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  • Glad I'm not God...

    If you have watched Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty, you will have seen humorously explored questions around prayer and its answering.

    The classic when I grew up was the preacher who spoke of the child who prayed for sunshine for the picnic they looked forward to, and the farmer who prayed for rain for the crops, and the conundrum of which prayer God should answer (and the smart Alec reply (not from me, brain too slow) that God could send rain at night and sun in the day...)

    This weekend we see one of the classic situations whereby decent, earnest Christians are engaged in equal and opposite prayers regarding propsed legislative changes in England and Wales (I'm sure similar stuff is happening in Scotland I just don't see it reported; oh, and 'hello Northern Ireland' <waves>).  Poor God, the already wounded church tearing itself apart, as God is invoked in favour of alternative understandings.  If that isn't enough, then people will interpret the outcome as successful/unsuccessful prayer, evil/good winning, God punishing/God affirming, and even, sadly 'us' over against 'them'.  Oh dear.

    These are important and difficult decisions that must be made, and decent, loving people will be hurt or disappointed whatever the outcome.  May God grant us humility and gentleness as we pray, or refrain form praying, and as we move forward once the die is cast.

  • On Baptist Self-Understanding

    Another excellent post from David Kerrigan here.

    It was Thomas Helwys, an English General Baptist who came from the East Midlands who famously wrote:

    ‘For our lord the king is but an earthly king, and he has no authority as a king but in earthly causes. And if the king’s people be obedient and true subjects, obeying all human laws made by the king, our lord the king can require no more. For men’s religion to God is between God and themselves. The king shall not answer for it. Neither may the king be judge between God and man. Let them be heretics, Turks, Jews, or whatsoever, it appertains not to the earthly power to punish them in the least measure’. (Helwys, Mystery of Iniquity)

    Our claim to be 'for' freedom of religion does not always work itself out in daily living, and of course it is no simple 'anything goes' viewpoint.  But it's a good principle.

    Go and read David's article, which cites some helpful material by Brian Haymes too.

  • Less Treacle-like

    So I am now a couple of weeks into my tweaked working pattern.  In that time I have worked some seriously long days (longest was about 14 hours, don't tell anyone ;-) )and have achieved loads.  I have found myself able to sit down and read sizable chunks of real theology - something I have not been about to do since chemo addled my brain almost two and a half years ago.  I have had the kind of energy I used to take for granted (albeit with kn*ckered joints to limit my endeavours somewhat).  And, importantly, I have started to find sermons 'flowing' rather than being wrung out of me.  Sermon prep has finally stopped feeling like wading through treacle, and twice in as many weeks I have sat down and written what I think to be a half decent draft at the first attempt.

    Is this, then, me emerging finally from chemo-brain, or is it more that I have found a pattern that works with my strengths?  Who can tell.  My memory is still not what it was, but I do find that I am starting to retain more 'new' information and I have less 'holes' in my mind that I did... or at least I think I do.  Some of that has to be down to better coping strategies, because I still totally forget about things unless I write them down.

    Perhaps then, it is because I have, finally, just about recovered my full energy levels?  I have felt like I was at 90-95% for a long time, but never quite been able to recover that last bit, the bit that gives a spark.  Could it be that re-ordering my days has done that for me?

    Long term drug side effects continue, I have no doubt of that: there are times everyday when I feel generally bleurgh for a few minutes.  The low grade exhaustion of almost ten years in ordained ministry has its inevitable impact, and I know all too well that I need space for spiritual refreshment.  For all that, I do feel as if I've finally climbed out of the treacle I've been wading through the past few months, and begun to walk freely again.

    I just hope it lasts!  And I hope it has a positive impact on my ministry.