more from the buffet

Continuing some musings about prayer, here is another of my categories of prayer:

Image result for anybody there

is there anybody there PRAYER?

This sort of prayer can be the beginning of a relationship. It is a tentative exploration of whether there is a God and hoped-for responses range from a gentle feeling of reassurance through to a full-on multisensory display of the Almighty’s power. The reality is that it is more likely to result in the former than the latter, although occasionally people have had such a life-changing experience. If it is a fuelled by a genuine hope that God is there he will respond although maybe not in the way that a person expects.

Why doesn’t God give everyone the full-on show? I suspect it is something to do with him not wanting to overwhelm us. The occasions when he does are perhaps occasions when he knows that subconsciously that person is ready and willing for such a display. The rest of the time he gently cultivates the faith expressed and offers an almost imperceptible increase in awareness of who he is over time in order that the individual’s free will and fledgling faith is not stamped on by incontrovertible evidence of his existence that makes it impossible not to believe. God values our freedom to choose him or reject him so highly that he goes out of his way not to overwhelm it.

(By way of an aside, whatever you think God’s Judgment ultimately is perhaps it is nothing more than him honouring the decision we have made about whether we want to be with him or not: he’s not making the decision, we are!)

If you don’t hear him at first, don’t give up. This sort of prayer often requires persistence – not because God is silent but because we are not always well-attuned to his voice because we have not heard it before. We may not notice that he is there in that sense of peace or wellbeing. We may not recognise him in the way that other people speak to us or treat us. We may not sense him in nature around us. We may not find him in the words we read in the Bible. It doesn’t mean he’s not there, it’s just that we have to learn to recognise him (and that process continues throughout our life). We may need the help of a more experienced follower of Jesus to help us.

If so, do find someone – a friend, pastor, Spiritual Director…

More to follow.

Be blessed, be a blessing

the stigmatised blonde and the 3 ursine mammals

teddy bear'sOnce upon a time there was little girl called Goldilocks. She had always felt slightly stigmatised by her name and the inferences people had made from it that she was a dumb blonde. One day she decided to go for a walk in the forest. Sadly she did little to suggest that the inference was incorrect because she travelled without a map or adequate food supplies. Unsurprisingly she got lost.

She must have stumbled through the forest all night long: scratching her legs on the brambles, tripping over tree roots and running from the hidden producers of screeches and howls in the night.

Meanwhile in the extremely unlikely cottage inhabited by the 3 Bears they had slept well during the night. Instead of wild honey and berries mother bear was somehow managing to cook porridge and called for father bear and baby bear to join her. Amazingly they had mastered the use of opposable thumbs which they didn’t possess so that they could pick up spoons and eat their porridge from the bowls which presumably they had stolen from scared picnickers as they would not have been able to buy them in the shops both because of the terrifying sight of theirs coming into shops and because they had no source of income.

It seems that father bear and baby were somewhat fussy eaters and decided that the porridge was too hot. Rather than simply adding cold milk (and there are questions about the source of the milk as well) they decided that it was better to go for a walk in the forest to wait for the food to cool down.

Shortly after they had gone out, foolishly neglecting to lock the door (although once again that would have been difficult task without opposable thumbs), Goldilocks arrived at the cottage and, desperate for shelter and food, entered without permission. She then carried out acts of vandalism and theft: breaking a small chair and eating porridge that did not belong to her. This brazen blonde then explored the premises, perhaps looking for valuables, and as she explored the bedrooms tried out the different beds.

At this stage we discover that father bear needed an orthopaedic bed, mother bear probably needed a bed that had more support and that baby bear was the only one with what could be described as a supportive mattress. We must suspend disbelief again at this point, recognising that bears do not generally sleep on beds. And as we suspend disbelief the 3 Bears re-enter their property.

They see the results of the vandalism caused by the teenage tearaway asleep upstairs and are indignant that whoever caused the damage did not leave any trace of their identity. They are similarly upset about having their food violated and consumed and decided to explore their house to see what else has been damaged or if anything has been taken. The flaxen haired heroine of our tale had not bothered to remake the beds after testing them and this vexed the parent bears.

The bear offspring was also vexed to find that somebody had also tested his/her bed (we’re not told of the gender of the bearcub) and indignant to discover a strange woman in the bed: presumably worried about what the parent bears might say about an unauthorised sleepover.

It is at this point that Goldilocks woke up and the witness accounts vary about what happened next. Some say that she explained the situation to the Bears who were very forgiving, fed her properly, and helped her to find her way home so she could live happily ever after. Some say that she screamed and ran out of the house leading behind 3 bemused bears. Some say that the Bears reverted to type and ate her instead of the porridge.

What can we learn from this parable?

  1. Name your children carefully as they may conform to stereotypes.
  2. Exploring the countryside whilst unprepared is foolish.
  3. Animals adapt quickly.
  4. Leaving your door unlocked may lead to vandalism and burglary.
  5. It is not necessarily wise to remain at the scene of a crime if you want to get away with it.
  6. Sometimes familiarity with a story stops us asking questions about it.

So what questions should you be asking about the Bible text next time you’re reading? You’ll find a lot more is in there if you are willing to consider the depths and not simply receive it at face value.

Be blessed, be a blessing.