Friday, August 29, 2008

watching and waiting

A lot of the daily lectionary readings at the moment are stories that Jesus told about watching and waiting - particularly for the 'owner of the house' or the 'bridegroom' to return.

I see in this something that speaks directly to the practice of contemplative prayer which has to do with developing presence, awareness or mindfulness.

We do not see. we live a dream-like, sleepy existence. We need to wake up and be alive to God's life which is all around us and within us. Prayer should help us to do that - to open our sleepy eyes to the wonder all around us as we watch and wait for the movement and activity of God to be revealed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

GB 08

Just back from Greenbelt.
It was a different kind of festival for us this year. This was mostly because Lily is now 19 months old which meant that this year was the 'in-between' year: last year she was still a baby and not mobile and so we could just take her around in the pram and that sort of thing. And next year we will probably register her in the fantastic kids festival.
But this year she is walking and needs more stimulation so much of our time on site (we were staying with friends off site which was great but also made us a little more disconnected) was spent entertaining her - which was fine and often lots of fun but it did mean we didn't do as much programmed stuff as previous years. And I ended up doing bits of different things (half a talk etc.) so it was all quite fragmented.
So because of that there's not a whole host of highlights to mention (at least as far as the programme goes) but here's some stuff I did enjoy:

- Julie Lee in the Performance Cafe on Sunday : exquisite songwriting and singing in a rootsy, folksy, bluegrass americana style with excellent contributions from her co-musicians
- One Giant Leap 'What About Me' : again could only stay for the first bit of this but seeing excerpts from the film and listening to one of the film-makers made me want to immediately go out and buy the DVD. Amazing.
- Seth Lakeman on Saturday night : I think he's invented a new genre - stadium folk

Didn't go to much prayer/worship stuff this year and to be honest the one or two bits I did go to didn't do much for me (but that probably says more about where I was at).

As usual one of the most brilliant things about Greenbelt was connecting with people: really enjoyed chatting to Karen from Seattle, the two Ians (Adams and Mobsby), Nadia from Colorado, Si Lockett from the Shire, as well as the usual Oxford posse.

So there we go - another festival over. I always end up leaving my wristband on for a few days afterwards...can never bring myself to immediately cut it's like some sort of umbilical cord that still connects me to the fact that I was there with my tribe even if I am now back in normality.

So - what was your highlight?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

some people just don't get it

How about this for an image that totally misses the point of the cross?!! I'm hoping it wasn't supposed to be serious.
(from Bob Hyatt's blog)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

silence please

I am increasingly becoming aware of the importance of silence for a healthy spiritual life.

I have recently begun reading the blog of Maggie Ross/Martha Reeves (she is an Anglican solitary who spends her summers in a remote part of Alaska and her winters teaching in Oxford and elsewhere (though I've never had the chance to hear her). She writes under the name Maggie Ross.

Here's a couple of lines from a sermon she preached at Mansfield College in Oxford back in February to whet your appetite (and provoke you no doubt!):

"silence....will help you in every aspect of your lives if you will simply sit down and make room for it."


"....if you pursue the work of silence even for six months, your life will change dramatically, and if you persist you will find the joy that no one and nothing can take from you, no matter what happens."

Read the whole sermon (and subscribe to her blog) here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

olympics: when is a sport not a sport?

I'm enjoying the Olympics. The sheer diversity of sports and athletic disciplines is staggering.
Last time the Olympics was on I remember having a pub conversation with some of the guys from Home (that's you Jim and Rich!) about what makes a sport a sport. The conversation came out of the fact that some of the events seemed a little silly (thinking now of things like that gymnastic nonsense when the gymnast throws a ball around or waves a stick with some ribbon on the end - stuff like that).
I seem to remember we put forward the idea that to be included in the Olympics a sport had to have an objective element - longer, faster, higher , the most goals etc. Something that was objectively measurable. So anything with a panel of judges and scores for artistic merit etc. HAD to go.
Off the top of my head that means that these 'sports' would no longer be in the Olympics - synchronised swimming and diving, trampolining, gymnastics etc.
Some of these are great to watch (the gymnastics is amazing) but I'm not sure about it as a sport.
Am I being a sports fascist?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

reading scripture

For some time now I have tried to follow the lectionary scripture readings as part of my daily spiritual practice. I like being in step with a global community of believers and I like the rhythm of daily readings from the Old Testament, Psalms and New Testament.

I have often struggled to maintain this discipline for various reasons however. Recently I came across this volume which helpfully puts all the readings together in one place for each day (so no more flicking around or trying to remember where to stop reading etc.)

I have been using it for 2 or 3 weeks now and it has really helped. So 6 days a week I try to use this first thing in the morning but on Sundays there are no readings as that's the day when I read scripture with the community (Home) instead.

If you think you too might find this helpful pop over to Amazon and get yours here.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Greenbelt daily diary available for download

Starting to get excited about Greenbelt now - a week today we'll be there.
I was tipped off today that you can download the Daily Diary in advance (for £2) so you can begin to plan your weekend now! They don't want you to disseminate it or print it and they don't want you to not buy one when you get there - because they need the income from the sales, which is fair enough. Get yours here.
Anyway - just downloaded it and had a quick look. Very frustrating that all the things I'm interested in all seem to clash with each other or be at a very inconvenient time!! Oh well.

Too cool for (nursery) school

Michael Phelps

I thought this (from Patrick Moberg) was most amusing!
He's a wonderful illustrator - check him out at his site.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

emerging and contemplative

A few days ago I blogged about the conference next year featuring both Richard Rohr and Brian Maclaren. Rohr very much represents the contemplative tradition and Maclaren is often seen as a spokesperson for the emerging church movement (though I know he wouldn't be comfortable with that and I'm not particularly but let's go with it for now).
It's fascinating to me that they are connecting.
Yesterday I was speaking to someone who said that they thought we were beginning to see real crossover between these streams and I too see a convergence of the contemplative and the emerging streams. It's certainly true in our experience.
As usual there is real diversity in the fresh expressions of church we're seeing - so this wouldn't be true for every 'emerging church'.
But I think it's quite an important thing to notice and pay attention to. Anyone else been thinking about this?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

another way of looking at forgiveness?

I guess most of us who would call ourselves Christians have at one time or another prayed a prayer asking God to forgive us for something.
And by that we normally mean something like "I have been wrong. This wrongness counts against me. Please take this wrongness away so that it doesn't count against me anymore".
And there's probably not a lot wrong with that way of looking at what it means to be forgiven by God.
But this morning I was thinking about this subject again and it occurred to me that there is another way of looking at what it means to be forgiven that might be more helpful.
And it relates to an understanding of forgiveness as healing.
Let me use an example. If I am unkind towards someone and I recognise it and ask God for forgiveness, what I'm actually doing is not so much asking God to rub out a black mark against my name, or to let me off the hook as it were, but to touch and heal whatever it is inside of me that makes me act unkindly towards that person.
I need to be forgiven.
I need the things in me that stop me living fully as a human being to be put right within me.
If the roots or the inner life is good and whole then the branches and the fruit will be good too.
Is that a more helpful way of thinking about what forgiveness is?

Monday, August 11, 2008

should Peter have got out of the boat?

Yesterday's gospel text was the story of Peter getting out of the boat and walking towards Jesus on the water.

We had a lively discussion on this text at our eucharist. I put forward the suggestion that in actual fact Peter's getting out of the boat could be seen as an act of unbelief rather than the great act of faith it so often is seen as.


Well, the disciples are all in the boat and the storm is raging all around them. Jesus walks towards them and says "It is I. Do not be afraid" (his favourite command). Peter then says "IF IT IS YOU command me to come to you". In other words, Peter couldn't take Jesus at his word and believe it was Christ.

In the end Jesus rebukes him for having "little faith". Was this in relation to his sinking or in relation to him not believing it was Jesus in the first place and needing extra proof??

What are the implications of this?

In our discussion I said that the disciples who stayed in the boat were, in an important sense, just as faithful as Peter who got out of the boat. We live in a Christian celebrity culture where the daring exploits of a few 'superstar' Christians grab all the headlines. We are used to seeing certain people elevated to a superior status - the books, the tours, the conference platforms etc. etc. And these people are, for the most part, good people and we should listen to them and thank God for them.

But meanwhile the rest of us are still in the boat wondering whether we should have got out and walked on the water too and perhaps feeling a little bad that we didn't. But staying in the boat can often be just as faithful a way to live as getting out and walking on the water.

Greenbelt line up is looking good!

Really pleased to see some of the late additions to the Greenbelt line up.
Jose Gonzalez is now playing. You may know his music from the Sony advert shot in San Francisco a few years back (the one with all the coloured balls bouncing down the streets). I loved his album 'Veneer' but I've never seen him live.
Seth Lakeman has also now been added. Pip and I saw him live in Oxford earlier in the year and he was great. He'll be a little too folky for some people but don't let a violin stand between you and a good time is what I say.
It's shaping up to be a good one this year! Full line up details here.

Also just noticed that - among all the great and the good contributing worship this year - St Gregory of Nyssa church from San Francisco are doing something. They're a very interesting church I've been watching for a couple of years now - doing some very progressive liturgical stuff. Check out their site here.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

jedi council

There are a number of people that make up my own personal Jedi Council - favourite writers or speakers, inspirational people etc.
Two of them are Richard Rohr and Brian Maclaren.
So I was pleased and excited this morning to see they are doing a conference together next year. And it's in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So right on my doorstep too! I wouldn't normally even consider going so far for a conference, but how often do you get two of your Jedi's on one bill?! + Shane Claiborne and Phyllis Tickle thrown in too.
Anyway - more info here if, like me, you're interested.

Friday, August 08, 2008

good friends, good times

Some friends of ours here in Oxford - who shall remain anonymous as I think they would prefer it that way - have taken pity on us.
After a pretty crappy week last week (see previous posts) they wanted to cheer us up so tonight they are coming round to babysit and are paying for us to go out for a meal. Fantastic!!
We are so chuffed - such a thoughtful thing to do.
So this evening we're off to check out Jamie Oliver's new Oxford restaurant - 'Jamie's Italian' (see pic).
It's good to have good friends!!

Thursday, August 07, 2008

everything is spiritual

Really enjoyed watching Rob Bell's 'Everything is Spiritual' DVD with a bunch of the guys from Home last night.
This is the DVD of his one man show which he performed across the States in 'secular' venues last year - just him on stage and a huge whiteboard on which he scribbles and doodles as he talks for about 1 hour 20 mins.
RB is a really great communicator - very listenable to. And I thought this was an interesting approach. He spent a lot of time talking about cosmology and the physicality of the he was majoring on natural revelation rather than special revelation (see Romans 1).
I also heard him talk about the contemplative path - although he never used this word. For him, spirituality is all about being awake and alive to the wonder that is staring us in the face but which we are all too often too blind to see.
Spirituality is about presence and sin (he didn't use this word either) therefore is about blindness to the wonder.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

feeding of the 5000 - eucharistic patterns

Love this image which I found online last week as I was preparing some thoughts on the lectionary texts for last Sunday for Home (and its now on the front page of our site).

The feeding of the 5000 is such an interesting eucharistic text. We find in it the same 4 dominical eucharistic actions of taking/giving, blessing, breaking and sharing that we see in the accounts of the last supper. Paul repeats the pattern in 1 Cor. 11.

Of course, it's the same pattern that we see in the ministry of Christ -
- he was given to the world
- he offered himself to the Father (we see this most clearly in Gethsemane)
- he was broken on the cross
- his life is shared out for the nourishment and healing of all

And it's the same for us -
- we are given life by God
- we offer ourselves back to God through a life of following in the way of Christ
- as we do so we are broken as we embrace the cross and die to self
- our lives then become a source of life for others as Christ's life in us is shared

That's why the eucharist is so important for us. We celebrate it every week. It symbolically re-enacts the heart of what the way of Christ is all about - death and resurrection, the paschal mystery.

Friday, August 01, 2008

today's disaster!

so after 8 months of being very careful with my iPhone, this morning I dropped it for the first time and - as you can see - the screen has totally cracked.

So better get back on to the insurers for the second time this week. Maybe I should put their number on speed-dial!