Photo credits

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

Monday, March 31

Christian fellowship?

My office prayer meeting was quote difficult today.  Having had discussions on the theme of poverty for weeks, we are looking for a new topic, and someone said we should do Gay Marriage.

Some very strong views expressed on this topic, with me being the only one in favour, so I felt very beleaguered having to defend my position with no time to swat up my case.

It ended friendly enough, but who knows how out will go next time?


Even though mrs ate her meal alone, and told me where to pick her up after, I still had to pay to park and go in to the restaurant, because they rejected her bank card, even though there was plenty of money in the account.   But when they also rejected my card, we started to get worried.  After much hassle it emerged that the problem was worth their card reader, not our cards.

Later I went to buy petrol.  Filed up, went to pay: no card!  Frantic search of pockets and vehicles.  Phone calls to ask places visited in the day.  It's gone.  I had to lane my IDeas and sign all sorts of documents before they let me go to get my wife to pay with her card.

So I have canceled my card and ordered a new one, but it will be an uncomfortable few days waiting for a new one.

Sacked for mothers day performance

I arranged to take my wife out for lunch on Mothers day.

Since she is currently attending a church in the nearby city nominally as research for her MA, we had to make pure way there individually.

I least my church a bit early and after doing a couple of essential tasks sent her a "where shall we meet?" text and set off.

She replied that she was already at the table.  I still had an hour drive top get there.  So she ended up having her Mothers day meal on her own!

So I am sacked.

Her story is that I knew she would be there sooner and should have left my church earlier; In fact I should have gone to her church.  Also she had expected a queue and gone early, but had then been taken straight in.

My story is that she wanted me to go to our normal church so that I could report back to her everything that happened, and that she knew what time that church finished and how long the journey was and she  should not have gone there without me.

But who ever wins this kind of debate with his wife?


Our cat, Cappi, passed away.

I was on the way home from my mums ashes ceremony when I kept getting phone calls from home.  Eventually stopped on the hard shoulder of the motorway to find out what was happening.

Initially it was "Cappi is ill", then "I don't know if shes going to make it"  Then "I'm sorry Dad, shes gone"

So I have another garden funeral.

My eldest daughter is the one most upset, as it was technically her cat.

How it went

It went as well as pouting your mum's ashes in a plant pot can.

Those of the family who had been permitted by their wives to attend gathered around the plane plot in my sisters garden.  I day garden-
- it's just a small yard, with some other scruffy plant pots containing scraggy plants and a lot of weeds.  The plant plot they had chosen for my mums ashes was just a fake plastic one.  Admittedly a good fake, but plastic none the less.

We troweled in some compost, then a layer of mum, then the plant itself, and more compost.  The urn provided by the crematorium was also plastic, though it came in a nice velvety bag.  Inside the urn was my mum, wrapped in two plastic bags.  So I felt that they could have provided a bit more dignity.

The plant was a rose bearing my mothers name, so that is nice.

My brother-in-law then asked me to say a prayer, which I did.  Having not been particularly emotional until then, that was when the tears flowed.

So that is it: the end of an era.

She was a very good mother.  She never felt particularly maternal and it was always an effort for her (it was always Dad that played with us), but I would day that she did a fantastic job.  She will be very much missed.

Friday, March 28

Mothers (sad) day

I am waiting for some poor person to ask if I am doing anything special for mothers day.

"Scattering her ashes" will be the reply.

Wednesday, March 26

What did the Anglican, the Baptist, and the Orthodox say?

"Lets start a band!"

We (a multiple-denominational group of hydraulics engineers) were lamenting that all the good heavy metal bands have lyrics that we find uncomfortable listening to as Christians.  There are Christian heavy metal bands, but they're just not very good.

So I said it. 

I would do drums, Orthodox would be guitar, and Baptist would do vocals.  But then the rows started.  Orthodox said he should do vocals because Baptist's sweet female voice would be unsuitable to heavy metal.  Baptist wanted to do the head banging, since she has long hair while Orthodox is bald and I am 'follically challenged'.  And also we began to realise that none of us has any musical skill, and none of us has any time or interest to devote to the project.

And so, what might have been an amazing new musical explosion, came to nothing in a puff of apathy.

Monday, March 24

Lent (ish)

I have not consciously given anything up for lent.  I have too many big things going on in life to focus on something like that.

But coincidentally, it happens that I am currently trying to break a nail-biting habit (again).  So can I claim that as being for lent, even if it wasn't planned that way? 

My current system is to measure my nails every day, and record the data with microsoft excel.  I then plot charts of individual nail length, the total length, average growth rates, best and worst nails, bites, etc.  this gives me the motivation to not bite, not wanting a downward kink in the graph.

It is going really well, with an average increase of 3.5 mm since I started and an average net growth rate if about 0.42 mm. per week.

Of course this can't go on forever.  There will have to come a time when I start cutting them and maintain them at a relatively constant length.  Then the charts will get boring and meaningless, I will louse motivation, and bite again.

But lent will be over by then, so that makes it OK ..... ?

(Doing something similar with other more personal habits, also with some success, but that is too private to tell you about)

The word goes out

A bit more cheerful today.

One of mrs's friends has contributed to a book which has been published, and in it she holds mrs up as an example of a life wholly devoted to the Lord and worthy of official recognition.

So that page will be incorporated into mrs sexual discrimination and bullying case!  It justshows how the vicars bad reference was to do with his prejudice rather than the reality.

Thursday, March 20

The further revelation of God's will

I didn't get that job.

The door slams shut with a loud clang.

Various other locations were offered, but when I rang mrs she seemed to be in a better mood having had a good time helping at
The food bank run by the church where she is doing her 'MA research'.  So she was in a good place to accept it as the Lord's will.

That's great for me since I didn't want to move, I was only doing it for her.

But it doesn't address the question of what we are going to do about church in our home town.

Watch this space!

The revelation of God's will?

In my previous post I was describing how I was to have a job interview which may or may not reveal if it is God's plan for us to move to a new location.

I had the interview today.

I flunked 2/3 of the technical questions, because the job involves the modelling of sewer networks with software called InfoWorks, and I have not done that since 2006.  But despite that they still seem fairly desperate, and I suspect that they will make an offer.

So - watch this space!

Wednesday, March 19

Uprooting and transplanting

Coincidentally (?), the day mrs got her reference back (see previous post) an agent rang me up asking for my interest in a job at the far end of the country - 260 miles away.

So is this 'coincidence' actually divine guidance?

It would be great to get away from poor troubles in the church and have a completely fresh start.  But is running away from problems Christian?

Other factors to bear in mind:
1) it's a lower salary than I am on now and the move would incur major costs
2) kids in schools
3) my normal inertia kicks in - I don't want to go
4) etc.

But my wife's sanity is worth more than all of those.  Her view is that there is nothing for her here, so there is no harm trying the doit door: God will close it if it is wrong.  True, but trying doors costs money, time and stress.

Also, if we go, we can finally kiss poor ordination plans goodbye.  And what does that say about our call? 

Jonah ran away from his call and that didn't work out so good.  Our running away would be as refugees rather than as rebels.

Anyway, tomorrow I have a telephone interview (10:30 uk time).  I have to try my best to win a job with a company that I know wants me, even when I don't want the job and don't think we should be running away, but I have to do something to rescue my wife's ruined life.

Please pray for that interview to reveal Gods will.

Would you stay?

If you've been following my blog you will know that mrs applied for ordination.  She didn't get past the DDO, who admitted she had a bad reference from her incumbent.

Meanwhile, a friend asked her for a reference.  In filing this in, she found that she could ask to see her own reference from the Vicar.

It arrived last night.

It says that she is:
Struggles with authority structures

....etc..... Not recommended for ordination.

Now speaking as her husband of 24 years, I feel that I am in a position to say that all of those accusations speak more of his prejudice than they do of her.  This is not to say that she has never stood her ground or expressed herself strongly, but that has usually been against a background of his oppression and suppression of her.  She is only a feminist because of her experience of him.  She is what he made her.  And even if those allegations were a fair description, it was his job that he is paid for, to provide appropriate training to help her with those issues.  Instead he has marginalised and ostracised her, and then said she has no experience of leading worship when he is the one who has removed her from those opportunities.

So, my question is:
Would you remain in a church where the Vicar hates your wife so much that he has to write such a slanderous reference for her?  He had totally destroyed every aspect of her life.  How can I respect him?  How can I work alongside him, when he is abusing my wife?

Tuesday, March 18

First boiler estimate

Well, I've had three people coming to do estimates for my boiler.  Of course they all contradict each other about what the regulations require for my house.  But they all agree that it is not a straightforward job.  I have 25 radiators over four floors (because I have a big house because I have seven kids and my aunt left me an inheritance at just the right time in 2003 which enabled me to buy it because God is generous .... I'm not a rich guy).  Since regulations have changed, it now needs to be 'zoned', which means lots of changes to the pipework.  And the size of the boiler is right on the boundaries of what a domestic machine can do.

So the estimate I have would move the boiler to the attic.

I think that it is technically the most well thought out plan.

The estimate is ......


Friday, March 14

Tony Benn

Frequently disagreed.
Always respected.

I once hears someone say that if you are not a socialist when you are twenty you haven't got a heart and if you're still a socialist when you are forty you haven't got a head.  I believe that Tony Benn travelled in the opposite direction, and so do I.  People are more important than money.

Staple nonsense

I made myself bleed while removing a staple from a sheaf of drawings at work.

Should I now make a formal complaint because I wasn't issued with a staple remover on the day I arrived and have had no training in the removal of staples?  Should I demand a moratorium on staple extraction while a full investigation is carried out?  Why was no risk assessment in place?  Is removing staples referenced in my job description?

Or perhaps I should just get back to work.

Thursday, March 13

Grit evangelism

Just had a presentation at work from a company trying to sell us their solution for removing grit from sewage.

It was an American company, and they sent us their vice president.  He had a typically American name, a strong American accent, American mannerisms and vocabulary, and he kept lapsing into American measurement units.

The culture difference was remarkably strong.  I almost felt that I had accidentally flicked the TV onto an American televangelist.  When I do this I normally surf on through all the other American and Nigerian televangelists until I get to one with a British accent, or maybe Australian.  Because culture is critical to communication.  I have no bond with a toothy false-smiling sharp-suited American or with a shouty Nigerian.  I feel I can only hear from someone like me.

This is of course why Jesus came to be a man in the first place, and why we translate the Scriptures into local languages.  And this is why although we can and should send missionaries to foreign lands, it is far better for them to great the gospel from their own people.

So back to grit: the technical argument was able to transcend the cultural things, and we probably will move towards their system though it is likely to be five years before any change is visible.

I trust that hearers of the gospel will respond more promptly.

Wednesday, March 12

Currently I need .....

A new oven
A new dryer
A new washing machine
A new dishwasher
A new laptop (x2 for kids school/college work)

... And today the boiler man put a notice on it saying it is unsafe and an offence to turn it on.

I no longer have credit cards.

So if I struggle when I am on a high professional salary, why do we expect the least able people in society to manage wroth next to nothing?  I know I could not do what they are expected to achieve.

There was a Dalek in Subway

Sunday, March 9

Pray for Ukraine

The situation in Ukraine is much more complex than is being fed to us, both in the west and in Russia, by the media.  There are some very dark and ugly forces on both sides of the divide, people that want to wear costumes and wave flags and who want to hate one another without realising that their behaviours show how identical they are.  Meanwhile the ordinary people who just want to get up, have breakfast, do a days work and then go home again are having their lives ruined by the thuggery on the streets, both in the east and the west of Ukraine.

Pray earnestly for the prince of Peace to prevail, for words not guns, for an end to this silliness and for a fair and just settlement.


So, why should the Devil have all the good music?

Two things I like:
  • heavy metal music
  • things with Spanish subtitles.
Si it was with great delight that I found some YouTube clips of one of my favourite bands - Amon Amarth - with Spanish subtitles.

I have to say it was delightful.  Their music hits all the right notes for me - the perfect combination of a wall of solid sound but with subtle nuances in rhythm and melody and riff, the perfect image, the perfect content, etc.  I know this is not everyone's cup of tea, but it just blows my mind.  Amon Amarth seem to epitomise up everything that I love about heavy metal.  except the growling vocals - I prefer the higher vocals of Iron Maiden.  But the growl does work well for Amon Amarth.  OK, You get the picture - I love the music.

So we get to the Spanish subtitles.  These were great (although wildly inaccurate in places).  The growl means its hard to pick out the words, so he subtitles helped me to know what was being sung.

Now I have always known that the group is Viking-themed, and most of the songs are about heroic sagas and tales of the Norse gods.  No problem there.  It starts to get close to the knuckle in The Victorious March, which tells of five victorious warriors returning form battle.  Its all going in fine style until it emerges that they have been fighting Christians, with the line "No Christian woman was left un-raped" (that's my translation of the Spanish subtitle).  This starts to be a little anti Christian, as well as the more general evil of endorsing rape (especially as an act of war which is now agreed to be a war crime).  But a more worrying song is "Thousand years of oppression".  This tells two themes, one of the thousand years of oppression, which if I have the song right is intended to mean a thousand years of Christian oppression of believers in the Norse gods, and the other is the story of Odin.  In Norse legend the god Odin hangs himself on the world-tree and pierces himself with his own spear in order to obtain the runes so that (in the Amon Amarthsong) mankind can live by them.  This has clear parallels to the Christian story of Jesus, and so can be seen as either confirmation of that story or a blasphemous parody, depending on your perspective.  Now it has to be admitted that the treatment of pagans by Christians has been substantially less than ideal.  But the song repeatedly states (and again this is my translation of the Spanish subtitle), "Let the world hear these words once more: 'From the fury of the Norsemen, Lord, save us'", which of course was part of the medieval liturgy during the times of Viking raids.

Now this phrase could be interpreted as an incitement to religious hatred - illegal in the UK.

So how do I, as a Christian, respond to this?

The whole song seems to be a Norse equivalent of a Christian praise song.  If you swapped the Jesus story for the Odin one, and reversed that line I quoted and took at as a metaphorical reference to future judgement by God rather than a call for violence now, then we could probably sing it in some of our more modern churches.  But it is a song dedicated to a pagan God.  So is it equivalent to Baal worship in the Old testament?  This would make it something that we should steer well clear of.  On the other hand, in the New Testament, Paul allows the eating of food sacrificed to idols because the idol is nothing.  Likewise, Odin is nothing, just the imaginings of ancient Swedish story tellers.  And so the equivalent of eating food sacrificed to idols is to listen to Amon Amarth taking deep, deep pleasure in the music and ignoring at the lyrics.

Other paths might be to treat the Odin story as a re-telling of the Jesus story, and enjoy the song on that level, and take the more violent threats as just part of the artistic style.  I do have leanings in this direction, but CS Lewis in 'The Last battle' warns against the blurring together of true and false gods.  Alternatively, we can take the song as a lesson to understand the wrongs wrought by the church in the past against pagans, and take our opportunity to apologise and rebuild relationships, and so open the door to more effective communication of the Christian gospel.  I think this is valid, alongside either of the proposals in my previous paragraph.

I've done the rejection of all my pagan music in the past.  I threw away all of my Rush cassettes, because Rush believes in self-determination and preaches that we should not dance on the strings of powers we cannot perceive.  I now listen to Rush happily, enjoying the music and just feeling sad that they don't know the Lord.  So I lean mostly towards continuing to listen to Amon Amarth.   The music is truly outstanding (though if you are not a heavy metal fan you will say all their songs sound the same - like Status Quo), but I do continue to find these anti-Christian lyrics distasteful to say the least.

There really is a shortage of top quality Christian music in heavy metal and other styles.

Friday, March 7

Why do I cry about weird things?

So my wife is at her nadir, as expressed in my previous post.  Her situation makes me angry (she turned me away from ideas of burning the church down), but even though I feel very sad for her it has not been a tearful sadness.

Yet just now as part of my work I have to read someones doctorate thesis about a design for a sewer drop.  Tears ran freely!

Why do I not cry about my wife, but do cry about a thesis about sewers?

These are actually tears of joy.  Yet even this is a bit bizarre.  It is a very technical subject, and relates to sewage.  Not the normal subject for joy.

Even more, I hadn't even got into the meat of it, I was just reading her acknowledgments.

But this is the key.  I was reading about relationships: someone giving thanks to friends for encouragement and support.  And somehow the energy of all that love, all of those conversations and shared moments, joys and tears, was all packed and stored in the words on the page, much as electricity is stored in a capacitor or water in a reservoir.  As I read the words it discharged the capacitor straight into the part of me that responds to relationship.  As I read the words the floodgate of the dam was opened and I was overwhelmed in the flow.

I find I am sensitised to this kind of thing.  I can cry watching a group of friends (strangers to me) walking to a formal match.  I cry watching other parents enjoy their kids ballet or drama show.  I always cry when a baby is born, nothing unusual there.  But crying over the credits in a doctorate thesis is, I think, unusual.

I believe that this is a divine gift.  I believe that God has opened my eyes to the joy that He gains from the world: an almost physical joy, a nourishing joy, almost as if this voyeuristic enjoyment of other people's pleasure is like God-food, if that is not a blasphemous thought.  And just as his joy is infinite, I feel a small but overwhelming fragment of that divine joy.

So when I have dried my eyes and checked no one saw me, I thank Gods and worship.

Thursday, March 6

Mrs Nadir

The DDO said no to her.

This wrong on many levels, but primarily because it depends heavily on a reference from the candidates vicar, and he doesn't like her.   We had hoped that he would rise above personal feelings and write a professionally impartial reference, but instead he has taken the opportunity to knock the final nail into the coffin of her life.

It is impossible to explain in a short post the extent to which he has totally destroyed her.  For ten years he has psychologically bullied her, even when we have taken steps to achieve forgiveness and reconciliation.  Sadly it has been a one way street.  He has abused his power to crush her and to turn others against her.

My beautiful wife is now an emotional wreck.  She has no reason to get out of bed each day.  There is no point in her going to our church.  There is no point in her going to any other church.  The family will again be divided as we go to different churches on sunday.

Like I say, this post can not explain the situation and readers may wonder why she cant just move on.  But I assure you, it is bad.  A genius injustice has been done.  If he had thumped her or raped her he would go to prison, but because the criminal deliberate bullying he has perpetrated over the years is hard to prove, he will go on to thrive while my wife dwindles into a broken shell of her former self.

Some of you will say "come on Saintsimon, only a few months ago you were on the brink of divorce - how come you have changed your tune?"  Well even at the darkest and most bitter hour of our marriage I would still have endorsed her call to ordination.  But our vicar, a supposed man of God, had not had the grace to write a fair reference.  

Sadly for him we must all give an account of our actions when we meet our creator.

Monday, March 3

Christian yoga

Yes, another misleading post title.

What I mean is that as a christian, I find myself in a difficult political (small p) position.  Confidentiality requires me to act as if nothing is going on and deal normally with someone in a position of authority over me when on the one hand I have developed a strong dislike for him and would gladly thump him,  and on the other I feel vaguely sorry for him because I know what storm is brewing for him.  I am a fairly transparent person, but if I let the secret slip I will be in breach of all kinds of requirements and a whole different group of people will be upset with me.  So I would like to just walk away, but that in itself would send a signal, and so I have to continue to engage, perhaps for months, in what seems like a most unchristian subterfuge though it is mandated by christians for the greater good.

"Aqui no pasa nada"

Saturday, March 1

Van damned

I booked a rental van to fetch my late mothers furniture from her flat, which has been sold.

All went well at the hire company and they were just about to give me the keys when their computer blocked the deal because my license has an AC20 in the least 5 years on it.  (Failure to give details after an injury accident .... you may remember that the cyclist got up, told me he was fine, declined my details, and went away - he later ended up in hospital with damaged ligaments and I got prosecuted as described).  They said no company would rent me a van with an AC20.
Unless I could arrange my own insurance.

My car insurance covers me to drive other vehicles, but only in emergencies.  They told me to try, but they don't cover hire vehicles and told me to google 'short term insurance'.  They don't cover hire either.  So I had to give up on hiring the van this weekend.

But I phoned another rental company. 
"Can I hire a van if I have an AC20?"
"Yes sir that's no problem" 
"Are you sure?  I have an AC20."
"I'll check with the branch .... yeah that's no problem.  I'll book it for you now"

Unfortunately they don't have one available today, but I've got it for another weekend.

Today we shall have to cram as much into our own Zafira as we can. 
And write a strongly worded letter to the first company.