on craftsmanship

Too late in life I’ve discovered: I’m a craftsman.

By trade I’m a teacher, and though (on most days) I’d call myself a pretty good one, I’ve recently found that what makes me feel good is not teaching, but making things. Producing tangible things – my latest pet project is carving on rubber slabs with lino knives. I started small, but I am getting better at it everyday. I can see it. As I said, tangible. I also produce educational videos, digital art, which is… less… tangible.

This is what occupies my weekends these days. Only just a couple of months ago my weekends would be exclusively for recharging – my Monday to Friday would be so balls-to-the-wall that if I didn’t sleep all day Saturday and Sunday, I’d start feeling physically ill. Church became an exalted burden. Continue reading “on craftsmanship”

on an unsavoury truth

Then all the tribes of Israel went to David at Hebron and told him, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, when Saul was our king, you were the one who really led the forces of Israel. And the LORD told you, ‘You will be the shepherd of my people Israel. You will be Israel’s leader.’”
So there at Hebron, King David made a covenant before the LORD with all the elders of Israel. And they anointed him king of Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years in all. He had reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months, and from Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.
David then led his men to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, the original inhabitants of the land who were living there. The Jebusites taunted David, saying, “You’ll never get in here! Even the blind and lame could keep you out!” For the Jebusites thought they were safe. But David captured the fortress of Zion, which is now called the City of David.
On the day of the attack, David said to his troops, “I hate those ‘lame’ and ‘blind’ Jebusites. Whoever attacks them should strike by going into the city through the water tunnel.” That is the origin of the saying, “The blind and the lame may not enter the house.”
So David made the fortress his home, and he called it the City of David. He extended the city, starting at the supporting terraces and working inward. And David became more and more powerful, because the LORD God of Heaven’s Armies was with him.
Then King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar timber and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built David a palace. And David realized that the LORD had confirmed him as king over Israel and had blessed his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel. —2 Samuel 5:1-12

There’s a trend in Christianity today that likes to focus on one part of the Bible, and forget about the other bits. Christians sometimes justify this by saying, Well, it’s 2016, some things in the Bible aren’t relevant anymore, or We don’t want to say things that are complicated or frightening, because we don’t want to scare people away. So Christians often don’t talk about sin, or hell, or eternal punishment. The songs we sing in church increasingly follow what I call the Jesus-my-boyfriend pattern, which focuses on mushy feelings and spiritual experiences instead of solid truths from the Bible. Continue reading “on an unsavoury truth”

on acts of kindness

I’ve been in a melancholic mood lately. Mostly boredom I figure, but also this particular thought that I have been shown such kindness in my life, and yet I have done very poorly in repaying it, both to my benefactors but also my neighbours.

Then it hit me – many of these acts of kindness are slipping from my memory. And there will be a day when I’m old and grey when I will have forgotten most of them. Or just grumpy, jaded and apathetic enough to not care. Continue reading “on acts of kindness”

on subliminal gospel preaching

So I’ve been reading W.B. Barcley’s The Secret of Contentment recently and thinking about Philippians 4:11-13.

It’s one of my favourite parts of the Bible to feel smug and sanctimonious about – you know how it is, verse 13 is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible; people use it to give every one of their actions divine backing and therefore diving legitimacy, because they can do all things in Christ. But in fact all the ‘things’ of verse 13 are precisely the unglamorous things Paul had listed just a sentence ago: being in want, having almost nothing, being hungry. So every time I read that verse I like to smugly give myself a self-five. Nice one, you’re not like the muggles. Continue reading “on subliminal gospel preaching”

on looking out in despair

You remember that scene in Return of the King where Denethor pines over the mortally-wounded Faramir? He thinks his biggest problem is that his son is dead and his line extinguished, but he walks to the edge of the cliff and sees that it’s much worse: the host of Mordor is at the gates and he’s had no idea. And so he despairs, telling his soldiers “Flee! Flee for your lives!” Continue reading “on looking out in despair”

on godly jobs

It’s probably true to say that in church circles, the sacred enjoys a premium over the profane. I’ve heard more than a few people express the thought that pastoring or ministry or even bible study leading is a higher calling than playing music, setting up and welcoming.

Non-Christians seem to think we think this too, and maybe it’s because we privilege church-speak and hyper-spirituality over more mundane things such as getting to know people, social justice and caring for the poor. Recently when I objected to what people were talking about during a wedding I was at, my friend thought my objections were based on the fact that not enough people were talking Jesus-talk and sprouting halos (when in fact my objection was based on the fact that everybody in the congregation was so sickeningly successful and not enough of them were telling fart jokes). Continue reading “on godly jobs”

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