Hang ups?

Is the question I ask myself as I start to write this blog.

A few, comes back the response in my head! Not certain how to define the phrase; I’ll let you ruminate on your own understanding. My hang up at this precise moment; how is this blog going to turn out!?

Anyway, here goes. In the latter half of the 14th century, an unknown priest wrote ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’. Basically, it is encouagement to put our hang ups about God, to one side, and look with different eyes. I read it a long time ago, but I’m now prompted to revisit it. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

I hope you’ve spotted the syncronicity between words and photograph, which was taken yesterday. Wonderful vanishing point! It draws us from where we are, reading this, and challenges us to move, virtually.

The Cloud of Unknowing turns everything on it’s head. Not facts and understanding and somehow getting it right by what we see hear and sense, physically, but plugging in to something deeper and indefinable. Different sensing to what we normally use. Being, not thinking. Ooops, that sounds a bit poncy! Truly, trying to be still, mentally, it’s difficult! Too much chatter. But learning to put this aside.

I’m still struggling with the hang ups, but the Creator understands and is gracious and understanding, and endlessly patient.

Take time to reflect on the photograph, and be suprised by what seems like the ‘Cloud of Unknowing’, is really the gateway to a new way of seeing, even if it’s for a fleeting moment!

Curious!?

Photograph taken by my good self whilst walking through a woodland last year! I’ve no idea what I want to say at this precise moment, but I’m sure I’ll think of something!

There is definately a face to be seen in this lonely fungus, and it appears to be smiling ruefully. The face seems to have a shock of golden, combed over hair and a rather bulbous nose. You will make your own judgement and observations. There will be as many interpretations as there are people who read this!

How we percieve, understand, interpret is unique to us; the diversity of humanity is a very splendid thing. In these time through which we live, in the uncertainty and constant chatter, we each try to make sense. Our own uniquemess means we react in very different ways. This is good!

For me, the creative impulse in you and I echoes God’s creativeness in bringing into reality the physical and spiritual world which we are part of. When our minds are stuffed full of anxiety and fear and longing, alongside hope and faith and vision, we learn to deal with the uniqueness of that tension every moment of every day. We are not islands (or a lonely fungus!), much as though for some of you reading this, it may be what you feel sometimes. Created in the image and likeness of God seems too much, but there it is. The quirkiness of each of us, the curious nature of the world we inhabit and the wider universe. Held in the hands of the Creator…everything.

Curious, puzzling, annoying, unsettling…you bet!

Blessings & Peace as always.

Something Understood

Everything has its time. I’m sure no one could disagree with this statement. The author of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament, adds this; ‘For everything has a season, a time for every activity under heaven.’

Life is about trying to understand, and sometimes we overcomplicate things, when simple questions and answers might suffice. The title of this blog has echoes in the BBC4 religious programme, Something Understood, which was axed after 23 years of broadcast in 2018. A great title, which echoes our own inner quest for meaning

We are naturally inquisitive as human beings and from an early age we want to know and understand. Perhaps we never really reach a conclusion, and to be honest, that suits me. Something understood in this moment, might change through circumstances, at another point in our lives. Certainty is a fickle master and faith is a many splendoured thing!

The photgraph was taken during a visit to Hauxley Nature Reserve, last year. The word that comes to mind is, passing. Time was passing as I took the photograph. The light passing though th grasses, speaking of latent hope for the future in the seedheads.

You and I passing through our existence, in this moment. Taking care to live in the moment, which moves on all too quickly.

May you know the blessing of ‘Something Understood’.

Moments in Time

Crossing shadows, deep calls to deep.

Silent passing, looking and watching,

as the darkness invades the light.

Focussed on movement, imperceptively quick.

Here we are, standing by the strand, waiting for

that moment of revelation, before it moves beyond this

place and time.

Opportuniy missed or still to come?

Take the darkness and the light and see clearly,

on what you are standing……trust the maker,

of material and spirit,

And cry Alleluia to the Creator of all.

Saying it all!

Yesterday, I was looking through photographs that I’d taken over recent years, and I came across this; the remains of a tree, transformed into a sculpture.

The lettering at the top is a quote taken from one of the early church Fathers, Augustine of Hippo, and it reads thus; ‘There is no saint without a past, and no sinner without a future’. Breathtaking, a sit down and take it in moment! Profound, all embracing, no ifs, ands or buts. Blunt, no wriggle room, speaking to everyone, saint or sinner or both together! This is the great leveller of a quotation, it leaves no-one left out. Just let those words move around your inner conversation. If I might dare to express it, I think it’s transformational.

The absolute clincher are the words at the base, below the carving of the ‘Lamb of God’. Taken from the opening chapter of the Gospel of St John, verse 29, The words of John the Baptist on seeing his cousin, Jesus….‘Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’ The icing on the cake…the quote at the bottom of the tree stump (!), it is utterly all encompassing, and resonates so profoundly for you and I.

Can we dare belive it? Does it feel a bit too good to be true. Do we try and hedge around, qualify it, change it, so that it makes sense to our own world view? Will we let the words speak to us today?

The fact that the sculptor chose these words, is calculated to produce a response in our mental map, and our hearts. It makes me weep, and be overwhelmed by the love of God.

I first came across these words of St Augustine in my early days as a Prison Chaplain and it shaped my ministry. I am so gald that I’ve become re-aquainted with it again. I offer it to you today.

Grace and Peace be with you.

Power

I took this photograph at the height of the storm, yesterday afternoon. The whole moment rendered me speechless. It just spoke to me of power and chaos and creation and my insignificance. An energising moment holding together a multitude of feelings.

I can hear the roar of the tumbling, racing sea, in my head even as I write this! The great thing is, that you will have your own feelings and thoughts, from your unique perspective. Which sums up life for all of us; perspective. Unique to us. Observing moments from our perspective, and offering them as a prayer, for ourselves, others and the world.

This may appear a completely random jump in my thinking, but I’d like to zip across to the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament, because I need to!! To be precise, it’s Chapter 53 and verse 5; the end thereof…here it is..’…by his wounds we are healed’. This is a massive challenge because it makes it plain that the individual in focus, is God, in the shape of the wounded servant; Jesus Christ. We don’t like simplicity; religion likes to make things complex,

The rage of the sea, the seemimg randomness of life ( and death) mixes us up, like a load of washing on a fast spin!! Fear is normal, but in the middle of that moment we can be assured of God’s profound understanding of what we are going through and experiencing. My experience is that fear is not taken away it is given a new perspective.

The boiling of the sea, the seeming chaos, reflects in our own psyche; it’s good to search for the still, small voice of calm. It’s there, believe me!

Peace be with you and all who you honour and remember.

The Doubter

We are all experiencing the highs and lows of the moments we live in. Some days better than others. This week we have a set of readings that take us from the stoning of Stephen, to the powerful trust of the Psalmist, to Peter’s assurance of God’s mercy, ending with John the gospeller relating Jesus’ words…’I am the way, the truth and the life’. Wow!

It feels like there is too much to digest with every emotion and motivation laid bare. Being a simple soul, I want us just to home in on Jesus’ response to Thomas, the ‘doubter’. Poor old Thomas, he was simply expressing what others were thinking, but who didn’t have the bottle to verbalise it! There is some strange weaving here, as my eldest son is Thomas and the name goes back on my maternal side, five generations!

‘Lord……How can we know the way.?’, asks Thomas. I bet there are some of you reading this and asking the same question. Good! The fact that Thomas’s reaction has set him down in history as ‘Doubting Thomas’ is massively unfair. He was being honest for heavens’ sake; good for you Thomas!

Look at Jesus’ response; ‘ I am the way and the truth and the life….if you know me you will know my Father also.’ Does it seem like a put down or a Captain Mannering, ‘Stupid boy…!! or girl !’. Not at all. I identify so much with Thomas, the ‘Ooops, did I really think that, verbalise that question?’. Jesus was not angry or shocked by Thomas’ question, he simply pointed out the reality…. ‘I’m the route through which you’ll find God!’

This almost seems too simple or actually makes us feel uncertain. How, where, what? The word is ‘trust’. That’s what Jesus invited Thomas to do. Make that step. There have been times in my life and still are, when I hear that still, small voice calling, imperceptible, but drawing me on.

Many a time I’ve prayed with someone who is hurting, without hope, longing, and I hear those words of Jesus for them and I verbalise the words of Jesus…’I am (for you), the way, the truth and the life.’

Thomas is famous for his doubting, let’s take comfort in that at this time of uncertainty. Doubt and faith go hand in hand. It’s impossible to have one without the other. Jesus wants us to open our hearts and minds to see the reality that weaves itself into what we define as ‘our reality’. That he is with us each step of our journey. In every moment. Even when we feel lost or abandoned.

Thomas was not rejected by Jesus, for his doubt, he was encouraged to see differently. Just let those words, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’, play around your consciousness in each moment and sense the moving of the Holy Spirit, as you walk your way with Jesus.

The Lord bless you and keep you.