Thursday, November 29, 2007

Grandmother's funeral today

My wife’s grandmother died. Our weeks holiday interrupted to mourn the death of a generation now gone. She was ready to go, senile and out of character. The indignity of watching her become aggressive and belligerent were not memories one wanted to keep but they are the most current. After her husband died a few years ago all she has been wanting is to go and be with him. She did not want to live any longer. She encouraged family to slowly take away her life’s possessions, one item at a time. There are lists of “what I want” from the expensive crystal to the very last of handbags and brooches. It was as if she was stripped before she died. How difficult it was to go and visit her, she wouldn’t remember you and how easy it was to say, “What’s the point!” The family will gather today to remember her, but we do not mourn her death, that would be a selfish clinging to somebody who had already ‘left the building’ before she died. We instead are remembering how we were with her, we remember our moments and opportunities, some taken some missed. We mourn today the human malady of dying, decaying, the debilitating realization that we are mortal.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Conflict resolution skills

Conflict can either rip us apart or bring healing in and towards greater expressions of Godly community. When leaders of the Church are at logger-heads we are aware that they are not seeing past the things they have idolized. The matters at hand have become the ends in themselves and not the means through which we establish the reign of God. I can foresee that the only true means of embracing conflict is to embrace a deeper prayer life that helps us transcend the finite. Let us neither forget the important work of conflict management studies that provide an excellent way of helping people see beyond themselves and the competitive environment we live in. I stumbled over this site on the internet yesterday, it could be of great help to anybody having to deal with conflict, there are some excellent free resources…. “Conflict Resolution Network.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pop the bubble

“When we feel like a small child during the day, our frustrated mind is all too willing to make us into tall and great heroes in our dreaming moments: into victorious heroes admired by all those who do not take us to seriously when we are awake, or into tragic heroes recognized too late by those who criticized us during our life.” Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out.

The illusory world of imagination is our joy and our sorrow. The poet ‘builds castles in the air’ entertaining and instructing our hearts as we are carried away by her deeper perceptions of life. The ethereal castles if not understood as such can also become places of hide and seek - bastions of the soul that hide us from the reality of our mortality and other’s suffering. Our dreams, a cinema of pop corn with beginnings and ends, plastic tears and merriment. God’s dreams, a galaxy canvas breathing reality into hearts that touch fire air and water – making a pulse.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Immortality Sucks!

I am still reading Henri Nouwen’s book Reaching Out – The three movements of the spiritual life. For those who are yawing you will be happy to know I am in the last chapters! However, the last section of the book deals with our reaching out to God. He makes an interesting point that our sense of the ‘immortality’ of all things breeds insipid sentimentality and/or violent behaviour. When we mask our relationships with others with the illusion of immortality we create a sentimentality that creates false expectations of human relationships and when shattered brings about depression. Violence is bred when we start to own others, property and material goods as ours for eternity and when this is challenged it brings about violence as we try to perpetuate our ownership of them. Interesting thought, the idea that concepts like eternity and immortality can be as negative as they are positive in our faith journey.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Teacher and Student

“Healing means first of all allowing strangers to become sensitive and obedient to their own stories. Healers, therefore, become students who want to learn, and patients become teachers who want to teach. Just as teacher learn their course material best during the preparation and ordering of their ideas for presentation to students, so patients learn their own story by telling it to a healer who wants to heart it. Healers are hosts who patiently and carefully listen to the story of the suffering strangers. Patients are guests who rediscover their selves by telling their story to the one who offers them a place to stay. In the telling of their stories, strangers befriend not only their host but also their own past.” Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out.

Isn’t it great, sharing our story with others who listen? Having the freedom to weave our narrative through current consciousness that interprets the events in new and sometimes predetermined ways. How great it is to have a listener who asks us questions that places another reader in our story. A question or comment that shows the listener listened and found it interesting that we defined it so. Sometimes I am the teacher and other times the student, the secret is never to find myself as only one or the other.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Get a new brain

I have played around with this piece of software for number of years - on and off. It is a management system that works graphically if that makes any sense. I thought I would let you know a few of the software programmes I have found useful. Check it out at Personal Brian.

Free education

“One of the greatest tragedies of our culture is that millions of young people spend many hours, days, weeks and years listening to lectures, reading books and writing papers with a constantly increasing resistance… practically every student perceives his education as a long endless row of obligations to be fulfilled… constantly trying to ‘earn’ credits, degrees and awards… students perceive their teachers more as demanding bosses than as guides in their search for knowledge and understanding.. sometimes teachers speak about love and hate, fear and joy, hope and despair… when we realize that the students themselves have not had the opportunity to make their own experience of love and hate, fear and joy, hope and despair available to themselves and allow their questions be born from their personal source… therefore, [teaching] asks first of all the creation of a space where students and teachers can enter into a fearless communication with each other and allow their respective life experiences to be their primary and most valuable source of growth and maturation.”
Nouwen, Reaching Out.

Nouwen makes an impressive contribution to education in the light of hospitality. The power of creating an environment where the student is not fearful of being honest with his/her questions and sees themselves on a spiritual quest for self knowledge and spiritual growth. We all remember teachers who made our education a drag and those who made it living and vital. Those who listened to the strangest of questions and made everyone feel as though they had a treasure to share. To all teachers who break down the walls of competitive, assignment, mark driven education I salute you.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Generous hospitality

“ I would not have anyone adopt my mode of living on any account; for, beside that before he has fairly learned it I may found out another for myself, I desire that there may be as many different persons in the world as possible; but I would have each once be very careful to find out and pursue his own way, and not his father’s or his mother’s or his neighbour’s instead.” Thoreau

We are, or should be ever transforming and thus never be too set on our thinking, theology, or our pat answers. If we believe this, we are co-learners with all we meet, exchanging ideas and learning the differences in others to embrace them or allow them to define our particular perspectives. Let me be honest, I love to think I am right especially amongst the fundamentalists! Most of the time we are aggressive towards divergent views because we are doggedly holding on to our worn out perspectives as if they are tablets of stone. Let us rather be generous with our minds and gracious with others.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Shared property

“The movement from loneliness to solitude is a movement by which we reach out to our innermost being to find there our great healing powers, not as unique property to be defended but as a gift to be shared with all human beings.” Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out.

Our inner search is not a solitary delving to separate us from the world around us. Within our struggling with identity, our place in God’s world, and our prayers with the worlds pains and issues we find the gifts of healing that are there to be shared with others.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Divine interruptions

“You know, … my whole life I have been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I discovered that my interruptions were my work.” Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out.

I love routine, it sometimes becomes my god! And by that I mean it becomes my security. I know that I have certain tasks to achieve in a week and they are sorted out into days, mornings, afternoons and evenings. I feel good when a day goes by and I can say I have achieved my goals. However, the upset when it doesn’t go according to plan! The irritation when I know that the last two days I was interrupted by unplanned meetings, pastoral calamities, and family visits. How important it is for me to realize that just maybe all these interruptions are the things I am called to work with. Instead of squeezing them into times when I can deal with them, to rather see them as the goals of my life. The world cannot be put aside and be dealt with according to my agenda, the world is my agenda!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

At peace with others

“Without solitude of heart, our relationships with others easily becomes needy and greedy, sticky and clinging, dependent and sentimental, exploitative and parasitic, because without solitude of heart we cannot experience the others as different from ourselves but only as people who can be used for the fulfillment of our own, often hidden, needs.” Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out.

We speak about being at “peace” with ourselves. I think the often painful experience of being faced with who we are in moments of solitude is the matrix of reality that instructs and teaches the soul. That place of being at peace with God alone, is the source of complete fulfillment that transforms how we live our lives out with others. We approach others in unselfish ways, ready to receive them for who they are and not what we want them to be for our sake.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Paths of Solitude

“Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude. To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.” Henri Nouwen, Reaching Out.

There is a depth of thought in Henri Nouwen’s books that resonates with the truth. You cannot deny his tug at the very fabric of ones soul. The human makeup is a complex thing and it takes the spiritual genius to simplify it and reach down with poignant precision and mark off the parts that need repair. We are keen to find the solutions for our soul from without and the impression Nouwen makes is that the answer lies buried in the desert of our loneliness. If we are able to confront the pains of our heart in solitude we will unravel the many paths we have taken to substitute loneliness with temporary solutions.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


“ The roots of loneliness are very deep and cannot be touched by optimistic advertisement, substitute love images or social togetherness. They find their food in the suspicion that there is no one who cares and offers love without conditions, and no place where we can be vulnerable without being used.” Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out, pg 26

I wonder whether everybody is lonely? Some people seem to have it all together, the veneer of social smiles, social wit, and public appeal. It is frightening to think that one can be lonely in the midst of a crowd, friends, colleagues, and even in the family. Loneliness is not dispelled because we have found another. I am often lonely, but I quickly fill it up with things that supposedly matter. The result is that loneliness is always with us, a circuitous famine of emptiness woven with festivals of communion. The communion is sweet when experienced, but never to be taken for granted.