Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Off to preach at the weekend

In this odd world of ministry without church that I now inhabit, I don't preach or speak publicly much anymore. Sometimes I miss it, most times I don't. I don't miss staying up late on Saturdays trying to figure out if I've got it straight, and I don't miss getting up a few hours later on a Sunday morning to completely rewrite everything because it just doesn't sit right in my head. I never envied those folk who had Wednesday as sermon preparation day and seemed to be able to sit down at the desk and turn out the finished article by the end of a single day's work. For me, sermon preparation was a week long process of walking with the text, exploring it from a range of angles, reflecting on its context and generally letting is all coalesce in my head. Mind maps and sketchy notes were my route to a Sunday presentation.

So it's rather odd to be in a place where I don't have to do that on a regulars basis.

But this weekend I am preaching. Now I know that I've been asked because all the main stays of the church are at the BU Assembly. I also know that it's almost a racing certainty that it will be a one off invitation. So I could go in with the attitude of nothing to lose, but that would seem to be a somewhat arrogant approach. The truth is that I still believe that the local church is the hope of the world as Bill Hybels would say. And yes, I know it's the message that carries the hope, but the church remains God's chosen vehicle.

Having said that, it would be unwise to assume that the church as it presents itself in our times is somehow sacred to the purposes of God. We ought to remember the salutary lesson of those who believed Jerusalem could not possibly fall because it was God's chosen city.

So I will preach, and I won't go out of my way to upset or alienate anyone, but I won't hold back either in presenting a challenge to change. We shall see how it goes!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Bohemian Rhapsody... but not as you may remember it!

There are many version's of Queen's BR, I even have the original on vinyl in the loft. But this one makes me smile. I was looking for a piece of music for someone, and came across this brass ensemble version.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Christian non-religious funeral?

I know, from conversations that I've had, that for some people the idea of a Christian minister doing non-religious funerals is at best confusing, at worst dishonouring to God. But just because God doesn't get mentioned during the service, and that's not always the case, it doesn't mean that he's not involved or taking the opportunity to catch up on a bit of paperwork because he isn't needed for this one.

If we believe that God is ever present, then non-religious doesn't have to equate to being without faith. One might not pray out loud during the funeral, one might not read the bible or preach a short sermon, but God will be there, of that i am sure.

Today I'm off to do funerals number 28 and 29 of the year so far. Some of them have been non-religious, one of today's falls into that category. But what I have noticed is that non-religious doesn't necessarily mean non-spiritual, or even non-faith. In conversation with the family, non-religious often turns out to be a preconception of overly religious language and style of presentation rather than specific content. I can only remember one funeral in the last year or so, the time during which I've been doing non-religious funerals, where I was expressly told that God was not to be mentioned at all.

So I will continue to do my duties, to serve God and families through this ministry, religious or not. Over the past 20 years I've learnt a lot about doing a funeral. I've learnt about being adaptable, about listening to families and helping them shape the life-celebration funeral they want. I never feel the need to impose prayers or readings on them, but rest in the knowledge that God is ever-present and my role is to partner with him in his mission to these hurting friends and relatives.

Some, I'm sure, will continue to raise issues and even criticise my approach, but that's okay. As far as I'm concerned, God has granted me a rare and special privilege for a season. How long it will continue I do not know. But what is interesting is that it is far more challenging to work out how to share some element of faith when you can't simply follow the script of the service book to do it.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Oh, what fun!

So, as I was wandering around the internet, aimlessly looking at a few things, I found myself reading the Slim Fast website to see what they have to say about diet and weight loss. Rather like fitness programmes and tennis videos, it's something I look at from time to time. I also quite like the Slim Fast milkshakes, not sure why.

Anyway, apparently you can buy their products through Amazon, so I wandered over the Amazon store, and there they were. All flavours, in multipacks, or singly, available to the determined milkshake dieter! But wait, What's this?

Slim-Fast Summer Strawberry Flavour Milkshake Powder 438g (Pack of 3) Starring Richard Dean Anderson

Sorry, what's that? Could it be that the ultimate weapon in the fight against the system lords is a milkshake! Or maybe it's the secret to escaping from a locked room (you've seen McGyver haven't you?) I'm sure Richard Dean Anderson has been in other productions, but this must be the strangest!

And then it just gets better. Follow the link to the product specific page and you discover this:

Slim-Fast Summer Strawberry Flavour Milkshake Powder 438g (Pack of 3)

Richard Dean Anderson    Parental Guidance   DVD 
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews) Like(3)

Available from these sellers.

4 new from £23.85
Learn about LOVEFiLM
Amazon’s film and TV subscription service with unlimited access to thousands of titles to watch instantly, many in HD at no extra cost. Go to LOVEFiLM for title availability. Enjoy a 30-day free trial and watch across many devices including the Kindle Fire. Learn more at LOVEFiLM.com

Well it made me smile anyway.

I wish Richard Dean Anderson every success as he seeks to protect us from alien attack and lose those extra pounds along the way.

PS. According to one reviewer it "arrived well packed and on time".

 Just what you want from the military leader of SG-1

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Better Argument Needed

I was watching the news this morning and listening to the discussion about the right to die that has been raised again. As someone who does a few funerals, 29 so far this year, I see the pain and sadness that goes with such an event. Yes, almost without exception, I get told that the person who has died wanted it to be a celebration of their life and not a time of tears and sadness. But the reality is that it is a time of sadness and tears for most people even though they try to celebrate. Emotions are well and truly mixed.

Having said that, I can't conceive of the challenges that one might face
living with a life-limiting condition or near constant severe pain. Dark days must be a regular companion in such circumstances.

So what about the issue of assisted dying?

Those in favour seem to edge towards the right to self determination, and those against towards the sanctity of life and the fear of opening a door to pressure and abuse, pushing the vulnerable towards a choice they may not want to make.

I have no simple answers, but I do wonder if there's a question we are missing, common ground we share that could help us help each other understand and explore the issue together. Rather than an argument, could we not take a journey as partners? Why is the debate always polarised in the bite-sized media into for and against? Where is the informed discussion involving those who care for the dying, the palliative care experts alongside those who support or question the proposals?

I suspect those in favour of a right to die are equally concerned to protect the rights of the vulnerable and to not create a open door to abuse. Could we not start there? How does grace and compassion influence the debate and how does it challenge the pro lobby?

Perhaps we are simply too used to the idea of an adversarial debate to be able to listen thoughtfully to all sides.

You may have noticed that I've not offered a theological reflection, I've not spoken about a specifically Christian or Evangelical perspective. I do have one, but I hope that it informs and shapes my understanding while still allowing room for continued reflection.

Personally I try to remember that theological answers work for those who share a similar conviction that God is at work in our world. For those who do not, it's not an argument at all. I respect that, and want to think with them, not against them.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Has Spring sprung?

Last year, the magnolia was well and truly finished by this time. This year, it is just coming into flower.

Clients welcome!

It's quite a challenge, setting out to start your own sports massage practice. I've tried a few avenues, but the reality seems to be that it's going to take time and perseverance to get going. So far I've visited the local golf club, three gyms and written to several local sports clubs (rugby, hockey, volleyball etc). A couple of the visits were fairly positive, but the emails have yielded very little. I shall press on however!

One thing I've noticed is that many local sports clubs that have a website have no information about how to advertise through them. I know not every club does a match-day programme, but those that do ought to say something about advertising via their websites. I must admit that until I was offered advertising space at the local rugby club I'd never thought of that as a possible route, but now I'm looking at local clubs and trying to find out if they have programmes. The other frustrating thing is that you simply don't get a reply to an email. If you have a contact form on your website, then please, please have the courtesy to respond to contacts!

So, at the moment I'm still treating one or two clients at my house. I'd like a nice treatment cabin in the garden, but I need to take out a few trees first.

This weekend I'll be working at the London Marathon, and I will take some cards and flyers with me. I'm not sure how useful it is to do volunteer work, I guess you have to be thoughtful about choosing the right events in the right places that might produce the right contacts.

Oh, and I have the possibility of starting a clinic at a leisure centre not too far away.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Iris Notes Executive2

So, how do you go about translating hand-written notes into electronic files? One way is simply to scan them and store them as PDF's. I came across a special offer on the Iris Executive notes system that now looks easier to use with a Mac than when I first thought about trying it a few years ago.

It's simple to set up, and ought to be really simple to use, unless you're left-handed like me! You see I have a rather unusual writing style, even for a lefty, so it was gong to be interesting to see how the device coped with both my script and how I orientate the paper to write.

Logic told me that the device wouldn't know whether the paper was rotated in one direction or the other, so it ought to work. The issue is getting the clip on receiver out of the way of my trailing hand. Ideally I'd like to put it at the bottom of the page, but then I reasoned the text would be upside down. In the end the choices are top centre, top left or top right. I tried top right, the place least likely to be affected by my writing angle. The result was okay for an image, but totally scrambled when the software tried to convert my text to typed text.

No matter what I tried, the results were pretty awful each time, and I'd just about given up on the idea of it ever working for me when I put the device top-centre. The results were very good.

Here's the handwritten note:

It was very awkward working around the receiver, so much so that long-term I think I'd probably suffer some sort of RSI issue in my wrist. I have the same problem with clipboards where the clip gets in the way. As far as I can see the only solution is to start lower down the page!

Anyway, the software sees the text as horizontal and the resultant conversion is very impressive. I haven't "taught" the software my version of handwriting, so you have to be impressed with its interpretation of what it found. Only the lowercase S and the apostrophe are the only errors I can see. 

The device comes with a connector to link it directly to an iPad. I haven't tried that yet, but now I've got it reading my writing it might be worth exploring.

So why not just use the iPad I hear you say. Well, good question. The problem with the iPad is that I haven't found an app yet that will do what I want it to do when it comes to taking therapy notes. Nothing has what I want, so this might just be a way of getting my handwritten notes into an electronic format. On the other hand, I might just stick with pen and paper until it becomes too cumbersome or I decide I don't need pretty little pictures for posture notes and squiggles!

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

New Blog

I thought I might try a new blog where I can talk about stuff to do with Sports Massage and other related items. I will probably repost a few older items from this blog there, but there will be new stuff too.

If you're interested in that side of things, then you can read the blog here.

Touch Rugby

I've been wondering about playing touch rugby. It's something we used to do at school, many, many years ago, and I think it's probably a great way to get a run about and gain some fitness. Running for long distances can be quite boring, and if like me your knees are increasingly reluctant to be pounded mile after mile, then maybe something like touch rugby is a alternative for that cardio workout you crave.

The rules have developed somewhat since my schooldays, which makes it an easier game to play for anyone, and a few cones, a ball and a good spirit should make it possible. There's even a couple of official websites with leagues! Sadly, there's nothing I can find this far east of Kingston or Clapham, so maybe it's time to start something in deepest Essex!

I'm not sure exactly how to get things started, but it would only take a minimum of 10, ideally 12 people, men and women, to get underway.

Any takers? Vets like me welcome!!

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Church, mental illness and suicide

With the recent news of the sad death of Matthew Warren, there are probably questions surfacing for many people in our Christian communities. Ed Stetzer has written a helpful blog post about the church and mental illness and a longer article here.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Church, Easter and the power of stories

Why did Jesus teach using stories? We call them parables, but they were stories. Sometimes I think we try to make them more sacred by using theologically loaded terms, or at least terms that have become theologically loaded.

Anyway, this question crossed my mind as I reflected on our experience of church on Easter Sunday. This is not a mona nor a criticism of what we attended. It's more a critique of how we do things and why we do them and how that might or might not connect with those we are trying to reach. You see, Easter Sunday is a significant day for the church. Everyone in church nows that, but for a lot of people outside of the church it's just confusing because for some reason the shops aren't open.

The message we preach or resurrection, hope and forgiveness are easily understood by those who have been around the church for long enough to know the language. But for others, I wonder how much of it actually makes sense.

As one who has been involved in the preparation and delivery of Easter Sunday events, I am just as guilty as everyone else of making the gospel complicated. Not by design, but simply by explanation. There are times when we probably tell too much of the story, explain too much of the theology and obscure the simplicity of how to respond. We are never going to make the resurrection more believable simply by offering more tangible explanations of the empty tomb.

Perhaps this is why Jesus used stories. Yes, there was an element of mystery, and method to what he did. I'm not going to ignore the challenge of his words about seeing and understanding etc and the use of parables. But maybe it was the need to engage the people at their starting point and not the starting point we would like them to have had that made stories so useful.

Maybe, if we can declutter the method we can let the story explain itself.

It's odd. I've never really struggled with the idea that Jesus came back form the dead, or even the concept of the incarnation. I've never really been bothered about the arguments over creation or worried about eschatology. Maybe, if we spent more time helping people explore the stories, the truth will speak for itself without the need for all our careful explanation.

Just a thought.