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Showing posts from January, 2009

90 Minutes In Heaven

Margaret in our Office lent me this book, 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper, telling me that she had read it in one hit, unable to put it down. Me too. I read it in a sitting, and found it, in places, very moving. But a fascinating book is not necessarily a good book. This one is smallish, 205 pages, fairly well written by Piper's ghost writer Cecil Murphy, and quite undemanding. And it does seem strange, on reflection that a book which claims to tell of an actual trip to heaven and back should be undemanding. In fact the time in Heaven occupies only 15 pages. There is a brief postscript which does some rudimentary analysis of the whole phenomenon of near death experiences, but by and large, the book is about Don Piper's accident and his gradual recovery from some horrific injuries. On the way home from a conference, while negotiating a two lane bridge, his little Ford Escort was run over by an eighteen wheeler . Piper was cursorily examined by paramedics, declared dead and

Gearing Up

We have been reading up about the Camino, looking through our tramping gear, and thinking about what we can make do with and what we will need to buy. It will be a different sort of walking than we re used to: mainly hard surfaces, and with small towns every few miles along the route. There are pilgrims' hostels and restaurants and shops. There will be no need for a tent, a stove or much food. It will be May, and, although the guide books tell us there is still the possibility of snow at the start of the Camino, we will be more likely to encounter some rain, and as the month draws on, quite warm weather. So, it will be small packs, light weight boots, 1 season sleeping bags. One thing all commentators agree on, is the fact that the local people speak no English. Or French or German for that matter. So, today I started to see how much rudimentary Spanish I could cram into my head between now and April. Given today's effort with Spanish In 30 Days , my guess is: not much. I'l

Walking the Way

I'm about 2/3 the way through the radiotherapy, have managed to get my innards and tiredness levels under quasi control and have got emotional space to start thinking of other stuff: most notably the trip we will make in the second term of this year to replace the one we didn't take last year. Things have changed. Apart from the obvious stuff about a sadder and a wiser man he rose the morrow morn there is a shift in global economics and safety. Israel seems like a marginal idea right now, and the drop in the New Zealand dollar has made St George's college a more difficult proposition anyway. So, we are looking at leaving our suitcases with our friends Nick and Louise in Neuchatel, Switzerland and heading off on several small expeditions.Assisi for example. And Taize. Another of these will be to spend some time walking part of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela - the ancient pilgrimage route through Northern Spain. The whole thing would take a month, which is probably a

Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Man

copyright unknown I usually get up around 6:00 so this morning was no exception. What was different was breaking my routine to turn on the TV and watch Barack Obama be sworn in as the 44th president of The United States of America. It was a moving few minutes. Everyone else in Washington DC was togged up against the weather but the new president stood in his suitcoat, calm and strong and not shivering in the freezing noontime air. He then spoke to the crowd in an address which struck me for what I did not hear. I was listening for the carefully crafted phrase: the line which would be quoted back for decades to come. I was listening for the gem which some employed poet, one of a team working in an Illinois office somewhere over the past 6 months, had come up with and honed and refined and reshaped so that it would resound down through the television speakers of the world over the next few decades. It didn't come. Praise God, it didn't come. To be sure the speech was polished


I was a bit tired after church this morning and lay down on my bed. Four hours of deep, inky dark sleep later I woke to an amazing sight. Outside my bedroom window is an old birch tree, tall enough that I look up to it from my upstairs window. It is filled with dead wood, but because the branches near the top are so spindly, there is no reasonable way to climb into it and prune it, so even in the height of summer it has bare branches. The poor old thing lives in perpetual autumn. But not today. I looked out at it, with my head still on the pillow and its branches were filled with blossom: almond blossom. There is was, bedecked in drifts of the palest pink and white and the deep red centres of the blooms clearly visible, even from a distance of 20 metres. It was at the same time an instant reassurance of the eternal springtime of God and a sight so bizarre I raised my head sharply. And on shifting my perspective by even an inch all was resolved into normalcy. There were no blooms, just


In 1991 I was vicar of a large charismatic parish when a phenomenon called the Toronto Blessing hit town. It was a sort of hyper Pentecostalism which involved people falling over and laughing- the twitch and gibber school of theology. It appealed greatly to some people in my parish but for me, it didn't excite any spiritual enthusiasm at all. Quite the opposite, in fact, when I saw the effects of 'The Blessing' in some people's daily lives. Although I had been a card carrying member of the Charismatic Renewal for a long long time, I was rattled. Is this what Christianity was really all about? Of course a lot of other things were happening in my life at the time, and in the middle of my questioning I took a book off my shelf that someone had given me five or so years before, but which had sat unread and neglected ever since: Gerard Hughes' God of Surprises . The book was a bombshell in my spiritual life. And in one of those odd pieces of synchronicity that happens

One Step at a Time

8 down. 25 to go. It's the same routine every day. Eat. Drink. Crap. Drink some more. Drive to the hospital. Undress. Put on the weird gown and the shorts with no elastic. Lie on the bed with the new fresh paper covering and the small blocks for knees and feet. Watch the machine and the green lasers. Lie still. Stare at the white ceiling. Count the whirrs as the masks are set and the whine as the doses are delivered. 1...2...3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10...11...12...13...14. Dress. Go home. Spend the day getting bladder and bowels in order for the next one. I feel OK, sort of. There's nothing to feel when it's happening, but there is a continual dull sense of unwellness that is creeping over me day by day. Nothing I can put my finger on - metaphorically or literally - but a feeling some where down there like a mild hangover. A feeling like the last spoonful of Lanes' Emulsion is still sitting pretty heavy in your stomach and your Mum wants to give you another one. The

Why Africa Needs God

London Times columnist and atheist  Matthewe Parris has written, in his December 27 column, an article on why Africa needs God. Visit this link to read his surprising and provocative opinion: Matthew Parrris article

The Year of the Penguin

The year has started brilliantly. Only two days in and it's been good news all the way. We have a big house: five bedrooms (six if you count the upstairs sunroom) and four living rooms (five if you count the downstairs sunroom) and we began the new year with every room occupied. People in every bed and trundle beds in every place they would fit. We borrowed a trestle table from the parish hall in order to seat everyone for big, shambling, lengthy, noisy meals for which most adults present had had a part in preparation. With people coming and going at different times we had three sessions sitting around the Christmas tree unwrapping stuff and being surprised at one another's thoughfulness.We didn't do much else. We watched a few videos ( Anne of Green Gables , Prince Caspian , and, when the kids weren't around, Green Wing and The Office [the real one ie the British one, of course]). Some people went for a daily run or a trip to the gym. I went off to have my inna