We are back to brain fog, yet again. Today I excelled myself - yet again - by turning up to the doctor's in central London a day early. I am so annoyed with myself, all that happened was that I'd written it in the wrong day in my diary. But it's such a waste of energy. On the positive side I was at the right place, at the right time, just on the wrong day. Unfortunately the doctor wasn't in until 4pm that day either, so I couldn't be fitted in somewhere.
I'm so angry with myself about it, energy is in such short supply and to manage to waste so much achieving nothing and only having to go in again next week, it's infuriating. I used to be so sharp and bright, now look at me. I suppose it's good for humility...?
In any other business I have started reading Rob Bell's book Velvet Elvis. A thought provoking and honest look at and grapple with what it means to follow Jesus. I especially liked his footnote to read everything John Piper has ever written, when he was discussing joy in God. I can see how if you took bits of what he is saying, alone and outside the context of his overall argument, it would seem that he is "unsound" (as many Christians I know would put it). However, he emphasises throughout that it is a book of ideas that are to be wrestled with, not a solid, finished, polished argument or doctrine, to be put into a glass case and considered finished. At first I was distinctly unsure about the book, particularly as I can find his "Nooma" dvds irritating, at times they seem very rooted in modern psychological ideas and I find the presentation style hard to concentrate on. Some of this is me, a large part of it is me, but sometimes they do seem to be in place of engaging with the Bible as a group, in fact in the way that he advocates in Velvet Elvis.
So far in my reading - I think I am in the second chapter - I have particularly liked the way he has explained some of the Jewish background to the Gospels and indeed to our faith. Despite the new Pauline theology we are rather inclined to view the New Testament through somewhat Lutheran eyes - by this I mean through the eyes of the sixteenth century Reformation and all that came after it. Some of the more bewildering bits, especially of Matthew, now make a little more sense, given their context.
Rob Bell's metaphor of choice for how he wants his faith to be is a trampoline, which I like. While of course the usual caveats surrounding analogies need to be borne in mind (i.e. they are only of limited utility to help understand an idea, they are not perfect images or explanations of the idea itself), a trampoline is still a trampoline in its essence and being, whether it is flat or flexing as people come into contact with it as they bounce. A similar way of putting this (or a slightly related idea) is as Adrian Plass describes towards the end of the second volume of his Sacred Diaries, to walk the narrowest possible path ourselves while trying to reach out as wide as we can to others. In the same way our faith is still in Jesus, even if the church, the way we do things, our interpretation of some aspects of the Bible, the tools we use (e.g. new technologies) and the way in which we relate to the society in which we live change and flex with the times and the circumstances. The Bible is a living book (see Hebrews 4.12) and as such we must relate to it and struggle and wrestle with what it says (much as Jacob did with the 'angel' in Genesis 32). Though as Rob Bell qualifies we need to do so with humility and the Holy Spirit. God is (Exodus 3) and we need to explore who He is, what He has said and what this means for us and how we live our lives, (not create our own impression of god).
While I was in the bath just now I was chewing over all these ideas, feeling quite excited at the intellectual stimulus, being able to think, having something to think about. Then I remembered (or was reminded?) that actually it is the faith I have in the living God, in Jesus on the cross dying for me, in the Holy Spirit living in me, that matters, more than anything intellectual. It's that still small voice (1 Samuel 19) that helps me through each day and helps me keep some sort of grip on life, that makes sense and says that one day it's going to be more than OK, to hold on, that's what matters. Humbling too, because enjoyable and absorbing as intellectual activity is, what Jesus has done is what is truly vital, in every sense of that word.