Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Glad tidings we bring...

It was our church carol singing night tonight. I wasn't really enthusiastic about going, though if you asked me why not, I would have found it hard to come up with a reason. I think it is just general laziness on my part! I don't like cold, dark nights and the idea of being out in one when I could be at home, warm and cosy, didn't help.

I am aware that being enthusiastic about anything right now is hard. I think it is most likely because it is the end of term and I am worn out with fourth year reports writing. After all my hysterics earlier on, I managed to get them done well before the deadline.

I have been aware of a creeping lethargy spiritually. I have not wanted to do more than just keep the batteries ticking over. I am not throbbing with spiritual vitality and that bothers me.

In the back of my mind, I think that I will wait until the holiday begins and then I will get myself straightened out and back on track. I am not a New Year resolution maker. In the past I have made them and broken them, just like anyone else. I googled "Christian New Year resolutions" and got informed by one site that resolutions have to be birthed in God and not in human effort.

Then I found Jonathan Edwards' resolutions. At the age of 17 he began writing resolutions, which he added to over the years, read every week and put into practice. I think that as I read through them, I was convicted about how lazy I am about my faith. If it happens, it happens, but I don't appear to be doing much to make it happen! I haven't become lazier over the years, I think I have always been lazy!

One of them which really struck home was "Resolved, never, henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God's." It is because I act as if I were my own that I inwardly complain about having to go out and sing carols! As I read his words, I was reminded that I do not belong to myself any longer, but to God. If He has said to go and sing carols, then I should not complain, but gladly go and do what He says.

I found myself experiencing a real turnabout in my attitude and spent a good half hour praying about the response we would get, about the words of the carols speaking to the hearers, about worshipping and not just singing. I was reminded about the angels declaring to the shepherds the message of Jesus' birth, and how the song has never stopped being sung. It was amazing.

Once out there, I felt we were singing not just to the people who lived in the Raigmore estate, but to God and his angels. We sang well!

Friday, December 16, 2005

The Lion, the Witch...etc -

I figured that I ought to do my own film review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". I went to see it yesterday. First of all, just an observation - those people who arrive just as the film's opening credits are running, and there were lots of them last night, and who manage, despite the fact that the cinema is in almost pitch black darkness, to see the two seats in the middle of the row where you are sitting, and who step on your toes, trip over your bag, to get to said seat, while carrying the large sized popcorn box, and giggling - yeah, those people - they should…they should…well, I don't know what they should do with them! There should be some rule that stops them coming in after a certain time! Me - I like to be there ON TIME!

Back to the film! I read the books - the whole series - when I was about fifteen or so. I thoroughly enjoyed the books. My favourite one has always been "The Horse and the Boy". I wasn't a Christian at the time, and what I can remember was that I wanted to meet Aslan. I think at the time I was going through teenage angst and needed someone to even like me a little! The film brought all that back to me! It made me want to dig out the books and read them all again!

I thought it was a very good film, but definitely for children. From what I can remember, it didn't stray from the book. I thought the beavers were just wonderful! Joe keeps quoting things that Mr Beaver said, in his best "Mr Beaver" voice! The queen was disappointing. She wasn't scary enough, or mean enough to match up to my imagination. When I think about it, I read "The Magician's Nephew" first, the very first one chronologically, so I knew where she came from and had all that built in to my impression of her.

The children were OK. I wanted to adopt Lucy and bring her home. I liked the practical nature of Susan. I liked the title given her by Alsan when she got her crown - Queen Susan the Gentle. I can remember once when Joe and I were discussing kindness, I asked Joe if he thought I was kind. He answered very gently, "You try to be." Kindness is Joe's middle name - he doesn't need to try to be, but me - well, I am a thick skinned teacher - I shall gladly take "You try to be."

Alsan was excellent! The voice was very awesome and majestic. His gentleness, and power, and strength and his love really came out. I am trying to think whether I found the animation convincing - I am not sure. When I watched the Lord of the Rings, I never thought for a moment that Gollum wasn't real - but then I know what lions are supposed to look like and do. In the book there was a very "scary" side to Aslan, particularly in his dealings with the queen, which didn't really some across as that scary.

Is the film a witnessing tool? I don't know. I probably spoiled it for myself by reading someone's web-log that got too theological about it. He did a spiritual autopsy, dissecting it, and stuff. If you stick to the basic principle - someone dying on my behalf, and not when I am a quite nice person anyway and worth saving, but when I am a traitor. Is that not what the gospel is - that when I was a sinner, Christ died for me?

Monday, December 12, 2005

What are you looking at?

Yesterday, while at church, I was looking outside and some vandal or other had covered the walls of the schoolyard in big black graffiti. I have to admit to always reading the stuff as most of the time, the people named tend to be familiar – they have been in my schoolroom at some time or other. It just looked so ugly – and obvious… and destructive.

I suppose, part of it is just my usual winter blues, but it felt depressing to look at wall. This is the world we live in where people are destructive and do ugly things. Sometimes, rather than it being physical writing on a real wall, it is the things people say that cause the damage to the heart. Sometimes, the way people speak to one another, it is like taking a can of black paint and spraying graffiti on the inside of someone. Just like the black paint on the school wall will take an effort to remove, and perhaps leave a mark behind – so too with our hearts. Harsh words are not easily wiped away from our memories.

However, after thinking dark thoughts, God directed my attention to a tree just in front of the wall. Hanging down from the tree, were twenty or more little white plastic cups. They hung upside down from bits of string and were packed with nuts and scraps for the birds. Obviously they were the work of one of the primary school classes. Dozens of birds in the branches, or flying up from the ground, were pecking away at the food. They were all shapes and sizes and all enjoying a meal.

Just as there are people that are destructive, there are also people who are not. Some people display extraordinary kindness and look after the needs of the forgotten and neglected.

God said to me that morning that I have a choice – to look at the graffiti and get downhearted, or to look at the tree and be encouraged. Too often we focus on the bad stuff that people do, and everyone becomes the enemy, and we talk of things going downhill. How much better to focus on the tree, and on those who seek to be kind and to help even in such small ways, and follow their example.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Songs of Praise

I don’t confess to watching “Songs of Praise” often. It is not something that it is “cool” to be found watching, particularly if you have a charismatic bent. All those hymns can be off putting, although I think that the doctrine contained in them put most modern songs and choruses to shame. I once remember going away for a weekend at Bridlington during my university years. One of my friends lived there, so we all piled on a train to visit. Our weekend happened to coincide with a “Songs of Praise” practice session. The church was bursting at the seams. They sang the songs through until we were volume perfect, and advised us to keep looking to the front. It was just a practice, so there were no cameras that week. Our little group discussed whether we wanted to come back for the real thing a couple of weeks later, but being poverty stricken students, the budget just didn’t allow for such extravagances!

So yes, that gets us back to yesterday! Songs of Praise came from Narnia! It was based on the life and work of C S Lewis to coincide with the opening week of the film, “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” There were hymns liberally sprinkled throughout, many of which I had sung long, long ago. Part of the theme for the programme was “advent”, so lots of the hymns had Christmas carol overtones.

One of the great themes of the book is about the triumph of good over evil. The guest boy band, Libera – a boy’s choir (not Westlife) sang a hymn “When A Knight Won His Spurs.” That brought back some very strong primary school memories for me! They also sang a Latin hymn. From the video, rather than the words, it was all about liberating the world and people.

One of the interviews was with a man who had supplied illustrations for a particular edition of the books. He admitted that he had found it hard to draw the scene of Aslan’s death on the stone table.

A comment made by him was about the whole story being one of “a whole world being liberated”. Is that not what Christianity is all about? It is not just about holy huddle in churches, singing hymns and Bible readings. That is just the starting point. There is a whole world out there that needs to be liberated. In the story, it is the presence of Alsan, who brings about the liberation. In our world, it is the presence of God.

There are some people who will see the film “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” and they will just see a rattling good yarn. Others will see beyond that, I hope!