Archive for the ‘firm foundations’ Tag

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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Thursday 1 December 2011 – “Firm Foundations”   Leave a comment

[I have got up extra early to undertake today’s Advent reflections and write this blog post because the rest of my day is full. Many are the stories of deeply spiritual people habitually valuing the stillness of the day before the rest of the world awakes. I am a “morning person” but have found stillness hard to find this morning; my mind is jumping.]

When I read today’s title “Firm Foundations” before reading anything else, the thing I thought of was how grateful I am for the firm foundation I received for my own spiritual journey from my family and the church I was brought up in from the ages of 6 to 18. When telling a personal narrative that moves from one tradition or type of church to another it is too easy to sound critical of the previous stages. I value highly my firm foundations. Thanks Mum and Dad!

The Bible passages set for today were Isaiah 26: 1-6 and Matthew 7: 21, 24-27.

Thou dost keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusts in thee.
Trust in the LORD for ever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.
[Isaiah 26: 3-4 RSV]

I certainly knew those verses when my foundations were being laid and I have quoted them in the version I possibly first met them in, it was certainly the rendering that rang most familiar to me. I think those verses speak for themselves. They are my hope and my experience through both calm and troubled waters.

I was very tempted just to leave today’s blog post there. The above was the theme that stood out for me in my “meditation” (I use the word very lightly here) on the set passages and short commentary. However as indicated in my introduction my mind was jumping between other themes which I will briefly note.

The context for the above quoted verses was the threat posed to a nation (Judah) from the other nations that surround it. However of course it can be applied poetically, metaphorically, as I have done above and countless millions before me. However the historical context triggers thoughts around my pacifism. “Why do the nations so furiously rage together?” as the libretto to Handle’s Messiah has it in its setting of Psalm 2.

Beyond that the image created of the interaction between God and world politics (in this passage and throughout the Bible) is not one that sits easily with my own images of God.

He humbles those who dwell on high, he lays the lofty city low; he levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.

Feet trample it down— the feet of the oppressed, the footsteps of the poor.
[Isaiah 26: 5-6 NIV]

[I fear discussion of my thoughts here is going to take more time than I have so will just note the key points and questions.]

  • My own images of God are dominated by the God of love over and above the God of justice.
  • How does God interact with “the affairs of men”? I strongly believe in free will, because I can’t see how love from man to God is possible without it. I believe in a God of possibilities not a puppeteer. I do not have a GrecoRoman view of God (gods to their view) nudging events at odd times.
  • My framework and my thinking is incomplete but, it is that from mankind’s perspective, I can see how accounts imagining God’s destruction of the wicked city, or nation arise. However I think it is much more subtle and positive theologically speaking than that. I think that the destruction arises from man’s (I won’t use inclusive language here because it usually is the men!) folly, pride, greed, (sin). But at all points God is longing to save.
  • I can not believe in a God that is partial. He loves all, every individual every nation. It is a very primitive view of God that effectively every tribe has its own god and the one with the most powerful god wins when there is conflict. (As an aside I think the account of Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel mocks that concept wonderfully [1 Kings 18 16-46] ); provided you see the God of Israel as the universal God of the universe.)
  • I do believe in a God who, in whatever mystical way he does interact with the affairs of men, uses Nations as well as people. The classic example here being Israel appears historically, as well as specifically Biblically, to be the means of revealing the image of a monotheistic universal God to humanity.

The gospel passage from Matthew imagines people at the last judgement (again a concept that challenges my own images of God). This then leads into the famous parable of the wise man building on the rock and the foolish one on the sand. I am left with the children’s song, setting this parable, in my head (complete with actions) and will doubtless be now singing it all day. I end by quoting the parable in full:

The Wise and Foolish Builders

24 Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.

25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.

26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.

27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.

[Matthew 7: 24-27]