It’s better to give …

Dear Friends,

It’s great to receive a gift… and it’s even better to give one. This is a truism often said, but this doesn’t diminish the truth – it really is better to give than receive! You see, when we give away something we get something back… something not easily defined but something very real. We feel so good – yes there may be a bit of smugness in that feeling, but the feeling really is good! Giving away, whether its time, something material or a conversation – always does us good. Never fails. As surely as night follows day, the practice of ‘giving away’ enhances the experience of life. Wow!

Our religion is not really a belief system, but a life and death system which shows us how to give away our lives, how to give away our love, and eventually how to give away our death. The ‘believing’ part of our religion is always secondary to the practice of ‘giving away’.

We are told in one of the earliest hymns in the Christian church, that Jesus ‘emptied himself’ and ‘humbled himself’… ‘to the point of death – even death on a cross’. In this Jesus shows us the pathway. To find the secret of this life, you have to ‘give away’. The language used in the hymn cited above (from Philippians 2) pulls no punches – Jesus is ‘emptied’, he is ‘humbled’ in this giving away. And in it all there is salvation. This ‘giving away’ as demonstrated in Jesus is something so real and tangible and yet something so beautiful. His mother Mary, we are told, just looks on as she sees what her son is doing – the emptying of himself.

In Jesus teaching he is explicit about what we have to do – we have to lose our lives in order to find them, to be a disciple we must carry our cross (referring to this emptying). The emphasis placed on loving God and our neighbour (even our enemies) again underlines the requirement to ‘give away’. You cannot love without ‘letting go’. To love means to give away our time, our attention, our preoccupations – without any regard for getting anything back. When we catch this truth and it becomes the practice of our lives, we are blessed in ways we wouldn’t even imagine, but when we miss it and continue to ‘hold on’ to our need to ‘control’ and ‘order’ events,  people and just life, well we do grievous damage to ourselves, to those around us and the bigger environment of our lives.

This is what our religion is really all about. The courage to ‘give away’. We love to set the agenda, and order the things we have to do. In life this will invariably form a major part of our lives, but when it becomes necessary to our well being, we’re  in deep trouble. The need to control, to set the direction  will gnaw away at something integral to us. We will be diminished. But when we learn to be comfortable in releasing the reins, to just ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ we connect with something so powerful. It’s the creative force of the universe. It’s in every atom, every relationship and even, we are learning, in every galaxy.

The Christian church, well, we are simply a company of people, a fellowship, learning to ‘give away’. We believe because we dare to give this a go. Even by ‘giving away’ just a little we feel the difference in the quality of our lives. We just feel better. Jesus is prompting us – in amazing grace and patience – to ‘give away’ a bit more.

Following his pathway, walking his way, we learn to believe it is the truth and it really is the life.

If you want to know more about catching this in our daily lives – do get in touch…

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!

The Gift of Sight

gift of sight

The gift of sight is an amazing capability – with our eyes we make out colour, shape, and patterns. We see outlines, contours and distance. We see frowning foreheads, smiling faces, and every expression under the sun! Seeing with our eyes is taken for granted by nearly all of us – except perhaps when the gift becomes impaired by the onset of a optic condition or a debilitating head ache.

Our eyes, yes, are our primary sense in seeing, but it is true we use our hearing, our smelling and our touch to gain a picture – and those who see really well – who see three dimensionally – are those who habitually, by instinct, use the whole range of senses.

Jesus invites us all in the gospels to see with nuance, without bias and with an openness – to see as though we are not in control. You see, when we look at life as though we are in control, we manipulate, arrange and live according to our own need – yet when we look while simultaneously not being in control, we see actually what is in front of us. Sadly, we tend to do everything whilst being in control. We rationalise, understand, sort it all out in our heads – and then we live. Unfortunately this is the surest way to limit life, to miss its wonder, and to de-generate into a joylessness so endemic in our so-called civilised societies.

To see life as though we are not in control, is to simply see what is in front of us without pre-judging, analysing or measuring. It is to see and not react – often we engage with life in this reactive state… ‘how can I re-arrange everything to my own interests…?’ Reactive living is a desparate curse of our modern structures. The simplest way to untangle our lives from this reactive misery is to learn and practice seeing without judgment. Just looking…stand and stare at what is before us – all the contradictions, paradoxes, colour and contours. For too many of us, me included, we see what we want to see, rather than the complicated, mysterious and fragile truth of what is.

As we begin to see without bias, we open ourselves to the truth of being loved. Love cannot be understood, rationalised boxed up. It is something dynamic – like the wind which blows in this direction and that – and it is all that matters. This seeing without judgment is the action of faith – it is this faith which opens our hearts and minds to a life bigger than our own parameters. It is this action of faith which saves us – perhaps this is the reason Jesus so often says to the people he encounters ‘your faith has saved you…’.

As we begin to ‘see’ in the Jesus way, the Beatitudes (described in Matthew chapter 5) become the attitudes of our lives. These beatitudes are  all about gladly forfeiting control… yet the impact and blessing is bigger than we could ever comprehend – ‘for yours will be the Kingdom’… ‘you will be comforted’… ‘ you will be called children of God’… ‘you will inherit the earth’… ‘you will be filled’… ‘you will see God’… ‘you will be shown mercy’… this is the Kingdom of heaven Jesus tells us is ‘at hand’ (in other words is right in front of us whatever the circumstances) – and it all starts in the manner of our seeing – moving away from the need to know, join up all the dots, and manipulate to our own way… and moving towards a way of seeing all living beings without judgment, bias or control.

Using all our senses in this way – well this needs to be practiced. And the practiced can start today… blessings as we learn to live in the very kingdom of heaven!

Live to eat or eat to live?

Dear Friends,

Do you live to eat… or do you eat to live?

These two questions invite us into a reflection on what is it which gives us impetus and meaning. In order to do the bit which drives us we need to do something to enable this to happen. So for some of us we live, we get out of bed, in order to eat, eat, and eat some more. The sausage sandwich, with the red, brown or no sauce, is just too good to puto one side. For others, the eating is not the end product but rather the means to give me the required energy to breathe, run, and enjoy this amazing world.

In the harvest season we give thanks for what we reap in order to sustain us. In our paradoxical world this can be somewhat uncomfortable, as we give thanks for the ‘harvest safely gathered in’ knowing full well that for millions of people the harvest is bare. This disparity is a chilling indictment on the way we order and direct the economic mechanisms of the world community. The rich really do seem to get richer, while the poor get poorer.

Yet, when Jesus tells us that it is more difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, we need to take note – especially as we are apparently privileged to live in the wealthy part of the world community. The rich man has few needs – everything is in place, the larder is full, the table laden with what is required… but still something is lacking. Something really important.

The quality of gratitude is a quality which money cannot buy. Indeed, the more money you have it seems the harder it is to appreciate the simple necessities. For St. Paul, the practice of ‘giving thanks in all things’ was an essential element in living life well. The expression of thanks stretches and shapes our perceptions of life in a remarkably tangible way. By learning to say ‘thank you’ from our hearts in the course of ‘ordinary’ life, we learn to see the stuff of life as a gift. Rather than being a ‘right’ life becomes something more, something which can surprise and never taken for granted. For many years we have become accustomed to the language of ‘rights’ – in many instances it has been highly appropriate, but in other ways it has entrapped us in a limited and soulless existence, a million miles from the vibrant original intention for life. Learning gratitude from the heart pulls us into a much more fluid, dynamic and spontaneous mode of living – whatever the hum-drum nature of our daily lives might be.

This frees us up from the chains of having to ‘possess’, ‘own’ and ‘control’ everything that happens. And because we are free in this way, we can then allow our hearts to feel, sense and be aware of others – our natural state.

If it is our intention to say ‘thank you’ from our hearts we are genuinely on the journey of faith to living life well. And it is then we begin to understand what it is which gets me out of bed each morning – whether the sun shines or the rain pours.


image of the beach

Dear Friends,

The sea waves roll into the gently, shelving beaches :the breaking waters lapping the virgin sands. Summer is the time for sand castles, stones skimming the waters, and ice creams consumed aplenty… yes -summer is the time for the beach – even in England!

Yet as we enter the summer season, rather than being connected with the rhythms of the natural world, we find ourselves adrift and isolated in a world which travels without us. Within our public national life, we face an uncertain future – a parliament looking for partners to be trusted, a nation searching for friends and allies to do business with, a menacing rise in violence which alienates and divides…

This sense of being disconnected is one which can leave us despairing of the future, or it can be a wake-up call to a way of living which unites rather than separates.

As we move into the future there is an urgent requirement, now more than ever, to re-find the possibilities of communion in a diverse and often chaotic existence. The natural world maintains its own identity of coherence and sense – with the rising and setting of the sun, the movement of the stars, the tides ebbing and flowing… there is a communion here sophisticated and fragile, yet glorious and sustaining. In developing a simple appreciation of the natural world in the places we live, we catch an aspect of communion which enlarges the heart. So it’s essential, at this time when much is diminished, to learn to say thank you for the earth and sky, for food and drink, for whatever is before us. In learning to express gratitude like this, we make steps into the wisdom and resilience of the natural order.

And for each of us there are people also. People we live with, people we are friends with and people we bump into or brush past in the course of each day – with all these people we too can find connections. By learning to say ‘thank you’ for each personal encounter we discover ‘communion.’ It’s not easy to say ‘thank you’ as sometimes this gratitude takes us into a new territory (a place of inter-dependence rather than splendid isolation). Being ‘thankful’ for the people we live with, makes ‘communion’ tangible and real. When we forget gratitude, or take it for granted, we cut ourselves off and so cause harm.

And finally we can learn to say ‘thank you’ to God for simply the gift of life. Just saying the ‘thank you’ words stretches our hearts into a more healthy place… we don’t even need a reason for the ‘thank you’ – we simply say it despite everything that is around us. Gratitude then has a chance to become something of the heart… which means it becomes real.

Wave after wave, the oceans move… season after season the years slide by… day by day we are invited to enter a communion which some have called ‘holy’. A communion we need now more than ever.