PEACE FLOWS UP

Stormont NI No Entry

 

Tonight is not a good night in our wee country. Tomorrow we await strikes across the land, strikes that will impact us all but at this stage we might all be up for finding a picket line to stand in solidarity. 

We are all fed up. No government is causing us a collapsing health service, our school system stretched, lack of housing and so much more. 

For political principles the population suffers on and on.

Today we all feel that it might be over. Our institutions seem beyond repair. We shout in anger. We scream in frustration. We sigh in resignation. 

I rewrote this...

 

Peace

Pragmatic and imaginative

Visions of our future

Flourishing together

Not crushing the petals

Peace

 

We know now

Almost finally know

It will not trickle down

It is dammed up, 

High on the hill

By lock keepers, 

Captive to Ulster thran

Impoverished of give and take

Of listening, understanding and empathy.

Dammed up 

By the gouged out rotten trees of history 

Churned up by trauma and blame

Dammed up

By the rusty armalites and armoured tanks

Dammed up 

By the stagnancy of fear 

That strategically refuses to erode the old banks

To create new directions 

For the carrying of fresh water

 

Peace

It will not trickle down

Dammed up

It will damn us at the bottom

Leave us in hopelessness 

Begging the question

When will we flood peace up the hill

Power hosing down the mess of who we were

Pumping fresh springs of who we can be

Bursting through all that is dammed up?

 

Peace flows up.


KENNETH WOMACK - LIVING THE BEATLES LEGEND; The Mal Evans Story

Mal Evans

I almost want to say that I wanted to read this book from before I wanted to read this book. I am Irish!

Mal Evans was like a 5th Beatle. Never in the band he was omnipresent around the stage and in many occasions on it. 

I imagine that I came across Mal through The Beatles Book, their monthly magazine. They started republishing them in the summer of 1976 when I had just fallen in love with the band. I never remember a time when I wasn’t aware of Mal.

The thing is that Mal Evans had been shot by the LAPD about 6 months before all of this. It seems that at a very low ebb he contrived a suicide by cop scenario at the age of just 40. 

I have been reading Beatles’ biographies since 1976. I could read nothing else if there were enough good books. Evans was so close to the band that I knew his take would be a fascinating perspective. It did not let me down.

Mal’s diaries, and the stories of him by his friends, have us on stage, back stage, in getaway vans, aeroplanes, studios, hotel rooms, clubs and ashrams and their houses and back gardens. 

Mal is there at the first gigs across the UK right through to the break up in 1970. Post break up he races across the Atlantic being personal assistant to which ever Beatle was on the phone. 

It is everything I knew it would be but it is even more.

I was unaware of personal life of Mal. He was married to Lily the entire Beatles’ time with a young son Gary and Julie who arrived in 1966. His life, and this book, is one long dilemma of how he chose the Beatles and the addiction of being around celebrity and fame above his family. Not that he didn’t utterly love his wife and children but he couldn’t let go of the phenomenon and would be a way for weeks at a time.

Mal doesn’t let his beloved Beatles down by in any way tainting their legacy in his account of those mad years. He loved them. However, it is astounding to find that someone without doubt necessary for them to do what they did and so committed in an 24/7 way was paid so miserably. 

His family gained very little from The Beatles’ wealth and many of the tensions between him and Lily were financial. Zak Starkey as a 7 year old is calling his friend Gary Evans poor. It is a question that I would like to ask Paul McCartney about. An injustice for sure.

Though Mal continued to devote himself to the four Beatles after their broke up, indeed quite like a spouse, he spent the last five years of his life seeking something more. 

He attempted being a producer with Badfinger, being a reason they reached the charts and that Nilsson had a hit with Without You. He tried to be a songwriter with a co-write You and Me (Babe) with George Harrison on Ringo’s album Ringo and Lonely Man on a Splinter album.

Eventually, now with a lover in California that he would, in his naïve way of sorting his dilemma, like to have split 6 months with to six months with Lily, he wrote his memoir that after his death languished in cold storage for a over a decade.

We are thankful that Mal’s son Gary was determined to get his dad’s story out. He eventually asked Beatles’ expert Kenneth Womack to write it. Womack is thorough in research if not the most exciting writer but this time Mal’s life was exciting enough to overcome that weakness.

I have spent a couple of weeks in Mal’s life and have loved being around The Beatles but also will feel bereft to not have Mal in my life tomorrow. I hope that Lily, Gary, Julie and even Fran and her daughter will feel proud of a man that everybody loved but more who loved this band so much that it almost cost him his own life in the end. We all benefited from the life of Mal Evans.

Great read.


WHO IS JESUS? - COME AND SEE...

Sermon Podcast

The Sunday Sermon Podcast is live for Sunday January 14th.

I was looking at how the early disciples were drawn to Christ and look at both how I was drawn in and  the lessons I learned in Chaplaincy about the need for experience as well as words. The "word becoming flesh" is vital when people who have heard about the love of God still don't get it.

LISTEN TO THE SERMON HERE


JIM DEEDS AND ALAN ABERNETHY BOOK LAUNCH @ 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

Alan and Jim

Wouldn’t Northern Ireland be a different place with more books like this one.

Jim Deeds and Alan Abernethy grew up in different corners of Belfast and somehow in a divided city became friends.

Their new book Discovering Jesus in the Other: Challenging the Myth of Otherness is their two stories told alongside each other and then crossing into the one story of friendship.

Sadly, it is not a plenty told story. It is too much of a rarity. 

So why was it different for Jim and Alan. Well, openness is one thing. Listening is another. Courage might be a crucial one. 

In their case a central passion for Jesus without all the religious rigamarole that we have tragically attached to that was their trump card. The Spirit’s help to see through the rigamarole a necessity. 

We are delighted that Jim and Alan, who later became the Anglican Bishop of Connor, will launch their book and tell us more about their prophetic if ordinary lives of discipleship. 


EILIDH PATTERSON ON SOUL SURMISE PODCAST

Stocki and Eilidh

 

Eilidh Patterson didn’t take songwriting seriously until she was in her mid twenties and 15 years on she continues to hone or craft, learning much about life along the way.

With her pure voice, imaginative lyrics and tasty guitar playing Eilidh is as comfortable in the bar or the church just sharing her life story in songs. 

Her personal battle with anxiety a few years ago had her use her songs as a way through. That song cycle can be a real help to listeners and she did a mental health morning in Fitzroy recently that was very much appreciated.

Eilidh is supporting Lumiere the collaboration of Pauline Scanlon & Eilis Kennedy in Derry soon as well as singing at the closing event of 4 Corners Festival 2024. 

In the Soul Surmise Podcast I took the opportunity to ask Eilidh about her influences across the act of her career, being sensitive to deferent audiences and that song cycle through anxiety among other aspects of music and faith.

 

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SILENT WITNESS & PETER GABRIEL ON JUSTCE AND FORGIVENESS

Silent Witness

It is almost the last scene in a cliff hanging and gruesome in places Silent Witness. 

In search of a serial killer who might or not be alive our guys, Nikki and Jack discover almost by accident that the murder suspect that they are chasing has been held captive in awful conditions by a victim’s husband. 

As the camera pans to a man hidden below ground like an animal for decades his captor says,

 

“I thought I could punish him forever

I thought it would help

BUT it didn’t.”

 

It is a dilemma that so many victims have. “If I could punish him forever.” There is something within us that immediately seeks revenge and retaliation. If we can get our pound of flesh and pay back the trauma and pain we imagine there will be justice and maybe healing.

Our character in Silent Witness perhaps reveals the truth. He thought it would help. It didn’t.

My good mate Fr Martin Magill and I talk a lot about forgiveness. When we do we are usually stopped by people incredulous that we should be asking people to forgive. We are often told that we are giving victims a double trauma. We add to their pain the guilt by demanding that they forgive.

That is not how Fr Martin and I see forgiveness. We see it as a gift from Jesus for the healing of the victim. In forgiving is a process of letting go of the need for justice, it releases our anger, deep hurt and need for revenge. 

Peter Gabriel puts it well on his new record I/O. Gabriel looks at revenge and sings:

 

Just how long do you want to hate

With all that anger to burn?

You dream of revenge

And you dream of reply

You'd hope that someday we'd learn

Every time you think of that hurt

It spins around in your mind

With an eye for an eye

Again and again

Until the whole world is blind

 

He sees a better way:

 

This is how it turns

This is what we do

This is who we are

When we forgive we can move on

Release all the shackles one by one

We belong to the burden until it's gone

 

That is what Fr Martin and I are believing, hoping for, offering. A forgiveness that releases from the vicious hurt and mad anger. A release of the burden of trauma. We believe that is what Jesus was on a bout in his prayer - “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those trespass against us.”

In his horrific treatment of the one who murdered his wife he has only left his own mind, heart and soul shredded. The attempting to bring this person to justice by his own violence has kept the shackles and burden locked in. 

 

“I thought I could punish him forever

I thought it would help

BUT it didn’t.”


ELMA WALSH SHARES HER SON DONAL'S STORY AT 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

Donal Walsh

When Shannon Campbell mentioned Donal Walsh at one of our 4 Corners Planning meetings last year I was quickly down in.

Many of your regular readers of Soul Surmise will be aware of our dear friend Lucia Quinney-Mee who we lost in 2020, just days before her 21st birthday, from the impact of her fourth liver transplant. 

Lucia had lived with her previous three livers for some 13 years and had inspired us by making the very most of her too short a life. She started a Transplant Awareness Campaign called Live Loudly, Donate Proudly that gained her a British Empire Medal from the Queen and still continues through her parents David and Rachel and her sister Alice. We miss Lucia so much.

Donal struck me as having had a similar life and being mightily inspirational too. Having had cancer since he was 12, recovering for a time but then being struck down again before finally passing away at just 16 years of age. 

During those years when he might have lived something less than a teenagers potential Donal instead upped his game. I mean literally upped his game by, even with a prosthetic knee to become a sports coach.

He was also disturbed by other teenagers taking their own lives, while he fought for life. Fundraising throughout his later life he now has the Donal Walsh #Livelife Foundation set up by his family primarily to promote Donal’s anti-suicide #Livelife message.

Donal wrote about life, his journey with cancer and about suicide too. He was Brough to national attention in the Republic of Ireland when he appeared on Brendan O’Connor’s ‘The Saturday Night Show’. 

Donal's mother Elma continues her son's story, taking #Livelife all over Ireland and beyond. 

We are delighted to have Elma Walsh to speak at 4 Corners Festival. Come to be inspired. It will not be a comfortable evening but it will be a story that helps us in creating a culture of hope as we dig into the life of a young man and his family as they travel through tough times yet always seeking faith and hope for themselves and others as they go.

 

BOOK 4 CORNERS EVENTS HERE


STOCKI PREACHING PODCAST - 1.7.24 - REND THE HEAVENS...

Stocki Preaching 5

When I was assistant minister in First Antrim back in the late 80s we would gather for the congregational prayer meeting at 6.30 on Friday morning. Yes, 6.30am!

Most Friday's for five years, one of our elders in First, Davy McMahon would ask God to "Rend the heavens and come down..." Every week it inspired me. It was so urgent, so powerful, so transformational.

Davy was quoting the first verse from Isaiah chapter 64,

"Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, 
    that the mountains would tremble before you!

Every Friday that phrase of Davy's went with me long into the day... the week.

In the first chapter of the Gospel According To Mark we hear about the sky being torn. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open

10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

I had never connected those two passages before this past week. Jesus incarnation was God rending the heavens and coming down.

In his fascinating novel, The Gospel According To Jesus, Norman Mailer suggested that when the sky was opened that Jesus got a vision of all that he would do, he saw God's "kingdom come, His will being done on earth as it is in heaven".

Mailer's poetic prose has no firm Biblical foundation but his idea is not not there. What the over mathematical theologians would find questionable I find poetically inspirational.

It is a particularly fascinating idea for the first sermon of the new year based around Mark's account of Jesus baptism. I love the turn of the year and the possibilities newness brings...  bursting through baptism... and resurrection...

LISTEN TO THE SERMON PODCAST HERE


STOCKI'S TOP 40 FAVOURITE RECORDS OF 2023

Joe Henry 2

40. FAR FROM SAINTS

A fascinating collaboration that gives Kelly Jones a little more nuance than Stereophonics do.

39. ANTHONY TONER - GHOST NOTES VOL 2

Toner does his second covers record. Fascinating and wonderful interpretations.

38. BRIAN KENNEDY - LOVE LETTERS TO JONI; VOLUME 2

Belfast's Kennedy does Joni Mitchell songs so well and here is another beautiful batch.

37. HISS GOLDEN MESSENGER - JUMP FOR JOY

Joying it up this time.

36. NATALIE MERCHANT - KEEP YOUR COURAGE

That voice and great songs. I just didn't get enough time to let it marinate or it could have been much higher.

35. HANNAH WHITE - SWEET REVOLUTION

One of our best up and coming writers continues her trajectory. 

34. SISKIN GREEN

Musically inventive, spiritually potent, lyrically robust, Siskin Green’s debut is a joy mingled with sorrow and challenge with an over all feel of hopefulness.

33. CAT POWER - CAT POWER SINGS DYLAN (The 1966 Royal Albert Hall)

Cat has done Dylan so well before and her audacious attempt to recreate Albert Hall 1966 is in the main a success. 

32. NOEL GALLAGHER - COUNCIL SKIES

I hated Oasis but I kinda like this guy.

31. JOE HENRY - ALL THE EYE CAN SEE

Another deeply meditative work of Joe Henry’s love and revelation. 

Black Rainbows

30. JOY OLADOKUN - PROOF OF LIFE

This young lady’s debut was my actual Album of 2021… didn’t click just as much this time but still great and a duet with Noah Kahan who Jasmine says is the best out there just now…

29. GREGORY ALAN ISAKOV - APPALOOSA BONES

An acquired taste, I need to get more into this guy than I am… Beautifully reflective…

28 KING CEDAR - EVERYTHING MORE & OTHER STORIES

If Jackson Browne had been born in North Down then he might’ve sounded like Bangor man Stephen McCartney did when he wrote and recorded in California…

27. STEPHEN FEARING - VEJPOESI

One of my Favourite Canadian writers goes band and solo and live with of course magnificent songs…. Even a cover of Early Morning Rain for the year that was in it…

26. RHIANNON GIDDENS - YOU’RE THE ONE

At last Giddens lets her voice go… so eclectic… and Jason Isbell features too.

25. GRAHAM NASH - NOW

We lost Crosby and got a new Nash record where he is still on it at 80…

24. KATE RUSBY - LIGHT YEARS

Rusby’s soft but authoritative voice graces her 6th Christmas record… one for all the year round… as incarnation should be.

23. IRIS DE MENT - WORKIN’ ON A WORLD

Songs for social transformation and spiritual resilience…

22. DAVID FRANCEY - THE BREATH BETWEEN

Another Canadian songwriter of top notch quality, introduced by my mates Eric and Mary Whyte just a month ago… what a writer… what a wise human. 

21. CONNIE RAE BAILEY - BLACK RAINBOWS

What an astonishing reconfiguring… Bailey Rae shouts it out with a prophetic force…


JANICE ON THE ONE SHOW, HOPE MACAULEY & 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL

Jani One Show 1

It was an exciting night in our house. My wife, Janice, was on The One Show! Having filmed last year we have held the secret for months that Janice would feature in a feature on Hope Macauley. And how good was Janice. She talks about being shy and nervous. You wouldn't have noticed tonight - a. natural!

Hope is a 27 year old fashion designer who branded her own chunky knitwear range a couple of years ago. Her star has been rising almost with every star who has fallen in love with her wool work. Jennifer Hudson, Billie Piper and Tom Daly are Hope Macauley fans. Magazine wise Vogue, GQ, Sports Illustrated have covered her on the cover. You name it and Coleraine’s finest jumpers are on it! 

Chatting about all of this about a year ago, her dad, author Tony Macauley, and I were saying how at Hope’s age our ambitions would have been New York, London or LA. 

Today’s 27 year olds have different values and ambitions. Hope is not only happiest when at home around Portstewart and Coleraine but she wanted to make her brand local and involve local knitters. No machines. Every piece lovingly hand knit. 

Enter Janice about two years ago whens he came one of a number of knitters strewn across Northern Ireland. Usually on a Wednesday, Hope’s mother, Lesley, brings a bag full of special wool and Janice exchanges her week’s work. The One Show tonight must have been a revelation of that mysterious lift to our neighbours.

Janice has always loved knitting and as she said on The One Show this gives her the right to knit, as it is now her job! It is very part time which fits perfectly with Janice’s other work with Baby & Toddlers and church. BUT how she loves opening that bag and seeing what wool she had gotten this week! 

As another knitter on The One Show piece said, this helps making knitting popular again. It has been but Hope Macauley has helped. She has made knitting local and fashionable. 

Even better is when knitters gather for a natter and knit. For a number of years now Janice and her friend Irene Jovaras from Focolare have been running such an event at the 4 Corners Festival.  This is an opportunity to gather with others across life experiences and to knit for something socially useful. We have supported The People’s Kitchen with knitwear in the past. This year's event is on February 10th.

 

BOOK FREE for 4 CORNERS FESTIVAL KNIT HERE