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The Way of the Heart

Henri Nouwen in his book The Way of the Heart say, ”Our society is not a community radiant with the love of Christ, but a dangerous network of domination and manipulation in which we can easily get entangled and lose our soul….

….Just look for a moment at our daily routine in general we are very busy people. We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead. Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, our years filled with plans and projects. There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time and rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say or do are worth thinking, saying or doing.   We simply go with the many ‘musts’ and ‘oughts’ that have been handed on to us…..

….Why is this so?  The answer is quite simple…

…Our identity and our sense of self is at stake. The false self is the self that is fabricated by social compulsions.  Who am I?  I am the one who is liked, praised, admired……Whether I am a businessman, a pianist, a minister (or a charity worker) what matters is how I am perceived by the world (or at least my colleagues and friends). If being busy is a good thing then I must be busy, if having money is a sign of freedom then I must claim my money (or buy those new things), if knowing many people improves my importance I will have to make the necessary contacts.  The compulsion manifests itself in the fear of failing and the steady urge to prevent this by gathering more of the same – more work, more money (or possessions), more friends.”

The desert fathers and mothers decided to escape the rat race of the 4th and 5th centuries and spend time in solitude.  “Good for them” I hear you say, “I can’t do that, I have a family to look after, a mortgage to pay.  I don’t have time for stillness and solitude!”

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What I have come to realise is that if I don’t have stillness and solitude, if I don’t take time out to stop and wonder and to admire our amazing God and the beauty of His creation then I am living a half-life robbed of the joy and experience that God has in store for me.

God has not just called me to “do” he has called me to “be”: to be His child.  He has chosen me and called to live my life following the path that He has set for me.  He has also called me to ‘be’ the person that He has designed me to be. If I am too busy in the rat race how do I know I am on the right path, how do I have time to reflect not just on what I do but on who I am.  Am I the person that God wants me to be?  Am I filled with the fruits of the spirit?  If not then it’s time in solitude that is needed to spend time with God, giving Him the space to challenge who I am and shape me into who He wants me to be.  It’s silence and solitude, spending time just being with God where I can learn who I truly am as His child and can be equipped to go back into the world to serve Him. It’s in silence and solitude that my soul can be renewed by His presence, the beauty of His world and be surrounded by His love, giving me the strength and wisdom to face the rat race.

I’m now beginning to realise that making time for silence and solitude each day is not an optional extra, it’s essential if I am to experience life in all its fullness and the true blessings that God wants to bestow on me.  Without it I am missing out on the most fundamental part of life – being at one with God, feeling his love, experiencing his peace and ensuring that He is at the heart of who and am and He is the one who inspires what I do.

I need to get off the treadmill, out of the rat race, and spend some time in the desert, not a dry and barren place, but a quiet place where I can learn ‘the way of the heart’.

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If you need help with the practicalities of stopping being busy and having time wisdom, you might find Stephen Cherry’s book ‘Beyond Busyness’ a useful read.

 

 

 

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Food for thought this Lent

Lent is traditionally known as a time of prayer and fasting, a time reflecting on Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, where Christians give something up to provide extra time and space to concentrate on God.  For many 21st century Christians, and I count myself among them, fasting is not part of their spiritual life.  In the past I have made the token gesture of deciding to give up chocolate or cake; in a society where we are surrounded by such luxuries (there is always cake in our office!) it can be a challenge and a good discipline but I’m not that sure it ever brought me any closer to God.  It might be different for you, but I’m sure my motives were more about losing a few kilos rather than spiritual in nature.

I find giving up food difficult, mainly because I am a foodie, but also because I get headaches if I don’t eat frequently. Perhaps giving up a meal each day would allow me more time to spend with God. If I also gave up eating out I could give extra money to charity. Call it an excuse if you want but I decided this year that I was not going to give up food for Lent (although I’m sure I would benefit from a little less excess).

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I’ve often heard people say that giving something up is negative and they are going to do something extra, something positive for Lent, like giving to charity or spending more time in bible reading.  There is certainly nothing wrong with starting new positive habits and charities need all the support they can get, so its a great idea.   For me this year in Lent I wanted to do something positive and spend  more time in silence, escaping the seemingly never-ending rush of life, being still with God.

However, to do this required ‘finding time’.  I needed to give up something  to ‘find’ that time to make a real difference to my spiritual life, in the hope that the habit started for 40 days would become lifelong.  This Lent has been about slowly changing my lifestyle so that I am able to get a better balance in my life.  I’m trying to limit my excessive ‘work’ time to provide more time for family, friends and stillness, trying to take a few minutes each day in silence (not just those moments on the loo) to sit and be with God, to be mindful, appreciate the beauty around me and to thank God for all He provides.

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Books that have been helpful in this include Stephen Cherry’s book ‘Beyond Busyness – Time Wisdom for Ministry’. I’ve learned the difference between time management and time wisdom and have used various tools he suggests for making wise decisions about how I spend my time.  It’s a must read for workaholics and anyone in ministry.

The other book that has inspired me has been Mary C. Earle’s book ‘The Desert Mothers – Practical Spiritual Wisdom for Every Day’.

12745639_10208284540649310_1344397817639724825_nShe writes, “When we fast (whether it be from food or noise or busyness or buying too much), our fast is not only for our own health and deepening love; it is offered for the life of the world.  When we fast from mean-spirited conversation and from the need to be always in control and think ourselves to be right, we are allowing open space in which God’s healing silence can bring forth something new, if we give it time and care. When we fast from hurry and frenetic, non-stop rushing, we not only allow the distended stress of our bodies and souls to heal. We also practice one of the most subversive acts in this society: rest in God, trusting that God’s own recreating and restoring grace will be sufficient for the tasks at hand. We put aside the addictive behaviour of working as if everything depended on our own efforts, and allow real questions to surface…..the questions are an essential part of discovering who you are and who you were called to be.”

I don’t know about you but I so relate to this passage.  Up until now my life has centred around doing…..now I’m trying to balance the doing and the being.  Who are you and what has God called you to be?  My food for thought this Lent!

 

 

 

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Meditation on Psalm 23

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The Lord is my shepherd.…………….He is the one who cares for me and protects me from the dangers of life, warding off evil. He knows what is best for me and leads me on a safe path.  He searches for me when I am lost and brings me back to the fold, tending my wounds and nurturing me so I grow to follow Him.

I shall not want…………………………Just as he cares for His sheep and the birds of the air, making sure they are fed, so he cares for me.  If I trust in Him and follow Him, He will provide for my every need.  When I am secure in Him I do not want the things of this world, the fame and fortune, I am satisfied with His provision and thankful for His presence and abundant blessings.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures………………When the hustle and bustle of life seem to take over, He brings me to a place of rest.  He encourages me to lie down with Him, be still, take time out and experience the wonders of His creation.  The beautiful, lush grass feeds me, nourishes me and gives me the strength to carry on.

He leads me beside still waters………………….Waters where I can drink my fill of the water of life and emerge refreshed. Gently flowing waters where I can bath, be cleansed and feel energized with the cool water against my skin; where my sin can be washed away.

He restores my soul………………….With Him in the the stillness of creation I can feel the peace that passes all understanding. In solitude, with only Him as my companion I can be; be me. Restored in my relationship with Him, my heart unburdened, I can rest in Him, emerging from the silence with my soul restored and His peace within.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his names sake……….He has a plan for me, to prosper me and not to harm me.  He wants what is best for me but I must follow His lead.  Only when I choose to turn away from temptation and follow Him where He leads will He bless me and use me for His glory.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil…………….When the gloom of depression closes in, when the inner demons attack and drag me down, questioning my value, knocking my self-esteem, calling me unworthy. When there seems no way out or no way to carry on, I need not fear, for He is there protecting me.  He is battling with the demons of despair, disbelief and unworthiness, determined to win me to Himself.

For you are with me………………….Even in that place of darkness where I feel so alone, He is there.  He is walking with me in the shadows ready to guide me out of the valley and help me climb up the mountain to the summit, so I can get out of the fog and view clearly the abundant blessings He has prepared for me.

Your rod and your staff they comfort me……………Just knowing He is there, guiding me with His rod, protecting me with His staff, I can rest assured that I am safe.  I can take comfort in knowing that I am a child of the Almighty God and He cares for me so much that I need never be afraid.

You have laid a table before me in the presence of my enemies………………He has invited me to the feast, chosen me to dine at His table, provided me with fine food and wine in abundance. He has invited me to share in the bread and the wine, to accept the sacrifice that He made for me upon the cross, as my enemies watch on.  As they ridicule me and gaze at me looking for all opportunity to criticize me, He reassures me that He has invited me especially to join His feast.  But He wants me to share this abundance with others, not just my family and friends, but also those I don’t know and even my enemies who look on, so that they too may taste His bread and wine and come to know Him.

You have anointed my head with oil and my cup overflows……………..The High King of Heaven has anointed my head with holy oil, claiming me as His own and joining me to the priesthood of all believers.  As His child I can approach Him at all times without barriers. He has filled me with his strengthen, the power of the Holy Spirit, to the extent that my heart overflows with His love, allowing Him to touch the lives of others through me.

Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life……………As I continue to walk in His way, filled with His spirit, following His path and loving others, He will fulfill His purposes in me. I will be blessed, forgiven and experience the goodness and mercy of living in His kingdom surrounded by His love.

And I will live in the house of the Lord forever…………….This life of living in goodness and mercy provides just a taster of what is to come, a taster of what it feels like to be one with God. The time will eventually come when He calls me home. Death will not be a time of sadness, but rather as the challenges of this world are over, I can rejoice in the presence, peace and joy of the Almighty Creator God who made me, loves me and will care for me for eternity.

 

 

 

 
 

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Tiger expedition to the Sunderbans

I’ve been coming backwards and forward to Kolkata for a long time and have longed to see the Bengal Tigers in the Sunderbans, just three and a half hours from the city. This trip I decided it was time for an adventure so booked a two day, one night stay through Tour de Sunderbans

The booking process was easy, transferring INR 2,000 to their account in advance and then paying the remaining INR 2,000 on arrival (£40 was not bad for an all inclusive weekend adventure). I was picked up at 9am opposite the entrance to Science City in Kolkata.

Top tip – if you didn’t get breakfast go to the other side of the street at the Science City entrance, near the dinosaur: there are stalls where you can get toast, chai and fried egg or an omelette for a bargain price.

I joined my fellow passengers in a tempo traveler for the three and a half hour bounce along the Basanti ‘Highway’ to Godkhali – the end of the road. Supplied with a two litre water bottle and a sandwich breakfast (the latter of which I declined as my mother in law had already made sure I was well fed on departure), we spent the next 106km dodging people, cows, dogs, rickshaws, autos, cars and buses, even a gaggle of geese – it was like being in a live computer game –one mistake on the behalf of the driver and you would lose your last life! If you are a nervous passage then close your eyes and take a nap – it’s not for the fainthearted! There was a tea stop on route and thanks to my guardian angels, I survived the journey. At Godkhali there was just enough time for some coconut water (INR 20) before we boarded the boat for Gosaber in South 24 Paraganas District of West Bengal.

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Looking at the overcrowded boat as it came into the jetty with people, luggage and even a motorbike made me think of the refugee boats coming to Europe.

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It certainly did not look safe, but then I’ve come to realise that safety is not a priority in India – you do what you have to do to survive. If I wanted to join the Sunderban Safari then I had to board the boat. Since there were no seats you either balanced crouching on the edge of the boat or you chose to stand. I took the former.

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Unfortunately I chose a spot right near the engine; this not only meant having black smoke  puffing at me for the 10 minute crossing, but also that I got to see the crew bailing out the water from the leaking boat…… I said it was an adventure but this bit was certainly not an ecotour!!

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Top tip – don’t sit in the middle of the boat by the engine!

When we arrived in Gosaber we trekked through the hustle and bustle of the market to our next mode of transport across the island.

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Top tip – travel light, you will need to carry your own bags and your water bottle for a good ten minute walk through the busy market area.

Next it was time for our ‘Harley Davidson’…. A motorbike rickshaw used for transporting goods and people. It bounced us to the jetting on the other side of the island. Bone shaker is an understatement. It’s certainly not advisable for anyone with a back problem. However, it’s how the locals travel so a good way to experience rural Indian life.

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Top tip – sit at the back so you can dangle your legs of the back and get the best view.

After our rattling ride observing village life from the back of the motor-rickshaw we arrived at the boat that was going to take us to the backpackers eco-lodge.  Just after 1.30pm we were shown to our mud huts.

If you want a luxury resort, this is not for you. It’s meant to give visitors the opportunity to experience life in an Indian village so it’s a no frills accommodation. The hut is clean and has an ensuite toilet and cold water shower. There is soap, a mirror and a comfortable bed with a mosquito net. Don’t expect freshly painted walls (I reiterate, it’s a mud hut) but it was clean with clean sheets on the bed and a blanket. There was also a fan (although definitely not needed in December I’m sure it would be beneficial in the summer months). There are lights and one electricity socket, although power only came on after dark and we were told to conserve it as the site uses solar power (although thought I heard a generator somewhere).

Top tip – essentials to pack for the trip include your passport, a towel, mosquito repellent (although I did not see many possibly because it was winter season), warm cloths for December and January, and a torch. If you like a sheet between you and your blanket (not common in rural India) then bring your own. In December/January it gets cold at night so warm PJs are advisable.

After a short rest we all came together for lunch, a feast of rice, dal, kerala (bitter gourd), mixed veg, fish, papad and chutney. Excellent traditional home cooked Bengali food. Then at 3pm we took a walk around the village. It was time of the rice harvesting so everyone was busy.

We then walked along the embankment which was built by the locals to protect their land. Unfortunately over the decades man has cut down the mangroves, which had provided natural protection against erosion. So as well as new planting of mangroves man-made barricades are also needed to protect their crops and their homes, especially during the summer cyclones.

As the sun began to set we took a boat across the waters to explore the mangrove forests by water. Lots of bird life, and hundreds of crabs stuck to the trunks of the mangrove trees.

Our guide, Om, picked up a crab unaware of the fear of the guy sitting next to him, who jumped up and jumped off our boat onto the one passing by, the shock causing one passenger at the back to lose his balance and he just managed to right himself in time to prevent falling into the water: a hilarious sight that had us all in hysterics – that would have been great for YouTube!

The man-paddled boat ride was so peaceful; we watched the sunset and the bustle of India washed away. We relaxed in serenity.

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Returning to shore we took jungle ginger tea and rested in our mud huts. At 7pm were joined by a few of the villagers who serenaded us with traditional music for an hour, which was followed by another Bengali feast, but with chicken instead of fish. Then it was early to bed, under the thatch, tucked into the mosquito net ready for our 6am start the following morning.  A perfect time to lie in total darkness, pray and reflect.

Top tip: if you want to buy some fresh honey (madhu) picked from the jungle then ask Om in the evening and he’ll make sure they bring some in the morning. It’s INR 350 a kg and will be provided in a plastic water bottle for you to take home. You can’t get fresher or more organic!

Om rapped on the door at 5.45am with the early morning wake-up call. Jungle chai and biscuits was available for those who needed something to get them going, then just after 6.30am we left (with honey and all our belongings) on the boat for the Sunderban reserve. It was a cold and misty morning, but the mist gave an aura of mystery to the place and provided some great photo shots.

At the entrance to the reserve Om, our excellent guide and tour organiser, took our passports and dealt with the necessary documentation and then we proceeded to the beauty of the Sunderban reserve.

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A few facts:

  • Sunderban means ‘beautify forest’
  • The Sunderbans house the largest single block of tidal halophytic mangrove forest in the world, covering over 10,000 square km of India and Bangladesh, in the delta of the Bay of Bengal
  • It’s a UNESCO world heritage site
  • It’s the largest reserve for the Bengal Tiger with an estimated 403 man-eating tigers, who kill at least 30 Indians each year plus numerous Bangladeshis (these are official figure – in reality it’s probably more since many people are in the jungle illegally and therefore their deaths go unreported)

From our vantage point on board the boat and at the two watchtowers we saw:

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White spotted deer

Monkeys

A monitor lizard

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Lots of  hungry crocodiles

Red fiddler crabs

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And plenty of birds

Unfortunately the Royal Bengal Tiger was rather elusive and we only got to see his footprints.  It would have been amazing to have seen one of these rare creatures with males weighting between 180-280kg and females 115-285kg.  Om last saw one about six weeks ago walking along the mudflats on the beach. They have a life expectancy in the wild of about 20 years, an average litter of 3 offspring and prey on white spotted deer, wild boar, rhesus macaque (monkeys) and occasional humans.

It was a really relaxing day on the boat, with puri and veg for breakfast and another Bengali feast for lunch, while looking at the wonderful view and listening to the sounds of the jungle.  It’s one of the best places I’ve been to in India for beauty and peace.

In the evening the cruise boat took us back to Godkalhi and then we braved the night journey back to Kolkata. In a rather rickety vehicle with no seat belt or horn I can certainly say this was more scary than jumping out of an aeroplane whilst waiting for your parachute to open.  I now know the value of a horn in India – it has the same importance as a brake in the UK! How we survived this rather hair-raising journey I do not know, but it certainly dragged me back into the bustle of life, arriving in Kolkata about 8.30pm.   The peace and beauty of the Sunderbans was great while it lasted and a great reminder of the amazing creation we are part of.  If you are in Kolkata – take a detour for the weekend, its worth it!

 

 
 

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Lenten reflections – Falling Upwards – the journey of life

We’ve just been through a hard time, where a loved one was told she would have to have surgery for what looked like a life threatening illness.  The whole family was turned upside down. Living on different continents did not help; feeling inadequate at a distance. Flights, accommodation, tests and surgery would not come cheap.  Getting time off work to be there, worrying about how she would cope with surgery, the long term prognosis and how we were going to support her and fund her treatment was exhausting.  The emotional and financial stress took its toll. As Christian’s we put the situation in God’s hands, got the pray warriors praying but despite a deep trust in God the underlying question as to “why” rose its ugly head.

I’m sure all of you have been in a similar situation, you may even be in it now, where a loved one is suffering. So why does God allow it? I’m certainly not one of those people who believe suffering is a punishment for sin, after all Jesus died to wash away our sin.  Perhaps we can talk about the fall of mankind and that sickness is now just part of life in our mortal bodies. We can talk of the laws of the natural universe and suffering being the result of the decisions of mankind. But why does a loving God allow His children to go through such physical and emotional trauma when he could step in?

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Richard Rohr is a Franciscan priest, his book “Falling Upwards” got me thinking about the meaning of life and the part that suffering plays in it.

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Rohr says life can be viewed in two stages, the length of these stages vary between people and some, even followers of faith, never reach the second stage.  The first stage of life is largely about striving for success.  We all try to do what seems like the task that has been given us. We establish our identity, home, relationships, friends, career and build our platform for life.  Part of this involves building our ego, our self-esteem and putting on a façade for the outside world that shows us as being the things that society, colleagues, family and friends expect of us. We respond to the expectations of the world, or perhaps as Christians to what is expected by the church or other Christians. We may strive to follow the Bible to do what is right.

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But life is not rosy, we often feel inadequate, unable to live up to the expectations of others. As we strive for success or even trying to live a good life we realise that there are barriers in our way, we are not perfect and problems and suffering are integral to life, often removing the joy of living.

So we are back to the “why” question. Why does God let His children experience tragedy, sorrow and pain? Look back over your life and think about the times when you have been closest to God, when you have grown the most, spiritually.  Is it during the times of joy or time times of sorrow?  My experience has certainly been that when things are going well I feel like I can cope on my own, God is in the joy, but it’s not necessarily the time when I put my greatest trust in Him. But when problems arise or I have done something wrong, that’s the time I go into prayer overdrive and rely on God for help. And it’s definitely during the hard times that I have seen the most spiritual growth.

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Yet the human ego prefers anything but falling, changing and dying.  It likes the status quo.  We don’t like it when our plans for life are spoiled, when things go wrong; when problems arise that turn our life upside down.

However, perhaps we are looking at things from the wrong viewpoint, with a worldview instead of God’s view. Perhaps it’s not the problem that is the problem, it’s how we view the situation and respond to it.  How about turning it on its head and thinking about our “when things go wrong” moments being God’s way to enable us to grow, giving us an opportunity to move from the first stage of life to the second, a life where we are able to experience our true self (and not just the container) and to be in union with Him.

During the recent family health issues, realisation dawned that the ‘problems’ that upset our plans of a pleasant life may actually be God’s plan for us.  I’m not saying that God necessarily sends us suffering, more that he can use the suffering we experience for our benefit and His glory.  “God turns all things together for good for those who love Him.” Romans 8:28. If we respond to the trials of life by learning from them, by being open to how God wants to work in a situation and by trusting him we can ‘fall upwards’ and begin our journey into the second part of life.

Thomas Merton, an American monk, said “We may spend our whole life climbing the ladder of success, only to find when we get to the top that the ladder was against the wrong wall.”

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In Falling Upwards, Rohr says that the first part of life involves building the container the second part of life is finding the content that is to fill it. The container is not the end in itself but exists for the sake of a deeper and fuller life.  Many people spend their time repairing their container, trying to be a better person, but they never dip their nets into the deep and bring in the huge catch that awaits them (John 21:6).

However, to bring in what God has in store for us, to be filled with the ‘new wine’, we need to learn to get out of the driving seat and give up control to the real guide. We need to be willing to fall, to lose what is precious to us, in order to gain the amazing life that God has planned for us.  In the spiritual world we do not find something until we first lose it.  Take the parables of the lost coin, sheep and son (Luke 15). We do not truly appreciate something until it has been lost and then found. It’s when things have been taken away, when the problems and challenges arise that we realise who we are in God and who God is in us.

The second part of the journey of life happens only when we are led to the limits of our present game plan and find it insufficient. It’s not until we fall that we realise that what we have built is not in fact what life is truly about.  Only then do we search out the real source, the deep well, the constantly flowing stream, the living water.

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When we realise, not just in the head and the heart but in the soul, that we cannot fix, control, explain, change or even understand everything, when we are willing to lose our life as we know it, we will in fact gain it.  Through the problems and trials, if we are open to Him, God will show Himself and fill us with his love, showing us our true selves and the way to be in total union with Him.

Matthew 16:26 says “Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it. Anyone who loses her life will find it. What gain is there to win the whole world if you lose your very self? What can you offer in exchange for your life?”

Only by losing our false self, the image of success and perfection that we show to the world, can we find our true self.  It is through the times of suffering that God helps us along that journey.  Eternal life does not begin at death; we reach our spiritual home when we are our true self in God. We don’t have to be dead to live!  But it is a long journey and until we choose to take it we will be homesick, experiencing restlessness, loneliness, sadness and longing. The good news is we don’t have to do it alone, the Holy Spirit is our guide and will help us to reach our destination. But we have to choose to step out into the second journey of life.

The journey, I am told, is a lot different to the first. Priorities are different; we gaze at life through a different lens. We experience the gift of wisdom, can share it with others and fulfill what God has planned for us – a special union with Him where we are able to be our true selves as God has created us and He can use us to his glory.

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So how does this fit with the health issues of my loved one?  Well after further tests it was found that it was not cancer, that surgery would not be needed. It was a miracle of healing but through the “problem” God showed us that He can do more that we can even comprehend. We prayed for timely surgery, he removed the need for it altogether. He used the situation to move us closer towards our second journey. He needed to help us to put more trust in Him, to realise our dependence on Him, to strengthen our relationship and love for Him. And through the healing, He enabled us to experience together the most overwhelming sense of joy as we recognised the blessings of family and health and most importantly of a God who loves us and wants what is best for us.

Falling is not easy, it hurts, but falling upwards, into God’s loving arms is the place where we can feel the greatest ever comfort, joy and peace.

 

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The meaning of life….

Why Why WHY???

Do you think about the injustice in the world and wonder why is this happening?  See the extreme wealth of some and the extreme material poverty of others and question why?  Do you wonder why despite having the things you have acquired you are not happy? Why others seem to be able to enjoy life and you feel you have to spend all your time working hard to help others and provide for your family?  Why the wicked seem to prosper and those who do good struggle?

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What is the meaning of life?  What does a successful, fulfilling and happy life look like and how can we achieve it?

I read some wise words today that might help you to explore the answers. Here are the 12 Top Tips to a life worth living.

1) “If you love money and wealth you will never be satisfied with what you have…..I got whatever I wanted and did what made me happy. But most of all I enjoyed my work.  Then I thought about everything I had done, including the hard work and it was simply chasing the wind.”

Life is not just about doing what we want, getting what we want and working…. there is more to it!

2) “Everywhere on earth I saw violence and injustice instead of forgiveness.  So I told myself God has set a time and place for everything. He will judge everyone, both the wicked and the good.”

Yes, the world is full of injustice and it may seem that those striving for good are fighting a losing battle.  But this is not so.  Lead a life that walks the right path, that obeys God and rest assured that you will be blessed. Forgive those who hurt you, become reconciled with those who have offended you.  Not only will this bring you peace in your relationships and make your life happier, but you can also rest assured that the time will come when those who hurt others and are not sorry will be punished.

3) “Everything in earth has its own season…. God makes everything happen at the right time. Yet none of us can fully understand all he has done and he puts questions into our minds about the past and future.”

So don’t stress about life, things will happen in God’s timing. Worrying about the past and future won’t change things.  Put things in God’s hands and enjoy the present, make the most of the blessings you have, the people in your life and the experiences you find yourself in.

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4) “The best thing we can do is to enjoy eating and drinking and working,  I believe these are God’s gifts to us….if we please God he will make us wise, understanding and happy.”

So what about approaching life in a way that you become determined to enjoy the gifts God has given you; take pleasure in eating and drinking and do work that you enjoy.  But do this in a way that pleases and serves God and then you will be blessed, not necessarily with money, but with the things that really matter.

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5) “Yet a very little food eaten in peace is better than twice as much earned from overwork and chasing the wind.”

Overwork is as much as a recipe for disaster than doing nothing. Getting a balance is what is important. Enjoy your work, do something where your gifts can be utilised; but remember that work is just one of God’s blessings that we have to enjoy.  By overworking we deprive ourselves of many of the others.

6) “Be cheerful and enjoy life.”

A smile brings warmth to others and is a gesture the world-over that cannot help but bring down barriers and generate a smiling response.  It usually instills happiness in yourself and others.  Smile more, be cheerful and show other how blessed you are. Happiness and joy is contagious, spread it!

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7) “You are better off having a friend than being alone.”

Developing friendships take time and investment, but having the love and support of a friend is without price.  It helps us get through the hard times and enables us to share the good times, making them extra special.  Spend time with your friends.

8) “Dress up, comb your hair and look your best. Life is short and you love your spouse, so enjoy being together.”

Marriage is not without its trials, but deep love is at the root of a successful relationship. Love without condition, love that forgives, love that shares the good times and supports each other through the difficult times, love that respects each other, is gentle and kind and that makes the most of being together. Turn your marriage into a place of love and you will be happy.

9) “It is better to enjoy what we have than always to want something else because that makes no more sense than chasing the wind……I think we should get as much out of life as we possibly can…. a child born dead is better off than you unless you enjoy life and have a decent burial.”

Count your blessings, maximise the benefits of what God has given you.  Enjoy life! We are only here for a short time, as we get older time seems to pass more quickly. Don’t put of doing something you have been longing to do.  Don’t waste your life; set your mind to recognise the positive in your circumstances, to work towards building strong relationships, towards enjoying the things and people you have been blessed with and to putting God into the right place in your life.

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10) “Be generous and some day you will be rewarded.”

The more you give to others in terms of love, service, as well as money, the more you will be blessed and the more joy you will experience.  The saying goes that “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Start giving and see the changes that it makes to your life, as well as the lives of others. Give at home, in your community and to those worldwide more in need. Your generosity will touch your heart and also the heart of others.

11) “Nothing on earth is more beautiful than the morning sun.”

Appreciate the wonder’s of God’s creation.  Take time to see the beauty of what he has made: the animals, butterflies, fish and birds, the mountains and the valleys, beaches and forests. Find peace in stillness as you feel of the grass under your feet, sand in your toes and the warmth of sun on your face. Listen to the wind blowing through the trees, the sound of the crashing waves and the birds singing. Smell the perfume of the flowers and ground after new rain. Watch the sun rise in the morning and the colours of the setting sun, and look in awe on the wonders of creation.

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12)  “God has done all this so that we will worship him.”

He has made the beauties of creation, given us people who care for us, provided for our basic needs. Think of all the blessings you have: a roof over your head, food to eat, clean water, electricity, living in a country free from war, freedom of speech, friends to share things with, family who love you, a spouse who cares, a welcome home from you pet, a job, times of stillness and peace, music, kind words said by others, a hug, the joys of nature, or your good health. God blesses us all in different ways, but our response should be to worship Him and give Him thanks.  For by praising Him for the gifts we have been given we begin to find our purpose and can enjoy life with Him at the centre.

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So the what is the purpose of life?

  • Keep your creator in mind, worship Him and enjoy life; work hard but make time to enjoy and share the blessings He has given you.

Lord help me to get a work-life balance. Help me to enjoy life, to serve you in my work, but not to over work. To take time to enjoy all that you have blessed me with…. family, friends, food and the beauties of your creation.

The words of wisdom in bold above are taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes – ancient wisdom that is so relevant today.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2014 in Church, Life, Reflections

 

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Taking time to listen

What is prayer all about? Until a few weeks ago I think I would have said “talking to God”, because that is what I had always done during my prayer time…. jabber, jabber, jabber.  So much talking that God could not get a word in edgeways.  I was a bit like the bumble bee, buzzing here and there and never giving God any peace.

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Do you pray like a buzzing bee, noisily trying to annoy God into action to address your desires?

I would reel off my shopping list of things that I wanted God’s help with, thank Him for a few things (if I remembered) and then mentally tick off that I had had my prayer time. Then it was time to flutter onto the next thing in my busy schedule.

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Are you like a butterfly, unable to keep still long enough to focus on God?

Over the last few weeks I’ve come to realise that my prayer life has been more about ME than about God. I have been so busy talking I’ve never given time for God to speak. How can I expect God to guide my life if I am not taking time to listen to what he says?  You can’t have much of a relationship if one person never listens to the other.

But the light has now dawned….

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,,,,and I have come to realise the importance of being still and listening.

Now my prayer time is not so much God’s todo list, rather its asking Him to reveal his message to me through the scriptures. I ask God to speak to me and as I open the Bible He takes me to a passage and I reflect on it.  It’s an exciting spiritual journey that I am just at the start of and amazing things are happening which I am entering in a journal.  For example, many of the passages I read last week were the focus of the sermon on Sunday – God-incidence!!!

However, I find being still at home difficult, there are too many distractions, my mind often wanders.  Yet spending time outside, looking and listening to the beauty of God’s creation is just what I need to still my mind and focus on the Almighty.

Staring at the grace and beauty of a butterfly……

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,,,,,,or appreciating the colours, agility and song of a bird….

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Looking up at the cloud formations in the heavens….

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…. or listening to the wind blowing through the fields….

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…..the lapping of the water as the moorhen swims through the reeds….

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…..feeling the dew on my feet and the warmth of the morning sun on my skin….

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These things enable me to be still and rest in God; and oh what peace it brings!

Oswald Chamber states that “the point of prayer is not to get answers from God but to have oneness with Him”.

So if you feel distanced from God, ask yourself whether it is because you are not giving Him space to come into your life. Prayer is about a relationship with God, a special time of coming together.  It does not have to be full of talk and noise, it can just be resting in each others company and listening to what He has to say.

Even Jesus took time out to go to a quiet place to be with God and to listen to him (Luke 4:42).  So if it is good for Jesus then it must surely be good for us.

Find a peaceful place, be still and take time to listen, so he can refill you with His strength and reveal his plans for you.

“Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

“Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered the heart of man, the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

Great promises, so be still, listen and give God the time to share them with you….

 
 

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