Friday 19 September 2014

Your image of God creates you

Well, I couldn't leave this one alone. My meditation from Richard Rohr today encourages the reader to repeat the mantra, "Your image of God creates you". He describes that this is the foundation to our theology, our approach to Scripture and spirituality. For me, this statement could not be more true. I see it in myself and I see it in people I meet.

When I was younger my image of God was of a loving, fatherly figure with very high expectations. God's rules were put in place to protect us and guide us, therefore, we should follow them. This image of God certainly created me as a young person. My main objective in life was to be good; to say and do the right things. Rebellious people were to be feared, but somehow intrigued me at the same time (especially if they called themselves Christians). Perfection was to be sought after and striven for in all things. I had very high expectations of myself and felt that everyone else expected the same from me.

It has taken me a long time to begin to change these things and loosen up a little. This has only been possible as my image of God has changed over the years. As I have studied scripture and theology and listened to the stories of people who have different life experiences, God has become too big for my limiting box and burst open the lid. My image of God has broadened, deepened and become more mysterious. As I have given more freedom to my image of God, so too have I found freedom. I am a little less concerned about God's rules these days and a little more inclined to think that life is messy, rather than perfect. Where my image of God had once been about perfection, it is now about freedom.

I am quite content that what I know is nothing. I am more open to the surprises God has for me. But I must say it saddens me to watch others with such different images of God create this in themselves. I have seen judgmental remarks arise from believing in a judging God. I have seen deep anger rage from an image of an angry, vengeful God. Our image of God, let's face it, is just that - OUR image of God.

Although my understanding of God is certainly limited, I can only hope that the image of God's love inclusiveness, grace and forgiveness will be created within me.

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Dancing with Someone

I picked up a book of daily meditations by Richard Rohr on the weekend and committed to reading one a day. I am often far from disciplined in my spiritual life and so when I find something that might keep me on track for a while I grab it. I've only been reading the meditations for three days, but am convinced that this book found me.

Yesterday's reading took me back a few years to a retreat I attended. The group was challenged to spend some time reflecting on what our soul space looked like. This soul space is the "place" that, at the best of times, is filled with God or the Spirit and, at the most difficult times, seems empty. At the time I imagined my soul space as a large ballroom. The space was largely unused as I sat quietly, and somewhat comfortably in the centre. My realisation during this reflection was that a ballroom is made for dancing. I began to see my relationship with the divine as a dance that filled that big, empty ballroom taking me uncomfortably out to the edges of the space.

Yesterday's meditation from Richard Rohr was about a different kind of knowing God. He says, "God becomes more a verb than noun, more a process than a conclusion, more an experience than a dogma, more a personal relationship than an idea. There is Someone dancing with you, and you no longer need to prove to anyone that you are right, nor are you afraid of mistakes." What a beautiful image!

I can't say that I am the most comfortable dancer. It often takes a few drinks at a wedding to get me on the dance floor, but once I'm there I enjoy it. Dancing is about the experience, the relationship, being vulnerable and being held. This is how I view my relationship with God. God is not in the audience watching and waiting for my mistakes, but there dancing with me and part of the movement.

The reading for today was about prayer. This is another part of my spiritual life that I often struggle with. I have often been cynical about prayer and how it can be used abusively in churches. Part of my job each week is to choose or write prayers that connect with the people in my congregations. So often, words seem inadequate. I am far more comfortable lighting a candle, dropping a rock in water or sitting in silence. These days my personal prayer life has no words. I sit in quiet. I close my eyes and soak up the warmth of the sun. I watch intently for the signs of God around me. I listen. I gaze on God and allow God to gaze on me.

Richard Rohr comments that we sometimes make prayer "a pious exercise that somehow makes God happy, or a requirement for entry into heaven." Maybe this is why I often feel cynical about prayer. He goes on to say, "It is much more like practicing heaven now." What could be more heavenly than dancing with God, no words needed. In this ballroom there is freedom and life. In the dance there is passion and spirit. In the movement there is rhythm and intimacy. How would it be to imagine our spiritual journey not as linear with a goal up ahead, but as a dance circling and turning within us?

Wednesday 10 September 2014


There have been plenty of times in the last month where I have started writing a post only to delete the whole thing. I know that I am going through a significant transition time in my own spiritual life and sometimes that can be a bit messy. You can throw the pain of it out onto other people and be a little less positive about life than usual. So you can imagine how some of those unpublished posts may have read. 

But today it seems to flow a little easier, with a little less cynicism and a little more integrity. And funnily enough it takes me back to the near the beginning of this time of change. At the end of July I attended a Christian Meditation Community retreat with our Christian Meditation group. The theme for the retreat was "The Lazarus Story - unbinding and going free". The theme spoke straight into what I was going through and gave it a name. We spoke about freedom and what this really means in our lives. 

I had just come through a time of growth and feel a new sense of freedom. What I hadn't anticipated was the learning that would need to occur in order to be free. It seemed such a simple thing - to be free. But who knew that you would need to learn to be free. There is so much unbinding, so much unlearning, so much adjusting to be done. I certainly don't claim to be through this time of unbinding, but I'm through it enough to see what it is. Here is a humble attempt to describe it based on Lazarus imagery. 


Awakened from sleep
Eyes opened to light 
All I longed for now blinds me in pain
Numb muscles of death
Now frozen in fear
Your familiar voice calls again

Freedom's lure is cast
A promise of life
Warm blood through dry veins starts to seep
At the door trembling
Each step hesitates
My heart races, the soul wants to leap

Stumbling and tripping
Bound by death's clothing
The tomb's safety beckons and calls
Constrained by the known
Held tight and secure
Life unravels and at my feet falls

"Unbind and let go
Loosen and set free"
Rags peel from my face, spill to the ground
Shallow breathing ends
Lungs fill and expand
Let this new life begin, I am found.