Archive for the ‘Random notes’ Category

Contentment amid life’s circumstances   Leave a comment

Today is Sunday but Jackie (my wife) and I have decided to skip church.  However I write this little spiritual reflection as a thought for today.

image of the word contentment

[Photo credit: Victory Church, 201 US-441, Micanopy, FL 32667, United States]

For the last month or so my overarching feeling has been a sense of contentment; contentment amid life’s circumstance not because of them.  Now, I have bipolar and my mood is currently on the up side which is doubtless a psychological basis for this but there is also strong spiritual component.  Life is full of uncertainty at the moment with a lot of unexpected change going on for several family members and my wife and I in particular.  However, I keep recalling the Biblical phrase: “underneath are the everlasting arms”.  Here is the full quote in context:

Deuteronomy 33:26-28New International Version (NIV)

26 “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
    who rides across the heavens to help you
    and on the clouds in his majesty.
27 The eternal God is your refuge,
    and underneath are the everlasting arms.
He will drive out your enemies before you,
    saying, ‘Destroy them!’
28 So Israel will live in safety;
    Jacob will dwell[a] secure
in a land of grain and new wine,
    where the heavens drop dew.

So despite the facts that: my Dad has terminal cancer; my job is unexpectedly coming to an end in December; my younger son is amid his A levels and needs very good results to get into university he wants; my wife’s job is overly stressful but she has not been able to secure alternatives; … ; in the words of Julian of Norwich I have a deep assurance that:

All will be well, all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

This perspective leads to contentment – the feeling that amid the uncertainty and stress I am where I am supposed to be and God is taking care of me and my family.  In the words of a response in the liturgy of the Eucharist:

Blessed be God forever.

Posted June 14, 2015 by Martyn Cooper in Random notes

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Reflections on today’s service: preaching, salt and light.   Leave a comment

Today was an ordinary service (mass) at my church, but several things stood out for me and captured my thoughts.  I briefly note them here.

I am not St. Paul’s biggest fan.  It is not his fault but I regret in some parts of the church it seems that his teachings dominate over Jesus’.  However, today’s reading from 1 Corinthians caught my attention afresh and I quote it here in full:

1 Corinthians 2:1-12

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.[a] 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.

God’s wisdom revealed by the Spirit

6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.9 However, as it is written:

‘What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived’[b] –
the things God has prepared for those who love him –

10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 2:1 Some manuscripts proclaimed to you God’s mystery
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:9 Isaiah 64:4

The sermon, based on this and the other readings set for today, was about preaching.  The Gospel reading was part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:13-20].  It begins with Jesus’ call for us to be salt and light in the world.

I have not had any formal role in the church for about 10 years now.  Sometimes this causes me to question: What is the purpose of my faith journey? What am I supposed to be doing in the church?  However, these passages, and the service more generally, reminded me that it is my whole life that is the purpose of my faith journey.  It is in how I live my life I am called to be salt and light. That that is a form of preaching, a role, and one that is an enormous  challenge.  I continually fail to live up to that challenge which God continually forgives.  However, that is my purpose, to be salt and light.  If God uses that to influence anyone, to preach as it were, that is His/Her business.

I felt blessed and encouraged by this morning’s service.  (Oh and I got to meet the new archdeacon who will live in the parish.)

Posted February 9, 2014 by Martyn Cooper in Random notes

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Meditation (my personal practice)   1 comment

I value meditation highly, and have been practising it, on and off, for about 20 years.  However I am very poor at integrating it as a regular practice in my daily life.  I mostly associate it with when I am Monastic Retreat.  Place and that sense of being set aside seems important to me.  I have led meditations in small groups and even whole church congregations and have been using the basic approaches to still myself before undertaking the readings for the Advent meditations this blog was originally created for.  I have learnt my meditation practice in a Christian tradition but I see huge similarity with practices that I have read about from Buddhist, Hindu, and secular approaches.  It seems to me a practice available to all of whatever religion or none.

In outline my practice consists of finding a place of quiet, a relaxed and for some reason symmetrical posture. I like to have a visual focus available and my preference is for a simple candle.  I may systematically relax my muscles by working from foot to head through the main muscle groups, tensing them, releasing them, then releasing them again.  That’s the preparation done then begins the process of stilling myself and becoming mindful.  I listen to my breathing and note it.  I might simple say in my head “in” with the in breath and “out” with the out breath.  However I commonly use the Jesus Prayer from the Eastern Orthodox Church as a mantra; saying each line with each phase of my breathing:

  • Lord Jesus Christ, … (while breathing in)
  • Son of God, … (while breathing out)
  • have mercy on me, … (while breathing in)
  • a sinner.  … (while breathing out)

Once stillness and mindfulness has been achieved, (and it may often be lost and have to be regained during a meditation), it depends on my intent what I do with it.  I might use an imaginative spiritual exercise (e.g. one of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises); slowly, contemplatively, read a passage from the Bible; or probably my favourite “just sit in the presence of God”. In all of these, but particularly the last the emphasis is on “being” rather than “doing”.

There then is a reverse process of coming back to normal awareness of your surroundings and on with the day. Like the preparation this too is best done slowly, however I do not have a method as such, I just allow it to happen when the meditation is ended, sometimes noting what catches my attention from my surroundings.

Posted December 5, 2011 by Martyn Cooper in Christian spirituality, Random notes

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Hello again Anthony de Mello   1 comment

When writing my Reflection on Advent Sunday I had cause to look for a web link to Anthony de Mello.  His book Sadhana, and commentaries on it, were a key resource in my early explorations in contemplative prayer.  So I discovered for the first time the online resources of the DeMello Spirituality Center.  I didn’t explore extensively but this quote in their scrolling banner stood out for me:

The master made it his task to systematically destroy every doctrine, every belief, every concept of the divine, for these things, which were originally intended as pointers, were now taken as descriptions.

He loved to quote the Eastern saying: “When the sage points at the moon, all that the idiot sees is the finger.”

http://www.demellospirituality.com/ access 28 November 2011]

I characterise my own spiritual journey over the last 25 years or so – possibly longer – as going through, past, beyond, even around doctrine and dogma to the sublime truth behind.  I am not claiming to have travelled very far but that is the nature of the journey.

I take heart in the fact that it seems to be a journey made by many before me.  I find it too in Fowler’s Faith Development Theory.  This is an academic study of the stages of faith observed in people of different religions/denominations and none.