Sunday, May 19, 2024

Modus Operandi

 I feel that God has been speaking some forgotten truths itnto my heart. Many years ago I got into an online scuffle where I had taken another blogger under my wing (back in the days of MSN Spaces), and had leapt to their defence when a hostile blogger had staqrted trolling them, My response was to start posting on the bloggers wall and try to be supportive. All this resulted in was being targeted by the young man doing the trolling, and drawing all his fire on to me. In  truyj, I was okay with that in truth... because I had achieved my primary onjective and that was to take the heat off my friend. It subsequently tuned out (after multiple deletions of pure trolling attacks), that my would-be adversary let his mask slip and actually made a genuine point about some personal pain and grievance in his life. What he probably waasn't expecting was my not deleting that post and actually directly responding to it. In the end an uxpected peace and respect broke out.

Why am I bringing up this anecdotre? Well I believe ir turns out that past is prologue. You see, it turns out that my usual method wah of dealing with issues used to involve me ecomiing a tank. Let's just say in D&D terms I'd probably be a hill dwarf fighter paladin with massive healing.

Anyway I'd forgotten a lot of this personal character trait but I've recently been reminded of it because I think God may have use of it for me once again, hence the reminder.

So I figured I'd  leave you with an example of this behaviour in action. For a comparison see Captain Sulu's timely arrival at the Battle od Khitomer in Star Trek VI.


Sunday, April 07, 2024

Gifts and Curses

I've b een reflecting recently on personal sacrifice  and the passage of time. In my memories last week I was reminded on Facebook, how 8 years ago, as that years Len't was  about to finish, I briefly showed affections for a girl at the start of  Lent that year. I felt quite burdened to surrender those feelings to God. I didn’t want to do it but I felt it was the right thing to do. I was reminded of the words of Aunt May in Spider-Man 2:
“ I believe there's a hero in all of us, that keeps us honest, givns us strength, makes us noble, and finally allows us to die with pride, even though sometimes we have to be steady, and give up the thing we want the most. Even our dreams.”
In the end I chose to be steady… but it yielded me little. Lent passed and Easter came and the chance was gone. It was quite frustrating as a couple of close fiends have in the past made similar sacrifices for God (having  been asked to surrender in turn...  but on every occasion, God only made it a temporary thing and it was something he always gave back. Converesly it NEVER works that way for me. God it seems invariably  wants these sacrifices to be permanent. And so it was, that after Lent ended and I was ready to leap into action once more, the girl in question had moved to anpther local town and got a new job.  As it happens I worked out where that job was, but never felt it right to pick up that thread. For one it would be weird on a number of levels without bringing in the spiritual element.
In essence it feels like I've  rocked up like Abraham with Isaac, and The Angel of the Lord as far as I am concerned did not stop short, and nor did he provide a ram.

Now you may think I’m a fool and I threw hope away needlessly. But I remained true even when it cost me (first time for everything lol)
As C.S. Lewis wrote in Screwtape::
“Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
Nor do I have hope that circumstances will change in some way it some miracle. I’ve been around the block enough to know the rules of the game.
Sometimes you can’t expect a fairytale or Job-like turn around. What matters is faithfulness to the Most High and you just have to trust that good will come of it, not necessarily in the way you conceive or imagine.
Will the door open again at this late stage? Incredibly doubtful. Will some over course correction  prove to be the case? I do not see how and don't have reason to hold out hope.
For now, I’m good… I can only hope that my cost meant something to The Lord and that in some small way, on some day… I’ll be remembered like Rachel.
I think I'll leave it there with I wrestlea video from the sountrack of Spider-Man that includes quotes that reflect the rhings I wrestle with,

But I shall say this.. may God be praised in wherever the walk leads.


Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Illusion of Impermanence

 I've been watching with some interest the news coming from Alabama about the pause being enforced on IVF due to a court decision that fertilised embryos are considered children:

Pause in IVF in Alabama due to court decision 

I'm sure u think I have a osition on this... particularly given I have spiritual leanings. I do of course but I like to position myself in an Israel-like stance of nuclear ambiguity. However my post today is not taking a direct position on this. Instead, I want to take the opportunity to talk about how it is a microcosm of a wider human behaviour that I'm unhappy about.

I'm deeply uncomfortable with the human habit of treating things as "movable  feasts".

What do I mean by this? Well it's my concern about people shifting their positions (be they theological, ethical or moral), on nothing more than whim and emotion.

To use the matter at hand as an example... I respect people who have ariived at a position based on experience, teaching or debate... even when those views differ to my own. I'm not comfortable when people chop and changethir views based on how the ourtcome makes them feel.

I'm remindedof a time when an acquaintance was in a place where their marraige was breaking down and it was apparrent to me that their was a very strong argument that they were the belligerent party. Marriages occassionally  break down and that is a sad and unfortunate fact of life. It's deeply sad when it  happems, but I must say that I lost respect for peoplewhen they huddle round that person and caim out with trite nonsesne like "he obviously wasn't the one".

Why are eople so swift to swap out people like stickers or trading cards? Shouldn't their be a pperiod of reflection or contemplation before jumping n from one lily pad to another?

Nobody is denying  that there are difficult questions asked of all of us... but all I am saying is that when we are faced with them... we should acknolwedge them for what they are. Whatever position you arrive at in these situtions  you should take time and give them the respect these matters deserve.

I have friends who have lost children at an early age, and it's only a few tears ago after a deceased baby was found in a local river.  So to the catalyst question at hand, I can very much understand why prospective parents would feel the need to take a view on th status of unborn children? Would you really deny parents the right to grieve an unborn child because you view life bginning at birth. You cannot deny that their grief is real and tey have that right to express those emotions.

In principle my issue is with the disposable nature of things and how little respect we treat the people and thing we exncounter as disposable nappies. It isn't right. I would point out that our understanding of when human life begins has been coloured by science as well as religion. Theologically there is a view that life begins at birth and it could be argued that science at least generated the doubt. There are arguments from both camps that go either way... and I think whatver your personal position is, you should treat the matter with resect.

Maybe you could level critcisim of me and say that mt perspective is coloured by the fact I haven't experienced much of these things.. That isn't an issue of me lacking perspective... it just means that I have a different one

Sunday, July 02, 2023

It is Time...

I've experienced a time when I've started to notice the waters are lapping at my feet. There is no threat in this for me, I just feel that I'm entering a phase where change is afoot. I think it all started rougly after a home group meeting, where I'd spoken to a friend and highlighted some of my grievences and my own dissatisfaction both with them and my own contribution to them. To my perception t seems that some of the classic damage I've taken in the past has led me to me throwing up a few robust defecnces. Some of these are understandable. Given my past decisions and the fact it took a case of divine intervention to snap me out of it and give me the courage to break away... I'm cautious in regards to leaving myself exposed to the same weaknesses that led to my earlier downfall. However that hasn't stopped me  from throwing up my own set of "Excalibur tests" for good measure.

I think that night at home group was a way of setting the scene -  a reminder of the state of play as it has stood.

A couple of weeks later, I was due to preach om Isaiah 42, and I chose to use the paternal/maternal instincrts of the eagle as my theme. In truth this has been something that had been close to my heart for many years... and it just seemed to fit naturally to the theme (it was Trinity Sunday), In short, I portrayed the Trinity in terms of the Father being  the parental eagle watching over us, the Son being the first born eagle that has tasken flight and shows us the where to go and how  we grow to go in that direction, and the Spirit as the breeze that lifts the chick when the time is right... to give it the courage to take the step off

Things have taken an interesting turn of late. the ledge. One of the points I made to the congregation was that if we are the chick in the nest, there is no wrong in wheat place we find ourselves. We might need to see where Jesus has led us before going... we may be waiting for the Spirit to  empower us. We might feel that we have takemn a tumble and our ego is bruised... but the Father is able to pick us up and set us ready for another go when the time is right.

I didn't think too much about the implications of that last one for myself... then it happened.

An unexpected opportunity arose that on the face of things completetely terrified me. Somebody had posed me a scenario that completely blindsided me (I'm not going into detail here, as at the moment it is still live). My paranoia, mistrust and fear had kicked in and I went into automatic shutdown.

It took me a week to emerge from that state by which time it might be too late, but I wrote all my feelings down and got it out of my system - why I am the way I am and why I'm so reticent. Kind of hard to do that because nobody ever asks me about stuff like that... and maybe when I do offer a response (or perhaps because of that fact), they are just as uncomfortable about what comes out. However, I did leave my response with a positive end and the prosepect of hope.

Not long after this, I felt God was reminding me of an image from a book I'd read (Grail in Stephen Lawhead's Pendragon Cycle). In the book there is a low point where King Arthur has hit rock bottom and is in the doldrums - his sword has been stolen, his queen has been kidnapped and his trusted righthand man has apparently betrayed him. Following this scene, Merlin confronts the king and prophetically strikes the floor with his staff repeatedly and with each strike, he urges the king to shake off what drags him down and look to the state of play an, I got the feeling that God was rep0d encourages him - he needs to rise up and resolve the situation and not leave himself in this fitful sulk.

Likewise, I got the feeling that God was repeatedly striking my floor and telling me to get up and no choke myself on the past. For after all, past is merely prologue... and we are only doomed to repeat if we do not learn from it. I think maybe I've been overlearning it.

On TikTok I've recently come across a few posts with a sermon illustration about the painting "Checkmate". How the human player is in despair becasuse the devil player has seemingly won. The anecdote in  the TikToks talk is basically that the king has one last move to make and the human player is saveable.  Now I've read up on the painting and apparently the literal anecdote isn't true because its hard to tell what the pieces in it resemble on the board. However the moral is true... because the same could certainly be said of the devil's pieces. If we can't see how he's got checkmate, then I would argue his position is not a dead cert either.  I think the truth behind that painting is that it is a character study.  The man who thinks he is losing has given in to his fears and is accepting the devil at his word.  But the thing is that the devil is a confidence trickster. He doesn't have checkmate - he's never hadd checkmate, but his sole objective is to terrify you and bluff you intop thinking he has. Never remove yourself from the game - listen to God's encouragement and accept his guidance and it is never over until God says it is over.

So anyway, a week has passed since all that happened... but confronted about my own sense of checkmate... I feel like I'm clawing my way back and have got a renewed sense of positivity. Whatever happens, I've learned not to retreat and cave on the broad stroke theme of this lesson. Yes, the specific  circumstance may not pan out... I may lose another piece... but I will not allow the devil to put so much emphasis on that piece... I'm going to push on his king instead. In good time and God's grace, I have faith that the landscape will change. Whatever major pieces of lost, I have a fistful of pawns.... and they are only a step away from becoming knights, rooks, bishops and who knows, even a queen.

This morning at church we wee reading Genesis 22 - God's testing of Abraham. We were asked in the sermon what things that we might be holding onto that God might be asking us to let go of. My heart at this point was drawn to an exchange from Babylon 5... because I was thinking there wasn't much I could add to the conversation... and God was reminding me otherwise:

Marcus Cole : You asked me to give something up, Delenn. I don't have anything left. It's all gone. My brother was the last of our family and he died because of my stupidity. He warned me of the Shadows; I didn't listen. And when they came, I lost, him, our home, the colony where we'd grown up, a woman I was quite fond of. I escaped with only the clothes on my back, and went off in search of these "Rangers" that he'd been going on about. Because he believed in them, and in you. Everything I was, everything I had, all of it, died that night. I don't have anything left to give.

Delenn : Then that is exactly what you must give up. Yes, you have lost much, endured much, sacrificed greatly. But you cling to the memory of your sacrifices, of all the things you have lost or left behind. They drag behind you, like chains of your own making. They can have a terrible power over you, Marcus: the power of grief, and loss, and regret. Yes, you have let go of the people, places and things, but you have not let go of the pain. You have not forgiven yourself.

Marcus Cole : For what?

Delenn : Being alive

There it was again, God's not going to let this go... he's not going to let me go either. It's down to me to rise up from the ashes and have faith that he's going to remove the dead weight that has held me in check. All I need to do is to take courage and stand upon the rock. The only thing that stand between a vibrant pridelands filled with life and the current perceived state of affairs, is a roar!

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Nadhim Zahawi: The Importance of Ministering Justice to Ministers.

This morning, Nadhim Zahawi - the Member of Parliament who was Chairman of the Parliamentary Conservative Party who is also constituency MP for Stratford-on-Avon (namely the constituency that I live and work in),  was fired by the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.


Nadhim Zahawi, MP for Stratford-upon Avon

It was found that he had breached several aspects of the Ministerial Code including misleading HMRC over his tac affairs. This was discovered during his short tenure as Chancellor of Exchequer - the very role that has oversight over matters of taxation policy within the UK. Previously it had been claimed that Mr Zahawi's "mistake" was "careless" and not "deliberate". The subsequent probe found his activities and inactivies made this an impossible line to maintain though, and action had to be taken.

It is not the first time that Mr Zahawi has gotten into hot water over his poor offic. In 2018 at the height of the #metoo movement, he was serving as Children & Families Minister and was caught attending a gala at the scandal-hit President's Club. It was only when he was tipped off that the optics of his attendance were not great, that he made his excuses and left the gala.

Then there was his involvement in the downfall of Boris Johnson. Now I'm not a hypocrite... I'm very grateful that Johnson is political toast, but it should be noted that Mr Zahawi used the opportunity to wrangle up through the ranks and secuiring the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer from the then Prime Minister before promptly turnimg on him and stabbing him squarely in the front. Now you might say that this doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things - he was in that post for under two months. However, the fact remains that by virtue of serving in role AT ALL, he is granted a pension for being in that role.

We also have his role in the expenses scandal some time back, where he notoriously charged the taxpayer his expenses for keeping his stables warm.

When he has been caught out in these findings, his modus operandi seems to be that it's all an embarrassing but honest mistake which he will pay for and do better next time.

It was the author Ian Fleming who once noted in his James Bond book "Goldfinger":

“Mr Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: 'Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action'.”

I put it to you that Mr Zahawi's history of actions goes far beyond happenchance, and coincidence... ad should be classed as enemy action. You might consider that he has received his punishment from the Government - having been consigned to the backbenches at least for now. But as his constituent, I'm not happy to leave the matter there. So what should be done?

Well ironically, Mr Zahawi provides the suggestion himself in a blog on his own website, written in April 2010, entitled - People Power. kicking out bad MPs:

However our People Power manifesto changes that introducing a right to recall if a Member of Parliament is found guilty of wrongdoing. So unlike in the current system whereby MPs, who have broken the rules and have been officially sanctioned by parliament and the Standards and Privileges committee, can continue to represent a constituency until the next election, we will give constituents the right to recall their Member of Parliament. Under a conservative government if an MP is found guilty of any wrong-doing then a right to recall will be offered to his or her constituents. This process will begin with the filing of a notice-of-intent-to recall petition to be signed by at least 100 constituents and submitted to the local returning officers. A recall petition will then be circulated within the constituency. If this petition has been signed by more than 10% of the electorate (in the case of Stratford by 6,936 people) within 90 days then a by-election will be triggered. This is a radical change, and a change that is truly needed, it removes the concept of the “safe seat” and makes MPs directly answerable to their constituents over the whole, parliament not just every five years. Most importantly it will force MPs to remember who they are are there to represent first, their constituents.

I remember that Mr Zahawi was a vehement supporter of Brexit and yes indeed, my constituency sadly voted for it. However, during the debate the major employers in his seat (most notably the National Farmers Union), spoke out against it. Whatever your views on Brexit, I'm forced to consider that his position in the debate was just another case of the pattern - the enemy action. One does not simply ignore the most important voices  you have a mandate in your tenure to represent. For me, this all points to a potential personal agenda and that for me seals the deal. Mr Zahawi should go on trial locally for the future of his political seat.

Indeed I believe that the Recall of MPs act as limited as its scope unfortunately is, does contain the remit in clause 3 to do this:

If an MP is convicted of providing false or misleading expenses claims, regardless of whether they are imprisoned.

It seems to me that this has been satisfied, so my appeal to my fellow constituentts is to get om this... because the betrayal (though internal) is to my mind as bad as that other Stratfordian MP of old's (John Profumo), external one.

Or perhaps to put it in the words of Stratford's favourite historical son William Shakespeare:

For this revolt of thine, methinks, is like another fall of man.



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