What’s the rush?

I have said this before on my blog site but I am a slow learner! Once again, God seems to be slowly and painfully for me, teaching me about rest; resting in God.

In my own opinion, I have made a success of much of what I have done in my life by me making things happen. I know all about being pro-active, kicking butt when needed, grabbing  the situation by the horns whether it is plans for the business or even church activities. All this intensity often involved rushing around keeping all the plates spinning and forever checking my watch to make sure I am on time. I hate being late and others being late seems so rude and a waste of my valuable time! As you can see, I can also be highly opinionated about myself! Yet right now I sense that I am being taught by God that all I have to do in my life is to rest in the rest of God.  God, it seems, wants to come and ‘rest’ in me and when I let that happen then I find I am ‘resting’ in him. What do I mean by this?

God is now fully and permanently ‘at rest’. There is nothing more that God needs to do in this world. All universal laws are in place for this world to live at peace and in prosperity if only we would all co-operate with them. God does not have to rush around fixing this problem for me or that prayer for you or for the other however many millions who now live on this planet. He has put everything in place for all our prayers and deep intentions to be answered and fulfilled. He has made it possible for the words that we speak, whether negative or positive, to be fulfilled. Just like the law of gravity that never stops working, other laws like ‘sowing and reaping’ or ‘to him who has, more will be given’ are always powerfully at work. Thus God can be at rest and the place he chooses to rest is in all of humanity; that includes you and me. But, I am not sure that God has been very restful when he has been residing in me over the years! Is he able to be at rest in me when I am harried, frustrated and anxious? I know that I have not been at rest when I have been living like that and my guess is that his presence cannot be fully experienced by me when I am not resting in him. It works in the same way as when someone who rejects or refutes the idea of God cannot sense and find that presence of the Divine within themselves even though God dwells in all humanity. So, when we are rushing about, we will fail to know Divinity resting in us.

There are numerous Scriptures written by people who deeply encountered God and they all speak of finding him in rest. Isaiah seems to understand how it works. I love his description where God says “Only in waiting for me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it. You said “No, we will speed on our own horses”! This sounds a bit like much of my own life, but the horses I relied on were under the bonnet of my car or tractor!

So, I am learning the hard way that it is important to be at rest, to enjoy the journey, and to learn stillness so that God can rest within me and together we will be at rest. It was a year ago when walking a well known trail that God clearly spoke to me about enjoying the journey and not just rushing to get to the destination. That attitude reflected much of  my life. I have learnt recently that resting is all that I have to do for my deep desires to be fulfilled whether in my own life or in my business. It means that I have to become present and conscious to God at all times and learn to live in that consciousness all day long. I no longer have to manipulate events and pull the right strings to get what I want but I wait and call those things into being. I live aware of God seeing through my eyes, speaking through my mouth, hearing with my eyes and touching with my hands.  And when I find myself getting too caught up in the busyness of a day, I am choosing to stop for  a brief moment and engage directly with heaven wherever I am.  Plus, I remember that there are always two of us in this body and mainly God is waiting for me to slow down, rest and listen. It is then that I actually feel his love and affection just in the same way that I feel Elizabeth’s love.  In such moments I am reverberating at the same frequency as God and then I have this entire universe working with me. In these moments when I am feeling secure, then security comes to me and in these moments when I am feeling loved so I too can love and receive love from others and when I feel the abundance of God then abundance also is mine.

It is quite simple really and seems to work or I could say, it is quite simple and really seems to work!

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The Wonder Of This Place.

The morning fog lay thickly against the earth,                                                                                The trees of the wood lay shrouded in this glorious mist,                                                            Which seemed to be providing protection and succour,                                                              To each living organism waiting in expectation.

Compared to the recent bright blue sunlit morning,                                                                      The usual loud daily chatter of praise from the birds,                                                                  Seemed slightly subdued and quieter this morning,                                                                      And even the frantic tapping of the Woodpecker was stilled.

All the wood lay cloaked in this natural blanket,                                                                            That seemed to be one of sustenance and refreshing,                                                                  Even the tall sentinel trees were entombed,                                                                                    In the silent caress and shelter of this womb of fog.

It spoke a message that God was close,                                                                                              Touching, surrounding, supporting and infilling,                                                                          Each living thing that was alert to Their presence.                                                                        Thus the whole wood seemed to rest in awe.

And so for me, silence becomes the enveloping womb of God,                                                    A place of protection, warmth and growth.                                                                                      A place where I am fed the life blood of The Eternal,                                                                     A moment of direct connection and heavenly food.

In this place is also the transfer of genetics,                                                                                    From the placenta of heaven itself.                                                                                                    Here the likeness of my Divine parent,                                                                                              Is transfused silently into my own body.

This womb like stillness is where I learn the sounds,                                                                    And the voice of the One who lovingly calls my name,                                                                  A deep connection is formed between parent and child,                                                              That will stand the test of time and every challenge.

Here the actual peace and joy that Trinity lives within,                                                                Is given to become my very own,                                                                                                      And although like God I too may know sadness and sorrow,                                                        Their peace and joy undergirds each emotion of mine.

The silence becomes more profound than words,                                                                           The quietness more significant than any activity,                                                                           And like all of life in the wood this morning,                                                                                   I now sit subdued in the wonder of THIS place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning from life.

If the events of life do not become transformational to my character and personality, then we could conclude that life is largely a waste of time. Is it possible that this is the main purpose of our physical life here on earth? Unlike me, you are probably already perfect so maybe you do not need to read any further. For those of us still aware that we have some changes to make, it is down to us how this process happens or whether we even let it happen. How we respond to set backs and crisis in our lives is crucial to our development or lack of. Others have said it before, but pain is an enemy when we do not welcome it as a friend.

A friend of mine who had been married for around 50 years was recently shattered to learn that his wife had been having an affair with someone for over a year. He was understandably devastated and very angry. Lying in bed one night, he cried out to God asking what to do and the unexpected answer that came back to him was one very challenging word. Forgive! As he lay there, he fought that advice and as he stared out of the darkened window he saw the window pane reflecting the shape of a cross. Thus, he had his answer as to how to forgive although that did not make it any easier for him I am sure.

I believe that the historical story of the cross that Jesus died on is a story for all humanity. It tells us that life is to be transformational otherwise, such events have little purpose. It is here on earth in the physical that our soul is to discover the reality of pure, eternal love. If we spend all our time on earth yearning for the apparent wonders of heaven while failing to discover unconditional love on earth then we will be much poorer. We will have failed to learn from our personal challenges. Such love encourages us to step outside of ‘I’ and ‘Me’ and find our true self created in God’s image. It is there that I find deep glory in being a son/daughter of a God who is eternal love and THEN heaven will be found now.

Jesus is the great example of this and one who we can learn from. Jesus died as he lived, meeting pain and suffering in this world head on and transforming it by death and resurrection. The powers of this world, which are no different today as they were then, were constantly trying to strong arm Jesus into conflicting situations and ‘nail’ him with their own peculiar contradictions. They saw everyone as either saved or unsaved, accepted or rejected, my group or your group, for me or against me and will still even today always crucify anyone who dares to differ.

Only this week, Richard Rohr wrote the following: – The cross was the price Jesus paid for living in a mixed world which is both human and divine, simultaneously broken and utterly whole. He hung between a good thief and a bad thief, between heaven and earth, inside of both humanity and divinity, a male body with a feminine soul, utterly whole and yet utterly disfigured – holding together all the primary opposites. (see Col 1:15-20)

Some of you may be in situations far more difficult and challenging than anything I may have to go through. That does not make me any better or cleverer than you for life and circumstances  tend to throw things at all of us without respect. It is how we deal with those issues that is so crucial.  We can be like my friend who was learning that ego and self had to die before he was able to fulfil what Francis of Assisi found when he said, “He who has not learnt to forgive has lost the greatest joy in life”. My observation is that some of you who I know have had severe challenges in your life and have chosen to allow those challenges to teach you and you have received an inner grace and beauty as a result. That is what life is about. That is another description of what we call becoming Christ like.

The real Simon appears when all is stripped away and no particular form that I can identify with is left. This is what happens at our final death and is what can happen at any of our intermediate deaths. At such times we discover that I am no longer ‘this’ or that I am no longer identified by ‘that’. I simply AM. This is pure consciousness and this is why God is described as I AM. When our ego is stripped away, that is who we become and thus our union with God is fully complete. Some describe this as formless consciousness and it happens when we no longer identify with a particular form like our religion, our job, our wealth, our looks whether good or bad or even our ill health for our identity. This is the true freedom that Jesus speaks about.

This world will become transformed as we ourselves determine to allow setbacks transform us into non- judgemental, loving, caring, inclusive people. This surely is what it means for each of us to take up our cross daily. We will find that to lose our life is to gain life. Determine to let the pain teach you and you will find that the lesson will invariable be principally about yourself.

Live is not just for living. It is for learning to live well.

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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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