Thursday, September 29, 2005

Held in the Hands

I am thinking of "vocation" in terms of a new meaning I picked up - it is the journey of becoming who I am called to be, in doing what I am called to do.

Today was the last episode of the documentary, that followed the spiritual journey of five men spending 6 weeks in a monastery. It was awesome to see the conclusion of that journey as God's spirit touched these men, and they encountered Him in the quietness of solitude and reflection. One of them especially - Tony who was working in the Porn Industry - emerged shaken with His encounter with God, and determined to live it out. He said it was the most profound moment in his entire life, and that as he returned to real life he would seek to bring that experience within the reach of others.

No one taught him how to go evangelise. No one told him to. No one even said anything about him having to preach to sinners. But there was living water springing from within him, and he wanted people to have it too. He couldn't help it.

Ever wonder why we are so apathetic about telling people about an awesome God. Because we are too bloody selfish, apathetic, and self centred. Because we have forgotten what it is like to truly know the Living God. Here was a man from the porn industry - STREETS ahead of most of our sanctimonious clean living pew christians. "Sister I don't have pre-marital sex", "No I don't drink", "ofcourse I don't have premarital sex". How NARROW can our christian faith and perspective become. Tony reminded me of many of the gospel encouters people had with Jesus - encounters that revolutionised and changed them.

For those of us who imagine that encounters with Christ come through rampant and blatant evangelisms and music, can think again. For here was God's Spirit and presence calling these five men - gently, patiently and clearly. And deeply. Very deeply.

At the end of the 6 weeks Tony met with his spiritual advicer - a moving encounter, both for Tony and those watching. Here was a grown man - crying because he was so profoundly touched by God. He was given a white stone by his advicer. The idea of the white stone, the advicer said, is taken from Revelations, where we are told that our new names will be written by God on a white stone that will last forever. He asked Tony to constantly ask himself, as he journeys through life, what name was being written on it. Not insignificantly the information at the end of the documentary, that had checked on the lives of the men, said that Tony no longer worked in the Porn industry. Not ONCE did any of the monks compel Tony to give up his life in the porn industry. They loved him as he was, shared God with him, and set him free to find God for himself.

I couldn't help but ask myself how profoundly are the depths of our lives being touched by the living God, so that it changes our direction, leaves us shaken with awe at the encounter, and then makes us quietly determined to go out and make sure that others can share in this miracle that we have found.

I think most of us, in our comfortable pews, fellowship groups, holy huddles have lost the depth and awe of the God we profess to know. We are busy singing songs, leaping around, talking big, discussing endlessly, listening to wonderful sermons, having warm fuzzies - but we have lost the point. As I once ranted before, most of us are consumer christians. We are there for what we can grab.

We have lost the springs of living water that come from quiet and profound experiences with Him. We have forgotten that solitude with God can literally save us from ourselves. We are indifferent to the name that we are called by God, and completely oblivious to the vocation - of doing what we are supposed to be doing, and becoming who we are called to be. And we have forgotten the deep compulsion and conviction of sharing God with those around us, because frankly we don't really experience Him anymore. It more a guilty burden we occasionally think of.

Forgive me for sounding singleminded, but until we learn to listen to the Heartbeat of God, and listen to our own heartbeats in the silence and serenity of solitude, we are never going to become the people we are meant to be. We will never find the name by which we are called by God, because we are too busy being christians.

I think we have all lost the point, because in this crowded, noise and image filled world, we have lost the gift of solitude. And we have actually forgotten the basic truth - that we cannot stand until and unless we fall into the hands of the Living God.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

squirrels are us.

Squirrels and people are the same. Both horde. I have been watching squirrels scurrying around with little flourishes of bushy tails to horde up larders. They horde for survival. People horde money mostly because they like it.

I love money. Lots of pots of it. Filled up and flowing over. Bank vaults full of it. Secret safes stuffed with it.

But I hate money too. I hate what it does to people, the way it makes them selfish and self centred. I hate the way it makes the world spin as if life does not matter. I hate the way it creates two classes of people. Money talks and I hate the the sound of its voice that drowns all other voices. I hate the way it break up homes, destroys relationships, seperates parents from children. I hate its lure and power. I hate its seductive strength. I hate its validity in today's world.

Yet it's true - I do love it. Because money can be turned into love. It can be turned into life. It can be turned into beauty. It can be lavished. On those who matter most, and those who need it most.

Lavish doesn't mean going out and buying useless expensive and meaningless stuff like a posher car or designer label bits. It means buying something that can bring someone joy.
Even flowers! (There are a few people who I would like to buy flowers for regularly) A musical instrument, a book, a beautiful plant. Something meaningful. Something that can make a difference. Not dead gifts but living ones that do something. It means buying someone who is hungry a good meal, clothes for someone who is in rags, a house for those without a roof over their heads.

Some folk know what to do with their money.

I remember being gifted money to buy books by friends - a couple who had barely enough money to survive and who had just received some cash. I refused. They insisted. The rationale was that "the money we get is not for us to spend on ourselves, but to spend on those we love". Another friend of mine, saved up money, built her own house, and then worked extra to save money, to give away and bought her domestic helper a house. She could have spent it on herself...but she didn't. Still another friend of mine worked nights on extra shifts, in order to see a friend, who was depressive and broke, through his postgraduate studies. My friend actually lived on a shoe string budget in order to see the friend through, and paid his fees and living expenses (in the UK!)

It is sad that often money is a "me", "my", "I" thing. It enters a "me cycle".

Money combined with love and selflessness be a wonderful thing to possess. I am never going to be among the rich! So I guess (just settle for fame and scandal, especially since the latter is easy to come by!). But I sure would like to have a lot of money to spend it lavishly on loving.

Money is for loving. It is so that we can be spendthrifts for love. Money is for sharing.
It is for holding lightly in our open palms so that it can be shared with those who need it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Falling into the Hands

I remember, with slight unease, the verse that has haunted me ever since I read it long ago.

It contrasts sharply with a lot of current prosperity God talk: "It is a fearful (terrible) thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews).

On the other hand what a absolutely marvelous heart adventure "falling into the Hands" can mean. I think when my heart stops beating at the end of the final road, it would be great to look back and think "what a frightening but wonderful journey that was".

The Old and New testaments are full of evidence of "how fearful it was" to "fall into" the hands of Yahweh. The unnameable YHWH - as the Jews spoke it. Sometimes in our preoccupations with "living" we never get to the point of wanting to "fall into those awesome Hands".

I just watched a tv programme that is following the lives of a few men spending 6 weeks in a Benedictine monastery. The men - atheist, agnostic, criminal, skeptics - were bending and breaking, and changing with such humility and openness under the awesome Hand of God. They were beginning to "fall into the Hands" through the beautiful quietness and solitude.

It made me wonder whether our lack of solitude and silence with God, is robbing us of the greatest adventure of "falling into the Hands". Maybe we have crowded Him out with our mediocre, noisy, and often just plain activity filled and meaningless lives.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Making ripples in history

Take a Saturday. A rainy day. Grey skies with not a glimmer of sunshine. Steady dripping. Puddles. Raincoats, opened umbrellas of varied sizes.

It's Saturday shopping fever. It's the "I want..." day of the week.

And in the midst of this was what a friend described "the rag tag army of God". A straggly group of Make Poverty History supporters. In the rain, steady dripping, in the midst of manic shoppers and Saturday enjoyers was this motley band of people.

Of striking diversity was this "army"; they were of different social backgrounds, spanned generations and ages (from 2year olds to 75 year olds), and different religious persuasions (muslims, christians and atheists). There were teenagers dancing to the drumbeats, their were the gothic contingent in full regalia - vividly black and wildly pierced, the demure elderly with shopping bags and cardigans, parents holding the hands of little lively 2year olds, a band of pulsating drummers, an over-enthusiastic labrador and even a green and cheery Robinhood.

If I had been tempted to think that it is pointless and despair of the leaders of the rich and powerful nations listening to voices scattered around the world, Saturday made me think again. We made a point - about Fair Trade, about justice, about changing lifestyles to accomodate a fairer and more equal world.

That was what Saturday did. It was a group of people saying something. Willing to look foolish, willing to be small but vociferous, willing to keep trying in the midst of discouraging odds against them. On a day that was so "I want" centred, a small group of people cared to dare the rain and focus not on "I, me, my", but justice for a part of the world they probably have never even seen.

Perhaps at the end of the day - changes may never come. I hope I am wrong and I hope that time will prove different. But at the end of the day what matters is that people care and want to make the changes.

And all we can do is try - where ever we are - to be different, to live differently and to speak out when and where we can.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Some days glow

A day can positively glow with warmth and happiness - and this despite overcast skies, drippy rain and crowds. I am thankful for gentleness, loving eyes, warm smiles, looks exchanged at something funny, laughter, conversation, snacks that are "indulgent". Even shopping ;) Somehow the mundane things have a sparkle of their own when shared with a kindred spirit.

Sometimes God is not in the whirlwind, the storm or the noise. He is in the quietness of moments, the everyday things. God was in "today" with all its drippiness and grey. Some days are hallowed and graced by love, and the ordinary is touched by light when warmth and caring surround it.

Some days glow. They write themselves into memory - into the part that stores happiness, love and goodness. Not as obvious large "momentous" events but as quiet spaces that lifted the level of happiness and made life more liveable. I am thankful.

Friday, September 09, 2005

it is still a scandal

I cannot believe that New Orleans continues to be such a horrifying scandal. Why is this disaster somehow morally a worse one than the tsunami of December 2004?

Perhaps because the sight of such poverty in the midst of one of the richest nations is horrifying. Because the rich are safe while the poor are dying. Because the American central government doesn't give a damn for it's own. Because the nation that parades it's democracy, equality and freedom conceals within it a terrible sore and wound of injustice and inequality. Because a nation that spends billions of dollars in days on its many missiles and bombs, and on its space programmes is one that harbours abject and miserable poverty that we see now on our tv screens.

The nation is reaping its indifference to environmental changes and global warming, and I wish to God it had been the policy makers and those in power had paid the price for their indifference. Instead it is the poorest of their people that pay now. As always.

Perhaps this is going to be the scourge of America's whitewashed piety and the touchstone by which its hypocrisy is made visible to the rest of the world.

Those who talk bullshit a
bout the hand of God and His justice when they invade other nations, should stop and think about the God of justice they invoke and His view of their own nation and its racial inequalities. The God of justice and love, whom I know is not the same one paraded by these "born again" powerful, for whom " justice" comprises merely of their invasion of other nations in the disguise of the chosen of God.

There is clearly no justice within, but great yawing moral abysses that are successfully camouflaged. I read today, about the American citizens watching in horror at what lay within their own nation of freedom, and being appalled by the level of poverty and misery in New Orleans, and the kind of treatment meted out to the rich and the poor.

I should not I suppose be surprised by a nation that harbours the scar of Guantanamo bay, and the likes of Robertson who talk about "murder" as justice. I am angry, Yes I am. And
I make no apologies for the use of "swear" words for sometimes it is only swear words that are appropriate.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Overdue introductions - Dido & Aristophanes

I realise that there has been a gross oversight of important personages by the names Dido and Aristophanes. With profound apologies let me rectify that negligence.

Despite her early appearance in this blog, Dido never really had a decent introduction, well not an official one. She is a Standard Russ Leopard made to the highest toy safety regulations, and made of stern stuff such as pe pellets and polyester fibre. She does not, she requests me to point out, get washed in such evil contraptions such as washing machines. She has a soak bath complete with lavender and a glass of wine to boot. She is not the sort who swirls around with nondescript dirty linen. She begs me to inform the public that despite her strong intellectual inclinations, she has a gorgeous pelt, a divine colour and the most delightful eyes. She is named after an ancient and rather tragic queen of ancient Carthage, and occasionally dons the persona of a contemporary singer. She likes having her fur loved off, as is required in becoming real, enjoys "washing" people she likes with loud "slurps", and has most intelligent communications with a handsome tiger named Ringo over the phone. Her creator was an American star gazer.

Aristophanes insists he is a philosopher, with dramatic inclinations, and says that his ancestor's drama - Frogs - should be given a superior place in society (it is not tooo rude apparently, he says, and we live in rude days!). He is a visitor to these parts, and is due to return to his rightful pet soon. He lingers here (excuse me? really? oh ok) for the purposes (he says) of prestige, philandering and philosophy. (Aristophanes, Dido is not going to like that comment because it implicates her) (no I haven't forgotten your devastating good looks). He is a chocolate moose (NO Aristophanes, that's "mousse" not moose so no one is going to confuse anything...SIGH). He confirms to toy safety standards with pe pellets and polyester fibre (no they are NOT higher than Dido's and will you stop trying to compete). It is important apparently that every one knows he has experienced spiritual things...(Yes yes I know...) and transmigrated his soul from one body to another, bodies of identical physical appearance. He has piercing eyes, a vibrant personality, and stunning good looks (now wait a minute can't make...ok ok ok).

RIght animals that's ALL. Gerrroff my back. And no I won't say anything more. What? Oh ok. Well they are talking animals (erm what? you are not animals? then what...oh ok). They are "real" folk apparently. With brains (fluff...ok ok ok I didn't really mean that). Now get lost that's enough narcissm for a century.

Monday, September 05, 2005

male/female dialogue on putting up a tent

Putting up a tent might not, to the uninitiated, pose any diabolic dimensions. However a recent episode and conversation regarding the activity clearly highlights the perils involved.

She is asked to pick a suitable spot which she does - stating it is "away from the glare of the lights". He enquires if she is sure, and she says "yes". The job is nearing completion, and she steps back to view it. Horror. The huge bright blinding spotlight for the loos was shining right into the tent. She had misjudged the location.

He (happily whistling and pegging in last couple of pegs and standing up): "right that was easy and quick. Let's have some tea then".
She (humming nervously): "Erm we better move it I think".
He (laughing): "Ha ha ha that's a good one...ok let's go get some..."
She (interrupting in small voice): "no ...we gotta move it"
He (still laughing but nervously): "you are joking right?".
She: "erm no...".
He (aghast): "what????"
She: "erm the light is on it"
He (firmly): "YOU said this was fine and away from the light?"
She (sheepishly): "Yeah. I got it wrong. It isn't"
He (sounding hysterical and trying to ignore the light in his face): "WHAT?'s will be fine...".
She: "no, the light is shining right at you and it will be the same in the tent"
[A long pause].
He: "you are not serious right?".
She: "erm..."
He (desperately babbling): "it's fine, just a little light, not too much, light is good ...otherwise dark, good to have some light..."
She: "don't want any light"
He (aghast): "you can't be serious ...we just put it up?"
She (in small voice): "yes"
[Loooong pause...]
He (shaking his head): "I don't believe it. I finish putting it up and she says 'move it'"
She (sheepish): "it's the"
He: "tcha WIMMIN"

And lo and behold the tent, it was moved. And thus move the delicate dynamics of men and women in the delicate opertation of putting up a tent.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Potted out after Potter

(warning - this post is not meant for those who haven't yet finished reading the last Harry Potter).

I was shell shocked. Shattered when I closed the pages of Harry Potter. There is something gut wrenching about this book. I am not even sure if this is children's fiction, even though it involves those barely out childhood and their teens.

It is a brilliant piece of writing, moving inexorably and relentlessly to a conclusion one somehow senses, but never really fully expects. The death, the betrayal, the devastation at the end was completely unexpected. And yet the book ends on a note of sacrifice and courage, and indeed hope.

Rowling's series will grip the imagination of generations of children and adults to come. Because it is a narrative that draws on what C.S.Lewis has called the domains of "deep magic". The stories might appear childish, funny and at moments light hearted, but underneath like a strong current runs the serious and now chilling stream of awareness that these are not books about magic, wizards or even about boarding school.

These are books that point to the deepest fears and conflicts faces by humans - and in this case children: death of those loved, betrayal, the consequences of love, the consequences of the choices of evil over good, and good over evil. Above all the concept of sacrifice - a thread that runs constantly through the series.

Whether she intended it or not, Rowling's series is perhaps one of the most deeply spiritual stories one can encounter.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Some are more equal than others

Has Katerina blown away USA's rags of decency and left her naked and exposed? In my native tongue there is a great word for it "varaheli"...which means shreds of dirty rags.

The scenes in New Orleans certainly don't look American. And from where I watched the people there felt the same way - they felt they weren't been treated fairly as citizens. I am mystified how a nation that spends billions of dollars on nuclear and space programs has such a scar within it.

USA should clean up its own racism, poverty and misery before it talks shop about other people in other parts of the world. Eye, speck, plank etc for those of us who know our Sermon on the Mount.
Much though I am fascinated about space exploration I cannot ever get my head around the fact that a country's first responsibility is its own people on its own shores - not imaginary microbes on far out planets it cannot reach. And for that matter how ethical is it for them to clean up other people's misdeeds by burning billions of dollars in explosives while ignoring their homegrown poverty? Let's not go into the billions spent on nuclear programs.

A friend of mine was in SanFran recently. And he said that what was shocking was the level of homeless people in the midst of all the riches and skyscraper world. He said it somehow was more obscene to see poverty in the midst of wealth, than poverty in overall poor nations.

There is a worm in the heart of the apple, or in Hamlet's words "there is something rotten in Denmark".