book information, journeying, Love

New Years, how they change

Photo by Sebastian Hietsch
on Pexels.com

I remember as a teenager desperately wanting to party on New Year’s Eve. I was usually on holiday with my parents in Queenstown, NZ., and there was always a waterfront gathering – of varying degrees of booziness (depending on how bad it had been the previous year). Failing being allowed to go to that, I used to plead for us to gate crash two other families who, we knew, had a NY tradition of a table tennis tournament but my mother (wisely) vetoed that idea too. We would stay up till the witching hour, (with not a witch in sight), but trusty dry ginger ale or sparkling grape juice and reheated Christmas mince pies (which were delicious!) seemed tame. It all was sadly disappointing to a 16 or so year old.

Now, some decades later, I stayed up till midnight with friends. They’d invited us and I really think it was the first time I had been invited to any kind of NY celebration. It was a nice feeling to finally ‘party’. Oh, I’d forgotten a dinner party I was invited to in the US because I was staying with my brother and his wife. He’d volunteered my services to cook a pavlova at the last minute, leaving me hardly enough time to cook such a lengthy dish. I remember arriving on a cold December night, with a still slightly warm pav on my lap and a bottle of cream, then finding our host (who was wearing lederhosen – don’t ask) only had a whisk not any kind of egg beater (despite serving dinner on an heirloom dinner service of great beauty). I thought it would be the end of the year before that cream thickened. However, the pav and I made it in time.

Mostly the other NY celebrations were not memorable. What I do remember is the absurd significance I placed on New Year resolutions. Each year I would vow to a. keep a diary and b. read a Psalm a day. It might be something to do with my personality type, but I love starting over. Each year I had three chances to do that. NY Eve, my birthday in early January and the start of school (both as student and later teacher and minister). Even with three closely gathered such occasions, I failed. I have a pile of dairies with a few days’ entries and not much else and I know Psalm 1 really well! The others not so much. Routine and I do not fit well together. I am finally accepting that fact (most of the time).

But Dave Tomlinson, in the week 94 Holy Shed You Tube video, has issued a kind of NY resolution challenge, though he didn’t link it to resolutions. He calls it a dare. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWzv1-D8Gcg He dares his watchers to love themselves this year. The whole week 94 session was on love. I marvel now that , in my more rule bound days, I thought following the rule of love was wimpy, wishy washy, and impossibly liberal and therefore suspect.

To follow Love is the strongest thing you can do, however, I have discovered. It requires setting others and yourself as the priority against a world where others don’t seem to matter too much and yourself is meant to be tucked away out of sight, self-sacrificed for everyone and everything. Loving truly requires immense courage and creativity. It’s not suspect, as I was taught, but is dangerous and demanding.

I loved Dave’s emphasis on the fact that we are loved just because we are. Not because of who we are, or what we have done, but just because. I was sent a funny birthday card today. It celebrates/satirises the huge individuality all around us these days. I really think Jesus might even so have coped really well with the situation shown on the front, he was so focused on each individual.

For Arts Sake (c) Mark Lynch

Inside the card reads ‘Miracles are more complicated these days.’ (Thank you to Anne who will be reading this blog.)

Love does seem to be more complicated than it used to be, and yet it is still as simple as ever. Though perhaps we use the complicated nature of our world as an excuse for seeing love as too complicated to handle.

Once you get used to the fact that rules are guidelines made necessary by our inability to love well, then Love seems a more respectable option. Love could be described as the original rule of thumb. Rumi said once ‘Love is my Religion’. Not a bad decision to have made. My friend Christine made this banner for me some years ago celebrating that quote.

Created by Christine Edwards

Let’s treat every day as New Year and simply, each morning, renew our intention to follow Love as the rule of thumb. Not to pre-judge each day how that will be, but to be open to Love’s call today, then how Love calls to us tomorrow, then the next…. you know what I mean. I believe that will make our souls happy, as this sign in a window I saw yesterday asks us to do.

I think I can guarantee that if you follow Love’s call, you will find yourself doing what makes your soul happy.

Happy New Days in this New Year everyone

Susan

P.S. Wherever you are, You are on the Journey books are still available from me. $20 per copy and $5.60 postage up to 3 books. Email me your order at jones.rs@xtra.co.nz (Overseas readers, check Amazon/Kindle and other e platforms – see earlier posts.)

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book information, why write the book?

the book is launched!

On Thursday night, the 16th of December 2021, as announced, Book 1 of the Coffeeshop Conversations trilogy, (Wherever you are, You are on the Journey) was launched. Cheers to all who came. If you couldn’t make it, you might like to watch these three videos.

First up was Trish Patrick, my BFF. She and I have talked on all the topics in the book and then some. Watch her speak:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PDnuLe_xlWb_iRJVSG_eCh0JIWizyaby/view

Yvonne Willkie, M C

Yvonne Wilkie is another long term friend. As I say later, we particularly bonded when I was doing Ph D research in the Presbyterian archives where she was chief archivist. This is what she said:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pkvXv0XyDRRvG6v2yb4w8-LxliH7XaVX/view

Then I got to say why I wrote the book – it was good to think about that and work out how to explain it.

Me reading from Wherever you are, You are on the Journey’

https://drive.google.com/file/d/15tN5nZsJ0pMlU50vr3scIXVMFdHnD-4U/view

We had a great time on Thursday. People have said how much they enjoyed the night. If you need details on how to buy the book electronically/online, go to my post ‘Out into the World’ which gives the different addresses for amazon book ordering and e book connections too. I have very successfully ordered books from Amazon UK and Amazon US myself for delivery to people in those countries. The responses have been amazingly swift, and delivery accurate.

If you want a book version here in NZ, write to me on jones.rs@xtra.co.nz telling me how many you want and your preferred shipping address. Books are now $20 each with $5.60 postage for up to and including 3 books.

I will send you the bank account number and other details you’ll need to pay online. When the money hits the bank, your book hits the postbox!

Philip Garside (Wellington) also has books for sale, though the postage is probably the same.

Here’s wishing you all a safe and happy Christmas and that 2022 will be a good year for you and yours, omicron notwithstanding.

Susan

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book information, faith stages, Life Lessons, spiritual journey

Life lessons while upholstering

As well as writing books, I upholster these days. It’s a creative thing to do, though the old armchairs that have been in the family for a time need a lot of work.

First there were two armchairs like this one above. Bought second hand in 1960, they were probably made in the 1940s. The tutor thought probably in Broad Small’s, Invercargill. We never knew them like this. When Mum bought them they had pretty floral loose covers. Now, however, after my ministrations, they look like this (almost finished)

But before they could look like that, they had to be taken right back down to their bare bones. You may not even recognise the shape below as the same chair.

That all seemed like a very big job. It was. They have taken months, (although I haven’t been working on them everyday). Once I got to this bare bones stage, the basic framework was good, just needing some tidying up and a few chips gluing back in.

But the next project was the one which started me thinking about life lessons. At least we knew, because you could see it clearly, that the first two chairs were on their beam ends. The third chair looked like it was in better shape from the outside. A little worn and frayed maybe, but it was still comfortable and was a good place for a quiet nap in the afternoon.

Nice, isn’t it! A graceful shape, Looks intact, and as if, when I took the fabric off and the top layer of dacron which can be seen here, all that was needed was probably a layer or two of new dacron adding and then new fabric. So at the workshop this last weekend I took the covering off the bottom of the chair. I found this:

First of all it was immediately obvious the webbing and some of the springs beneath it (a third of them in fact) weren’t in good condition.

Look at the right hand rail, however, and observe the extra two rails added to keep it intact. The original outside rail and two others elsewhere were heavily borer-eaten. As I worked at taking off the current upholstery I said jokingly, “The upholstery is all that’s keeping this chair together.” My words were prophetic. That became more and more true as the stripping process continued.

This is how the chair came home after a day and a half’s work. Home to Roger for orthopaedic surgery of major proportions You can’t see the borer here, the holes in the curved front of the arm are actually staple and tack holes. The curved piece of ply across the front, however, is there to stop the front rail from disintegrating completely.

My life lesson is NOT that my family should move their furniture on more frequently (though that’s not a bad idea). It is about the inner and outer condition of our spiritual life journey.

Church/The Journey can look OK from the outside. Attractively presented, comfortable, a place where we can be relaxed enough to nap if we need to. But, that comfort is undergirded by structures and principles which have been degrading over time, been eaten away by changes in thinking. Fresh material is needed. Surgical techniques are necessary to pare away the no-longer-useful ideas and make room for something which achieves the same structural purpose, but more reliably in this current world.

We will still have a chair in the end. But it will be a chair we can trust because we know it is based on strong ideas, newly thought through. The old chair has been critiqued, evaluated and renovated. Not thrown out (though it was touch and go at the weekend whether we might after all abandon the project). No, not thrown out, but revitalised.

The scary thing about our chair is that Roger will virtually have to take it apart to put it back together again just like the salvage restorers do on TV. That will take Roger time and patience and courage, just like we need those qualities when we allow our previous ideas to be dismantled, so we are then ready for fresh structures to take their place.

Some of the structures in our chair which need changing are very very basic to its essential integrity. In our spiritual journey, even foundational ideas, like the atonement theory, like the birth of Jesus, like what is a resurrection, all need checking for contemporary usefulness. We need to work out in what form they need to be, to ensure they are still useful and helpful in a different time and place from when the chair was made or the faith story first created.

My original hope was that I could just change the top layers of padding and put on new fabric. Some times we hope that this dis-ease we feel, this ennui with conventional faith can be easily refreshed. Perhaps some new additions, maybe a cafe church or contemporary music. But the damage lies deeper within. We have to go there to find it. We have to deal with it intentionally and thoroughly. Long, hard, difficult work. But, as my first two chairs showed me, worth it in the end.

Go well, friends as you renovate your spiritual journey.

Susan

Thought: Why not follow this blog by email and you will be alerted every time I do a post? (about once a week)

Remember for sale now till Thursday 16 December at only $18, Wherever You are, You are on the Journey. After Thursday, it will be at the RRP of $20.

On sale now

Someone who’s read the book has said:

“I think readers are very lucky that you have done all the work of thinking through this and they get the benefit for just $18!!! A bargain! Something to go back and reread and  think on – the gift that keeps giving!”

Email Susan on jones.rs@xtra.co.nz to get the bank account number and the final cost with postage and to give her your address.

See posts on this blog through November 2021 for more details about the Coffeeshop Conversations trilogy of which Wherever you are is the first book, and Lyrics and Liturgy. Books 2, 3 and L & L due out in 2022.

And now I’m really finishing!!!

Susan

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book information, Flexible faith, living spirituality, spiritual journey

Wednesday’s wandered into Thursday

Here in Fairfield, suburb of Dunedin, New Zealand, the hot days have broken for which I am grateful. Facebooks shows blue skies and beach/river activities of others. Being at home, we are becalmed and so very hot!

The Tongan eruption has been a bolt from that blue sky. A set of ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures on television news last night reveals that the whole structures of the ‘island’ which was the volcano has disappeared from the surface of the ocean. Goodness knows what confusion lies beneath those waves. We will find out in time what confusion people’s lives have been thrown into. May help get there soon.

It makes me think of animated sequences depicting the Pacific Ring of Fire and how islands form from underwater volcanoes. I’d always thought that process belonged way back in the past. Our earth, though, is still evolving; forming itself at the same time we’re living on it. It’s a pity human beings are living right on what suddenly turns out to be most dangerous spots.

This resonates with Roger and my discussion today about a book I bought him for Christmas. ‘After Jesus, Before Christianity’. It’s from the Westar Institute (connected to the Jesus Seminar.) Roger was struck by the first chapter which describes in general the openness and variety of groups following Jesus’ teachings in the first couple of centuries post-Jesus. I’d heard of varieties of format and organisation, but had been given the impression that despite these ‘alternatives’, ‘The Truth’ won out in the end, unchanged then and unchanging now. The book points out a lot of history is done backwards. We extrapolate back from what we know and so look for signs of how our present structures and understandings started.

I realised this morning, looking even at this first chapter, that I had not properly comprehended the length of time between Jesus’ death and the imperial organisation brought to bear on the Christian project by Constantine and the great Church Councils. The Nicene Council was in the year 325. If Jesus died in the year 33 approximately, that means there was a whole 300 years between his life and the Nicene Creed. The ideas and concepts associated with his life and work passed through a lot of generations in that time, (especially given a probably shorter life span). The general rule of thumb I read is 4 generations per century, so by 325 there would have been 12 generations passing through the various groups and communities described in ‘After Jesus’. We struggle even with our better technology to know much about our 12 times great grandparents, so who could have known for sure what exactly was said 300 years before the Nicene Creeds? (It’s like a similar question – who was taking down Jesus’ high priestly prayer in shorthand when the disciples were all asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane?)

This all underlines for me the difference between the living spirituality begun by Jesus’ life and the official view as crystallized in creeds/faith statements since. The living spirituality entered people’s lives and immediately would have been influenced by context, personality and circumstances. The Jewish theologians knew and understood their process of midrash. A google search gives this definition of midrash:

What is the purpose of midrash? Midrash was initially a philological method of interpreting the literal meaning of biblical texts. In time it developed into a sophisticated interpretive system that reconciled apparent biblical contradictions, established the scriptural basis of new laws, and enriched biblical content with new meaning.

The significant part of this definition for me today is ‘enriched biblical content with new meaning.’ As people looked at ideas, thinking, arguing, discussing, then new shades of meaning and new significances were discovered. This would be true in the very early days after Jesus’ death – those initial 200 years which are seldom discussed in lectures on the Early Church. (Well, not the ones I attended!)

A codified faith statement such as the agreed creeds of the Constantine era and beyond is a fixed formulae of words and meanings. Allowing continuing midrash means that the ideas we trust can grow and change and develop as we do. Brian McLaren contrasts David Gushee’s former position ‘Here I stand’ (the Martin Luther confessional kind of approach) as changing to a more movement oriented attitude. That is the shift many of you reading this blog are making on your own journeys. Not standing still in one place, but moving with the flow of the Spirit.

The problem (I can see now in a new way) with written creeds etc., especially with asking people to subscribe to them, is that the creeds and therefore the people become fixed, immutable and immoveable. But, as we know well now, life is always changing. It always has changed and latterly the rate of change has speeded up enormously. All the more reason for us to have a flexible, nimble approach, and be responsive to new ideas and new takes on old concepts.

In the Church of Scotland, the first confession of faith (confessions of faith are kind of elongated creeds) was the Scots Confession approved by the Scottish Parliament in 1560. In 1647, a new Confession was written with the encouragement of Scottish clergy, though it was written in England, in the Westminster complex by English clergy. Note this was almost 100 years since the Scots Confession, therefore about 4 generations later. Comparing the two confessions shows the discussion and development which had happened in Calvinism in that 100 years. The Scots hoped England would adopt this and become Presbyterian, but it was only adopted by the Scottish parliament. Not only was it adopted, but gradually, first Scottish ministers and then elders were asked to subscribe to the Westminster Confession. They had to actually sign up in acceptance of its statements before they could be ordained.

Not everyone was happy about this and there is a delightful diagram which looks like a plumbing or wiring diagram for a very complicated house, showing the breaks and unions and reunions of different branches of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland many of which were due to differences in opinion over whether subscription to the Confession was a good idea. This isn’t it, but it’s close in its complexity.

Significantly also, that particular Confession was until only a decade ago still the only official Confession of the Church of Scotland and the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. (PCANZ). So over 400 years (16 generations) since the Westminster Confession was written, leaders of the church are still expected to sign up to that form of words. The 1600s was Shakespeare’s time. Every school student knows how difficult Shakespeare’s plays are to decipher for 21st century readers. I remember being confused as a student when I read that when Hamlet tells Ophelia “Get thee to a nunnery!” he was telling her to go to a brothel.

I do not express my inner thoughts and ideas in Shakespearian language or vocabulary, so why would I be expected to sign up to a form of the faith written in such a style? The great concepts and ideas in Shakespeare stand the test of time, as do the great ideas in Confessions of Faith. There are other things we have learned since then, however, which need to be allowed to influence how we work with those great ideas in our time and place.

Midrash was good enough for Jewish philosophy/theology. Our present creeds and Bible are based on two hundred years of a variety of expressions of trust and faith. Many ways were followed which contributed to how we now understand The Way. So I reckon we can feel free to interpret, discuss, re-think, reflect and reconsider many things in our day.

This is how a spiritual path remains living and vital. It is when we walk the path that it comes to us and develops. If we stand still, nursing our precious ideas, hugging them to our chests so no one else will steal them or contaminate them, the path will become like Sleeping Beauty’s castle, overgrown with briars and thorns, impossible to navigate and we will be stuck, frozen in time, becoming more and more irrelevant every day. Sound familiar?

Here’s to keeping on walking, using our brains, opening our minds and welcoming the new.

Here’s to reflecting and reconsidering, thinking hard and living well. Here’s to not getting stuck.

Susan

P.S. Wherever you are, You are on the Journey discusses this kind of concept. If you are in NZ, a copy is $20 plus $5.60 P & P up to 3 copies. Email me on jones.rs@xtra.co.nz to make an order. You might get it cheaper through one of the electronic platforms which are listed in the post on this blog called ‘Out into the World’. If you do order online, do get in touch. Would love to know how you find it! Hello to the over 30 people who have bought through Ingram spark and Amazon already. Thank you. May your journey be fulfilling.

We are Equally Human Book 2 of the trilogy went to the publisher this week. I’m hoping it will be released soon. Keep following ( have you joined as a follower?) this blog for information.

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Uncategorized

Epiphany and Capitol riot – explanation

A reference to ‘Graham’ and the three sages in my last post was left hanging as an orphan statement. I had earlier deleted a comment on The Very Rev Graham Redding’s Faith and Reason column in the Otago Daily Times 5 Jan 2022 where he deftly wove Epiphany and the Capitol Riot’s first anniversary together. If the earlier comment had remained in, this would have not left the last statement hanging. Look it Graham’s column and read the full story when it gets online.

Sorry for the non sequiter

Susan

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book information, spiritual journey

‘Wise ones make journeys whatever the season’

It’s never too late to take note of where you are going

It’s easy to think because the majority are content with where they are, that you are wrong to feel unsettled, discontented or that you want to find something more satisfying. Jung calls this unsettlement around mid life, (though it can be earlier or later than that), the Second Invitation. He treats it very seriously as a Good Thing. I was relieved to hear this.

Our physical birth is the first invitation. Most of us get into the tasks of being born and being alive and being a human being with reasonable gusto. We get knockbacks, indeed, we can at times be crushed. But, if you’re reading this, it’s a sign you surmounted these and kept on with the task of doing this job called Living.

The key might be in the word ‘doing’, because, in contrast, the Second Invitation is about ‘being’. It’s less about achieving developmental milestones, or success or relationships, even. It’s more about discovering our true inner Selves. It’s more about who we are, than about what we’ve done. It’s easy to take this task on in our conventional world.

“There’s a disconcerting mismatch at this in-between stage. If you’re disenchanted, rituals, customs, God-language, and worship service lose some of their comfort and attraction. Let’s say you’re attending a conventional church firmly anchored in that conventionality. By asking critical questions, you disrupt the seamlessness of belief and ritual, and challenge theory and practice. Other people, even your good friends, may not like the direction you’re taking. If you have liberal friends, they might be embarrassed you’re still taking the spiritual journey seriously.” Hope nods slowly. I can tell she has already experienced these kinds of reactions.

“There is no map for this journey, Hope. The destination can’t be found on Google Maps. SatNav can’t give us directions…

You can find, however, a cohort of other seekers. Sometimes just a phrase will tell you that the person right in front of you is questioning and seeking too. Exactly what they are questioning may be a different are of religion or ritual or devotion. You know however, they’re going through the same sifting process. Sometimes you’ll find fellow seekers in books…” Wherever you are, You are on the Journey pp. 16-7

One of the lovely things about having the courage to publish, is reactions which come from readers. I’m glad to hear Wherever you are… has things in it which are new ideas, or which people recognize they have been thinking for a while, or other information which ‘joins the dots’.

I certainly relied most heavily on books for my own early journey. Perhaps I had a form of PTSD from earlier conversations in my life when the bible studies I prepared for an Easter Camp were criticized and the speaker I’d encouraged to come was openly challenged. Maybe I used up a lot of my courage for confronting conversations then. Reading a book in the quiet of my own space was easier. Coming from a young adulthood where contacting the author was a major operation, not a text or an email away, I quite liked that they were in their space and I was in mine. If what I was interpreting from their words wasn’t quite what they’d meant, it was what I needed for my stage of the journey. I later learned officially that it was OK to trust in reader-response. Now the ability to contact an author easily still scares me a little. Though as an author, I find hearing from readers is great!

Some (but not all) of the books which nourished me on my journey

Sometimes a response is surprising. In my first parish I was told a woman who’d suffered recent bereavement wanted a copy of my last week’s sermon on grief. I was very flattered. It was the first time anyone had requested a copy of my sermon! I took it round. I’d followed Brueggemann and preached it was OK to yell at God in the midst of grieving because the Jewish people did that in the Psalms. The woman met me at the gate and said, as we walked into the house, “I know what you were saying, I think. You were saying sometimes it’s time to put down your grief and get on with life.” Light years away from anything I had said on the Sunday!! It transpired the family were waiting what seemed an interminable time for a coroner’s inquest. They hoped a ruling of murder/suicide could be changed to accidental death/suicide. No wonder she wanted to put down her grief and get on with life. (BTW when the inquest finally arrived their appeal was successful).

It was my first lesson that if you have 50 people listening to a sermon, there are 51 sermons floating around the room. Hopefully each version is a healthy solution for the person constructing it! Perhaps there are as many versions of my book in the psyches of as many as read it!

‘Good things take time…….’

I love to think of our journeys weaving across the landscape, interweaving, joining and diverging, intersecting and co-joining, separating and running parallel to each other. I noticed today, it being Epiphany, that there were three wise sages. Not one, three. Wise as they were, they still needed companions on their journey. So do we. By reading this, you’ve become one of my companions and I’ve become one of yours. Even if you never read this blog again we have connected in this small piece of time and space.

Walk on in peace, my friend.

Susan

P.S. I hope you do read this blog again! Why not sign up to be an email follower?

P.P.S If you want a copy of the book, and live in New Zealand, you can get it from me by emailing jones.rs@xtra.co.nz so I can send you details of banking etc. (1-3 copies postage is $5.60. Books $20 ea.)

P.P.P.S Thanks to hymnwriter Shirley Murray for her Christmas carol which provides the title of this post.

Thanks for reading!

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Color Purple, God within, searching inside

Wisdom from the Color Purple

Photo by David Bartus on Pexels.com

I remember reading the Color Purple years ago. I was stunned at the violent and dismal life Celie was enduring, as revealed in her letters to God. She’d been abused by her father, birthing two babies by him who are mysteriously disappeared. She saves her sister Nettie from a disastrous marriage by marrying the man herself. Her husband treats her appallingly, though ironically the best thing he does is install his mistress, the beautiful night club singer, Shug Avery, into the household.

By the time Shug and Celie are obviously coupling, I remember I was just relieved that someone loved this woman at last. Shug is a woman of the world and she educates Celie on many things. It is through Shug that Celie discovers her husband has been for years been hiding letters written to her by her sister who is now a missionary in Africa.

I’m writing about this because today I came across a quote from the book in an old order of service which I’d used as the contemporary reading for my last service at St Andrew’s on The Terrace in November 2019

When I first read the book, back in the 1980’s, just after my relief that Shug had turned up to love Celie, I came across this chapter. Practically in the centre of the book, it is mostly a long discussion between the two women which morphs into talk about God. Celie is no longer writing her letters to God after she had discovered her husband’s betrayal. Shug is shocked Celie has given up on God. Celie is equally shocked a reprobate like Shug cares about God. Shug’s beautiful, wide view of what and who God is and isn’t follows. Part of that description includes the title of the book. “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” I remember all those years ago stopping reading with a sense of shock. if this is the only place in the book where it title appears and this chapter is about God, was the whole book about God?

Photo by Venelin Dimitrov on Pexels.com

The quote I re-discovered today suggests that yes, it was, because Alice Walker’s view is that God is in and through everything, not only in the color purple in the field but also all through ourselves. Shug says:

“…Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you are looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit. It? I ask. Yeah. It. God ain’t a he or a she but a It. But what does it look like? I ask. Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever saw or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found it.

Alice Walker, The Color Purple p. 176

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

I look at quotes like this and think, why did I need a whole book to explain this conviction of mine? Alice Walker does it in one paragraph. “God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it.” So simple and yet so profound.

The comment about coming into the world with God reminds me of a fragment of Wordsworth’s ‘Ode to Immortality’ which stuck with me as a fourteen year old in English class.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
          Hath had elsewhere its setting
               And cometh from afar;
          Not in entire forgetfulness,
          And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come 
               From God, who is our home:

I love the ‘Not in entire forgetfulness and not in utter nakedness but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God who is our home.’ bit. At the time it was a new concept to me. Heaven had been drummed into me as the place we were headed for, but no one had ever discussed where we might have come from. Of course, coming from God trailing clouds of glory didn’t gel well with Augustine’s wonderful (not) invention of Original Sin! This image jibes better with Matthew Fox’s Original Blessing. In Wordworth’s ode, he mourns the way this consciousness of God, these trailing clouds, fade away as we are birthed, grounded and grow into ‘well-socialised’ children and later adults. For some reason, it makes me think of the amazing Creation painting in the Sistine Chapel ceiling though when I looked it up there are no clouds about.

I’ve had a sweep through the internet images for a cherub trailing clouds of glory, but all the images are impossibly sentimental and trying too hard to be cute to match the inner image which has been firmly in my head since I was fourteen! I’ll stick with this beautiful image of a lavender farm at sunset – the color purple and the glory!

Andrew Bradford wordpress.com

Why don’t you follow this blog by email? I blog only about once a week so your inbox won’t be flooded. In between reflective pieces like this you’ll hear about the trilogy’s progress. The latest comment which made me smile was from my gym trainer who says that the book for him reads ‘as smoothly as a mochaccino’!

Photo by Kevin Menajang on Pexels.com

Check out the book details on ‘A book is born!’ and ‘Out into the world!’ posted a few weeks ago. Email me on jones.rs@xtra.co.nz for banking and postage details and to give me your address if you’d like a read as smooth as mochaccino! Or not! It’s your choice.

Susan

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Advent, book information, longing, spiritual journey

Longing for….?

Last night in the middle of the night, 1.30am to be precise, I was awake and watching Soulspace from St Ethelburga’s Peace and Reconciliation Centre in London. St Ethelburga was made a saint ironically enough for her work during a pandemic in medieval times. Go to their website and read the remarkable story of the church and its journey to its present mission.

Their website which will give you information and the chance to register for Soulspace is https://stethelburgas.org/event/monthly-soul-space/. They also record them so you too can watch the advent Soulspace (at your leisure!) by using the link which Rebecca sent out. Rebecca, the convenor, writes “Here is the link to yesterday’s Soulspace on the theme of Advent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQPA2sQkq7M . Just a note that we had to cut out a song from Coldplay towards the end due to copyright, but you can view that performance here instead: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUpVRixhKuY” She also mentions that the next date is Jan 5th 2022 for an Epiphany theme.

Dave’s (Ethelburga’s chaplain) theme last night was Longing. He talked about it in different ways. Once he cited Nick Cave as claiming that all love songs were ultimately addressed to God. That yearning and longing for life which we often express to other human beings, thinking we are only focused on them, Nick suggests are also yearnings and longings for the divine, the numinous, the holy.

He also reinterpreted Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a pyramid of longings. This is a link to the part of the Zoom meeting where he shows a diagram about that. https://youtu.be/aQPA2sQkq7M?t=856 He used the Windrush scandal in the UK to illustrate that.

I was thinking, listening to Dave, that a large part of my spirituality now is to sit with inchoate (ill defined) longings, rather than being sure and certain, or naming everything in which I trust or believe in black and white words. I am more content to simply yearn and long. I don’t necessarily need to make progress towards any one thing I might long for, but simply to know I yearn for it is enough. To take the quiet time or reverie in which to simply sit and be in that longing is the point. This is really hard to explain, but if you feel that too in some way, you will know what I mean.

I have been clearing out papers and have found many things I have organized or written over the years – skits of children’s services, bible study notes, sermons/reflections, liturgy, hymns, poems. Put end to end the words would run right round the world at least once, maybe more.

I am not sure I have any words left to describe where I am right now. (Sounds silly seeing I have just written a book of words, but it is still true). It is one thing to describe a transition in our spiritual development as a person, church, nation or world and another to absolutely pinpoint what we are transitioning to, or even to completely describe where we are right now on the journey.

I don’t think that matters anymore. Being on the way is the point. Being in our own skin is the task. Simply being is the Way.

Thanks for reading these words trying to describe the ineffable numinosity in which we live and move and have our being.

Susan

Wherever you are, You are on the Journey

order from jones.rs@xtra.co.nz

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book information, Consciousness, spiritual journey

Out into the world

Some of the recent companions on my spiritual journey

Hello everyone,

I meant to write on Wednesday and here it’s Friday… oh well.

People are getting the message about The Book being around. Quite a few orders coming in. Cool. I am trying not to be too obsessed about it but failing completely.

I have been delaying publishing the seemingly multitudinous locations that one can order the book online, partly because I have a pile of printed books about to arrive on my doorstep and it benefits me most of you order those!

The marvels of online ordering!
Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

However, since people from Italy, Ecuador, Pakistan, the US, UK and Australia have looked on this site, it would be more fair to you to tell you where you can go online.

Buy Print and eBook copies at these online stores
1. eBooks from
Philip Garside Publishing Ltd’s Payhip store:
https://payhip.com/b/H8v39
Amazon.com:
https://www.amazon.com/Wherever-You-Are-Journey-Conversations-ebook/dp/B09M8JDBPJ
Amazon Australia:
https://www.amazon.com.au/Wherever-You-Are-Journey-Conversations-ebook/dp/B09M8JDBPJ
Amazon United Kingdom:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wherever-You-Are-Journey-Conversations-ebook/dp/B09M8JDBPJ
Smashwords:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1116140?ref=PhilipGarsidePublishingLtd
Kobo:
https://www.kobo.com/nz/en/ebook/wherever-you-are-you-are-on-the-journey
Apple:
https://books.apple.com/nz/book/wherever-you-are-you-are-on-the-journey-conversations/id1596805310
Barnes & Noble:
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wherever-you-are-you-are-on-the-journey-susan-jones/1140549248
Scribd:
https://www.scribd.com/book/541623335/Wherever-You-Are-You-Are-on-the-Journey-Conversations-in-a- Coffee-Shop-Book-1
Indigo:
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/books/wherever-you-are-you-are/9781988572833-item.html
Angus and Robertson:
https://www.angusrobertson.com.au/ebooks/wherever-you-are-you-are-on-the-journey-susanjones/ p/9781988572833
Mondori:
https://books.mondadoristore.it/Wherever-You-Are-You-Are-On-Susan-Jones/eae978198857283/
2. Print Books from Susan Jones. Tell me how many & your street address. I’ll post once you’ve paid into the account I’ll send you. jones.rs@xtra.co.nz
Philip Garside Publishing Ltd:
https://pgpl.co.nz/print-books/wherever-you-are-you-are-on-the-journey-print/
Outside of New Zealand order print copies
from your nearest Amazon store to reduce your postage cost.

Amazon.com:
https://www.amazon.com/Wherever-You-Are-Journey-Conversations/dp/B09LZP39F7
Amazon Australia:
https://www.amazon.com.au/Wherever-You-Are-Journey-Conversations/dp/B09LZP39F7
Amazon United Kingdom:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Wherever-You-Are-Journey-Conversations/dp/B09LZP39F7

The latter method is how I got Dave Tomlinson’s copy to him (see former post) and it looked like good quality as far as I could see on the vid. (Though looking at the tracking information I think it got printed in the UK, sent to the US, then back to Dave’s address in UK! Weird, but I guess it keeps the couriers in business)

One thing some of you have not seen is the endorsement Dave refers to in his Holy Shed You Tube. It’s on the back of the print copy. This is what he wrote:

“I love this book. It’s a very easy read. And it underscores the point that while interest in churchgoing
Christianity is at an all-time low, spiritual curiosity is burgeoning in the 21st century.

Pulpit monologues are done and dusted, but genuine, open-ended conversations over a decent
cup of coffee – that’s a different thing!

Faith must be democratised – rescued from religion and explored with the honesty and humanity found in this book.”
Dave Tomlinson, author of ‘Black Sheep and Prodigals’ and host of The Holy Shed YouTube channel.

I hadn’t thought about the concept of faith being democratized, but it fits with my growing conviction that we have lost out with Christianity because it has consistently, in its conventional form, directed us to external authorities outside of ourselves. In that sense, we have not been living faith democratically, where we ‘get a say.’ What’s the secret to being able to continue a faith journey when the symbols of faith have lost their power for us and the ‘cisterns’ have been broken (ref to an old hymn)? It is that we look inside ourselves for that quiet, still voice which is not our selfish-ego-wanting-self, but the bigger wider broader Self which is wise and discerning. I would say the Self is ‘God’ fueled, or Spirit led – (to merge some newer thoughts with old language.)

With conventional Christianity’s externally directed focus – to the cross, for example, to the church, to the protocols, the traditions, etc., – it cannot help us to wake up and become more conscious of our motivations and our deepest, numinous thoughts and desires. We need to walk that journey ourselves. That is why, once you start asking questions, the journey can become a little lonely if you cannot find companions who are on the same exploration. I hope the book, and the resources named within the book, will provide some of that companionship on the Way for you.

Go well,

Susan

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book information, faith stages, spiritual journey

Endorsement for ‘Wherever you are, you are on the Journey’

Hello everyone!

Excitingly, someone in the world has their hands on a copy of The Book, Wherever you are, You are on the Journey.

It happens to be Dave Tomlinson in Somerset, England. Dave was kind enough to write an endorsement of the book (You’ll see it on the back cover when you get your copy). As soon as the publisher had uploaded the book to Amazon UK print-on-demand, I ordered one for Dave as a thank you. It arrived on his doorstep the other day. Dave talks about it here, at the beginning of his Week 89 edition of Holy Shed which he posted 6.30pm Sunday 28 November 2021, UK time (about 5.30am NZ time).

The Holy Shed is something you might find good to try. Dave started it at the beginning of the pandemic (about 89 weeks ago). It is a mix of him talking, video clips, insightful original prayers, candle lighting and a toast to life at the end.

Dave’s congregation in the ‘smallest parish in the world (“we’re not big but we’re small”, says Dave) are people like those for whom I have written Wherever you are. People keen to continue journeying spiritually but not finding in organized religion exactly what they want and need.

So, if you are overseas, try amazon for a paperback or a kindle version of Wherever you are to save the horrendous shipping costs to little old NZ at the top of the world. We NZers know they are horrendous because we have to pay them in reverse when we order from the US or UK!

Dave’s Holy Shed at the bottom of his garden

if you want to follow Dave’s Holy Shed posts, go to youtube and type in ‘Dave Tomlinson, Holy Shed’. One of his videos should come up. Then click on the word ‘subscribe’ which is usually white printing in a red box. This does not cost you anything. Holy Shed also has a facebook page which you mioght like to follow. https://www.facebook.com/theholyshed/

Finding the Holy Shed on youtube: The next time you open up youtube, click on the word ‘subscriptions’ at the bottom of the page and in the new page which comes up you will find a small round photo of Dave. Click on this and you will find you have a whole string of Dave’s Holy Shed posts from Week 5 available to scroll through and watch any time! The magic of technology.

Dave is also a writer. His books are available on the ko-fi site. Here’s the link https://ko-fi.com/holyshed/shop I particularly recommend his latest Black Sheep and Prodigals. Dave didn’t ask me to do a return promo but when you get your Wherever you are you will find that his work is being really what we (Roger and I) need at the moment. Holy Shed is, in fact, our weekly ‘church’, so to talk about it is as natural as breathing.

I was so excited about this ad from Dave that I had to share it with you! See you Wednesday.

Susan

jones.rs@xtra.co.nz

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