Saturday, June 23, 2007

God On Mute

The book I've got on the go at the moment is God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer by Pete Greig. I love Pete's outlook on life and faith and as he's an absolutely fantastic writer to boot I'd have probably read whatever he published even if it was called Lard On Toast. But the fact that he's writing about prayer - specifically unanswered prayer - makes me even more hungry to hear what he's got to say. I've heard Pete speak on a few occasions about the process of coming to terms with his wife Samie's brain tumour and his honesty has always been incredibly moving and motivating. That his home life was imploding just as he was being thrust forward as the figurehead of a rampant global prayer movement (24-7 prayer) seems an irony too cruel to bear. So having said all this you might find it a bit strange that I've chosen the following portion to quote, but here goes:
"Outwardly I tried to give an impression of stoic endurance, and there were times when I felt very calm. But I was also scared that Samie might die if I didn't pray enough, or if I didn't have enough faith, or if I didn't fast enough, or if I didn't bind some disembodied principality, or if I didn't repent of some root sin, or if I didn't strap her body on a stretcher bound for Lourdes, or if I didn't agree with Benny Hinn."
When I read those lines, which come after a whole chapter fraught with heart-break, I laughed like I'd not laughed in a long time. It was like a release valve letting out the pressure of my own doubts and fears, which a book like this inevitably leaches to the surface. Here's my point, and the thing above all else that I want to applaud Pete for, laughter is a spiritual gift. To be able to write a book touching on some of the most emotional and sensitive issues people will ever face, and to do so with a gracious, contagious smile is about as close to Jesus as you can get I think.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The artist and the art

I've been reflecting a bit on my trip a few weks ago to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and in particular on comments by Andy Goldsworthy that I came across in the gallery showing his work. He was referring to the relationship between himself and the art he creates. Apparently, depending on the outcome he has in mind there are three approaches he will take: 1) Work in which he as the artist needs to be physically present; 2) Work in which traces of his intervention as the artist are left behind; 3) Work in which he is exteremely careful to produce an effect that leaves the observer wondering if the art had simply created itself.

As someone who believes in God as the ultimate source of creativity I find these insights into the mind and motivation of an artist absolutely fascinating, I can't help but draw parallels with the divine designer.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Rob Bell in Manchester

I don't think it's any great secret that probably the most significant new influence in my life (I nearly said in my Christian life then but I only have one life and it's Christian so let's just call it a life!) has been Rob Bell. Ever since seeing the first Nooma video a couple of years ago I've been through a hugely positive reworking of my faithscape. And how cool is this, when I Googled "Rob Bell Manchester" to find out the latest info on his forthcoming visit my own Amazon review of Velvet Elvis came out number 1!

Anyway, I need to calm down as I'll be meeting him next Friday afternoon and I need to not come across as some starry-eyed groupie. At the moment I'm just processing what I ought to say to him, apart from thanks of course. Any suggestions?

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Monday, June 04, 2007

The power of strawberries

Last night, at the end of a long and extraordinary week of running an event in the city centre, something happened to me that hasn't happened for quite a while. I had a panic attack. If you've ever been victim of a panic attack I won't try to remind you how awful they are. And if you're lucky enough not to be bothered by these waking nightmares but are a bit intrigued you can get the vibe by reading one of my previous posts on fear. I'm prone to a particular variety of attack known as an existential crisis - or more simply put - going eyeball to eyeball with death. Sounds like fun eh!
Anyway, the fact that the crisis happened (strangely triggered by a scene at the end of Doctor Who!) is not the point here. I'm writing because of the unique way I got out of it. After an attack I tend to be left with a residual creepy feeling for several hours or even longer. However, about twenty minutes after last night's judder I quite innocently opened the door to the fridge sniffing around for some comfort food. I took out a punnet of strawberries and took a bite. Wow! Total unexpected ecstasy! The intense freshness and flavour provoked not only a physical but also a psychological response. I suddenly found myself absolutely convinced that if I was really standing in my kitchen with my tongue drooling over the cool sweetness of a fresh fruit then that in itself is evidence enough that anything is possible... God, eternal life, strawberry fields forever, why not?

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