Tag Archives: contemplation

A Winter Prayer

 

IMG_2862A time of stripping back,

Of lifeless leaves and dead wood

falling away,

Their latent energy absorbed and embraced

by mother Earth,

A necessary season

in the cycle of life

As old makes way for new

That all may flourish.

 

So help me Spirit,IMG_3382

In the silence of my soul,

To welcome winter seasons

Stripping away lifeless leaves

of false self, the dead wood

Of quick fix and falsehood

That my true self may live and breathe

In the presence of the One,

A vital investment for springs

And summers to come,

When “flowers appear on the earth

And the season of singing has come”.

 


(All photos mine)


You might also like to know about my book! Coming Home for Good is autobiographical, with themes of homelessness, spirituality and identity, and is available on Amazon.

Coming Home for Good      Find out more here.


 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Tagged , , , ,

Lessons from a Coke can

You might associate meditation and mindfulness with Buddhism and modern psychology more than with Christianity, but there’s also a rich Judeo-Christian tradition of such practices, which are slowly being rediscovered by the western church.

(In fact, meditative and mindful practices are common to humanity. You could say they are traits of being human, before being spiritual or religious.)

Ancient Jewish prophets and teachers would take time out in the countryside, the mountains and deserts, to be still and listen, using all their 5+ senses to attune to the Divine. They’d observe all that was around them, in prayer and stillness, and maybe discover spiritual or prophetic metaphors in the sights and sounds of nature.

God, who they believed was the source and sustainer of everything, could surely be seen and heard through the things he’d created.

This becomes obvious when we read the Psalms of David, who spent days and nights on the hillsides minding sheep (see for example Psalm 23: The Lord is my Shepherd), or Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount, where he offers invaluable and insightful advice on life from his reflections on the sparrows and lilies of the lush Judean countryside.

One example I’m particularly fond of, though, is the Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah. Right at the start of his contemplative prophetic accounts, he describes a moment when God asks him, ‘What do you see?’

When Jeremiah replies, ‘A branch of an almond tree’, God creates a word play, saying:

‘That’s right, and I’m watching [the Hebrew words for “watch” and “almond” sound very similar] to make sure my words are fulfilled.’ I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes puns.

‘What do you see (or hear/smell/feel/sense)?’ is a good question to ask ourselves in mindful prayer or contemplation.

I asked myself this question the other day.

At least, I think it was me who asked the question. It might have been God who asked me. There’s little difference, really. If we’re looking to live in tune with the Divine, whatever we call him/her/it, then the voice of I Am (as God revealed himself to Moses) is going to resound in the inner voice of the little I am, who is us.

I share this preamble with you on the traditions of faith so that what follows may not sound quite so wacky as it might do otherwise….

So the other day, as I sat in the comfortable heat of a gorgeous October day, resting from work for a few minutes’ contemplative prayer on a sunny, grassy spot, my eyes alighted on a half-crushed Coke can lying on the ground just a few yards ahead.

‘What do you see?’ I asked myself (or God asked me).

The following are the thoughts that came to me in response.

I see a Coke can.

I see a can that is bruised but not crushed. It reminds me of the traumatised people I work with, bent and bruised – but not crushed – by life. Who get up and keep going against all odds. But they, like you and me, sometimes need others to nurture in them that resilience. To ‘top up’ their courage levels. To inspire them to keep going. Getting alongside someone, showing support, not giving up on them, makes the world of difference.

IMG_20181016_135520

The can in question (phone pic)

I see a Coke can.

…that had contained a caffeinated drink. That played a part in energising someone, stimulating activity, productiveness, work perhaps.

Maybe it will be picked up and recycled, becoming useful again. But for now it lies dormant, in a restful state. We, too, need times of dormancy, of non-productiveness. Rhythms of work and rest. Times to bear fruit and times to soak in the soil.

There’s ‘a time to throw stones and a time to gather stones’, as another ancient prophet wrote. Times to be energised before we can energise others.

 

I see a Coke can

…even in its twisted condition, reflecting the sun.

And we humans – even in our damaged state, reflect the light and dignity of the Divine.

In fact, Judeo-Christian spirituality sees the poorest and most marginalised of society as representatives of God: how we treat them is the measure of how we treat God.

There is accumulating evidence that austerity measures (the effects of which are clearly far from over, whatever our Government might say) are directly killing the poor, and are therefore seen by many as expressly anti-Christian. Such Government actions are not neutral. In their blatant disregard of the poor, the Conservative Government demonstrate spiritual blindness of the worst kind. (Just a little political aside there…)

But those who have eyes to see (whether religious, spiritual or not) perceive the precious light, the holiness or divinity, you could say, of those who, bruised and battered, are trying to battle their way through the obstacle course of their lives.

 

I see a Coke can.

The thought that came to me most strongly – from the Spirit or my spirit, my mind or the mind of the Spirit – was this:

‘I want you to have a “CAN do” attitude’.

That’s right. A play on words, like the words heard by Jeremiah.

You CAN do it.

Around this time, I was facing a new challenge at work.

Because of not uncommon issues I grew up with at home and at school that demoralised and demotivated me, I’ve always tended to lack a certain confidence to try new things, to believe in my abilities and, like a lot of people, tend to fear not getting things just right.

But one of the greatest changes in my life over the years has been a growth in confidence and I actually felt quite prepared, if still daunted, to face this new challenge.

The Spirit says to me – and to you – ‘Yes, you CAN.’

You CAN do it.

Whatever daunting task or challenge you’re facing.

Whatever new creative or constructive project you’re considering.

You may not get it perfectly right, but it’ll be good, and most importantly it’ll be a beautiful expression of the unique individual you are.

So go for it!

A little self-belief goes a long way.

My colleagues at work, and my wife, are amazing at nurturing that confidence in me.

That willingness to step forward.

I hope and I try to do the same with them, as well as with the homeless and other vulnerable people we support.

I undertook that new challenge a few days later and was very happy with the way it went. I’d be prepared to do it again, learning from what worked well and what could be improved.

Yes, YOU can.

Let’s continue to encourage each other.

And one final question….

What do you see?

 


Coming Home for GoodAs well as this blog, I also have a book! Coming Home for Good is autobiographical, with themes of homelessness, spirituality and identity, and is available on Amazon.

Find out more here.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

Stopping the Tide

What do you think of rhetorical questions? It’s OK, you don’t have to answer that.

But some rhetorical questions seem worth exploring…

For instance, in our church we sing a line that goes:

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

The unspoken answer, of course, reinforced by the description of God as ‘Lord Almighty’, is ‘NO ONE’. But….

As we sing that song, my mind, being the obtuse creature that it is, wanders off in a different direction.

I start to consider how God is defined not so much by ultimate power or control, but as the ultimate source of love.

…and how ultimate love is always, inevitably, expressed in vulnerability.

In self-appointed powerlessness.

This is one of the things that make the Christian gospel (good news) so appealing. According to Christianity, the life and death of Jesus, in loving weakness, reveals the clearest expression of the character of God.

God’s powerlessness in the manger, wholly dependent on a young mum for all his needs.

A chosen lifestyle of relative poverty as an itinerant preacher and healer, again voluntarily dependent on human help for his everyday needs, as he carried out his divine calling.

And ultimately, naked and bleeding on the cross, helpless and hurting, exposed to the world, with no one to rescue him.

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Turns out, the Romans and the Jews can. In fact all of us can, as people responsible for his crucifixion. Because, in love, God chose powerlessness, in order to identify with our suffering. To absorb all the pain we cause ourselves and others.

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Every day the forward movement of Love and Compassion is hindered by humanity’s acts of injustice, cruelty and unkindness – whether to others or even ourselves!

In self-chosen weakness – the inevitable expression of Love – God allows himself to be stopped in his tracks. When we fall short of self-giving love, we stop the next step of divine grace.

To give an obvious example, God’s consistent, loving provision of food for the world’s people is just as consistently thwarted by unloving governments’ poor, unethical, cronyistic, or power-hungry handling of resources, so that swathes of the world’s population are denied the opportunity to see the full picture of grace.

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Turns out, governments can.

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Sometimes the traumas of our past seem to act as a blackout blind against the sunshine of unconditional acceptance and affirmation that God wants to stream into our consciousness.

Who can stop the Lord Almighty?

Turns out, we – or the demons of our upbringing – can.

But wait….. What, then, is this good news?

Thankfully, such human hindrance is never the final word in Christian or spiritual thought. All is not lost. The message of Christ, if nothing else, is one of hope.

That onward movement of love will have its way. In the words of Rob Bell, ‘Love wins’.

Those of us who cling to Christ (or whatever name we call him) struggle and stumble and often despise the darkness that still seems to reside within, but glimmers of light always, always appear through the cracks of our vision, opening our eyes to a wider, brighter world just up ahead, round the corner, where Love has found its fulfilment, its full expression.

For mystics, contemplatives and spiritual people, this fullness of Love is not simply some pie-in-the-sky concept to look forward to in the dim, distant future, but a tangible dimension in the present, glimpsed behind every veil in this world. For the kingdom, as Jesus said, is ‘within us’, to be found ‘on earth as it is in heaven’ when we pray or allow it to be so.

IMG_2181

St Leonards beach, near where I live (photo mine)

Love keeps rolling in, like an incoming tide, gently washing away our brokenness, showing us how to love others, how to overcome evil with good, hate with love, slowly breaking down barriers and bridging every gap, till love becomes all.

Who can stop the tide?

Like King Canute, our darkness, deceit and despair cannot ultimately stop the gentle progression of Love and the hope it brings.

Love will win. The kingdom, where Love reigns, is always coming closer.

What do you think? Feel free to take that as a rhetorical question (or comment below).

Blessings,

Roger

—–

Please read my About page to find out more about this blog.

I also have a book! Coming Home for Good is autobiographical, with themes of homelessness, spirituality and identity, and is available on Amazon. Find out more here.

Tagged , , , ,