Monthly Archives: July 2015

This blog too shall pass

This too shall pass……

This time in your life when it’s all gone pear-shaped, when nothing’s coming together…

Some problems resolve, some don’t. But even if your situation doesn’t actually resolve

It shall pass.

That demanding situation, with its stress. The confusion and torment.

This too shall pass.

Those endless hours of overtime you put in just to try and get by.

This too shall pass.

That chronic illness that hounds your waking hours and haunts your sleep, like a rabid dog.

This too shall pass.

That drawn-out wait in the queue at Barclays….and what’s happened to their air conditioning….?

This too shall pass.

The imbecility of people you have to put up with – day after……flipping daaaaay…….

Those fools whom you don’t suffer gladly. Their lack of compassion and understanding. “Humans! Why are they so brainless?”

This too shall pass.

Even worse, your own stupidity. Those times you kick yourself, because of the things you do that you know you shouldn’t. The people you’ve hurt. In the words of the Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the love [in me]?”

The things you put off doing, or saying, that you know you should really get round to. That card. That phone call. That compliment. “When will I ever learn to do the right thing?”

This too shall pass.

This Government. A society tangled up in chains of injustice. Slavery to addiction all around you – and even in you. Global poverty – and your own inadvertent part in perpetuating it by hoarding more than sharing your relative wealth.

This too shall pass.

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These four little words came to me the other day when I was stewing about something, in prayer. I had no idea where the phrase came from, where I’d heard it, what its origins are, but I guess it’s one of those sayings that are so deeply ingrained in our culture like Shakespeare, the Bible and the Beatles, that they spring out of nowhere.

It popped into my head, out of the blue,

from my inner self,

my subconscious,

and/or God.

A personal situation was weighing on me so heavily, my anxiety exacerbated by workload tiredness and the non-stop demands and broken nights of family life. When time to relax, reflect and re-create is difficult to find, every difficulty feels worse.

“This too shall pass,” that inner voice assured me.

I’ve since discovered through extensive research into ancient traditions and literature across a range of classical cultures (i.e. a quick glance at Wikipedia) that the origins of the phrase lie in Middle Eastern folklore.

Persian poet Attar records the fable of a powerful king who asks his assembled wise men to create a ring that will make him happy when he is sad. After deliberation the sages hand him a simple ring with the words “This too shall pass” etched on it, which has the desired effect to make him happy when he is sad, but thus also becomes a curse whenever he is happy.

Jewish tradition sees Solomon as either the king humbled by the adage, or as the one who delivers it to another.

Not surprising, really, that Judaism, with its belief in an after-life, adopted this legend.

Not surprising, either, that although the phrase doesn’t come from the Bible, similar ideas emanate throughout the New Testament, following Jesus’ teachings on the life to come and the Christian hope for a better future. A silver thread of hope weaves majestically through the Judeo-Christian scriptures – a constant reminder that this world is not the final word, always pointing us magnetically like a northbound needle to eternity.

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And therein lies one of the great strengths of the Christian faith – hope. For people like me, faith in the resurrection of Jesus and his life within us produce a sense that things will always get better, that all injustice will finally be put right – that even we will be put right!

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One day I was talking with a friend about some mission work going on in a third world country and the hope being given to the people there through the missionaries’ message. And my friend said to me, “What good is it giving people hope if that hope is never fulfilled, if nothing ever changes?”

It was a reasonable question.

But hope inspires us to change things, to work towards that better future we believe in. For many Christians, when we pray “Your kingdom come”, we don’t just sit around passively hoping with some vague optimism that one day God’s kingdom will come, righting every wrong.

On the contrary, we feel caught up in our own prayer, sensing the call to play our part in bringing that future realm of wholeness and justice into the present.

People of faith and hope that “this too will pass” are inspired to help this (whatever “this” may be) to pass. To make poverty history. To relieve suffering. To run soup kitchens, food banks, 24-7 prayer networks, counselling services, HIV clinics, disaster relief agencies….

Hope gives people the courage even to change themselves.

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il_fullxfull_779872040_nq8tThroughout the ages, people of faith and hope (including, but not exclusively, Christians) see themselves as temporary visitors to this planet.

“Just passing through….”

…expressed perfectly in the amazing ‘Supernatural’ by my musical heroes, DC Talk:

“This world’s a tortured place to be So many things to torment me And as I stumble down this road it takes a toll…

Beyond this physical terrain There’s an invisible domain Where angels battle over souls in vast array But down on earth is where I am No wings to fly, no place to stand Here on my knees I am a stranger in this land”

We see ourselves as strangers in this land. Our physical life in this world is seen as short-term.

This world, too, shall pass.

We have a perspective that makes suffering in this life more tolerable.

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But thankfully, not all our problems last a lifetime. The situation I was facing – am still facing – will most likely resolve itself within just a few years, perhaps even sooner.

And those four words spoken from the spirit or Spirit within me significantly relieved my anxiety. The right words at the right time. Hope has been re-kindled. I continue to pray about that situation, but with a more peaceful trust that my Father, who sits outside of time and even eternity, who just is (Yahweh), will see it through, and see me through.

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And even that queue at Barclays shall pass….

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For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever.  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

2 Corinthians 4: 17-18, The Bible (New Living Translation)

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Transforming Encounters

Supposing you could transform mundane moments into spiritual experiences; ordinary events into meaningful encounters? If you practise mindfulness, meditation or prayer, then this may already be your norm. For most of us, it’s a learning, growing process.

From a Christian perspective, this can become our everyday reality, as we learn to “practise the presence of God,” as Brother Lawrence put it.

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July 5th 2015: I came across this in the reading for 5th July in Reflections for Ragamuffins by Brennan Manning: “[Through Christ] we acquired the potential to participate in the ‘sacrament of the present moment’ – to transform even our most mundane experiences into those of Christ. But we, too, must activate that contact through faith. Strong faith that Jesus can come streaming into our lives and empower us to function, and respond not from our ego-self, but from our Spirit-self”.

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IMG_3117The previous day: July 4th – American Independence Day 2015, and the area around Robertson Street, Hastings, celebrates the events of over 180 years ago when a ramshackle collection of 1000+ residents occupying the area in relative squalor raised the Stars & Stripes flag as a symbol of declared independence from the rest of Hastings. The area henceforth became known as America Ground.

These “‘beggars, gypsies or other undesirables’ that inhabited the city of shacks, huts and tents that many regarded as a blight on the western end of the town” (Hastings Borough Council website) were eventually turfed out by councillors to make way for the Victorian gentry who were beginning to turn Hastings into a popular seaside resort.

Has a familiar kind of ring to it.

That wonderful spirit of individualism, and defiance against being contained and controlled, still characterises elements of Hastings, giving the town a unique kind of beauty and creativity.

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One of the events of Hastings Independence Day on 4th July 2015 was the opening of an alley that’s been cleaned up and renovated as part of a massive refurbishment of the old Hastings Observer building in Claremont (just off Robertson Street) behind which it weaves.

The Alley has been transformed from a neglected, pigeon-poo-infested no-go area into an aesthetic array of art, architecture, caves, cliffs and community, with new market stalls lining the way. IMG_3121 When I saw this place, I was so inspired, so in awe, I had to go home for my camera and come back to take some shots. The photos interspersing this post are those shots.

It probably wasn’t hard for most people to enjoy the buzz of that official opening of the renovated Alley, but in some ways this Saturday afternoon encounter with a renovated piece of Hastings was, for me, transformed further still.

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IMG_3142Community: The event, with its market stalls in The Alley, brought local residents, consumers and traders together into person-to-person contact in a way that’s all too rare. Conversations about the area, shared excitement at the renovation work going on, people even getting to know each other’s names…British people, even!

Creating community.

Despite being the introvert that I am, despite loving time on my own better than anything else, I also love and recognise my need for community. IMG_3133It’s what we were designed for. In community, seeing shared joy between people, seeing links being forged and barriers coming down, I feel God’s heart beating in those connections.

And as I engaged in conversation with a few stall holders myself, my own spirit came alive.

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Creativity: I was awestruck by the stunning street art lining the Alley walls. For me, transformation of the Alley with art is a striking echo of God’s creative expression in nature and his redemptive work in human hearts like mine.

In recent years especially, my encounters with art, music and nature have been at times sublime, spiritual experiences, as was this one. Probably better if I don’t say any more on this but instead let some of the artworks speak for themselves in the photos below…

This piece in particular captured my attention

This piece in particular engaged my heart

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Hidden gems: I’d seen the Alley from Claremont, the street off which it runs, but had no idea it turned the corner behind the buildings, revealing a breath-taking view of man’s architecture melded into cliffs and caves, again symbolising something of the individual character and beauty of Hastings, with its history of smuggling. IMG_3128 Both man-made and God-made structures are home to pigeons roosting and breeding wherever they can. Man and nature brought together, sharing space.

It was a “Wow!” moment. Turning the corner and seeing The Alley for the first time, this hidden gem of Hastings, with a sense of wonder that God seems to be increasingly giving me as I enjoy his world, like a child with newborn eyes. IMG_3116

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(This might have been a good photo if I'd had my tripod with me!)

(This might have been a good photo if I’d had my tripod with me!)

Thank you to Allan’s Army and everyone else involved in the incredible work that’s gone into the transformation of The Alley.

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And thank you, Holy Spirit, for transforming my encounters with community, creative arts and hidden gems into encounters with the personal, creative, awe-inspiring Christ.

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