‘Henri Nouwen said that the main obstacle to loving God is service for God. Service must come out of Christ’s strength and life, flowing through us, into receptive lives. Take an hour, sit in a comfortable place in silence, and do nothing but rest. If you go to sleep, that’s okay. We have to stop trying too hard. We need to do this for our own peace, and as an example to those to whom we speak. There is a place for effort, but it must never take God’s place with us. We need to make room for him in our lives’.
Dallas Willard http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/fall/findrefreshment.html?start=1
I only ever seem to sit and read for no apparent purpose when I am away. There always seems so much to do or something extra I could squeeze in. A child of Wesley can be in the poorest place to do anything about this: the hymn that has the line in ‘I would the precious time redeem’ is poor soil for a contemplative soul.
And yet, and yet, other parts of my tradition seem to imply that having that space; sorry- making that space are neccesary for a grounded life.The ordination service talks about the importance of study (and I have always interpreted that as open ended reading) and the Covenant Prayer talks of ‘being laid aside for You’ as well as ‘being employed for you’. I wonder, given that background, why it is an implied social virtue amongst the paid Christian community to talk about how full your life is and inactivity must be hidden or excused. A good wine needs time to mature and an oak needs ages and ages to grow slowly in oRder to become of use.
I read this:-
‘I’m an introvert, so I have to discipline myself to withdraw and take time to be on my own. Many of these alone times I spend in Bible reading. That refreshes me. I can sit and spend a long time reading, and I have colored pencils I use as I read to mark passages and engage with the text. Bible reading is probably one of the most refreshing things I do’.
Dan Kimball http://www.christianitytoday.com/le/2011/fall/findrefreshment.html?start=3
Ok, for ‘Bible reading’ put ‘and other books and writing as well’.
Being away made me think I need some courage to carve some chunks out to read and reflect; right now I feel I am running on empty…..
It must have been 10-15 years back that I read that the average American pastor spends around 2 and a half minutes a day in prayer. Bear in mind that most pastors are likely to exaggerate the answer upwards; the average real figure is probably much lower. In my pharasiaical youth I found that shocking.
I still find that shocking and I am not a paragon of virtue; neither do I want to parade my piety before people. As as an ordained leader I am literally ‘paid to pray’. If all that is for public consumption; ie before others who wittingly or unwittingly look to you for guidance (there may be irony here; I increasingly abhor the scenario when someone says ‘we should pray’; and everyone goes silent and looks at the person with the dog collar), it can fuel ‘messiah complex’ in an unhealthy way.
Think about it; you don’t make time to be silent/confused/empty/vunerable/joyful/normal before the divine, but you want to lead others in that way….so gradually your words become more ceremonial or removed from reality; why you even develop a ‘holy voice’. You don’t need to speak to God, for in others eyes you have become God or at least his favourite mouthpiece; silence and aloneness would destroy that illusion. It could be scary.
Possible remedy. Hey, I’m just some dumb schmuck (and sound like some disturbing American B-Movie, using a phrase like that), but what brings me back to earth is something that I think Rob Bell said: ‘You can’t sell it unless you smoke it’. Just do it- turn all your social media off and chop some time out today to do nothing and be still..it can be done…honest…
I started blogging on blogspot nearly 3.5 years ago. That blog shifted to word press after just over 6 months, but you can find it still if you look carefully.
I checked it a few weeks back in the way I check old sermons; how have I changed- how I have I stayed the same?
I still believe in Grace. I believe in Grace more and more. I get more and more angry when I don’t see church expressing it (and I remain more and more blind to my own lack of Grace and need for Grace). This quote from the old blog hit the spot:-
“Nothing makes people in the church more angry than grace. It’s ironic: we stumble into a party we weren’t invited to and find the uninvited standing at the door making sure no other uninviteds get in. Then a strange phenomenon occurs: as soon as we are included in the party because of Jesus’ irresponsible love, we decide to make grace ‘more responsible’ by becoming self-appointed Kingdom Monitors, guarding the kingdom of God, keeping the riffraff out (which as I understand it, are who the kingdom of God is supposed to include.)”
– Michael Yaconelli in Messy Spirituality
The pleasures of being away. Time for reading and time for picking up books in the place where you are staying- you are open to trying something new. I loved this book.
‘I felt not fear but joy- that rare emotion which comes when you are concentrating hard on doing something else’
(p161 Nick Thorpe ‘Adrift in Caledonia’)
I own nothing by this group. But in a spirit of parental concern for his youngest child’s education, I have been showing my youngest son a selection of rock videos on youtube.
My method is simple: I start with what he knows, push him out a bit further and then get on to what I want to watch. This video also appealed to my oldest son who is very much ‘meat and 2 veg’ with his choice of music but likes gadgets, gizmos and working out how things work (there are a number of dismantled pens around our house; he hasn’t get worked how to put things back togethere very well). I like it very much as well; it appeals to my inner geek.
I picked this up from various sites and used it in worship on Sunday. ‘This fragile tent’ http://thisfragiletent.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/what-is-the-worst-christmas-tv-advert-so-far/ has a collection of most of the worst culprits.
I am so puzzled that Christians of a paticular hue can make big fusses about ‘Jerry Springer: the Opera’, Halloween and Tesco supposedly supporting Gay Pride but ignore/take as part of our cultural wallpaper the increasingly vile nature of Christmas adverts. I rarely get preachy: I am on the ironic end of ironic, but this particular advert almost made me feel physically sick.
Think: more and more products to make us feel happy, the promise of indebtedness (that would be easy monthly payments then), and …well I could go on. And before the lefty middle class condemn adverts like this or even people around where I live condemn this….. most people watching this advert, buying stuff and ending up in debt only want what you take for granted (I myself am totally conflicted and in the middle: I am a middle class lefty…. but when you talk to me about home improvements, extensions, new cars and needing to look after your savings and investments: I have no real experience of what you are talking about yet I also lust after what you have for granted. At the same time I am in the richest 5% of the world’s population).
It is not so much that these adverts encourage all of that but underneath the values that they tap into and nurture:-
- ‘This is mine’
- ‘I provide for me and mine’
- ‘Me and mine have lots of needs’
- ‘These needs are infinite and will never be satisfied’.
- ‘I have no real space for anyone else because I can’t cope with what I ‘have’ to do or have’.
….and I am conpromised by this same thought process that affects my generation and slice of Britain…
Maybe I shouldn’t write blog postings when I am tired and angry….
I think we were made for community.
Don’t get me wrong: I love my own space and my own way of living and ordering things . But at the same time I am getting increasingly disillusioned with our western way of individual families living in isolated spaces and consuming disproportionately large chunks of resources to maintain their aloneness.
I also love being around others who share similar values and some of my best holidays have been with those who do. There is space to talk, the sound of human company, occasional sharing of meals and children can learn/be with other adults.
I experienced a little of that being away during October half term. The place was lovely; company and feeling that you were not on your own made it even more lovely.
One day I would love to experience living in shared accomodation with a few others…as long as I had myown toilet (I am British and therefore uptight about such things),space for my music and books and pc and space for…… hold on; I may have a bit more thinking to do just right now.
(the above is a still from ‘Being There’. Perhaps this is a metaphor. Or perhaps not..)
I like the idea of targets, aims and goals, but….
I went through a phase of being prescriptive about them; the world and his wife seem to follow them and why shouldn’t ministers be any different?
Last week reminded me more about why what I do is different (or perhaps to put a different slant on it, why targets and goals may not be the best way to evaluate ‘usefulness’ generally).
Someone locally who has some involvement in church lost a parent. It was expected and tragic. The local clergyperson was not available for the funeral. The family asked me to lead the funeral as I had connections with them over years.
So I did; a round trip of 115 miles and as soon as the bunfight was factored in, most of a day ‘lost’. As a result, much of what I planned last week was dropped or left.
What I did on that day met no objectives or goals. It may have helped some to consider the possibility that there was a God and he is present; but I have no idea whether that was the case (apart from some comments received) or not.
If I ‘do’ anything it is that I am paid/given an allowance to ‘hang around’/ to be available. I love that immensely. I have advocated for ministers to become employees; I think I still want that protection, but I really like that ability in my current vocation just to be there. And that is more important than ticking off things from a ‘to do’list. In fact most of our stresses come from seeing ourselves a ‘religious functionaries’; for there are always more functions to fulfil.
You know you when your ‘Messiah Complex’ has reached full flowering when you phrases such as:-
‘The laity need to take more responsibility’
‘The laity know very little about what is needed’
‘The laity are the bane of my life’
When I have heard them uttered (or thought them!) underneath I have detected a note of ‘I am in charge here….people should do more….but if they do more, I will wrest control back as I am fearful of letting go’. I have often seen lonely and frightened people saying them; they can’t see partners or equals- more people they are scared of opening up to and attempting to be real to.
Possible remedy: Try for a day or even a week to stop saying ‘lay people’ or ‘the laity’. Try saying ‘we’ and meaning it. Even try last week’s remedy- take that dog collar off once in a while. You might feel weak, but isn’t there stuff in the Bible that in weakness we find strength.