Saturday, 28 August 2010

Ups and Downs

Walls Investments
Jericho. Jerusalem.
Berlin. Belfast.

Your investment
may go down as well as up.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

The First Blackberry

I started with the dandelions,
the various rampant weeds huddling around the front door
as if they couldn't wait to enter
the empty house.
Trimming, pulling, uprooting
I wreaked order on the encroaching wildness of things.

Inside cobwebs sought to restrain me, restrict my entry
but I pushed through
door after door, room after room
reclaiming my old home, its ownership,
from its new arachnid inhabitants

The enclosed suburban garden silently flourishing
since my absence, convolvulus in spindly seven league boots
invades the jasmine
and I - now I am here - tear it out.
Untangling, painstaking, shearing as necessary
to assert my hope of life and love growing here again.

The hedge has gained feet of thickness,
reaching out for its old comfortable chaos
but the shears are in my hands,
the grass collects the leafy twigs in loose piles
till they too are consigned to that plastic brownness on wheels.

But the blackberries, shining there in sunlight, promising fruit for days to come,
for these, I hesitate.
And there are apples on the lawn. I look up.
The tree, baubled like a Christmas fir,
holds out one branch at hand-height,
offers me a single share of its wealth.

In this old, hard-won garden,
unrequested, quite in grace,
the fruits of summer,
hope of warm puddings for colder, harder days.

I gather the blackberries,
consider storing them,
then eat
moment of eternity
present gift.

Tomorrow, I will gather for the winter.
These firstfruits we must celebrate today.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Blair's Bloody conscience? A hill of beans?

The story that emerged yesterday, that Tony Blair is planning to donate a substantial amount of revenue from his forthcoming publication of memoirs to a rehabitation unit for injured soldiers is a mediatic delight. It's poetic. It's political. It generates conversation, discussion and even motivates me to write a blog post!

I'm fascinated with the instinct - in myself and other observers - to judge Blair, to call it blood money for his guilty conscience, to assume that he's trying to buy himself a better place in history. Well, he may be... and it may be the job of commentators to comment. And comment sells better if it's outspoken, i suppose...

For my part, I want to try to remember that Blair stepped up to the plate, took difficult decisions that someone had to take, and lives with the consequences, if not now, then this is what eternal judgment is for. Whether he turns out to be only a cold and calculating media manipulator, or in fact a human being who was trying to make the world a better place, and who is now trying to make peace with his conscience, let's have mercy on our own souls, by choosing to withhold judgment of others... I'm told by a reliable source (that'd be Jesus...Matthew 7v1) that we will be judged by the same measures we use for judging others.

At certain levels of public life, (and if we're honest, in almost anything we do!) it's hard for motives to ever be totally pure. God alone knows the heart.

But Tony, if you're reading this, there's other important stuff in Matthew. Chapter 6v1 would be a start. "Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.
On the other hand, if you don't care about what the rest of us think, then your £4m is still money well spent! You could do worse than give the rest of it away too. There's a great social welfare system in this country, if ever you find you don't have enough to live on...
Who needs millions anyway? Pakistan, perhaps? Africa... Afghanistan... if you could get it to them. (Check out ) I was just tonight reading about a mother of three who couldn't scrape together the 5p a week needed to access a micro-lending scheme in Ethiopia. Tony, if you want to make the world a better place, you have been given the means to do it.

World Communion of Reformed Churches

In June, I went to Calvin College, Michigan to witness a birth. On 18th June. REC and WARC united to become WCRC... You can read the official story at

For me, it's the start of a new element in my life - connecting the Presbyterian Church in Ireland more intimately with the other member churches of this new communion - at least for the duration of my service as one of the four European members of the WCRC executive committee.

What difference would it make to us, to be more consciously connected with other churches flowing from the Reformation? As Ireland becomes more international, might it be a key time for us to relate to churches and cultures that expand our imaginations to assist us in connecting with the new Irish on our doorsteps?
Meanwhile, our local "government" has at last seen fit to produce it's paper on "Cohesion, Sharing and Integration" - which should have appeared at least two years ago. Glad it's here... and hope they mean it! Sadly, I'd have been more inclined to be convinced if it had appeared back then. Still, let's work with what we've got , hey?

For today, I just want to pick up one little statistic in the document:

In 2009, respondents to the Life and Times survey were generally supportive of the rights of EU citizens to live and work here with 69% saying they were very or fairly welcoming of the idea.
Only 69%? Don't they realise this is the same mechanism that opens up the whole European landscape for them too? I guess one third of our population can't imagine ever wanting to live anywhere else than here... What can we do to encourage a more outward view?

I've got so much learning and growing to do myself, it's hard to see how to share what I'm experiencing. Can one person making occasional trips to committee meetings make any difference to a culture of fear of difference, and glorious isolation? God alone knows...