Not all modern music is rubbish!

I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that all new music is bad because it clearly isn’t. But Freddy (7) has discovered the worst examples of modern music that requires little more creativity and talent than turning on a laptop. I asked his Alexa to play The Beatles for him, but that didn’t last long, he was back to his awful music before I’d left the room. At least I tried.

The Lord’s Prayer 1

A recent Sunday devotional served as an introduction to the well-known Lord’s Prayer, this is the first in a series considering the prayer in more detail.

Bible Reading: Matthew 6:1-15

It’s quite possible for us to use words and phrases but forget exactly what they mean or what we’re saying. This is something that can happen so easily with the Lord’s Prayer, the words can just roll off our tongues because we’ve grown up with them and they’re so familiar. We must always be aware of what we’re saying and remember the implications for our lives and the lives of others.

The Lord’s Prayer has something of a universal appeal that can go way beyond the Christian sphere. It can be prayed by those of other faiths and admired by those of none. It was famously prayed by David Bowie at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992, but its fullest meaning (of course) is within a Christian context.

The prayer contains simple, yet profound statements. It’s a prayer that’s regularly recited in worship, yet it would seem to be a model for our own prayers in private. Jesus spent much time in prayer and offers this prayer as an example for us: This, then, is how you should pray.

The prayer is notable for being short, and quality in prayer is always more important than quantity. We don’t need to heap up empty phrases we need to use simple and sincere words when we pray.

The prayer has form, and we need this in our prayers, provided it doesn’t become formality. Our prayers need fervour and form; there’s a balance to keep. The Lord’s Prayer perfectly illustrates the balance.

It contains SIX prayers, THREE needs of God and THREE of our needs:
YOUR, YOUR, YOUR, and OUR, OUR, OUR.

The order is significant:
Not ME, ME, ME, but YOUR, YOUR, YOUR.
YOUR name, YOUR kingdom, YOUR will.

This prayer gives God his rightful place, first:
We don’t come to God with ME ME ME, but YOU, YOU, YOU.
We come as humble servants, YOU YOU YOU.

The first thing in prayer is to acknowledge and give God his rightful place, then allow our hearts and minds to tune in to his will and purposes.

To be continued…

Billingham Beck Valley Country Park

The Country Park is located in a section of Billingham Beck Valley that has traditionally been referred to as ‘Billingham Bottoms’. For hundreds of years several areas of the valley have been used for hay making and seasonal grazing, agricultural practices which still continue today. Many of the fields have very old names which feature on tithe maps of the valley dating as far back as 1673.

A water mill powered by the beck existed in the valley up until 1918. Part of the building survived until 1980, but was subsequently demolished to make way for the new. A19. The mill owner was responsible for managing fields including Mill Bottom, Mill Meadow, and Mill Batts, (the latter an old name for an area of land between two watercourses). The Glebe also refers to the landowner, as it is an old English name for church-owned land.

Other field names here refer to the fact that the valley floods very regularly. These include Flutter Carr (flooded wet land) and Rushy Carr, which is where part of the Ecology Park is now located. The Willowgarth is an old enclosure surrounded by willow trees and Willow Crook refers to the large bend in the beck. The name Frognell probably indicates that there were always a lot of frogs!

Billingham Beck Valley Country Park is managed by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council for the public enjoyment of the countryside, for environmental education and in the interests of nature conservation.

Notes: This country park is practically on our doorstep, and we love visiting with our children and friends. After having had a good look at the map we’ve realised there’s still so much to explore. The photo of an information board was taken with the ‘Google PhotoScan’ app and the text extracted with the ‘Google Photos’ app.

On the death of a dog (reflection)

The death of a dog is a bereavement, just like any other. You feel the same, you react the same, and it’s deeply personal. Like all bereavements, it brings back memories, it brings back feelings, it reminds you of other bereavements. It’s a swirling whirlpool of deeply personal reactions, twisting powerful emotions together in your head and heart.

Note: The photo is a stock image, but one which reminds me of my Border Collie X Zoe who died in May 2011.

Our Dog Toby 2008-2022

Toby with Freddy in 2016 (click to enlarge)

Our dog Toby died in Naomi’s arms early this morning. We had the children with us, as well as their grandparents Margaret and Brian, so we were all with him at the end. Freddy (7) came with us in the car to take him to the vet. He’s grown up a lot today. All very upset, but a learning experience for the children. Heartbroken.

Note: Apologies for not publishing a Sunday devotional today.

Glastonbury 2022

I’ve enjoyed catching up with all the performances at Glastonbury 2022 on BBC iPlayer since the music festival.

Of the 90 individual sets I’ve watched 38 in full (often while doing something else or in the background) but all the others have been dipped into, some for only a few minutes if I didn’t like it or it didn’t grab my attention.

Watched in full:
Angélique Kidjo
beabadoobee
Bonobo
Burna Boy
Diana Ross
Elbow
Four Tet
George Ezra
HAIM
Herbie Hancock
Inhaler
Jack White
Jarvis Cocker
Jessie Ware
Joy Crookes
Kacey Musgraves
Kendrick Lamar
Khruangbin
Koffee
Lianne La Havas
Mitski
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Nubya Garcia
Olivia Rodrigo
Paul McCartney
Pet Shop Boys
Primal Scream
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss
Rufus Wainwright
Sam Fender
Sleaford Mods
Snarky Puppy
St. Vincent
Supergrass
The Avalances
The Jesus and Mary Chain
Wet Leg
Wolf Alice

Didn’t watch in full:
AJ Tracey
Amyl and the Sniffers
Arlo Parks
Bicep
Big Thief
Billie Eilish
black midi
Blossoms
Caribou
Caroline Polachek
Cate Le Bon
Celeste
Confidence Man
Courtney Barnett
Crowded House
Declan McKenna
Dry Cleaning
Easy Life
First Aid Kit
Foals
Gabriels
Ghetts
girl in red
Glass Animals
Greentea Peng
Griff
Holly Humberstone
IDLES
Jamie T
Leon Bridges
Little Dragon
Little Simz
Lorde
Megan Thee Stallion
Metronomy
Nightmares on Wax
Pa Salieu
Phoebe Bridgers
Róisín Murphy
Saint Etienne
Sampa The Great
Self Esteem
Seun Kuti & Egypt 80
Sigrid
Skunk Anansie
Squid
TLC
Turnstile
Warmduscher
Years & Years
YUNGBLUD
Yves Tumor

Photo Credit: Glastonbury Tor: View of an iconic landmark by Eugene Birchall is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

British politics is broken

There’s such division in British politics right now. One Nation Tories have been side-lined or pushed out by the right-wing. Labour’s social democratic wing, which seeks to appeal to the middle ground of the generally moderate electorate, is fighting the socialists and vice-versa.

I don’t think there’s ever been a stronger case for proportional representation than the current situation, with a wide range of political parties. Two-party politics seems broken, with opinions sharply divided. In the meantime, ordinary people just want to get on with their lives with a reasonable standard of living, the means to put food on the table, pay their bills, and get health care when they need it. Not to mention a safe future for their children and grandchildren.

What have you done?

The wind, one brilliant day, called
to my soul with an odour of jasmine.

‘In return for the odour of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odour of your roses.’

‘I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead.’

‘Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.’

the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
‘What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?’

Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

The Lord’s Prayer (Introduction)

Today’s Sunday devotional features the Lord’s Prayer found in Luke 11:1-13, a prayer so familiar for many people that we easily forget how challenging it is.

The prayer puts God first and ourselves last, whilst acknowledging our need of him in all areas of our lives. What a different world we would live in if everyone who recited it lived it.

“Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

To pray ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done’ must begin in us, we must answer the prayer ourselves by allowing his will in our lives, otherwise the words are meaningless.

So, a simple question for us all today, how can we receive God’s forgiveness for ourselves if we have an unforgiving spirit towards others within us?

Interestingly, the prayer has something to say to people of all faiths and (I would contend) none. Why not have a fresh look at this prayer? Imagine you are praying it for the first time, you might be surprised.

See also: The Lord’s Prayer 1

Social Justice and Equality

The second Sunday in July is traditionally Sea Sunday, if you’d like a devotional with this theme you can click here. Otherwise, I’m focussing on today’s Lectionary Bible readings that centre on social justice and equality.

Amos 7:7-17 stresses the importance being upright, straight, and true: Look, I am setting a plumb-line among my people.

Psalm 82 is a challenge to social justice: ‘How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Colossians 1:1-14 is a wide ranging passage, but urges God’s people to bear fruit in every good work and grow in the knowledge of God.

The final reading is Luke 10:25-37: The Good Samaritan. The truth about this parable of Jesus is that the Samaritans were hated by the Jews at the time.

So in a lovely twist, Jesus makes the Samaritan the hero of the story to show the religious leaders that he just did naturally what they found excuses not to do. Hate is a dangerous thing.

We help people because it’s basic to our humanity, it’s the right thing to do. This we can agree with humanists, agnostics and atheists. Indeed, they often say their motives are purer than ours.

As Christians, we also help people because God demonstrated his love for humanity through Jesus. Jesus cared for people, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually – in other words, Christians need to be like Jesus, simple.

Who are those who are ‘hated’ today? Who are those who are looked down on and despised? Who are the marginalised people? What do we think about immigrants? Who are excluded by the church? What is our attitude to LGBTQ+ people? How do we treat those who are not ‘like’ us?

God’s love is for all, it’s boundless. Human love should reach across our self-imposed discrimination and prejudice. How will this affect the way you respond to others this week?