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Category Archives: Journey 5

Journey 5 Day 39 and 40 – Ending the Journey, A Summary

My journey of contemplation is at its end. Its been eventful, especially the Achilles tendon rupture, challenging, revealing and also refreshing. My injury is certainly a more extreme way of getting myself to slow down more, rest more, reflect and dwell.

The journey has been massively helped and enriched by a whole range of great people and resources.

  • I have loved being able to meet for daily prayer (morning and evening) with great friends and colleagues. To share times of prayer from various strands and streams of church and Christian spirituality. It makes such a difference to the day and the perspective that you take.
  • Henri Nouwen’s simply amazing book The Return of the prodigal son has had a profound impact upon me and enabled me afresh to recognise my weaknesses and failings as well as rooting myself more in my true identity. Its been a really helpful and challenging read. Recognising the aspects of how I can be the younger and also older son and yet also to receive the embrace of the Father has been profound.
  • Taking time out to look back over the past year and reflect on learning and growth and the journey I have been on was so important. Thanks to Julie, fellow course buddies and my mentor for enabling this.
  • My friend Simon Jones for those great conversations, resources and use of an urban prayer retreat. It kick started my journey so well. Many Thanks Si!
  • Lots of great conversations, resources, articles and being able to connect with some great people. Thanks for the new introductions as well as existing friends and family spurring me on!

Having taken time out to reflect, pray, read and dwell I am feeling energised and challenged to take the step into my next journey, the journey of courageousness! My mobility will obviously limit me to a degree and so that bungee jump or sky dive will have to wait! I am however looking forward to acting more courageously as its arguably well overdue! I’ve stayed in my comfort zone for to long and need to take some intentional steps to wade out of some of that in numerous areas of my life.

 

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Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Journey 5

 

Journey 5 Day 35 – Music

This is beautiful, dynamic and just darn brilliant! I Love music and love its ability to take me to other places, to reflect, celebrate, dance, how it gives a freedom and a perspective.

One of my favourite artists is Foy Vance and this song is really brilliant and enables me to reflect but also to dream, receive healing and dare to hope! Its a very special song as I have been reading The return… by Henri Nouwen and thinking a lot about restoration of attitudes, relationships and worldview.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Journey 5

 

Journey 5 Day 35 – Stopping and Noticing

I recently completed a really excellent course at work called Growing Leaders. The course was a great mix of teaching input, group discussion and being mentored. Two very significant things about the course that have stayed with me are 1) The chance to create space to learn, think and focus on some key issues of character and identity. Leadership has to be about integrity and character. 2) The focus on leading out of who we are as human beings rather than leading from any title or status or role.

In this film Daniel Goldman  talks profoundly and challengingly about creating time and space to stop and notice a need. Compassion can only spring forth and be active if we take the time to get close and stay close to a need, person or cause. If we are to distant, not really present or do not really care then we will not really be willing or able to meet a need.

This journey of contemplation has been helped by meeting daily with friends and colleagues for short times of contemplative prayer. Stopping at the start and the end of a day and noticing both the need and importance of prayer, silence and being with God and others.

Its good to take time out to stop, rest, notice and be fully present. Its human, Its Christ like as modelled to us by Jesus(Mk 1:35, 6:45-46, 14:32-34, Lk 4:42, 5:16, 6:12) . We live in a fast paced world, activity and a can do it, get it, have it, change it NOW mentality is a common motif. I am all for creativity, energy, momentum and getting things done efficiently. But I don’t buy or subscribe to that way of thinking fully and completely. Being in praise of slow, rest, stopping, thinking, not always acting and going deep is also important. I know that its my more natural default and I love to be able to dwell, reflect and think but if we don’t do this and build this in will we ultimately end up being a bit like the Princeton theology students in the film and end up missing the point, burning out or being unable to speak with any integrity?

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Journey 5

 

Journey 5 Day 32 – Keeping Open

Whether I like it or not I have got to admit that there is something comforting, natural, even appealing about routine! It has its clear perks….. Breakfast in the mornings with my children, coffee in the morning in the office, work, exercise (my wife would laugh out loud at me putting that), travel, weekly groups, Saturday papers, tweeting/checking facebook, daily prayer, the list goes on and in any given week we all probably experience dozens of things that are routine and that have a significant degree of appeal.

There is something profound about creating Rhythms in our life. The film at the top of this post highlights the importance of taking our everyday, ordinary life and offering it up to God as an act of worship. Yes worship. Our whole life matters to God. How we shop and live in the mundane is just as important as the songs we sing in church. Worship is a way of life not just a weekly event!

However is there also a danger that routine and the mundane can crush and kill off the dreams, hopes, aspirations and vision that we had/have for life? Do we sell ourselves short by getting to drawn into routine?

I love learning and definitely describe myself as an open person. I am keen to learn new things, new ideas, read new books and new articles, meet new people, expand my worldview. Its when I feel most alive. The chance to be stretched and keep fresh by doing things that are fresh. Yet I also know that a weakness is that I am also someone who craves the familiar, the comfortable and the routine. This is a good and natural thing, to a degree, but do I sometimes migrate to that position out of a fear? A fear of others? A fear of failure? A fear of the unknown and uncomfortable?

This week we had a session with a senior colleague who spoke profoundly about our need to not become to comfortable. About how we need to consider how we keep ourselves, our relationships, our work and our dreams alive by stepping out, taking risks and being open. It was a profound and stirring session. I don’t think I have listened to pearl after pearl of wisdom like that for quite some time. It was extraordinary.

They went on to talk about how easily we fall into traps, patterns and ways in our thinking and actions and how these patterns can so often become unhealthy and unhelpful. Sighting John Eldredge’s Waking the Dead they talked about the importance of keeping the heart alive, keeping life and faith alive to possibilities and growth, building and developing good and healthy relationships and keeping our hearts open and right.

These two quotes highlight the power and challenge of this book..

“To find God, you must look with all your heart. To remain present to God, you must remain present to your heart. To hear his voice, you must listen with all your heart. To love him, you must love with all your heart. You cannot be the person God meant you to be, and you cannot live the life he meant you to live, unless you live from the heart.”

“[The Enemy’s] plan from the beginning was to assault the heart… Make them so busy, they ignore the heart. Wound them so deeply, they don’t want a heart. Twist their theology, so they despise the heart. Take away their courage. Destroy their creativity. Make intimacy with God impossible for them.”

The talk then went onto explore the concept of land in spirituality and theology, through the lense of Walter Brueggemann’s book and theology: The Land: Place as gift, promise and challenge in biblical faith. Eden begins the biblical narrative and something akin to Eden ends the narrative. We were challenged to think about whether like the Israelites we have lost a degree of direction and purpose in our sojourning and pilgrimage and need to reopen ourselves to the possibility of journeying back to where God really intends us to be and intends us to be operating in.

For me that is where the power and importance of the film is vital. We can redeem and live well in the everyday as well as the big picture. Its good to start with small steps that could lead to bigger, giant strides that help us journey to being more and more like the people that God intended us to be. Fully Alive, Fully present, using our God given gifts to the full, living in love and harmony, serving out of integrity and natural joy and living a full and fulfilling life that gives and receives and has hopes and dreams of a better world. I want to be part of that. I choose to keep open and to seek God afresh to help me be more of the person he created me to be. Its exciting and I am keeping open to that way of life.

 
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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in Journey 5, Uncategorized

 

Journey 5 Day 29 – (In) Dependency

My name is Matt and I am a consumer. This was my open declaration on my simplicity journey. It was a liberating moment, to be honest about just how much I love consuming and how wedded I am to the ways of consuming.But also of my desire to seek to take some steps to transform my consumerism. To be both liberated to enjoy what God has given me but also limited to enable good choices that will also help and bless others.

My name is Matt and I am a Consumer. I love the comfort and fulfilment that many of things I consume give me. I love to consume music, books, magazines and perhaps most of all great food and drink. I am aware that ultimately some of these things won’t bring me ultimate meaning and fulfilment, but I don’t think I could live without them either. I want a more simple and fulfilled life but am frankly scared of what that could mean and look like. I am not seeking to be a holy hermit who withdraws from life and consumption, I want to be real and engaged in the reality of living in 21st century society, but I want to spend and consume more responsibly, wisely and with greater generosity. I’m on a journey, I will stumble, get lost and over consume, but I won’t give in and just give up.

Well now I must add this. My name is Matt and I love and cherish being free, independent, in control and don’t like very much asking for help! There I’ve said it. Its out there and its the truth. Having injured my Achilles Tendon 10 days ago my rhythm and pattern of life has had to change. Some of the freedoms and independent ways have had to be put in check and I’ve had to ask, receive, get help and be far more dependent, which has been far harder than I thought it would be or how it should be.

“Independence is the bullshit of university”. Its a quote I will always remember from an Israeli mountain rescue worker who arrived to help us find our friend who had gone off for a walk in the hills and terrain of South Israel near the Egyptian Border. That friend ended up being arrested and taken into captivity. Extreme measures. I’m certainly not advocating against taking walks independently. But the experience was a reminder that we need to recognise our limits and the need to listen to others and to God at times recognising our limits.

Freedom, Independence and all that jazz is amazing. Freedom of speech, Freedom to vote, The free press and much more besides. The vital lifeblood of democracy. However have we, Have I become so used to it that I don’t need to grasp more fully what it also means to be dependent, to entrust myself to others and to God? Are we not better together in community, relationship, family and being able to be really open and reliant on others as well as people being reliant upon us?

These verses from Proverbs were given to me on my Baptism 20 years ago and seem so relevant for me right now. I’m not going to take them literally, esp v8! But the idea of trust, dependence and leaning not purely on my own ways and understanding seem sage and key advice for me to put into practice!

Proverbs 3:5-8

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
 fear the Lord and shun evil. 
This will bring health to your body 
 and nourishment to your bones.

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2012 in Change, contemplation, Journey 5

 

Journey 5 Day 25 – Being Human

When I did my theological studies at LST I was stretched and impacted by a brilliant module I studied called Being Human. To this day I am glad and grateful to the tutor and fellow students for the way this module widened my horizons and enabled me to explore more deeply the reality of what it means to be human. This journey had begun with a counselling course, continued when reading Philip Yancey’s The Jesus I never knew and continued through that year into the Being Human module.

On Sunday I was reminded afresh of the humanity of Jesus. We looked at Mark 5: 21-43 and the stories of Jesus raising a dead girl having first healed a sick women. The humanity of these stories, the way in which Jesus takes time in each case, the way he does not rush away from one situation or rush to meet the needs of the powerful instead taking time to value the women who would have been marginalised for her significant and lengthy issue of bleeding and to then call her daughter and take time to be with her is astonishing. There was no tyranny of the urgent or following the strategic plan of ministry in that action. We see that time and again and its truly startling and truly challenging. It caused me afresh to raise questions about my motivations, intentions and what I am really like.

Last night I watched the very human and very stirring film 7/7: One Day in London. What an incredible film and a remarkable insight into the reality of what it means to be human.

The day after London won the Olympic bid, terrorists attacked the public transport network killing 52 people and injuring over 700. Seven years later, as the eyes of the world are once again focused on the capital, ‘7/7: One Day in London’ gathers the testimony of over 50 people directly affected by the bombings, exploring the long lasting effects as they reflect on their experiences and how their lives have changed.

After the conclusion of the public inquest in 2011, a multitude of previously untold stories emerged of the bravery, difficulties and horror that people experienced on that day in 2005; many of these have been included in this film as well as testimony from people who have never spoken publically before. This is an ambitious retelling of the story of what happened on that day, with contributions from commuters, emergency service workers, TFL staff and families of victims. With enormous compassion for one another, ordinary people tell extraordinary stories of the day when they were thrown together, and their struggle to cope in the wake of the blasts that shook London.

In the midst of the most unimaginable anguish and suffering there were stories still emerging of hope, compassion, sacrifice, service and unbelievable strength and resolve that are equally mind blowing as they are inspiring. The Bravery and willingness of these people to share these stories is a real gift. The honesty and rawness is still very understandably there. The Shock, anguish and tears came to me in abundance as well as the fragility of it all.

I’m aware that being human also means a lot of other dimensions…. comedy, humour, creativity, energy, speed, agility and lots more incredibly positive and energising things and I celebrate that to!

Authenticity, honesty, integrity, bring our true selves, living out of our true identity in Christ are all the hallmarks of what it means to be truly, fully human. I want to keep discovering that, living for that. Whether that’s empathising with others, celebrating success and good news, being real about struggles and frustrations, putting into perspective my struggles and realising I have so much to be thankful for, being fully present in special moments with my family, crying out to God in prayer for things that seem so unjust and hard to take, eating great cake with friends to celebrate their birthday. Its all part of what it means to be human!

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Journey 5, theology

 

Journey 5 Day 20 – Celebration followed by Agony

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to take time out to be at Tearfund’s annual staff conference.

We heard about the value and importance of Tearfund being known as a ‘movement’ rather than an ‘organisation’. I love that idea. Yes there has to be an organisation but the story and real heartbeat of Tearfund is in the movement, the impact, the stories, the people rather than the machine of the organisation!

We were reminded of the core values of Tearfund: Christ Centred, Courageous, Compassionate, Truthful, Servants. Language that inspires and languages that makes me come alive and confirms that notion of a movement rather than an organisation.

Our Chief Executive continued the theme by encouraging us to be a movement that is brilliant at building and doing relationships. Valuing relationships, agility and creativity above and beyond systems and processes. To be in the world but not of the world. To use the values and ethos of Tearfund to be a springboard

It was nice in this context to have genuine quality time over lunch and beyond to spend time with people and build relationships and create enjoyable and memorable shared experiences. All of this in the context of a really great and diverse group of people united in a common purpose, unity and vision! Just Fantastic.

We then also got to hear of lots of great stories of transformation and impact from all over the world. Changes in the law, great fundraising, improved access to anti retroviral drugs for people living with HIV,Communities transformed, programmes being recognised for their quality and standing out for special recognition and so much more!

A great reminder that the values and ethos Tearfund when outworked lead to impact and transformation. That poverty is not about numbers and statistics but about people and human beings and human relationships. To have the local church at the heart of so much transformation is so inspiring and encouraging!

My only lowlight was an innocent game of table tennis that resulted in me rupturing my achilles tendon. Crazy but sadly true!

The longer than expected wait in hospital did give me a really great opportunity to stop, reflect and read a significant chunk of Henri Nouwen’s incredible book ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’. It was a timely read as earlier our Chief executive had talked about the importance of us fully grasping our true identity and living out of that place. The identity of being a beloved child of God.

Nouwen’s depth and honesty as he reflects both on Rembrant’s painting (pictured at the top of this post) and the story from Luke 15 is arresting, inspiring and challenging. I was really struck that he takes time to reflect on each of the 3 main characters; The Younger Son. The Elder Son and The Father. Nouwen highlights the fact that he can identify and resonate with each of the characters. The need to feel and live with the reality of rebellion of the younger son but also the desire and opportunity for that welcoming embrace. The resentment and hard hearted approach of the Son and how to break that mentality and approach. The role of the Father to extend welcome, embrace and live in a place of valuing grace, return, restoration and new opportunities. There is a lot of profound and brilliant depth to this work, but depth that is also applicable and has potential to be transforming. Transforming relationships, approaches to work and understanding of ourselves and our true identity. The same themes emerging from the conference. I was in all honesty struck by how much more I resonated with The Older Son than I would like to admit or project. How much  long and crave to feel the embrace of the Father but also how out of that embrace I want to develop and cultivate more of the characteristics of the Father.

At Lunchtime yesterday I had no idea of the agony I would be feeling and the way in which my evening would turn out so differently than planned. I would much rather it hadn’t happened and right now would much rather I was walking and active (So would my amazing wife and children). However I have to face into the reality that I won’t be so free to be active and mobile. I don’t want to be in this state but I am and I have to choose now to embrace it well and use a slower pace of life and mobility to learn, grow and cherish more of the things I so often just take for granted.

 

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Journey 5