For the last few years in about the middle of July I have done a round up of things from the previous year that I am glad I have done/ experienced. (Here is last years). It started as a sort of bucket list in reverse, instead of things I want to do but hadn’t yet done, a sort of way to celebrate those random things I had done. This year I have been putting off writing my list, partly due to the lack of internet, but partly as I wasn’t sure what to write on it. As some of you will know I moved just under a year ago to do some more study. I’ve not really settled where I now live, and don’t really like the academic side of the course, but the placements have reminded me that I am doing the right thing. Anyway here goes a maybe shorter list than some years.
1) Watching 16 year old (who is autistic) in his school play, I first met him when he was 10 days old.
2) Finally making it to St Andrews
3) Ship meet
4) Going over the Forth Rail Bridge
5) last year and this years Tour de France, and this year having the time to watch lots of the live coverage.
6) some amazing friends
7) passed the first year of my course
8) Christmas day, which was for once chilled out, and my Grandma and I wanted to do the same thing, (Knit and watch Holiday Inn
9) Re-discovering my love of cycling
Without doubt however the best thing about this year has been my flatmates. I have shared with two other girls and we have got on really well although we didn’t know each other in advance. I am very sad that one of them has today moved away (because of work), but am pleased that the other one and I have moved to a new flat this week.
When I hear somebody saying “the Bible clearly says”, what I hear is somebody using the Bible to back up their own thinking, and in the process using it to hurt others. Often they don’t mean to hurt others, they have good motivations, and they want to serve God the best they can. But what they are actually often doing is causing overs unnecessary hurt, but also depriving us all of the richness of the Bible. As soon as we are sure that seeing things in black and white is the right thing to do, it means that we don’t look at it in other ways and notice new things, see things that we haven’t seen before, that help to expand our view of God. By being so sure we hurt ourselves as we don’t allow God to show us more of who he is, of seeing a little bit more of God who is beyond our understanding, and also hurt others through imposing a view on them which can have serious consequences on their lives. I can look back at history and see how the church has used the Bible to for example back up slavery and apartheid. We now look back and say how can that be? What will the church in 200 years look back on about us and say, how could they think like that?
Sometimes when I’m discussing different things with friends that they really aren’t on my wave length. This week I was catching up with some friends, and we ended up talking about theories of atonement and penal substitution, (ok we are all current or ex bible college students!) I commented that penal substitution doesn’t work in my world. To which the general answer was it’s not about your world, it’s about looking at the arguments for and against. Reflecting on this it feels like they were going well obviously the answer is blue and white, because they are asking the question what colour is the Scotland flag. While this is true, I’m asking the question what is 2 + 2. Sometimes it feels like I should be changing the questions I’m asking but that wouldn’t be my questions I would be trying to force myself in to a mould in which I just don’t fit. These friends love me anyway so that is fine, but I realise how often I’m asking completely different questions to others, then wonder why there answers don’t work for me. I need to learn to understand others questions as well as answers, but also to accept that being me means asking the different questions, and looking for the different answers and that is fine.
“The metaphorical meaning of language is its more-that-literal, more-than-factual meaning.” This prompted me to think about the way we view words, and language. Maybe instead of searching for that one meaning, we should embrace the variety of meanings, and learn to enjoy the richness which comes from seeing how others view the meaning of the words to enable us to see a wider variety of views, to see the bigger picture. Sometimes however as we embrace the bigger picture of what the words mean, and how we view them differently and how having a variety of meanings can be a positive, we also can start to see that what we meant and how we viewed them, is not a view that can be held as well as seeing this new way of thinking. It then requires me to think through, is this new meaning a valid one, is there any way of reconciling both views, or do I need to chose? What happens when I decide that the valid option is the new one, what does this say about all my previous thinking?
I’ve started to move to the world of Liberalism, and have just started to attend a discussion group. Last week was an initial getting to know each other, and deciding how we want the group to function. This was therefore the first proper week. We are using the DVD Living the Questions to prompt discussions. It is a slightly weird experience going from being use to being the most liberal in evangelical settings, to becoming the most evangelical. It is a refreshing experience however. It seems that evangelicals start with the bible and see what it says about life and apply it. This is fine in theory but it means that when life doesn’t fit we can end up feeling hurt and guilty. Also t seems like the aim of the whole thing is to end up in heaven. So far I would say that the liberals start with real life and then ask what has the bible to say. It also feels like heaven (and hell) aren’t a big feature, it’s about what difference does it make to now. I wait to see how my thinking develops.
Also had an interesting conversation about language and meaning with a friend who’s first language isn’t English. It helped me to see that we need to be aware that the same words can have different meanings and that as long as we are aware of that, that it can be an enriching not separating experience. As long as we are able to remember that words may have different meanings, and not insist that our definition is right then it can be a positive.
I have too much time on my hands, as one of my friends told me when I commented that I had been reading up on Guatemalan Quaker worship. There are lots of things I should be doing, but all require myself to motivate myself, and self-motivation is something that I am much lacking at the moment. My brain therefore instead of thinking on things it should do, has felt that it should run free, start earthquakes, push at walls to see what happens, and generally cause as much chaos as possible. I have hinted at this in my previous two blogs this week. Following a conversation, which is best described as the final push in my thinking, I realised that what I meant by a word was not the same as the person using it, as it was something that to me had more significance than to most I struggled. This however sent my brain spinning down the how do we ever know that our meaning of words is the same as anyone. This led to lots of thinking about our everyday interactions, and our ability to hurt others without meaning to. But also took me to the how can we ever know anything about anything world. Including how can we ever know that anything we say is understood correctly, and that anything we hear/ read we have understood as the communicator expects us to? This lack of shared understanding becomes more difficult the more barriers such as different culture, social status, nationality and time that are in the communication. This then led me to a world where I renewed my questioning of how we could hope to overcome all these barriers when looking at the Bible. Also I then started to think about how we have to rely on others to help us, and how are we to know we are understanding then correctly, before we even start to understand there agenda? It probably didn’t help that a few weeks ago just for fun I had started reading about realist and anti-realist views of truth, and how this affects are view of God!
Often we use the same words as other people but attach different meanings to them. Words have universal meanings as set down in dictionaries for example, but individuals experiences and dialects will attach different meanings to them. So while we may think that we are being clear about what we mean, others will interpret the words completely differently, for a range of reasons. A light hearted example of this was told to me by someone at work (T). T had been visiting her sister (M) who now lives down south. M had asked T if she wanted to go shopping, T not really wanting a day trailing round the shops looking at clothes etc had said no. When M returned from the supermarket, T commented if i’d known you were going for the messages and not shopping i’d have come with you. I was then asked what word i’d have used and said I’d have used the word grocery shopping, or food shopping. This is just a light hearted example of how words need to have agreed meaning to have value. In this context it was unimportant, but what about when we think that the words we are using have agreed meaning, and that we are all using the same agreed meaning, but we’re not leading to misunderstanding and miscommunication? When someone feels vulnerable and hurt not because someone has deliberately upset them but because the shared meaning of words was taken for granted when it shouldn’t have been.
Recently I’ve been trying to expand my reading of Christian theology to ensure that I move outside of that which i am traditionally use to (conservative evangelical.) It’s interesting trying to think what sort of bias what we read has, and how this effects what we think of as “fact”. This was re-enforced to me when I visited Hampden, last week. It is the Scottish national football ground, and from the museum you would think that Scotland, was the greatest team in the world, and definitely always beat England. There was nothing wrong with the facts that they were presenting, they were just selective in what facts they present. This is often true in our reading, and while something that I knew, it has been re-enforced to me in a new way to help me think more when I am reading.
“If you dream it you can achieve it, and you can dream whatever you wish.” Wrote a friend to me on my 18th birthday. I have been pondering this the last few days. What is my dream? As you will have seen from my previous post what I had hoped for is not to be, so what next, how do I change some of my dream but still hold on to some of it? In the second part of Moving to Emmaus, (which I have now finished, I think it maybe something of a record for me!) It looked at how when the disciples had met the risen Christ there world was turned upside down, they didn’t get what they hoped for, they got a new vision, a new expanded vision, which totally changed their world in ways that they didn’t expect, in ways that wasn’t always easy but which were adventure. So while I’m still in the we had hoped stage, I need to remember that, that is fine, and that we sometimes need to go through the stage of mourning our dreams, when they die, but then we will move beyond that to a new dream, a new vision. This book has helped me to feel that I shouldn’t just jump straight to the new dream, but that it is ok to go through the “we had hoped” stage, and that I will get through it, and that I will have exciting, challenging adventures to look forward to.
I was thinking the other day that I seem to be better at having time out to connect with God when I go somewhere, where there are less distractions, where the amazing beauty of God’s creation is evident. But how do we connect with god where we are, how do we find that space right where we are. It’s easy(er) to go for a walk and meditate on God when we’re out in the countryside, but what about finding that space and connecting with God in the city, how do we “retreat” in any form in the city. I decided today, to see what happened if I went for a walk to help me to connect with God, something I find useful when out in the countryside, but what about in the city?
The first thing that struck me was that when out in the countryside my first reaction is to praise God, whereas in the city my automatic response was to pray for the different situations. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but the point of the walk was to concentrate on who God is, and to worship him. I got to a park about half an hour away and sat enjoying the greenery and decided that I need to chill it wasn’t about what I did or didn’t do, it was about God not me. I then wandered along by the river towards the station and found this amazing picture. I just looked at it and thought about 3 separate and distinct colours that are still separate but all need the other to make up the picture, which to me was a visual representation of the Trinity. It just struck me as useful to my thinking, and added a new little piece on to my understanding.
The other thing that set me thinking was that as I walked up through the city centre the Orange Walk came through. The reactions of those in the city centre was quiet interesting. There were a few obvious visitors who looked very puzzled and were obviously asking each other, What on earth is going on? The vast majority carried on as if it wasn’t there, with a few stopping to watch, I did here one person say to a small tot, you’ll be doing that when your bigger. I wondered how much this mirrored peoples reaction to the church? Most people ignoring it as irrelevant, while a few are totally puzzled by the church.