Previous month:
November 2020
Next month:
January 2021

December 2020

CLOSE ENOUGH TO WHISPER - Christmas Day Poems #3


The Eternal focused on a moment
The Voice becomes a listener
The Word becoming flesh and bone
Close enough to whisper

Beyond the world's comprehension
Moves right into the midst of her
Heaven stoops to touch the earth
Close enough to whisper

Close enough to touch her
Close enough to kiss her
Close enough to be broken
Close enough to whisper

For God so loved the world
He emptied Himself to visit her
Came down to walk beside her
Close enough to whisper

The Eternal focused on a moment
The Voice becomes a listener
The Word becoming flesh and bone
Close enough to whisper.



Heavenly meteorite hurtling

Unseen but deeply felt

If never fully realised

By those who’ve never knelt

The tremors they ripple across all time

The poets at last can find their rhyme

Heavenly meteorite hurtling.


Heavenly meteorite hurtling

As usual but all amiss

History  stripped of how it was

To how from now on it is

The radical revolution all a shudder

Old way surrendering to this new other

Heavenly meteorite hurtling


Heavenly meteorite hurtling

Unnoticed but all askew

Thrones thrown out of kilter

The meek inherit what’s new

The repercussions spin out forever

Imaginers threading peace back together

Heavenly meteorite hurtling.


Stockies Christmas 20


Love soars across galaxies and constellations

Down through the selfishness of generations

Mary bursts with grace’s holy gestations

To rip the veil of the law’s damnations



Anxious with the fear of viral persistence

Frustrated with the hell of isolation’s insistence

We hang by the frayed thread of worn out resistance

But God arrives smashing every distance




Happy Christmas


McCartney III_Paul McCartney

I love McCartney III. The first listen through and I wasn’t so sure but a slow burn Paul McCartney album is an excellent thing and this lockdown lockdown project is an excellent thing.

I think it was the quality of the playing that drew me in. This man is 78 years of age for goodness sake. Perhaps though that is the advantage. 60 years of honing his craft. Not only his bass playing, singing and songwriting craft but learning every instrument and how to arrange a song and produce a record. It is a lengthy apprenticeship.

Every aspect of Paul McCartney’s 60 years in the industry is right here. There’s The Beatles on Seize the Day, Wings on Slidin’, even a wee echo of his old mate John Lennon’s on Lavatory Lil. The acoustic pickings of Blackbird are everywhere particularly The Kiss Of Venus and Winter Bird/When Winter Comes, the latter giving a nod back to the first McCartney with its lyric about farms and ditches.

Best of all for me are two different songs with a theme. Deep Deep Feeling and Deep Down do what they say in the titles. They take you deep into heart and emotion. Deeper than McCartney sometimes does. If Deep Deep Feeling has any cousins in the McCartney catalogue it is probably McCartney 2 with its electronic deep groove. Just when you think 8 minutes is too long it hypnotises you into love with it. 

All the press have been concentrating on the McCartney III aspect, seeing the album in the lineage of McCartney his first solo record just as The Beatles were splitting up and McCartney 2 recorded just after hi Japanese jail time in 1980. 

There is no denying the likeness. All three certainly seem to be one man on his own, playing around, playing everything and being a little more free and easy than the usual way he goes about making million selling records.

What these three records do, among other things is reveal the development of recording equipment over 50 years, especially that that a megastar now has in his house! The writing and playing on McCartney III might be QIY but the recording desk isn’t! The layering on this record is there for all to see, especially the stunning vocals from a man who has been vocally suspect in recent years.

What I love about this 2020 edition of McCartney is the ingenuity of McCartney’s playing. He seems to have set himself free from manufacturing a hit album with the trendy new dudes on the block like Mark Ronson and Ryan Tedder. Oh I enjoyed New and Egypt Station but McCartney III will have me intrigued for longer me thinks!


Cancel Christmas

(Should we cancel Christmas? This was a question I was asked on a panel on Sunday Sequence on BBC Radio Ulster on December 20, 2020...)


With all our restrictions and lockdowns as a response to this virus sweeping across the country again, some have suggested that Christmas should be cancelled? 

Absolutely not. I want to suggest that if ever there was a year that we needed a Christmas then it is 2020.

Indeed, might this not be our best ever Christmas. “Sometimes I wish we get rid of all the busyness and get to the real meaning of Christmas”. Well this is the time.

Of course you cannot cancel the spiritual season of Christmas. The Church year revolves around two major events in the life of Jesus. Easter is about his death and resurrection. Christmas is about his birth. You cannot cancel a calendar that is very very old.

The modern secular Christmas might be another thing. In some areas shops are shut, travel is being banned and family bubbles burst. We might not be able to visit and we might not have a present for those who we visit. I guess we could re-arrange our family meals and staff parties until the summer when we hope that this will all be over.

For those feeling their variety of Christmas ruined. I understand. I feel some sympathy. Can I ask that for a second you take a glance at our religious Christmas. There are many things in the nativity scenes that you can learn from even if you don’t believe in the transcendent. As I often say, if you don’t believe, read them like Aesops Fables and you will learn much wisdom. 

Waiting and patience and hope and a bright light at the end of it is a big part of the nativity. So, if your Christmas seems ruined why not look ahead to Christmas 2021. See it as a glorious light at the end of this tough winter of our souls. Use it as an energy for this difficult year. Don’t say that Christmas is ruined but look ahead to when it arrives.

For those of us of faith Christmas has no need to be cancelled. It is lovely to gather and sing carols as a community but the truth of what we sing has spiritual energy whether we are full churches or in our homes watching online services. 

In the year that we have lived through Christmas could not be any more necessary. In a year when the circumstances of a world in pandemic have forced us to distance from one another and indeed at times to isolate. When we have been forced to spend hospital time, perhaps even die and often grieve in lonely ways Christmas has the most healing of messages. 

The followers of the baby born believe that this is God, flesh and blood and bone breaking down every distance to move in among us. Please let’s not cancel that! We need it more than ever!


Lone ranger and Tonto

Christmas presents that I didn’t get. That I really wanted. That I still carry angst for.

Though we didn’t get around to it on the actual show, Sunday Sequence asked me to think about this question. 

It took me back. I dug deep. 

I was 9 or 10. It might have been 1971. Everything changed in 1972 but I will come to that! In ’71 I was an Action Man boy. More of that later too. My next door neighbour Donald Reid had a variant on the Action Man idea - The Lone Ranger and Tonto. 

Children in the late 60s and early 70s were all about cowboys and Indians. TV shows like The Virginian, The High Chaparral and my very favourite Alias Smith and Jones. Before those there was the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Donald had the action figures… and there were horses. Horses with saddle bags and the whole deal. 

I coveted my neighbour’s horse. The Lone Ranger and Tonto had amazing horses. Big commandment broken! I remember, and I had absolutely no belief in God at the time, praying that my Uncle would appear with Tonto and the horse! Nothing! Never arrived.

While we were actually on air on Sunday Sequence, Tony Mcauley raised more childhood Christmas trauma. He mentioned one of his favourite gifts being Thunderbirds 2. Like a arrow across time his words pierced my heart. I immediately remember that Thunderbirds 2 opened and Thunderbirds 4 came out of the main craft. Oh how much I wanted that too!

My dad was a careful man. I wanted the game Mousetrap because of the all the fiddly bits. Dad would use his accountant’s rational to think that I would lose those bits within hours and discard the game. So he would negotiate with Santa to get me golf clubs instead. I used those golf clubs for years. The Peter Allis putter is still in the garage! If only I had seen my father’s wisdom then!

The good presents? Well, a pedal go-kart was amazing. It had with it a Stirling Moss Formula 1 driver’s suit with it. Amazing that we lost both Allis and Moss this year. 

One of my favourite Christmas Days was the day I got an Action Man and diver suit with dinghy. Lots of fiddly bits like knives and goggles... I loved that but there was drama. In putting my guy in the bath to do some diving I then foolishly dried him out by the electric fire! Not so clever. That poor action man had a rather disfigured back for ever after.  

The best present of all Christmases was when I was 11. In 1972 I got my record player. This was the first record player in our home. I envy those who talk about the records they grew up listening to. I had to make up my own influences and my cousin Sharon started me off on Donny Osmond and David Cassidy. I discovered T. Rex, Sweet, Slade and Wizzard before my eureka moment - The Beatles in 1976.

The record player or equivalents have been my soundtrack companions ever since. Records led me into thinking about the big questions of life and those questions led me to faith in Jesus. Even after Jesus started giving me answers I have used records for my spiritual companions ever since.

All of that has come back around this year as I am getting a number of vinyl records as presents! I hope so anyway...


My friend John Trinder is on the ICU (Consultant Intensivist) Frontline. This is his weekly update. This is to help us understand the decisions of politicians and why we need to be alert and careful and love our neighbours.
Weekly update #10 on ICU capacity in Northern Ireland.
The purpose of this is to help folk understand why there is ongoing serious concern about provision of hospital services (for much more than COVID-19, but clearly contributed to by the demands COVID-19 continues to put on the NHS in Northern Ireland). This indicates why there is a continuing need to follow public health guidance and also to counter misinformation and misdirection.
There are currently 81 patients in ICUs across Northern Ireland, compared to 89 last week and obviously still exceeding the usual maximum capacity we can sustainably deliver of 72. Of these 81, 32 are COVID-19 (static from last week).
So our ICUs continue to be over capacity, a substantial proportion of the ICU patients are critically ill with COVID-19, and this demand continues to impact adversely on other services.
In my own institution, in the last couple of weeks we have sadly lost several patients due to COVID-19 who were relatively young and died despite many weeks of intensive care.
You will be aware via national media of the strain our hospitals continue to find themselves under for general beds too, and no healthcare professional is comfortable with a scenario where a further large increase in demand for emergency or urgent care (for any condition) could put us in a position where patients either suffer or die from delayed treatment, or we would have to make rationing choices with life-supporting treatments which would normally be unthinkable.
Please take care and do your best to prevent avoidable injury and infection whilst the NHS is struggling under unprecedented load. This is certainly not the same as annual winter pressures.
Wishing all a peaceful and happy Christmas under adverse circumstances.


Christmas Time

We are almost three weeks into our Song A Day In Advent and we have had some amazing songs.

More than ever in Coronavirus Year we wanted to scatter some goodness. Every day we have attempted to send out a song that brings us into the Christmas event, sprinkling joy and peace and love and maybe a nugget of the prophetic from this most seismic event in history.

The series has been defined by variety and quality. We have had the real life artists like Brian Houston and Yvonne Lyon who have been kind enough to make guest appearances alongside teenagers like Talitha Bowman and Eleanor Black, the latter singing her very own original song. 

There have been other original songs across the Fitzroy Collective and some solid covers dropping depth charge thoughts into our day.

We are not finished yet. This week sees some amazing songs and performances, from amazing carols to original songs and more guest appearances that I am so thankful for.

Take a glance across the songs on Soul FM (that’s Fitzroy Music). Take your time on them. Take the goodness from them. 

And… keep watching…