restriction

You've got yourself stuck in a moment

And now you can't get out of it

- U2

Arthur Henry Young. Life through the eyes of Trees

Arthur Henry Young. Life through the eyes of Trees

Have you ever felt like your life has been taken hostage by circumstances that you have no control over or power to change, causing you to wonder if fate has dealt you a bad hand or that there was some kind of malevolent force conspiring against you for unfair reason. The unpredictability of life can be down right scary at times, full of uncertainty and apprehension. Learning to navigate this terrain takes skilful resolve and wise input from as many sources as possible. Getting stuck is inevitable, it's the futures way of introducing you to the possibility of change and transformation. For many this can evoke a social anxiety that disorientates and disturbs the inner workings of our well-being, but as disconcerting as it is, evolution comes to us all, not just to disturb our equilibrium but to introduce us to new ways of seeing and thriving in the world around us.

We are living in unprecedented days of advancement and progress where antiquity is being confronted at a fast rate of knots by futurity. Our ancient ways of seeing the world and primitive social constructs are under threat by the ever increasing advancement of knowledge. Human consciousness and the sciences are collaborating together like never before, suggesting that our old binary ways of looking at the world are no longer sufficient and that we need to consider a more unitive and non-dual way of processing the deep inner workings of life.

The mystics believe that the holy work of sacred spirit is a counter intuitive partnership with 'release and restraint'. ‘Release’ seeks to promote ever greater dimensions of freedom and flourishing while the ‘restraint’ element is the arbiter that seeks to define the boundaries and limitations that manage our well-being.

Our ancient biblical forebears described the HOLY SPIRIT as a restraining agent that controlled the equilibrium of all matter, a binding force or energy centre that holds everything in play, including the life flow that governs the animation of humanity. If we are to believe that there is something bigger going on behind the scenes then we have to ask how our experiences of restriction have actually presented the divine to us. If God is present in the restriction or restraint then we have to discern the moment in order to find the grace and power that is potentially on offer. Restriction slows us long enough to get in touch with that part of us which is in pain or in need of healing. Depression, once seen as something to overcome or exorcise from our life is now being recognised as a signpost that is pointing to a deeper suffering or agony that is deep in the human psyche.

'My grace is enough; it's all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness'.

If we refuse to lean back into or engage with the struggle of constriction we can end up trying to prematurely extricate ourselves from the situation only to find ourselves back there sooner than later. I personally hate the claustrophobic feelings of restriction and invariably try to extract myself as fast as possible, but truth be told I need to let the powers of restriction and restraint have their way with me especially if I am going to learn the subtle art of trust. When I get stuck I need a helping hand, a rescuer of sorts who reaches into my life to remind me that I am a communal agent that is constitutionally connected to others and in need of assistance. More often than not my independent inclinations cause me to withdraw and battle it out alone afraid to let my vulnerability be seen by another, after-all, who wants to come across as weak and needy. Pride has a wonderful way of putting on a strong front even when your life might be imploding in the background and the ego likes to be in control especially when your soul is crying out for help. Our egotism loves the path of ascent, the upwardly mobile direction of success and external notoriety but the soul knows that the path of descent is the only true way to wholeness and health.This path is one of letting go, or in Biblical terms ‘carrying your cross’; facing your demons or befriending your grief and loss.

When Bono wrote the lyrics of 'Stuck in a Moment’ he was referring to his good friend Michael Hutchence who sadly took his own life. A poignant line in the song is…"You've got to get yourself together, you've got stuck in a moment...” which for me is not a get-over-it or toughen-up taunt. I would like to think that he was saying, if you are stuck in a moment then you need to get yourself together with someone else because you cant do this on your own. Maybe we need keep an eye out for those who are on the same path of descent and cosy on up in order to find solace in the moment. Or maybe we need to look to those who have travelled this road before so that we can glean from their wisdom and insight. Which ever the case you are not alone on your journey. Some thing WHOLLY is going on.


radical


To be a radical is to advocate for thorough or complete change to the systems and institutions that threaten our evolution as a species. The religious, political and social structures that have traditionally undergirded society are in need of constant adjustment and upgrade, an overhaul of sorts, especially if we are to advance and flourish in this post-christian age.

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The word radical isn’t as dangerous as it sounds. It comes from the Latin radix, meaning “root,” the same as radish, which isn’t particularly revolutionary. It refers to going deep, which is what I try to do. I want to get at the root of Christianity, which, for me, is Jesus’s teachings on love and inclusiveness. It’s about the poor being able to lead decent lives. It’s about caring for those who suffer. And it’s about justice. I believe Jesus calls on us all to be mystics — that is, lovers of God, of creation, and of each other — but also to be prophets or warriors, people who defend what we cherish. So to be radical means to go deep, the way roots go deep, but also to “uproot,” to question whether we’re doing enough to bring about justice. - Matthew Fox

The mystics and prophets must be the dominant voices that we listen to if we are going to embrace the new future that is pushing its way into our present reality.

Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who was a real scholar of the prophetic said that the primary work of a prophet is to ‘interfere'. We need to interfere with injustice — whether it’s ecological, economic, racial, gender-based, or social. The radical prophetic voices that are emerging today need to be willing to challenge the status quo and question the long held beliefs and traditions that have shaped our moral and ethical constructs.

Our fear of disruption and change exacerbates our suspicion of any kind of deconstructive conversation and consideration. Hence why the radicality of the mystics and prophets confront and expose our insecurities when they conjure and propose alternate futures.

To constantly question the old concepts and traditions is the only way for us to find the new answers that will help to explain our unsatisfied yearning for a full and enjoyable life.

For many years now I have been asking questions about religion and how it has over-promised God to the masses, while suffering under the weight of an inflated view of its role as a kind of social and spiritual conscience. Don’t get me wrong, religion has done some great things for society but it has always suffered from its arrogant stance as the primary answer for human wellbeing ignoring the science practices that are now contributing heavily to the existential conversation. Spiral dynamics is providing us with a new comprehension of the spiritual opening the door to new realms of enquiry.

Some of the big questions I am currently asking are ???

What is the new place that religion should hold in a post-christian world?

How do we hold to our sacred writings and interpret them in the light of our equally valid cultural exegesis?

Can we overcome our dualistic predilection towards binary positions of exclusion or can we adopt a fully inclusive world view?

Have we cannibalised the beauty of our sacred canon by proof texting the hell out its meaning? Excuse the ‘hell' pun!

One of the big rocks of my protestant tradition has been what theologians call ‘original sin’, the idea that all humans are born into a state of sinfulness. This notion supposes a God who is harshly punitive, and that because of two peoples action around eating the forbidden fruit the entirety of the human race is condemned, at least until the brith of Jesus. Matthew Fox calls this a ‘preposterous idea’.

We’re born as blessings, as expressions of the love and creative power of God and the universe. We’re capable of making wrong decisions, of choosing evil from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When we do, we slip and fall. But that doesn’t affect our being. It’s like learning to walk. We fall then, too, but we get back up and try again. - Matthew Fox

Augustine, a fourth century theologian came up with the idea of ‘original sin' in a time when Christianity took over the Roman Empire, and if you are going to run an empire original sin is a helpful idea, especially if you want people to question their self worth and existential well being. If we look at the rest of creation we can see that they have a really healthy understanding of being and belonging, happy to be alive. It’s only humans who torture themselves with guilt, shame, regret and everything else that goes with a negative view of our innate essence. Our original wounded-ness is real but not because our forbears ate an apple, but simply because all birth and re-birth is traumatic.

Otto Rank was a brilliant Jewish psychologist of the early twentieth century. He said that everyone comes into the world wounded, because leaving the comfort of the womb after nine months is traumatic. Separation from the mother is our original wound. And when that bell of separation is rung again later in life — by divorce or death or something else — we re-experience the trauma. For Rank the only salve is 'unio mystica', the mystical union that we experience in love and art.

To be radical is to suggest a new reading of the script handed down from our ancient progenitors. Maybe ‘original blessing’ should be the new mantra that graces the lips of the religious and deeply spiritual, reminding us that we are fundamentally ‘good’ even when we act out to the detriment of our fellow earth citizens.

Be radical by choosing the good over the evil…you can do it.

This blog has been inspired by the writings of Matthew Fox. ‘The Mystic and the Warrior'

The image is the album cover of ‘Radical Face’ music…check it out


pray

When it comes to figuring out how life works there are a myriad of self help books to reach for that suggest certain principles or key truths/ideas that will aid you in your quest for success or fulfilment.

The modern guru is in high demand, a reboot of the snake skin salesman who arrives in town with his magic potions promising to heal what ails you. The deep wounds of the human condition continue to remind us of our unrealised dreams and aspirations, all the while causing us to reach out for easy answers that invariably over promise results.

‘We have over-promised God by making prayer a guarantee for supply and success’


The ancients did not have our advanced methodologies or psychoanalytical theories, they simply had to rely on a primitive trust in the gods, a rather naive belief in some kind of providence that was working things our for the benefit of all. Prayer became a key element in the cultural fabric of life, a conduit that connected the human and divine providing a reassurance of close contact and engagement with the transcendent, and its potential intervention in our existence.

Religion became the so-called sole proprietor of prayer deciphering its mystery to the masses while somehow losing some of the beauty that is hidden in its essence. It became a transactional weapon in the war for human-divine favour, with the clergy claiming the knowledge of the deeper pathway to spirituality. Prayer became an official by-product of the institution, a formulaic prescription for how humans could honour God while advantaging the relationship.

If we are to enter into the beauty of what it means to pray we need to unpack the multi faceted expressions of this ancient practice…

Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn c. 1657

Paul the Apostle, by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn c. 1657

Prayer...

The idea of prayer is not owned by religion, rather it is why religion exists in the first place. Religion can encourage a deeper awareness of prayer but it cannot dictate or coerce its flow of energy within us. Prayer is the innate hidden mystery of our quest for meaning, the deep need for connection with otherness that animates our imagination and inquisitiveness.

Prayer is the more-than-me thing that resonates with our eternal search for understanding and knowledge, the need to know and be known. It is no respecter of religious belief or righteous behaviour, and is not limited to a codified construct of specificity or governed by a certain pattern of practice. It moves in us and through us modulated by the beat of a sacred drum. God is prayer itself, the push and pull of longing and loving that motivates us to respond internally and externally to any given moment that will enhance and enlarge our consciousness.

Prayer is the gift of trust that is given to all of humanity, a reminder that we are all hard-wired to cry out for extra terrestrial assistance of some kind. We all want our needs met even at the most basic and fundamental level. Whether that is selfishly driven by our ego or selflessly inspired by our greater goodness this is the unfolding nature of this spiritual journey.

Prayers…

“Prayer does not change God, but it changes those who pray.” - Soren Kierkegaard

We have all attempted to fashion and formulate certain prayers that we believe accurately describe our immediate need, seemingly making it impossible for the divine to not act on our behalf. Our naivety as a species has turned prayer into a type of lucky rabbits foot that we wave around hoping to change our circumstances. For some, getting our prayers answered has moved away from trust to a carefully crafted art form of linguistic specificity. If we just get the words right backed up by a good attitude and a buoyant faith we are told we can pretty much guarantee a result…or at least we hope so. While prayers are critical to the work of hopefulness in our lives and helpful for our need of ritual and tradition, they cannot be perfectly shaped to work a miracle every time. As much as I pray for good weather or a certain sports game outcomes the gods may not actually care too much about this stuff…LOL

Prayers bind us in community and hold us to a universal idea of spiritual connectedness. They stimulate our sense of belonging and create a place of safety for our experimental and mystical maturation. They are the unifying force that remind us all that we are needy and desperate for a better way of caring for that which feeds into our lives. Offering up our prayers is about exposing our vulnerable humanity to those around us while hoping that a higher power is working things out for our good.

The requests, supplications, intercessions that we offer up are our wishful thinking longing for a change of some kind.

Prayerfulness…

“God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” - Mother Teresa

Prayerfulness is what the mystics call unitive consciousness, a place where we discover the ultimate idea of why prayer is crucial for the human condition, the concept of ONENESS. Oneness is an unceasing uninitiated interaction with the divine, that mysteriously moves in and through us. The posture of prayerfulness is one of contemplation and meditation, that which stimulates a greater awareness of God presence. This type of awareness is highlighted in the Genesis story of Jacob where he awakes from a dream realising that the presence of God is interfacing with all of creation at a subatomic level awaiting our conscious awakening. Prayer-fulness is the pursuit of ONENESS, a journey of reconciliation and restoration that repairs the internal breach of trust and tranquility that we were originally endowed with as divine image bearers. We have somehow become bifurcated in our deep connection with the divine, caught up in the busyness of trying to externally please the divine rather internally pleasure the divine. Oneness is the repairer of the breach, the coming together of all things in perfect harmony, the long and awkward journey of interpenetration. Prayerfulness moves us away from a transactional construct to a trans-rational reality of existence, a supra-natural union that brings peace to the human soul.

The starting point of prayerfulness is the “Our father….” prayer, the formulation of an intimate connection that ultimately leads us to the Jesus prayer that St John records in chapter 17 of his gospel…. “That they may be one as we are one…”

Let us pray….

glimpse

“I am a baby, I am a child, I am the innocent wonder in my eyes

I am a glimpse, I am a sign, of someone I can be, someone I might

I am not one, I am not two, but I am a million things entwined

I am a piece, I am a slice, strung together by the yarns of time.”

― Sanober Khan

glimpse.jpg

Every now and then we get a glimpse of a reality that is outside of the box of our current interpretation of life, a sneak peek so to speak of the thing-behind-the-thing that desires to expand our experience of existence. This awakening realisation is a complex myriad of ingredients that are negotiating our maturation by opening the eyes of our understanding to a new matrix of meaning. This potentially transcendent experience confronts our sensate experience of life in order to remind us that there is more going on in the background than we could possibly realise. It seems like the mystical unseen work of providence is subtly exposing us to a new pathway of change and evolution.

We are more than we currently see or encounter in any given moment. Maybe that’s why we are so fascinated with the wonderment that hides in the backdrop of our imagination.

The relatively short nature of our life as we know it is not so much about trying to succeed or achieve in some kind of endeavour, which is not a bad thing, but rather about the great cosmic mystery that is guiding the formation of our unfolding. Getting a glimpse of this mystery can diminish our egos need to prove its worth or subscribe to some kind of expectation that is projected on to us by a culture that is driven by comparison and competition. When I truely see how my life is an important part of the great chain of being I can momentarily relax my striving mind, close my eyes and find a peace that passes all understanding.

In the gospel of St Mark some people brought a blind man to Jesus, asking if he would perform a miracle and restore their friends sight. Interesting side note, we all have "friends" that we want healed, which is why we use them as a third person example to highlight our own desperation for wholeness. We all need healing moments that shift our perspective and preferential way of seeing the world. When Jesus agreed to their request the first part of the recovery process was to remove him from his immediate surroundings, as if to suggest that familiarity plays huge part in our visual obstruction. The blind spots that we all contract due to our environmental affinity and close association with sameness can be the breeding ground for a psychological myopia that blinds us to the myriad of activity that is going on in the background.

That which we have become well acquainted with to the point that we no longer see its glaringly obvious encumbrance in our life becomes somehow integrated into our habitual way of living. A potential glimpse of a way around this impediment brings with it a hopeful view of the future.

What is also interesting about this story is the progressive nature of this healing, a reminder to us all that seeing beyond the veil of our current perception is a long term work of patience and persistence. Jesus is the archetype for the divine assistance that occurs through the hands of others, those who can help open our eyes to their way of seeing the world. Learning to trust the divine in others is a beautiful synergy that occurs when we allow our lives to be guided by a communal vision of togetherness. While it may feel like the blind leading the blind sometimes we have to believe that their are unseen powers that are working for our greater betterment.

Curiosity and inquisitiveness are universal descriptors for the transcendent desire that resides within all of us, outworking their magic in order to give us a glimpse of something new.

“One clear moment, one of trance

One missed step, one perfect dance

One missed shot, one and only chance

Life is all...but one fleeting glance.”

― Sanober Khan

appreciation

By taking the time to stop and appreciate who you are and what you've achieved - and perhaps learned through a few mistakes, stumbles and losses - you actually can enhance everything about you. Self-acknowledgment and appreciation are what give you the insights and awareness to move forward toward higher goals and accomplishments. - Jack Canfield

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Appreciation is the art of recognising or understanding that something is valuable and important. The hidden agenda of its handiwork is to illicit an ongoing response of gratitude and thankfulness in our lives. By maintaining this posture on an ongoing basis we can potentially reconstitute our attitude and recalibrate our personhood. When we focus on the finer details of life rather than finer things of life it moves us towards a healthy level of contentment that supports a balanced framework of human flourishing.

If we all devoted more time and energy to finding the merit and benefit in what we have, rather than what we don’t have we would be less distracted by the emotionally draining dissatisfaction that easily creeps into our entitled and self-indulgent attitude. My western world addiction to a materialistic consumerism can so easily overwhelm my sensibilities, preoccupying my thoughts with a need for more rather than choosing to accept my current status as a true reflection of reality.

When get caught up in the collective gluttony of overconsumption it feeds our stinginess and selfishness robbing us of the rich fruitfulness that generosity has to offer. Appreciation has a more open hearted and inclusive world view where sharing becomes the standard for a healthy society. When you really appreciate what you have been given to steward it becomes mutually pleasurable for all concerned.

Appreciation is the byproduct of a rich contentment and a radical generosity that come together to conjure up a new modality of human practice. To Survive in the dog-eat-dog world of the human ego we will need to navigate through our natural pre-dispositional lean toward self-centredness and self preservation, learning to trust that the universe has our back. Our FOMO (fear of missing out) can also distort our view of reality if we keep comparing our situation with others. Comparison depreciates the value of appreciation.

When I was growing up I was taught to say those magic words of 'please and thank-you', the universal protocols for comportment that promote a deeper appreciation for the contribution that others make to your life. Due to the fact that gratefulness takes a while to bed into the human psyche I am still learning to listen and lean into the prompts and cues that reciprocity invites me into.

The formation of a relational etiquette nourishes a healthy emotional IQ, a crucial component in the maturation of our appreciation skills. Peter Salovey an American social psychologist suggests that emotional intelligence is the ability to monitor one's own and other people’s emotions, to discriminate between different emotions and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behaviour.

Empathy, which is typically associated with EI, because it relates to an individual connecting their personal experiences with those of others becomes the driving force behind how we guide our energies towards the mutual practice of appreciation. As I give and receive empathy it builds rapport, increases sensitivity and stimulates sympathy toward one another, the underlying virtues of how appreciation shapes a healthy society.

What you've given me I could never return

'Cause there's so much girl I've yet to learn

And I want to show my appreciation, cause when I found you

I found a new inspiration

Oh, oh! heaven must have sent you from above

Oh, heaven must have sent your precious love.

- Marvin Gaye; Your Precious Love

life

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ― Mary Oliver

There is no handbook for doing life, no perfect step by step guide that successfully plots a course for your future well-being.

The religious world has its sacred scriptures, often touted as a spiritual road code that can successfully answer all the big questions or navigate you through all the big issues. While these texts are helpful they are not so much an owners manual but a historical overview that conveys how humans have sought to understand the nature of providence and its part to play in their becoming. The beauty of these ancient texts is that they have fuelled the idea of why prayer is the contemplative conduit that negotiates the human/divine interaction. Unfortunately prayer got distorted along the way and turned into a transactional governor for divine intervention as we tried to cope with our uncertainty and apprehension around the misgivings that life would often throw at us. Rather than learning to accept the conundrums that came across our path we resorted to praying them away, so to speak, an adventure in missing the point for why prayer was given to us in the first place.

On another note the self help world of success merchants and gurus have their platitudes and mantras of positivity, guaranteeing favourable outcomes if we stick to their script which too often over-promise results, especially to the privileged. This often feeds into our narcissistic and self-indulgent appetites exposing the ever growing gap between the haves and have nots.

Whichever manuscript you adhere to it will always help in some way but not fully deliver, because life does not work to a set pattern/promise of a one-size-fits-all standard of outcomes. At best we are making this up as we go along, guided by the wisdom of our forebears who have endeavoured to unpack the mystery of life on a quotidian basis. As one poet said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow as today has enough going on to keep your anxiety satisfied”

Mary Olivers mantra is one that we all should take some time to unpack, proverbial wisdom that seems to scream common sense on so many levels:

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“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ― Mary Oliver

Paying attention is the art of noticing all the moving parts of life as they invite us into the web of their assimilation. It's more than a concentrated observation exercise but a challenge to consider how the energy that flows all around us is a divine summons to participate in the great cosmic game plan. When my sensory awareness is being constantly stimulated by my surroundings it is a provocation to contemplate the great mystery of how the beauty of life within me is connecting me to the higher purpose of the life all around me. My attention needs to be constantly refocussed on the universal cues that are ushering me into its holy enterprise. Treating everything with a holy reverence may be the only answer available to our struggling species, a call to discern the signs of the times.

Being astonished is when we are surprised by the unveiling of beauty that life constantly offers us. It leads us into a greater appreciation for what we have and don't have. Astonishment feeds a hunger for wonder and amazement, a salve for the boring and mundane that often creeps into our circumstances and relationships. We can so easily get stuck in the same habits and rituals that bear little fruit, ultimately smothering the child like wonder in us. Habits and rituals are the structures that give us stability and surety for sure, but they need to be constantly resourced with new energy and imagination if we are to appreciate their place in our lives. To be astonished is when the magnificent collides with the mundane creating new dynamics of possibility for the old ways that potentially can become the new. Serendipity and coincidence are the catalysts for astonishment, a reminder that there is a complex web of intrigue working behind the scenes on your behalf

When awareness and wonder coalesce in our life we are provided with a new chapter in our narrative, a reading that invites our unsuspecting public to hear the new storyline. The language of this latest sub plot is an interactive welcome mat for others to join the conversation. If I choose to interact with others about the life that I am now experiencing then I am vicariously reproducing myself through others. This kind of social intercourse is what the mystics called ‘oneness’ the ultimate outcome for my existence.


relationship

Torah doesn’t call upon us to believe in God but to have a relationship 'to God’. Belief is a number of ideas that I ascribe to. Any ideas about God are so small compared to Gods presence. Rather it is relationship…knowing God. Hebrew word for knowing is ‘intimate knowing’. Intimate connection to the presence that is at the core of our life, that is moving through everything, here and right now. God is relationship itself. There is a ‘Midrash’ on the first words of Genesis… ‘In the beginning God created relationship’… Relationship is at the centre of all creation…We have been taught that we are individuals, free standing individuals that choose to be in relationship or not. Torah teaches that we are here for relationship..relationship precedes us being here.. it is hard wired into us. You can’t not have it…you can however have a bad version of it. There is no free standing ‘I’ and ‘thou’ but 'I-thou’. - Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev…

There is a unique coupling that occurs in the Genesis narrative of our sacred scriptures...heaven and earth, light and darkness, night and day, humans and animals, male and female. It gives us a glimpse into the beautiful nature of relationship as a reflection of God. All of life is made for some kind of connection and communion as it seeks to evolve and expand us in its fruitful dynamism. The ancient words of be 'fruitful and multiply’ would become the divine mantra of reverence that would overlay the human journey of maturation.

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“God is absolute relatedness. I would name salvation as simply the readiness, the capacity, and the willingness to stay in relationship.” - Richard Rohr. Divine Dance

The art of navigating the trajectory of our relational journey is the one true purpose for why we are created in the image and likeness of transcendence. All the way through our religious narrative are stories about the radical nature of relationship as it interacts around togetherness and apart-ness, acceptance and rejection, conflict and resolution. The Genesis garden moment of temptation is a reflection of our inevitable propensity to sacrifice our relational integrity on the altar of individuality. What better reminder do we need to highlight the importance of solidarity as a holy virtue.

My independence is confronted daily by the spirit of interdependence that relationship constantly brings to the table. When I find myself bifurcated and disorientated inside, which is an quotidian experience, salvific grace comes to me over and over again with a redemptive invitation to enter back into a unified wholeness. That wholeness is the transformation that occurs when I commit myself to some kind of collective action and engagement with others.

‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’*[From the Cretan philosopher Epimenides] As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’*[From the Cilician Stoic philosopher Aratus] - Acts 17

When St Paul finds himself in Athens on Mars Hill sharing the gospel with his Greek audience he borrows a few lines from the local poets, poems that were primarily about Zeus and his relationship with humanity. The brilliance of this inclusive stroke of genius highlights the nature of mission as a restorative move to reconnect cultures and collectively combine the wisdom of their narratives as a way to redeem and restore relationship. Historically we have presented this as a proselytising pitch that confronts the heathen cultures presenting the good news of Jesus as an evacuation strategy for afterlife assurance. Paul however, reminds us that the spirit of christ has been working in people way before the Jesus narrative arrived on the scene .

This suggests that relationship with God always been alive and well on planet earth, we just didn't know the full extent of its inclusive nature. To quote Paul in his letter to the Colossians...The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

“God has always been in relationship to us, journeying with us, and yearning to be known by us.” ― Marcus J. Borg, The God We Never Knew: Beyond Dogmatic Religion To A More Authentic Contemporary Faith

To be human means that you can never not be in relationship with God, even though that relationship can be under developed on so many levels. Yearning is the inquisitive interest that percolates inside of our intuitive curiosity, the desire to experience intimacy in more in-depth ways. We often move from one surface thrill to the next trying to capture the essence of closeness and love like a one night stand rather take the plunge into the deep well of oneness and transformation, realising the transcendent nature of relationship is primarily understood through the lens of human interplay, reciprocity and commitment.

When we pursue a deeper and more vulnerable posture of closeness and connectedness we create space for a very ‘present’ God that empowers and energises our bond. One theologian said that the holy spirit is the love between the father and son the electrical surge that creates a bond of mutual interpenetration and shared experience, resulting in an increased impact on human consciousness.

“When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” ― Martin Buber

God is relationship itself, the electrical current that flows through all matter empowering every point of connection that tethers us to another. We can feel this electricity in deliberate acts of self giving love or even statically as we brush up alongside others who we might be deliberately trying to resist attachment with. The core building block of all things is the atom, the smallest constituent unit of ordinary matter, an eternal signature that is the metaphorical base for all everlasting life.

Your life is a collection of momentary meetings that seek to enlarge your view of others and otherness. Every time that you choose to intentionally notice and engage with a significant other you enhance your relational capacity and go deeper into the mystery of togetherness. Relationship is hard wired into the universe, an intrinsic force that that honours the divine purpose for why we live, move, and have our being.



darkness

"Even The Bright Beautiful Moon Has Its Dark Side Which It Keeps Hidden All The Time....”

― Muhammad Imran Hasan

When I was a young boy the dark night was a terrifying reality, the unseen realm often enflaming my imagination with illusory possibilities that would rarely seem to eventuate. And while I was often reminded by those older than me that there was nothing to fear it didn’t stop me from constantly looking over my shoulder or hiding under the blankets. It seemed that I was much safer with the reassuring clarity that the dawn would unveil. The warmth of sister sun was a more comfortable reality than the moodiness of brother moon. It took me well into my adult life to realise that the light didn't actually dispense my fears but merely held them in check until I faced them again and made friends with their part to play in my maturation.

The natural darkness that comes to me in real time is Creation's sign of how life is counter balanced with light and dark, in order to support and sustain the rich place that mystery needs as it teaches me how to trust and reach out for help. Ironically, my introduction to religion did its best to demonise the darkness, somehow extricate it from my heart and mind all the while promoting God as its oppositional force that was only interested in coherence, lucidity, and certainty for my spiritual development. Religions uncomfortable connection with the natural world has often set it at odds with one another, reinforcing a dualistic mindset that lives in an opposing world of antithetical contrast. Reconnecting with nature has helped me to come to a beautiful realisation that my unfounded fears and doubts are actually an important part of the human experience that I need to listen to.

One particular question that often reverberates in my mind is….'What is darkness saying and doing in your life right now and how do I learn to listen to its wisdom'?

William Blake: Jobs dark night of the soul.

William Blake: Jobs dark night of the soul.

Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping, Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain, Still remains

Within the sound of silence. Songwriter: Paul Simon

The darkness we feel inside is a mix of emotion and frustration that occurs when we are unable to control outcomes or manage our own well-being in a way that seems appropriate. We flounder in the space of ‘not knowing’; what to do or how to change things in order be more comfortable in our own skin. While there are a myriad of helpful support structures out there that can assist us on our journey we owe it to ourselves to build a bigger inner world of self assurance and awareness that enables grace to do its work in us. When St Paul was struggling with his dark moment (thorn in the flesh…whatever that was?) the reassurance of God within came to give him the grace to cope. Cope not cure. Maybe coping is the cure for most of us? Whatever the case it’s not exactly an answer that we would have liked if it was us.

Grace is the silent partner of God that arrives to sustain us in our time of need rescuing our minds from the catastrophizing that so easily occurs in these intolerable situations.

Silence is not the absence of sound but the calming presence of the transcendent that comes to grace our life with reassurance and hopefulness. Its volume is the deep hum of reconstitution that sees our darkness as an attractive friend.

Learning to listen for her arrival will ease your insecurities and remind you that are not alone in your dark night of the soul.

interdependence

"Jesus puts healed people back on themselves, never creating any kind of dependency or codependency on him that will keep them from their own empowerment.” - Richard Rohr


Religious passion has been responsible for creating a distorted type of false humility that carries the tag line of, “its not about me but all about you”, where our humanity is diminished and seen as slightly insignificant in the grand scheme of things. We postulate a fervour that worships the name rather than the essence of how that name finds its identity in us. The big idea of worship has always been about an interaction that draws from mutual response and continuous interconnection. When I choose to be deeply associated with something that is bigger than I can comprehend, the divine spark in me is forever seeking to finds its source of meaning in reciprocity.

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The early Church Fathers and Mothers used a theological term, ‘theosis or divinisation’ to try and describe the joining together of the natural and spiritual in holy union. This was a shared participation in a new kind of belonging, a dance that would require a backward and forwards movement from both parties in order to conjure up a comfortable repose of complimentarianism.

Our discomfort with the idea of a deep divine connection has been affected by the idea of ‘original sin’, the concept that humanity is fundamentality ‘sinful’ or ‘depraved’ and unable to really comprehend deep oneness. The very fact that God chose to incarnate in human form is a reminder of the unique and undeniable beauty that resides within our original goodness. The idea of a Saviour is more about an internal reconnection and an invitation to actively participate in the ongoing work of theosis rather than a rescue from some kind of punitive judgement. Our ignorance of this reality has given way to a self flagellation of sorts, where we have taken a dim view of our potential, pouring cold water on any kind of confidence in human evolution. Because of the conundrum of evil we have opted for an original corruption hermeneutic rather than an original goodness hermeneutic which is partly understandable given the state of human behaviour, however this fatalistic mindset is both short sighted and pessimistic if we are to have a high view of hopefulness.

Even with an optimistic view of our potential we all need moments of healing to occur in order to be reorientated towards the divine distinction of our makeup, taking notice of the experiences of love, empathy, kindness, generosity and such like, the sacred reminder of our true self. The good in us is far greater than any not-so-good that tries to dominate proceedings as long as we understand the power of interdependence and its catalytic power in our lives.

Thus interdependence is fuelled by a goodness that resides in our mutual need for each other, a hard-wired default for companionship at some level. Aloneness is not an option if we are to make it in a world where we are surrounded by a survival of the fittest mentality. Our reliance on each other levels the playing field, unless we decide to climb the hierarchical ladder of competition and comparison that feeds our ego and false self.

“There is no "I" as such apart from others.” ― Gyomay M Kubose

Maybe the real obstacle is our independence, the wilfulness of our individuality that tries to go it alone, defiantly assuming that we can do life without the help and support of others? While I am very happy to have my rights and express myself with relative freedom I am also aware that it can be unhelpful and annoying for others to experience my defiant self-sufficiency, which ultimately ends up taking rather than giving to the greater good.

Interdependence is a posture of respect for the other, for those who we must acknowledge our need of and willingly invite into our private worlds. For this to happen we will all need to allow some kind of healing to happen around our mistrust and suspicion of others motives. This is the lifelong journey of acknowledging a predisposition towards leaning away from that which could potentially help our maturation. It starts with a sacred other, an incarnation of God in human flesh who relentlessly pursues my attention and affection, someone who refuses to let me go as I learn to dance in submissive unison with another.

“All have their worth and each contributes to the worth of the others.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

discernment

To distinguish or recognise the difference between competing options is a lifelong quest that involves making choices and decisions that define certain outcomes.

Discernment is the delicate art of sifting through all of the the possible alternatives that arrive on our doorstep, the somewhat slow and arduous task of analysis that can often be a long drawn out process that requires more than one voice of reason and wisdom. Our ability to choose can often be held ransom by fateful experiences that appear out of nowhere, completely overwhelming our sensibilities by over-complicating the situation.

As my life unfolds I have come to realise that as a somewhat responsible citizen I am not dictating the outcomes alone, but that there is a greater force at work behind the scenes testing my resolve and willingness to submit to some kind of providential grace. This mystery energises my inquisitive interest and commitment to a destiny or purpose that is hard wired into my genes.

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Discernment understands the tension of balancing a tentative acknowledgement of the known and unknown as they challenge for our attention and intentional response. Reason and wisdom often arbitrate on our behalf endeavouring to minimise the damage that our irrational and impulsive reactions can cause.

In times of uncertainty our instinctive primal self can often revert to an apprehensive over load of anxious thought that can so easily misjudge and misread the setting giving way to confusion and conflictive over- reactions. The heart of discernment knows this and attempts to help us recline back into the deep inner sanctum of contemplation and rest that regulates and guardians our soul.

In order for discernment to do her best work in our lives we must learn how to let wisdom unravel the various alternatives that appear on the scene, s-l-o-w-l-y processing life from an unhurried place. What we often feel needs our immediate attention can be a smoke screen, a distracting ruse that is disguising a deeper purpose of recalibration that needs some extended time in order to assist in our maturation.

I've written to warn you about those who are trying to deceive you. But they're no match for what is embedded deeply within you—Christ's anointing, no less! You don't need any of their so-called teaching. Christ's anointing teaches you the truth on everything you need to know about yourself and him, uncontaminated by a single lie. Live deeply in what you were taught. - St John

At the heart of our discernment development is the need to listen to the voice of purpose that resides within. The ancient poets believed that there is an ‘abiding divine presence’ in all of us, the christ mystery, a hum of reverence that needs to be acknowledged and articulated if we are to fully comprehend the complexities of our mortal and immortal selves. While external wisdom is absolutely crucial and cannot be substituted by a wilful independence and arrogance we must all ultimately learn to trust our conscience and intuition if we are to be fully self aware and self sufficient.

Discernment is an innate fixture in our makeup, a catalyst that is working to help us become who we already are. Listen and lean into her promptings.