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]