Showing posts from August, 2012

Friday round-up on last day of summer

What's caught your eye this week? Here's a round-up of 5 blog posts that have particularly caught my attention. Religious beliefs should be respected when rights are not impeded is an article by Joshua Rozenburg, first  published in the Law Society Gazette and posted yesterday at the National Secular Society website. It's about the cases by 4 Christian claimants to be heard at the European Court of Human Rights next week. Rozenburg's article focuses on that of Lilian Ladele who he believes has a good chance of succeeding. If you don't know what all that is about then God and Politics in the UK gives a helpful summary of all 4 cases in his post today.Simon Jenkins looks back 15 years to the death of Princess Diana and publishes his previously private record in a post called Come and Look: mourning Diana.If all that's a bit heavy and you want something lighter (but beware the subversive message) you might enjoy Heaven (Tax) Haven on the Beaker Folk of Husborne Cr…

What does God look like?

What does God look like?

An impossible question of course. The painter Van Eyck depicted God the Father like this for the altarpiece in Ghent. Superb art.

It looks to me like a rather bored bishop or medieval king waiting for the pomp and ceremony to be over before he can go and find something more fun to do.

Children often ask what God looks like

Parents often reply 'I don't know' or 'what do you think'? A child was once busy drawing. Her mother asked what she was drawing. "I'm drawing a picture of God" the child replied. "But", said her mother, "we can't see God. No-one knows what God looks like". With supreme confidence her daughter responded, "they will know when I've finished my picture". 

Moses wanted to see God

When Moses asked God to be shown God's glory, the response was that Moses would see God's goodness and hear God's name but  God told him
" cannot see my face; for no one shall see me …

Women Behaving Badly

There are some really horrible stories in the Bible. This is about one of them. 

Today's name in the Anglican calendar is 'The Beheading of John the Baptist'. You get the picture? This is not going to be a fun post.

Digitalnun has posted a reflection on this here that is well worth reading. Mine takes a different angle, a focus on the women involved. 

What follows is what I wrote over on The Big Bible Project. It was published there on 14 August 2012 under the title:
Women Behaving Badly
Will the inspiration of strong young women who achieve their goals be an enduring Olympic legacy? I hope so, but sadly, women who achieve what they want aren’t always positive examples.  Most women in the gospels provide positive inspiration. Their stories are good news, as are those of so many female athletes. But this is the post I’d rather not write in my ‘Women of the Gospels’ series – but here goes. Who gets the prize for ‘bad’ female role model in the gospels?The one whose example you woul…

Augustine of Hippo

On 28 August 430 AD Augustin of Hippo died during the siege of Hippo Regius, a small port city in north Africa, where he was bishop. His teaching and writings have had a huge influence on the Christian church. He was a great theologian and philosopher who has been both condemned and admired by later Christian thinkers. He is often quoted as an authority, but he had a realistic and humble view of his limitations. 

My favorite story about him is how he wrestled to understand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Don't we all? He wanted to be able to explain it. Can anyone? Here's my version of the story:

As Augustine walked by the sea shore he saw a child alone on the beach, doing what children must always have done on a sandy beach. She dug a hole in the sand, then ran with her small cup to fill it in the sea. She returned to her hole in the sand and poured in the cup-full of sea water. She did it again and again. Augustine approached her and asked what she was doing. She told h…

Dipping a toe into Pinterest

Diving straight in at the deep end isn't my style. I prefer to test the water temperature first, then immerse slowly. It's just as well some of us are cautious by nature or how would the human race ever survive? I'm definitely one for double-checking the identification of a mushroom that may or may not be edible before cooking a heap of them for supper.

It's the same with new social media. A few years ago I cautiously signed up to Facebook, lurked there, paranoid about privacy settings, reluctant to post images and hoping my children (who are adult) didn't feel I was spying on them. I'm now a Facebook native - or at least I do until the next time Facebook changes everything. Starting a blog 3 years ago came next. I set up the blog, posted my first post and hoped no-one would read it! I hadn't got a clue what I was doing but I learnt slowly. Keeping up the blog has enriched my life. Some of you read it and I'm pleased that you do. This blog has a page on…

Assuming too much?

I can understand why Mary the mother of Jesus has such a special place in the devotions of many Christians. I'm happy to refer to her as Saint Mary or the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Today, 15 August, the festival of 'The Blessed Virgin Mary' for Anglicans, it seems right to thank God for Mary and meditate on her life.

Where I have immense difficulty, is in understanding some of what is taught about her by, for example, the Roman Catholic church.

For Roman Catholics, today is the 'Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary'. As far as I can make, out the dogma relating to this is that
"...the Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all guilt of original sin, on the completion of her earthly sojourn, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen of the universe..."(2nd Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium Chapter VIII 59)Well, I'm sorry, but I think that is assuming too much.
What do you think?

Photo: my own…

Man in Striped Pajamas

Do you know the story of Maximilian Kolbe? This statue of him is in Chrzanów in Poland.
Why is he wearing striped pajamas? Because that was his prison uniform. He was prisoner 16670 in Auschwitz where he died on 14 august 1941. 
Like many others who died in that camp he wasn't Jewish. He was a Christian, a Roman Catholic friar from Poland. His father was of German ethnic origin and his mother Polish. 
With others at his friary in Niepokalanów during the Nazi occupation gave shelter to huge numbers of war refugees from greater Poland. He helped hide thousands of Jews. As a result he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz.
One day when 3 prisoners escaped Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander selected 10 men to be killed by starvation as a reprisal and a deterrent. Franciszek Gajowniczek was one of the 10 selected to die. He began to cry: "My wife! My children! I will never see them again!"Father Kolbe had no wife or children, but he had compassion. He offered to die in the othe…

Running for Joy

Reporting on London 2012 has included many inspiring personal stories of Olympic athletes. The one that has touched me most is the story of Lopez Lomong.   He was 6 years old when one Sunday morning in church in South Sudan, rebel soldiers tore him from his mother's arms and kidnapped him with many other children.

They were all taken to a child soldier training camp where conditions were dreadful. He was to small and weak to carry his AK47 assault rifle. Other younger boys in the same situation were simply killed. Lopez Lomong was saved by 3 older boys who looked after him. One night he escaped with them by crawling out of the camp at night. They ran for their lives. It was his very first race. According to a report by the BBC World Service he said,
""We ran three days and nights. We thought we were heading back to our village, but instead we ended up in Kenya."
He spent the next ten years in a refugee camp where he was often hungry and looked forward to Tuesdays when …


How do you feel about the word 'awesome'? I'm thinking of its frequent use as an adjective, attached to almost anything someone likes, enjoys or admires.
I dislike the way that 'awesome' has become downgraded, because I think that, for most people, truly 'awesome' experiences are rare. I mean those experiences which  leave us awestruck, brought to our knees in silent wonder or paralysing fear, or prostrate on the ground, completely overwhelmed.
Such moments may be absolutely dreadful, such as for the citizens of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. They may be deeply emotional such as when a marathon winner collapses on the ground at the finish and hears the roar of the crowd. They may be of huge excitement and relief such as for the NASA scientist when the robot Curiosity landed on Mars earlier today. They may be moments of spiritual illumination, such as can happen as we gaze at a beautiful landscape or painting or are moved by great music. All that is awesome.
For P…

Bread of life

I've recently been on holiday in Austria. One of the things I enjoy in the Tyrol is the 'Lüftmalerei' - wall paintings applied to freshly applied plaster on house walls. You can also see this in Bavaria in Germany.

Sometimes the wall-paintings take the form of false windows, as the one in this photo and the one below. They are on the outside of a baker's shop in Neustift in the Stubaital. The words above the 'window' mean literally
'our daily bread give us today'.It is a quote from the Lord's Prayer and means
'give us what we need to live today'.We need basic nourishment for the body - bread or other staple food, fresh each day. We also need sustenance for the spirit. There are many ways in which people seek and find that - through art, music, beauty, prayer, sport, sex, love...the list could go on. Ultimately the deepest hungers are not easily satisfied. We tend to always want more.

In thinking about the gospel reading for today (John 6: 24-35)…

Piety on the bus

In 'Should your Bible be more visible' I promised to share a story about parading piety in public. Doing good things, even praying, primarily to get reward and attention is something Jesus warned against.

I don't know the origin of this story, but here's my version:

A well-known pastor got on to a double-decker bus in Berlin. He found a seat on the upper deck, took out his prayer book and silently began to pray. He’d hardly begun when the passenger next to him commented on what he was doing, loud enough for everyone on the bus to hear.
Look at this man, he climbs to the top of a bus, takes out his prayer book and starts praying so everyone can see him and think he's great man of God!”Everyone turned to listen as the man continued his attack,
“When I say my prayers, I do what Jesus says in Matthew’s gospel. I go to my room and shut the door and pray in secret.”To which the pastor quietly added,
“And then you climb to the top of a bus and tell the whole world about it!”


Should your Bible be visible?

When I was a teenager I remember being able to identify the 'keen' Christians walking to church on a Sunday by the size of the Bibles they carried. It was the local Baptists who clutched the biggest black leather-bound King James Versions - big enough to be used as an offensive weapon if challenged.

It is now rare in the UK to see someone carrying or reading a Bible in public - or for that matter a prayer book. There are many reasons for this, but one of them is the availability and convenience of digital versions. Why carry even a pocket-sized Bible in book form when travelling if you can access it easily on your smartphone? And make notes on it as you go if you want to? And link to commentaries? Why bother with finding the several places in a daily office book like Common Worship Daily Prayer when there's an app for it that includes all the prayers and readings in one easy to read stream that you can use on the train or wherever you happen to be?

This post was triggered by…

Top Ten Posts

I haven't done this for a long while. Here is a list of the top ten Seeker posts that were most read during the last month. I wasn't writing much but it seems people were still reading or at least visiting these post pages:

Queen Elizabeth IIHow to strengthen your faithGirls and boysWhat we British really meanToilet ReviewLight and DarknessWorld Cup FeverKaleidoscope Identity Online and OfflineA PrayerMary Magdalene - a model disciple

Image Credit: Aulia Fitri, Flickr, CC Licence

A Prayer

Sometimes when I officiate at a funeral I get back more than I think I have given. Today was one of those occasions. The reason is a prayer that I found both comforting and challenging. It was copied into her notebook by an old woman some time before she died. It was read by one of the family at her funeral today.

I do not know who composed this prayer. Please tell me if you know the original source or context. Better still - try praying it.
Free mefrom all fear of the future,from all anxiety about tomorrow,from all bitterness towards anyone,from all cowardice in the face of danger,from all laziness in the face of work,from all failure before opportunity,from all weakness, when Your power is at hand.Fill mewith love that knows no barrier,with sympathy that reaches to all,with courage that cannot be shaken,with faith strong enough for the darkness,with strength sufficient for my tasks,with loyalty to your kingdom's goals,with wisdom to meet life's complexities,with power to lift …