Friday, March 31, 2006

You know when you've been blogging too long..

When... pseudonyms become a reality.

Marcus is a pseudonym as are most of the characters mentioned on URBANarmy. Almost indignantly I argued with Street Rescue this week about "of course them knowing Marcus"

"No ... we've never known a Marcus...."

With exasperation and a touch of sarcasm I remind them of the car?

"Oh you mean Nigel...." (ok this is getting complicated a pseudonym of a pseudonym!!)

"Oh yeah Nigel!!!"

"sorry....!"

Emerging Mouse... [update]

Emerging Mouse (full story here) - emerged at last but remained pre-occupied with itself, nibbled at something it should't and now is on its way to a land fill site in Essex.

Mice be careful how you emerge!

---

Sorry to mouse lovers everywhere ...

Getting Old...

You know when you are getting old when you get up at 4:30am because you can't sleep and go downstairs to make a cup of tea and read Frederick Coutts "A Call to Holiness"!!

I hope I am younger tonight!

---

Watch it Nick or you will be in the gutter - grrr! :o)

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Marcus is in ...

Life couldn't get much worse for Marcus than losing the keys for the car he bought for £10 to sleep in

Marcus came in and I was pleased to see him - he was soberish.

In one hand he had a piece of paper that he was enthusiatically waving at me. A 3pm appointement for access to a hostel. He was excited.We were pleased together. Life couldn't get much worse for Marcus than losing the keys for the car he bought for £10 to sleep in . Things were looking up. A foot was on the first rung.

Then I saw the blue plastic bag in his other hand. "Marcus you're not going to be drinking that before you go are you...?"

"Only enough to stop the rattles..!"

I had a horrible feeling and I wanted to fight him for the bag. Instead I go an get a map to show him the way and tell him the bus to get.

Later that afternoon, less than an hour before his appointment I regret a few things. I regret not fighting him for his blue plastic bag. I regret not putting him in the mini-bus despite the pressures and driving him to the hostel. My feelings of regret bubble over as he stands laughing and giggling before me - outrageously drunk.

"any chance of some tins..." he giggles.

"Marcus you know what .... NO!"

He looks surprised as I carry on "Anyway what are you doing here? You need to be on the way to your interview and look at you! You don't want help at all - so why should I bother! Your life's a mess ....and it does't need to be ... it could be so much better and you know it ... but you just can't be bothered "

I get on a roll and rant on and on as he tries to get a drunken word in edgeways.

"so you're not giving me tins..."

He leaves without an answer and I left wondering if a complete change in my persona will have had any impact!

That was last week. Bernadette from street rescue rang this morning . "Thought you'd like to know that Marcus is in a hostel"

"So he made his interview?"

"He must've..."

I wonder where our journey with Marcus will go next?

----

More on Marcus - here, here and here

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

partisan ministry and mission...

If we are not careful we cross the line of creative tension and spend more time trying to convince each other rather than convincing those who really need to be convinced!

A recent e-mail conversation with a friend made me think about the dangers of being partisan in our approach to ministry and mission and how that the freedom of publishing that comes with blogging encourages it.

At the risk of exacerbating any schisms ! I found Dan Kimball's "The Emerging Church Vintage Christianity for New Generations" a stimulating read a while back. He made reference to George Hunter, and his book The Celtic Way of Evangelism and his contrasts between the Roman model and the Celtic model for reaching people. Simplified it looks like this:-

Roman model for reaching people:
  • Present the Christian message;
  • Invite them to decide to believe in Christ and become Christians;
  • If they decide positively, welcome them into the church and its fellowship.
Celtic model for reaching people:
  • You first establish community with people or bring them into the fellowship of your community of faith.
  • Within fellowship, you engage in conversation, ministry, prayer, and worship.
  • In time, as they discover what you believe, you invite them to commit.
Straight away I know people who would enthusiastically support one or the other. The debate that follows is always stimulating and stretching but there's a danger. If we are not careful we cross the line of creative tension and spend more time trying to convince each other rather than convincing those who really need to be convinced. The question that my email conversation left me was how do we know when we have left creative tension behind and have become self-absorbed with our own opinions? What are the warning signs?

(BTW - I kind of feel guilty as charged - sorry! :o))

Monday, March 27, 2006

charlie chikankata....

Richard Bradbury has started blogging from rural Zambia where he is the Manager/Hospital Administrator of Chikankata Health Services. I'd say his experiences are worth popping into - who knows you may even decide to raise some funds for his pig and chicken rearing project.

charlie chikankata

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Bloggers Confession Checklist...

Dave Walker of Cartoon Church always seems to provoke thoughts and a smile - I'm a regular visitor. This cartoon caught my eye. (It says on his site that he doesn't mind cartoons being used).

I remember the buzz the first time someone linked to URBANarmy, the first time someone left a comment, the first time someone actually referenced some of my thoughts but have subsequently sought to remember why I blog.

I wrote this ironically about a year ago:-

"I try not to write in order to influence or to impress. I write because I want to be able to look over my shoulders and look at the footprints of my journey as I reflect on mission. I write to stretch myself through my reflections. I write because I don't want to lose the lessons I am learning. I write to get things off my chest, to vent my feelings. I write for me."
I am sure that blogging for others would wear me out, grind me down and would steal the joy I have in keeping the lessons I learn alive.

I try to hold true to that because I am sure that blogging for others would wear me out, grind me down and would steal the joy I have in keeping the lessons I learn alive.

I found a confession list in an old Renewal Magazine article 'Why do we shrink from confessing' (Feb 1995) and find it helpful - so here's my adapted Bloggers Confession Checklist!

Beware:-
  • succumbing to flattery (watching your site metre every hour to see how your daily average is doing!)
  • nurturing hurt feelings (not everyone will agree with you, really!)
  • holding a grudge (oh for a misplaced metaphor to crash down!)
  • losing our temper (don't read your blog comments late at night)
  • not respecting other people (just because someone thinks different)
  • pride (watching technorati to see the latest link to your blog)
  • feeling jealous ( why would anyone would want to hit his site!)
  • selfish ambition ( blogging to pump your up your reputation )
  • bitterness (when someone gets quoted and linked!)
  • judging one another (rabid unthinking evangelical; woolly liberal; unprimitive salvo; non-aggressive Christian!)
  • arrogance (the world really does deserve to hear my voice)
  • feeling superior to another (I've got something far better to say than anyone else)
  • hurting another's reputation (...and she thinks she has something to say)
  • witholding a good word about another (you know he kind of has something to say but if you think I'm going to link)
Oh yeah ... and for wasting too much time - like I am now???

Friday, March 24, 2006

Fad Driven Church...

There is a new book, a new program or a new emphasis every year or so. It's all anyone can talk about; it's all the preacher preaches about - for a while. Then, as quickly as it came, it's gone.

Todd Wilken writes. . . The dictionary defines a fad as "a practice or interest followed for a time with exaggerated zeal." This could just as well be a description of congregational life of many Christian churches today.

There is a new book, a new program or a new emphasis every year or so. It's all anyone can talk about; it's all the preacher preaches about - for a while. Then, as quickly as it came, it's gone. As eagerly as it was received, it's abandoned and forgotten.

Welcome to the Fad Driven Church.

For them, the long list of church fads represents their personal history as a Christian: Spiritual Gift inventories, Spiritual Warfare, Promise Keepers, Weigh Down Workshop, The Prayer of Jabez, the Left Behind Series, Becoming a Contagious Christian, a long succession of evangelism and stewardship programs, and most recently, The Purpose-Driven Life and 40 Days of Purpose.

Thanks to Bram for the tip off. Read the rest here

It worries me that people might perceive mission as a fad, I suspect for some it might be. It is bad enough that some might still see mission as a trendy euphemism for evangelism. But for mission to be a fad that is truly sad. Perhaps there is a need to remember that in the words of David Bosch "Mission is the mother of theology..."

----

I feel I should apologise for having the words bad, sad, and fad in the same paragraph!!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Sally Bloggers...

Chris' SA blogring continues to grow - so if you want to add your site to sally bloggers just hit Sally Bloggers and get your code. It's been a good way to connect salvationists all over the world. I've just noticed that I have been ex-communicated which I think Chris has had designs on for a while ;o) - although I take comfort in that Andrew Clark is with me as we burn at the stake!

Patrick's Plans...

"Patrick gives me a knowing look with a face that says "at last someone understands...!"

Patrick is making plans. For those responsible for moving us to the college he is planning a trip to space. For the dangerous A13 a flyover. I have a revelation "Patrick when you spend hours just shouting at the traffic is that part of your plan ... a protest?"

Patrick gives me a knowing look with a face that says "at last someone understands...!" Patrick is known for hurling abuse at the hapless drivers on their way to Essex and the Blackwall Tunnel. He worries that people are going to get hurt - rumour has it that his mental health problems stem from head injuries incurred when involved in a nasty road traffic accident. So he shouts at the traffic - and now I know!

He stops drinking his tea suddenly lucid he looks up and says "what is going to happen to me...?"

He's getting worried that he is getting older and going to be farmed off to a home away from the market he loves and the people that love him. "Pat shall we make some plans...?"

He's not to certain about that. The conversation changes to the problem with radio active mice. the moment has gone - but we'll keep trying.

Monday, March 20, 2006

'Christian Mission in a Pagan Culture'

The Gospel and our Culture are hosting this

'Christian Mission in a Pagan Culture'
A day with Bishop Tom Wright
Carrs Lane Church Centre, Birmingham
Saturday 17th June 2006
10am - 4pm
£18 (unwaged £12) - bring your own lunch

Details here

I've sent off for my registration form.

Friday, March 17, 2006

614Network.com


A new resourceful site is up and running highlighting the inner city ethos of 614 - you can access the site here

Thursday, March 16, 2006

"The world disdains the empty message..."

Blog related comments and emails this week have taken too much of my blog allocation of time! So just time for a short quote from Steve Courts Be a Hero.

Mercy and Justice are what move people. For too long we have been pushing a message devoid of the guts of the kingdom. For too long we've been giving them thoughts to get them saved, and then let them die. The world disdains the empty message. If we will only do the works of Jesus, we won't have to speak much.


Court, S and Campbell, W. (2004) Be a Hero: The Battle for Mercy and Social Justice

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Aggressive Brownies

Bethan was home from an evening being a guest of the local Brownie troop whatever you call them. Sat watching TV together I enquire how the evening went.

"good time?..."

"yep"

"What'd you do? ..."

"Played games..."

"What'd you think?...."

"Alright but I'm not sure it was right to ask me to play games and feed me chocolate if the real reason was to get me to go back next week!"

"Why not? ..."

"it just felt ... well ... a bit sucky"

"so do you want to go back next week...?"

"I don't think so..."

Youth Club ...

It kicked off in our area last week.

I'd already called the police because we saw young people in the street with huge knives. It spilled
over into a neighbouring secular youth club - two gangs head on. One casualty found refuge with us within our Youth Club. Blood pouring from two wounds on his head. Roz our youth worker patched him up and called for an ambulance. The night got worse as retribution was worked out and the evening finished with rumours of shots being fired. I walked home to the chorus of police sirens and blue lights as the police came to see if the rumours were true.

Salt and light...

Sunday, March 12, 2006

On exploring Aggressive Christianity...

It seems to me that the 'Aggressive Christianity franchise' is growing in TSA - unless they are the ones with the propensity to blog!

While collecting on Saturday for the annual appeal I thought I'd try it out in a conversation with a friend of mine who claims to be an atheist.

"What would you say if I told you I was an aggressive Christian...?"

"I'd tell you to p..s off!"

You should try it - it really is encouraging!

I probably need to get hold of the original Catherine Booth classic and also the contemporary version from Canada - if I am to get my head around this mindset.

----

Steve Court has something to say ... here

Eryn and Lent...

Eryn our youngest (6) seems to be taking Lent seriously this year. She announced to everyone at Church that she is giving up tea and newspapers for Lent.

"... but Eryn you don't drink tea or read newspapers...!"

"I know that's why I giving them up...."

It did make me think about how often we do church but only as long as it is convenient to us.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Brueggemann on the False Dichotomy of mission...

"...there is no freedom of God without the politics of justice and compassion, and there is no politics of justice and compassion without a religion of the freedom of God,..."

I'm ever more convinced that a dualistic approach to mission is dishonourable to the whole concept of missio-dei. Here is what Brueggemann has to say on a dichotomy that is false...

My impression is that we have split those two items much too easily but not without reason. The liberal tendency has been to care about the politics of justice and compassion but to be largely uninterested in the freedom of God. Indeed, it has been hard for liberals to imagine that theology mattered, for all of that seemed irrelevant. And it was thought that the question of God could be safely left to others who still worried about such matters. As a result, social radicalism has been like a cut flower without nourishment, without any sanctions deeper than human courage and good intentions. ... The point that prophetic imagination must ponder is that there is no freedom of God without the politics of justice and compassion, and there is no politics of justice and compassion without a religion of the freedom of God". Pp18


Brueggeman, W. (1978) The Prophetic Imagination. Fortress

Right that is my back log of of false dichotomy quotes! Here's some of the collection.

Fullness of Life...shalom and salvation
Sham Compassion...Absurd Activism...Trendy Past Time
Evangelism Gone Entrepreneurial... a disappointing read!
Newbigin on Mission's False Dichotomy...
Kraybill on Mission's False Dichotomy...
Murray on Mission's False Dichotomy...
Wallis on Mission's False Dichotomy...
Guder on Mission's False Dichotomy...
Morisy on Mission's False Dichotomy...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Open letter to Gordon Cotterill...

Never had one of those before. Matt has graciously entered dialogue regarding mission's false dichotomy - read it if you wish - here.

conversation contrived or authentic outcome?

"So do you know every word in the bible?"

I was in the music room working with 16-year old Ian, his question came out of the blue. I look up and Ian is looking at me through his smeared glasses hopefully!

"NO - but I know some of them!"
I came away wondering of all the words, what is it about Ian's life that had him pull those words out of the hat.

Unperturbed Ian continues "So is 'forget' in the bible?" Thinking quickly ... I think of Isaiah and say "well there is a lovely picture in the bible where mothers whose sons had been taken from them tattooed the names on their hand so that they wouldn't forget - God tells us that in the same way God wont forget us..."

Ian doesn't always do thoughtful but he seems to be thinking "Well...what about loneliness?" My mind races and we talk about Jesus in the desert, I guess I could've done better with that one, I could've gone to Gethsemane, never mind we talk about Jesus knowing what lonliness would feel like.

"So what is your favourite word in the bible...?"

I take a snap decision and go with "eternal punishment" .... (grrr!) .... actually I don't say that at all :o). I look at Ian and I say "you know what ... I think it would have to be 'love'"

Ian turns to Ben who is in there with us - what about you? "Yep love for me too..." We spend the next 5 or so minutes talking about love and grace in the bible before the moment has gone. "Ben - can you teach me to play the guitar"

"er ...sure"

I came away wondering of all the words, what is it about Ian's life that had him pull those words out of the hat. I came away hoping the new words in his 'lexicon' and their implication would stick.

I'm sat here a week later thinking ... now was that conversation contrived, a manipulation or was it a natural process, an authentic outcome of a sharing in each others lives? Was our conversation motivated by love and the desire within me for everyone to enjoy the fullness of life I enjoy? Or was it a refletion of our youth work having a hidden agenda and the loaded small print that I abhor?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Morisy on Mission's False Dichotomy

Ann Morisy makes an interesting observation.
"Bosch urges us to work for a closer interrelationship between social action and enabling people to embrace the Christian faith. Whilst intellectually we might assent to this it is more difficult to translate into action. Almost without exception our efforts to integrate work for justice with the recognition of Christ's unique saving power seems to drift into a sequential or consecutive process, with either social action or evangelism being treated as prior to the other" (2004:Pp12)
Morisy, A.(2004) Journeying Out: A New Approach to Christian Mission

So we get people being vocal about us not being evangelistic enough - I've learned to smile at the irony of these people who fail to see the beauty of the Kingdom in action

Funny how we struggle with allowing mission to drift into a sequential or consecutive process. What we do has to have the evangelistic last word anything less is a cop out, a dilution. Never comfortable with allowing salvation, fullness, wholeness to shine through, never comfortable in settling for the value of the action in itself.

I've been thinking of this recently in that our youth work is often misunderstood. We do youth work without any strings attached, no epilogue, no videos, no clever stories of Jesus and 10 Lepers. Just Youth work!

Periodically we get well meaning people being vocal about us not being evangelistic enough, tutting and huffing behind our backs! - I've learned to smile at the irony of these people who fail to see the beauty of the Kingdom in action; I've learned to smile at the irony of these people who struggle to connect with something that stands alone in value; I've learned to smile at the irony of these people who fail to see the love and respect; who fail to see the re-building of self esteem in young people; I've learned to smile at the irony of these people who are content to allow mission to drift into a sequential or consecutive process - or worse content as Geoff Ryan puts it - "to seek to entice people into our fold with innocuous deceptions..".

I smile without irony when young people come to church naturally because of natural uncontrived relationships that 'these people' haven't got near nurturing because they are too busy eyeing up their next evangelistic scalp. I smile when these young people bring friends, I smile because when Kate picks up Bethan from club tonight, some of those young people moan at Kate for not being at church on Sunday afternoon!

I think of these people and I think....Funny!

Even funnier when you read the gospels and see Jesus constantly working the angles to get the final evangelistic word in. Funnier still when you see the means to an end philosophy of Jesus in action. Side splitting when you see Jesus manipulating situations to fire off an evangelistic tirade. Tear streaming please stop stomach agony - when you see Jesus in action you see his mission drifting into a sequential or consecutive process. Actually not funny at all because what we see is grace, love, justice and compassion naturally and authentically in action so where did the need for a sequential or consecutive process come from?

I'm foxed if I know!

----

ps - I really have learned to smile!!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Yeah but no but....

In a time when frustration has grown fierce, we can no longer afford to limit love's expression.

Yesterday I was in a conference where the speaker was telling us how she encourages critical analysis through getting her students to ask 'But...' more often. My mind raced back to the evening before where Roz our youth worker read "AND, AND, AND...A Motivational Story" as part of our reflections before Youth Club. Read the rest and find the citation here (to find it you need to scroll about half the page).

Peeking out from the corner of my desk blotter is a note, slowly yellowing and bent from time. It is a card from my mother, containing only four sentences. In it, she praises my abilities as a writer without qualification.

Each sentence is full with love, offering specific examples of what my pursuit has meant to her and my father. The word "but" never appears on the card, however the word "and" is there almost a half dozen times. Every time I read it -- which is almost every day -- am reminded to ask myself if I am doing the same thing for my daughters. I've asked myself how many times I've "but-ted" them, and me, out of happiness....

....In a time when frustration has grown fierce, we can no longer afford to limit love's expression. If we want to tone down the sound of violence in our society, we're going to have to turn up the volume on noticing, praising, guiding and participating in what is right ....
"No more buts!" is a clarion call for joy. It's also a challenge, the opportunity fresh before us every day to put our attention on what is good and promising...

I'm too sure how this will translate cross atlantic!! - I've grown tired of the 'but' orientated church I grew up in. I've grown tired of the hidden agenda motivated by an implicit 'but'. I grown tired of the 'mean's to an end' raision d'tre for church.

"...yep we'll feed you 'but' because we want to see you on Sunday"; "...sure we give you a break in parent and toddlers 'but' only because we channeling you towards an alpha course"; "...of course you can be part of our youth club 'but' only because you are a prime target for our slick finale bible presentations";"...of course I am your friend 'but' only because I've been told to make friends in order to evangelise you."

Putting 'buts' into Grace -I'm not entirely sure how we have got away with it for so long - oh yeah less people attending church in Europe than ever - maybe we've been fooling ourselves that we have gotten away with it!

To be a faithful reflection of the kingdom perhaps it is time for more 'ands' and less 'buts'!

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Patrick's picture of grace...

I stood outside his front door wondering if I was doing the right thing. I knocked - no answer. I knocked again - again no answer. I open the letterbox and yell "....Pa-a-a-trick .....PATRICK!" I stood back smiled at the inquisitive neighbour as if that was a normal thing to do - and waited.
We weren't his best buddies when he was stood across the road with a sharpened stick shouting "I am at war with you....!"

Patrick didn't come for breakfast today. We not his best buddies since we asked him to leave on Tuesday for being extremely abusive to Kate. We're not his best buddies since two social workers turned up to speak with him. We weren't his best buddies when he was stood across the road with a sharpened stick shouting "I am at war with you....!". We certainly were not his best buddies when he 'explained' to Bram that I had stabbed in the back. Maybe Patrick is sulking with us - who knows I am still worried for him.

I waited at the door not really knowing what to expect.

The door opens, I am welcomed and I entered the world that is Patrick. I tried not to look into the kitchen or bathroom but walked into Pat's bedsit, the smell clinging to the over heated room. Inside my gaze wanders, Patrick follows my gaze and volunteers softly "I am so ashamed...".

His room is full of societies cast off's. Patrick is a one man recycling machine of rubbish. There are broken toys, bits of furniture, old papers, magazines, piles of clothes at different levels of rancidity... everywhere!

"Is this why you wouldn't let the social workers in Patrick?"


He nods.

"Are you frightened that they will say you can't stay here because of all of this?"

He nods.

"Shall we do something about it?" I ask tentatively.

He nods.

Later that afternoon we take the bagged up clothes to our hall to dispose of - we'll get him a new set. Next week we've arranged to tackle the rest of the bedsit. As we throw these clothes into our rubbish he goes to give me a hug, changes his mind and offers his hand instead and without looking up from the ground mutters "thanks - I don't deserve it...!"

I feel a lump in my throat - "Patrick you'll always deserve it...!"

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Victor Hits the Press...

The local press have picked up Victor's story here are some of the headlines...

"OAP's attacker walks free..."

"Random attack on pensioner..."

"Man is spared jail for attack..."

There's headlines - but only half the story.

Nothing like a schizophrenic on the loose to sell papers.