Monday, 25 August 2008


In 19989 I spent two weeks on the Holy Island of Iona off the west coast of Scotland.

It was not the greatest time. I found Island life to be claustrophobic.

Each night when the Ferry to the Island of Mull took its final evening journey to a safe natural harbour on Mull called the “Bull Pen” I felt lonely and isolated.

The fact is that I stayed too long. I should have planned for three or four days, not for fourteen!

I got off to a bad start. On my second day a couple who were staying in the Guest House which I also used, made some snarky comments about the “pro-gay” books in the Abbey bookstore.

I immediately felt unsafe.

Later that morning I took a walk. On my way back I encountered a massive free-roaming bull. I was terrified. I made sure that the bull was far out of sight before I scooted back to the Guest House.

I related my fear, and the hostess immediately began to tease and berate me because I was afraid of the bull. She related that everyone on the Island knew the bull, and that he was as gentle as a lamb.

But I did not know that, and her teasing and berating added to my sense of being in an unsafe place.

We cannot talk, tease or berate people out of their fears. If only the hostess had said “I understand your fears, but let me walk with you, and we'll pass the bull togther”.

Psalm 23 got it. In the King James (Authorised) version it says

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;”

The call is to walk with people through their fears.

Psalm 50 v 9 reads thus in modern translations.

“I will not accept a bull from your house”

The Psalmist is making the point that God is not interested in animal sacrifices, but rather in the “sacrifice of thanksgiving”.

An older version rendered that verse thus:

“I will accept no bull from your house”.

American seminarians in the 1960’s, as they sang the Psalms, would be convulsed in laughter with the delicious thought that God will “take no bull from us”. (“Bull” in America having the connation that we cannot “bullsh-t God”).

But we can, and we do! And the Almighty laughs and responds with “what a load of bullsh-t”. At least she/he does if he/she has a sense of humour.

A friend of mine is addicted to the “energy drink” called “Red Bull”.

He will drink more than four cans of this each day (at $2 or more a can).

I suspect that if “Red Bull” were marketed at 50 cents a can, no-one would buy it.

But consumers think “since it costs about $2, --- it must be good”

It’s little more than carbonated water, sugar and caffeine.

But then again, I drink about 48 oz of coffee each day. All of the caffeine, but none of the sugar! And a lot cheaper.

1 comment:

  1. What a brilliant post. I am sitting here, unsure of what to say because I have so many feelings about your words.

    So that is it- off I go to ponder and to pray.

    (and yes- so correct about the red bull!)