Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Faith as small as a mustard seed

I've been fasting for five days now. Superficially for the very selfish reason of wanting to lose weight but also because Jesus fasted and I wanted to try to understand more about it through experiencing the ups and downs of a fast. Secondly, my fast coincidentally started at the same time as Murray Norton commenced his five day 500 mile charity bike ride. I decide I would fast and I would then give him £100 sponsorship being a notional equivalent of money saved (not going out to dinner, not spending on takeaways or spending on alcohol). Thirdly, I was just intrigued to see what would happen. There have been highs and lows - I was on such a high on Monday night. I went to my favourite restaurant (Pizza Express). I watched everyone else eat my favourite (!) pizza. I drank water and I feasted on God's word. It was Christianity Explored night so it was a great opportunity to find out more about Jesus whilst fasting.

Mustard seed
I've also googled fasting and there is a huge amount of information to process, which hopefully in due course will find its way onto this blog.

Mostly I have so far described myself as a non-believer who sometimes has faith the size of a mustard seed. Perhaps you are noticing a change in me as this blog progresses. All I can say is, I don't feel my "faith" has grown but I feel my non-belief is fading. I have stopped fighting and now ask myself that HUGE question - "What if it is true?". Think about it - "What if what Mark says in his gospel is true?". The implications for the whole world are awesome.

I've copied the first chapter from Mark's Gospel below. I've chosen to use a version from a particular translation of the bible called "The Message". I have done this as I feel that for many people like myself we have heard the words so many times, our senses are dulled. I keep reading this and asking myself the question "What if it's true?".

Mark Chapter One -   

The good news of Jesus Christ—the Message!—begins here, following to the letter the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

Watch closely: I'm sending my preacher ahead of you;    He'll make the road smooth for you.    Thunder in the desert!    Prepare for God's arrival!    Make the road smooth and straight!

4-6John the Baptizer appeared in the wild, preaching a baptism of life-change that leads to forgiveness of sins. People thronged to him from Judea and Jerusalem and, as they confessed their sins, were baptized by him in the Jordan River into a changed life. John wore a camel-hair habit, tied at the waist with a leather belt. He ate locusts and wild field honey.

7-8As he preached he said, "The real action comes next: The star in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will change your life. I'm baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism—a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit—will change you from the inside out."

9-11At this time, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. The moment he came out of the water, he saw the sky split open and God's Spirit, looking like a dove, come down on him. Along with the Spirit, a voice: "You are my Son, chosen and marked by my love, pride of my life."

Thursday, October 7, 2010


"A" said to me that she thought Christians were arrogant to think that God made people in his image. Well, I suppose Christians are only repeating what is in the bible. 

Is there an arrogance to atheism? Is the belief that there is nothing out there and that "I'm the boss" also a bit arrogant? and maybe a bit naive, when we consider how tiny earth is, compared to the Cosmos?

Can you learn to be lovely?

A friend of mine said he needed to "work on being lovely" before finding a girlfriend so I googled "Can you learn to be lovely?". The secular answer according to google is "no". But of course "Ask and ye shall receive" springs to mind. Maybe all he needs to do is ask to be lovely, it certainly beats google's response - which I have turned into a poem of sorts.

Learning to be lovely (google style)
You can learn Bulgarian
You can learn to take lovely
Cityscape photographs
You can learn to clean
Granite countertops
You can learn to read
“The Lovely Bones”
You can learn the care
Of lovely pets
You can learn to sing
“Gonna be a lovely day”
But you can't learn to be lovely
Nice gadgets help you learn Chinese
Nice girls help you finish first
But best of all
You can
Learn to be nice
Just read this
And meditate for 10,000 hours
Lutz, A., Brefczynski-Lewis, J., Johnstone, T., Davidson, R.J., Baune, B. (2008). Regulation of the Neural Circuitry of Emotion by Compassion Meditation: Effects of Meditative Expertise. PLoS ONE, 3(3), e1897. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0001897

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Man's search for meaning

I've mentioned Victor Frankl's book before and will probably mention again as this certainly is in my top ten life changing books. Frankl's theory that our primary drive is not the pursuit of pleasure (Freud) but the pursuit of meaning had resonance with me as I came to dislike the saccharine phrase on my fridge magnet, "The purpose of life is to be happy"; Dalai Lama.

I don't pursue pleasure. I run away from it. I hide in the corner and watch pleasure. I cosh pleasure with a chemical cocktail of alcohol and food (this has replaced cigarettes).

This is what I found about the book on the internet;

Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl's memoir has riveted generations of readers with its descriptions of life in Nazi death camps and its lessons for spiritual survival. Between 1942 and 1945 Frankl labored in four different camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the experiences of those he treated in his practice, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory—known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ("meaning")—holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful.At the time of Frankl's death in 1997, Man's Search for Meaning had sold more than 10 million copies in twenty-four languages. A 1991 reader survey by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month Club that asked readers to name a "book that made a difference in your life" found Man's Search for Meaning among the ten most influential books in America. Born in Vienna in 1905 Viktor E. Frankl earned an M.D. and a Ph.D. from the University of Vienna. He published more than thirty books on theoretical and clinical psychology and served as a visiting professor and lecturer at Harvard, Stanford, and elsewhere. In 1977 a fellow survivor, Joseph Fabry, founded the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy. Frankl died in 1997. Harold S. Kushner is rabbi emeritus at Temple Israel in Natick, Massachusetts, and the author of several best-selling books, including When Bad Things Happen to Good People.William J. Winslade is a philosopher, lawyer, and psychoanalyst at the University of Texas Medical School in Galveston.