Tadhg’s Journal: Fear Of Y Goeden Mellt

160825 fear lightning tree STANDARD JOURNAL

Can a place be a location where fear dwells? A waste place? A place to avoid? Can a clearing in a dark, midnight forest contain ‘fear’ that seems like a palpable presence?

As a teenager I would often cut through Culpepper’s Wood on the way home, sometimes it would be approaching midnight. I am not an easily frightened person, never was, but at one point on my journey through the forest, there would be a sharp incline and I would have to take a sharp left turn, the trees then ‘give way’ to a small clearing, at least for a while before the forest ‘resumed’, and there it would be: Y goeden mellt, the lightning tree (is a rough translation from Welsh into English), as my grandmother used to call it.

To me, as a teenager it always felt that Y goeden mellt had a tangible fear-producing presence about it, as I passed it by. Friends would avoid this area. I seemed to have the opposite reaction. But, that’s just me.

‘Don’t be afraid of your fears. They’re not there to scare you. They’re there to  let you know that something is worth it.’ C Joybell C

It wasn’t the kind of Hollywood movie, malevolent, stalking, horrific, ‘evil’ fear, that would cause me to run past it; but more of a powerful, old-worldly, ancient, brooding, ‘positive’ fear, that quickened my heart, and certainly encouraged me to quicken my pace on a number of occasions, and the former still happens if I have to pass it by, today.

‘I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.’ Sarah Williams

I know this still happens, as last night, wanting to go for a walk before bedtime, I went for a long walk that took me to the lightning tree. I didn’t pass it by, it was my destination point this time, but the desire to walk past it or turn back quickly was certainly there, and my heart was racing. It was so dark. There was a chill in the air. Animals of some description scurried around nearby in the undergrowth. And, I sat of a felled log and looked at the lightning tree, some twenty feet away. I say twenty feet away. It could have been closer. It was difficult to gauge the distance as everything looks ‘flat’ against the dark sky.

Sitting there, thoughts started to ramble.

‘The Wilderness holds answers to more questions than we have yet learned to  ask.’ Nancy Wynne Newhall

Do some trees attract lightning more than others? It seems this one did. I’m told ‘lone’ trees may suffer lightning strikes more so, and oaks which tend to be taller than other tree and have a higher moisture content definitely seem to attract lightning. And, doubly so if rain-soaked.

‘Beware the oak; it draws the stroke.’

But the ‘fear’ I had felt years ago, and which, yes, was still detectable last night as I sat in that clearing was ‘clean’, wholesome, even ‘friendly’ fear, one that made my pupils dilate, thus taking everything ‘in’ around me, made me alert, and ‘alive’ to the ‘commotion’ around me: owls hooting, things scurrying behind me, or in front of me when I turned to look behind me, and several things in the trees. Words from Gerald G May came to mind.

‘Fear, like  any other strong emotion, can make you exquisitely conscious of living,  perfectly aware of being in the movement. It can only do that, however, on  those rare occasions when you don’t try to fight it, run away from it, cope with  it, suppress it, tame it, or otherwise domestic it.’ Gerald G May, ‘The Wisdom Of Wilderness’.

I had read May’s book some years ago, and it was even more poignant some nine years ago because I had just got over three cycles of chemo, then, an operation and radio-therapy because of cancer, and after reading that book, I found myself in this same clearing, wondering what the future would hold. Fear? This was the place to be – looking at the lightning tree. But, such fear made me feel more ‘alive’ than ever.

And, those memories came flooding back last night.

Fear can be healthy, not ‘malevolent’. It can benefit us, if we ‘use’ it properly and ‘decipher’ its message, rather than run from it.

‘The basic lesson is this: Fear is not an enemy but a friend. Fear is something  good, something alive, alert and wild in us. Fear may be a response to danger,  but fear itself is not dangerous.’ Gerald G May

That sentiment has always been at the back on my mind, even when as a teenager I would pass this way, after dark. And, when I was here nine years ago – and all the other times.  Fear is not the enemy. Nine years ago, facing the fear of cancer and recovering from the most invasive of operations, words of calm ‘fell’ on me in this clearing.

Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not  give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.’, said  the Christ, as recorded in John 14:27

Then, I didn’t know how the proceeding years would unfold. But, they were kind me to. But, sadly, not so to some friends that I had met in the chemo lounge, and not so to some  family and friends that had ‘gone ahead’. Memories. (But, more about the thoughts of these dear ones tomorrow).

That was the thought that sped through my mind as I sat on that felled log – the memories of family and friends that had ‘gone ahead’, and that were now in Bliss, and were sorely missed by me. That, and the thought that fear can be ‘clinical’, and can be beneficial if it shakes us our of our complacency, an keeps us alive to the moment.

I realised that Y goeden mellt, the lightning tree’, was no monster to be avoided, but a tree that I once feared, and still do, albeit in a more healthier, adult and mature way – and one that has taught me an invaluable lesson: Fear awakens us to the moment, and being aware of the moment is what we all need.

An hour later, I stood, and yes, I gave a slight nod, a bow in the direction of Y goeden mellt  for being a silent teacher to me – or was it to the Unseen One who was there all along, the invisible, immortal, all-wise One, who was and is silently guiding me and you. The Friend.

 

Of Gorse And Men…Or, How To Do The ‘Spider Dance’

160824 of gorse and men STANDARD THOUGHTS

Ah, last evening was one of those wonderful, August, balmy evenings; the air was warm but the temperature was dropping, and the sky was cloudless, and a dark shade of twilight-blue was replaced with a darker one, with each passing minute. The dog days are truly here.

The secret and the sacred are sisters. When the secret is not respected, the sacred  vanishes.’ John O’Donohue

As I sat in my garden, as the ‘shade of liminality’ sped over the earth above me, at one thousand miles per hour, and as I sipped thistle and green tea, I looked at the garden, and with distant mountains on the horizon, all felt right with the world. Ah, bliss.

I mentally reviewed the day.

Random thoughts.

I had a lazy day yesterday, I noted in my journal.

At the far end of the garden are a few yew trees – old and gnarled, my favourite, and some gorse bushes, that over the years have ‘moved’ – by a process of consecutive seeding – from the wilderness to ‘invade’ my garden at the far end. They didn’t really invade, because I could have always cut them back. But, I didn’t want to. It felt good to have part of the wilderness from a distance come closer, to colonise part of my garden; it was like a ‘horticultural French kiss’, and humbling that it wanted to move a little more closer to me.

Perception.

Perception. That’s the word that continually came to mind as I sat around the garden table with my, now cold, cup of thistle and green tea – which, by the way, is an excellent drink whether it’s hot or cold!

From someone else’s perspective the gorse are invaders and should destroyed. To me, they ‘knocked’ and I ‘allowed’ them to come in…though the agreement is that I can prune them occasionally, and so ‘manage’ them. But, to others they are like weeds, not to be tolerated. But, not from my perspective. They remind me that long after I’m gone, nature will continue to do just what it likes. I know my place.

At the far end of the garden, regarding  the gorse bushes, I noted in my journal, ‘Today, I did the spider dance’.

From someone else’s viewpoint it must have looked as though I was having a fit, but not so from mine. For some reason, this time of the year in the UK, the spiders go berserk, and even little spiders – no bigger than a penny – will cast webs that span 5 yards/metres or more. And, in my garden, these spiders seem to do it just to catch me out. Oh yes, it’s a conspiracy. Forget chem trails. It’s spiders!

Webs everywhere.

I walked straight into a web. Hence, the spider dance. It’s not a joyous dance. Not visually appealing. It usually consists of me whirling around frantically, like some demented Whirling Dervish, with my arms flailing about (like that robot on ‘Lost in Space’, when it uttered a warning: ‘Danger, Will Robinson’), and the occasional wiping motion of my hands across my face, and spluttering, and all accompanied by a minor vocal exclamation of surprise (or words to that effect, if you catch my drift). Having a fit? No, from my perspective, it’s only the spider-dance. Have you ever danced that dance?

But, I learned one thing yesterday:  I need to improve my dance steps. No Rudolf Nureyev, here.

Ah, perception.

I thought to myself how nice it was that the gnats and mozzies were not here, flying around me at dusk. If anyone gets bitten, it’s me.  I move, they move with me. Ah, but no mozzie-dance tonight for me. No mozzies.

The garden table is only a few feet away from a couple of well-grown, mature lavender bushes. They’re planted quite close to one side of the cottage’s wall, and in these parts lavender is well-known as the plant to plant if you want to attract the fae to your garden…or butterflies. Okay, from the ‘scientific’  perspective of a twenty-first century ‘modern’ person that sounds ‘as soppy as a box of frogs’, but there’s part of me that warms to that view. It’s romantic. It’s other-worldly. It’s different.

Maybe, it’s fae flying invisibly around me that are  keeping the gnats and mozzies away? And, from another perspective, it’s also known that gnats and mozzies are deterred by the scent of lavender. Which viewpoint you choose, is up to you. The outcome is the same. I like to think I can hold both views in balance. Ah, an ‘amphibian’, that’s me. Able to circumnavigate both worlds. An edge-walker.

‘I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened..’ Ephesians 1:18a, The  Book

 

But, its all to do with perception. How we look at things does  determine the outcome. Seek and you will find. Don’t seek and you wont find, probably because one isn’t looking in the first place. Look for facts, and you will find ‘surface’ facts; look a bit deeper and you may just catch the merest glimpse of the Prime Mover (Latin: primum movens), the One behind it all.

Yr hen a ŵyr a’r ifanc a dybier, is often said in these parts. It means, ‘The old know and  the young suspect.’

It’s pronounced: ‘Ur hen ah ooyr ah’r eefank ah dub-yerh.’ There will be a test later, to ensure you are fluent!

But, its all to do with perception. How we look at things does indeed determine the outcome.

‘We often remain exiles, left outside the rich world of the soul simply because we are not ready…

Our lack of readiness is often caused by blindness, fear and lack of self-appreciation. When we are ready, we will be blessed. At the moment the door of the heart becomes the gate of heaven.’ John O’Donohue

So, take the next step: reserve judgment and look a little deeper.

 

Mea Culpa & Sweet Bean

160823 mea culpa sweet bean STANDARD THOUGHTS

With biscuits in one hand – do they still call them ‘cookies’ in America? How quaint – and a coke in the other, I watched a subtitled, Japanese video last evening, loaned to me by a barista. We’re a friendly lot, here!

Dear Tokue – an elderly lady, like everyone’s favourite aunt – loves nature, and the video has some awesome clips of cherry blossom in full bloom in the city, the full moon in all its glory shyly peaking through the trees with its eternal gaze, and wonderful lush, verdant forest views as seen through Tokue’s eyes. Awesome!

Truly, the forest is my church.

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? Job 12:7-9, The Book

Seeking work, she starts working for a man who bakes dorayaki – small pancakes which are filled with a sweet bean spread – and she dotes over the beans she cooks. Listening to them, she describes them as an engaged couple who need time, in the pot, to get to know each other. Unhurried!

Tokue has a mother-and-son-like relationship toward the baker, and she’s employed by him because she makes the best sweet bean spread he’s ever tasted. She endears herself to all that see her, and if you watch the movie – highly recommended – you will want to adopt her. Lovely!

The movie unfolds in surprising and deep ways, and centres on friendship, life’s toughness, simple pleasures and the wonderfulness of nature. I forgot to tell you that Tokue had, or had had, Hansen’s Disease – Leprosy.  And she is suddenly shunned! Lonely!

The video is about many things: a metaphorical birth, a  death, and ‘resurrection’….and prejudice! The latter is the ‘whispered soundtrack’ that runs throughout the video, that subliminally works away, unknown, and so you will be both settled and unsettled.

And, that’s where this wonderful movie will challenge you? Prejudice. What prejudices do we have to others?

I once attended a sermon at which the preacher said the reason the Celts saw the Holy Spirit as a wild goose/grey goose (and not as a dove) was because of how little they understood theology. I gasped at how wrong he was! Saddened that he was missing out. Concerned that those listening were being misinformed, and the prejudice would produce ‘offspring’ in them.

I read and online, one evangelical website was describing how well Christians behaved of old (really?), and how Wicca people had kidnapped and burned victims in the most appalling circumstances (all of them, any of them?), and he went on to describe scenes that I knew took place in that wonderful , old movie, The Wicker Man. That wonderful, old, fictitious movie. Fiction. I gasped at how wrong he was, and the impact it might have on others in the community.

Prejudice.

But, if we’ve lived only a few short years we will have been on the receiving end of unjust and downright nasty prejudice, and probably wept inwardly at being subjected to it, if not outwardly.

But, if we’re really honest (and I’m sure you are), then we know that we, too, carry within us the ‘seeds’ of prejudice that pour out and scandalise others, if we’re not careful.

I confess, somewhat embarrassedly, that there have been times in the past when, like the pastor, I’ve been prejudiced against those who think differently to me, those from another ‘tribe’. There have been circumstances when I’ve interpreted facts badly, on mere hear-say, and said things that I now know to be wrong.  I confess – hoping that I’ve made amends, and knowingly don’t continue in such prejudice; but do so knowing that you might think less of me, or even ‘unfriend’ me.

But, there is part of me that hopes you wont ‘unfriend’ me, if only because you’re honest enough to admit that, at one time, you have also been guilty of the same spiritual misdemeanour of prejudice, as me.

‘So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.’ Matthew 7:12, The Book.

I once got a group of people together once, and as an exercise, asked them to write their own obituary. Oh, how shocked they were! But, what a good challenge it presented them with, and what an open, honest, authentic and tearful (in a good way) plenary session we had.

So, are you sitting comfortably? How will people remember you? You might like to try the exercise yourself. It’s a good way to note (and change) as-yet imperceptible prejudices we might have.

I wont tell you what happens to Tokue at the end of the video, except that this dear, little lady has an impact far and wide, and her beautiful, love-borne legacy lives on. She is remembered.

— oOo–
Video: Sweet Bean
PG. 1hr 53mins
Director: Naomi Kawase
Writers: Durian Sukegawa (based on the novel by), Naomi Kawase (screenplay)
Stars: Kirin Kiki, Masatoshi Nagase, Kyara Uchida

 

Acornology: The Story Of The Acorn

AcornYou know I love stories. Well, here’s one that was told to me and a small group some time ago, around a camp fire, late one evening when on a retreat at Penmaenmawr in Wales. Like all good stories, you have to use your imagination and put yourself in it.

Once upon a time, in a not-so-faraway land, there was a kingdom of acorns – a myriad of acorns nestled at the foot of a grand old oak tree.

Since the citizens of this kingdom were modern, and fully Westernised acorns, they went about their business with purposeful energy; and since they were midlife, babyboomer acorns, they engaged in a lot of self-help courses. There were seminars called “Getting All You Can out of Your Shell.” There were woundedness and recovery groups for acorns who had been bruised in their original fall from the tree. There were retreats and spas for oiling and polishing those shells and various acornopathic therapies to enhance longevity and well-being.

One day in the midst of this kingdom there suddenly appeared a knotty little stranger, who apparently dropped “out of the blue” by a passing bird. He was odd: capless and dirty, making an immediate negative impression on his fellow acorns. And crouched beneath the oak tree, he stammered out a strange and wild tale. Pointing upward at the tree, he spoke to all that would listen to him, and said, “We…are…that!”

Delusional thinking, obviously, the other acorns concluded.

But, one or two of them continued to engage him in conversation: “So tell us, how would we become that tree?” “Well,” said he, pointing downward, “it has something to do with going into the ground…and cracking open the shell.” “Insane,” they responded. “Totally morbid! Why, then we wouldn’t be acorns anymore!”

In an age when we’re encouraged to grow and mature, and then maybe consider the next stage of enlightenment, and then, after that, to aim for transformation (or achieve however many stages there are), this story is poignant.

I’m sure we all identified with the cynics in the story. Ofcourse, we could read that story, put ourselves ‘in it’, and breathe a sigh of relief that we were cynics at one point in time, but have got past that stage alluded to in the story – we’re now oak trees – and look back, smiling.

The challenge here, is that the story always applies to us.

Regardless of the stage of development we’re at, there is always more. The transformation of acorn to oak tree, as a metaphor, speaks of the need to change, and not just once!

Once, we’re at a mature stage (however we define that), if we really are at that stage, we’ll realise that there’s still more growing and change to be done, whilst we’re in this form.

If at any stage we think we’ve ‘achieved it’, if at any stage we look down on others or look askew at them because of their understanding, if at any stage we think our ‘maturing’ or ‘change’was a ‘one off’ growth-spurt and we can rest on our laurels, then we’ve missed the point (of the story, and are still at the stage of the cynics in the story). There is always more.

It’s continual. I believe the sacred text word for this is hagiasmos (saints), but the ‘mos’ signifies an ongoing process, rather like we would tack ‘ing’ on the end of a word to show that it’s continual. That word hagiasmos shows that we are ‘saints-and-being-made-into-saints. In that sense, maybe we are encouraged to be born again, and again, and again? Having a beginners mind?

Good story, eh?

I’m informed that this story originated with Maurice Nicoll in the 1950s, and Jacob Needleman popularised this metaphor in Lost Christianity and named it “acornology”, and it was retold by Cynthia Bourgeault in her book, The Wisdom Way of Knowing.

‘Thin Places’ [Re-]Visited. Tadhg’s Journal Excerpt Of Places Of Power & Invitation

160817 thin places photo JOURNALTadhg’s Journal Excerpt: ‘Thin places’, are places, times and events where Celts, Druids and others believed, that in once sense, the veil between here and the Other, the distance between heaven and earth is smaller, where the ‘air’ seems to tingle’ with spiritual power, invitation and anticipation; and where the Presence of God was/is said to be palpable. These places have fascinated people since ancient times.

‘Thin places’ still exist.

Having some friends over last evening, and sharing our own ‘Thin Place’ experiences, I thought it would be good to share some of the ‘Thin Places’ I’ve come across, visited and intend to re-visit. My comments made in my journal at the time are in quoted italics. So, these ‘Thin Places’ are:

tp4 holy island 800px-LindisfarneCastleHolyIslandHoly Island (Lindisfarne), a tidal island off the northeast coast of England. The castle at its summit was built in 1550. The island’s old Welsh name is Medcaut [which is thought to mean ‘Healing’ [Island]].

‘This place is timeless. Time doesn’t encroach here. The sea around it moves, the wind across it blows, and clouds above it race, and God’s voice is heard just below the natural sounds to those who care to listen. But time stands still. And, we are but invited guests.’ [Tadhg, 2011]

tp7 Stonehenge_on_27.01.08Stonehenge, a place of mystery, and which attracts thousands from different ‘faith-tribes’ at the Summer and Winter solstices, and many more throughout the year.

‘A circle of stones. An ancient caim? Just a celestial clock to mark the seasons, or more? Oh, it’s much more. A clock, a community gathering-place, a belief in the link between heaven and earth. And more is lost in the stones, in the mists of time, waiting for its ancient thoughts11c to be (re)discovered. [Tadhg, 2014]

Yr Wyddfa [Welsh for ‘the tomb’] also known as Mount Snowdon in north Wales – not far from where I live in Capel Curig. Legend says that a ferocious giant once lived here, killed many men and wove its tunics from their beards. A myth, so I’m safe. Legend says he’s buried here – hence it being called ‘the tomb’, so I’m very safe.

‘On a sunny day you can see for miles, from here. On a cloudy, rainy day you can see about twenty feet (7 metres) ahead. Today, it was cloudy and damp, and then it rained. In this part of Wales, to some extent or another, it rains 330 days, annually!’ [Tadhg, 2016]

tp8 220px-OghamgighaI haven’t been back to the island of Gigha for many years – so I’ve promised myself I will return. Gigha, a small island off the east coast of Scotland, has a population of about 120, and is awesome – a place of mystery and ‘magic’. The photo is of the Ogham Stone on the island – on it is written an inscription in an ancient proto-gaelic language – which has yet to be deciphered.

‘The Ogham Stones’ message is unknown, undeciphered. I wonder if the person who inscribed it, just made up nonsense words to keep future archaeologists and pilgrims in a state of blissful mystery?’ [Tadhg, 1993. Photo attribution: Patrick Mackie]

tp51 cerne Cerne-abbas-giant-2001-croppedOne of my favourite petrogylphs. Known as the Cerne Abbas giant (or the ‘rude man’) this chalk carving is said to be several thousand years old (or a couple of hundred years old). For the easily offended I’ve blocked out a part of the giants’ anatomy.

‘Rumour has it that any woman standing on the appropriate part of the giant’s carved anatomy – the bit ‘blocked out’ – would become pregnant. Ofcourse, it’s a myth, but I’m sure if I ‘googled’ it there would be some saying their baby resembled the Cerne Abbas giant. [Tadhg, 2015]

 

tp 9 Salisbury_Cathedral_from_the_Bishop_Grounds_c.1825

The photo is of John Constable’s famous painting of Salisbury Cathedral. This is a ‘thin place’ for sure. The first time I really explored this Cathedral I was on way to somewhere else, got lost and found myself here. Resigned to that fact, I explored!

‘The fact that I’m here, today, is a mistake…or is it. Maybe there is a reason that I’m here, at this Cathedral? ‘In order to arrive at a place you do not know, you must go by a way you do not know,’ said St John of The Cross’. I wonder? [Tadhg, 2001]

The above-mentioned are just a few ‘thin places’ that I’ve encountered. What about you? Let me know of your ‘thin place’ encounters.

 

 

The Story Of The Lion And The Sheep

160814 lion not sheep THOUGHTS

I love stories, for within them there is usually something to discover, something to learn and maybe something to apply. In the following story, an ancient fable, there is certainly something to discover about ourselves.

In the story we can ‘see’ who were really are, and what others, or ‘the world’ says about us, and how we swallow such untruths.

So, the story:

Having lost its way, a  baby lion wandered for days, alone, forlorn, anxious at finding itself in a strange and dangerous environment.  Weakened from hunger, it came upon some sheep. One of the mother sheep took pity on the poor, malnourished, bedraggled, crying baby lion and adopted it as her own. She showed her new baby how to forage for grass, what noises to make to talk to other sheep, and warn them of impending danger.

The young lion grew up, fast and strong, amidst the flock of sheep. Many years passed, and there, with a flock of sheep foraging for grass, now roamed the young lion, powerful and with a long mane and tail, behaving exactly like a sheep. It bleated like sheep instead of roaring, and ate grass instead of meat. This vegetarian young lion acted exactly like a weak, meek lamb.

One day, and from out of the foest an older, wild, ferocious lion strolled into the green pasture, and to his great delight beheld this flock of sheep. Thrilled with joy, and extremely hungry, this  older lion pursued the fleeing flock of sheep, when, to his amazement, he saw a young lion, with his tail high up in the air, fleeing as fast as he could, along with the sheep.

The older lion paused for a moment, was nonplussed at what he had witnessed, scratched his head, and pondered: ‘I can understand the sheep running away from me, but I cannot imagine why this young lion should run at the sight of me.’  Ignoring his hunger, he raced hard and pounced upon the escaping young lion. The young lion froze with fear. The big lion was puzzled more than ever.

In a deep voice the older lion rebuked him, ‘What’s the matter with you?! Why do you, my brother-lion, run away from me in fear?’

The young lion closed his eyes and bleated out, meekly, in sheep language, ‘Please let me go. Don’t kill me. I’m just a sheep brought up with yonder flock.’

‘Oh, now I see why you’re bleating.’ He grabbed the young lion by the mane with his mighty jaws and dragged him towards the lake at the end of the pasture. When the older lion had reached the shore of the lake, he pushed the young lion’s head so that it was reflected in the water. He began to shake the younger one, who still had his eyes tightly closed, saying, ‘Open your eyes! Look! You are a lion, and a powerful one at that. You are not a sheep.’

‘Bleat, bleat, bleat. Please don’t kill me. Let me go. I am not a lion, but only a poor, helpless, defenceless, meek sheep,” wailed the ‘sheep-lion’.

The older lion gave the young, meek lion a terrible shake. He opened his eyes, and was astonished to find that the reflection of his head was not, as he expected,  a sheep’s head but that of a lion’s, like the lion who was shaking him. Then, the big lion said, ‘Look at my broad face and your face reflected in the water. They are the same.

‘Now! You must roar instead of bleating!’, the older lion said.

The younger lion, now convinced that he wasn’t a sheep but a powerful lion,, tried to roar, but could only produce feeble bleat-mingled roars. As the older lion continued to exhort him with slapping paws, the sheep-lion at last succeeded in roaring. Now, both of them happy,  both lions bounded across the pasture, entered the forest, and returned to the den of lions.

You and I are the young lion in this story, who thought he was a sheep. Or, maybe we were at one time and now know better. (Though be careful, as it’s easy to fall back into that ‘timid’ misconception). But, many people are still in the ‘I’m just a sheep’ stage.

If you identify with the young-lion-who-thinks-he-is-a-sheep then the good news is you are totally different, have a greater status, and are immensely powerful, and have a great purpose in life to accomplish. That is, if you realise what is at your disposal and rise to the challenge. Live small, accept the lie, don’t use the resources at your disposal and you will remain where you are. But, you are more than you think you are. ‘Seek out lions’!

One of my favourite stories in the Book is where Gideon is working away in a hole in the ground, out of sight of anyone. The enemy, the Amalekites had been constantly destroying crops, seizing animals and generally oppressing Gideon and his tribe. The safest way to work was in a hole in the ground, unseen. Timid. But, then an angel appears, and I think the angel’s greeting in priceless. The angel says to Gideon – remember Gideon is in hiding:

‘The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’ Mighty warrior? In hiding? Timid? In fear? God and this angel obviously had a different perception of Gideon. They saw the real Gideon.

God and his angels have a different view of us, if we’re living a shy, timid life. It’s time to wake up. Never be brow-beaten into not living up to who you really are. Use your God-given talents, and rise to the challenges that arise.

Never fear. You will come across people who don’t realise your status or power, who may belittle your efforts, and even bully you into submission – the world does that to make us compliant. But, without being bitter, negative or angry, and by still being your amiable self, stride forth, positively, remembering that: You are not a sheep, but a lion. You are more than you think you are.

‘Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.’ Marianne Williamson

Tadhg’s Journal: When Prayer Becomes Spell-Work?

160812 prayer a spell JOURNAL

Journal excerpt [A trip down memory lane]: I mix with people from many different backgrounds, faith-groups and ‘tribes’, and welcome the input and learning I gain from their different beliefs and ways of working. I am indebted to them.

‘Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance…’. Hebrews 10:22a. The Book

What they all have in common is a deep belief, and inclusiveness, and a passion. I value that today, and did so, just as much when starting out in matters spiritual, many years ago.

So, there I was (many, many years ago), a member of a ‘one-day’ healing workshop. It was hugely appreciated by me, as I wanted to be both a volunteer for this group as a prayer minister, and learn something from them about prayer, blessing and ministering to others. I was a wee, young man at the time. Maybe, somewhat naïve.

After all the theory and note-taking, and all the sharing in the workshop, and even more theory, we moved into the practical session – for some the least attractive part of the day.

We got into groups of three: for the first practical session, one would be the pray-er, one would be the recipient of the prayer-blessing, and one would observe and share their observations and encourage, afterward.  We would then have two more practical sessions, and swap roles, and in that way all three of us would experience ‘wearing those three different hats’.

Everyone seemed reluctant to be the one to pray first, so even at that early age, I said I’d go first. And I did.
I prayed for Ben. [The name has been changed to protect his anonymity]. The idea was to pray for and bless  the recipient, and for them to report any temperature external-skin changes. Did they feel suddenly hot, suddenly cold etc? Ben, I should point out came from a hugely hyper-hyper, reformed background, where such demonstrations are frowned upon, and had already said he was the kind of person that didn’t experience ‘Divine external experiences’ – never once in his life.

Nevertheless, I prayed. Mildred [the Observer – not her real name] observed. And, Ben ‘received’…..nothing.  Well, nothing external, nothing detectable.

Mildred the Observer reported her ‘findings’ and declared that the prayer didn’t work because Tadhg departed from the healing prayer by changing a few words! I so wanted to thank Mildred for her encouragement – but we were in a holy place.  I was nonplussed. I did ask Mildred, perhaps, it seemed as though nothing happened because Ben was the kind of person who had already declared that he was not the demonstrative type, and he nodded in assent. I also said, the blessing, nevertheless, had been given and we shouldn’t always be so worried about not receiving external ‘signs’. Ben had been blessed, I gently concluded. Ben smiled, assuredly.
‘No!’, said Mildred. ‘It was because you got the wording wrong. You departed from the prayer-formula because you changed a word or two. And, that’s why nothing happened’.

I did admit to changing a word or two, words that better seemed to fit my character, better fitted the situation, and which didn’t change the prayer-request one bit. Mildred was unconvinced.

 

Although of a young age, and somewhat naïve (then), there was something deep inside that informed me not to worry.

 
Changing a word or two in a prayer, if said from the heart, will have the desired effect. The Friend understands.

 
But it did cause me to question, later that day, what was Mildred thinking, when it came to prayer?

‘Be present with your want of Deity, and you shall be present with the Deity.’ Thomas Traherne

If she thought a word or two would change or nullify the prayer, then maybe she saw prayer as:
– magic? (A bit lit a Harry Potter spell, where, if you get the word wrong in a spell, then instead of making someone a price, you turn him into a frog), or
– dependent on her (or me, as I was the pray-er) (Our words, then,  have total power over everyone, including God it seems, and that God cannot or won’t act if the wording is incorrect), or
– a right way to pray and a wrong way etc.
One thing I’ve learned (and hopefully, it’s more than one thing, but I’m only listing one here and now) is this: it doesn’t depend on us!

 

‘When your intentions are pure, so too will be your success.’ Charles F Glassman

My mature Christian friends, as well as my mature Druid, Celtic, Wiccan, Light-worker friends and others, at least those I’ve spoken to, on this matter, seem to agree: it’s intentionality that is important, and the Source that is all-powerful.
If we get the lines wrong, nothing bad is going to happen. Further, if we believe we can get it wrong, we might be deterred from praying or blessing in the first place. If we ‘have the wrong end of the stick’, well, who wants to be turned into a frog?

 

No, its our intentionality that’s important. A prayer or a blessing isn’t a spell that can be mis-cast if we get a word wrong. A prayer is part of our communication with the Other.

 

I was once at a prayer meeting – still young, and so this occurred many years ago. Someone, who had only just joined that church and was new to ‘church circles’, church decorum and church language, took a turn in praying. She started praying about a friend who was really unwell, and she felt this came from the devil (whether that’s so or not, might be the theme of another article).

Sarah [not her real name], stood to pray, got a bit tongue-tied, was full of emotion and passion, and started rambling a little. None of us could hear her properly, not even the minister next to her….until she shouted, ‘Satan ,why don’t you f**k off, and leave my friend alone’. The minister heard her, I heard her, we all heard her. I loved Sarah for her authenticity in that prayer meeting, and I admit to trying to stifle a wry smile. I do believe God heard her.

‘May your prayer of listening deepen enough to hear in the depths the laughter of God.’  John O’Donohue

But, did God hear her prayer? Did he honour it? I like to think he did. I don’t think that that prayer went unanswered because an ‘unusual’ form of wording was used. I don’t think he ignored Sarah because she used a rude word. Her intentions were pure.

Of Course, our prayers are not Harry Potter-like spells. Intentionality is important in our prayers – and we should never fear to pray because we might not know  the words and get a word or two wrong, and yet many do fear. That’s a shame.

‘Pray continually…’ 1 Thessalonians 5:17, The Book.

 

[Apologies that the spacing on this article seems ‘odd’. I’m working on it]

Essential Celt: Angels In Essex?: Close Encounters

160111 essential celt angels in essex THOUGHTS

‘Angels, living light most glorious! Beneath the Godhead in burning desire in the darkness any mystery of creation you look on the eye of your God never taking your fill: What glorious pleasures take shape within you.’ Hildegard

We live in a sceptical age, and there is seldom talk about angels, even in many churches. The result is that anyone who talks about angels is likely to be branded ‘new age’ (no disrespect to those amongst my friends who call themselves’ new age’). By default, the subject of angels is left to others – who talk a lot about angels, and why not? – and I think those who might not consider angels as much are the poorer for it. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

What do you think?

Down the ages, Celts, Druids and wiccan people, and others, accepted (almost ‘casually’) the existence of angels (by one name or another), as do many of my Christian, Druid, Wiccan and other friends (Light-workers etc) today.

‘The Celtic mind was not burdened by dualism. It did not separate what belongs together’. John O’Donohue

Angels are said to guard individuals (Psalm 91:11), and even sang at creation’s dawn (Job 38:7). We’re commended to extend hospitality to strangers, lest they might be angels (Hebrew 12:2). And they ministered to Jesus (Luke 22:43 et all).

Angels and angelic encounters, then, are not the domain of one particular belief-group, but open to all.

Have you seen an angel? Have you encountered an angel? Would you like to?

This is one of my favourite, almost humourous, accounts from the Book: Peter, having miraculously escaped from prison, ‘…knocked at the outer entrance, and a servant named Rhoda came to answer the door. When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed she ran back without opening it and exclaimed, ‘Peter is at the door!’.

‘You’re out of your mind,’ they told her. When she kept insisting that it was so, they said, ‘It must be his angel.’

But Peter kept on knocking, and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished. Acts 12:13-16. The Book.

Scepticism & Change: So, why the scepticism? Why can’t we expect to see an angel in Essex?

The scepticism exists, in part, I believe, because it goes unidentified, and therefore unchallenged. We don’t ‘label’ it, and we should. We consider ‘our way’ of thinking ‘normal’, and others, from a different group or belief system or from another age in history (as we read those ancient records), if they think or say something different to us, must be  ‘wrong’.  And, so what they say is discarded.

We can suffer with an unhealthy dose of twenty-first century arrogance, a huge amout of materialism, even as we seek out Celtic ways!

Celtic ways were different to ours, and so any honest desire to ‘recapture’ the passion and depth of their ways, will result in some upset, some ‘judder’ and some honest appraisal of our own personal theology. If you are concerned at the aforementioned sentence, please don’t read on.

But, once we’re aware of such scepticism – once we can, metaphorically, hold it at arms length and objectively inspect it for what it is – then we can make adjustments, and look at things differently, and see, just as the Celts of old, did.

Hint 1: Are you sceptical? Be objective! Check to see if you’re a sceptic, and if so,  work on it!

Perception: And, why don’t we see angels in Essex or elsewhere? Maybe we’re not looking, maybe we  are too busy, or perhaps we don’t have the awareness-tools to perceive them.

It’s interesting, that on several occasions in the Book, angels appeared to people as they took shelter from the noon-day sun in the shade of a tree, or in their homes – places where they might be expected to rest, or make time for themselves, and ponder.

‘Pay attention to your dreams – God’s angels often speak directly to our hearts when we are asleep.’ Eileen Elias Freeman.

Yes, angels can appear even in our dreams. Here’s a record of my most memorable dream about angels: [Link]

Hint 2: Are you too busy? If so,  make some time for yourself, time to  relax,  ponder, even day-dream, to make time for an encounter.

Expect the unexpected:  We sometimes relegate angels to a bygone age. Oh, that was then, and this is now. Things are different now. Perhaps we’ve entered a different epoch and it all works out differently today? Some say. Maybe not.

Have you read the accounts of the Angels of Mons? On 22–23 August 1914, it is recorded that during the first major engagement of the British Expeditionary Force , the British troops were protected by angels!

And what about this video clip? Much more recent. Okay, you won’t see an angel, but just listening to, and watching the reaction of an outside news broadcaster on the banks of the River Thames in London is worth its weight in gold. [Link]

I think, generally, we’re still too ready to explain things away.

Hint 3: Do you jump to conclusions too quickly Sometimes its better to say, ‘I  just don’t know what happened’, and  come back to it later. Why not journal. Maybe it was an  angelic encounter?

Research: Why not read some accounts that others have had regarding angelic encounters?

The more ‘modern’ the account, personally, the better. When we only look at Victorian woodcarvings of angels, or dwell on those awesome renaissance paintings of veiled cherubs, or read ancient accounts (all good), when we only do that, we can subconsciously ‘program’ our mind to think that such encounters only happened in the past and don’t happen now. Oh, but such encounters do happen now!

 Hint 4: Why not read a contemporary book on angelic encounters? I have to  admit I like some books, on this theme, written by Doreen Virtue. I might not  agree with her theology, but the books are entertaining at the very least, and do  contain some  interesting accounts, to ‘fire up’ receptive neurons, and make us  more receptive.

Make a date: Many would think nothing of praying and asking God to assist them, and make time to pray, so why not ask angels? Infact, may of my wiccan and Druid friends, and others, do just that! Why not you?

Asking assistance – not the same as worshipping angels – doesn’t seem to be wrong, and seems a reasonable way to go. Infact, may in the biggest denomination in the West and many in the eastern Orthodox Church do just that. It has been said that one day, when our eyes are fully opened, we will be shocked (in a nice way) at the amount of angelic involvement in our lives.

 Hint 5: Why not ‘diarise’ an angelic encounter, or go to a place of solitude (for  me, that would be deep in a forest or at the summit of a mountain), and just be  still, and see what happens. It’s what many Celts of old did.

Becoming arational: One objection to angelic encounters is that is irrational, in an age of rationality, to believe that angels exist and can be encountered.

Arational: Not within the domain of what can be understood or analysed by reason; outside the competence of the rules of reason…

I would say that the belief in angels’ existence is arational! But, that isn’t a bad word.

If rationality is the way of the logical mind, and that which is irrational is discounting things because they fall outside what one can deem rational; then arational is okay – arational, such as the belief in angels are above and outside the realm the rational mind, and acceptable, because rational ‘rules’ and logic do not apply.

Hint 6: Consider the arational, and that angelic encounters, as with many other  spiritual concepts, operate to a higher form of understanding.

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’ Albert Einstein

If you have any queries, if you would like to know more about making time for angelic encounters, if you want to know about encountering angels in Essex or wherever you are (which is part of the ministry of Tadhg), then do contact me – leaving a message below, or sending a confidential ‘messenger’ message, or by emailing me: tadhg@tadhg.cymru

Essential Celt: Those ‘Valley’ Experiences

160810 Valley experienes THOUGHTS

Of all the experiences of God we seek, the mountain-top experience, of being alone with the Divine is usually the one we desire the most.

As you know, I love to hike (or climb) up mountains in Wales, and at the summit one truly can have a mountain-top experience – physically as one appreciates the climb, and beholds the awesome beauty of the rugged scenery of miles and miles of other mountains, lakes and countryside; and spiritually, as one reflects upon and ‘feels’ the closeness of the Divine.

But, what about valley experiences?

What about when I’m in London? What about you and I as we sit in our living rooms in our respective  homes, in town? Yes, what about those valley experiences?

In his book, ‘Landscape As Sacred Space’, Steven Lewis talks of three landscapes, one of them being the valley experience. He describes it as the place we normally frequent: the place of home or work or school, the place of the ‘hum-drum’, of regularity, and seemingly the terrain of the ordinary, the place where we encounter other people. A contrast to the solitude of the mountain-top experience.

Because it is the place where we spend most of our time, you’re likely to be in the valley experience, the same as me, right now. That’s a valley experience.

‘Complacency is perhaps the greatest weakness’. Steven Lewis

By being familiar with the terrain, by doing the same thing regularly we can miss those Divine ‘nudges’, and be oblivious to the Presence in the mundane. And yet, intellectually, we know God is as present in the valley experiences as in those mountain-top experiences.

‘Driving the kids to soccer games can be just another routine in our day, or it can be an occasion to see God’s expressions in children, in nature, in others around us…it takes intentionality…’ Steven Lewis

In the mundane and regularity of those ‘valley experiences’ we can, as latter-day Celts’, have a God-encounter in circumstances, in other people and in the mundane.

And, so, when the driver ‘cut in’ dangerously when I was driving today I had a God-encounter which encouraged patience and wisdom. And, as I pulled into the out-of-town (and fairly remote) shopping centre (some miles from where I live), the other evening, I had a God-encounter when nearly running over someone. I should explain that it was dark, it was a car park, and I was going slow. It’s just that I didn’t see, initially, this guy, a Muslim man, at prayer and on his knees in the car park. He was in no real danger, and we spoke after, and laughed – and I made an acquaintance and was pleased to meet him, a very friendly man; and I call that a God-encounter (in another), a valley experience.

In ten thousand ways we can encounter God in ‘the valley’. Look around your town, your living room, reflect and dwell upon the fact that, perceiving God or not, the Divine is just as much present there as on the top of Yr Wyddfa. It starts with intentionality.

‘Incarnational reality suggests that God desires to be birthed in us, to be expressed through our imaginations, creativity, and acts of mercy and grace’, writes Steven Lewis, even in those valley experiences.

Celtic Thought For The Day #22: Whatever You Do, Do [Not] Doubt

160808 STANDARD THOUGHTS

It’s okay to doubt. One of the things that has ‘frightened’ me over the last few weeks, in relation to the UK vote on Europe, is some people’s certainty about the country’s future and the benefits of leaving the EU. How do they know? [They don’t!].

It is a sign of the times, in an age that worships (over-)self-confidence, that those who confess to a doubt are seen as weak, and those that appear to have no doubts are seen as strong, and we all laud strength. On the contrary, I think doubt is important, necessary;  and its beneficial to admit a doubt or two. Never ‘beat yourself up’ if you doubt.

From those who don’t entertain any doubt: run!

‘Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.’ Frederick Buechner

Doubts, especially as ‘passing-through’ stages, can be beneficial. They are a sign that you’re human, and that’s good. It’s a sign that you realise the complexity of a situation, that their may be multiple answers and are seeking to weigh them up (even if not consciously), and that you’re not God.

‘Honest doubt…is marked…by three qualities: humility, which makes one’s attitude impossible to celebrate; insufficiency, which makes it impossible to rest; and mystery, which continues to tug you upward – even in your lowest moments.’ Christian Wiman

Steven Lewis writes about three basic ‘inner landscapes’ that we encounter in life. The mountain-top experience that we always want to dwell in; the valley which is where we spend most of our lives (in the ‘real’ world of work, rest and play etc); and the desert experience whih wwe would rather not dwell in, at all. However, he writes that in desert landscape (think ‘desert Fathers and Mothers), where doubts can arise, the most benefit can be had.

‘Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.’ Paul Tillich

Never despise a good doubt or two.