Honest Christianity – incongruence and integrity

cows
I heard a story this morning about a son inheriting the family organic beef farm. The cows alone were worth 50K, so you would think it had the basis of a successful business. The son was very proud of what his father had built up, the trouble was the son was a vegan!

The son did not feel with integrity that he could continue to breed cattle for slaughter, so he planned to keep the family tradition of farming but wanted to change to organic vegan produce. He did not have much money but to still live out his values, he did not sell or send his herd to the abattoir, but gave them to a farm animal sanctuary where they could live until the end of their natural lives!

I am not saying I agree with his eating or animal welfare ethics but I do admire the consistency of his values, lifestyle and business practice. This is how one can have a peaceful mind, life and sleep, although he might lose sleep through worry about how he might live, to live out our values is worth that cost. This is integrity, a high consistent standard of internal and external lifestyle, to have no incongruency. I appreciate it may be felt this might be a luxury some people do not have if they are to be fulfilling their responsibilities in looking after themselves and their families. ‘But how should we then live?’, asks Francis Shaeffer in his seminal work?

As a christian to have this replicated in my worlds of thought, word, practice, teaching, writing in the areas of ministry, marriage, finance, relationships, community involvement is a worthwhile characteristic of being an honest Christian and minister. To count the cost, and be willing to pay it. I have some way to go but it is where I seek as well as hope to be.

Friday photo – the bits we can’t see

The bits you can’t see sometimes frustrate me and this has been a season of bits I can’t fully see! Like when you look through glass that is not clear or seeing through a glass darkly or a frame gets in the way.  I can gaze at this window for ages and seeing so many things in it, I have a possibilities type of brain.  But possibilities can be hard to live with when what you are looking for is clarity.  I am not always as patient as I need to be and uncertainty can be difficult to live with.

Wondering Wednesdays – gender awareness

One of the joys of my job is doing little bits of editing so I get to read things very carefully rather than my more normal skim reading.  It was a joy to read Natalie’s book as it raises so many issues that have been important to me over many years of youth work educating.  

Natalie writes Seeking to have gender aware practice is not about being politically correct.  It should not be motivated by quotas.  As Christians, our motivation must come from a deep recognition that the current situation is not how it is meant to be.  Women and men were created as equal partners, standing face to face.  Yet the Fall means the spiritual principality of patriarchy is the dominant power in men’s and women’s relationships and identities.   As Christians we understand that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection overcame the consequences of sin and, in obedience to God, we live a redeemed reality, no longer under those consequences.  We live in the now and not yet of redemption.  This includes praying and actively resisting patriarchy shaped identity.  Becoming gender aware is a prophetic work, choosing the fullness of the life of Jesus offers and renouncing our complicity with a system birthed out of sin.  As we continue, may the Holy Spirit stir in each of us deeper understanding of these ideas which may be new to us.

You can buy the booklet from the Grove website http://www.grovebooks.co.uk.

I would encourage some mindful reflection over the next few days of our own practice and if there is any lack of gender awareness or if assumptions or stereotypes ever creep in. 

Honest Christianity – naming my mistakes: humiliating or liberating?

thumbnail_Forgiveness-is-the-only-way

Many of us across our Christian traditions will be used to the regular encouragement to confess our sins, either in our liturgies, our quiet times or confessor / spiritual director. This could and probably sometimes does feel a little humiliating and or embarrassing. What about chatting to others or even God, if something was a sin, a mistake, an oops. I don’t know about you but sometimes I am just not sure what it is. I am not seeking to be proud or ever so, ever so humble, but sometimes when I reflect back on my day or week, I am just not sure what it has been. I have previously blogged around needing God’s perspective. This has helped me this week as I have been in several situations when I have sought to discern what I have done, said, what has been heard, received by others and especially God’s view of what happened at the time, motives and consequences. When I have worried, been anxious and not been in a good place, I have had the need to pray and ask God what He thinks, how God views understands, what happened.

The consequence has been on several occasions I have sensed harm did not happen, so my spirit has felt released and liberated. Other times I have sensed I made mistakes and hurt was received by other and God. To name these during confessions and prayers has been an appropriate and needed response. Ironically, the same release and liberation has been felt and an ability to move on to a good or better place.

My default in the past has been if in doubt, ask for forgiveness. This has felt like the safe, best option, just in case. Perhaps, this approach has the merit of being a humble one, it is a bit too blunt to discern, grow and mature in to all God requires of and resources me to be. What can be better, healing , restorative than God’s perspective of my life? Just need to walk, live close enough to God to know, hear, receive it, ah, that sounds like the challenge, but it seems worth it!

Friday photo – fragility and strength

fragile

I took this picture on Sunday morning walking along a coastal path.  I loved the fragility of the flowers but their capacity to grow through stones on a barren artificial concrete wall.  There are so many people who I know and see display such enormous strength despite their personal  or circumstantial fragility – they are an encouragement and inspiration to me.

Wondering Wednesdays – the work of the Holy Spirit

celtic
We had a message on Facebook this week from a friend who described something that had happened to her and was wondering what it was. The wisdom that she was given was that it may well be the work of the Holy Spirit. The next day I was catching up with some of my reading and came across this in a journal article in Practical Theology and it reminded me again of how significant that element of my spirituality was. I will forever be grateful to a Church Army student named Graham who gave me a copy of Nine O’Clock in the Morning which set me off on a journey exploring a new dimension of spirituality for me.

Donal Dorr writes this:
To sum up, inspiration from the Holy Spirit is a share in the ‘life-breath’ of God, which comes to us as a free and unpredictable grace. Because it is truly divine we cannot express it adequately in any single phrase. We can, however, describe various ways in which it finds expression:
It often comes as a new insight or vision, or a deep understanding and wisdom, or a vivid conviction of some truth.
It frequently finds expression in a new spiritual energy, commitment, zeal, eagerness, the healing of psychological and spiritual wounds or addictions, and the bodily endurance which comes as a grace to keep one going when ordinary human resources have been exhausted.
The Spirit also inspires deep feelings and sensations such as wonder, awe, joy, sorrow, love, trust, fear, strength, fragility and hope.

Reference: Donal Dorr The Holy Spirit as Source, Power and Inspiration for Spiritual Practice. Practical Theology 10(1) March 2017 5-19.

Go the distance – evolved, natural or inadvertent resilience: not like a duck to water, but like a duck to mud

ducks

Have you every wondered why ducks (and waders) can walk on mud? It seems it is not just about web feet spreading the weight, but what ducks can or can’t feel to be able to stand in mud all day? Yesterday we went to an open day and food festival at an agricultural college in Cornwall. The photo is of the ducks and there was an accompanying information board. I am a very amateur bird watcher, and didn’t know anything of the science that keeps their feet cool so they can safely stand on ice (see http://askanaturalist.com/why-don%E2%80%99t-ducks%E2%80%99-feet-freeze/ if you are interested in this. My ministerial and theological reflection is how did ducks and birds develop web feet so they could flourish, live and feed on mud flats and what can we learn from this for our resilience when we find ourselves standing in mud?

I am not sure that we want to advocate becoming immune and not feeling things so we can get on. This does not feel very healthy or empathetic. But we do want to be able to flourish when the going is not solid underfoot. We need to be to adapt to our pastoral contexts, others maybe up to their necks in it, but that does not mean we can not look after ourselves. We can learn to build up our physical and mental resources and approaches to spend the with people without getting emotional or spiritual pneumonia.

Not like a duck to water, but like a duck to mud.