>Knowledge is experience

>Great quotes on education, teaching and learning:

An Einstein maxim is ‘Knowledge is experience – everything else is just information.’ We are now in an age where information is more abundant than could ever have been imagined…..students may emerge from an hour’s session with several thousands of words on equivalent in handout materials, downloadable files from an intranet or web. But it is still just information until they have done things with it to turn it into the start of their own knowledge about the subject concerned, and link it up to other things they already know …….. Perhaps at one level the quest to make learning happen in post-compulsory education boils down to how best can we help our learners turn information into their own knowledge.

From Phil Race ‘Making Learning Happen’

and

A teacher ought to be a stranger to the desire for domination, vain-glory, and pride; one should not be able to fool him by flattery, nor blind him by gifts, nor conquer him by the stomach, nor dominate him by anger; but he should be patient, gentle, and humbler as far as possible; he must be tested and without partisanship, full of concern for people, and a lover of souls.

from Amma Theodora – who was one of the early Christian monastics who went into the Egyptian desert during the third and fourth centuries, to live a life of prayer and contemplation. She had been married to a Roman tribune, and following her husband’s death, she retired to the desert to pray. Her wisdom was much sought after and a number of her sayings have survived, including this one about Christian teachers.

The Long Walk to Freedom – still

>

20 years ago ended a remarkable stretch as political prisoner for Nelson Mandela. The next stage of the journey is remembered with awe as Nelson continued his Long Walk to Freedom with such incredible resilience, commitment and dignity. He has been world leader for a generation leading the movement of South Africa from the dark ages of apartheid to freedom.

Astell Collins posted this tribute entitled “The Age of Grace and Timeless Wisdom”

Have you ever observed a lion bound?
Or witnessed the ants freely running around
Did you ever stop to ponder your destiny?
Journeying beyond your daily responsibility
What is the purpose of tomorrow?
If there is no comfort in times of sorrow
Could you clarify the functionality of masculinity?
And explain the multiplicity of femininity
Nelson Mandela, you have given us a proud legacy
Thus to future generations you are legendary
You have thought us your people to forgive
And have shown us that only in love can we live
Your life displayed the fundamentals of greatness
And uncovered the power of selflessness

We thank you for giving us back our home
A paradise where all of mankind has made their own
You have suffered inconceivable cruelty
To ensure the preservation of our humanity
As a people, our coming together in celebration
Demonstrates to you our sincere love and appreciation
We recognize the relevance and power of spirituality
While experiencing the beauty of our freedom in unity
Your life has become the essence of the human story
One of love and resolve, equality and destiny
You are a hero internationally and not only in Africa
So the world pauses to pay its respect to you, Madiba

And today’s prayer picks up the diversity theme:
Almighty God you have created the heavens and the earth and made us in your own image: teach us to discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children ……

Thomas

Two of our children bear Thomas in their name. Their grandfather was called Thomas. Thomas is highlighted in our Gospel today. What was he doing on this first day of the week when the other disciples were locked in in fear of the people’s anger? Did he not share the anxiety of the other disciples? Did he have more confidence?

Kate Huey, in the linked article, quotes Michael Williams’s comment about Thomas which contrasts with how Thomas is so often portrayed. He writes: “the only one amonmg the disciples who was not do filled with fear that he was unwilling to leave the disciples’ hiding place.” (see this Sunday’s gospel) Kate quotes Gail O’Day’s observation that “one week after the disciples have been visited by the risen jesus and received Jesuis’ peace and the Holy Spirit, they have once again locked themselves away behind closed doors.” Even after seeing the risen Jesus they still don’t live as an Easter people.

So was Thomas the one didn’t want to be locked away? Was he the one who wasn’t frightened? Was he the free spirit? Have we lost the truth by caricaturing him falsely as “the doubter”? And if he is the odd one out of the twelve? What does he have to say about the rest of them, and the rest of us who are similarly inclined to lock ourselves away (metaphorically) because we fear the people. What was Thomas doing?

Jan Richardson in the Painted Prayerbook has a different take on the locked room – the “secret room” as she calls this painting, and she suggests that every pilgrim needs a secret room.

She quotes Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage who writes this:

“Everywhere you go, there is a secret room. To discover it, you must knock on walls, as the detective does in mystery houses, and listen for the echo that protends the secret passage. You must pull books off shelves to see if the library shelf swings open to reveal the hidden room. I’ll say it again, everywhere has a secret room. You must find your own, in a small chapel, a tiny cafe, a quiet park, the home of a new firend, the pew wehere the light strikes the rose window just so. As a pilgrim you must find it or you will never understand the hidden reasons why you really left home.”

Here is sanctuary and indicates the need we all have for “retreat” for all the times when we have a choice of fight or flight and when fighting seems so hopeless. And does Jesus condemn us for locking oursleves away and trying to save our own skin? It appears not. Because to those first Christians locked in fear Jesus came with nothing other than peace. There were no recriminations for them running away or for their betrayal of his trust. All he does when he gets through their defences – past the locked doors is to “offer them greeting and gift” (Kate Huey) – “Peace be with you”.

The architecture of time management

The rocks, pebbles and sand squeezing into the jar helped me to re-think priorities and time management. The only problem is the emphasis is still on squeezing things in, which still sounds and seems uncomfortable.

I was interested in what our architect Robin Wolley had to say about our church at Duddon. “There’s no space” – it is a craetion of the Victorian age and mindset. We knew that because we had tried the swinging the cat test and it wouldn’t. He went on to explain from our contemporary more minimalist mindset that the important thing in architecture is designing space around the objects. Aha. A light bulb moment.

Trying to juggle responsibilities and priorities – think about them architecturally. Set up the rocks (the important architectural features of my life) – things like prayer, pastoral care, preaching, personal study/learning/development – and give them space, which I will call “frame of mind”. That frame of mind gives me space to walk around the features, see them from different viewpoints and reassess the arrangement of the furniture.

Why did the Victorians leave so little space? Why sit people in rows? Is it to do with controlling people and leaving them no space for their personal initiative. They were after all Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin) and Hard Times (Charlie Dickens). It was perhaps the same mindset which thought busyness a virtue and probably dreamt up the proverb “the devil makes work for idle hands”.

Why are we waiting?

>I’m trying to keep Christmas out of Advent – but here’s the world’s first Beach Hut Advent Calendar where Christmas is very much part of Advent.
Advent is a time of waiting and hope. The trouble is that we forget that it’s the Kingdom of God we are waiting for and not Christmas. And it’s a long wait because God takes his time. The reading yesterday was one that I had never really taken in before.

Do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:8)

God’s not going to take any short cuts. If he did he would undermine his merciful nature and break his promise to his people. For the mean time he gives us his Spirit to encourage, strengthen and comfort us – to give good time in the bad times of waiting for wrongs to be righted and for kingdom come.

Franciscan Benediction

May God bless you with DISCOMFORT …
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with ANGER …
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.
May God bless you with TEARS …
To shed for those who suffer from pain,
rejection, starvation and war.
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them
And to turn their pain into JOY.
And may God bless you with enough FOOLISHNESS…
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can DO what others claim cannot be done. Amen
A Franciscan Benediction

>Put no trust in oppression; in robbery take no empty pride;
Though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
God spoke once, and twice have I heard the same,
That power belongs to God.
Psalm 62:10f

So, don’t even try to be powerful – just be yourself.
That is power enough – for each day to turn on the light.

The prayer that concludes today’s psalm (according to the Daily Office):

O God, teach us to seek security,
not in money or theft,
not in human ambition or malice,
not in our own ability or power,
but in you, the only God,
our rock and our salvation.

>Put no trust in oppression; in robbery take no empty pride;
Though wealth increase, set not your heart upon it.
God spoke once, and twice have I heard the same,
That power belongs to God.
Psalm 62:10f

So, don’t even try to be powerful – just be yourself.
That is power enough – for each day to turn on the light.

The prayer that concludes today’s psalm (according to the Daily Office):

O God, teach us to seek security,
not in money or theft,
not in human ambition or malice,
not in our own ability or power,
but in you, the only God,
our rock and our salvation.

>Pause for Reflection

>
This picture is from Estaticist’s photostream and is from Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island called Pause for Reflection.
Sam Wells refers to the way sherpas in the Himalayas will suddenly stop their climbing, put down their equipment and rest – as if waiting for shomething or somebody. This causes great consternation to westerners. “Why do you do that?” The sherpas’ reply is “We have travelled a long way; we are waiting for our souls to catch up with our bodies.”
This seems to represent an essential spiritual discipline – and we westerners need to learn that though we have moved on so fast, and been through so much change, we haven’t always given our souls time to catch up. It is the same principle as the sabbath – a regular time, once a week for us to catch up with ourselves. And for the same reason, we need family holidays and celebrations to allow ourselves to catch up with one another and to realise that we have missed each other in all the busyness.
Sometimes though, our soul is never going to catch up with us. We can wait until the snow melts, but our soul is never going to find us. Being lost like that signals the need for us to retreat – with retreat being another essential spiritual discipline, Retreating far enough helps us regain soul and and the location of what we value most. The story of the Prodigal Son is the classic tale of the retreat of a man who finds all that he ever wanted and all that he ever needed.

Strangers

We have heard it said “beware of strangers” – usually because of what they are liable to take – our jobs, our women, our money.

The Bible encourages us to welcome the stranger. Many are mentioned in the Bible as people who are welcomed as gifts from God (like Melchizedek, Pharoah, Ruth, Queen of Sheba, the Canaanite woman – and many others). Jesus himself is seen as a stranger and sees himself as a stranger – he sees himself in the outsider, the poor, the prisoner and the sick and teaches his disciples to recognise him in the stranger and outsider. (Matthew 25)

We have much to learn about entertaining strangers. Here’s one story which Sam Wells tells in his book, God’s Companions. It is about a couple who go on holiday and take a lift to a scenic viewpoint. They had a Muslim guide. They rushed off to take some photographs, and then realised that they had not seen their guide for some time. Walking around a corner they saw him, semi-prostrate, praying to God. They were humbled realising how they and he had spent the last 15 minutes. They talked about this when they got home and shared this prayer with their congregation:

“If I love thee for hope of heaven, then deny me heaven;
If I love thee for fear of hell, then deny me hell;
But if I love thee for thyself alone, then give me thyself alone.”

People were confused when they discovered it was a Muslim prayer, but the couple who had been on the holiday pointed out that just as the guide had been a gift to them in jolting their spiritual complacency, so this prayer could also be a gift – perhaps dispelling some ignorance and prejudice about Islam.