today-you-inspired-meOn Monday evening I attended my first ever RSA Engage event after recently becoming  a Fellow.

I went expecting a series of lectures and was excitedly surprised to arrive in the Great Hall to find a few poseur tables with nibbles on and some chairs around the perimeter of the room. The evening had 9 speakers making pitches for their projects which were essentially using technology for good purposes to aid social change.

The format of the evening saw three rounds of three people speaking for three minutes. After each round we than had a chance to wander around the hall, network, and engage with any of the speakers. This then happened two more times.

The format was exciting, invigorating and engaging … could there be something here for how we teach and engage in church …. I loved the way this engaged everyone … standing and listening and moving and knowing the pitch was a strict three minutes helped us to focus through the filter of wanting to engage.

There were 9 great pitches last night … one I particularly liked and have already started to use was  Better Net … which I have installed on my mobile devices and works amazingly. Adverts have disappeared and my pages run quicker!

The evening was great for talking with new people … I linked with a couple of people I did not know before … and that is always a good thing!

Church Bullies

11.5.ChurchBullies_169402454There’s a very good post here about church bullies.
The thing that worries me particularly is I think in churches where people are bullied, particularly by a leader, the people being bullied don’t even realise it! Well worth the read!

words … just words …

foot-in-mouth-awardIt’s been a pretty intense week. There have been a lot of conversations and a fair few frustrations. I don’t mind frustrating people (mainly Christian) who don’t seem to get what I am about or what I am trying to achieve but … they are so …. well … flipping frustrating! It seriously got to the stage this week that if I heard one more well meaning Christian cliche shared in response to quite a serious need or issue that I was worried that my normal pacifist self might just erupt in a volcanic scream spewing hot boiling lava over the person Ally McBeal style. If you don’t get that, then you have missed out on one of the funniest TV shows ever!

It turns out that I have not imitated a Vesuvius eruption this week. By God’s grace, or some miracle, I have kept calm and sometimes I have even smiled, even though it may have been through clenched teeth, but I have smiled nevertheless!

I have, however, screamed inwardly this week. Maybe this is my issue and maybe I do need to repent and I certainly know that I need to be more patient. But …. please …. why can’t some Christians think before they open their mouths!!! Just a little … please! Why can’t some people just pause, reflect and think about how they sound before they open their mouths to fix situations or offer advice that was not even asked for!

I need to contextualise this. I have heard some horrendous things this week in my normal everyday comings and goings. Things I have heard this week. Genuine things. Not made up. Said to me or overheard as I am just plain nosey:

Jesus took your 3 month old baby because he wanted another angel in heaven’.
“At least she is now playing with Jesus”
‘Have you ever thought the cancer has come back because God wants to teach you a lesson!’
‘You really need to change your attitude before God will love you’.(Christian parent to teenage child!)
“No REAL Christian would go in there … there’s no hope for them, they are all going to hell … and if you hang out with them ….” (yep … that one was said to me! Actually that one made me smile because the heaven this man talks of is certainly not the place in which I wish to spend eternity!)

The title of this post was going to be ‘watch what you say’, or something similar. But that’s a bit of an oxymoron because … I don’t think …. in this post that I am applying that title to myself. I will probably have negative comeback from this post …. What I have written will no doubt seriously pee off some people. I don’t like to upset people but if I do on this occasion that’s regrettable but tough!

I also know I have friends of no faith who visit here occasionally. Those friends are precious to me, and I want to take this opportunity to share that not all Christians think or say or offer such unhelpful and insensitive stuff. Some believe God is just there with you in the pain, crying next to you and wishing things were different.

At the end of the day this stuff is all just words … but the old sticks and stones rhyme doesn’t really hold up. Sticks and stones do break bones, but I think misplaced words can break hearts.

Maybe I have seen just too many broken hearts these past few weeks that have been further shattered by empty sayings.

So …. words … can we be thoughtful? …. and the certificate at the top of the post … thats for me for writing this post in the first place!


what do I believe?

Over the last few months I have had some very interesting conversations on my travels both within and outside Medway.

In particular I have found myself in ‘debate’ with Christians who have a very legalistic view of our faith. I guess I am on sensitive ground here as I don’t want to berate or get into the whole ‘I’m right and you are wrong’ crap that flies around Christianity far too much. But I do, somehow, want to start a dialogue over how we live out our faith. It seems to be that there is a significant section (I have not researched enough to be able to say significant ‘minority’, significant ‘majority’ … so ‘section’ will have to do) of Christians that will excuse any behaviour by simply saying ‘well it is scriptural’ or ‘it is in the bible’.

The Bible is important. The Bible is the word of God. In that sense I am still a good evangelical; but we still need to ask what does that mean. I mean, when we say this is the word of God, what do we actually mean by that?

Do we mean that these words come direct from the mouth of Creator God and so cannot be altered in any way and are totally, irrevocably 100% to be adhered to the the exact infinite letter? Well … if we do there is a slight problem of age and culture to get around there. The most recent parts of scripture are some 2000 years old … and a lot more is older. This means this whole question is not as easy as some people would have us think.

I want to share a little incident from home that is relevant here. Around the dinner table recently one of my children said ‘that’s sick’. In translation he meant ‘it was brilliant, or cool, or amazing’. Only  few years ago, ‘that’s sick’ would have meant ‘gross, horrible, or maybe ugly’. In the space of just a few years one word ‘sick’ is being used in a totally different, and maybe even opposite, way than it used to be used.

If we were to write down that conversation and it was read in a few hundred years, let alone thousands of years, would the people have any idea what we were talking about? Would they have to try and second guess what was being said? Would they understand that ‘sick’ meant ‘amazing?’

There are plenty of other word we can use that we may or may not know what people were saying when they wrote them: cool, gay, yellow, slate, slag, waste, ace, acid, dabs, deck, dipstick, pad …. the list can go on and on and on.

I do believe the Bible is the word of God … but I do also believe it was written by humans who had only the language of their time and culture to be able to express what God was telling them. So, our task in discovering what it means requires that, first, we try to work out and consider what was being said at the time it was written – and that only comes after the complicated process of translation because (shock horror!) the Bible was not written in English ….. not even in 1662 BCP type English!  Here a knowledge of the culture and history of the time becomes very helpful, and I would say vital.

For me, as well, there are some clear standards and attributes that go with God and so I believe that what the Bible ‘says’ should mirror who God ‘is’. Surely that must be the case … mustn’t it?

I believe Jesus came to earth and that we can look to Jesus to see what God is like. Jesus being God in flesh is a pretty orthodox Christian belief (100% human and 100% God – too big for my brain to get around … but God is God!).

From the gospels we that Jesus is compassionate, loving and inclusive. So it follows simply that God is compassionate, loving and inclusive. It then follows in my mind that any interpretation from the bible for relevance today that is not compatible with those values does not fit with who God is. If biblical interpretation does not fit with the character of God then I query whether we have interpreted correctly.

So … it is not as straight forward as it may seem. I do not believe we can simply say ‘the bible says x and so we have to do y’ and then believe we are ok and right. I think it is more about finding out what the bible said then in a particular time and culture and why and then bringing that same practice into the here and now and living a way that displays the compassion, love and inclusivity of God. After all … there is no point being ‘right’ if the way we live is crap, discriminatory and abusive!

But saying all that … I refer to my opening remarks … I could very well be wrong … and I’d love to know what others who come here think …

changing habits

We have been doing a bit of energy awareness education in our house and it seems to be having a good effect!

I recently switched our energy supplier to British Gas. As part of the deal they sent us a free energy monitor which attaches itself to one of the electrical cables going into the meter and transmits how much electricity is being used at any one time and, more importantly, how much that is costing us each day and each month.

I guess I am like many dads and I am constantly moaning about the TV being left on when no one is watching it, and lights left on in empty rooms. I think we have all been shocked how much power we have been using as a family – discovering, for example, that just turning the hall light off could save us nearly £5 per month.

The result … the house is in semi-darkness! But … this has got to be better for the planet and it’s quite interesting that a simple meter by the phone has had such a great effect on our behaviour. the good thing – this has got to be better for our carbon footprint, and also for our wallets!

I guess, reflecting on this, it shows me again how key meaningful illustrations or activities are if we are to make an impact and change behaviour. I have been ‘going on’ for years about turning lights and things off … no one has listened to me … but the little meter with the £ and kw sign has had more impact in minutes than I have in years.

I guess people just need to see the reasons plain and simple!