Stocki  Jani and Donard

photo: herself


Let’s take one of our selfies

With Donard way high above us

It’s where we always find our help

In the granite of God’s love for us

Reach out your hand

And I’ll put mine in yours

When the mountains fall in on us

Stillness like this reassures us


Let’s walk back up by the beach

Listen to our favourite sound

The whoosh of waves caressing sand

Makes us feel we’re glory bound

Stop right there and smile

Let me click one in my heart

I love you and I will love you

Until death us do part


28 years since we said I do

35 since I first kissed you

Smiles and tears for all that we’ve been through

When we are alone

Then I am home

I am home

THE BEYOND IN THE MIDST - for the Aurora Borealis


(Having the Aurora Borealis (those Northern Lights) in our gardens has had us thinking of the beauty and vastness of the skies... Here's a reflection based on Isaiah 57:15... on the Stevenson and Samuel album Gracenotes it is added at the end of the song Soaked In A Dearer Wine)


Beyond me

Beyond my comprehension

Beyond my understanding

Beyond me definitions

Beyond my highest efforts

Beyond my lowest fall

Beyond my morality

Beyond my most penitent call.


In the midst of me

In the midst of my tears

In the midst of my frailties

In the midst of my fears

In the midst of my cheers

In the midst of my sighs

In the midst of my sinfulness

In the midst of my lies.


Dying for me

Dying for my masks of fake

Dying for the distorted opinions

Dying for the promises I break

Dying for the words carelessly thrown

Dying for murderous thoughts within

Dying for my adulterous looks of lust

Dying for my sin.


In the midst you reach out

In the midst you offer grace

In the midst you throw your arms around me

In the midst you kiss my dirty face

In the midst you touch my soul

In the midst you cast your smile

In the midst you love this vagabond

In the midst you call me your child.



"If you love me you will obey my commands," said Jesus

That was a seismic shift from keeping law by duty to a different basis of relationship. Love usurps law. 

"God is love."

"We love because God first loved us."

God grace through faith opens the possibility of a loving relationship with God.

"Love God and do what you like". 

I said that, though I wasn't the first.

The old legendary preacher Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones said that if we didn't preach that then we were not preaching the Gospel.

We didn't say "Do what you like..."

We said "LOVE GOD and..."

We are not saved by grace and then asked to work like the clappers to keep it. Grace opens the door to relationship with God and grace is the power that allows us to follow God. 

So who do we love? What does our God look like? Is God a judgemental ogre that we fear?

We do not love God because of what might happen if we don't. We love God because God is worth loving.

If you love me you will obey my commands.




Bruce guitar

photo: Janice Gordon-Stockman (on my phone!)


Bruce Springsteen live. WOW! It is difficult to argue with his hardened fans who say that he is the best there is and best there ever was. The man is 74. The core of his E Street Band of similar age. For over 3 hours he rips into song after song, strutting like a blues man, a jazz man, a rock man and, when he walked around the front row of the 40,000 crowd, a family entertainer. It is indeed quite the show.

After Springsteen hit the stage he didn’t stop for a breath for 35 minutes, pumping out favourites like No Surrender, Promised Land, and Lonesome Day as well as two off his last E Street Band record, the title track Letters To You and Ghosts. 

His idea of slowing it up is to do a walk about across the front of the crowd, high fiving, selfying and even having a wee dance with a very lucky lady. His engagement with children was intriguing, maybe his own grandkids have given Bruce a new awareness. This does however change the gears and there is now more musings and craic.

Bruce speaks of an evening of hellos and goodbyes. It has to be said that when you are 74 goodbyes are the more common and bring more emotion. When in late encore he uses 10th Avenue Freeze Out to celebrate and mourn Clem Clemons and Danny Federici who the E Street have lost. 

About half way through the set list Bruce has stripped it back for his song for George Theiss whose death made him realise that Bruce was The Last Man Standing. In my own memories I saw my Bruce mad mate Glenn Jordan, my father-in-law Bryan, Rob Lawson… Cathartic rock groove!

Over the entire piece I was surmising a phrase that Bruce threw out before The Last Man Standing when George Theiss knocked his door and asked him to join his band. His first band. What a moment and we are here now seeing what that door opened up. From his own Freehold front door to the biggest of stars in rock. What a journey. The potential of opportunities taken, destinies chosen, hard work and a dollop of genius. Is any unseen force at work?

I would see the entire gig as spiritual - Promised Land, Badlands, The Rising, Land Of Hope and Dreams maybe particularly. Most of all My City In Ruins was extraordinary, using that small African-American choir of his backing singers to take us right into Church. There was a moment when I had my hands in the air, found myself talking to God about me and Fitzroy, before remembering I was at a rock concert.

Indeed, all this was happening at a rock concert. There were a few downsides. The stewarding was poor, the time to get in and leave. I wondered if this caused Bruce to leave half an hour off the gig. Maybe it was more likely his cold and runny nose that was effecting his voice at times. From recent gigs we lost a good few songs, no requests taken from the crowd and Rosalita and Detroit Medley from the encore. That is only for nerds like me. You wouldn’t have noticed. There will not be at a better or longer rock concert played in Belfast this year.

Over three hours and Twist and Shout finally rings out… the band leave and Bruce stands with gratitude and poignancy and with a harmonica handed to him by one of the crowd and his guitar sings:


I'll see you in my dreams when all the summеrs have come to an end

I'll see you in my dreams, we'll meet again in another land

I'll see you in my dreams, yeah around the river bend

For death is not the end

And I'll see you in my dreams


Home… feet sore and oh my neck… head surmising… heart healing… soul imagining… Everything blessed by Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band. 


Bruce 7

My preaching relationship with Bruce Springsteen started way back in the mid 80s. Bruce was the biggest thing in the world on the back of Born in The USA and I was trying desperately to catch the ear of teenagers at Coffee Bar Missions. With my cut off fur lined denim jacket, and maybe even a Bruce t-shirt on below, it I would quote songs like Badlands –


“Talk about a dream; try to make it real

You wake up in the night with a fear so real

You spend your life waiting

For a moment that just don't come

Well don't waste your time waiting...”   


Those lyrics would set up the opportunity to offer Jesus as the way to life in all its fullness.

Then in 1992 in Limerick University I took my Bruceology to a more academic level. Tony Davidson was minister in Limerick at the time and set up something through the Limerick Chaplaincy and I remember driving from Dublin with my colleague David Montgomery and doing an evening on alienation in the work of Springsteen.

That evening was probably a prototype to The Gospel According To... series. I used videos of Springsteen to open up the alienation of humanity from one another, society, politics, creation and of course God. I remember at that time that Springsteen had just released an acoustic version of his most famous anthem Born To Run.

In the introduction to that stripped back, slower version Springsteen spoke about his early career being about getting people into cars but that he now realised that he had to take them somewhere. That somewhere was about community and relationship. He was needing to find something to deal with the alienation.

By the time I came to write my chapter on Springsteen for my book The Rock Cries Out, something had changed. As I wrote that chapter I sensed that Springsteen was a Prodigal Son on his way back home.  I had been moved by the new song, Land Of Hope and Dreams, that he did on his 1999 concert tour.

Related closely to Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, Land Of Hope and Dreams was like ending the concert with a hymn. It seemed though that now a happily married man with some of his alienation dealt with and the reflective lessons of children his spiritual core had opened up and made a peace with the Jesus of his youth. Springsteen’s songs had always been rich in Biblical imagery but it was suddenly as if he had moved from the Old Testament damnation of his early works to a more grace centred New Testament theological scattering!

There is nothing like being proved right in the fullness of time. Almost as soon as The Rock Cries Out appeared Springsteen upped the Christian content of his work. Devils and Dust threw up Jesus Was An Only Son and on the acoustic tour that followed Springsteen spoke about not being able to escape his Catholic upbringing. This was a Biblical song, that though perhaps influenced by Scorcese’s Last Temptation of the Christ took us up Calvary’s Hill to Christ’s “proving ground”.

A year after this came The Seeger Sessions album where Springsteen brought a huge near carnival band together to record songs that Pete Seeger had used through the Civil Rights Movement. Included were a string of old hymns. Introducing one of these, Jacob’s Ladder in Dublin Springsteen gave a little exegetical introduction of Genesis and who this Jacob dude was - "he just fell into the arms of grace". The entire gig added another hymn or two and being interviewed coming out of the Belfast gig one man declared that “it was great BUT it was like being in Church.”

Wrecking Ball was one of the most significant records in recent years. Springsteen took on the recession and the bankers who stole from the poor. Littered throughout the record were references to Scripture and Jesus. The suite of songs took a shift in their journey as the record ended with pastors looking after their flocks, belief in resurrection and the train that was taking the faithful to the Land Of Hope and Dreams. There it was again, finally with a studio version.

Right up to date and 2020's Letters To You was like a cathartic record for the loss of our friend and mad Bruce fan, Glenn Jordan. The opening:


"Big black train comin' down the track

Blow your whistle long and long

One minute you're here

Next minute you're gone."


Oh my!

Then the closing I'll See You In My Dreams that Bruce has been closing out recent gigs with:


Ghosts runnin' through the night

Our spirits filled with light

I need, need you by my side

Your love and I'm alive.


It warlike a companion piece to our grief for Glenn, just as Bruce has lost many down the years. The songs seem to have a spiritual understanding of loss and hope for beyond.