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Pick a card, any card

07 December 2012

HOW would you feel about Tarot cards at your Christmas bazaar? And is your mood improved to hear of a stall at a recent church-based Mind, Body, Spirit fair which offered "Christian card readings"? I noted a lull in business, and took my place in the queue.

"Simon," the man said as I sat down.

"How did you know that?" I said. "That's very clever. I'm impressed."

"No," he said, "my name's Simon."

"Oh, I see," I replied. "Well, I'm even more impressed by your honesty."

And then we got down to business, and the nub of it was this: a Christian card reading is a combination of Bible study, therapy, and chance. I was asked to cut the pack myself, and then four cards were laid out in front of me, one from each Gospel. Each card displayed a scene from the Gospel, with a few words highlighted.

I chose one, and the card reader then reflected on the words, giving me some historical setting and theological significance. He then, in a deft change of gear, began to apply these ideas to me, based on his impressions of who I was. (For the record, I had chosen Luke 2.30, "Mine eyes have seen salvation.")

I was wary of a psychological car-crash ahead. In the hands of the wrong person, our brief card relationship was an accident waiting to happen. I had been with him only a minute, and here he was, armed with a Bible verse, daring to im-agine that he knew me in some way.

With my manipulation radar on red alert, the omens were not good - but, fortunately, he was. I had said nothing about myself, offered no clues, but this card reader re-vealed a quite profound understanding of my psyche. My suspicious soul melted in his presence as he asked me to turn over another card, a further Gospel scene, with a few words highlighted (John 13.34: "A new commandment I give you: love one another"). Again, he spoke briefly about the meaning of the words, and then brought his insight to bear on my life.

"Cold reading", in all its different forms, has a poor track record. Practitioners are adept at talking in banal generalities that simply reinforce the grandiose self-perception of the client: "I can see that you don't suffer fools gladly. . . You do things your own way. . . an in-dependent spirit," etc.

But my friend with the cards did not spin me some yarn about the Lord leading me into a wonderful new ministry; neither did he batter me with things that he thought I ought to hear. Instead, he displayed precise and sensitive knowledge about my inner workings which few have noticed before.

Truth is an elusive mistress during the wearying slog up Advent Hill. But it could be that a surprise is on the cards.


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