reflected on what it means to die, attempting to avoid the dual errors of fear, so that they are paralysed in life, or embracing it as “the next great adventure.” Instead the ars moriendi provides with a tradition of serious reflection upon death that we can truly incorporate into our lives.

002 Problems with palliative care

I’ve just started my M.Litt dissertation.  My supervisor suggested the practice of writing something every day, something akin to a journal entry rather than a formal academic piece.

I have neither the time nor energy to write every day, but I will when I get the chance and I suppose why not put it out here for the 7 people who read this to see it, critique and hopefully give me some feedback to make it better. 

The basic idea for the thesis goes something like this:

How does modern medicine’s domination of how we die form problems for the Christian tradition of Ars Moriendi

Here’s what I wrote today:

NB Please don’t read this as a rejection of palliative care or a suggestion that others should reject it. Myself and my family have had tremendous interactions with palliative care professionals. 

Dame Cicely Saunders was the founder of the modern hospice movement. She saw her medical career and the development of the hospice as a calling from god. She devoted herself to the dying who she saw abandoned by the modern medicine whenever it realised that cure was no longer possible. She coined the phrase ‘total pain’ to describe, this was much more than physical pain but included the whole gamut of components that would later form part of ‘biopsychosocial’ model of medicine.

It is a reflection on the failing of modern scientific medicine to be present to the patient that the creation of the hospice movement and palliative care was required. It could be argued that all the hospice movement was providing was ‘good medicine’. Pain and suffering should always be addressed in medical care, why was a separate sub specialty required?

Jeffrey Bishop in his book The Anticipatory Corpse notes a change in modern palliative care. He sees it as a totalising influence in the patient’s life. His quotable phrase runs thus, “treating total pain with total care can be totalising.” [Bishop, Jeffrey Paul. The Anticipatory Corpse, 2011. p255] Palliative care, in an effort to establish itself in the house of medicine has sought to develop an evidence base for its assessments and interventions. It has attempted to define a quality of life and set out a path that those who are dying should navigate prior to passing. Its very development has led to expertise, and no matter how palliative care may seek to respect the consent and context of the patient, the very existence of an expert in the end of life commands an authority in the modern era.

Just as the white coat and the medical degree carries an aura of authority that the patient bows before, so too the dying will find themselves under the authority of the expert in dying. None of us are the free, autonomous selves that the principle of informed consent depends upon, and certainly the dying are defined more by their mortality and physical incapacities than most of us. As Hauerwas writes, “ironically, however, the stress on autonomy turns out to produce just the kind of ahistorical account of moral agency that so effectively disguises medicine’s power over us.” [Hauerwas, Stanley, and Charles Robert Pinches. Christians Among the Virtues, Univ of Notre Dame Pr, 1997, p168] Questionnaires on symptom control and spiritual well being come with assumptions and attached value. The Kubler-Ross model of the 5 stages of grief are not simply descriptive, they have become normative.

001 The making of a modern death

I’ve just started my M.Litt dissertation.  My supervisor suggested the practice of writing something every day, something akin to a journal entry rather than a formal academic piece.

I have neither the time nor energy to write every day, but I will when I get the chance and I suppose why not put it out here for the 7 people who read this to see it, critique and hopefully give me some feedback to make it better. 

The basic idea for the thesis goes something like this:

How does modern medicine’s domination of how we die form problems for the Christian tradition of Ars Moriendi

Here’s what I wrote today:

It is impossible to understand what a modern death looks like, or perhaps more accurately, how we have come to understand our own deaths, without first investigating how we got to where we are.

For thousands of years, a death without input from the physician was all anyone would expect. Even for those who paid for a doctor to attend the ill would not expect any intervention once it became clear that the patient was gravely ill. Medicine simply had very little to offer in terms of effective interventions. Leeches, blood letting and enemas were sometimes taken under duress but no one expected leeches to deal with a gangrenous foot the way a modern surgeon might.

There was usually more snake oil and quackery than there were life saving interventions.

Even socially, the doctor was not the highly respected pillar of society that he is today. While the doctor may have made an income, the doctor rarely ascended the classes or commanded the respect of the nobility. Too much time covered in the blood excrement of the poor and the dying tended to keep one excluded from the more exclusive social circles.

But the late 19th and early 20th century saw a remarkable change in the societal position and role of the physician. Foucault in the Birth of the Clinic charts the story of medicine and its attachment to the new science. Perhaps this is best exemplified by the white coat. The white coat was worn first by the laboratory scientist, not the physician. The scientist was trained in empiricism and hypotheses and experimental design. The physician was trained in the somewhat nebulous art of clinical examination and heuristics passed down from former generations.

By donning the white coat, physicians allied themselves to the new science. They committed themselves to hypothesising and testing. The great discoveries of the new science would soon be intimately linked to the physician. As the mythic function of the scientist grew (along with some actual world changing real world discoveries) so did the mythic function of the physician.

Alexander Flemming was one of the physician/scientists. His lab work, and almost accidental discovery of what became penicillin undoubtedly saved millions of lives from overwhelming bacterial infection. He wore the white coat and his tireless lab work was translated into a huge public health improvement. This sealed the deal for the physician – here we  had tangible and incontrovertible proof that science is progressing human existent with the physician at the centre.

Christopher Barnaard was a South African surgeon, famous for performing the first heart transplant. He shot to instant fame and the lifestyle of movie stars and models that go with it. His face graced the cover of Time magazine long after the recipient of the first heart transplant had died. Just 18 days after the operation. The almost immediate (in terms of functional life) death of Louis Washkansky is seldom remembered in a decade where science and medicine seemed capable of anything. It was of course the same decade that the united states landed a man on the moon. Optimism was running high.

Dissertation tag line

Something, my smarter, more beautiful better said ages ago and I jotted it down in a text file.

“Medicine robs of us of our ability to tell the story of our death.”

“A community’s willingness to encourage children is a sign of its confidence in itself and its people. For children are a community’s sign to the future that life, in spite of its hardship and tedium, is worthwhile.”

Stanley Hauerwas
A community of character p209

Spiritualising Lazarus

“But please, where does the story about poor Lazarus say anything about his ‘heart’?… The really frightening thing about the story is precisely the fact that it is not moralised but simply tells about the poor and the rich, the promise to one and the threat to the other.”

Bonhoeffer on the errors of “spiritualising” a text like Luke 16:19-30

In “reflections on the bible”
Hendrickson 2004

Greg Henry speaking about emergency medicine

This is a lecture i recorded from the big medical conference I was at at the end of June. The guy speaking is a big name in emergency medicine circles. He’s quite the rhetorician and reminds us of the humanity needed to be with sick people. Worth a watch even if you’re not a medic.

Democratic policing of christianity

“in the name of supporting democracy, Christians police their own convictions to insure none of these convictions might cause difficulty for making democracy successful.”

hauerwas
dispatches from the front p105

PS hopefully you can see this passage is not about “policing” in the Garda/PSNI sense but more how we have rejected our convictions to fit liberal democracy.

The novel as a school for virtue

from a chapter in “dispatches from the front” by hauerwas

“a truthful story cannot avoid the bad we have done or allowed any more than it can fail to record that the good we have done has been the result of mixed motives”

Bands with managers

Thursday 27th May

7:30-11pm

Exodus – Lisburn

29 Railway St, Lisburn

This is something you should all go to cause it’ll be beezer.

I’ll be there which will make it even better. I’ll even have a band to make pretty music to make up for my lack of ability.

The Turf Brothers will be there in their first live performance since the last one.

I need to go practice singing in tune.

Something for the weekend

I spent most of my adolescence in these hills. When i should have been chasing girls and trying various substances under-age I was hiking up hills in the pissing rain with this lot.

These were some of the happiest times of my life so I’m not complaining. I figure it was time well spent – the substances get better with age and the women are still there just when you’re not looking for them.

We booked this about 4 or 5 months ago at the height of the wedding planning nonsense. As a little break and a chance to “get out heads showered” (whatever that means…). It also seemed a pretty apt pre-honeymoon as hills, mountains, oceans and driving is just what we have planned.

I had it all planned to go from our little cottage near Kilkeel to get to Belfast just in time for the Laura Marling gig. Tickets in back pocket we step out of the car at the Spring & Airbrake and I realise that I have the Divine Comedy tickets not the Laura Marling tickets.

Not my finest hour.

We climbed hills, watched hills and even managed to BBQ some duck on the grilliput.

I read some of David Bentley Hart’s The beauty of the infinte (a whole 20 pages in total) and my head hurts so much at all the mind-blowing ideas and complicated words that I had to keep looking up in Wikipedia –  it’s gonna take some time to get through:

beauty seems to promise a reconciliation beyond the contradictions of the moment, one that perhaps places time’s tragedies within a broader perspective of harmony and meaning, a balance between light and darkness; beauty appears to absolve being of its violences.

The Mournes aren’t exactly huge when it comes to hills but I still think they’re the best in Ireland.

I also spent a whole 72 hours with no phone and no internet access, not even emails on the iPhone. I should do it more often when I’m away. I experienced absolutely zero cravings or desire to catch up on the blogs or emails.

Yes I’ve noticed that I’m contradicting myself as I type.

Jesus (don’t touch my baby)

Come and behold the first Nylie family purchase.

The Pepparami baby Jesus

An Ocean and a Rock – Part 1

I am somewhat addicted to the road trip. I am also somewhat addicted to my Volvo. I am yet to get round to sleeping in it but plan to make every effort on this trip.

But first some background.

It’s not like I have any idea where I head to. I lay the map out on the table the day before and look for the bits with the fewest roads and go there.

Turns out there are an exceptional number of places in Ireland with little bays and little beaches and not very many roads.

But I have to picture what all of these look like in my head. And in my head they’re always sunny – which is always hopeful in Ireland. Either that or look them up on google and inevitably there will be lots of photos from flickr or videos on YouTube by some german guy. It gives you the gist of the place.

malin beg - Google Maps

So anyhow. I’ve now ended up in Malin Beg. Somewhere west of the west of Ireland. West donegal to be precise. I don’t think there’s much between me and the Americas. Except the Atlantic ocean of course.
I drove 3 hours solid to get here through mist and fog – just to get here and find that it’s, well misty and foggy…

I still think it looks pretty sweet.

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At the car park a duke of Edinburgh group were pitching their tents, a slightly concerned but impatient school teacher in attendance – “have you put the water on to boil yet, what are you two planning to have for tea?”. All that kind if thing.

The two blokes seemed to be loving it. I’m not sure the same good be said of the girls. Though I can’t really blame them if I had to walk Slieve League in the fog and rain I’d be pissed off too.

Funnily enough that’s what I have planned for tomorrow.

The beach is about a 100 yds below the car park (it may only be 50 but I’m kind of crap with vertical distances and 100 yds sounds like the kind of thing someone might say) and was thankfully deserted apart from the dying embers of a camp fire that I presumed someone had left.

So I pitched the tent. The nice new one I treated myself to for the birthday. The one I’ve only put up the once when me and skeeno tried it out in the living room.

So of course I put it up wrong to start with. It was to be expected.

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Stoked the fire has best I could with the conveniently stacked fire wood and lit the mini grill and got the burgers going.

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Only to find a rather sheepish young polish woman walking towards me wondering if she could maybe have some of the firewood that her and her boyfriend had collected for their camp fire this evening.

Oh dear. I appeared to have stolen not only their lit fire but also their firewood and ideal camp site on the beach.

I felt immensely bad about this. Not that they had left anything to suggest that it was their camp fire. It was just a fire and a pile of wood.

I decided against an ill advised rant about possession being nine tenths of the law – being somewhat uncertain as to how the law stands in relation to ownership of a fire already in progress.

After recent events in Belfast I could just picture the news headlines – Norn Irish prick steals vital heat source from homeless immigrant.

Turns out she’s polish and the boyfriend is Irish so all round I think I’m in the clear.

I did feel bad enough to go round the beach and collect them some new fire wood. It salved the conscience somewhat.

So with tent erected and burgers cooked and fire blazing – well maybe not blazing, more ‘smoking intensely’ – I can finally settle down to read the book in peace. Though it does seem like an awful lit of effort just for that.

One love people get ready

As Col 4:15 would put it, a few of us meet on a sunday morning, before all the real chruches get going and take a wee look at the book of Acts and spend some time trying to work out “what it all means” so to speak.

Today we were covering what i always thought of as Christian communism, (before i had much of an idea of what either “Christian” or “communism” meant…) and in particular its application to how we live our lives.

And the phrases that kind of struck us most were “…the believers were one in heart and mind…” and “…they shared everything they had…”

Which led to a few genius suggestions by Fin:

1) we’re in such disarray and disagreement as a body of believers that we spend all our time trying to reconcile the church to itself instead of spending time trying to reconcile the world to GOD.

2) we may actually be better (or at least more comfortable) with sharing our possessions than sharing our lives together.

As a group of people we are not particularly materialistic, we have the usual young, enthusiastic Christian aversion to money and materialism – not that we necessarily live that out particularly well, we’re just uncomfortable with it in a distant sort of way.

Most of us do have a bit of an issue when it comes to doing life together. The people i love the most and count as my closest friends are exceptionally busy people. Life is there to be lived, and the world there to be changed and they are doing their very utmost to bring that about. I envy and applaud them for it. They put me to shame.

As a result they are often quite tricky to get round for dinner or get out to the pub for a night.

I miss them.

Too often, i have no idea what is going on in their lives. Yes, i know they are doing this and that, and that so and so’s married, and so and so’s having a baby, and so and so’s doing this job, but that doesn’t tell me very much about what is actually going on in their lives.

We need to figure out some way of doing this better.

If we do not figure out how to love each other then we are useless to the world around us. Though of course it’s also true that unless we get round to loving the world around us we’re just a bunch of narrow-minded self-preserving bastards.

It is interesting that amongst us (in our wee group so to speak…), different folk have different issues. Some need to learn that loving those outside the church is no excuse to avoid loving those inside the church. And there are some (like myself) who need to learn to take it outside so to speak. Just because I find it exceptionally difficult to make contact and relationship in the current context does not give me reason to hide behind my books and blogs.

What i meant to get round to but will save for another day (it’s 1am, i’m on call and the only people sober in the department are the staff – at least they were when i left), is something that has been bothering me for some time. I love my theology, and my books and erudite ideas by what seems like the whole (or at least important part of the) population of Maynooth. But when it comes to the 23 year old with 5 kids, no GCSEs, a life time of benefits and an alcohol problem (never mind an individual, how about a whole community…) – how do i explain the gospel? And more than flippin words – what does the gospel even look like from their point of view?

Criticism as inspiration

(via ruth gledhill in the times Saturday review)

“any preaching of the gospel which fails to constitute a scandal and affront to the political establishment is in my view effectively worthless”

Reason, faith and revolution: Reflections on the god debate

Terry Eagleton

Pictures of you part 2

Dublin is ridiculously expensive. Or at least it feels like that. I payed 3 euros for a take away coffee. I’d expect some kind of cocaine fueled, caffeine based beverage for that kind of money. Fancy coffee is off the eating out menu. Good thing I brought my own coffee with me – that’s how addicted I am.

So far we’ve had teaching from a dry, rather sardonic guy from offally who is like something straight out of a father ted script. And a couple of americans. One of whom struck me half way through to be rather like David brent. I’m hoping this will pass with time.

Not the most intellectually stimulating day covering mainly basic stuff that I’ve been doing for years. Tomorrrow will be a lot more fun when we get to play with the USS machines and get to pretend we’re radiologists.

After the course ended I went on a rather long dander round dublin. Started with St Stephen’s green and sat for a while contemplating the daily life of a duck then dandered past what looked like the fancy bit of Dublin.

All cities seem to have one of these. The bit where they keep all the embassies and government buildings and it’s all high gates and security guards and blackberries.

They do keep the museums there though they were all closed. Though I may have a go at a gallery tomorrow if I get the chance.

Galleries are an even odder experience than the museums. In the galleries I just dander round with the headphones on trying to look cultured while listening to Bruce.

From there I walked a while further finally finding myself in temple bar for the first time in my life. Lots of quite nice looking dark, grotty pubs but filled to the brim with Europeans and Americans sipping pints and deciding half way through and deciding that no, they definitely don’t like guiness.

There was even a guy playing Irish twee on an acoustic. Though I make it sound horrible I stayed long enough to get through most of the Irish times.

Dinner was in an oddly combined mexican/Italian restraurant called “from Mexico to Rome”. Decent feed all the same.

Through the wonders of facebook I’ve ended up at an open mix type gig at a pub in Dublin. A guy I went to school with is meant to be playing. I say meant to be cause I’ve been here for a good hour and a half now (making the best use of theo free wi-fi with all this blogging so I’ve not been bored) and the girl playing is a lot prettier than jay ever was and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s probably not actually him.

I think I may even, for the first time in my life, have been stood up. Not the worst of experiences so far anyhow.


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July 2020
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