We have been on holiday all week, our tents and caravan have been set up at Snettisham Beach Sailing Club, and a week of early starts and late nights has followed, Tim and Jo raced at Hunstanton, Kings Lynn, Brancaster, Wells, Blakeney Point and today at Snettisham Beach, Emma raced with Tim on the second day at Brancaster.
The hard work paid off and they finished the week third over all, with two trophies and six bottles of wine won over the week between them.
I am shattered because I have had the pleasure of sorting out who is doing what, when and where, Jo and Emma have been working so we have had to make trips home on and off... everything has been so busy that I have had hardly two moments to think, let alone read or pray...
And I wonder if I am disconnected from God... but I have been treated to two wonderful early morning sunrises, and wonderful sunsets, I have had time to listen to the waves on the shore as I watched the sailing, and in a sense taking all this in is a prayer of receiving for in those times I have "been "rather than "done.".. and I wonder if I try to push too much doing into my spiritual life... I am not suggesting that regular Bible reading and prayer are not necessary because I believe they are disciplines that keep us connected to God in a deep way and that we need them, but they are things I do, and sometimes that doing feels disconnected and dry- this week I have not "done" but the connection has been alive and vibrant..
Phil Johnson again, urging us to think twice about what we are hearing/ seeing when we come across apparently Christian material in a secular setting...
...we need some sober meditations today. Yes Christian symbols find their way into contexts outside church buildings and gatherings, and sometimes this is positive and sometimes it is not. While we may observe stirrings for the sacred in pop culture and in pop commodities, we also need to continue to be discerning about the interpretations we Christians impose on these phenomena right alongside of recognising what perceptions the non-churched have of these same items. There may be times when disciples of Christ and those of other pathways resemble two ships passing each other in a fog, and neither crew properly recognises the other.
Ships passing in the fog is a common phenomenon and I would urge folk to think before embarking on what seems like a simple well charted passage...I sometimes want to dive and run for cover when I see some of my fellow Evangelists in action- for example at a recent debate on Ecology and its place in the Christian Message, the man who prayed (and I question whether he needed to) did so in my mind in a totally inappropriate manner possible alienating some of the participants right from the start..... then yesterday walking along Wells sea front, two squeaky clean white T-Shirt wearing Study Bible toting young people trying vainly to engage some youngsters who were crabbing in serious conversation... PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS IT MAKES US LOOK WEIRD.... JESUS WAS NOT WEIRD... HE WAS WONDERFUL AND ATTRACTIVE... HE UPSET THE INSTITUTION NOT THE GENERAL PUBLIC!!!
To my praying friend, pray quietly in your head and heart for the people who have come to listen, being an Evangelist does not mean strutting up and down praying in odd Christian speak... young Evangelist couple- go ask the youngsters how many crabs they've caught... or better yet sit and bait crabs alongside them, AND PLEASE ALL OF YOU LEARN THE ART OF LISTENING BEFORE SPEAKING, find the contact points, really listen to what is being said as Phil has pointed out we may think we have made contact when we are actually passing like ships in the fog...
I have popped back home from our mad sailing holiday to get some washing done, and am staying overnight to pick up some food for tomorrow...
The last few days have involved waking early and walking long distances to watch my family sail; Norfolk Week involves sailing from 6 destinations along the North Norfolk Coast, for the last two days the starts have been early and have meant waking at 5am _ most people would not call that holiday!
Yesterday we walked the length of Brancaster Beach apparently 21/2 miles
to watch this....
While today we walked the W ells footpath
To watch this...
Tomorrow we move on to Blakeney Point.
It has been a good but really hectic week, being close to home on holiday has its draw backs including members of the family who want to be ferried back and forth. On Tuesday night there were 8 of us for a Barbecue- we were then joined by 2 more sailing club members..
It is great that everyone wants to join in- they have all been swimming and sailing and kayaking, but I am shattered, possibly because in many ways my family is recovering from 5 very difficult years of moving home and changing schools/ jobs etc. Em keeps on having to adjust back to family life which must be tough after the independence of Uni- (she is moving back to Canterbury in September to share a house with a friend work and take up some lessons working towards a Post-Grad diploma.)- Jo and Em have to adjust back to sharing a room, Jn who likes to be doing finds summer holidays hard and tensions build- I asume the role of peace maker but am not always helpful on that score.... Chris is still recovering, he is frustrated, and although we try not to be sometimes we all get frustrated with him; not because he is recovering, but because of all the complications that brings along with it. Emma teases him, but I have to remind myself she made a 3 hour journey just to bring him some slippers while he was in hospital...
I had a conversation with someone the other day about appearances- the masks we wear before other people- working for the church brings about tensions of its own, but one thing I am very clear about is that I do not want to wear a mask that says all is well when it is not... there are times when I simply could not if I tried, also I have found that vulnerability before others and before God helps both me and them to grow...
So my family fight (old as they are) and argue, they also pretend they do not like one another much, and while this may be true at some level I have seen that when push comes to shove that they care and how much they care..
And whilst I am feeling overwhelmed by people, by tiredness and by the mad amount of driving I have done this week, I am grateful for my family and in different ways very proud of all of them.
And when I feel like I have reached the end of my tether I know that God's grace is sufficient for me!
Words of Wisdom from Philip Johnson, he left this comment on the last Psychic Sisters Post ; I felt they deserved a wider audience than the ones that might read the comments
There has been some fascinating comments made here by your friends. It is great to see lively discussion and reflections. I would like to offer some comments about the contextual use of tarot in evangelism. I hope that by indulging me in a bit of a lengthy post that I might clarify some details.
By way of a foundation, allow me to be briefly autobiographical before heading on to the theory and practise. I am a Christian living in Australia where our experiences of religious diversity (and the surge toward new age) has been very deep and profound. From my observations on the circumstances facing Christians in Britain are that you folks are about a decade behind what has ensued "down under" in the riotous old ex-colony of convicts!
I was raised in a Christian home, with an Assemblies of God church life in my childhood-adolescent years. I crossed the threshold of faith aged 9. I have never been a devotee of any other religious pathway, so I am not an ex-new ager (for instance).
At the age of 18 I intuited that religious pluralism (and the do-it-yourself approach to spirituality) was a trend that would ensue and therefore required careful attention. I began five years personal research into apologetics and "other religions" while holding down a clerical job.
Then I quit working to take up full time study. In 1983 I began my undergraduate study for a BA at the University of Sydney. I majored in history (all related to religious and church), Religious Studies, and minored in Islamic Studies. Before graduating (1988) I enrolled in a Bachelor of Divinity programme also at the same uni and I studied under a broad range of theologians (Roman Catholic Eastern Orthodox, Uniting Church, Baptist, and Sydney Anglicans) and scholars including Barbara Thiering. At uni I was active in the Aussie branch of Campus Crusade.
I later proceeded to an MTh where I wrote a dissertation on Evangelical Responses to New Religions.
In 1991 I co-founded the Community of Hope (COH) as a para-church ministry toward new religions, new age etc. That year the COH entered the Sydney Mind Body Spirit festival, and so began a long process of field work in contextual missions. In 1993 I conceived of the idea of using tarot cards to present the gospel. It was in the late 1990s that John Drane lectured at Morling College in Sydney where my colleague Ross Clifford introduced John to what we were doing with the tarot. That was the starting point for the subsequent book on tarot being written, Beyond Prediction (Lion 2001) which Ross, John and I co-wrote.
So I am an advocate of the use of tarot cards in evangelism with new spirituality seekers, and I have done so in new age festivals, at conferences of professional tarot card readers, among neo-pagan devotees who use the cards and in various community forums when asked to do so.
Alright enough of autobiography and on to the gist of "to do or taboo".
The first point is this: tarot cards were not invented for occult purposes, but as a card game in Renaissance Italy. The cards are a product of those times and the portraits on the earliest surviving decks reflect this. The early decks show pictorial influences from Cathedrals, illuminated manuscripts of the Book of Revelation, and symbolism reflected in Dante's writings (also hinted at in Man of La Mancha: Don Quixote).
The association of tarot with fortune telling is clear once we reach late 18th century France when it was conjectured that the tarot came from Egypt (remember Napoleon conquered it and found the Rosetta tone). A French occultist nicknamed Eliphas Levi was the first known person to link tarot with Cabala and explicit fortune telling. It was not until the late 19th century that tarot cards as fortune telling made its way into England.
So the cards were "hijacked" from their original purpose. Keep in mind that the Bible has been "hijacked" at times for unsavoury reasons -- KKK misquote it to justify hatred of non-whites, some white Sth African Chruistians used it to justify apartheid, Jehovah's Witnesses use it to prove that Jesus is not God the Son but Michael the archangel. The Bible can used correctly or inappropriately; and the same thing holds true for many other "objects".
Now the deck that appears in Beyond Prediction and the one COH people have used in festivals is called the Rider-Waite deck. A E Waite conceived of his deck, Pamela Colman Smith drew the pictures, and the London company Rider published them in 1910. This deck is the best-known and most widely used. It is parallel in influence and "respect" in tarot parlance to what the KJV has been as a bible version for Christians.
Now the pictures on Waite's deck have some very explicit biblical and Christian symbols as Waite was a mystically inclined character in his approach to Chjristianity. This does not mean the cards he devised are "Christian", but the hristian and biblical influences are undeniable. You need to see the cards and it would help if I could demonstrate things -- but the blog cannot facilitate that.
Basically you'll find Adam and Eve in Eden (Lovers card; depicts Genesis 1-2), Adam and Eve in chains to the Devil (The Devil; depicts Genesis 3). The Death card is one of the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And so it goes on.
What we do in festivals is we make it clear verbally and on our booth signage that we do not "predict the future" or use the cards that way. Instead we make it clear we have a spiritual story to tell that the cards illustrate and that story is about who we are, why we are here and how the sory connects us to Jesus Christ. Nine out of ten people are happy to then proceed. We sit down across a table, and proceed to lay out the cards one by one explaining each card sequentially. The shape of the cards is in the form of the Cross, and the story is told from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 in 30 minutes using the cards.
As the final card is laid out and the story concludes, we invite the person to see themselves at the foot of the cross and to consider Jesus Christ. We have had many people confess they have never heard the story before. For others it fills in the gaps. We have prayed for people and seen some take a step of faith in Christ.
Also some of the best encounters we have had have been with professional readers who do not dispute what we say and admit that we are correct in pointing to the Christian meanings in the cards. Indeed most readers admit that they do not read the future. Instead they have replaced the priest's confessional box, and they engage in non-directive common sense counselling.
Is this stuff "respected" in circles where the cards are esteemed? Yes. In July 2005 I was invited to address an international tarot conference. I can attest that the spiritual hunger is strong and the reception of what I presented was marvellous (and without any compromise on the uniqueness and particularity of Christ).
Pragmatic results of course do not justify the means. But that is where a lengthy discussion about contextual mission principles begins, and where topics like "appropriate syncretism" and "inappropriate syncretism" would ensue. I'm sure that what I have jotted here may trigger off questions, remarks etc. But let me assure you that the cards are not demonic, they are pieces of cardboard. If you attribute power to them then you become a slave to the object. I see the cards as a providential object in the same way that Paul spotted an altar to an unknown god in Athens (Acts 17), and in the same way Don Richardson spotted the "peace child" story and ritual which became the "cultural entry point" into which he could meaningfully explain the gospel.
I have a pile of books, walking boots, swimming gear, some good wine and I am going to enjoy doing nothing, the rest of my mad family will be racing around these beautiful places in small boats trying to win more wine and a bit of silver-ware. Blogging will be Light- non existant- I am going to use my paper journal- to see if I still know what a pen is for!
I just dropped Emma off at her boyfriends house, both have just graduated ( university) and are working on the transport issue...
He wisked my daughter away, picking up her bag (necessary) and her cello (essential) arm protectively around her waist... (and yes I know I shouldn't be watching but I have a bad habit of reversing on mirrors)
Emma- you are leaving us in so many ways- you are intelligent and beautiful and talented, we are very proud of your achievements, you have worked so hard....We look forward to seeing what you will do with your life. On top of that you are caring and kind (most of the time!).
We are also very proud of the fact that you have not and did not at the insistence of some of your friends go out with anyone just because they wanted you to have a boyfriend- we think your choice of guy is great (don't get too concieted Ralph if you read this because we don't think you're prefect just ... well you're ok by us!)
She is leaving, and I am letting go.... it is wonderful and painful... truly bitter sweet.
We Had a double Baptism in church today, a brother (6) and sister(3), they had asked their parents if they could be baptised, so this was a little unusual and rather special. Cameron had asked if we could use two Jack Johnson tracks from Curious George, we used Upside Down and Own Two hands...
Matt and I split the preaching taking one track each- he asked the question; "how is your world upside down ?" using a power point presentation of opposites ( plenty/ famine etc)..
I took Own two hands- and threw out all I had prepared to tell the story of yesterdays sailing adventure...
It struck me that just as Tim and Jo went on a rescue mission, so God comes alongside us and rescues us...he hears our cry for help and comes running, our God is not one to stand on ceremony, he throws all our notions of decorum aside and sprints to our rescue (as in the parable of the Prodigal Son).
Made in his image our hands are unique, easily identifiable by our finger prints, just as he gave us unique hands, he has a unique plan for each of us, but he calls us to pull together to bring his ultimate plan into being...
Joanne became his hands yesterday as she helped that tired sailor along the beach, we become his hands as we reach out beyond ourselves to heal, to hold and to comfort others, and when we are not strong enough to do this he provides the strength...
Our own two hands may seem insignificant, but if we get to work alongside others then we will find that we are making a difference, there is truth in the saying many hands make light work.
Lord your hands were pierced for me, help me to take your hand when I need to, and allow you to take my hand in yours when I do not have the strength to reach out. Amen
Hat Tip to Philip Johnson , quoting here from Harold Netland who lived in Japan and now teaches intercultural studies at Trinity University International in Deerfield, Illinois.
We must be careful to treat other religious traditions and worldviews with genuine respect and avoid simplistic caricatures that do not reflect other perspectives accurately. This will demand careful and responsible study of other traditions ... responsible interreligious apologetics will be fair in its treatment of other perspectives, willingly acknowledging what is true and good in them even as it seeks to point out what is problematic or false ... Not only must Christians understand the theological distinctives of the other tradition but also they must be sensitive to the many cultural dynamics connected with the religion. Effective use of morally acceptable and culturally appropriate means of persuasion requires a mature understanding of the cultural context in which the interreligious encounter takes place. Christians must be especially sensitive to the use of symbolic power in the interreligious apologetic encounter. The search for truth, or the attempt to persuade others that one has found the truth, can easily deteriorate into a power game, with each party concerned to show its superiority over the other. As many apologists have discovered, one can win the debate but lose the person. Any activity that is manipulative or coercive, or otherwise infringes upon the dignity of the other, must be rejected ... Christian apologists must learn first to listen humbly in silence, cultivating relationships of trust before proceeding into encounters over truth ... It is a reproach to the cause of Christ that Christians sometimes have been overly aggressive in evangelism and apologetics, subjecting other religions to caricature and ridicule. This is not only ineffective but, more importantly, fundamentally unchristian. One can engage in vigorous apologetics while simultaneously demonstrating genuine respect for opposing views and acceptance of religious others as fellow human beings created in God's image and the object of God's limitless love."
Harold Netland, Encountering Religious Pluralism (Downers Grove: IVP/Leicester: Apollos, 2001), 282-283.