- Prodigal -

With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling we shall not cease from exploration... (T.S. Eliot)
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Saturday, August 31, 2002

I’ve been reading, “The Way of Wisdom” – a tribute in honour of Bruce Waltke’s 70th birthday in 2000. Bruce Waltke, “…a humble, genial, unassuming believer in whom strength of mind, sweetness of character, deep devotion, and a bubbling sense of humour signally combine…” Bruce was Professor of OT at Regent College. He is now Professor Emeritus there.

I’ve also been reflecting on work done by Ellen Charry, especially, her “By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine.” See also her more accessible paper, "The Moral Function of Doctrine." Then into this mix, I’ve also been thinking about the ‘labels’ modern, post-modern and the relationship between them. Andrew Shepherd, a good friend of mine, has written:

“…Much of the writing on mission in our contemporary landscape presupposes that the emerging “post-modern world” is vastly different from the “modern” world. It is the difference between our post-modern culture and modernity that necessitates fresh perspectives on “truth” and new techniques for communicating it. But is post-modernity really the new paradigm we have been led to believe?

Just as the “modern” world elevated “reason over faith”, “science over superstition”, “fact over myth”, so our post-modern world now replaces “rationalism with intuition”, “reason with experience”, “dogma with stories”, “words with images”. But this “either/or” approach exhibits the same dualistic tendencies inherent in much western thought. Such dualistic thinking tends to reduce “Truth” to an abstract concept removed from the flesh and blood realities of the “real” world. It is this understanding, the separation of the conceptual idea of “Truth” from the experienced reality of “Truth”, that leads to many of the problems in western Christian thought…”

It’s this dualism – the dividing of modern from post-modern – the easy tendency to disregard the “modern” as passé and irrelevant. The easy tendency to ‘write-off’ the input of those we don’t consider ‘post-modern’ and thereby implying that they now have nothing to say to us at the beginning of the 21st century. This particularly struck me as I read a paper by JI. Packer in “, and remembered conversations in which his ‘voice’ was effectively confined to the ‘wilderness of irrelevancy.’ His contribution to “The Way of Wisdom” was a paper called, “Theology and Wisdom” in which he called for a return to theology that was sapiential and formational – theology as habitus - an act of practical knowledge having the primary character of wisdom – that was disciple-forming and communion-creating – that deeply nourished and gave ‘flesh’ to the Jesus-following life (a paper which resonated deeply with work done by Charry who likewise calls for theology to return to the world of personal and corporate formation, and training in the Christian spiritual life and moral character and, with that, to the world of pastoral care, guidance, spiritual formation, and therapy…”

To think and speak in “either/or” terms. To popularise the “ancient” at the expense of the 17th through 20th centuries, for example, isn't, in my view, helpful. I don’t see it as being an “either/or” option. Of Grenz or Packer; McLaren or Stevens; Sweet or Banks etc.

Waltke and other essayists rightly affirm both the importance of Scripture, and the timeless relevancy of wisdom, our need for wisdom, and that we need to be growing in Godly wisdom – the kind of wisdom that is seen in our lifestyles, our character, our prayer, and our worship. I will never forget having met Bruce Waltke in person nearly a decade ago and the way in which head and heart were so preciously given flesh.

Paul Fromont 8/31/2002 04:41:00 PM
Wednesday, August 28, 2002
I enjoyed this months column by Steve Collins - it's his August column and I'm only just getting to it - Network church and portfolio church

A birthday and a funeral tomorrow - Kathryn, my wife celebrates her birthday, and I'm driving to Auckland in the morning for the funeral of a work friend's 6 year old son who tragically drowned in his bath on Tuesday evening.

Paul Fromont 8/28/2002 11:50:00 PM
A book review of Eugene Peterson's "Subversive Spirituality" and a article on Jacques Ellul, "A Hopeful Pessimist" - both from old copies of Sojourner Magazine.

Paul Fromont 8/28/2002 12:55:00 PM
Have been 'dipping' into some works by Thomas Merton over the last week, and couldn't get past this statement which he made in a letter to French Benedictine monk, Jean Leclercq:

"...The great problem with monasticism today is, 'not survival, but prophecy'..." (from Contemplation in a World of Action, p.9. Also quoted in "Thomas Merton: Prophet in the Belly of Paradox" ed. Gerald Twomey (p.190) . I love the title! )

It got me reflecting on the way in which we could quite easily replace the word "monasticism" with the word "church" - the great problem with the church today is not our worry about whether we will survive, but that loss of a truly prophetic dimension which provokes - which reforms - which is critical of all that dehumanises and degrades persons and communities - which cries out against injustice - which give flesh to the truth and the significance of the gospel - that identifies with the margins and the fringes of society - that speaks out against fallen principalities and powers, including within the church (I'm thinking of Stringfellow - see also, "Faithful to the Word for an overview of his writing")...they live in the space between the world as it is, and the world which God is re-creating (here I'm thinking of Stanley Hauerwas, especially his "Christian Existence Today: Essays on Church, World, and Living in Between") etc. etc.

Paul Fromont 8/28/2002 12:49:00 PM
Tuesday, August 27, 2002
“…There is something just about unbearably intimate about filling a grave, especially if it matters to you whose grave it is. I would rather do it by myself. I would rather, if I had my rathers, not be seen doing it. It is the very giving of the body to the earth, the sealing over of its absence until the world's end…”

Jayber Crow, the central character in Wendell Berry’s novel of the same name.

Wendell Berry, along with Annie Dillard have given me a new appreciation of “place” and “community” – of both belonging, and of the absences, ‘holes,’ and imbalance that characterise a lot of my living – the practice of consumption rather than conservation; the practice of simplicity; the priority of community over the individual; the importance of starting with the ‘local’; caring for one another, and learning from one another across the generations; the increased costs of living which result from the loss of proximity and “neighbourhood;” and finally, the importance of acting collaboratively rather than competitively.

Here’s three ‘introductions’ to Berry, for those who haven’t come across him:

Wendell Berry stays true to the Land.”

Christianity and The Survival of Creation

The Failure of War

Paul Fromont 8/27/2002 12:47:00 PM
Monday, August 26, 2002
Also, I've enjoyed Mark Palmer's post's of 23/08 and 26/08. Thanks Mark. I wonder if he's read, "The Provocative Church" by Graham Tomlin...?

Paul Fromont 8/26/2002 12:51:00 PM
I'm really missing "comments" - funny how you become 'attached' to something. Here's what ENETATION have posted on their site -


As you are aware enetation has had some service issues in the last few days. I have taken the decision to re-code from scratch and purchase better database oriantated servers (ie. loads of ram!)

As a result enetation will resume normal service at some point next week. It will be back with the speed and reliability that made you choose this system to provide your commenting."

Also, two 'new' NZ "faith & the workplace" links added to the bottom of "other links." Check them out!

Paul Fromont 8/26/2002 12:38:00 PM
Saturday, August 24, 2002
"When one has read a book, I think there is nothing so nice as discussing it with some one else - even though it sometimes produces rather fierce arguments."

C.S. Lewis

Paul Fromont 8/24/2002 06:57:00 PM
"...Human beings are very mysterioius and I'm not interested in making films where the the characters are simple and uncomplicated and easily understandable - because life's not like that. We're always being confronted by with situations that cause self-examination - as in, what's the correct thing to do? We're always rationalising what we do..."

Christopher Nolan, Movie Director ('Memento', 'Insomnia')

"...Poetry matters to me because it consistently says that imagination is important. I think that there has been a problem in general with the imagination in New zealand society. It's thought of as a bad thing. Or not even thought of..."

Bill Manhire, Professor in English, Victoria University, Wellington, NZ.

Both quotes appeared in this weekend's newspaper, and both reinforced important dimensions of my Jesus-following life the importance of both reflection, mystery, imagination, and words. Words and poetry are important parts of my life. Again, Eugene Peterson has been a big influence along the way. He encouraged me in his writing etc. to broaden the narrowness of what I though it meant to be a Christian, the ways in which we talk about the Christian life, and the resources that stretch, heal, and grow us in our "long obedience in the same direction." I remember his interview, "But I'm Too Busy to Read Poetry," and his articles, "Unexpected Allies" and "Novelists,Pastors, and Poets". All published in various magazines, but now collected in his book, "Subversive Spiritiuality," a spiral bound Regent College Bookstore published copy of which I bought and read during my month in Canada in 1995. I still go back to it, like today, time and time again, allowing words and ideas to soak deeply into me.

Paul Fromont 8/24/2002 02:31:00 PM
Thursday, August 22, 2002
Gospel and Our Culture Network (USA) publish what has become for me a really useful little 'newsletter', providing valuable insights into the missional interchange between church and culture. The latest edition is now online - June 2002 (pdf. file).

Here's an excerpt. The authors are David Eagle and Kristin Fast from the Mennonite Seminary in Fresno.

“…Tim has no assurance that missional transformation at New Hope will happen. The old market-driven paradigm provided security; it came with an owner’s manual, defined goals, and measurable indicators. By contrast, Tim’s efforts come with inherent ambiguities. Without clear success measures or comparable examples from which to learn, Tim has had to discover for himself what it means to balance legitimate pragmatic concerns with often lofty missional ideals. Hardly a simple task. Tim has two options for approaching change. He can (a) work from within the church’s structures to bring about change or (b) tear down the current structure and start over. He has chosen the first. Tim recognizes that parts of the old model have value…He compares these parts with the solid, functioning structures of a building. Those aspects of the church opposed to missional thinking are like walls and floors and girders needing replacement. The role of people like Tim, then, is to try to introduce necessary, even significant changes without
causing the entire structure to collapse. Leaders like Tim are challenged to ask questions like, How much compromise of missional ideals is necessary to keep my congregation,
founded on seeker sensitivity, from crumbling? At what point does necessary compromise actually subvert authentic missional conversion? And, maybe most significantly, How important is a missional process of change (i.e. the way leaders educate, introduce missional conversation, etc.) for establishing a truly missional congregation?

Tim has sought to value people over efficiency — to invite his congregation on a journey toward change…”

Paul Fromont 8/22/2002 01:29:00 PM
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
Went to listen to the Auckland Philimonia Orchestra in Hamilton last night. Wow. These musicians are seriously gifted, playing a very broad range of music, and conducted by the most energetic conductor I've seen in a long time. We got to listen to, Bach/Stokowski; Bruch; and Dvorak.

A 'FOUND PRAYER' by Aelred of Rievaulx

Lord, you look at my soul's wounds.
Your living and effective eye sees everything.
It pierces like a sword, even to part asundersoul and spirit.
Assuredly, my Lord, you see in my soulthe traces of my former sin;
my present perils, and also motives and occassions for others you see also.
You see these things, Lord, and i would have you see them.
You know well, O searcher of my heart,
that there is nothing in my soul that I would hide from you,
even if I had the power to escape your eyes...

Lord, may your good, sweet Spirit descend into my heart,
and fashion there a dwelling for himself,
cleansing it from all defilement both of flesh and spirit,
pouring into it the increment of faith, hope, and love,
disposing it to penitence and love and gentleness.


'Found prayers' help me to pray with words that might not be fashionable, and on themes that may not be 'trendy' or popular in our 21st century western culture

A QUOTE - James Houston (from "The Transforming Friendship," p. 51)

"...Encountering darkness in our lives should not drive us from prayer, but drive us to prayer. Darkness only becomes an obstacle when we fail to see God as the powerful ruler of our lives, able to overcome the evil we face in spite of our own fears and feelings..."

Paul Fromont 8/21/2002 12:59:00 PM
Monday, August 19, 2002
Found this article on the 'web' yesterday. Sheila Pritchard (a New Zealander) wrote this wonderful article, "DIGGING WELLS OR BUILDING FENCES?" (this looks like a sermon version) which has become a significant influence on my understanding of Christian formation. An article I am really appreciative was written and read by me.

Paul Fromont 8/19/2002 12:30:00 PM
Theology is...

"...any endeavour on the part of Christians to think through and set in order their beliefs, with the intention of drawing closer to God and reflecting more of his character in their lives."

Robert Banks

Australian, Robert Banks, has been a big influence on my thinking (my "theology") and my formation as a Jesus-follower. Some of the areas where I find Robert most helpful are the following:

(1) The applying of, and the knowing how to 'work' our Christian worldview into our work.
(2) The making of 'connections' between our faith and our non-work activities - leisure, family, socialisation, service etc.
(3) The developing of a intentionally Christian approach to the regular, everyday activities of life and living.
(4) The reality that our 'everyday' attitudes, values etc. are largely shaped by the dominant values and priorities of our society. Banks says that every-one, by and large, acknowledges the need to be distinctive as Christians, but he laments how little difference there is between Christians and non-Christians in their basic goals, life-priorities, and values. He asks questions like, "Do I buy a house differently - what issues do I wrestle with before deciding to buy a house...?" "Do I buy a car differently?" "Do I treat my neighbours in a different fashion?" "Do I read or watch TV differently...?" "Do I make life decisions differently...?" "Do I manage my finances differently...?" What informs my thinking and acting? How do I think? etc.

Typically everyday issues receive little biblical and theological attention.

he's probably most well known for his book, "Paul's Idea of Community," however, the most significant of his books, for me, are the very recently republished,"Redeeming the Routines: Bringing Theology to Life," followed by "Reenvisioning Theological Education: Exploring a Missional Alternative to Current Models."

This article, "Theology - Of, By, and For the People" provides an overview of how Banks see's theology and theological education.

Paul Fromont 8/19/2002 12:20:00 PM
Sunday, August 18, 2002
Here's an excerpt from "The Prodigal Project" by Mike Riddell, Mark Pierson and Cathy Kirkpatrick. Published in the Bible College of New Zealand's magazine, REALITY. Buy the book - it's well reward a reflective and prayerful reading.

Paul Fromont 8/18/2002 12:17:00 PM
Was reading, over the weekend, articles from a small book entitled, "New Zealand Made: Perspectives on Mission in Aotearoa" (i.e. New Zealand) published in 1994 by Signpost Communications. The one I most enjoyed was, "The World in the Church" by Mike Riddell.

Here's his opening statement:

"...The pressing challenge for the church in New Zealand is not how to get the church out into the world, but how to get the world out of the church. Deeply compromised, the gospel presented by mainstream Chrstianity has become intellectual assent to a private belief system, which demands little in the way of conversion. While outwardly professing faith in Christ our national church presents only a religious veneer applied over the familiar cultural commitments of our society. Christian values, lifestyles and priorities do not differ markedly from those held by people outside of the church.

To put it bluntly, our communities of faith model themselves not on Christ, but on the idolatrous ideoalogies which surround them...there is a huge gap between what Christian's say they believe in and the way they structure their lives. The biblical testimony indicates that the true indication of what a person believes is what they do, not what they say. By this standard the church in New Zealand must be judged to be largely apostate..."

Written some time around 1994, but still very much the case today. This still remains the largest gap we as churches in New Zealand need to bridge. Incarnation remains the most important thing we need to do as missional communities, but I think this need is made more difficult by widespread biblical illiteracy, and the inability to make the faith-filled hermenutical leap from historical text, story, or narrative to our present context...my view is that we struggle to even 'see' the compromise with culture in our lifestyle, values, and commitments. I also think one of the biggest issues we need to get our heads around is that NZ is a mission field. By and large, however, churches continue to get missionaries in to talk to them about overseas mission experiences, rather than getting missionaries in to teach us how to be missionaries - to help us contextualise the gospel, to learn the languages of cultures, the values etc. etc.

Paul Fromont 8/18/2002 12:11:00 PM
Friday, August 16, 2002
A reflection on Psalm 25 by Mike Frost - "Scooting Down the Rabbit Hole: Making and Unmaking the World, Psalm 25"

Movie Review - Signs (An Australian perspective).

"Tolerance means allowing space for others to engage life, hold positions, make mistakes, change their minds and make commitments."

George Hunsberger

Lesslie Newbigin - "God's Missionary to Us" by Tim Stafford.

Paul Fromont 8/16/2002 07:17:00 PM
Thursday, August 15, 2002
Jordon drew my my attention to this article in Ginkworld - looks interesting - "Why People are leaving" churches.

Paul Fromont 8/15/2002 01:08:00 PM
Wednesday, August 14, 2002
I've been reflecting on Mike Bishop's 'post' of the 13th August with Dallas Willard quotes and Mike's comments - really really good...that's why I love our little 'network'...I'm touched and challenged a lot by what you're sharing as you follow Jesus...I like having to think through things too...check out Steve Taylor's "comment" on my 'post' from yesterday (14th August) about Paul Hawker...I'm still thinking...

Paul Fromont 8/14/2002 01:12:00 PM
Tuesday, August 13, 2002
I went to hear Paul Hawker last night - a Kiwi/Aussie, and author of the wonderful book, "Soul Survivor: A Spiritual Quest Through 40 Days and 40 Nights of Mountain Solitude" (not to be confused with Philip Yancey's book of the same title). In the presence of Anglican ministers (who were at their Diocesan retreat) I enjoyed listening to the voice that I'd so enjoyed reading. I love to 'see' people. The first part of his talk was based around the experiences in his book Soul Survivor, while the second part was abour his new book, "Secret Affairs of the Heart: Ordinary People's Extraordinary Experiences of the Sacred" (editorial review below).

I think this is an important book to read, especially for those of us trying to connect with and speak the language of people who've given up on church, and are exploring and nourishing the spiritual dimension of their humanity in all kinds of situation and way, apart from the institutional church experience of Western Christianity. The book helps us explore the experiences of others, for a me a pre-requiste to the work of mission, and learn their language without imposing the overlay of modern, rational Christianity. It seems that as we do this, we too, learn to see God in new ways, and can begin to help people make the links to God, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ. We can begin to have input into the journey's of those who've turned their backs on institutional Christianity. We can help put "theological legs" on what would all to easily become privatised, relativistic, personal experience, disconnected from the drawing of our loving, trinitarian God. A book like this helps us creatively connect to a world in which more and more people are catching glimpes of God, in which people are feeling his touch, and becoming more and more sensitive to that inner restless (St. Augstine), and the presence of a "God-shaped" hole at the core of their being.

He had a little bit of his research with him - research which I found both staggering and unsuprsing:

"Among those in the UK who attended church either regularly or occassionally, almost half (44%) said they had never been influenced by a presence or power whether they called it God or not. This led researchers (from the Oxford University Religious Experience Unit) to conclude that their is "no reason to suppose that people who are in touch with the experiential dimension of religion will necessarily be churchgoers.." (1987)

"In the USA in 1998 a nationawide survey conducted by the Barna Christian Research Group revealed that one-thord of the 75 million adults who regularly attend American Christian church services say they have never experienced God's presence at anytime during during their life..."

If the statistics, and trends do accurately reflect what's happening, we've got some real challenges, and some significant opportunities ahead of us.

Editorial Review

"...How many ordinary people have had a profound spiritual experience? The answer is millions. After vividly recounting his experience of the sacred in Soul Survivor (Northstone, 1998), Paul Hawker sought to discover others who'd had similar experiences. His search revealed an astounding number of people in the general population reported such encounters. In Secret Affairs of the Soul, Paul Hawker weaves together his own sincere, honest narrative with engaging stories that cross time, cultures, ages and social-economic groups. These accounts of synchronicity, feeling a guiding hand, answered prayers, mystical and peak experiences come from books, letters, radio programs, and from an amazing body of scientific evidence generated by the Religious Experience Unit at Oxford University. Hawker examines the silence surrounding experiences of the sacred and finds concrete language to communicate the genuine struggle to express the inexpressible. Readers will discover they are walking in the footsteps of saints, mystics, and countless millions of other unintentional pilgrims..."

Paul Fromont 8/13/2002 01:12:00 PM
Monday, August 12, 2002
I like collecting prayers - "found" prayers. Writing them into a 'prayer book' - or typing them out, cutting the piece of paper into odd-shapes (e.g. a cloud) and sticking them in my 'prayer book' - the place where I collect them. Perhaps because my spiritual heritage is Anglo/Catholic and I love the tradition of liturgy and set prayer. Perhaps a more colourful reason is the one that Walter Wangerin gives. It was Walter who gave me the idea. I like it. I also think that I might put them into some kind of 'sections' e.g. a section for night prayers, leaving prayers, morning prayers, laments etc.

"...Throughout history God has gifted to us men and women who have prayed. Their old prayers have been preserved. Their presence and continued relevancy to the human condition invite us to join an unbroken chorus, so that our small praying weaves us into the colorful prayer history of the entire Christian church, and we – though each of us remains an individual – we are no longer alone. Our praying of these ‘old prayers’ is our participation in the unending prayer of all God’s people in every generation..."

The quote above was from his book, "Whole Prayer: Speaking & Listening to God", Zondervan, 1998, pp. 67-76.

Here's a 'found prayer' I came across last night:


Gracious and Holy Father,
Give us wisdom to perceive you
Dilgence to seek you
Patience to wait for you
Eyes to behold you
A heart to meditate on you
and a life to proclaim you
through the power of the Spirit of
Jesus Christ our Lord.


Paul Fromont 8/12/2002 11:42:00 AM
Sunday, August 11, 2002
I wasn't going to 'post' anything else today, and then I read Steve's site again, and I love this...I was thinking about it, and the context of a definition of a Christian friend as "being someone who pulls us toward God...". Anyway, here's what Steve wrote, and I also want to add a few more comments/questions which he's posted, and you might not have read.

Here's the bit I really like from his August 11 post:

"...People find their true fulfillment not only as they relate to one another, but as the relate to God thru one another. So what does it mean to create communities that find God thru others?"

Here's the other 'bit' from August 7. You could start some serious prayer-filled discussions in response to these.

Conversational trends

"...the need to shift from creative leaders to a creatively participating community
the need to shift from creating worship to practising mission communities
the need to take seriously the way culture is reshaping community and thus to structure our lives to resource those outside the "Worship experience"
The need to train and mentor others who want to journey
the challenge of resourcing this type of "out there" spirituality
the importance of relationships with other like minded people in keeping us going
the importance of process. That’s it not about copying some else’s idea, but going on a journey in which the community learn and grow."

Enjoy. Question. Reflect. Pray. Explore.

Paul Fromont 8/11/2002 11:58:00 AM
SILENCE – Reflection by Paul Hawker

In silence with others I don’t have to “keep up” with outer conversations, so I can pay attention to the inner ones.

In silence I don’t have to discuss, defend and debate, instead I can better hear the inner voice of love.

Silence means those who are verbal and dominate conversations are now as equal as the shy.

Silence peels off the masks I wear, leaves me more open and vulnerable, less judgmental, more accepting.

Silence teaches me to wait – to pray rather than talk, to turn to the Father first rather than last.

Silence shows me that not all things can be solved or salved by others’ words, for as reassuring and kind as they might be, they are no substitute for the Father’s.

Spiritual Growth Ministries is gratefully acknowledged as the source of this material.

Paul Fromont 8/11/2002 11:19:00 AM
Saturday, August 10, 2002
The Spiritual Growth Ministries (NZ), "There is a Balm in Gilead" workshop in Rotorua went really well. As I said yesterday it was based around the movie, "The Spitfire Grill." So I got to spend the day in Rotorua with 10 other people - only one other of which was a male (what might that be saying about NZ males and spirituality - we had that discussiion too), and I had the distinction again of being the youngest person there (what might that be saying about young people and the spiritual traditions and wisdom of Christendom?).

Anyway, a really insightful day. We watched the movie through, uninterrupted (my 5th time, and it still moved me), and then talked about and reflected on the themes, symbolism, and insights reflected in the movie. It was precious to 'watch' the movie afresh through other's eyes. Some things that struck me.

(1) The wonder, the difficullties, and the significance of a stranger entering into the community of Gilead. I'll use this film, substituting "Gilead" for "church" - building on the question, "How might; in what ways might this movie challenge us as a church? What is God's invitation by means of this movie?In what ways might God, through this movie, invite us to embrace a different way of being church - to embrace a different set of values and practices?" "What hopes my draw person's to seek out a church community, and how well to we know those needs?.

(2) The transition from darkness and seeming lifelessness of winter (at the beginning) to summer, life, and new possibilities by the end.

(3) The effect and consequences of increasing relational trust and vulnerability.

(4) The significance of our perception of God and his character on our prayer, worship, and formation as person's created in the image of God.

Lots more, but I won't bore you. We then watched excerpts from the movie organised around 7 themes. This also included a group discussion encouraged by some great questions::

(1) Idealsim - What is idealsim? How is idealism seen in our views of our country/cultural values, our towns/cities, our churches, and us personally? What part does idealism play in our Christian journey? What are the upsides and downsides of idealism?
(2) Mystery - Is there such a thing as 'mystery' in our Christian life/journey? What purpose does it serve? How might an acceptance of mystery influence our conceptions and understanding of God, ourselves, and others?
(3) Trust, Suspicion, and Prejudice - What creates prejudice? What kinds of things, habits or practices help reinforce prejudice, what exposes prejudice, and what cures/heals prejudice?
(4) "Is the pain of healing as deep as the pain of the original hurt that caused the pain?" - A line of the movie. We had a lovely conversation on healing and pain.
(5) Sacramental Moments - a means by which God's grace touches us. The invitation of a moment of grace - "so what is God's invitation in this experience or this set of circumstances?"
(6) Suprise - Looking at all of life, God etc. through fresh eyes - the eyes of an-other.
(7) Brokenness and Redemption.

Movies are such an important means of communication - "portal's" to transcendence. I've read a lot about their use in this way, but this was my first small group experience, so I now feel better equipped to facilitate this kind of an experience for others. It's simplicity etc. would easily 'transport' into a house-church worship gathering. It could be used by inviting people around to your home to watch and discuss it after sharing lunch together?

If you live in NZ, get on there mailing list, and make sure you get their annual program of events and workshops throughout the country. It's published at the start of every year.

Paul Fromont 8/10/2002 02:17:00 PM
Friday, August 09, 2002
Thanks again for your prayers. One of the guys from church, that I've long-prayed might be somebody that I could grow with, and have as a Jesus-Friend; He and his wife are the couple that first 'connected' with us when we decided to 'join' the particular church that we go too. Anyway, his personality style and other factors, worked to create a healthy opportunity to 'clear the air' and talk out some of my hurt and disappointment. It also cleared some ground upon which we, as couples might be able to move forward and begin to explore the whole communal and relational dimension that we've all 'talked' about at some point. Time will tell, but at this point I'm prayerfully hopeful. The discussion also ranged to the role of church leadership, and it seems we've got some work to better understand what the gift of leadership means, and how it is worked out in a church context - the degree to which it is passive, the degree to which it serves, and the kinds of ways that the gifting is creatively worked out, especially in the context of this transitional time in which we find ourselves. The ways in which it inspires hope in the midst of hard-times. I think it often becomes too easy to off-load all the responsibilty for growing etc. on those whom God calls leaders to work amongst - those of us who are recipients of the leadership gifting certainly do need to accept responsibility for our own growth and formation, but....the last week, whilst a 'valley' has provided some really useful personal insights and growth. Thanks be to God.

I'm off to Rotorua, a small city 1 hours drive south of hear for a Spiritual Growth Ministries prayer and reflection workshop, all based around the wonderful movie, The Spitfire Grill.

Paul Fromont 8/09/2002 12:30:00 PM
Thursday, August 08, 2002
I'm feeling more hope-filled today. The sun of God's grace and the wind of the Spirit, wind like that of autumn/fall, wind 'shaking' leaves from trees, exposing them and opening them up - branches we'd never noticed in summer:

The wind of God's Spirit blew several 'blessings' and 'tokens of love' my way yesterday, and again this morning. I treasure them, as God's heart given 'words':

Two things in particular, Larry Crabb's introduction to David Benner's wonderful new book, "Sacred Companions: The Gift of Spiritual Friendship and Direction" (pub. April 2002). This 'blew' in from Australia yesterday afternoon. Larry concludes his preface, "...Readers...will, I predict feel the fresh wind of the Spirit blowing into and through their souls. They will be better equipped to join the revolution of leaving the old way behind, the way of living comfortably in this world. And they will more deeply yearn to live the new way of seeking God and living for him in this disappointing world until they wake up in the next one, where eternal satisfaction is guaranteed..."

Books and words have always been really important ways in which I've communed with God, and sensed his heart. I'm really looking forward to reading the book. It looks wonderful.

The other was a short column in which these words were written about 'low' times, "...There have been times when I knew what life was all about, when I was living on the crest of the wave of God's will, and I realise now that these were not growing times...there are treasures in the darkness, and songs in the night..."

Thanks for your prayers.

Paul Fromont 8/08/2002 01:52:00 PM
Wednesday, August 07, 2002
I’m wearing my heart on my sleeve. I’m finding myself more and more wanting to stop being a part of a traditional ‘gathered’ Sunday experience of ‘church,’ and disconnecting myself from contact with all but a few of those who come along each Sunday - the ones I’d like to know better, but don’t as yet. New people mainly. It is the most disappointing set of ‘relationships’ I spend time in. This people called “church.” I’m more and more feeling that I’m running on empty the majority of the time. It disappoints me. I’m feeling angry with people and unconnected.

I wonder if this is what Jesus has in mind?

I’m wrestling with Kevin’s wonderful comments about “spiritual pornography” in the context of how I feel right now. I intuitively know he’s right, but right now I’m lamenting, lamenting longings, dreams and hopes, which seem further away now than at any time in my Jesus-following walk. Lamenting an absence of the kinds of friendships I see in the ‘acted-world’ of the British TV series, “Cold Feet”. Lamenting the shallow realities of the ‘much used’, but little ‘lived-out’ terms like “community” and “friendship.” Actions are subtly conditional. I buy books on “spiritual friendship” and I ‘connect’ with kindred, disembodied “voices” (connections for which I’m truly grateful), but I can’t find kindred, bodied “voices” with whom to unreservedly share my journey and our journey; with whom to share experiences, common interests, and the things we learn as we travel and grow. I’m lamenting our loneliness, and the lack of deep, genuine, and loving connections with people with whom we gather Sunday by Sunday. I’m sick of ‘inviting’, asking, trying new things, being creative, trying to spark deep conversation, and ‘exposing’ my heart and my passions. I’m becoming hardened through my vulnerability. I’m sick of one-way traffic. If this is “church” I less and less want to be part of it. I watch people walk in the front door and out the back – I want to go with them, far from ‘unfleshed’ rhetoric. I watch disconnected bodies in seats. I listen to hurts and disappointments.

I wonder if this is what Jesus has in mind?

I lament that ‘love’ feels like having to be earned, but nobody’s telling me how much we’ve got to pay. I’m hurt by these statements directed at us, “we must get you around sometime…we must do this with you”…and still we wait. I lament at being some kind of ‘special project’. Why can’t we be demonstrably loved for who we are, not ‘loved’ for what we bring? I’m hurt, that I can’t even think of anyone in our church other than Kathryn, my wife, that I can actually share my lament with – people who would cry with me, and cruciformly love. People who would weep in the realisation. People, who would listen; who wouldn’t lay a guilt-trip on us; who wouldn’t tell us it was our fault; who would wisely counsel, understand, and help to bind up my/our woundedness.

I wonder if this is what Jesus had in mind?

Perhaps I should take this communal, Christ-following, a whole lot less seriously, and should take things a whole lot less personally? I really don’t know. I’d value your prayers, in whatever direction the wind of the Spirit blows.

And thanks Steve Taylor, it was nice to read your timely report, after I'd written this, on CONVERSE - "...that while disturbed by church as is, we have elected to build something new rather than leave..."; and "...the importance of relationships with other like minded people in keeping us going..."

Paul Fromont 8/07/2002 11:58:00 AM
Tuesday, August 06, 2002
Just a couple of things this morning. Our youngest daughter, Alice, crawled for the first time yesterday - WOW! Praise God for the wonder of a precious little life, and for the beginning of her journey. May he walk with her and watch over her every step of the way, as she becomes all that He created her to be. Feel free to add a hearty "amen".

I've been coming across Robert Webber's book, "Journey to Jesus: The Worship, Evangelism, and Nurture Mission of the Church." Published Dec. 2001. It seems to have some really interesting chapter topics in it. Anyone read it? Worth reading? Brian McLaren has it in his recommended reading

Discipleship in the Ancient Church.
Discipling the Hearer: Teaching the New Believer.
Discipleship Today.
Equipping the Kneeler: Mentoring the Maturing Believer.
Spiritual Formation in the Ancient Church.
Spiritual Formation Today.

Also read a great little reflection by Jim Friedrich - an Episcopal priest involved with film and other media who lives in the Seattle area. Thanks Jim for helping us "hear what the Spirit is saying to the church." He preached a reflective sermon, entitled, "Postmodern Reflection" after returning from the emergent conference in Prague - June 24-29. The sermon was posted on the Emergent site

Here's a little snippet from it that many of us have been grappling with:

"...What is it like for you to contemplate the prospect of so much change? Does it make you feel anxious, angry, overwhelmed, tired? Re-form the Church? Even if we wanted to, it's too much work. Where will we find the energy, the will, the wisdom to make it happen? As if it is something that we do, as if it is our Church to change. So along comes Jesus to tell us, "You know, I can make it a whole lot easier for you." We tend to think that following Jesus is hard. In reality, it's far easier than whatever else we've been doing. "I will give you rest," Jesus declares..."

Paul Fromont 8/06/2002 11:58:00 AM
Monday, August 05, 2002
I’m reading through James Houston’s classic book, “The Transforming Friendship” first published in 1989. It’s the book I’ve chosen to read and review as part of the Spiritual Formation course that Kathryn and I are doing.

Those of you who check in on this site or Alan Creech’s will know that we’ve been talking about the place of “feelings” in Christian discipleship and growth. Anyway, I was reading Houston’s book on Sunday evening, and was surprised to read this:

“Many people keep up the habit of customary prayer because it’s something they identify with their childhood. It simply ‘feels good’ to maintain the custom. This may seem a fairly harmless habit, but the problem with it is that it can produce a self-congratulatory way of thinking that dulls the senses. Prayer that is done ‘because I have always prayed’ inoculates us against true prayer, preventing us from finding a living relationship with God.

In CS. Lewis’ famous book, The Screwtape Letters, a senior devil, Screwtape, offers words of advice on temptation to Wormwood, a junior devil. Screwtape tells Wormwood that if his patients should pray (the last thing the evil world wants to happen) then there is one well-known remedy. He should try to get them to ‘feel good’ about their prayers. Wormwood should divert their attention from the relationship of prayer to the feelings instead.

When they meant to ask him for charity, let them instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. When they meant to pray for courage, let them really be trying to feel brave. When they say they are praying for forgiveness, let them be trying to feel forgiven…”

Paul Fromont 8/05/2002 12:04:00 PM
Sunday, August 04, 2002
Sermon went okay on Sunday. Managed to get a bit of interaction with people - questions etc. Got a little bit of encouraging feedback (I haven't done a sermon like that before). Perhaps if I'd mentioned Alan's name I would have gotten a more raptuous response. Covered a reasonable bit of ground starting with a bit of my story (pretty much the reflection I've already posted on deserts) - Introduced the themes of the "Inner Journey" / "Outer journey" / "the journey of becoming community." and then developed the "inner journey" in terms of desert experiences.

Here was my prayerful hope which I shared with everyone, "...my prayer is that this sharing of my experience and insights may provide a starting point for exploration and a renewed sense of the formational work of Word, Spirit, and all the experiences of life and living. I want for this to encourage us to see the inner experience of the 'desert' as something to be embraced rather than avoided or ignored; to see ‘dryness,’ boredom, prayerlessness, and God’s seeming silence or absence as wholly necessary ‘ingredients’ of our formation and increasing maturity as Christ-followers. The paradox of God's seeming absence is an important part of the maturing and growing process..."

Made some pastoral observations; some examples of things which exacberate 'desert experiences' (the absence of prayerful Jesus-friends - people who pull us toward God by their example, their companionship, their prayer); Had a few good quotes from Houston, Huggett, and Douglas Coupland. Concluded with the practical things people could do (including a good plug for Spiritual Growth Ministries), and offered to pray with anyone who might want prayer - no one did, so then I got to help pack up the chairs etc, but it was cold and raining, not like in Kentucky, so tis was good to get some exercise...

Paul Fromont 8/04/2002 01:14:00 PM
Friday, August 02, 2002
Update on the "desert". 'Father' Alan's use of St. John of the Cross is great. I re-read what I'd written, to see how I might have given the sense that I was talking about "feelings" - feeling that God was near, or not. I'm guessing it might have been the word "experience," and I did use "feelings" as well. This wasn't the sense I wanted to convey. It wasn't about "feelings" it was about a 'seasonal' opportunity for "growth", "depth" and increasing maturity. The term "dark night" is often used wrongly to mean any form of dryness (hence I appreciate Alan's reminding us of the valuable perspective that St. John of the Cross brings). St. John is quite clear that this is not a passing phase, but a definite irreversible crisis point in the evolution of the spiritual life (see Thomas Keating for detail on Dark Nights / see also, Kenneth Leech, True Prayer, p.152 p.s. this isn't a modernistic 'proof text' ). It was for this reason, that I didn't use "dark night" as I was specifically wanting to reflect on "dryness," and 'desert' was the metaphor I was using.

The reality is that we aren't always "flying" but many people think they have to be, and if they're not they all to readily think there's something wrong with them, and despair and despondency set it. (e.g. Bunyan's pilgrim). Many people I know, give up the Jesus-following life, because of confusing dryness with God being absent, rather than the reality - God being present and drawing them toward him. God is often closer to us than we realise at this stage.

Alan Jamieson's material served as a 'backdrop' to my reflection, as did James Fowlers 'faith' development model. Jamieson wrote, "There is a tendency in us all to put faith down when it gets really tough and confusing, to simply shelve it or place the blame on the church. Yet at these times energy and determination are needed to look for the new things that God is raising up and find the new language in which God is speaking. A significant part of this energy and motivation can come from a caring community...”

The recognition both of the "desert" as being normal part of the Christian life, and of it as an opportunity to grow in prayer (contemplation, intercession etc.), to explore the rich traditions of our faith - to push on through the 'shallows' and into deeper water (rather than give up on the Christian life). To grow. To move from 'milk' to 'meat'. To explore the spiritual disciplines, to read St. John of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux, Jean-Pierre de Caussade, John Cassian, Jan van Ruysbroeck, Teresa of Avila, to learn about Lectio Divina, to learn the Ignatian way of prayer, to explore the arts as prayer and worship, to explore spiritual direction, to build a deep spiritual friendships etc. If that wasn't the sense that I was giving by my reflection, then I unreservedly apologise. Thanks Alan, for taking the time, despite the headache, to provide me with an opportunity to hopefully 'sharpen' what I'd written. I appreciate it.

"Feelings" are God given, but caution is required, as Alan is wisely suggesting.

Hope the headache is better Alan...a great brother in Christ. Is it too early for a Kentucky Bourbon? It works for me :-)

Paul Fromont 8/02/2002 11:58:00 PM
A couple of quotes from a wonderful little book by Kenneth Leech called, "True Prayer: An Introduction to Christian Spirituality" (now out of print. If you see a second copy it'll be well worth the price). Kenneth has this wonderful way of balancing in his life the "inner journey", "the outer journey", and the "journey into community". He draws widely from the rich Christian tradtions of East and West. Kenneth Leech is an Anglican priest living in London, where he has had a long ministry of social activism in the poorest parts of the city. He is the author of Soul Friend - one of the most precious books I have on the whole area of spiritual direction and prayer.

Anway, here's the two quotes I'm reflecting on:

On Intercessory Prayer

"...In ordinary daily life God works through our cooperation. The fact that God knows whether we should be wet or dry does not prevent us from taking an umbrella. Clearly God allows us to influence the course of events. For we are not robots, and the world is not a machine...Intercessory prayer is not a technique for changing God's mind, but it is a realasing of God's power through placing ourselves in a relationship of cooperation with God...Intercession means literally to stand between, to become involved in the conflict..." I like the implication that discernment has a significant role in intercession - I don't just pray as I think, but I pray as I discern God's heart and perspective.

On Prophecy

"...The gift of prophecy is closely linked with prayer. Prophecy is concerned with seeing and interpreting the signs of God' activity...prayer has an essentially prophetic dimension in so far as it involves perception and insight into the workings of God. All prophecy is a product of such insight: contemplation precedes prophecy...to divide prophecy from contemplation is to damage and maybe destroy both..." . My perspective is that our charasmatic / Pentecostal understanding of the gift of prophecy has done just that - seperated it from contemplation, and action in, and for the world, and for the ways in which God is calling the church to obedience and faithfulness for the sake of the gospel in the world. Prophets it seems to me inhabit the fringes and wastelands of our urban worlds. They're amongst the hidden workings of the city. With the poor, the weak, the marginalised, the victims of injustice etc. They powerfully draw our attention to life as it really is. There seems so much more depth and richness of understanding to be drawn from our traditions both East and West. I would encourage people with this gifting to explore the past - both recent and distant - the OT - rather than 95% of what we find on the subject on the shelves of our contemporary Christian bookshops. Read Leech's "Prayer". Read Merton (especially when he engages the contemplative with the world outside of the monastary. Read Stringfellow. Read backwards from them. Follow their sources, their influences...then look again at the world in which we live.

Paul Fromont 8/02/2002 01:29:00 PM
Thursday, August 01, 2002
I've been reflecting on my inner journey over the last week or so. I was conscious that I spend a lot of time thinking about church, church structures, mission, the Kingdom of God etc. and need to keep coming back to the 'core' - my relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

My reflection has largely centred around the image of a "desert", and the place of "desert" in our Christian formation.

Desert or wilderness has been a reoccurring theme in my Jesus-following journey. In 1995 I was trying to make sense of a real dryness and sense of God’s absence from my life, when I discovered, in Los Angeles, a little book called, The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. It introduced me to the subject of “desert spirituality” and provided me with a way of understanding and exploring what I was feeling. Feelings of dryness, distance from God, boredom, and the sense that there had to be more to my relationship with God than I was experiencing.

For me, “Desert” is a both a geographical reality, and has come to serve as a way of symbolizing those experiences of darkness, dryness, despair, and the seeming absence of God, that are part of my Christian formation. It is symbolic of those experiences that open me up to God’s perspective on all that I hold as important and necessary. It’s a place of being ‘formed’ (often painfully), and nurtured (Dt.32: 11-12). Its experience opens me up to my dependency on God, God’s guidance, God’s deliverance, God’s acceptance, and God’s love.

Joyce Huggett talks of our transformation by “inner wilderness experiences,” experiences in which we are taken “through an inner landscape that is reminiscent of the desert.”

I love what James M. Houston writes about the "desert". It's conclusion is my hope and longing.

“…If it is accepted and used creatively, the spiritual experience of the desert [has proven down through time too] have been the instrument of transformation. Our inner, as well as our outer lives, become expanded, deepened, and richly freed, to enjoy peace, love and joy. Peace, because we no longer live with the stress on inner conflicts surrounding our desires and their frustrations. Love, because God has become so much more real, and the buried images of our negative feelings about him have been gradually removed, one by one. Holy feelings of appreciation of God’s character and intimate experiences of his presence give us gratitude for his patience and grace towards us. Love begins to flood our being, in all-round gratitude for our existence. Joy comes spontaneously, because we are uniquely recognized, and we come to realize gradually that the whole of our desert experiences have been tailor-made for us, after all…” (from "The Hearts Desire:Satisfying the Hunger of the Soul").

Paul Fromont 8/01/2002 12:07:00 PM

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