Monthly Archives: June 2013

John Calvin on Children

In my reading and research I came across this interesting post by Jason Goroncy from 4 years ago.

Jason Goroncy

Children take on a ‘largely symbolic character’ in most of Calvin’s writings wherein children are viewed as ‘metaphor for the religious life of adult Christians’.[1] Unlike Luther, Calvin tells us very little about his encounters with children. He does, however, tell us that he and his wife lost their only biological child: ‘God had given me a little boy. God took [him] away’.[2] We know little about his relationship with the two children from his wife’s first marriage aside from his pledge (on her deathbed) to care for them; or about the children of his brother Antoine, who lived in his household.

Calvin was not, however, indifferent to children. So Pitkin:

[Calvin’s] writings, along with the social and ecclesial changes he participated in and sought to effect, bear witness to the importance of children in church and society. Serious implications for children’s lives and important assumptions about their…

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Children as Spiritual Champions – Part 1

The first book I am re-reading as I immerse myself in the topic of “children and church” is George Barna’s very personal confession and realisation, “Transforming Children into Spiritual Champions” (Regal 2003). In this book he acknowledges his own blindness, and suggests that this is modelled by the church at large – especially its leadership, with regard to the importance of children in the church.

In true Barna-esque style he weighs and measures the problem. He looks at the trends and suggests they are alarming (41). He measures the knowledge and values that children have and comes to the conclusion that American children are not being nurtured in the faith. He says this is even more alarming when you understand that most people come to their Christian faith in their childhood.

In a very moving chapter entitled “Why kids matter” he points out that, first of all, they matter to God. They are his gifts to us. Even more importantly, because they matter, He has given clear instruction to parents and the community at large as to the importance of nurture. I would add that we see this most intimately in Jesus’ relationship with children.

Barna also states that children are the battlefront of the spiritual warfare. The battle for the hearts and minds of children is where spiritual warfare is the hottest! He suggests that the more we invest in training, teaching, modelling, encouraging and etc. at this time the less we will have to pick up the pieces in the future.

Part 2 – soon. I hope!

Categories: Children, christian, christian education, Christianity, Church, community, Ethics, Faith, Family, Reflections | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

To All My Readers

Dear Friends, for a while I have had it on my heart to write a book, loosely around the adventures and misadventures my wife and I have had with churches. However, I couldn’t get a clear picture and structure for this. I considered using the Camino as a metaphor. Then, this morning, as we were going for a walk and discussing the state of our world, the penny (insert currency here) dropped. Our real issue, if sharpened to one point, is the place of children in the church. Today we have extremes where children are missing because the congregation is aged, or missing because the children have been hived off into children’s ministry in another place or room. For many other churches there is not a clear picture of where the children fit into the people, and worship of God.

So in the months/ year or so to come my blog will be even less regular as I try to put flesh to the ideas we have. I have a working title: Alarm Bells: Where have all the children gone? I hope to have time to still post some of my eclectic ramblings, poetry, travel anecdotes, devotions and other guff. So please be patient with me.

Categories: Children, christian, Christianity, Church, Faith, Family, Reflections | Tags: , , | 6 Comments

The Seven Up Series

7 upThe “7 Up” series is often described as the best documentary ever made. Starting with a one off program in 1964 it explored the future of British society through the lives of a group of 7 year old children.

Seven years later Michael Apted, who had been a researcher on the original program revisted the young people and continued exploring the direction of their lives. Last year 56 Up was released. Apted had returned to their lives with a film crew every 7 years for nearly 50 years.

I have always admired these people as they have had their lives audited and scrutinised by Apted and then the viewer. Yet because of their sacrifice in this process we have a record of changes, large and small, in British society over a 50 year period. From the class system, attitudes to marriage and children, through to the rise of technology and the changes in fashion, have all been recorded – both consciously and unconsciously. Their lives, and in some real sense, our Western lives have been etched into history.

As a teacher I have used this resource in a variety of ways. The series chronicles human decisions, character, history and society. However I have always been conscious that we are dealing with the lives of real people and that these lives have been filtered through the interviewing and editing by Michael Apted and his team. Whenever I use this series I remind my students to be respectful because the people are not Hollywood creations but fellow human beings with strengths and weaknesses, hopes and fears just like the rest of us.

I have never been disappointed by my classes responses. Yes they may like one person more than another but we have that in life anyway. It also wonderful to see how students respond to decisions that the participants make and modify their views and responses. I will relate some of these in the future.

I admire all the people in this project simply because of their courage and openness. When we see their lives we get a glimpse of our own.

I hope to write more in the days ahead.

Categories: Education, Family, people i admire, Reflections, Teaching, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Grace – The Uncomfortable Gift

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— Ephesians 2:8

As humans we struggle with “grace”. Someone invites us for dinner and we feel we must reciprocate. At Christmas we try and keep the gifts “equal”. Even in a lottery we paid for the ticket. But something for nothing is hard to accept. Receiving forgiveness and not paying God back is even harder.

The price paid is impossible to re-pay – even a fraction. Christ’s death was the complete payment for our sin. There is no way we can add to that. All we can do is be thankful and live thankfully.

As soon as try to make payment we reveal our own misunderstanding of grace and we also show our ignorance as to how immense the gift needed to be.

I must confess that too often I show my ignorance.

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Our Top 10 Camping Spots

Continuing with the theme of camping I thought I would list our 10 favourite camping spots. For some of these places camping is the only accommodation available. In one or two cases the facilities are primitive but the area sublime.

1. The Grand Canyon. When we camped there in January, what was particularly cool (apart from the weather) was the snow on the ground and the Coyotes howling across the canyon in the early hours of the morning.

The Loreley

The Loreley

2. The Loreley. This wonderful spot overlooks the Rhine valley. It is like being in a giant train set.

Camping at the Loreley in 2006

3. Gudvangen. This spot in Norway is just an example of many amazing camping places along the fjords. It is hard to find a bad spot to camp in Norway. Here though,  it is important to chose the right season as frostbite is always an option.

The Murray River at Barmah

The Murray River at Barmah

4. The Murray. The Murray River has numerous camping places that we like to return to, such as the Barmah Forest, and the numerous other state forests along its course. The river has moods, colours and a character that is always changing.

5. Hell’s Gates. At the mouth of Macquarie Harbour on Tasmania’s west coast there is a rather primitive camping spot which is amazing in its majesty and fury. The ocean surges into the harbour at this point and the waves on the outer beach can be fearful. If you continue west from here the first country you bump into is Argentina.

Torla, Spain

Torla, Spain

6. Torla. In the Pyrenees in Spain, surrounded by mountains is the town of Torla and the campsite is called Camping Rio Ara. This camping spot is close to the Ordesa y Monte Perdido National Park. On the night we were there the thunder and lightning echoed and ricocheted down the mountain valleys.

7. Villingsberg. On a lake in Sweden near the city of Karlskoga is the Villingsberg camping place. Sweden is covered in lakes and inlets. Each one is special in its own way.

8. Loderups Stranbad. On the south coast of Sweden, east of Ystad, you find one of the many pristine beach camping places.

Roldal Stave Church

Roldal Stave Church

9. Roldal. Another place in Norway we remember fondly is Roldal. It  has majestic views and also a Stave church nearby. When cooking a meal outside the tent one can smile because you have the best dining room in the world. What more could you want?

Narcissus Bay

Narcissus Bay

10. Narcissus Point. On the northern tip of Lake St Clair in Tasmania there is a great camping spot. It is at the southern end of the overland trail. All the camper needs to do is watch out for snakes.

We have to add one more.  11. Santiago in Spain. This is not because the scenery is brilliant … but when we needed to have our clothes washed after the Camino, they took our clothes, washed them, dried them and folded them – all for a nominal fee. That was camping with style!

Categories: Reflections, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Simple Life

Recently I reflected on my parents camping over 60 years ago. They traveled around Holland and Belgium by tandem bike. Yet I am still amazed, when I go on holidays, and  I see the amazing rigs that people take with them.

I remember being on the way to the Grand Canyon on Martin Luther King Day in 2003. We encountered hundreds of “Snowbirds” driving their huge, coach sized RVs from the north, heading towards the camping in snowwarmer climes in the south towing the family car or truck behind them. No comfort was spared on the trip. On one evening, camped at Lake Havasu (the town  in Arizona that has London Bridge straddle part of its man made lake) we had our little 3 man tent surrounded by RVs and campers. Sadly I don’t have a photo of that but it looked very ironic. What I found sad is that people don’t even leave their motor-homes. All they do is relocate their isolation! To me that defeats the purpose of venturing out into the world.

campingI would like to argue that camping should be a simple exercise – getting close to nature and other people. The fewer encumbrances the better. My wife and I don’t use a tandem but we try and get some long hikes into our camping schedule. As far as equipment is concerned, if it doesn’t fit into the VW Golf it doesn’t come.

I feel blessed that I have a “cheap” wife. I must explain. A friend couldn’t go camping unless all the mod cons came with them. He had to buy a very expensive caravan and a 4WD to tow it. My wife is happy with fewer comforts than I am. That is why I am blessed. A tent, a stove, a small table and two chairs and we have our home away from home, and when we hike we leave the furniture behind.

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Hollywood’s Power of Suggestion

Recently I watched James Cameron’s Avatar for the first time. It reminded me how powerful the medium of film is when constructed well, and Avatar is sublime in its construction.

avatarThe film describes a futuristic form of colonialism in which humans rampage over a planet seeking out its minerals. It is a story as old as history. Cameron’s cleverness comes from weaving into his gripping tale themes of ecology, personal responsibility, social responsibility towards native peoples and, most cleverly of all, a pantheistic theology. Pantheism, broadly, states that God is in, not over creation.

The native Na’vi people in Avatar  were atune with their god of creation. The humans  depended on their power, weapons and were driven by greed in contrast to the ecological altruism of the Na’vi.

Even I found myself cheering for the nature loving/believing Na’vi people. And that is where the cleverness lies – in its ability to position us as viewers the way the director intended. Often, without us even being aware.

I put aside my Christian worldview, I checked my cynicism about stereotypes, I was fooled by the mystical romance – and the film took me on a journey along a path that I would not normally travel.

There are good messages in this film and we should heed them. But the film says far more about how Cameron believes the world works. The gospel narrative was missing. There was sin and brokenness but this could be dealt with by being atune with nature. There was no Saviour outside our own wits and ability and a creation god who took the side of the good guys and gals.

I suppose my question is: How often does Hollywood fool us to give ourselves over to the directors’ worldviews? Think of the romance where the man is justified in ditching his wife for a woman who understands him. The violins play and we are happy that he has found his deserved soul mate. Think of when we have laughed because the clever, witty and suave crook has outwitted the clueless police.

Avatar reminded me again, that when I watch a film every neuron I have needs to be on full alert because the director, once again, wants to trick me.

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Film, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Camping in the past

Here are some camping photos from my family archives. What I love about them is the simplicity of their camping!

My dad and mum camping in 1948. Mum is taking the photo.

My dad and mum camping in 1948. Mum is taking the photo.

 

My mum and a sister camping. I don't think they have mastered the art of pitching a tent.

My mum and a sister camping. I don’t think they have mastered the art of pitching a tent.

 

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Josiah: a reflection

I have been doing a lot of writing lately, but alas, not my blog. It is report writing season and I have to assess and make comment on my students.

In the Old Testament God gave a report on Josiah, the King who started at 8 years of age in an era when Judah had rebelled mightily against God. Young Josiah went on a program of reinstating God’s law in Judah and removing idols. However God’s plan for Judah were already set in place. Despite His anger against the nation God was still able to declare about Josiah that:

Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did – with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses. 2 Kings 23:25

Sadly Josiah’s reformation was ultimately futile. Further evil kings followed and Judah was dragged to Babylon. We are reminded that the only true reformation is one that is purchased on the cross by Christ and applied to our hearts by the Holy Spirit. … and yet I hope that the Spirit of God plants in me the attitude of Josiah, who in the face of God’s anger against the nation, still did what was right.

In the face of so many evils today we need the courage of Josiah but we have the added blessing of knowing the Messiah, having His Spirit and being assured that His Kingdom will come!

Categories: christian, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Reflections, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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