Burns Night 2022

For Burns Night 2022 I share an appropriate poem: Address to a Haggis.

Happy Burns Night to all my Scottish friends!

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o need,
While thro your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An cut you up wi ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
The auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit’ hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whissle;
An legs an arms, an heads will sned,
Like taps o thrissle.

Ye Pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis
.

Robert Burns (1759-1796)

= (Ed Sheeran)

Although I wouldn’t describe myself an Ed Sheeran fan, I do enjoy his albums, and he always comes across as a thoroughly nice person.

He’s a very gifted singer-songwriter, and I love the way he creates his own accompaniment using loop pedals. His most recent album just missed out and didn’t make it to my list of 2021 favourites, not that he’ll be particularly worried.

You can see all my favourite albums of 2021 by clicking here, or the ones that missed out here.

Christ’s Manifesto

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’ Luke 4:14-21

This could be thought of as the manifesto of Jesus. He was setting out his mission as the Son of God, the Servant King.

Jesus had gone to worship at the synagogue in his hometown, and all the eyes of the people were fastened on him. There was great expectation. They were hoping for a sign, a sign that he was God’s Messiah, the one who would deliver the people from the oppression of Rome and bring political change.

He read to the people from the prophet Isaiah. Those words had been written many centuries before and described the deliverance of the people of Israel from exile in Babylon. There was a much deeper meaning though, pointing to a time when true freedom would come to the people. Jesus was saying there’s a worse poverty, captivity, blindness, and oppression.

This is what the Christian faith is all about. Jesus is central to the Bible, and the central message of the Bible is of God reaching out in love to humankind, and he reaches out supremely through the Cross of Jesus. Offering us release from spiritual poverty, captivity, blindness, and oppression.

Overcoming Winter Fatigue

It’s easy to feel exhausted in January, not least because of post-Christmas lethargy, the chilly weather, and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. So, if you’re suffering from winter weariness, then this post is for you. Here are some tips I’ve picked up to help get your energy back and defeat winter fatigue.

  • Throw your curtains open as soon as you wake up and get as much light as you can during the day, as this will help you sleep and recharge. Also, get out in the open air as much as possible during the daylight hours.
  • Do the things that bring you joy, because the lack of positive vibes adds to stress and tiredness. Be as sociable as possible because isolation can also cause you to feel tired. Do what makes you smile, laugh, or simply feel good.
  • Be careful what you eat. Carbohydrates and sugar make you feel less lively and lead to fluctuating sugar and energy levels. Eat plenty of heathy foods and avoid fatty food during the evening as these interfere with sleep. Consider food supplements and vitamins, see here. An alcoholic nightcap might seem tempting, but this can interfere with sleep quality causing early waking.
  • Find your exercise sweet spot, do what you can and not what you can’t. Exercise is always beneficial, but beware overdoing it and making yourself more tired. Be sensitive to your body.

Other things that can help are staying hydrated, taking time to do breathing exercises (apps are available), and keeping a gratitude journal. All these things can help calm our minds, promote a positive mood, and enhance motivation.

We live in challenging times, but these are things we can do to help us cope.

This might save your life!

This is a simple life hack that might save your life one day, I found it on Facebook.

If you’re ever lost miles from anywhere or stranded with a broken-down car (for example) and your mobile phone is low on battery, do this before it dies completely – provided you have a signal.

Change your voicemail to a message that gives your approximate location, time, date, situation, along with any specific information about your intentions. When someone calls you, they will hear the message and take appropriate action.

You’re welcome!

Note: a useful app for giving your location is what3words

Welwala (break_fold)

break_fold is an electronic producer based in the North of England. He was a veteran of the 2000s touring circuit, but swopped bands, guitars and service station pasties for beats, delays and reberb in 2015. His self-titled third album was one of my favourite albums of 2020, and you can find it on Bandcamp and Spotify. Tim Hann (his real name) subsequently released two tracks in June 2021.

Welwala (his latest single/January 2022) is about seeing something from two different points of view. Structured around two contrasting synth lines with focus shifting between them, layered with an insistent drum track in a sequence that hints at narrative evolution. Source

It’s an excellent track (which I was fortunate to hear before its official release) and I’m also pleased to have Tim as a Facebook friend now.

Extravagance at Cana

Bible Reading: John 2:1-11

Everyone plans well for a party, especially making sure there’s enough food and drink for everyone. Throughout history people have celebrated together by feasting, and this is something we all really missed during the coronavirus pandemic because these gatherings were banned.

Events associated with feasting make good memories for the future, and even a funeral reception or wake can be a place of joy, nurtured by food and drink.

Of course, waste is a concern for everyone, but running short of food or drink is always a failure of hospitality. When we come to that beautiful account of the wedding at Cana, all those themes and more are woven into the fabric of John’s story telling.

On the surface, there is the embarrassing awfulness of a wedding that runs out of wine. At a deeper level, we see the extravagance of God’s love and grace. Here is an overabundance of giving made real in Jesus for those who were present with him then, and with all who celebrate his presence now. It also points ahead to the great feast when the Lord will bring his promises to their ultimate fulfilment.

I invite to dig deeper into this wonderful story for yourselves, to discover its depths of meaning that reveal the extravagance of God and his love for us.

God who touchest earth with beauty,
Make my heart anew;
With thy Spirit recreate me
Pure and strong and true.
Like thy springs and running waters,
Make me crystal pure;
Like thy rocks of towering grandeur,
Make me strong and sure.

Like thy dancing waves in sunlight,
Make me glad and free;
Like the straightness of the pine trees
Let me upright be.
Like the arching of the heavens,
Lift my thoughts above;
Turn my dreams to noble action,
Ministries of love.

Like the birds that soar while singing,
Give my heart a song;
May the music of thanksgiving
Echo clear and strong.
God who touchest earth with beauty,
Make my heart anew;
Keep me ever by thy Spirit
Pure and strong and true.

Salvation Army Song Book 320 (TB 303/Whitechapel)

The Baptism of Christ

Today in the Christian calendar we celebrate The Baptism of Christ, here depicted in the wonderful painting by Piero della Francesca in the National Gallery, London.

You can read the story in the Bible here: Luke 3:15-22

I’m reading Dave Grohl‘s book The Storyteller that Naomi bought me for Christmas. In it, he describes when his eight-year-old daughter Harper asked him to teach her to play the drums. His response was one of fatherly pride and humility, the latter because he was self-taught and didn’t have a clue where to start.

In the story of Jesus’ baptism, we are told that God was well pleased with his Son. By implication, God is pleased with us when we walk and live in the footsteps of Jesus. May we live like that in the coming days, not judging people but coming alongside them and loving them with the parental love of God.

Piero was the first artist to write a treatise on perspective – that is, creating an illusion of three-dimensional space on a flat surface. Here, he has painted objects in proportion, so that they appear as we see them in real life. This emphasises the depth of the landscape, but also the harmony of the figures and natural features within it. Christ stands in a shallow, winding stream as John the Baptist pours a small bowl of water over his head. Three angels in colourful robes witness the event. At this very moment, the voice of God was heard – ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased’ (Matthew 3:16) – and the Holy Ghost, shown here as a dove flying over Christ’s head and towards us, descended upon him. This painting was made for the small chapel dedicated to Saint John the Baptist in the Camaldolese abbey of Piero’s hometown, Borgo Sansepolcro. Source

Saying ‘NO’

It’s not always easy to say no, but often it’s essential to retain the balance of our everyday mental health. People will make demands of us, asking for this or that. They’ll ask nicely and this makes it difficult to refuse their reasonable requests, because we all want to be liked. Often people’s requests for your time or expertise can flatter, and this also makes it difficult to say no.

But we can’t say yes to everything or everyone without losing our own equilibrium. We can only help others when we look after ourselves. I want to be there for my family and friends, but to do that I have to be there for myself. An empty vessel has nothing to give. It’s not selfish, it’s inherent to human life.

One danger is when you say yes to those with the loudest requests and feel bad afterwards. Then you’re not able to spend time with those who you want spend time with, or with those who might benefit more but are less inclined to ask. Learn when to say no and when to say yes. Saying no to loud people gives you the resources to say yes to important opportunities.

Also beware of ‘distant elephants’ – saying yes to something next year that you wouldn’t say yes to if it was next week. It’s still an elephant when the time arrives, even if it appears small now!

Remember, you can say no with respect, you can say no promptly, and you can say no with a lead to someone else who might say yes. Saying yes because you can’t bear the short-term pain of saying no is not going to help you or others.

The Gifts of the Wise Men

Bible Readings: Matthew 2:1-12 & 2 Corinthians 9:6-11

Christmas celebrates the coming of God’s gift, the birth of Jesus as Saviour of the World. Epiphany celebrates our giving to God, symbolised by the wise men bringing their gifts to the baby Jesus. It’s traditionally celebrated on the twelfth day after Christmas (January 6).

We know very little about them, and only assume there were three because there were three gifts. Those three gifts represent three distinct aspects of our lives that we need to present to Jesus.

Gold represents everything of material value; our money, our property, our belongings. It’s good to recognise that everything comes from God, and as Christians we offer it to Jesus. We may not have much, but let’s make sure give our symbolic gold to Jesus, for God to use.

Frankincense represents something less tangible than gold. It symbolises our inner treasure of thought and influence; our education, our talents, and our personalities. By offering these to Jesus we have a reference point for our actions and behaviour, recognising something greater than ourselves.

Myrrh, partly because of its use in embalming, has been identified with sorrow and suffering. We can bring the challenging times in life to Jesus, and experience God’s comfort.

Myrrh is mine; it’s bitter perfume.
Breathes a life of gathering gloom;
Sorrowing. sighing, bleeding, dying,
Sealed in a stone-cold tomb.

A fourth wise man called Artaban belongs to the realm of myth and legend, but he is imagined having brought a gift representing the happier things in life. A reminder that Jesus:

…feeleth for our sadness,
And he shareth in our gladness.

The whole of human life can be symbolised in the three (four) gifts, personal gifts of ourselves that we can bring to Jesus.

Father, I place into your hands
The things I cannot do,
Father, I place into your hands
The things that I’ve been through.
Father, I place into your hands
The way that I should go,
For I know I always can trust you.

Father, I place into your hands
My friends and family.
Father, I place into your hands
The things that trouble me.
Father, I place into your hands
The person I would be,
For I know I always can trust you.

Father, we love to see your face,
We love to hear your voice.
Father, we love to sing your praise
And in your name rejoice.
Father, we love to walk with you
And in your presence rest,
For we know we always can trust you.

Father, I want to be with you
And do the things you do.
Father, I want to speak the words
That you are speaking too.
Father, I want to love the ones
That you will draw to you,
For I know that I am one with you.