I'm increasingly thinking of writing more for that site and having this one for more personal reflections on my life/faith as well as exciting personal news like how long my tache now is (3 days into Movember and its seedlings of stubble).
As always it would be great to here your thoughts/feelings and have your involvement on my recent writing:
Church calandar - All saints (a piece looking at what our faith community does about retelling the christian story and what I came up with for All Saints)
Church in deep church - a piece nailing our colours to the mast about how deep church is partly about being +ive about all forms of church and how we can't see that we are living out our faith fully if we do not gather togethere regularly.
My church pains - a look at the downside of church life and why those downers might actually have an upside.
I had the fun on saturday night of attending a fab film party dressed as...
Anywho I enjoyed stroking my fake tash so much I thought i'd become a mo bro - so during the month of Movember (or November to the non-mobro) I'll be growing my tash for real and seeking sponsorship for a very worthy charity (more of that to come...)
However, if you a a man I'd encourage you to join me, let us tash up together! :)
So got back on Tuesday from a week in mostly sunny Mallorca. It was a break designed to boost Debs exposure to sun in order to help us face the Autumn/Winter and help reduce the downsides of SAD that she suffers from. The transition to Autumn feels like one of impending storm coming (I think of Gandalf watching the dark clouds flowing from Mordor to Minas Tirith in the film) and I find it hard not to be fearful imagining all the bad things that may lie ahead.
As well as benfiting from the sun myself I managed to get attacked by a jellyfish or maybe I attacked it as I swam. So a week later I have a very itchy burn like rash on my arm. It was lovely swimming in the clear warm water of the Med but being stung out in deep water was not a fun experience and it was real fight for self control to stop panicing and keep swimming. After that it was also a real psychological battle to get back into the water again and I forced myself too (despite the "just when you thought it was safe to get back into the water" Jaws tagline playing through my head). So I was too afraid to go out as far as I had gone before and could feel myself tense as I swam out and in.
I returned to work on Wednesday, straight into a course with exam at the end on International Financial Reporting Standards. The passmark for the exam is 70% so I have been fretting away about not passing it. Not that there is any meaningful consequence in not passing other than damaged pride and that fear of other people doing better than me. More fear just bubbling away, which made me study so had a healthy side but not sleep very well either.
I found out on friday that I hadn't been successful in the ballot for a place in the London Marathon. I'm now just fearful that I'll stop running and get fat, so am looking for another race to run.
I just wondered with all this fear kicking around inside me what that means? At the moment the world is panicing about credit crunches, house prices, rising cost of living and I feel myself dragged into that panic as well. Today I got notifiacation of how much our electricity and gas prices will be going up (30% and 20%).
Is there an antidote to all this fear? Does faith play a part in this? And if so how, other than just good old fashioned denial? Which doesn't seem to resonate with Jesus who took a realist appraoch when he guaranteed troubles and advised not to fret about tomorrow as today has enough worries, stresses and fears of its own?
To quote another movie strapline if are natural condition is: 'be afraid...be very afraid' what helps you and gives you hope, strength, courage, will to go forward inspite of the fear we feel?
After my grump in the last post about church porn books, I've come across a couple more confessions out there...
Anyone else joining us in the confessional?
Maybe its cos its raining and I want to go for a run or just a build up of too many hormones but I'm in a cantankerous mood today.
Not because I've got anything against Frank, or his books. I've never read them and I'm more than happy to link to him here in case you want to go and find out more. They might be absolute un-missable reads (heh if you have read them then give me the heads up please :).
And not cos of Fernando's skinny revealing the remarkable manipulative power of the the little word "Re-"
Voyeur guilty pleasure...
I guess I'm just tired of the flood of book, blogs, podcasts, commentators who with voyeur like pleasure lift up the skirts to show me how wrong church is. How broken church is. How institutional church is. How hypocritical church is. How abusive, myopic, out of touch, conservative, liberal, self serving, fragmented, divisive church is. How really it is not what Jesus ever intended to be and quite frankly why he if he showed up he wouldn't be darkening the door of those kinda places. Why we're far better to be out of the church altogether until the church that we're all waiting and longing for finally shows up and then if it can prove itself to be real nice to us, we'll maybe come on back.
I get it! I know! I understand! It sucks! It's crap with a side order of crap and some delicious crap with icing sugar for desert!
Seriously, I don't need books to tell me what's wrong with church. I go to church. I'm what's wrong with church. Well for someone (or a whole bunch of someones) I am the problem.
As much as I wish to believe that I need to be re-imagined, or reformed, or more organic less processed, more emerged, more in tune, more able to sing, better able to realize global social aesthetic trends...
As much as I may crave to be less institutional, more community based, more spirit filled and less controlling...
If only i could inhabit a time machine to get back to how it should have been or to FFWD to how it should be as the author would have me believe. Or better yet do a complete body swap with St Paul or A N other christian of the day...
As careful as the research is, or as convincing as the scriptural references are, or as ringing as the endorsements of the back cover from as many big name top christians are....
As dearly as I love to believe that the one true church as it is always was intended to be, or should be or will be is only 300 pages and £10.99 away from me discovering.
I find myself experiencing doubts that these books will deliver me to church nirvana.
In fact these books don't make me happy any more. They are a bit like porn, easy on the eye, great for fantasy but ultimately deeply unsatisfying in helping me in the unairbrushed lumpy reality of real sexual life.
These books just make me feel righteously pissed off and confirm what I have suspected for quite some time... that it's someone elses fault that church is crap and if only they listen to me we can all have a much better time!
Now I just need a snappy title...
"How do you know, I haven't told you..."
Traveling back from holiday in the car my 5 yr old son proudly announced to me that he knew where his heart is. "Look Dad" he said, making me twist round in the front seat (don't panic i wasn't driving) as he proudly pointed to his chest. "Yes," I said "I know, that's where your heart is." "But how do you know that Dad? I've only just told you!" was his puzzled reply. At which point we nearly did crash my wife )who was driving) and I suffered from prolonged spasms of suppressed laughter.
Let's ignore for a moment that that my son has skipped the phase where parents are all seeing, all knowing Gods and has now hit his teenage yrs where his parents know nothing, apart from how to make his eyes roll and die of embarrassment (i've still got hope that he won't corrupt his younger brother that his parents are mere humans hiding behind the curtain!).
"Treasures in the attic or forgotten junk?"
What this conversation reminded me of was how often often we in our new "traditions" of Christianity can often say exactly the same thing as my son said to me. We know how worship is done, who the holy spirit is, how to encounter him, what issues really are pressing and how best to present them to the world at large. We are probably just as skeptical and surprised that we might have discovered something that looks new and fascinating to us but to the traditional church is something that has been gathering dust in the attic for years.
Ohhhh look at this we say gathering around. Passing it around for a few minutes. Puzzling over it for a while. Then throwing it away and rummaging around in the trunk some more. Heh there's something much more interesting down here...
Such moments of discovery, or rediscovery are great. They can be immensely valuable, they can remind the church of what that they are keepers of a shared heritage rather than children playing with long forgotten things in the attic, help rediscover our inheritance and remind us of what common ground we have.
More often we are like the barbarian hoard, not caring about who we plunder from only that we have the plunder to through up into out attic and forget about, or what's left after we have squander and squabbled over it.
Ripping off the back catalog
Now, I think some of this is just part of our insecurity. We want to be right and we need to get some legitimacy somehow. We certainly don't want that to come from some kind of laying on of hands and blessing from the tradition we have escaped, no tainting thank you. Not in this man's true church. But it does get a little bit tiring writing off 2,000 yrs of church history as a sell out to the roman empire and then all the imperial powers of the colonized world that followed. Much better to "discover" or "rediscover" new and exciting practices and theologies and use them adapted for our own circumstances without getting too bogged down on where they come from.
The other day I heard a radio DJ interviewing the band Oasis (giants of 90s cool britania!). He congratulated them on their great new single and told them it was so good because now they had stopped ripping off the Beatles and were now doing the Stones!
Let's face it, ripping off the back catalog in fashion or music is not new so why not of church history? Why stop at church traditions?
Well I don't think we do, infact i think it is a lot more common to plunder the metaphors and practices of the the latest business models, socio-political concerns, social spaces and techo fads and rip off these for our faith as well.
In some ways this is a good thing, after all i'm glad we have electric guitars and (ripped off) U2 cord progressions in our worship, it's great to move on from 70s soft rock, 50s organs and 700BC lyre and pipes ;). I'm grateful for images to mediate on in buildings where there is not stain glass. Or that people don't have to shout thanks to the wonders of a thing called a microphone.
(Can I get an Amen for that?)
The next new/old thing...
On the other hand when do we stick with anything for longer than 5 minutes? I've been a christian for 20 yrs and i've lost track of all the ways that i've decided were the ways to evangelise - i've done tracts, door knocking, drama, conferences, friendship evangelism, servant evangelism, alpha, testimonies, books, prayer and now social action/social justice.
Hands down my charismatic friends if you have become charis-missional overnight? Like the Joker in Mr Burton's batman, I don't know what it means but I like the sound of it. It's the new buzz word and therefore we need it.
Honestly I used to be just a plain old sitting on a hard pew conservative evangelical congrationalist. Then I became a happy clappy, theological sound, bible believing, signs and wonder experiencing with good coffee and top toe tapping arm waving God tunes christian. Now I'm a veritable glossary - a contemporary, authentic, post-modern, missional, social actioning, trinitarian, mystery appreciating, often quite wrong member of a spiritual pratices practicing faith community who's statement of faith is the apostles creed, good coffee and more comfy chairs - i think.
Oh who's also evangelical but not like well those hard pew sitters...
(can I get a oh beware God has hardened their buttocks!)?
and charismatic but not like those emotionally high, holy spirit high, experiential charismatics
(is there a chicken clucking in the house tonight?)
Well at least that's who I am today. Tomorrow I might well be known as something else.
There is no neutral space...
And why do I think that there is some sort of neutral metaphor or space that I can pull in from the world around me and use to define me and my practices as a christian? Does really a 2.0 church enhance my heritage? Is meeting in a starbucks really a neutral space? Does my concern for me going out and being missional really just me giving me a license to go and hang out with who I like, where I like, when I like and feel good that I'm out here for God?
I've got a friend who says that christians can consume being missional to the point that they go to conferences on it, read books on it, append the label to their christian identity, discuss for hours how to do it, spot who's not doing and never get round to really actually doing anything that is remotely about the mission of Jesus Christ whatsoever. To be quite honest when do I have the time when I'm doing all that?
Radical mission is..?
What if the most missional thing I can do in todays consumer obsessed culture is inconvenience myself by going to church every week, committing myself to spend time with people who I would never normally want to hang out with, at a time where I've got far better things to do and give up my precious time (i'm so busy), scarce energy (i'm so tired) and money (i've got so little) voluntarily to serve them? To put myself in a place where maybe I will do something with someone else and God can do something with me? To stop for 5 minutes and detox from what I want to do and try and re-orientate my life towards the mission of Christ, not the mission of me?
Actually, what if that is the second most missional thing I can do. What if the most missional thing I can do is tell people that I am doing this, that I am not insane or insecure (well not more than the average). What if my faith is public rather than being supressed by the secular society in which I live which says believe what you want about whatever you want as long as it makes you happy - but if its about God then just don't mention it.
What if that is what church has been doing for 2,000 years (flaws, failings and all). People gathering together publicly, to do life together and re-orientate ourselves around the mission of Christ as we go back out into the world?
You should know, I've told you!
Which makes me pause for a moment and think of how often I have slated church. How often I have pointed to a particular christian, church, denomination and shaken my head at their foolishness for thinking that if Jesus came back he'd want to hang out with them. In fact how often I have reduced my faith down to just me hanging out with Jesus and maybe a few selected and carefully vetted like minded others (but i'd still want that fave spot!).
Where did I pick up all these ideas about the perfect church (which scarily enough currently only I would qualify to be a member of, unless I could persuade anyone else to worship me too?). I love the idea of a church like Acts 2 but conveniently ignore all the bickering, rivalries, double standards, grumbles, complaints, theological finger waving, selfish, fearful, preserving, socio-economic tensions of the rest of the book let alone the rest of the New Testament.
Best only with the worst
Acts 2 might just describe church at its very best but I can't have church at its very best without the flip side, church at its very worst.
And that means people get to experience me at my very best and I get to experience them at their very annoyingly worst. Or is that the other way around?
It's easy for me to be cynical, burnt and jaded by past experience. It is often good to deconstruct and spit out bones we may have choked on but at some point we have to reconstruct. Have to try and do as well as warn and not be surprised when things go south.
Pick your curent favorite bete noir christian...
Todd Bently (told you so, i was burnt in the roar like a headless chicken of the toronto blessing)... mark driscoll (told you so, i'm not projecting my own negative experiences of church and gender)... Ted Haggard (told you so, no one could be that evangelical and be healthy)...
or pick any issue that bugs you about church, really gets your goat... one that you are tempted to say I know what the answer is...
Admitting my bright shiny new addiction...
I've almost become a consumer of being an anti-church as it is consumer who dreams of church as it should be, whilst using the existing resources of the church community to keep my faith going.
Maybe we should pause for a second and acknowledge our obsession with this bright shiny thing...
My fellow bloggers, it is an honour to make this historic announcement exclusively to you tonight. We all dream of change, no one wants the status quo, apart from rocking all over the world, which we like it, we like it, we like it, ooh oh so we will export it all over the world. For let us not turn our back on American way, to export our way all over the world, where ever democracy flourishes and springs up from the ground like oil from a well we shall tbe there to protect it, cherish it and take our cut of the profits
Today change has come, this car has no neutral, just a forward a reverse and a few dodgy bumper stickers.
My fellow candidates, Obama and McCain will put up a good fight, will appeal to their core support and no doubt will feel they did all they could. I applaud them as Canute once applauded the sea. In the end the tide of democracy can not be held back just like crash barriers will not stop lemmings from leaping from the cliff!
For when the nation of my dual citizenship made the call, how could I not answer, the 'show me the way to whitehouse grillo' ring tone was too annoying. Although I admit to having moments of doubt and second thoughts when they reversed the charges on me.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to tonight publically announce the echo of change we have been longing for.
I invite you to be blown along with the wind of change, because change is in the wind. No matter how many roads a man, or woman, walks down in our great land, the answer is no longer blowing in the wind but is now in your hands.
I gratefully offer you my self, my ego is big enough for all of us and I am not proud to say otherwise. Paul Mayers as your next President. My party of demopublicans will show how to pull this great nation into a land of golden sweet beer and gleaming barstools that we can all be proud to sit at and sup with one another.
I thank you and God bless America first, last and forever more. Amen!
Well me and my angelic running partner ran 12 miles yesterday in 2hrs 07mins! My legs were exhausted!! Fortuantly Mr Clark had sweet cold beer to celebrate with!
Hmmm maybe I should change my name to: Runs For Beer!!!
The scary thought is that I'd have to run another 14 miles to complete the marathon!!
Found inspiration in an unlikely place today. What do you think of the following quote and who do you think wrote it???
Does our shared pain bind us together and help us find our humanity. Is Jesus on the cross the ultimate example of God identifying with our brokeness, and in sharing the deepest of physica, emotional and mental pains forever putting his arm around us?
What does that mean as we gather together to live a life of faith and following Jesus?