An interesting statistic lost amidst Obama's growing popularity is the plummet in the popularity of George W Bush... his popularity is now at 23%... that means he is less popular than Richard Nixon after Watergate (26%) and only one percent most popular than the most unpopular President in History, Harry Truman in 1952 (22%)! Makes life for McCain difficult - how does he distance himself from Bush yet keep the Conservative vote?
I leave Thursday afternoon for Ghana... if you want to follow then we have set up a blog for Photo's news etc. as we go... There will be a Lap top going (not mine) and we may find a Cyber Cafe or two... the Blog is HERE and there is an itinerary to download if you want to see where exactly we are each day.... I'm hoping to create a link between the schools sports programmes and AFC Telford FC( The Club, Supporters Trust and "Playing for Success"/Safespace... The folk in Ghana have come up with the following...
1. We will be exploring the possibility of initiating a football academy for the pupils and schools that are participating in the Link School programme. This will ensure that pupils interested sports will be able to fellowship among themselves across a multi-faith barrier.
2. We will be holding a fun game and sports forum for the School participating in the link programme. This include the School for the Deaf and the Blind. this will take place on Tuesday, October 28. Then on Wednesday, October 29 in the various schools, There will also be sports clinics for the schools during which I will try to share with them "the passion of sports and how sports can be used as bridges over various situations"!
3. In-between Tuesday and Wednesday (while the others are doing their school visits), we will be speaking with the Sports Coordinators of the Schools to explore the possibility of starting the Academy.
While in Cape Coast, we would also try to call on the Metropolitan Sports Organizers for Schools on issues that might be of interest and which would enhance the School-to-School link programme.
Levi Stubbs, original lead singer of the 4 Tops has passed away aged 72 in Detroit... Motown, of course. One of the greatest Soul voices - up there with the likes of Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder...RIP Levi.
Finished the book earlier this morning... I don't mind admitting that it had me in tears on several occasions, not just the "human" bits but some of the "God" bits toward the end had me blubbing like a baby! Particularly some of the stuff about living in expectancy not expectations and the letting go of shoulds and should nots in the flow of relationship.. I want to quote one passage (which didn't make me cry, but I just love the way it is put)... Mack had asked about the cliché "God first, Family second, Job third" - or variations of...
Jesus now spoke again. "Mack, I don't want to be the first among a list of values; I want to be at the center of everything. When I live in you, then together we can live through everything that happens to you. Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life - your friends, family, occupation, thoughts, activities - is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being."
"And I," concluded Sarayu (The Spirit), "I am the wind."
I might pick out a few other thoughts if I have the time.
We have a daily liturgy which folk use (some often, some daily, some from time to time) but inspired by Small Boat Big Sea (and Mike Frost) I'm going to try a new weekly rhythm... I will be encouraging safespace to walk it with me - or to find their own rhythm...
See and appreciate something new in Creation
Explore something about Jesus
Listen in silence to the Spirit
Bless and be blessed by someone
Listen to and share a God story with someone
Pray for and ask for prayer from someone
My thoughts have partly grown from Philippians 4 - to be at peace with each other, to bless each other, to rejoice in God's immanence and faithfulness, to pray faithfully and in faith, to live a life of blessing and peace which reflects Christ.
Peace – be at peace with each other (male - female) walking together I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Rejoice – in God’s faithfulness and closeness Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Love – be lovely in the way you live Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice.
And the God of peace will be with you.
Loving reading "The Shack" by William P. Young If you haven't yet read it, you have to... it's incredible - soul crunchingly sad, heart stoppingly beautiful, warm and soothing like a good Islay malt, gently hilarious, inspiring and challenging and it puts you in such a theological helter-skelter that all you can say is "Wheeeeeeeeee"! It's as readable and engaging as an Airport novel but at the same time as poetic and stirring as pretty much anything you might pick up from the "literature" section of the Library. Sure, it's not perfect - there are times you want Mack to hold on to his anger just a little longer and really push the questions, there are bit's which border on the cheesey and some theological moments which feel they need digging at... but I have to say, even though it's lacks much in the way of competition, this is the best "Christian" novel I have read in a long long time... maybe ever (I'll tell you if that's the case when I've finished it!)
Mackenzie (Mack) Allen Philip’s, an ordinary American, though one with a painful past of his own, decides one weekend to take his kids on a camping trip in the mountains of Oregon. Nothing unusual – just a fun filled weekend of campfires, hiking, canoeing and enjoying the great outdoors. Until tragedy strikes in the most unexpected way. Mack’s two older kids are out canoeing when they lose control and the canoe flips over. The reader naturally expects that one or both of them drowns, but Mack succeeds in saving them. Yet while his attention is focused on saving them, a serial killer abducts his younger daughter Missy. As the search progresses, the dress she had been wearing is found torn and bloodied in a Shack, high up in the mountains, implying that she has been murdered.
What follows for Mack is a time of several years described as The Great Sadness. Mack cannot forgive himself, and perhaps understandably, he blames God for allowing such a tragedy to happen to him. His relationship with God only worsens, becoming stoic and devoid of emotion. Until, one day Mack finds a note in his post box, signed “Papa” (God) inviting him to return to the Shack. Unsure if it is a cruel joke, a trick by the killer or whether it really is God trying to speak to him, curiosity gets the better of Mack and he decides to return to the scene of his daughter’s murder.
Here the story departs from reality as we know it (and indeed where the reader may feel comfortable) and enters a world where Mack meets God – Papa (God) portrayed in the form of a black woman, Jesus as an ordinary man in jeans and t-shirt, and Sarayu (The Holy Spirit) as an Asian woman. Mack spends the weekend with them in a world where time and reality no longer exists as we know it, and during that time finds healing, peace, deeper understanding and forgiveness about life. It’s not easy, for the questions he has to face are challenging and painful, but gradually Papa, Jesus and Sarayu work to bring about healing in Mack’s life and enable him to understand what a relationship with them is supposed to be and how that reflects in his relationship with others.
It might be worth noting that the book makes clear why Papa (Elouisa) God is depicted as an African Woman... the reason being that God is both male and female (supra-gender) and both are created in God's image, Mack primary image of God is as a white male, therefore to challenge his preconceptions God appears as a black woman... Young does not suggest that God IS a black woman anymore than God is a white man!
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I've been struck many times over the last decade or so how often the call for mission is raised as a response to the state of the Church. The attendance statistics etc. are trotted out in an attempt to challenge the Church on it's use of resources, on how it spends it's time or allocates it's cash etc. Mike Frost talked on Thursday about what do we organise Church around... do we organise it around worship - mission/evangelism focussed on invitation to our Worship meeting, creativity focussed on producing our Worship meeting, evaluation and discipleship based on attendance at/participation in our worship gathering etc. So when numbers begin to drop we ask ourselves what do we do to build up the numbers, the health of the church is measured by the worship gathering... so... as we face the apparent death of church as we know it we begin to ask "What are we going to do?" and what we decide to do is more often than not based on the simple question... what will get most people "in"?
The missional imperative cannot come from that understanding of church... why? Well, to begin with it has (at least) two linked problems... 1) Churches that do not have a problem filling their pews (for whatever reason - centralisation, the brain drain, transference, even growth etc.) have no need for urgency, so Mission becomes the task of the "failing" churches, and 2) we will fall into the trap of focussing on what we do "in" the church, we become production focussed - we believe that we must first make what we do in our worship gatherings as "good" as possible so that a) people will want to come and b) they will want to stay... to put it crudely we have to keep them entertained!
Frost says that we need to make a shift from having worship as the organisational hub of the church to seeing mission as the catalyst from which the life of the church flows... he says that mission does not necessarily flow from worship, worship however, naturally flows from being missional - as we engage we find that we need to come before God on bended knee and as we encounter God at work in the world we respond with real praise etc. - Discipleship, he says, does not happen from simple attendance/participation in Church (something even Willow Creek now recognise) but comes from faith at the coal face of culture... Much as we hate to admit it, Church is almost universally organised around the worship gathering, mission has become a tool of maintenance!
Leslie Newbigin wrote in 1987 (Evangelism in the City)
We have good new to tell... It is not communicated if the question uppermost in our minds is about the survival of the church in the inner city. Because our society is a pagan society, and because Christians have in general failed to realize how radical is the contradiction between the Christian vision and the assumptions that we breathe in from every part of our shared existence, we allow ourselves to be deceived into thinking of the church as one of the many 'good causes' which need our support and which will collapse if they are not adequately supported. If our 'evangelism' is at bottom an effort to shore up the tottering fabric of the church (an it sometimes looks like that) then it will not be heard as good news. The church is in God's keeping. We do not have the right to be anxious about it. We have our Lord's word that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. The nub if the matter is that we have been chosen to be the bearers of good news for the whole world, and the question is simply whether we are faithful in communicating it.
(edit) When Newbigin refers "the tottering fabric of the church" I don't think he is primarily talking about "fabric" in terms of our buildings, I think he means the institutions, traditions and the human structures that we hold on to.