The Annunciation Trust

to help you discover the God you already know

Author: Julian Maddock (page 1 of 3)

Are we there yet?

Prayer space

Every day I go to my chair and I sit in the early morning light or dark. I set down my glass of water. I look into Your face. I’m pretty consistent about this. I get anxious if it is put off or I miss the appointment.

Every day I struggle.
I come with feelings of failure and inadequacy and waste.
I come wanting to be fixed.
I come to be sorted out.
I come wanting to know.
I come longing to be lifted up into a realm of light and eternity.
I come knowing there is so little time.

Every day,
if I give You the chance
amidst the barrage of longing and complaint,
You tell me to put all this to one side.
I can almost see You sweep the table
__________________________________ bare
with Your arm.
Every day You tell me,
“I just want to be here with you.”

Every day I struggle not say,
“But what about this?
and what about that?”
Every day I struggle to accept that
what I am is what You want.
It is not that I am enough,
“just as I am,”
but that any idea of being enough is a foolish mistake.
What could ‘enough’ possibly mean to You?

Every day I struggle to shut the fuck up and just let You be with me.
“Take a breath,” You say.
I want to know where this is going.
“This is it,” You say,
“We are here.”
I don’t get it. I never do.
I say, “Are we there yet?”
“Yes,” You say, “Yes.
We are here.”

I take a breath.
I feel it for a spell. Then,

“Yes, but…”

The timer goes. The hour is up.

It is never enough.

[Syndicated from thisbody.info.]

Desert

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain

America, A Horse With No Name (Todd Terje edit)
Desert, Newberry Springs, CA
Newberry Springs, CA

I went to the desert. It was not entirely what I expected.

Arizona. To start with there was more vegetation, though different from what I am used to: scrubby, survivors. Then there were always mountains in the distance, seemingly, never to be reached, forever at arm’s reach… Then Tonto – Sedona – the Grand Canyon.

I loved it all. The vastness of it has undone something in me. Pulled the rug from under my feet. Cut me down to size. Cast me adrift. … Choose your cliché. Clichés are only clichéd because they tell a truth.

I am disturbed. I miss it. I haven’t yet come to ground. I long to be back there. What name have I remembered? The world is big; I am little. Every which way I looked, every way in which I looked, there was an expanse I was unable mentally to fathom.

I encountered four dimensions of ‘vast’. The first was the flat, almost featureless, extent of sand and scrub. A first glance showed a landscape uniform in all directions: each bush as alike as its neighbour a few feet away; each unmarked and unremarkable hole remarkably alive with ants determinedly about their business. But here’s the thing: each bush and ant colony is a world in its own right, each as important as the civil, dear-to-me world I inhabit.

The second dimension of largeness was driving up a mountain to the pass and looking down at the terrain – or fetching up on the south rim of the Grand Canyon, 10 miles to the north rim and a mile down to the Colorado River.

Neither wideness nor height and depth was new to me. The globe itself is great, but the human project has managed to encompass it in all but the most inaccessible places. America is not tamed, but it is traversed, by track, tarmac, pylon, and radio waves. People are amazing, ingenious, inventive, dauntless but our apparently unassailable longing for significance and immortality is destructive, and will, ultimately, be fatal.

I gained the third perspective coming upon numerous settlements, from a few dwellings to cities of millions, in the ‘middle of nowhere’, on the shores of a lake, or the confluence of rivers. It struck me that each collective contained people mostly engaged in the same endeavours – building a life, a family, a home, making and selling (though more selling than making), getting and spending, constructing a set of friends and colleagues, real and virtual – all conferring the semblance of significance. Repetitive; imitative. I knew nothing of them, nor they of me, but our lives were largely interchangeable, and unremarkable, I fancied.

What tugged most insistently at the construction of Pick-up sticks of what I fondly like to think of as mylife was the time-scale revealed in the geological calendar of the Grand Canyon. I learnt that the canyon has been carved by the Colorado River over the course of 5 to 6 million years. That’s a long time. However, it turns out that the layers of sediment were laid down over a much longer time-scale. Standing on the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, I could look back in time, scanning down through the strata, terracotta and tan, disintegrating and dusty, to where the river runs now, deep and hidden, on rocks that are 1.8 billion (1,800,000,000) years old. Now that really is a long time. It is 6,000 times the current extent of the Homo sapiens project. It exposes my 60 years to a new perspective. 

I regret missing the opportunity to look at the stars from a place relatively free of light-pollution. There, finally, is the unfathomable, unplumbable, and unimaginably vast.

What is the name I have remembered? I have remembered that I am not important; that I am a small thing on a small, blue planet; that I am not all this worry about mylife, mydecisions, being liked and valued, being safe, having control. I know my name is not all this.

What is my name, then, if I have one? What is my significance, if any? What are we for, if anything? I have no answers. I find no resolution between longing for significance and the feeling of disappearing into a perspective, like the vanishing point of railroad tracks, that I cannot get my head around.

It is difficult to convey in these words the deep, disturbing delight, the delightful disturbance, of these questions. It is crucial to understand this: yes I am disturbed, but the delight, the relief, the gratitude! I loved the desert and the vastness in space and time. I want to be there. I want to know that what I fondly think of as “I” doesn’t much matter, when push comes to shove.

I have no future. I have no past. When all is taken away one thing remains. All I have is now. My name is “now”. The only viable response to the vast beyondness of things is being fully present to the moment, this moment. My name is “one who breathes”. In a breath, felt from the nostrils to the belly, breathed with and into the heart, is the whole world, eternity, You.

The things that ignore us save us in the end. Their presence awakens silence in us; they refresh our courage with the purity of their detachment.

Andrew Harvey, A Journey in LadakH (quoted in Belden Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes, p.54)

[Syndicated from thisbody.info]

The Shift

Weeds creeping up between the paving slabsI keep returning to The Blessing that was given to me a couple of years ago. I see it as is a tectonic shift in image and attitude: from a god that is demanding, jealous, that needs to be appeased, to which we have to prove ourselves; to God whose Body is this world (and each creature in it), who made us to be free to enjoy the pleasure of simply being alive, the God whose quality is overwhelming generosity.

There is a lot wrong in the world. Inequality, poverty, epidemic, oppression, domination, violence, war, famine, environmental devastation, species extinction. These are frequently fatal to individuals, and may be fatal to many species including our own. These are all of our own making. Greed and lust for power are too seductive to give up.

This has nothing to do with God.

I see more clearly that the attitudinal shift offered to me is from fear to love: from fear of dire consequences from a god that demands compliance, to love of God from whom we come, from whose Body we are made, and in Whom we abide, breath by breath, heartbeat by heartbeat.

The rejection or death of a god does not lead to atheism. This is a basic mistake we sometimes make. But no scientist who found flaws in her beloved and much-worked-on theory of how the world works would conclude that the world doesn’t really exist after all. No. She picks herself up and takes a closer look.

Some of the gods we have worshiped have been found to be punitive, oppressive, tyrannous, death-dealing, uncaring and dismissive absentee landlords. (The technical word is ‘idols’.) Let’s not conclude, therefore, that God is not. Let’s take a closer look.

My contention is this: there is no god that needs to be appeased. In this I agree with the atheists. This idol is a god out there somewhere who demands our compliance if we want to be safe. This god is nowhere to be found except in our own heads and projections.

I am still held in its thrall. Sad but true. I suspect I shall ever be a work in progress.

God is not ‘out there’. God is the very matter out of which the world is made. That matter is love. God sometimes seems to be a Person to whom we can relate, and who offers us love and acceptance without requirements, who appears in various guises, as an incarnation of the Christ or an enlightened Buddha, or as the neighbour, the person next door, some tree on a hillside, the blackbird singing in the dead of night, the weeds creeping up between the paving slabs, and the paving slabs. At other times God seems to be the World taking us into Her arms. At yet other times God seems to be my arms embracing the world with open-hearted love and amazement that I “should be, who nothing was”.

[Syndicated from thisbody.info.]

Salvation

People think
they are
not good
enough.

Salvation
is discovering
you don’t have to be.

[Syndicated from thisbody.info.]

Beautiful and surprising

Winning and losing doesn’t matter. It’s about making something beautiful and surprising.

So says the character, Kimi Muroyama, in the Australian film, Paper Planes, which I have watched a couple of times with my younger daughter, Esther. The film is about an international competition to see who can make a paper plane fly the furthest. It is also about loss, letting go, and finding new life.

Life is not a competition, not about being the best, but something beautiful and surprising.

You can measure your path by your dedication to your path, not by your successes or your failures. (Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic, p.41)

The point, for me, is that each of us is capable of making something beautiful, maybe many beautiful things. But we don’t have to make things. Living is beautiful, of itself, without produce, product, or production. When we are made to compete, one idea of the beautiful is held up to be the ideal and we all try to be the best at that. But this is no way to live. If no one competed, but each tried their best to bring forth, to allow to come to birth the surprise that each beautiful life is, what a rich world we would live in.

The trouble with competition is that someone, somewhere, decides arbitrarily that something is good enough to test people on. This is fine as far as it goes, inasmuch as it stimulates some people to excel. But the downside is that is exalts certain traits and abilities as more worthy than others, and it turns people, from a very young age, into winners and losers. Education, education, education sounds like a good idea, but it becomes an agent of oppression when it is a method of social control to torture young minds into a narrow economic paradigm. As Jesus might have said, “Education is made for the human, not the human for education.”

In these little pieces I lob out from time to time, I seem to be saying the same thing over and over. God, the Universe, the Source – whatever word you want to use for what can be loved but not named – has no need for us to do anything. We make “something beautiful and surprising” by nothing more than being alive as the unique beings that we are. We do not need to strive at this; quite the reverse. To breathe with amazement at the fact of breath is to make something beautiful and surprising.

What is “beautiful and surprising” to you?

[Syndicated from thisbody.info.]

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