Thursday, 28 July 2011
The New York Hotel Maid at the centre of her alleged rape by the ex chief of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK), has finally broken her silence after many weeks. She maintains her own innocence of charges of giving contradictory and misleading information to the authorities, when reporting the incident, and holds firm to her story that she was subjected to an unprovoked sex attack.
A lowly maid comes up against one of the world's most influential men. Each with their own story, and each which contradicts the other. Only one is telling the truth. No surprises there then? This is America, the land of the sue culture. Maybe we need the real 'Sioux' to sort this out.
Having lived in the USA, we made many friends, who are good people. That is not in doubt, but I will say what is. Money. In the land of opportunity, and the American Dream, nothing speaks louder than money. It permeates society, from the very poor (who have none) and the rich (who have plenty). It will not be the first time that a wealthy and powerful person will be in the courtroom, (if the case ever gets that far!) defended by the best lawyer that money can buy, and with only one purpose, to get free. On the other side of the courtroom will be a poor Maid, with only her dignity and a less than well known defence lawyer. Do you think it will be a fair trial? I don't. I reckon the scales of 'justice' are already tipped in DSK's favour. Do I need to remind you of the O J Simpson trial fiasco?
This immigrant Maid has nothing to lose, except her name, her poorly paid job, and her reputation. She has already said that she doesn't care about any settlement money. Maybe she is already resigned to defeat at the hands of monetary might, in a country which supposedly espouses freedom. Freedom at all levels internationally, where democratic values are held high. Except in a case like this.
You will have figured by now, where my sympathies lie, but if you are still in doubt, it is not with the rich and famous, who are able to buy themselves out of trouble, and don't care about any personal debris they may leave in their wake. Ok, maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am prejudiced. I would not mind being proved wrong, and if this is so, I will apologise. Until then, we can all watch and wait while the character assassination begins in the name of justice and freedom in the land of opportunity! One thing is certain, guilty or innocent, the lowly Maid's name and reputation is already being shredded in the pre trial preparations.
Therefore let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.1 Cor 10:12
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
The space shuttle Atlantis made its final journey, and landed safely for the last time on 21 July 2011. This was the culmination of 30 years of the shuttle program with all their missions. I am a 'child' of the space age, having been a very young teenager when the first man was blasted into space. I then watched with awe when the time came for mankind to land and walk on the moon, and then the shuttle program continued to hold my imagination right to the end.
There was a heavy price to pay for the whole space program in the USA and Russia. Good people paid with their lives to ensure that space exploration progressed. They were willing to pay that price, by going ahead in spite of the risks involved, and shows the dedication of those special people. The overall success of the whole enterprise will not be measured by the few (although very costly) failures, no, it will be judged by the advances made by each individual success along the way. Slow and steady progress!
Somehow, I see a parallel to our Christian life here. We all, without exception, have faced, and will continue to face, problems. Some seem to share a bigger burden than others, but have you noticed that the folks who have survived their 'faith battles' are the same ones you want to be around, whom you see as more refined, and even 'saintly'? These good folks will have paid a great price for their ongoing faith, but have emerged like a beautiful butterfly from the ugly and broken chrysalis they left behind.
I agree that surviving your 'faith battles' unscathed is easier said than done, but when life is in the autumn stages, would you not rather be able to look back and say with the apostle Paul....
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Tim 4:7-8 (KJV).
Don't you just love that promise? I do, and yes, it is worth it!
Sunday, 24 July 2011
The singer Amy Winehouse was found dead in her flat, at the young age of 27. She had a chequered career, and openly struggled with her own demons of alcohol and drugs. She was no role model to the youth of our country, and made no pretence of being so. In spite of that, she was too young to die.
Our society does strange things to celebrities. When they are alive, and struggling, the media makes sure we know all about their shortcomings, and make headlines of their inadequacies and failings. They are mocked and ridiculed. We like that. We seem to like to hit out at those who struggle, especially those who try to face up to their demons, and fail.
Then overnight, a stranger thing happens. The same media who made their living out of debasing her, now make her out to be a saint, with glowing tributes, and statements of how richly talented she was, and that she would be a loss to the world wide music industry. She, who had nothing left to give, now is in the situation of having so much more to offer, if only we had realised it! A real case of double standards if ever there was one!
Let's not fool ourselves any more than we need to. Amy Winehouse lived a terrible, addicted, sinful life, and was often in the headlines because of her problems, and for all the wrong reasons. She was most certainly not a role model for anyone, especially our youth. But having said all that, she was still cherished by a loving God, but one who had strayed far from His love and care. Who are we to either bring her down, or to lift her up in praise? Who knows her final minutes, except God Himself? And who are we to think anything else, except “there but for the Grace of God, go I”.
I saw the following quote by Steven Crowder on twitter:
Maybe if the entertainment industry didn't reward/encourage such immoral behaviour, she'd be alive. RIP Amy Winehouse.
Now, what does that tell you?
So let us thank our God anew for His great salvation, and free grace, which is ours just for the asking. For me, it begs the simple question, “why do more people not just ask”?
Saturday, 23 July 2011
“Right wing, Christian fundamentalist, extremist terrorist” is the way the media is reporting the perpetrator of the biggest single massacre and loss of life in Norway for over 50 years. He succeeded in bombing a large part of the Oslo city centre which houses government buildings, and then, dressed as a policeman, made his way to a Labour Party youth camp on the small island of Utoeya where escape would be almost impossible. He had a captive victim group to empty his guns on.
We are well used to seeing reports of Islamic extremism, and the terrorism they embark on around the world. We may even be getting used to it. But how can those words at the beginning of this piece be used in one phrase to describe a Christian? Not only has this 32 year old Norwegian man changed the face of a very peaceful nation, he has been successful in giving the media a description of a 'mad Christian'. Almost immediately, there have been tweets and facebook comments coming out against the Christian faith and religion in general. Who can blame them?
Anyone who does not know Christianity, or only knows about it from a distance, can be excused for thinking Christians are no better or different from Muslims when it comes to terrorism. How does this square with these words of Jesus from the sermon on the mount?...
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. Ye are the salt of the earth: Matt 5:9-13 (KJV)
Like you, I am still coming to terms with the horror of this event in Norway, carried out by a strange and possibly deranged young man, but please let's not get confused in our minds about what Christianity is, and who a real Christian tries to be like. Jesus is not a terrorist, or extreme, or a right wing fundamentalist. He is the “Prince of Peace” (Isa 9v6), so cannot be blamed for the atrocities. Unfortunately, I can easily see the media latching on to an easy target, and tarring us all with the same broad brush. Suddenly, we have earned the same description as extreme Islamists, and one which will last for a long time. This man has made more than two horrific attacks, and will be judged for them all. Some on this earth, but all in his final judgement, unless of course he repents!
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
I have tried to follow some of the Commons Select Committee questioning of Murdoch father and son, regarding the ongoing phone hacking investigation into the 'News of the World' reporters and private investigators. Ok, so I am a sad person, but I was interested to see the Murdochs in action under questioning.
I hadn't thought it possible, but I actually started to feel sorry for the ageing tycoon. He was not as sharp as I had imagined, and didn't come across as the fearsome individual he has been portrayed as. In fact, the committee came across as a group who were happy to tear them apart, and relied on the stumbling age of the elderly man under investigation. They sensed blood, and went for the jugular. As far as I could see, they didn't uncover anything new. All they did was allow the guilty pair to say 'sorry' again. Maybe the committee will feel better now that they have 'given them a kicking', but not done anything else constructive. I saw them being questioned as if they were guilty of genocide in the European Court of The Hague.
We should be very aware of these tactics. The same kind of courtroom antics were used 2,000 years ago when Jesus was tried before his crucifixion, by a group of select leaders, albeit church leaders. Very few people gave Jesus any chance to prove his innocence, and yet he was very innocent.
When I pull myself back, and look at the situation, I am not sure if the Murdochs are sorry for their illegal actions, or sorry they were caught. There is a great big difference, and it is the difference between regret and repentance. Oh I know that's a very old word, but if you think about the deeper meaning, it determines how they will behave in future. Will they go back to their old ways after the heat has died down, or will they change their ways. That would also be seen as a change of heart. Maybe, just maybe, this very rich old man is now getting the chance to see what his ruthlessness in earlier business life has caused, and maybe just maybe he is truly sorry. If there is any remnant of goodness left from his family upbringing, and he is aware of the concept of a heavenly reward, and a deserving hell, he may now be reviewing his life through different eyes.
This all comes back to the question of 'who is our judge?' I would suggest it is not the Commons Select Committee, or any Judge Led Inquiry, but an Almighty God who sits above all other earthy judges. I don't know about you, but I am increasingly grateful that my eternal future is in His hands, and none other.
Monday, 18 July 2011
Has your name ever been falsely tarnished? Have you even been wrongly accused? Or even worse, have you ever knowingly accused someone else wrongly, and in the process tarnished a good name? No? Are you sure?
I have known my friend a long time. We go back a long way and have shared many of life's ups and downs over the years, and he has always been high in my estimation as a fine, upstanding Christian. Until yesterday that is.
Social Networking sites like Facebook are great for keeping in touch with friends far and near. It is good for a wee bit of fun. Good natured, and light hearted fun. Then my world took a dive. My upstanding Christian friend put something up on his Facebook wall, for all his 'friends' to see, which was less than wholesome. I was shocked, amazed and disappointed. How could this person, above everyone else, stoop so low? I took immediate steps, and did the right thing by removing him from my feed list, and to keep myself right, I sent him a separate message to tell him what I had done, and why. After all, as a Christian, I didn't want that kind of thing showing up on my own feed. What would people think?
I was wrong at many levels. So wrong. I should have trusted my instincts, you know the same ones which saw us through some dark times together, but no, I 'deleted' him. Just like that. He called me back to say he had no idea what I was talking about. As a new Facebook user, he wasn't sure of his ground and got his daughter to help him change his security settings. My friend was as appalled as I was to see what had happened. Someone had hacked into his profile, and posted some unsavoury stuff in his name, and unknown to him, until I dropped my bombshell.
I wonder what he thought of me? I always thought I was a good judge of character, and if that was true, I would not have misjudged my friend, or sullied his character, or tarnished his good name. I am not in my first flush of youth, but even then with all my experience of life, I still got it wrong. The old saying is still true. You point your finger at someone, and there are three pointing back at you! My friend was gracious and forgave me, as a good Christian should, and I am very thankful, but I am now more concerned at my own initial reaction to believe the worst, before I had all the information. I was not as gracious as my friend. So the next time I am faced with a similar situation, I will think twice, and look for the good, before jumping to the wrong conclusion. Can I please ask that you do the same for me, should I ever disappoint you? May God help us all!
Friday, 15 July 2011
What is family? Who are family? In a word, it's 'blood'. It runs from generation to generation, right through each person's DNA, like a family fingerprint. I have done some Family Tree research, and there is a blood line to follow when looking for ancestors. In a sense, it doesn't matter if someone in a marriage has been remarried, because the blood line can still be traced.
Another good thing is that, in the event that someone has been adopted, there is a clear and undeniable link to their new family. In the eyes of the law they are treated in the same way as 'blood' family. I like that. Not just because it helps me to find family who have gone before, and that can be full, or half, or adopted ancestors, but because it speaks to me of a higher and greater worth we all enjoy in our Heavenly Father through the blood of the Son of God. I love these verses:
And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Cor 6:18 (KJV)
For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ. Romans 8:15-17 (KJV)
It is good to belong to a close knit physical family, where we can enjoy all the benefits of loving parents, but I feel it is so much better to be part of the greater Family of God, where we can all find peace and release to be ourselves, along with all those other brothers and sisters who are doing the same thing, in Christ. There is a dimension to our heavenly family that can not easily be described. It cuts across the boundaries of time, distance, colour, creed, age and finds a unique and common ground in our Faith and love of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
I will be the first to admit that I have been privileged to have been loved and reared in a Godly family unit, and have tried to do the same thing with our own children, but that is not the whole story. Without the added dimension of God's love in our lives, something here on this earth is missing. We can see evidence of that all around us, if we just take the time to look. So, thanks are due to my Mum and Dad, for their earthly love and care, but also for their Godly example. Without that vital piece, who knows how I would have turned out, and from there, our own children?
Next time you question God, or wonder if this Christian life is of any value, think again, and thank God for the honour of being placed in the greatest mission field in the world, your home. Your Family!!
Monday, 11 July 2011
And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying: The same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour. Acts 16:16-18 (KJV).
I was disappointed to read in the local press that a medium was being sponsored by that same local newspaper, and meetings being held in the town hall. How far have we fallen as a God fearing country when this kind of charlatan is not only able to fill a town hall, but is also encouraged and abetted by the newspaper, and the council?
The Bible is very clear about the dangers of spiritism, or spiritualism, or a medium. You can call them by many names, and some will appear very 'nice' and convincing in their defence of the 'good' they do for their clients. Most of us will know someone who has been along to such a meeting, and will usually come away with a statement like, “How else could they have known such a fact”? We should not be taken in. The devil is at work, and feeding on sensitive and searching people, who are desperate to hear from a loved one who has died.
The messages passed to the worried loved one, will always be that they are in a happy place, and at peace, and that their family should not worry. It would seem that there are no dark places, or dare I say, hell, where the person is speaking from? Messages are also preceded by very general questions to find a victim, or should I say, client. A number, a colour, a place, a hobby, all can be used to reel some poor unsuspecting person in. Also, there is no doubt that they will leave the place feeling better about their loved one, and glad they went.
What does it say about our common sense, never mind being far from God as a nation? The victims of these mediums are not bad people, just very sad, and anxious about the loss of a person they held dear. It is a comfort to hear that they are well, and safe, and in no pain, and in a good place, and happy. Who wouldn't want to hear that about a dear one who has now passed away? I don't think we realise the danger these charlatans are to us all. They lull us into a false sense of 'everything will be ok' and so we don't have to worry too much about this life, or what we do with Jesus. There are no consequences from leading a sorry life here, because this 'place of light' will be waiting for us too when we die.
In contrast to that uncertainty, as Christians we can know where our loved ones are, without a doubt. Heaven is a lovely place, and to be pursued while here on this earth. We should not be frittering away our time here, so that a loved one thinks they have to go to a medium to know how we are, or where we are. Our faith in Jesus guarantees our place at the big meal table, set out on the garden in heaven. I love that analogy given by our pastor some time ago. All we have to do here, is live like we already have our reservation!
Thursday, 7 July 2011
Shock and horror, the tabloid trash comic which trades under the guise of being a 'news'paper, is to close from this coming Sunday, which will be its last edition of salacious gossip, celebrity hotheads, tittle tattle, and other non news items. Will the News of the World be missed? Certainly not by Christians, or at least serious Christians.
We are talking about a newspaper which hacked into the mobile phone voicemails of celebrities, footballers, politicians, and latterly lowered its sights to the victims of murder and terrorism. In a matter of hours it seems, condemnation arose from the general public so fast it would have made your nose bleed. We don't need a rag like this on our news stands. It is out of place, but then so are others which are owned by the same people. Only one example of which is the 'Sun', more famous for its page 3 than for its so called campaigns. I think the public spirited campaigns were only a cover to gloss over their other and bigger agenda. To bring the lowest possible articles to a 'heavy breathing' public.
Rupert Murdoch also owns News International, which covers other TV stations (eg Fox) and newspaper titles, none of which are known for balanced and impartial broadcasting. I can only believe that there is rejoicing in heaven at the closure of this 'comic', and as a direct result of their own wrongdoing as well. Would I be too naïve to believe this is the first of other similar titles to fall? Or is it possible that this is a clever ploy by Murdoch to appear good enough to get his hands on the controlling share of BSkyB and pull the wool over the Monopolies Commission? I certainly hope not! One commentator said today, 'we get the press we deserve', and I happen to think this is also true for our churches! Hmmmm.....
Tuesday, 5 July 2011
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Matt 5:13 (KJV)
We have all been disgusted at the recent news that a 'News of the World' reporter/private investigator hacked into the voicemail of the murdered teenager, Millie Dowler. More so because it happened while the search for her was ongoing, and it also gave the family false hope that she was still alive. The cold, cynical member of this newspaper (actually this is not a newspaper, more of a tabloid comic) had no thought, feeling, or heart for the anguish of a broken family, desperately looking for any sign that their daughter/sister was still alive.
Then I look at the wee verse above, and it feels cosy and good. Jesus called us the salt of the earth, and this is nice and true, and to be celebrated and exercised. That is where we sit back, and think we have done our bit, by just being good. Salt. Seasoning. Making the whole dish of this world a better place, just because we are here. Trouble is, this is only the first quarter of the verse. Take another look at the rest of the words, equally spoken by Jesus, and with all the same weight.
I ask myself, have I lost any/some of my savour? Am I the kind of person who wants his salt to be able to make some kind of difference to the dish of this world I inhabit, for this short time? If I don't live like salt, I become useless for the purpose I was made by God. I become irrelevant, lose my effectiveness, and those around me discard anything I say or do, because they will see though me. I am then “trodden underfoot of men”, and rendered a hypocrite and useless in God's Kingdom.
Scary thought, isn't it? The Millie Dowler case is not the only one which shows the need for some Christian seasoning, although it highlights the urgency for us to live and act like the salt God intended us to be. Maybe a little more salt in the newsroom would have made a difference? Then I ask myself, what would the world be like if all the Christian salt was removed? So, the next time you wonder what difference you are making in this short, earthly journey, think about your life as salt, and shake it liberally around you as you trek through this one time 'dish' of life, before we hit Heaven, and eternal life. Now tell me it isn't worth the effort?
Monday, 4 July 2011
It's summertime, it's July, it's the marching season in Northern Ireland and Scotland, and that means it's time for...
a/ Hatred. Can there be any other word to describe the feelings which run high during an Orange or Hibernian parade? These guys hate each other with a fury and vengeance. They may hide it well, as each side says how tolerant they are, but we know the truth, don't we?
b/ Sectarian chanting. While the beautiful game of football in Glasgow is trying to come to terms with this issue in its stadia, and making slow but steady progress, we have the whole reason for our hatred for each other on full display. Brightly coloured bigotry on the march, and we wonder why we have a problem in Scotland?
c/ Intolerance is something we all say we are against, but is a foreign concept at all these Orange and Hibernian marches. This feeling even spills over into the Social Networking sites where each side wish harm, or even call for the deaths of the opposite sides, and think it's ok.
d/ Drunkenness in the streets and at the rally after the marches is commonplace, and in fact, to be expected. To give this an air of respectability, the organisers will have invited ministers and priests to the appropriate rally, in the hope that it will appear acceptable. Let's hope the ministers and priests don't get mixed up and go to the wrong march!
e/ Swaggering, usually topless male youths appear in the streets from nowhere. There is a distinctive style of swagger which goes along with these sectarian marches and rallies, by their supporters. Have you noticed how proud and cocky these little men look, almost as if to say, go on challenge me to a fight.
f/ Normal, decent people stay away from the areas of the marches, and especially the rallies. If you do go, you better be wearing the appropriate colours, or you are in danger of at least verbal abuse.
This is one time of the year I do not like, because there is a tendency for people to wonder which side you are on, and that is the crux of the problem. I will avoid like the plague, the places these people are marching, and that's from either persuasion. Sadly, religion plays a part, where both sides claim to have God on their side as they abuse each other's point of view. My views are plain and well known. Ban all sectarian marches, which only serve to feed on the bigoted in society, who are only looking for an excuse to 'parade' their normally hidden allegiance to a set of colours. The battles celebrated and hated, are old. Very old. Can we not let them die along with those who fought in them? Or do we continue to hide behind the old excuse of, it's only a way of keeping my religious tradition alive?
Just for the record, the original Ancient Order of Hibernian motto in 1565 was “Friendship, Unity, and True Christian Charity”. The belief system of the Orange Order, celebrating a battle in 1690 is, “To cultivate Christian character, promote brotherly love and fellowship.” (Both statements taken from their own documentation, and in defence of their own tradition.) Just one question, What went wrong????
Saturday, 2 July 2011
It is probably one of the oldest battles in the book. It's the story of injustice, and how the balance gets tipped if you are either rich or poor. In this case it is one of the richest and most influential men in the world versus a lowly, immigrant, hotel maid. The poor maid claims that the rich man raped her, and the rich man spent some time in custody, before getting put on house arrest. Well, for him house arrest was being held in a mansion, but able to go about freely while tagged during the day. In the meantime, the maid is in hiding, very understandably afraid. She knows that money talks, and in this case shouts!
The rich man's lawyers have been busy, and now the case, and therefore the trial is on the verge of collapsing. The reason is that they have found a difference in the maid's statements taken after the 'alleged' (I have to say that) rape. In one statement, she said she reported the incident straight away, and in the other, she said she cleaned a room before she reported the rape. Who knows what was going through the mind of a young immigrant worker who has a job to keep, and has just been (allegedly) raped? One thing is for sure, she wouldn't have been thinking straight, and it is worth noting that she didn't know who the rich man was, or how influential, at the time.
I see this as a typical 'legal technicality' which taints and corrupts our sophisticated legal systems, and renders it useless and even corrupt. There is no doubt that this case will fold, and both these characters in the drama will return to their lives in some way. The rich man to his politics, safe in the knowledge that he has not been found guilty of anything, but the maid... where does she go? She has no job now, and is now looked on as a liar and a cheat. What chance does she now have? And all based on what? Evidence that the rape didn't happen? No. Disproof of the forensic evidence already found on his clothes? No. A change of the facts as to how the incident happened? No. It is all based on the words of a scared, terrified, poor maid who said two things, neither of which disproves the rich man's guilt. And you ask me to believe that he is innocent? Well, do you? Once again, in the ongoing battle of rich against poor, rich wins. Every time!
I had thought it a bit like a modern day 'David and Goliath' story, except that in today's society, David would have been convicted and found guilty, and beheaded, for being underage and in possession of an offensive weapon, a slingshot. Meanwhile Goliath would be the hero, and given a knighthood. Ok, ok, I am just being cynical, but tell me I'm wrong!
Friday, 1 July 2011
The recent good, sunny and warm weather, in Scotland at least, seems to bring out the predictable. Swaggering topless boys, half dressed girls, and a definite link between the amount of alcohol consumed, whether a fine wine, or a cheap plonk, to the loudness in table conversation.
A small group had gathered round a patio table, and it looked nice. In fact, in a little while I decided, I would join them for some light chat. You know, some decent conversation. The next time I noticed them, it wasn't the sight of the group, but the sound of the group. A couple of bottles of wine now on the table, some glasses, and as the liquid inside the bottles reduced, the noise increased. It was no longer a light, low level, chat. It became a loud debate, or you could say disagreement. By this time, I had realised joining them was a bad idea. I don't think they saw themselves as they were seen. They had changed, without even realising it, and for me that is a danger. Losing your own self control, and not knowing, is a slippery slope because who knows where it ends? Certainly not the folks enjoying their party.
Another very unscientific thought struck me. Maybe there is a link between the amount of alcohol consumed, and deafness. Well, based on a very ordinary study, I reckoned each person round the table either got harder of hearing, or wanted more and more desperately to be heard above the others. I don't know.
I am glad I belong to a church which takes a stand against the use of alcohol by its members (or at least that's what the church manual says) and may it continue to do so. Do you agree, or am I on my own here?