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Prepare for the child: December 2005

By the time you read this, the Christmas lights will already have been switched on for a week or more. Advertisements for Christmas catalogues and presents for all the family abound on television, and restaurants have been booking for Christmas meals since late September. And every year the countdown seems to start further back.

Accentuate the positive: November 2005

At this time of year, we may well agree with Thomas Hood's gloomy appraisal:
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds.
November!

Prayer postponed? October 2005

I've just come back from a four-day conference to find a big pile of letters on my doormat. When I went up to my study, I found another pile of letters on my desk I'd been too busy to read before going. My heart sank at having to wade through all that mass of words - opening each letter, reading it, acting upon what I'd read, throwing away some, filing others...

Lifelong learning: September 2005

Summer's over, and a new year's beginning: not the calendar year, or the tax year, or even the Christian year, but the academic year. We all notice it in little ways - the school run traffic jams are back again! - but some of us have it in our bones. During one of the graduations from Sheffield University I attended last year, I worked out that, from kindergarten to college, I've spent nearly half my life in formal education. So for me September feels both exciting and nerve-racking: new chances to learn, but on the downside, new opportunities to put my foot in my mouth.

Order and chaos: July 2005

They say, ‘A change is as good as a rest' - but don't believe them! Change can be a wonderful thing, but I am in a position to assure you that it is not at all the same as rest. Still, having survived my first few weeks here, I'm starting to feel a little more settled in Sheffield now. I know my local bus route; my milk gets delivered to the door; I'm beginning to meet familiar faces on the bus and in the pews (my embarrassed apologies to those of you whose names still escape me) and my bookcases are constructed and filled, by topic and in alphabetical order.

God speaks now: June 2005

I've been spending much of my time recently wondering how life in Sheffield will unfold, and sympathising with Jesus' disciples when he firmly told them not to worry about little things like where the next meal was coming from or, just now for me, where I'm going to find a permanent address. I don't know about you, but I don't always find it easy to leave the worries of tomorrow to sort themselves out, and focus on the realities of today. Sometimes it is much easier living in tomorrow or yesterday, which don't really exist, at the expense of today.

Friendship: April 2005

Dear Friends

Women in Christianity

This subject in particular is one that arouses strong feelings and prejudices in people who are religious, as well as people who are not. It’s very easy to try to claim our own religion is good for women by comparing it with other religions and making them look worse. But this afternoon I’ll try not to do that, but to look at the question as I have been given it: what is the status of women in Christianity? As we usually do in Christianity, I’ll begin with the Bible. And the Bible contains both bad and good news for women. So I’ll start with the bad news: with Eve.

Prayer

PRAYER the Churches banquet, Angels age,
Gods breath in man returning to his birth,
The soul in paraphrase, heart in pilgrimage,
The Christian plummet sounding heav’n and earth ;
Engine against th’ Almightie, sinner's towre,
Reversed thunder, Christ-side-piercing spear,
The six daies world-transposing in an houre,
A kinde of tune, which all things heare and fear ;
Softnesse, and peace, and joy, and love, and blisse,
Exalted Manna, gladnesse of the best,
Heaven in ordinarie, man well drest,

Our attitude to money and possessions

I’ve found this talk harder to prepare than most of the others in this series. This is partly because I have no training as an economist, but it may also say something about the difficulties Christians in the developed world have integrating their faith in God and this part of their lives. Jesus said, Wherever your treasure is, your heart will be there; I suspect that, whatever we say we believe, many of us treasure our money and our possessions as much as our faith in God.

Ironically, one of my favourite stories about Jesus adds to our difficulty.

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