Unforced Rhythms

It’s 4.45 in the morning. I’m already up. My sleep patterns are shot to pieces. I get a text from upstairs; the little one is awake and not going back to sleep. That’s not unusual. He is what we affectionately call our latest “drugs baby.” No one response works more than a couple of times, so I have to quickly decide what to do.

Fifteen minutes later and he is asleep in my arms and I am sat in my IKEA rocking chair. I am frustrated: I can’t reach my once hot, now lukewarm coffee; I can’t reach my iPad; I can’t reach my book; I can’t even reach the TV controls – bad planning.

I intermittently hum and “shh” the little one, while gently rocking in my chair. The very slight creak warns me I need to tighten the bolt, top left hand side, but for now it is part of the symphony. He then adds the gentle snoring sound to the rhythm that starts to emerge. And as I sit there, Papa emerges in the darkness. I sense he strokes the little one’s hair and then squeezes my shoulder. And then I get it. The power of rhythm.

Matthew 11:28-30 (MSG)

28 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

And as I continue the rhythm that soothes the little one, offering him safety, security and love, the words of Yeshua the Christ come to mind. I love that phrase “the unforced rhythms of grace,” and on this morning, in the darkness, I discover the power of them all over again.

You will find rhythm wherever you go – the sea washing up on the shore, the gentle breeze rustling the leaves on the trees, the drone of the plane or the car. Little ones love the white noise of the washing machine or the hoover – there is a built-in rhythm that soothes their fractious hearts.

In the next forty-five minutes I enjoyed the stillness and the gentle rhythm along with the quiet joy of loving this little one back to life. But more than that, I enjoyed listening to the heartbeat and the gentle breathing in and out of my God, who knows me better than I know myself, and who knows that I flourish and live and love when I am living in the unforced rhythms of his grace.

It is part of the The Great Adventure that I find myself facing, a journey of discovering the vastness of my God’s heart and the endless oceans of his love for me. It is not what I expected; no, it is much better than that and learning to rest and settle into the rhythms that he provides for me is part of keeping myself mentally and emotionally safe while at the same time giving me more than enough to share with the next one.

Of Straight Lines and Boxes

At the grand old age of sixty, I have been launched into a landscape that I have never seen before, and rather than it being frightening, it is exhilarating. The opportunity for exploration and discovery and adventure has invigorated me in my journey of faith.

I have seen it in my own life, and more recently in the lives of others that straight lines and boxes end up becoming tightropes and cages that squeeze the life and hope out of far too many. As a child, I was brought up to believe certain things without question. My faith (if that is what it was) evolved into something rigid and inflexible, which then expressed itself in ways of relating with others that was just as rigid and inflexible. My faith then became a cage or a prison in which I was trapped. Which is okay, until something goes wrong, until the inevitable pain and darkness of life hits you so hard it floors you.

For the fearful, for those who find themselves without the courage to face their pain and darkness, straight lines and boxes become a comfort and a safe place. The danger is that you then accept the tightrope and the cage as life, as the best it can be; hope soon dissolves before your eyes. And you are left with a God who is also trapped in a cage – the cage of your rigid and inflexible beliefs and doctrines.

And it is only from the straight lines and boxes that the fearful then declare their beliefs as the only right ones. Which makes everybody else wrong. Which is where we get denominations, tribes, within “the church” and if you are not in a certain tribe, then you are wrong. And why so many Christ-followers have abandoned the tribes and find themselves homeless.

Today I find myself walking a path, less travelled than any I have been on before. The scenery is new to me, but I am discovering the presence of my God, in all sorts of places, places I had decided they couldn’t possible be. My tightropes and cages have gone… most of the time. And I am free to explore and live with the mystery that God has to be; free to think the unthinkable, to dare to ask questions, to explore and play. It is a great place to be.

For the record, many of my beliefs look the same. I have not abandoned the historical Christian faith. In fact, I would suggest that I am discovering the depth and riches of this faith in ways that were out of bounds to me before. But look beneath the lid, and peep in my conversations with my PAPA, and with the next one, and you might wonder. Go ahead wonder… Wonder and mystery are incredible things, tools to lead us to love, which is the only thing that remains…

Rubble at my feet

How I got here is a very long story. It includes reading, music, movies, walking, talking with those who came to be so helpful and significant. It includes tears, many tears, and pain in the heart that took so long to fade. It has been a journey not travelled very often in broad daylight, but often in shadows and mist and sometimes in darkness so thick you could touch it. And (don’t panic!) it includes Brexit… just a little.

At my feet is a pile of rubble – bricks, stones, concrete, pieces of wood – that made up what I was led to believe was a rock solid, immovable, non-negotiable, inflexible set of beliefs. Doctrine, rules, regulations, responsibilities and expectations, built on the conviction that the interpretation of the Bible was the only logical one and, therefore, the right one, defended at all costs. As though the God of the Christian faith needs defending and sticking up for!

And there was no room for interpretation, for views, or more importantly, the uniqueness of each one’s story and journey. It is all about straight lines and boxes, cages and prisons. The God of religious inflexibility apparently can’t cope with uniqueness and diversity. Which is where Brexit comes in. I have seen, very sharply, that a refusal to move from some ideological position, in any sphere of life, is both naive and, potentially dangerous. The result, eventually, is chaos.

On reflection I was dying, drifting into a spiritual and emotional coma. Until The Dark Path, that moved into Plants Repotted and now into The Great Adventure. It has taken me into places of thought that I never expected to even consider; ideas and beliefs that once seemed outrageous but now have broken shackles and knocked down walls.

The God I now love so much more than I thought I could is the same God. What has changed is my view of the God I now call, sometimes, Papa and sometimes Mama. They are the God who is Love, who is only interested in relationship and interaction and co-operation and dialogue. They (Father, Son and Spirit) are The Ultimate Family, and all they are and do is for the purpose of growing family. To Love this God, to love myself, and then to love the next one is where this is taking me. I’m not much good at it, but I am learning and I am being changed by the greatest force in all of the universes – the ferocious, outrageous, endless substance of the love of my Papa.

Today I am more free than I was yesterday, and infinitely more free than I was twelve years when I was thrust into this journey into The Great Adventure. I am free to be known and loved, to know and to love; free to be myself without fear or anxiety; free to participate in The Divine Dance and play my part in The Ultimate Family.

Welcome to the Journey

I am a son, a husband, a father, a friend. I am, a recently retired, local authority foster carer, a member of a crazy, creative, frustration and joyous “church” family. I am a pilgrim, a traveller, an explorer, an avid reader and novice writer.

And I am wounded and scarred, broken and damaged. And yet healed and loved beyond recognition. On a good day, I am Papa’s Little Boy and Papa to “the next one.”

On a bad day… I am self-righteous, self-absorbed, religious, judgmental, critical, negative, determined to be right and let you know that I am right, at all costs. On these days, my scars have been prodded and poked enough for them to hurt all over again. And when I hurt… here comes another bad day.

Why am I writing?

I have always dreamed of writing. So, when somebody prays that past dreams be fulfilled, including writing, and then somebody comments on my writing skills, it felt like a nudge, a heavenly elbow in the ribs.

I am certainly not trying to persuade, convince, convict or put right. I have had more than enough of that in my life, both as a giver and a receiver. Neither am I claiming some superior revelation and experience; it is my journey and my story, not yours.

I do want to explore and discover, provoke and stimulate, encourage and support… fellow travellers and storytellers. I am not looking to force our paths together, but if we should bump into each other? Well, let’s walk and explore together for a while and see where it takes us.

My Own Secret Place