I'm Back - With another Lazy Saturday Supplement

After announcing my groundrules for Lent (ie. keeping it positive) things have gone a bit quiet here on the VM blog, prompting one way to suggest that I was finding it difficult to maintain a positive demeanour... 
But no... the problem has been that in the run up to my sabbatical I had so many meetings and so much admin to do (it felt like I was having to do 10 week's work in 10 days) that I had neither time nor energy left to devote to the blog... But I've still been reading lots, and so here is a link-dump of the pieces that have caught my eye over the past 10 days or so... I've tried to weed out the pieces that are now out of date in this ridiculously fast-paced world, and those that don't fit my "keep it positive" criterion (on that basis I am keeping two in cold storage for a few weeks!)

Given that I am exhausted trying to get ready for sabbatical, and have spent a ridiculous amount of time since getting off sitting around in what some call "lounge wear", perhaps I should start with this superb piece by Addie Zimmerman based on the invitation by Jesus to "Come, all you who are weary..." I'm not too sure where I came across this... I have a few regular sources for most of the stuff that appears on these Saturday Supplements... and one of them is WhyNotSmile... As well as being on song herself recently with a few excellent pieces, especially (given my Lent principles) this one on mercy and compassion, she has also been flagging up some really good posts. Chief of them is probably the beautiful one by Sarah Bessey referred to in that post, in which she blesses the merciful... but with her current obsession with marriage (can't think why that might be), she also flagged up a couple of interesting pieces on marriage that run slightly counter to a lot of the bland nonsense you hear in many marriage sermons. First Tim Dowling offers 7 pieces of advice to those planning on getting married. I don't agree with all of them, but they might make for an interesting marriage preparation discussion. In the second Gary Thomas takes apart the idea in Jerry Maguire/Plato (take your cultural references where you want) that in marriage we are made complete...

WhyNot Smile has been known to do a number of Richard Dawkins from time to time, and there is a lot of coverage going the way of celebrity atheism these days. Chief among them is Alain de Boton's ill-named "Atheist 10 Commandments" (more to do with lazy journalism than de Boton himself) have been mentioned by many other more high profile bloggers than me. Personally I think that there is an interesting study/sermon series here looking at these "atheist" principles from a Christian perspective. The article in "the age" takes a closing swipe at Dawkins, which is also a central theme of Douglas Murray's post in the Spectator. This piece just squeaks in past my "keep it positive" monitor, in so far as it points to a place where there may be a much more constructive dialogue between people of faith and intellectual atheists... which is less about point-scoring debates in University lecture theatres and TV studios, or the preaching to the choir that goes on in much of the fundamentalist culture war internet sites. Something akin to the initiative by Pope Benedict entitled "The Court of the Gentiles", where the Cardinal responsible said he was sorry not to have been able to meet Christopher Hitchens before his death.

Whilst most of the "action" of the last 10 days has been happening with the Catholics in the wake of Benedict's surprise resignation, I haven't come across too many "positive" articles on what is happening there... Lots of conspiracy theory stuff, which may be entertaining, but is generally cynical and ill-informed. However, there have been a couple of pieces of Anglican origin that have caught my eye, the first by my friend David Porter regarding his "elevation" to being the new Archbishop of Canterbury's advisor on reconciliation... Given some of the rifts in the Anglican communion that might expand into a full time job. It might also prompt him to put some more stuff on what must be the most sporadic blog in history! The second  is a plug by Maggi Dawn for her new book on women bishops in the church of England... but I include it here because of her reflection on how much of her energy has been sapped by negativity and having to justify her existence.
For those who have been late getting the Lent bandwagon rolling (or if you want to file them away for next year), here are a few interesting and/or helpful sites... First this year's compendium of 40 Lent ideas by the ever-present Rachel Held Evans (you were wondering when she was going to crop up, weren't you). Actually today she also posted a good idea about turning hate-mail into origami birds... something I may take up in future, although I rarely get such things... they are more often pieces of "constructive criticism." But meanwhile, back to Lent: one interesting piece has Brandon Ambrosino giving up God for Lent. For those of a more activist mindset another programme encourages us to engage in 40 ACTS of Generosity. The final one is by Tony Miles, who, like me, is following a "keep it positive" discipline... inspired, in his case by Brian Draper's Lent40 Reflections (its a pay real money subscription site, so I don't know what it's like being the skinflint I am), and his dictum to focus on "the infinite, the positive, the good." Especially good is the prayer he offered on day 5 of his Lent journey:
I thank you, Lord,
that when ‘I show up’, I find you ‘show up’ too.
I thank you, Lord,
that when I stop chasing the day, the day finds me.
I  thank you, Lord,
that when I put down what I’m doing,
you help me to take things up again with a new perspective.
I thank you, Lord,
that when I am running on ‘empty’, you refill and empower me.
I thank you, Lord,
that the smile of your love makes me smile too.
I thank you, Lord, that a moment ago, I was too busy to be thankful,
but now I am more than thankful
I am blessed beyond measure.

Amen indeed.

But finally, given that I am on sabbatical, I am thinking of getting this BT Package installed... I wonder can you substitute the word "President" for "Bishop"... On second thoughts, I don't think that a call from President Obama, never mind the President of the Methodist Church would summon me from sabbatical mode now...



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