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
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.

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

I never knew...!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lost Lyrics - Faith for Greater Things...


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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