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  • Advent Haikus

    Jim Gordon is a great writer of great Haikus (is that the plural?) on topics theological.  There is something mildly addictive about this very disciplined form of poetry, originating in Japan I believe, that works on a 5x7x5 syllable pattern.  No need for rhymes, just clearly focussed ideas.

    With advent rapidly approaching, I thought I'd type 'Advent Haiku' into Google to see what popped up.  Here are some good ones, from www.simpleliving.org - as far as I know no permission is needed to quote them; if I've inadvertently breached copyright please forgive me.  There are lots of others out there, but most seem to need permission, so I can't reproduce them :-(.

    An Advent Haiku

    by Leona Wieland

    based on Isaiah 2:4

    "No more wars," He says,
    But we are selfish in deed
    With wants gone a wry.


    Advent Haiku

    by Cathy Brechtelsbauer

    based on Hebrews 10:5-10

    Christ takes no pleasure
    In off'rings and rituals,
    ‘Til we DO God’s will.


    Advent Haiku #14

    by Cathy Brechtelsbauer

    What then should we do?
    How can we be satisfied
    with only one coat?


    Based on Luke 3:7-18 ­ The Proclamation of John the Baptist - for the 3rd week of Advent (Cycle C), vv.10-11 And the crowds asked John, “What then should we do?” He replied, “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.”



    So, does anyone want to offer one?  It needn't be based on a Biblical text, here's a Haiku Advent prayer I just cobbled together...

    Advent God, we pray

    Lighten our darkness once more:

    Come, speak, send and bless

  • A Feminist Mary and an Axe-murderer Angel?

    Ah, the joys of rehearsing the Girls' Brigade nativity play.  On the whole, our cast of 20 give or take are doing well, some parts have had to be re-cast because their actors have decided to drop out in favour of watching TV, and I have a newly appointed sheep (there is a limit to how many shepherds or angels I can cope with!) who cannot seem to grasp that sheep have four legs not two, and that she should not walk on her hind legs behind the shepherd...

    Lots of surreptitious leaders' laughter tonight as rehearsals got underway.

    Firstly there is the would-be leading lady who wanted to be s shepherd then changed to a speaking part as potential buyer for the donkey - "she's too quiet" - and, with true drama queen overacting, mimes everyone else's role from the back row of the 'ensemble.'  Her version of an angel saying 'go to Bethlehem' was seriously scary - another leader saying she looked like a mad axe murderer from a third rate movie.  I'd love to get inside her head and discover how she imagines herself as she fiercely gestures the shepherds on their way, seemingly on pain of being smitten by some dreadful curse.

    Then there is feminist Mary.  Rising six, all blonde hair and blue eyes, and the only volunteer we had for the part.  Towards the end of the play the oldest girl has to double as the innkeeper and carry a chair onto the stage for her to sit on.  Alas said innkeeper was a little slow, and found herself being berated by the diminutive Mary who grabbed the chair herself and pulled it centre stage.  You could not write such a part - you would not dare!

    When the real thing happens in a few weeks time I know the parents will coo over their little ones, and I will cringe at the errrors.  But I also know that the girls will have a good time and gain from this space where everyone gets a part in the play; the sheep that walks on its hind legs, ASBO would-be angel and a feminist Mary all add to the richness of the experience.  The final song "all to see a tiny child" seems to sum up what it's about - if we can catch a glimpse of what God did in Jesus all that time back, then it'll be all the more worthwhile.


  • Francis Drake's Prayer

    Four weeks worth of study material typing and editing later ... I came across this prayer, which did the biz, so to speak...

    Disturb us, Lord, when We are too well pleased with ourselves,
    When our dreams have come true
    Because we have dreamed too little,
    When we arrived safely
    Because we sailed too close to the shore.

    Disturb us, Lord, when
    With the abundance of things we possess
    We have lost our thirst
    For the waters of life;
    Having fallen in love with life,
    We have ceased to dream of eternity
    And in our efforts to build a new earth,
    We have allowed our vision
    Of the new Heaven to dim.

    Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
    To venture on wider seas
    Where storms will show your mastery;
    Where losing sight of land,
    We shall find the stars.
    We ask You to push back
    The horizons of our hopes;
    And to push into the future
    In strength, courage, hope, and love.

  • Advent Explorations

    This morning I am writing a "sermon" - it isn't really a sermon but hey - for the local penties on "How Does Reflecting on Advent Affect our Spiritual Growth?" which is a kind of mish mash between what they wanted (something on spiritual growth) and what I'm thinking about (reflections for advent).

    Way back when, when we were teenagers, my sister,who is dead clever, reckoned that if Christmas didn't exist, we'd have to invent it because December is is such a dreecht (spelling unkown!) time of year.  She's right of course, and a couple of decades (or three) later both she and I know we did invent it to supplant, subvert or some such the existing winter festivals of pre-Christian northern Europe.  Am I risking all in sharing this with the penties?  I hope not.

    I have long loved Advent, it is a wonderful season of preparation and an opportuity to reflect on some great themes - whichever muddle of those on offer we end up with.  So I will be offering the penties something more of a talk, identifying the themes and suggesting that reflecting on them is good for us as we ponder afresh or again what Christmas is all about.

    Week 1 - The God who comes (according to Baptist sources) - either 'Gods People' or 'The Second Coming' in most schemes.

    Week 2 - The God who speaks (according to Baptiat sources) - either 'Bible Sunday' or 'The Prophets

    Week 3 - The God who sends (Catriona extending the Baptist idea a bit) - 'John the Baptist' or 'Ministers' or 'Vocations'

    Week 4 - The God who blesses (me again) - 'Mary the Mother of Jesus' or 'Women' or 'Lowly People'

    At the same time, I am preparing our lunch time materials - a half hour quiet reflection for a group of about 8 - based on Nick Fawcett's 2007 offering Forgiving and Forgetting (published by Kevin Mayhew).  Since this is designed for a discussion group format, it has way too much material and some is unsuitable for us, but I do like the themes - Christmas is for giving, for getting, for forgiving, for forgetting.  Like any resource book some parts are stronger than others but there is plenty in there that we will use effectively, as each week people will be given a few verses of scripture to read and three "strands" of questions to choose from in their own reflection along with additional material to think about at home, if they so choose.

    "How Does Reflecting on Advent Affect our Spiritual Growth?"  I can't answer for anyone else, but for me, it is a time I really value when, in amongst all the frenetic activity and the gathering dank darkness of December (which is a wonderful month actually, having many of my 'big' days in it) I can pause to focus back on God's goodenss and forward in Christian hope to find once more how these influence the present (she's off again!).


  • A Toolbox for Small Churches

    By Hilary Taylor, published by Thankful Books (c) 2007

    Today through the post came my complimentary copy of this book, as one of the contributors of a 'snapshot' story, which features in the chapter on buildings.

    I was quite impressed by what I wrote way back in spring/summer 2006.

    With chapters headed

    1. Worship
    2. Following and Serving Jesus Wholeheartedly
    3. Being God's People
    4. Mission, Growth and Change
    5. Vision and Leadership of a Small Church
    6. Children and Young People in a Small Church
    7. Working Together
    8. Places to Worshipand Witness (with a fantastic case study by a certain minister from Dibley)
    9. Help and Resources

    There ought to be something useful for many or most smaller churches.

    It's quite humbling to find my words in there with those of other people who I'm sure pray better, read their Bible more earnestly and pastor more effectively than I do.

     Available from Associations price £7.95 - ideal Christmas gift for your local diaconate!!!!

    Blue text added 20/11/2007.  Having now read through the book - not thoroughly granted - I'd offer a few criticisms of it, notably the very male language in many of the 'snapshots' especially where written by non-ministers - such as referring to 'the preacher' exclusively as 'he'.  I am a little surprised that the editting has not addressed this, since the BU Small Churches group are actually pretty hot on this, and my understanding is that a disproprotionate number of small church ministers are female, so if there is any generalisation maybe it should be to 'she'!

    There is a good resources section at the back of the book, but one or two of the organisations listed represent very specific constituencies within the church, and others are perhaps equally conspicuous by their absence. 

    There is even what appears to me to be either an error in, or London-centric approach to, Baptist structures as a layer of associating I don't recognise is included (What's a District?).

    Overall, a useful book for small churches, which affirms their value whether they grow numerically or not.  There is an underlying apologetic that 'small can be beautiful' even though there are stories of churches aiming to reach mega-status.