Photo credits

The Embalse de Riano in northern Spain. The picture was taken by .... me!

Friday, September 28

The nature of temptation

(Linked very much to my previous post)

James 1:14 – 15 Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death

Stage 1: an idea comes into your head

Stage 2: it keeps coming back

Stage 3: it becomes something you want to do but resist

Stage 4: It becomes something you want to do but are putting off till later, hopefully permanently

Stage 5: It becomes something that you are putting off till later.

Stage 6: It becomes something that you are going to do

Stage 7: It becomes something that you are doing

Stage 8: Regret!

Somewhere along the line it makes that transition from a temptation, a possibility, to an almost inevitable plan. ‘If’ becomes ‘when’.

I’m currently at stage 4.

Now this is where Satan starts to mock. “You can resist, but you know I’ll get you in the end”.

And this often leaves us with a sense of defeat.

But don’t forget all the times you said ‘no’ first. Each of those is a time you have resisted the devil, each of those is a time you have scored a goal. So what, if he gets a consolation goal in the last minute of the match! It’s still “Christians 10, Hell 1” – a walkover.

Not that we should get complacent – Manchester United should be defeating Small Village Amateur Geriatrix by a lot more than 10 to 1. And sin is still sin, with consequences to ourselves and those around us. We must still try our best to play at full strength. I’m just saying let’s not get too despondent if we ultimately give in, and lets not make out the devil always gets his way.

Thursday, September 27

A call for a conversation about Maleness (Some controversial stuff here)

There was a time when a man’s woman (or women) were considered to be his possession, to do with as he saw fit.

This was wrong.

A better balance based on mutuality and respect developed, but it was still assumed that consent was given once for all in the wedding vows.

This was wrong.

British law now recognises that rape can occur within a marriage.

So now atheist feminists and Christian theologians are in agreement. Sex is about the mutual giving and receiving of love.

All is peace and harmony. NOT!

I believe the reality in most couples is different, and the difference becomes greater with age.

The fact is, in general men want it more than women. And as menopause hits in, the woman is much more likely to experience a reduction in desire than the man.

I think that the present system is good in that it recognises the needs and rights of women and corrects the injustices of the past. But I believe increasingly strongly that it does not meet the needs of men.

And it’s not just our western culture that is failing. Everywhere, there are frustrated men who are simply not getting enough.

I have read recent BBC articles about predatory men in Moroccan villages sexually assaulting women in the street. Similarly in Egypt, where it is apparently worse since the revolution. In Mexico there are deeply entrenched cultures of recruiting and trafficking women into prostitution. Western culture is soaked in pornography, and British local newspapers openly advertise ‘escorts’ and ‘massage’. And there has been all of the scandal of paedophile priests in the Catholic Church. Closer to home, I have friends who finding that they don’t get it at home have gone to adultery websites to find women that will give it. Too many wives tell their husbands that they can’t look at other women, but then they don’t let their husbands look at their own wives either – a real dog-in-the-manger attitude.

NONE of this would happen if men were getting sufficient good quality sex from their wives.

OK, some of it would – there will always be the person who wants more of an adventure and the thrill of the illicit. But I’m looking at the principles rather than the exceptions.

Now, I am a Christian, and I subscribe to Christian doctrines of monogamy and no sex before or outside of that monogamy.

But it isn’t working.

So how do I put it: “I know a man who says…” I get very frustrated domestically. Mrs genuinely believes that we have a good sex life. And indeed when stuff does happen it is wonderful - like a lush oasis in a desert. But no matter how wonderful the oasis, it is still in a desert.

I remember watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary about married couples. One elderly couple had a similar problem, and in the end the man left her and went to London to consort with pole dancers. Amazingly the couple were reconciled, and came to a ‘once a week’ arrangement. The wife described this as ‘not nearly enough for him but far too much for me’.

We are not that old, but an arrangement like that would triple my experiences. And I’m sorry, but I am not getting enough. It would be nice to have an honest talk with her about it, but I feel that she is oversensitive, paranoid and takes offence at things much less than this.

She has no idea how hard it is for me to live by my Christian principles in this area. The temptations of internet porn are only a click away. Those adverts in the newspaper only require one phone call. There’s stuff on TV that is just a channel-surfing ‘accident’ away. I have voices screaming in my head to go and do those things. All the time. And as the weeks pass I get that growing physical sensation, very similar to hunger but in the pelvis rather than the belly. It makes my pelvis grind, even while I sit at my desk designing sewage works. It makes my skin tingle. It makes my trousers stretch. I have testosterone seeping from every pore.

You may say I am like this because I evolved from a monkey. You may say I am like this because that is how God created me. Either way, it is a biological reality. I am what I am, and I have rights. We hear about women’s rights, but men have rights to. And we have a right to a healthy sex life. [Do we? Is that controversial?]

So I approach my wife over a period of days. I compliment her, give her treats, gradually building up to the moment when I make the suggestion or make the decisive stroke, and all of a sudden she ‘remembers’ that she has to do the kids packed lunches and she’s off. My one chance that week gone. All that effort wasted. I’ve come as thirsty man to the oasis, only to find it was a mirage.

So I’m raising this as a question. I’m sure I’m not alone. What do we do about the fact men need sex?

I have no satisfactory answer. Here’s some of the things I’ve considered.

• Masturbation. Well its like having a packet of cheap crisps instead of a gourmet meal at a posh restaurant. It gets you by but is not the real thing. It does not satisfy.  And if supported by on-line pornography it is both intrinsically imoral and likley to exploit traficked women.

• Polygamy. I don’t love those other women – I only want one. And one is enough trouble! Polygamy is invented by men for men. It may be a practical solution to my problem, but it’s not a moral one.

• State-run brothels. State-run to protect the staff and avoid the trafficking issues. But this still involves marital unfaithfulness.

• The pendulum has swung too far – put it back to a more balanced position where consent is assumed within a marriage. It would still involve force and coercion. It would still be wrong.

• Bring back concubines. See polygamy above.

The answer that I do believe has potential to work, while still being moral, is for women to be given a better understanding of their husband’s needs. The Bible says “Do not withhold your bodies one from another”. This is advice not law, but it is good advice, and in my view not to follow that advice could be classed as sin. I seriously wonder if my wife sins against me when she says no.

Clearly there must be consent, or it is rape. There must be no coercion, or it is rape. So if I go to my wife and tell her that the Bible says this and she’s not giving me enough and she should do more, then that puts pressure on her, its coercion, its rape.

I need a mature Christian woman who is respected for her biblical and practical knowledge to say this to my wife, not to force her, but to present her with an opportunity to love me better. I think there was something that may have been heading in this direction at New Wine, but again it was one of those things that she needed to attend of her own free will, not by me telling her she is not good enough and sending her to it.

What do you think is the answer to the problem of men’s sexual needs?

Wednesday, September 26

My Dad's funeral

Went smoothly without serious hiccups. 

I travelled the previous day and stayed in a hotel. whereas my brother's family travelled in two cars on the day.  He himself managed to arrive just about on time but panicky and flustered, and his children walked into the service about 15 minutes late.  It was not all their fault.

the service was good - excellent hymn-singing.  About 80-90 people there.

The Eulogies were all really good, and showed him to be a man with an excellent balance between his passionate and committed missionary service and his love of his wife adn children.

Several people thought mine (see previous post "My Dad died to today)was the best which was quite gratifying, but of course those that didn't think so kept quiet.

The crem was very nice.

I must of course sing the praises of the ladies in churches who always seem to poduce a huge spread of sanwiches for the mourners.  They will have a huge reward in heaven!

Retired to Mum's (formerly 'Mum and Dad's') flat for a family time afterwards - just Mum, her three children and spouses, and the grandchildren with spouses and girlfriends.

It was all really good.

I kept my British stiff upper lip most of the time, but lost it a bit as the curtains closed in the crem with such an air of finality.  Furtunately a niece with foresight discretely provided me with a pack of tissues.

I suppose my main observation for learning would be that it is a bit brutal to wind the whole service up to the point where the curtains close and then that is the end and we are chucked out into the open to look at the flowers, without any wind-down before we go out.

Thursday, September 20

Mrs MA

My wife heard today that she has got a place at a local university to do a theology MA.  This is ultimately with a vew to ordination, but may lead to all kinds of other opportunities.

Well done, Mrs!

Funeral details

I can't get onto my blog via the office computer these days - not sure if its been blocked for some reason.  So I have to fight with my kids for the home computer in the evenings.

My Dad's funeral is on Tuesday 25th September 11am, if you want something to pray about at that moment.

My sister who lives there has done most of the organisation.  Sterling work - she deserves her full reward.

My brother will do a short factual talk about Dad's life, and because I wrote a sort of Eulogy weeks ago which they all liked, they want me to read that out.  The trouble is that if i get even slightly emotional my throat tightens up and I am physically unable to speak. 

They also want me to help as a pall bearer, which again I am reluctant to do but it will spoil the symmetry if I say no.

My main role so far has been to receive and translate and respond to all the emails of condolence from Spain where my Dad used to be a missionary.

The interesting thing is that most of them are from my generation - those who were in the youth group at the time - rather than those near his own generation.  They all said how much he had impacted their lives at the time.

So maybe my Dad was not as useless as he often felt.

Monday, September 17

Another son sent off to University

Overshadowed by my father passing away this morning, I should note how proud I am that my third son has started at university.  Whereas my first two waltzed through all their GCSE and A level exams and nonchalantly taken places at top universities as if that is the norm, my third son has had a different life.

Academia is not so natural to him.

But when he was 12 he started a paper round (Apparently you are supposed to wait till 13 for it to be legal??).
The paper round made him physically fit.
He got good at sport.
The sport gave him self discipline and a Strong work ethic.
That in turn improved his academic work.

So he has achieved more in terms of overcoming obstacles and sheer grit and determination than the other two combined.

I salute him!

My Dad

It was peaceful in the end.

He had been in hospital for weeks now, blind, deaf, bedridden, increasingly frustrated that he was constantly being pricked for blood samples and injections, and going mental because there was no one to just talk to.  When visited, his one request was "Get me out of this place".  He hated it. But his communication reduced with time and in the end he would not repsond to anything.

Eventually he was moved to another hospital where the focus was on physiotherapy.  The move itself nearly killed him with exhaustion.  But they were unable to do physio because of his weakness. The consultant suspected further chest infections and wanted to do more tests, but the hospital staff wisely said they would only do them when he was strong enough, and listened to my sister's request that they focus on his comfort and dignity.

So at 5:30 this morning they phoned my sister to say that he had passed away at about 4:30, probably about 10 minutes after they had checked on him and found him to be comfortable.

My sister texted me at 6:37.  I phoned back at 6:50 and heard the news.  The rest is history. 

Mum seems to be taking it 'matter of fact' - which is probably her coping mechanism.  Plus we have all had time to get used to the idea that it would happen soon.  Maybe it will hit her more when the fuss has died down

Not much I can do here (They are all four hours drive away).  My role has been to phone friends in Spain, which I have done.  So I am back at work, rather than moping at home, but I can't really concentrate.

My Dad died this morning.

This is the man.

This is the man that has had the greatest influence of all on my life and made me what I am through his life and example.

This is the man who saw the Christian example of his own parents back in New Zealand, and committed his own life to the Lord.

This is the man who gave up his right to a home, to a wife, and to a family and travelled across the world to preach the gospel, for the sake of our Lord who before him gave up his rights to home, wife and family.

This is the man who endured years of solitude in Bolivia.

This is the man who, when one of the other missionaries had a nervous breakdown, played chess endlessly with him because it was the only thing that would help him through the day.

This is the man who climbed a mountain in the Andes, without any planning or equipment or even strong shoes, just because it was near his house and everyone else had gone away for the day and it seemed like a good idea.

This is the man who, having given up his rights to go to the mission field, now on the mission field found his wife, his home and his family.

This is the man who fathered me and gave me life.

This is the man who was criticised for doing nothing but play with his children.

But This is the man who, by that example and by word and by those two being consistent with one another, led his own children to saving faith in the Lord, and beyond saving faith led them into the paths of righteousness and service and commitment to the Lord. This is the man who walked the talk.

This is the man whose example of living by faith has been my example – trusting God for provision at all times, and seeing that provision come from the Lord always at the right time.

This is the man who, in endless polemics in the politics of church leadership, was never afraid to insist that Biblical teaching should be followed, even when that has been unpopular.

This is the man whose example as a preacher has been my role model in my own preaching – diligence in study, inspiration by the Spirit, faithfulness to the word, passion in delivery, and consistency in practice.

This is the man whose example as a husband has been my role model – loving her as Christ loved the church, serving her, nurturing her and seeking to make her flourish in everything that she does.

This is the man whose example as a father has been my role model - an example to look up to, a frame to climb on - and to pull to the ground and jump on playfully with shrieks of childish laughter.

This is the man who has spent his life on his knees, either in prayer or giving donkey rides to his kids.

This is the man who would hold his arm out and I as a lumpy primary school child would run and jump onto it and swing on it - and he would not fall over!

This is the man whose passing to glory is in some ways a relief – no more suffering, free from the constraints of his failing body.

This is the man whose passing to glory is my grief – you never feel you have thanked enough, you never feel you have let him know how much appreciated he was, or what a difference he made simply by being there.

This is the man some of you may have only known as frail, and leaning on a frame. But this is the man who has always been the frame that I lean on.

This is the man you may have known as the quiet one sitting in the corner. But this is the man who sat in the council of elders, a man highly respected, a champion hero in the Kingdom of God. And now this is the man seated with Christ in God, his work complete.

This is the man that hell is glad to see pass away, And yet his passing marks once more hell’s defeat, and the glorious victory of Christ over it! Another soul saved from the snatches of hell! Another victory celebration for the winning side! Another party in heaven! Another chorus of angels shouting the praises of our God.

This is the man.

What a man!

What a man!

This, is my father.

Wednesday, September 12

Tuesday, September 11

Old Boy film review

Well, I only caught bits of this while channel surfing the other night.  I came in to it late, and it was going on till 1:25am so I had to force myself up to bed.

Its in Korean, with subtitles.

Very very good - the bits that I saw.  I suggest you look at the wikipedia page for a full plot description.

I liked it becasue it didn't have the gloss that hollywood has even when it is trying to show something gritty.  This really was gritty.  The sets were just perfectly dingy.  The attractive girl  - wasn't.  The hero won every fight, of course, but it was a much fairer fight  than hollywood would have been.  I loved the scene in the corridor, where he beats up all the baddy henchmen while at the same time convincing you that it is actually his sheer desperation - rather than plot exigencies and choreography - that gets him through.  And I loved the understated comedy when the same henchmen appear in a later scene with discrete crutches and neck-braces.  And having checked the full plot on wikipedia, I think the final plot twists that bring the story to a close are sheer genius.

The film is primarily about vengence - in particular being the victim of vengence when you don't know what you did to offend in the first place.  It talks about trust, and the consequences of not trusting.  It talks about the bitterness of revenge.  And it talks about how even when we think we are finally free and OK, we are still trapped by our enemies even after they have died.

What are the unintended spiritual messages?

I can't put them into words.  I suppose its the grimyness of a world without God, in which the devil and his ways hold sway.  Violent, sunless, ugly, lonely, manipulated by dark malevolent forces .

But God is so all-pervading that even in a Godless world he still shines through, with themes of love and trst coming out in the bleakest of times.

I'm sure I would write better if I had seen the whole thing.  I suppose the best recommendation is that I still wnat to see the whole thing, even after all the plot spoilers in wikipedia.

......{ blank } .....

... I was going to write some genius post, but now my mind has gone blank and I can't remember what is whas.....?

Monday, September 10

General update

Thats an inspring post title, isn't it?

I've been unable to get on blogger for a while.

Daughter's first day at school today!  Proud parents!

Bit more awkward with the older kids.  Third son starting at Uni next week.  Big row with Mrs - she wants to come on the trip to drop him off, spending the night in a hotel in the area and trying out a church for him on the Sunday.  He doesn't want her to come because she will change a quick there-and-back (it's only 2 hours drive) into a massive expedition with lots of hassle.  She therefore feels her whole motherhood is being rejected.  I tried to help her understand how he feels and his need to stike out on his own independently - so now I'm in the dog house for taking his side.  I've tried to explain to him how she feels, and I think he understands, but still really doesn't want her to come.  And if she did come, she would feel very awkward and unwanted.  Big mess.  Don't know how we will have a peaceful and pleasnt send off for him now.

Coming back to that daughter - she got hold of my Samsung Galaxy SII phone which has a "Swype" keyboard - you slide your finger across the letters and it guesses the right word nearly all of the time.  In the hands of a 4 year old, she nearly sent this message to my otehr son: "Moved to booze Go I jk moll weekend Al fee meow Lankaf".  That would have confused him, I think.  But I do love Swype!

Monday, September 3

Mrs' midlife crisis continues

Mrs has submitted her application to do a theology MA.  This is because we still haven't sorted our financial position, precluding us from submitting ordination applications, so she feels a theology MA will set her on the right road and abbreviate things later on.  However, it is a very late application, and the chances of getting on for a September start are very low.  Plus there is the slight matter of the cost of the course, and the timing of required payments.  Not helped by Cameron's goverment cutting our child tax credit which will make a phenomenal 17% hole in our budget.  This is partly God training us for the priesthood, which involves living on a much more frugal income - but its not as though we were living a profligate lifestyle before.  Also our house has still not sold, preventing her from developing the single parent's ministry in the way she hoped, so the Theology MA is another way of using the year proftiably rather han just wasting it.  Our youngest child will be at school full time now, so Mrs will have much longer to do her own thing.  And in the last judgement God will ask her how she used her time for the Kingdom of God, not how prissily-kept the house was.

So all of that is going on in the background.

But today's news from the rheumatologist is that she may need to have both knees replaced.

This would give her a new lease of life.  But the earliest they can do it is January.  She would need a week offf for the op and the six weeks recovery.  So that would kill the idea of doing an MA this year, without answering the question of what she should do to fill her days in between.  Or she could put off the op till next summer - but that's a long period of painful and limiting disability to live with!