- 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, November 30, 2002

Haere mai tonu ra te Wairua Tapu i runga i te upoko hau i te po
marangai i te puehutanga mai o te aroha
(in the language of those native to our islands - the Maori).

Come Holy Spirit, as the head wind, and the night storm,
energising us with your love.


The latest edition of REFRESH (A Journal of Contemplative Spirituality, produced by Spiritual Growth Ministries Trust - Aotearoa / New Zealand) is out. It's theme this quarter is spiritual abuse. Their programme for 2003 (Retreats, learning to pray courses, enneagram workshops etc.) is also out. Copies of both can be obtained by contacting sgm@clear.net.nz

Also the SGM story is ready for published. Written by Anne Hadfield. Titled, Uncharted Tracks. It should be available early 2003.

Article by Andrew Dunn from SGM titled, What is Celtic Christianity? linked to here.


Paul Fromont 11/30/2002 11:50:00 AM
Friday, November 29, 2002
Today marks the 104th anniversary of the birth of Clive Staples Lewis (died 22/11/1963 – the same day as JFK was felled by an assassins bullet; and author Aldous Huxley died).

I was reading a little excerpt today from the published edition of his BBC wartime (WW II) radio addresses – The Case for Christianity – and reflecting on how a contemporary “case for Christianity” might be made? How might its content, and the way in which that “case” is made differ from the modernist, rational approach of the 19th and 20th centuries? What might be the components of a ‘post-modern’ apologetic be? What might characterise the ‘apologetic’ of the ‘emerging church’?

Whilst Lewis’ apologetic was very much a product of his day, three features always standout for me: his balanced use of rational reasoning and story; the plainness and everydayness of his illustrations, i.e. his appeal to the ordinary experience of his listeners and readers; and, the existence of and earthiness of his theology.

One piece that I read said this:

“…Enemy-occupied territory – that’s what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful King has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage…”

(Note his bringing of the Englands present context into his address – WW II – expressions like “landed”; “enemy-occupied territory”; and “a great campaign of sabotage.”)

How would you re-write what Lewis wrote? How would you re-package the truth of what he is saying in the language and context of say New Zealand in 2002? Would you use the word “King”? What about a Canadian, Japanese or North American context?

Happy Birthday Jack!


Paul Fromont 11/29/2002 12:26:00 AM
Thursday, November 28, 2002
Just a couple of things today. Picking up on the recent theme of storytelling on mine and Steve's blogsite in particular, I noticed this article in our Sunday Star Times newspaper last Sunday. Another take on the importance of stories - "Neill: tall tales are good for our psyche." Kiwi actor Sam Neill comments that:

"...New Zealand must tell its own stories - and not just via its rugby players..It's important we tell our own stories, so we don't feel constantly under-confident..."

Read more here.

Also, quite some time ago, jonny commented on the incorporation of a Proost music CD - Eucharist, into Steve Case's, "The Book of Uncommon Prayer." I then read a review of the CD by Kiwi Mark Pierson (see the Eucharist link above). Decided to make the purchase and it arrived yesterday. Looks and sounds good. The subtitle of the book is "Contemplative and Celebratory Prayers and Worship Services for Youth Ministry." What a great book - lot's a useful ideas for a much broader gathering of worshippers than just youth. Has "Daily Prayer" ideas; "Prayers", "Responsive Readings", "Private Devotions for Youthworkers", "Communion/Worship Service using the Eucharist CD" - Lot's of stuff to use or to start the creative process in terms of curating gathered worship experiences...


Paul Fromont 11/28/2002 11:27:00 AM
Monday, November 25, 2002
I've had a great day off work today - great weather, and an opportunity to get up to Auckland and spend some time with a couple of guys who've directly and indirectly provisioned and energised my journey over some or part of this year - Mark and Steve. I'm reminded again and again of just how life giving relationships can be within the "Body of Christ" - they can be some of the most painful and hurtful relationships too, but when you get a chance to be truely listened too, to listen to others, to 'think' aloud, to learn from one another, to share stories, and and explore (in the company of friends) where the wind of the Spirit blows...thanks guys - you've been a source of life and 'company' on my journey.

I was e-mailed this quote the other day by a friend. Taken from "At the Corner of East and Now: A Modern Life in Ancient Christian Orthodoxy" by Frederica Mathewes-Green.

Peter didn't send any commentary so I'm not sure what particularly 'touched' him in relation to the quote.

"Western Christianity, I find has a comparatively feminine flavour. The emphasis is on nurturing and comfort; reunion with God occurs as he heals our inner wounds. In the West, we want God to console and reassure us; in the East we want God to help us grow up and stop acting like jerks."



Paul Fromont 11/25/2002 10:08:00 PM
Sunday, November 24, 2002
Well I'm a year older in a couple of hours and tonight was our final gathering of SPACE - a different kind of worship experience which we've done on the last Sunday of each month for the last six months. I've blogged about its aims some time ago. Anyway it's 'evolved,' quite accidentally a style which should have been especially useful to those whom God draws through the senses or through contemplation. (see "Sacred Pathways" by Gary Thomas). The latter I am, but not the former.

Anway, tonight, it was built around "Advent" and the U2 song, "I still Haven't Found what I'm looking for". Featured 'slides' of the nativity scene. An Eastern Orthodox icon of the nativity. Christmas wrapped boxes of all shapes and sizes, which people prayerfully opened, as a symbolic way of opening themselves to God, and the ways he wanted to touch and speak to people - each box could have represented anything - a need for healing, a prayer etc. etc. Lot's of Incense (thanks for the loan of your incence and charcoal etc, Mark). Communion. And, a great story by Simon Brown (see my recent post about the "story-telling evening) read by me, called, "When God was Young." (thanks Simon, great book, and hopefully a few more orders after tonight) Lot's of candles, 'space' for reflection; some silence etc. I love these times, people can lie on the floor and sleep, participate, do nothing - whatever they want. Have yet to decide whether to continue them next year.

A BIG thanks for Geoff and Ben for helping set up and dismantle everything for each of the last 6 months.

SPACE is relocating (for a one-off) to a cave next Sunday for a cave communion built around John 1 (light and darkness) and Jesus' birth...

Night. Bon Nuit.


Paul Fromont 11/24/2002 01:56:00 AM
Friday, November 22, 2002
An article sent to me by Geoff. Thanks.

Call of the Wild: Perspective from an Alt-Evangelical by Trygve Johnson :: posted 26th August, 2002.

He says enough things to get you thinking..............

"We evangelicals are so married to a culture of consumption that we unashamedly think we can sell, market, and pre-package a life with God, like the way we sell, market, and pre-package merchandise in the mall. Being referred to as an evangelical is now an association with a culture that seeks to manipulate a free response to God. Instinct tells me to distrust what we are selling. I don't like the product. I do not want to be a part of the market-driven plot of God manipulation. I do not want to buy what we are selling."

Read more here




Paul Fromont 11/22/2002 04:22:00 PM
Wednesday, November 20, 2002
We use the following prayer as the "Benediction" or "Leaving Prayer" at the conclusion to SPACE - our monthly worship gathering. It's taken from "Night Prayer" in "A New Zealand Prayer Book" (Anglican):

Lord,
it is night.


The night is for stillness.
Let us be still in the presence of God.


It is night after a long day.
What has been done has been done;
what has not been done has not been done;
let it be.


The night is dark.
Let our fears of the darkness of the world and our own lives
rest in you.


The night is quiet.
Let the quietness of your peace enfold us,
all dear to us,
and all who have no peace.


The night heralds the dawn.
Let us look expectantly to a new day,
new joys,
new possibilities.


In your name we pray.

Amen.


Paul Fromont 11/20/2002 10:50:00 AM
Tuesday, November 19, 2002
Okay...so it's been a Terry Veling couple of days...here's a timely (but old) reflective 'essay' called "Silent Night" by.....you guessed it....Terry Veling

Also, some hopeful things happening in the Catholic church with regards to the so-called "laity" -

"...As Catholic theologians, we support the rights and responsibilities of lay Catholics (in the USA), acting in the grace of their spiritual gifts, to gather in the Spirit of Christ, who dwells within the whole Church..."

read more, here.




Paul Fromont 11/19/2002 10:19:00 AM
Monday, November 18, 2002
I find the following subject a fascinating dimension of thinking and reflecting on Church and mission in a 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand context…what are Christian authentic communities? Where do they live out their communal existence? How do they live that ‘existence’ out in terms of the missional challenge of the “gospel”? And, how do they contextualise and communicate that gospel?

"Ah, who will ever count the centuries examined in the margins of our books?”

This is a quote from the Jewish poet/writer, Edmond Jabes, and it forms the central inspiration of my book, “Living in the Margins” (appears to be out of print).

“…To live in the margins of tradition is to live in a vital space of interpretive activity that keeps the "book" living, growing, expanding with new commentary and enlivening questions. Many small Christian communities occupy this marginal space, living on the edge of tradition -- in the margins -- attending both to the claims of the tradition to which they belong and to the claims of new, unexpected situations. In a sense, marginal Christian communities are both "inside" the book and "outside" the book, with the margins of interpretation mediating between these two spaces…”

Terry A. Veling (Aussies and Kiwi’s will find an essay distillation of the above book in his essay – “Margin Writing and Marginal Communities: Between Belonging and Non-Belonging” – Published in Pacifica 9 / February 1996.)

Not an 'easy' read, but who knows who reads this, and what they like reading, so, for an on-line example of his writing see: "Levinas and the Other Side of Theology"

(In academic circles, Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) is recognised as one of the most important philosophers and religious thinkers of this century. His work has significantly influenced many "postmodern" thinkers such as Jacques Derrida, Maurice Blanchot, Luce Irigaray, Paul Ricoeur. He has also influenced Jewish and Christian leaders and educators, including Pope John Paul II. However, his
thinking is not generally well known to a broader audience.)



Paul Fromont 11/18/2002 11:08:00 AM
Sunday, November 17, 2002
Happy 2nd Wedding Anniversary Rachel and Regan...may there be a life-time more...




Paul Fromont 11/17/2002 10:37:00 AM
Saturday, November 16, 2002
I like the opening paragraph of Mike Riddell's "postscript" in the November edition of "Tui Motu" ('InterIslands'):

"...In this fragmented world, perhaps more people are sustaining their spirituality through art than through religion. Not that the two need to be set in opposition to each other; both rely for their effectiveness on exposing the deeper universal currents which are present in everyday life. Religion which does not intersect with the ordinary is escapist, and art which does not explore the universal is shallow..."


Paul Fromont 11/16/2002 07:36:00 PM
Thursday, November 14, 2002
An addendum to the post on stories - Len Hjalmarson posted this link to an OOZE interview - The Art of Telling—and Listening to—Stories that Matter: An Interview with Dr. Daniel Taylor Thanks Len - Great timing. Nice to see we both hold Loren in high esteem.




Paul Fromont 11/14/2002 10:12:00 PM
Happy 94th Birthday Nana!


Paul Fromont 11/14/2002 11:16:00 AM
Well last night was a fun night - Kathryn & I had one of our longed for but invariably irregular 'date nights' and decided to do something a bit different, so drove to Onehanga in Auckland for the first get-together of "Xpressions" - an evening of creativity and community storytelling. Organised by Steve and Graceway, and featuring local teller / poet Simon Brown telling stories, and reading from his new book, "Parables & Poems". The 'floor' was also opened to up and coming 'tellers' who wanted to try their hand at telling a story. Wow! Kathryn and I hadn't known what to expect, and had laughed about our little adventure into the 'unknown' as we drove up to Auckland. What a wonderful evening - a 'rainbow' of emotion, ranging from deep belly laughs (Mark (one of the 'tellers' from the 'floor') and his letter to "Dear Mr Cat" had me just about falling off my chair with laughter) to sadness to quiet reflection.

Mike Riddell sums Simon's approach up when he writes a recommendation on the back of the book:

"...Simon Brown brings us stories from the land; yarns to warm our souls and tickle our fancies. Springing God from the gorse thickets of religious claptrap, he restores the wonder and playfulness of life itself. A delightful raconteur, Brown weaves mystery and the mundane as casually as a man knotting a fishing net. In these stories and poems he trawls the imagination and brings back a healthy catch to be enjoyed over a driftwood fire at the edge of the sea..." Hmmm. I can easily put myself in the scene - perhaps I won't go to work........

Alan Jamieson in his introduction to the book writes:

"...We New Zealanders live in an age where the power of metanarrative and foreign forms of religion no longer capture us. Yet at the same time there is a lack of indigenous stories, few hints of Kiwi spirituality and very few parables that connect us as the people of God. As our New Zealand spiritual hunger grows we long for indigenous stories to bring meaning, inspire courage, form personal identity and stretch faith..." Amen Alan!

The other big blessing of the night was having the other two Kiwi "voices" linked on my blog, together with Regan, and myself were all in the same room together for the first time - Steve, Rachel, Regan, and "moi" Great. It was great. Rachel was at a bit disadvantage, having her picture regularly on her web-site, but she had no idea who I was...but just happened to sit at the same table as Kathryn and I. It was a real blessing to catch-up with her and Regan in person, and for Kathryn to meet some of those unknown people I network with in cyberspace. Thanks for making the trip across town Rachel and Regan, and Steve - thanks for pulling the evening together...

You can buy Simon's book from here You ex-pat "Kiwi Voices" would love it - lot's of geography, and the experiences of growing up, and life in NZ.


Paul Fromont 11/14/2002 11:14:00 AM
Tuesday, November 12, 2002
A 'plug' for the Regent College bookstore for those who haven't discovered it. Aside from my reading, their audio, video, CD recordings have been a significant source of growth, learning, and spiritual 'formational' for me over the years. Thanks Regent College:

"Regent Bookstore carries one of the best selections of theological books in the world. Located on the campus of Regent College in Vancouver, B.C, Canada, Regent Bookstore draws visitors from all over the region and—with the addition of our online store—from around the world. In addition to theological works we also carry a large selection of quality fiction, Christian spirituality, Christian classics and history. We also have an extensive selection of audio-taped lectures and courses, taught by our own Regent College Professors, as well as prominent visiting professors from around the world. Our online store is designed as an extension to our on-campus location."

Visit it here.



Paul Fromont 11/12/2002 10:00:00 AM
Monday, November 11, 2002
I’ve finished reading (Sunday night) two really useful and succinct chapters on prayer – “The Need to Pray” and “Praying in Body and Soul” – both by Jim Forest, and contained within his book, “Praying with Icons.” Draws from the Orthodox tradition, but is readily understandable and therefore beneficial to non-Orthodox, especially those from more liturgical traditions.

This quote from Thomas Merton stood out for me, amongst many other comments made by Forest.

“…Life is this simple: We are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and God is shining through it all the time. This is not just a fable or a nice story. It is true. If we abandon ourselves to God and forget ourselves, we see it sometimes, and we see it maybe frequently. God manifests Himself everywhere, in everything; in people and in things and nature and in events…you cannot be without God. It’s impossible. It’s impossible…”

I also liked this piece of advice from Forest:

“…Don’t be distressed that you are using borrowed words. They gradually become your own. When you say them attentively, they become vehicles for things you might never find words for. Reciting words becomes in the end a way of silence and listening…their repetition helps push away distractions and brings us into a state of deeper awareness of God. Because the words are often ancient, there is a sense in which we are praying in eternity…”

I also wanted to ‘mark’ my reading of Steve Taylor’s 2001 essay, “Scars on the Australasian Heart: Anzac Day as a contextual atonement image.” (Unfortunately it's not on-line). One of the most stimulating pieces of contextualised theological and missiological writing I’ve read by a Kiwi for quite some time. Well-done Steve.


Paul Fromont 11/11/2002 09:42:00 PM
Saturday, November 09, 2002
Quote of the Day

“…With the coming of the Kingdom – God’s Kingdom, a new order with the power to redeem all of life has also come…God’s plan – cosmic redemption…”

(John Barber, Earth Restored: Calling the Church to a New Christian Activism, Mentor 2002, p.13).

97% of life is spent away from the gathered life of the church. In terms of the major activities that we’re involved in in any one week - church, family, community, employment, leisure, rest, and sleep - the ministry of the church typically only ‘connects’ with, or has input into the areas of church, family, and rest (if we read in place of “rest,” retreats etc.). Little connection is made with respect to biblical/theological input into the areas of work, leisure, sleep, and community. I guess that’s why I value Robert Banks and R. Paul Steven’s book (which they edit), The Complete Book of Everyday Christianity: An A-To-Z Guide to Following Christ in Every Aspect of Life. I can also HIGHLY recommend Steven's book, Marriage Spirituality (a Regent College Publishing reprint). Has great chapters you can easily read as a couple - a nice stimulas to some great conversation and reflection!

Incidentally, Stevens has a new book, Down-To-Earth Spirituality: Encountering God in the Ordinary, Boring Stuff of Life, to be published by IVP in February 2003 (h/c)

Paul Fromont 11/09/2002 12:05:00 PM
Friday, November 08, 2002
For your reading pleasure, a fine assortment of articles out of "Reality Magazine"

Discovering Eastern Orthodoxy by Jeff Simmonds

Bringing it all Back Home: Notes from a house church in Auckland by Mark Laurent.

Searching for Intimacy with the Desert Fathers by Stuart Lange

Enjoy.


Paul Fromont 11/08/2002 10:59:00 AM
Thursday, November 07, 2002
Listening to American media commentators yesterday morning on the radio, following Republican’s, “Roll to Victory” a lot of the ‘credit’ for the ‘victory’ seemed to be attributed to Bush’s call for truly patriotic American’s to vote “republican” – the implied and explicit implication being that “democrats” weren’t patriotic, and that if you didn’t agree with Bush at every point then you likewise were unpatriotic. This ‘commentary” reminded me of useful comments made by Stanley Hauerwas about “patriotism:”

“…Patriotism is loyalty to a specific history and a land associated with that history. So it does not pretend to be universal…The United States doesn’t want you to be loyal to a land or to a history. It wants you to be loyal to ideals. And those ideals are universal – [ones] that you’d think anyone would [sign-up too]…the kind of patriotism that we see in America cannot help but be a kind of imperialism. It say’s, “this is really what you would want if you were thinking clearly.” I think that’s deeply perverse…”

Once you ‘take’ the words of ‘power’ out of the specific ‘arena’ of what it means to be a ‘human being’ – of what it means to live in diverse human community – of the day-to-day lives of real people who care deeply about life. Does being “patriotic” mean supporting “murder” and “assassination”; Does it mean ‘doing as I say, not as I do?” “The bombing of Stone Age countries back to the Stone Age”; does it mean supporting ‘justice’ (and I use that word advisedly) at any cost and under any circumstances? Is a “terrorist” anyone who lives out of an alternative or different story – or from a different geographical and cultural context? Does “patriotism” mean supporting the overwhelming domination of unanswerable power over the powerless? Is “patriotism” about spending more money on war and ‘defence’ than the national incomes of some ‘developing’ countries whose more immediate needs are food, medicine, water etc.? Does it mean the disregarding of alternative views and alternative perspectives or questions – “If you’re not for us you’re against us…” What does that mean? If you’re a Democrat are you really unconcerned about your country, your history, your sense of who you are and where you’ve come from, i.e. “unpatriotic?” The language being thrown around in speeches and in the media, and what that language implies really worries me. How many human lives for a barrel of oil?

And, adding a further dimension, there are the political implications of being a Christian, and a citizen of another Kingdom…(I’m thinking here of Yoder, and “The Politics of Jesus”)…the implications of truly living out of an alternative story/vision of what it means to be truly human and of what all of creation (the “seen” and the “unseen”) is truly about. What is the ‘language’ of God’s kingdom - Mercy, justice, shalom, caring for the weak, the vulnerable, the powerless, the widow, the refugee, the marginalised, and more broadly, those harshly trampled under foot by the powerful, those with options and choices etc…?

What are the symbolic actions of the Kingdom? What are the ‘lived-out’ alternatives of the Kingdom?

To what do we give flesh?


Paul Fromont 11/07/2002 10:01:00 AM
Tuesday, November 05, 2002
Back on-line, after lightning 'toasted' our modem last Friday. It's given me a chance, not that being able to get on-line stops me, to do some reading, and I've been reading, Praying with Icon's by Jim Forest. Someone has said (it may have been James) that "icon's are windows into heaven." I've always been fascinated with icon's and the link to prayer, and "fascination" is a great motovator to explore. In his book, Jim quotes Thomas Merton. I love it:

"...It is the task of the iconographer to open our eyes to the actual presence of the Kingdom in the world and to remind us that though we see nothing of it's splendid liturgy, we are, if we believe in Christ the Redeemer, in fact living and worshiping as "fellow citizens of the angels and saints, built upon the chief cornerstone, Christ..." Forest adds, "It is the faith of the praying person that matters most, not the quality of the icon."

For those of us who like liturgical prayer, Jim includes a short selection of Orthodox prayers at the back of the book, "morning prayer"; "evening prayer"; "compline"; "prayers of intercession"; and 'the litany of peace." Praying these adds some wonderful variety to the "daily office" of the Roman Catholic tradition, and 'set-time' prayers from with the Anglican tradition.

Thanks to James (Ferrenberg) for directing me to a shop that sells, traditional "prayer ropes"

Also a link to a great article by Alan Kreider - "Conversion and Culture in Early Christianity" (pdf-file). I used some of his comments about the way in which the lived life of the church did the converting, not mass evangelistic crusades, seeker services etc. in a sermon last Sunday. He's also written a little book in the Christian Mission and Modern Culture series, entitled, "The Change of Conversion and the Origin of Christendom"

Finally, for those of you interested in "new monasticism," I was just looking in my copy of "Living Faithfully in a Fragmented World" by Jonathan Wilson (same series as noted above for "Kreider"), and he has as his final chapter one titled, "The New Monasticism" - now I remember why I bought it in 1997.


Paul Fromont 11/05/2002 11:52:00 PM

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