the face you had before you were born

urlI find today’s Richard Rohr comment strikes a nerve with me.

Your True Self is who you objectively are from the beginning, in the mind and heart of God, “the face you had before you were born,” as the Zen masters say. It’s who you were before you did anything right or anything wrong. It is your substantial self, your absolute identity, which can be neither gained nor lost by any technique, group affiliation, morality, or formula whatsoever’

Last week I spoke with the same Christian man I spoke of yesterday with the strong sexist and racist views. He outlined how he thought all babies were born evil and condemned to hell unless they ‘accepted Jesus as their personal lord and saviour’. He used the concept or ‘original sin’ to justify this. To me that doesn’t look much like Jesus so it can’t have anything to do with God.

Today I baptised a beautiful baby today called Toby. Toby is the son of Zoe and Tony who I married when I was a curate at the cathedral – my first wedding at the cathedral. This was one of those real privilege situations which do not come around very often. But … as I held Toby in my arms … to think of him in any other terms than blessing and perfection does not really have much of Jesus in it … so can it be of God?

I have never fully accepted or resonated with Augustine’s concept of original sin. If we look at the Genesis accounts, God looks at creation and says ‘it is good’; next God looks at humankind, who are created in God’s image, and says ‘they are VERY good’.

Our ORIGINAL state as humanity is one that God calls very good. Not just ‘good’ like the rest of creation, but ‘very good’ …. even better than creation. Just let that sink in a  minute …. I’ve tried and can’t …. I’ve seen some pretty amazing parts of God’s creation which are stunning …. and yet to hear, believe and accept that God thinks I am even better than them is a pretty mind blowing concept.

But … just because it is mind blowing … and hard to accept … does not neutralise the truth that it is so! 

I think that blows any ideas of the original-ness of sin or evil right out of the water, beyond the sea, over the mountains, through the stratosphere and into a totally different solar system! One that doesn’t exist! Rather than original sin I think we are created in original perfection or original blessedness, because this is our original state.

If we could fully accept and live our lives out of that … wouldn’t that be pretty amazing!

a sign of promise?

The time away in Cornwall was great … the scenery stunning and the company simply beautiful. I find there are few places I can truly relax and be myself, but as we drove south I could feel stress floating away from me the closer we got to the Cornish coastline and our friends.

There was lots of space in Cornwall to rest and relax and think and pray …. my photo shows the amazing scene we woke up to one morning. I don’t think I have ever seen a complete rainbow before – it was a special and stunning start to the day with a timely reminder for me personally that God keeps promises.

It was a beautiful sight, it was an encouraging sight …. a sight that reminds us, as people, that all is not lost … that God is still clearly visible in the beauty that is at the heart of his creation.

meet skye

So … our life has changed!

Today I drove to Reading to collect Skye, an 8 month old border collie, who needed a new home.

I met a lovely family who were needing to give Skye up for perfectly good reasons and I did feel quite emotional for them as I drove away with their lovely dog.

Skye has been an immediate hit with everybody in the house but I think she is still in a major sulk with me as I am seen as the person that took her away from her lovely home. I’m sure she’ll see me as a friend soon.

This evening we went for a walk with Skye and were amazed to see how beautiful the Medway skyline can look during sunset. Going for a walk at that time of day is not something we would naturally do. but now it is going to become a bit of a habit. I’m quite excited to see what things I will notice as the seasons pass. It was also a joy to walk with Skye, who is amazingly good on the lead … lots of adventures ahead I think!

Watch this space …. (but regular readers don’t worry …. SHP is not about to become all doggy diary and stuff!)

creation gathering

the gathering err gathered again yesterday in the crypt of Rochester cathedral to look at the theme of creation.

This was a landmark event for the community as this was the first gathering we have had that I did not curate or ‘lead’ as one of the families within the community took on responsibility for this.

We took a Godly Play approach to the creation story and people wondered about certain aspects of the story. We then adapted our normal ‘open space’ approach and had a number of different stations to help people contemplate the theme of creation within our lives. Some of the stations looked at how we are created (Psalm 139) others took a St Julian of Norwich hazelnut meditative approach, others encouraged us to create (using Psalm 8) as well as say sorry for when we have abused creation.

As well as helping us to think more about the creative side of God I think we started to see that we as a community can be a creative bunch of people as well.

The next gathering will be on June 12th with the theme of Ancient Roots

in case we fool ourselves …

Asbo Jesus again reminding me of the reality of situations.

measuring life

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away”

A commitment I have made for Lent is to notice more (blog less!) as I travel in the familiar. One of the things I have been doing to help me with this is have my camera with me as often as I camera with me as often as I can. Sometimes the wonder of God’s creation does take my breath away.

Shades of God

I visited Wycombe YFC today, had a great chat with Erica and a good coffee before making some phonecalls and retuning home.

I don ‘t know if you have noticed the trees around you recently, but today as I drove along the M40 and the M25 the trees seemed to jump out and grab me. Let me explain … they are so green! Maybe it has something to do with the amount of rain we have had around the country which has caused me to notice this more than normal. I did not just particularly notice how green the trees look, I was also amazingly struck by the variety of green.

The picture does little justice to the reality, but if you are near a lot of trees, trust me – go and have a look. The variety of green is quite staggering. When I stopped in an M25 queue I lost count of the different shaded of green that I could see from my car.

So many shades of green and yet we have one word … ‘green’. If we don’t have the language to describe one colour, how can we ever hope to describe and understand God!?

The tension of the ordinary

I while ago I was able to visit the Peter Doig exhibition and have been meaning to blog about it for ages.

I love Doig’s work for a number of reasons. The sheer size of most of what he produces is stunning and iot can be quite easy to become immersed into the art work. While looking at Jetty, for example, it was easy to feel drawn, almost sucked, into the piece and having a conversation with the lonely figure.

I found this exhibition amazingly spiritual. I found myself asking who the solitary figure was. I wondered why I was interested. I was intrigued that I found the figure inviting, as if he was waiting for me to join him. The atmosphere generated by the painting is hard to describe, but the air seemed charged with expectation and tension as I quietly watched.

The subject of the lone figure appears a lot in Doig’s work – as does the image of of a person alone in a canoe which was inspired by watching Friday 13th.

It’s interesting to see how profound the simple everyday experiences can be as this experience alone influenced Doig for over a decade.

I love it when people like Doig drag me back to reality. Not the normal reality of my everyday – but the reality that tells me that life all around us is charged with energy, with tension with expectation.

If we believe that God sits within creation then what can that mean. How can it be that we can wander around seemingly blind to the over-presence, or hyper-presence, of Creator God in our midst? Is humanity really that blind?

I don’t think humanity is. Instead, I wonder whether experiences like my Doig experience in the Tate Britain a few weeks ago are quiet, but special and profound, encounters with Creator God hides and passively hopes; but a God that speaks through experiences by saying ‘you feel something special; a fundamental, unique but familiar tension here … wake up … that tension which you can feel and experience is flowing from the one who created you.’

As I walk with God today I am going to be reminding myself to look for God in the tension of the ordinary.

the magpie cometh

I have often written here of the wonder of creation and how God is clearly evident and at work within it. It still amazes that people look for God ‘up there’ or ‘out there’ or ‘over there’ when God is clearly present and working right here and right now. Where we stand, where we walk, where we sit is sacred ground because God stands, walks and sits with us – whether we recognise God or not!

For the last few days we have been getting excited at the wonder of creation. Alonside our garage which is really a shed is an amazing Clematis plant. A couple of weeks ago Joe and I noticed a blackbird collecting ‘nesting material’ and flying into the bush. For the last week while going into the garage to get things we have seen the blackbirds have made a nest wedged between the garage window and the clematis. It was quite an amazing sight and we looked forward to seeing Blackbird chicks in the next few weeks.

While writing today I was distracted by an amazing noise in the garden. The two blackbirds were screeching at two massive magpies which had noticed the nest. The blackbirds were no match and seem to have deserted the nest and abandoned the eggs to the magpies.

Creation is mazing and beautiful, but sometimes it seems that creation can be quite cruel as well. While it is easy to see God in the beauty and wonder of creation, it is quite difficult to see God in the cruelness of creation. God is there but difficult to recognise some of the time.

Advent 16: dangerous God?

Creation does not define God. Creation points us toward God.
Does the amazing diversity of creation express the love of God?

The diversity of creation must include creation in its entirety.
Today’s Advent thought considers whether all encounters with God that we have leave us ‘leaping for joy’. Looking to encounters such as the transfiguration shows that such experiences may also be shocking, terrifying, confusing or even concerning.

If we look on the whole of creation as an expression of God’s love then how is that being expressed in the sting of the wasp, or the kill of the great white shark, the short life of the butterfly, or the devastation tornado?

How do the confusing, startling, surprising, painful sides of the creation point us toward God?