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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Cloud

I've been thinking about clouds recently. There are some nice white fluffy ones outside my window as I write. A few days ago there were dark stormy ones depositing so much rain that some New Zealand communities were seriously flooded. But if I talk about the cloud. I wonder what first springs to mind? I wouldn't mind betting that for many people it is the cloud that stores your digital data; that mysterious 'space' that holds whatever we send there and even more mysteriously gives back our documents, photos and backups with a few clicks. I don't begin to understand this amazing capacity to hold, store and return (to the right person) what must amount to trillions of 'bits' of data. (You can see I don't even know how to write about it accurately!)

However, right now I'm thinking of another mysterious cloud which I don't 'understand' either. It is the cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1 "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

I've known this concept since childhood and I used to think of it as a nice idea to keep in mind - all those brave people in the Bible stories (Hebrews 11 etc) could encourage me to be brave too. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It's a good start. But now that I'm a little more aware of what is revealed by quantam physics, a holographic universe, and unitive consciousness, I see the "cloud of witnesses" in a new way. All those faithful people (some known to me personally) who have lived and trusted God even in the darkest of times, really are present now in some parallel universe cheering me on.

Being brought up Baptist we were never much into saints (the kind with "St..." before their names) much less praying to them or expecting them to have any influence. So I'm a late starter in paying much serious attention to the great cloud of witnesses. I probably put them all in the "saints" basket. Of course, if you read Hebrews 11 it is soon apparent that many of them don't fit the traditional definition of a saint! As I think about it now, the word 'witness' is one I can relate to. So I'm expanding my childhood understanding to a deeper level. I can imagine many faithful people - parents, friends, heroes of my own faith journey - now 'there in the cloud'. They are experiencing ultimate reality. They are witnesses to that as well as to the reality of life lived in this limited earthly domain. They are a comforting and challenging community!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

It's not about Easter Bunnies...

I found this on Paul Windsor's Blog this morning. (Thanks, Paul!)
This is Father Boules George's sermon during the Eve of Monday Pascha following the two bombings on Palm Sunday that took place at St George Coptic Orthodox Church in Tanta and St Mark Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in Alexandria.

I found it immensely challenging. Here is a Priest who lives out the heart of the message of Jesus and the meaning of Easter. It is 9 minutes long and has English subtitles. I recommend listening to the Priest's voice even as you read the subtitles. You can hear the passion and the integrity with which he speaks.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Art of Listening

A lot of what I like to do in this Blog is pass on gems from things I read or listen to. Each week I get an email full of thought provoking material called Brain Pickings. Click here to subscribe (free or with a donation) if you'd like to get it too.
Today's topic includes some thoughtful reflections on listening. As a person who spends several hours most days listening to people in the spiritual direction setting, I was intrigued by this introductory paragraph:

“An experience makes its appearance only when it is being said,” wrote Hannah Arendt in reflecting on how language confers reality upon existence. “And unless it is said it is, so to speak, non-existent.” But if an experience is spoken yet unheard, half of its reality is severed and a certain essential harmony is breached. The great physicist David Bohm knew this: “If we are to live in harmony with ourselves and with nature,” he wrote in his excellent and timely treatise on the paradox of communication, “we need to be able to communicate freely in a creative movement in which no one permanently holds to or otherwise defends his own ideas.”

So when I (or you) truly listen to someone, we enable that person's experience to exist in a way it didn't before. And if we can create an atmosphere of freedom in the spiritual direction room (or across the cafe table!) then there is room for a creative exploration of experience that does not have to be defended.
Listening in this way is truly a sacred vocation.

If you would like to read the rest of the discussion including Erich Fromm's six rules of listening, click here.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Balancing bad news with good news

These two pictures are copied from today's email in TearFund's Living Lent series. 

Yes, definitely something to celebrate!

I think it is important to celebrate the good news while also noting that: "A billion people remain at the bottom in poverty that just won’t go away. This is especially true in war hot-spots and disaster zones that Tearfund’s partners work in. Here, the ascent out of poverty is often harder than ever. That climb remains perilous and precarious."

I find it easier to do all I can to alleviate the "bad news" when I know that over the years our combined compassion and action does lead to "good news".