Thursday, December 31, 2009

Really Living...

Frederick Buechner points to the danger of 'reducing life to size', and gets us to think about life beyond reducing it even to 'a mystery'. Life he says is the mystery, the one true miracle. Here's a good review of the year...
  • 'Have you wept at anything during the past year?'
  • 'Have you thought seriously about the fact that someday you are going to die?'
  • 'Has your heart beat faster at the sight of young beauty?'
  • 'More often than not do you really listen when people are speaking to you instead of just waiting for your turn to speak!'
  • 'Is there anyone you know in whose place, if one of you had to suffer great pain, you would volunteer yourself?'
Buechner suggests that if you answer no to all or most of these questions the chances are that you are already dead!

Buechner F (1992) Listening to your Life. Harper Collins.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas - What no Bob...!

Christmas has felt a little different this year.

It still had all the carolling, even in our street in the snow with a random drummer who turned up to play. Still thoroughly enjoyed the tension of Christmas dinner at Southwark SA with the mix of inner city characters that turn up every year. Playing guitar to the carols for the Christmas Day service while running out to check on the veg, keeping an eye on two heroin smokers and a huge dog is something Gordon Ramsey didn't have to do this year!

But for me two things have been missing. No Bob! No TV (as such!). Christmas day without Bob trying to be funny or whingeing about the custard is a bit like Christmas without tinsel!

Getting through Christmas having only watched highlights on BBC iplayer has meant that my annual Christmas rant about TV Licence, Sky, not like the old days etc... has disappeared. While I haven't missed the TV, I hope Bob is alright!

--------

Incidently thoroughly enjoyed Top Gear and Sting in Durham Cathedral. Anything else I should be looking out for?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Salvation Army Officer shot...

This is a very sad sad story - I'm passing on the details as requested in an email.

More here

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Many of you may be aware but for those who are not, A Salvation Army corps
officer was murdered yesterday in Little Rock, Arkansas. Major Philip Wise,
40 years old, was returning to the corps building with his three young
children after taking bell ringers home. Two armed men approached him and
demanded money. They then shot him in front of his children. His wife Cindy
was in the building and called 911. Major Wise was a devoted officer,
father and husband beloved by many in the community. He and his family were
preparing for a trip to West Virginia to spend time with extended family
for Christmas.

Please uphold Cindy and these three precious children in prayer as well as
the extended family and the corps family and community

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who needs theology? An imitation to the study of God ...

Thanks to new doctrine man at college Captain Steve Dutfield, I read a fascinating chapter in 'Who needs theology? An imitation to the study of God' by S. J. Grenz & R. E. Olson

I found some interesting parallels with some of the faith development material I have been reading as Grenz and Olson identify theologizing as a spectrum of reflection. This process of formalised thinking is how we use "our minds to organise our thoughts and beliefs, bring them into coherence with one another by attempting to identify and expunge blatant contradictions, and make sure that there are good reasons for interpreting Christian faith in the way we do". This, they suggest, is a necessary part of any maturing thought process as we reflect even to the extent that we may have been believing wrongly or incompletely.

Grenz and Olson locate their observation in the stages or levels of theological reflection that follow. I've paraphrased their thoughts, the extremities are where the church's influence will be undermined. With the bulk of congregations feeding from a theology that at best could be seen as a Folk Theology it would seem that there is quite some work to be done.

Here's what they say...

Folk theology - unreflective believing based on blind faith rejecting critical reflection and enthusiastically embraces simplistic acceptance of a tradition of beliefs and practices composed mainly of cliches and legends. Intellectual reflection is considered anti Christian even heretical. Folk theology is epitomised and perpetuated by popular Christian bumper stickers, choruses, cliches and legends. Lazy theology with little substance, comfortable with inner inconsistency and unquestionable belief in sensational stories and pithy cliches. It encourages gullibility, vicarious spirituality and simplistic answers to difficult dilemmas. It stunts growth and blunts the influence of Christianity in the world.

Lay theology - appears when folk theology with its simplistic cliches and legends is questioned. While seen by those characterised by a folk theology as evidence of a diminishing spirituality, lay theology represents serious attempts to examine and understand faith through seeking to bring Christian beliefs into a coherent whole through questioning.

Ministerial theology - more depth of reflection as attempts are made to interpret scripture and make more meaningful application to everyday life.

Professional theology - further still along the spectrum. Attempt to further develop critical consciousness. This sometimes appears to others as skepticism and hostility toward piety and devotion. This is a perception that is often laboured with great agony.

Academic theology - philosophical aimed at other theologians. Disconnected from the church with little application to Christian living.

Pp 25- 35

Friday, December 18, 2009

Festive Respect...

I started the mental maths of working the ages of each person that had died and felt the discomfort of each life, but one, younger than me
The words of the carol hung in the air as the list went on. A respectful silence met each name, a name of someone from the street homeless community who had died this year. What made singing Silent Night followed by the roll of honour so poignant was that this carol service was for a community who knew these people and understood the fragility of life that the street brings.

1962 ... 1975 ... 1965 ... 1980 ... 1967 ... I started the mental maths of working the ages of each person that had died and felt the discomfort of each life, but one, younger than me. 1965 ...1982 ... 1970 ... 1972, something inside me felt intensely sad that the street had take its toll on these men and women who by and large were anonymous in their lives and certainly anonymous in their death. Or were they? I looked around the room and felt the corporate sadness.

The list finished, respect was payed and the moment was gone as the 30-40 people who had gathered for the Faith House Carol service moved on in their way to celebrate Christmas together with a special festive love.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Missionary who wouldn't retire...

Leslie Newbigin used to come and teach a whole morning at college, the year before we trained this stopped as by then he was getting frail and his eyesight had gone. At the time I can't remember being that bothered, but now I look back and think what an opportunity that would have been and for many, I hope being able to sit back and listen to that remarkable mind remains an unforgettable experience. I've just seen that he would have been 100 this year and Christianity Today have a good article that is worth a look at if you are interested in the themes and influence of Newbigin (here).

The gospel according to Newbigin challenges this thinking in two distinct ways. First, he calls us back to a gospel that brings personal reconciliation with God, but also a gospel that connects us with God's reconciling purposes in conscience, culture, church, creation, and cosmos. Second, he calls us back to a gospel that is more than a series of bullet points, a story that centers on the flesh-and-blood character of the divine Christ.

It was good to be reminded that:
"the church is, by its very nature, missional. Which then has two
major implications. First, the church, not the individual, is the basic unit of
evangelism. A community that lives out the truth of the gospel is the best
context in which to understand its proclamation....Second, the unity of the
church matters to the mission of the church. Disunity undercuts the gospel of
reconciliation that we claim to bring to the world."


(January 2010, Vol. 54, No. 1)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

One in the eye for X factor

"The X Factor has had a monopoly over the Christmas Number One but there is a real buzz about Rage Against The Machine," William Hill's Rupert Adams said. "We might just have the biggest upset in Christmas chart history!"
I can't help but be drawn to the subversion of the Cowell induced Mariahfication of music, the thumb in the eye to the unrelenting blandness of X- factor! I'm definitely certain that the lyrics of the song aren't something I particularly want on my iPod, but I can't help but like the slapping down of the kind of smugness that expects a Christmas number one. There is something within me that wants to cheer on the potential unwinding of the outright manipulation that has been Saturday night TV for months.

All this following a Facebook campaign to have Rage Against the Machine take the Christmas top spot break X Factor’s festive monopoly. Apparently William Hill have been forced to suspend all bets.

Simon Cowell says this defiance to his 'music machine' is stupid!

I'd love it...!

Monday, December 07, 2009

Why we are waiting..

Ready steady slow...

"We hope for a world in which we have learned to live with the grain of things, to live patiently, to live respectfully, to live in a way that takes our environment seriously..."
Dr. Rowan Williams

Be invited to take time out this Advent to slow down and consider your lifestyle with daily challenges and thoughts. For anyone looking for an advent calender with a difference the Church of England's whywearewaiting is a useful site containing a range of reflections, actions and video clips.

Welcome to the season of Advent (albeit a few days late!).

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Welcome to another Mrs Cotterill....

Congratulations to Dave and Cerys (aka Cave and Derys) on their wedding. It was great to be part of a great day and to spend time with the Cotterill clan and friends.

Welcome Cerys!

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Going up stream...

There was a flavour of Jubilee as momentum and strength was drawn from a congregation of diversity committed to social, economic and environmental justice; committed to going upstream to exert pressure together for 'the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow'

There's a well worn story with a variety of versions that takes place in a village on a river bank, this is one:
One summer in the village, the people in the town gathered for a picnic. As they leisurely shared food and conversation, someone noticed a baby in the river, struggling and crying. The baby was going to drown! Someone rushed to save the baby. Then, they noticed another screaming baby in the river, and they pulled that baby out. Soon, more babies were seen drowning in the river, and the towns people were pulling them out as fast as they could. It took great effort, and they began to organize their activities in order to save the babies as they came down the river. As everyone else was busy in the rescue efforts to save the babies, two of the townspeople started to run away along the shore of the river.

"Where are you going?" shouted one of the rescuers. "We need you here to help us save these babies!"

"We are going upstream to stop whoever is throwing them in!"
Social justice means going upstream to stop whoever is throwing babies in the river.

It was interesting last week to be involved and to see the power of grassroots local politics rearing up in solidarity to exert pressure on politics through the power of accountability. I was at the AGM of London Citizens so was Mayor Boris Johnson having to fog his way through his election promises, there was no room to hide in London's Barbican Centre in front of 2000 people. With his promises of 15 months projected on the cinemaesque screen.

Bankers, lawyers and most significantly politicians were made to promise action and involvement on Living Wage, Responsible lending, Cap on interest rates together with Financial literacy and investment into local mutual banking. No fudging the issue 'will you promise to work with us?' No walking away from the podium without a handshake. Everything carefully minuted. All discreetly and cleverly orchestrated by Dr Luke Bretherton.This was kingdom stuff tackling the inequity of financial domination over the powerless within economic crisis. There was a flavour of Jubilee as momentum and strength was drawn from a congregation of diversity committed to social, economic and environmental justice; committed to going upstream to exert pressure together for 'the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow'.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

THE WORLD NEEDS PATIENT PEOPLE...!"

if Jesus had not used the metaphor of Gehenna to call upon to describe the antithesis of fullness of life he surely would have used Southwark's Parking shop to make his point..

She looked at me bemused if not a little affected. I looked around at the now silent room caught momentarily within the eye of the storm I had caused. People backed away from me in the 'I wonder if he has multi personality' kind of way. There was no two ways about it I had caused a drama.

An hour before I walked into 264 Old Kent Road and if Jesus had not the metaphor of Gehenna to call upon to describe the antithesis of fullness of life, he surely would have used Southwark's Parking shop to make his point. The atmosphere was tense, fraught as individuals paid their parking fines at one window with an incessant tirade of abuse to the girls on the other side of bullet proof glass. Individuals caught for all kinds of traffic offences vented, screamed, cried, wailed before paying anything up to £180 to get their vehicles back. The rest of us sat waiting to pay for our residents parking permits not really knowing who was next.

I sat in my uniform aware that in addition I had a fluorescent safety jacket with THE SALVATION ARMY across my back, I knew that I needed to me the model of patience! After nearly an hour I was beckoned to the window with an aggressive and bureaucratic "next...!". My form was correct, my proof of identification in place, I was getting out as soon as my permit was ready at the printer.

It was then that hysteria hit the lady behind me in the queue. "That's it ... I've had it ... I can not do this anymore, I've been patient up to now but I can not do it any more...!" her voice getting quicker, her breathing shorter her panic spread through the room like wild fire.

OK I may not have done this if my defences were not down -amazing what a bit of man flu can do for you really, I turned around and I found myself saying:

"Yes you have been patient and you are such a better person for it... aren't you ....well?"

I then heard my volume increase above all the shouting and cursing in the room.

"... in fact we would ALL BE BETTER PEOPLE IF WE WERE MORE PATIENT... THE WORLD NEEDS PATIENT PEOPLE...!"

In the silence of the moment I had caused I turn to the attendant who seemed to be reaching for a panic button, you need a chaplain in this place! She didn't even look up but said "Yeah problem being they would get beaten up as well!!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Debbie Green...

Every church or institution needs people who are able to disarm inflated ego. Every church needs someone who is able to laugh at pomposity and all that points to that which is ridiculous. Every church needs someone who is able to uphold that which essential yet gently undermine any unnecessary distraction. Every church needs those equipped with holy disdain for all that is nonsense.

Add to that someone who was an example of bravery, tenacity; someone whose laugh rippled out bringing smiles to anyone caught in its wake. Someone who selflessly refused to think herself worse off than anyone, who dodged misplaced sympathy and you have some one who will be missed but will always be remembered with warmth and a smile.

Debbie will be remembered.

Personally I'll remember her for the way she took on the patronisation of a male dominated Winchester Cathedral ministerial fraternal with an extraordinary 'pah!' I'll remember her tumour induced frustration of not being able to get the right words out except to be able to ask for 'lots and lots of chocolate'. I'll remember her refusal to give in. I'll remember her lipstick and nails!

Debbie Green was a friend, neighbour, colleague and someone who will always remain an example of how to live and die.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lost Lyrics - The world overcoming by limitless grace

Song 640 v.4 caught my eye through its fusion of mission, holiness and realised eschatology!

The world overcoming by limitless grace,
I worship the Lord in the light of his face;
So with him communing, like him I shall grow,
And life everlasting enjoy here below.

Charles Coller (1863-1935)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [6]

The last stage within Fowler's analysis of the development faith is what he calls universalising, Jamieson goes with 'The Saint'.

It is acknowledged that this is the most difficult stage to tie down, perhaps in that faith of this kind is very rare. Faith culminates into a relationship marked by selflessness with God and His creation. Fowler calls this a 'decentration from self', Jamieson talks about self being removed from the centre or the focus of an individuals life. Reflecting Gethsemane, a shift in motivation away from the usual obsessions of life results from a deep and nuanced acceptance of the ultimate authority of God and is often embodied to commitment to higher Kingdom causes as seen in the lives of of such people as Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Jamieson points out that perhaps this stage is better described through poetry, he could be right Anna Laetitia Waring in song 485 could be right too.

In service which thy love appoints
There are no bonds for me;
My secret heart is taught the truth
That makes thy children free:
A life of self-renouncing love
Is one of liberty.

Anna Laetitia Waring (1823-1910)


Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [1]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [2]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [3]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [4]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [5]

Jamieson, A. (2002). A Churchless Faith. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Lost Themes of Mission - New Creation...

It has taken an unrelenting NT Wright to point that this great theme, which brings a framework of meaning and purpose, is present throughout scripture both in poetry and song and rich and dense theology but more significantly embodied by Jesus himself.

"There is a remarkable image in the closing pages of Scripture that has become a touchstone for the way my colleagues and I think about faith and culture..." writes Miroslav Volf in an article (The Church's great malfunction).

Amid its descriptions of the New Jerusalem, Revelation includes "the tree of life, bearing 12 crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations" (Rev. 22:2). The tree holds out hope that whole cultures will be healed and mended, becoming places where people can flourish. And it sets an agenda for faith as a way of life that contributes to that flourishing, in anticipation, here and now.

Brueggemann (Brueggemann. (2007: 161ff). Hope for the World. Louisville: Westminster)makes sense of the church's purpose to witness to God's intention through making sense of God's purpose of bringing the 'whole creation to well-being'. He points to the simple but effective premise that "Mission is Missio Dei; The action is God's action in mending creation; The hope is God's hope for a new creation". Brueggemann challenges the capacity of the people of God in mission to practice a hope that is rooted solely in God's own hope.

It has taken an unrelenting NT Wright to point out within contemporary theology that the theme of New Creation has routinely been ignored or at best marginalised. It has taken an unrelenting NT Wright to point that this great theme, which brings a framework of meaning and purpose, is present throughout scripture both in poetry and song and rich and dense theology but more significantly embodied by Jesus himself.

Back to Volf who points out that:

Karl Marx famously noted that religion—Christian faith, he primarily meant—is the "opiate of the people," a "downer" or depressant insulating them from reality and consoling them with a dream world of heavenly bliss. Marx missed the point that religion can often be an "upper," a stimulant that energizes people for tasks at hand. But the truth is that when Christian faith functions only as a soothing or performance-enhancing drug, that faith is, in fact, malfunctioning.

'I am a new creation' we used to sing with much gusto and natty guitar chords but now I discover that it represents one of those areas in scripture where the NIV lets its readers down with a bump. TNIV has corrected the error "if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come" has a very different emphasis to "if anyone is in Christ - he is a new creation". New Creation impacts our understanding of mission and invites the church, rather than malfunction, to take up its responsibility beyond introspection, as a 'counteractor of hope in every dimension of life', in doing so liberating creation from its bondage to decay (Romans 8:21) through showing God's abundance, justice, fruitfulness and God's vision of unity.

Monday, November 02, 2009

praxis of doing what is right...

While religion ever slides to the right and to the embrace of conservative ethics and politics, the bible remains a dangerous book calling us to ongoing conversation. That conversion is not simply the call to abandon our own pathetic and pitiful personal wrongdoing, but also involves a conversion from the social deformities that inhabit our soulscape. The idolatries of our time - control, consumerism, exploitation, militarism, narcissism - need to be expelled from our ways of thinking and acting, as much as the personal wrongdoing of greed, pride, lust and deception.

Because the themes of Scripture are cast in the framework of a God who loves generously, redeems holistically and seeks to transform us totally, we area called not only to stop doing certain wrongs, but are called to the praxis of doing what is right. Which then draws us into the purposes of the reign of God.

Ringma, C. R. (2003:122). Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton: Reflections on Identity, Community and Transformative Action. London: Spck Publishing.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Officers' Councils 2009...

I thoroughly enjoyed making connections in my mind while at Swanwick for Officers' Councils while exploring the them of Kingdom Ambition. The sessions were all really stimulating in one way or another and very helpful as we looked for anchor points in understanding the Kingdom.

  • I got thinking about the shift from selfishness to selflessness that scripture calls for and models.
  • How grace is the framework for the alternative way of living that Kingdom is all about.
  • How Kingdom Ambition is really to live as a conscious contradiction to the way of the world.
  • How the Rich Young Ruler who sought to be perfect found maturity and completeness in moving out and beyond self.
  • How Zaccheus moved from motives of self to that of hospitality and giving.

It was great to hear something of Booth's developing theology rather than hearing what for me has become an empty rallying call based on isolated quotes left outside of this theology. To hear something of the broadening of Booth's grasp of Salvation and its implication on Kingdom living shaping contemporary mission was heartening. I left wanting more.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Message from Malawi...

Dear Friends in the Army

Greetings from a very warm and sticky Malawi!

This year is a very special year in the history of The Salvation Army in Malawi. Next month the Command has its very first Commissioning (on 21/22nd). We have 14 cadets and one Envoy to be commissioned. The territorial leaders from the US Central Territory are coming as our special guests (at their expense). We are hiring the largest hall in Blantyre for the event; it seats over 3000. At the end of August we had a Command congress where over 2000 Salvationists travelled from all over the country to attend a 3-day festival of meetings. It was superb with a march of witness stretching down the dust road as far as the eye could see. I am attaching a picture.

The reason for writing is to seek a favour - quite a big one really. The Commissioning programme is going to cost MK125,000 to have printed. In round figures that's £500. I wondered if by writing to about 50 Salvationist friends we might elicit £10 each and cover our costs as we have no funds left for this item. We have prepared commissioning brochure (and would be happy to send you a copy if you can read MS Publisher files - or reduce it to a .pdf file). If you would be willing to support this request we can either suggest one person in the UK who would collect payments or suggest a UK account into which the money could be sent.


---

Anyone interested in trying to help - goffpaynegmailcom

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Lost Lyrics - O for a deeper greater perfect faith

These simple words by Cornelie Booth caught me between the eyes recently. Simple but explosive if we take perfect to mean complete, full, whole rather than blemishless.

O for a deeper
O for a greater
O for a perfect trust in the Lord

Nice one Cornelie!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Unikely conversations...

It isn't everyday you have the Calvinism vs. Arminianism conversation in the foyer of a 'brothel'.

"So would you then be a Calvinist in your theology..?"

He caught me a little unawares. "No ... essentially we fall more on the Arminian side of things when it comes to pre-destination".

His eyes lit up, "so how do you equate that thinking with scripture which clearly suggests that once we are saved we are always saved. What do you do with Romans 8 for instance?" Our conversation over the next 15 minutes rolled backwards and forwards as we discussed the consequences 0f free-will and choice. I've had these conversations elsewhere, but there was something a little more memorable about this debate. It isn't everyday you have the Calvinism vs. Arminianism conversation in the foyer of a 'brothel'.

Dave became a Christian when he was a mercenary in the Congo and is the bouncer of one of the sauna's that Faith House reaches out to. It was Dave that complained to Estelle and pointed out it was all very good her team meeting with the girls but who came to see him. So as I get to know Dave I find that he is keen to talk theology, spirituality and discipleship with someone.

We left him watching a video on Youtube that the last session of cadets made for their commissioning; the soundtrack, a band march blared through the public spaces of the entire 'brothel' brought a certain and pertinent irony - 'The Liberators'.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Intellectual slackers...

One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself

Dallas Willard observes in Knowing Christ Today that "One effect of the displacement of faith from knowledge... is that many people now believe you do not need to think deeply and carefully to follow Christ"

Willard quotes C. S. Lewis:

"God has room for people with very little sense, but He wants every one to use what sense they have. The proper motto is not 'Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever,' but 'Be good, sweet maid, and don't forget that this involves being as clever as you can.' God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than of any other slackers. If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all…. One reason why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself." (From Mere Christianity)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Idiot...!

If anyone happens to suggest that you read Dostoevsky's "The Idiot" be aware that should you stick with this book it is going to be part of your life for a long time. Be aware that there are swathes of narrative that will tie you up in a knot as you have not got a clue what is going on. Be aware that the complexity of characters combined with an amazing array of Russian names that seem to change with the wind will send you scuttling back to the list of characters as you frequently find your self asking - 'who are you...?' Be aware that Dostoevsky paints a dark and unrelenting picture of depression and submerges and smothers you with the characters narcissism and selfishness. It leaves you in misery!!

In places reading this novel was tortuous, but the darkness and tedium of the plot and text was worth it in order to highlight the inner beauty of Prince Myshkin. The idiocy of selflessness and the relinquishing of any need to dominate the other sparkles through the counter cultural life of the Prince. Dostoevsky sets out to 'depict a completely beautiful human being' and shows how completely idiotic grace is to a world bent on self destruction. “Why, you are so eaten up with pride and vanity that you’ll end by eating up one another....” pt.2, Ch.9. The irony dawns, as each of the characters implode, is that you are left with the question who really are the idiots?

"Don’t let us forget that the causes of human actions are usually immeasurably more complex and varied than our subsequent explanations of them.." pt.4, ch.2 He's not wrong there!

Anyway - I feel like throwing a party for getting to the end of this novel, but it was worth it - I think.

Friday, September 25, 2009

jewish sites...

One of the perks of being at college is that there is always someone who has found a good resource that they want to share.

Here are some good sites that give insight to Jewish culture and help unlock something of the biblical narrative.

En-Gedi Resource centre
Follow the Rabbi
HaKacher
Hebrew streams
For 'a Taste of Torah' e-mail.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Knowing me knowing you...

Despite crossing paths for over seven years, in one conversation I was struck with how little I knew Liam.

I've known Liam for many years without really knowing him. Liam is often at Faith House and is the only familiar face from days in Poplar. Liam used to come into the corps for breakfasts and particularly enjoyed being family together on Christmas Day.

It was fun to meet him at Faith House when I started helping out two years ago - a familar face, someone I knew. However despite crossing paths for over seven years, in one conversation I was struck with how little I knew Liam. Only now does he seem comfortable in telling me his unsurprising story of alcohol dependence, only now does he feel right letting me know how a visit to America and a bored evening in a hotel saw him make a wrong decision that has led to a ten battle with addiction to crack cocaine. Seven years on I hear the tragic tail of the consequence of that night of boredom.

With a Irish lilt and a whimsical smile he points to the loss of a construction business employing over 100 people, a family and life savings.

"...now all I have is in a bedsit in Whitechapel!"

I never knew...!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lost Lyrics - Faith for Greater Things...

769

Greater things
Give us faith O lord we pray
Faith for greater things

Lead us forth into the fray
One in holiness
One in faith and harmony
One in perfect charity
Then we know that we shall see
Even greater things

Albert Orsborn

There is a clever nuance in here that I have been mulling over since we sung these words a couple of weeks ago. One in perfect charity - I wonder what the poet General had in mind? Charity has a clear connection to agape love, a love that goes beyond self yet is more than an unselfish feeling, wow a complete and utter self giving love.

I think he is onto something!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

God's Dream for the world...

I read something like this somewhere and forgot to jot down the reference.

God's dream for the world is caught up within the concept of Shalom in the Old Testament; within kingdom in the Gospels; eternal life in John; salvation for Paul and the City of God in Revelation.

I liked the connections it made in my mind.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Real lives in Kings Cross...

I usher the city gent into the space I was holding and realise perhaps that wasn't what a minister of religion should be saying to a perfect stranger in the reception of a brothel"

"Are you queuing mate..?"

"No ... no .... no!" I stammer a little too quickly, I compose myself and continue "be my guest..." I usher the city gent into the space I was holding and realise perhaps that wasn't what a minister of religion should be saying to a perfect stranger in the reception of a brothel in London's notorious Kings Cross!

Did I say brothel? I meant to say sauna and massage parlour, the youngish guy looks almost as nervous as me as he looks down a price list. The bouncer helps, "that's £20 to get in and £100 for the girl...", the £20 is rung into the till, a towel is handed over and the guy disappears behind a door to have a break in his journey before heading to the home counties hinterland to his leafy suburb. Did I say 'break in his journey?'

I continue in my conversation with a hard nosed receptionist/bouncer about mining in Yorkshire as the red light outside beckons another punter, another £20 and towel is exchanged, he disappears. It is not every day that you get invited to go on a 'sauna and massage parlour crawl', I'm being introduced to Faith House's detached work to some of Kings Cross' sex workers.

This is how it works Estelle and Anna waltz into the inner sanctum with a wave, a smile and a cheery 'Salvation Army', to check that the girls are OK, to have a chat, exchange CD's, I stay outside to talk with the bouncers. For a year now this special relationship with several 'parlours' and lap dancing clubs has developed to the point where the team are welcomed and expected. I learn quickly not to look at the monitors, to keep eye contact, in a friendly but disinterested way, as one of the girls comes for change. There's something a little bizarre as the bouncer breaks from telling me about life down a mine to open the till for a girl who for a few years could be my daughter.

After walking, praying and chatting for nearly two hours we return. This is what struck me, 'those pictures' in the phone boxes that teenage boys snigger at and stuff in their back pockets, are real people, with real stories. Holiday had seen me catch up with the BBC's The Street, one episode saw Anna Friel as a single mother who would do anything for her two boys, even working in a sauna as a prostitute to afford the larger mortgage to get away from the school bullies. Tonight there was an uncanny resemblance, except this is not fiction.

Here's where the attributes of God are incarnated into the real lives of those, who for whatever reason, either need to become a commodity, or facilitate an industry for commuters heading off to the suburbs.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Jesus' Third Way...

Jesus, through "turning the other cheek, giving the undergarment, going the second mile"presents a non-violent way of standing up against that which wishes to exert self, domination or evil on the other.

Walter Wink does a great exposition on Jesus' Third way as seen in Luke 6:29ff . It strikes me that not only do we have here the essence of fullness of life, but also the consequent mandate for missional engagement. We have here the means to demonstrate a self renouncing love that offers an alternative way of living that could transform the world through resultant right relationships.

Jesus, through "turning the other cheek, giving the undergarment, going the second mile", presents a non-violent way of standing up against that which wishes to exert self, domination or evil on the other. Through the discourse Wink suggests that Jesus' Third Way presents a means to meet domination head on, without compromise, by catching it by surprise.

He gives us a list of attributes of Jesus' Third Way that I thought would be worth keeping hold of:-
  • Seize the moral initiative
  • find a creative alternative to violence
  • assert your own humanity and dignity as a person
  • meet force with ridicule or humour
  • break the cycle of humiliation
  • refuse to submit to or accept the inferior position
  • expose the injustice of the system
  • take control of the power dynamic
  • shame the oppressor into repentance
  • stand your ground
  • make the powers make decisions for which they are not prepared
  • recognise your own power
  • be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
  • force the oppressor to see you in a new light
  • deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective
  • be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws
  • die to fear of the old order and its rules
  • seek the oppressors transformation
Wink, W. (1992:187). Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (The Powers, Vol 3). Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Publishers.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I want that one...

Henri Nouwen suggests that we need to learn what it is to go beyond our wants. Tragically our spirituality is so often corrupted by that inner voice that wants 'that one!" If Nouwen had ever watched 'Little Britain' I'm sure he would have said that there is a bit of Andy in all of us. As it is he didn't so he said this...

"Sometimes we behave like children in a toy shop. We want this, and that, and then something else. The many options confuse us and create an enormous restlessness in us. When someone says, "Well, what do you want? You can have one thing. Make up your mind," we do not know what to choose.

As long as our hearts keep vacillating among these many wants, we cannot move forward in life with inner peace and joy. That is why we need inner and outer disciplines, to go beyond these wants and discover our mission in life."

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Friday, August 28, 2009

question of evil (9)

Whereas Christianity has allowed for the devil to have power and authority in and of himself, the satan only has power granted by God, and has no authority in and of himself"

I remember the whisperings in college when it was suggested that a member of staff did not believe in the person hood of devil. I remember as cadets feeling part of a crusade to correct their erroneous thinking!! I smiled inwardly the other day when a cadet asked me if I believed in The Devil! Of course it might be interesting to work through what Jewish mind in 1 CE Palestine might have made of that question. No doubt Eleanor will help here (not that she is that old of course! :o).

What Jews Believe... is a helpful website and resource and I was interested to read that Jews believe in The Satan, and not in the devil (here); that rather than simply a variance in terminology, the the terms are not synonymous, in other words there is a difference between The Satan and the devil.
"For Jews, anything that even remotely conflicts with the idea that God is One and Indivisible will be rejected because it precludes true, pure, monotheism. The idea that there is a God in heaven above who fights against a god of the underworld, or hell, is not monotheism, however, it is the same duality found in other pagan faiths. The Bible speaks of a character known as The Satan, who acts like a prosecuting attorney, or a district attorney, in God's court. However, The Satan has no power or authority in and of himself, rather he must get permission from the Judge, God, to do anything. "
The concept and acknowledgement of "the satan." is well versed in scripture and occurs as "HaSaTaN," which means "THE satan", Seemingly the concept of the satan is not the same as the idea of the Devil. 'Whereas Christianity has allowed for the devil to have power and authority in and of himself, the satan only has power granted by God, and has no authority in and of himself'. For the devil, or satan, to have power and authority is to have more than one god, and brings in, what could be, a duality akin to Greek (Zeus/Hades) and Roman (Jupiter/Pluto) thinking. So would the Jewish mind in 1 CE Palestine adhere to the idea of a God in heaven in battle against a god of the underworld? Probably not, in that it 'precludes true, pure, monotheism'.

This runs contrary to those who would dismiss and look down on anyone who would not adhere to a person hood of the devil. NT Wright gets around this, I think, by suggesting that it is wrong to think of the satan as “personal” in the same way that God or Jesus is “personal,” he uses the concept of “subpersonal” in order to refuse the full dignity of person hood and thereby avoids any duality problem.

Perhaps the better question is do you believe in the devil or the satan?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Peak District/ Yorkshire '09

Holiday part 2 took the form of a week in the Peak District/ Yorkshire following the wedding.

The views from the cottage were stunning and it was good to get to know another part of the UK. Castleton was a definite must return, can't say that I'll be running to go down pit again though. Having said that the National Mining Museum was fabulously free - I have utter respect for those who worked down there.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park was well worth the £4 parking fee.

The drive through Snake Pass was breath taking - seeing people cycling it all puts my 6 miler to Faith House into a new perspective!

Great week.

Welcome to the latest Mrs Cotterill...

It was great to spend time with family up in Yorkshire last week as Simon married Victoria. I'm still recovering from seeing my 83 year old mother dancing at the disco!

Honestly where does time go?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monty the Forgotten Hero!

Not much mention of Monty this morning after the Ashes are regained!

Without Monty in Cardiff there would have been no celebrations today!

So cheers Monty!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Mickey's Memories...

Mickey's smile faded as we talked, my voice became background noise as he slowly disappeared into his past.

The conversation had been good, sparked from a childhood memory, we had laughed as Mickey recalled his scrumping pedigree as an eleven year old. Belly laughs accompanied the various adventures of his exploits as he 'stole' fruit from neighbours fruit trees to order from his jam making grandmother.

"Good memories...?" I ventured.

"Oh yes...." in a voice betraying a certain melancholy.

It wasn't long before I regretted asking "So you have good memories of growing up then Mickey?"
"Not really ..." the smile now gone, "... they were mostly bad."

Later that evening Mickey showed me his plastic ankle jewelry, tagged for a crime he says was drink driving. As he left to electronically sign in to keep to his curfew, I thought of the Mickey's of this world whose fullness has been stolen by all that contributes to the brokenness of bad memories.

Right at the begining of the evening Estelle read me a quote about putting legs to our prayers, I've been reading Yancey's 'Prayer' and he says the same. I left Faith House thinking as I cycled home of the role of the Church in mission to be able to create new and wholesome memories in order to bring feet to those many prayers that ask 'your kingdom come'.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nouwen on Desires and Spiritual Disciplines...

Our desire for God is the desire that should guide all other desires. Otherwise our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls become one another's enemies and our inner lives become chaotic, leading us to despair and self-destruction."

Nouwen's daily email (subscribe to the email service here) a few months back focused thinking on the role of spiritual disciplines in the ordering of our desires.

"Desire is often talked about as something we ought to overcome. Still, being is desiring: our bodies, our minds, our hearts, and our souls are full of desires. Some are unruly, turbulent, and very distracting; some make us think deep thoughts and see great visions; some teach us how to love; and some keep us searching for God. Our desire for God is the desire that should guide all other desires. Otherwise our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls become one another's enemies and our inner lives become chaotic, leading us to despair and self-destruction.

Spiritual disciplines are not ways to eradicate all our desires but ways to order them so that they can serve one another and together serve God."
The ordering of our desires it seems to me is caught up in the realignment of self that spiritual disciplines bring, as we seek to understand what it is to exist in a space dominated by selflessness.

Monday, August 10, 2009

IoW 2009...

Just back from a great week on the Isle of Wight, camping at Nodes Point. The campsite was a two minute walk from the beach, a five minute walk from St. Helen's Duver and what d'you know we had good weather!

A visit to Quarr Abbey was as ever special, Cowes week, family barbecues on the beach; plenty of time to read and watch films on my ipod; walks with the girls and oddly lots of sun made the week great!

Next installation of the holiday to come in a weeks time when we go to a cottage in Yorkshire.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Yearbook Yourself...

Yearbook Yourself is a bit of mindless entertainment. Here's me with a great mullet in the 1980's!

Off for a week on the Sunny Isle of Wight to make the most of this Barbeque summer!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Entertaining Angels...

I watched Entertaining Angels recently and enjoyed the story of Dorothy Day. In many ways the film is slightly twee, disturbing that Martin Sheen is no longer President in the West Wing but a French Canadian eccentric, however there are some great insights to the life of this highly influential woman. Well worth borrowing!

What caught my attention was the opening quote:

"I wanted the abundant life... I did not have the slightest idea how to find it." (Dorothy Day)

Interesting to think how the concept of fullness of life drove this great woman of God, motivated her in an activism that made sense of her relationship with God. Tagged an anarchist and communist for living an alternative gospel life for the desperate, she seemingly pointed out what it was to live a life beyond self for others. A life of salt and light beyond handy little sermon heads for a Sunday.

It made me think about the framework of 'abundant life' and how we try to grasp that for ourselves rather than try to discover it through 'being' for others.

10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.John 10:10 (NIV)

Taking a responsibility...

It is always easier to find someone to blame than take a responsibility for yourself. Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict is a lovely book on the spirituality of St. Benedict that packs a punch! Here's one of them...
"If you are not committed to your own adulthood, if you are just coming in and going out, letting others take care of all the ragged edges of your life together, then you will forever see the problem in someone else...If you want to know if you are committed to your own adulthood ask yourself, "in the last three things that bothered me in this community whom did I blame?" This is no more an no less than taking responsibility for myself.
De Waal, E. (1999:61). Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict

... yeah but..!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [5]

"Paradox is held together as faith becomes a symbolic space where 'ambiguity, mystery, wonder and irrationality' become the story that shapes relationship with others and God."

Fowler's fifth stage is known as the conjunctive or as Jamieson subtitles it 'The Seer'. Acknowledging that this a stage that is not as definable as previous stages, Jamieson points to the essence of contradiction that shapes thinking here. To this point the stages are well defined, visible, tangible, here however Jamieson points out that the firm boundaries become porous.

The confidence of self takes on a different guise as it becomes 'humbly aware of the depth of the unconscious and the unknown' (pp118). Paradox is held together as faith becomes a symbolic space where 'ambiguity, mystery, wonder and irrationality' become the story that shapes relationship with others and God. Whereas the 'critic' looks for interpretation and sees mystery as the ultimate cop out, the seer is comfortable with the apparent naivety that marks this post critical stage. What is embraced is a new sense of God's 'otherness' and the vastness of the unknown.

One obvious outcome is the willingness for dialogue with very different opinions and thoughts; being able to identify with perspectives other than their own becomes a hallmark of thinking. This brings agitation and confusion from those at previous stages, nervousness even irritation is shown towards Seers at their apparent liberalism. However this willingness to dialogue does not equate to total acceptance as The Seers faith is very individual as it is multidimensional.

There is a very real danger that alienation, even aloneness could contribute to a spiritual eccentricism. Isolation as a simpler way of being, an internalisation of thought a means of protecting the thinking of others, can easily become a retreat into a private world of spirituality. Interpretation kept to oneself becomes less tiring than exposure to a barrage of misconstrued opinion and proof texts.

An interesting observation by Jamieson is that while faith development is not age dependent, this stage is rarely reached before mid-life. A product of having had time to have 'our noses rubbed in our own finitude' (Fowler quoted Jamieson pp118)

Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [1]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [2]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [3]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [4]

Jamieson, A. (2002). A Churchless Faith. Cleveland: Pilgrim Press

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A certain irony...

"Bedraggled, the guys looked on me with mild bemusement and compassion as the puddles gathered in and around by trainers where I stood."

I'm beginning to enjoy getting around London on my bike.

It usually feels great to get to Faith House having had the adventure of cycling from South London. I couldn't help but see the irony last week as I turned up dripping wet from the 6 mile cycle in torrential rain. Bedraggled, the guys looked on me with mild bemusement and compassion as the puddles gathered in and around by trainers where I stood. A couple of new guys looked with kindness and with a 'it's OK here' look as they began to make room for me to sit with them! I enjoyed that embrace.

It comes to something when you have to ask if there are any spare trousers at a homeless drop in!!

I had dried off by the time I shared a thought at the end of the evening. Derek was well stocked up on 'lucazade' and had his say. Pointing drunkenly in turn at each one of us he declared - 'you're my friend, you're my friend, you're my friend, you're my friend...' until he had completed the circle.

There was something special about that embrace made all the more poignant in that Derek wasn't at FH last night. He has started a 12 month stretch in HMP Wandsworth for a string of no doubt drunken related incidents.

LibraryThing,com


I like the LibraryThing resource - if you are sad enough to want to catalogue your books this is for you. Here is a catalogue of the books I have read since 2004 :o)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Spiritual Statement to All Salvationists...

From time to time the international leaders of TSA meet, I guess in order to stimulate thought and deal with issues that face the contemporary international Salvation Army - no mean feat! The latest one concluded a couple of days ago culminating in the prayerful consideration of a 'spiritual statement' you can see the full statement here.

Here is a snippet...

STATEMENT

WE have gathered in the sacred name of Jesus from every corner of the world. In a spirit of humility we have given time to waiting upon God for his guidance for our own individual and personal lives and also for our sacred responsibilities as Salvation Army leaders under God. We have spent time seeking the will of God in plenary sessions together, in small groups focused upon the Scriptures, and in solitary prayer and meditation. Our subject matter has included the following large themes and topical issues for the whole Army:
  • a reaffirmation of the role of the Army, of all Salvationists, and not least of Salvation Army officership, in the building of God’s Kingdom here on earth;
  • the building up of God’s Kingdom through an ever-deepening commitment to Christ and personal confidence in the power of the gospel;
  • working for Kingdom growth through the Army’s numerical growth and through the establishing of Army work and witness in new lands;
  • the Army’s God-given role in working for social relief, social justice and human rights on every continent;
  • the challenges of financing the Army’s global mission at a time of global recession;
  • the challenge of working in Muslim cultures today;
  • understanding current societal trends in relation to postmodernism, issues of gender, the younger generation, and our relations with other Christian bodies;
  • the ever-urgent need to win and disciple children and whole families for Christ;
  • the constant need to prepare the future leaders of the Army on every continent.
I guess we wait and see how this all pans out....

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Familiar Story of Fate...

"The stats speak for themselves...the problem is the bureaucracy, it is strangling the life out of us..."

I caught the end of a radio programme and heard the all to familiar story of falling numbers, the challenge of encouraging people to attend, the problem of a loss of identity as people seek community and family elsewhere.

I heard the history of a journey of popularity and social norm to modern day aversion and lack of popularity. I listened how once centre of communities were now being turned into flats, their cohesive influence in society lost to property developers and speculators. How people preferred really to spend time at home rather than frequent the once national institution. I listened to the sociologist lamenting the loss of 'community building' and social capital, pointing to the ramifications on an already fragmented and fractured society.

A man interviewed was the grim reaper, painting a dark gloomy picture of near distinction of a fast disappearing institution. "The stats speak for themselves...the problem is the bureaucracy, it is strangling the life out of us, it not as simple anymore we have so much paperwork it is killing the Public House off rapidly..."

Now there's a thought - bureaucracy as the metaphorical cuckoo!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Merton contemplation and activism

Ringma urges us to learn the basic rhythm between contemplation and activism.

"Action is charity looking outward to other men, and contemplation is charity drawn inward to its own divine source. Action is the stream and contemplation is the spring" Merton

Ringma, C. R. (2003:122). Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton: Reflections on Identity, Community and Transformative Action. London: Spck Publishing.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Commissioning Weekend....

The Witnesses came, saw and in their inimitable style conquered.

It is the final ceremony today - the 'Flag Ceremony' the official goodbye. Two years with the Witnesses session have shown them to be a great group of individuals with an immense sense of fun, creativity and passion - but for all our sanity, and for what you were called to do, it is definitely time for you to go!!

Goodbye ... 'it's been emotional!'

Friday, July 03, 2009

Mixed Bag of resources...

Thanks to Simon for pointing out this mixture of resources at Sites Unseen. Tucked away are some really resourceful spiritual formation sites.

ted.com is a great site full of lectures and info - thanks to Geoff.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [4]

'There must be more than this...' shifts from a mantra of frustration and becomes a gateway of hope as faith opens up as a welcoming and lush plain. Rather than a series of unmet expectations, faith only expects surprise and is not let down as God feels so much more nuanced and colourful.

'The trouble is Gordon, you are different, you're not the same Gordon I once knew, you think different, your faith has a different shape..."

He was right, I was different, I did think differently, my faith had taken on a different shape, I wasn't the same Gordon. It felt rough, I thought I was losing my faith, nothing made sense anymore. I was fed up of a faith based on the kind on song I sang. I was fed up of a faith where I felt guilty about asking questions. I was fed up of a faith where I stacked up off pat apologetics, where to fit with the prevalent culture I needed to keep my brain in neutral. I was fed up of a faith where truth seemed disembodied. Answers that once brought comfort now grated, smug answers stuck in my throat. Oh yes he was very right - I was different.

The transition from Fowler's conformist stage to the critic is the most turbulent and rocky. Fowler using yet another catchy title, calls this stage the 'Individuative Reflective' and captures a faith caught up with rigorous and thorough examination. Analysis runs deep, as sense is sort through an intellectual pursuit. The reliance of the security blanket that faith in stages already outlined no longer brings the answers and comfort they once brought.

This transition is characterised by an emergence of self that runs contrary to those that have been significant in the past. The move away from 'the tribe' is momentous and difficult as core actions, beliefs and values are redefined. Styles of church and theology that once brought comfort and guidance now feel patronising and authoritarian. Fellowship once sweet and edifying - now unappealing.

The unpicking of previous faith occurs as beliefs and values are held up for scrutiny. Seeking meaning is lonely and bewildering. Ironically worship takes on new meaning and provides the odd glimpse of how to let go of an objectivity that now feels restrictive and cumbersome. 'There must be more than this...' shifts from a mantra of frustration and becomes a gateway of hope as faith opens up as a welcoming and lush plain. Rather than a series of unmet expectations, faith only expects surprise and is not let down as God feels so much more nuanced and colourful.

I'm glad I had another friend who heard me, who felt my anguish and bewilderment. "Losing your faith...? You're not losing your faith, you are finding it?"

Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [1]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [2]
Faith Development c/o Alan Jamieson... [3]

Friday, June 26, 2009

Derek's Lucazade...

It's funny what relationships at Faith House do to you.

Last time I was at Faith House I stood outside with Derek as he drunkenly smoked his roll up, we chatted. I liked being on the door when at youth club in Poplar, it was where discussions happened. This felt the same as we talked about what it is to be a minister, a Christian, and '...bl**dy cyclists'! Derek got to know me a little more and I got to know Derek that little more. We shared something of each other.

I saw his lucozade bottle tucked inside his jacket, it is always there, ready. His supposed life line. He caught me looking at the bottle. I laughed, "Derek I love Lucozade..."

"You wouldn't like this Lucozade..."
his reply sharp.

"It's a different colour to what I remember, is it new?".

Derek looks up and says "No...!",

"...perhaps I could have a sip",

"NO - you wouldn't like THIS Lucozade..!"


I snigger and he knows I'm pulling his leg, we share laughter. Later that evening Derek tells us all that he was glad when he was 'in here' with us because he wasn't 'out there' with them.

Tonight Derek was cold stone sober, quiet, distant, something was up - but he wouldn't say. As I left I saw the Lucozade bottle tucked inside his jacket. Tonight as I cycled home and thought through the evening, I was both pleased he was sober but also worried that Derek wasn't himself, worried that his Lucozade would be too available.

Relationships are funny at Faith House! People quickly become a big part of your life.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Henri Nouwen on Mission's False Dichotomy...

It's been a while since I last posted something on the blind spot of mission. Interesting insight of Nouwen as to what evangelism as an alternative lifestyle should be.

"To be a witness for God is to be a living sign of God's presence in the world. What we live is more important than what we say, because the right way of living always leads to the right way of speaking....When our words come too soon and we are not yet living what we are saying, we easily give double messages. Giving double messages - one with our words and another with our actions - makes us hypocrites."
Nouwen, H. J. (1996:20). Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith. New York: Harperone.

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...
Brueggemann on the False Dichotomy of mission...
GS Railton on Missions False Dichotomy
NT Wright on Mission's False Dichotomy...
William Booth on Mission's False Dichotomy...

Monday, June 22, 2009

The arrogant bravado of intercession...!

I am sure He is really grateful with our jogging of His fading memory as He listens to our petitions. "I'm glad you mentioned Aunt Gladys, thanks for your insight I'll make a note of that one ... Iran you say, well I never...!" .

It is funny how we approach God in prayer as if He is some poor old dear, hard of hearing and clearly in need of us to tell him what He needs to do, as if speaking to a great aunt who really does not understand. I sometimes wonder what we have done to intercession as we approach the creator of all things seen and unseen with our little prayer lists; what we have done as we 'beseech' the Sovereign of all with our anxious thoughts for others. We remind Him that he is King of Kings and Lord of Lords but precede with the mindset of giving every precise detail that He clearly doesn't know.

I am sure He is really grateful with our jogging of His fading memory as He listens to our petitions. "I'm glad you mentioned Aunt Gladys, thanks for your insight I'll make a note of that one ... Iran you say, well I never...!"

It sometimes feels as though we are in the power seat and it is us that is pulling the levers. Omnipresent, Omniscient of course, but Lord let me just bring to attention that I could do with a parking space in a minute!

Unthinking intercession? Before any accusations fly that I have rubbished what for many is a key part of their prayer life let me clarify. I am all for it! I just think that it is all too easy to allow the framework of intercession to look more like a shopping list we write and pass on than rather than a real means of changing lives.

Walter Wink captures this when he points out:

"All this about our role as intercessors in creating history is arrogant bravado unless we recognize that it is God rather than ourselves who initiates prayer, and that it is god's power, not ours , that answers the world's needs. We are always preceded in intercession. God is always praying within us. When we turn to pray it is always the second step of prayer. We join with God in a prayer already going on in us and in the world."


Intercession should never be allowed to become a passing of the buck, I wonder what would happen if we made part of our intercession the caveat "and show me how I can be part of the answer...?"As we breathe our heartfelt prayers of intercession how do they change us and align us to God's agenda?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

From selfish genes in to selfless people...

"Faith is the ability to see ourselves as joined to others by God's love... religion the miracle of religion which turns selfish genes in to selfless people".

Søren Kierkegaard captures something of selflessness - "To love one's neighbour means ... essentially to will to exist equally for every human being without exception."

I enjoyed reading an article in the Times recently where Jonathan Sacks makes an interesting point. There is an irony that while disciples of Darwin are anti religious, that whether he knew it or not, Darwin put forward what Sacks calls one of the great arguments for religion. Darwin observed a paradox at the heart of his system - that society values altruism and self sacrifice, which does not make sense in the light of natural selection and the struggle to survive.

While selfishness may be advantageous to individuals it fragments communities. Sacks draws attention to the choice that faces us all; self -regard or concern for others, egoism or altruism, yet it is only in community that we can survive at all.

Sacks reminds us:
"God is the voice of the other within the self. It is God who taught us to love our neighbours as ourselves, to welcome the stranger, care for the poor, the widow and the orphan, heed the unheeded, feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless, and temper justice with compassion."
There is a third way of getting 'individuals to act in a way beneficial to the group'. Helping people to capture the freedom of seeing the welfare of others succeeds to overcome selfishness where power and wealth fails. The paradox that 'selfishness is good for me and my genes but bad for us and therefore bad for my descendants' did not escape Darwin. No system captures the essence of selflessness more effectively than religion - "Faith is the ability to see ourselves as joined to others by God's love... religion the miracle of religion which turns selfish genes in to selfless people".

Jonathan Sacks Times March 28 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Covent Garden...

Eryn's ballet means a weekly trip to Covent Garden. While Kate and I take turns, I really enjoy this week on week off excursion. I've to come see it as a parcel of time, a gift to read, drink coffee, meet friends while Eryn has her class at the Opera House.

Yesterday, Covent Garden in the sun was superb. Sat listening to the buskers, watching people, reading, even a slight snooze in the sun was great.

Even being glad to move on when the time came was a good feeling. There is only so much you can take of the Chinese pipes and their unrelenting pentatonic scale - particularly when you have a large woman doing a floaty twinkle toes dance to the music around you!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Son of man

Son of Man is an interesting depiction of Jesus' life and ministry, set in a fictional modern day South African state. English subtitles on an iPod was a challenge! the bulk of the film is in Xhosa.

The question inherent throughout is what would happen if someone in Africa emerged with the same message as Jesus. Jesus' teaching is set against the oppression of a occupying force. Power games, collusion and collaboration is what Jesus stands against with a message of non- violent rebellion against injustice, inequality and inequity.

His message of inclusion and reconciliation within a framework of what it is to be truly free can be seen in the familiar cameos of Jesus' life albeit in a different guise. The power of the resurrection is seen in his message of non violent resistance to oppression coming to life and coursing through his followers as they stand up against the tyranny of the state.

Good film.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Head and Shoulders...

Marsha snapped this pic of me head and shoulders above those around me.

This was in Rome and suddenly I was surrounded by a Japanese tour party.

While very wet it made me smile!

Monday, June 08, 2009

One Conference at WBC... Don't forget to book

I'm really looking forward to hearing Ann Morisy again. She is a great author and communicator.

Bothered and Bewildered is the title of her new book due to be launched that evening.

If you are interested in coming get in touch.

Can't be bad for a freebie!

16 June 2009

The Joy of doubt...

"...honest questioning doubt from a desire to believe, may have more to do with the deepening of our faith, than a unquestioning blind faith..."

I've begun an unintentional habit of reading the most profound articles in the most unusual of places. It makes going to the hairdressers and the Chinese take away a little more interesting. Last month it was an article about recapturing the emotion of awe and how a lack of awe affects our well-being .... fascinating. Saturday while waiting for numbers 18, 24, 32, 34 and 37 in the Ho Hing I ruffled through the usual freebie papers and magazines to find the Psychologies magazine and an article by Emma Cook called the 'Joy of Doubt'.

"Doubt is an inescapable aspect of human nature, and yet how many of us wish it were not?"

"Make peace with doubt -When you doubt, rather than automatically criticising yourself for being indecisive, remember that doubt is a healthy process by which you can discover your true beliefs..."

"We should feel proud of the fact that we see and struggle with the contradictions of the world. That is a very noble situation to be in . The opposite is to be a fundamentalist - unwilling to engage with or appreciate any position but your own..."

"Doubt is the beginning, not the end of wisdom..." (George Iles).


An interesting thought might be that honest questioning doubt from a desire to believe, may have more to do with the deepening of our faith, than a unquestioning undynamic blind faith that refuses to move beyond anything more than the cosmetics of mere acceptance.

"Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)