Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I want my identity back!!!!

I Got a phone call from my bank this morning. Apparently somebody in Connecticut got hold of my debit card number and ran $2200 worth of charges last night - mainly at Best Buy and Walmart.


I'm covered and I'll get all the money back, but it's a hassle to fill in all the forms about fraud etc at the bank and then go without a card for a couple of weeks while everything gets sorted out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Embracing Obfuscation

As a songwriter who mainly composes for music theater, children's theater and worship services I try to be as clear as possible in my lyrics. If the listener has to wrestle with complex language and ideas then it pulls them away from the story or the worship experience and detaches them emotionally from what is taking place. There is also value in being clear and concise in writing as it helps avoid verbosity.

Occasionally though I like a change.

I am in a Lent Journalling Class where we are writing our own 'bibles'. Before you start screaming heresy I should explain that what we are doing is writing our own stories and experiences in the style of biblical literature. Last week we wrote our own 'Genesis Stories' - our own tales of Beginnings. And this week I have been wrestling with writing my own tales of 'Exodus'.

I was unsure what form to take until after Valentine's Day.

That night I went to see one of my favorite songwriters in concert. Martyn Joseph.

Some of his lyrics are quite obscure (he even confesses to forgetting what one song is about!) but they paint a wonderful picture.

I started to write a song that night, and realized I was writing a song of Exodus.

So here is my lyric (and no I will not explain the obfuscation)

The Beautiful Debris

My Spirit has grown larger than this room
And I no longer can embrace the gloom
I'll let my phony righteousness tumble to the floor
This sanctuary
Can't contain me
Or all God has in store
For the beautiful debris
That is me.

You lower down a picnic at my feet
And three times then command me 'Kill and Eat'
I'll feast upon the things I thought I had to leave behind
And dance within
My former sin
My soul no more confined
In the the beautiful debris
That is me

The rough hewn is more beautiful
Than the perfect and the polished
Ugly authenticity more lovely than the fake
So there are walls of certainty
That need to be demolished
And leave some holy doubt within their wake

6 or 7 trap me in, a thousand set me free
Millions stand on either side beckoning to me
Everybody claims the truth to justify their side
But I will trust
The rocks and dust
That sing from deep inside
The beautiful debris
That is me

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

quick and yummy soup!

Black Bean and Salsa Soup

3 x 15oz cans black beans.
1 can low sodium chicken broth or vegetable broth
1 cup chunky salsa – preferably hot
1 ½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 Lime
Optional – sour cream, green onions, avocado to garnish

1.Drain and rinse two of the cans of black beans.
2.In a blender/food processor combine the rinsed beans, broth, salsa and cumin. Blend until fairly smooth
3.Put blended mixture in saucepan. Drain and rinse the third can of black beans and add to the pot.
4.Heat over a medium heat until thoroughly heated.
Just before serving squeeze in the juice of the Lime.

Garnish as desired.

Serves 2 and takes about 15 minutes.

I made this last night, very quick and easy. I would reccomend using good spicy salsa as much of the flavor comes from that. Also, I would definitely garnish with something (I used an avocado) as it makes the soup more appealing to the eye and adds some other texture!

The Weirdness of Fixing Easter

(Some curious observations emailed to me)

Easter is always the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon after the Spring Equinox (which is March 20). This dating of Easter is based on the lunar calendar that Hebrew people used to identify Passover, which is why it moves around on our Roman calendar.

Based on the above, Easter can actually be one day earlier (March 22) but that is pretty rare. This year is the earliest Easter any of us will ever see the rest of our lives! And only the most elderly of our population (95 years old or above!) have ever seen it this early before. And none of us have ever, or will ever, see it a day earlier!

Here are the facts:
1) The next time Easter will be this early (March 23) will be the year 2228 (220 years from now). The last time it was this early was 1913 (so if you're 95 or older, you are the only ones that were around for that!).

2) The next time it will be a day earlier, March 22, will be in the year 2285 (277 years from now). The last time it was on March 22 was 1818. So, no one alive today has or will ever see it any earlier than this year!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Walk this 'Way'

(Rough thoughts for my meditation in the Contemplative Service this Sunday)

In Acts 22:4 - 11 (Saul's Conversion) we have a two references to 'The Way'. Saul was on a literal journey - on the way to Damascus, and the followers of Jesus are on a metaphorical Journey - Saul refers to the people he persecutes as believers who follow 'This Way'.

When I'm planning a trip to somewhere new, the best person to seek for advice is someone who has been that way before me. They have the authority of experience, they can speak out of their own enounter with the Way. If I haven't walked a particular path before, then I can theorize but I cannot speak with certainty.

Trouble is, we often do - esp when we are talking about the Christian way.

It is very easy for us to judge in 5 minutes or less a path that somebody else has been walking and wrestling with for years. We pull a bible verse out of context, without thought or study and hold it up as a Rule that it was never meant to be.

We need to learn to honor the work of God in each other's lives, even when it seems that they are taking a road that we would never have predicted and we're not sure if we even approve.

The difficulty is, journeying is challenging and so we create our own formulas, our own rules that help us navigate uncharted territory. 'Well there is always a La Quinta next to Dennys.' 'There is always a Domino's Pizza near Blockbuster'. 'Ross dress for less is always next to Pier 1 and Old Navy'.

The problem comes when the formulas no longer work.

"If you obey God you will have showers of blessings."

"If you believe and don't doubt you will be healed."

"If God seems distant it is because of unconfessed sin in your life."

We cannot make our own individual experiences into universal truths. Just because I encounter God through walking a Labyrinth or through Taize worship does not mean that everyone will.
As we journey our view of the horizon changes, our perspective alters. formulas we once held up as Truisms will evolve.

Saul's journey led him to the Damascus road, where he had a powerful encounter with God, but he didn't stay on that road trying to recreate that experience. As a worship leader I often have people coming up and requesting certain songs. Now I'm often on the lookout for new material, but sometimes I wonder about the motives behind asking for certain music. I once had someone say to me 'We must sing Shout to the Lord' today, God always speaks to me when I sing that song'.

We mustn't stop short of our journey. Saul didn't make his home in a tent on the road to Damascus, he journeyed on. And so should we. We fear leaving some things behind, and we fear the road ahead, but if we stay put we will never grow into all that God has for us.

The prophet Isaiah said '...this is the way, walk in it'. We cannot walk if we are afraid to pick up our feet and leave the spot we are on.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Prejudice for Beginners

I am a Western White Male, I really haven't experienced any prejudice directed towards me in my life. Last week I had a little taste. I was rejected for something I wanted to do, because of something I have no control over. I was authentic and honest in my inquiries and that honesty was responded to with prejudice.

As I reflected on this over the weekend I realized that these people are not rejecting me because of who I am they are rejecting me because of who they are.

This encourages me to look at my own life and who I am prejudiced against and see what they have to teach me about who I am.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Remembering Mum

I ring in a Hand Bell Ensemble at church, and, as part of worship this morning we rang a new piece called 'Fantasy on Kings Weston'. The bell ensemble bought this piece in memory of my mum who passed away in June. It was a great honor to ring this peice at all 3 services this morning.

Our fantastic Communications Department managed to record it for me so here is the start of the service and the Fantasy on Kings Weston.

(The bell piece starts 3:16 into the clip - be patient with it is as the clip takes a while to load!)

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Some Pics from my New York Trip

Pachabel's Canon!

A friend sent me this and it's brilliant. I have had to play Pachabel's Canon so many times, both on the Violin and the Piano that I can do it totally from memory whilst asleep. I could write out full orchestral parts for it from memory - in fact I even wrote a parody of Pachabel's Canon as part of my degree.

So enjoy!!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Thought for Ash Wednesday

"Everyone must have two pockets, so that he can reach into the one or the other, according to his needs. In his right pocket are to be the words: 'For my sake was the world created,' and in his left: 'I am earth and ashes.'"--Rabbi Bunum of Pzhysha

True humility is to live with your hands in both pockets!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

40 Journalling Questions for Lent

I published these on my blog last year, but it seems right to post them again. Last year we offered them to all our church congregations as a way of entering into Lent as a season of Reflection and Penitence. Many couples in the Church shared their answers together.

40 Questions for Lent

“Lent is the shadow the Cross makes on the world in the light of the Resurrection”. Traditionally Lent is a time for reflection and commitment. These questions are designed to be used as springboards for your personal journaling. Attempt to write an answer to one question a day and also try to write a prayer a day as a response to your own journaling (you get Sundays off). If you feel a question does not apply to you or you are unwilling or unable to answer it, journal about why this is so.

Wed Feb 6th 1. How would you describe your current relationship with God?
Thurs 2. What activities help you connect with God?
Fri 3. Where are you encountering joy in your life at the moment?
Sat 4. What gives you delight and how is God in that experience?

Mon Feb 11th 5. Describe a time you felt especially close to God.
Tues. 6. Describe a time you felt especially far from God.
Wed. 7. How does God delight in you?
Thurs. 8. What does God say when He looks at you?
Fri. 9. What emotions arise when you think about God? Why?
Sat 10. What has shaped your image of God?

Mon Feb 18th 11. What strengths do you have?
Tues 12. How are you unique?
Wed. 13. What are you afraid of?
Thurs. 14. What do you dislike about yourself?
Fri. 15. What do you like about yourself?
Sat. 16. Write about one aspect of yourself you would like to change.

Mon Feb 25th 17. What was one great thing about growing up in your family?
Tues. 18. What was one frustrating thing about growing up in your family?
Wed 19. How are you like your parents?
Thurs. 20. How are you different from your parents?
Fri. 21. How have your parents influenced your perception of God?
Sat. 22. What are your favorite memories of your childhood?

Mon March 3rd 23. What are you angry with God about at the moment?
Tues. 24. How do you feel God has let you down?
Wed. 25. Where do you need to experience God at the moment?
Thurs. 26. What kind of person feels ‘unsafe’ to you?
Fri. 27. How do you react when you feel threatened?
Sat. 28. How does God feel ‘unsafe’ to you?

Mon March 10th 29. What is your favorite bible verse and why?
Tues. 30. Are there any parts of the bible you wish weren’t there? Why?
Wed. 31. What is your favorite bible story and why?
Thurs. 32. What lies do you tell yourself?
Fri. 33. What do you want people to say about you when you die?
Sat. 34. What has been your biggest struggle and how have you encountered God through it?

Mon March 17th 35. What image comes to mind when you think of God?
Tues. 36. How has God used you recently?
Wed. 37. How has God shown His love for you during this season?
Thurs. 38. What is God trying to say to you at the moment?
Fri. 39. Which question was the hardest to answer honestly?
Sat. 40. How have you changed/grown through answering these questions?

It's Nice to be Appreciated

Last month I gave a presentation to a Women's Group all about Hand Bells. I talked about how hand bell ringing came about and how it moved into the church. We did some history and we did some fun practical ringing exercises. I blogged about part of it here.

Well this morning I recieved this email -

Dear Peter,

The program you gave for our UMW Lydia Circle was a delight!! I have heard several that were present say that it was one of the best programs ever. And to think 12 of us ended up with the ringing of Holy, Holy, Holy. I think we surprised ourselves (maybe you too a little).

We thank you for taking the time to prepare for us and entertain us with your special talents. And if you are in the vicinity of the Bell Room II on the 3rd Tues. of each month, please feel free to drop in and have a light supper with us.

Many thanks and God Bless you and your special ministry.

It's always nice to be appreciated. It encourages me to write more notes to people who've done things in my life that have touched me.