Tuesday, March 30, 2010

something in a human face...

Frederick Buechner says "When you find something in a human face that calls out to you, not just for help but in some sense for yourself, how far do you go in answering that call...?" There was something in Bob's face last night at Faith House that called out to me. The Quality Street was being handed around and someone decided to take the lion's share to Bob this was simply unjust. Bob took action rescued the sweets and brought them to the safety of the kitchen and explained the injustice.

"Bob I've just seen the face of Jesus in you...!"

I wasn't too sure about how he took this as he walked of with a 'whatever' kind of shrug! But something in his face called out to me.

Paul Tillich apparently is quoted as saying "Here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves, is a New Creation". That deep desire for righteousness was to be found in Bob, I was left thinking how much a better place the world be for more of that!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 3/6

However, there is something to be said for casting a critical eye across a mode of spiritual formation that centres upon looking for change only within deeply stirred emotions.

Wilhoit suggests that The Emotional model says we are changed most when our spiritual experiences are shaped by that of what is assumed to be deeply emotional.

My generation of Salvationist will remember music or youth camps where we geared ourselves for the Thursday emotional devotional, where as young teenagers, confronted with all that was wrong in our lives, we got caught up in, what I am sure Richard Dawkins would call, induced mass hysteria! I actually look back at those experiences and can not dismiss them, for their significance remain with me even today in my faith journey. However, there is something to be said for casting a critical eye across a mode of spiritual formation that centres upon looking for change, only within deeply stirred emotions.

A model of spiritual formation that depends on feel good emotions, where growth is measured by an emotional state that is always positive, is paper thin when it comes to supporting people through dark nights, desert experiences or hitting the wall in the maturing our faith. The emotional model of spiritual formation that is exposed by descriptions of worship that centre on personal preference, rather than alignment with God's way, is often reduced to being measured by the strange concept of 'God turning or not turning up!' Being blessed, usually equating with I have got my own way!!!

I don't think that Thomas Merton got to the place of understanding where he realised that 'the desert is ... the logical dwelling place for the man who seeks to be ... dependent upon no one but God', through a series of 'real' worship emotional highs ... I could be wrong!

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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

'I'm alright Jack' Spirituality...!

Watching the selfishness of children fascinates me. The naivety of their living exposed when it means to give something up. It's easy to be generous with a leaf picked up in the park, but to offer up a chocolate biscuit? To not offer a sweet with anything but a begrudging spirit underlies a self protective way to life that when fully matured manifests itself in a explicit or implicit 'life rage' approach to life, that in everything is a disconnect to the fullness of life that Jesus modelled in kingdom living. Right relationships, or shalom a sham at best, in tatters and war at worst.

Looking at this selfishness in what we believe shocks me further. What if our motives for Christian living are suspect, our love for God questionable because of ingrained selfishness and self focus? It's always the way, you struggle, wrestle and wait and then three quotes come all together!

"Our sorrow and grief for sin, must not spring merely from a fear of wrath; for if we have no other ground but that, it proceeds from self-love, and not from any love to God; and if love to God is not the chief motive of your repentance, your repentance is in vain, and not to be esteemed true." (George Whitefield)

To be afraid of hell or purgatory and desirous of life without pain or trouble in heaven is not in itself Christian. It is self-interest on a higher level... (Walter Rauschenbusch) quoted in Scorgie, G. G. (2007:61). A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality: Three Dimensions of Life With God. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

If I adore You out of fear of Hell,
Burn me in Hell!
If I adore you out of desire for Paradise,
Lock me out of Paradise.
But if I adore you for Yourself alone,
Do not deny to me Your eternal beauty. (Rabia al-Adawiyya) Quoted in Rohr, R. (2001:19). The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective. New York: Crossroad General Interest

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Disentangling the Web: A Guide to Online Resources for Theology

One of the benefits of being at William Booth College is that we have the best resource in our Librarian - she is great! She has the knack of finding and suggesting the right article and book at the right time.

Here's the abstract of a recent suggested paper from the Expository Times.

The Internet offers a vast wealth of academic material, but the sheer quantity of information available can mean that locating relevant, high-quality resources is a formidable task. This article provides an overview of some key websites for theologians,including academic gateways (which offer hand-picked lists of sites for a particular field), library catalogues, and bibliographic databases. Details are also given of some of the growing number of full-text resources that are appearing on the Web (both those available to members of subscribing institutions and those which are freely available to all): collections of classic works,online critical editions, electronic journals, eprint repositories,plus contemporary scholarship and reference works offered by commercial publishers. The article concludes with a brief look at manuscript digitisation projects, interactive sites, the possibilities for communicating with other scholars via discussion lists and blogs, and resources for those involved in teaching.

It is online here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Focused Intentionality of Prayer...

Urban Holmes draws attention to the nature of prayer and aligns it to what he calls focused intentionality. He suggests that prayer tends to take the form either of an emptying of images or of the quest for vivid images in prayer and worship. Coupling this with questions of faith development is interesting as he intimates a gradual slide towards a more contemplative approach to prayer with time.

"Different kinds of prayer fall along a continuum of focused intentionality on the part of the person who prays. At one end of this continuum is prayer that intends to intend nothing at all; at the other end of the continuum there is prayer that intends a specific answer from God."
To intend nothing at all in prayer brings me to an inner paradox as it seems a little disconcerting yet comforting at the same time!

Holmes, U. T. (2002:14) Spirituality for Ministry. Moorhouse

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Six myths or false models of spiritual formation 2/6

The Facts Only Model.

However noble it is to take an intentional and serious approach to study; where growth is determined by an individuals intake of spiritual truth in isolation, compartmentalisation is a real danger. The establishment of knowledge rather than leading to insight through application and assimilation in community, becomes a self protective measure. Puffed up arrogance looks a bit deflated in the light of the many 'one another' texts that can be found in scripture. But this myth exists only through being able to overlook what is an explicit 'corporate call to Spiritual Formation' in scripture, and as such for Wilhoit is a false model of Spiritual Formation.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (1 Thess 5:11)

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

Friday, March 05, 2010

Frank Skinner contextualising Church...

Thanks Simon for putting me on to this.
To many British people, Christianity seems like a weird but unexciting theme park. Personally, I like our ever-dwindling status. I even like our ever-dwindling numbers. There was a time when social pressure made people go to church. If anything the reverse is now true. Most adults you see in church nowadays are there because they want to be there. That’s not decline, it’s progress. The wheat has been separated from the chaff. We get quality, not quantity, in the churches and the chaff can enjoy a nice lie-in.
More here.

Great I don't need to feel guilty about laughing at him now!!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Nouwen on Writing #2

Writing, Opening a Deep Well.....

Writing is not just jotting down ideas. Often we say: "I don't know what to write. I have no thoughts worth writing down." But much good writing emerges from the process of writing itself. As we simply sit down in front of a sheet of paper and start to express in words what is on our minds or in our hearts, new ideas emerge, ideas that can surprise us and lead us to inner places we hardly knew were there.

One of the most satisfying aspects of writing is that it can open in us deep wells of hidden treasures that are beautiful for us as well as for others to see.