Tag Archives: faith

Covered Wagons

imageOver the holidays just passed, I caught a snippet of an old black and white cowboy movie with those covered wagon trains of settlers heading for a new life to pioneer America’s Wild West in the original western mobile homes. I didn’t watch the film but saw enough to remind me of some wise words given to me by an older sister (just) in my faith back in our University days, which have remained with me ever since.

I don’t do goodbyes well at all. Never have been able to and only marginally cope better now as years and experience have weathered my emotional skin. Back then I had newly discovered the difference between faith and religion and had the joy of experiencing that same discovery with others. LIfe was new. The life-bonds made then remain in my memory still today as very, very special.

“We are all on a journey, the same journey, to a common horizon. We are like those people in the cowboy movies who travelled out to an unseen destination first as individual family units in the wagon train, but later as a travelling community as they bonded along the way. At first while they travelled, they were close with those immediately around them. As the journey moved on, they would swap wagons for a while and travel with others away from their immediate original units for all sorts of reasons while still heading together as a community on the same course. At the end of the journey, they will all be re-United.”

I’ve paraphrased my friend’s words from memory here but that was the key thought she left with me to help me cope with parting from loved friends and embracing changes, including parting from her also. It’s OK and sometimes even necessary to swap covered wagons in life with friends whose compass is set in the same direction as yours in order to fulfil your own path in life. A common destination awaits but the journey to get there may well involve many changes of company and surrounds.

Leaf fall

imageI went for an hour’s walk in my local park this morning. It’s something I’ve been used to doing every day since July for my first waking hour. Life has changed somewhat now and I only get to have such quality times at weekends. This park is the place I got to pray and meditate and talk to the Big Guy upstairs.

How come I had space to do this every day for three months that I don’t have now? Three months ago I handed in my notice to leave a job I’ve been doing for the last twenty years with no replacement job to go to and no idea in what direction to head next or what lay ahead. I’m in my early fifties and I jacked in all I had known in the workplace over the last two decades. A brave and courageous decision to some of my friends; foolishness to others. Of course if one has made such a decision and one believes in the power of prayer, one had better jolly well get praying, yet it was prayer that caused me to make such a decision in the first place.

imageMy early morning walks around the park started in the height of Summer under clear blue skies and warm sunshine on my shoulders. My resignation “reluctantly” accepted, my former employers gave me their blessing to work my three months statutory notice at home on what is called ‘gardening leave’. They could have asked me to work those three months in the office but I asked them to give me the best fighting chance to try to find a new career in a job market that had changed beyond all recognition since the last time I peered into it and to their credit they did. So my early morning walks and talks with the Big Guy as early as six in the morning became an imperative part of my life as it soon dawned on me how quickly the three months would pass and how far I was from having any idea of what life had in store next.

I could write a book on the adventure the three months from July to September has been, filled with a mix of release, uncertainty, hope, inexplicable peace, thankfulness and times of doubt, fear and tears. My journey to the point of handing in my notice was not sudden but had started in October last year but it was not until March of this year that I my mind was made up.

imageI took myself away to Nice, France for a long weekend of soul-searching in a place I’d never been before alone and away from all familiar. There along the beach promenade I walked and talked with the Big Guy as a fresh, light north Mediterranean fine drizzle fell. As I was praying I saw in my mind’s eye and in the distance a very large image of a Roman soldier, stood to attention fully armed and poised like a Puma waiting to pounce. He was of gigantic proportions. As I write, I can still see his steely blue eyes beneath his bronze helmet. He was not looking at me but back past me as if at some Commander who had his full attention I could not see. I’m praying about my job, I thought to myself so why am I seeing Roman soldiers? Friends who know me – both who share my faith and don’t – are by now, I hope, used to me talking about my faith from time to time honestly and as it happens. I’ve shared extraordinary encounters I’ve had before too. That day in Nice was just one of those.

imageNo sooner had I pondered over the soldier while still praying when in my head I heard these words. OK I know – Ian-Luke hears voices na na nana na. Well, no not every time. Occasionally I do ‘hear’ thoughts outside of me when I pray. Only on two occasions to date have I heard an actual, audible voice but that is a whole other story. “You have not because you ask not”, the voice said. I stopped in my tracks and went very still inside and considered: all I’d ever done was whine at the Big Guy but I’d never actually asked Him for the way forward or even anything specifically about the way forward – just heaps of frustration and fear. It struck me that maybe I should put my faith on the line and ask for something specific and tangible. I turned around 180 degrees and started back along the promenade as the sun broke through the rain and Nice started to sizzle. “I want you to report in to me every morning”. Without wanting to go too ‘Field of Dreams’ that is what I heard inside again and to be honest you could have slapped me around the face with a wet Kipper and extracted the same sense of a wake up call I had then. Only then did the picture of the Roman soldier make any sense. The Big Guys was basically asking me to submit and trust. I came home from Nice and decided I would ask. I would ask and be specific, sort of. I couldn’t be specific about anything other than that I wanted and needed to be in a new place – whatever that was – “before the leaves fall” – in those specific words. That was in March. Back home the leaves were only just preparing to open. I don’t know why by I often ask God for things and use images of nature and I’ve done that ever since I was a child.

So my times in the park over the Summer and into Autumn became times of asking and specifically but also less and less about me and my job and future. The asking widened to include others: friends, neighbours, people I knew who were sick, lonely and bereaved and for so many things not connected to my life. My prayer life changed and apart from very rare occasions I kept my morning appointment of reporting in with the Big Guy in the park.

imageToday is the first day of Winter. I’ve never ‘heard‘ winter arrive so gently as I did this morning and this is what prompted me to write this post. I’ve felt and seen Winter’s arrival before with drops in temperature, hard rain on windows and howling wind but never like this. As I walked through the park today with iPad in hand, which I sometimes do, I found I couldn’t pray. The reason I can now only find such quality time to be there at weekends is because I am in that new place I couldn’t see three months ago doing a job I never imagined before but which I had been praying for on and off since last October. As I walked through the park I was of course taken by the visual beauty of this moment as Autumn passes the baton to Winter but I became transfixed by a certain sound. OK, no, not more voices but a distinct pitter-patter that sounded like it could be rain falling on leaves only it wasn’t.

There was no wind, not even the slightest of breeze on this dense foggy morning, yet all around me I kept hearing this pitter-patter coming from above. If you are thinking Squirrels make a pitter-patter sound then they don’t. Trust me – I’ve walked with them too for three months. No, the pitter-patter was the leaves themselves as all around me they just started to fall. No, of course this wasn’t the first day they started doing that just because I was there. There were leaves on the ground all around and the ”fall’ process had started weeks ago. I just never heard it before. Not just me, but as I chatted to other walkers they too commented on the sound of the leaves they also noticed all over the park as they walked their dogs.

imageMy time in the park today was taken more with watching, observing and listening than any prayer at all. I wondered why and I also felt a little sad seeing the leaves that had flown high above me during my Summer of uncertainty, hope, learning, trusting and fear now lying beneath my feet and making their voluntary and gentle departures from the branches and twigs that had held them with no wild weather forcibly ripping them away. As I headed toward the exit a thought came to mind. The falling of the leaves had played a major part in my asking of the unknown way back in March and my prayer had been answered in that time. This Summer’s leaves had been witness to my prayers and hopes and tears and the things I had prayed for under them to the Big Guy upstairs had now been accomplished. One season in my life has closed and another opened. Next Spring those same trees that were shedding their leaves today will open new ones and I know for sure that I will be talking and leaning on the Big Guy when those leaves open because my journey is not over yet.

Acknowledge

A word that’s become very important to me in all sorts of ways. It’s great it has all sorts of meanings, all of which I love.image

All

imageLife has changed. Walking a new and un-trodden path. This is like a path I’ve trodden before only it isn’t and I can’t explain why yet because I know where the last path ended and I don’t yet know where this one heads.

He said:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And lean not on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him
And He will direct your path.

Proverbs 3:5-6

That’s my aim and compass. The most important word I’m learning in all the above has just three letters.

Could there ever be a Christian suicide bomber? Done already.

imageJRR Tolkien once wrote about the dangers of adventures that potentially lie ahead when you dare to step outside your front door and follow the road…any road…to see where it goes. So here’s an unexpected road my fingers took me on as I opened my digital front door to Googleland this week.

I have no idea why the old 1960s ‘Supermarionation’ TV puppet series sprung back to mind this week. Along with Joe 90 it was the lesser known of the genre after the still highly popular Thunderbirds, which has seen a modern revival. Personally, I think Scarlet would do very well if brought into the 21st Century and there’s some irony in that considering it was set in a century yet to come.

While I’ve never forgotten the classic theme tune sung by The Spectrum, I had forgotten how Captain Scarlet had become the ‘indestructible Man’ the Mysterons couldn’t kill. So I set off into Googleland to find out and came back with more than I bargained for.

imageI found the very first episode on YouTube via Google and watched it through and now recall how Scarlet gained his secret powers which again make sense of the opening credits. The episode was first broadcast in 1967. I never saw it then but like Thunderbirds, the series was repeated many times in later years. So I watched it again and found myself entertained but then shocked to see a suicide bombing and attempted assassination as the plot unfolded. A suicide bombing as we know it today back in 1967? How far sighted were the show producers? I had to find out.

imageBack out into Googleland I soon discovered to my horror that suicide bombings are not a 21st Century phenomena. It is centuries old and one of its most infamous occurrences was in the name of Christianity. I uncovered a number of references to an incident during the Tenth Crusade as Christianity and Islam fought bloodily over the Holy City of Jerusalem. In a sea battle the Knights Templar, a mysterious Sect which historians attribute to Christianity, but which no Christian denomination would own today, sacrificed 140 of their number by blowing up one of their own ships in the midst of enemy ships to take many more of them out.

I also discovered an interesting article in the Sky News archives which claims suicide bombing is recorded in and therefore seemingly sanctioned by the Bible. Well not quite. They refer to the death of Samson as recorded in the Book of Judges 16:30 who took his own life while inflicting death on many more as he destroyed a pagan temple.

imageWe ought to know from living history that suicide bombings are not a 21st Century phenomenon, even if they are far more common place than ever before. The Japanese military inflicted the first 9/11 with Kamikaze pilots ploughing into the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour in 1941. The first modern day suicide bombing was recorded in the 1980s in Lebanon and they became most frequently used to kill and maim in Israel but also Sri Lanka by Tamil rebels.

I don’t believe Christians invoked the first suicide bomb. I know of the Knights Templar from a while back as I delved into their links with the Illuminati (go Google) who were most certainly nothing to do with my faith. I have, however, long held the fear that sooner or later an atrocity will be committed in the name of Christianity whether by a deluded individual or by others wishing to ignite inter-communal strife with a deliberate act to tar all Christians but then that reality is being experienced by the majority of moderate Muslims today.