Monday, 30 November 2009


Notice anything about the picture below?

This is what I found myself doing the other day - co-ordinating the coat-hangers with the colour of the shirts!!
Oh dear!!!! have to admit it's pretty...

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Trinity and Ultimate Harmony [And what's 'diapason'??]

'From harmony, from heavenly harmony, 
This universal frame began:  
From harmony to harmony 
Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 
The diapason closing full in Man.'

- John Dryden (1687), put to music in Handel's Ode to St. Celia's Day.

So, I have been listening to Handel. For this I completely 100% blame Mike Reeves.  If you are not familiar with this fellow, check out some of his stuff on the Theology Network website.

I have been listening to his series of talks on the Trinity this week - the best food my mind and soul have had for a long long while. It was like the theological equivalent of having a good beef roast dinner, (with yorkshire puddings, crispy roast potatoes and all the kinds of veg you can imagine!), followed by some kind of chocolate gateaux. Bearing in mind I am in the land of rice meals 3 times a day, imagine how EXTRA special [theologically!] this means!! Please immediately download these talks from the Theology Network site, you won't be disappointed.

Anyway, there were many, many applications and observations that he brought out from the fact that we have a Triune God, not least the fact that we are made to be in community (and thus helping me to see difficult interactions I have had to have with people this week as an opportunity to celebrate the Trinity!). There's lots I am still processing and thinking through, but the subject of this post is something Mike said almost as an aside at the end of the 3rd talk, about the Trinity giving us the pattern for harmony.
'If there's only one ultimate reality there's no conception of ultimate harmony and so harmony isn't an intrinsically good thing, and therefore you don't have it!' he says. Trinitarian Christianity on the other hand, he points out, has always had a 'love affair' with music.

It was to highlight and celebrate this that Mike played a clip of Handel's 'Ode to St. Cecilia's Day' in his talk!
[I had to look up the word 'diapason' though as that one was not in my vocabulary! Here is what I found:]

di⋅a⋅pa⋅son /ˌdaɪəˈpeɪzən, -sən/ Show Spelled Pronun[dahy-uh-pey-zuhn]:
 noun, Music. a full, rich outpouring of melodious sound

Isn't that wonderful!? The words drip Trinitarian theology, such as was recovered in the reformation; the theology which would be the fuel for the fires of such joyful, harmonious musical expression as Handel brought to them. Harmony of three persons, spilling over into words and music.

In contrast to this, the music scratched out on the dry, dusty parchments of the pre-reformation era, were as monotone as the remote, philosophical monadic divine-entity that their thinking venerated. When you replace the true, Trinitarian God of the Bible with this empty, vague concept of God being some sort of a 'divine essence', it is not surprising that music loses its harmony. To give us an idea of the kind of music he was referring to, Mike challenged us to put on a Gregorian chant....and dance to it!!

Lets read John Dryden's words again, and taste their Trinitarian flavour!

'From harmony, from heavenly harmony, 
This universal frame began:  
From harmony to harmony 
Through all the compass of the notes it ran,
The diapason closing full in Man.'

'We worship a God who is a harmony of three persons' - Mike Reeves

And so it is that I bought my first ever piece of classical music - in celebration of Trinitarian harmony!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Thai Cultural Lessons #6 [Toilets]

Anyone who’s known me for a while might know of my slightly odd fascination with toilets. You may or may not know that I have a folder of photos on my computer (and indeed facebook) entitled ‘toilets’, mainly collected during my time doing Relay in Cardiff. Each one has a story!

Well, it turns out that Thailand also has toilets, with some added fun extra bits! So I thought I would tell you about them!

First there is the implement called the ‘bum-spray’. Traditionally Thai people use this to wash themselves after using the toilet and then use toilet paper to dry themselves. The toilet paper then goes in the bin, not the toilet, to avoid blockage. This routine is an all round much more hygienic option! (Note: the toilet paper can also be missed out all together – a wetter, but quicker option!)
Here is a picture of my very own ‘bum-spray’ in my bathroom:

Now, I decided a long time ago to full on go for the bum-spray option, leaving the days of toilet paper behind. I was happy with this arrangement until the day I broke my first bum-spray. In the year I have lived in this house I have broken 2 bum-sprays and the one in the picture is on its way out after I dropped it on the floor recently. It now drips continually. After so many breakage incidents I have learned to keep a spare one, that’s what this is, soon to be ‘bum-spray the 4th’! (Note how they call it a 'hand-spray' - this is more polite, but less accurate than my name for it!)

Actually, my kind housemate, knowing my tendency to break bum-sprays, bought me this one as a gift before going away, incase it exploded when she was away.

In my defence, they are easy to break. The way they work is this: there is always water being pumped into them through the pipe. When you press the handle the water is released as a jet. So if the plastic wears out or breaks then water basically explodes out of it everywhere and the whole thing needs to be replaced! Quite dramatic!

The second cool toilet related thing I want to share is this special happy toilet powder:

Unfortunately, despite my best attempts to avoid blockages by not using toilet paper, my toilet blocked the other day. No other toilet in the building blocked (we have 7!). So I figured the problem was my toilet and tried the special powder.

Despite its cool (and very cute) pictures of before and after toilets, it didn’t work. I will spare you from the details of how this meant I ended up having to put my hand into the toilet. Which turned out to be the start of a pattern – since I had to reach in there again yesterday to rescue my phone.

Anyway, the toilet problem was solved by getting some men to come and empty our sceptic tank, which was apparently full. This was not nearly as exciting or gross as I was expecting, so I will spare you the photos!

Incidentally, it is possible to have a theology of toilet use. Mike Reeves talks about how flushing things away can be a cause to celebrate God’s victory over false gods! ‘Shout a little Halleluiah on the loo!’ He exhorts.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Life to a sound-track

Sometimes I live my life to a soundtrack. Perhaps just for a few brief moments or minutes, but it feels like longer. In those moments I see things through the lens of a camera, and yet they somehow seem more real, more alive than ever. Reel after reel of moving pictures. I get on the bus. I take a seat. I glance around. Take everything in. My eyes are camera lenses. My ears are headphones. Words and melodies filling my head so that I feel like everything is swimming in the music. And then I am part of the film reel, swept along in the meaning and mystery as it unravels to a soundtrack. The music drives the reel, spilling its rich, honest light over the scene, showing up every detail. It’s not true of course that everything has more meaning in those moments; it’s just that I feel it more keenly. I see things. I look for things, my eyes peeled for every flicker.

The way the evening light rests on a face opposite me, highlighting regrets and lost thoughts, a clenched jaw; the way the old man drops a handful of coins on the floor and stoops jerkily to pick them up, the flicker of gratitude in his eyes mixed with sadness as a small girl swoops to help him – sadness, perhaps, because his movements are slower than what they once were, a sadness that she, in her youth, doesn’t pick up on as they meet eyes; The way the young couple next to me seem to be putting on a new layer of chain-mail with each exchange, eyes glazed and steely towards one another, talking but not really talking; My hand, poised to pull the cord and sound the buzzer when the time is right, watching as the familiar scenery tumbles away behind us in a blur of faded colours and golden light; The way that my own body moves through the evening air as if through water as I step down from the bus, which is still coming to a stop, hand gripping the rails, but with the confidence of familiarity; The glint of sun on metal as money slides into the dark, calloused hand of the driver.

All these things, every little flicker of light, of expression, every breath, ache and movement, every detail comes alive, moving to the music in my ears. Pointing me to the bigger reality, the heartbeat of the details. The rhythm we are out of sync with so often. The need for Jesus in every detail. The Jesus through whom every detail was made. The Jesus through whom every detail finds its meaning.

The sharpness of the details in those moments cuts through the dull ache of the emptiness, the rejection of Him all around, and screams fuzzy memory into sharp focus; the Jesus we forget in the details.