On Amish Romances

autumns_custom-45a0675ba8598135c8fec930ec6f105c8432b39c-s6-c30Over the last few years I have discovered the joys of owning a kindle. It’s like walking around with a whole library in your purse.

Recently a friend put me onto a website called Inspired Reads. Its fantastic if you want to pick up cheap Christian eBooks and you certainly do find some good classics and gems. However over the past few weeks I’ve been receiving their daily email I have been plunged again into the strange little world of ‘Christian Fiction’.

Firstly I noticed that four out of five of the books were ‘Christian Romances’. Florid titles pronouncing A Kiss for Cade, The Lightkeepers Bride, Highcountry Bride, The Displaced Belle…

Frankenstein’s Bride.

I made that last one up…

Will Florence/Chastity/ Wilhemina who has been ( badly hurt/widowed/shut away from the world/can’t cook) escape her( small town/ controlling mother or brother/abusive past/poverty stricken background/Baptist church) and find love with the (handsome stranger/close friend/non-Christian/circus clown) and find God’s will for her life..?

I thought God’s will for our lives was to follow Jesus and live and act out his Kingdom here on earth, involving more than just finding the man/woman/snowman/emperor penguine/ dalek of our dreams…

Ugh…

I then noticed that half of these romances or stories were set in Amish communities.

Hold on… it seemed like the genre of Christian Fiction had its own little sub-genre i.e Amish Romances. I didn’t know the Amish had so much time on their hands to write all these books seeing as they don’t use computers. Truly their output is prodigious…

It was getting so bad that every second cover had a woman on the front wearing a white cap looking either serene, uncertain, or wistful (never a guy, besides guys can’t really pull off looking serene or uncertain or wistful).  This Amish woman always manages to look stunningly beautiful despite the fact that the Amish don’t wear make-up… She always seemed to face a dilemma of who to marry, or the temptation of leaving the community for the affections of some handsome Englisher that has just stumbled in out of the cold…

Today I just looked and found a book entitled: What the Amish can Teach us About the Simple Life.

Now the Amish have developed self-help books. How nice…

A quick surf of the internet revealed that the genre of Amish Romances is huge in the States, something that is hugely puzzling to this simple Kiwi girl. They have apparently been dubbed ‘Bonnet Rippers’.  I remember when the dreadful Twighlight series set off a plague of books about teenage Vampires (yech). Likewise one Amish Romance has multiplied into a Literary Amish Zombie Apocalypse…

Flee… Flee for your lives!!

Now please don’t think I’m objecting to the Amish in particular. They’re chosen lifestyle is certainly interesting but I don’t think they are the ones who are writing all the Amish Romances. The Amish theme has become quite a lucrative franchise. I suppose one can’t really write about the Monastic Lifestyle because vows of celibacy tend to put a dampener on Romance.

My all time favourite fantasy author Diana Wynne Jones once wrote A Tough Guide to Fantasyland, which was a brilliant Mickey Take on her own genre. This book was almost like a Lonely Planet guide to navigating your standard Fantasy universe:  Don’t drink the water near a Dark Citadel or else you may be turned into something purple, that kind of thing… In the same way the Amish lifestyle has become a Christian fantasyland complete with formula just ripe of the mass production of fantasy novels (cough) I mean serious Christian literature…

Let me explain…If you have experienced the kind of Christianity that objects to Kung Fu Panda because it promotes Chinese Spirituality and the Narnia Chronicles because it encourages ideas of reincarnation ( see my previous post ) then I’m sure the imagination is in starvation mode. C S Lewis talked out how the mind craves stories and flights of fancy. The Amish Communities, then, represent a sanitised fantasy world and a way for the ‘Christian’ imagination to take flight in a ‘safe’ ‘Christian’ way free from Pernicious Ponies, Wizards and Smurfs. Kind of like a spiritual Middle Earth without the Orcs. Oh wait… maybe that’s the English…

I can almost imagine troops of Christian Questers (I mean pilgrims) from the outside world bedecked in white caps, long dresses and dark hats and dark suits, armed with wooden spoons and scythes trooping through Amish country enquiring directions to the nearest Romance or taking it in turns to master the butter churn.

My point?

Enough with the Amish already!!

Surely us Christian writers can be more creative than this…?

On Wearing a Jesus Suit

For your next costume party...

For your next costume party or audience with the Father…

The use of strange Christian sounding phrases often get me pondering…and sometimes generate more confusion than not.

For example: ‘We’re washed in the blood brother’!! (Okay so I’m red, wet and sticky which is more than a little gross… now what do I do…?)

On this occasion the preacher in question is trying to reassure people about the security of our salvation and our position before God the Father.  This illustration states that when God the Father sees us, He sees Jesus.

Hold on…

What does that even mean!!!??

Does it mean that I wear a Jesus Suit?

Now I’ve heard this particular teaching before many times and it was beginning to irritate me. This particular way of explaining things didn’t bring me comfort or reassurance. Instead it struck me as profoundly disturbing.

In order to mask my foul sinful self from God I had been mysteriously provided with a ‘Jesus Suit’ so that He didn’t recognise me and allowed me sneak under the ‘smite’ radar. Did God find the idea of me being in His presence so unacceptable that I needed to wear the spiritual equivalent of an enormous fake moustache? God looks up in the throne room he sees me and thinks to himself ‘Oh… that’s alright. Its not one of those dirty sinners from earth, it’s just my son Jesus. Hmmm, I’ve seen him quite a lot today?

This caricature of God is a grumpy old man (getoffamaporch!!) who is also a little short sighted and kinda dumb. You can imagine this God looking up as Jesus arrives in the throne room fresh from the Resurrection with all the people he’s just rescued from eternal torment.

God (irritably): who are all these people!

Jesus (defensively): just a few friends Dad…

God (breathing heavily and disgustedly into his beard): They’re all untidy!! Oh well I suppose I’ll have to put up with them seeing as you brought them home Son. But you make sure they clean up after themselves and keep the TV down!! I have important work to do! (God then retreats to his shed where He is currently tinkering with Australia…).

Jesus (turning sheepishly to the reward of his suffering): OK guys… Guess the Old Man’s a little cranky. Here’s how we’re going to get around this…

Maybe it’s me but I disliked the idea of having to put on a Jesus Suit in order for God to like me. It felt like the equivalent of putting cheese sauce on Broccoli. I wanted God to like me for ME, not because I was wearing a Jesus suit and he had been fooled into accepting me.

That is NOT what John or Paul was talking about when they talked about being conformed into the image of Jesus or putting on Christ.

Now don’t get me wrong and flood my email with explanations of the atonement! I’ve done PAPERS on the atonement and if they’ve taught me anything it is how much God values, loves and longs for the hurting, stubborn, blind and helpless things we’ve become and how frighteningly relentless He is about restoring his stolen Creation back to where it belongs:  with Him… whole and holy before him the way it was meant to be before it all went so terribly wrong

Jesus took on this commando mission to bring us home and restore us, not disguise us. He went because Father wanted His children back*.

Augustine once wrote that the glory of God is a man (or woman) fully alive. Righteousness isn’t like trying to cram a foreign entity into our sinful nature or disguising it in a Jesus Suit. It is our fallen nature awakening to the fact that we were originally created to embrace the righteousness of God. Through the work of Jesus on the Cross and by the power of His Resurrection it is now possible to be who we truly are without a disguise… Thats a good thought to have heading into Easter…

So time to dig out better metaphor… Jesus-suit theology just ain’t cutting it. I know I couldn’t carry off wearing a beard anyway… too tickly…

*All of this brings us to a need to properly understand the nature of the Trinity which I’m not going to undertake here because I don’t want my head to explode…

On Questioning God…

I’ve been very buried in study and other issues over the last few months so my posts have been rather thin. Hopefully I can rectify this as time goes on but for now a little offering of creative whimsy but maybe not so silly this time. I totally stole this idea and the music off my Old Testament Lecturer Richard Neville. He presented his version of this at the end of his lecture on the book of Job and I loved the idea so much a beetled of to make my own version (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery)! What you are reaping is also the results of my exam study on Job.

To get a sense of the scope of this idea you need to understand that the book of Job is not really about ‘suffering’ as such, but rather a warning against reducing God to a Principle. This principle was the Principle of Retribution that claimed: ‘God blesses the righteous and makes the wicked suffer’.

Well fair enough. We all seem to have an inbuilt sense of justice. People who step on cats, cut down rainforests and cut you off in traffic should get their just deserts whereas we (ahem) who pat cats and rescue them from trees, recycle and are perfectly polite in traffic should be justly rewarded. Am I right?

But what if this principle is turned on its head? What if, contrary to the Law of Retribution, bad things happen to good people. Is God still just? Is he still worthy?

Job is a righteous man. Yet in the courtroom of heaven Satan slyly implies that God’s system of running the universe is flawed. ‘Job is milking the Law of Retribution’ he sneers ‘He is only righteous because you bless him’. Therefore God agrees to allow Satan to remove all of Job’s blessings and actively cause suffering in order to see how Job will react.

We assume that Job is the one of trial in this book. But Job is not on trial.

God is…

There are two ways for God to lose. First Job can go by his wife’s advice (ladies take note: this is an object lesson on how we don’t always know everything) and ‘Curse God and die’. This means he was only in it for the blessing and was not truly Righteous. Second Job can follow his friend’s advice and confess to wickedness, even though he is innocent, in order to appease God’s supposed anger and get the blessing on tap again. Again Job is not truly righteous but in it solely for the blessing.

But thankfully Job does neither. But he does get pretty shirty as he protests that he is righteous. God is unjust because he allows the righteous to suffer. The Almighty needs to answer the charges against him.

It seems that God just can’t win here doesn’t it? If He blesses he’s running a flawed manipulative system, if He doesn’t bless he’s unjust. What now?

The answer lies in an unexpected place.

It lies in questioning the Law of Retribution.

Yes in principle this Law stands as a good axiom but it is not a satisfying answer for the vagrancies of life. Like Job we don’t know the full story. We don’t know what has been going on in the courtroom of heaven. We don’t know that like Job we may just be God’s star witnesses for the defense.

Job’s last friend Elihu starts to do this firmly arguing that God is just. God is wise in his running of the universe because he sees so much more of the picture than we do. This leads to God’s final answer to an angry Job protesting his own innocence.

It’s not about the Law of Retribution, you can’t reduce the Almighty to a principle. Yes it is a good principle to follow that the Lord loves to bless the righteous but that does not allow for living in a fallen world. We really have no idea what is going on behind the scenes.

It is about trusting in the wisdom and character of God. Its at this point God answers Job out of the storm.

Enjoy…

We seem to be experiencing some technical difficulites. Apparently  clicking on this will download the slideshow for you to view and for some reason the music is missing. However if you have ‘Storms in Africa’ by Enya off the Watermark Album you can play it alongside and enjoy the effect.  I hope you like it and can use it in your devotional time.

With many thanks to Richard Neville who gave me the idea.

About Capo Snobbery…

I am aware that maybe only musicians are going to find this funny…

I am what is known as a ‘functional guitarist’. I have never looked with envy at the people who’s fingers look like a pink five footed centipede racing up and down the guitar fret and who are inevitably a lead guitarist of some cool band and wear cool things like cycling gloves (in case they have to ride a bike while playing) or top hats with goggles on them.

I have never aspired to be the lead guitarist of anything.

This means I practice the guitar enough so that I am capable of leading a congregation in ‘Blessed be your Name” without ending up some place dreadful.  The main problem with ‘Blessed be your Name’ is that it contains bar chords. Cool Centipede Guitarists sneer at Bar Chords. They prefer them. They think Bar Chords are easier.

Ha…!

Functional guitarists, like me, dread them. Bar chords are not fun… avoid at all cost… Let me explain…

In order to produce a bar chord you must lay your index finger across the entire width of the guitar neck and hold all the strings down at once while the rest of your fingers strain for the remaining chord. This is okay when they’re well apart in the chord sequence. When they start lining up one after the other your hand starts begging for mercy because you have to hold the strings down really really really hard. If you don’t apply enough pressure what you will produce is not music per se.

What you will produce what is technically known as a ‘thunk’.

 Your song will go along these lines:

‘Blessed be your name,

thunka thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk thunk,

Where Your streams of abundance flow

Blessed be your name…’

Spot where the bar chord came in… Thunk is not a good sound to make in the middle of a worship service…

However worse than the bar chord was the dreaded key of E flat. In order to recreate the effect of this chord let us play a game of air guitar. Find a hockey stick, cumbersome tech drawing ruler or small tree to help you assume the position.

Pretend you’re about to play Blessed Be Your Name… in E flat… You will not be doing any cool violent arm windmill motions in this exercise…

Now…spread your fingers as far apart as possible into the sort of claw Mad Scientists make when they’re laughing maniacally at the moon.

Lay your fingers on the hockey stick/ruler/tree and apply as much pressure as possible…

Hold this position for about ten seconds…

Now go and find some ice for your hand…

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the chord of E flat…

I should point out that many worship songs are written in the key of E flat. These song-writers in particular must be working on a Theology of Suffering…

Of course Cool Centipede Guitarists sneer at E flat too. They devote considerable time to being able to play these maniacal chords. A friend of mine used to develop the finger strength by squeezing a tennis ball. I had neither the time nor the patience to put into such an enterprise so I turned to the guitarist’s friend… the Capo…

The capo is a little metal strap that you snap around the guitar fret. It allows you to cheat. When encountering a finger numbing key that contains lots of bar chords you can strap on this little baby and you can play an alternative non-bar-chord containing sequence in the same key…

Everybody wins… especially my fingers…

All was well in my capo use until I noticed the young guitar fanatics in my worship teams giving me sideways looks… These were the enthusiastic individuals who were aspiring to be Cool Centipede Guitarists who sneer at Bar Chords. What was I, the leader of the church’s music ministry, doing using a capo? Didn’t I have the dedication to spend hours and hours practicing scales, chords and complicated guitar riffs in my room? Surely it was my duty to master Bar Chords for Jesus. Make a sacrifice of praise in E flat.

I ignored the stares but they did make me feel a little bit awkward every time I strapped my capo on my guitar.

The same kind of awkwardness I would feel if I got into a pool still wearing ducky water-wings….

Then I went to Hillsong Conference. The music was perfect and the worship awesome. There were many Cool Centipede Guitarists in evidence.

Then Chris Tomlin and Brooke Fraser co-led a worship session.

They were both using a capo’s

Lord you are good and your mercies are new every chord change….

On Numbering Our Days aka Psalm 90 according to the Count off Sesame Street…..

 

I was studying for my Psalm’s exam today (one of the reasons that I haven’t blogged for a while). It was the first chance I’ve had in the middle of a flurry of illness (schuff), extra hours at work, college work and just the usual bevy of low level frippery that can keep one in a permanent state of distraction. Exam study is usually a cause of stress but today it served as a tiny epiphany. One of the exam questions is an exegetical essay on Psalm 90. In the middle of the mumbling and worrying and distraction I had a wake up call to PAY ATTENTION!!

Psalm 90 is a candid reminder of how God is eternal and we are not… in fact we’re downright flimsy…

 All our days pass under your wrath;

We finish our years with a moan.

Our days may come to seventy years,

Or eighty, if our strength endures;

Yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow

For they quickly pass, and we fly away… (vs 9,10)

Not exactly cheerful reading but then psalm 90 is a Communal Lament. I don’t recommend it for weddings… However before everyone heads away to drown their sorrows in peanut butter and watching Futurama re-runs the crux of the psalm comes when we get to vs 12

Teach us to number our days, so that we may gain a heart of wisdom (vs 12)

The psalmist urges his hearers not to despair but rather to PAY ATTENTION!!!

Our lecturer, Richard Neville put it like this:

70 years = 25,497.5 days

10 = 3, 642 days (21,855 to go)

20 = 7, 285 days (20,033 to go)

30 = 10,927 days (18,212 to go)

40 = 14,570 days (10,927 to go)

50 = 18, 212 days (7,285 to go)

60 = 21,855 days (3,642 to go)

65 = 23,676 days (1,821 to go)

I am turning double 20 (I still can’t say it) in 10 days time. This means I will have 10, 927 days left (mind you, my family are notoriously long livers but that’s beside the point…) Numbering our days is not morbid introspection but wisdom. Our days are brief. Use them wisely.  I don’t mean that we need to be climb Everest, wrestle anacondas or record Platinum albums in a frenzy of Carpe Diem in order to make life meaningful . What I do mean is that we really need to see our lives and number our days without being constantly lulled into a distracted stupor… Kind of like the Count off Sesame Street.

one day (ah ah ah ah) Two days (ah ah ah ah) THREE days (ah ah ah ah) FOUR DAYS!!! (ah ah ah ah!!!!)

Well maybe not… but you get the idea…

This day is unique…

For example…

  • Today it is snowing. Now this may be slim pickin’s for those of you who come from countries where snow is a regular feature but for us  in Christchurch ,New Zealand, it is quite an event. Humour me…
  • I’ve looked out the window and watched fat fluffy package filling pile up on everything and effectively turn the whole garden and street into a frosted cupcake. However much annoying snow is it is also very beautiful…
  • …until you have to shovel it…
  • …Or have it dump down your neck from a vindictive tree branch…
  • Today I’ve been enjoying everybody’s snow excitement on Facebook. Pictures of snow abound which will no doubt be followed by pictures of snow men… ducks… daleks… wombats and anything else anyone can conceivably make from snow.
  • Today I can enjoy the sensation of breathing through my nose because my cold is relenting. You never really appreciate the joy of breathing until you can’t…
  • Today a friend announced that he and his wife were having a baby…
  • Today I watched Kung Fu Panda 2 because I love it…
  • Today the cat was forced to stay inside and break her mercenary cycle of eat, leave, come back and eat some more and then leave again. She was forced to sit and purr and fulfill her feline duties for a change.
  • Today I continued the comfort reading of Anne of Green Gables series which I started yesterday (there is nothing like comfort reading when you’re sick…). It always puts me in a very domestic mood and I feel the urge to crochet something or make preserves. Those of you who are my friends… beware… crocheted things may turn up in your pockets overnight…
  • Today I studied Psalm 90 which led to this piece of writing
  • Above all I was reminded to remember my God at every moment.
  • Today I think I’ll finish writing this post and go out and look at the snow falling again.

If you want to read further on the theme of Paying Attention especially to God I recommend ‘Present Perfect’ by Greg Boyd and ‘The Practice of the Presence of God’ by Brother Lawrence.

On Worrying about Kung Fu Panda…

Just when you think it’s safe to go into the DVD store it hits you like a Christian who

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the new face of Evil...

has just heard you like Harry Potter and is ready to shoot several rounds of scripture from the hip.  What I’m talking about is the phenomenon of the Christian Worry Fad, something I thought had regressed into the ancient past along with record players and The Chicken Dance. But sitting in a lecture at my beloved Laidlaw College the Christian Worry Fad made a spectacular come-back. We were talking about culture and perception and one of my fellow students told us a story. Their youth group had organized a Movie Night featuring what they thought was a great innocuous family movie: Kung Fu Panda.

I love Kung Fu Panda by the way…

However the fun started before the movie even began. One of the parents,  began to object strongly about the youth group showing such a pernicious piece of cinema. He was incensed enough to ring the Pastor right on the spot! Kung Fu Panda, he claimed, promoted Chinese Spirituality and Martial Arts and good Christians should not watch it.

Back in the Lecture Room we listened to this story in stunned silence. I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or pound the desk in frustration.

Just when I thought Christians were starting to gain some sort of intelligence and discernment, I thought, I encounter this kind of idiocy again!!  I flashed back to the time when a friend told me that she had real doubts about The Lion King (Simba is held up and sunlight comes down on him – that’s like saying he’s God). She smugly informed me that she didn’t allow her children to watch any TV or watch any videos.

“They don’t have any nightmares at all’, she said leaving me feeling extremely Pagan.

It can only be poetic justice when her daughter piped up beside her…

‘But what about that nightmare I had last night Mummy?’

‘Yes alright’.

“You remember that one?

‘Okay’

‘And the one before that?’

‘Yes!’

The look of annoyance on friend’s face… priceless.

I began to remember all the other Christian Worry Fads I grew up with. Needless to say before my ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’ gland grew in, all these ‘step on a crack, and you’re in danger of demonic attack’ left me an extremely anxious young Christian…

Here are just a few…

Leather ‘Bonds’ – when I was in high school it was the cool thing to wear leather strips or bracelets made of leather around your wrists. I begged borrowed and stole (well maybe not stole) to buy these objects of coolness. Then a Christian friend of mine informed me seriously that wearing leather around your wrist symbolized being in bondage and you were in danger of coming under demonic influence. ‘God caused them to snap off my wrist and fly to the other side of the classroom,’ she said ‘He didn’t want me to wear them.’ At the time I humbly agreed and threw away my leather bracelets. Now my impulse is to reply: “Maybe the reason they snapped off is that they were tied too tight and you were in danger of coming under the demonic influence of having your hand drop off…?’

Care Bears – they’re Evil because they go into a trance and rainbows come out of their tummies. That’s New Age isn’t it…?

The Chronicles of Narnia – because apparently the children returning to Narnia again and again represents reincarnation…

Smurfs – blue is the colour of death (funny, I thought it was the colour of the sky and representative of the Holy Spirit too). Papa Smurf does magic and prays to a pentagram. I suggest we check the Smurf theme song for backmasking. Who knows what is lurking under La la lala la la… While we’re there we might as well check the Tigger Song while we’re at it. Stripes and orange and bouncing are probably symbolic of something…

Santa – wears red which is the colour of the devil. His name is also an anagram of ‘Satan’. In New Zealand and England he’s called Father Christmas so I guess that means he’s Okay here…

My Little Pony – some of them are unicorns which are Evil…

Girl Guides – the founder Baden Powel was a Freemason and therefore anyone who belonged to Guides or Scouts and said the vows needed to be delivered of a spirit of ‘Baden Powell’. If that reasoning pans out then, because most of the American Founding Fathers were Freemasons, all Americans need to be delivered of the spirit of being American… now there’s an interesting idea…KIDDING!! (Note Freemasonry is serious, but this is just nuts!!!)

Peanut Butter is Evil because peanuts were originally the main ingredient in the spells of Aztec Shamans…

Okay I made that last one up…

There is enoughHollywoodrubbish and pernicious World View in our Modern Culture to worry about without inventing worries. I’d rather worry about what the media are teaching my potential children about human sexuality than whether they’re watching Kung Fu Panda. I’d rather worry whehter they grow up thinking that God is irrelevant, boring and untrue, or worse, that He doesn’t like them, than whether they’re oppressed by Smurfs.

Actually I’d rather not worry at all – Jesus told us not too after all.

Moving on from Christian Worry Fads is the same as moving on from ‘step on a crack’. It requires putting childish things away and growing up into Christ who is not worried about Smurfs and more concerned that you know that He loves you.

What Christian worry fads have you encountered on your travels? Feel free to comment…

In Defence of Passing of the Peace…

I have the website Stuff Christians Like to thank for launching me into my own career of silly and not-so-silly writing. In particular I want to acknowledge Jon Acuff for exposing a blot on the Church Service Landscape that most of us strenuously pretend to like but few of us actually do… that heart sinking moment in the service when the leader or pastor asks us to ‘turn and greet one another…’

It’s enough to make you dive under the pew really…

When I was a worship leader I would joke with the congregation that it was time to either talk with the person next to you or pretend to read the pew-sheet because I felt everyone’s pain. In case you haven’t noticed I LOATHE this part of the service, much like I LOATHE being made to sing ‘I am a friend of God’.

For the naturally out-going amongst you will no doubt put this down to the fact that I am an introverted extrovert. I chatter like a chipmunk with my friends and my laugh can be heard several streets away but my idea of a nightmare is walking into a room full of people I don’t know. I hate small talk. I like BIG talk. I hate the awkward lapse in the conversation where you run out of steam on the chosen topic and desperately grope for something else to talk about. Okay okay… catch 22. You have to move through small talk to get to big talk but I am not normal. Fortunately I share this common affliction of not-normal with the rest of humanity.  When you go to a big church like I do you ALWAYS sit next to people you don’t know… so when the call comes to ‘turn to one another…’

Whimper…

However light came when Jon Acuff, the true prophet, questioned this practice… and admitted his own intense dislike of the custom.

Just who else does this??!!! he asked. You’re at a movie or a concert or a rugby match and the announcer/commentator announces that it is now time for you to turn to the person next to you and chat awkwardly for the next five minutes (or longer) or failing to find someone to exchange twenty questions with, sit there wondering what to do with yourself until the event resumes…

Freeeeeedom! At last I could confess my mutual utter dislike of the practice!!! My chains fell off, my eyes could see for O my Lord it found out me!

It’s awkward, its cringe-making, it’s pseudo-community and false, it’s alienating and horribly embarrassing!!

I don’t wanna do it! Please don’t make me…

So far this isn’t much a defense, but bear with me…

Reveling in my new-found sense of release I posted the blog on Facebook calling to all my friends to shed the chains of forced awkward conversation.

Then I had an interesting response from Andy, a friend of mine who is an Anglican Vicar. Andy pointed out to me the origins of ‘Passing of the Peace’.  Having formally worked for a large Anglican church I was familiar with ‘Passing of the Peace’ as the Anglican version of ‘turn and greet one another’.  In our particular Anglican church our sports mad Vicar (not Andy) would helpfully mention the sports results to oil the awkward conversation machine along. It helped if you liked cricket…orRugby…

Which I don’t…

Anyway, Andy pointed out, the original intention behind Passing of the Peace was not awkward conversation or catching up on the sports results but actually making Peace. In the Anglican Liturgical Service the Passing of the Peace occurred just before the Communion liturgy. Its apparent intention was to resolve any tension, strife or conflict with one’s neighbour by blessing them with peace. It was a chance for everyone to literally ‘make peace’ with their neighbour or anyone they had been in conflict with before entering Communion.

The ritual response was and still is ‘Peace be with you’… to which the recipient would reply ‘and also with you’…

This I like…

I will always inwardly cringe when the call comes to ‘turn and greet one another’ but at least I know it once had true significance. Maybe one day we can recover it until then I will continue to pretend to read the church notices.

Nothing personal…

Peace be with you…

If you want to read Jon Acuff on the subject of greeting each other follow this link to StuffChristiansLike…http://www.jonacuff.com/stuffchristianslike/2008/01/16-greeting-the-people-around-you/

On Asking Strange Questions…

This is not me by-the-way... I show up more in colour.

You find yourself asking some really funny questions sometimes…

Why is there a Rubber Ducky in the fridge?

How on earth can a word that sounds like ‘pulchritudinous’ mean ‘possessing great physical beauty?

If Jesus came to a Movie Night would be approve of ‘the Smurfs’ or would he prefer ‘Star Wars’?

I have a twisted imagination sometimes…

But I assure you there was nothing twisted about asking my friend Lynne if she wanted a shower as soon as she arrived at my place to visit. I certainly wasn’t making a comment on her personal hygiene for as far as I know Lynne is a creature of sanitary habits.

On the 22nd Feb 2011 our city of Christchurch,New Zealand was rocked by a 6.3 quake which had leveled much of the CBD and had cut off water and power for three days. We all had to conserve water, forgo washing and dig long drop toilets. There’s real solidarity in growing manky together. I was fortunate to live in the half of the city where water got restored quickly so when friends turned up they often brought shampoo and soap. It became common place to offer a friend and even complete strangers a shower. Hence the strange question…

The quake and on-going aftershocks produced another set of strange questions we never thought we’d ask ourselves…

If I get into said shower will I be forced to evacuate it in a hurry due to an aftershock and give the neighbours more reason for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder…?

Do these shoes match my outfit and can they be kicked off quickly in case I need to leg it out of a building fast?

Is the cat ever going to unwrap herself from around a tree or am I going to have to fetch a crow bar?

Just how deep do you dig a long drop…?

However the other, more serious question that people started asking was:

How could God allow this?

For many in Christchurchthis was either the rising or falling of their faith depending on how they answered that question they never thought they’d have to ask. Of course there were plenty of helpful ‘prophets’ from outside ofChristchurch who replied ‘Yes! God did this you naughty bad people and if you don’t smarten up then he’ll do it again!’

Again? Why Christchurch? Has the Almighty checked out Auckland lately!!?

Why do we always default to ‘Angry God’ when something awful happens?

For the truth is, God is not angry and he didn’t cause the earthquake or even allow it. It’s what happens when you build a city on a faultline. However God started speaking to our leaders and to our hearts whispering comfort and hope of restoration and then asked his people to spread the message in thought word and deed. This event, and any catastrophic event while terrible, has the unique opportunity to shape us provided that we ask the right questions about God and what he is doing.

Lord are you good?

Can you turn situations around?

Do you love us?

Do you set out as usual to heal your people and bind up the broken hearted?

Can I come too?

 

for more info on ‘Did God Judge Christchurch?’ see Steve Graham‘s series of blogs and Bill Johnson and Kris Valotten’s teaching on the idea that God sends disasters in order to cause people to repent available at iBethel.org.

Short version: He doesn’t because disasters don’t cause people to repent…

And now for a crass commercial interruption…

No I am not about to sell anyone timeshares… I simply want to let everyone know about my new blog that I’ve just started up.  I’ve been getting a divine poke about getting started on my devotional blog which will be specifically commenting and talking through passages of the bible in what I hope will be an encouraging and enlightening way. Check it out at thoughtitudity.wordpress.com.

Don’t worry, the silliness will continue here providing I don’t get eaten by assignments first and just to prove it enjoy my next post…

Spell-Checking the Bible…

When you’re a theological student you tend to end up writing a lot of essays… Which may or not be a hair-raising experience depending on the nature of your lecturer. God may forgive you for not referring to enough commentaries but God is not marking your essay! I’m sure God would give me an A for handing in an essay written in crayon, repeatedly using the word ‘Smurf’ with footnotes taken from the Children’s Comic Book Bible.

He loves me so much.

My lecturer in Biblical Interpretation is another matter…

Biblical essays require inserting lots of portions of Scripture. The fun begins when you start spell-checking it. I have a love hate relationship with my spell checker. Its dry observations annoy me at times.

‘Long sentence… consider revising’.

Yes I KNOW it’s a long sentence, but that’s how I want to write it! A short sentence would be inadequate to express what I want to say! If I say it in a short sentence it won’t sound right!

No I don’t want to consider revising!!!

‘Fragment… consider revising’…

Okay look here, you benighted machine, just who is writing this thing?! When I want your opinion I’ll ask for it. Just fix up my spelling idiocies and DO NOT give me an editorial!! And I just BET you’re going to tell me off for excessive capitalization now….

What really gets me is when I use scripture in my essays and my scribblings and the spell-checker starts spell checking them!!

Yes my spell-checker points out mistakes in divinely inspired scripture.

I sometimes wonder where it finds the gall…

For a start it insists that ‘sonship’ needs to be changed to ‘sons hip’ and thinksBethsaidais should end up as ‘bedside’.

It frequently tells the Apostle Paul, “Long Sentence, and asks him to ‘consider revising…’

Apparently Paul and John the Evangelist have no idea how to use ‘which’, ‘who’ and ‘that’ properly…

James use of comma’s is definitely dubious…

Isaiah needs to rethink his stuff because it’s full of ‘Fragments’ and he should also ‘consider revising’…

Such observations are worthy only of ‘Ignore’. Unfortunately you can only convince the thing to ‘Ignore Once’. The really annoying thing is that it keeps on nagging you about it.  Microsoft Word needs to add a ‘Shut Up and Just Correct the Blasted Spelling’ button…

All in all it doesn’t pay to take your spell checker too seriously…

Am very tempted to let it loose in Song of Songs just to see what it will do…

This post is dedicated to my bible lecturers Alan Thomson and Bob Robinson. Bob for tolerating ‘The Tao of Pooh’ in my World Religions assignment and Alan for letting me keep the Duck Quote in my essay on the Gospel of John… And still giving me an A…

I also dedicate this post to my friend and flatmate Emma who is now with Jesus and loved silly things… bless you Em…