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Encouragement for the Journey 20/ 12 / 2015

Encouragement for the Journey

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Greetings Fellow Advent Traveller,

Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent and we continue lighting Advent candles, today it is the Candle of LOVE.

Mention the word LOVE, and all kinds of images and memories may arrive into our awareness. I am sure we each have our own thoughts, descriptions and stories of being in and our experiences of LOVE.

Is your understanding of LOVE influenced by, romance novels, Hollywood, and, or TV soaps and dramas? Or have you come to an understanding through some other pathway? For LOVE to be more than just a word we write or say, we need to embody it into our lives, allowing it to influence our attitudes, actions and our relationships.

Often we hear the words that human kind is on a grand search for meaning and significance, to somehow understand why we are here at this moment in history. There is another way, this week I once again read Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth, and he suggested that we humans are not searching for meaning, rather we are seeking to experience meaning, to feel being alive. When we love and are loved, we feel alive and have an opportunity to experience the mystery and wonder of life.

Yet, sometimes, for various reasons, we go through seasons in our lives, when love is present, but not always felt: The following words scratched on the wall of a cellar in Cologne during World War 2 are a helpful reminder,

“I believe in the sun, even when it isn’t shining,

I believe in love, even when I don’t feel it.

I believe in God, even when He’s silent.”

So, we may say with the Apostle Paul of old:

 Unconditional Love is patient, and kind;

Unconditional love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;

it is not irritable or resentful;

It does not rejoice in wrongdoing,

but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things,

believes all things,

hopes all things,

endures all things.

Unconditional Love never ends.

I leave you with a question, how may we love unconditionally extravagantly?

Meanwhile Hope, Peace, Joy and Unconditional Love remain, but the greatest of these is LOVE.

Alf

December 30, 2015 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 13 / 12 / 2015

Encouragement for the Journey

Greenstone Moebius BandGreetings fellow traveller,

Last Monday, upon opening my emails, I received this quote from the Grateful Network:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.
Ian Maclaren

I reflected on this for a second or two, and then filed it away in my laptop. Yet, somehow it kept reverberating within. Then later in the day, I was in a long queue at the Post Office waiting to post Christmas cards to the UK. Standing in that queue, I had chance to look around at my fellow waiting humans, and this quote came to mind.   I wondered what battles they were fighting? What might be happening in their world? Of course, unless I knew the person or we had a conversation, I will never know. It remains a mystery to me, but not to the person, for they know their world.

The words of our quote; for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle, might upon an initial reading seem wishy-washy in light of current world events. However, it is a metaphor, which seeks to catch our attention, inviting us to pause, reflect and to see each other in a different light.

When we go through moments of uncertainty, especially around our physical wellbeing, or we enter the valley of loss and grief, or we go through the pain of a relationship break – up. These are battles we fight, usually within our selves.

While the battle rages, we will respond in different ways, some will, rage, like the Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas who writes:

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 While for others, there comes a gentle acceptance that the inner gap experienced by loss and absence, is very real and will not be filled. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, theologian, pastor, prisoner of the Nazis executed 6.00 am 9 April 1945 at Flossenburg Concentration camp by Gestapo. Writes in his book Letters and papers from Prison:

The Unfilled Gap

Nothing can fill the gap

When we are away from those we love and it would be

Wrong to try to find anything
Since leaving the gap unfilled preserves the bond between us.

It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap.
He does not fill it but keeps it empty, so that our communion

With another may be kept alive even at the cost of pain

So let us be mindful, that those we meet each have their own inner battles, let us be slow to judge, quick to offer kindness, and let our words and thoughts be laced with compassion and filled with love. For this is the way of Jesus, who invites us to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. I leave you with these words from John O Donohue in Benedictus:

For Absence

May you know that absence is alive with hidden presence,

that nothing is ever lost or forgotten.

 May the absences in your life grow full of eternal echo.

 May you sense around you the secret Elsewhere, where the presences that have left you dwell.

 May you be generous in your embrace of loss.

 May the sore well of grief turn into a seamless flow of presence.

 May your compassion reach out to the ones we never hear from.

 May you have the courage to speak for the excluded ones.

 May you become the gracious and passionate subject of your

own life.

 May you not disrespect your mystery through brittle words or false belonging.

 May you be embraced by God in whom dawn and twilight are one.

 May your longing inhabit its dreams within the Great Belonging.

Meanwhile Peace and kindness towards others and yourself

Alf

December 30, 2015 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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Encouragement for the Journey 6 December 2015

Encouragement for the Journey

Advent

Greetings Fellow Traveller,

Today is the second Sunday in Advent and we continue on our journey of lighting Advent candles, today it is the Candle of Joy.

Joy weaves its way through the Christmas stories, from the joy of Mary and Joseph as they welcomed their baby, to the joy of the shepherds and magi as they came and celebrated the birth of Jesus. We must not forget that a baby’s birth comes with pain for the mother; followed by moments of wonder, joy and delight at the birth of her child. Who has not been overwhelmed with joy at seeing a new born baby? I recall when I first saw and held my children and grandchildren it was a very emotional and joyous occasion, one which I will never forget.

Joy, the very word brings a lightness of being, as we humans become open to welcoming moments of celebration. Being joyful along with laughter does something very powerful in our brains. When we experience joy, endorphins are released in the brain, which in turn produces an increased sense of inner well being and positive feeling about life, others and our – selves.

Joy offers an antidote for the negative energy we find ourselves being confronted with at various times on our journey, unfortunately, this also occurs at Advent and Christmas, the season of peace and good will to all peoples.

There is so much happening in Advent and Christmas, which offer opportunities to fling open the stable door of our heart and be joyful.

A question that is helpful to ask is: what can I be joyful and thankful for today?

 Enjoy being Joyful

Meanwhile peace and joy

Alf

December 30, 2015 in Ministry Team's Blog by

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