Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Willard, D. (1998). The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God.

Sleepless nights, creeping out of bedrooms, sitting outside Eryn's door saying "shh shh shh" in a fog of deprived sleep seems a long time ago. As I sat at the top of the steps outside Eryn's room I ploughed through Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy; for months I read and re-read the same page with the whole thing of "I'm reading this but thinking about something completely different..." going on. That was 7 years ago and I remember every page was a slog.

I finished the book after what seemed an age - thinking that was good but having no way of knowing because my brain was mush. I promised myself that I would re-visit the book when I reacquainted myself with undisturbed sleep!

For a couple of years now it has been catching my eye on my book shelf crying out "read me, try me again". I rarely re-read books but I picked it up as my over Christmas reading. I've discovered that my brain is still mush!

However, it is one of those books that even if you only connect with 10% of the densely written material it is worth it. The strap line of the book is what caught my eye this time around - Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. He challenges the presuppositions of evangelicalism by being truly evangelical! He gets you to think through what is heaven, gives great insight to misunderstanding and through the use of the beatitudes explores what it is to be truly blessed.

I'm halfway through and I wouldn't be surprised if this is the kind of book I will want to re-visit time and time again as I explore fullness of life beyond that of being a 'bar-code' Christian and discover the hope of eternal life as lived out here and now. (Willard 1998)

Willard, D. (1998). The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God. New York: Harperone.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

a couple of quotes...

"Our love for an institution is in proportion to our desire to reform it" John Stuart Mill

McBrien, R. (1998) Ministry: A Theological Pastoral Hnadbook, Harper. p. 66

Here's another

"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is today!!" African Proverb

I read them both in Resourcing Renewal by Martyn Atkins

Friday, December 26, 2008

wee to wii...

It was a case of wee to wii this Christmas and it was good...

A good day yesterday with a varied collection of people with nowhere to go apart to get themselves to 'Crisis at Christmas' for another Christmas dinner!

I was in the kitchen most of the day helping to cook the turkey dinner for the 40 or so people who came along to Southwark SA for Christmas, but when I did get out of the kitchen the vintage of eau de pee pee was not disappointing! I remembered a recent comment by Kapten Clark regarding thanking God for our own type of "incense"!

It was a case of wee to wii this Christmas and it was good to finish the day with the family and to watch my 83 year old Dad playing ten-pin bowling!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

eau de pee pee...

There was real discomfort in the congregations eyes. I was preaching at Nunhead and was in full flow when I heard Richard, I could see the drama unfold as a local alcoholic made his entrance and staggered up the aisle with his tell-tale blue plastic bag hiding his super-strength cider. Much of the discomfort came from whatever was causing the trail that followed his staggered track!

A couple of the congregation help him as he decides to leave. I contend with the loud ongoing conversation and then the full on aggression as Richard loses his cool outside in the foyer. It reminded me of Poplar days.

As we left after the meeting, the foyer had a certain aroma. Bethan turned to us smiled and nasally said "that's what Poplar used to smell like at Christmas!"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"I don't believe in what you believe but I believe in what you do..."

"I don't believe in what you believe but I believe in what you do..."

He'd put his rolled up tenners in the bucket and had gone almost
before I could smile. I was collecting for Deptford SA as they raised
money at Borough Market and for the rest of the time I spent
collecting while the carols were played I wished I could've explained
to the guy that he might have been surprised how close our beliefs may
be. So much of what I believe is shaped by doing, and living out the
life and values of what I see on the life of Jesus!

It always seems a shame that the church has done so well making that
which people saw as being amazing in Christ so predictable!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Five Marks of Mission....

I've had a clearing the desk day, reading articles, books, magazines that over this term have built a formidable wall. It has been good to get rid of the clutter! I've had 'Mission in the 21st Century' on my desk to read through for quite sometime and a brief skim through has confirmed that this is a book that needs to be bought or not returned just yet!

The five marks of mission it explores give a great framework for understanding mission.
  • To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom
  • To teach baptise and nurture new believers
  • To respond to human need by loving service
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain an renew the life of the earth.
Ken Gnanakan goes into bat first and explores what it is to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom - he concludes...

The Gospel of the Kingdom must be considered anew so that our proclamation and our methods take on fresh significance. While there is a need to renew our allegiance to proclaim the word faithfully, there is a greater need to flesh the message out in acts that express this kingdom. Proclamation is urgent, but demonstration is the priority. The world must hear the message of the Kingdom, but it will also want to see some concrete demonstration of this message. It is in this spelling out the Kingdom identity, in presenting the person of Jesus and not just the message of Jesus; in looking at Jesus and the way that his message was demonstrated with power and authority, that the church will be concretising the Kingdom of God through tangible expressions of the Kingdom of God. Pp 10

Gnanakan, K (2008) To Proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom in Ross, C., & Walls, A. (2008). Mission in the 21st Century. London: Darton,Longman & Todd Ltd.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Carols in the Park...

“I was bought up to not believe in God; to distrust the church and have nothing to do with religion. The more I come to these events though I have to say I’m not to sure anymore. It's like you lot are a magnet and I'm getting drawn in to something bigger!”

Paul lives local to William Booth College and has come along to every event that the college has put on in its local park. ‘Carols in the Park 2008’ was the latest in a series of events designed as the college seeks to make itself known in its community.

As the college band set up on the bandstand, a small crowd gathered in anticipation, people were ready to share in community. With successive carols the crowd grew as more people arrived to join in singing of the Christmas message. Many nonplussed at no sign of a collecting box, but rather gifts of tea, coffee and a mince pie, there were smiles and carols all-round.

For over a week posters dotted around Ruskin Park adjacent to William Booth College announced "carols in the park"; invitations had been posted through the doors of the surrounding neighbourhood. The effort and time was all worth it as over 200 people joined together to sing Hark the Herald Angels in celebration of the love that sent Jesus into the world.

As we walked back to the college it was good to catch up with Paul!

William Chapman b.1791

A massive chunk of family tree has come to light with some interesting connections. For eight years I felt really at home in Poplar our last appointment. Now I know why - my Great Great Great Grandfather William Chapman was born there in 1791!!

(And get this Chris from Falmouth - the next generation has Baldwin's in it!!! I've always said with your height we must have been separated somewhere!!!)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Salvation is not about who is in and who is out...!

There was an interesting article in the Times this week, a friend photocopied it for me to have a look. I wanted to keep a copy as a useful discussion starter!

You can read it here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


n: a contagious middle class virus causing depression, anxiety, addiction and ennui...

I sat on the bus with Oliver James' new book poised. (James, O. (2007). Affluenza.Vermilion) I notice a guy with an iPhone and I become transfixed with what he was doing. Quite obviously he was meeting someone but wasn't sure where he was going; fascinated I watch him pull up some A-Z app and work out his route with a route planner. Then I watched with increasing jealousy as he zoomed in and out to get the finer details of the journey; place names, roads, bus routes. Increasingly I felt I want one of those. By the time matey boy was talking to his friend and giving him the time of his arrival I was fast trying to convince myself - I need one of those!

Worried that matey would see me agog I start the book. Flick through acknowledgements and contents and get to the "Are you infected with Affluenza?" Keeping a careful eye open on the iPhone seeing him listening to music while playing some cool looking game I read the first couple of sentences.
"The Affluenza Virus is a set of values which increase our vulnerability to emotional distress. It entails placing a high value on acquiring money and possessions, looking good in the eyes of others and wanting to be famous. Just as having the HIV virus places you at risk of developing the physical disease of AIDS, infection with the Affluenza Virus increases your susceptibility to the commonest emotional distresses: depression, anxiety, substance abuse and personality disorder (like 'me, me, me' narcissism, febrile moods or confused identity)."
Oh dear..!

Despite this book having the word ennui on the front cover it is well worth a read the vaccines he suggests alone are helpful to digest.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

All in an image...?

I'm not into big band bashing; 13 years in The Regent Hall band played a big part of my development as a young Christian.

I have great respect for the commitment of those that still engage in this ministry; some of which goes largely unnoticed. Some of these ISB guys I know willing to help small inner city corps with their carolling effort in order to raise funds for ministry into their communities.

So I'm not really that bothered about the ISB recording deal - and I really hope that the venture raises the money that is hoped for and that it will then be put into those areas that need it.

But something bothers me.

I asked Bethan what she thought the poster said about The Salvation Army. She looked and said "...we're more bothered about the countryside..."

"Do you think that is right..?"

"No... something is missing!"



I smiled but then again maybe I am still a rabid inner city officer with a chip on his shoulder!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Nouwen on Leadership...

I'm reading through some material I am presenting tomorrow on Nouwen and I was struck with his words on leadership and the temptation of power.
"I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self."

Nouwen, H. (1993). In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership

"What makes the temptation of power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life."

Nouwen, H. (1993). In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership
Interesting thoughts that remain acutely relevant for us.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [1]

I first read A Churchless Faith about four years ago and found it immensely helpful for myself to understand faith more as a verb than a static noun. I'm evermore convinced of it's importance in Spiritual Formation and Jamieson's summary of Fowler's work on FD is helpful. I want to periodically highlight some of Fowler's stages of faith thanks to Jamieson's summary.

He uses some of Fowler's qualifying statements to set the scene.
  • Fowler's work on development of faith is like a map that describes the terrain and shows key landmarks; but it is like a map at the back of a tourist map - helpful but not detailed or authoritative.
  • Faith is a dynamic, changing and evolving process. Rather than merely something you have or do not have or just an acceptance of certain statements of belief, Fowler suggests that faith is a dynamic process a way of living.
  • Faith development is more about how we believe (operation of faith) rather than what we believe (contents of faith). What changes is understanding, experience and out workings of particular beliefs.
  • No stage is better than another but each stage offers a deeper and broader understanding and experience of faith than the preceding stage.
  • Transitional changes can be very painful and difficult feeling almost like a shipwreck (Parks, S. (1999). The Critical Years. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.). These faith transitions can be so painful that it is easier to remain rooted in a previous stage than face the uncertainty, ambiguity, and self alienation which can feel unbearable.
I'm looking forward to exploring these stages that seem more invoved than Von Hügel that I have looked at before here. They include:
  • Intuitive-Projective (The Innocent)
  • Mythical-Literal (The Literalist)
  • Synthetic-Conventional (The Loyalist)
  • Individuative-Reflective (The Critic)
  • Conjunctive (The Seer)
  • Universalizing (The Saint)

Monday, December 01, 2008

God says no...!

One of the interesting things about Faith House is the conversation and observations you get about other agencies that offer help to the homeless.

One of my favourites has always been the story of a Roman Catholic outreach to the homeless somewhere in the West End. The friendliness has never been a complaint, nor has been the food, which from all accounts is well up there! The issue isn't even the worship and imposed 'God slot' - the problem is the two nuns who stand by the exit playing guitars to stop anyone leaving. It is almost worth popping along to see it in action - a nice twist on the popular Ship of Fools Mystery Worshipper.

I have a new favourite story that has had me chortling for several days. It involves a church group that uses a bus to create a nice space for homeless people to get a hot drink and a conversation for a couple of hours. Jim is a highly articulate member of the FH community, his exasperation in telling the story made it all the better. Not realising that there was some kind of limit on the amounts of drinks they could have Jim asked for another cup of tea. He wasn't too pleased with the response "sorry God says no...!!" Jim is sharp and quickly suggested that God might like to say yes to a cup of coffee in that case!

I made Jim a cup of hot chocolate and pointed out that God likes to say yes, more than people realise.