Spent yesterday with Gary Dell (@wisewordtv) and Cathy Le Feuvre recording six podcasts for A Book of Sparks – a Study in Christian MindFullness.
These were done as interviews, with readings from the book and example meditations or mindful awareness practices.
The idea came about for this to become a resource for small groups or individuals to use as they work their way through the 40 meditations in A Book of Sparks, along with a study guide.
An ecumenical prayer group are going to use the book as a post – Alpha course, and these recordings were initially done for them, as they begin their six-week course shortly.
Cathy’s new book is out this week, entitled ‘William and Catherine’ – the love story of the founders of the Salvation Army told through their letters. You can read more about this and her work in media communications, and background in broadcasting and production on her website: http://www.cathylefeuvre.com/.
Gary also has a wealth of experience in production and broadcasting and I am hoping to interview soon about his work via @wisewordtv.
‘When I stand before customs-officers and police-commissioners,
I smile mischievously, for no one detects
the divine contraband, the stowaway,
whose highly discreet presence is visible
only to angels’ glances.’
Dom Helder Camara
I sometimes smile when I hear people say that we must keep God out of certain things. That idea came back to me when I read this quote from Dom Helder Camara, a political bishop and mystic from Brazil, who died in 1999.
Troublesome priests are locked up, or worse, by repressive governments, not just for themselves, but because they carry divine contraband, they have a divine stowaway on board.
But this idea of divine contraband is also one of hope. In politics there is divine contraband, a divine stowaway hiding in someone. God can’t be kept out. In the world of business there is divine contraband, a divine stowaway hiding in someone. God can’t be kept out.
But this is also true in our own lives. There is no part of our own life that is unworthy of our attention, or God’s.
We can pay attention to our body and find divine contraband. We can step out of clock-time for three minutes, for one minute, and find divine contraband. There is no place where God cannot emerge.
A cat forms the right-hand margin of the initial Luke page of the Lindisfarne Gospels. It’s head faces the bottom line of text, apparently attentive towards the mass of inattentive birds on the other side of the page – of which it has already swallowed eight.
A little picture showing the importance of being attentive, and the perils of being inattentive; the importance of being mindful and the dangers of living mindlessly.
As a child I learnt to see a lion’s ear, in the spear grass. I saw the leopard draped across the dappled tree. Attenborough’s Africa took me back to the place I was born.
Tsavo,Serengeti, Samburu, Nandi, Naivasha, Mombasa, Masai Mara,Malindi,Amboseli…the names are all there in my heart.
I wonder if my children will see the animals Africa shows us, in Africa, or only at Longleat? Will they see the subtle patterned coat of the reticulated giraffe, or the remarkable painted stripes of the Grevy’s zebra?
One day there will be a last wild lion waiting in the grass, so hard to spot, so at one with its surroundings. One day all the animals will have been taken out of Africa.
The Prior of the Taize Community which is in deep connection with young people from Africa and around the world, has said recently that believers need to talk together about faith, but also with agnostics and atheists.
One area that we need to talk with all others about, and form alliances and networks, is about the environment, the natural world, the living planet. The word Kalahari means ‘the great thirst’ – an apt name for a desert.
We are people consumed with a great thirst for the wrong things. We will make the world a desert. We are like the Cuckoo, there is only room in the earthnest for us.
Saving the earthnest will require a pilgrimage of trust in each other, those who believe in the quest.
We need hope. As one of Emily Dickinson’s poems (no. 623):
It was too late for Man-
But early, yet, for God-
Rowan Williams is due to step down as Archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the year. I don’t think he has been fully understood or appreciated during his 10 years in office.
I read his biography Rowan’s Rule by Rupert Shortt a while back. I understand that during his time at Canterbury he was sent faeces through the Royal Mail, by evangelical Christians. As Iconoclasts we seem to have lost the icon of dialogue and grace.
However, he also seems to have been seriously misrepresented on a number of issues. One of the problems is that theologically he is not easily put in any camp. But there is much in his thinking and writing that makes him a friend of evangelicals. He encouraged fresh expressions of church, is orthodox by conviction and has a high view of Scripture.
Although many comment on how hard some of his writing is to understand, because of the complexity of his theological language, it is because he is dealing with difficult questions in what he calls ‘critical’ theology. He tackles apologetic issues, questions our culture raises, in a subtle, poetic and highly intelligent manner – and speaks to people outside the church that black and white thinkers repulse. He sent a beautifully clear and charming letter to a six year old called Lulu, who had asked the question of God, ‘how did you get invented?’
In particular many find his spiritual writings like Silence and Honey Cakes, an exploration of the wisdom of the Desert Fathers and Mothers, luminous and helpful. Someone I know who has met the Archbishop says that he is a deeply spiritual man and has a charismatic presence with other people. Surely this is the real mark of a Christian – how they are face to face with real people, not how they are in the virtual world of the media?
I was at Worth Abbey a while back and a phrase of the Archbishop’s leapt off the page I was reading and shook me spiritually – it seemed to be no coincidence that just outside lightning and thunder were shaking the building.
He said that ‘Jesus Christ was a person in whom the freedom of God was completely at work.’ I asked myself, what would it mean for me, to be a person in whom the freedom of God was completely at work? I was left shaken by the implications. But at a smaller but no less important level, I think it would mean this for evangelicals.
We need to dissent and dialogue with grace and love. One thing Rowan Williams is renowned for is the way he listens to every side of a debate. Even as a Bishop in Wales he found time to pastor and counsel ordinary members of his flock, people that others dismissed as unimportant.
I think it means in the present that each one of us should write to him affirming many of the good things he has done since being in office, and to say thank you for doing an impossible and thankless role. Perhaps some of us could even send him some honey cakes. I know that he acknowledges the letters and expressions of support more than counteract the hate mail.
He is also someone who tries to live out this idea of being someone who allows the freedom of God to work without obstacle within. This has led him to be accused of holy naivety. But it also means that in a genuine crisis, the courage of Christ comes out. If you are not sure about this, read the account of how he nearly died in the September 11 bombings of the World Trade Centre in Rupert Shortt’s biography. It is deeply moving.
Being mindful means seeing beneath the stereotypes, and seeing through the eyes of God. I for one am going to find some honey cakes to send him. Perhaps you will join me?