Learning to Live

 I realise that I am going to shock some of you, but I need to be honest and level with you. This month I reach the age of 60!! Ok, Ok, I can hear those cries of “Never, I can’t believe it, you only look 40!” However, it is true, I am 60.

Now here is the interesting thing. I love being the age I am. I wish that the things I know now, I knew years ago and I wish I had found out how to have my present relationship with God years ago. I have decided to write down a few things that I have learnt and most of them are learnt only quite recently.  So, here goes in no particular order:-

I have discovered that faith is a glorious uncertainty while touched by a firm conviction in my relationship with the one that I have learnt to encounter.

I have learnt that it is only when sitting in the presence of this divine person that I learn about the personality and character of this one called Eternal Love. There is no other reliable way to learn because encounter always trumps knowledge.

I have learnt that if I dare to sit in silence and stillness, I will always encounter God even if it feels that nothing happens and that such encounter changes me more than any other means.

I have learnt that God is just so much larger, closer and more transcendent and glorious as well as more loving than I imagined just a few years ago.

I have learnt that all of life is. There is no good or bad, right or wrong, in or out, sacred or secular. Living from the knowledge of good and evil just leads to criticism, judgement of others, pride and arrogance.

I have found that it takes years to find out who I really am. And then I learn that it is ok to be myself, my true self. In fact, I have discovered that no one else wants me to be the person that my ego thinks I ought to be and the person it hurts the most when I try to be the image of someone I am not, is myself.

I have learnt that every single human life on this earth is sacred, precious and created in Gods image. That includes the most strange, messed up and different to me. I need to find ways of honouring them as such and I do not need to feel threatened by them.

Jesus doesn’t want me to admire him or worship him. He only wants me to acquire his consciousness.

I have learnt that if my experience of God is different to yours then as long as we are both encountering God, yours is not wrong.

I have learnt that I am not indispensable! I may have a unique gift to bring to this world but this world can survive without me!

I have learnt that when someone’s character or constant behaviour annoys me then that it is just mirroring my own life and I need to learn to adjust that flaw in my life.

I have learnt that giving love and mercy is a sure way to receive love and mercy. In fact, there is only one way to make others more loving and that is by being more loving myself. It is the law of “Blessed are the merciful for they shall receive mercy”. Love begets love and generosity begets generosity!

I have learnt to speak blessing and favour over those who trouble me and I soon find that things change. Then I discover that it is probably me who has changed!

I have learnt to forgive swiftly. Then I find that the person who has been released is actually myself!

I am still learning to live like a child. Full of wonder, acceptance and with a beginners mind that allows lots of possibilities. I have much to learn yet.

I have learnt that pain and setback will be an enemy unless I welcome it as a friend to teach me.

I am still learning that dying needs lots of practice and it is not something that I can have too much of if I am going to be changed into Gods image.

I have learnt that I will never change the world until I first allow myself to be changed.

Learning to live in the present with I Am stops all regrets about the past and prevents any fear for the future. The Kingdom of heaven is always found in the present consciousness.

I have learnt that the desires of a righteous heart always come about.

These are just a few of the things that I have learnt. Part 2 will be available in 10 years’ time and I hope there is even more to read!

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Prince of Peace

It will not be hard to understand the title of this blog bearing in mind this season of the year. We can so often repeat the well-worn verses or familiar carols without too much thought as to what we are singing. This can be because we are busy rushing from one event to another in between wrapping the Christmas presents, ordering the turkey or maybe collecting a nut roast! Strangely, for many of us, and probably our wives in particular, we do not get very much peace at Christmas! But as we will see, this peace has nothing to do with our level of activity. This peace is somewhere you live from however busy you may be.

This week I asked myself the question, “Why is Jesus the Prince of Peace?” It struck me that there is still not much peace in this world and anyway his own life did not end very peacefully. Yes, it is recorded that ordinary people liked being around Jesus so clearly he carried a peace but I believe it is where he came from that gives us a clue about his title. Whilst Jesus was fully man, it seems that he gradually came to the conclusion that he and God were one and so he learnt to live his life out of that divine union with God. I believe that Jesus the man was the union of human and divine in space and time but (Jesus) The Christ is someone even more profound and it is from here that this title originates.

Jesus the Christ is part of the divine presence that we call Trinity. Trinity is the word that Christians use to describe the three fold individual expressions of God. I love the thought that God is community because community requires love, sharing, caring, submission and being at peace with one another. As someone else has said, one is alone, two are company but three are joy and laughter! It is this divine community of peace and joy that gives this title Prince of Peace authority and substance. This peace is something that is real and can be relied upon. It is a divine characteristic that can become part of yours and my experience and integral to our daily living. However, for this to happen we need to learn to access and be part of this heavenly community.

Of course this is the wonderful message that Jesus the man came to teach us. He tells us that spirit and physical, human and divine, heaven and earth are not separate but that God is all in all. He tells us that we too are sons and daughters of divinity just like himself and so if we choose to we also can access and live from that place of deep peace and joyful relationship. Jesus while on earth lived in the continual conscious awareness of God’s presence. That is also why he could claim the title Prince of Peace. We too can learn to live with a conscious awareness of the presence and union of divinity and that can radically change how we see ourselves and each other. That is how we can be at peace with ourselves and at peace with all others around. Peace in this world can only start with peace in my heart and your heart. Jesus shows us how to live from that place of heavenly peace despite the busyness of this Christmas season or indeed any other busy time. I must warn you though that just as with the heavenly community, living in this peace will require submission and death of the self-will. Jesus also demonstrated it will require you to go aside into solitary aloneness for this to happen.

I was recently spending such a time with God and believe that I heard God say to me “Hush be still. You have nothing to be alarmed about, nothing to be anxious about, nothing to be concerned about and certainly nothing to worry about.”  I then saw a picture of a child being held in his mother’s arms. I could sense the comfort, contentment, security and protection and above all I could feel being loved deeply and absolutely. True lasting peace comes from such a mystical experience and not from being told by someone else that you are loved by God or from simply reading that you are loved. The Prince of Peace is still at work in individual hearts the world over. We ourselves can become sons and daughters of Peace by sharing in that divine community of submission, joy, love and peace and living it out within our communities. Oh, and yes, despite my recent experiencing of God as just described, I have been tested on whether I am living from this deep place of peace during a pretty frenetic week!

Joy is not a luxury option; joy is your constant! Your union in the Lord is your permanent source of delight. — Let no anxiety about anything distract you — and in this place of worship and gratitude you will witness how the peace of God within echoes the awareness of your oneness in Christ–. There, Paul says it much better than I can! Philippians. 4:4-7

Thank you for having the patience to stay with my random blogs over the last year. May you and your families know and encounter radical peace over this busy season.

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Falling Leaves.

I love the seasons of the year and the one season I love the most is whichever one we are in! So, I love this autumn just like I did last year but perhaps even more!

Just recently, when I was on my morning walk through my ‘cathedral’ behind our house the sides of the ‘nave’ were dripping like liquid gold with the bright colour of hazel leaves hanging ready to fall from the branch. The beech and oaks in the morning sun were equally a dazzling bronze each unique in its colour, place and splendour. When I stop and become present to this Eternal Now I am conscious that this blaze of colour is rejoicing with me in Eternal Love. This earth has always been a real life demonstration of the wonder and beauty of its creator.

This morning the leaves had mainly dropped and were gathered thickly on the floor of the cathedral in their riot of colour and shapes. Just like you and me, every leaf is an individual, quite unlike another. Each one alone is beautiful, fairly insignificant but together they are united by something much greater. Individuality once beautiful and unique has given way to a larger story and a greater event. This is equally true of humanity when we live from the goodness within us. Together, these leaves form a dramatic mosaic much more spectacular than anything designed by man and they seemed content that their work was largely done. The trees which had been their home for many weeks were now mainly bare but contained a stark beauty and grandeur. Every part of every season can become a microcosm of our own lives and I love learning lessons from my surroundings. My spiritual practice is to stop and look at what is around and let it teach me about God, myself and humanity. This morning I saw death and dying but there was nothing sad, harmful or destructive about it, rather it had a splendour and beauty. Now that is a strange thing to say about death but only because some live so frightened of death.

None of us are very good at dying while we are still living but death is an essential part of living. That is what autumn tells me. The trees around had become bereft of their finery. There was a naked vulnerability about them that reminded me of a quote that I had recently seen. “It is only when we are naked that we can have union with the Beloved.” That is truth! Every death is a surrender of will to God which will always lead to greater intimacy. The shocking thing about God is that he showed himself to be naked and vulnerable in the seeking of his reunion with humanity. God never asks anything more of us to what he has exampled.  Indeed, the whole of life is about each of us returning to our naked true self that was created in Gods image. Our eventual physical dying will be the full surrender when all of self is finally removed. That is part of the story of Adam and Eve and why death comes into that story.

Many of us have never undressed ourselves of the finery of our own making be it power, influence, position, wealth, religion or excess pride in some achievement or the other. These are just some of the things that we cloth ourselves with. It is hard to de-robe because we feel naked and vulnerable just like the trees look in mid-winter. We are frightened of that especially when in the company of those we relate to. If left to our own devices such de-robing of ourselves would never happen. Each one of us faces many and varied deaths in our lifetime, some obvious and public and some not so. Anything seen as a failure or calamity by this world can just be a death for us to learn from. It is up to us whether we fight it or learn from it. Learning is very different to a bland acceptance or fait accompli of whatever has disrupted our carefully laid plans. Learning is to ask why we are feeling hurt or dismayed and what do such feelings tell us about ourselves and maybe the shallowness of our life. If we allow it, any sort of death will always result in encountering a greater dimension of love and the dying of self will bring greater value of self and of the other. It is normally our mistakes that will lead us to Eternal Love and then we find that love is always stronger than death. This is a principle of life that Jesus confirmed when he said “The person who is forgiven little shows only a little love.” None of us like selfishness in others but the ego will always want to have prominence and will selfishly promote itself unless made to die. The ego still believes that age old lie that it can become like God.

My own observations are that those who have refused to die whilst living; maybe refusing to love or forgive others with whom they have had disagreements, results in their ego and false self to just keep growing.  When attending or taking funerals, I notice that such people invariably seem to be the most cut up and emotionally devastated. They have chosen not to embrace and surrender to love in life and on another’s death they are still living in the hell they have often created within themselves. Life, wherever you are, is supposed to be a mystery that opens up in to the wonderful  sunlight uplands of love until you find that life and love show themselves to be one. I am not sure that this happens unless we have done some dying.

But wait! What is this I see as I walk on through the wood? It is the sign of new life even amongst the autumn fall. A solitary branch hanging over my path has just produced a cluster of catkins! This is unbelievable! There is a message wherever I look and here is the reminder that spring follows winter and resurrection always follows death! The old life has to die and fall before new life, new beginnings and enlargement of the true self will happen. This is why the resurrection of Jesus was never a one off event but is a profound mystery that we can see happening each day of our lives. Death and resurrection can never be separated and transformation always follows this process. Death is always needed for us to become fully alive and our eventual physical death will take us into the greatest dimension of what it means to be alive!  Only then will we experience what it means to be fully one with God because the last of the false self will have disappeared. Paradise will have arrived!

So, be conscious of what this living parable of nature that surrounds us may be saying to you. If you become conscious to the moment, you can see God in every blade of grass and falling leaf and you will become richer as a result. Choose to see life as an immense opportunity to increasingly live from the deep well of Eternal Love within you so that death will be just a seamless moving into a new dimension of that Love and its joy.

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Remembrance Sunday.

I am writing this on the evening of Remembrance Sunday. Not any Remembrance Sunday, but exactly 100 years to the day the Armistice was signed. 100 years is a long time. Normally after 100 years, memories fade, generations die and interest fades. Not so with this day.

We like many others, chose to honour those who have died in active service and in so doing, commit ourselves to helping to bring peace into this world. It is sobering to hear men of your own surname and my wife’s maiden name being recorded in the roll call of the missing. It is also sobering to hear three and even four people with the same surname who were killed or missing in action. Presumably, brothers or cousins although perhaps not always related. Let me hasten to add that as far as I am aware, none of those mentioned with the same surname as our family were actually part of our family.

And then I listened to the few individual stories from those 10000 civilians who had been chosen to march past the Cenotaph because they wanted to honour their long past great, great uncles or grandfathers. Only 10000 were chosen out of thousands who applied to drive sometimes hundreds of miles to London for the honour of marching in remembrance of remoter members of their family. It really mattered to these people that they were there to remember their relatives who had walked away to war. Here were relatives who knowing the potential cost, chose to give their all, if it was called for, for what they saw was our freedom. Men who just like us also had a future that called for the joy of marriage and family as well as building a career or following their studies. Yet, willingly for many, they obeyed a greater call and unselfishly marched away to such horror and hell.

I heard of the man who was called away in 1914, was allowed to return in 1915 for a couple of days to marry his sweetheart only to die at the front a few months later. Then there was the husband who was snatched away from his sobbing wife with their three children only to be badly injured. His wife was offered by telegram to visit him in France before he died and she amazingly went on that arduous journey and met him just before he passed away. She returned bereaved to find that while she had been away her youngest son had died from whooping cough. Apparently, she never fully recovered from such a double loss. Such was the cost and sacrifice of so many men, women and children.

Yet, while remembering all of the above and those of more recent conflicts, we were asked to pledge ourselves anew to the service of God and humanity: that we may help and encourage and comfort others and support those working for the relief of the needy and for peace and the welfare of nations.

 We agreed that we would all strive for all that makes for peace and to heal the wounds of war and conflict and work for a just future for all humanity. We remembered that the worship God requires is: to do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God.

We may never have to be called away from all the good and fun things that we are planning in our lives to fight in any war but the same selflessness is still needed if we are to fulfil the words of Jesus to love our neighbour as ourselves. For such is the Kingdom of God. Each of us where ever we are and whatever we are doing are surrounded by those who are hurting and lonely and need care and love. It doesn’t take much for us to fight for freedom and justice compared to those men and women whom we have been remembering.

Like this morning, I will end with the following blessing: – Please note that loving and serving the Lord seems to come at the end of this blessing as though it is in doing these things that actually we love and serve the Lord.

Go forth into the world in peace; be of good courage,

To hold fast to that which is good,

Render no one evil for evil,

Strengthen the faint hearted,

Support the weak,

Help the afflicted,

Honour everyone,

Love and serve the Lord.

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Experiencing Heaven

I am reading a wonderful book at the moment which tells the story of a girl called Etty Hillesum. Etty grew up in Holland in the 1930’s in a non-practicing Jewish family that was very dysfunctional. By the early 1940’s when Germany had overrun Holland she had left home and was living quite an unrestrained life style as a chaotic and troubled young woman. Over the next two and half years she was transformed into someone very different who went on to inspire many who were suffering under the hands of the Nazis. She herself eventually perished at Auschwitz. She was an avid diary writer and this book I am reading uses her diaries to tell her story. It is an amazing story of a girl who lived in a hell but found out how to transform herself to experience heaven while still surrounded by such evil. It was not her circumstances that caused this change within her so much as her unexpected journey into a spirituality that gives all of us lessons to learn from.

One day while unusually sitting in quietness and solitude on a dustbin outside her house she became aware of eternity within her and which of course is within all of humanity. This had little to do with any religion or teaching but more to do with her coming to an end of herself and unexpectedly finding that place of NOW within her. She had experienced stillness for the first time. This profound contemplative part of her was discovered and she went on to find that it was to shape the person she became. A few days later when troubled by tensions around and within she writes. ‘I am a long way from that blessed feeling of submitting to things’. She writes, ‘I no longer understand how I could have felt like that last week, sitting so peacefully on the dustbin in the sun’.

 She decided to turn inward for half an hour each morning before work and listen to ‘her inner voice’. Soon she is recording some of what she is finding. She writes, ‘Not thinking but listening to what is going on inside you. If you do that for a while every morning… you acquire a calm that illumines the whole day’. The next day she writes, ‘Thinking gets you nowhere. It may be a fine and noble aid in academic studies, but you can’t think your way out of emotional difficulties. That takes something altogether different. You have to make yourself passive then and just listen. Re-establish contact with a slice of eternity.

 Within these moments of stillness she would ‘see’ amazing images with her imagination which became very important to her. One evening she sees an image of depth. She writes. ‘There really is a deep well inside me. And in it dwells God. Sometimes I am there too. But more often stones and grit block the well and God is buried beneath. Then he must be dug out again’.

Soon, she is regularly writing about the experience of deep peace within her. ‘I am filled with a bountifulness even towards myself… and a feeling of being at one with all existence. No longer do I want this or that, but Life is great and good and fascinating and eternal and if you dwell so much on yourself and flounder and fluff about, you miss the mighty eternal current that is life. It is in these moments – and I am so grateful for them – that all personal ambition drops away from me… and a small piece of eternity descends on me with a sweeping wingbeat. At unguarded moments, when left to myself, I suddenly lie against the naked breast of life and her arms round me are so gentle and so protective.

What is so amazing is that she is writing this while surrounded and caught up with the worst abuses one nation can inflict upon another including toward her personally.  Her diaries go on to show the result of such intimacy from this well within that she has discovered. It is her absolute freedom from hatred, plus a generosity of spirit along with an inner peace which allowed her to serve her fellow humans. Clearly these people were not easy to love. She wrote, ‘They don’t give much occasion to love them’. She goes on, ‘There is no casual connection between people’s behaviour and the love you feel for them. Love for one’s fellow man is like an elemental glow that sustains you.

 When we stop our words, our reasoning, our mind conversations and even our praying and then subdue, by silence, our thoughts that are largely all our false self, we will discover two things. One is the shallowness of the false self and how we project so much of that to impress ourselves and others. When we deal with this we will secondly discover who we really are. Then, like Etty, we will quickly jettison the things that often cause hurt to ourselves and others and we will learn to live true to who God meant us to be while constantly sustained from within.

Yet, turning inward and sitting in silence and stillness is the thing we struggle with the most. So many people tell me that it doesn’t suit their personality or that they can never get their mind to be still. Such people miss out on so much and are poorer as a result along with others around them. Etty had stumbled upon something that has sustained many of our fathers in various faiths. A long rich tradition that is thankfully being resurrected in our  times. Etty wrote in her diary that sitting in such profound silence can be more intimate than the closest physical intimacy. Others have found this to also be true.  It is in these moments that eternity is found and heaven is experienced on this earth. Like Etty, we can trust our imagination to lead us into places of quiet rest, deep profound wells, or sunlit uplands that will sustain us for the rest of our day. As she records of herself, we will now find contentment to be and no longer  in having to do. We will find a deeper love for ourselves and those who are different to us and we will discover a God who is much bigger than we thought yet vulnerably hidden within every human life.

Etty Hillesum  –  A Life Transformed  –  Patrick Woodhouse  –  Bloomsbury.

 

 

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Taste the Wine!

I love the writings of John, the closest friend of Jesus. He seems to have such an insight into all that Jesus did and said. Of course, all the actions and words of Jesus always spoke of a deeper truth than what we very often see or read with our Western logic.

In the beginning of John’s account of Jesus, he records the amazing events that happened at a wedding that was taking place in a village called Cana. There is so much to learn from this whole story but I want to focus on the comments made by the master of ceremonies after he had tasted the new wine that had just come from water. He said to the bridegroom, “You have surprised us all by bringing this excellent wine from your storehouse and even though we already had much to drink it is impossible not to tell its superiority!” (John 2:20 Mirror)

Let me tell you something wonderful. God always keeps the best wine for last! This generous abundant God always has something better for us to enjoy and inherit! Gods is like a loving parent who takes pleasure in stocking the larder with the choicest of provisions and then just loves to bring out and feed you and I with what in this case was unexpectedly the choicest vintage wine! For you have prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil and my cup overflows! Ps 23:5. Or, The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house and you give them to drink from the river of your delights! Ps 36 7-8.

Let’s remember that this event of discovering such a wonderful wine happened at a wedding. This wedding represents the joining of heaven and earth, of humanity and divinity. Thus we have the promise of encountering and feasting on the spiritual dimension that divinity dwells in. That place is called heaven and is available to all right now. Whatever your experience of the spiritual has been, this story is all about the promise of even more to come. It is for those who desire and expect more to be given. God will always give to those who ask. Jesus made this very clear in the parable when he said “To he who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance”. Matt. 13:12.

The promise of the Sacred One remains the same and the destiny of mankind is to dig ever deeper and drink even more of the heavenly wine that is prepared for us.  This parable tells us not to be content with natural, earthly, provision as good as it is, but to feed on the spiritual, unseen drink of heaven that is beyond the physical and the known. God is not content for us to stay where we are because he knows that we are made for more. We can be grateful for what we have enjoyed thus far of heaven but God has more and it is good to be thirsty for more. The alternative is to keep regurgitating what we have always known and sadly this is as far as many get.

This physical is not the ultimate reality but is a symbol of something greater and there is nothing wrong in being thirsty for that. When we have tasted of that spiritual reality then we will know that it is greater. What we have previously known and what our fathers have taught us is just a beginning. There are greater things to taste that are out of this world but part of Gods world of spirit. Jesus shows us the way of how to live in the fullness of spirit and divinity while still being physical. Jesus is the way to show us the fullness of being physical and yet carrying divinity.

There is new wine to be drunk and all we have to do is to wait for those who are commissioned to serve us this new wine. If we are genuinely wanting more, but not for our own false self, then people and resources will come our way. I have been amazed at the times when I have been alone with God and I have sensed God feeding me something new but perhaps I do not fully understand it. Then, within a few days I read a book, see some scripture afresh, maybe watch a video or meet someone who is able to enlarge what I am just seeing glimpses of. It may be new understandings of God or how this Universe works or how God works in all humanity. It may be deeper profound experiences of living by spirit. Friends, there is new wine to be served and you really can trust God to safely lead you towards it!

Note Jesus said that this new wine will need new wineskins to hold it. (Matt 9:17) We may need to reconstruct what we use to hold the wine in. Reconstruct our thoughts and understandings from that which our fathers have taught us. Such thoughts were fine for then and I honour such people but God has new and better wine to feed us if we want it. Paul, another NT writer knew this. He says, Its like this; When I was a child I spoke and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror but we will see everything with perfect clarity. (1Cor 13:11)

Just a final thought; this world needs us to drink of this new wine. Drinking wine always has some side effects and in drinking Gods new wine we will find that some of the side effects are greater love and compassion for all humanity, this earth and especially ourselves.

Go and taste the wine!

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Lovers of God.

We can know about lots of things but knowing can be very different to actually experiencing something. Many of us tend to think we know all about what another person is describing to us because perhaps we have read or been told about it.  This is certainly true of love and can be seen especially when a teenager first falls in love! Love takes us by surprise when it first happens and changes all our preconceived conceptions about what we thought it was. True love whether of another person or of God goes much deeper than knowledge, emotion or assumptions.

I have found that knowing about God through reading the Scriptures or listening to people expound on God  or even learning from my peers can be helpful up to a point. However this is a world away from actually encountering God and sitting or walking in his presence every day. I can know about Gods love, I can read about Gods love and I can pray prayers asking for more of God’s love. None of the above is the same as feeling his gentle touch or sensing God pressing into me in moments of stillness and silence. All of the above can be part of the journey towards those moments of encounter as long as we do not substitute it for the encounter. Religion of whatever colour has a habit of substituting knowledge, creed and liturgy for deep encounter. The trouble is that we do not realise this is happening to us until we finally fall in love.

Have you noticed how two lovers sitting together can know exactly what their companion is thinking or feeling compared to two people who just have an acquaintance or maybe are family? Only lovers seem to know what is going on inside the other person and in the same way I believe only lovers of God know what is going on in Gods heart and feelings. Jesus made this very clear when he was on this earth in his actions and his relationship with God. It is lovers who are prepared to sit in silence in one another’s company for as long as it takes. It is lovers who will seek out one another in preference to doing all sorts of other seemingly necessary and busy things. It is lovers who will learn to hear the silent whisper of each other’s heart and truly know the other.

Being in love tends to turn our known world upside down. Do you remember! The most revolutionary thing about lovers of God is that they will find God turns out to be very different to what they had been taught to believe about God. Lovers of God will find that they have to work out new understandings of God. This is because what they are actually experiencing as they sit in his presence may be very different to the doctrines and dogmas that have been taught through logical and rational understanding. You see, love is not rational or logical. Love is mystical and surprising and so is God. Lovers get accused of being heretical and dangerous because they threaten our nicely held beliefs that often have little basis either in Scripture, the works of Jesus or original tradition. Lovers know that they no longer need to be dogmatic and insist that they are right because God has become such a wonderful mystery. It is lovers who can see God at work in many people outside of the ‘accepted’ tribe or faith group because these lovers have found a new wideness in God’s love.

Suddenly God takes on a different personality but it is not God who has changed! It is like falling in love with someone you have known for years but now you see that person very differently! Now, you are seeing your lover through a whole new lens of a deep loving encounter. This is different to what you thought you knew about that person or had been told about them.

Lovers will not need to follow the crowd and go to the ‘in’ places and events or follow the latest ‘fashion’. Suddenly they only want to be with the one who makes them feel complete. We have all noticed how the lifestyle of two lovers will suddenly change from when they were two individuals! Lovers of God will discover that this new lifestyle results in them actively participating in Gods own nature and they will begin to share in the wondrous and beautiful flow of Trinity. It was for this that all humanity were made!

Lovers of God will be ready to tell anyone what they have discovered about their new love. A God who loves unconditionally and forever and they do not need a place called hell to scare people in to believing some creed. Lovers will not need to talk of sacrifice and punishment because they have found a lover who loves and forgives freely. Isn’t that what love does? Lovers find that love never gives up, never loses faith and keeps no record of when it has been wronged and endures through every circumstance?

It is lovers of God who find that they never need to walk alone even if they are on their own physically. They will find that God is seeing through their eyes, hearing with their ears, smiling with their lips and all the while they are conversing together secure in one other’s presence. They will see God smiling back at them from every leaf and flower.

Lovers of God will have found that humanity and divinity have become one and sitting quietly in the presence of divinity will bring a transformative union between them. Slowly the nature of God becomes their deepest nature as they live moment by moment in deep awareness of this profound communion. Lovers will know that there is always more to discover about each other and although deeply content they will be looking for the next deep encounter that teaches them something new and wonderful about the other.

Perhaps it is time to fall in love again or maybe for the first time!

 

 

 

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Feeding on Heavenly Food.

The Eucharist or Communion is the Christian ceremony commemorating the Last Supper. It is recorded that Jesus took a loaf of bread, broke it in pieces and gave it to his disciples to eat saying “Take it, for this is my body.” Now, as ever, there have been numerous interpretations and theological doctrines written about this and many divisions caused over these words which sadly rather misses the point of them!

For me it seems to be saying that all of mankind needs to be feeding on something other than just the physical, natural worldly experience that all of us live from.

So, Jesus takes the bread and wine and tells us that it is his body and life force (blood). If every action is symbolic of a greater truth it therefore follows that we must be able to enjoy the greater truth without the symbols. As so often can happen, we allow the symbols to become greater than the truth they represent and miss out on so much. Jesus suggests that we need to eat of him especially while here in this physical/time part of eternity. Clearly this eating has a spiritual (mystical) interpretation.

There is a famous hymn written on this subject by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) called Panis Angelicus which is both profound and very beautiful. I love to sit and allow the words and music wash over me. Here is one recording.

The English translation is as follows.

Heavenly bread,

That becomes the bread for all mankind;

Bread from the angelic host

That is the end of all imaginings;

Oh, miraculous thing!

This body of God will nourish,

Even the poorest, the most humble of servants.

Even the poorest,the most humble of servants.

I want to suggest that we can eat of Christ, eat of Logos, eat of Spirit even without the use of symbols like bread and wine. When we have learnt to sit in stillness and so sit in the actual conscious presence of God then we will be fed on heavenly (non earthly) food, spiritual manna or divine sustenance. As we learn to ‘rest in God’ then his life force will flow into us affecting spirit and body. We will be partaking of the spirit of Jesus as the body of Jesus. I wonder if it is relevant that John, the beloved disciple, did not feel the need to record the story of the Passover meal in his account whereas the other writers did. Was this because John had experienced union and oneness with divinity by leaning constantly on the breast of Jesus and so he had learnt to eat of that life-giving force by simply being in the conscious presence of God? Did his long days as a prisoner in a solitary cell teach him to feed on God the life giving flow without the need for actual bread and wine? I am sure that John had learnt to sit in surrendered silence and feel the life of God flow into his spirit.

I recall a moment when I was deeply conscious of God’s presence and knew that I was being fed by Jesus. He was gently feeding my mouth with food which I knew was honey from the rock and the finest of wheat. (Psalm 81:6) He also seemed to be picking stray bits and pieces off my clothing like a wife may do to her husband when dressed to go out. A general smartening up of me! I was aware of deep love, care and concern in his eyes. He said to me “You are clean.” I believe this is what God does for all who learn to come and sit in his presence quietly waiting. Not waiting to be fed but just content to wait and enjoy presence. Then God will do whatever he deems appropriate for each of us.

What happens when we sit in Gods Presence?

 In that place of soaking in their presence I become soaked with their presence.

In that place of total stillness I am only conscious of love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, tenderness, embrace.

In that place of genuine silence I am only conscious of being fed by God, held by God and adored by God.

In that place of quietness I am only conscious of peace, calm and deep well-being.

In that place of encounter I am only conscious of complete acceptance both by God and myself. I know that God accepts me and I also can accept me for who I am.

In that moment of consciousness I know that I am being fed with heavenly bread and living wine that affects my whole being. I am being nourished by God.

In that moment of beauty I am aware of unconditional love soaking into me and so I can become unconditional love to others.

In that moment of absolute stillness, I am only conscious of NOW, this moment and I Am.

In that moment of rapture, I am conscious of precious, precious words being spoken to me: “You are my beloved; in you I am well pleased!”

Of course as precious as these moments are we also have to learn to walk out of our ‘secret place’ into our world of work and busyness. Then we must not allow fear, anxiety or the fulfilling our own agenda to take the place of this deep stillness and encounter. I have found that the more I spend time in stillness when I have the opportunity then the more I can carry that stillness when I do not have the opportunity to sit quietly because of other legitimate activities.

The goal of contemplation is to unite with Trinity and to join them in being and doing what they are being and doing. (That is a quote from Dr Bruteau that I have slightly amended).

Dominican communities start every Eucharist with the following short prayer.

O Sacred Banquet in which Christ becomes our food,
the memory of His passion is celebrated,
the soul is filled with grace,
and the pledge of future glory is given to us.

You gave them Bread from heaven:
Containing every blessing.

 It is time to go and feast on some heavenly food! Don’t just do something, sit there!

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Journey or destination?

I recently completed a well-known European walking trail in France and found myself quite challenged as to my attitude. My walking companion had not done as much trail walking as me and the path was very steep at times. In the first couple of days I was struggling to slow myself to her pace and finding myself quite frustrated. I was fighting all sorts of emotions to walk on faster partly because I was sure that we would not make the day’s destination before supper. We always did and with plenty of time to spare!

As I analysed my feelings I found that I wanted to get to the destination as soon as I could so that I was ready for the next activity or next day’s walking. I was eager to tick off today’s walk and start the next thing! People have accused me of being a Type A personality and as you will know, Type A people are competitive, highly organised, ambitious, impatient and highly aware of time management. Those of you who know me well will quickly realise that none of those describe me in the least!!

I quickly realised that God was speaking to me on this walk and that I needed to listen up. In my spirit I was hearing words being spoken that said, “Slow down Simon, enjoy the moment and the journey and not just the destination.” I began to see that much of my life had been about finishing the present job as quickly as possible so that I could start the next one and so on. I clearly get a buzz from achieving the destination but only so that I was ready for the next target! Now, in fairness, farming does require you to always try and beat the weather and so timeliness, organisation and speed can make the difference between success and failure. Maybe 40 years of such activity had carried over into the rest of my life.

I began to see that when destination is the goal of your life then you often miss out on the lessons of the journey and I am beginning to see that the lessons of the journey are more important than the destination. Very often achieving the destination and making that your goal can be more about trying to impress others and thus trying to gain value from others approving of you. This is a very dangerous route to go down. God reminded me that at the start of this walk he had promised to remain with me and never leave me on this walk. He made a similar promise to Abraham and the story of Abraham is predominantly about the lessons of the journey. Then God’s promise to David in the Psalms was that his rod and staff would never leave him. A rod and staff is all about being on a journey. Also, being led into green meadows beside still waters is once again the story of a journey and not a destination. As I walked along, it seemed to me that God was saying to me “I am a journeying God.” “Simon, the story of history and the story of humanity are all about the journey.”

When the journey becomes more important than the destination and we will finally realise that the journey is the destination. The destination is for humanity and divinity to become fully one as demonstrated by Jesus. It is the journey that takes us to that place if we will but learn its lessons. Abraham and Lot are a good example of what I mean. They are worth a blog written entirely about them but briefly I believe that Lot represents the ego. He chose to go where his eyes showed him attractive features that would make him successful. It was not a good route as the results showed. In contrast, Abraham had learnt enough from the journey to understand that the outward has no significance. This was because he had learnt to live from the profound encounters with God along this challenging journey plus he held on to the deep promises that God had whispered into his spirit. The journey had taught Abraham to live from within, from divine encounter and fusion. Abraham had learnt consciousness of God which is why he met God in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of random places. Most importantly, Abraham had allowed God to teach him from the mistakes he made during the journey. Stephen Pope writes, The spiritual person uses the deep understanding and knowledge of the laws of the Cosmos and created existence so that all that is fragmented and connected can become one again. This is working with spiritual consciousness. The ego manipulates life for its own ends.

 I realised that many of us have concentrated on the destination which has been some place called heaven after we die and most of us have ignored the lessons of the journey. As a result we have missed out on heaven here on earth which I believe is where it is also to be found and experienced. Hence the journey becomes the destination! I concluded that the destination is to complete the journey well by having being changed from one degree of glory to another. I saw that humanity is a story of a journey moving ever towards God.

May I respectfully suggest that maybe you too can learn from my mistakes and also start honouring the journey by learning to see that God is with you in every moment and each part of your walk? We all just need to learn to slow down, see God in all around, learn from others, especially those not of your tribe, forget about achieving, and let the false self die. Suddenly our journey through life will become sacred despite whatever may come even if disaster or catastrophe should appear. If we let it, the journey will become the destination that God wants you to be enjoying.

May God richly bless you and may you enjoy your journey!

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Abiding.

I have recently been meditating on a beautiful passage in John 1:38-39. We read of two men who have been impacted by something very different that they have seen in Jesus. Jesus seems to notice their interest and says to them “What do you seek?” And they said to him, “Rabbi”, which means teacher, “Where do you dwell?”

 Now, clearly these two men are not inquiring as to which Premier Inn Jesus is staying at! This is nothing about bricks and mortar or a geographical place. I want to quote Stephen Pope in his book Patterns of Creation as he explains the meaning of this word ‘dwell’. He writes, The Greek verb ‘meno’, is the same as that used to describe a dove coming down out of heaven and means “to indwell”, “to be permanent” and “to abide in close settled union.”

 Recently, I have been challenging myself as to where is the place that I dwell; where is the place that I live from all day of every day? Where is my permanent dwelling place? Do I live from a place of fear, mistrust, anxiety or perhaps self-resource? Do I live from memories of past experiences whether good or bad? Do I live from my abilities and reputation? Do I live from my formal training or advancement? In fact, the more pertinent question would be whether I live from everything that Simon has achieved or perhaps failed in.

These two men, like scores of others who also came across Jesus, were presumably attracted by the demeanour of Jesus and recognised that he lived from a different ‘place’ to the rest of us. My guess is that they recognised an ease and rest about him. I believe that they noticed the result of what Stephen Pope describes as to abide in close settled union. This is close settled union with all Divinity or another description would be ‘to experience total consciousness with God’. Now that is a good place to be living from, constantly! I am finding that as I discover what that means, then I am at one with myself, I am at one with Trinity, and I am at one with all nature and creation. Being at one results in being at peace with all but it does not seem to stop there. I also find that I am at one with my neighbour and with my enemy. This is because my enemy is no longer an enemy! An enemy can be anything or anyone that brings disruption and war to our lives including illness. Then I find that in this place of close settled union, I am overshadowed and thus filled with the Divine. I am soaked in Their life, impregnated with Their desires and joined in Their hope. In an instance I am changed again and again and again. I am changed in a way that no teaching or self-help plan or Bible reading notes can compare with. The life of the vine has been soaking into the branches and it happens without me having to do anything but abide in close settled union!

Then I am fascinated by the reply of Jesus to these two men. He says “Come and see for yourselves”. Once again Stephen Pope writes, the Greek verb ‘horao’ means ‘to behold’ or ‘to perceive more deeply’. The invitation to all mankind is always to come and experience the fullness of Divinity more deeply. Come and experience for yourself the revelation of Spirit, the Divine Being within yourself! The Bible text goes on to say “They abode with him that day.” Don’t ever think that this ‘day’ is just a 24 hour experience. This ‘day’ is a timeless presence of heavenly encounter! This is living forever in close settled union with God himself whose overarching desire is to live in close settled union with all of mankind!

To everyone who searches for fulfilment and meaning, God is still saying “Come and see for yourself”. “Come and experience in yourself the presence of divine being”.  Living in close and settled spirit union is how you and I are designed to be living and my how this world would be transformed if a few more of us starting doing this some more! Our communities would be changed, our streets would be changed, and our churches would be changed!

Currently, my daily awakening question is where am I going to be living from today? Where is my permanent dwelling place going to be? Am I going to live from Simon’s experiences and my outward circumstances or am I going to be living from that place of deep settled union with all Divinity? It is not hard to make that choice once you have sat in Presence and felt Divinity overshadow you. I recommend it.

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