Posts Tagged ‘Christian Life’

Hanging up my blogging boots

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Hope you had a blessed Lent and Easter.

I enjoyed my Lenten blogging break a little too much.

The break afforded me a lovely opportunity to indulge some of my other interests, and not reading blogs and news feeds and controversies and persecutions and so forth, actually precipitated an unexpected buoyancy of mood.

The break reminded me how much of my spare time is consumed in the blogging endeavour, squeezing out  time to pursue other activities and interests.

What I’m trying to say is the time has come for me to bow out of the blogosphere. This isn’t a snap decision but one I have pondered at length.

It has been a marvelous four years in which I have blogged nearly every day and sometimes multiple times a day. I’ve met some great folk, both in person and virtually. My own faith has been transformed through the many conversations, dueling, and patient reasoning of good cyber folk.

The landscape of the Christian blogosphere has changed somewhat over the last four years, with the loss of some superb thinkers; thankfully, swiftly replaced with many more of the same. There are now more ‘specialised’ bloggers focusing on such diverse topics as: law, politics, mental health, statistics, philosophy, ethics, medical, disability, foreign policy, humour, and so on, from  a Christian vantage.

I often wished I were knowledgeable enough on a particular topic to have a specialised area within which to write, but have been prone to flitting from subject to subject at a shallower level than my contemporaries. This has both advantages and disadvantages. I can honestly say I never blogged from a position of authority on any topic, but sought more to transparently share my own journey, revelations, fascinations and learning, be that for good or ill.

I have blogged in all mood states, which I’m somewhat painfully aware is quite exposing for someone with an abnormal mind and personality. But I took the risk and am glad I did so.

I will still be contactable on Twitter; however, my ‘handle’ has now changed from eChurchBlog to ChiefMentalist – far more fitting I’m sure you will agree.

I bid the blogosphere farewell and hope I meet you all on the other side.

In Jesus, as always - Stuart x

Giving up blogging for Lent

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

I am giving up blogging for Lent.

I’m waiting for my new Kindle to arrive which Wifey kindly purchased for my birthday, and she has a reading list ready for me to replenish my spiritual life.

Feel free to suggest any ‘essential’ reading you feel I should purchase in this endeavour.

Caral and Edmund may post in my absence, but that’s not confirmed and is up to them.

I really do need to renew myself spiritually and will hopefully return raring to go.

I’m still on Twitter if you want to touch base.

Have a wonderful Lent and may it be spiritually refreshing and renewing for us all.

Dr Gerhard Roth: Dark side of the brain where evil lurks, Grace and Neuroplasticity

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

A German neurologist claims to have identified a specific brain configuration within which he says ‘evil lurks”. Measuring brain waves on violent criminals whilst watching ‘brutal scenes’ revealed a “dark patch” in their frontal brain. This area believed to be responsible for compassion and sorrow, showed no activity.

Dr Roth’s research has led him to believe “that some criminals have a ‘genetic predisposition’ to violence.”

This strikes me as rather deterministic which seems to be the trend of modern neurology and Dr Roth cites a 66% probability of an adolescent with this brain anomaly going on to become a felon.

But then Dr Roth makes this observation:

Dr Roth believes that criminal mental decline “begins in the kindergarten”, but a positive parental environment and strong societal support can easily stop the child going on to offend.

Equally, a negative domestic situation could easily lead to a child otherwise moderately pre-disposed to violence, to become a hardened criminal.

This almost seems to contradict the earlier determinism.

Last year I spoke with a clinical psychologist on the subject of psychopathy and the observation that stood out most starkly for me was from her experience of psychopaths, the vast majority had experienced a childhood of extreme brutality and neglect.

With the growing understanding of Neuroplasticity or ‘Brain Plasticity’ within which physical brain changes in neural pathways and synapses can occur as a result of environment and behaviour changes, can we write anyone off as simply ‘genetic predisposed’ to violence?

As an relevant example of Neuroplasticity I read recently of soldiers suffering PTSD as a result of combat had evidence of neurological brain changes.

As with everything pertaining to the nature / nurture debate I suspect that physical brain abnormalities of ‘dark patches where evil lurks’ are as much a product of the environment as anything else. And it would seem that Dr Roth also holds that view with his comments on ‘positive parental environment and strong societal support’.

I assume that Dr Roth here is advocating an environmental buffer against genetic predisposition.

I don’t believe that any single person is beyond the pale of God’s grace. To accept that they are, is in some way, for me, to denigrate God, or undermine his salvific power.

There may of course be those so given to their evil inclinations they would reject the grace and light of God. But I would not view this as deterministic, but of self-will.

The question I would dearly love to have answered: Are there Neuroplastic changes when a person accepts faith in God? As this process may involve complete reversal in thinking and behaviour (and possibly environment), especially for the adult convert, could this precipitate positive neurological changes?

Just wondering……

UPDATE: Thinking on it would be interesting to compare the recidivism rates between criminal Christian converts and others. If the recidivism rate is reduced in violent criminal converts, then could this potentially be evidence of neuroplasticity in action?

I don’t know of any research of this type, but would be very interesting….

How to Write a Worship Song in 5 Minutes

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Thought I’d pop this on to give you some insight into the creative process behind my upcoming album:

Lead Kindly Light – Blessed John Henry Newman

Friday, February 1st, 2013

LEAD, Kindly Light, amid the encircling gloom

Lead Thou me on!

The night is dark, and I am far from home-

Lead Thou me on!

Keep Thou my feet; I do not ask to see

The distant scene – one step enough for me.

 

I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that Thou

Shouldst lead me on.

I loved to choose and see my path, but now

Lead Thou me on!

I loved the garish day, and, in spite of fears,

Pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

 

So long Thy power hath blest me, sure it still

Will lead me on,

Over moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till

The night is gone;

And with the morn those angel faces smile

Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

 

Quote of the Day

Friday, January 25th, 2013

I am convinced that boredom is one of the greatest tortures. If I were to imagine Hell, it would be the place where you were continually bored. – Erich Fromm, The Dogma of Christ

I’ve always known I was fundamentally flawed

Friday, January 25th, 2013

It’s true, I have always been painfully aware that my personality is fundamentally flawed. In response to this I spent many years carefully observing others and trying my hardest to clone their behviour in a poor attempt to appear ‘normal’.

When I was heavily ensconced in the Charismatic world I felt I must have been walking around with an invisible (to me) sign on my forehead: “Pray for me”.

Folk literally couldn’t wait to lay their grubby hands on my head and pray for me to be ‘healed’ and ‘stable’ and know the love of God in my heart, etc etc.

I never asked for their prayers by the way, it was almost as if I was on some secret Charismatic list under the heading ‘troubled, needs prayer’.

When this didn’t work, it was insinuated that I had sin in my life. Bloody right I did and that got me thinking that perhaps I was the only one. Horrible.

The truth is they perceived my mental and personality instability as something that must be cured by God. Something evil.

It’s taken me many years to turn this thinking on its head.

God made me as I am. If I take away those aspects of my personality and cognitive processes that have been with me since I can remember, then I would no longer be me. I would be someone else. How could I possibly wish for that? I wouldn’t know what it would be like and what kind of person I’d be.

The truth is, my mental problems frequently bring me low, embarrassed and humbled, and I no longer view this entirely negatively.

God has me exactly where he wants me, there’s a work to be done, that’s for sure, but he will do it through me using my warts and all.

As today is the feast of ‘St. Paul’s conversion’ I must turn to his words for comfort.

Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

A thorn in the flesh denotes to me consistent pain. It doesn’t come and go, just like my mental problems.

I have finally turned it all upside down.

The Grace I have received through being weak and flawed is staggering.

May I never be ‘healed’, but may I know him more fully through my weakness.

Theology of Disability

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

I just stumbled on a post entitled: Crooked Healing: Disability, Vocation and the Theology of the Cross.

Written by Kelby Carlson, himself a disabled chap, he looks at the ‘theology of disability’ through the prism of the Doctrine of Vocation and the Theology of the Cross.

This post is singularly excellent. Carlson clearly and harmoniously articulates so much of which has been ruminating around my own disjointed mind for some time.

I can’t encourage you enough to take the time to hop over and read.

Brilliant stuff…..

Hat-tip: First Things

When You Just Can’t Pray

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Marc Cortez has a superb post on a paper arguing the priesthood of all believers has replaced the priesthood of Christ to the detriment of our practice of worship and understanding of prayer.

Can’t cross-post for copyright reasons, but this so resonated with me I want to link so you can hop over and read for yourself.

A few good links

Monday, January 21st, 2013

A few links I found interesting for one reason or another:

Get Religion – Anti-gay marriage protests prompt ire of the BBC

The Mental Elf – Clinicians should consider referring depressed patients to Internet Support Groups, according to new RCT

iMonk – “Getting Better”

Opinionated Vicar - The National Lottery: pet parasite of the nation

Oxford Human Rights Hub – R (Hodkin): A Signal to Rethink Religious Worship

Society for Christian Psychology – Redemption and Restoration

Dr Robert Cargill – Is the Internet bringing about the end of organized religion?

PsychCentral – Lance Armstrong: Narcissist or “Optimist”?

Believer’s Brain – 4 Things Not To Say to a Depressed Christian

Normblog – Telling stories to win an argument

Patheos: Science and Religion – Do you believe in magic? Seriously.

The Emotionally Sensitive Person – Sunsets and Math Problems: Appreciating the Difference

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