Thursday, January 18, 2007

Possibility


And even when the trees have just surrendered
To the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September
And sending us inside

Still I notice you
When change begins
And I am embraced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what’s to come
You are autumn

And everything in time and under heaven
Finally falls asleep
Wrapped in blankets white, all creation
Shivers underneath

And still I notice you
When branches crack
And in my breath on frosted glass
Even now in death, you open doors for life to enter
You are winter…
(Nichole Nordeman, 2000)


In a tender moment of decision Gandalf gently, but with strong purpose, turns to Frodo and says, ‘All you have to do is decide what to do with the time that is given you.’

Sometimes our demons shout down the better angels in our brain…

Sometimes there is a sadness so deep no tears will come…

Sometimes in the night there is a deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…

As I find myself at the threshold of a new year, one question remains at the forefront of my psyche; what am I to be? As 2007 begins, I realise that I am no further forward, just further along. Every year seems to pass with greater speed and my concern as each closes has to do with what both I and we as a community have accomplished in those 365 days. After all life is not about just being good, surely its purpose has to do with being good for something.

So as we quite naturally pause and reflect at the beginning of this New Year on the issues of the day so, just maybe, we can put more energy into the more cerebral aspects of life. We are by nature ritual makers and there is something profound in that rite of passage that allows us to learn from and let go of the past. I am not talking here about some emotionally charged resolution that will be disregarded when normality once more reigns come mid January. Rather I am speaking of our duty to the soul. It is not just culture which is trying to balance religious obligation with secular freedom; there is a paradigm shift of the soul occurring where we wrestle with principles of inner reform. Intellectual ambivalence, cultural dismissiveness, and prioritization of our values have alienated us from the road less travelled. Modern Christianity has, unfortunately, provided us with a worldview that polarizes reason and faith, and so limiting (in Bunyan speak) the progress of pilgrims.

I meet too many spiritual refugees who have connected to something they believe to be true, yet know no longer know where to go to explore and develop that connection; people who, in the final analysis, are fearful that they may find themselves just beyond the love of God. So, is there a rhythm of worship, of living, that has roots, but is not too ‘churchy’, that reflects the human concerns of our time yet also lets heaven into our everyday world? - A rhythm that exposes the brutal reality of public life in the world of socio-political and economic darkness.

Yet for us to make holistically moral judgements for the betterment of the weak we may need to nurture connectors with that part of us which most of us dare not visit – the soul. For the Christian community to be the salt and light Jesus hoped for there must be a return to the deeply stirring art of lament and meditation, whereby the experiences and reflections contained are generated by a stirring which is not of our making.

My worry is that we so easily suburbanise our souls with theological band-aids out of a duty to be faithful to Christianity, and as a consequence our faith becomes parched and dry. Theologian Walter Bruggemann prudently observes that, ‘in Christian practice it is worth noting that in this season of cultural displacement in the Western church, the “exilic” voices of the Old Testament take on new authority and pertinence, among them the lament tradition that was never needed before in a Western church tradition that characteristically enjoyed hegemonic support and favour.’ New rhythms rooted to rich traditions of the past, yet expressed contextually for post-modern people must be encouraged and experimented with. We must have the courage to journey into the emerging church.

I guess all I am saying here is that we will have to find new expressions of church in order that the Incarnation might be made apparent and real to people. The post-evangelical debate makes the point that relevance involves almost constant willingness to reshape the tradition, given the rapidly changing nature of our current context. Furthermore it stated that if the church neglects the reshaping then consequently we preserve a gospel which says something quite different from what Jesus actually communicated.

Whilst reading Exodus the other day, and I was struck by a comment made by God to Moses. Whilst in dialogue concerning the people of God in the wilderness, He says this; ‘Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward.’ When we look back at the history of the movement of God there have always been those wanting to return to bygone halcyon days (which I’m not sure ever really existed). Perhaps that should not surprise us. Faith though requires both courage and risk. To use the analogy from the story of the Exile, it just might be that we are called to enter the new land to tell the inhabitants the story of the Christ. And so it is at the genesis of 2007 we inhabit opportunity. It may be time to go back to the drawing board, and begin to reconcieve church as a by-product of following Jesus rather than a multinational with a gospel franchise.

I know that's all very theological, but it is rooted in human opportunity. You remember when we were young? Everything seemed possible and our future almost limitless, dreaming came without effort. Yet I guess most of us look back now and look at life more with sober reassessment, and perhaps we must look at our dreams realsitically even - who knows.

Often, not always though, our results bring a sense of disappointment the older we get - the things we were going to do and become but never managed. Clearly, and I suppose this is the essence of my ramble, there is a need to confront the reality of our lives and dare I say it, destinies, but to do it in such a way that it enhances our lives rather than limit them. In and amongst all this realism though I can from time to time when I'm still enough, hear the child who used to dream...

As Emily Dickinson so truly tells us…we dwell in possibility.


ps, happy birthday dad x

20 comments:

Rainbow dreams said...

and sometimes those stars become just visible again....

Its good to see you back

bjk said...

As 2007 begins, I realise that I am no further forward, just further along.


I agree good to see a new post

Awareness said...

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the church dwelling was designed to inhabit open ended possibilities where one would always feel the presence of God who loves them unconditionally and not feel such fear that they are unlovable? It saddens me when I read a testimonial from someone who feels they are living outside of God's loving realm.

Paul this post is chock full of gems to ruminate over......so many jumping off points for many conversations..... I LOVE IT!

What am I to be? Whatever it is I am to be.........I pray it is on the road less travelled on my way to a dwelling flowing with possibilities, and with many opportunities to be in touch with my daily realities as well as my dreams.

Dreams fuel reality......

Welcome back to the blogworld, my friend. I've missed you.

Layla said...

Incredible post - yours are always worth waiting for.

You touched on so many things here...things I have been thinking about too but you articulated so much better than I ever could.

(oh - I love Nichole! she's one of my faves)

urbanmonk said...

Wow! When you come back, you really come back dont you! Agree with Dana.. so many jumping off points.. you mention Brueggeman.. The only other person ( at least in this corner of the blogosphere) I know of that cites him.

"Sometimes our demons shout down the better angels in our brain…

Sometimes there is a sadness so deep no tears will come…

Sometimes in the night there is a deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…"

IM waiting for the dawn to break.. Seems like each year that passes, I wonder if it will, further along, but am I moving forward?

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

thank you all, as a friend of mine says - you are kind and easily pleased

it's been and continues to be a difficult time for me and there have been may a moment i have thought of closing the blogging chapter - still not completely convinced - but there is something about community and connection that keeps me writing

i will write THE book this year....maybe

The Father said...

Ah lulu - tis good to have you back in the land called blog. The people have missed your musings. May you soon come and visit us in the old country. We dwell in the possibility of that hope.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

dear father

you words are a tonic to my gin - the good dr can be my lime

i would love to be able to sojourn with you good pilgrims again soon - must see if there are enough pennies in the whiskey jar....

ps, am in cold turkey - the west wing has concluded and i am in mourning

Niki said...

So many thoughts that I have no words

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

that's how it's been for me for quite a while - great photo on your blog by the way

maggi said...

love the poem, and the photo, and the musings ... more in a perosnal than a churchy way. thanks, paul, you saved my sanity on another sleepless night...

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

thanks maggi - would love to catch an organic ber with you next Gb and chew the fat

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

sorry, that's beer not ber

MJ said...

This is a positively stunning piece. It truly resonates with me.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

mj
thank you - not sure about stunning, just my rambled thoughts, glad they resonate - i guess that's why i blog in the hope that whilst it saves on shrink bills for me it helps one or two others too

maggi said...

i've never tasted organic beer. (I'm a bombay and slim girl) But would be delighted to try some and have your company for a while

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

well thank god you are a bombay and tonic lady! will bring the limes...

maggi said...

yum. limes. it's the only way...

Mata H said...

You ask, who are you to be?

The man God wishes you to be. The man you are. It is all a stream, all a process, all fluid. There really is no earthly destination, Paul -- but there is one wonderful journey.

The Harbour of Ourselves said...

mata

i agree with you....it does though take us a whole lifetime to take our place in our own life (badly para-phrasing father o'donohue)

i guess the duty of maturity is to awaken our mind and bring it home to our heart...maybe then we see who we have been all along