I saw this poster on Sunday at Woodbrooke. I like the beginning and the ending – I could think of lots of ways to respond to the idea of inspired by faith but this answer is one that came to me in my teenage years through engaging with church. What are you inspired by faith to do or be or think or create or….
I was listening to the radio this morning and a woman responded to a question about if she had any person faith saying ”I do believe but I don’t practise it”. What an interesting turn of phrase and self understanding. She was then asked when she last prayed and she said “about two weeks ago”.
What a fascinating definition of “not a practising Christian”. She prays to God who she believes in! I would love to know what she thinks a practising Christian does and believes? What do we believe? Something around personal relationship? Well she prays. Believe God loves us and Jesus died for us to have a relationship? She believes that God exists and is
interested enough in her to hear her prayers and potentially answer them. Trust in God with the whole of our lives? Well she is looking to God for some of her life.
I wonder how we engage with her? I would ask the question I mentioned earlier, what she thinks a practising Christian does and believes? Well I hope we would encourage her in what she does have and does. I would assure her of God’s love and desire to relate with her from where she is . Perhaps a way to engage with the many folks who are in this or similar position, affirmation not condemnation.
I read Dibs in search of self by Virginia Axline when I was an undergraduate many years ago. It is one of those books which shaped and changed my thinking on work with children and young people. There is a quote which I return to often from it:
Perhaps there is more understanding and beauty in life when the glaring sunshine is softened by the patterns of the shadows. Perhaps there is more depth in a relationship that has weathered some storms. Experience that never disappoints or saddens or stirs up feelings is a bland experience with little challenge or variation in colour. Perhaps when we experience confidence and hope that we see materialize before our eyes this builds up within us a feeling of inner strength, courage and security.
Sally and I were at chaplaincy research conference this week. The keynote speakers was Grace Davie, professor emeritus at Exeter University. She is the writer and researcher who coined the phrase believing without belonging as a description of what had begun to happen with Christianity when she first published Religion in Britain in 1994.
She used the title phrase of the blog to describe our current situation in the UK. We have often reflected in our blogs on the connections between culture and religion. If this observation resonates with you as it does with us as a truism, then what are the implications for Christianity, ministry and our country? Might we find friends and people of peace in unusual places? What might the nature of mission look and feel like? Who will share our values of accountability to a higher power and authority?
The other point Grace made was just as the observations have changed since she wrote 20 years ago, what will change in and characterize the next 10-20 years? She talked about perspectives on non-human animals and artificial intelligence as potential areas… What do you think?
I walked past this door today, I am not sure where it goes. Possibly into a church but the church is at a different level. It sort of looked like an ecclesiastical door to me! I have walked past it many times but today is the first time I had really noticed it. Perhaps this is because at the moment I am waiting for a couple of doors to be opened.
Closed doors can be immensely frustrating, particularly when they seem to be locked from the inside. They can also be very exciting wondering what is beyond them and speculating as to whether the risk is worth it to walk through, not knowing what may be on the other side. The doors I am looking to open are in many ways quite prosaic, they are not life changing doors but that has not always been the case. (This is not one of those posts with a hidden meaning or anyting). Waiting for a door to open can be one of those times for lots of faith and prayer and as time goes on without it opening lots of questions too!
‘Binds or blinds’ was a phrase used by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on television today when discussing his new book ‘Not in God’s name. What an eloquent description of honest Christianity. There are so many expressions where Christianity is and has been a positive blessing to our communities and societies. Sadly, there are also times where in the name of our God and Christianity, we have been a negative influence – being our own worst enemy,
thinking, treating and speaking of others in a way that blinds ourselves and others.
Honest Christianity acknowledges both of these and makes a commitment to be an influence for blessing and a bind of and to all things good. To express grace, love, generosity, to seek to bring credit and bind each other to the benefits of our faith and God.
Some people we are close to are going through very difficult times at the moment – this image is one which fills us with hope – and gives us something that we can pray. Sometimes a book is worth reading for one thought we find in it, this is one of those times.
The image of Christ going through locked doors is perhaps the most consoling within our entire faith. Put simply, it means that God can help us even when we cannot help ourselves. God can empower us even when we are too weak and despairing, even minimally, to open the door to let him in.
Reference Ronald Rolheiser Forgotten Among the Lilies New York Image Doubleday p148
By the bin in our Kitchen we have a fire extinguishe. it is handily near our cooker and it is comforting to have one in case there is a fire.
There are lots of ways we use and apply this metaphor to our faith.
Many folks have been taken by the idea of the difference between deficit and asset models in working with people – the difference between thinking they are lacking or have deficits or have assets and something to contribute.
A fire extinguisher faith originally seemed to me to be a deficit model of faith. I have a problem, my faith is sitting in the corner of the room in case I have a crisis, so I go and get it, pick it up, use my faith to seek to solve the problem. We have fire extinguishers as a precaution , just in case , we carry on our normal lives, cooking etc
Historically, this way of drawing upon our faith has not been valued, we should be applying our faith to all aspects of our life, all of the time. But is this the only way to look at this?
Fire extinguishers need testing to check if they are working properly. Perhaps this is a valid reason why the metaphor of having a fire extinguisher faith is justifiable. That we know that our faith is there should there be an emergency and that we get it out on a regular basis, to check that it still works, and then when the fires happen, if they are accidental or arson, we can be secure that we have the resources to handle them. And also we know that some fires are so out of control, we call 999, 911 or the equivalent.
I am mindful this week as to how long the search for the missing plane has been going on for. At the time of writing (April 6th 2014), the search has been going on for 4 weeks. The families of the missing passengers are more than understandably frustrated by the lack of results from the search. The battery of the black box is due to run out, and therefore stop sending out a signal. What the families hope for has changed as the hours, days and weeks have gone by. How can they not do anything but hope for their loved ones to be found? It seems like to stop believing they might still be alive, is to feel you are giving up. At least there is a need to find proof of what has happened.
I can not possibly know what it feels like to be in this kind of position. I am not sure I would approach it any differently.
Hope is a universal strong emotion in the families we support in the hospital. Some of these families have a hope even in the midst of the most helpless situations. We seek to encourage families to have appropriate hope, a hope that is realist to the diagnosis, percentages and the skills of the staff.
Honest Christianity must be characterised by appropriate hope. Not a blind faith, or no faith, but one that is informed. This is not the opposite of hope, we hope for what we do not yet see, but it is informed. I have hope for the future because of my past experiences of the faithfulness of God and my belief that God is good all the time. We hope that God will be us, the Holy Spirit helping us, interceding for us in our struggles.
We join our prayers with the comforters for these families, that they may have strength, patience and appropriate hope for what ever the future.
One of the things we said we would do in with our blog is to refer you to resources and writers that epitomise our values and objectives. The two books by Jeff Lucas and Adrian Plass, Seriously funny 1&2 are some of the resources that are wonderful examples and encourager’s of Honest Christianity. The books are exchanges of letters between two of the funniest, insightful, accessible Christian writers of our time. They are frank, vulnerable and inspirational.
In a discussion on the role and merit of doubt, Adrian suggests “that faith and doubt seem to be twins, joined at birth”. I find this a really useful analogy, a few years ago when I was doing some studies on medical ethics and law, I did an assignment on conjoined twins and ethical and legal implications of the risks and benefits of potential separations. One of the most famous recent cases was of two children that in being joined also shared key organs, and if separated, the life of one of the children could not be guaranteed.
Perhaps this is how faith and doubt should be viewed, joined at humanity’s spiritual birth, and cannot, and should not be surgically separated without a risk to our spiritual health and well-being. So we learn anew to live with our questioning as an essential interconnection to that which we know. They need each other, they share similarities and commonalities and are not as opposite as we might have traditionally believed.
Reference: Adrian Plass, Jeff Lucas. Seriously Funny 2. Milton Keynes: Authentic 2012, p68.