Wednesday, December 29, 2010

England sprinkler celebs

Nice feeling after 24 years. The last time we had the ashes in Australia I had hair!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cinderella the full Picture...

Having experienced the restricted view of Cinderella it was great to see it without half the stage missing or behind a post! The problem then was distance from the stage. Bringing my binoculars may have stirred some family mirth, but it was amazing how difficult it was getting them back once the ballet started!

Here's Claire Calvert as the Winter Fairy supported if you look very carefully in the background by Eryn!

More images of Eryn's cast are here

Photos by John Ross - used with permission

The Independent -- The Year in Review: Austerity

I saw this article from The Independent and thought it might be of interest to you

The year 2010 began with David Cameron looking into a TV camera and pledging to the British people: "If any cabinet minister comes to me and says 'Here are my plans' and they involve frontline reductions, they'll be sent straight back to their department to go away and think again." The year ended with him pushing through the most severe cuts to frontline services in living memory.

© 2009 Independent News and Media

Sent from my iPod

Monday, December 20, 2010

Captain Heimlich ....

"You have seen many things, but have paid no attention; your ears are open, but you hear nothing." Isaiah 42:20 "
I'd forgotten this until looking through my ipod, but I doubt the person I performed the Heimlich manoeuvre on will. If WBC allows people who are 'without thinking theologically' to be commissioned 'without thinking theologically', TSA in the UK has more than a few problems. There are people who approach theological thinking in the same way that Kenny approached his baked potato. For some unfathomable reason people do God the discourtesy of forgetting to chew. Forgetting that they have been created with a brain to think, they swallow down whole chunks and then wonder why they start to choke on what Robert Jay Lifton calls thought terminating cliches.

What is amazing is that for some they'd rather continue going red in the face, blue even puce. Morisy quotes Gwend Griffith-Dickson as a possible reason.
High levels of emotion tend to knock out a persons, especially a young persons, critical faculties. With high levels of emotional arousal it becomes difficult for people to 'process', ie to hear without reacting, information that counters their perception.pp 47
For others they catch your eye and between gasps communicate they need help. A quick heave ho and it's time to revisit what should've been chewed on in the first place!!

The kingdom of God and its values is worthy of thinking rather than a thoughtless approach. The Bereans in Acts 17:11 are known for their thinking and openness.

"And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul's message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Introducing my place of random and incomplete thinking...

I have a place of random and incomplete thinking. Generally as thoughts occur I jot them down with the idea of revisiting them. They often represent those off piste moments when listening to the thoughts of others as they preach. Sometimes the result of a good conversation. Sometimes something seen on TV or on the radio or thoughts that are inspired by reading. They end up on the evidence of God that is in my pocket, better known as an iPod Touch!

Anyway 23 days ago I wrote this down. I suspect it was in what we call a 'spiritual day' at college when something was said that made a connection with the area of thinking on essence, function and  form.

Holy living is the essence (desire)
Spiritual formation is the function (intentionality)
Christlike action and thought is the form. (expression)

These thoughts feel incomplete for me, but the new label of random and incomplete thoughts will make a hospitable home for now.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

There's something to be said for a restricted view!

I'm not sure I'll get used to seeing Eryn on the stage of the royal opera house. Actually seeing her is probably an exaggeration. If you pay £10 to stand with a restricted view you pay £10 to stand with a restricted view!

I wait in expectation as the RoH fills, others come and stand beside me dressed for the ballet. A hopeful man thinking his tickets for the ballet were cheap doesn't impress. They move on leaving me hopeful of B6 as the slight degree improvement gives a slightly better restricted view than B5!

Act 1 she is totally out of sight as the winter fairy jumps and gyrates, skips and twists, or should I say chaînés, sautée with pirouette à la seconde, I know she is there holding on tightly to her mistletoe with the dry ice lapping at her feet. 2500 other people may not even notice her as Claire Calvert as the Winter Fairy captures their gaze. But I do even though I can't see her.

Does the restricted view matter? Does it rob me of the beauty of the music, the movement the experience? Not at all. This restricted view is different from the last restricted view there is something new. OK I still can only see Eryn through the crook of an elbow and a shade of a lamp and past the neck of another if they all line up, but does it matter?

Not at all, I know she is there and I can appreciate it all restricted view or not. At the interval B7 and B8 leaving gives hope of a new experience of a new restricted view.

Next week proper seats, full view - I can't wait!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hagberg on Faith Development 2/6

Summary of Stage 2 - The life of discipleship - grounds us

From awe and wonder the desire in faith becomes everything about absorption. Like a sponge the books, DVD's, CD's are soaked up in an insatiable desire to learn. A Christian Marketing dream! Faith at this stage is all about learning about God. Being part of a group is essential and meaning is taken from belonging and agreeing within what is seen as orthodox. The charismatic leader still wields immense influence as  answers are not individual or unique but found in a leader, cause, or belief system.This stage is characterised by the groups sense of rightness and security is in 'Our' faith. What holds people back at this stage is a rigidness in righteousness which is sustained by a 'we against them' attitude that is seen in a resistance to any thinking outside what is seen as correct. The tribe continues to hold and shape. Moving on begins to happen when people see themselves as contributors to others rather than recipients, the catalyst being the need to take risks and accept others.

Hagberg's key question for those at this stage:

When have you felt a part of a faith or spiritual community?

Hagberg, J. O. (2004). The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith, Second Edition (2nd ed.). Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company pp 67

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hagberg on Faith Development 1/6

Janet Hagberg's Hagberg, J. O. (2004). The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith, Second Edition (2nd ed.). Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company is an unknown classic. I came across it by accident but haven't seen her referenced too much, it might have something to do with the price of the book in comparison with other similar books. Her approach to faith development is refreshing and really insightful and one that I have found probably the most helpful, not least for the reason of perspective and warning she brings.
"In each of us a wide mixture of behaviour both wise and unwise, healthy and unhealthy, appears.... when that behaviour begins to dominate or when we become obsessed with how we need to behave or how others need to behave, then we have a clear sign that we are becoming caged. Another sign of stuckness is having to be right abd convincing others of our rightness.... rightness becomes more important than the journey." pp11
Summary of Stage 1 - The Recognition of God - humbles us

This first stage is all about faith as the discovery or recognition of God. Driven by a desire or an aching need for greater meaning in life it is characterised by a sense of awe and a sense of innocence. Hagberg speaks about people within this stage of faith being held back or 'caged' by feelings of worthlessness, spiritual bankruptcy, martyrdom, ignorance and to move on there is a need in discipleship to align with a strong group to find a charismatic leader to follow in order to discover the way. This is the beginning of forming within the tribe that becomes what Fowler calls significant others. Through this there is a move from isolation as self worth is accepted.

Hagberg's key questions at this stage  are:

How and when did you first recognise God in your life?
How do you experience God most, by awe, a sense of need, nature, or a search for greater meaning?
When have you recognised or felt God strongly in your life?

Hagberg, J. O. (2004). The Critical Journey, Stages in the Life of Faith, Second Edition (2nd ed.). Salem, WI: Sheffield Publishing Company pp 49

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Emotionally Healthy Church...

Some good resources and thoughts here. Looking at the inventory resource in particular.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Shouting Jesus...

Our Territorial Commander has a powerful resonating preaching voice. Anyone who has heard Commissioner John Matear preach would not have lost the irony of him saying "... and when you've finished doing good you don't need to shout Jesus at them!"

Recently I found myself listening to our Territorial Commander as he outlined TSA's essence and calling to punch holes in the dark; I was more than encouraged. In fact it was the most powerful declaration of mission in a sermon I have ever heard. I'm still trying to processing the impact it had on me and it will remain with me forever.

It was Leslie Newbigin who said something like words without action are dumb.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Independent -- Hitchens defeats Blair in Canadian religion debate

I saw this article from The Independent and thought it might be of interest to you

Tony Blair told an audience member at a debate yesterday that his religious beliefs did not play a role in his decision to support the US invasion of Iraq - but the votes went 2-1 the way of his opponent, Christopher Hitchens.

© 2009 Independent News and Media

Sent from my iPod

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Søren Kierkegaard and Faith Development 3/3

Continuing Hirsch and Frost's insight to faith development using Søren Kierkegaard they refer to a movement from a 'move from self-love, to love of others, to love of God' which then helps in our relearning to 'love self and others properly by loving God truly'.

This third stage is known as The Religious Stage:
"At this stage, the individual realizes that the eternal, ultimate good is not a static system of ethical rules, but a real, living being. One discovers that "there’s someone more to life". When an individual stands before God he no longer sees himself as self-sufficient. He recognizes his own inability to transform himself. The religious person strives to allow himself to be transformed by God. Thus one who lives in the religious stage lives in faith-upheld obedience to God. Since one’s commitment is to a living God, one must at times set aside social conventions (go against the flow), and even "suspend the ethical" for the sake of living in faith."
Faith Development's failure for me is in the description. H&F help us to understand the danger of perceiving these stages as a 'simple linear progression', the use of the word 'stage' does not help as the inference is one of progression. However, in the same way that there are implications in the way adults think as they mature, there are implications for our faith if our faith is to remain dynamic and we are to understand more of the depth, breadth and height of the God beyond our comforting notions. The transformation from inner selfishness to selflessness involves a rugged journey as we discover what it is to flourish and be human.
"... the real challenge of evolving into true humanity lies in the fact that the person must deliberately and courageously choose to engage the risks of life, negotiate personal crisis, bravely confronting even despair when necessary, in order to move from one stage to another."
I'm looking forward to being able to reference H&F properly when their  book is published.

Hirsch, A. and Frost, M. (2011) The Faith of Leap: A Theology of Adventure and Risk and the Implications for Discipleship, Mission, Leadership, and the Church.

Søren Kierkegaard and Faith Development 1/3
Søren Kierkegaard and Faith Development 2/3

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nice one george...!

"Ireland stands as a shining example of the art of the possible in long term economic policymaking, and that is why I am in Dublin to listen and to learn..." (George Osborne 2006)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010

5 Elements of Kingdom Ministry...

Bumped into these principles in Leadership Journal focussed on Justice and Evangelism.

1) Incarnation: We must not only have the same message as Jesus but the same method. You really reach people when you enter their world, their hurt and pain. If you’ve incarnated God’s love into the community of a homosexual, for instance, he’ll realize, Oh, this guy is willing to enter my life. He doesn’t just condemn me. The he’s more capable of hearing our message.

2) Proclamation: We’re told to proclaim the Good News, so this is clearly an essential. Proclaiming the truth in love, and in the context of incarnation, is not forcing it down people’s throats. Proclamation is also about formation, describing the kind of people God shapes us into.

3) Compassion: The Good News is authenticated by our caring (Luke 4). And when we are truly incarnate among the poor, these folks are more than just statistics. They’re your neighbors. They’re your friends. And if you meet a person with a need, compassion leads you to do what you can to meet that need.

4) Restoration/Development: When you live in a neighborhood where the same needs emerge over and over again, then you have to look at the larger picture and begin to fix what’s broken. In Baltimore, a little church took over a struggling public elementary school and revolutionized that neighborhood. They’re not just doing compassion, handing out backpacks to kids. Instead, they saw these kids getting a poor education and said, “We’ve got to be about restoration and development.”

5) Confrontation: The best way to do justice work is to be incarnate in a community. As you work to meet people’s needs through compassion and restoration, you eventually come up against systems and institutions that are keeping people in those conditions, beyond their own irresponsibility or sinfulness. This is when you must identify and confront injustice. We might discover this injustice in our government or schools or police forces or even churches – no institution is immune to injustice. 

Noel Castellanos’ “5 Elements of Kingdom Ministry”: Leadership Journal Summer 2010 pp 41

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Threadbare Language...

It has been sometime since I looked out another lost theme . The irony of reading this was not lost on me the day that we looked at lost themes in mission. Buechner seems to share a similar frustration. There is a danger in mishandling the words that hold the essence of faith.

"If the language that clothes Christianity is not dead, it is at least, for many dying ... Take any English word, even the most commonplace and try repeating it twenty times in a row - umbrella ... by the time we have finished, umbrella will not be a word any more. It will be a noise only, an absurdity, stripped of all meaning. And when we take even the greatest and most meaningful words that Christian faith has and repeat them over and over again for some two thousand years, much the same thing happens. There was a time when such words as faith, sin, redemption and atonement had great depth of meaning, great reality; but through centuries of handling and mishandling they have tended to become empty banalities that just the mention is apt to turn people's minds off like a switch."

Buechner, F (1966:110ff) The Magnificent Defeat.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Independent -- Johann Hari: Clegg – the man who betrayed us all

I saw this article from The Independent and thought it might be of interest to you

Two months before the general election, Nick Clegg warned there would be "riots" on the streets if the Conservatives introduced extreme cuts. Now they have begun – and Clegg himself is the chief cutter.

© 2009 Independent News and Media

Sent from my iPod

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Staney Hauerwas...

I really enjoyed listening to Stanley Hauerwas a few weeks ago introducing the concept behind his latest book 'Hannah's Child'. He describes it as a theological memoir where he hopes to write in such a way as to express the development of his theological thinking; integrating a theological reflection that avoids piousness or as he describes it the hateful language of interiority. I'm sure the swearing theologian has a head start on this and I couldn't help but buy the book. Here are some of the snippets and gems I got to write down.

"I'm not a natural Christian, God doesn't come easily to me ... But I've learned to stand in awe of people for whom God is just there. "

"The question is how can Christians be interesting enough that people want to talk to us?"

"the relationship between christology and ecclesiology is an important area of theological conversation"

"secular society is not interested in liberal theology it sees it as nihilism lite"

"we need to see greed for what it is for us, it is important as it dominates our lives. We are morally implicated to be greedy in order up make economies work. ... We need to diagnose the world in order to renegotiate the world. "

Thursday, November 04, 2010

The Poverty of Our Leaders...

It's a bit lazy just regurgitating email meditations but Nouwen's Daily has been something I wanted to remember again.

There is a tendency to think about poverty, suffering, and pain as realities that happen primarily or even exclusively at the bottom of our Church. We seldom think of our leaders as poor. Still, there is great poverty, deep loneliness, painful isolation, real depression, and much emotional suffering at the top of our Church.

We need the courage to acknowledge the suffering of the leaders of our Church - its ministers, priests, bishops, and popes - and include them in this fellowship of the weak. When we are not distracted by the power, wealth, and success of those who offer leadership, we will soon discover their powerlessness, poverty, and failures and feel free to reach out to them with the same compassion we want to give to those at the bottom. In God's eyes there is no distance between bottom and top. There shouldn't be in our eyes either.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Forgiving the Church...

This isn't particularly my story but it is a real issue for others. My daily dose of Nouwen was worth bookmarking here.

When we have been wounded by the Church, our temptation is to reject it. But when we reject the Church it becomes very hard for us to keep in touch with the living Christ. When we say, "I love Jesus, but I hate the Church," we end up losing not only the Church but Jesus too. The challenge is to forgive the Church. This challenge is especially great because the Church seldom asks us for forgiveness, at least not officially. But the Church as an often fallible human organization needs our forgiveness, while the Church as the living Christ among us continues to offer us forgiveness.

It is important to think about the Church not as "over there" but as a community of struggling, weak people of whom we are part and in whom we meet our Lord and Redeemer.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Nooma at Faith House....

I'm really missing FH at the moment, I haven't been able to go for a few weeks, namely with Kate being away in South Africa. Above all I am missing the impact of Rob Bell who makes an appearance each week at the end of the session courtesy of his Nooma series of video shorts.

A few weeks back we watch 003 Trees, I loved it, setting the whole concept of mission in its context of God's dream for his creation, a non platonic eschatology dominated by New Creation off set by Rob Bell planting two trees to signify the trees of life in Genesis and Revelation. As Rob Bell planted one tree followed by another cars drove past as he unpacked the two trees from the back of a pickup he unpacked for us and then planted strong themes of Life, Significance, Meaning, Eternity, Redemption.

The thing is there is nothing that would convince me that Rob as he planned, wrote and produced his video had the clientele in mind that make up FH. I would love to see him debriefing following the 10 minutes of thought provocation.

"So, how did you find that then...." Matt was facilitating discussion. The response was heated and not expected.

"I am so annoyed ... who does he think he is ... totally irresponsible" there was real heat in the room.

I sit up, all ears. Matt gently asks why.

"What kind of idiot would plant a tree like that .... no compost, no watering of the hole, no watering of tree afterwards, worst of all no stake to keep it upright .... terrible!"

Well he did have a point!!!

You should've been there for confusion, pandemonium that accompanied 005 Noise, you know the one that gets us to think 'Why is silence so hard to deal with?' by turning the TV off!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ninette de Valois

I saw a conference advertised at the Royal Ballet when picking up Eryn. The conference was about Ninette de Valois founder of the Royal Ballet and Royal Ballet school it was entitled 'Ninette de Valois -
Adventurous Traditionalist'. Adventurous Traditionalism is a concept I like the idea of!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Søren Kierkegaard and Faith Development 2/3

The next level for Kierkegaard is called Ethical Stage:

Here the individual begins to get some real direction in life, and becomes aware of and personally responsible for good and evil, and begins to form lasting commitment to oneself and others. The realization of enduring values – justice, freedom, peace, love, and respect for the moral law within, propel the ethical self forward into a life of responsibility, of caring beyond one’s own immediate interests. By breaking away from enslaving hedonism and conventionalism, life at this level develops a consistency and coherence that it lacked in the previous sphere of existence. Simply put, one discovers that "there’s something more to life than pleasure or being ridiculously good-looking. But there is a catch; there is more to life than ethics and moral duty, and to get stuck here means one risks becoming the judgemental moralist that we all despise. In other words, no one will want to go on vacation with you. In fact moralism is another form of despair…this is so because humans were made for something much more. We were made for life before God. This need for to find the real meaning behind all things drives the spiritual adventurer on to the next level.
There is some resonance here with the critical adolescent stage of Von Hugel or Hagberg's The Productive Life where faith is characterised in working for God. The working out of discipleship is seen through the up take of responsibility and enthused discipleship. This enthusiasm can easily become what Hirsch and Frost label as judgemental moralism. Moving on from this awareness can be painful, staying within this stage of thinking can be painful for others.

Søren Kierkegaard and Faith Development 1/3

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Independent -- Think slavery is a thing of the past? Think again

I saw this article from The Independent and thought it might be of interest to you

William Wilberforce said future generations of Britons would see slavery as "a disgrace and dishonour to this country", yet, more than 200 years since its abolition, the shaming trade and exploitation of human beings still thrives.

© 2009 Independent News and Media

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

out of the absence of God...

Frederick Buechner is an author that I am introducing myself to. You often see him quoted and I am beginning to understand why!

It is out of the whirlwind that Job first hears God say "who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?" job 42:3. It is out of the absence of God that God makes himself present,... God is not an answer that man can give.

Buechner, F. (1977:43). Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Father has got to be proud...#2!

I can't help but look forward to seeing Eryn as a Winter Page in Cinderella with The Royal Ballet Company at the Royal Opera house. It'll be a case of blink and you'll miss it but nevertheless well done Eryn!!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

CS Lewis on Salvation ...

I read this I think in the leadership journal a couple of months ago and it interested me.

"To be saved was more than just an external pardon by God or an intellectual consent to an idea. For CS Lewis, salvation was an inward process involving the transformation of the whole person by the Holy Spirit and leading to nothing less than mystical union with God. In other words Lewis embraced the ancient Christian doctrine of theosis."

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Søren Kierkegaard and Faith Development 1/3

Alan Hirsch facebooked some interesting information regarding Søren Kierkegaard and faith development from a forthcoming book authored by Hirsch and Frost tentatively called "The Faith of Leap: A Theology of Adventure and Risk and the Implications for Discipleship, Mission, Leadership, and the Church"

"One of the ways Søren Kierkegaard articulated how we move to true maturity is what is known as ‘the three stages’: the aesthetic, ethical, and the religious stage.

Firstly there is the Aesthetic Stage:

Here the individual lives in what Kierkegaard calls ‘immediacy.’ "At this level one lives within almost entirely devoted to the pursuit of pleasure (what he calls ‘the prisoner of the happy moment’). Life here is profoundly unreflective and lived in conformity with the expectations of the ‘crowd.’ For the person in this stage, the highest goal is self-satisfaction, even at the cost of living an authentic, consistent life. But the end result is that people made in the image of God cannot endure such shallowness and it leads to despair. What Kierkegaard calls ‘the staling of existence.’ Most people never make it beyond this stage and live lives of quiet desperation. We are the most over-entertained, most affluent, most indulged generation of all time, and yet we have the highest depression and suicide statistics among the young. This indicates something significant. Boredom is the end result of living on the surface of life…of failing to go deeper."

It is interesting to think of this self absorbed state of thinking in terms of pre-critical faith. A selfish approach to worship and mission that shows inhospitality to any opinion beyond self. Discipleship can be marked by great levels of pro activity but for who, whose needs are being met? Positions of theology shaped by the narrowness of tribal conformity mean any move towards a more critical appreciation of faith is difficult, the fear of the judgement of others makes any attempt to dig deeper probably more trouble than it is worth. To live with a suppressed desperation of faith where easy answers to big questions require placing ones mind into neutral for some becomes faith numbing, for others it spells an end to a faith journey as dogma rather than spirituality pushes them out of the door. However, as much as I find it difficult to understand and to equate it with the fullness of life that is our promise, there are those that find contentment here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Urban Forum: Dependence or Dignity?

Geoff Ryan is asking for the word to be put out! Here is the word, consider it out!

A reminder that the fourth Urban Forum is taking place this coming January. This time it will take place in downtown Toronto, Canada as a partnership project between The Salvation Army and Church Planting Canada (

The dates are January 26-29, 2011 and the theme is Dependence or Dignity? From Service Provision to Community Development.

The Forum website is updated with the schedule of events and information on speakers and presenters, registration form, payment and contact details and a downloadable PDF of the promotional poster.

Please pass the word along to people in your networks who would be interested and find the Forum helpful in their ministry. I'm hoping we see a sizeable, mutli-tribe turnout in January.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Flawed Sentiment...

You can tell that Jim is a big drinker, one thing you can't tell is how old he is. You can see a glint in his eye, while the street may be a rough place he enjoys life. He brought a book in tonight for a volunteer who he thought would benefit from reading it.

Shane Claibourne's 'The Irresistible Revolution', Matthew clearly touched flicked through the pages. With a sigh he turns to us and says "I can't have it ... he has stolen it from a library!"

After another closer examination .... "it's from a Quaker library, I'll have to return it!"

Trying to encourage him to read the book I hear myself say...

"...don't worry they wont say a word!!"

Clearly something flawed in the sentiment, but nevertheless compelling. There was something more compelling from Jim. He prayed for us tonight, the staff and volunteers, he sobbed his gratitude to God for somewhere to go.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chief Rabbi Sacks on Professor Stephen Hawking

Jonathan Sacks writing in the Times (3 sept 2010) draws attention to the brilliance of Hawkings and his mind, but points out that while he is an outstanding scientist he is a poor theologian.

Apparently, within Hawkings thinking there is a fallacy. Hawkings suggests 'that if we found science's holy grail, a theory of everything, we would know the mind of God and then why we and the universe exist', However Sacks argues should that happen we would know how rather than why.

"There is a difference between science and religion. Science is about explanation. Religion is about interpretation. Science takes things apart to see how they work. Religion puts things together to see what they mean. They are different intellectual enterprises. They even occupy different hemispheres of the brain. Science - linear, atomistic, analytical is typically left brain activity. Religion - integrative, holistic, relational is supremely a work of the right brain."

So Sacks makes the point that "there is more to wisdom than science. It can not tell us why we are here or how we should live. Science masquerading as religion is as unseemly as religion masquerading as science."

Sacks, J. (2010) 'Even great science tells us nothing about God' in The Times 3.9.2010 pp 27

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Knowing ... Doing ... Being

Looking through my notes I liked what Moltmann had to say about getting the balance right between:

Orthodoxy - right belief
Orthopraxy - right action
Orthopasy* - right emotion

* (sic) I may have heard the term wrong but the sentiment still fits

Two days with Rowan Williams, Jurgen Moltmann, David Ford, Miroslav Volf, Luke Bretherton, Dallas Willard and Saint Symeon The New Theologian!

My notebook has an amazing few pages. Illegible and hastily written scribbles bear testimony to an unbelievable week. Pages entitled Rowan Williams, Jurgen Moltmann, David Ford, Miroslav Volf, Luke Bretherton and Dallas Willard would be a lifetimes worthy listening but within a space of two days I struggled to get as much down on paper as I could.

It was Rowan Williams who talking on reclaiming hope, as a deep desire and yearning to be what God wants us to be, that tugged at something deep within me. Quoting Saint Symeon The New Theologian (949- 1022) he used Saint Symeon's prayer 'Come'

"Come, you who have become yourself desire in me,who have made me desire you, the absolutely inaccessible one."

RW's paraphrase was slightly different as he said "come you who have become desire in me, and want me to desire the unreachable you".

William's helped us to realise that with freedom and Christ shaped full humanity, there is an emptying of self, an aliveness through self giving and self forgetting. Making sense of this desire within us, we discover that letting go of our own agenda to take up God's is where God's own passion belongs.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

View of Sin ...#2

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalam 51:10ff

A pure heart emptied of self would seem to correlate to Christ being formed within you. Wilhoit is firm when he suggests that the only place such formation really takes place is in the honesty and hope of 'optimistic brokenness'

I have a theory growing that a process can be seen within Wilhoit's matrix, as an individual in faith matures, and discovers more of what it means to be selfless, the boxes reveal mile posts on what could be a significant journey.

Box 1 Sin Management.

  • Focus is on external sin and that yearnings are fully met.
  • People are characterised here through their expression of what they have done wrong, a strong emphasis being on sins of commission rather than omission.
  • There is a strong tendency to think that such sin can be overcome through trying harder. Marked by striving and denial.
  • Wilhoit points out that the Pharisees were 'adept sin managers'.

Box 2 Thoughtful self discipline.

  • The internal nature of sin acknowledged.
  • Sense of brokenness focuses on their sin and not as much on the yearnings from aches and disappointments in life.
  • Recognize need to change from inside.
  • Take their sin seriously and know they have a problem they can't fix on their own.

Box 3 Realistically trying.

  • External focus on sin.
  • The depth of sin has not yet hit them.
  • Marked by 'great disappointment' / 'dark night of the soul' / hitting of a metaphorical wall
  • 'discover that they are climbing a ladder leaning against the wrong wall'.
  • This experience can be either blessed brokenness in which we turn to God or become cynical and self-protective.
  • Cynicism here is common.

Box 4 Optimistic Brokenness.

  • There is a willingness to see sin as grievous problem that cannot be simply willed away.
  • With maturity there is a feeling of ill at ease with self discovery, alongside a deep optimism about the power of grace to set things right.
  • Optimistic brokenness is hope.
  • Psalm 51 offers what it is to recognise the brokenness within self combined with a rise of relief and optimism.
  • Pride and self-protection diminish.

Wilhoit, J.C (2008:60ff) Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Baker

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

View of Sin... #1

Wilhoit talks about true formation requiring a deep understanding that the 'sickness of the soul' or sin can not be cured through willpower alone. In other words he suggests that our view of sin has immense implications for our spiritual formation; these views exist at a variety levels. Using two continuum's he helps us to understand our approach to that which takes our sense of fullness.

View of Sin or the sin-sins continuum stretches between an emphasis on primarily observable sins i.e. lists of bad things you have done which he sees as external (sins), to a more internal orientation (sin), in other words, the actual awareness and self repulsion that you are the kind of person who would seek advantage by lying as you are by the actual lie.

View of Yearnings, Wilhoit asks:

"Do we as a people sense our longings as deep thirsts that only God can begin to
satisfy? Or do we think these desires for holiness should have disappeared for
the Christian, or that we can take care of them by our own efforts?"
How these questions are answered places us upon another continuum, ranging from an alignment with the idea that spiritual yearnings persist through to the concept that any inner thirsts are completely dealt with.

When the continuum's are laid over each other the resulting matrix helps in our understanding of how the view our sin and yearnings affects our approach to spiritual formation.
to be contd...

Thursday, September 02, 2010

The Netherlands 2010....

As expected with any Cotterill camping experience we attracted a fair bit of rain - can't complain though, only flooded out four times! The Duinrell campsite is amazing on many levels but not ground level where there is 0% drainage. The free theme park attractions and the amazing flume pool more than compensated though.

An art highlight was Mesdag's 14metre panorama here. I didn't really know what I was going to one rainy day in the Hague, but was bowled over by the eerie reality of this enormous picture painted in 1880 - a very strange feeling.

Thoroughly enjoyed catching up on the BBC 2 Rev series and also Sherlock and thought that the whimsical Lars and the Real Girl was a moving insight to how community could be (thanks Ian - great recommendation). Too difficult to describe the film, but I did find myself saying to Kate 'it's not sordid!' when I recommended it to Bethan!

Finished off
Needed a shower after 500 pages of Peter Mandleson, had a bit more of my mind opened with Horsley and Siberman and the dangers of approaching scripture in a vacuum that excludes history.

Loved the Park and Ride system around Amsterdam, found Anne Franks house still disturbing. The beach at Wassanar was great if it wasn't windy - all in all a good holiday!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Independent -- Story of Jesus to get the Bollywood treatment

I saw this article from The Independent and thought it might be of interest to you

Cecil B DeMille has been there before, of course. As have Pier Paolo Pasolini, Roberto Rossellini, Mel Gibson, Franco Zeffirelli and Martin Scorsese. So maybe it was only a matter of time before Bollywood not only succumbed to the temptation but went one better by making its version in the subject's native land. Yesterday, India's Aditya Productions unveiled plans for a $30m (null19.5m), two-hour-15-min biopic which will be shot in the Holy Land and which it said would be "the first ever – in 79 years – Bollywoodian film on the life of Jesus Christ".

© 2009 Independent News and Media

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

12 Baron Schipennick (sic) St...

Some places remain special, not so much because of where they are or what they look like, but because of those the place represents.

A trip to Holland needed a pilgrimage! Lots of happy memories.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Faith House Posse...

"...I looked up to the balcony. The Faith House Posse were there trying to catch my eye. Their waving and thumbs up clearly wouldn't be abated...

My commissioning highlight this year was a solemn moment at Commissioning this year. The cadets, now Lieutenants had received their appointments, the General had spoken and an invitation to respond was made. People from all over Westminster Hall were praying, people responded and came forward to pray.

One of my responsibilities is to help co-ordinate the response to those who come to kneel and pray, we try to do this discreetly. As the prayer meeting was coming to its natural conclusion I looked up to the balcony. The Faith House Posse were there trying to catch my eye. Their waving and thumbs up clearly wouldn't be abated by a discreet and polite acknowledgement, their frenzied 'look ... we are here' would ignore the pray meeting protocol until I waved back.

Then as Commissioner Matear prayed, the 6 foot banner was unfurled over the balcony to help me see that they were there - 'Faith House Posse'. Then for good measure it was waved with vigour to ensure my eye was caught.

Wasn't only my eye that was caught. Knowing the stories of these men - my heart was caught too. What better a place, what better a time to be reminded of what The Salvation Army is...?

That was what I call a prayer of benediction.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 6/6

The whole BP Gulf oil spill disaster caused me distress. With each attempt to solve the issue ranging from steel tanks, to golf balls and rubber, to secondary bore holes, I felt more anxious. I knew the secret, I knew what to do and I couldn't think why people had not thought about it before - 'No Nails'. One thing that I have learned is that if No Nails doesn't fix it, it is pretty much unfixable. A good squeeze and application of the magical paste, sit back and wait for it to dry seems to work on most things ... for a while.

The final myth that Wilhoit points out seems to have similar traits. Wilhoit identifies an over confidence of our ability to pinpoint areas where trust and faith are lacking. Seemingly, all that is needed is a handing over to God for him to work on it while-U-wait, for you then to move on. This model, usually facilitated through protracted worship, is given momentum through a simple pondering of where faith is lacked. In other words, what Wilhoit calls the faith model, is shaped by the axiom that all spiritual growth stems from surrender to God.

On the face of it there is not much to argue with here, surely all spiritual growth stems from surrender to God? But Wilhoit is quick to point out the danger. While "submission and growth in faith are important aspects of our ongoing relationship" the danger is that in isolation this submission is directed by feeling. A common phrase I hear is that "God seems so distant...", an observation generated by feeling. Willard is often quoted as saying "grace is opposed to earning not effort", there is little wonder that if we expect spiritual development given to us on a plate that we are quickly left dissatisfied and can not see the irony of an omnipresent God being distant!

The common criticism that is levelled at Spiritual Formation from this point of view is that the role of the Holy Spirit is diluted. Perhaps this says a lot more about a consumerist approach with the Holy Spirit reduced to the level of 'no nails'; people would rather 'sit back and wait', thinking growth is dependent simply on consuming the right thing. There seems to be a failure of recognising the role of the Holy Spirit where "through practicing a variety of spiritual disciplines, we often come to see areas where we need to surrender, issues we might never recognise if we simply focus exclusively on pondering areas where we lack faith". Wilhoit, J.C (2008:51ff)

Wilhoit, J.C (2008:51ff) Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Baker

Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 1/6
Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 2/6
Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 3/6
Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 4/6
Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 5/6

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


The two silhouettes in the door were a give away. I approached knowing on the other side would be two Jehovah Witnesses to talk with.

You kind of think that our road would have a big black cross through the JW map of district to cover. All but two houses in our street are Salvation Army owned and we are mostly officers at the William Booth College. No black cross and so with plenty of time I thought I would engage!

"We wondered whether you would like to have a conversation about the bible...?" the first lady said, she was lovey and I was already despising myself as I replied.

"That would be lovely, what bible should we use...."

Second lovely lady said "Ooo well... you could use mine...!"

I feel worse as I feign surprise "ah the NWT translation, I've not come across that one before, is it based on New Testament Greek?"

"oh yes..." comes the reply in unison.

So we go onto discuss the mistranslation of John and their refusal to accept Jesus and the Holy Spirit as God and it was really all lovely.

"So out of interest do you know Thomas..?"

"Oh Yes!"

"What did he say when he saw the resurrected Jesus?"

"My Lord...."



Then the smaller and sweeter of the two women look up, squared her shoulders and said

"....... well if you saw a resurrected person you'd say Oh My God too!!"

Monday, August 09, 2010

Gregory of Nyssa on Perfection...

Reading Michael Glerup's article in the Conversations Journal was interesting. Not least his insight to Gregory of Nyssa and what he called change for good. It is the kind of movement described in 2 Corinthians 3:18 as we are transformed 'from glory to glory'. Glerup points to the mistake of imagining perfection as a state of complete immobility in restored innocence. Gregory suggests:
"Perfection is progress itself: the perfect man is the one who is continually
making progress. This progress does not have a limit because the object of its
desire, the trinity, is limitless."

He continues:
"when we experience God in his infinity, we experience the paradox of the deep satisfaction of God's presence and yet at the same time we experience God's absence because he remains constantly beyond us... in the sphere of the spirit , the soul
can grow perpetually; filled to its capacity, it can always receive more".

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Monday, August 02, 2010

When Chaos and Order Dance Together...

Listening some time ago to a feature on recruitment for the British army, I found one recruiting officer's comment interesting. 'We're looking for those happy with chaos who can live with confusion but keep a clear head and make good decisions".

Then last night in the Leadership Journal I read:

"In the face of chaos, connective leaders participate in bringing order, and in the face of order, connective leaders participate in bringing chaos. When a faith community knows only order without chaos, they can drift into stasis. When a faith community knows chaos without order, they will struggle to trust their participation in God's narrative. But when chaos and order dance together, dynamic faith rooted in God's story finds hope in the midst of a changing context"

Friesen, D. (2009). Thy Kingdom Connected: What the Church Can Learn from, the Internet, and Other Networks Emergent Village resources for communities of faith). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Best Christian Blog...

Somewhere there is an oxymoron kicking off in my head. For the last few years around about this time I get a random message asking me to enter for a Christian Blog Award. Comparative URBANarmy stats in themselves would suggest that this in itself is an oxymoron!

However, out of interest and of course only in the spirit of curiosity I looked at the entry form. Seems to me slightly out of kilter to self submit yourself for the Best Christian Blog award. So Christian blog awards, even if these reflections were even worthy, it kind of doesn't make sense to me ...

... £1000 prize money ... well on the other hand!

Actually no .... thanks .... but no!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tolkien's idea of church?

I like emails from out of the blue from strangers with who you suspect there is a kindred spirit. Even better when they out of the blue introduce you unsuspectingly to a quote that makes you think. Better still when they are from Austraila involved in mission and ministry that you wished were down the road! Anyway....

I wonder if Tolkien's quote is his idea of church?
His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking, best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.

Tolkien The Hobbit

Seems to me that Tolkien pretty much sums up Faith House and everything I love about the place!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paraphrasing the Lord's Prayer...

It was good to have some time to try and paraphrase the Lord's Prayer at a recent retreat day we put together for the cadets. Quite an interesting exercise that helps keep a wonderful curriculum for life from become perfunctory and a bland memory exercise.

You who is beyond my dimension, existing in a time and space not my own, may I know what it is to revere your name.

Your way of living and being come, your design for life be completed here with us as you intend.

Give to us all that we need to live and help us to dismiss from our minds the hurts inflicted upon us in the way you dismiss from your mind our brokenness.

Help us not to substitute you as God with ourselves and prevent us from desiring to dominate others with our own will and desires.

For your way to live is supreme and the source of life everlasting, the fullness of life.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lost Lyrics - In the Secret of Thy Presence

The staff sang this for the cadets on Covenant Day. I hope that they will remember the last sentence long after they forget that I sing loud. Seems to me that Albert Orsborn knew something about writting from the heart but also something about Faith Development 'First to know thee, then to serve thee, Then to see thee as thou art.'

In the secret of thy presence,
Where the pure in heart may dwell,
Are the springs of sacred service
And a power that none can tell.
There my love must bring its offering,
There my heart must yield its praise,
And the Lord will come, revealing
All the secrets of his ways.

More than all my lips may utter,
More than all I do or bring,
Is the depth of my devotion
To my Saviour, Lord and King.
Nothing less will keep me tender;
Nothing less will keep me true;
Nothing less will keep the fragrance
And the bloom on all I do!

Blessed Lord, to see thee truly,
Then to tell as I have seen,
This shall rule my life supremely,
This shall be the sacred gleam.
Sealed again is all the sealing,
Pledged again my willing heart,
First to know thee, then to serve thee,
Then to see thee as thou art.

Albert Orsborn (1886-1967)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Yesterday and Tomorrow...

Sat in my office I look at the thumbnail shots of people that have been part of my life. I first met them nearly two years ago. All different, unlike each other, dissimilar, variegated but with one purpose, to serve God through being Officers of The Salvation Army. From different parts of the UK and the Netherlands these individuals were convinced of one thing, God's directing hand calling them to complete service as spiritual leaders. Yesterday (as I wrote this), these cadets together but as individuals signed the Officers Covenant:

"Called by God to proclaim the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as an officer of The Salvation Army I bind myself to him in this solemn covenant:
to love and serve him supremely all my days, to live to win souls and make their salvation the first purpose of my life,
to care for the poor, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the unlovable, and befriend those who have no friends,
to maintain the doctrines and principles of The Salvation Army, and, by God’s grace,
to prove myself a worthy officer.’"

Catherine Booth is often quoted as talking about the need for heart, head and hands in our officers; the signing of the covenant makes little sense where a framework for ministry doesn't encompass this integration of 'being', 'knowing' and 'doing'. Signing a card should be easy! Trying to live the officers covenant outside this framework makes what is taken into the world in mission woeful.

Tomorrow (as I finish this), 29 members of the Prayer Warriors session add a full stop to this part of their training. Tomorrow these people, all different, unlike each other, dissimilar, variegated will be commissioned publicly they will be sent out with one purpose, to serve God as the latest covenanted Officers of The Salvation Army. Frederich Buechner talks about the place God calls you being 'the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet'. They start a new sentence with a new capital letter, a new page as they continue to make sense of God's direction for them in the place where ministry is defined by their personal passion only making sense in an understanding of the compelling need around them. They go commissioned to model what it is to live out the Officers Covenant as they go may they inspire and lead!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

World Cup 2010

Every team I have decided to support in this world cup have lost - sorry Holland as our nearest neighbours it is now your turn!

This poster made me smile.


Friday, July 02, 2010

Thoughts on Prayer ....1

What's prayer? It's shooting shafts into the dark. What mark they strike, if any, who's to say? It's reaching for a hand you cannot touch. The silence is so fathomless that prayers like plummets vanish in the sea. You beg. You whimper. You load god down with empty praise. You tell him sins that he already knows full well. You seek to change his changeless will. Yet Godric prays the way he breathes, for else his heart would wither in his breast. Prayer is the wind that fills his sail. Else waves would dash him on the rocks, or he would drift with witless tides. And sometimes, by God's grace, a prayer is heard.

Buechner, F. (1983:142). Godric: A Novel. New York: Harperone.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Two questions...

John Ortberg in an article on Spiritual Formation in Leadership Journal (Winter 2010), gives a great summary of how we create space for spiritual formation. How you are doing spiritually was often a question to answer with measurable actions usually involving a description of the health of a 'Quiet Time'.

I was struck by an answer Dallas Willard gave Ortberg when he asked how Willard monitored the condition of his soul. Apparently he asks himself 2 questions.
  • Am I growing more or less easily irritated these days?
  • Am I growing more or less discouraged these days?
Seems a good indicator of our well being. I'm not sure I'm doing too well these days - grrrr!

A Father has got to be proud...!

Well done Eryn for passing the Royal Ballet Junior Associates audition...!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Goodbye Powerpoint...?

I can't help but think Prezi looks pretty cool. I'm looking forward to having a play around with it at some point in the future.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Independent -- Osborne's first Budget? It's wrong, wrong, wrong!

I saw this article from The Independent and thought it might be of interest to you

George Osborne will probably not be very bothered that there is a man who thinks he got last week's emergency Budget almost entirely wrong. But he should be. Because that man is a former chief economist at the World Bank who won the Nobel Prize for Economics for his work on why markets do not produce the outcomes which, in theory, they ought to.

© 2009 Independent News and Media

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sharing the Gospel of Salvation...

Following a debate in February 2009, the General Synod asked the House of Bishops to produce a report on “their understanding of the uniqueness of Christ in Britain’s multi-faith society [and to include] examples and commendations of good practice in sharing the gospel of salvation through Christ alone with people of other faiths and of none”. A small group led by the Bishop of Willesden, the Rt Revd Pete Broadbent; the Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler; and the Bishop of Birmingham’s Adviser on Inter Faith Relations, the Revd Dr Toby Howarth, drafted the document, which was subsequently commended by the House of Bishops at its recent meeting. (more here)

Sharing the Gospel of Salvation... report here

Here's a taster...

"Christ’s saving work is not a commodity to be sold but a gift to be shared. If we keep always in mind the central insight that it is not we who bring others to Christ but God working in them, we can avoid colluding with the marketing mindset which would paint every evangelist as a huckster and portray God’s children as ‘targets’ for conversion. When our encounters with our neighbours, of other faiths and none, are distinguished from exercises in salesmanship, we can be confident that we are sharing God’s love rather than marketing another lifestyle choice. "

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Independent -- Don't be shy of evangelising, archbishops tell Anglicans

I saw this article from The Independent 

The Church of England's two most senior bishops have called on fellow Anglicans to embrace the Christian mission and not "fight shy" of converting people from other faiths. In an uncharacteristically evangelical statement from a church that has tended to avoid overt proselytising in recent decades, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu said Christians should not feel "embarrassed or awkward" about bringing others towards Christianity.

© 2009 Independent News and Media

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Being content with less than total satisfaction...

I thought of Mrs Ellis when I heard this quote this week

A truly diverse congregation where anybody enjoys more than 75% of what's going on is not thoroughly integrated... So an integrating church is characterised by the need to be content with less than total satisfaction of anything. You have to factor in a willingness to absorb some things that are not dear to you but may be precious to some of those coming in. (Rev James A. Forbes)

I remember asking Mrs Ellis if she was enjoying a International night of worship when we were at Poplar. Above the drumming and distinctive African guitar she shouted, "not really, it isn't my cup of tea but it is important that I come this is my church...!"

There is something very selfless about that kind of approach to church, something very giving, kingdom orientated even sacramental. As an alternative to a consumer mindset to worship, the attraction of integration motivated by 'for you' is compelling.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

God On My Mind...

I've just discovered BBC's God On My Mind on YouTube. I missed the two programmes when they were on radio 4 but pleased to see that someone had the foresight to host them on YouTube.

Matthew Taylor discovers what the latest scientific research can tell us about the human need for religion the first programmes asks whether a belief in supernatural powers gave our ancestors an evolutionary advantage? (here).

The second explores what happens in the brain during religious experiences? If magnetism can produce visions, then what price mysticism and meditation? What's the difference between sainthood and schizophrenia? And why are many believers convinced that God speaks to them in their dreams? (here).

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 5/6

"Rather than experiencing the joy of release that is the recognition and the journey from self, there's a joyless acknowledgement of never measuring up to self set high ideals."

Insight model.

"I am totally reflected out.." is something I hear quite often from people that have moved on from college. "We knew the kind of things to write and never gave anything away..." was another interesting comment. "I completely miss the opportunity to reflect in the same way as I used to in college.." another perception. People's reaction and engagement to and with reflection in their spiritual development fascinates me.

For some the whole process is too invasive, for others seemingly totally unnecessary; some engage wholeheartedly with a joy that comes from deep within as the benefit of the process is healthily embraced, others engage wholeheartedly with the joy absent as they seemingly fail to see the significance of the promise of the fullness of life that Christ modelled and offered.

While self reflection and inner analysis is essential in the identification of an inward chaos of self driven agendas, Wilhoit is keen to point out that too much prominence often leads to supporting a diseased introspection. Spiritual formation rather than contributing to our spiritual life through grace becomes burdensome through the weight of allowing our spiritual development to become a means of sin management.

Some classic voices of Spiritual Formation while rich in insight and undeniably helpful in understanding of the spiritual life seem to me sad and heavy. There is always context to be lost in the reading, but a good reading of Julian of Norwich, Thomas a Kempis tends to leave you all the richer but at the same time all the sadder! What is sadder is that you can see and feel the weight of sadness with people's spiritual formation today. Rather than experiencing the joy of release that is the recognition and the journey from self, there's a joyless acknowledgement of never measuring up to self set high ideals.

In the same way that people misread the classic voices without the all important context of the day, people seem to do the same within their reading of holiness. With an over preoccupation of choices and their consequences holiness and its outworking through spiritual formation is shaped by law rather than grace and becomes laced with a deep inner sadness.

When we allow insight and introspection to be reduced to the essence of spiritual life rather than merely a helpful aspect of our formation we entertain a false model of spiritual formation. "I came that you may have life..." should always be the starting point.

Wilhoit, J.C (2008:51ff) Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered. Baker

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Helps to Holiness, Coffee and Jeff...!

I stood in the queue with Jeff, minutes before he'd startled two girls sat opposite me in Nero's by asking them for change. Panicked they apologised and with inevitability said no. He turns in hope to me. Rain soaked with a shiver and a 'please guv' look on his face he said "I'm only after a bit of change.." I stop reading about perfect love and put my book down. Deciding to buy him a drink we queue together.

Jeff still dripping from a downpour outside tells me his story of wrong decisions which saw him addicted to crack. Showing me his arms he told me with pride "I'm clean now". I invited him to Faith House, said our goodbyes and I went back to where I was sat.

I thanked the two girls for looking after my ruck sack, "we should've helped ... we feel awful". I try not to smile inwardly as I think about past debates about demonstrating the kingdom.

"You must be really trying to be holy..." I'm taken back, wow this holiness thing is powerful! I think of past posts and comments, 'see I told you ... holiness only makes sense as an outward social expression...see' I'm writing the blog in my head.

"...maybe we should read the book you're reading". They point to the book - Helps to Holiness - I left on the table, Next thing we're talking about Brengle and what it is to love!!! Maybe I'd had too much caffeine but as they said goodbye, I thought I saw Brengle wink!!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lost Voices of Mission ... Ignatius

"OK, I will not go as far as lighting a candle for him, but I wonder if Ignatius' voice in mission has been lost and the principles laid out for mission overlooked by us still protesting! "

Oddly, I'd not really considered Ignatius in terms of mission, Spiritual Formation yes, probably even frequently, but not in terms of mission. That was until reading Mooney's paper on 'Ignatian Spirituality, A Spirituality for Mission'. She makes her point well by pointing to a triad of features of mission that show how strongly orientated mission was to being, spiritually rooted in and fed by God, that it was personally motivated by love of God and all creation, and finally mission inspired by Ignatius was strategically-orientated toward pastoral action.

'In the spirit, from the heart, practically...' underpinned a desire to help others to know God's love and to draw people into the self same mission of sending love. Within this framework Mooney argues that the principles of Igantius are still very much identifiable in contemporary mission.
  • Grace and prayer are prior to all mission
  • The mysterious and large God is also, paradoxically, intimately close, a God who bursts forth in creation, enters into it through the incarnation, and continues the missio dei by acting through the lives of Christians.
  • Ignatian Spirituality is positively world affirming rather than world denying. Mission embraced secular culture as both a manifestation of and vehicle for God's grace.
  • An emblematic feature of Ignatian Spirituality that spilled into mission is that of 'finding God in all things'.
  • Simple but challenging for an excessively kudos driven approach to mission, is that of going where we are needed rather than places we want to need us.
  • People were made agents of their own growth, rather than a patronising project mentality.
  • The more universal the good is, the more is it divine - "Why do we want to love the poor, to help the lonely, to console the sad, to heal the sick and to bring freedom to the oppressed? Simply because this is what God does. Nothing else" (Society of Jesus, the decrees of the general congregation 2008)
As a Northern European not exposed to the rigours of the Counter Reformation, I guess I can look at these principles a little more dispassionately, than those whose heritage has been bruised and broken by the Jesuits chequered history and otherwise questionable techniques of mission. OK, I will not go as far as lighting a candle for him, but I wonder if Ignatius' voice in mission has been lost and the principles laid out for mission overlooked by us still protesting!

Mooney, C. M. (2009). Ignatian Spirituality, A Spirituality for Mission. Mission Studies, 26, 192 - 213.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Dissatisfaction of Faith...

To many, any idea that there may ever be a time of dissatisfaction in faith would be to warrant an anathema. To others there is a reality that in the development or maturing of their faith an individual may have a sense of dissatisfaction that left unacknowledged can be disturbing and ultimately debilitating.

Alan Jamieson looks at this dissatisfaction and suggests that it can include a very strong sense of two or more of the following.
  • Disenchantment: this is the sense of not enjoying activities of faith that have previously been very personally rewarding.
  • Disillusionment: this is the sense that for different reasons they feel let down , sad, perhaps cynical, and often quite destructive in their view of their faith, the faith of others and, maybe, church.
  • Disengagement: this is the sense that they feel they are no longer connected, interested or involved in what is going on in the church, its structures and its direction, or within the church community.
  • Disidentification: this is the sense that they no longer identify with the church, the activities, the worship and the people there and begin to observe as an outsider would.
  • Disorientation: this is the sense that they don’t know where they belong any more. This is often coupled with a sense of having lost their bearings, their anchor, and, perhaps, even their identity.

Jamieson, A. (2008:22). Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Carlisle: Paternoster.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

A Day With Willard....

Sat in a side room before the conference was about to start someone asked me "Are you nervous about today...?"

"Not really, what's the worst thing that could happen? Apart from calling Dallas, Wallas Dillard!"

A softly spoken voice from the corner joins in "I've been called worse...!"

Willard unpacked his material on knowledge and his disappointment that despite a biblical mandate to know, the church has allowed the world to wrestle knowledge away from the church leaving only faith - a unmitigated disaster.

The bible is a book of knowledge that gives knowledge and offers the best analysis for living. The problem is that people try to deal with human life on a non spiritual basis, with knowledge taken from the church, all that can be offered is a 'leap of faith'. Full knowledge comes from a place of completeness, the antithesis of the brokenness generated from excessive desires that will ruin you (2 Peter 1:2). Willard argued that we live by faith based on knowledge of God, not ignorance, it is this knowledge that represents the answer to living.

"What about Gnosticism?" I asked him over lunch. Of course gnosticism and its duality was all about a secret knowledge to be kept to oneself, biblical knowledge of living is out there in the public square for all, wrapped up in the message of fullness that Christ himself brought.

Certainly plenty to think about, certainly challenged about wanting to offer more than blind faith. Intrigued with the link between eternal life as knowledge within the context of fullness. Disturbed with what he describes as a trivialisation of faith, where faith in Jesus Christ, and of life as his students is repositioned outside the category of knowledge. Liked the idea that we understand ourselves as an outpost of the Kingdom of God.

For a moment it was just me with him as he carefully ate his crisps. I expressed a frustration, "Sometimes this all makes sense then as soon as it does and I try to articulate it, it's gone"

"Well Gordon, get used to it, it still happens like that for me, I've just learned to enjoy looking for for next piece of the puzzle..!"

Friday, May 21, 2010

What a couple of days...

So yesterday it was sitting listening to the brilliance of Jürgen Moltmann, Miroslav Volf, David Ford, Luke Bretherton and Rowan Williams, tomorrow we have a day with Dallas Willard. Weeks like this don't come along very often.

I think I need a bit of a challenge from Dallas tomorrow spiritual formation wise, I need help to recover from the squeaky upperclassness of HTB and the rediscovery of a chip on my shoulder.

There are not many churches in the world where in the same day you hear the word 'discombobulated' and an opening gambit where one speaker at HTB asked for a show of hands up if you were educated at Cambridge!!! On top of that it was interesting queuing for the toilet when the women walked past us with a smirk.

Friday, May 14, 2010

journey through darkness... 2/2

Here is the continuation of Jamieson's list of chaarcteristics of what he calls the journey through darkness.

• It is a journey from trusting in, and being strengthened by, external authorities (e.g. church leaders, the Bible, etc.) into an internally based authority that is willing to be responsible for one's own faith, beliefs and life decisions and on to a growing acceptance and integration of both internal and external voices.

• It is a journey from an effortful faith to a doubtful faith and on to a restful and thoughtful faith.

• It is the journey from a faith like Martha's, which is troubled by many things and worried about all that has to be done, into a faith like Mary's, which is able to choose the one thing that is necessary, and on still further into a faith that expresses both Mary's heart and Martha's hands.

• It is a journey from a faith that needs mentors, leaders and disciplers to lean on, into a faith that is encouraged by those who sponsor and support the individual's own exploration and on into a faith that draws on others as co-discerners in the will and leading of God.

• It is a journey of faith from external truth, towards a growing trust in self-truth and on to an embracing of communal truth, symbolic truth and paradoxical truth. 96-97

Jamieson, A. (2008:96 ff). Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Carlisle: Paternoster.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

journey through darkness... 1/2

It was good to have Andrew Grinnell to guide us through Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross this morning. Interesting to get a sense of the groups intreprtation of the dark night of the soul and it's application. I found myself revisiting Jamieson's Chrysalis and found what he acknowleges as an oversimplification in his description of what he calls a journey through darkness. He describes ten characteristics of the journey.

Here are the first five...

• It is the journey from faith understood in black and white, right and wrong, true and false dichotomies into the hyper-critical focus on the greys of life and faith. In this hyper-critical phase the black and whites are rejected in favour of a celebration of the greys of theology, morality and ethics. The move beyond hyper-critical faith to a post-critical faith involves the embracing of the black and whites and the greys with equal respect.

• It is a journey from dependence into a hyper-independence that shuns the influence of others, towards a growing interdependence that can be characterized by humility, vulnerability and deep connection.

• It is a journey from uncritical and tacit acceptance of answers into a mindset full of doubt, questions and critiques and on to an embracing of mystery, of paradox and a childlike delight and wonder.

• It is a journey from doing (being God's servant), into personal failure and acceptance of incapacity and on to a deep sense of God's delight and acceptance of who we are as God's friends. We are people who can simply be.

• It is a journey from living a role or roles into a period of self-identity formation and on to a new giving of self for others.

Jamieson, A. (2008: 96ff). Chrysalis: The Hidden Transformation in the Journey of Faith. Carlisle: Paternoster.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Hung Parliament Drama...

Here's what I don't understand.

Three parties put together well thought through policies on which they hope to build their government. Insufficient seats for a majority leads to two of those parties to negotiate what they once felt were non-negotiable, now together they look for areas of compromise for the national interest.

I am trying to get my head around what this says about what was expressed in their manifestos in the first place, which were surely written in the national interest - weren't they? Perhaps compromise is compromise is compromise. Perhaps national interest is a convenient deconstructable concept. Much can be learned from Jeremy Thorpe and his refusal to sell out - time will tell!

Season 2010....

A double over Manchester Utd, Arsenal and Liverpool, record 103 goals in a season; Drogba hatrick; Drogba Golden Boot; record league result (8-0).

A long drive back from South Wales was made all the better for Chelsea winning the premiership.

Thanks has to go to Alan Hansen for saying Chelsea lacked desire!