reflecting my eclectic (and sometimes erratic) life
Author: John Ager
Salvation Army Officer (in retirement) who likes technology, Radiohead and F1. Married to Naomi. Runner. Christian with an open heart and mind. Left of centre. Freedom, justice and equality. Feminism. LGBTQ ally. Interfaith dialogue with those of all faiths and none. Geek. Personal views.
This week is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (18-25 January), often abbreviated as WPCU. It involves Christian communities from across the world and from almost every denomination.
There are many different Christian churches and denominations, but all have the same basic calling – to worship God, to share the good news about Jesus Christ, and to work for the good of all people. So they often need to work together, as well as co-ordinate the work they each do separately. When they do, they are acting as Churches Together. But being Churches Together means more than that. It means commitment by each church and denomination to deepen its fellowship with the others and, without losing what makes each interestingly different, to work with them towards a greater visible unity.
To help the churches live as Churches Together, a number of small organisations have been created to ease their way. There is one in almost every town or community to help them to work together locally. There are others in the regions and for each of the four nations of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England. There is also an umbrella organisation in the UK, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland (CTBI), from which I have obtained the above information. Additionally, there is the World Council of Churches.
You can find helpful resources on the CTBI website, including for WPCU below:
My wife Naomi bought this book for me as a Christmas present in 2019, and it’s the first book I’ve read in 2021. My delay was partly because I knew it would be challenging, and indeed it was! One review on Goodreads puts it very well: Over-complicated, but it’s not the author’s fault, it’s just how our Universe is.
Particle Physics is hard, even with LEGO, but it’s an excellent book that I’ll need to read again sometime. This stuff baffles even the best minds in the world, so don’t expect to understand it by simply reading this book, however good. My favourite quote from the book, We are still very much in the dark about dark energy.
You can find me on Goodreads (click the link), and see all my 2021 books here.
Today is the third Monday in January, a day designated as Blue Monday, the most depressing day of the year in the northern hemisphere.
Unfortunately, this trivial label actually damages our understanding of mental health, just for the sake of a superficial piece of clickbait. Yes, I guess my title is itself clickbait, but if this article helps you to understand actual depression better it will have achieved its purpose.
We all know that in a normal year January can be a difficult month for our mental health (for a variety of reasons) and 2021 is not a normal year. So, even though the concept of Blue Monday appears to make sense, I feel we should reject it even more this year. The very real challenges we face this January make my premise even stronger this year, Blue Monday just isn’t real.
You’ll hear people say that it’s been worked out using a ‘scientific formula’. In fact, it first appeared as part of an advertising campaign for a holiday company, hardly the rigorous, evidence-based approach we might expect. Even the person whose name was on the original press release has since distanced himself from Blue Monday, admitting he was paid to help sell holidays. He now campaigns against Blue Monday.
Having said all that, the date continues to surface every January, and is increasingly linked to mental health and depression. In fact, it’s simply a day when we’re all supposed to feel a bit down, but even that is far-fetched if you give it some thought and view it through the lens of common sense.
A few years ago, the charity Mind attempted to dispel the myth that Blue Monday had anything to do with depression.
Depression is NOT something that happens one day and disappears the next, as if it has trivial ’causes’. Blue Monday is mumbo jumbo, pseudoscience that only serves to add to damaging preconceptions about depression and trivialises a serious illness that can be life-threatening. Depression has nothing to do with the third Monday in January.
The idea that depression is basically the same as feeling low is very pervasive within society, as if it’s ’caused’ by trivial things with the ‘cure’ a matter of ‘pulling yourself together’. Facile responses to depression, such as ‘cheer up’, merely reinforce the preconception it can easily be shaken off with determination and effort. This is not the case, depression is NOT the same as having a bad day.
Depression is way more than simply feeling a bit low, and this is what’s difficult for some people to grasp. It’s about guilt, feelings of worthlessness, lack of motivation, and a sense of emptiness, with simple tasks seemingly impossible to achieve. But there’s also the physical symptoms; headaches, aches and pains, lack of appetite, and sleep disturbances. On top of this can come insidious suicidal thoughts.
It’s an insult to think that the mental and physical complexity of depression can be encapsulated in a catchy named day. The negative things in everyday life that get us down are NOT the things that cause depression, it’s NOT something ‘catch’ from our circumstances. Yes, they can affect our mental health adversely, but they don’t cause depression. Depression can happen in good times.
The ‘why’ of depression is a complex and multi-faceted question. Please don’t trivialise it by falling for a gimmick, reject Blue Monday!
Finally, here’s a Blue Monday we mustn’t reject, enjoy! Click here.
The Letter of Paul to the Philippians in the Bible is characterised by joy, it contains the word (in its various forms) some 16 times within its four chapters. I’m featuring it in my Sunday devotionals through January 2021. You can read my introduction here with other links.
Chapter 2 contains one of the most profound passages in the New Testament (which may be an early Christian hymn). Paul’s purpose is to call the church to unity on the basis of the humility and servanthood of Jesus, and teach theology along the way. Take a few moments to read it through thoughtfully and prayerfully, maybe twice or more.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This passage is central to Christian belief and practice. To be ‘united with Christ’ goes to the very heart of salvation and what it means to be a Christian. It’s a relationship with Christ as Saviour and Lord, one which places on us the joy of following and the responsibility of living like Jesus. Loving God and loving others in Jesus’ name, with no discrimination or favouritism.
We should be like-minded with Christ, and like-minded with each other. We will (of course) have our differing likes and views, but because we are ‘united with Christ’ there is an expectation that we will respect each other and seek to serve the common good.
Is there a relationship you need to mend? Is there a bridge you need to build towards others in your community? How can you reach out to groups you might consider ‘different’ from you in some way?
Heavenly Father, help us to live our lives with humble hearts, reaching out to our neighbours in love, and ready to serve suffering humanity. Amen.
From fairest creatures we desire increase, That thereby beauty’s rose might never die, But as the riper should by time decease, His tender heir might bear his memory: But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes, Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel, Making a famine where abundance lies, Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel. Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament And only herald to the gaudy spring, Within thine own bud buriest thy content And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding. Pity the world, or else this glutton be, To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.
One day I wrote her name upon the strand, But came the waves and washed it away: Again I wrote it with a second hand, But came the tide, and made my pains his prey. “Vain man,” said she, “that dost in vain assay. A mortal thing so to immortalise, For I myself shall like to this decay, And eek my name bee wiped out likewise.” “Not so,” quoth I, “let baser things devise, To die in dust, but you shall live by fame: My verse your virtues rare shall eternise, And in the heavens write your glorious name. Where whenas death shall all the world subdue, Our love shall live, and later life renew.”
I’ve just updated my Windows 10 laptop with this pre-release build of Windows 10 via the Windows Insider Program. It’s a chance to try out new features before the normal release date of significant updates to the Windows 10 operating system (see here for more information).
When it first loaded there was initially little to distinguish it from my existing version, just the information in the bottom right-hand corner of the desktop (shown above) and a weather icon and text on the taskbar. The latter expands to show various other information (which you can customise), but I like a minimalist taskbar and so I soon got rid of it. If you like these kind of features, you might find it useful.
As the title suggests, this album is one to soothe troubled spirits in a challenging world, even when addressing tough issues in today’s society. It’s one of my favourite albums of 2020.
You can see all my favourite 2020 albums by clicking here.
Ego Ella May is a British songwriter and vocalist from South London. She has an all-encompassing love of music, which she channels into her own neo-soul and contemporary jazz compositions. She boasts a rich, mature sound, one that belies her years.
You can find the album on Bandcamp (and other streaming services) and an excellent review here.