“Carrying our cross”

carry your cross

Dear Friends,

Believing is not as easy as it first sounds. We believe when we know something to be true, and this knowledge then impacts the way we do things.

Believing happens when we do stuff. When I risk floating on the water, I begin to know what it means to trust. And so I believe in the possibility of not sinking when in the water. Because I believe, I can enter the ocean and launch myself into the waters.

Jesus invites us to ‘believe the good news of the gospel’. Yet we can only believe when we know it is true, and we only know it is true when we have risked a little in ‘doing’ it. So how can we ‘do’ the good news of Jesus… because if we don’t ‘do’, our belief will only be academic, in our heads, and this is no good to anyone!

‘Doing’ the good news of Jesus is what Jesus means by ‘carrying our cross’. Carrying a cross is a very physical, tangible action. It is a million miles from simply reading a book and assenting to some ‘idea’ or ‘concept’. Carrying requires an action… an action which we will experience. When Jesus states it is the cross we must carry, He is directing our attention to the giving of himself on the Calvary cross. An action of self-giving love – not a nice ‘idea’ but a real, definitive action. At Calvary Jesus is not in control, He has forfeited any sense of directing operations – He has placed himself in the hands of the Roman governor Pilate, and the religious hierarchies. This is a concrete action by Jesus.

So, Jesus calls us, each one of us, to follow his example and ‘carry our cross’ – don’t be afraid of placing yourself in others control… and do it in love. This is a self giving love. As we act in this way we ‘do’ the good news of Jesus. As we ‘do’ the good news we experience the blessing this brings – it makes us feel good. Too many times we interpret this feeling good as something we should not admit to – so we try to put it to one side with the resulting impact that we don’t risk this self giving love… we become tired and weary… and we only end up doing it in our heads – which is no good to anyone!

Yet as we ‘do’ the actions of self-giving – making a cup of tea for a loved one, making a phone call or sending a text to check a friend is ok, smiling at a stranger, letting a fellow car driver join the queue of traffic ahead of us – these actions of self –giving – not looking for any reward or pat on the back are the gateway into believing. The impact of these actions provide us with ‘knowledge’ – self-giving brings a blessing of spirit – and this knowledge leads directly into believing in the ‘way’ Jesus has instructed us in.

And as we believe in this way, our hearts are changed, are made more expansive and we begin to uncover a new ‘me’ – a ‘me’ which lays to one side the compulsive weariness of our inability to believe what is really important, a ‘me’ which stands blessed in a love which knows no end. A ‘me’ which could even be described as a ‘new creation’.

So, asking ourselves each day – when have I ‘done’ some self-giving actions… when have I chosen to ‘deny myself’ and ‘bless the other…’ becomes a really important thing to do. In these simple and profound actions ‘believing’ becomes something ingrained into our psyche.

God gives of Himself to us each day –over and over again. In the heart of the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) there is an amazing, voracious belief in the power of love. This is not an idea or nice sounding concept – it is something God ‘does’ in every moment.

‘Believers’ are not only people who sit in pews or sing hymns, but  those who ‘carry the cross’ with a joy and effervescence because they know this is the only way… the way to ‘believe in the good news of Jesus Christ’.

The Learning Curve

learning curve

Dear Friends,

The Learning Curve is something we’ve really got to get ourselves on!

It’s a curve taking us on a journey, a journey which has momentum as it travels on its upward trajectory…And when the learning is focused on learning  ‘how’ and ‘why’ rather than simply ‘what’ – then we are in for a real ride and a half!

However, there is a tangible sadness when for many adults life has ceased to include any learning whatsoever. Everything is known, with no new horizons, no new possibilities. When life becomes like this – it is as though life is being lived in a cemetery, and for many people this kind of existence takes root at a remarkably young age.

Perhaps this is why the responsibilities for organising and putting in place a school curriculum which stretches the mind and spirit is really key in nurturing a love of learning. You see, when learning is only ever entirely functional it has a limited scope and is usually tedious to the extreme (especially when it’s like this year after year after)!

During this month we keep the festival of Pentecost, when we celebrate the gift of God’s Holy Spirit on all creation. We are told in the prophecy of Joel that God’s Spirit is poured out on all flesh. We have been drenched in it…it is given over and over again without limitation – on the young and the old, on the men and the women, on the infirm and the healthy. And why is it given… well it’s given to teach us, to lead us, to stretch us into being new people – people blessed and happy.

The Spirit is given into our hearts, the very centre of who we are. It is given so we may find a re-birthing of who we are with new horizons. A little bit like being born again. It is the learning curve – when we just know we are being stretched into a new existence. The Spirit begins its work from the inside – shaping our thinking, emotions and perspectives. As we allow it to be at work in  us, as we say yes to its operation then we often experience a peacefulness and energy settling on us…from the inside out.

But perhaps the overwhelming experience is that of learning – not the passing of exams, reaching the pass mark, but rather the sense that this thing called life is more adventure than simply going through the motions. In doing this we are introduced into faith and the possibilities this opens for us (for the faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains).

We say ‘yes’to it’s operation by praying with our hearts, by learning again to look, to gaze and watch without judgment and by practicing gratitude day in day out. The Spirit has been given, given to everyone and every thing, in every moment, it is here and as we begin to say ‘yes’ we place our lives – no matter how tentative this may be – on the learning curve to beat them all!