The Internal Flow of Life

The sound of running water, from a mountain stream to a garden water feature, brings a wonderful sense of energy and life to the hottest of days. Perhaps, that’s why walking along a river in full flow is one of life’s greatest pleasures. I know our springer spaniel, Nahla, loves the sensation of moving water and the delight in swimming with the current – yes, she jumps into the most stagnant of waters, but when it’s flowing…. well you just can’t get her out!

 

Similarly, when encountering people who live ‘with an internal flow of life’ – we are incredibly blessed. These people have the capacity to see life as it really is and yet not be diminished by it in any sense at all. They live with a paradoxical exuberant patience, a dynamic kindness and an effervescent ability to listen and be part of any moment. God has given us life, he is the source of the vitality of life itself, and his energy is given to every plant, creature and human alike. It is only us humans who have the dismal inclination, time after time, to refuse the energy, and build walls of separation. This results in the inevitable weariness, discontent and dissatisfaction of much of contemporary life. We see it etched on people’s faces, we even feel it in our hearts and we catch it in the systemic competitiveness of our driven success culture. We find it so painstakingly difficult, in the words of Martin Luther King ‘to just get along with each other’. To refer to Nahla once more, she has no desire whatever to compare herself with any other living thing, she is happy as can be in just being Nahla. Within her spaniel soul, there is an unbridled ‘internal flow of life’. Meeting Nahla on a forest path, or emerging from the long grasses, or running with abandon across the beautiful landscapes of Longdown or Deerleap  – all evidence this perpetual ‘yes’ to life.

 

Yet for us humans we make everything so complicated. We over think our lives, we live in our heads and end up believing our thoughts really are us. This is really sad – especially as we find it so easy to think – over and over again – on the problems we all face, but give so little attention to the goodness of life in all its abundance. We mentally chew over encounters which do not go well, when things happen not to our liking, our conversation is energised when life goes wrong.  Nahla has no such problem! When her paw is bruised or there is a wound which makes running really difficult – she just adapts and accepts it. This is just how it is, it will pass, and so the tail just keeps wagging. Not for her is the thinking what this might mean for her future life, not for her is the raking over the past as to when and where this wound was inflicted and who was to blame. None of this! She just gets on with everything.

 

People who live with ‘an internal flow of life’ within them are those who go with what is in front of them. There is no question of blaming, or analysing and agonising over  future implications. These are the things which cause life to get blocked – culminating in a stench of stagnation which bears little resemblance to the vitality of what could have been. God gives us life, he wants us to be blessed by it and to in turn bless others. He wants us to give praise in all circumstances… to love life even when it is plain humdrum. This is the flow we are each called to live. As we take personal and then communal responsibility for this – the earth and all of life is cherished… and this is good – very good!

Our Dreams and the Holy Spirit

Dove flying against blue sky

Dear Friends,

We all have dreams – either for ourselves or loved ones. Dreams that if everything works out, this is how it might look. Maybe the dreams include a holiday or two, families settled and happy, Saints making the top four (!!?), efficient decision making in Parliament… the list goes. Dreams  provide us with a goal to aim for, and as it becomes more than a pipe dream i we then need to know what it will take for the dream to make reality.

 

We hear many times over in our bible texts God’s dreams, including famously ‘the wolf shall live with the lamb’ from Isaiah 11. We hear the Kingdom of God being established among mortals, that the time for weeping will be no more –  but what will it take for this to be more thana pipe dream and to be reality? If this question is side-stepped Christians live in a perpetual haze of vague longings which are never really believed in – more a ‘hoping for the best’.

 

During the month of June we celebrate the great Pentecost feast (9th June). It is a feast day when we acclaim the gift of God’s Holy Spirit poured out on all flesh. We acclaim a spirit which transforms existence – it is no coincidence it is likened to a mighty wind and tongues of fire. This period of the year the church is invited to give attention to this gift, to look for it, to feel it, and to believe in it.

 

The sadness, perhaps even the tragedy, is that for many of us we give the Holy Spirit no attention, no time and no appreciation – which means we end up not believing in it. And this has the knock-on effect of losing faith that any of our dreams, or God’s dreams for that matter, can ever be realised. This is a real sadness as it means people and institutions become weary and tired, ever circling in a downward momentum.

In Ezekiel 47 the Spirit of God is likened to a river. The flow of this river is deep and wide and it brings life and vibrancy to all in its path. It is a wonderfully inspiring chapter of scripture. And it prompts us, as we read it, to be those who stand in the flow of such a river today. In other words to be those who sense and experience the flow of goodness and grace that is being poured out on all creation.  In that same chapter of scripture it describes the impact of not standing in the river’s flow – there is a stagnancy where everything just gets blocked, cluttered  and ‘left for salt’.

 

When we stand in the flow of this Spirit, meaning is given, energy is supplied and a lightness of our own spirit is experienced. This standing in the flow begins with individuals – making it their priority each day to sense this gift of life. And as individuals make it integral to their lived life, so the institutional life of our nation slowly changes.

 

For Christians praying is our integral action to make this real in our lives – for praying is really connecting with this flow which is in each one of us already. Praying regularly – even for only a few moments each day, unlocks the flow. This praying will take many different forms for each of us – it might be a careful recitation of the ‘Our Father…’ , it might be the fully attentive appreciation of the skies above our heads, it might be the asking for blessing on loved ones… but in whatever form we open possibilities for the dreams of heaven (as articulated in Isaiah 11) to move from fantasy to our own experience.

 

It is the Holy Spirit which makes the dreams come real. So yes, we give the Spirit attention, we look for it, we feel it… and we then really believe in it!

Process of beginnings

Book with work Baptism highlighted

Dear Friends

Sometimes it’s good to go back to see how it all started. Just to refresh the memory… to get a nudge as to how it all came to be… so we have the passion for history and the stories of long ago… we have the curiosities of family trees and how the generations connect with stories mundane and extraordinary.

As we know, the bible begins with a couple of stories of how the world began. Genesis begins with the evocative cadences known only too well : ‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…’ We are told the earth was ‘formless and empty, darkness over the surface of the deep’. In these words we have a picture of chaos without sense or meaning, and we are then told ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’.

From this beginning God spoke – in the Spirit over and into the chaos of no meaning and substance. And in the speaking creation was formed. God said ‘This is good!’
We are blessed in church to host many baptisms, or christenings for families across our parish. These times are gatherings of celebration as new life is held, cherished and blessed. Usually the baptisms are with young children, but not always as each year we baptize some adults as well.  In the service of baptism we have a bowl (font) of water. The Holy Spirit ‘hovers’ over the water and the water is blessed. The names of the child/adult to be christened are spoken and something new takes shape as God’s promise of a love which never ends is proclaimed. The newly baptized enters the family of the church, and so the household of heaven is enlarged and made new.

For many of us, life can often seem as though it has little meaning or purpose. It can sometimes seem a bit ‘formless’. Yet, in these times the Spirit of God is near. The Spirit of God is what gives the energy and impetus for something remarkable to be formed out of the ‘formless’. Often a word is spoken, maybe a word of encouragement, or a word of gratitude or even a word of correction – and from the word spoken ‘in the Spirit’ something new is created.

In many ways this ‘process of beginnings’ sums up the ministry of the church. The society we live in – even though it is policy driven, regulated and scrutinised from every angle – is scarily formless and chaotic. So much of existence is simply getting through the day, with so many petty arguments and rivalries. The connecting thread which provides meaning and purpose is rarely visible, and so for many the idea of being ‘happy’ is living in dreamland.

Yet, over society, the Spirit of God hovers. The Spirit is uniquely present and waits for the word to be spoken. And this time the word is spoken through our lips, from our hearts and out of the overflow of the blessings of God in heaven. We as members of the church, hear God’s word into our hearts, we speak this word (through what we do, say and always in who we are) – and then something wonderfully new takes place – a heart is enlarged, a life is blessed, a possibility becomes real, a promise is fulfilled…
And God in heaven acclaims over and over again, ‘This is good!’

The family of God is called to be near the formless, chaotic bits of life, to sense the presence of the Spirit, to hear the word of the Lord and to speak it from the abundance of a heart of love. And always, always, it will be good…