Tue 4th July
Beneath the religious veneer
A tour operator who specialized in pilgrimages had his eyes opened on one particular trip. Various individuals had been organizing groups for places like Fatima, Rome and Lourdes, and block booking them with his company. As leaders of their particular group they were helpful, kind and considerate, as well as being highly regarded by their clientele. The operator decided to show his gratitude by offering a free trip to all these leaders on his books that would bring them to all the places his company usually visited. He expected it to a delightful journey with all the ‘delightful’ people he had dealings with over the years. Instead, it became a nightmare. Once out of their leadership roles many of these began to vie for power. Soon they began to show signs of envy and jealousy towards each other and there was constant jockeying for who was going to be first. Even though it was a free trip the list of complaints was endless and there was no gratitude. Of all the groups he had ever worked with he claimed that this was by far the worst. It became obvious to him that in spite of all the prayers and pilgrimages their hearts had never been touched.
Wed 5th July
That Rotten Smell
A lady left home and walked towards the town centre to do some shopping. She was rather annoyed to find that wherever she went the place had a bad smell. In the grocery store she said to the clerk, ‘Phew it sure smells rotten in here’ and got out as fast as she could. Next in the dry cleaners she frowned at the smell that she attributed to the chemicals used. In the bank while withdrawing some money there was also a sewer like smell and she wondered how employees could work under such conditions, so she lodged a complaint along with her cheques. Returning home and removing her shoes she was disgusted to find that earlier in the day she had stepped in something and so it was she herself who had been carrying the foul smell around wherever she went. The truth is that we see, hear and even smell things not as they are but as we are.
Thurs 6th July
The Extra Mile that is Ours
A man rented a house that was quite exposed to the elements and had no trees around it. His wife suggested he should get some saplings from the nearby forest and plant some. This he never did, saying it was his duty to pay the rent and that was all, and he saw no reason why he should add to the value of the house by planting trees. The years went by and the man never set out any trees so the house remained exposed to the wind in winter and lack of shade in the summer. Then one day the owner approached him and offered the opportunity for him to buy the house at a reasonable cost. The offer he immediately took up. However, had he gone just a little beyond what he believed to be his duty, if he had shown some generosity and kindness, if he had gone the second mile, he would have ended up with some nice trees around his home, but he didn’t, and had only himself to blame. Going that second mile is so often for ourselves only we don’t recognize it at the time.
Fri 7th July
A young girl was playing with her ball and accidentally broke one of her mother’s favourite and most delicate teacups. She came to the mother sobbing and said, ‘Mum I am so sorry, I broke your beautiful cup’. The mother replied, ‘I know you’re sorry and I happily forgive you, so now go back playing and don’t cry anymore’. The mother then swept up the pieces and put them in the rubbish bin. But, the little girl enjoyed the guilty feeling and went to the trash bin, fished out the pieces and again brought them to her mother. Sobbing she said, ‘Mother I am so sorry I broke your precious cup’. This time the mother spoke firmly to her, ‘Take those pieces and put them in the trash and don’t be so silly as to take them out again. Have I not told you I forgive you, so stop your crying and no more going back to that trash bin.’ How easy it is to be like that girl preferring the trash bin of guilt to the freedom of forgiveness.
Sat 8th July
Martin Luther reputedly told the story of two mountain goats whom someone had observed meeting on a narrow ledge just wide enough for one of the animals to pass. On one side was a sheer cliff and on the other was a wall that plunged hundreds of feet. The two were facing each other so it was impossible for either to turn or back up. So how did they solve their dilemma? Had they been humans they would likely have resorted to head butting each other until they both fell into the chasm beneath. According to Luther the goats had more sense than that. One of them lay down on the trail and allowed the other to literally walk over him – and so both were safe and continued on their way. It was truly a win-win solution for both.
Sun 9th July
The human soul doesn’t need to be saved so much as it needs to be awakened and in that awakening lies its salvation. The model of spirituality most of us grew up with tended to be from the top down whereas today it is from the bottom up and grounded in the human reality. We are slowly moving from the experience of authority to the authority of experience, where it is our personal experience of deeper realities that really matter. Dogmas and creeds are no longer the starting point but they do have their place. It is for this reason that many have become disillusioned with traditional religion with its focus on dogmas and creeds and its wariness of personal experience. While at one level, Faith would appear to be dying fast, yet at the same time there is a grassroots revival taking place and surprisingly among many who have long left church and had lost their traditional faith. It was as if the crutch of traditional practice got cast aside and they slowly discovered how to walk.
Spiritual awakening usually doesn’t happen without considerable pain and suffering. Like all birthings it is a messy business and always comes as a death blow to our ego that doesn’t want to give up easily. In the world of nature so many birds, like the eagle, will first build a secure and comfortable nest for their chicks but as soon as the fledglings are ready to fly, they will destroy the nest thereby forcing the young to make the leap of faith and fly for themselves. Our secure comfortable world may need to be turned upside down before, in terms of faith, it will be right side up and we are prepared to begin our journey into the unknown. In the Scriptures a divine wounding often precedes a noble life. We find in the Book of Genesis that before Jacob the supplanter, could become Isaac, the one who walked with God, he first had to wrestle with the angel of his shadow and end up with his hip dislocated. It was this painful divine wounding that left his ego so mortally wounded that he had a limp for the rest of his life. However, it didn’t seem to matter, because it was from there on that he could exercise his Spirit wings.
The Russian writer Tolstoy once wrote: ‘Two things can awaken the human spirit, they say that love can but suffering will.’ The following stories are true but to preserve anonymity some details have been changed. Sheila was a woman who had it all. Talented and glamorous she had married the love of her life who went on to become a top brain surgeon. With three lovely children, all with lucrative careers, she enjoyed wealth, prestige and exotic holidays. As president of the local Golf Society she was popular, and had a wide social circle. Out of the blue, her world fell apart when her husband left her for another woman. Two years of absolute hell followed that entailed a lot of counselling, a volcano of anger, and some serious soul searching. So great was her mental anguish and loneliness that she wondered at times if she would survive. Close to three years later she rose like the Phoenix from the ashes of hurt and betrayal. She was heard remark to friends that if she had a choice whether to go back to her old superficial life, or hold onto to what she now had, it would be no contest. What she had discovered within, even with being on her own, far outweighed what she had known without. A part of her had come alive that until them she had never known to even exist. She was glimpsing the Kingdom within.
John was MD of a very successful company. His tolerance for alcohol had increased with the years and it was obvious to everyone except himself that he had a problem. Whether it was success or failure it was an excuse for drinking and both at home and at work he had become irritable and intolerant. Everyone was wrong, except himself. Eventually, he lost his job and within a year his wife could take no more and decided to leave him. With each body blow he descended even deeper into the despair of addiction. Some concerned friends got together and realizing that if he were to reach rock bottom he might never come up so they decided to raise the bottom. They confronted him collectively and broke through his denial with truth of his addiction. The support they offered worked, and he was introduced to AA with its twelve steps recovery programme. There he acknowledged his powerlessness over alcohol and surrendered his life to a higher power in the belief that this alone could restore his sanity. Through this he found sobriety, reunited with his family, and resumed his career, but all as a different person. He was now a humbled, broken man but alive in spirit. His addiction, while it had brought him to his knees had also brought him to his God.
In so many of our lives there is something that has the potential to bring about spiritual awakening. This is usually something that from our perspective looks like an enormous stumbling block but from another perspective is a mighty stepping- stone. In scriptural terms it is the stone rejected by us, the builder, that can become the corner stone. It is always something that we don’t want but can’t get rid of. Childhood trauma, sexual abuse or growing up with violence in the home can never be got rid of but they can be transformed. This process of redeeming our past takes courage and patience but it can also take us to depths in ourselves where we discover vast reserves of untapped resources. Now we begin to draw from the well of spirit and there may come a time when we look back with gratitude to those years when we knew nothing but misfortune. This is the point of knowing that in the Divine economy nothing is wasted and everything is grist for the mill of spiritual awakening.
Mon 10th July
A Good Start
If you can begin your day without coffee or tea…..if you can always be cheerful and ignore your aches and pains…..if you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles……if you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it……if you can understand when loved ones are too busy to give you time……if you can take criticism and blame without resentment……if you can face the world without lies or deceit……if you can overlook it when those you love take out their anger on you when something goes wrong…….if you can conquer stress without medication……if you can look deep into your heart and honestly say you have no prejudice against anyone because of social background, creed, politics, colour or religion. Then the good news is that you are almost as good as your dog!