A Naked Day:1

I picked this up from the great ‘Naked Pastor’ http://www.nakedpastor.com/ (see Oct 18- the picture is from his site- he designed that t-shirt-if in the USA, you can buy it).

Something from Karl Barth to remind me of what is important in how I act and am today. Life is to short to act in the pulpit or conform to someone else’s role.:-

‘It is as the persons they are that preachers are called to this task, as these specific people with their own characteristics and histories. It is as the persons they are that they have been selected and called. This is what is meant by originality. Pastors are not to adopt a role. They are not to slip into the clothing of biblical characters. That would be the worst kind of comedy.

They are not to be Luthers, churchmen, prophets, visionaries, or the like. They are simply to be themselves, and to expound the text as such. Preaching is the responsible word of a person of our own time. Having heard myself, I am called upon to pass on what I have heard. Even as ministers, it matters that these persons be what they are. They must not put on a character or a robe. They do not have to play a role. It is you who have been commissioned, you, just as you are, not as minister, as pastor or theologian, not under any concealment or cover, but you yourself have simply to discharge this commission’.

What I love about October half term:6

Last day.

Work begins tomorrow. Last day of not setting an alarm clock and having to get out of bed for something. Last day of wondering around unwashed and undressed after 9am.

There is something uniquely lovely of not having to get up and do something. Watching minutes drift by unproductively. Fresh croissants filled with Nutella. Fresh ground coffee. Saying ‘What will we do today’. Watching a day unfold, unplanned. Wonderful….

What I love about October half term:5

New places.

Well going away. Each October half term we try to go away for a few days, usually seeing what offers we get. Last year we freeloaded at a friend’s house. This year we had 3 nights at a 4 star hotel in the Cheshire countryside which cost sixty of your English pounds (and a stack of tokens from the evil Tesco).

Total, total bliss and opulence…catching up with friends, walking, seeing Chester, visiting Liverpool (and overcoming my aversion to going to anything with ‘experience’ in the title to see the ‘ Dewa Roman experience’ in Chester) and lots more.

All set in the fading of October/November light with cold, bleak winter coming closer.

Thank you.

My longest post ever: a story

I lifted this story from a Bible study that I got from the Methodist Church of Great Britain website (actual story Dennis, Trevor (1997) Imagining God: Stories From Creation To Heaven. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. Chapter 1).

It is very long. But is worth it. As I get older, stories mean more to me. Time to make a good cup of coffee, sit down and read…

Child’s Play

One hot afternoon Adam and Eve, unselfconsciously naked, sat on the bank of one of the rivers of Eden, dangling their feet in the water. Eve picked up a flat, round stone, stood up and flicked it in twelve graceful bounces right across to the other side.

‘Who taught you to do that?’ asked Adam.

‘God did.’

Adam turned towards God. ‘Did you really?’

‘Yes.’

‘Could you teach me?’

‘Of course. Watch.’

God stood up, chose a stone carefully, kissed it, curled his finger round it, and, with a movement of his wrist too quick to catch, sent it spinning downstream. It went almost as far as Adam and Eve could see, then swung round in a tight circle and came speeding towards them again, till with one last bounce it skipped back into God’s hand. It had hit the water two hundred times, and had left two hundred circles spreading and entwining themselves upon the surface. From the middle of each circle a fish leaped, somersaulted, and splashed back into the river.

‘Now you try!’ said God.

Adam pushed him into the water. God came to the surface a few yards out from the bank. ‘That was level ten, by the way,’ he called. ‘Eve’s only at level two at the moment, aren’t you Eve?’

‘You were showing off, God,’ said Eve. ‘You’ll be walking on the water next!’

‘That’s level twenty,’ laughed God, and promptly disappeared beneath the surface.

So it was once in Eden. So it can be still. So it is, on rare and precious occasions. But Adam and Eve complicated matters. They grew up to think flicking stones child’s play. They turned in upon themselves, and God remained out of sight, beneath the surface. They did not sit with him on the bank any more. Now and then, realizing their loneliness and overcome with sudden longing, they would gaze out across the water and see the ripples he left behind. But these were soon gone, and the water would resume its customary smoothness, as if nothing had happened, as if he had never been there. The Garden had ceased to be for them a holy place.

So they went in search of one. They left Eden behind. It was, after all, too small a place, too familiar. It held no surprises for them any more. They supposed they had nothing more to learn there, except for getting to levels ten or twelve, but that was child’s play, not worthy of their ambitions.

God followed them at a distance. Sometimes they could hear his footsteps behind them. Occasionally he came so close they could feel his breath on the backs of their necks. Very occasionally he sat down with them and shared their food and made the spot at once a holy place. Yet they were never satisfied for long. They would move on, hoping for more, yearning, though they did not realize it, for the days when they could sit with their feet in the waters of Eden, and push God in and hear him laugh, and marvel at what he could do with a round pebble and a flick of the hand.

It had all been so natural then. Perhaps it had not been child’s play, after all. Perhaps it had been God’s play. Perhaps they were the same thing. When such thoughts as these broke the surface of their minds, then God seemed, indeed was, very close once again.

Adam and Eve did not stay just Adam and Eve for very long. They had been told to be fruitful and multiply, and so they were and so they did, until, no longer only a couple, they became a family, then a clan, a tribe, a people.

The clan invented what they called ‘religion’, and the tribe and the people set about improving it. God was still following, at a distance. He carried a tent on his back, with the centre pole tied across his shoulders. The clan and the tribe tried to organize him. They told him where to pitch the tent, and the times when he should be there to meet them. But a sense of direction and punctuality did not seem to be among his strengths. Too often his tent was nowhere to be seen, or when they found it and raised the flaps to peer inside, he seemed not to be there.

The people said the whole idea of meeting God in a tent was absurd, if not an insult. They forgot it belonged to God and that he carried it himself on his back. They decided to make him a much finer place, one that could not be moved, one that was solid, predictable, fit for a king certainly, and suitable, they hoped, for a god. So they built him a temple in the heart of their capital city, next to the palace of their king, and nearly as big, overlaid its walls with gold and ivory, painted heaven on its ceilings, filled the air between with incense and sweet song, and became very serious about it all.

God arrived there one day, when the people were so engrossed in what they were doing, that they were not expecting him at all.

‘Do you have balloons here?’ God enquired.

‘Balloons?’ they replied. ‘Balloons? Balloons are child’s play. We are serious here.’

‘Oh,’ said God, and retreated out of the door. He had propped up his tent in the entrance. He picked it up again, tied the pole across his shoulders, and went back to Eden to flick some pebbles.

The first one bounced three hundred times, went round in three circles and had the fish doing tripple Salchows. ‘Level twelve,’ murmured God. But no one heard him.

What I love about October half term part 4

Frivolity.

Or more particularly learning my lines for the village pantomime (a reminder: this is a Big Thing here- over 3 months rehearsals and 9 performances). Still two months to go so I have plenty of time, but I’m looking forward to extended blocks of time to learn lines….and then start to inhabit the character and then learn how to move. A week when I can put in two rehearsals without worrying about juggling other evenings….paradise….

Then I start thinking…… to have a chance at the performance and look natural I need to do all this development work, turn up twice a week, bring learning lines into every part of the day…….grabbing isolated moments to practice poses and moves. It becomes something that surrounds most things that I do…………all to walk and perform well.

And we think ‘faith’ is something internal, private, rarely nurtured as ‘I don’t need to’ or rarely read and prayed as ‘I don’t need to’. So I’m wondering if the performance ever amounts to much or is really believable.

What I love about October half term part 3

Thinking.

Well, space for half formed thoughts, random thoughts any kind of thoughts. Breaks of more than a few days are good for that.

I’ve been musing on this:-

‘Exiles have, more often than not, left the mainstream church or are hanging in there out of habit or a sense of joyless duty. But neither are they at home in the host empire of post-Christendom……. Quite unconsciously, they have followed the still, small voice into missional activity where excitement, hard work and the very real threat of failure are their constant companions. But they have been fed the lie that these lminal,missional experiences aren’t really the stuff of church. They are sidelines, outreach activities of the genuine article.’ (Frost:Exiles p132)

…and this half term I am planning on going from thinking on that to doing something about it. In these unforced spaces I am planning to put together a CV around the above and float it to a few church leaders and see if there might be a space/spaces to do that….sometime in the future or in the location where I currently am.

Nothing immediate; I am learning that floating boats is often the best way to find a way forward……but that is what space for thinking does…

And as for floating boats- well I work on the Jonah principle: the worse that can happen is you end up as whale sick…

What a gay day

The word ‘gay’ has undergone 3 shifts in meaning that I can remember in my short time on this planet;

‘Gay’ meaning happy, bright or very pleasant.

‘Gay’ meaning homosexual or lesbian.

‘Gay’ meaning lame, passe or out of fashion. This is its newest meaning among (but not exclusively) the Generation Y crowd.

I am of course, referring to the 2nd meaning. This blog is not one that debates the big issues; others do it better. I also find that the bigger the issue the angrier people get and forget that those they throw stones at are also people.

On whatever side of the fence you are on ‘the gay issue’ (another misuse of language- this involves humans not issues), it strikes me that Christians have a lot of repenting to do. To the rising generations we can come across as bigoted and hateful because of the way this has been articulated.

Whether one views this issue as falling short of the glory of God or stressing it as part of the way we are created, to go on and on about it and to make it a major issue whilst largely ignoring the 2000 plus biblical references about wealth and justice…well…I’ll leave that hanging in the air.

A friend posted this on facebook a few days ago. It is from an American rabbi. Warning: if you don’t do irony, playfulness and humour it may prove difficult to read.

I liked this article very much (put those stones away- I said ‘liked’, nothing else)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-shmuley-boteach/homophobia-is-itself-an-a_b_765012.html

 

What I love about October half term part 2

British Autumn.

Don’t you just love it? Damp, cold and the trees losing their leaves. The leaves going past their crisp dry stage and becoming an underfoot mulch. Days getting shorter but not as dull and as bleak as winter. Everything still having colour and the chance of days of watery sun and long walks.

More importantly, time and space to enjoy it.

I love this week.

What I love about October half term part 1

In Britain it is half term in our schools. I’ve always liked this time: admittedly more so since I had children.

I love it more since I became a professional Christian (irony intended). In September, the intensity of what I do cranks up from comatose August. Most of this is good; in September I find many people willing to think new things, more so than in January. So there are lots of meetings; many good if churches remember that these are times of openness, dreaming, vision and asking questions. Many bad if churches want to box in the messiness of life and church and make things tidy and in order.

After a while though, I just want to draw breath; ceaseless activity all the time makes me tired and ‘thin’ as a person.

So mostly this week I will be switching off, turning off and letting go. This was never ‘my’ church and this week is a chance to sweep out of me any rubble that is labelled ‘my’church and ‘my’ ministry.

Some Elbow (and you really have to listen to ‘Switching Off’ if only because I love it)

‘You, the only sense the world has ever made
This I need to save
A simple trinket locked away
I choose my final scene today
Switching off with you’

Some music and a video

I had seen this before, but then I picked it up via http://miketodd.typepad.com/ (post headed ‘Gungor’). I love it.

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Not long after I became a Christian/started to follow Jesus, I discovered a genre called ‘Christian music’. Not long after that I wondered why people listened to that genre; I didn’t think it was very good. It didn’t seem musically compelling to this (then!) 18 year old; there was no tension- everything was resolved and the lyrics were bland.

I’ve had an irrational prejudice against the genre since then and few things I have been introduced to have made me revise that opinion. Don’t get me wrong; I have huge respect for artists who are Christians who have tried to make it in the marketplace outside of the ‘Christian market’ (there is something about human beings in that we love our caves, our safety; often preferring it to the cold); I think that has more integrity.

Anyway, before a predictable rant develops, I really like this song combined with the video. It is catchy, ironic, playful and altogether lovely. I hope you do too.