Be Yourself (Only Better)

I just read this:

'New Year's resolutions are shorthand for wanting to be someone else.'

Well, I don't want to be anyone else.  No, I'm not satisfied with where I've got to, but I'm glad to be me.  I hope you can say something similar.  Happy New Year!

Now with God's help I shall become myself.
Søren Kierkegaard



The poignant demise of Australian Cricket

Not that I've been milking it (too much), but Australia's awful performances have been occupying my mind of late.  I've been thinking about how eras change.

Ricky Ponting took over from Steve Waugh as Australian captain in 2004 (Waugh having presided over the most successful era of any team in Test match history).  Waugh's final squad looked like this:

Justin Langer, Matthew Hayden, Ricky Ponting, Damien Martyn, Steve Waugh, Darren Lehman, Simon Katich, Michael Clarke, Adam Gilchrist (wk).

Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee, Mike Kasprowitz, Shane Warne, Stuart MacGill.

Winning australia
Contrast that with the Australian squad for the present Ashes series.

Simon Katich, Shane Watson, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Marcus North, Brad Haddin (wk), Uzman Khawaja.

Ben Hilfenhaus, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson, Xavier Doherty, Steven Smith, Doug Bollinger, Ryan Harris, Michael Beer.

Frustrated aussies
Now, it's one thing to lose some all-time greats (Gilchrist, Warne, McGrath etc.), but the question has to be asked – would any of the present team get into Steve Waugh's XI?  Hussey for Lehman maybe, and that's it.

And that's why Australia are rubbish now – in every area of the game, they are lesser men than their forebears.  In comparison, of England's 2004 team, only Vaughan and Flintoff would be sure of a place in the present team (Thorpe and Hoggard would be on the verge).  And the weird thing is that, as a cricket fan, I haven't really enjoyed this series much – it's been fun to be English, but too one-sided.  Come on Australia, pull yourselves together!


beating Australia brings us together

Strauss and ponting
Sometimes being English can be hard, especially when living abroad (cos there's always someone to apologise to).  But occasionally, the sons of Albion can stick out their chests (and stiff upper lips and beer-bellies) in pride without guilt.  That's the joy of beating Australia at cricket.

To illustrate, here are some messages from delirious Englishmen spread around the nations, as found on various ball-by-ball commentaries:

John Smith: I am an Englishman living in China…. oh what joy, what bliss just to hear the deafening silence and to read the front page of the Aussie papers in the coming days………

Rod: I'm following the action from Sabah in Malaysia, thats the former British North Borneo for those who don't know. I keep updating every 5 minutes on my phone, so its hard to get much work done.

Dale from Billericay, living in Austin Texas: 
Well, I don't know which demolition job was more thorough – the English bowling attack or the thirteen family members that we had round for Christmas Dinner!

Geoff Purdy: I am sitting on an oil rig in the Arabian gulf and until this morning bemoaning my lot about having to fly out here on the 23rd of Dec and missing Xmas. Don't care now. 

Dave Foster: I'm an Englishman in Jakarta. Just waiting til we get the lead and then go and meet some of my Oz friends(?) down the pub and give them some stick.

Swann catches ponting
Chris West: 
Spending Christmas in Maui where 99.99% of the population doesn't have a clue what's going on just 3 time zones away at MCG. Come on England!

Stuart Cornberg, ex-Brummie in Israel: Woke up, looked over at Jerusalem heard the score and went back to bed. My best dreams were not as good as this, checked all possible ways to ensure that that I was alive.

Melanie Clegg: I'm tired, I'm living in a foreign country, and I'm beginning to lose my grasp of the English language.  Here I sit, nearly as far north as you can get in Norway, diligently following OBO while I repair dog harnesses. Difficult to share either joy or despair with a Norwegian, when they don't have the faintest idea about cricket. Here it's all handball. Why make a sport out of a foul?

John Butler:
Christmas day in New Delhi: tried Indian port – absolutely disgusting. Tasted like off Vimto. Crawled to the TV at five holding off the urge to vomit – a few hours later I've made the perfect poached eggs. Deep saucepan, water simmering, splash of vinegar, spin the water, as the vortex slows gently drop the egg in, leave for three minutes then pick it out with a spatula and check white is hard yolk is soft. Slam it on toast cracked pepper, a grating of cheese and a generous helping of Aussie wickets. Absolutely divine.

Ed, Essex: Let's face it cricket fans, the best present at Christmas comes right at the end of the day and is most certainly the Boxing Day Test at the MCG.

Richard: Just finished Christmas dinner here in the Cayman Islands and while the rest of the family are watching some film that I have never heard of, I am following the cricket on TMS but I cant help but wonder if anyone knows of a sports bar open in Grand Cayman that I could sneak off to under the pretence of going for an after-dinner walk.

Gerard Ross, in sunny Yorkshire: Best night shift ever.

Collingwood catch
 Just taken a helicopter flight up to view the Himalayas in Kathmandu. Logged on and saw something even better – Australia all out for 98! Does it get any better than this?

Brian in Siberia: You've got to hand it to Straussy… what a call to put the Aussies in again after getting hammered doing it in the previous Test!

Lee Westwood [via Twitter]: Will somebody please pinch me! I must wake up soon! I knew I shouldn't have eaten all that cheese! 98 all out? Have there been any calls for a Shane Warne comeback yet? It's about that time!


what care work has done to/for me

Since moving to Cornwall, my main job has been as a care-worker, supporting a guy with learning difficulties (and various complicating factors).  Apart from the need to find work, the reason I chose to do this was 'to see what it did to me' – I wanted to find out how I would come out of it, what I'd learn about myself etc.etc.

Well, five months on, what has it done to me?

An observation:  There's something in us, in our society, that measures our worth by looking at what we've achieved or contributed.  We meet a new person and ask, "What do you do?"  We discuss our hopes and schemes for future conquests, desperate to succeed and look good.  Great people do great things.

Most believers know (in their heads at least) that God measures value differently – that His love is unconditional and therefore a complete contrast to what I've just described – but we still live burdened by the need to achieve and look good.

When you are working with someone who cannot earn a living, who cannot care for himself, who cannot self-improve, and who, frankly, can be quite annoying, it messes with the success-oriented bits of you, because, since they cannot achieve value, it undermines your quest.  Babies may be entirely dependent too, but they don't threaten us in the same ways, since at least they can contribute cuteness and gradual development.

The guy I work with will probably never be independent, and will probably never become a 'net contributor to society'.  And yet, through all the frustrations and what-have-you, it's been slowly creeping up on me that it doesn't matter: it doesn't define him.  In God's eyes, he would not be more valuable if he'd just won the Ashes and found a cure for cancer – he is already worth more than any money and is precious beyond words.  And he doesn't even have a job – shocking.

I don't think I could have learned this without care work.  The love of God is terrifyingly relentless, and so far above our own.  I can run around trying to be successful and impressive and whatever, but if that's out of some need to earn acceptance, then it's the most ridiculous waste.

Those unable to compete in the Rat Race or achieve religious advancement show us up for the shallow frauds that we are.

The Best of Times, and the Worst of Times

We love church
Most British Christians are aware that the Church in our country isn't exactly in 'all conquering' mode just now – the CofE in particular is rarely more than a figure of public ridicule, as it comes to terms with its fall from power and influence etc.etc.

But that does presume that things used to be better.  Read on:

E. W. Benson, the first Bishop of Truro, spent much time travelling through Cornwall in the 19th century…

The pastors in many of these isolated hamlets were an odd bunch; one 'candidly acknowledged that he had little time for visiting his flock as his garden gave him so much pleasant occupation' while another vicar 'never set foot in his church at all, far less held any kind of service there'.

In his case, other clergy took the services, and the patron's plea that 'for the sake of example couldn't you just go to church yourself sometimes?' was to no avail: 'He preferred to stroll to the garden-gate of the vicarage which adjoined the church clad in a flowered dressing-gown and smoking a hookah, and when his parishioners came out he chatted with them very amiably.'

[from an old speech I read online]

Personally, I think that the first church to introduce hookahs (or arghiles, as we Lebanese call them) as a sacrament, wins.

O Jesus I Have Promised

When was the last time you sang a hymn to the accompaniment of a ukelele?  Well you really should; you really really should.  And now you can!


This was one of the very first hymns I put to an alternate tune.  I had been racking my brains for songs which everyone knew but wouldn't be too much of a distraction to sing in worship, plus I really wanted to revive O Jesus I Have Promised – the lyrics feel alive and real, positive and plaintive.

I think it works – I love singing it (even in dressing gown).  Plus, since it has been done in genres as diverse as beat music and a cappella folk, it can be done in a range of styles and rhythms.  Hence the ukelele.


Meeting the Bishop: why and what next

Well, I did give fair warning.

Yesterday, I bumbled along the icy road and up the hill to the Bishop's House – I was meeting Royden Screech, the almost unbelievably brilliantly named Bishop of St Germans.  He is the number 2 (to the Bishop of Truro) in Cornwall, Church of England-wise, and is the guy to whom you go when wanting to discuss the possibility of training for holy orders.

I intentionally dressed down and went for a walk in the snow first, arriving flushed and out of breath – I've always been attracted to not coming across particularly impressively 🙂

And it went well.  But I'm not going to write about that; I wanted to say something about how I got to this point and why.

I've felt called to The Church (note capitals) for as long as I've felt called to anything really – probably for about 8 years or so.  I've responded to that in a variety of ways (eg. in New Zealand I worked with over fifteen denominations) and basically ended up loving it – loving The Church – to a far bigger and deeper extent than I had even bothered conceive of before.

And then, this spring, I applied for a job as worship leader/musical director for an Anglican church in Hertfordshire.  They didn't offer me the job – fair enough – but told me that if they'd been looking for a new curate they'd have snapped me up; the vicar wanted to encourage me with what they saw in me, in a kind of 'gentle suggestion' kind of way.  Plus, when I went back and talked to him (and my issues with ordination etc.) he beat me to it by saying, "I don't really believe in ordination, and I'm not really an Anglican – I'm a Methodist – but I believe God has called me to do this."  That helped, and made it alright for me to think about it.

And in thinking about it – and talking it through with Maria, family, friends etc. – this big cloud of peace seemed to glide over/through/around me, as we faced up to the fact that, actually, I'd probably suit ordained work really pretty well and I'm very comfortable (and increasingly so) in the CofE.


This was in April and May.  We moved to Cornwall in June, and one of the reasons for that (to my mind at least) was the existing links I had with an Anglican church near Truro, called St Kea – I had applied for a job at Kea in 2009, and our Edinburgh friends Kenny & Bridget go there.  Because of those links, I could (within a few weeks) talk to the vicar about ordination and set in motion the process which I am now in.

So, next?

Well, I'm presently writing out a 2,000 word mini-biography, then I will re-meet the Bishop in January, and in the meantime I have to work through the Criteria For Selection with those who know me best.  Feel free to give me feedback if you have something deep and insightful to share …