Tag Archives: children

November 19: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xix – ‘Our identity is the sum of all these relationships.’

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The ability to relate is our gateway to meaning. Everything in creation evolves, grows and dies, in a process of birth-death-rebirth. Stars exploded, radiating out vast dust containing various gases – especially carbon. This is where our story begins; the stars are our ancestors. Carbon gets entwined with the wonder of photosynthesis as a source of nourishment. All those energies relating to tides, water, and vapour – even the menstrual cycle – owe their origin to the moon.

Long before procreation dreams existed, yearnings, longings and desires; and when creation was ready to welcome yet another creative gift – through the lure of erotic love, procreation happens. Parents are the biological channel through which this energy of the ages is transmitted into a new creature. A process reactivated every time a flower blooms, a seed dies and sperm and egg meet. What constitutes our identity is the sum of all these relationships.

But what about the soul? We tend to ask where the soul fits in this process. In a relational universe things don’t just fit – it is creative energy flowing in interweaving patterns. The soul is energy, holding together the movements of creative possibilities. Dualisms like body/soul, body/spirit, are not helpful. There is no distinction between body, soul and spirit; everything is pregnant with spirit-power. Bodies don’t need to have souls inserted to make them live [batteries included!]. It is not the soul that gives identity/character to the body. The erotic is the creative energy through which we connect within creation. What is the point of incarnation if the body cannot enjoy?

The Kingdom has to do not with heroes but with lovers. Ask what did the women at the tomb miss – and what did the disciples miss? One was relational, the other – we’ve lost a leader. Any wonder Jesus needed to ask: who do you say I am? Does Peter really answer this with – you are the Christ, Son of the living God? What problems it caused! Christ never called himself that; he didn’t like titles. Christ has nothing to do with power. What we are all about is quality relationships. Nothing makes sense in isolation, not even Christ. I am because we are!

Free will and intelligence are wonderful gifts, but become liabilities if we divorce them from imagination and intuition. We belong to the whole creation, not just one part of it. Breaking the planet into segments called nations is a purely human invention – belonging more to the divide and conquer vision of reality [as history has proved]. Creation is essentially undivided. This is why Jesus could not live up to the messianic expectations he met, which were very much in line with divide and conquer.

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November 5, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: v – ‘the danger of reducing God-in-Jesus to our own image and likeness’.

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It is far from true to say that the majority of thoughtful young adults today have abandoned religion. My experience is that it is the denominational that is the issue. They want spiritual relevance and ethical responsibility, but cannot see it in any us-and-them ideology that has accompanied so much institutional religion. While formal religion seems to be on the wane, there is certainly a resurgence of interest in things spiritual.

For many, spiritual realities do not happen apart from some kind of formal belief; whereas human experience suggests otherwise. But how do we recognise these signs, and what are they telling us? Is it possible for a genuinely spiritual person to see institutional religion as irrelevant? We have inherited formal structures which seem to suggest they are a sine qua non – monogamous marriage, the nuclear family, formal work place and religious institutions with dogmatic boundaries. These boundaries translate as rules and regulations controlling personal behaviour. On the one hand, without these boundaries there would be anarchy; on the other hand, leaving such boundaries unquestioned is a prescription for disintegration.

Personal relationship with Jesus is regarded by spiritual guides as the ultimate criterion of genuine spirituality. I have experienced the closeness of God when walking in the countryside, or meandering along the coastline, or sitting quietly in chapel. I hesitate to use a human analogy to explain this experience, because it feels as if something greater, more profound is here. My hesitancy is the possible danger of reducing God-in-Jesus to our own image and likeness, and in some way alien to the freedom of the children of God.

Does this sound a little pagan, worshipping the elements as in primitive times? Such statements seem to carry an element of certitude and clarity of faith – we know what is right and this isn’t it. We are so much part of the system that we easily adopt its labels. Take the word pagan. It is used frequently to denote not just opposition to formal religion, but devoting one’s time and energy to worshipping what are seen as replacements for the real God. Jesus said: do not be like pagans, those who make their authority felt – Mark.10.42.

It alleges that ancient worship of sun, moon and stars is primitive when seen from our civilised times. True worship of God is only possible in a civilised world, and is monotheistic. The ability and freedom to see our past in a more favourable light is one of the spiritual challenges facing us. It is not exonerating the past, but widening our horizons and seeing the unity in creation in ever new light.

AMcC

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30 October, Christ walking with travellers: A journey to Hell.

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Here is part of an address given to the United Nations General Assembly on behalf of Pope Francis by Archbishop Paul Gallagher; here he treats human trafficking where people, often children, are sold into modern slavery.

Mr. President,

Another great challenge facing the international community is trafficking in persons. At the root of this and other contemporary forms of slavery are wars and conflicts, extreme poverty, underdevelopment and exclusion, lack of education, lack of employment opportunities and environmental catastrophes. But we ought to recognize that on the demand side of such criminal trafficking there is also a crass selfishness, which reaches unimaginable levels of moral irresponsibility in the case of the trafficking of children, organs, tissues and embryos and in the so-called transplant tourism. Such execrable trade is exacerbated by corruption on the part of public officers and common people willing to do anything for financial gain. Indeed, the migration and refugee crises are facilitating an increase in trafficking in persons and other contemporary forms of slavery.

The Holy See and the Catholic Church have long spoken out against the evil of trafficking in persons and through the dedicated work of so many individuals and institutions, they have sought to fight its root causes, to care for the victims, to raise awareness about it, and to work with anyone and everyone to try to eliminate it. Pope Francis calls trafficking in persons an “open wound on the body of contemporary society”[18] and an “atrocious scourge that is present throughout the world on a broad scale.”[19]

At the heart of this evil, however, is the utter loss of respect for human dignity and the total indifference to the sufferings of fellow human beings. Modern slavery happens when “people are treated as objects,” which leads to their being “deceived, raped, often sold and resold for various purposes, and in the end either killed or left devastated in mind and body, only to be finally thrown away or abandoned.”[20] Refocusing on people, putting people first in the overall work of this Organization ought unhesitatingly to support the fight against trafficking in persons and other contemporary forms of slavery.

Pope Francis calls on all, in particular the competent authorities, to address such a heinous crime through effective juridical instruments, to punish those who profit from it, to assist the healing and the reintegration of its victims, and to eradicate its root causes. Our response must be commensurate to this great evil of our time.

It is part of the Church’s mission, is option for the poor, to fight the root causes of trafficking, to care for the victims, to raise awareness about it, and to work with anyone and everyone to try to eliminate it. Tomorrow we will look at one example of this.

 

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29 October, Christ walking with travellers: IV. A journey around my room

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At the end of the eighteenth century, Xavier de Maistre found himself locked up. He was more comfortably off than most prisoners, but still bored. He used his time to write a little book which he called A journey around my room. It can be found in the original French: here.

If for some reason we cannot go out – weather, illness, time of day, domestic duties – we can sit comfortably and begin our own journey, not just around the corners of the room but around the corners of our heart.

The lamp above my shoulder I made as an exercise on a college course many years ago in Hull, Yorkshire. That reminds me of my fellow course members, my tutors and friends, as well as Paul, a Hull man I often see down here in Kent. Thinking of them soon turns into a prayer.

Then there is the piano, not used much these days, but a bargain buy from a neighbour who was moving away. Think of her, and her son, exiled, perhaps for ever, from their native land; but at least she can walk along the street alone in Britain, free from fear and bare-headed, and still count herself a faithful Muslim.

The fire! We were glad to replace the ugly gas fire with something more in keeping with the house; everyone enjoys it on the special evenings when it burns.

Next, a nineteenth century engraving of a mother bathing her child before the kitchen range where elder sister, aged maybe seven, is warming a blanket, while father with an arm around mother, looks about to tickle the baby’s tummy. That was found in a Belgian flea market, brought home and remounted in a new frame. My wife’s keen eye at work!

To one side, an African carving of the Holy Family where Joseph is twice the size of Mary protecting his wife and the infant Jesus. But those two objects invite so much contemplation that I shall leave you there; perhaps to return to that corner another day.

Take a trip around your personal space and see where it leads you!

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27 October: Dylan’s Birthday.

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Mrs Turnstone and I find ourselves at the water’s edge in Wales; the sum has gone down, a half moon presides over the estuary outside our window. The birds are subdued but not far away. We should mark Dylan’s Birthday! These are the last three stanza’s of his birthday ‘Poem in October.’

And down the other air and the blue altered sky
        Streamed again a wonder of summer
                With apples
             Pears and red currants
     And I saw in the turning so clearly a child's
     Forgotten mornings when he walked with his mother
             Through the parables
                Of sunlight
        And the legends of the green chapels

        And the twice told fields of infancy
     That his tears burned my cheeks and his heart moved in mine.
        These were the woods the river and the sea
                Where a boy
             In the listening
     Summertime of the dead whispered the truth of his joy
     To the trees and the stones and the fish in the tide.
             And the mystery
                Sang alive
        Still in the water and singing birds.

        And there could I marvel my birthday
     Away but the weather turned around. And the true
        Joy of the long dead child sang burning
                In the sun.
             It was my thirtieth
        Year to heaven stood there then in the summer noon
        Though the town below lay leaved with October blood.
             O may my heart's truth
                Still be sung
        On this high hill in a year's turning.

May each one of us find the child’s key to heaven that opened the gate for Dylan, that day when he whispered the truth of his joy. And may he be there, singing his joy eternally! First published on Will Turnstone.

Views of Laugharne, where Dylan walked.

I hope you can listen to Dylan reading the poem here:

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October 6: The Lady of the Woods

 

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I trust that readers who also visit the Will Turnstone blog will forgive my recycling this  piece from there.It fits in well with Saint Francis this week, and with our theme of Laudato Si’!

One summer’s day Mrs Turnstone and I took Abel to the woods where we found this invitation to look at Betula, the Lady of the Woods. Isn’t she lovely? Find one of her sisters near you and enjoy the sight.

And now something I’ve been saving till the right picture turned up! This passage from Nan Shepherd’sThe Living Mountain’. A writer may reveal what the reader more than half knows, awakening joyful recognition in her audience.  I was reading Shepherd to learn about the Scottish Highlands, but I discovered something all-but known about the birch I see as I open the curtains. Here is Shepherd on p53:

Birch … that grows on the lower mountain slopes, needs rain to release its odour. It is a scent with body to it, fruity like old brandy, and on a wet warm day, one can be as good as drunk with it. Acting through the sensory nerves, it confuses the higher centres; one is excited, with no cause that the wit can define.

It’s always good to return home even from a quick walk to the shops. There is magic in fingering the keys as I approach under the lime trees – trees that may not flourish on Cairngorm but here share their bee-sung, scented glory every summer. Birch is wind-pollinated, needing no nectar, but its fresh-air scent, which I barely register even in wet weather, is part of coming home. I never realised till Nan Shepherd told me! And the blackbirds sing louder in the rain.

We occasionally berate the birch for its scattered seedlings, which occupy any bare earth and even take root in garden walls. As Rome fell away from Britain no-one removed the young trees, and the towns crumbled.

Not far from here at the derelict mine, a birch forest has sprung up on the spoil. Silver birch, I called it as a child – but it is pure gold in Autumn.

Do seek out Nan Shepherd’s book and see, hear, smell, feel with her.

And Laudato Si’!

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4 October: Pope Francis in Assisi

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 On the Feast of Saint Francis we invite you to share Pope Francis’s words of peace at Assisi last year.

Appeal for Peace of His Holiness Pope Francis

Piazza of Saint Francis, Assisi

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Men and women of various religions, we gather as pilgrims in the city of Saint Francis.  Thirty years ago in 1986, religious representatives from all over the world met here at the invitation of Pope John Paul II.  It was the first such solemn gathering that brought so many together, in order to affirm the indissoluble bond between the great good of peace and an authentic religious attitude.  From that historic event, a long pilgrimage was begun which has touched many cities of the world, involving many believers in dialogue and in praying for peace.  It has brought people together without denying their differences, giving life to real interreligious friendships and contributing to the resolution of more than a few conflicts.  This is the spirit that animates us: to bring about encounters through dialogue, and to oppose every form of violence and abuse of religion which seeks to justify war and terrorism.   And yet, in the years that have followed, numerous populations have nonetheless been painfully wounded by war.  People do not always understand that war harms the world, leaving in its wake a legacy of sorrows and hate.  In war, everyone loses, including the victors.

We have prayed to God, asking him to grant peace to the world.  We recognize the need to pray constantly for peace, because prayer protects the world and enlightens it.  God’s name is peace.  The one who calls upon God’s name to justify terrorism, violence and war does not follow God’s path.  War in the name of religion becomes a war against religion itself.  With firm resolve, therefore, let us reiterate that violence and terrorism are opposed to an authentic religious spirit.

We have heard the voice of the poor, of children and the younger generations, of women and so many brothers and sisters who are suffering due to war.  With them let us say with conviction: No to war!  May the anguished cry of the many innocents not go unheeded.  Let us urge leaders of nations to defuse the causes of war: the lust for power and money, the greed of arms’ dealers, personal interests and vendettas for past wrongs.  We need a greater commitment to eradicating the underlying causes of conflicts: poverty, injustice and inequality, the exploitation of and contempt for human life.

May a new season finally begin, in which the globalized world can become a family of peoples.  May we carry out our responsibility of building an authentic peace, attentive to the real needs of individuals and peoples, capable of preventing conflicts through a cooperation that triumphs over hate and overcomes barriers through encounter and dialogue.  Nothing is lost when we effectively enter into dialogue.  Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer.  Everyone can be an artisan of peace.  Through this gathering in Assisi, we resolutely renew our commitment to be such artisans, by the help of God, together will all men and women of good will.

 

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August 31: L’Arche and Care V – So who is helping whom to achieve what?

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I’ve had a ‘portfolio’ of teaching jobs over the last twenty years, since I became unable to work full-time in classrooms, so it was easy enough to ease into the current L’Arche approach to work and leisure activities where people commit to a weekly portfolio of activities that might include candle-making, gardening, brewing beer, swimming and the weekly grocery shop.

That’s when we meet our friends, often enough. Our local metro supermarket can seem very crowded when three or four people stop to chat in the narrow aisles! We’ve also joined an informal leisure gardening group that includes core members, assistants and their families.

Jobs can take a little longer … for example, setting up a core member to saw wood safely, despite physical challenges. (I’m grateful for the training I received in task analysis as a young man!) but then three eight-year-old girls want to join in, so it’s time to set up the other saw bench and provide them, too, with encouragement rather than hands-on help.

So who is helping whom to achieve what?

Dear reader, I’ll let you puzzle that one out.

But working with core members and children makes me stand and stare and chat. Stand and let others work, stare at the problem of how to let them work safely. Chat while the job is done, encouraging, praising, suggesting, sharing the satisfaction of a job done, a skill acquired.

Let us be ready to receive from others. Didn’t Jesus get the idea of foot washing, that James talked about on Tuesday, from a couple of women?

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August 14: Inter-Galactic Explorations XXXI: Chewing it over.

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who would not sit under the apricot tree?

‘Have you noticed,’ said Ajax, wolfing down a flake of haddock, ‘how Abel likes to use all his words, but Will and Mrs T, who know thousands more, can sit under the apricot tree quite happily without saying a word?’

‘Do they need to speak to tell each other they are there?’ wondered T. ‘Of course not. But maybe Abel needs to tell himself he is in the presence of a digger, a train, or two black dogs.’

‘You mean he is telling himself his own story?’ interrupted Ajax, giving Alfie time to think how to respond to T’s probing remark about the two black dogs.

‘When he was little, he was just living his story. You remember how he just loved you two. No words from his mouth but plenty of glee. And you guys were on another plane, playing with him without words – until you pretty much forced him to say “dog”. Now when he picks up his toy bus, he says “bus” and “door” and makes a brrrrm noise when he pushes it across the floor.’

‘Are you saying he was better not speaking?’ challenged Ajax.

‘Of course not!’ T replied. ‘He’s not just a bundle of nerve-endings like the Builder’s Dog.’

‘You didn’t see BD outside Peter’s Fish Factory. He had abandoned Will and was sitting actually on a student’s knee. The ladies seem to like him as much as he likes them.’

‘He’s still a bundle of nerve ends. He could ignore her completely if he was out with his mistress.’

‘Director, you are too cynical!’ Alfie countered. ‘Maybe the Ossyrian scientific diet has trimmed your nerve ends too much.’

This time it was T’s turn to conceal his thought processes. ‘Not all my nerve ends, Alfie, not all of them; but what has Earthly life done to yours?’

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