Saturday, 6 March 2010

Writing Paragraphs

There are people who love to write paragraphs of words, and because they love what they do they do it well. I haven't really enjoyed communicating in that way...I work my thoughts out through poetry and verse, and I believe that I do it well.

Reader Numbers

Watching the reader numbers of this blog has been gratifying, after all this time there are still lovely people reading what I had to say, and I thank you all.

The Best Words in the Best Order

In a few days time I shall be retiring from my full time teaching job, and this will give me the luxury of time. Time to work out the best words in the best order.

The Gift of Poetry

I really only ever wanted to give my poetry to the world, and now I can do that, knowing that I'm doing the best job that I can. You see, writing poetry is my passion, and I want to experiment with the genre, just give it its head and watch in wonderment where it takes me.

A Cordial Invitation

And so this is an invitation to all my loyal readers who might want to follow me into this adventure. My new address is: and I'll be waiting to welcome you.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Building Blocks

Not every building project involves materials that can be seen. If we're fortunate enough to live in a comfortable, warm house, chances are we'll take it for granted. We won't stop to think about the careful planning, the skillful design or the arduous labour that went into it, but simply accept it as our God-given right.

But there is also the invisible building - the abstract creation. Both start out as thought waves transcending the ether, the formless stuff of the void. A typical example to illustrate this is the church.

"...Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."
( Matthew 16:18 )

The Invisible Church

From the Greek translation, the word 'church' means 'belonging to the Lord' and Peter, a name meaning 'rock', was chosen to be the head of the church on earth - a visible head of an invisible church. Because when we talk about going to church we think of a building, a place of worship. This fact has led many to believe in the mistaken idea that God can only be found in such a building and nowhere else. Christ never intended this. His church was never meant to be a place or structure that could be destroyed by man, but a body of believers, the chosen ones or the elect.

Let's look at another 'building' scripture.

"Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it; except the Lord keeps the city, the watchman wakes but in vain." ( Psalm 127:1 )

Difficult Task

The idea behind this was to demonstrate that if man attempts to build in his own strength and by his own will, he can never succeed in the long run. Failure is the only outcome. However, if he allows God to be the architect and builder, all will be well. This is a very hard concept to come to terms with. To trust in something you can't see, hear or touch is perhaps the most difficult task imaginable.

We are constantly building something. A child builds with wooden blocks, part of the learning process. Young adults learn skills which become the foundation for even greater learning. We build and maintain personal and emotional relationships and if we do so on solid foundations (rock), the relationship will withstand the rigours and the tempests of life. But if we build on sand, the house will surely be vulnerable to destruction. Those of us who have suffered broken marriages will readily testify to this analogy.

The Ego Problem

The thing that makes building on rock so difficult is the ego, an over-used but generally misunderstood word largely associated with psychologists and psychotherapy. The ego, considered by many to be a construct, is the part of us which governs our actions and the decisions we make. It is our safety valve during our growing years, our governing mechanism that prevents us from endangering ourselves. The big problem with the ego is that it is fearfully paranoid and this fear is often converted into actions which cause conflict. You only have to look at structures such as the Great Wall of China, Hadrians wall and not forgetting the Berlin wall. They were all built out of fear to keep certain people out, and in some cases to keep them in.

Religion Not the Answer

This is ego building. It is the building of structures of segregation instead of unification and it happens because we find it so hard to trust and to believe that we are safe. Tragically, having a religion does not guarantee the kind of trust and self-belief necessary to build on rock. If it was, we would not have the religious conflict we constantly see around us. There would be no Middle East crisis and definitely no 'Holy War', an oxymoron of epic proportions.

Our Inheritance

If we can only learn to trust and believe that our default inheritance is one of safety and peace and that all things work only for our joy and happiness, the world would be transformed overnight. We began with a beautiful garden and gradually, because of our fear, the weeds and the briers took over. But it's never too late. We can turn the situation around, and we can begin by loving ourselves and trusting that all is well in our personal world. This is not egotism, which relates to pride, but it is the sure belief that nothing can harm us. Why not start with a thought in that direction. The thought will travel far into the void where it will be picked up by the formless matter and reflected back to us as tangible good. The mechanism never fails. What we focus our attention on, we get more of. This is a universal law which is foolproof. Don't take my word for it. Try it for yourselves!

Every thought you and I transmit today builds our tomorrow, good or bad. Don't you think that we deserve a good tomorrow?


Sunday, 16 March 2008

God versus Mammon

"It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Mark 10:25)

This old chestnut, over-used and cliche-ridden has been the mainstay of bible-bashers the world over. It's the ace of scriptures designed to trump all arguments about poverty, wealth and the hereafter. But could this brand of salesmanship be no more than an insidious five-card trick? Is there a genuine case for the idea that living in poverty guarantees a ticket to life everlasting, or are the evangelists merely using the bible to their own ends?

What is 'Rich'?

There is a big problem with the above scripture. It's the word 'rich'. How can this word possibly be defined objectively. I have my own view of what constitutes 'rich' and no doubt you, the reader, have yours. To a member of the Rothschild family, I would definitely not be considered rich, but to the jobless, the displaced and the dispossessed, I am a wealthy man. So, according to what criteria does a person have the right credentials to pass through the pearly gates, all other things being equal?

Pennies to Heaven

The fact that double standards exist within the church may not come as a surprise. The following scripture should, by rights, have settled the matter of privilege, but alas they have studiously ignored it.

"Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money." (Acts 8:20)

This scripture highlights the deeply embedded tradition of rich people buying their way into heaven. This was done on the basis that sins could be forgiven by giving donations, or indulgences, and the larger the donation, the cleaner the slate. The donor was lighter in the pocket but could now sleep peacefully. That is until the next sin. The Catholic church quickly realised the wonderful potential of this. Wow! What a nice little earner! What power they had and still do have!

Guilt Trip

The donations, as you would expect, swelled the coffers of the church making it the richest institution of all time. In modern times we have the famous (or do I mean infamous?) collection plate and for the fundamentalists, the added principle of tithing, ensuring a regular flow of money. And if the congregation should, by circumstance, default in this endeavour, you could guarantee a hell-fire and brimstone sermon next Sunday. This is the ultimate in guilt trips.

Root of all Evil?

The old saying that 'Money is the root of all evil' is a misquote. Money is an inanimate object. It has no power of itself but relies upon a universal belief that it represents a certain value at a certain time and place. For this reason alone the exchange of money is really an exchange of energy. You give energy in the form of the currency of your country, and you receive energy in the form of goods or services. In July of 1914, the German mark was a relatively stable currency but by January 1919 you needed 2.6 of them to buy the same thing. By November 1923 you would have needed 726,000,000,000 of them to buy that same thing.

If you've aver tried to sell something you considered quite valuable and had no takers, it's not the fault of money but simply the market forces at work. The trouble is that we have mostly been taught that having money is bad. How often have you heard the following statements?

  • Money doesn't grow on trees.
  • Money is filthy and dirty.
  • Rich people are crooks.
  • Only people who cheat have money.
  • Poor people can never get out from under.
How we Think about Money

This list is not exhaustive but it highlights the kind of indoctrination we have mostly grown up with. Louise Hay tackles the problems of money from the inside by saying that we always have a choice. To make a different choice from the ones we have been making all our lives requires a decision to change our thoughts about wealth and I can do no better than recommend her books which explain this in detail. She offers a totally new and refreshing view on money. For example, do you resent paying bills? Do you treat bills as punishments, or debt as a life sentence? Do you treat money as a friend or an enemy to be avoided?

If we can remove ourselves from the negative teachings about money and adopt positive thinking, we can throw off the guilt attached to it and begin to prosper. The prosperity which comes from this will be a genuine prosperity, not one which goes the way of the German mark. It has worked for me. It can work for you.

If you want to know more about this 'new' thinking, get Louise Hay's book "You Can Heal Your Life". It makes mincemeat of camels and needles.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Does God have a Sense of Humour?

"I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh." (Proverbs 1:26)

Is this proof that God has a sense of humour? Is there such a thing as 'universal' humour, or does it depend upon the mores of culture and community? Impossible questions? Maybe.

The Audience

History has shown that 'professional' humour operates on a knife edge and that only the fabled few comedians, and comediennes, are able to hack it successfully year after year. They have the skills to match their humour with the audience knowing that failure to do so would mean disaster. Stand-up comedy is also about character and style of delivery. We only see the elite because of the dictates of the media. "Laugh and the world laughs with you. Weep and you weep alone" is a well-worn adage which still holds true today.

The above scripture is interesting because it is one of the very few which blatantly give God a human face. I have mentioned, in a previous post, that man is forever anthropomorphising God. By doing this, man feels more comfortable about God - like he's one of us - a chip off the old block.

Gallows Laughter

But don't get me wrong! God is no stand-up comedian. The laughter suggested in the above scripture is a classic example of 'gallows' laughter. This is a kind of anti-humour, the sort that says "I'll get back at you for what you've done, ha-ha." This is definitely a case of Nemesis rides again. The need to get even is, unfortunately, heavily ingrained in man's psyche.

You've probably noticed that the bible, generally speaking, doesn't have much 'natural' humour in it. In fact the overall tenor of the scriptures is a sobering cocktail of misery, morbidity and mayhem. It seems that being a 'man of God' is a serious business, not to be taken lightly or lightheartedly.

Women and Humour

"A time to weep and a time to laugh." (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Made into a famous song, this scripture runs the whole gamut of emotions. On balance, there is more weeping than laughing. There is, however, one event that demonstrates beyond question the existence of natural humour. When Abraham's wife, Sarah, was told she would conceive and give birth, she laughed. This was hardly surprising since she was 90 years old. As we all know, she gave birth to a son called Isaac, a name which means 'laughter'. Interestingly, there is no record of Abraham laughing. He, after all, was much older. Does this mean that women have a greater sense of humour than men?

As I write this, I am reminded, with sadness, of certain countries who are, even now, destroying their infant girls. Apart from the moral and social implications of this act, they are destroying the spirit of humour. What will they become when the spring of humour dries up completely?

Unintentional Humour

"Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep..." (Song of Solomon 4:2)

This one is a hoot. If this isn't a starter for ten, I don't know what is. Can you imagine saying these words to your loved one? Can you imagine the response? I don't have a punchline that will cut the mustard but if you have any suggestions feel free to make a comment.

Old Golfers Never Die

One day Jesus, Moses and an old man were playing golf. Jesus went up to the tee and hit the ball which sailed over the fairway into the water trap. Jesus simply walked on the water and chipped the ball on to the green. Then Moses went up to the tee and hit the ball which also went into the water trap. Moses simply parted the water and chipped the ball on to the green.

Next to play was the old man. He hit the ball which headed for the water trap. Just before it hit the water, a fish jumped out catching the ball in its mouth. But before the fish could dive back into the water an eagle flew down catching the fish in its claws. The eagle, with fish and ball, flew up, whereupon a lightning bolt shot by, barely missing it. In its fright, the eagle dropped the fish which promptly fell on the green. On hitting the ground the ball rolled out of the mouth of the fish into the hole for a hole in one. On seeing this, Jesus said to the old man "Dad, if you don't stop messing about we won't bring you again."

I hope you liked that one and I shall conclude by quoting from Dave Allen, an Irish comedian sadly no longer with us:

"In Ireland we take our religion seriously. We take our sex religiously."

Thursday, 14 February 2008

A House Divided

"Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." ( Matthew 12:25 )

These words were spoken by Jesus to the Pharisees following their comments about casting out devils. But they seem to fit the bill in many modern day situations. Most recently, they have become a metaphor for the Church of England.

I speak of the latest gaffe perpetrated by Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, who has shocked the world by calling for parts of Sharia law to be introduced in Britain.

"Sharia law in the UK is unavoidable." These were the actual words he used.

Dr Williams is not an unintelligent man. He must, undoubtedly, have satisfied the higher echelons of the Church of England as to his ability and acumen to be the best banner man to lead the church into the twenty-first century. Really?? Surely, he has failed to look deeply enough into the thoughts behind these words and the repercussions they would have on society.

My view is, he has fallen into the old but ever enduring pit of apologetics where it is always fashionable to give deference to the 'away' team at the expense of the 'home'. Sadly, we have turned it into an art form in Britain. We do it ad nauseam.

Why did he not realise that by advocating fundamental forays into state law, he is attempting to undermine the whole structure of society? This could only lead to unrest and division on a gargantuan scale.

As I write, I learn that Dr Williams has now faced the synod, the church's governing body, and has staunchly defended his words. Already, I detect the stench of yet another schism. Is there a hidden agenda? Time will tell. Interestingly, though the Archbishop has plenty of supporters, his predecessor, Lord Carey has just said "Acceptance of some Muslim laws would be disastrous for Britain."

Perhaps Dr Williams needs to look more closely at the above scripture. The words of Jesus should ring loud and clear. For any invasion by Sharia law would indeed make the church, and the country, a house divided.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Sacrifice: Blind Obedience or Obsessive Barbarity?

Question: What kind of god requires sacrifice? Compare and contrast the moral implications of sacrifice with regard to human rights, with the principles of ritual and appeasement.

This question may never appear on a college paper but I would like you, the interested reader, to imagine you are the student and you have been given this assignment. How would you tackle it. Of course, I'm taking for granted the fact that you have done extensive research on the subject and your essay writing skills are beyond question. Feeling generous, I'm disposing with the normal time constraints. Go can do it!

However, just in case you don't feel too confident I shall endeavour to offer some assistance by going over a few salient points. For starters, let's have a dictionary definition, or two, to get the juices flowing.

Sacrifice: n. (1) The slaughter of animal or person, surrender of possession, as offering to a deity.
v. (2) The giving up of a thing for the sake of another that is higher or more urgent.

You have probably learned from past teaching that sacrifice is synonymous with archaic religious rituals. That much blood was spilled and many innocents died. When you think of the word 'sacrifice' you think of ancient civilisations like the Aztecs and the Incas who practised the art frequently. That such offerings would appease angry gods or guarantee a good harvest next year was the natural expectation of the people. But you might say that these civilisations were godless in Judaeo-Christian terms, and that men of God such as Moses, Joshua and Abraham would never get involved with the idea. Wrong! In fact the principle of sacrifice is prevalent throughout the bible right into the New Testament.

The Bible sets the Scene

The original plan was to sacrifice animals. Most of the book of Leviticus is taken up with the ritual slaughter of birds and animals 'to cleanse lepers'. Can you believe this?

"And the priest shall command that one of the birds shall be killed in an earthen vessel over running water."

(Leviticus 14:5)

"And he shall slay the lamb in the place where he shall kill the sin offering and the burnt offering in the holy place."
(Leviticus 14:13)


In most cases the blood of the animals was sprinkled over the people. For what purpose? In Genesis, Abraham's obedience was 'tested' by God who demanded that he should offer up his beloved son Isaac as a burnt offering. The killing didn't take place as it seems that Abraham had passed the test by placing his son on the altar. But instead of everyone packing up and going home, Abraham felt it necessary to offer up an animal. Why waste an altar? It so happened that a ram was "caught in a thicket by his horns" and this poor animal was offered up to God in place of Isaac. I'm pleased for the sake of Isaac but why needlessly destroy the animal? This slaughter was not for food.

The New Testament

"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood. Without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins"
(Hebrews 9:22)

Here, St Paul is referring to the crucifixion of Christ who was regarded as the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of man. Whose idea is this? First of all, you have to believe in the principle of sin. If like me, you don't, there is no need for senseless, ritual slaughter. Do you imagine for one moment that a sane, intelligent, all-seeing and all-knowing God would stoop to this barbaric level? No way! But then if you think about it, all down the ages, man has anthropomorphized deities. He has endowed God with human characteristics. He does it to animals and inanimate objects. And he has certainly done it to God. This is why God is seen as judgemental one minute and merciful the next. This is why God is called "a jealous God" who is easily angered.
This is why the God of the scriptures must be appeased and prayed to by penitents who need to suffer some form of deprivation so that there will be a change of mind, so that disaster will be averted.

Man has projected his feelings and emotions on to something on the outside. He has created a means whereby an outside entity can take all the blame for his own shortcomings and problems.

What am I saying here? That man has invented God? I think that will have to be another question paper.

I look forward to receiving your answer sheet with interest.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

On the Breadline

"It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

(Matthew 4:4)
Fruit of the Earth

Here in the West it is hard to imagine life without bread. It is the fruit of the earth, the staple by which we measure physical sustenance, and the cornerstone of our very existence. It will always be here in its diverse forms. Well, maybe.

We often hear the phrase 'bread basket of the world', an indication of its importance in the world's economic machinery. Over millennia, we have called upon the pagan deities, offered sacrifices and invented a whole gamut of seasonal rituals to ensure a good harvest in the coming year. The annual Thanksgiving ceremonies are a testimony to the continuation of such rituals. Corn dollies and corn-sheaf bread are symbolic of the pagan infrastructure which still exists.

Body of Christ

Bread plays no minor part in the scriptures either, but has achieved dynamic status as a parable medium. Ravens brought bread to the prophet Elijah when he went into hiding. The miracle of the five loaves and two fishes feeding the five thousand is well documented and often quoted. And who has not learned of the importance of bread as a representation of the body of Christ at the Last Supper? This is one of the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic Church which maintains that the communion host is actually the body of Christ.

"...Take, eat; this is my body" ( Matthew 26:26 )

Leavened or Unleavened?

Leavening is the biblical word for yeast. Unleavened bread, therefore, contained no yeast and was somewhat flat, since it is the yeast which makes the bread rise. Leavening was also equated with sin and was to be avoided at all cost. Of course, this presupposes that you agree with the principle of sin. Hmm! Could be another article there.

St Anthony's Fire

If you've ever wondered how a belief begins life, this account might proffer a reasonable explanation. In the middle ages in Europe much of the bread was made from rye flour. But rye bread had a problem. It was prone to attack by a fungus called ergot. The result of prolonged consumption of the diseased bread was a painful burning sensation in the legs. It was known as St Anthony's Fire and those with the disease in its advanced stages would gradually watch their limbs turn black and gangrenous. Many sufferers in the early stages of the problem were advised, or felt the call, to travel far away from home to a shrine in order to be at peace with God and pray for forgiveness and a healing. Well, guess what? After a month or two they got better, which encouraged an even stronger faith in God. However, there was no one around at the time to tell them that by moving away from home, they moved away from the cause of the disease and simply lived on bread totally unaffected by the ergot.

My point is that here was a belief born of ignorance of the facts. You may be thinking - what does it matter how belief is arrived at or how faith is formed as long as it is there. If you are thinking along those lines, I would like to hear from you.

Write now!