Sunday, June 27, 2010

Going nowhere slowly

I have always liked that TV programme "Going nowhere slowly". 
It is the kind of holiday I like the best - getting into a car and heading to well, who knows where. 
At the moment I am stationary in Ramsgate but feeling just this - "Going nowhere slowly". 

Howard got the Rota virus last week and thus for 6 days and 6 long nights we spent cleaning up 
all that this horrid virus had to offer.  We stayed in Durban for the week where we could be near doctors 
and helping parents who gave us some needed help. 

I have finished reading a fascinating book called "Poetry as spiritual practice" by Robert McDowell. 
For those into poetry it helps one appreciate that much of our spiritual liturgy for worship is styled as poetry. 
Many of our great spiritual songs/hymns are poetry set to music. If one thinks about it poetry is the first language we 
use. All those nursery rhymes and lullaby's are the way we enter this great world of ours.  As we grow up 
we are taught to discard this language for a more scientific language that uses logic and argument as its main pattern.
For those who write poetry (I am sure many of you?) it brings a whole new meaning to how you do it.  
So have fun - write some spiritual poetry and use it as your song of worship to God. 

Having fun, 


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Howard celebrating father's day

Eating out at the mt Edgecombe country club

Do you have true faith?

In Jesus' and the prophet's critique, self righteous religion is always marked by insensitivity to issues of social justice while true faith is marked by profound concern for the poor & marginalized -Timothy Keller

Friday, June 18, 2010

Howard and Anne at Moses Mabhida

This time I hope you get the picture. Doing this from my phone and sent it via sms instead of email

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The straight jacket of freedom

I am on leave (a part of my Sabbatical) at the moment and I am enjoying the thrill of not having to go anywhere at any specific time, however this generally only lasts for a short period until I can find another routine to slip into. I find the in between times of ‘arbness’ rather stressful.

I am still going through “The Reason for God” by Timothy Keller and I am trying to summarize ideas, concepts and truths about the Christian faith that will help me answer questions for myself and help me deal with questions that come from others.

I am also reading another brilliant book about poetry as a means of spiritual practice but more about that one later on.

Immanuel Kant defined an enlightened person as one who trusts in his or her own power of thinking rather than in authority or tradition (Keller, R.F.G. pg46). This is common thinking is it not, in the age of relativism, Aquarius and all those kind of things.
The underlying concept is that we cannot be free if we are ‘straight jacketed’ to anything that restricts our freedom. If one looks at the smooth stroke of the professional golfer, the easy footwork of the soccer player, the first thought is: “ how easy and free that looks.” Let us not be mistaken as what we see is really the outcome of hours, days and years of restrictive discipline and practice that forfeited much else to get that ‘easy’ look. The truth of the matter is freedom comes with a price.

The arbitrary comment often heard today is, “ We can decide our own morality. We the individual decide what is right and wrong.” The counter argument to this is surely found when we criticize leaders who are leading their countries to ruin through their personal sense of morality. We would argue that despite their personal convictions they should act otherwise for the sake of others. In other words there is a morality that is beyond the individual and belongs to all humanity.

(Thoughts inspired by Timothy Keller, The Reason For God)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

What mother would throw her child into the cold?

Timothy Keller makes the point (The Reason for God) that every community is exclusive in some way. The right and the left of any issue form a community around certain beliefs and certain values that will exclude members of the community that rebel or don’t comply with them.
So to call Christianity an exclusive community separate from others is rather rich when a closer look at your own community will unearth a similar exclusivity. What should be considered in all communities is the value of how that community respects, love and care for other communities. What should also be carefully monitored is if the community condemns, violates, is aggressive toward and demonizes other communities not like theirs. No community is entirely inclusive of all people regardless of what their moral and belief structures are.

I would like to add that although Christianity is inclusive of all race, gender and class there is a value and belief structure that is expected of all its members. In saying that it is important to note that ‘grace’ is a fundamental doctrine of the Church and thus one often finds members who contravene the core set of values still being a part of its meetings and community life. It takes extraordinary circumstances for a mother to throw her child into the cold.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What do a St. Bernard, a flea and Tess of the d’Urbervilles have in common?

Just because I cannot understand the reason for suffering doesn’t mean there is none?
The illustration goes that if you look into a two-man tent and you cannot see a St. Bernard justifies that there is no St. Bernard in the tent. But, if you look into the two-man tent and you do not see a flea does not mean that there is no flea there (Based on an illustration of Alvin Plantinga). To say that God is not good enough or powerful enough to deal with suffering and make the conclusion that there is no God because of it, is a subjective deduction. To make claims that there is no God or there is no meaning in the suffering of the world rest entirely on our cognitive skills and who can ever claim to know the wonders and horrors of the universe. (Thoughts inspired by Timothy Keller’s book – The Reason for God).

There is suffering that leaves us wondering whether there is any meaning in it but if we examine our lives we will find that the suffering we have experienced has shaped us some way or another. I watched a BBC production of Tess of the d’Urbervilles by
Thomas Hardy recently. I could see no redemption of the suffering she encountered, she even called her dead child “Sorrow”. But, who am I to say what suffering did for her as a person. Who is to say that she would not have had more meaning in life than one who grew up eating cakes and sweet tea? It does leave one with the awkward question, especially the counselor of how we help or redeem people from their suffering?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Do Christian’s bring peace to earth?

Much has been done in the guise of Christian faith that has discredited rather than brought value to the teachings of Jesus. Christians like other religious adherents fall prey to vanity and exclusive tendencies that work their way out in anger and persecution and mimic the very opposite of what we would call peace on earth.

The fundamentalists among us Christian's love to highlight the wrongs of others, the judgment due to others and brandish the verses in scriptures that herald Jesus as being the only way to salvation. If their attitude is anything to go by I don’t know if the world needs to be saved into a place that replicates this pride and arrogance. It is a future I certainly don’t want to be a part of.

If one has to focus on fundamentals the part of Christian faith I would rather be fundamental about is the fact that we are ‘all’ made in the image of God and we all are as much ‘good’ as we are ‘bad'. What is distinct about the Christian is that they recognize the darkness within them that needs redemption and their identity is not determined by how good they are. This ought to keep the Christian humble and non-judgmental of others. The other fundamental I would be fundamental about is that we are called by Jesus to love and pray for our enemies. If we are living by this creed we have to drop our weaponry of words and sharp judgment and reach out ways that transcend the obvious. Maybe in these ways we can say that Christianity will bring peace to earth. (This has been inspired by Tim Keller’s thinking in the book ‘The Reason for God’.)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Royal Agricultural Show (PMB) – through new eyes

I have learned over the years to avoid agricultural shows if I can possibly help it. There are so many dogs jumping through fiery hoops that a person can handle in one year. I always seem to arrive when the police are showcasing their clever hounds. If you blindfold me I am sure I could take you to at least 40% of the stalls that were in the same place last year and without doubt the year before that. Is it just me, but you have to always be careful where you tread as some over eager kid always eats too much and spews the contents over the public pathway.

That is until Howard arrived. I have never been so excited to go to the show before. I have a tendency to give my child a voice when he has not even spoken the hallowed “Dada” yet. I am thinking how my little 17 month old is going to perceive the prize bull with brass ring in its nose, the elegant horse jumping its logs and the shiny tractors with there new chrome radiators and black polished tyres. He just has to enjoy it or is it the flashbacks of my childhood roaming the old “Rand Easter show” that I project through his little eyes?

Friday, June 04, 2010

Myth – Christian faith is declining in numbers

There has been the thinking for some time that through the industrial revolution and through the advance of technology humankind would soon loose their need of God to help them in their troubles. This is what is termed “secularization thesis” (Peter L. Berger). Well here we are at the end of the first decade of the twenty first century and the facts tell otherwise. Virtually all religions are growing in numbers of adherents. Christianity is growing in explosive ways in what is termed the developing world. Timothy Keller in his book The reason for God, refers to Philip Jenkin’s book The next Christendom and highlights that there are six times more Anglicans in Nigeria alone than there are in all of the United States. There are more Presbyterians in Ghana than in the United States and Scotland combined. Korea has gone from 1 percent to 40 percent Christian in a hundred years, and experts believe the same thing is going to happen in China. So, if there are half a billion Chinese Christian’s fifty years from now, that will change the course of human history.

No matter how hard anti-religious groups, governments, regimes etc. try to eradicate humankind’s faith it just doesn’t work. It would seem that the search for divine meaning and significance will continue to burn deep in our souls for centuries to come.

The Reason for God
The Next Christendom

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Just started Tim Keller’s book “The Reason for God”

I have just started my next adventure through a book entitled “The Reason for God – belief in an age of skepticism”, by Tim Keller.
Although insulted as a Methodist on the third page: “My family later found its way to a more conservative church in a small Methodist denomination. For several years this strengthened what could be called the “Hellfire layer” of my religious formation…” I was able to continue and find grace to forgive him.
He has begun with a strong case for orthodox doctrine still being relevant and even growing in the urban cities. He sees this particularly amongst the multi-ethnic groups moving into cities like London and New York. His case rests in the fact that the skeptics and those who throw great doubt on the teachings of the church need also examine what that doubt is and so understand their own ‘belief. He also challenges the Christian to examine his/her doubt and make sure they have truly come to terms with their own faith. I look forward to the rest of the book.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Why don’t you commit suicide?

A question Vicktor Frankl would ask his tormented patients seeking psychological help. He would ascertain from their answer the reasons for their disturbed emotional and mental condition. He believed that if a patient could find meaning in whatever situation they faced they would be on the road to recovery.

Viktor Frankl having spent three years at Auschwitz and other Nazi concentration camps had learnt that even in the worst of humanitarian situations one could find meaning and redemption. The freedom you have to choose meaning for your life is the one freedom that cannot be taken from you. You could almost divided the camps into two kinds of inmates, those who lost hope and soon perished and those who chose to believe that their life had significance no matter how small and insignificance and survived their fate. It is not what life offers us that is important, for this is up the one day and down the next. It is more to do with what we can offer life and work within this greater and higher meaning of life.

May we strive to find meaning in everything we do this day.

A good place to start understanding Frankl's work is to read his book: "Man's search for meaning."