Monday, 31 October 2011

Seven billion people and euthanasia.

Today I hear that the world population has now reacher 7 billion. What a challenge for us all to think through the issues of feeding and caring for such a vast number of people.

I hope it doesn't add fuel to the debate on euthanasia or rather assisted suicide as it is increasingly presented as. My thoughts turned to this subject today whilst caring for a very elderly lady who was dying at home. It occurred to me that rather than simply pronouncing myself an opponent of euthanasia, I should agree that as many people as possible should have a 'gentle and easy death' (which is actually the dictionary definition of euthanasia). That is why the hospice movement is so importnat. What I am opposed to is assisted dying.

There are many arguments against it, not least the fear that the frail elderly may have of 'being a nuisance' and sitting on large sums of money that their younger relatives would like a slice of. And what about society's general view of frailty, disability and there just being too many of us. I fear that we, as a race,  are just not to be trusted. Legalising assisted dying will in time open the flood gates. It will affect our valuing of one another as precious human beings, and assisting someone else in their suicide demeans us.

An article form The Scotsman last year at the time of Margo Macdonald's assisted suicide campaign in Scotland had this to say,
Lawmakers and activists would have us believe that the right to die is something the government should protect and every individual should be able to exercise. These two rulings (see the context and full article here) suggest the individual is not always free to do as he or she chooses. Why? 
Because human dignity always trumps autonomy, and the best interests of society sometimes outweigh the interest of the individual.It is time for Scotland to see that autonomy is not the bedrock of a decent society. Far more important is the fundamental principle that all human lives have an intrinsic worth, value and meaning whatever the circumstances.
Everyone has dignity, and we as a society will lay solid foundations for the future by voicing our support for this dignity and rejecting the belief that some lives are unworthy of life and should, therefore, be ended.
Amen to that.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Because you're worth it

At Grace on Sunday evenings we are thinking about the impact that Jesus Christ has had on the history and culture of our world. Although largely marginalised in Western Europe, his influence has been immense. Whether it be in the field of learning (think the formation of great universities like Oxford and Cambridge), or virtues like humility (so undervalued in the ancient world) or the dignity of all human beings (followers of Jesus have lead the way in campaigning for the rights of children, for the abolition of slavery and for the care of the dying, amongst many other causes).

No doubt religion and Christianity have sadly got many blemishes in their history, with current issues of money grabbing TV evangelists and abusing priests amongst other blights on the name of Jesus. But such things cannot fairly be laid at the door of Jesus himself about whom no-one has ever seriously doubted his integrity and genuine love for those he met.

Last week I gave the talk on dignity. It wasn't a particularly stunning bit oratory, but I tried briefly to point out that the Bible teaches the extraordinary fact of all human beings being made in the image of God and that Jesus in his public life time and again showed just how valuable all children women and men are to God.

Just this week there has been various stresses in our family, chief amongst them being the sad loss of my sister in law Sue to cancer. She was Biddy's sister and much loved by her. When Biddy met with friends for a prayerful time of support his week, they all sang the old hymn Fight the good fight. I've thought much about the words of the verse
Faint not nor fear his arms are near, He changeth not and thou art dear 
Yea, we are indeed 'dear' to God. Infinitely loved and special to him. And not loved because we are loveable! Indeed God demonstrates his own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us (Romans 5.8)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Being a Christian in the world

Great little article published this week in Christianity Today adapted from a sermon by John Stott on how Christians can influence society for good.

He concludes
Do you want to see your national life made more pleasing to God? Do you have a vision of a new godliness, a new justice, a new freedom, a new righteousness, a new compassion? Do you wish to repent of sub-Christian pessimism? Will you reaffirm your confidence in the power of God, in the power of prayer, of truth, of example, of group commitment—and of the gospel? Let's offer ourselves to God, as instruments in his hands—as salt and light in the community. The church could have an enormous influence for good, in every nation on earth, if it would commit itself totally to Christ. Let's give ourselves to him, who gave himself for us
The whole thing is worth a read and think

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The burning house!

An interesting website and project here.  Foster Huntingdon a 23 year old American has undertaken a six month venture collecting photographs of possessions that if the chip pan went up, people would rush around and hold to their chest as they ran out.

It concentrates the mind as to what is really of value to me. Interestingly it's not the possessions that cost the most in financial terms that make the cut. What would you keep? Here's a couple from

Monday, 17 October 2011

"We are all worms!"

Winston Churchill did not lack self-esteem. As he is reported to have said, 'We are all worms. And I do believe I am a glow worm'.

At out church we are doing a series in the Sunday evening meetings about the impact of Jesus upon history and culture. How little the vast majority of us realise the effect Jesus has had. Take humilty for example. We generally hold it up as a virtue-but it certainly was not so within the culture that Jesus lived and taught in. Take a listen to an excellent talk by our ministry assisstant Martin Salter who drew on material presented originally by John Ortberg.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The Listener

Some years ago there was an excellent magazine called The Listener. For a while I read it regularly and enjoyed the articles reflecting on the previous week's radio as well as book reviews and previews of upcoming programmes.

In some ways I think The Listener would be a good epithet for a family doctor. Most days I think that being a doctor is challenging and at times, even difficult. But occasionally the simplicity of the practice of medicine strikes me. In last week's BMJ the President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Sue Bailey, was asked what characteristics and skills make a good psychiatrist. Echoing Tony Blair and his emphasis on education, she responded, 'Listening, listening, listening'.

Just recently two patients have come to discuss with me the content of letters they had received detailing a recent consultation with a hospital doctor and which had been addressed to me. Both were horrified by the content which contained frank inaccuracies. 'I didn't say that, where did he get that idea from, wasn't he listening?' Both patients were fed up and not a little angry by the apparent failure to listen well.

I still struggle to remember so much of the detail of anatomy and physiology and pharmacology, at times it seems beyond my waning intellectual powers. But I can still be a good listener.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Music and Passion

I'm so glad that my parents encouraged me to play the piano and arranged for me to have lessons from the age of nine to about fifteen. I've never stopped playing and even now play most days. What extraordinary power beautiful music has.

Benjamin Zander, music director of the Boston Philharmonic orchestra has a wonderful ability to covey something of the power of great music.

Take a look at this TED talk

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Apples, Steve Jobs and George Bernard Shaw

Sad to hear the news that Steve Jobs died today after a long  cancer illness.

Somewhat co-incidental that BBC's quote of the day is about apples...
If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW (1856-1950)
Not entirely sure what to do with that, but I guess it says something about teamworking, generosity and ....apples!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Talk to me

Really enjoyed listening to a short Radio 4 programme today. Part of a series, The Call, in which Dominic Arkwright talks to people who have taken or made life-changing phone calls. Today's episode was called The Answerphone and featured Mark Craig who kept all the messages on his answer machine for over 20 years. It was really surprisingly moving. Don't know how long it'll be BBC iPlayer so catch it asap here.

Mark Craig turned his years of messages into a short film which you can see here. I must warn you that the language is coarse at times in the early part of the film and it is does spoil it somewhat, but the latter part is very moving, especially as we hear messages from his dad who was to die later. The messages of condolence were  simple and real. As I reflect on the loss of my dear mum whose 85th birthday it would have been today, how much I wish I could hear her voice, and some of the many messages she has left on call minder over the years (sadly erased after the statuary 28 days).

The whole concept is a bit of reminder of what we lose in the rush of life, with so little time to 'stand and stare'. Somehow Facebook doesn't quite convey the pathos and joy of life in the way that the natural human voice does. Written letters have all but disappeared, and yet there remains something special about receiving one. Perhaps they just imply more thought, more care.  How much we lose by not physically putting pen to paper and writing to each other. And indeed what is lost by the immediacy of emails and text messages.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Living life to the full

Really enjoyed an excellent study day last weekend  led by Professor Chris Williams who is professor of Pyschosocial Psychiatry at the University of Glasgow. He is a brilliant communicator and specialises in the application of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to a wide variety of situations.

Most helpfully he has developed a self help web site which The Times has recognised as one of the top 4 mental health web sites. In addition he has written a number of helpful booklets, covering such subjects as low mood, anxiety, problem drinking, giving up smoking, eating disorders and much more. There's some details of these and more on his facebook page here.

Anxiety can be an overwhelming experience and I am so glad for these wonderfully helpful resources both for sufferers and those who try to help them.

A message from the other side

No, not that side! But thank God got through surgery ok yesterday. And thanks to all for love support and prayer.