Sunday, 23 January 2011

What good is God?

Just finished Philip Yancey's latest, What good is God? A very helpful read.

He reflects upon ten journeys made in the last few of years, some to places of recent trauma, such as Virginia Tech scene of a truly awful massacre in 2007, or Mumbai where he was on a book tour at the same time as the bombings. Other visits are made to a conference on CS Lewis where Yancey reflects upon Lewis' understanding of 'ordinary men and women and the role they have to play' in the grand scheme of things. There are visits  to a conference of AA and another to a meeting of Christian ministries reaching out to sex workers, attended by many of the men and women for whom the ministries exist.

Each chapter has an essay setting the scene of wherever Yancey is visiting, followed by the script of a talk given at the time. I found these talks truly inspiring, challenging and very moving. So many quotes, but for now just a few, at Virgina Tech he said,

One of my favourite authors, Frederick Buechner said, 'I am not almighty God, but if I were, maybe I would in mercy either heal the unutterable pain of the world or in mercy kick the world to pieces in its pain.' God did neither. Rather, God sent Jesus, joining our world with all its unutterable pain in order to set in motion a slower, less dramatic solution-one that crucially involves us.

Visiting his former Bible seminary, a place for which he feels both grateful and yet sad because of the hypocrisy and repression he experienced there, he comments,

The Bible college I attended attracted some weird students. One young man in my dorm said his parents used to ground up poison ivy and mix it with orange juice so he would develop an immunity to the noxious plant...after hearing this I reflected with Flannery O'Connor, 'You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd'!

On a visit to South Africa he met Joanna Flanders-Thomas who regularly visited a particularly violet prison, 'bringing a simple gospel message of forgiveness and reconciliation'. Yancy found himself amazed at the impact she was making,

'These guys are monsters-rapists, murderers. And from what I see you were simply holding Bible studies, playing trust games and having prayer meetings. What really happened to transform Pollsmor prison?'
Joanna looked up and said, almost without thinking, "Well, of course Philip, God was already present in tte prison. I just had to make Him visible."
A great read. Treat yourself.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Remind me who I am again

In the memoir of her mother's decent into multi-infarct dementia,  Linda Grant writes movingly of the sadness of memory failure, reaching especially to the loss of self identity (hence the title, Remind me who I am again).


One author suggests that those in nursing homes with advanced dementia should have a photograph of themselves-perhaps taken in healthier times-pinned to their bedroom door, along with a description of their primary role during their adult life-teacher, mother, policeman etc.

I was reflecting on this when I read the latest copy of the magazine that comes from my old school here in Bedford (Bedford Modern).  One of the masters who had taught me had recently died and there was a lovely obituary, with a photograph of him with his wife and son (Nick who was in my form) and daughter. His wife was not on the teaching staff, although as wife to one of the boarding house masters inevitably got involved in one way or another. She had taught a small group of us a first aid course. I believe I was 12 years old and still recall what to do if someone got a marble stuck up their nose!

Memorial of thanks to British people  Vienna
What of course I didn't know was anything at all about this lady. The obituary told me that she had been on one of the last kindertransport trains fleeing the Nazis from Austria in 1939. Of course there's no reason why 12 year old boy in 1966 should have known or even been interested in the fact at the time, but as  I reflect I recall others who had taught me whom I subsequently discovered had gained gallantry medals during the Second War World or been involved in other heroic or otherwise fascinating deeds.

All to say that everyone has a story. In treating and caring for those with dementia or simply those of a great age, I think it helps to gain some knowledge of the person's past, and not just in the traditional sense of medical history (which may include herniae but ignore Victoria Crosses!).

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Physical health

Some advice from  Samuel Logan Brengle the first American born Commissioner of the Salvation Army in his book The soul winner's secret (1905)

'The soul winner must take every proper care of his body, yet without everlastingly cuddling and petting and pitying himself'

So there!

Friday, 14 January 2011

The KIng's Speech Therapist

Saw The King's Speech with Liz and my mum yesterday. A really excellent and really enjoyable film.

King George VIth and his stutter was not particularly well known to me and I found his struggle to overcome this most challenging of personal difficulties very moving. To be afflicted with a stutter and to be in a situation where public speaking is unavoidable is truly painful.

Geoffrey Rush plays the part of the unorthodox and informally trained 'speech therapist' Lionel Logue quite brilliantly. He demonstrates so many characteristics of a good doctor. Getting underneath the presenting problem, forming a mutual relationship of trust but with a willingness to challenge, an ability to think laterally. It may not have been an example of the current vogue for evidenced based medicine and had more of the old approach of anecdotal practice. It reminded me of a comment made by the medical journalist Michael O'Donnell on a course which I attended, 'the trouble of I have with evidenced based practice is that I don't have evidenced based patients'. In other words each patient's treatment has to some extent be individualised.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

You may know more than you think!

It's a horrible dream-the one where you are about to enter an exam and you know that you have not prepared well enough. Alas sometimes it proves not to have been a dream!!

A much more exhilarating experience is the opposite one of actually knowing more than we thought we did-alas a much less frequent experience.

You probably know more of the Bible than you realise. So many phrases in modern English usage come from the Bible. "Lick the dust', 'the powers that be', 'a den of thieves' or 'an eye for an eye', are just some of the three hundred or so phrases (according to David Crystal in his book Begat) which come to us from the Bible, and from the King James Bible in particular. This year marks the 400th anniversary of the translation  of the Bible which has had a huge impact upon world culture. There are better and more understandable translations now, but the majesty and beauty of the King James version remains.

'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth', perhaps sounds barbaric and vindictive. But in it's original context in the Old Testament it was given to the judges to enable them to make good and wise decisions about the application of justice. So if a man was judged for giving another man a black eye, the worst that could be done to the perpetrator would be a black eye! In other words this law was given to control the urge for revenge-which always wants to go further and inflict even greater pain.

At my church we are looking at a number of this famous phrases each Sunday evening-come along if you're in the Bedford are. Last Sunday our assistant minister Martin Salter gave an excellent short talk on 'an eye for eye'-take a listen (it comes after a short talk on the Bible translator John Wcliffe at about the 17.30 minute mark).

The Long Walk

It's always a bit chancy to give someone a book. A little like recommending a restaurant. Will others like it? Will the service be as go...