Archive for the ‘Jesus’ Category

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Be Still …

September 19, 2008

I’m reminded of God’s presence and stillness today … and peace.  It’s not of our natural world and although I don’t understand it I do know it.

I have been overwhelmed but greatly comforted by that presence in the midst of worry, exhaustion, distress and confusion while watching the broken body of a parent die as her soul is set free. I’ve welcomed it in the aftermath of broken relationships and in the building of new ones. It’s been there in the numbness when realising some people weren’t what I thought. I’ve responded to its prompting in accepting I was loved. That same presence is there as I’ve talked to patients whose physical and emotional scars were a bit too much for me and I’ve sensed the presence in the joy of people believing and hoping tomorrow will be better. In the selfless and tireless efforts of people who want to make a difference it’s there … because they are there.

I’m remembering a few people today and hope that in their seeking to find some answers they will be able to find some peace and hope too.

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seeing God in one another

September 13, 2008

It was my intention to use a particular story last weekend at youth assembly and I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t because it is perfect. In all the hustle and bustle and recreating it went out of my head.

Like others, I have continued to reflect on the weekend and there were times when we didn’t get it right but that happens, we learn and move on. It’s a new format and there were always going to be teething problems.

In a couple of the sessions we desperately wanted to encourage people to look beyond the labels and stereotypes to see people as they are in their particular circumstances. We wanted to explore the impact of those circumstances on their relationships but also the perceptions that people hold. We wanted to challenge and, to a degree, that’s what we did. But I’m left feeling dissatisfied. I wish we’d done so many things differently that would have allowed a flow of conversation from one session to the other. We lost sight of that when deliverances became our focus.

This story says what we may not have achieved in saying last weekend. It’s about relationships, seeing God in one another and finding God in unexpected places. It’s a beautiful story which I hope you enjoy even if you’ve heard it before.

There was once an old monastery which had lost its inspiration. The same routines were performed as they had always been, but there were no new novices and little enthusiasm for the rites of prayer.

The Abbot saw all this and he grieved. At a loss as to how to change things, he paid a visit to an old hermit who lived in the woods. The hermit welcomed him in and spread the table with bread and cheese and wine. After they had eaten together the recluse addressed the Abbot.

You and your brothers have lost the fire of God. You come seeking wisdom from me. I will tell you a secret, but you can only repeat it once. After that no one must say it aloud again. The hermit then looked deep into the eyes of the Abbot and said, ‘The Messiah lives among you.’

They were both silent as the Abbot considered the import of this saying. ‘Now you must leave’ the hermit said.

Returning to the monastery, the Abbot called all the monks together and told them that he had a teaching which he had been given by God. He added that the teaching was never to be repeated out loud again. Then the Abbot looked at each of his brothers and said, ‘The Hermit says that one of us is the Messiah.’

The monks were startled. ‘What could this mean?’ they wondered silently. ‘Is John with the big nose the Messiah? Or Father Matthew who keeps falling asleep at prayer? Am I the Messiah? But puzzled as they were they never repeated the saying again

As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a special love and reverence. There was a gentle, whole-hearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to see. They lived with each other as those who had finally found something of significance. Their words were careful, considered and gentle. Who could tell when they might be speaking to the Messiah?

Before long, the vitality of the monastery attracted many visitors and young men began asking to join the community. The old hermit died without revealing any more and the Abbot sometimes wondered if he had understood correctly.

From ‘alt.spirit@metro.m3’ by Mike Riddell

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connected

August 24, 2008

In two weeks time I’ll be in the midst of discussion as the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly delegates consider the enormity of what relationships are all about.

When I was asked to co-ordinate this particular topic it seemed like a good idea but, as is so often the case, now I’m not so sure I can do it justice (it’s a self-belief thing and I’m working on it!). Alternatively, when I consider some the preparation to date and the discussions I’ve had with my team, I believe we can.

For me relationships are about connection. Not only with those we love and who love us but with the wider community, the people on the fringes of our society, the ones we sometimes choose to ignore. Sadly the truth is that because we’re flawed individuals we do make choices based on our values and beliefs whether we’re conscious of that or not. Is loving one another really so difficult? It would appear so. It’s not easy to say that as Christians we’re not always so tolerant.

What are the characteristics of an assembly of people who care?

Jesus led by example when he mixed with the ignored, stigmatised, diseased, misunderstood, judged and condemned? Was it ok for Jesus but too hard for us? The truth, again, is yes it is sometimes.

Seeing others with a compassionate heart will mean stepping outside our comfort zones and stepping into a world of uncertainty and doubt. Demonstrating God’s Grace by showing commitment, empathy and a willingness to see beyond the divisions that separate may leave us feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable and not in control. But maybe that is what’s needed to create a community based on honesty and caring without any conditions attached?

So who’s entitled to a meaningful and worthwhile life – a life of hope and opportunity where relationships play an integral part? A selected few or everyone without exception? How can we dare to play a part in that?

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the stranger in God’s house

March 31, 2008

She is a stranger in this place and immediately struck by its beauty and splendour.   The spring sunshine streams through the stained glass but she shivers. There is little heat.

The stranger sips hot chocolate as a crowd gathers. Here for the event, they recognise one another and talk amongst themselves. Some are guided to her table and she remains seated, wondering who will speak. No-one does.

She is not offended as some strangers might be but smiles as she remembers her experience in another place. She withdraws from the table. No-one notices.

Invisible in God’s house.

Her mobile rings and soon she’s engaged in conversation with a good friend.  Perfect timing.   

The event begins but she does not participate. Instead the stranger sits quietly at the back listening to the chatter and laughter, welcoming the quietness when it comes. They are at work.

She waits … then senses God’s presence beside her. Peace.

Some say they welcomed her, some say they spoke to her, some say they never saw her.

How many times do we fail to notice?

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journey

March 21, 2008

The journey continues to amaze and confuse me. I have no idea where I’m going or indeed why I’m really on the journey except that it feels right. The destination? Not sure but I’m getting closer.

As my journey continues I’m not only struck by the differences in us but also that illness is a great leveller.  This is especially true in mental ill health. Patients come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life: educated; articulate; well off and not so well off; those with learning difficulties and with physical disabilities; people living amidst a backdrop of poverty, abuse, powerlessness and sheer desperation. For a lot of them getting through the day is an achievement … for us it’s a place to start.

Psalm 139 tells us we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. Yes we are. Nothing can convince me otherwise and I see evidence of God in the debris of someone’s life as I try desperately to understand the complex issues that contribute to their brokenness.

Some will recover and many will get better … until the next time.

Others will struggle on secretly hoping that their turn will come soon. That somehow, the healthy, meaningful and worthwhile life so many of us take for granted, can be theirs to treasure.

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a labyrinth

February 2, 2008

Journeying into Lent I followed a star …

I was surprised by the sense of journeying and anticipation I felt as I followed the weaving path to the various stations.  It was not difficult for me to give way to the peace and quietness I’d sought over the previous few weeks, it was more appreciated than you’ll ever know.  The solitude of the journey was only enhanced as I listened to music and words on the mp3 player and for the first time in a while I reflected on my journey with God.

I held back as I approached the final station.  I’m not sure if this was because I was being drawn into God’s presence in this place or if it was simply because it was the last stop and I knew I’d be going back into the bustle and noise and chatter of the world.  Maybe it was both.

Going home by a different route meant going out of the warm building into the dark and cold. As a visitor I was unfamiliar with the church and its surroundings so felt more than a little uncomfortable as I didn’t know where I was going. I’m a creature of habit you see, like to be prepared for all eventualities.  Organised and planned.  But life’s never as straightforward as that is it?  For often we are confronted with situations that require us to deviate from our ‘norm’.  It’s not always easy is it and the excuses are many: don’t have the time or the time’s not right; not prepared; not ready; feeling uncomfortable; don’t like it; don’t want to. 

It may have been better if I’d decided not to go.  Tuesday’s exam was pressing and time for revision was limited.  I needed more time for goodness sake.  But I’d promised I’d attend and felt torn between my promise and what seemed like my priority.  As it turned out my priorities were all wrong and I benefited more from taking some time out and sitting in the stillness with God.

Different routes can be scary, exciting, challenging … very seldom dull and definitely always worthwhile!