More not knowing

I don’t want people to think that theology is not important. It is and I enjoy hearing intelligent people talk about it. It’s just not that important to me. I can’t, and never could, get my head round many clever ideas and feel foxed by each cogent opinion I hear expressed on subjects like evolution and euthanasia. I am too easily led. I have tried to engage in debate with people on these subjects, but not recently.

And to a degree I don’t care enough to press my point home even when I have one. My experience is that those who persist in point pressing forget who they’re pressing it into, and who they may be wounding on the way. And that’s my point, that some of us find it much easier to relate to an idea than we do to a person. Jesus was pretty hot on that score and it didn’t go down well for him.

In the past I lived very much in my head, thinking and analysing, shaping my thoughts in to something I felt I could trust and stand by. The problem is once you stand your clever idea up and show it off to the world, someone else comes along and knocks it over with equal cleverness and gleeful panache. And if your identity is too closely bound up with your ideas, your whole sense of self takes a battering.  That’s why the notion of ‘playing with ideas’ is useful. The mind is important but we are so much more than our minds – for a start we have bodies which we can feel and listen to to judge our well being.

Every day on the Camino Helen and I did a body check for aches and pains – it began as a bit of fun, neatly sidestepping any moans either of us might have indulged in – but it helped us to become aware of the parts we needed to look after. Feet mostly. Sometimes hips and knees. It was a very useful exercise for me who would be inclined to carry on ignoring all the signs that I was weary. I became aware of the simple miracle of my body healing in my sleep, ( if sleep didn’t happen then being horizontal), and ibuprofen.

Sometimes your body reacts with anxiety and sleeplessness over a decision. It’s as well to know the difference between excitement and anxiety, but both are a sign to you that something is going on and you should LISTEN. Much of Christianity has not held the physical world in high regard, the world is ‘fallen’ therefore untrustworthy, but my sense is that things are changing.

We also have a wise part of our being. You might call it spirit or intuition or just ‘knowing it in your knower’. It is a deep seated place within, beyond logic and beyond words.You can get it when you meet someone and you can trust them. You get it when you meet someone, and you can’t. It doesn’t matter how charming or winning they are, you just know. And this place, this faculty is like a muscle: the more you use it, it grows, becomes stronger and more dependable.

So these days I value a less cerebral approach, more experiential perhaps. Intellectual certainty is less important to me: I am learning that I can trust every part of my (God-given) being to speak wisdom to me. In fact my mind with its tired old prejudices and predictable patterns of thought does not always serve me best. There is so much more than I ever thought or imagined.

PS Just read this for the first time in years – the end of Ephesians 3. 🙂

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 

15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 

16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 

17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 

18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height– 

19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 

20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 

21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ok not knowing

Mr thompsononthehill was not impressed with my last post. He said it read more like a diary entry and that there were things I could have written about, but hadn’t.  He was right. I wrote about something safe and the words stayed flat on the page.

I began writing about ‘the dark side’ a frivolous term I used to use for supernatural phenomena which disturbed me. As a charismatic evangelical Christian I had a firm, if not rigid set of beliefs and while I purported to walk in freedom ( It was for freedom that Christ has set us free) I lived in a lot of fear. Now fear comes in through many doors and not just through religious dogma, and I was anxious throughout my formative years. But until I was forty – ish I could never have countenanced a close friendship with someone who enjoyed anything like yoga, Tai Chi, or homeopathy – even herbalism and osteopathy were a bit dodgy.  Ouija and seances were ‘straight from the pit’ and forbidden in the bible, but anything remotely New Age was OUT.  Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of supernatural manifestations, psychologically speaking why was I so afraid of people reaching out and asking questions about why we are here and the power that sustains us?  By keeping my world straitjacketed in theology it felt safer. It was under my control. But it was small.

The breakthrough began about ten years ago when I heard Guy Chevreau – the calm and friendly face of Toronto City Airport Church, itself then a hotbed of spiritual phenomena – speak at a conference. He began speaking of books by Frank Peretti on demonic kingdoms which were all the rage in the early 90s. These books were terrifying. Powers of good and evil fought for domination over towns and cities. Heavenly angels ultimately won but not without a hard fight and human casualties. Many of the human protagonists were deceived by New Age practices and even children were drawn in by attachment to toys with special powers. Scary stuff. No doubt these books were intended to inspire faith and courage in their readers and to motivate them to prayer for the nation, but the memories I have of them are very dark and writhing with menace. Intercession became important to me: and I steered clear of American cartoon merchandise. It was all lumped together as evil. There was some gradation, obviously aromatherapy was less harmful than Ouija but I would have made a negative and fearfilled judgement about it all.

But Guy, bless him, in his understated Canadian way said, “You know, the earth is the Lord’s and everything – and everyone – in it.” And there was the beginning of my freedom.

While there are practices I would still not take part in, (seances and Ouija being way up there), I now feel no need to have an opinion on for example hypnosis or healing. Our world is complex and throbbing with life, as humans we are fearfully and wonderfully made and who am I to judge how God might reveal himself? Recently I heard on Radio 4 Start the Week that that which we call ‘space’ is not empty, indeed that too is buzzing with energy.

Since those days my circle of friends has widened and includes all sorts of women who enjoy a spiritual life quite different from the one I grew up in. By not being so quick to judge and allowing myseIf to be curious I have learned a lot and experienced more widely the goodness of God.

Which brings me to the events on Saturday. I had invited two friends to lunch, both called Clare. Not convenient when you’re telling an anecdote.  One is very into crystals and Tai Chi, the other more conventional: I taught with her for many years. She suffers terrific migraines and has been having acupuncture. I had welcomed them,  taken their coats and was stirring the soup. My back was turned but I could hear their conversation, which went along the lines of:

Sit down and I’ll see what I can feel.

Ok, are you going to touch me?

No. I don’t touch you.


I turned round and and there she was, Crystal Clare doing Reiki healing in my kitchen.

We (the non healers) became very quiet, respectful.  She, doing the healing, holding her hands over the other Clare’s head said, “You can talk you know.” Very matter of fact and pop went the pseudo-religious atmosphere and we began talking dogs and carpet. The healing sanctuary became my kitchen again. With soup and cake on the side.

I don’t know what happened, releasing blockages of energy and suchlike but Migraine Clare felt better. They then did some pendulum swinging with a necklace of mine. It doesn’t have to be a chain, it can be a needle on a string, I am told. Crystal Clare knows which way it swings for her for a yes, side to side, and which way for a no, back and forth. She began asking about food allergies. Wheat? Dairy?

I was intrigued.

Who are you asking? I asked.

She gave me a look. I helped her out.

The Universe? The higher power?        Oh my word. (Inside voice).

Who was she asking? It looked like she was getting replies from someone/thing/where, namely Migraine Clare should limit her wheat intake.

I don’t know and I am ok not knowing. It didn’t feel evil or even uncomfortable, I was happy they were expressing their friendship and support for each other. You might call it sisterly love. (By their fruits you shall know them?) God is bigger than I can possibly imagine and can show himself in any way he chooses. S/He is certainly not bound by any theology I may adhere to. By not reacting from fear or suspicion, not needing to be in control, by being curious and trusting the spirit/Spirit inside me, I know more, feel more, enjoy more of the goodness of God in the land of the living. That calls for an Hallelujah, doesn’t it?

What’s new?

I know, I know I sort of promised I’d add to this blog weekly. Well it wasn’t exactly a promise but I tried to. And have failed just recently. Socrates said that the unexamined life was not worth living. True. A valuable part of our humanity, in my opinion, is our ability to reflect and hopefully learn and grow. But, but, the unlived life is not worth examining (Tom Morris, American philosopher). Clever clogs.

And I’ve been living, and so have you, I realise. I have no followers from The Other Side. Anyhow I’ve been busy and it’s been great. I’ve done some new things, including this.IMG_3037

I’ve never done pumpkin carving before and in the past I would have been sniffy about Hallowe’en and all its manifestations. I sent this picture to my son who replied “Is it not a bit ooey ooey, Mum?” He’s referring to my hardcore stance on things supernatural when they were children. There was a list of programmes they were forbidden to watch and merchandise from the programmes they were forbidden to own. Scooby Doo was about the limit for supernatural activity. It was always someone dressed up in a sheet. Phew. Ghostbusters? No. Cities of Gold? Worshipping other gods. I wasn’t even sure about The Demon Headmaster. Something about the eyes. And that D word.

So tame as it may seem, Jack o Lanterns are radical when you’re sitting where I am.

Other things I’ve done.

Been to Much Ado starring Vanessa Redgrave and James Earle Jones as the snappish lovers Benedict and Beatrice. Not great. They are too old and slow for the text. The production was limp. Harsh I know, and disappointing – the tickets were pricey – but when you’ve seen some excellent physical theatre (eg Propellor an all male company with an eye for contemporary detail and style) your expectations are high. And this was the Old Vic. Shame.

More disappointment. The National Theatre’s production of People by Alan Bennett came to Canterbury. I love the old curmudgeon, but this was stagey and stilted and not funny. I didn’t laugh out loud at all. Neither was it moving as his vignettes often are. It was silly and cheap and a waste of £20. The best part of the evening was the ice cream in the interval.

But I did enjoy Kate Rusby at the Marlowe. We booked the last two tickets and enjoyed this wisp of Northern woman with an unlikely Barnsley accent when speaking and the ethereal voice of an angel singing. She spoke about having being born with songs pre-installed, a nice thought. She can’t remember not knowing this one.

And she wrote this.

Like. Sentimental aren’t I? I think I’ll leave it there.