Tag Archives: forgiveness

COMPASSION IS REST

Compassion is rest.

To live with compassion means we don’t need to prove ourselves – that we don’t try to be better than someone else.

Compassion means that we don’t judge or criticise those who say and do things we disagree with, but accept that they, like us, have their weaknesses.

Compassion means that sometimes we do judge and criticise, even those close to us, but at that very moment we can forgive ourselves, as we’re forgiven, for these disturbing attitudes, and we’re free to move on.

Both they and we need compassion at the same moment. We discover that we’re in it together.

Compassion is a level playing field, where all have gone astray, all need mercy. No one is better or worse.

Which means that we can empathise with people who seem either less or more moral, whether posher or poorer, than us. Levels of morality, class and wealth, fade to grey, in light of compassion.

There are, in fact, no levels.

To accept that we need compassion makes us no better than someone who hasn’t yet realised that they too need compassion. We’re just lucky to be in that place.

Compassion means that we go easy on ourselves. After all, who are we to argue with God?

Compassion means that in every thought, word and deed, with so many mixed motives, honourable and dishonourable, even when we mistakenly think we’re doing the right thing… we’re honoured.

It means that this very moment, right now, we’re forgiven and free…and this moment…and this one.

Yes, and this one, too.

And this one.

And even this one.

Mercy is not just new every morning, but every moment.

Compassion means that every single second we can start afresh with a clean slate.

We don’t need to wait for a new day.

Which means a permanent state of restfulness, and of freedom.

Freedom to do what’s right.

Freedom to get things wrong.

Freedom from chains of society, religion, consumerism, one-upmanship, and showmanship.

And freedom to forget that we’re free from chains of society, religion, consumerism, one-upmanship, and showmanship – when we act as if we’re still enslaved. We can be forgiven for that, too!

In the world of compassion, even our hypocrisy is forgivable.

Compassion means that we don’t have to do anything!

To live with compassion is to be at rest.

 

Compassion is action.

Compassion means we can’t ignore the plight of the poor and the victimised.

Compassion means we can’t just walk by on the other side.

Compassion means we want to help.

That we will do what we can.

It means that love flows from a place of rest and freedom.

Those who receive compassion cannot help but give compassion.

Compassion means that sometimes we do walk by on the other side, but we discover that even our omissions are forgiven, and we learn from our mistakes.

To live with compassion means empathy with people in their weakness and vulnerability, because we know that we too are weak and vulnerable.

Compassion means that we don’t try and save the world, because we recognise our limitations and the strengths of others.

Compassion means that we care for ourselves too,

that we’re equal to others for whom we feel compassion. We recognise that we too need support, mercy, love and empathy.

Compassion means life with purpose, destiny, and love expressed in deed.

To live with compassion is to be stirred into action.

To have found this compassion so long ago remains, for me, a miracle bombshell blessing:

Compassion in the shape of Jesus.

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(Wondering what this blog is all about, and who A Child of Grace is?

Please read my About page. Thanks! Roger N)

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WAR! What is it good for?

War

WAR! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

I love watching Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker singing this soul classic by Edwin Starr in the Rush Hour films. A powerful song that resonates with many of us.

We hear of so many dubious decisions by Western governments, so many civilian deaths and too many other atrocities in the Middle East and around the world, and we readily say ‘Amen!’ to this pacifistic statement.

Hold that thought for a moment while I tell you about my Dad….

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My Dad was a stiff-upper-lipped Brit, who didn’t easily express sorrow or admit fault. My relationship with him from childhood and throughout my teens was one of heated, warring exchanges and mutual lack of understanding, contributing ultimately to my impulsive escape from the rat race to the highways of America with just a rucksack and not so much as a goodbye, just an acrimonious postcard from Gatwick airport (see My Life’s Soundtrack).

My reconciliation with him surprisingly didn’t come as an obedient response to having received forgiveness for myself when I came to faith in Jesus in ‘87, but earlier, while I was still an atheist, through a spontaneous, supernatural Holy Spirit moment (as I see it in hindsight).

One evening, sitting in my tent during my second (this time solo) trip round the States, I was suddenly overcome with remorse for the hurtful ways I’d treated my Dad and with forgiveness towards him for the failings in his fatherhood. I realised for the first time that we all (including my Dad and me) have faults and he’d done his best to be a father to me.

When, some months later, I returned to the UK with a seedling of Christian faith in my heart, reconciliation had already happened. From that moment on, our relationship grew and grew, and we enjoyed each other’s company through his later dementia-inflicted years until his death in 2006.

I now remember my Dad with immense fondness.

He liked a laugh, he liked the ladies, and he embarked on youth-oriented skiing holidays right into his 70s! He was a character. Yet he also retained a real sense of dignity about him.

My Dad, at about 70

My Dad, at about 70

Perhaps it was simply his upbringing, his generation, but I wonder also whether his service as an air gunner and then flight lieutenant with the RAF through the Second World War had instilled in him a sense of honour. He experienced loss and tragedy both in war and in his personal life. His inability to express grief may have been a psychologically unhealthy relic of a bygone era… or perhaps a particular facet of his character. Or maybe both.

He and I were very different. Our differences, together with my Dad’s stoic exterior, made for a difficult relationship in my early years.

And yet… maybe such stoicism had been a necessary survival technique through the horrors of war and the losses in his own personal life.

My Dad had fought for his country – and won. I enjoy the freedoms of Western democracy that he and countless others had struggled for, and many died for, during that dreadful war.

He had served a greater purpose. He had fought for the common good.

He had risked his life for his country and for generations to come.

After the war, working as a lawyer for the magistrates’ courts, he saw himself as a servant of the state.

There was incredible dignity and honour in his service to the country.

WAR! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing!

And yet…

When I see the indignity, the dishonour, in much of our British culture, I mean the kind of culture that revolves around self-interest, acquisition of stuff,  junk TV and alcohol for example, this thought crosses my mind, like a guilty secret:

This generation has lost out by not having experienced war.

Now of course, that isn’t true. We don’t need war. We don’t need bloodshed, hatred or mindless destruction.

What we do all need is a greater purpose to fight for.

We do need a higher reason for living than simply satisfying our own needs and watching reality TV.

We need a reason not to emulate Jim Royle (of the Royle Family)!

A reason not to be an A&E statistic, another casualty admitted with a debilitating alcohol-related disease.

A reason to realise there’s more to life than Facebook and drawing attention to the trivia of our own lives.

A reason to love our neighbour as ourselves, and to love our loved ones enough to find a way to overcome relationship problems, to work for peace.

I remember reading John Bird explaining in his autobiography Some Luck how he didn’t want to live as his parents had done, simply coming home from work every evening to watch TV. An endless, futile cycle of work, TV, work, TV. He wanted something more, to achieve something worthwhile.

That desire, that passion, resulted in The Big Issue, an incredible organisation that has given thousands of homeless people the opportunity to work and begin to regain some self-belief.

I have the privilege of working with a great many professionals serving vulnerable people. I have huge respect for them all, each having his or her own motivation for their work, but each striving for the common good, each one seeking to make a difference in our broken world, many of these giving their time voluntarily.

My own motivation lies in my stumbling faith in Jesus. Or in his non-stumbling love. When I took my first faltering steps towards him way back in ’87… my life turned instantly from hedonism to altruism. From sex & drugs & rock ‘n’ roll (and travel) to the pursuit of a caring career.

That breath – that life of Jesus in me – has always, since that day, inspired me to care for others. The nursing career came supernaturally naturally. The need to work with homeless people flows inevitably from a profound sense of being saved by grace and out of my own experience of living rough.

I’m inspired to attempt to show others, through my life, my work and this blog, who I believe Jesus is.

I’m inspired to use my energy for the needs of others, in my own imperfect way. Perhaps, in some sense, I take after my Dad after all!

This is my war, my act of service. Battling against marginalisation, against inequality, homelessness ill-health and feelings of worthlessness in the people I meet. I have honour and dignity in this.

What is this kind of war good for? Quite a lot.

At the same time…

because I do this out of love, out of gratitude for extreme grace,

knowing that I can never earn the Father’s love, that there are no brownie points in heaven,

because Jesus won the greatest battle ever at the cross on my behalf,

knowing that he’s loved me furiously and unconditionally from the start, means that…

it’s no burden!

It means that at the end of the day I can watch junk TV! I can spend time on Facebook, reading and posting mindless trivia. Although most of the time I’d rather be running…

Because that trivia is not what I live for. I have a cause to fight for, battles to win, which carry me through the working week.

It means I don’t burn out.

Because although I have a cause to fight for, even to live for, my battles are not the ultimate thing that define me.

My identity is ultimately as a child of God, at rest in his Father’s arms, who doesn’t need to prove anything. My battles are fought with peace. The peace I’ve received (with God / with myself) is an effectual weapon in these battles.

Other people I know, who achieve incredible things, fight similar – and different – battles. Some work hard for peace and reconciliation with God and others. Some war against sexism and discrimination. Some raise funds for those in need, highlighting causes. The mission for some is simply to put a smile on someone else’s face each day, to speak a word of encouragement.

Some have very different kinds of motivation to mine. I have huge admiration for all of them.

I just still happen to believe that they, you and I, all need the life-giving, life-affirming, source-of-all-grace, Jesus.

Back to the question…

WAR! What is it good for?

Depends what kind of war we’re talking about.

What kind of war are you waging? What gives you honour and dignity in a self-obsessed culture?

Or are you living for the next payday, for reality TV, Facebook and an even smarter phone? Do you need to find a cause to fight for?

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Why a blog? Why ‘A Child of Grace’?

In these days of social networking and blogs, everyone feels they have something to say. I’m no exception. In my arrogance (perhaps) I’ve often felt I have a view worth expressing. As a young atheist in 6th form, I wrote an article for the school magazine on why there was no purpose to life, why belief in God was just ‘a crutch for religious nutters’ and why Sid Vicious was my hero! I was disappointed that the article wasn’t published.

Some 18 years later, I had a featured letter published in a national newspaper about how God, the Holy Spirit, had set me free overnight from cannabis dependency and given me purpose in life. Don’t you love God’s irony!

In 2009 I had an article published in Nursing Times, centring on a case study from my work as a nurse with homeless people, highlighting how a therapeutic relationship, empathy and rapport with a client promotes concordance, reduces the client’s stress and aids healing. The subject of the case study had a massive, deep, drug-related wound but had stopped attending his GP surgery for treatment. As a result of a therapeutic relationship of mutual respect, empathy and understanding, within an accessible service, the client did not miss a single appointment at our clinics, he was a pleasure to work with, and his wound healed with incredible swiftness. It was one of many beautiful encounters in my work and inspired me to write the article. I felt I had something to say to the clinical world. The article can be found at:

http://www.nursingtimes.net/nursing-practice/clinical-zones/wound-care/holistic-care-of-a-drug-related-wound-a-case-study-from-a-clinic-for-homeless-people/5003854.article

Of personal sadness to me, since the article was published, the client (who was the same age as me) died very suddenly.

I’ve had letters printed in local papers and national magazines. Nothing amazingly significant about that perhaps, but the articles and letters reflect more than a desire to ‘spout my views’ – they reflect a love of writing. I cannot draw, paint or play a musical instrument. But I can write and enjoy writing. I don’t express myself particularly clearly or confidently in speech, but I enjoy conveying my thoughts and feelings in print.

Why a blog? Because I think I have something to say? Undoubtedly. But equally, to fulfil who I am. A creative outlet. The enjoyment of crafting words and ideas together, to create something that is a reflection of ‘me’.

Which brings me to the other reason for a blog: Being a ‘child of grace’ (a phrase taken from the U2 song All Because of You). If I were simply aiming to express my own creativity as a kind of self-fulfilment, it would be nothing more than self-indulgence and serve no real purpose outside of myself. But there is a higher purpose: I am a child of grace!

Grace in the theological sense.

Not grace as in beautiful, as in a ‘graceful swan’, although this grace is the most beautiful thing on earth.

Not grace as in saying thanks before a meal, although this grace is the biggest thing ever to give thanks for.

Not grace as in ‘your grace’ as if I’m something important! Although because of this grace I know that I am important and special to my heavenly Father.

Grace is mercy. I’m forgiven. I’ve had wonderful spiritual experiences of being forgiven and of forgiving others. To forgive and to be forgiven is true freedom and joy – at least one of these spiritual experiences involved spontaneous laughter at the wonder of being forgiven!

Of course, forgiveness, whether you’re giving or receiving it, is never deserved. Otherwise it wouldn’t be forgiveness. Which is why it’s so liberating, so joy-inducing, either to give or receive.

But grace is more than mercy. More than forgiveness. Grace goes further. Grace means not only that the bad stuff is taken away, but that good stuff takes its place.

In my case, this included meaning and purpose, the desire, passion and ability to give my life to a caring career, the ability to be a husband and father, the gift of family, and so much more.

It may sound corny, but I was given peace. The homeless, hedonistic, haphazard, freedom-of-the-road traveller, who wanted no possessions or responsibilities, who’d been drastically damaged by a dysfunctional childhood and wanted nothing more than to get away from England and himself and to travel the world, had now not only found Jesus (or been found by him), but had found peace.

Now born (again) of grace, I had no more desire to travel but to return to England and use the gifts and talents I’d been given to care for others. A remarkable transformation of grace.

A family member told me later ‘You found yourself’. I glibly replied, ‘No, I found Jesus’! I realised later we were both right. As a result of finding Jesus, I’d found myself.

Grace means being overwhelmed by love. It means I can never turn back. I’ve tasted something real, something sweet, and nothing else now will do.

Being a child of grace means that I know my faults, my shortcomings, my failures, and yet – it’s OK! God loves me anyway. Better than that, he accepts me as I am. Even better still….he LIKES me!!! I have value, dignity, self-worth, self-respect – not because I’m anything, but because to God I’m something.

And………..this is the best part……..I see others that way too. Maybe that’s why I see so much beauty in the faces of the broken, hurting, vulnerable and homeless people I work with.

This is not religion. This is not a system of rules or rituals to earn brownie points with God. It is not even a way of life (although that naturally follows). This is simply a free gift, received with open hands and open heart.

Being a child of grace means living under the shadow of the cross. Grace flows from the cross of Jesus Christ – all that he did, all that he is, all that he gives, is centred on the cross.

All that I am, all that I have, is because of the cross. Much as Jesus’ crucifixion was a dark day, a day of death and seeming defeat, his act of self-sacrifice was in fact victory in disguise, revealed on Easter Sunday – light and life for the world, the greatest gift to mankind – to all who are humble enough to stop trying to prove themselves and to come like beggars receiving charity.

My goal – in life and blog – is not simply to reveal who I am, but to point to who he is. Like a star with no light of its own, but reflecting the sun’s light, to reflect the light of Jesus in some small way. In particular, for the shadow of the cross – the light of the cross – to fall on all that I convey in my life and online. For my views and opinions to be tinted with the radiant grace of the cross.

I write this with a belly full of pancakes! Tomorrow is the start of Lent – not something I’ve ever taken much notice of – but this year I aim to reflect and re-focus on my Friend and Saviour. Maybe you will find or re-find him too?

As a child of grace, I try to avoid being ‘religious’ but aim to live in the reality and fullness that God intended. God forbid that I should become too religious! Which means that, although my adulation may have shifted from Sid Vicious to Jesus, I still like to listen to the Sex Pistols, and songs like Pretty Vacant and God Save the Queen are still great tunes!

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