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May 2015


Dar Emerald

“Wake up and you still feel the same

It’s hard to move when you’re reeling from the pain

You say it won’t get better

‘Cos you don’t deserve it

So you think that maybe you’ll jump off

Now that you’re standing at the brink

But it’s really just a drag

It won’t get any worse

It’s not your special fate

It’s not an evil curse…


It’s just something to get through

I bet you

You’ll be laughing

With your friends

In the light of a better day

Laughing away

Just not today”

Regular readers of Soul Surmise will know that I am keen on the pastoral song. Here is another cathartic gem. Dar Williams has been a favourite songwriter for many years but I haven’t given her much attention in recent years. Through her new album Emerald she has my attention again!

This song particularly caught my attention. Regular readers of Soul Surmise will know that I am keen on the pastoral song. This is another cathartic gem. These are good words to run around your head in a dark night of the soul.

It reminded me of a poem I wrote a while back called The Dark Gets Darker in Your Darkness. I end it with some verses from Isaiah 43: - 

The dark gets darker in your darkness 

Not a glimmer of a flicker at its end

Sometimes you’ve got to live on through

Until you find yourself alive again


The rivers will sweep

I will be there

The waves will crash deep

And I will be there

The blazing flames will creep

And yes I will be there!


Uganda child

This weekend sees TWO Stockman events that are both fundraisers for Fitzroy's Youth Trip to Uganda this summer and our Build Fund.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON at 2.30 -5 in The Manse (64 Maryville Park, BT9 6LQ) my daughter Caitlin is having a tea party to raise funds. Drop in and have a piece of cake, cup of tea and a chat with the Stockies. Drop a few bob into the box and help Caitlin raise her funds. She will be doing Kids Clubs and classes in the school that Fitzroy has funded in Onialeku, Arua, Uganda! 

SUNDAY NIGHT at 7 in Fitzroy I will launch not one but two poetry books that will also raise funds for the Uganda Youth Trip, the build fund and hopefully when the books sell more than JK Rowlings for a plethora of other Fitzroy projects too! 

It would be great to see you over the weekend. We would appreciate your presence and support!


Stocki IF preach...

This is the script of a talk given by Stocki at Queens University Christian Union on November 6th 2003. Those who know him will know it probably turned out very different and more energetic live but here it is anyway...They wanted him to speak about the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5...

Thou shalt not wear 
Thou shalt not drink 
Thou shalt not joke 
Thou shalt not think 
Thou shalt not hear 
Thou shalt not see 
Thou shalt not say 
Thou shalt not be 
Thou shalt settle down in the trenches 
In the land of the thou shalt nots 
What on earth then can we do 
My goodness I've forgot. 

Thou shalt go to church on Sunday 
Thou shalt wear a plastic smile 
Thou shalt be content to be discontent 
Thou shalt be happy in a little while 
Thou shalt talk about the needy 
Thou shalt pray they make it through 
Thou shalt thank the Lord you're not like them
Though shalt be orange and blue 
Though shalt settle down in quarantine 
In the land of the thou shalt nots 
And everyone you ever meet 
Will long for what you've got. 

Thou shalt not even enter a public house 
Thou shalt not turn water into wine 
Thou shalt not question authority 
Thou shalt not put religion on the line 
Thou shalt not mix with sinners 
Thou shalt not talk to prostitutes 
Thou shalt not be in the world at all 
Thou shalt not be their substitute 
Thou shalt settle down in the trenches 
In the land of the thou shalt nots 
And all this talk of a radical Jesus 
Is just some Muslim, Buddhist, communist, humanist, socialist, ecumenical, new age, popish PLOT!

Many of us live in THE LAND OF THE THOU SHALT NOTS and it is not where God wants us to be. There is a bizarre little behavioural and theological quirk at play in evangelical Christianity. In evangelism there is an emphasis on how salvation is not about what we do but about what God does for us. Rooted in Paul’s words to the Ephesians, - “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2 v 8 & 9) – we find one of Christianity’s main differences with other religions. You do not find God by human or ritual endeavours. It is not what we do to get to God, it is what God does for us in Jesus death and resurrection. He has entered time and space history to be part of the act that redeemed or bought us back from our state of lostness. We do not find God. He finds us. Grace. It is Christianity in one unique concept and one amazing word.

Grace flies in the face of our intuition. There is no such thing as a free lunch. You cannot get something that easy never mind something of such enormous consequences. Our intuition finds it impossible to believe. That will always be a reminder to us of how incredible Christianity is but it has to also warn us that our natural inclination will be to not believe it. I believe that we who live with an evangelical mindset and hopefully lifestyle wrestle and struggle with this belief. We use the words and stand by it uncompromisingly theologically but I think that pragmatically there is no such belief at the engine room of our lives. Our human intuition needs to bring back systems of works. So we end up believing that you cannot be saved by works, only by grace but when you find your salvation you have to work like the clappers to maintain it. This reveals a misunderstanding of grace, a misunderstanding of our relationship with God and leads to a new evangelical legalism that is an antithesis of evangelical. 

This is not at all new and the book of Galatians is Paul correcting these three errors of thought and practice. It would seem that the people in Galatia heard the astounding truth of the Gospel of Christ’s grace and took off enthusiastically before the human intuition stalled them and through religious leaders who would seem to have had a genuine soundness they were led back into legalism and works. Paul lashes out in an anger that let us know in no uncertain terms how serious this regression is to the well being of the faith in proclamation and in outworking. The pages of Galatians are peppered with an agitation, worry and incredulous disbelief that what was going so well could take such a twist. He wants the perpetrators condemned even if it is an angel! It is the very core of Christianity that is at stake for Paul. It is what Christ died for. We were set free to live outside of the law which can only condemn us. We are cursed if we trust in legalistic religion and it is that very thing that Christ redeemed us from. 

For some of us we see grace as a ticket to heaven. Of course it is indeed that but it would be very wrong to confine it to that. Grace is the only key to unlock the gates of heaven but it has much more power and impact than that. Grace is also the engine room of Christian living. Paul said to the Church in Philippi that he was “confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Isaac Newton put it well in Amazing Grace, “Grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home.” There seems to be a lot of teaching about how grace works in saving us from the penalty of sin and indeed the in the future from the very presence of sin but very little teaching about how grace continually saves us from the power of sin in the present. Grace is the means of our justification and also the only means of our sanctification. Justification is the theological word that describes our positional holiness. In other words Christ’s blood washes our sins clean and therefore we can stand before a holy God righteous. A righteousness as Paul called it that is not “of my own that comes from the law but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” Sanctification is the practical holiness that comes to grow and ripen in our lives as we walk in that new relationship. As Christ’s sacrifice was the means of grace that brings us justification so the Holy Spirit is the one who is the means of grace that brings the fruit of the Spirit into our lives. It is the fruit of the Spirit not our efforts to keep the law!

This is of course a radical departure from Old Testament discipleship. Similarly radical were Jesus words to his disciples – if you love me you will keep my commands. Our new relationship with God does not mean we do things because we have to. We do them because we want to. The drive within us comes from a very different source. Is this therefore a contradiction of the Old Testament? Not at all. Paul deals with this too in this letter to the Galatians. In chapter 4 he speaks of heirs who are children needing guardians and trustees but when their time comes they have full rights as adult sons and daughters.

As a father of small heirs myself I often see the difference between those who are children and have to be under the guardian and those who are mature and are set free. When I cross the road with Caitlin and Jasmine I will stand at the edge of the kerb and force them to go through the ritual. Look and listen…Look right, look left, look right again and if there is nothing walk straight across, looking both ways while you cross! There may then be a time when we are all walking down the Lisburn Road when I will say to Janice I am nipping over the road here to get a paper. I will then just head straight across. You do not see the Lisburn Road full of adults doing some sort of green cross code. Why? Are they reckless? Are they contradicting what they learned as children and tell their children? No they are a fulfilment of it.

As I walk across freely and outside of rituals and codes I am doing everything that I was taught to do but I do them with a freedom and here is the key an almost subconscious care that is driven from within my conditioning rather than from some outside system. Paul and the writers of the New Testament are always wanting us to grow up, to move on to deeper and maturer things. Rules are for the children who are just born. We need to grow up. I was struck particularly on Sunday morning in Church as we read, “Therefore let us leave behind the elementary teachings about Christ behind and go on to maturity.” The elementary things were repentance and baptism, resurrection and judgement. These things are not forgotten or dismissed but they become a part of the childish development so that we can move on to so much more.

What we need more than anything else is the fruit of the Spirit. This is what God wants to bring in our lives. Whose fruit? Not ours! These fruit are what allows us to become mature and not have to stop at the side of the road. People wills ay to me so does that mean you can do anything at all. Well if you are saying that the rule book is torn up yes but if you are saying that it is replaced by maturity and the fruit of the Spirit – no! I don’t see anywhere in the Bible where it tells us not to drink so does that mean we can go out and get hammered. Of course not. The fruit of the Spirit is self control! And yes for some of us tonight we are childish in those things and we need to set down rules about our relationship with bars and alcohol BUT we must never ever stay in that same place. We need to go grow up in faith so that the fruit of the Spirit makes it absolutely impossible for us to come into any dangers from alcohol abuse. This is the aim. 

Let me take an aside here and look at Bible reading. We have rules and regulations about that too. If we don’t read our Bibles then we feel we have somehow annoyed God and broke down relationships. We are burdened by guilt and shame. This is a return to the law and we know already what Paul says about that. But let me spell something out to you. A friend of mine said to me once that they felt so bad because they had left the Bible on the washing machine in the Utility room when they came home from Church and had not looked at until about Thursday. Now I need to say that I find it impossible to leave the Bible on the washing machine. Sometimes I wish I could. My relationship with Scriptures is not when I open it in the morning and evening. I have a moment by moment relationship with it. It is so much a part of who I am that its pages flick and turn to words that caress and collide with every person and situation and song and film and magazine article that meet me in my day. How can this have happened? Well as a spiritual baby I was legalistic and read my Bible religiously so that when I grew up it would read me.

Back to the fruit of the Spirit. There are nine that none of us can ever remember. I would like to break them into three groups. There are LOVE, JOY & PEACE which are about our relationship with God, then there are PATIENCE, KINDNESS & GOODNESS which are about our relationship with each other. Finally there are FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS & SELF CONTROL which have to do with our relationship with ourselves. 

LOVE, JOY & PEACE come from God and are dispositions. Do we know that we are loved? Have we a deep seated joy even when our friends leave us for heaven? Is there a peace that dwells at the heart of us that empowers us to love and bring joy and peace into our world? If that grace we spoke about is what drives us then we will have these things. If we are still hanging out in the land of the Thou Shalt Nots then we will never find them. Knowing in the depths of your soul that you are loved as you are changes everything. If we find them in God we will have a security in them. If we are dependent on people and circumstances for these things we will never find them. Insecurity and inferiority will mar our existence and leave us without the ability to ripen the other fruit.

PATIENCE, KINDNESS & GOODNESS are about how we treat our fellow human beings. When we know love, joy and peace from God and know that they only come from his attitude towards us and what he has done for us we will begin to be compelled to treat others in the same way. We will be slow to anger at our friends behaviour or even that of our enemies. As God gives us time so we will give time. We will learn to be as kind as Jesus was and begin to do good things to those in the world around us. Again these are not acts we do because we have to but are things that will start to sprout through in our lives as we begin to become more and more consumed by the Spirit and more and more aware of the truth of the Gospel.

FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS & SELF CONTROL are things that grow within us that come out in some ways through our patience, kindness and goodness. How are we in holding friendships. Do we run from tricky scenarios? Are we gentle in standing for truth? Are we in control of our bodies etc?

Jesus said that loving God and our fellow humans would keep all of the law. If we see these fruit in our lives it a similar thing. God does not set us down things he wants us to do. He tells us how he wants us to be. In being this we will do all we need be doing but the drive will be inward and organic and alive instead of outward and religious and cold.

So do we just lie back and wait. Not a bit of it. We can plough and water and tend. As God’s word falls in your life Jesus warned us that some might fall on the road. Have no roads. Plough it up. Some might fall in the thorns. Weed it out. Some might fall in shallow ground. Dig deeper. Make it all fall into a life that is desiring to grow up.

U2 put it well. “You know I believe it…but I still haven’t found what I am looking for.” Seek to keep moving. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians “press on towards the prize.” “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.”


Ladybirds Bromley

Steve Stockman will self publish not one but two new poetry books, Awkward Dancers & Audacious Dreamers and Reflections, Poems and Benedictions, on May 31st in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, University Street, Belfast at 7pm. It is a free gig but come with money to buy books!

“Poetry is a strong word for what I do,” Stockman says. “I play with words, phrases and mostly rhymes. I call it pop poetry with a preacher’s punch. And… maybe I should add… that I hope in most instances it is a gentle punch. Now that is poetic licence! Is that a little awkward and audacious of me,” he laughs!

Stockman is better known as the writer of Walk On; The Spiritual Journey of U2 published as was another book The Rock Cries Out; Discovering God In Unlikely Places by Relevant Publishing. His seven previous books have all been self published.

“My books have mostly been sold in aid of charitable projects; for trips to China and South Africa. These two are for a school in Uganda, a Youth Trip going there and for Fitzroy’s Building project in South Belfast. So, self publishing makes money and people might buy the books as much for the good cause as the poetry! 

It is 2008 since his last book, Sad… And Beautiful Place.

“The last one was more about Gordon Ashbridge’s amazing photography than my poetry and it was all about Cape Town townships. So, it has been nine years since I brought out a book of poems.”

As a result it seems there were so many poems he had to bring out two books at once, like Bruce Springsteen with Human Touch and Lucky Town! 

Awkward Dancers & Audacious Dreamers is much more lyrical and Reflections, Poems and Benedictions is less rhyming and more liturgical.

“They are slightly different books. If they hadn’t been I would just have edited it them into one.” Stockman explains. 

Awkward Dancers & Audacious Dreamers are those rhyming, more like song lyrics, poems that the other books have been. I think my work is too literary to be songs and not literary enough to be poetry. My album with Sam Hill under the name Stevenson and Samuel called Grace Notes showed the place where my words sit best. I guess if Sam lived in Belfast there would have been more of that. 

At the launch Chris Wilson will sing a song he wrote after I sent him a poem BUT it is more the idea that he captures than the words. Bryan Gormley will be doing the same, actually with one from Reflections, Poems and Benedictions.

Reflections, Poems and Benedictions? Well that is all in the title. That collection is stuff I used for worship services. I often write carefully constructed prayers and benedictions. I also write for weddings and then there are two mini sections of pieces I have written for Christmas and Easter. I hope they will be helpful in personal reading but maybe that people will use them in services. 

So what are Awkward Dancers? And who are the Audacious Dreamers?

“There is a theme running through both books I think. These have all been written out of my ministry. The awkward dancers are those awful moments that happen in people’s lives. Bruce Cockburn describes it as “ a wind comes out of nowhere and knocks us off our feet.” Almost six years ago I became the pastor of Fitzroy and have sat with my people in some very sad situations. One of the ways I deal with that is to turn it over in my mind and heart and soul in rhyme. So there is a lot of death in Awkward Dancers... They are mysteries of darkness that are not easy to nail down so I came up with that awkward dancer idea. 

As a Christian I believe that we can change the world. That is an audacious idea. The Bible speaks about God’s people seeing vision and dreaming dreams. I hope there is a lot of that in these poems too. Hence the title.”

Since moving to Fitzroy six years ago Stockman has also become involved in reconciliation work, helping found the 4 Corners Festival and even speaking at this year’s Sinn Fein Ard Fheis. That has sneaked in to the work too.

“My pontifications on my wee country has always been in there but the poems in these books are probably more hands dirty. I was a passive peacemaker for a long time. I am definitely more active now. With my partner in peacemaking Fr Martin Magill we have found ourselves in some disconcerting places. All of that is in there and even a poem about two Belfast City Mayors, Máirtín O Muilleoir, and Nichola Mallon. For those who have wanted the Prayers For the 4 Corners Of Belfast, that we named the festival after, is in Reflections, Poems and Benedictions.”

The launch is sure to be a creative evening too. Some songs, a few poems and a reflective ending. 

“Chris Wilson, Dave Thompson and Bryan Gormley will be doing a song or two around the lyrics. There might be a little bit of video and of course the poems with introductions. It’ll be a good evening but my mantra has always been that art has not to be just good but good for something. I hope that the books do something good too. I hope the poems will be contributors to healthy souls and a healthy society and also that the money they raise will bring good onto the streets of Belfast and Arua in north west Uganda!”

The books will be on sale in Fitzroy on May 31st, from the Fitzroy office after that and hopefully as an Ebook in early June.



When Joshua Tree arrived in March 1987 the song I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Lookin For got a lot of the attention. Surely here was the song that proved that Bono and his Irish mates were not Christians and if they had ever been they had backslidden now. How could a Christian not have found what he is looking for?! Of course it was the usual non thinking Christian sensationalist tabloid discussion. Long before I ever thought of writing a book about U2 I had debated this song across the world with Christians of whom author Os Guinnessonce stated “would die rather than think. In fact most do!” Those who debated with me the lack of U2’s faith missed two things. First, they missed the Bible where in Philippians 3 St. Paul adds to his declaration that he has found by faith a glorious righteousness that is beyond the law – “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” St. Paul it seems still hadn’t found what he looking for either!

The second thing the non thinking believers missed was the lyrics of the song itself – “You broke the bonds/Loosed the chains/Carried the cross and my shame/You know I believe it.”Such a succinct theology of the work of Christ was number 1 in the USA for four weeks and Christians missed it. For a cheap laugh in my talks about the song across the world I have added that when the darling of Christian music Amy Grant got to Number 1 she was singing “Baby Baby!”

Those same Christians might have missed what I was most inspired by on my first listening to I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For. Joshua Treewas released as the rock world turned the heat up on its protest with South Africa’s apartheid regime. Since

U2’s previous record Unforgettable Fire, Steve Van Zant’s Artists United Against Apartheid’s star strewn single Sun City had been followed by an album that featured Silver and Gold that Bono had recorded with Rolling Stones’ Keith Richard and Ronnie Wood; a U2 version would appear as a b-side for Where The Streets Have No Name. When I first heard I Still Haven’t Found... the lines “I believe in the kingdom come when all the colours bleed will bleed into one” took me immediately to South Africa. These lines described what the Kingdom was about. Twenty years later I would sit in Cape Town’s District Six Museum reflecting on how apartheid’s ideology, built on a Christian theology, could so smash the Kingdom Of God vision that St. John had in the Book of Revelation, as they bulldozed a huge chunk of Cape Town to divide white from black. U2’s vision of God’s Kingdom was an antithesis and was built on those lines that followed, “You broke the bonds, loosed the chains, carried the cross and my know I believe it.” U2’s Kingdom was no ethereal pie in the sky but was built on the life and work of Jesus.

On U2’s recent Fan Club giveaway U22 we get a potent, perhaps definitive version of the song and these ideas. On this lavish souvenir package of the U2360 Tour we are treated to 22 live highlights. During their gig in the FNB Stadium, Johannesburg on 13 February 2011 U2 welcomed Hugh Masekela, South African trumpet playing legend and exiled anti-apartheid campaigner into the band for these very words. It is a musical highpoint of the U22 and it is a political and spiritual tour de force. As his black jazz trumpet blends into U2’s stadium rock groove the Kingdom of God of the words becomes sound to dwell for a moment or two among us. It is the holy beauty that the best of art should always be. It gives us a vision of a better way and a foundation to build the world that we still haven’t found but by God’s grace we continue to look for.



Walking Road


 “A route differs from a road not only because it is solely intended for vehicles, but also because it is merely a line that connects one point with another. A route has no meaning in itself; its meaning derives entirely from the two points that it connects. A road is a tribute to space. Every stretch of road has meaning in itself and invites us to stop. A route is the triumphant devaluation of space, which thanks to it has been reduced to a mere obstacle to human movement and a waste of time.”

 - from Immortality by Milan Kundera

I was taken with this quotation when Juliana McNeice pointed it out to me in the early 90s. It stuck with me. I then travelled across South Africa and found that the rural folk there took this seriously. You would never take a route somewhere. The quickest way might cause you to miss someone or something. Roads are for travelling and learning and maturing and experiencing. 

The difference is a strong challenge to our stressed out schedule keeping world where we spend our life on routes and short cuts. We have motorways (UK) or Routes (USA) to get there as quick as we can. Scenic back roads are not so popular. We miss the wonder of life.

The Kundera quotation came back to me one night in a BBC radio studio. I was interviewing songwriter Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue for the Rhythm and Soul show I hosted at the time. He had his brand new record Pale Rider with him and told me I would like the track Calvary and that it was about Christmas! Ricky went on to explain that when he was growing up he noticed in his Church that as soon as Jesus was born they had him on the cross. 

Immediately I unpacked this thought, and therefore the song, as teaching us that we should have Jesus on a road and not a route. If we have Jesus on a route to the cross then we miss the road of his teaching and life. The destination therefore becomes meaningless as we have no idea what to do when we have gotten there!

My take on it is that we need to follow Jesus as he invited his disciples to do. As we follow down the roads of Galilee, Samaria and Jerusalem we can pick up all his insights. Like fruit off a tree we should put them in the baskets of our souls and then follow Jesus through the cross… then through the resurrection… to live the fruit of his ministry on the other side of that. 


Not a route to

Too fast, too functional, too distracting

But a road through 

Slow to pay attention for impacting

Not a route to

Too easy too brief too matter of fact

But a road through

Taking in all that we’d need to act

Not a route to

Too cold, too instant, to get it done

But a road through


From Bethlehem to Calvary

It was never meant to be a quick route to

But a following, 

Gathering all the things we’d need

A road that would take us right on through…

NOT A ROUTE… BUT A ROAD is from Steve Stockman’s poetry book REFLECTIONS, POEMS AND BENEDICTIONS which will be launched in Fitzroy Presbyterian Church Belfast on May 31st 2015 at 7pm. All welcome. Soon available on Ebooks!


Brandon Flowers Desired

Brandon Flowers is fast becoming a hidden pleasure. You know the artists you can’t get excited about because you would lose your rock fan cred. He’s the singer in The Killers and they have gotten way too popular. Cred means not liking “the commercial”. He’s a rather handsome young man. Cred means that when he is a poster on some girl’s wall it can’t be for his magazine cover looks. Now he’s released the album that proves the point; 10 tracks of pure pop that could all be hit singles; lots of commercial success and young girl (and older) swooning!

Well, I like Brandon Flowers! For me he is halfway between rock and pop. The Desired Effect is pop through and through. It is even the kind of pop I don’t like. Heavy on synth, full of drum machines and unabashedly influenced by the 80s pop that I hated back then. Pet Shop Boys, one of my ultimate my pet hates, and Bronski Beat even show up. 

Yet, it never gets too pop. It always stops just short. Not even the suburbs. He’s stopped off on the first village outside. Close but still rocking enough. The advantage of having the Pop City Limits sign in his view is that these melodies dig well deep and do so with immediate effect. I have a weakness for catchy tunes.

On top of all of that Brandon Flowers has content. He massages the theo-musicologist in me. It is well known that he is a Mormon and very committed to it. However, it seems to me that all his references are from the New Testament and not the Book Of Mormon. 

There’s mercy and faith and sons of prediction. There’s the need and possibility of change (I Can Change) and wisdom in the letting go (Between You and Me). 

We get:

“A natural believer

I don't carry any bones

If you see things a little different

I'm not casting any stones

Been taking it for granted

I've got the right to speak my mind

I'll overcome the dark

Just like the dead, the lame, the Leper and the blind

Like Lazarus or the mother of Peter's wife.”

- Dreams Come True


“The eyes of God are watching over us

So we don't break the golden rules

The seven seas, have we learned

Or are we sailing on a ship of fools?”

 - Can’t Deny My Love


“Ain't that the way that it's always been?

Standing at the water's edge waiting for the fog to clear

Tackle or touch, you sink or you swim

And hoping that he's really got the power to save us from these sins”

 - The Way Its Always Been

If Brandon Flowers finds his musical sounds in 80s pop, he gets his spiritual inspiration from U2 and he sets that faith in the characters in the story of Bruce Springsteen’s The River. These are all songs of ordinary people struggling to keep food on the table and love in their marriage. It is about a world that could make us weary if we don’t find the glimmers of something redemptive to give us purpose, meaning and life in all its fulness.


“Punch the clock, baby on the nightstand

You close your eyes, waiting for the Sandman

Spend your life, bracing for the crash land

You forget, baby it's a dreamland

Baby it's a dreamland”

 - Dreams Come True


The Desired Effect has the sweet veneer to hook us in and then the lyrical intrigue to keep us in there, listen after listen. I like Brandon Flowers!


Gerry and Charles

As the news breaks that Prince Charles is going to meet Gerry Adams today there will be much consternation. That consternation will be on both side of our traditional, often times violent, bloody and murderous, divide. 

Ulster Unionists will feel that this is a betrayal of all of those who were killed by the IRA during the Troubles. How dare Prince Charles meet with someone who we believed was involved in the killings? It is a tender and sensitive issue. 

We need to remember as Prince Charles meets Gerry Adams that Charles’ very favourite Uncle, Lord Mountbatten, was murdered by the IRA on August 27th 1979 while on a fishing trip off the west coast of Ireland. The IRA killed 18 British soldiers the very same day in Warrenpoint. So for Prince Charles this is personal. He is having to deal with the pain he felt and no doubt will feel again today.

Having been at this year’s Sinn Fein Ard Fheis I am aware too that there will be those in Republicanism who will not support this meeting. After Fr Martin Magill and I spoke about reconciliation, followed by a very similar speech from Sinn Fein Chair Declan Kearney, there were some vociferous speeches on the floor making sure no British Royal was invited to the Centenary Celebrations of the Easter Rising next year. 

So both Prince Charles and Gerry Adams are taking a bold step today. Why? I believe that both know that if we are going to wage peace in this country then these messy moments need to happen. It will not be comfortable for either. Yet, they courageously create a strong symbol of the future somehow overcoming the past.

For me that is what Jesus Gospel was all about. The past being redeemed in the present to transform the future through grace and forgiveness.

I wrote this poem about Queen Elizabeth II’s two visits to Ireland; shaking hands with Martin McGuinness in Belfast and then bowing at the War Memorial in Dublin with President Mary McAleese. They are influenced no doubt by Padraig O Tuama’s poem Shaking Hands and Luka Bloom’s song A Seed Is Sown. 


Their hands shook

History felt the tremors

Forgetting deep hurt

Where everyone remembers

And did memory stab

That boat on the ocean

As her courage broke

Through her heart’s emotion 


Their eyes connect

Like wires to detonate

Blow up the past

Raining fragments of hate

Did he see the loss

In her smiling face

And feel the forgiveness

Majesty of her grace


She spoke their language

She bowed her head

Bent down on her knee

To honour their dead

She marched right through

The ancient palisades

Left the traditional walk

To lead a brand new parade.

I wrote this next poem recently about my own struggles in the messy relationships of peace making having spoken at this year's Sinn Fein Ard Fheis.


Between the bloody dark

And grace’s redeeming light

Between the hate riled gloom 

And the rays of forgiveness, bright

Friendships can be messy.


Between the blowing up

And the pieces fixed on landing

Between the bleak black funerals

And the bridegroom standing

Friendships can be messy.


This is an awkward dance

With partners disconcerting

The tender tentative steps

With all our wounds still hurting

Take two up and one back

Move close to hold the seams

Swirl in the suspicious space

To soar in audacious dreams.

We need to be led on a different road. Today’s meeting will be disconcerting for all of us and even more painful for many. As an icon of Unionism meets an icon of Republicanism let us follow their lead. If the future on this island is to be different than the past then we need to tenderly embrace it. 

These poems feature in Steve Stockman's new book Awkward Dancers & Audacious Dreamers that will be launched in Fitzroy on May 31st at 7pm. All welcome! 


Aslan Not Safe


Almighty God,

As Beaver said to Lucy about Aslan in CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

You are not safe

You are good.

Forgive us Lord, when we make you safe

When we confine you to our definitions

When our faith is no more than cotton wool to protect us from life

Instead of the courage to race headlong into the real world

When discipleship is being in the safe places of the Church

Instead of being shining lights in the dirtiest of holes

When holiness is just respectable behaviour

Instead of the dynamic revolution of your Spirit in our deepest character.

Forgive us when we give you predictability

When we make safety a spiritual virtue.

Help us to remember Abraham 

Who left his security with no planned future

Help us to remember Moses 

Who went back to the place where he had yielded to temptation

Help us to remember David 

Who fought a giant without armour or sword

Help us to remember Jesus 

Who set his face towards the cross.

You are not safe

You are good.


You Are Not Safe is from Steve Stockman's new book Reflections, Poems & Benedictions... out May 31st... launch gig @ Fitzroy @ 7pm... all welcome!

U2 SELF AID, RDS DUBLIN - MAY 17, 1986 (#10 in Stocki's Fav U2 Live Moments)

U2 Self Aid

For U2’s only European gig of 1986 I did a 22 hour day. I remember Andy Anthony and I getting up for a 6.30am bus to Dublin and getting home at 4am the next morning. U2 were not the only attraction about Self Aid. Influenced by the previous year’s Live Aid, Irish musicians decided to raise the issue of Ireland high unemployment and had a twelve hour telethon gig that included anyone who was anyone in the Irish music scene of the mid-eighties. It was quite a day.

Twenty nine acts made it an extraordinary event with lesser known acts like In Tua Nua, Freddie White and Cactus World News in the early half of the day before legends like Paul Brady, The Pogues, Rory Gallagher, The Boomtown Rats, Christy Moore, Chris De Burgh, Elvis Costello and Van Morrison led us into headliners U2 before Thin Lizzy reformed as a memorial to Phil Lynott as a surprise encore. It was one special day. Bob Geldof announced on stage that it was the Rats final gig and they played their socks off and Elvis Costello married his girlfriend, Cait, then a Pogue who therefore made him an honorary Irishman.  

It was a unique time to see U2 live. It was their first gig of 1986 and just a couple of months before the Amnesty International Tour on which The Police would hand them the mantle as those concerts sped them toward the release of Joshua Tree, that would send the band into the rock music stratosphere. Still ten months from that release Ireland’s most famous DJ Dave Fanning in his introduced claimed it already, “Do you wanna see a band that you know and I know to be the greatest live rock band in the world.”

We believed it before it was statistically true. In all the legends of music on stage that day U2 were by far the most iconic. Eleven hours of support slots had the crowd in a frenzy. This, and not the protest against unemployment, was what they were all there for. 

It was Bono’s hippy phase with his long hair and his brown suede cowboy jacket with tassels. He bounded on stage as one having authority, as the people declared Jesus after The Sermon On The Mount. “We haven’t got much time. Let’s make this quick,” he warned, or invited, the crowd and then straight into Eddie Cochran’s, early rock n roll classic, C’mon Everybody. In the course of the next 22 minutes or so he would quote John Lennon and Elton John as well as cover Bob Dylan’s Maggie’s Farm. The U2 songs were the three chosen for Live Aid though Pride got left off that Wembley day when Bad went on a meandering in the crowd detour.

Pride was the song that gave the foundational axis of Martin Luther King’s spirituality that matured U2’s spiritual vision after their charismatic rebirth in the Shalom fellowship.  Sunday Bloody Sunday was the song about their island’s Troubles. Eventually Bad about the drug riddled streets of the city this gig was being performed in became the encore, shorn of its Live Aid length.

The intensity of the limited time added to the spectacle. U2 out played everyone else and anyone at the RDS in Dublin that day knew that Fanning was right. This was the best band on the planet and they were our boys! Being broadcast on RTE all day I came home to all the videos, that someone recorded for me, and watched this performance for years to come. Maggie’s Farm was on the Self Aid album released later in the year. Millions of pounds and 1000 new jobs were also raised as a result. I remember walking back through Belfast from the bus stop in the middle of the night, exhausted but musically very satisfied.