Monthly Archives: October 2005

Tributes To Rosa Parks

Some beautiful quotes from the Rosa Parks memorial service on the BBC website today:

Condoleeza Rice, US Secretary of State:

“I can honestly say that without Mrs Parks, I would not be standing here today as secretary of state.”

Bob Riley, Governor of Alabama:

“I firmly believe God puts different people in different parts of history so great things can happen. I think Rosa Parks is one of those people.”

Daniel Coughlin, Chaplain to the House of Representatives:

“Tonight, inspired by her life and leadership, as your free children, we say to Mrs Rosa Parks: Ride on, ride on, ride on in the direction of endless hope to the table of equal justice and eternal peace.”

Put these quotes together and we have a beautiful and challenging picture of holistic Christian faith lived out in the crucible of the world. May we all aspire to that.

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Touching The Father’s Heart Conference

Today and yesterday I’ve been attending the Touching The Father’s Heart Conference for Methodist leaders organised by the Ignite Revival Network, featuring John and Carol Arnott of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and Scott McDermott of Washington Crossing United Methodist Church. Much could be said about what happened – see the testimony page on Ignite’s site in the next few days. But in the meantime here are some of the significant things that happened to me when people prayed for me:

1. Carol Arnott spoke yesterday afternoon about ‘soaking prayer’. Talking about a gift of some pearls, she described the way pearls are formed as the grit is coated over a period of time. I was prayed for, ended up doing ‘carpet time’, and longed to feel God’s presence and love but can’t in all honesty say I did. I prayed, “Lord, what are you doing?” I felt him say, “I am coating you.”

2. I regularly see an osteopath about a problem with my neck but it has also been noticed that I have a problem with stiff muscles attached to my left hip. When I lie on my back the left foot doesn’t tilt out to the left as it should, it is more or less vertical. The osteopath told me this needed dealing with or I would have problems in twenty years’ time. I had had a couple of brief manipulations and some minor improvement had occurred. However whilst flat on my back doing carpet time yesterday and today I noticed the foot had pretty much gone to the proper angle. And I had not sought prayer about this.

3. This morning Andrew Baguley asked for people to receive prayer for ear problems. Debbie, my wife, has had an awful ear infection for nearly two weeks now which may just be connected with our water tank problem. She’s on her third set of antibiotics and in constant pain, sleeping very little – even worse when you have two very small children as we do. I went out and asked for prayer for her. It was a great encouragement to find that the man praying for me had seen his own wife healed of a hearing disorder, not an instant healing but ultimately a complete one. I ended up on the floor again. Whilst there I prayed, “Lord, I want my wife back” (she just hasn’t been her usual extravert self during this condition). I felt him say, “You can have her back” and then saw a picture where she was bound in something like twine and I was cutting her free. When the final piece of twine was cut she jumped for joy. I have to say that upon arriving home this afternoon I found she was no better physically. But I do now have the faith that she will be restored.

Touching The Father’s Heart Conference

Today and yesterday I’ve been attending the Touching The Father’s Heart Conference for Methodist leaders organised by the Ignite Revival Network, featuring John and Carol Arnott of the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship and Scott McDermott of Washington Crossing United Methodist Church. Much could be said about what happened – see the testimony page on Ignite’s site in the next few days. But in the meantime here are some of the significant things that happened to me when people prayed for me:

1. Carol Arnott spoke yesterday afternoon about ‘soaking prayer’. Talking about a gift of some pearls, she described the way pearls are formed as the grit is coated over a period of time. I was prayed for, ended up doing ‘carpet time’, and longed to feel God’s presence and love but can’t in all honesty say I did. I prayed, “Lord, what are you doing?” I felt him say, “I am coating you.”

2. I regularly see an osteopath about a problem with my neck but it has also been noticed that I have a problem with stiff muscles attached to my left hip. When I lie on my back the left foot doesn’t tilt out to the left as it should, it is more or less vertical. The osteopath told me this needed dealing with or I would have problems in twenty years’ time. I had had a couple of brief manipulations and some minor improvement had occurred. However whilst flat on my back doing carpet time yesterday and today I noticed the foot had pretty much gone to the proper angle. And I had not sought prayer about this.

3. This morning Andrew Baguley asked for people to receive prayer for ear problems. Debbie, my wife, has had an awful ear infection for nearly two weeks now which may just be connected with our water tank problem. She’s on her third set of antibiotics and in constant pain, sleeping very little – even worse when you have two very small children as we do. I went out and asked for prayer for her. It was a great encouragement to find that the man praying for me had seen his own wife healed of a hearing disorder, not an instant healing but ultimately a complete one. I ended up on the floor again. Whilst there I prayed, “Lord, I want my wife back” (she just hasn’t been her usual extravert self during this condition). I felt him say, “You can have her back” and then saw a picture where she was bound in something like twine and I was cutting her free. When the final piece of twine was cut she jumped for joy. I have to say that upon arriving home this afternoon I found she was no better physically. But I do now have the faith that she will be restored.

Shaun Murphy’s Faith

An interview by Matthew Syed with Shaun Murphy, the world snooker champion, appears in today’s Times. Here are the first two paragraphs:

Many attributed Shaun Murphy’s unswerving self-belief to his faith in God after he triumphed in the World Championship this year as a 150-1 outsider. It is a plausible theory. The 23-year-old is an unabashed biblical literalist who views the multicoloured world of snooker through the black and white prism of Christian fundamentalism.

“I am convinced that God has a plan for my life that encompasses success in snooker,” he said when I met him at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, the venue for today’s Pot Black Cup, where he faces Jimmy White in the first round. “Before matches, Clare (his wife) prays that God will anoint my hands so that I can play to my full potential.”

Two things struck me about these paragraphs. First is the attribution of Murphy’s belief that God had a plan for his life to ‘black and white … Christian fundamentalism’. Certainty makes you a fundamentalist. When I first read it my hackles rose against the reporter. But I have sat listening this morning to Scott McDermott preach about the need to avoid spiritual indecision in the face of a culture that would prefer us to be indecisive. So no wonder the journalist has to categorise Murphy like this. He’s captive to the culture.

Secondly, I love the prayer for the anointing of his hands so that he can play to his full potential. This takes ‘anointing’ out of the limited, churchy context it is too often constrained within right into the workplace and therefore the place of Christian witness. God bless you, Shaun.

Shaun Murphy’s Faith

An interview by Matthew Syed with Shaun Murphy, the world snooker champion, appears in today’s Times. Here are the first two paragraphs:

Many attributed Shaun Murphy’s unswerving self-belief to his faith in God after he triumphed in the World Championship this year as a 150-1 outsider. It is a plausible theory. The 23-year-old is an unabashed biblical literalist who views the multicoloured world of snooker through the black and white prism of Christian fundamentalism.

“I am convinced that God has a plan for my life that encompasses success in snooker,” he said when I met him at the Royal Automobile Club in Pall Mall, the venue for today’s Pot Black Cup, where he faces Jimmy White in the first round. “Before matches, Clare (his wife) prays that God will anoint my hands so that I can play to my full potential.”

Two things struck me about these paragraphs. First is the attribution of Murphy’s belief that God had a plan for his life to ‘black and white … Christian fundamentalism’. Certainty makes you a fundamentalist. When I first read it my hackles rose against the reporter. But I have sat listening this morning to Scott McDermott preach about the need to avoid spiritual indecision in the face of a culture that would prefer us to be indecisive. So no wonder the journalist has to categorise Murphy like this. He’s captive to the culture.

Secondly, I love the prayer for the anointing of his hands so that he can play to his full potential. This takes ‘anointing’ out of the limited, churchy context it is too often constrained within right into the workplace and therefore the place of Christian witness. God bless you, Shaun.

Unwanted Pregnancies: Contraception Or Abstinence?

In today’s issue of The Times Camilla Cavendish wrote an opinion column entitled Preaching Is No Prophylactic. Her basic thesis is that the only way to reduce unwanted pregnancies is contraception, not a crusade for abstinence outside marriage. One of her more vehement quotes is this:

‘Aid organisations say that roughly half of the $10 billion that President Bush promised two years ago to fight Aids will be wasted on futile abstinence programmes that go against human nature.’

On one level Cavendish is right: abstinence does go against human nature – sinful human nature. Jesus said some Old Testament laws were given because the people were hard-hearted, and maybe sometimes (often?) that’s how governments have to be.

However, while I’m hardly Dubya’s biggest fan, it’s supremely ironic that the same edition of the paper carries an interview with President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda which notes that his nation has had some success in fighting Aids. Now just remind me, didn’t the Ugandan campaign include a big emphasis on abstinence?

Barney The Dinosaur, The Myth Of Progress and Holiness

One of the, er, pleasures of being a parent to tiny children is the current devotion to Barney The Purple Dinosaur videos. The current favourite on heavy rotation is Barney’s Good Day, Good Night. Much of it is harmless fun and subtly educational, encouraging good behaviour mixed with a lot of gentle demythologisation (there isn’t a man in the moon and there are no such things as ghosts).

It also contains a song about how children are growing every day. One interesting line thrown in is how they are all growing friendlier day by day. A quick Christian retort to this would be that this involves a lot of post-Enlightenment mythologisation – the myth of progress, to be exact, and that this is totally inadequate. As one teacher put it, “Anybody who doubts the doctrine of original sin hasn’t taught a class of five-year-olds”.

But maybe there is more at stake here. The line also sits with values in the videos where goodness is taught by presenting virtually faultless children. Perhaps the producers don’t want to induce negative copycat behaviour. But it reminded me how refreshing it is that the Bible paints most of its heroes, warts and all. Only one is presented as perfect, and yes, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are to imitate him. Which is more realistic, the values of Barney or the Bible?

Neil Young, When God Made Me

Neil Young was interviewed in November’s Word Magazine. They questioned him about his new CD Prairie Wind and in particular about a song called ‘When God Made Me’. Apparently it sounds like a hymn and the interviewer, Robert Sandall, goes on to ask him whether he is a Christian. He replies:

‘I don’t know. I don’t think so. I certainly don’t say, don’t be a Christian. Everybody needs something to hang their hat on. But I really don’t buy into any particular story. The Indians had something going on with their ‘great spirit’ as a term for God. They were more concerned with the trees, the grasslands, the animals and a sense of balance. It’s a pagan thing and there’s nothing bad about paganism. It only became bad because of the insecurity of the church. That song is about the self-righteousness that makes certain people think God created man in his own image. What a conceited idea! What about the squirrel? What happened to him? We’re all here together, we’re all nature. One big thing.’

A quote, then, that may continue to give the impression that this blog is turning into the squirrel blog (see last two entries). It would be easy to be smug with Young on his views, given that in the same interview he makes much of the importance of the full moon. ‘I am a strong believer in the full moon as a good time to be creative so I try to record all of my albums based on that timing. It’s an old thing in farming: if you plant on a full moon you’re going to get a good crop … when the moon starts waning is when everything starts falling apart … Look at the way the moon affects the water in tides. Since we’re mainly water we’re bound to be affected if we open ourselves up to it.’

Rather than dismiss Young due to those apparently strange views it would be better to look seriously at what he says. Of course as a Christian I don’t believe that the doctrine of God making humankind in his image is about conceit or arrogance: it’s an act of pure grace and it should not make us careless with the rest of creation. But the problem is, that is precisely the way it has been taken for centuries and we now have an environmental problem. It is an idea that still lingers in extreme conservative circles. I recall a few months ago reading a transcript online of an American TV interview featuring both Brian McLaren and Tim LaHaye in which the latter said that the environment was made for man – not a view McLaren shared.

Some Christians have wanted to anchor their doctrine of creation in a different place due to this misuse – see for example Creation Through Wisdom by Celia Deane-Drummond. But maybe we also need to rediscover the imago dei and interpret it in a more humble way. And such an interpretation will not be solely the task of lectures, seminars, books and journals, but the interpretation seen in human flesh. We need to hold this together with Young’s statement that ‘We’re all here together, we’re all nature’, except that I would just change that last word from ‘nature’ to ‘creation’.

The Parable Of The Water Tank

Here’s another one for those with ears to hear. It follows on from the last one.

There had been a terrible stink in the house. And no, it wasn’t me. It emanated from the bathroom and was accompanied by tap water that tasted metallic.

Eventually we called in the handyman. Although I hadn’t seen anything in the water tank, when he lifted the lid he was greeted by a stench to shame a skunk. There, lying in the water, was a dead squirrel attended by a harem of maggots.

‘Again, Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’.”‘ (Mark 7:14-15)

The Parable Of The Squirrels

We have recently been hearing the pitter-patter of tiny feet in the loft. No, we didn’t confine the children up there when they were too noisy, we had an invasion of squirrels evidently scoping out a warm place for this winter’s hibernation.

We called in a pest control company. We asked them what bait they put in the traps. Would it be some smaller unfortunate creatures? What about acorns? No: Snickers bars. The lure of chocolate traps the furry vermin, who then have a meeting with a man who, Al Pacino-like, wants to introduce them to his ‘lil friend’.

For those who have ears to hear.

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