Thursday, 29 March 2012

Lift your hands

Have just arrived back from a prayer meeting at HTB, South Kensington. Again, quite something, maybe a little unexpected. Lots of prayer and some nice songs. Slightly different musical set-up. DJ and lights, one could be forgiven for thinking one had stepped into a club. Maybe this is modern worship, gosh I am sounding old.!

What did we sing? The usual suspects: Matt Redman, Tim Hughes etc. Who did we pray for? Syria and everything associated with the Olympics. Lots of prophetic words and pictures. Some Arabs praying in Arabic for the Middle East. At least I managed to fight off some of my cynicism and just concentrate on a few things. Not sure if I feel quite so inspired as I did last time. Need to restore my heart, or sometime like that. Last time, I could not stop singing.

Perhaps I am a little tired today! Up early before eight am  because I needed to complete the home improvement schedule that is taking place at my flat.  I was up until five am sorting out the little room. So I think I have a five hour sleep deficit.

Have not had a chance to read anything inspiring this week.

I went to a child protection course on Monday at the Institute of Child Health - more like a refresher course really but very helpful.  When I go back to work on Monday, I have a lot of work to do! Did not really go anywhere on Tuesday and Wednesday  - a slight hermit like exisistance.  However sometimes being at home is just nice. I went to the women's prayer breakfast at WBC on Saturday morning. It was nice. The speaker was the vicar's wife from All Saint in Woodford Green. She spoke about worry, cannot remember much of it now - except for verse 4 in psalm 37: 'Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart'.

Government started a petrol scare because the tanker drivers are threatening to strike. The teachers have already had their strike (pensions) on Wednesday.  I tried to resist panic buying because in reality their is no shortage of petrol and there has been no strike announced.  However my petrol tank was nearly empty and I thought that given everybody else is buying all the petrol, I bought £30 worth of petrol instead on the usual £10 that I buy just to keep the car going.  However £30 only fills the tank half full at £1.38 pence per litre.

The only place I went to today was Walthamstow and Leytonstone.  The Queen came to North London! First Valentine's Park, then Waltham Forest Town Hall and then Harrow. We went to Walthamstow but it seems we missed her! So took pictures of the posters instead!

So, that was this week so far. Three more days of annual leave and then back to work!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Born believers?

So I am reading the 'God Edition' of the New Scientist. I was interested in an article by Justin Barrett (Director of the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in California). I am just going to write down some of his thoughts, so that I can make sense of them.

"Music usually has to be drummed into us by teaching, repitition and practice. And yet in other domains, such as language or walking, virtually everybody is natural; we are all "born speaker" and "born walkers". So what about religion? Is it more like music or language?"

JB argues that religion comes to us as naturally as language. He says that we are naturally inclined to find religious claims and expectation attractive and easily acquired, and we can easily attain fluency in using them. JB suggests that we all share an intuition that the apparant order and design that we see in the world requires an agent to bring it about. He describes a number of studies that have been performed looking at babies and children and their responses things that they have been shown (video animations or objects that form part of their day to day existance). To make sense of the world babies divide things into 'agents' and physcial objects - agents being things that can act on their environment i.e. people, animals and gods. Some studies in children suggest that they believe that 'supernatural agents' are all seeing and all knowing compared to humans, something akin to the development of theory of mind. In his closing paragraphs he states

"children do not need to be indoctrinated to believe in god. They naturally gravite towards the idea"

JB suggests that

"these various features of developing minds - an attraction to agent-based explanations, a tendency to explain the natural world in terms of design and purpose, an assumption that others have superpowers - makes children naturally receptive to the idea that there may be one or more god which helps account for the world around them."

So children have a natural tendency towards religion but not anyone particular belief. His final words are

"the way our minds solve problems generates a god-shaped conceptual space waiting to be filled by the details of the culture into which they are born."

Human beings are complex! I found this article interesting because I spend my time learning and thinking about how children learn, assessing development in children under 5. I never really thought about religion in any of that. Which of course is odd because I spent at least two years teaching at Sunday school, the preschool children. I guess both sets of children were very different - which is why I find this so fascinating. The children in the Sunday school - could all write and tell me who God or Jesus was. Some could talk about prayer. Some would talk about Jesus as if he was a real and tangible presence in their lives/homes (which of course is the basic tenant of Christianity, so I am not so sure why I am so suprised). I, quite frankly was humbled by it all. What did I teach them - to be good to one another, to thank God for all things, as well as how to sing, draw, do puzzles, colour pictures, make pretend food to take on pretend buses to go to pretend picnics in the park. I taught them about eyes, ears, hands, feet, the job of doctors, nurses, policemen, firemen, how to fish., how to pretend to fly, how to pretend to row a boat. Sunday school class is hard work but lots of fun. I never really knew how much of anything they took in and I always assumed that the children that seemed to arrive primed with a preknowledge of God and Jesus, learnt this at home from their parents. Especially since I knew, many of the parents and know that they regularly prayed for and with their children and God was very much part of their lives, not just for Sundays.

So very different from the children that come to my clinic.  I cannot speak for children whose families practice other faiths and I have never even had a conversation about faith because it is not why they come to see me. However I just wonder how 'religion' works in children whose developmental level, never really goes past that of a child of 1 or 2 years. Despite what the article above says - their needs to be some cognitive input from a child, they need to be able to process things from the outside world and express them. If they simply cannot do this - does that mean that they are not Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddist, Sikh etc? Does it really matter?


So, day 5 of annual leave and I spent the afternoon in Imperial College, learning how to teach medical students.  It was an interesting afternoon. It made me think about how I was going to change my current strategy with the medical students, maybe making things a little more practical. Hmm, I am not sure how that will work in our clinics but may set up teaching sessions that are less passive.  Although currently I think what I do, set questions that the medical students have to go away and research, is reasonable.  Similar I think to what I used to do as a medical student.

I was a medical student for 6 years.  It seems so long along now! I remember that I would just read all the time. Reading and making notes - seems like a luxury now.

So after the teaching, I went along to the  Creperie. I ate a Norwegian crepe - delicious. Salmon, new potato, basil and cheese. This was followed by a  strawberry smoothie and waffle and icecream. Lovely, just lovely.  The only thing missing was some company. However for the first time in a long time, I was really not fussed. It was nice to just watch people go by. The mother and daughter, the old married couple, the group of friends. Normally when I somehow end up at a resturant/cafe alone, I am filled with a sense of despair but not today.  I do not know why. Just filled with peace today.

Walked to Knightsbridge station, taking pictures all the way.  However, I have deleted most of them.  They just did not look right - I have not quite got the knack of night photography. Will have to read about that in my little photography book.

As for tomorrow. I am not sure. I have signed up for a women's breakfast at Church - if I can get up in time! I am not sure what that will be about, half-tempted to stay at home and use the time to catch-up on all the work that I brought from work to work on. Some of it is still in the boot of my car! There are policies I need to read, articles to write, it is in fact almost overwhelming. Anyhow, anyhow. Tomorrow is another day.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Food for thought

This picture marked the beginning of pleasant evening of food and music. The only home cooked food is the akara (in the corner). This was kindly cooked by my mother. I think making this food is an art form, as I can never cook it quite like my mother. Also I wonder if am not just a little lazy! The whole process is rather time consuming. You start by soaking the black-eye beans. Then you have to remove the black eyes( I have been told by one of the social workers at work, that there are shops in Dalston market that sell blackeye beans with the eyes removed). Then puree with some pepper (scotch bell peppers) and onion and a little bit of water. The you have to fry the mixure to create little beancakes. This is the bit that requires experience. I can never make the akara to be just the right texture and taste but it is fun trying. And the best way to eat akara...? With custard of course! I think I perhaps have a peculiar palette because I have never met any other Nigerian's outside my family that appreciate this combination. But it is the most heavenly dish!

Since then I have cooked a Mother's day meal. Gelloff rice, salmon and plantain. It is a strange mix of foods. However the gellof rice and the plantain washed down with Supermalt is very comforting. Suffice to say, the meal was enjoyed by all. It is in fact the birthday meal that I have at home, except the salmon is replaced with chicken!

Got sent an e-mail from a friend about sharing reciepes. It is a funny chain type thing but of the nice kind. Realised that the dish I could make without too much fuss and bother was gelloff rice. It is so simple to make and rather delicious. So  I have e-mailed my 'Westernised' verson of this rice and I hope that the other peron (who I do not know) enjoys making the rice and eating it. I wait for other people to send me recipes. The instructions were to send it to 20 friends but I soon realised that I did not have 20 friends! Five at the most and that was pushing it. Bit of an eye opener for me...


So here I am, up in the wee small hours, tapping away on the keyboard. I am not sure I have anything new and of interest to write!

I am in day four of my annual leave.  It has so far been fairly unproductive. I am not sure I have many plans other than to hide away in my little flat.

Seems there was a budget today, need to go through the fine details.  Everybody is up in arms. Unpleasant things are unfolding in France, Toulouse.

Today I went to central London, to attend a teaching session on autism and attachment disorders. It was interesting and thought provoking. Sat in the Park outside Great Ormond Street Hospital and Queen's Square and enjoyed feeling the sun on my face. Remembered briefly a time when I left Queen's Square skipping down the road with relief. Had a nice meal with an old friend.

This evening managed to catch 'Waterloo Road' and the 'Apprentice'. Seems that that is my Wednesday nights sorted for the next few weeks. And I wonder why I am still single! Well actually, I do not give it much thought, save that when the right one comes along, the right one will come along. Suffice to say that the whole internet dating 'thing' has not been successful! Neither have well-meaning maternal set- ups. I do not think I am 'too picky', just think the right person has not arrived yet.

The last date I went on was in January and was a fairly pleasant walk along the SouthBank and a warm drink at the Tate Modern. However, I have not heard from the other person since. I cannot say that I am upset. This whole process is so detached from reality.

Last Wednesday I did my last volunteering shift at the homeless shelter at St Pauls, Onslow square. It was, again another pleasant evening. Some of the same people, some of the same lively chats. Opened my eyes a little to other people's faiths, cultures and lives.

I have started the Mentoring and Discipleship course, have so far managed to attend 3 evenings out of 4. It has proved to be quite interesting. I have really learnt much about myself and other people. I have realised that one really needs to know oneself before one can even hope to help others. I realised, that in the realm of mentoring in the Christian context, one needs to have a real understanding of one's relationship with God and how that might be reflected in the relationship with a mentee. In the last session we took part in some role play exercises that I felt were so helpful in understanding our behaviours towards one another. I think I learnt that as a mentee, it can be difficult to know who to listen to, who to trust. It can difficult to know what your focus and goals might be. It is difficult not to be distracted by other people, who have their own opinions about everything. It can be difficult to know whether the people that you are entrusting your thoughts, anxiety, secrets to, are really listening and have your interests at heart. Heart - being central to the whole thing. I did wonder, at many times throughout these sessions, how this type of mentoring was different to other types of mentoring. Somehow, without me asking the question out aloud, it has slowly been revealed to me. Despite my cyncism, I have had to concede that a Christ-centred focus is perphaps a little difference. However, my mind is still questioning all of it and in my usual way, I am also dipping into three books at once: 'Religion for Atheists', 'Take Charge of Your Life with NLP' and 'You Can Be Happy, The Scientifically Proven Way to Change How You Feel'. I am wondering if they do not all have similar themes/methods but subtley different ways of expressing them. Even now I am reminded of the verse in Romans12:2 'Do not confirm to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.' And I wonder if there is a similarity - although in fairness I have neglected to mention the rest of the verse i.e. 'Then you will be able to test what is God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.' I suspect I might not find it in the NLP book. But it will be interesting to read. I am also reading the 'God' edition on the New Scientist. I will let you know what I have read when I eventually finish it.

Until the next time.