I am called… to lead worship

As a priest I will be leading the communal worship of my community most of the time. It is a double calling to be worshipper and leader of worship in order to transform all. Not only would I lead a service though, I would be responsible for setting the tone of the worship of the community for which I need to be a liturgist at the technical level as well pay attention to the life of the world in my community so that the worship can express the intensity of God’s interaction with the world.  Actually, I am a little overwhelmed by this. I don’t know very much about liturgy at all. I guess I will learn this at college…

I would tend to the worship of others as well as my own. In leading worship, my prayers will be an important source of information for others. I will have to walk the thin line of providing both the comfort of the familiar and the challenge of being out of one’s liturgical comfort zone which might well lead me out of my own comfort zone. It would be my responsibility to understand and apply the theology behind the liturgy used and to enable the understanding of others through it.This will be especially difficult since many people will just be sitting there, letting the words wash over tzhem without really listening to what is being said. As long as my expectations aren’t too high I should be fine!

Worship is a gift from God and I am called to share this gift with a specific community in a specific place at a specific point in time. This means that in order to make the community’s worship relevant, I will need to pay attention to the community I will serve, to the culture, newsworthy events and personal happenings. In my worship with this community I will have the chance to express the intensity of God’s interaction with the world. This will require me actually relating to my congregation. Oh bother! Me, the one with the odd music tastes, reading books that nobody else likes and being addicted to American TV Dramas! I will have to step things up a little… or possibly use my excentricities to good effect!

I have had some experience in leading worship, in a home group setting, reading in church, writing intercessions and praying with my Sunday school children. I found it both exhilarating and difficult. Leading worship means that there is a chance that I am the only one truly taking part in the worship. This can be both emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Isn’t there an easier way to meet people than sitting through a service being bored for more than an hour each Sunday? Porbably I am being very harsh. On the other hand, when there were others truly worshiping alongside me, leading them in prayer is meaningful and important. I have always felt that praying with others brings an additional level of immediacy to prayer and while I wouldn’t miss my personal praying time alone, prayer with others is also very important to me. Leading others in prayer regularly and having the chance to be a vessel of inspiration through God’s word is something I am very much looking forward to. And the children are the best!

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Prayer and I – a short history of growth

Prayer is the ground on which my relationship with God stands. As I said before, my praying has evolved slowly, and the more I pray, the more I want to and the more I need to. Of course this has not happened over night but over years.

In 2010 I started praying intermittently, feeling slightly foolish when I was praying. I had never truly prayed by myself before and it was a very new experience. It felt like I was saying these (often not very meaningful words) into thin air and there they just vanished. I had a few good experiences, too, when God’s presence was very tangible and his comfort and support manifest in the words I was reading. And so I realised, that it helped me be at peace to talk to God and I prayed more regularly. Eventually I designed my own daily prayer with a psalm being read in the morning and two readings from OT and NT in the evening. The Daily Office provided by the CoE was too stuffy and structured – and also too long!  – for me at the time.

In 2013 I also started a prayer diary, after our chaplain suggested it in one of his sermons (see, some people really do listen!). Writing down my prayers helps me to focus and think about what is important for me at the time. It helps to make my prayer seem more real and shows me when God answers my prayers. Also, it gives me a way to trace how oftyen and how regular I pray. If I miss a day or two, I ask myself why and try to not let that same reason divide me from God again.

Around November 2013 I discovered “Time to Pray” on Amazon and I feel using it gives me the structure and routine I need while leaving me with the free space to make the prayer a time I can open up to God and his word. It is based on the Daily Office but I use it creatively, with my own Bible readings and reflections. Sometimes I ignore it and just talk to God. mostly though, it is very helpful to have a framework on which to base my prayers. Praying daily has helped deepen my relationship with God and reach a new level of commitment. At the beginning prayer was very much a chore I had put on myself, now it is something that I look forward to.

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How do you pray?

How do you pray, I get asked – by friends and also (more scary) as part of my application form by the DDO. I can of course describe the structure of the prayers I say in the morning and evening (basically an adapted version of the daily office). But does this really answer the question?

Actually that’s exactly what I wrote on the application form. But to my freind I said something very different. I pray, I said, using a structured prayer every morning and evening. This I do every day. Sometimes, I feel God there with me and sometimes I don’t. I use the structure to guide me in what I want to say. So there is me saying that I am sorry, thanking and praising God for the day and then, of course all the pleas and requests. I use beautiful language that has been passed down for centuries and even millenia. I use modern language that really hits the meaning I want to convey. I use my own words to express my feelings.

But this is just a little part of my praying. because throughout the day I will also say little prayers of thanks and little requests as they come up. So when an ambulance goes by, I ask God to be with those they are helping. When I receive good news, I thank God. At mealtimes I say grace (silently if I am with others who don’t).

It is the combination of both, I told my friend, that really makes the difference in my relationship with God. Prayer is something that becomes more meaningful the more you do it. As your relationship with God grows, so does your need to communicate with him. And now, prayer is something I just do, without even thinking about it. And my life is so much richer because of it.

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I am called… to worship him

Worshipping God is the most important part of a priests calling, being the inspiration for and informing all of his or her other activities. Worshipping God is taking a step back from the preoccupation with ourselves. It is deciding again and again to give God my soul, my life, my all. Through praying we give and receive love from the one source of all things and we proclaim this love to the world. Worshipping god and regular prayer is immensely satisfying. They can give me a feeling of accomplishment, of having helped when no other help was possible. Prayer gives me a connection, to God but also to others. As a priest I will continue with worshiping God regularly and it will help me to continue giving my life to him. Much of my life I did not know to pray or how and the journey of learning how to talk to God was long, full of stumbling blocks but also with great accomplishments and gratification. Prayer has become something I do like eating and drinking and I cannot imagine doing without. Sometimes I find it difficult to get started but for this reason, I think, there is the Daily Office. in this set text of prayers I can get started even when I don’t know how and it gives me a framework with which to work when I am uninspired. At the same time it is the moments during the day when I give God a quick thank you or please that can be the most meaningful.

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All the essays I didn’t do

Like I wrote on Friday, there are many hoops to jump through when discerning your calling to priesthood. Not least of this is a thick pack of papers and book chapters given to me by the DDO with an A4 list attached at the front detailing the many essays I needed to write before my interview. One of them is not so much an essay but an application from. This is fine, until you see questions along the lines of: Describe your journey in faith. How has your prayer life developed over the years? Describe your life so far. Who are the people imnportant in your life and how do they support you?

You try answering those questions in less than 500 words (which I didn’t have to, thankfully) because just for one of those alone I wrote 2 A4 pages. And it still didn’ feel complete. One of the requirements in this process is, of course, complete honesty and I was but there is no way you can actually tell them EVERYTHING that has ever been important in your life. And true enough there were a lot fo follow up questions at the interview…

I also had to write my own obituary (basically my life in the thrid person in 2000 words) and an essay on the nature of the office of a priest and how I feel called to it. Then I also was supposed to write something short on the Anglican communion/ church of England, 300 words detailing how I fulfill the different criteria they look for (there are 9), something on the Bible, something on the academic study of the Bible and whether it is threatening and a sermon. I had to give the sermon, not just write it, too! I’ll get back to that later.

I got away with not writing all of the above (thank goodness!) but the ones I did write really helped me a lot in sorting through my jumbled thoughts, directing my exploration of my calling and I am grateful in that all of this confirmed my calling. It could have completely gone the other way! Writing these also caused me to discuss many of the questions raised with differnt people from my chaplaincy for which i am also very grateful. It strengthened these relationships and gave me new points to think about at the same time.

So, thank you CoE. This has been a great journey so far, yes, exhausting at times, and frustrating, but also immensely gratifying and fulfilling! Possibly everyone should do this once just to clear their head (but then, who would, if not getting a kick from God first?).

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Process Stories

Becoming a priest in the Church of England is not something that you just do. First you go through a rigorous discernment process, both for the church to find out whether you are indeed the right person for this calling and for yourself to find out and to clarify your calling to the priestly office. The process differs from diocese to diocese and for the Diocese of Europe in which I find myself after moving back to Germany, it takes at least 18 months, though for most it is much longer. Currently I am at an in-between stage. I have not been accepted yet but have jumped through the first few hoops and completed some of the necessary steps. The first step (and this is the same no matter where you live, and, I suspect, no matter which church you worship with) is to talk to you local priest or vicar (here it’s a chaplain). In these conversations (and they should be several), you first discuss your sense of calling, he’ll give you some reading to do (the whole process will involve a lot of reading!) and guide you in your first baby steps explorations. If you are lucky, like me, your vicar will be supportive and helpful. The conversations can be really meaningful and help you to learn much about yourself and, incidentally, your vicar and his sense of calling. Eventually he will give your name to your Diocesan Director of Ordinands (DDO) – or whatever the equivalent is called in your diocese. This is when the official process starts. In the Diocese of Europe you are first invited to an informal weekend in London, when you meet others interested in ordination, learn about the process, a little about the Church of England and visit some “typical” parishes. This is necessary because many of the participants have only encountered the Church of England in its chaplaincies abroad, these visits show them parish life in England. After this visit you go back to your chaplaincy. The PCC has to officially adopt you as a postulant before things can progress. You are given a thick pack of papers to read and a long list of essays to write. Then you are invited to an interview with the DDO. This just happened a few weeks ago for me. In September I will attend another conference, when there will be more interviewing, a presentation, group discussions and after that, I will (or will not) be invited to appear before a bishop advisory panel. That is when the final decision will be made – will I receive training or not?

I don’t know if any of out there had to go through similar processes. For me it has been both illuminating and a hassle – I do have a “real” job to do on the side and am living my life with all its many distractions as well as preparing for this. How did you experience your discernment period? Did your church make you jump through similar hoops?

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A new beginning

I have been absent for quite some time and this is me, coming back to blogging. A lot has happened since I last wrote anything to you and I believe it is time to fill you in.
First, I have been back in Germany for almost 2 years, working for my brother in the office of his catering service, organizing events, personnel and administrative stuff. It has been a great two years of learning a lot, experiencing the real world and discovering what I am called to do with my life.
This brings me to the second change in my life and arguably the more important one. For the last year and a half I have been exploring my calling to ministry in the church of England. It has been quite the journey and I will tell you much more about this in the future I am sure. So far the process has been grueling but also greatly rewarding and I have learned a lot about me, my relationship to God and my faith.
So much for the update of my life. I am looking forward to sharing more with you soon.

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Historical me – Voting

Voting ballot from 10 April 1938. ("Refer...

Voting ballot from 10 April 1938. (“Referendum and Großdeutscher Reichstag; Ballot; Do you agree with the reunification of Austria with the German Reich that was enacted on 13 March 1938 and do you vote for the party of our leader; Adolf Hitler?; Yes; No” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I follow politics. I think, part of it is the spectacle, almost like a soap opera at times, but the larger reason is that I know from the stories of the past that politics are very important. Knowing what you believe in, what is right and wrong, can make the difference for the rest of the country. And, of course,we can change things, especially by voting. I take that very seriously. Voting for me is not just a privilege (although I certainly cherish it) but much more a duty. As a good citizen, I have a duty to ensure that my views are heard because it is when people ignore what’s going on that things go down the drain. But there is another reason why I value voting so much. And it is the story of my great-grandmother.

It was during the Third Reich. My great-grandmother was visiting relatives in a small village and there was a vote. I don’t know what the vote was for (but it was a national vote, so there are only three option: 1. parliamentary elections in late 1933, 2. parliamentary elections and referendum of 1936, and 3. a referendum on the annexation of Austria and parliamentary elections in 1938). In all three elections, more than 99% of the voters officially voted ad more than 98% of the votes were in favour of the only party who stood in those elections. Clearly this is ot what happened in reality. Here is what my great-grandmother experienced (as told by my mother): Everyone was required to come and vote, even my great-grandmother who didn’t even live in that village. Since it was small everyone would know who did or did not vote. My great-grandmother was told what to vote and then some member of the SA (a kind of militia that served as a police force without needing to keep to police rules at the time) with a weapon stood behind her, looked over her shoulder and made sure she voted as intended.

Today we take the privilege of voting in secret far too lightly. I remember discussing this in a civics class and the teacher telling us how important it was that secret voting was required because if it was not, anyone who did want to vote in secret could become the scapegoat or outcast because people would know it was them who didn’t follow the majority (apparently this happened in East Germany during GDR times). I hope that these things will never happen again in my countries (I wish I could say never again full stop but we all know they are happening right now all over the world).

Have you had similar experiences in your life or in your family’s past?

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The Nature of Calling

Molnár József: Ábrahám kiköltözése

Molnár József: Abraham (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few days ago I wrote about how I had had two upheavals in my faith and I told you about one of them. The reason, that I didn’t talk about the second one is, that I am not quite sure myself yet. How do you know that God is calling you? There are many, many stories about God calling people in both the Old Testament and the New Testament and every calling seems to be quite unique ad at the same time they all seem to be similar in some way. It confuses me. I thought I knew what my calling was going to be and I was ready for it and happy but it is becoming clearer and clearer to me that it is not happening and I am finding myself at a loss. What am I doing? Did I completely miss the point? How can I get back on track, and was it the right track? If not, how do I find the right one?

Reading about Abraham being called by God to just up and leave with only his faith in God as reassurance that things would work out, I feel similarly. In a kind of limbo, not seeing where I am going and even struggling with where I am coming from. I know I am just supposed to have faith and happily follow along but, honestly, I hat this. It is horrible not to know. I am sure as much as Abraham believed in God, he also had doubts and wanted to know where he was going to go. All he had was this vague promise, that God will show him the land. Well, I have a not-so-vague promise that God is always with me and guides me and will rescue me at the end of time but right now that doesn’t seem very helpful. Don’t get me wrong, I draw a lot of energy from my faith and God and the community in my church and all of this is amazingly helpful in itself. Yet, sometimes, rather often, I think to myself: But what am I doing? And I wish God would answer that question. And I know that eventually he will. (But can’t it be sooner, rather than later, please?)

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Historical me – Authority

I have an issue with authority – not that I mind when someone tells me what to do. What I mind is being told what to do and being expected to blindly follow those orders. I always ask questions when I don’t understand the reason for why I should do something (and I have gotten into trouble for it a few times) but I could never just do something because I was told to. I need to understand. Because if I don’t agree with it and believe it to be wrong, I want to have the option of saying so and the option of not doing it. The most terrible thing for me would be to do something wrong because I failed to have the courage to ask the question. To me it’s quite obvious where I get this from.

First of all: My grandfather.

Well, step-grandfather; you will find that there are three grandfathers in my family and this is the one I am not related to by blood. Let’s call him James. I grew up with his stories of what it was like to serve in the military during the war. It is often said in my family that he spent more time in prison and wounded than actually fighting and I have to say, I kind of think it might be true. He volunteered at the very beginning of the war (to me he said it was the most stupid thing he ever did) and somehow ended up in Paris where he started an affair with a woman who was black. I don’t know if you know but it was a crime to have “interracial relations” under Hitler and when James was found out, he was lucky to not be send to prison or to a Camp but “only” to be moved to the Eastern front. It wasn’t an easy way out, the Eastern front was known for being the most terrible of them all. The first day he joined up with his new unit, the Sergeant who was getting to know everyone asked where they were from. When it was James’ turn he said that he was from Cologne. Cologne is the West of Germany and quite close to the French border and as the French weren’t exactly liked very much at the time (you know, WWI and the reparations and… other stupid stuff) his segeant who apparently liked putting people into their rightful place, said: “Oh, so you’re a Half-Frenchie!” I am sure if my grandfather had just nodded and smiled, nothing more would have come from it, but my grandfather being who he was instead answered back (which is never a good idea to do to your superior in the military but in this situation was particularly – unintelligent). “If I am half French,” said my grandfather and gave back ass good as he got to the sergeant who was from the East of Germany (the part that’s now Poland) “You are a Polack” He spent his fiorst three weeks in the new unit in custody for insubordination.

Soldiers of the 1st SS Panzer Division near Kh...

Soldiers of the 1st SS Panzer Division near Kharkov, February 1943 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Second of all: My country’s history.

Early on it was established in my mind that if people hadn’t been such good Germans as in that they did as they were told, Hitler and the Nazis would have had a much more difficult time trying to get to power and then abusing that power.Adolf Eichmann, the coordinator of transporting people to the concentration camps,  is, for me, one of the most despicable people in all of history and not because he believed in what he did (which I am sure he did) but because in the end it was a problem for him and in the end all he cared about was solving that problem. I don’t think he ever really thought about what he was doing. He was indifferent to that, the important thing was that he was given an order and, as a good bureaucrat, he made it happen. Indifference is a terrible thing and not questioning your superiors is another. Today, there is a clause in the rule book for German soldiers in that if they believe an order goes against the constitution they don’t have to follow it. That’s as it should be.

Thirdly: My mother.

My mother was undoubtedly influenced by all of the above and her example of thinking for herself, coming to her own conclusions and questioning everything helped me to become who I am today. Thanks Mom.

Interestingly, I learned from the other side of the family, that quiet opposition is possible, too. When everyone around them was becoming a member of the Nazi party, my great-grandfather refused, despite the threat to his teaching job, and while he did send all of his children to the Hitler Youth and the Federation of German Girls, he taught them at home that not everything they were told was necessarily true and to treat everything with caution. He taught my grandmother to question authority and he managed  to keep his family as safe as possible. Quite the feat at the time.

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Having faith

Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engr...

Abram Journeying into the Land of Canaan (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In my discipleship course today we studied (some of) the story of Sarah and Abraham. At first I thought, that since I already very much knew this story (backwards and forwards and all) it wouldn’t be a great session and I’d probably not get very much from it but it might be fun anyways. Well, the joke’s on me. I didn’t just have one but two major shifts in my perception of God and his nature. It was amazing how much a new perspective can change the meaning of a story and how talking about the Bible changes how you read it so much. I am starting to think that reading the Bible by yourself is really almost futile (although also important) if you don’t also read it with other people! Preferably with someone who knows what they’re doing.

But yes, I learned something today. I learned, by reading the conversation between God and Abraham, that it wasn’t important to God what Abraham thought or believed so much. He made him promises and “signed a contract” (by moving a torch between carcasses of Abraham’s sacrifice, there is no accounting for culture, is there?) and he didn’t ask anything from Abraham in return. He had faith in him and that was it. And when Sarah laughed at him, at the idea of her having a child, that didn’t matter either (so much for being vengeful and jealous, I always knew that was not the God I know), he just reaffirmed his promise. And when I thought about it, this happens again and again; he calls Moses and promises him he’ll free his people, and Moses says: No! Not me! but God has faith in him. And he talks to Solomon who says: I don’t know what I’m doing! but God believes in him. And then, of course there is Jonah who needs a lot of persuasion before he finally knows that he can do it, too. And eventually God sent the world his son and never asked anything in return. He had faith in all of us, that his suffering would not be in vain. It is an amazing feeling and I needed quite some time to process all of this. And now I feel very, very lucky.

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Open Church

Eglwys Gadeiriol S. Philip, Birmingham

St. Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photo credit: Dogfael)

Every Saturday my church opens its doors to anyone who wants to come in. Volunteers staff it for two hours, and people come in to pray, look around, get a tour or just talk to the volunteers about church stuff (like weddings, baptisms, Christianity) or just chat. It’s great, I’ve volunteered myself a few times and you get to meet and chat to some very nice people. I don’t like that it is only open on a Saturday, though, Shouldn’t a church be always open to anyone, so that anyone ca come in to pray ad find a quiet space to just be for a while? I know, I know, you need somebody there to make sure nobody steals anything or vandalizes the place, for insurance reasons etc. etc. I am not talking about the practical side (which I understand makes it impossible for every church) but just generally, can we agree on it? Even the cathedral in the town centre is only open until 5 o’clock and then closes until the next morning. I get that it is expensive to keep a church ope but I also think that it is sad that we can’t make it possible in at least one church per city. A church should be a refuge for anyone who needs it whenever they need it, be it in the middle of the night or at noon on a Wednesday.

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1 John 4:16 (b)

 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

And that is the most important truth about God. He loves us. Always. Whether we know it or not. And it is his love that brings out the best in us. Feeling his love can turn a life around forever.

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Creation and… well, what?

Adam and Eve by Peter Paul Rubens

Adam and Eve by Peter Paul Rubens (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I do not believe in Evolution. What I mean by that is, that I know evolution took place and therefore I don’t need to believe it. Whereas I believe that God created the universe. I believe that because there is no scientific proof that he has. There is a lot of scientific proof that evolution happened. But this post isn’t really supposed to be about evolution at all (maybe I’ll write more about that later but it will be less a post about what my faith tells me and more a post on science and knowledge), it is a question I ask myself whenever I start thinking about it. About what? The Fall. You know, when Adam and Eve supposedly ate the apple (or whatever fruit it might have been) and found out that they were naked and so on and so on. The Fall is almost the second thing that happens in the Bible (after everything is created and named and told its purpose) and without knowing what the Fall actually is, I find it difficult to understand almost anything else. Because everything in me tells me that creation is a good thing, that God is proud of it and that none of it is bad or evil. Yet, obviously, I cannot say that humans are good and everything they/we do is exactly as God wishes it to be. I have put quite a bit of emphasis on free will (see my posts on Invictus and what it means to me) and I honestly do believe that God gave it to us as a present. But! If it is such a good thing, why do we need rescuing from it? For me, Jesus dying on the cross feels weird if it was necessary to redeem humanity from the Fall. And what might the actual Fall be anyways? Is it when humans started to think abstractedly, develop a sense of self (animals have that), became creative? All of these together? And, since I believe (but don’t know the proof) that evolution was ultimately responsible for all of these, were they in God’s plan from the beginning and if so, why didn’t he change the plan again? As you can tell I am thoroughly confused. Please help me, tell me what you believe the Fall was/is and how it fits in with God’s plan. I will continue to ponder.

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Historical me – why write about it?

We are all the result of our history. It can be what happened to us, what we read throughout our life and who we meet. But a largely overlooked part of this personal history is the actual history -may it be the history of our country or the personal history of our ancestors and their families. I was reminded of that last week after discussing how I perceived WWII with Jonathan who was alive at the time (of WWII, he is still alive and kicking now of course) and remembers it from an English point of view. We discussed howit had changed his view on war and its consequences and how growing up German had formed mine. It was a really interesting conversation and since I often experience British people to remember both WWI and II in a heroic, very patriotic light, and it really, really annoys me (more about that later) I was very happy, almost relieved to hear someone talk about it from a different point of view. Jonathan even almost apologised for everything the British army had done to the German people, which threw me completely because, like most people, I view those things in comparison to what the German army and SS did and, well, the British win. He in turn was completely surprised when I told him that most German people would say that we were liberated by the Allies at the end of WWII, since none of us today would like to have grown up under a Nazi regime and are quite grateful for their sacrifices. He said: “That is an amazing show of forgiveness.” I don’t know if it is, I still think the benefits of getting rid of the Nazis far surpass much of the suffering of being defeated in war. But looking back at my family’s experiences, there are some stories that would likely, taken by themselves, make me agree with Jonathan. Then today, I read something that made me bristle with indignation simply because it seemed to show the Nazi regime in a slightly favourable light and I was full of indignation and even anger, that in hindsight, was probably a bit of an overreaction. However, it gave me the idea of exploring my personal history and look at why I feel so strongly about some things and why there are some buttons very easily pushed. So over the next few weeks, I will tell you about what happened to my family (as far as I know, but I think I know quite a lot) and how it shaped me and my beliefs in right and wrong. I am lucky because I got to meet most of my grandparents and even two great-grandmothers. Some of them were more forthcoming with their stories than others but all of them helped me to become the woman I am today and I am very proud to be their descendant.

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God’s Holy Word

English: Bible in candlelight.

After writing extensively about the Bible (see here and here), I am finally tackling the big question: What is its spiritual value to me or, how do I actually use it as the foundation of my faith in God. Well, this is a difficult question for me and I haven’t quite figured it out completely.

Is it inspired writing?

I believe, that the people who wrote were mostly inspired to write it but I think that their inspiration is still coloured with their cultural preconceptions. I believe that they mostly acted out of genuine passion for the sharing of God’s deeds and were trying to write these down as truthfully as possible. I don’t think they were infallible in any way; they were human and therefore subject to human failures. Those who spoke to God were not protected from misunderstanding or misrepresenting because it suited them better.

So why bother reading it?

Apart from the intrinsic value of reading something as beautiful and interesting as the Bible, I find that it gives me a connection to those people in the past who had had that special connection to God and Jesus and wanted to share it with later generations. There are a lot of rules and advice in the Bible and most of it is really useful for everyday life – once you translate it to modern times of course!I don’t use it as a textbook for worldly matters (such as history or science) but rather for spiritual and theological matters. At the end of the day, we only have our own and other people’s experience of God to rely on.

Most importantly:

There are some verses or chapters or sections that just seem important; they can be inspiring or beautiful or sometimes they are neither but they still speak to me. They ring true. Sometimes they remind me of my own life circumstances. I believe that this is God speaking to me through the scriptures – and every time it happens it is an amazing feeling. I get to feel a wonderful moment of  connection with God. It doesn’t happen regularly, or even very often, but if I don’t read the Bible it cannot happen at all. So for me, the Bible is one of the ways that I make contact with God (or rather, he makes contact with me!) and while it is not the only way it is an important one.

How do you  read the Bible? Is it important in your everyday life?

I especially suggest you read Justin Hiebert’s take on the power of storytelling here.

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Doctor Who morals

The Mark 2 fibreglass (Tom Yardley-Jones) Tard...

I was watching the TV series Damages the other day and something suddenly struck me. One of the baddies was obviously feeling guilty and decided to help one of the people he had wronged. That made me remember one of my favourite quotes from Doctor Who. He is talking to another baddie:

You let one of them go but that’s nothing new. Every now and then a little victim’s spared because she smiled, ’cause he’s got freckles. ‘Cause they begged. And that’s how you live with yourself. That’s how you slaughter millions. Because once in awhile—on a whim, if the wind’s in the right direction—you happen to be kind.

And isn’t this true for many, if not most, of us? We do the wrong thing all the time, knowingly do the wrong thing, but every now and then we muster up the strength to do what we believe is right in difficult circumstances – and that is how we live with ourselves. That is how we survive the knowledge that we are not always a good person. We remember the things we did right. We pat ourselves on the shoulder and say: See I am not all bad after all. And, as contradictory as this may sound; I think that is really important. To remember that we sometimes do have that strength. Because God does, too. Yes, he knows all our deeds, good or bad, but through his grace we are forgiven the bad ones. And we please him every time we get it right; every time we go beyond ourselves he jumps up and down with joy – and so should we. Of course we can’t be complacent about it but if we only focus on the bad things and those we got wrong – we’ll simply break. So I say: let’s use this very human feature for a good cause. Let’s use it to do more good deeds and less bad ones. Let’s use it as a carrot so we can forget the stick.

So, today, do something right, do something good, do something you wouldn’t normally do. and then tonight, when you go to sleep, remember it, remember the warm, fuzzy feeling of complete goodness and thank God for experiencing that grace. And then, tomorrow, do it again.

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Filed under Ethics, good vs. bad, Prayer, TV and Film

Why bother?

English: An image of Psalm 23 (King James' Ver...

English: An image of Psalm 23 (King James’ Version), frontispiece to the 1880 omnibus printing of The Sunday at Home. Scanned at 800 dpi. Français : Illustration du Psaume 23 (version autorisée par le roi Jacques), en frontispice de l’édition omnibus du Sunday at home. Version numérisée à 800 dpi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My post The Book poses the question of why would I read the Bible if I don’t think all of it is true? Well,  I will talk about the spiritual side later, but even if you don’t believe in God at all, I think, reading the Bible is not the worst decision you can make.

There is beautiful poetry in the Bible.

Everyone (or almost everyone) knows Psalm 23. The Lord is my shepherd… with all its beautiful imagery. And ther are many, many more beautiful Psalms in this section of the Bible alone; some of my favourites are Psalms 23, Psalm 100 (mostly because I sang it in an amazing song once) and Psalm 103. But that is not the only poetry in the Bible, not even close to it. Lamentations are heartbreakingly hopeless and regretful (plus a very small section that is heartbreakingly hopeful) and the Song of Songs… well you really wouldn’t expect language like that in the Bible! But you can feel the love the lover and beloved have for each other and it is full of joy. Ecclesiastes also has some amazing poetry. Then there are the many canticles; the song that random people sing to God throughout the whole Bible, my favourite being the Magnificat, sung by Mary after the visit of the angel who told her she was going to have a child. Maybe it is because I have heard and sung it many times over the years but every time time I read her humble and yet joyful praise, I feel the same way. Powerful language is present throughout the Bible but it starts right at the beginning with Genesis 1. A beautiful poem on the beginning of the world and its beauty.

Many, many good stories

Whether you like romance or adventure or political thrillers, there is something for everyone in the Bible. There are battles (in too much detail for my taste, but maybe you like that sort of thing), bad Kings (who tyrannise their people and decide that the Law doesn’t apply to them), wise men who get killed for telling the truth – you can find the whole nadwidth of human idiocy and its results in here. My favourites are the story of Susanna (actually in the Apocrypha, for Protestants and part of Daniel for everyone else) who gets falsely accused of adultery and is on the verge of being killed when Daniel the prophet rushes to her rescue and identifies the true culprits (who tried to rape her in this legal thriller) and the story of Deborah who shows the men of her time what a true woman is capable of (gender issues are not all that new it turns out).

There is a lot of wisdom to be found

If you’ve never looked into a Bible you won’t know this but a lot of the sayings and phrases in English (and also German, and I’m sure in many other languages) are direct copies of things written in the Bible. It’s because they are just universally true. Especially Proverbs is a great source of these, but if you have the chance to read the Wisdom of Solomon (again the Apocrypha for Protestants) you will actually find a lot of Wisdom there.
A lot of it, and this is true for much of the Bible actually, makes you think, it challenges you on a deep level and you start to consider how something relates to your own life. I like the challenge and often find, that even if I disagree with something I can usually find a way to learn from it.

How many books can do all of the above? (If you do know one, please tell me because I’ll want to read it, too.) Even if you are not at all interested in spirituality or the existence of God, reading the Bible can enrich your life and help you to understand yourself and the world around you in a different way.

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Filed under Bible, body and soul, History, Philosophy, Poetry

John 15:12

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

My favourite verse in the New Testament is this one. It really shows the priorities we should all have and what Jesus expects of us. If only it were as easy as it sounds…

 

 

 

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lemoed:

Interesting, interesting, interesting! A thought provoking look at women in the New Testament:

Originally posted on ben.edictions:

English: Jesus and Mary Magdalene

English: Jesus and Mary Magdalene (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I decided to jot this down after reading an essay by Scot McKnight of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago.  The point of his essay is that for whatever reason (he gives a few but I don’t necessarily agree) these women are pushed to the margins of both biblical studies and church teaching and have there for much of Christian history.  A few names on this list are familiar, but most I know only through scattered references and some not at all.  Even of the prominent, their true role as portrayed in Scripture and the implications of that role are almost universally minimized.  Simply put, I’m writing this post to stop being part of the problem.  After reading through the following I hope what I mean here will become clear.  I am not trying to advocate for any certain theology or way…

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