Monday, 30 June 2008

Cute, eh?

Puppies and babies know that by being cute they get an easy ride in spite of their general lack of helpfulness and their misdemeanours. I reckon that's where the prisoners are going wrong. They're not sufficiently cute looking to melt the judge's heart.

Happy anniversary.

Him Indoors is the only churchgoer in the family really. His cousin calls him the white sheep of the family. His family are lovely and I'm glad I'm part of it. He was youngest of four boys. When he told his mum (in the year 2000) that we were expecting our fourth child she said that that was ridiculous and that there was no need for that - he was delighted to remind her that she had had four herself... She also famously said at a big family gathering, when our overtired kids were bickering, "Of course, I never allowed mine to fight" (not that I was exactly allowing it!) and to a man each of the four guys showed her their various scarred knees, faces, elbows etc - the result of their brand of brotherly love.

The eldest "boy" lives in New Zealand with his wife. The next eldest and his wife have just celebrated their silver wedding. Our sister in law was only eighteen when she married and is only a year older than I am. The second youngest of the brothers will have been married twenty years this summer and Him Indoors and I will have been married fifteen. It's only a few months ago that we were gathered (the New Zealand pair too) to celebrate the guys' parents' golden wedding. My mother-in-law was able to come out from the hospice to the party on Saturday for which we were all really grateful. The silver wedding couple are on the left in this photo. And here's my mother-in-law with her seven grandchildren. It must have been slightly strange after four boys to have six out of seven of her grandchildren be girls. She was a strict mum, apparently, but I find that hard to believe as she has spoiled all her grandchildren to bits! Her brothers and sister were at the party too.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Faith without deeds isn't.

I was preaching in a friend's church this morning as he was away. He wasn't daft picking that Sunday to go. As well as there being a communion and other stuff to "fit in" to the service he left me with a passage to preach on which has caused controversy for years (2000 years, roughly). Paul Versus James. The Big Fight. Or NOT. Luther, a real fan of Paul, called the letter of James an epistle of straw, but Luther couldn't be right about everything and, IMHO, he was wrong to see them as opposing each other.

Paul went to great lengths in all his writing to explain to us something crucial that sets apart the Christian faith from all others. Indeed it's something which some members of other faiths find offensive, and some just find bewildering. In our faith, as Paul explains it so clearly, over and over again in case we miss it, we are taught the astonishing claim that God gives us our ticket to heaven at the BEGINNING, not the end, of our faith journey. That's so unlike other religions. We believe that as we can't even fully keep the most important two commandments (Love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, and Love your neighbour as yourself) for half a day, never mind for our whole lives, Jesus paid the price so that our reconciliation with God could be bought and then given to us (just because God loves us) rather than earned. What some people have thought James was saying was that this was not enough, and good works had to be present in order to win salvation. But James wasn't talking about how you BECOME a Christian. He was talking about how you show, prove, evidence, that you are a Christian, and he says that if there are no good deeds, that's an indication that your so-called faith is dead, demonic and/or useless (James doesn't like to miss and hit the wall).
If you were arrested today would there be enough evidence to convict you? That's basically all James is asking, and Paul would agree, and they'd both be agreeing with the teaching of Jesus. Jesus, and Paul, and James, all want us to be the real deal as Christians, not fakes with masks. In the old days, prisoners sometimes used to fake conversion to try and increase their prospects of parole. Nowadays I reckon that's more likely to earn you the diagosis of some psychosis and damage rather than improve your chances. But even when it was happening, fellow prisoners could always tell the real thing from the fake.

James wasn't arguing with Paul about our inability to earn our salvation, just stressing the obvious - that our faith needs to be the real deal, the real thing, not just mental assent to propositions, but life-changing and ACTION-changing.
I reckon that if you're like me and you've been going to church for a hundred years, it's possible to act the part of being a Christian quite easily. It would be harder for someone without that background, but I could certainly act the part. I know what to say, what not to say, and so on. I could fake it reasonably convincingly (not that God would be convinced). If you, dear reader, have a church upbringing you'd probably admit that that's possible for us to do, and it's therefore, inevitably, a temptation sometimes.

I don't want to slide into a fake-faith that's just an outward act. I want to be the real deal, walking the walk as well as talking the talk - every day. I'm no longer fussed about having spectacularly cleverly worked out doctrine with all the i's dotted and the t's crossed. I'm no longer bothered about trying to prove myself in some imaginary and non-existent minister-competition, or indeed, since I'd have "dual citizenship", minister's-wife-competition (boy, I'd be last in that one!)

I had my appraisal interview with the governor recently so I was having a bit of a think about my official job description. I realised that you could really put a line through it all and just write "love the prisoners (and staff)" in red pen across it all, since that's the essence of prison chaplaincy. What I'm trying to say is this: I WANT TO BE GOD'S LOVE WITH SKIN ON, FOR THE PRISONERS (AND STAFF).

Friday, 27 June 2008

Borg-Church Part Two

On 17th June, I posted about the Church's similarities and differences to the infamous Borg enemies of Star Trek's crew. Tonight, while googling instead of sermon-writing which was what I should be doing (I was in need of a break, though) I came across this picture of someone's idea of what the "new Jerusalem" mentioned in Revelation chapter 21 would look like.Is it just me or does it look just a LITTLE bit like the Borg ship only shinier? There you go, I knew I was onto something...

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Church at your Convenience.

Church is the people, not the building. I know that. Church can meet in a school hall, a community centre, even a prison. But we were rather surprised to see this on holiday last year:

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Once an Addict.

Tomorrow evening Barry Woodward is coming in to one of the jails I work in, to tell his story to some prisoners. If you click on that link the changing image at the top of the page will eventually offer you the chance to watch a video of him being interviewed for Premier Christian tv, and you can hear his story yourself.

His autobiography (also available to buy here, and, no, I'm not on commission) is called "Once an Addict" and it tells how he went from living in the so-called Bull Rings, flats in the Moss Side area of Manchester to a serious heroin addiction to crime and imprisonment to being now both drug free and a Christian speaker. Quite a few of the guys have said they'll come along, but I'm sufficiently long in the tooth in the prison service not to believe every promise a prisoner makes me!

I'm sure some will be there to hear, though, and I'm really looking forward to it because (just as happens in the type of support offered within, for example, Alcoholics Anonymous) someone in Barry's position can speak with an authority that I can't ever muster because he's been where many of them have been, or indeed still are. I'm on the ground to love and nurture the prisoners to the best of my very very limited ability but it's great to have this opportunity for the guys to listen to this powerful story from someone who's been there, and who knows to be true what they struggle to believe - that God loves "people like that". I hope tomorrow will see lives changed for good (in both senses of the phrase "for good").

Holiday Club Week At Church

"Go For Gold" is our Olympic theme for this year's holiday club. 70 kids showed up last night and lots of fun was had. I missed it as I was in jail (twice before I missed the holiday club by having a baby so this is a new excuse!), but I am the mother of the official press photographer so I've seen the photos.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Prayer Request.

I'll be in bed myself in a minute, but I'd like to ask that some of you would consider uploading an instant message, or indeed praying, for Mike. I can't say any more, but God knows the details. Thank you.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

I should, I wish, I love...

I've been tagged by Mr Nighttime, ex-virgin, with this meme.

My ex... employer, when I was sixteen and doing a summer job as a hospital cleaner, carpeted me twice, and threatened to sack me. The first time was for "making the patients help me with the cleaning". Shocking? Well, of course it would be if it were true. I'm not fond of cleaning but I'm not as lazy and wicked as all that. I had been sent in to clean the geriatric ward. There was an old lady there who was quite mobile but a bit confused. She used to get out of bed when she saw me and faff about "tidying" her room. I started giving her a duster to play with and she would flick it about the windows in a haphazard way, happy as larry. One of the nurses must have reported me. The second row I got was for talking to the patients too much. It was great, years later, when I was a student minister, to get the chance to go into the hospital chapel one Sunday to conduct the service for the walking wounded/wheelchair mobile, which was also broadcast to the bed-bound. I thought it was cool to be able to tell them that I had previously been given a row for talking to patients and now I was here specifically for that purpose.

Maybe I should... lose some weight, take some exercise, eat healthier, drink only water, tidy out the loft, be a better mother, daughter, wife, sister, oh boy, this is depressing.

I love... my relations, my friends, and prisoners! The latter I take to be a work of God. Just over a year ago, when I was interviewed for my job I was kind of hoping I wouldn't get it. I didn't want it really. I don't tell lies, so when the governor asked me at the interview, "Why do you want this job?" I cheated a bit, and got round lying by asking him, "Well, why does anyone want to do anything?" (I hope he doesn't read this). I now know I'm where I'm meant to be though, and all my life experience hitherto, now seems in retrospect to have been clearly leading to this role!

People would say... er, well... I've no idea and find it better not to speculate. I'm often told I'm very laid back. When I told my mum that and said that I don't really feel laid back, she said, "No, Anne, you're not laid back. You've just given up". Charming, I must say. But possibly true. With four kids you can't really sweat the small stuff. And my wise mother also says, "No-one looks back on their life and wishes they'd done more housework". I think that's true unless they lie dying in hospital having fallen over the stuff that was left lying on the stairs!

I don't understand... about tax, cricket or the off-side rule in football. This doesn't limit my enjoyment of life much.

When I wake up in the morning... I am thrilled if it is a Saturday!

I lost... the need to worry about what people thought of me the moment I turned forty. It was as sudden as this which is about to happen to a member of this household, I suspect.

Life is full of... laundry and Jesus, but not in that order.

My past is... in the past. Doh!

I get annoyed when... people moan incessantly and are ungrateful.

Parties are... good once I get there. I don't mean my arrival makes them good but I mean that I often don't look forward to them, and feel shy on the way there, but once I've got through the door and realise there are people there I know, I relax.

I wish... I could share my faith and explain to people what they're missing.

Dogs... are for people who're not cat people.

Cats... are for people who're not dog people.

There are only two kinds of people in the world - cat people and dog people. So they say.
I say that there are only two kinds of people in the world - those who think that there are only two kinds of people in the world and those who don't.

Tomorrow... I'm going to jail. Again! In fact I'm going to both "my" jails.

I have a low tolerance for... the gym. Zero tolerance in fact.

If I had a million dollars... I would be less worried about how we will one day fund four kids through college, and about living in a "tied house". I'd invest it and tithe the interest. I don't think I'd be giving up my job though (but don't tell the SPS I don't do it for the money. Money isn't everything but it's useful when you want to buy something).

I'm totally terrified of... the ground. People call it being scared of heights, but it's not the height that kills you. It's the ground when you hit it! Totally terrified's an exaggeration but I did once get vertigo sitting on the couch in someone's living room on the twelfth floor in a multi-storey flat. I don't always enjoy being on bridges and balconies much either and I'm scared of our whole family drowning because the car has gone into a river.

I think I'll tag Fred, Dickiebo, Lynn, Roland and Hideous. Don't worry, all of you, if you're too busy or you don't fancy it. And if anyone else fancies a shot, be my guest. It's fun to put together.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Church-Family Day Out.

Some of us from our wee corner of the Borg, sorry Church, had a day out today to St Andrews, Craigtoun Park. It didn't rain till we got home, and no-one fell in the pond. For these and many other reasons the day was pronounced a success. Although quite a few people couldn't come, those who were there got to know each other a bit better, and the kids (actual and only-outwardly-grown up) played and played and played. My face is tingling a little. The sun shone but the breeze cooled our skin at the time. I got a chance for a row on the pond (row to rhyme with hoe, not how, of course) so I was a happy bunny (I quite like a row now and again). Tired but happy, is the cliche which applies to the Droid household tonight. Even the puppy's tired. She was being looked after for the day at a house containing seven year old twin boys (and adults, don't fret) and she seems worn out!

Friday, 20 June 2008

Hit and Run Evangelism

My colleague Tom, across the pond, has an interesting post today. He's talking about the urge some in the church have to chase the "decision" for Christ - hit and run evangelists - and in particular his opinion that this is definitely not the way to go in prison. I started a comment on his post but it got so long I erased it and thought I'd put something on my own blog about the subject.

I appreciate, and respect (of course) that not all who read this blog are adherents of the Christian faith. So you can let your eyes glaze over here if you want and watch this instead, which I saw on TOTP2 today, and which has nothing to do with this subject, but is beautiful, even to an ageing rocker like me.

To go back to the matter in hand, this is something I've thought more about since I began as a prison chaplain than in my former life in "regular" church (haha - they're all irregular in my experience).

Prisoners can be dramatically converted and this is, in my opinion, an amazing and wonderful thing. Of course it is. And I believe in it. With all my heart. Yes, I know that prisoners have been known in the past to fake their conversion to aid their parole chances, but society's view of religion has changed so much that (certainly in this country) this is unlikely to work and isn't tried much if at all now. Besides which, it's a pretty difficult thing to pull off, and chaplains and other prisoners can usually see through it. But when a guy genuinely is dramatically converted, it is indeed a miracle worth the celebrating. Him Indoors had a dramatic conversion himself, in 1986, although not in jail thankfully. He lived in a village and was the hot topic of conversation for some time as he was a "weel kent face". People kept expecting this mad phase to wear off but, now that he has been a minister for eleven years they have forgotten he ever was anything else.

And yet, dramatic though it was in some ways, it wasn't as sudden as all that. There were things that led to it, and there was intense teaching for him after it. Really it was the crucial step in a very long process which is still ongoing.

Tom, my US chaplain cyber-friend, is talking about people who want to come into the jail with an evangelistic campaign to preach prisoners to the point of decision, whereby they will pray the "sinner's prayer". The sinner's prayer is something along these lines:
"God, I know that I am a sinner. I know that I deserve the consequences of my sin. However, I am trusting in Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I believe that His death and resurrection provided for my forgiveness. I trust in Jesus and Jesus alone as my personal Lord and Saviour. Thank you Lord, for saving me and forgiving me! Amen!"

I am a fan of the sinner's prayer. It covers the basics and if it's prayed in faith can be the moment from which time forward a goat becomes a sheep, a person becomes the adopted child of God, a person's citizenship legally and literally (though not in the state's eyes!) changes to "citizen of heaven" and so on (there are many Bible images). I believe that and I've seen the reality of it.

However it's not magic words like "Abracadabra", "Alekazam", "Izzy Wizzy Let's Get Busy" (the Sooty show), "Spout, handle, lid of metal, what's inside the Singing Kettle" (if you don't know, I couldn't explain it). Saying the sinner's prayer, on it's own, isn't enough, especially, I would venture to say, in prison.

Guys who've never been to church in their lives, who missed lots of school, who know literally nothing about what being a Christian means, and whose life is messy and complicated, with dysfunctional relationship issues, anger issues, addictions issues, victim issues, old associates issues, you-name-it issues, need lots of support and guidance and nurture.

The hit-and-run evangelist may just make things worse. Certain types of offender, and I won't say which, are particularly prone to latch onto the "God forgave my sin" thing to let go of the past TOO easily and leave them conscience free when they haven't yet begun to feel the guilt that they should if they were to take full responsibility.

That's not to say that evangelists are Bad Things (well some are - I see them on some of the God channels and I reckon they should be in the jail, as prisoners). But Good Evangelists do have the gift of closing the deal as God's salesmen and I acknowledge that I've just not got that gift at all. Sometimes I'll invite in a speaker with that gift to help with that stage, but I'll need them to grasp that a stage is what it is.

Him Indoors has been in the home of Billy Graham and is a real fan. I am too. But Billy Graham would be the first to tell you that when he spoke at all those big rallies, of those who went forward at the end, and who made a "decision" which proved to be a lasting one, a HUGE majority were people who had been the subject of the prayers of at least one friend for a long time, and who were well nurtured thereafter.

Half the New Testament contains letters form Paul the Christian leader to new Christians, teaching them, nurturing them, loving them, praying for them, and PARENTING them.

Today I saw two of my fellow chaplains in another jail doing that with the prisoners there, in it for the long haul. The evidence was there for me to see that they've already been doing that, and it was moving. Very moving. And hopefully the effects will last and last.

Thursday, 19 June 2008


Last night I thought I'd go to bed early. Him Indoors wasn't home yet, so I thought I'd let the puppy come and lie on the bed and he could take her out and put her to her bed when he got home. Stupid idea. She pee-ed on the bed and was nearly advertised on Ebay immediately. £11 to get the duvet cleaned. Grrrrrr! Anyway, she IS cute and won a reprieve. I've just taken her out for tonight's goodnight visit to the garden. Today is the June Solstice. I've always called it the Summer Solstice but t'internet has just pointed out to me that, of course, in the Southern Hemisphere this is the Winter Solstice. Tonight, here, in the garden with Flora, at 11pm, it still wasn't dark. On its way, but definitely by no means dark.

It's a sad reflection on my miseryguts glass-is-half-empty personality that I feel sad now that as of tomorrow, the days get shorter for the next six months. O me miserum! Woe is me! I don't really care if the weather's hot or cold, within reason, though of course I do prefer when it's not raining. But above all, it's the light I like. I don't like grey days so much and I'm not a fan of the winter. I like a bright day, winter or summer, and I like light evenings. In winter here it's getting dark by 4pm.

I guess that's why I like this description of heaven, from the last chapter of the last book of the Bible: "There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light". Woohoo! That'll be fab.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Some Ogden Nash


Celery, raw
Develops the jaw,
But celery, stewed,
Is more quietly chewed.

What's the Use?

Sure, deck your lower limbs in pants;
Yours are the limbs, my sweeting.
You look divine as you advance -
Have you seen yourself retreating?

A Word To Husbands

To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you're wrong, admit it;
Whenever you're right, shut up.

Reflections on Ice-Breaking

Is Dandy
But liquor
Is quicker.

Reflection on Babies

A bit of talcum
Is always walcum.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Celebrating Our Borg-ness.

As I have mentioned before I used to watch Star Trek, in a mildly enthusiastic way. I was never a Trekkie or anything but, being an annedroid, was very partial to Lieutenant Commander Data. It is not he who I am here to talk about, however. Just as the Daleks are the most notorious of Dr Who's enemies, so also Star Trek's crew had some notorious enemies, among the most famous being The Borg.

Wikipedia says this about The Borg: "The Borg are depicted as an amalgam of cybernetically enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organized as an inter-connected collective with a hive mind". (Note to reader - it's just a story, so don't be lying awake worrying about them, now!) I don't know much about it but I think the "hive mind" is not a new idea in science fiction and it's been copied since. It's an interesting one though.

Wikipedia goes on to describe the Borg as "inhabiting a vast region of space with many planets and ships. They operate towards one single-minded purpose: to add the biological and technological distinctiveness of other species to their own, in pursuit of perfection. This is achieved through forced assimilation, a process which transforms individuals and technology into Borg, enhancing individuals by adding synthetic components". In one episode, Captain Jean Luc Picard himself is assimilated and as usual (!) everything seems doomed for a while, but (SPOILER ALERT) it all gets sorted out. Hurray!
From time to time I've thought of the Church (in the big worldwide and ongoing sense) as being a bit like the Borg but in a good way. In the Borg there is an intense connection between the Borg as they not only think alike, as you and I might sometimes do (or not!), but their thoughts are the same emanating from a shared Consciousness.

They are in pursuit of perfection (according to their twisted view of perfection) and are constantly on the lookout for new recruits, with their cheery wee catchphrase, "You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile". The assimilated are "enhanced" and made to look like the rest of the Borg.

In the Church, we believe that God is at work in us making us more like Jesus. This is a slow, slow process, and for some of us (me) extremely slow... We are, in a good way, being assimilated! But resistance is not futile. Well it is, but not in the way the Borg meant it. We can certainly resist. God will leave us be, if that's what we want. No one is forced to be a Christian, and once they are, they're not forced to grow in their faith against their will. Resistance is, on the other hand, futile in the sense that it's futile for us to think we will make a better job of running our lives than God would.

But if it's true that significant numbers of believers around the world are allowing God to work in them, inevitably it is also true that, in some ways at least, their thinking will be growing more alike, as they gradually learn to allow more of their thinking to emanate from that Consciousness who is God.

And yet there are such big differences. The Borg are baddies who are ruthless in using other people as commodities. Although the Church gets some abuse from the world, plenty of it richly deserved at times, it is also undeniable, even to our fiercest critics, that a lot of Church people do very altruistic stuff. Many a town councillor would admit that were the churches suddenly to cease all their work in the social sphere with wee ones, youth, elderly, etc, a huge and expensive hole would open up, which couldn't easily be met. That's just a fact. The Church aren't baddies, though there are certainly baddies sprinkled about masquerading as the real thing when they're not (a lot of them seem to wind up on religious tv, to my intense frustration). The Borg forcibly assimilate. The Church longs to have new people join, too, but (a) they aren't forced and (b) the reason is not to fill the seats in the buildings but because those who are in already are just beggars telling other beggars where they found food (sorry, I'm onto a new metaphor there).

I love the idea of the Church as a good version of the Borg. I think of it often and celebrate my Borg-ness. Working towards a sort of Hive mind, in a good way, and yet with a God who deliberately made us all incredibly different from one another, unique even, and who would never for a minute want to make us clones of one another. One body, many parts, is the much neater, more concise way the Bible explains it.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Listen up!

United Christian Broadcasters produce daily notes to help with reading your Bible, and kindly send some to the prisons I work in to be dished out to prisoners who would like a copy.

Today's reading is from John 10:4, where Jesus says about himself, "...his sheep follow him because they know his voice".

In Scotland, sheep wouldn't necessarily know the voice of the shepherd. We are blessed (we don't always see it as a blessing!) with abundant rain so we can fence sheep in a field and pretty well leave them to it. In the middle east, where the Bible came about, the land is dry. Shepherds literally lead their sheep to pasture and water. So the sheep there, though not here, DO know the shepherd's voice.

Some of us might argue that we don't know the voice of Jesus. But could the voice we call our conscience which urges us toward good deeds be the voice of Jesus? Could the voice we hear as we lay down to try to sleep, which convicts us of our sin be the voice of Jesus? The voice we listen for and unconsciously strain to try to hear as we admire a beautiful view is the voice of Jesus. It takes practice, but gradually the sheep (i.e. followers of Jesus) can learn to recognise the voice of Jesus (i.e. their shepherd).

The UCB notes tell this interesting wee story:

"One evening a friend visiting Peter Lord's home told him he could hear no fewer than 18 different kinds of crickets in his garden. Peter was amazed; he'd lived there for years and had never heard one. The difference was, this man was a professor of entomology and he had learned to distinguish over 200 different cricket calls with his natural ear. Imagine learning to listen to crickets! Looking back, Peter wrote, "I suddenly understood that a person must want to hear, and learn to hear, and there were many sounds I was not hearing"." and goes on to say, "Think what you've been missing all these ears because you haven't wanted or learned to hear the voice of God speaking to you... Nothing, absolutely nothing in your life is more important than learning to know God's voice when He speaks to you!"

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Happy Father's Day.

Happy Father's Day to my wonderful dad. I don't remember our first meeting, but I know he does. That's the unfair thing. He remembers all my childhood foolishness but I don't remember his. Fortunately he has an older brother who is a useful source of information! Anyway, I know I was a moody blighter as a teenager (hard to believe, I know, given my current delightfulness) and he put up with it all. For this and many many other reasons, three loud cheers for my dad! (And for my mum, as I didn't think of doing this on Mother's Day!) I see daily the fruit of dreadful childhoods in the lives of some (though not all) prisoners and it makes me appreciate so much more my own, whom I love.
Having one nice dad is pretty good, but I've also been blessed with a nice father-in-law too, who, from the very beginning has treated myself, and his other three daughters-in-law, like his own daughters. Wull the Bull (bull pronounced to rhyme with Wull), as Him Indoors disrespectfully calls him, fails constantly to hide a big soft interior with a tough exterior. And when he thinks, he puts his head to one side, which is very endearing. He is bravely coping with his wife's terminal illness just now, and if you're the praying kind, spare one for them please. "Happy" Father's Day might not be do-able for him, so I won't be so trite.
Our kids are being blessed too with a good dad, so I'm a grateful woman today. I'll count my blessings and name them one by one because I know it would be wrong to take all this for granted. Him Indoors caught this fish last year off Oban pier. I know it's not Catch of the Century but he was pleased, the soul. In our "courting" days, I never once saw him catch anything, except for a tree above his head. I laughed so loud and so long it was nearly curtains for the relationship, I think.
This father's day, I'm also thinking about a special guy, and his equally special wife, who're good friends of ours, and who're now only a few days away from meeting the wee one they are about to adopt. Happy Father's day to you. Ruth was talking on her blog about what makes her cry. Adoption moves me to tears. We have other good friends who've adopted twice and I found it so emotional to watch. I know it's partly because of what I believe about the Christian faith. John 1:12 says, "Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he (Jesus) gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God". (John 1:12).
The logical follow on from that is to think of my OTHER father, my heavenly Father, God, to whom I have the strongest urge, twee and corny though it may seem to some of you, to include Him in my Father's Day wishes, and to thank Him again for His eternal patience with my many shortcomings.

Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry.

Here is a fun link to a website claiming to be the world's largest collection of tongue twisters, containing 2755 entries in 108 languages.

There are 406 English ones, many of which I've never heard before, and (only) four Scottish ones.

The Scottish ones are, of course:

It's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht.
It's a lovely moonlight night to-night. (I remember, with my friend, teaching that one to a waiter in Turkey. I wonder if he can still say it.)

Lang may your lum reek!
Long may your chimney smoke!

Mony a mickle maks a muckle.
Many a penny makes a pound., a kind of injunction to patience.

My mum taught us a politer version of the following! It had "gey" (which rhymes with the "i" in "right") instead of "damn":

Here's tae us!
Wha's like us?
Damn few,
an they're a' deid.
Here's to us! Who's like us? Damn few and they are all dead.

My dad taught us another:

Says he tae me, "Is that you?"
Says I, "Who?"
Says he, "You."
Says I, "Me?."
Says he, "Aye."
Says I, "Naw."
Says he, "Aw! Well, it's awfy like you".

The speed he said it at amazed my brother and myself. Dads are heroes to their kids for this sort of thing, of course.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

A Body of Evidence

The late professor C.E.M. Joad, renowned as an atheist, wrote this:

"Man is nothing but:
Fat enough for seven bars of soap,
Iron enough for one medium-sized nail,
Sugar enough for seven cups of tea,
Lime enough to whitewash one chicken coop,
Phosphorus enough for one dose of salts,
Potash enough to explode one toy crane,
Sulphur enough to rid one dog of fleas".

Many thousands of years ago, when I first left school, I studied medicine at university. I only lasted two years, but ever since then I have kept a couple of quotes from my medical textbooks which say that before we even get to bring in religion, there is a lot more to it than what Joad said.

1) from "Textbook of Biochemistry and Physiology", a statement by Michael Forster, modified by R.C.Garry:
"We may speak of an organism as a complex structure, but we must strive to realise that what we mean by that is a complex whirl, an intricate dance, of which what we call biophysical activity, biochemical reactions, histological structure and gross confrigurations are, so to speak, the figures".

2) from Albert L. Lehninger, in "Principles of Biochemistry":
"There are some 10 to the power 13 cells in the adult human body, each consisting of a set of biomolecules in a specific proportion, each with a characteristic ultrastructure. Cells are grouped into tissues, tissues into organs, and organs into organ systems, their biochemical activities marvellously coordinated into an organism that not only is and does but also thinks and creates".

Some people find science to be evidence against God. I love science, and the more I learn the more I see it as evidence FOR God. What I suspect is that we have our faith, or our atheism, and then we look to science to back it up. To me, it seems obvious that DNA is so like a kind of amazing computer program that it points to a designer. I fully understand that atheists get irritated with my logic, but that's how it seems to me. We are amazing and our amazingness seems to me (though I appreciate that it doesn't to you, if you are an atheist) evidence of intelligent design. And of course, the Bible has this in Psalm 139 (my favourite psalm as I may have mentioned before):
"For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be."

Interestingly, that renowned atheist Professor Joad, who I mentioned at the outset, who possibly wasn't quite fully a professor, just as the winner of The Apprentice wasn't fully a graduate - I don't watch it but there's been interesting debates on the radio today about whether it's okay to lie on your C.V.. Even more interesting to me, Joad became a Christian at the end of his life, presumably concluding there was more to himself than he had first thought.