As I have written before, in the Church of England we have three orders of ordination; Deacon, Priest (or Presbyter), and Bishop. The usual pattern for those expecting to be ordained priest is to serve the first year as a deacon, and then be ordained priest the following year. The diaconal year is an opportunity to focus on the servant aspect of being ordained, which is, in many ways, the foundational aspect of ministry, and never changes.
That said, I found it a slightly odd year, which felt for me personally to be more about what I wasn’t allowed to do! From a purely functional perspective, there wasn’t an awful lot to distinguish what I was doing as a deacon compared with what I’d been doing for the last 20 years!! I could spend the next 5 or 10 posts unpacking this, but even I would find that boring – so I’ll move on. Suffice to say for now that I am in no way diminishing the ministry of a deacon, or suggesting that the year was wasted or pointless.
What did catch me out a bit though was just how special my priesting ordination felt. In fact, at one point on my priesting retreat, late on the Saturday evening, I was a heartbeat away from phoning up the bishop to tell her I couldn’t go through with it!! But it was just a wobble, and after much prayer (and tears!) I finally went to sleep, and did indeed turn up at the cathedral the next day.
Reflecting upon it, I suppose there’s a number of elements going on which combined to make it feel the way it did.
Firstly there’s the sense of completing a journey (or at least a leg of the journey), of passing a milestone. Becoming a deacon had a temporary or transient feel to it, whereas last summer was reaching a waypoint to which I had been journeying probably since I was 19 or 20. It’s not the end of the journey by any means in terms of ministry, but it almost certainly is the ‘highest’ Order I will receive (I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d be ordained bishop!). There is no “next step” in that sense – this is now my life.
Secondly, on the day itself I felt a strong sense of commissioning and authority, in a way that I didn’t as a deacon. That I was receiving the full authority of the bishop (and the church) to minister, serve, and lead in the parish, as a Clerk in Holy Orders, and a Priest. That I can bless, absolve, and preside at Communion in Jesus name. Wowzers! I know a lot of this happened at my deaconing, but somehow last summer it felt a lot more real than the summer before, and it was scary, humbling, and exciting. I suspect a part of it was having had a year of being a “rev”, and coming to terms with what the means in practice. Which is in itself still very much a work in progress.
Finally, it was amazing and wonderful to preside at Holy Communion the following day. In one sense, the Eucharist is what sets us, as the Christian church, apart from all other religions and social clubs. That we break bread and share wine together in Jesus’ name is to my mind the defining characteristic of who we are and what we do. And be able to lead us all in this act of worship is an incredible joy and privilege.
I’m not wild about the term “priest” (except when it is used to mean the priesthood of all believers), and I am deeply uncomfortable with any cultic undertones or suggestion that my role shares anything other than name with the Levitical priesthood. I am not offering sacrifices, making atonement, or mediating between humanity and God – that job is already done. But I am perhaps helping us remember that this job has been done, and to help us pass on this good news to the world.
Sometimes I deeply dislike computers, especially when they try and be too clever. It’s actually a little bit scary (The Terminator‘s looking less and less far fetched!).
Recent incident – true story. My website now runs on my own server at home, at the end of my broadband pipe. Despite what the provider claims it really isn’t fibre, but it is 100 Mbps down and 20 Mbps up, which is far more bandwidth than the traffic I generate. So far so good.
Last week, I suddenly started getting e-mails from Google’s search bot telling me the number of 404s on my site has suddenly increased. Oops, think I, must have bust something when I moved it. I look at it – strange, all seems fine. I also found out that my sitemap XML hadn’t updated itself since 2006, but that’s another story.
So I try from Google using the “view as Google” thing – 404s, 500s, cannot access, requires authorisation. Really weird.
So I forget about it for a bit, and then try again from work. Suddenly I can’t see my website at all, just errors. I go to the homepage, and am presented with the login screen for my NAS drive!!
Eeek – that drive has got all my photos, filing, backups, etc, and it’s being exposed to the Internet?!?!?!
Turns out that my Broadband hub had turned on UPnP by itself. It then also turned out that the NAS drive will aggressively try to find a router on the local network, and ask it to forward ports 80 and 443 to itself. And the broadband hub will obey, even though I had manually set up those ports to be forwarded to my hardened server. I didn’t see the problem from home because I was accessing the server directly (even though I thought I was going through the router).
Thankfully I could SSH in from work, which meant I could access the hub admin site, and turn off UPnP and the port forwarding, and put some measures in play to stop it happening again.
One of the things I have learnt from my spiritual director is to try to incorporate some silence whenever I pray. By which I mean inner as well outer silence (which is much harder!). I sometimes feel like Chidi from The Good Place, who says his mind is like a waste disposal unit with a fork in it, constantly grinding and grinding away. Other times I feel like Dumbledore, who needed to syphon his thoughts off into a Pensieve. I don’t really know if everyone feels like their head is “full”, or if I’m just a bit odd, but my guess would be that most of us from time to time feel like this?
Anyway, as I was trying to still my mind recently, the image of a snow globe came to me – you know one of those globes with a house (or whatever) inside, and the globe is filled with water and glitter. When you turn the globe upside down, the glitter all swirls up and spins and eddies, completely obscuring the scene inside. However, if you then put the globe down, the snow starts to settle, and slowly the water clears, until eventually everything is still, and you can see the house again – indeed, you can see all the way through the globe.
It struck me that being silent in prayer is a bit like this. At first my mind is a complete flurry, with thoughts spinning and whirling. I must remember this. How am I going to solve that? Did I send a card to them? When’s our anniversay? Have I packed the swimming kit? And so on. Sometimes the drifts are deeper – where is life going? What does the future hold? Am I bringing up my children well?
But then, as I just sit, in silence, allowing these thoughts to fly around, they do begin to settle. It’s not a process that can be hurried. Sometimes I use the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy in me a sinner”). Sometimes I just wait and allow the blizzard to rage in my head.
Either way, eventually the snow does settle. The thoughts stop flying round quite so violently. I can begin to see a bit more clearly. I can begin to think a bit more clearly. I can begin to hear God’s voice a little more easily.
Very excited that I’ve relocated my website and my photo site onto a Raspberry Pi, which is sitting on my desk looking at me as I type!
I purchased said Pi for this purpose over a year ago, but somehow didn’t quiet get around to doing anything more than having it as a Linux box I could SSH into should the spirit move me. This is more useful than it sounds, as Linux network tools are good, it’s immensely useful to be able to test things from outside my work LAN while at work, plus SSH tunelling is the best thing since sliced bread.
I know that, by saying all this I’m potentially revealing details about the server running stuff, which is a security vulnerability. But I reckon anyone who’s serious about trying to hack me will already know what OS and hardware I’m running, and the chances are they aren’t reading this blog either!
I love it when I come across verses the the Bible which I’ve never really noticed before.
In this case, it’s from Acts 9:31
Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
In general Acts paints a very dynamic picture of the early church – this great explosion of community and faith, with thousands being converted, daily growth, healing, miraculous escapes, signs and wonders. With the possible exception of the “Toronto Blessing” back in the 90s, this has not been my personal experience of church.
So it’s nice to reminded of an alternative model – that of a church at peace, living in the fear of the Lord and full of the Holy Spirit… and growing. This is certainly closer to my everyday experience of church life, and it’s easy to think of it as a second best. Don’t get me wrong; I long and pray for revival; that God’s spirit would sweep through our land again – goodness knows we need it.
But until She does, maybe it’s ok to live in peace, in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Spirit… and maybe even grow?
Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
Well, I’m now officially an alumnus of Durham University. Was a long way to travel for a handshake, but grand sense of occasion and lovely to see fellow @sthildcollege alumni again. #dunelm (11/01/2018 18:18:10)
Olly Murs comes on the radio.
Me: “it’s Olly Murs”
7yo: “Is he the one who drives a car on the ice?”
7yo: “You know, the car on the ice being chased with a satellite laser.”
Me: “You mean James Bond?”
#HesNeverSeenABondFilm (13/01/2018 14:26:57)
OO – just got a lovely e-mail from a lass called Anastasia saying she’s seen my picture on the net, and that she thinks I’m “hot, smart, and sexy”. #OnceMaybe #ButProbablyNot (20/01/2018 07:42:26)
“The night has passed, and the day lies open before us;” – and it’s actually light(ish) outside! I can’t remember the last time that happened. (22/01/2018 08:13:29)
RT @LeedsCofE: Resurrected Bites, a new ‘pay as you feel’ cafe launched @stmarkshgate this weekend with food which otherwise would go to l… (22/01/2018 08:13:57)
Challenging reading in @ChurchTimes about why (some) youth leave the church. “Any questions would be answered by the end of each sermon. They felt like a sitcom, where some mild peril would be introduced, only to be safely tucked away in time for the next hymn.” (v. edited quote) (23/01/2018 07:02:47)
Been messing around with melted sugar. More fun then you might think (and have so far avoided burns). t.co/uBdJ759EwX(26/01/2018 08:12:37)
Top marks to the @yorkuniversity library. What a fabulous building, facility, and study space. (27/01/2018 12:28:00)
Wonderful service at @riponcathedral to install and welcome Bishop Helen-Ann. Welcome to Yorkshire and the Diocese @h_ahartley, so glad you have you as our Bishop. (04/02/2018 17:52:45)
I think @ChurchTimes is onto something with this notion that culture is jumping the ecclesiastical calendar’s gun. Christmas is celebrated in Advent, Lent is marked in January, and Easter eggs and hot cross buns already on the shelves. (11/02/2018 08:12:41)
RT @TheKevinHudson: I went to the Harry Potter Pound Shop. Everything was a quid each.
#UKPunDay (13/02/2018 07:33:46)
Lovely baptism service this morning. Great to welcome T, T, and R into God’s family. Such a privilege. (25/02/2018 14:18:17)
Snow day for both my boys’ schools today!! Unusual for the High Schools to close. (28/02/2018 08:07:10)
At least 108 schools closed in the region today! Feel sorry for the kids of the 10 schools who aren’t getting a snow day. As for me, wellies on and walking to Morning Prayer! (28/02/2018 08:29:17)
Tension in the room last night during Night Prayer as the printed liturgy accidentally included an “all*luia” – would any of us curates say it?? #Lent 🙂 (03/03/2018 07:44:24)
“The real and palpable holiness of a leader steeped in the grace of God” #Leadership (03/03/2018 11:10:30)
Who’d have thought it would so much fun to discuss using the “A” word in Lent? I’m sure it’s unrelated to me also currently trying to prepare a sermon from Romans 5… (03/03/2018 15:49:17)
A rare treat to sing worship in 5/4 time this evening. Really good job by the band and vocal quartet too. (03/03/2018 19:13:25)
Looking forward to preaching at Evensong at Ripon Cathedral on Sunday – 3.30pm if you want to join us! (The cathedral ask all the freshly minted curates to come and speak during Lent) (06/03/2018 08:19:10)
One year older and (possibly) wiser today. Not often one can claim to have undergone an ontological change since last birthday (and never without sounding silly). 🙂 (17/03/2018 16:03:55)
Heading into Holy Week, reflecting on how the first Easter was anything but joy and celebration – fear and incomprehension is closer to the mark. Seems to me that it took the first disciples 7 weeks (and the Holy Spirit) to arrive at joy and celebration. (24/03/2018 08:43:31)
“But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed” (Luke 23). First century Twitter? #PlusCaChange (29/03/2018 07:29:56)
So excited to be preaching today on the foolishness & weakness of the cross! Jesus is risen – the failed Messiah was actually the victor all along, and no-one saw it coming!! Turns out that God’s folly really is wiser than our wisdom. #Easter #JesusLives (01/04/2018 06:34:16)
Cracking start to #SpringHarvest Harrogate with the all age celebration. Excited about evening session. (03/04/2018 17:48:56)
Very weird to see @petejamesglobal leading worship at Spring Harvest without a woolly hat! #SH2018 #WarmUpNorth (03/04/2018 19:33:10)
Words are the clothes that our thoughts wear. Faith is enrobed in actions. @MalcolmJDuncan #SH2018 (04/04/2018 10:23:35)
3 motifs in James: Wisdom, Words, Works. Like 1 John and Proverbs, nonlinear/intertwined theology – we need to connect how we think and how we live. @MalcolmJDuncan #SH2018 (05/04/2018 09:39:40)
You can’t live a Godly life without Godly wisdom, and Godly wisdom will shape our words. The threads of the tapestry of our life are how we live (works), what we say (words), bound by wisdom. #SH2018 (05/04/2018 09:46:47)
Three tests James gives us to assess our Godly living:
How is my conversation?
How am I showing care?
How is my character and conduct?
#SH2018 (05/04/2018 09:59:45)
Jesus: “Moses gave you the Torah. But I AM the Torah.” Not words about a Godly life, but an actual Godly life. Wow! @MalcolmJDuncan #SH2018 (05/04/2018 10:03:35)
Especially early Big Start, as my little Adventurer wants to participate in this morning’s story. *Yawn* #SH2018 (06/04/2018 07:18:00)
What if church isn’t (always) meant to be enjoyed? What if it’s about God, not us? @MalcolmJDuncan #SH2018 (06/04/2018 09:59:26)
Every time you exercise judgement on another person, you’re asking God to use that same criterion to judge you. What if, instead of comparing our best against others’ worst, we compare our worst against others’ best. #humility @MalcolmJDuncan #SH2018 (06/04/2018 10:20:14)
“For the believer, suffering and death never ever ever get the last word.” Incredibly powerful message and testimony from @MalcolmJDuncan – thank you so much for unpacking James this week. #SH2018 (06/04/2018 10:42:27)
Big shout out to Becky and Nick Drake (and the team) for fantastic all age celebration each night at #SH2018 Harrogate. Just do it! (06/04/2018 17:40:41)
You make me brave, you make me brave, you call me out beyond the shore into the waves. #SH2018 (06/04/2018 18:45:40)
Why do we have an act of remembrance at the centre of our worship? Because we forget! #SH2018 (06/04/2018 19:19:20)
There are only two ways. The way of the crowd, or the way of the cross. (06/04/2018 19:37:21)
Literally lost for words after the act of reflection in the final celebration at Harrogate. Not even going to try to describe, except to say it was holy ground, our saviour on the cross. #SH2018 (07/04/2018 10:33:47)
Just got the letter through confirming the details of my ordination to the priesthood in June! #Exciting #ServingGodsPeople (21/04/2018 08:43:23)
Amanda Holden: “Good comedy should push the boundaries. It should make us laugh, while also making us feel uncomfortable.” I guess the same applies to good theology. (22/04/2018 21:25:27)
… or at least to a good sermon. (22/04/2018 21:30:36)
RT @wardrox: Can you recommend a GDPR expert?
Great, can you give me their email address so I can contact them?
No. (24/04/2018 10:40:38)
My phone just auto-completed/suggested (my mistyped) “God bless” as “His glory” at the end of an email. I quite like it as a sign off! (26/04/2018 21:25:34)
I found out on Sunday that it is very hard to lead worship with bi-focal glasses because the chord sheet is too far away for reading distance. 🙁 #GettingOld (02/05/2018 15:19:24)
I wonder if, when we find it difficult to recognise the image of God in someone, this says more about our image of God than it does about the person him- or herself? (06/05/2018 06:19:33)
Our crab-apple blossom is out two and a half weeks later than last year. #BetterLateThanNever t.co/viaQthV5Iz (07/05/2018 09:07:08)
Feeling a bit Mark Twain, after being asked at work today how my funeral went… (08/05/2018 20:56:49)
I cannot unreservedly endorse Cats does Countdown (although I do enjoy it!).. but this is a particularly cool thing. t.co/wf7uCXO5NY (23/05/2018 15:57:33)
Tirbs out its vrry hsrd to typw accurTly on the bus. (23/05/2018 16:00:45)
Prayer walking the parish.
Chatting with some new folk.
Lunch with @h_ahartley & others at our Pay As You Feel cafe.
Planning Sunday’s services & sermon.
Meeting with my spiritual director.
#SelfSupportingMinistry (23/05/2018 16:10:48)
(to be fair, tomorrow I’m also gate crashing a wedding rehearsal in the evening, but I ran out of space) (23/05/2018 16:11:11)
Just seen an advert for T20 blast by NatWest: “Cricket has no boundaries”. Ummmm.. I’m pretty sure it does. Isn’t that the whole 4 and 6 thing? (02/06/2018 19:08:48)
Off to preach this morning at @stmarkshgate on the crucifixion, and in particular the power of redemptive suffering. Nice and light. #BringBackTrinitySunday #WhatsSoBadAboutSpritualMilkAnyway (03/06/2018 06:35:34)
So excited to be part of the worship band at the lay conference today – such a privilege. (09/06/2018 05:50:42)
Looking forward to the study day with @h_ahartley today in Pateley Bridge. Think I’ll be blown most of the way there! #Windy (14/06/2018 06:05:57)
I have recently discovered Taize coding (well that’s what I’m calling it). Writing software with Taize chants on the headphones. I’m definitely more chilled, I reckon the code is better, plus it makes it easier to remember that doing your job really well is an act of worship.* (14/06/2018 06:28:11)
* unless your job happens to be drug dealing, or Satan worship… (14/06/2018 06:28:43)
Inspirational stuff from Rob Cowen (he of “Common Ground”). Removing the human/nature division, understanding the importance & history of place, and asking who are you, how did you get here, where are you going? (14/06/2018 12:04:17)
The meaning of ordination: bless, reconcile, nurture (through the Father Son and Spirit). Jim Francis (14/06/2018 12:30:21)
Reflecting on Kingdom and Incarnation with Jim Francis. To/for or in/with. Both gospel, both Jesus. (14/06/2018 13:26:06)
Thanks for today @robbiecowen – not read your book yet, but top of the list now. (14/06/2018 17:42:31)
I’m loving the #immodestwomen vibe going down on twitter. It’s never even crossed my mind to fret about a woman using “Dr” as her title. (15/06/2018 06:43:37)
Great away day yesterday with @stmarkshgate PCC. Thinking about our discipleship pathway, which is just a posh way of saying how we can be more like Jesus and help others recognise what an amazing and beautiful thing it is to be his follower. (17/06/2018 06:31:03)
Final packing before ordination rehearsal, then off on retreat. Been looking forward to these 3 days of God-space for months! #NewLeedsCofEPriests2018 (20/06/2018 08:04:36)
So that’s weird. When I put in a hashtag the second option is #GeorgetteHeyer. I confess I’m partial to a spot of Regency romance, but it seems an unlikely suggestion. (20/06/2018 08:09:39)
Last night’s ordinands’ supper was great. Good to catch up with colleagues, enjoy the fantastic catering by Nurture and @nickbaines and his wife’s generous hospitality. So good to laugh, and share stories of ministry, faith, and love from the past year. #NewLeedsCofEPriests2018 (20/06/2018 08:25:52)
Arrived at Mirfield for our retreat. The sun is shining, already seen some old friends, and I have many happy memories of this site from @sthildcollege days. But going to sign off twitter for the next few days, to focus on prayer and worship and silence. #NewLeedsCofEPriests2018 (20/06/2018 15:04:55)
Just about to head off to Ripon Cathedral.
Me: “I’m going to get there early, to spend time in mediation and prayer”
Wife: “No you’re not, you’re going to sit in the sun and have an ice-cream.”
Actually, I really wasn’t, but that’s a *much* better idea. (23/06/2018
Intense but good week on retreat. Thanks to @CoRMirfield for the hospitality, @dwalmsley9 for his care and love and accompaniment, @bishopSarahM for holding us and inspiring us, and my fellow priests(!) for the honesty, laughter, tears. And of course Diane for sorting us all out! (24/06/2018 06:15:51)
Thankful for the service yesterday too. Such joy amid sorrow. Many thanks to @h_ahartley, @RiponDean, @riponcathedral, Canon Wendy, all the friends and family and other clergy who came to support us, and everyone else who made it what it was. It *was* awesome. (Dude). (24/06/2018 06:22:46)
Final thanks for the most important people of all. To Jesus for giving me something to live and die for, and to my wife and kids for their unrelenting love and support.
I first felt the call to what happened yesterday 25 years ago, so please forgive my Oscar acceptance speech!! (24/06/2018 06:33:15)
What a great joy and privilege to lead my first communion service today, at @stmarkshgate. And a beautiful priesting gift and cake too. #blessed #NewLeedsCofEPriests2018 (24/06/2018 21:11:33)
Watching England, with a glass of Rev James. (Thanks Abbie). t.co/827BhYxKiS (28/06/2018 18:13:05)
RT @rebecca_rocker: Lord Nelson was about 5ft 6. His statue is 17ft 4. That’s Horatio of about 3:1. #puntastic #scholastic #fantastic (28/06/2018 18:13:49)
Another Saturday, another ordination. 🙂 Not mine this time. #NewLeedsCofEClergy2018 t.co/bIGUQvHxSn (30/06/2018 09:26:09)
W00t – WordPress just told me traffic on my site is booming – a spike in my stats……. because I got two whole visitors in a single day. 🙂 (01/07/2018 10:58:18)
Missed a trick in Ripon – @h_ahartley could have brought her TARDIS… t.co/iuxM1pxU8l (01/07/2018 12:36:41)
Been invited to a BBQ at Bishop @h_ahartley’s. She says children could bring a garden game. 7yo immediately suggests a sprinkler. Can’t say I’m not tempted…. 🙂 (04/07/2018 18:45:35)
Me: : – )
7yo: why have you done a bracket?
Me: it’s a smiley face
I rotate phone 90°
7yo: IT IS!! (04/07/2018 18:51:02)
7yo: that’s a PIG.
(This could go on some time…)
#DigitalParenting (04/07/2018 18:52:07)
I love that 6 weeks ago nobody even considered that the World Cup might affect events – now we’re cancelling everything on Sunday even though we’re not in the final yet! (11/07/2018 15:09:21)
You’ve got to give to the Leeds Bishops – they throw a mean garden party (even if the super soaker 3000 didn’t make an appearance @PhilCarman). Many thanks to @h_ahartley, we all had a lovely time. (14/07/2018 16:45:20)
Cutting critique of my housekeeping from 7yo: “Do you remember when we used to hoover the carpets?” #OutOfTheMouths (21/07/2018 15:31:33)
Closely followed by the identification of the cause: “He’s on Tweet”. (21/07/2018 15:35:09)
My plan for drying loads of washing on the line while I was out at work was brilliant right up to the point of the thunderstorm. (03/08/2018 14:58:35)
There is the sea, vast and wide. #MorningPrayer #Holiday @ Fowey t.co/5JfgSTleGU (11/08/2018 05:41:00)
After 2 weeks of waking up to bedroom views of the sea or a woodland stream… #HomewardBound @ M48 Services: Moto, Severn View t.co/9P6FfhHx2A (18/08/2018 06:52:54)
Every Friday and Saturday night we optimistically discuss what time the alarm should be set for, as if we weren’t going to be jumped on by a 7yo at 06.30. 🙂 (15/09/2018 20:54:03)
Proper power cut. Might need to dig out the candles! (19/09/2018 16:01:53)
One of the less positive aspects of my formation at vicar school is that I now have a Pavlovian desire for chocolate whenever I read a theology book. (26/09/2018 19:18:31)
Another stereotype ticked off, as I stagger into church with a stack of bibles in my arms. (30/09/2018 17:32:58)
… mind you, don’t need to wait until Heaven for my reward. #Cake #Chocolate t.co/O7HKDxu1aE (30/09/2018 17:35:10)
Very excited about speaking to the Pannal Silver Surfers tomorrow. We’re going to be thinking about mapping in the 21st century – why it’s hard, and how computers and technology have helped! #ComputerGeek (02/10/2018 19:01:13)
“Do you want milk?”
Me: “No thanks.”
(shocked) “You don’t take milk?”
Me: “Um.. no. Not since Twin Peaks – black as midnight on a moonless night”
Them: “Oh, I thought it would be because of ethics around animal welfare or something”
🙂 (09/10/2018 06:36:39)
Of course the other person had never heard of Twin Peaks either, so now they think (know?) I’m even stranger. 🙂 (09/10/2018 06:40:26)
Singing The Wall on the way to school – “we don’t need no source control”. Mind obviously already on work!! (15/10/2018 07:43:54)
Investigating a leak under the bath, I discovered 2 pages from a 2003 Church Times!! (20/10/2018 11:15:50)
Managed to tap into the sermon zeitgeist last week, as the lead feature in this month’s Christianity is very close to what I preached on! #IWasFirst #AlthoughProbablyTheArticleWasWrittenFirst (26/10/2018 07:28:50)
RT @TobyonTV: Big fan of the new #Strictly tweak where Villanelle takes out the lowest-scoring couple t.co/JbmEg4nqiK (12/11/2018 22:16:23)
RT @northantsfire: Incident 15:45 False alarm – this was caused by a parrot impersonating the smoke alarm at a property #Daventry (15/11/2018 07:43:27)
Tough decision tonight – PCC or “Passengers” on Netflix? Mind you, I suppose they’re not mutually exclusive… 🙂 (21/11/2018 19:21:02)
Found out that we’re all going to do unconscious bias training. I’m hoping it will help with my recurring dreams about loaded dice. (22/11/2018 07:28:21)
As far as I can tell, the knitting and stitching show has brought Harrogate to a standstill. (22/11/2018 15:37:54)
Having repeatedly steadfastly stood up for the fact that Advent rarely starts on Dec 1st, I discover that this year it actually does! (30/11/2018 21:37:56)
This morning’s coffee is like camping – dark and in tents. https://t.co/mAWzk3Sb3M (02/12/2018 08:13:15)
Not sure where this idea has come that half the country wants Brexit. As I recall, just over a third did, just under a third didn’t, and the rest didn’t express an opinion? (06/12/2018 12:47:38)
Lots of fun at @WillowPrimary Winter Wonderland this evening. Won big at the chocolate tombola (well, a box of matchmakers, but they’re mint). (07/12/2018 18:14:17)
I had to stop listening to Weird Al Yankovic at work today, because it was making me laugh too much to code (as well as putting off my colleagues by giggling to myself). (11/12/2018 18:20:05)
Maybe one day we will have a vote that’s actually about what’s being voted for? (14/12/2018 07:01:01)
Really looking forward to kicking off Christmas tonight at @stmarkshgate. All are welcome to join in the wonder of the God child’s birth. #MidnightMass #FollowtheStar (24/12/2018 13:07:45)
Getting changed into clerical shirt for Nativity.
8yo: “Why are you putting on smart clothes Daddy?”
#OutOfMouthsOfBabes (24/12/2018 13:24:00)
I’m super excited that sermon tomorrow is chiastic – I’ve even labelled my points A B B’ A’ 🙂
(and, as you can tell by the fact I’m tweeting, I haven’t finished it yet). (29/12/2018 10:09:16)
I’ve been reflecting recently on what I’ve started calling the “messy bed test”.
It runs is as follows. My younger son, for reasons known only to himself, likes to mess up our bed. He likes to pile up the pillows, mound up the duvet, push the bedspread onto the floor, and then sort of burrow into the bedding. I suppose it’s a sort of den or something.
By any objective measurement this is a pretty benign activity – it only takes 2 minutes to straighten out the bed again, and he’s not doing any harm at all, and he loves doing it.
What is interesting is how my reaction varies to (what feels like) his daily question: “Can I mess up your bed?”
Sometimes I smile to myself and say, “ok, yes.”
However, sometimes my reaction is more along the lines of “No, you can’t. I’ve only just made it, I’m trying to get the house tidy, and its me or Mum who are going to have to sort it out again.” I do my best to convert this into “I’m sorry no – not today” before it actually comes out of my mouth. It’s amazing how forgiving children can be. But I digress – this post isn’t intended to be about my shortcomings as a parent!
The difference between these two scenarios? Entirely me. The request hasn’t changed. The amount of time and effort to re-make the bed hasn’t changed. What has changed is my ability to handle what I perceive as an extra demand being made of me.
In this way, it becomes an indicator of my own mental state and stress levels. The reason I say “no” to him is because I can’t cope with it. It shines a light on my inconsistencies – why should the answer sometimes be yes, and sometimes no… or sometimes having your head bitten off?
Now of course boundaries are right and proper, and where ever there is a boundary a child will push it. It is also reasonable not to want your bed to be messed up, and to say “no” to this request. My point is simply that it is sometimes the trivial things like this which act a bit like rev counters, and show when we’re pushing the limit, and in the red zone. Or, if you like, it’s a sort of litmus test
It seems apt at this time of year, where there is a lot of remembering going on, to think about the past, and in particular people from the past. One thing I have noticed is that people from my past don’t always stay there, and in particular having changed to another church locally, there are an lot of familiar faces.
In fact, there have been one or two folk where I’ve had to pause for a minute, and think to myself about how we “signed off” last time we saw each other. Are there any unresolved issues kicking about – which always mattered, I guess, but are a little bit more immediate now I am their curate? Thankfully so far the answer has always been “no”.
Maybe its just me, but I find it very easy to want to “write off” relationships, especially where they are professional rather than social. My natural reaction when I get bad service is to walk out and say to myself “I’m never going back there again”. Even better if I can deliver a cutting parting shot that makes it clear exactly how I feel. Or to quit a job out of frustration and stick two fingers up at the boss on the way out. Or to say deeply hurtful things as a romantic relationship ends, and vow never to see or talk to them again.
As with other things, being ordained brings what was always true into sharper focus – that we cannot live this way. The theological point is that the other person is made in God’s image, and loved and cherised by Him. The practical point is that I might go to a person’s house for a funeral visit, and discover that they are the person I swore at in the restaurant the night before!!
Anyone who follows The Way, who calls themself a Christian, is God’s representative on Earth. We are each Christ’s ambassadors. I don’t believe that we have the luxury of burning our bridges, or “writing off” relationships. How we treat other people is taken as a proxy for how God feels about them. We never know when someone from our past is going to randomly walk into church, or join our Alpha group. What will their reaction be to seeing us there – perhaps realising for the first time that we’re a Christian? How is our ambassadorship reflected in the last conversation we had?
Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?
A. To get to the other side.
Chances are you’ve heard this joke a million times – I certainly have. It’s the classic children’s joke – utterly daft, amusing because it’s pointless. It sets up an expectation of an unexpected punchline, but then no.
There are million of daft jokes out there – “How do you know if there’s an elephant in your fridge? Footprints in the butter.”, “What’s yellow and very dangerous? Shark infested custard”, “What’s brown and sticky? A stick” and so on. I love these jokes. They’re not particularly big or clever or witty or erudite, but they make me smile, and sometimes laugh.
Except that the chicken crossing the road joke turns out to something quite different. I have told this joke for probably 40+ years, and it has never once in that time – nor in any else I have spoken to – even occured to me that it has a second, euphemistic, level of meaning.
Until I saw these tweets:
OMG I’ve *just* got the “cos he wanted to reach the other side” punchline to “Why did the chicken cross the road?”. WTF you guys?
Like Kat (and incidentally, I’ve no idea who she is – that’s twitter for you), my jaw dropped. The Other Side. The joke is actually about death!
Of course it is. It’s obvious. Staring you in the face. After all, How many other “crossing the road” jokes are about getting squashed, or at least the dangers of roads?
Q. Why did the hedgehog/squirrel/turkey/frog/… cross the road?
A. To visit his flat-mate.
A. To show what he was made of.
A. To prove he had guts.
A. To prove he wasn’t chicken
I’ve always understood these other jokes in that way (or at least felt like there was some trick I was missing)… why did it never once even occur to me that the original chicken joke is along the same lines? These are quite clearly gross being run-over jokes, so why shouldn’t the original be? The answer, of course, is that I attached an interpretation to the joke the first time I heard it – “to get to the other side of the road”, and I didn’t realise that I had made this interpretation or assumption, let alone reconsidered or revisited it. It’s not that I considered and dismissed an alternative interpretation, it’s that it never even crossed my mind as a possibility, and likely never would had not an external factor intervened.
This then becomes (for me at least) an example par excellence of interpretative blindness. We have not only failed to interpret something correctly, we didn’t even realise that we’ve made an interpretation, and that other interpretations may be possible. For a children’s joke this isn’t a big deal, but when you look at politics, culture, or indeed the Bible, suddenly it matters a great deal. When Jesus tells a parable, we may interpret it as normative (this is, it is establishing a norm for behaviour – how we should be going about things). What if it is actually descriptive? Could Jesus be saying “we all know the world is like this – make sure you’re not being as silly as this example”? The massive danger is that we don’t even realise that we are interpreting it a certain way. So we neither question or own understanding, nor can make sense of anyone who comes at it from a different angle. It’s not that we realise we haven’t got the joke – we think we have got it, but have actually missed the point altogether.
This recast joke also demonstrates a paradigm shift beautifully. Paradigms are the way we make sense of the world, how we see and understand it. They are our mental models. A paradigm shift happens when our understanding changes in a radical, irreversable way – that once our viewpoint has changed, we can never again go back to our original understanding. You might describe it as a light-bulb moment, I suppose. In the case of the chicken joke, I (and now you – sorry!) can never again understand this as a joke simply around an animal trying to cross a street. It will forever more be a dual joke, with two meanings. When there is a paradigm shift, we realise that our previous model was incomplete, and now our understanding has grown and developed. It’s a bit like Harry Potter – you think you understand a given character’s role and motive, but at the denouement it’s all turned on it’s head, and you suddenly understand Snape was actually trying to save Harry (or whatever). So when you re-read the passage again, you know understand what was actually happening. Your original interpretation has been proved wanting.
The ultimate example of this is Jesus – nobody conceived that God’s great Messiah would be born in obscurity, and executed by the Romans. Yet if you read the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament, this great paradigm shift occurs, when you see that Jesus is actually fulfilling the prophecies and promises. Just not in the way anyone expected. And people today I think still struggle to understand Jesus (not helped, it must be said, by the Church a lot of the time), but perhaps not even realising there is something to understand.
Who would have thought that all this could come from a 13 word kids joke!