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Saturday, August 26, 2017

Simple pleasures

Some things that have brought joy over the last couple of days:
A Korean lunch with the lovely young woman I tutor in English.

Two people (unknown to me) showing love and support as they walk on Orewa beach.

Reflections at the river mouth in the early morning. 

A "heartfelt" reminder in a Motat exhibition about the wonders of the heart and heart surgery.

The tranquil Japanese garden at Western Springs.

Monday, August 21, 2017

What's so bad about "sweetness and light"?

Recently I was leading a workshop where, among other things, we were discussing our spiritual experience and what that elusive word "spirituality" might mean. I put this quote from Anne Lamott on the screen:

"I think joy and sweetness and affection are a spiritual path. We're here to know God, to love and serve God and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of so much baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play."

I was surprised by the immediate reaction to the quote from several people. From memory they included: "That's glib." "All that sweetness and light... ack!" "It's kind of sugary." "Where's the space for my anger and resentment as significant in my spiritual path?" I was taken aback by the strength of these responses and didn't think on my feet quickly enough to invite further reflection on why we resist the idea that "sweetness and light", joy, beauty, dancing, singing and playing are an expression of spirituality. Didn't Jesus say "I have come to bring life in all its fulness"? Surely fulness includes these beautiful free dimensions of enjoyment.

After the first flurry of responses there were other comments (again from memory). "I can go with the second sentence. I agree with that." "She only says joy, sweetness and affection are a spiritual path - not the whole thing." "Maybe we are like the desert fathers who think we have to renounce all that positive stuff and live a desert spirituality."

These more thoughtful comments still held a certain reluctance to allow "life in all its fulness" to include such delights as joy and sweetness, affection and dancing, singing and playing. I guess this supports Lamott's comment that we have to get rid of a lot of baggage to be free and light enough to enjoy those to the full.

One final comment was from someone who said: "Wow, this is the most challenging thing I've heard all day. This is God's word for me today." I think it is God's word for me too! My natural personality is wired to think of worst case scenarios and be easily weighed down. I have my own baggage to keep on letting go gently and compassionately.

In the current climate of so much "doom and gloom" in world events I too need to re-focus on what is good and beautiful and light. I want to be free to celebrate that expression of the spiritual path without a false denial of the pain and struggle that is also a reality to be met. Life in all its fulness includes both.

Here's to more joy, beauty, dancing, singing and playing on my spiritual path - and I hope - on yours.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

History repeats itself...

Recently I began browsing through some boxes of sermons preached by my father Rev John Pritchard. The dates range from the 1930's to 1970's. There are a few news clippings included and many of his sermons refer to current events. I haven't got very far in my browsing yet but one newspaper article certainly attracted my attention. Unfortunately it is not dated! But I surmise that it was written in 1955. Here's the headline:
The first paragraphs read: 
"Eight scientists of international repute warned the world at the weekend that the continued existence of mankind was in doubt.
   They gave the warning in a statement on nuclear weapons which was made public in London.
   The statement was issued by  Earl Russell (Bertrand Russell) at a press conference crowded by correspondents from many countries. Among the signatories was Professor Einstein, who signed it in the week before his death on April 18." Einstein died in 1955 so I presume this is the date of the article. "Lord Russell told reporters that the statement was being sent to the heads of States which possessed or were about to possess nuclear weapons, and to China."

The full article is long but here are a few more paragraphs which seem even more relevant now 62 years later:
All in peril 
"We shall try to say no single word which should appeal to one group rather than to another. All equally are in peril. We are speaking on this occasion not as members of this or that nation, continent or creed, but as human beings - members of the species man whose continued existence is in doubt.
The world is full of conflicts; and overshadowing all minor conflicts is the struggle between communism and anti-Communism. We have to learn to think in a new way.We have to learn not to ask ourselves what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps.
   The question we have to ask ourselves is: What steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties."
"There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we instead choose death because we cannot forget our quarrels?"

The parallels to where we find ourselves today are obvious. Yet we are still here today! And I can't help thinking of what God said to God's people many centuries before 1955:
Deuteronomy 30:19 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! 20 You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life." New Living Translation

Monday, August 7, 2017

A playful walk.

Sometimes all it takes is a change of perspective...

...to get the mind and body into a different gear!

Or maybe just delighting in some unexpected colour and quirkiness!