Honest Christianity: Is there ever a time when praying is not enough?

HeavenThis cartoon is doing the rounds this weekend. It is a sad theological reflection upon another school shooting in the USA. Personally, I think this is an insightful comment upon what can be perceived as an offering of prayer and support when perhaps action, policy, legislation is also needed. Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I do not believe in the power or necessity of prayer, but sometimes, perhaps many times in the face of injustice, oppression, local and national government are obliged to respond. When the system is broken, yes, pray it gets fixed, but peaceful protest is also required when systemic response to address the issue is slow, or reluctant.  Could it be assurance of praying for someone or a situation from a position of power, is not enough or even trite and insulting?  I am not just just referring to the US in this blog, this is is at the door of any government’s policy that can change the safety of any demographic.

Is it going too far to say, “guns don’t kill people, lack of Governmental intervention does”?  Don’t just pray, do something!

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Honest Christianity –

Diamond 2

I am writing this after leading another annual memorial service for the hospital. I never cease to be impressed by the generosity and graciousness of bereaved parents. Year after year we see so much beauty come out of brokenness and I am continually humbled by their ability to find a new way of living that honours their child and their grief and pain. These families really are a thing of beauty and treasure. We continually thank them for their inspiration of who they have become.

Honest Christianity – childlikeness

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This last week Sally and I were at Mill Grove (http://www.millgrove.org.uk/) for a meeting of the Child Theology Movement.   For a long time I have been interested in theological perspectives on children and am delighted when I find books and articles that take my thinking forward.  There is one such article in the current edition of the International Journal for Children’s Spirituality written by Robyn Wrigley-Carr which talks about ‘Proclaiming and cultivating ‘childlikeness’:  a subversive thread in Christian anthropology.  There is a reference to the Child Theology Movement in the article but also to some theologians from much further back.  I was particularly taken with these reflections:

In the midst of increased urbanisation and the frenzy of population growth in many of our cities, we all, children and adults alike, need green spaces for play and rest, so we can be humanised, for something essential regarding what it is to be human when we become dominated by  technology and the built environment and don’t have time to be still and quiet – attentive to creation, to ourselves and to the Divine…

In addition to this immersion in creation, we all need rest, for when we work incessantly, we lose our ability to play which is a childlike attribute.  Alongside playfulness, when we are constantly busy working, our weariness makes us unaware of our ‘unawakeness’, our lack of attentiveness to our surroundings and to ourselves.  But getting off the conveyer belt of activity and rush, escaping the demands of email and mobile phones in the wonder and spaciousness of creation can bring forth this ‘childlikeness’ as we reflect upon what is happening in our lives as we encounter the Divine.

The picture is the garden at Mill Grove complete with toys – when is our next opportunity to play?

Vol 23(1) p45-52

Honest Christianity: look again

image_fbc89a02-9102-483d-a4db-0be15694e25020180410_204328 (2)I I am sure like me, you receive lots of photos, images etc over social media every week. This is one of the ones I kept, I am sure you can appreciate several reasons why. Stopping, slowing down is something many of us have learnt to do even though it is against our instinctive nature.  Being down at the level of where a child sees from, their eye level view, their perspective offers a different vantage point . At the hospital I enjoying kneeling on the floor by the bedsides, eye to eye with our patients. (Harder to stay down for very long and getting back up)!! One of he many things I appreciate about how my colleagues at the hospital relate to the children, is that the children don’t get spoken down to. They are genuinely respected and listened to.

This week, Sally  and I have a Child Theology Movement Trustees meeting. The picture is another take on the mandate of Jesus to take seriously the blessing, perspective of children, of being like a child. we owe it to them, ourselves and it seems, for the coming of the Kingdom.

Honest Christianity: Groundhog week: It’s not all resurrection

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Today I shared a few thoughts in our Easter Sunday service at the hospital. I was was very mindful of the spectrum of children and families present. You don’t need me to explain where they might be physically, physiologically and spiritually. Several parents cried during the service, one very disabled young person smiled throughout and there was lots of cheerful noise from the back as families came and went to see the newly hatched chicks. One of the children played with one of those small story boxes where you keep opening it in a different way for the full story to unfold. She loved it and kept, starting again and again.

The heart of my short talk was the that even in the resurrection celebration of today, we still live in a reality of the the full Easter story week; ups and downs, good news and bad, people for you and misunderstanding you (I did not need to spell out the finer points!!) The Easter story includes the road to Emmaus and the upper room, where Jesus journeys and meets with us, and says Peace. This is the appropriate Easter Sunday hope, we are not alone as life comes around and around and around. God’s love is always on repeat.

Honest Christianity – the too silent Jesus

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Today’s Lent Talk on Radio 4 ‘The Silence of the Lamb’ was about Jesus being silent when being challenged by Pilate and being goaded into declaring himself to be God. Prof Katie Edwards commended Jesus for this but was concerned that the Church had taken the mandate of Godly silence out of context when applied to other situations. She was particularly concerned as to how historically children and young people tended to be silent or not listened to especially when they complained about abuse. I was won round by her argument and how she makes the point that being silent in abuse does not make you complicit, you are still the victim. She contrasts the way that Jesus is seen as speaking up in John’s gospel and wonders why she wasn’t told about this Jesus when she was a child but heard more about a silently suffering Jesus. It was a challenging listen (and be aware of potential triggers as she discusses grooming and child sexual exploitation in the talk). For those of us who teach it is important that we don’t inadvertently encourage attitudes that are damaging to individuals and discourage them from speaking up. We need to listen to those who share concerns, however tentatively, and not suggest that it is more Christ like to suffer in silence.

Website description of the talk…
As someone who witnessed the sexual abuse of her teenage friends in the 1990s, Katie Edwards wonders whether she – and they – might have spoken out more readily if they had not been taught that silence in the face of suffering is a virtue.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09w12jh

Honest Christianity: Don’t give room for everything

NRAI have been reminded half way during lent of the New Year’s resolution I made this year.

“Lord, fill my heart with so much grace that the devil must flee when he sees me coming. Amen.”

As I have reflected upon times of temptation, weakness and struggle, I have slightly changed my thought to

“Be so gracious to everyone, so it does not give the Devil room to enter”.

I have found this to be a very helpful focus when I am tempted to respond negatively in a situation, or to somebody.  With so many sad and tragic situations at home and around the world, it is easy to slip into a seemingly justified aggressive response.  Grace is the only response even to injustice and evil, even it is accompanied by protest and appropriate challenge .

Let’s not be hospitable to everything this lent.