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The Seventh Day June 27, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Church, Random Musings.
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And on the seventh day, God rested.

God rested.

And that too was good, though Genesis doesn’t spell that out for us in the same way as it does for each of the previous days. It does tell us that God blessed the seventh day and called it holy, and that sounds pretty good to me.

In church today we sang the old Horatius Bonar hymn:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one,
lay down thy head upon my breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
so weary, worn and sad;
I found in him a resting place,
and he has made me glad.

But it’s not something the church is generally very good at, is it? We invite people in, and instead of finding a place of peace and tranquility, they find a place of frantic frenetic frenzied activity as everyone seeks to justify their existence by doing, doing and doing. Anyone who simply sits still is frowned upon until they too sign up to join a committee or rearrange the furniture or whatever else it is that everybody else’s expectations requires.

So today, to all those feeling exhausted by other people’s expectations, I’d like to say, quite simply:

You are; and you have the right to be.

Your existence does not depend upon the endless doing foisted upon you by other people’s expectations. You can sit down and watch England v. Germany in the World Cup this afternoon if that’s what you want to do and you don’t need to justify your existence by peeling onions at the same time.

You are; and you have the right to be.

And if you’re not a football fan, you can simply sit and relax in the sunshine; or go for a walk; or read a novel. Or simply be. There’s nothing to prove:

You are; and you have the right to be.

Special thanks to a special friend who made me think of this today: you know who you are, and you, especially, have the right to be.

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There’s no escape and no surprise June 21, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Poetry.
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4 comments

There’s no escape
and no surprise
and every day
is cloaked with lies:

I twist, I turn,
I try to rise,
but somewhere
— deep inside —
she cries…

A Sad Day in Cambridge: Galloway & Porter, RIP June 18, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Bookshop Ramblings.
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Sue and I went to Cambridge today: Sue on church business, me to wander around the bookshops and drink coffee. I always enjoy poking around Cambridge’s bookshops: bit of a busman’s holiday, I suppose, but I’m an addict.

The Park & Ride features hi-tech advertising these days, with scrolling headlines from cambridge-news.co.uk: it told me that Libra Aries, one of Cambridge’s independent bookshops, is due to close on Sunday. Not an auspicious start to the day: it brought back memories of another trip to Cambridge, back in 2008, during the SPCK bookshops debacle.

I was right to read it as an omen: here’s the sight that broke my heart:

Dear Customers, Galloway & Porter is now CLOSED forever. Thank you.

Dear Customers, Galloway & Porter is now CLOSED forever. Thank you.

I loved that shop: it was more than a shop — it was an institution. There was rarely a visit to Cambridge when Sue and I didn’t leave with an armful of books from Galloway & Porter: they had a superb theological section and almost always had some gems in stock at prices we couldn’t resist.

Galloway & Porter, RIP. We miss you.

Chilled Drinks now available at your favourite Christian bookshop! June 18, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Bookshop Ramblings.
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That’s the LST Bookshop, of course. Yes, courtesy of the inimitable Nick Aston, my awesome colleague and cheerful Assistant Bookshop Manager, we now have a fridge in the shop. Contents include fair trade orange juice, 50p per 200ml carton, and a selection of  45g Divine chocolate bars, 75p, for those who prefer their chocolate chilled.

So what are you waiting for? Get over there today and chill out with Nick!!

Chilled Drinks: Fairtrade Orange Juice, 50p

Chilled Drinks at your favourite Christian Bookshop - Fairtrade Orange Juice, 50p

Anniversary Post: An awesome year thanks to my awesome friends June 12, 2010

Posted by Emma Jayne in Life, Random Musings.
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Emma Jayne

Emma Jayne

This month marks the anniversary of my new life, of a revolution in my thinking and in my being that I’m still struggling to find words for. For years, more years than I care to think about, I was locked away in a corner of my own mind, afraid to come out.

The fear is still there in many ways, but it’s a fear I’m slowly coming to terms with as I learn to accept myself for who I am. The thing that’s made this revolution possible is my friends who have accepted me in all my inner mixed-up-ness. Everything about me is a contradiction, but as I’ve stepped out, I’ve found an amazing grace in so many people who have somehow been able to look beyond the contradictions and allow me to be me, and instead of walking away have continued to welcome my friendship.

So this post, my friends, is for you: thank you.

Exactly a year ago today I wrote these words:

And Jesus? He knows me better than I know myself. He’s known all along. He looks at me, smiles … and offers me a reassuring hug. “All shall be well,” he says, “and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”

Held in that embrace, I am found. Grace abounds. Grace beyond belief as the God in whom I cannot possibly believe looks on and believes in me…

They’re still true: grace beyond belief embraces and holds me. And you, my friends, even those of you for whom all this talk of Jesus is meaningless nonsense: you’ve made the journey so far possible. You’ve made it bearable. Thank you for sharing my journey and thank you for allowing me to share yours:

@bourach | @fragmentz | @fromthesamesky
@serial_insomnia | @unicorntreebks

There are others I can’t name on a public post:
you know who you are: thank you.

Seek ye the good… June 7, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Random Musings, Theological Reflection.
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6 comments
Café Mocha, Biggleswade

Café Mocha, Biggleswade

So there I was, doing my stint in Café Mocha, Biggleswade, and a customer was telling me his life story, as they do. If you’ve ever worked in a café you’ll be familiar with this: if you’re willing to listen, you’ll soon become privy to everyone’s innermost secrets. I think the same thing happens in barber shops and hairdressers.

This particular gentleman told me about a piece of doggerel he’d discovered on a mug many years ago: it had stuck in his mind and had a profound effect on his attitude to other people:

Seek ye the good in every man
Speak of all the best ye can
Then will all men speak well of ye
And say how kind of heart ye be

It was written, of course, in the days when men were men, and so were the women. These days, men are men, women are women and the rest of us are either transgendered or wish we were: it clearly needed rewriting for an inclusivist era. I consulted my inner woman and this is what we came up with:

Seek ye the good in everyone
Speak not ye ill of anyone
Then will all speak well of ye
And say how kind of heart ye be

It almost works, but there’s a significant difference, we think, between speaking the best you can of someone and not speaking ill of them. So, a competition is called for: can you do better? Can you come up with a version that still rhymes and scans, is inclusivist, and retains the original emphasis? Your prize will be the satisfaction of doing better than we could 🙂

But it set me thinking in other directions too: part of me wants to cheer and say it’s a great principle to live by; another part of me says actually, it’s plain daft — whilst we can do our best to speak the best of everyone, if that’s all we ever do we’re in serious danger of becoming hypocrites: isn’t it better to be honest and if someone’s being a prat, tell them so? And whilst it may feel good to have everyone speaking well of us, isn’t there a danger there too? A danger that Jesus warned us about:

Woe to you when all speak well of you, for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.

So maybe, just maybe, our version is an improvement on the original? And when we see bullying, hypocrisy, injustice, unethical or unfair business practices, I guess we’re just gonna have to accept that some people out there won’t like us speaking out about it. As someone else far wiser than me once said, the only thing evil needs to succeed is for those who know better to remain silent…

Kingsway: dishonest discounts or fair practice? June 5, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christian Book Trade.
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2 comments

Over on my Christian Bookshops Blog we’re having a prolonged discussion about the price of Christian music and, in particular, Kingsway’s CD pricing policy.

Kingsway, a subsidiary of the USA based David C Cook group, have adopted a policy of setting an RRP (Recommended Retail Price) for their CDs which they then undercut, usually by about 20% but often by significantly more, without ever having actually charged the RRP themselves. The new ‘Very Best of Graham Kendrick’ album is a typical example — Our price £11.99, RRP £14.99 — highlighted in this post:

Kingsway Polls: Because the questions won't go away...

Kingsway Polls: Because the questions won’t go away…

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been having a lively discussion about Kingsway’s practice of offering “discounts” at kingswayshop.com by comparing their own prices to their own RRPs, typified in this screenshot of the new Very Best of Graham Kendrick album: … Read More

Any company advertising their own products on the basis of “Our price £X, RRP £Y” when they themselves have set the RRP is, I think, operating in a grey area at best, if they’re not actually being downright dishonest — and for a supposedly Christian company to engage in this sort of practice strikes me as doubly disappointing.

The Government’s Pricing practices guide: guidance for traders on good practice in giving information about prices (pdf, 422kb | Google Docs ‘Quick View’) sets out some general principles designed to help protect consumers from unfair trading practices. Whilst the guidance is not comprehensive, at least two sections seem relevant:

1.2 Comparisons with the trader’s own previous price

1.2.3 (a) A price used as a basis for comparison should have been your most recent price available for 28 consecutive days or more;

Kingsway, of course, are not claiming that their RRPs are a ‘previous price’ so it could be argued that the specific guidance of 1.2.3 (a) does not apply. But if the RRP has never been charged, is it not a purely fictional device? We move on, then, to consider the guidance on RRPs:

1.6 Comparisons with “Recommended Retail Price” or similar

1.6.1 You should not use a recommended retail price, or similar, as a basis of comparison which is not genuine, or if it differs significantly from the price at which the product is generally sold.

1.6.2 You should not use an RRP or similar for goods that only you supply.

Given that Kingsway’s RRP’s are not charged by Kingsway themselves but are only used in their dealings with other traders, any claim that those RRPs are genuine seems disingenuous at best; and given that Kingsway are the sole suppliers of Kingsway products — even when made available through other traders — then, with the best will in the world, I’m finding it difficult to see this as anything but a con. The ‘discount’ seems to be nothing more than bait to draw people in, the RRP a hook to hang it from.

I’m posting this here because I’d like some feedback from those outside the trade: how do you as a music buyer — the prospective end ‘consumer’ of  Kingsway products — feel about this? Is what Kingsway are doing here fair game in a tough marketplace, is it a con or is it something else entirely?

Any members of the trade are still very welcome to join the conversation here, of course; and anyone outside the trade is welcome to join the discussions over there too:

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