Friday, February 29, 2008

Good News Bad News

It's been official for a while now so I feel I really should blog it: I'm going to be leaving my current post at the end of the month and move to be the new Diocesan Youth Officer for the diocese of Worcester. I'm chuffed to bits and it's all VERY exciting even with the incredible nightmare that is moving house! Of course the bad news bit is leavng behind so many wonderful young people and some great friends but we will have space for guests up in Kidderminster :o)

Anyone in youthwork in the West Midlands? Get in touch!

Pass the Bible...

Ian has done an open tag on this one and I think it's worth sharing!

1. What translation of the Bible do you like best?

I tend to used the New Living Translation most often as it's the one that fits in my bag but I rather prefer the New Revised Standard version as it has a mix of modern and understandable and yet a reputation for accuracy and a good sonorous solidity to the language.

2. Old or New Testament?

New Testament probably as I know it better though I do I prefer the term Br John of Taize uses - Hebrew Scriptures - for the OT

3. Favorite Book of the Bible?

Philippians or Jonah or Psalms (yes I AM that indecisive!)

4. Favorite Chapter?

Psalm 139

5. Favorite Verse? (feel free to explain yourself if you have to)

It varies but there are two that stick:
Romans 8.38 and Philippians 4.8

6. Bible character you think you're most like?

Being called Sarah I get teased about the Sarah verses pretty often! Especially as she laughs when God says something! Sometimes I think I'm too much of a Martha though!

7. One thing from the Bible that confuses you?

The order of the books - it still gets me every time!

8. Moses or Paul?

Both kinda flawed in places which is good in some ways as we can still valued a flawed "hero". Can't quite believe I'm saying it but - Paul.

9. A teaching from the Bible that you struggle with or don't get?

Soteriology - the nature of salvation and how it works. I get that it works and I understand how various people explain it but I'm never quite sure where I stand on it!

10. Coolest name in the Bible?

Shadrach Mishak and Abednego!!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Good Samaritan in brick form

This film comes from a site called Brick Films. There are a few other religious ones on there but they're mostly not - so be warned! I really like this style of video but I don't think I'd have the patience to make one! If anyone did have the patience, what stories do we think should be done? How about the healing of the paralytic being lowered down through the roof (is this just my obsession with building houses out of lego when I was younger??)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

ISCF inspiration

Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
When I was away with the young people on the ISCF weekend, during the talks and worship I spent some time being creative. This is one of the things I got doodling. There are some others on the Flickr account if you want to have a look.

Friday, February 22, 2008

All of Me

When I was sitting in A&E waiting for a young person to get som steri strips put on a caut to is arm this week, I resorted to reading one of those PC magazines which had a really interesting section on identity fraud and the internet. Now I know I've set my facebook settings very carefully and kept down to a minimum what I have on myspace and the blog. You can find out about me but not pretend to BE ME very effectively. The article pointed to two sites that search for details of people
Spock and Pipl.

How secure are you on the internet? check them out.

I was rather disturbed at how much I managed to find out about namesakes without even trying any harder than typing their name. Parents may find it disturbing just how much young people's information is out there.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Response and Responsibility

I'm just back from the intriguingly named ISCF "weekend" (which runs Monday to Wednesday!). it was an interesting time as I was there with two of my fellow youthworkers from the local area as the RESPONSIBLE ADULTS. We had no role in planning the event (except for viewing some of the plans and giving some advice on risk assessments, first aid, registration, medical forms and the like) and then during the weekend two of us had no real job except existing and, at certain times, being available for prayer ministry. The idea is that the event is run BY the young people FOR the young people. They had booked some outside speakers but aside from that they ran the band, check in, night time registration, games and Bible devotions.

Now I must say I approached the "weekend" with some trepidation as I really didn't know what I was going to be asked to do all day. I took some work with me because there are few things I really need to get done at the moment (3 annual reports for a start!!). I also took my felt pens and did some artwork during the talks.

What was interesting was the difficulty of balancing being there and available but not crowding the yougn people. We tended to sit near the back - and yes, SIT - so that the young people could worship together as a group. We joined in some of the games but some entailed rather too much physical contact for us to join in. When you RUN games like that it's not a problem but not being the person running the game, it looks odd that you don't join in. Eventually we just said why we weren't and they accepted in mostly (especially as we joined in some of the other games - two of them new to me which was great!)

I must say I was privileged to spend some time praying with some of the teenage girls and the Holy Spirit was very empowering to me and, I hope and trust, to them. I also had great fun over meal times and at other times with some of the lads. Ok so the two days also included a trip to casualty BUT the young person in question was triaged and then treated within 30 minutes! A Tuesday afternoon in half term seems to be a good day to get injured!

There was also a great video which one of the speakers used which I'll pop up in a sec!

So what do we think about youth led events when we take the back seat?
Are we as youth workers sometimes unable to sit back?
Should we do so more?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tag day

Ok as it's his birthday, I'm indulging Ian calling me Doc Bush instead of Brush and am also doing his tag challenge.

The rules as given are thus.

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five other people.

As I am in the midst of sorting out my books and church books from my book shelves there are MANY books close by but this is the one that had teetered off the top of the pile.

It's Henri Nouwen's The Return of the Prodigal Son (and in case you're wondering, I'm really not sure if it's mine or belongs to the church - mental note MUST LABEL BOOKS!)

From page 123:

"God's compassion is described by Jesus not simply to show me how willing god is to feel for me, or to forgive my sins and offer me new life and happiness, but to invite me to become like God and to show the same compassion to others as he is showing to m, If the only meaning of the story were that people sin but God forgives, I could easily begin to think of my sins as a fine occasio for God to show me his forgivness. There would be no real challenge in such an interpretation."

and today I shall be tagging: Bishop Alan, Dave W, Phil Greig, Ruth B and just to make her BLOG SOMETHING Kathryn C even if it is her birthday tomorrow and she will be very old... :o)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Foundations of faith

Originally uploaded by Sarah Brush
We had a great session painting some stones at Pulse last week. These were some of my offerings. More to be found at my flickr site.

Terror of Change

Ok so I guess I'm not alone in wondering what the BBC is going to do without Neighbours now it's gone to 5.30 on FIVE.

Well the strangest thing is I tuned in early (day off so I _am_ allowed!) and caught the new presenter and character for CBBC (not sure how new but new to me!) It's a grumpy cactus called Oucho* (make your own here!) and following him was the even more grouchy Anne Robinson with The Weakest Link. I suppose it makes sense but I'm afraid I, like the Neighbours will be moving to five!

The CBBC site has also had a nice make over with creative stuff, games and some especially cool stuff like Shaun's bleatbox! This is defintely a link to add to your young people's internet cafe list!

*Now I'm sure it will get a great following but it's nothing compared to Gordon the Gopher or even the less worthy Ed the Duck!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Lent 1: Prayer

If you really want to make a group of Christians uncomfortable there’s one question which is guaranteed to make everyone feel guilty:

How’s your prayer life?

No matter how regularly or devotedly or continually we pray – it’s not something we ever perfect.

Prayer also raises many questions:
How do we pray?
What happens when we pray? How does God answer prayer?

Our readings this morning don’t entirely lend themselves to our themes for Lent. Yet their focus on our sinfulness do stress our need for prayer.

The relationship between Adam and God seems so easy in some ways. Sometimes our prayer can be so simple and normal as Adam to God when God is telling about the trees in the garden. Other times it is more like later in the story. We hide from God, even though we know God knows exactly what is going on in our hearts and minds.
Yet our story does not end with Adam, as the old translation has it:
“For as in Adam all die even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Part of our natural human nature may be, like Adam, to rebel but following the example of Christ we are called to be truly alive as human beings and acknowledge that a relationship with God is something that is an essential part of our being and the meaning of our existence.

After forty days of fasting and praying, as the Gospel tells us, Jesus has the strength to resist the devil’s temptation. And for those times when we can’t resist the temptation - our prayer is there to put us right with God again.

What is prayer? What happens when we pray?

“Prayer is the act by which we place ourselves consciously and voluntarily in the presence of God. It is a time when human beings fully express their identity as believers. When we pray, we implicitly define ourselves as people who do not claim to find our source in ourselves; we come to God with open hands. God is, of course, always with us, and we may wish to live at every moment as if God were the beginning and end of our existence. But forgetfulness is part of the human condition, and our many activities and cares inevitably distract and scatter us. For this reason, those moments when we stop to center ourselves on "the one thing that matters" (see Lk 10:42) are essential.”

Wise words from Br John of Taizé.

I find it hard to define what happens when I pray. Prayer is that which connects us with God and for me is often achieved as much in conversation with a group as in quiet time on a hillside or in the crypt of an ancient church.

As a film lover I always think that it should somehow be more dramatic with special effects and an impressive soundtrack but as the story in the Hebrew Scriptures reminds us – God is not in the whirlwind but in the stillness (1 Kings 19). If prayer is our expression of our relationship with God it can be like those times in our human relationships when we talk and talk with someone and it’s wonderful to feel we’re really getting to know them and yet there are also those times when you can sit in silence with a friend and it can mean so much more that all those words.
And trying too hard can also inhibit our relationship with God. One of the desert fathers when asked by an earnest and fervent young disciple about the trouble he was having as he kept falling asleep during prayer. The desert father replied – sleep can also be prayer

So how do we pray?
There are many things that can lead us to that connection with God. There are things that some people will find incredibly useful and which will leave others cold.

All the things I can recommend are merely tools towards prayer – they are not themselves prayer

The words are not the prayer, the rosary is not the prayer, the icon is not the prayer, the music is not the prayer, the candle is not the prayer. The prayer is that moment of connection and of finding yourself held in the palm of God’s hand and not needing any of that which led you there.

So what are some of the things that can lead us there

Hands (from the Emmaus course)
Thumb – those closest to us
Forefinger those who lead – who point the way
Middle finger – the longest – those far away
Ring finger – those who are weak
Little finger – yourself

Focus on a single verse or image and find stillness and silence and when thoughts flood in to distract – refocus on that verse or image

Jesus prayer – based on the prayer of the sinful tax collector which Jesus commended over the grand proclamation of the self-righteous Pharisee (luke 18.13)

Lord Jesus Christ, son of the living God have mercy on me a sinner
Designed to be breathed in the first half and out in the second, breathing in God and breathing out sin

Of course there is another great model of prayer which Jesus gave us.

Rowan Williams, in a reflection that led to rather less controversy than that of recent days said: “If somebody said, give me a summary of Christian faith on the back of an envelope, the best thing to do would be to write Our Lord's Prayer...” Every single bit of the Lord's Prayer is radical because every single bit of it challenges our assumptions about who we are and who God is and what the world is like.”

That model tells us that our prayer starts with relationship with god Our father. In the greek FATHER (pater) is the first word and makes this relational element so much clearer.

“real Christian praying is standing with Jesus and saying to God the words that Jesus would say to God, Father. All prayer has to be like that for Christians. And all prayer has to be aware of our frailty, aware of the ways in which our lives are at risk. All prayer has to acknowledge our need of forgiveness and our need to forgive. So it's not so much that there would be other ways of saying it, we say those words simply because Jesus told us to. But from that prayer we can get a model, an inspiration for the nature of all the prayers we ever offer.”

When I was a teenager the curate working with us advised us, when we said the Lord’s prayer to think of one line of it rather than rattling it of; To focus on a single phrase throughout. Others advise focussing on each phrase at a time and considering what that single phrase says to us. (see my earlier reflection on the Lord's Prayer)

All these things are the path we walk on or the train that takes us there and for each of us in different times of our lives, different things will take us further on our journey. The mode of transport is not important as long as it moves you on towards the destination which is communion with God.

Finally that last question..
How does God answer prayer? Like a good parent God doesn’t always say yes.

The film Bruce almighty shows Bruce given the powers of God for one small part of the world and he decides to say YES to all prayers which leads to total chaos as several thousand win the lottery The alternative isn’t necessarily NO but “not yet” or “why do you ask for that when I have something so much better in mind?”

And how does that answer come. Is it written in the sky by a plane specially commissioned by God, emblazoned in neon lights in a shop when you walk down the street? No the answer comes as it did for Elijah

“a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”
(1 Kings 19.11-12)

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Barking Dagenham

Ok so it has finally got to that point. Mr Orwell your world is here. Barking and Dagenham have CCTV cameras with faceless voices behind them from central control. This "public service" was demonstrated on the local news as being for the safety and reassurance of the public and what they showed was a woman being told to zip her bag up properly so that she didn't get mugged.

Is it just a coincidence that this is where the BNP won 11 seats in 2006?

Is it just me who thinks this is getting scary?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Wii are the champions

Ok so we had a great time as youth leaders playing with the Wii at our leaders meeting on Saturday and got some useful insights into teen life. First of all was the sudden realisation that we had been playing with it for nearly two hours without having noticed and second we had NO IDEA how to get Crash Bandicoot to the end of level one and we all agreed on what we needed at that moment - a clued up teenager :)

Like Buzz, I think the Wii is one of those computer games that doesn't just absorb you into it but helps you engage with those you're playing with. The sport is particularly funny (even without one of the leaders hitting another with a baseball bat!!!) and people playing look VERY silly especially when they really get into it!!

I put the idea of investing into a Wii to the church finance managers with the argument that, with the forthcoming youth worker vacancy, the leaders could do with something to boost the appeal of the clubs we run and something to focus on that's good. Not, as someone put it recently - "They're replacing you with a Wii!!"

I don't think technology CAN replace the important pastoral interaction of incarnational and relational youth work but I'm equally not a Luddite. I see great value in using the new technologies to enable our relational work.