These last two or so years my biggest struggle has been “letting go” and “holding on”; “letting go” and holding on on so many levels; “letting go” of some things that were precious; holding onto other things I discovered were precious, life-giving and of value beyond words. I stopped holding onto the past; to things that broke along the way, including hearts and dreams. I wanted to know love, and that meant letting everything in, and letting an unwritten future unfold.
“…What is the greatest temptation? Money, sex, power? They seem to be the obvious ones, and we are easily caught by one or all of them. In the monastic traditions, vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience are intended to help monks and nuns resist the temptations of money, sex, and power and to follow the way of Jesus. But over the years I have come to the conclusion that the greatest and most destructive temptation may not be any of these three. I wonder if the greatest temptation is self-rejection. Could it be that beneath all the lures of greed, lust, and success rests a great fear of never being enough or not being lovable?
Instead of taking a careful look at the circumstances or trying to understand my own and others’ limitations without rejection or judgment, when I fall into temptation, I tend to blame myself-not just for what I did but for who I am. My dark side says, ‘I am no good. I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned.’ Self- rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us God’s beloved. Being the beloved expresses the core truth of our existence.
How do I discern the voice that says ‘be humble’ from the one that says ‘you’re nothing’? Humility has nothing to do with self-rejection. You can only be humble if you have a deep self-respect. Self-rejection cannot form the basis of a humble life. It leads only to complaints, jealousy, anger and even violence. It is a most dangerous temptation. I know this from my own experience. Every time I start to experience myself as worthless or useless, a ‘nobody,’ I know I am on the slippery slope to isolation and dark emotions.
I know that I give hope to others only when I have found that hope in the midst of my own despair. At times I find myself so deeply pulled into my own darkness that hope escapes me. How can I speak heart to heart about hope when I am still a victim of my own despair? I am so little in control of my feelings and emotions! Often I have to just let them pass through me and trust that they won’t hang around too long.
I have found that Saint Teresa’s call to focus on the goodness of God when I need to discern helps me fight the demons of despair, self-rejection, and fear, and has overcome the powers of darkness with the power of God many times. I have often prayed the prayer of Saint Teresa, ‘Solo Dios basta, God alone is enough,’ when I have needed to discern whether what I was hearing and experiencing was of God or not. Praying these words slowly and out loud can help me enter into God’s presence, where there is peace and certainty that God is always with me and loves me…”
Nouwen, Henri. Discernment. HarperCollins, New York 2013. 26 – 27
James Alison has written a series of essays collected in four-volumes. Total pages – over 600. An Introduction to the Christian Faith. They were written to accompany a course of introduction to Christian life. To learn more about the course, please visit the course website.
“Jesus the Forgiving Victim offers something quite fresh in the field of introductions to faith while embracing a straightforward Christian orthodoxy. What James Alison had in mind was to restore to the Christian life the wonder and transformative power of discovering not some new Biblical fact or church doctrine, but that you are loved far more than you know. By embarking on this course, you join others on a journey of discovery that will open your hearts and minds to discovering new things about yourself and your faith. It is a journey from fake goodness, from a false and insecure self, to relaxing into a goodness and security not your own, but in which you discover yourself held. And it is a journey from a unity that needs to create victims toward a unity received from the risen and forgiving victim in our midst. Jesus the Forgiving Victim is a wonderful companion on your journey toward a deeper faith and fuller life in Christ.”
Wilkie Au offers an insightful interaction between Gestalt Therapy and the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. While “essentially” different in intention and intended outcome, there is sufficient overlap to around process to make Gestalt Therapy an interesting conversation partner with respect to the practice of Ignatian spiritual direction and its practices of discernment and decision-making.
Without undermining the “rational”, Au highlights the critical importance of a “holistic”, “whole-person” (using ones mind yes, but equally importantly are practices and exercises that help us learn to listen to ones “body”, ones feelings, sensation etc) approach to discernment and decision-making.
The 24th March 2011 was author, artist and Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 92nd birthday. He’s long been one of my favourite poets. I’ve picked up collections of poetry from around the world as I’ve travelled.
This poetry reading is from April 2007, when he previewed selections from Poetry as Insurgent Art. The duration is 42 minutes, and we also get a brief excerpt from a conversation with author Kurt Vonnegut.
You’ll find the downloadable podcast here.
Also an Youtube interview with him.
“…We all have, tucked away
deep within us, an assortment of “quieter” thoughts and feelings: old memories,
half-forgotten dreams, disappointments and wounds that never fully healed —
such whispering strands of our hidden selves were tucked away in the “shadow”
or the basement the mind. That stuff normally eludes our awareness, so focused
we are on the immediate pressing matters of the moment, even if such “pressing
matters” are no more momentous than deciding whether to eat lunch at home or at
Chipotle. So one of the gifts of a disciplined prayer practice of intentional
silence, offered to God as a form of wordless praise, is that it gives us the
opportunity to listen deeply to those whispery thoughts and feelings deep
within. Why? To acknowledge them, to heal them when necessary, or even to
revive those half-forgotten dreams if the present is a more auspicious time for
pursuing them. But in all cases, deep listening is a means whereby we can offer
the fullness of our being to God — from the rush of conscious feelings and
ideas, to those barely audible echoes of the past — so that we may be healed,
loved, and transformed by the grace of the Spirit…
“The first service one owes to others in community involves listening to them. Just as our love for God begins with listening to God's Word, the beginning of love for other Christians is learning to listen to them…. Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either; they will always be talking even in the presence of God. The death of the spiritual life starts here, and in the end there is nothing left but empty spiritual chatter and clerical condescension which chokes on pious words.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a Nigerian Novelist. In 2009 she gave a TED talk which I recently stumbled across. Here’s the promo for it:
“Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice -- and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.
Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies, all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature.
“In 1996, following the
success of his band's ninth studio album, Murder Ballads, word reached Nick
Cave that he had been nominated for an MTV Award, as Best Male Artist.
That nomination was soon withdrawn, however, as a result of the following rejection
letter from Mr. Cave to the event's organisers.” ~ Shaun Usher.
like to start by thanking you all for the support you have given me over recent
years and I am both grateful and flattered by the nominations that I have
received for Best Male Artist. The air play given to both the Kylie Minogue and
P. J. Harvey duets from my latest album Murder Ballads has not gone unnoticed
and has been greatly appreciated. So again my sincere thanks.
that, I feel that it's necessary for me to request that my nomination for best
male artist be withdrawn and furthermore any awards or nominations for such
awards that may arise in later years be presented to those who feel more
comfortable with the competitive nature of these award ceremonies. I myself, do
not. I have always been of the opinion that my music is unique and individual
and exists beyond the realms inhabited by those who would reduce things to mere
measuring. I am in competition with no-one.
relationship with my muse is a delicate one at the best of times and I feel
that it is my duty to protect her from influences that may offend her fragile
to me with the gift of song and in return I treat her with the respect I feel
she deserves — in this case this means not subjecting her to the indignities of
judgement and competition. My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race and
if indeed she was, still I would not harness her to this tumbrel — this bloody
cart of severed heads and glittering prizes. My muse may spook! May bolt! May
abandon me completely!
again, to the people at MTV, I appreciate the zeal and energy that was put
behind my last record, I truly do and say thank you and again I say thank you
but no...no thank you.
Thanks to Barry Taylor for bringing the book and Nick Cave letter to my
Today an interesting conversation with Chris Clay on science education. I was particularly struck by the approach; the underlying philosophy of education. I can think of a couple of people who bring significant creativity and imagination into formal theological education, but I wonder would it take to do something similar with theological education, helping our congregations bring theology into their everyday lives…the challenges and opportunities of their everyday lives…?
Also, an interesting NZ story about brain injuries and those in our prisons. “…Ministry of Health figures show 64 per cent of prisoners have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI), compared with just 2 per cent of the general population…” This takes me back to a conversation I had a month ago with a psychologist colleague about how we change and grow as adults, brain plasticity, behaviour and about prisoner rehabilitation
A couple of months back I had the opportunity to take some time out on
a Sunday morning to go to the cinema and watch the film The Way, Way Back.
Ostensibly it’s a summer holiday / coming
of age drama / comedy with its central focus on…
Shy 14-year-old Duncan who goes on summer vacation with his mother, her
overbearing boyfriend (“overbearing” isn’t the half of it), and her boyfriend's
daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in
the very funny, softhearted Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the Water Wizz water park.
There’s a familiarity about the themes – we’ve seen them before, it’s
predictable, but the combination of quality acting and a smart script mean
that, at least peripherally, it has a lot more on offer:
New relationships (following
the breakdown of a marriage) and their impact
upon ones sense of self, ones needs, and ones children. It doesn’t completely
skip over the complexities, but neither does it explore the themes at depth.
There’s the theme of adult
loneliness and alcoholism, one of any number of “addictions” many of us need in
order to avoid facing into their interior realities including great hurt,
emptiness and sadness. The “addictions,” whether physical or psychological,
that many need in order to get through life.
There are the realities of
newness – new places, new experiences, new people, and new social networks that
become the new realities of moving on
from separation and divorce.
The adult quest to reclaim
their carefree adolescences. As one character says, “Spring Break for adults”.
Escapism - Adults refusing to grow up,
and continuing to act like they’re 18-year olds.
The experience of coming to
a place where we “wake up” and realise what’s most important in our lives; what’s
a written interview with Rowan Williams about CS. Lewis and Narnia. Many of you
will be aware a small book by Williams on Narnia – The Lion’s World: A
Journey into the Heart of Narnia (pub. p/b UK 2012 SPCK while in the USA it
was published the same year, but by OUP in a hardcover format). The interview is brief and not
in-depth, but it’s a good read and if it encourages people to read Williams’
rich little book it will have served a useful purpose. I still have rich
memories of listening to Williams (though sadly not as one of the congregation
he was speaking to) delivering the 2011 lectures on which his book is
based (though the lectures are extended). In particular the lecture, which
featured Eustace and the Dragon, still stands out.
is it about Narnia, which can seem so obviously Christian to many readers, that
appeals to non-Christian or secular audiences?
It's not an easy question to
answer. I think it's partly that the narratives themselves have a great deal of
force. You know, they're very simple stories—I don't mean simple in the sense
of crude—but emotions are strong. They're about loyalty and betrayal, victory
and defeat. They have that sort of buzz; they just keep going and keep your
They have at their heart
something very mysterious, something that comes in alongside your ordinary
human interactions and gives them an extra depth, an extra dimension, because
Aslan is not a presence who's visibly there all the time. Yet, there's
something or other breathing over your shoulder and making you think again,
reminding you that you're responsible to something bigger. I think that appeals
to almost any intelligent or sensitive reader of any age.
Narnia is something that
people do revisit. Some of the images stay with me. And though of course Lewis
wrote them as children's books—that's what they are—children's books, as we all
know, are quite powerful tools for grown ups' imaginations…”
You can read the complete
interview here. Published online 1st
November 2013. You'll find a positive review of the book here.
Today a written interview with Jamie Smith under the evocative (or some
might say “provocative”) title: You
Can’t Think Your Way to God. Here’s an excerpt:
worry about "the chronological snobbery that disdains the old as so five
minutes ago" and constantly pursues "fresh expressions."
I'm worried that we absorb a
sensibility from secular liturgies that makes us buy the story that our
salvation is in novelty. It's not the sensibility we need to revitalize North
American Christianity. The postmodern future of the church is in remembering
things that we've forgotten. I am entirely indebted to the late Robert Webber's
vision of "ancient future faith." I'm just trying to dig down into
the philosophical and theological roots of his intuition.
You describe Christian
belief as the way we navigate the world—not what we confess. How do those two
I wrote that in a context
where I engage social theorist Pierre Bourdieu. He had an expansive notion of
belief. He thinks your body believes things that your mouth could never
articulate. The orthodox Christian tradition was launched with the Incarnation
of God in Christ, the apostolic witness, and the Scriptures. But we inherit
that rule of faith in two ways: first, in the creeds and confessions of the
church (the articulated, explicit aspects of the faith), and second, in the
liturgical heritage that hands down the know-how of the faith—our practices,
our disciplines, our liturgical forms. Ideally, there's a feedback loop between
those two things. If you had just the creeds and confessions without the
practices of Christian worship, you would never get the full inheritance of
what the Spirit has passed on to us. That inheritance is not owned by
Constantinople or Rome or Canterbury. Rather, it is a common universal heritage
of the body of Christ that can be renewed for any who call themselves