Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The paper airplane test

During my ongoing quest for a church to attend I have devised a genius test. I’m calling it: 'The paper airplane test'.
The criteria are simple:
  • If I’m sitting in a new church, listening to a sermon, do I feel free enough to make a paper airplane and throw it?
  • If ‘no’ - avoid church in future.
  • If ‘yes’ – consider attending church.
It sounds childish, but this is a test for people of all ages and it does have some rationale.
I’m not suggesting I should throw the airplane at the preacher during his sermon (although I like to think that if one of the disciples did that during a parable, Jesus would find it highly amusing and not look at them as if they had just performed their own mini 9/11).

The next time I’m in a church I shall see if I feel free enough to do it. If there is a stifling, constrained atmosphere then maybe the church has failed the test. Of course the church in question may say that it is my fault that I feel that way and they can’t be held responsible for my feelings. Talk about shirking responsibilities! I’m having none of this! If I have stomach ache in church whose fault is it? Hmm? Hmm? That’s right – it’s God’s fault – and by sheer spiritual delegation the church’s fault (never mind what I ate beforehand!).

The serious point I'm trying to make is that in a church, a person should feel a degree of freedom of thought and expression. A person shouldn’t feel worse at the end of a church service than when they went in. The bible explicitly states: 'Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom'. So I think it is a reasonable test to see just how present the Holy Ghost is within a church service.

I think I may be able to extend the paper airplane test to any situation or place. A surgery waiting room, a train, pub or restaurant. The possibilities are endless...

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Stories make the world go round

Stories make the world go round. Not money. Not love. It's true - look around you, there are stories everywhere. On TV there are soap stories, films, news stories. There are newspapers full of stories, there are countless novels and short stories in bookshops and magazines full of true life stories. The internet is full of all kinds of stories, videos and blogs. People relate to each other through story, 'I went into town today and you'll never guess what happened...'.

Your life is a story. History is a story. We are the heroes and heroines in our own stories, our own protagonists, kings and queens in miniature eclectic kingdoms.

There are a million and one diaries out there with the hidden thoughts, feelings and records of individuals who have the patience to see their life in terms of a story, a sequence of significant events. Some of the stories are honest, some are lies, some are true, some are exaggerated. Some are more believable than others.

If life is a story, it isn't too strange that no chapter can be repeated in exactly the same way. Past chapters can be romanticized.
'It was better back then.'
'Those were my glory days'.
Can't they happen again?
'There was less fear in the past'.
'It was safer'.
The past is always safe.

Sometimes characters in the stories leave us. New characters appear. Sometimes there are antagonists. There are challenges and themes and ironies. There has to be a plot. It has to be something - even history is a plot full of particular events.

How are we supposed to enjoy the present scene and characters when we are still thinking about the past or wrapped up in the future? Or if the present is intolerable, how are we supposed to be proactive enough to give ourselves our happily ever afters?

By acknowledging that the fear will always be there. By acting even when there is fear. By not romanticising a past which was never as good as it seemed.

After the second world war there were two kinds of people who came through it. There were those who looked back on the war-days with a kind of rose-tinted nostalgia.
They would say: 'People got together, communities worked together, everyone was in the same boat, we had good friends and we were united.'
Then there were others who said: 'It was a scary time and we were afraid'.
Who was being more honest?

Stories make the world go round.

Write yours well.