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As a writer, people often say to me, ‘Hey Alan, I’ve got a great idea for a book.’ I’m sorry to say that, most of the time they don’t 😦

However, a couple of years ago, my friend Carrie Kingston broke that trend when she told me about a book she wanted to write. I told a commissioning editor I knew who agreed that the project would result in a great and much-needed book. And now everyone else can read it.

I may get around to reviewing Children in the Way? at some point, but don’t wait for me. If you work with children, get a hold of a copy, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

In the mean time, here is some blurb to whet your appetite:

How do we create a church environment that takes proper account of the way children learn? . . . Our grasp of how children learn has developed sharply in recent years. Nurseries and schools constantly review their approach, but churches sometimes employ inadequate practices . . . Carrie Kingston and Isobel MacDougall draw on their immense experience to help churches ensure that children’s encounters with church are positive and enriching.

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Last year I was asked to contribute the lead essay for the book, Developing Ears to Hear. To quote the cover blurb, ‘This is a book about listening. It is about active, engaged listening which discovers,in the process, redemptive moments which can bring healing, hope, and a renewed sense of direction and purpose in relationships. The authors are all practiced in listening, whether it be listening in worship, listening to those we are discipling, or really listening to the Word of God through the practice of lectio divina. This collection of essays is a prescription for a new period of health and vitality for the church.’

My own essay was titled, Why Listen?: Considering Contemporary Culture, Christianity and the value of Listening. To give a flavour here is the concluding paragraph:

I would want to argue that, it is both appropriate and challenging to suggest that, like post-Exodus Israel, the people of this world need to live with the knowledge that when they cry out the Church of Christ hears their cries and is both willing and able to respond. As Lucy Winkett wishes to say, listening to individuals and communities around us, ‘reveals a variety of involuntary, visceral lamenting sounds in reaction to forces of destruction.’1 Therefore, wherever real needs exist, the church has a God-given, Christ-inspired mandate to listen and so be engaged: Asylum, poverty, people-trafficking, housing, education, employment, healthcare, youth issues, crime, marriage, community development, the environment, urban regeneration, international relief, trade justice, globalisation, human rights, taxation, addiction, discrimination, care for the elderly, foreign policy, and metal health, and so the list goes on. ‘All listening begins and ends in God. The God who listens in infinite compassion is the God who creates in each of us the desire to listen to him, to his world, to each other, to ourselves so that, filled with his Spirit, we might continue his work here on earth.’2

1 Lucy Winkett, Sound, 48.
2Anne Long, Listening, 179.

THANK YOU.

I’m heading off to Greenbelt again this year to hook up with friends old and new and to do a little contributing in the Abide venue on Friday night (9.00pm). Below is the blurb I sent Greenbelt . . .

ALLOTMENT ATONEMENT

Reflective voices weave together the transforming nature of the atonement with the socially inclusive, politically challenging and environmentally and economically transforming process that is working the land. Many tend to think of turning a piece of land over to growing as an escape from the world: a tranquil oasis and a retreat from the chaos and challenges of life. In reality, there is a long history of seeing land given over to growing, as something much more radical. The hope is to enliven people’s imaginations to the possibility that having an allotment, turning your garden over to food production, or even redeeming a local wasteland, is more than just good for the soul – it can be an act of holistic transformation in line with Jesus’ pragmatic vision of the Kingdom of God and a fuller understanding of the atonement.

The Five Acts of Harry Patch
‘The Last Fighting Tommy’
by Andrew Motion

I.

A curve is a straight line caught bending
and this one runs under the kitchen window
where the bright eyes of your mum and dad
might flash any minute and find you down
on all fours, stomach hard to the ground,
slinking along a furrow between the potatoes
and dead set on a prospect of rich pickings,
the good apple trees and plum trees and pears,
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I was flicking around in i-tunes and came across the album ‘Angels’ by Dan le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip. For obvious reasons I was drawn to the track ‘Letter From God to Man’.

I was going to comment, but that seemed inappropriate given the drive of the lyric, so I’ll leave you to make your own interpretative errors.

Lyrics are below, but do check out the video on myspace.

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For those of you who missed it and would like to know what I said, here is my thought for today from BBC Radio Bristol’s Breakfast Programme.

Given the conversation Dave Barrat was having with his listeners this week, I’m just pleased to have made it to the weekend. Apparently, according to some scientists, we may be close to a global catastrophe – the end of the world even. And so, what Dave wanted to know was, ‘If the end of the world really is coming, how would you spend your last few days or hours?’ Would you sell all your belongings and go and live in a cave? Would you stop worrying about the credit crunch, perhaps, and blow all your money on luxuries? Or just tell the boss where to stick his job and spend your time with those you love?
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Danny wallace join meIn recent times there has been a spate of initiatives that have at the heart of them the same basic idea – Random acts of kindness. The comedian, Danny Wallace did it with his ‘Join Me’ campaign and the subsequent development of the Karma Army. So to the church here in the UK with Love Life, Live Lent.

In some ways, I find these initiatives rather inspirational.

But I also find them rather saddening.

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PoppiesThey shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

I read today that the Killer of the head teacher, Philip Lawrence, has successfully appealed against his deportation to Italy (should he be released next year after serving a minimum 12 year sentence) on the grounds that it would breach his human rights.

Naturally, this has raised questions as to the implementation and extent of an individual’s human rights, over and above that of another person, or indeed the wider community.

Many commentators are outraged that a convicted killer should appeal to the ideal of human rights (and win their case) when their own actions have undermined one of the foundations of the entire declaration: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person. Indeed, Philip Lawrence’s own widow has stated that she is, ‘unutterably depressed that the Human Rights Act has failed to encompass the rights of my family to lead a safe, secure and happy life.’

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