Monday, November 30, 2009

Bell x1, Olympia Theatre, Dublin, November 27th 2009

Friday night myself and Jane saw the ever wonderful Bell x1 at the olympia. It was a surprise for Jane, no reason except she's awesome and she loves Bell x1. We went for something to eat before hand and as we were sitting there Jane looked bemused for a second and then said "That looks like Paul Noonan from Bell x1". Turns out it was the whole band having pre gig dinner. I wrestled with the idea of going over and having a chat but us Irish don't like to disturb people when they're having their dinner.
The gig itself was so good. Starting perfectly with an extended la la la, la la la....from 'The Ribs of a Broken Umbrella' the first song off their new record. Following up with the punchy 'Reacharound' and the melodic beat laden 'How Your Heart Is Wired'. The whole first set was fantastic, not a bad song amongst them. I was surprised that 'The Great Defector' got such a big reaction, possibly the biggest of the night. 'Bad Skin Day' and 'Next To You' where a perfect sweet combo followed by 'My First Born For A Song' before, as Paul Noonan said, 'Eve The Apple Of My Eye' "done proper" as some fans had requested. Interesting to hear him say they had changed it around a little bit because they can get bored of playing it so much; they played the original radio edit. Tongue a song in which I'm not crazy about preceeded the crowd singalongs of 'Flame' and 'Rocky' which was dedicated to the Simon Community and Focus Ireland agencies who help look after homeless people. The song is written about a homeless man who lived near Paul Noonans apartment in Smithfield. Apparently he was always on his own until one morning he had a lady with him in his sleeping bag, the song is pretty much an imaginary conversation between the two. A cracking tune.
The encore started with 'Slowset', my favourite song off their first album. They had a poll on their website as to what song they rarely play would fans like to hear. 'Slowset' won and was played acoustic with just Paul and David. Dominic joined them for the acoustic rendition of 'Just Like Mr. Benn' which again was wonderfully played. Another old school song Alphabet Soup was played with plenty of cowbell. Will Ferrell would have been very proud. 'A Better Band', a stomping tune from the new album came before the last song of the night 'I'll See Your Heart and I'll Raise You Mine' a fittingly gorgeous way to end a cracking gig. Here's the setlist.

The Ribs of a Broken Umbrella
How Your Heart Is Wired
Bad Skin Day
Next To You (The Way You Make Me Feel, Michael Jackson snippet)
My First Born For A Song
Eve, the Apple of My Eye
The Great Defector
Rocky Took A Lover
Just Like Mister Benn
Alphabet Soup (Once in a Lifetime, Talking Heads snippet)
A Better Band
I'll See Your Heart and I'll Raise You Mine --->Do You Realize?(Flaming Lips(

Friday, November 27, 2009

Act of God

If God was one of us (just a slob like one of us, la la la) I think he'd sue for defamation of character. Parts of Ireland have been hit with dreadful flooding this past week. In one interview I was listening to a man was describing how his insurance company might not pay out as the destruction to his property was an "act of God".
It seems like a logical conclusion to think that of course God is in control of the weather, sitting up there with his buttons controlling lightning and waves and wind and snow and so on. He's all powerful so of course he controls everything. The problem with this line of thinking if taken to it's logical conclusion is that God is arbitrarily controlling the weather to the huge detriment of his children and also to those who don't want to be his kids. From Hurricane Ike to the Tsunami on stevens day in the Indian Ocean that killed over 300,000 people. The argument of whether God controls the weather leads to a deeper discussion about the problem of evil which I won't go fully in to on this blog. It's something I think about often as I'm sure do most of us.

Lately a prominent american pastor John Piper blogged out about a tornado that hit his town. He believed that it was a specific sign to make people turn from certain sins, he also believed his prostate cancer was a gentle reminder from God for him to turn from sin. Big statements to make about God. If we use every disaster as a sign from God to be explained then we've got a pretty harsh God. Millions of babies aborted to teach us what? Children abused and raped to teach us what? Churches abusing their flock to teach us what? I could go on but I'm meant to be talking about the weather.
Everytime I think about things like this I always come back to Jesus. God looks like Jesus as Hebrews 1:3 tells us. What would Jesus say? Simply put we know that things aren't as they are supposed to be, hence the announcement of the coming kingdom. In fact at one stage in Jesus ministry he rebuked the wind and the waves to make them still. They obeyed. If God was controlling the wind and the waves why would Jesus rebuke them? I don't think Jesus and his Father where at odds in that situation. Jesus knew that there was a natural element to the wind and waves stirring due to the fallen nature of the world and he rebuked the rebelliousness of nature and brought his kingdom authority to that situation.
In another situation in Luke 13 Jesus talks about how easy it is for us to think disaster falls on certain people because it is the judgement of God or somehow they deserve it due to some sin in their life. Jesus says nothing of the sort and says pretty much that we need to not analyse these situations but to focus on our own relationship with God and know that we are all in need of a saviour. Unless we repent we too will perish. Simple as that.
When we pray for Jesus kingdom to come we are praying just for that, for his kingdom to come. It's not already here meaning there is conflict between the will of God for the earth and what actually happens here on earth, hence the statement "your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Why would we pray for God's will to be done on earth if this was infact already true? Evil happens because there are other wills at work apart from Gods. He's that good and sovereign that he has chosen to give us free will to allow us to enter into a genuine love relationship with Him.
When floods hit certain places let's not think God is teaching the people who live there a lesson. All we know is that floods happen, nature can be cruel but God is good, the perfect Father and can be trusted. He'll be there in the midst of evil working to bring about good but he never needs to cause it or bring it about to do that.

The gospel only makes sense in the midst of chaos where God isn’t always getting his way – even with nature. And so we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We don’t pray for the things that are already true, we pray for the things that we hope will become true.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

To strike or not to strike?

Next Tuesday our country faces shut down as the public sector has decided to go on strike. I'm still trying to figure out what exactly the strike is about. I keep hearing people tell me they don't want to loose their benefits and don't want their wages cut and so on, however no one has given me a definitive statement on why they are striking. None of us know what the government are going to decide in the budget. They have stated that they need 4 billion and they will take it out of public sector pay amongst other things but nothing is in stone. Right or wrong, the government are being very clever in keeping their cards close to their chest so we have nothing specific to go on.

I totally understand that the current crisis has plunged people into huge financial difficulties and the government appears to not be helping out much especially when we focus some of our anger on the banks and their lack of sympathy for home owners in difficulty. (We need to remember that if they didn't bail the banks out we'd have NO economy). However, I can't help but ask, why are we the public sector who's jobs are permanently safe not willing to give up 2% of our pay? Especially as we are among the most overpaid public workers in the world. After returning from traveling I lost a significant amount of money through being demoted by proxy and having a wage cut, however I'm so thankful I'm in the public sector because I have a job and it's very secure.

Coming back from being away we've noticed a significant difference in our outgoings on things like groceries etc. Those of us in the public sector have benefited from the downturn when we consider how much most shops and businesses have dropped their prices making for a cheaper way of life. Granted we don't eat out nearly as much as we used to, but when we do treat ourselves to a luxury like that it costs a lot less than it did a year ago.

The strike will not affect the government in any way, all it will do is cause a bigger divide between the private sector and public sector. Our jobs are safe; the private sector have been hammered, absolutely hammered and I'd be pretty annoyed if I was living in fear of my job every day and the public sector were going on strike.
If the budget is harrowing, then maybe then, a strike might have some benefit. However, at this point in time I think a strike is embarrassing and short sighted. I won't even talk about how little respect I have for the unions, especially the 172,000 euro a year earning leaders of them.

Some of us in the public sector genuinely earn our wages with difficult jobs, I include teachers nurses and all frontline staff in this. My job is not easy, I got punched in the head on Monday night however that's my job. Just as teachers have to deal with difficult kids and nurses deal with difficult patients. That's why it's called the caring profession. That is also why we get very good holidays. 27 days a year holidays is excellent for me, compare that to the private sector or our cousins across the water in America. Never mind our sick pay which public sector workers unfortunately abuse and cost the government millions. Teachers get Autumn breaks, christmas breaks, spring breaks and at least 2 months off in the summer; I don't think they like to be reminded of that at the moment. They think it's a right, it's a benefit.

I also don't know if my God conscience would let me hold my country to ransom when I don't specifically know the injustice I'm fighting against. I'm all about standing up for injustice but I'm not sure if us public sector workers with relatively big salaries loosing 2% is an injustice. There comes a point when we have to think of the greater good of our country and maybe those of us with secure jobs can help give back to things like health care, welfare benefits etc. I'm willing to give up a small bit of my salary, be it on the governments head if they choose to use it unwisely.

Will I strike on Tuesday? No. Will I cross the picket line? Absolutely. I've swopped my shift from Monday to Tuesday so I can look after kids I'm paid to look after even if others choose not to.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A promise to blog more could be futile, but I'd like to...

It's been way too long. Nearly every day I have a thought I want to blog about but I never formulate it into a post. My thoughts have been as varied as how awesome the debut album from Mumford & Sons is, how thoroughly disappointed I am in Rafa Benitez and the complete lack of hope I have for any meaningful silverware this season for Liverpool, how ridiculous Prof. Drumm's 70,000e bonus is when the hse is continually falling apart, how much I enjoyed Face to Face with God by Bill Johnson and am currently enjoying 'Jesus Culture' by Banning Liebscher, how strange it is that in my wife's sickly snotty state that she seems even cuter than ever, how David McWilliams drives me mad, how much I want to go visit Bethel Church again and countless more random thoughts.
I've been back to work a month now and I've surprisingly really enjoyed it. Enjoyed could be a deceptive word to use, I'll change that sentence to "I've been surprisingly fulfilled by it". It's strange being on the floor again and not in management but I've loved it. I've always wanted to be in this line of work to work with young people and not necessarily the adults who look after them! I loved the challenge of management but for this season I'm enjoying the lack of wider responsibility, knowing I just have to focus on the young people. It's hugely challenging and I'm completely cabbaged when I'm finished my 25hr shifts but it's been awesome building relationships with them and knowing that somehow you're bringing hope and safety and stability into such hugely fractured lives. I read through our youngest lads files and shed a few sneaky tears; knowing what he's been through in his short 9 years is heartbreaking. God has so much more for this kids life than he can possibly imagine.
During mid-term myself and Jane helped out with a camp held down in Avoca in Wicklow. Apart from the atrocious sleeping conditions we had a cracking time. It was so awesome to catch up with some guys from the youth group we helped out in. I loved doing the worship music for the week and listening to my brother preach the good word. He was awesome. It was great to see someone taking the teens seriously and really challenging them on what it is to live a life for Jesus.
I loved some of the questions the teens had to ask, they're so much more honest than grown ups! It's always good to question aspects of our faith and to want to get to know more of who God is.
I might talk about some of those questions here, there where great food for thought.