freedom

Accept – Offer – Surrender

7e85cb24345c6fbede9576043ac93c6a

‘Accept, offer, surrender’ is a method of prayer I’ve formed recently, to help me come to Jesus and find rest in Him. It’s longer name is, “accept the past, offer the present, surrender the future.” It’s been very helpful to me, and so I share it now, in the hope that it might help someone else.

Accept

I found I have a tendency to fight the past. Stupid, right? I routinely exert my effort and stress into hating and complaining about things I cannot change. On the other hand, meanwhile, I resist the good things I’ve been given, by being ungrateful. I think this is generally because I don’t like that I’m not in control of the good things in my life, so I either ignore them, or pretend they’re my right and take them for granted.

In order to accept what I’ve been given, especially the bad, I start off by saying something like, “Lord, I accept Your love.” Unless I accept God’s love, I’ll always remain on guard against the world, never letting anything in, and always remaining at war. I then proceed to go through the things in my life, especially those most on my heart and mind, and pray, roughly, “Lord, I accept ____ in Your love.” God works everything for good for those who love Him [Rm 8:28], and all things, good and bad, are to be accepted from His hand. God is present in all things, and we ought to love and accept Him in all things.

But some things are seemingly impossible to accept. Thinking about them brings too much pain. When this is the case, I recommend praying again, “Lord, I accept You love me.” Let His love enter you, ask for His help, and try again to accept it. Then, if you fail repeatedly, change tact, and instead accept, offer and surrender your struggle to accept it.

Offer

It is easy to live with a worldly mindset, in which I just get by, serve myself, and my life is basically meaningless. It’s incredibly easy, corrupted as I am by sin, to remain closed in on myself, refusing to love. But we are called to follow Christ, who opened and poured Himself out for us.

I say, “Lord, I offer myself to You now, in union with Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross, in union with His love, and in union with His obedience.” I then go through every situation I’m in, each problem, each obstacle, and each opportunity, and offer it up to the Father, asking to be obedient in each one, and united to Jesus’ offering upon the cross.

It’s in this offering of love and gratitude that we find true life and true freedom in Christ. In sharing His love, we experience His own joy, and our joy is made complete [Jn 15:11].

Surrender

aa20d4462bc8543adf5fc7e5671808f1-gospel-quotes-catholic-quotes

Ultimately, I’m not in control; I never have been; I never will be. Nothing at all is truly in my power. But this is good news, because it is all in God’s power, and His plans and desires for me, are far greater than mine. It is difficult to let go of the illusion of control and trust in God, but it is the only way to peace and freedom, both for ourselves, and for those we have been oppressing.

Again, I start with something like, “Lord, I surrender to Your love for me.” I don’t think I could surrender to anything but love, and I don’t think I’d want to. Then, I go through the things I’m uncertain of, each of my fears and my hopes, needs and desires and say, “Lord, I surrender ____ to Your love.” Often I’ll make a petition that it goes a certain way as well, because I know God is a good Father, who is happy to treat us [Mt 7:11].

 

 

God bless you!

 

P.S. Also, if a particular matter arises to trouble me, I’ll do a short accept-offer-surrender for just that issue. I’m sure it can be adapted in many other ways too.

God bless!

Advertisements

The Sabbath

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God commanded you… Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.
(Deuteronomy 5:12, 15)

One thing we need to get straight: God’s rest is not about “recharging”, “recalibrating” or “resetting” yourself like some machine. In fact, that’s the opposite of true rest. God commands us to rest for today’s sake, and today’s alone.

What does it mean for us to rest? It means to finally take the time to just be you, putting aside everything that is forced upon you by the necessities of life, and actually enjoying life for exactly what it is at this moment. When we rest, we’re not existing for some external or future purpose. We are for our own sakes.

6974513-park-grass-nature-hammock-dog-rest

Liberation

When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they were given no rest. Even their eating, drinking and sleeping, were to make them work better for Pharaoh. Everything they did, everything they were, was a mere tool for some supposed greater good.

But when the Lord liberated Israel, He commanded them to be free. No matter what may happen, whatever worries or troubles came their way, they could never lose sight of the freedom the Lord gave them, to simply be. This rest, this freedom, is the point and purpose of the Exodus, of all of salvation history, of all life, and in fact, of all things.

True rest is so absolutely crucial, that viewed from any other perspective, it is completely pointless. That is, rest is so divine, that like God Himself, it has no cause but itself.

Creation

In God’s creating of the Heavens and the Earth, God repeatedly takes time at the end of the day to “see that it was good”. Then on the Sabbath, God rests. On the Sabbath, when all is said and done, God simply enjoys His creation.

He did not work hard for six days in order to improve His work on the seventh, and then the eighth and so on. When His “work week” was over, He didn’t want to take the fruits of His labour and reinvest it immediately for an even better creation come day eight. He made the whole of creation for its own sake:all of creation, is created to rest, with Him and in Him. 

At the burning bush, God reveals Himself to Moses as YHWH, “I AM THAT I AM”/”I SHALL BE WHAT I SHALL BE”. God thus reveals Himself to us as the One that is entirely unconditional, undefinable, and uncontrollable; the One Who simply IS; the One Who gives being to all that is. So it should not surprise us, that the One who tradition calls “Being Itself” desires above all, that all things should simply be what they are. He is not something separate, but your very being, and for you to be, is for you to do His will, to make Him present. 

If you’re wondering how anything could conceivably be anything but what it is, the answer is what we call “sin”. Sin is the denial of being/truth/life/God Himself. That is, the truth of what something is, is denied, and something else is imposed upon it from outside. Sin is to make the world, and so ourselves, empty, unreal, lifeless and Godless. Everything is reduced to the will and its power to dominate the lifeless universe it inhabits. Life is a great war fought without reason. Essentially, sin is oppression. 

So we see, that true rest is the opposite not of work, but of sin. Rest restores us to us, and in doing so, restores us to God, who is closer to us than we are to ourselves. 

Rest means dancing

To rest is to throw away every plan, every aim, and every objective, and fully live as you are. If you find within yourself singing, you must sing! If you find within yourself dancing, you must dance! However you find the life & love that are you within yourself, you must obey! Even if it will exhaust you.

This obedience is much more difficult to cultivate than you might have thought. Our modern world has us all caught up with programs and fulfilling our desires, and has no time for the utter pointlessness that is rest. At this point, chasing after desire has become a second nature to most people, and to stop can cause real stress. We can get so immersed, that we become genuinely afraid of having any truly free time, in case we miss out on something, or realise just how unfulfilled we still are, even after all our striving.

Because it’s so difficult to cultivate true rest, and especially to cultivate it across a whole society (since societies, like people, are made to rest and be free), we desperately need the Sabbath. It’s not enough to rest as a side note, or whenever we get a spare moment.

Rest needs to be recognised as the priority that it is. We need the day, which exists entirely to itself, without even the necessities of life intruding. They can wait, because today, God commands me to dance.

And yet, I cannot spend all my time dancing and never work–but then again, true rest is the opposite of sin, and so should be sought always. It is true that not every day should be treated as the Sabbath, but the Sabbath should infiltrate the whole week, training us to live our entire lives at rest. All our work, all our strivings, all our aims, should be undertaken from the love & life that is within us, and done and enjoyed for their own sakes. We must accept all as a gift from God, and do all as a gift to Him and to all.

“Work without love is slavery.”
-St. Teresa of Calcutta


Jesus

‘Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’
(Matthew 11:28-30)

What rest does Jesus give? His rest is Himself, His love, His cross, His Resurrection. In Him, we find the truth of ourselves, obscured in us by sin, and we are restored to ourselves, to the world, and to God. We are united to God, through the cross and Resurrection, and rest perfectly with God Himself. 

God bless you!

I want to give you something beautiful

I want to give you something beautiful.

And I want to watch as its beauty enters your soul.

I want to see it spread as it begins taking over your body.

I’ve had different glimpses of beauty in different places,

now I want to see what this one will look like in you.

.

But beauty is elusive like a rabbit.

.

When I chase it, it runs. When I grasp it, it crumbles.

It is not mine, and never will be.

But sometimes, if I sit still…

and keep myself from desire…

It just might choose to wander up to me.

.

And if I still remain still

…It might just attack me.

.

It might joyfully consume me, and take me for Its own.

To be eaten by Beauty, digested and then built into Its bones…

Is this not the dream?

And then being no longer me, but Beauty,

I may wander up to you…

Who knows? I just might attack

b2aeff27e85bf71b17ede68f16a97cce

God bless you!

No one can explain the Gospel without proclaiming it

Just a thought that pleased me a good deal.

The Good News, of our liberation from death in all its forms, necessarily rejoices! There is no understanding of Christianity that is not ultimately a triumphant victory march. We parade around the city streets and occupy its squares, waving our flag and practising the freedom we declare to the world!

We are free, and we are bringing freedom. Life is ours, and no murderer can ever take it away.

Jesus of Nazareth has conquered death! By living fully and fearlessly, with no care for protecting or serving his finite self, His very death is life. He died giving us His life that conquers death.

To explain this without proclaiming it would be as absurd as trying to recreate a song without music. Indeed, who could say but not sing Alleluia? The word is sheer music!

Pentecost: when we received the Spirit- God’s own Joy & Freedom

God bless you! ALLELUIA!!!

Britain is split in two. We must make it one

Last Thursday, the People of Britain voted (51.9% to 48.1%) to leave the European Union. I wrote why I believe we should leave here. In the aftermath of the results, we saw just as much anger and division as during the campaign, and possibly even more. The name-calling was genuinely astounding. If there’s one thing to take from this referendum, it’s that Britain is more deeply divided than it has been for a very, very long time.

A YouGov survey (which I’m afraid I can’t find) showed that on the subject of the EU referendum, for every influential voice (from economists and world leaders to actors and sportspeople), Leave voters strongly distrusted them. Which shouldn’t really surprise us, since the majority in practically every field agreed that we should remain.

Leave voters were not just rejecting the European Union, they were rejecting the entire modern establishment, of which it is just another embodiment. Everyone with influence is, by that fact, just another part of the establishment. It’s little more than a matter of us versus them, where, contrary to the narrative that the Leave campaign was mere xenophobia (though there was definitely a good deal of that), they are the “powers that be” in our world. And we are the people of Britain, excluding our elites, because they have already betrayed us, supposedly to serve the foreign devils. When Leavers spoke about freedom, they meant the freedom of the British people, and not the freedom of the British establishment, and as the debate wore on, it became more and more evident these were not the same thing.

If we look now back to the Remain camp, you’ll see just the same division defining them. These are the people who identify themselves as educated, enlightened, freethinkers, on the side of “progress”. They trust our elites. Or at least they trust a portion of our elites, and in trusting them, they reveal their trust in the systems and institutions they work in.  In their campaigning, they quoted economists, politicians, and experts of every kind. They spoke about what’s best for Britain, but were always referring to the Britain of the establishment, of the rich and powerful, because to them, that just is Britain. They weren’t even aware that to much of the population, the British establishment has betrayed the British people. Because they didn’t see this alienation, they could only understand leaving as stupidity and hardheadedness against the obvious good of the nation. In retrospect, their campaign was not tailored towards Leave voters at all.

median

Both education and income correlate to greater support for remaining in the EU

Basically, those who have become part of the establishment trust and support it, and those who feel left out, with no power and no hope, do not.

The EU has, for a long time, been made a scapegoat for the failures of the establishment as a whole, by the media and our government. Any degree of perceived euroscepticism was an easy way for our media and politicians to pretend at being anti-establishment, and pro the people. But ultimately, it is genuine disillusionment from our modern world as a whole, as shown by the general distrust, that fuelled the exit.

In working up these feelings of disillusionment for the sake of their own manoeuvring within the British establishment, those who headed up the leave campaign, in politics and the media, have played a very dangerous game. It won’t be long before people realise that nothing has fundamentally changed, and they are no more free than before. At this point, either we’ll be stuck blaming ourselves (or the “idiots”) for leaving the EU, or we’ll see that the EU was just one manifestation of the worldwide establishment that has failed and excluded the people.

We have to commit ourselves here and now, to fighting for the people. And not just the people of Britain, but the people of the whole world, who are today being oppressed as one man.

That’s not to say that we should ignore everything our established experts have to say. Not by a long shot. There’s no true knowledge or expertise that we should reject, and everyone that works in the establishment, but not for the establishment, must be encouraged. We must bring all knowledge and all expertise to truly serve the people. The people must be heard, and the people must listen.

Britain, and the whole world, is split in two, and we must make it one.

 

Peace and love, and may God’s blessing go with you

 

Postscript on the Church’s role in this

In this work of bringing true unity to the country and to the world, the Church should be at the forefront. The Church’s rich tradition embraces all of humanity, and listens to the voice of the poor as much as the expert. The individualist ideology of the modern world could never unite a people, and when people turn to national, ethnic, or religious identity for meaning and community, they only get the unity of a common separation; but true religion offers true meaning and true unity, that reaches out to all in love and service.

We might think Britain is too rich to hear the gospel. The truth is, Britain and the modern world suffer from extreme poverty. As Bl. Mother Teresa said,

‘There is much suffering in the world — very much. And this material suffering is suffering from hunger, suffering from homelessness, from all kinds of diseases, but I still think the greatest suffering is being lonely, feeling unloved, just having no one.’

Britain is desperate for the gospel. We are desperate to be a people, each turned towards God in our neighbour.

Catholics need to realise, above all others, it is our duty to work for love, justice, and the common good. Jesus, the light of the world (Jn 8:12), told us we are the light of the world (Mt 5:14), and we must realise this.

The sad thing is, to many people, the Church is part of the establishment. We must lower ourselves, identify with all those in need and on the margins of society, and become in practice Pope Francis’ “poor Church for the poor”.

 

God bless you!

‘I prefer a church that is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out in the streets rather that a church that is unhealthy from being confined and clinging to its own security.’
Pope Francis

‘Mercy is the prophecy of a new world, in which the goods of the earth and of work are equally distributed and no one lacks the necessary, because solidarity and sharing are the concrete result of fraternity.’
Pope Francis

The guards vs the women

And all at once there was a violent earthquake, for the angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow. The guards were so shaken, so frightened of him, that they were like dead men. But the angel spoke; and he said to the women, ‘There is no need for you to be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said he would. Come and see the place where he lay, then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has risen from the dead and now is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him”. Now I have told you.’ Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.
(Matthew 28:2-8)

Something I love in this passage, is how the angel completely ignores the armed guards to speak to these faithful women. I find it beyond wonderful that these representatives of the power of Rome and of the Sanhedrin are nothing to the angel.

I imagine the angel sitting on the stone with the biggest, most childish grin you have ever seen. He swings his legs for the fun of it, or has his legs crossed and leans forward over them in his eagerness. His every word seems like it is holding back, or perhaps just holding, a whole flood of laughter. He has no time and no care for these mortal men standing guard over death.

And notice how different their reactions are: the guards are so shaken, so frightened of him, that they are like dead men; the women on the other hand, are filled with awe and great joy, coming quickly away from the tomb and running to tell the disciples. The women are afraid in a completely different way.

What are they both afraid of? Life. Of course, no one likes death. But it is, well… comfortable. We know death, it’s predictable, it’s easy. But life! Life goes off in a million different directions according to its own whims! Life can’t be predicted or contained, except by death. And now even death has been conquered!

image

Jesus is a weed, breaking through the concrete of death

For the women, this means the hope of absolute life. It means the story of Jesus saving the world is only beginning. It means love is and always will be victorious.

For the guards, this means they are rendered powerless. They have failed to control a corpse! No amount of violence can ever defeat the freedom of the children of God!

God bless you and Alleluia!

Life, choice, and freedom

Here are some thoughts, looking at two ways of understanding freedom, and so viewing the world. The two ways are life and choice (do you see where I’m going here?).

The freedom of life, is when the thing in question, be it a seed, a goat, a mother or an unborn child, is given the space and opportunity to go out of itself, growing, giving itself away, revealing the secret of its nature. To be free, is to be youwith all that that entails; to live out your gifts, talents, hopes, dreams, strengths, and weakness too. To not be free, is to have not-you imposed upon you, whether by violence or deception.

Freedom of choice on the other hand, considers matters as external to an individual you which is an abstract notion of an arbitrary will. It looks at all things as essentially separate from you, and with no inherently correct choice. Freedom, then, is to have as many options as possible, or equivalently, to have as much subject to your own arbitrary dominion as possible. To not be free is to have fewer choices. (Note that freedom here is always finite, with the constraints of nature an obstacle to your freedom.)

Freedom of life views the world around us as wonderful and bursting with life, each part valuable and dignified in and of itself, in intimate relationship with ourselves, and deserving of our care and respect. It sees it as our freedom to coexist joyfully with all others, sharing freedom as we ourselves are free. My freedom complements yours and yours complements mine.

Freedom of choice views the world around me, including my own body and being, as an obstacle to be conquered by my will, with no value besides what I myself assign to it at each moment. Everything and everyone is fundamentally cut off from me, and their freedom of choice naturally competes with my own. Everything is objectified.

image

Where eyes of life see a great jungle, with a cacophony that’s a symphony that’s a theophany, eyes of choice see a menu, with various prices and deals for various products for consumption.

Paradoxically, this “freedom of life” makes demands on us. But each of these demands, is not coming from outside of us, but from the truth itself, the truth of our reality within each situation. The demand comes from our deepest depths, and not from outside. In each situation, the demand is always to live as fully as possible, to be what and who you truly are within that situation. From time to time, this means heroism and sacrifice: that is life.

And as a far greater contradiction, the “freedom of choice” that tries to demand so much from the world, always ultimately enslaves me, because it makes my desires of the world, and so I am made subject to the world. In considering a matter as a mere choice, I am putting its options up for sale. Perhaps not to people, but at least to circumstances. And in the end, what am I selling but myself?

 

We have a real and inherent obligation to every creature, from algae to giant redwoods, from the crawling ant to the leaping antelope, from the beggar to the prisoner, from the newly conceived zygote to the terminally ill, and to ourselves too. And we are asked to fulfil this obligation insofar as each one is our neighbour, that is, as each is within our reach. It is the obligation to live and to give life, or equivalently, to love.

God bless you

True Beauty

Some people say we’re too obsessed with beauty, but actually the problem is just the opposite. We’re obsessed with “beauty standards”. But in all its forms, there’s never anything standard about beauty. Beauty is alive. Beauty is impenetrable. Beauty touches the newness of eternity itself. Standards are dull and dead. To see a standard is to miss the beauty.

We too often view reality as composed of static objects and lifeless facts, but in truth, nothing is static and nothing is lifeless. Even stillness is dynamic, because being itself is the supreme gift. Beauty is not in this or that, but in and beneath each and every thing, in their communion with and beyond each and every other.

We must abandon the idea of imposing standards from the outside, and instead bring out the true beauty already in all things, especially those that have been damaged.

Our world isn’t obsessed with beauty, it’s blind to it.

Peace and love