Monday 27 May 2024

Love and Fear: Is the Sky falling In?

I was out the other morning walking with Molly. As she was running round the park a couple of women with dogs called out to me. They asked “Do you know who’s this dog is?” They had two dogs of their own and their was another dog with them. One of them was trying to lure the dog onto a lead with treats. They said that they had found the dog wandering around the tennis courts and they thought it belonged to an old man. They seemed quite fraught and thought he must have had an accident. Other people passed and they asked if they recognised the dog. No one did. Folk began milling round and getting involved in the commotion. One of the women began calling a local vets and the RSPCA determined that something terrible had happened. More people began to gather round. Two other women with prams and one with a dog slowly moved towards us. I asked them if they knew the dog and one calmly said, “yes it is mine. I was calling him and wondered why he didn’t come running. I wondered what was going on.” It seems the dog likes to wander off in the park doing his own thing, lots of dogs do. Molly does. They also knew the old man who’s dog was much like the woman’s own.

It seems that things had got completely out of hand. Panic had set in. A simple situation had been blown out of all proportion. The dog was fine and yet fear and anxiety had begun to spread from seemingly one little acorn, or in this case one little dog who likes to do his own thing. It reminded me of that classic Children’s story “Chicken Licken” The story of an acorn falling on the chicken’s head which convinces him that the sky is falling in. he panics and decides he must inform the king.

There are many versions of this tale and it goes by many names. This version is primarily based on a collection compiled by the American Unitarian minister Edward Everett Hale. A man who had a great influence on Helen Keller during her childhood. He is probably best known for the following quote “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”

Anyhow this is the story of “Chicken Licken”

As Chicken-licken was going one day to the wood, whack! an acorn fell from a tree on to his head.

"Gracious goodness me!" said Chicken-licken, "the sky must have fallen; I must go and tell the King."

So Chicken-licken turned back, and met Henny-lenny.

"Well, Henny-lenny, where are you going?" said he.

"I'm going to the wood," said she.

"Oh, Henny-lenny, don't go!" said he, "for as I was going the sky fell on to my head, and I'm going to tell the King."

So Henny-lenny turned back with Chicken-licken, and met Cocky-locky.

"Well, Cocky-locky, where are you going?" said he.

"I'm going to the wood," said he.

Then Henny-lenny said: "Oh Cocky-locky, don't go, for I was going, and I met Chicken-licken, and Chicken-licken had been at the wood, and the sky had fallen on to his head, and we are going to tell the King."

So Cocky-locky turned back, and they met Ducky-lucky.

"Well, Ducky-lucky, where are you going?"

And Ducky-lucky said: "I'm going to the wood."

Then Cocky-locky said: "Oh! Ducky-lucky, don't go, for I was going, and I met Henny-lenny, and Henny-lenny met Chicken-licken, and Chicken-licken had been at the wood, and the sky had fallen on to his head, and we are going to tell the King."

So Ducky-lucky turned back, and met Drakey-lakey.

"Well, Drakey-lakey, where are you going?"

And Drakey-lakey said: "I'm going to the wood."

Then Ducky-lucky said: "Oh! Drakey-lakey, don't go, for I was going, and I met Cocky-locky, and Cocky-locky met Henny-lenny, and Henny-lenny met Chicken-licken, and Chicken-licken had been at the wood, and the sky had fallen on to his head, and we are going to tell the King."

So Drakey-lakey turned back, and met Goosey-loosey.

"Well, Goosey-loosey, where are you going?"

And Goosey-loosey said: "I'm going to the wood."

Then Drakey-lakey said: "Oh, Goosey-loosey, don't go, for I was going, and I met Ducky-lucky, and Ducky-lucky met Cocky-locky, and Cocky-locky met Henny-lenny, and Henny-lenny met Chicken-licken, and Chicken-licken had been at the wood, and the sky had fallen on to his head, and we are going to tell the King."

So Goosey-loosey turned back, and met Ganderly-landerly.

"Well, Ganderly-landerly, where are you going?"

And Ganderly-landerly said: "I'm going to the wood."

Then Goosey-loosey said: "Oh! Ganderly-landerly, don't go, for I was going, and I met Drakey-lakey, and Drakey-lakey met Ducky-lucky, and Ducky-lucky met Cocky-locky, and Cocky-locky met Henny-lenny, and Henny-lenny met Chicken-licken, and Chicken-licken had been at the wood, and the sky had fallen on to his head, and we are going to tell the King."

So Ganderly-landerly turned back, and met Turkey-lurkey.

"Well, Turkey-lurkey, where are you going?"

And Turkey-lurkey said: "I'm going to the wood."

Then Ganderly-landerly said: "Oh! Turkey-lurkey, don't go, for I was going, and I met Goosey-loosey, and Goosey-loosey met Drakey-lakey, and Drakey-lakey met Ducky-lucky, and Ducky-lucky met Cocky-locky, and Cocky-locky met Henny-lenny, and Henny-lenny met Chicken-licken, and Chicken-licken had been at the wood, and the sky had fallen on to his head, and we are going to tell the King."

So Turkey-lurkey turned back, and walked with Ganderly-landerly, Goosey-loosey, Drakey-lakey, Ducky-lucky, Cocky-locky, Henny-lenny, and Chicken-licken.

And as they were going along, they met Foxxy-loxxy. And Foxxy-loxxy said:

"Where are you going?"

And they said: "Chicken-licken went to the wood, and the sky fell on to his head, and we are going to tell the King."

And Foxxy-loxxy said: "Come along with me, and I will show you the way."

But Foxxy-loxxy took them into the fox's hole, and he and his young ones soon ate up poor Chicken-licken, Henny-lenny, Cocky-locky, Ducky-lucky, Drakey-lakey, Goosey-loosey, Ganderly-landerly, and Turkey-lurkey; and they never saw the King to tell him that the sky had fallen.

The shows how easy it is to get caught up in irrational fear, especially someone else’s. it is important to examine the evidence of our own senses or you too could get caught up in someone else’s fear. Half the park did the other day. Now to be fare it came from concern and care, but still the fear was unfounded. How often do we see panic flow from a the acorns of life. Every day an acorn will fall on someone’s head, but it does not mean that the world is about to end.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It has the power to inhibit but it also has the power of allure. Fear comes in many forms. Forrest Church identified five different types, which he associated with the body, intellect, conscience, emotions and soul. These being:

“Fright” (Centred in the body), which is a kind of instinctive fear, designed to protect us from physical danger. It’s that feeling that makes us jump while watching a horror film or the thing that gets our blood pumping and awakens our senses and allows us to respond to physical danger.

The second being “Worry” (Centred in the intellect), this is a fear that is produced by our worst imaginings. Often they are not real and can be blown out of all reasonable proportions. Shortly before he died Mark Twain mused, “I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened”

The third being “Guilt” (Centred in the conscience). This is a fear of being caught out or found out due to something that we have done in our past. It’s a fear we often carry with us and can be projected into so much of our lives. It’s the feeling that can come over us as we pass through security at airports, even though there is no reason to feel it, or when walking out of shops and passing through the security senses, even though we know we haven’t stolen anything.

The fourth being “Insecurity” (centred in the emotions), this is fear prompted by feelings of inadequacy. It is a fear that breeds a need to seek approval from others. It’s form of Narcissism and forms deep self-consciousness which makes us unconscious to life itself.

The fifth and perhaps worst of all is “Dread” (centred in the soul), a fear that is generated by life’s general uncertainty. In “Freedom from Fear” Church wrote “ ‘Man himself produces dread, wrote the Christian philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. We manufacture it whenever we attempt to control things over which we hold no final authority. We reduce life to a battleground, where we struggle against insurmountable odds. Fearing every transition from certainty to uncertainty, we devote our full energy to protecting ourselves against loss. Dread is the opposite of trust. The more we dread death and dying, the more alarming life and living turn out to be.”

Yes fear has many faces and all of them powerful in their own ways. We each of us experience every type at different times in our lives.

Children often fear the dark and many of us fear the unknown, the unseen, the uncertain. The truth is though that so much of life is uncertain. I have learnt that it is vital to accept this, to surrender to this and through this you find the courage to simply live and truly be yourself and to discover real faith in life once again.

I recall a story I once heard of a young boy who lived with his parents on a farm. His job each afternoon was to fetch the afternoon paper so that his dad could read, after a long day’s work, while eating his tea. Now one November day he forgot to fetch the paper and by now it was turning dark. It turned four o’clock, nearly tea time and his mum noticed that he hadn’t fetched the paper, she asked her son if he would get the paper. Twenty minutes later she asked again and then ten minutes later, still no paper, so she asked once again. This went on until the mum completely lost her temper and shouted at the boy, will you get your dad’s paper. At which point the boy burst into tears. His mother realising something was wrong went to boy, who was inconsolable by now. After a while she calmed him down and asked him what on earth was wrong. He began to explain that all his life he had been afraid of the dark, but was too afraid to let his parents know. His mother soothed him and then asked. Now then you are a boy of faith and you believe in God, you believe that God is in you and with you. That God is in everything, even the dark. The boy nodded and then his mother said “There is no reason then to fear the dark, for God is in the dark, and God can do anything. Now be a good lad and go and get your dad’s paper.” At this the boy looked up at his mum smilingly and went to the door. He opened the door and confidently and shouted “God will you get me my dad’s paper please.”

Sadly didn’t get his paper that night.

Earlier we heard a passage from Mark’s Gospel of Jesus and disciples being caught in a storm. It follows many verses depicting Jesus speaking in parables, at the river bank, about faith and the Kingdom of God. After Jesus has finished preaching he and the disciples cross the waters and are caught in a storm. The disciples become afraid for their lives and waken Jesus who calms the seas and then rebukes them with the following words ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ They were afraid, they lacked courage, and they lacked faith in life. It seems to me that living in this kind of fear is the very thing that so often reduces life and or can send us into a panic over a little thing. Fear is so powerful an emotion and can control so much of life. How though do we overcome it?

Well it seems to me that the key, to overcoming fear, is courage.

Courage in many ways is the essence of life, maybe it is our daily bread. Anais Nin once said “Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” I’m sure we can all think of moments when our own lives have either expanded or shrunk in proportion to our courage. Courage itself comes from the French root “Cuer” meaning heart. To have courage is to have strength of heart. Courage is a consistent and sustaining love, it is a spiritual energy that sustains us in sickness and in health in loss or disappointment.

It is said that there are only really two emotions fear and love. Now I do not believe that to feel the emotion of fear is to lack love, or courage or faith. That said to be ruled by fear and to be paralysed by it, may well mean a lack of faith. How often in life, do we say no to life because we have become paralysed by fear? How often do we expect someone else to do what we can do ourselves, because of fear? How often do we create troubles for ourselves and others because our fear led imaginations have created a scenario that does not exist, like the woman in the park. For me faith is all about having the courage to be all that we can be do and to do all that we can do in love and service. It is also about taking and seeing life as it actually is.

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to the size of our heart; life shrinks or expands in service to life itself. It’s about heart, it’s about courage, and it’s about being all that we can.

To have courage is to have strength of heart and to live from our hearts in our ordinary everyday activities. Courage is a way of living and breathing it’s about living openly and vulnerably in the world. Courage comes in those ordinary acts of love as we walk slowly through life. It is courage that allows us to learn that even when life has betrayed us, love is still present.

It is courage that allows us to stay open to life even when the storms are really blowing. It is courage that is formed in the heart; it is courage that is the ultimate act of faith; it is courage that keeps us open to life so that we can live in love and service.

Fear is a powerful emotion. We all feel it at times. The fright instinct is vital for our survival. Other forms of fear are less helpful, particularly those we create from within ourselves. These can spiral out of control and can lead to problems for ourselves and others. Just as it did in the cautionary tale of “Chicken Licken”.

So the next time you feel an acorn falls on your head, do not assume that it is a sign that the end of the world is near. It may just be an acorn falling from a tree, a sign of the natural change and flow of life.

Please find below a video devotion based on the material in this "blog spot"

Monday 20 May 2024

The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail

I have two friends who are writers, primarily comedy writers. I was chatting with one the other day, about life and everything, the things we have known and experienced as well as the spiritual aspects; we were talking about the gifts and talents that folk have, as well as other traits, some of the more difficult aspects of life and the burdens some folk have to live with. As we were walking and talking, whilst Molly played in the park, I said something that could easily have been taken the wrong way. I said that our mutual friend had a special gift, something I suspect she was born with. I then said that the friend I was walking with was talented, very talented, but that the other was gifted. What was interesting was they didn’t disagree or take offence. He agreed. Now what is particularly wonderful is how well the two of them work together. Her gift and his talent combined together create wonderful gifts for the world to share in.

Now of course my friend’s giftedness is not all that they are. Something I have noticed about gifted people is that they are often cursed with other challenges in life.

I was talking with another friend the other day who is a gifted singer. They were once a singer song writer but gave up that life. We were talking about singing and the blessings and curses of having perfect pitch. A person with perfect pitch can hear anything that is slightly out of tune, if it is it can really irritate. I know I get frustrated in myself when singing and anything goes slightly awry. I’m very sensitive to sound generally. I struggle with karaoke as terrible singing hurts my ears. Unfortunately, I cannot hide the pain from listening to the truly tone deaf. Very few people are actually tone deaf and very few have perfect pitch. Most people can sing, so long as they can hear and most people don’t get disturbed by those who are slightly off beam. I have one such friend who just cannot hear and I was recently reminded of his murdering of “Viva Las Vegas” which was utterly out tune and out of time. So much so it was hilarious. We were laughing about this the other evening at another friends 40th birthday celebration.

I love to sing, I love all kinds of singing. I am enjoying the birds again at the moment. My favourite of all time was the blackbird that lived on my roof. He sang to me and I to him. He raised my voice and I raised his. He was of course the greater singer. His is was the more perfect gift and a beautiful grace to me.

“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch alike me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

I have recently been gifted the beautiful grace of conducting and attending the wedding of both a friend and of course our youngest brother. They were wonderful experiences. While conducting my friend’s wedding I was taken back to another friends wedding from a few years ago. It was held in an Anglican church and I gave the blessing at the end I also sang the classic hymn “Amazing Grace” acapella, Something I have done several times on special occasions. I have sung it at several heartbreaking funerals and I still don’t fully know to this day how. I suspect that was a form of grace.

Amazing Grace is a classic hymn that has grown in popularity over the years. Some of the words can be challenging. That said it is one of those pieces that can send a shiver down my spine. The hymn itself may well be a grace.

Amazing Grace has been described as a classic. David Tracy claimed that classics are "those texts, events, images, persons, rituals and symbols which are assumed to disclose permanent possibilities of meaning and truth”. Amazing Grace certainly fulfills this requirement. It has been doing so for over two hundred years. It is quoted in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" It was adapted by Cherokee Native Americans during their forced migration, known as the trail of tears. It became and remains a favourite amongst the civil rights movement.

Amazing Grace is usually sung to the hymn tune "New Britain". It has been recorded by a rich diversity of artists including Rev J.M Gates, Judy Collins, The Royal Scottish Dragoon guards, Aretha Franklin, Kylie Minogue and Joan Baez. It was even played by Mr. Scott at Mr. Spock's funeral in the film Stark Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. I recall President Obama bursting into a rendition of it whilst delivering the eulogy at the funeral of Clementa C Pickney who had been the pastor of the church in Carlston, the scene of a mass shooting. As he sang he shed tears. Surely a moment of pure grace. Amazing Grace keeps on surfacing and resurfacing in a variety of forms, both religious and secular and across the generations and there seems little doubt that it will continue to do so.

“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound”

I hear Grace, been hearing it all week, but what is it?

The Sufi mystic Rumi wrote:

Something opens our wings.
Something makes boredom and hurt disappear.
Someone fills the cup in front of us.
We taste only sacredness.

The something or someone I believe is Grace.

When I speak of Grace I mean than something that exist beyond the confines of ourselves, that something more that makes life real, special and alive. That something that exists beyond our individual efforts that makes our efforts almost effortless. I have noticed that when I live in a Graceful state life does indeed seem effortless. Indeed when life seems a slog or a struggle it is precisely then that I feel blocked off from the Grace that surrounds me. Grace seems to exist in the spaces of life, therefore when I am blocked it seems that there are no spaces where Grace can thrive and live. To live in a Graceful state is to trust in that which exists in those spaces and allow it to energise our lives. Over the years I have learnt to trust in this when the hard and dark times have struck. It is Grace that keeps me moving forward. Grace is the “Wow!” of life that can energise us if we would but trust in it. It is Grace that gives us a sense of belonging to life itself. When I began to live in Grace I became fully a part of life.

“Grace” has both secular and religious connotations. We can be given a period of grace with regard to payment of goods procured. We can be in someone else “good grace”, meaning we are in someone’s good books, we have gained their favour. We might compliment a person by saying they are graceful in the way they hold themselves or gracious in the way they act with others. In music a composer may add “grace notes”. These are added extras that are not essential but may add an artistic flourish to the piece.

Now of course classically speaking the “Grace of God” is a freely given gift of spirit that is unearned and undeserved; something that comes to us, from beyond ourselves. You can’t touch it, but you can know it. You could say that grace is a favour or perhaps a fortune that comes to us unbidden. It does not come because we have done anything to deserve it or not deserve it, it just comes. The part we can play is in recognizing it when it comes and making the most of what it offers. Life itself is probably the ultimate of graces. Think about it we did absolutely nothing to deserve the gift of life itself, in all its joy and suffering.

When I think of my two friends the gifted writer and the one who has perfect pitch. These were gifts they were simply born with. Yes they have nurtured those gifts and developed them, but I suspect mostly they are simply gifts that they were born with.

I suspect that Grace is something you just can’t avoid, even if you don’t always recognise it. It is always there, that said there is a part that we must play. As Ramakrishna said “The winds of grace are always blowing, but you have to raise the sail.” It is our task I believe to receive the wind and the waters in the right way.

You see Grace isn’t just going to come in and save us, to take our troubles away. To change the natural world, just for us. Just look at the world, at our lives, this just doesn’t seem so now does it? I believe that grace works in and through us; that it comes to life in and through us when we live in a “State of Grace”. While we need not do anything to deserve it, we must do a great deal to bring it to life. As the Buddhist Joanna Macy observed “Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.” Yes it exists in those spaces between our lives and we experience it as it works through our lives, encouraging others to engage with it too. To dance in the spaces as the music plays.

The Unitarian and Process Theologian Henry Nelson Weiman, while rejecting traditional notions of God, did believe that there was a process which he observed had the capacity to transform us into beings capable of doing good, that can enable us to live up to our ideals and therefore relieve us from what some have described as the meaningless despair at our lives. He called this process “Creative Interchange”. He believed that this “Creative Interchange” comes alive as individuals or groups bring new meanings to life and that as it comes to life the richness of the world expands and a deeper sense of integration occurs. For Weiman this was Grace.

James Luther Adams expanded on these ideas believing that this creative power finds its “richest focus” when we work together to serve the divine reality and bring to birth freedom and justice in our world. He believed that God transforms us with “a love that ‘cares’ for the fullest good of all.” It is this then that compels us to act with it in service and thus re-create Grace.

I see real truth in both Weiman’s and Adam’s view of Grace, they help me make sense of my own experiences.

Grace is not about the things we receive in life. We have all been given life, the ultimate free gift. Grace is about what we do with the gift we have been given; Grace is what we create from what we have been given; Grace is what we bring to the table of life with this life we have been given. It is not for us alone. The gifts we have are given to share for the good of all. I was thinking of this as I talked with my writer friends the other day and the gifts and talents they have been given and how they are coming back to life again, how they are setting their sails once more.

No two people are exactly alike. We all have our gifts, our different abilities. We are all born with certain aptitudes and innate ability. We all have something to offer the world, to share with life, but they are not all the same. Thank God. I myself have always been a communicator, but never an athlete. My mum often tells me I could talk long before I could walk. That you could hold a conversation with me as toddler long before I took my first steps. There were two reasons for this. My mind is wired for communication and also because I was born with underdeveloped nerve endings in the base of my spine. This made physical activities difficult as a child. Therefore I could talk early and walk late.

We are all given different gifts. Our task I believe is to make the most of these gifts, to enjoy them and to share them with others, thus inspiring them to make the most of what life has given them. This I believe is the point the epistle Paul was making in is first letter to the Corinthians chapter twelve.

He wrote the letter because each member of the congregation, in their struggle to be the perfect congregational leader, were getting in the way of the others. Each one of them wanted to possess all the good qualities that make up a good leader, to become the perfect leader and to leave the others in their shadow. As a result they appeared to be nothing like a group of people living in the image of Jesus.

Paul taught them that the spirit does not allow even the possibility that one person can possess all the talents. That said if people come together in love, live interdependently and inspire one another with their gifts they will create a community for the good of all.

We all have gifts, talents that have been bestowed upon us and I believe we have a responsibility to learn to use these gifts well and to recognise that the same spirit that gave us these gifts requires us to use them cooperatively with those who have different gifts to us. They are not to be used lightly and selfishly, neither are they to be despised. In so doing we will inspire others to do the same, to make the most of what they have been freely given.

Let us be grateful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon us. Let us make the most of these aspects of our humanity that have been given us. Let us learn to share them with one another, let us be inspired by one another’s gifts and create a true kin-ship of love right here, right now.

In so doing we will begin to live in a “State of Grace”.

Below is a video devotion based on the material in this "Blogspot" 

Monday 13 May 2024

They don’t publish the good news. The good news is published by us

Thich Nhat Hanh “The Good News”

They don't publish
the good news.
The good news is published
by us.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh Winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and preoccupation
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

On the drive back from our Jack’s wedding a couple of weeks ago we stopped off at the village of Grassington. It was lovely to walk in the Yorkshire country side on such a beautiful day. We walked without thought of where we were going and eventually made our way back to the village. As we wandered around I noticed a sign on a tiny local jewelry shop that read “Home of the Notorious Tom Lee”. We called in and purchased something as we paid I asked about the sign outside. The owner was only two pleased to tell the story of “The Notorious Tom Lee”. He was the local blacksmith who lived and worked in the building and also the small inn next door. He had murdered the local doctor and terrorised the village and surrounding area. A thief, a highway and all round bad man. He had apparently been shot and injured during a highway robbery and the local doctor Richard Petty had tended to his wounds. Fearing the doctor would inform on him he took him on a drinking spree, following winning money on a cock fight, in nearby Kettlewell ( the place of our Jack’s wedding). The doctor was lured to the woods and murdered. Despite being the prime suspect there was not enough evidence to convict. Eventually Tom Lee was informed on and caught and found guilty at York Azzizes where he was hanged for his crimes. Later his body was left in a cage in Grassington to warn other would be criminals.

A gruesome and fascinating tale and one that the village is known for. There were no other plaques to local people. It all got me thinking about how we know places and people; it got me thinking about notoriety and our fascination with bad news and bad people. How we are fascinated by darkness and dark people. Whether they be notorious murders or world leaders. People love gangster stories and highway men etc. My childhood was filled with tales of characters such as Dick Turpin, Ned Kelly, Jesse James, Al Capone. Gangster films are ever more popular. People today are fascinated by true crime stories. Recent research has shown how this can be psychologically damaging. There is a fascination with notorious public figures, people love the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, whilst decent honest politicians are seen as dull and uninspiring. There is a fascination with celebrity gossip and celebrity influences online. Meanwhile there is a distrust of those who do good, who give their life for others. They are often sadly seen through suspicious eyes or considered dull. People are even told to hide their light and not talk about the good that they do. To not share the good news. Therefore, sadly all we ever hear is the bad news, because the good news is not up in lights and yet generally speaking it is the good that occurs throughout most of our lives. The good news does not stand out and shine so bright. Well maybe it should maybe it is time to tell the good news, to evangelise if you like.

Last Tuesday evening Adie Tindall led a fascinating conversation during “Living the Questions” on this very subject, “What is the good news?” He introduced the conversation explaining where the word evangelise came from. He explained That “'The ancient Greek word 'Evangelion' meaning good news was made popular in the Greco-Roman world. Especially under the reigns of Augustus and Caesar. Where they proclaimed a military victory to the Masses of the Roman empire, declaring “Salvation for the Empire.” This was adapted by the early Christians declaring the good news of Jesus Christ and Salvation in a different sense. Adie then opened up the conversation and invited us to explore the spirit of Evangelion in our context and experience; asking if any of us had good news to share? How do we share the good news? What is the good news as opposed to only the terrible news, and what part hope has to play in this?

We also talked a lot about discomfort and distrust we evangelism. How we can feel uncomfortable when people want to tell you what they considered to be their good news to you. We often turn off if someone is evangelising about their chosen subject. I experienced it myself the other day as a friend was trying to tell me about the merits of a carnivore diet. After first being taken aback by their approach I did look into it. While interesting I will not be following it. By the way they haven’t stopped evangelising since.

Why do we only talk about what is wrong, why do we promote only the bad news. Why do we build statues to the notorious. Why is it that a brutal murderer is the biggest talking point of the beautiful village of Grassington? Hey I’m talking about it now. Actually there is some good news in this. We talk about it because it is rare and shocking. Most people live decent caring lives, will do what they can to help. Something I have witnessed wherever I have been in life, wherever I have gone. We do good because it is the instinctive thing to do, the problem is that we are told not to talk about it. Maybe we should as it will encourage others to do more and in so doing all gain. So long as we ourselves do not become the bad news by overwhelming others with what we consider to be “The Good News”. The good news should always be joyful.

The former chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said:

“Doing good is not painful, a matter of dour duty and a chastising conscience. There is a Hebrew word, a key term of the Bible, for which there is no precise English translation: simhah, usually translated as "joy". What it really means is the happiness we share, or better still, the happiness we make by sharing.”

There is a real joy in doing good, all gain and yet we are encouraged to hide or light. Such a shame as joy is one of those feelings that grow the more we share it. Like love joy increases with subtraction. It is good for our souls and for the souls of others. As Swami Vivekananda said:

“The more we come out and do good to others, the more our hearts will be purified, and God will be in them.”

Thich Nhat Hahn said in his wonderful poem “The Good News”, that I shared earlier, that they don’t print the good news, that is our task. We have to make and publicise our own good news, to be aware of the good news that we are surrounded by. We need to be grateful that we experience life at all. He says: “Listen! You have ears that can hear it. Bow your head. Listen to it. Leave behind the world of sorrow and preoccupation and get free. The latest good news is that you can do it.”

Of course there are those who do try to spread the good news. I remember as a child that “The News at Ten” used to have an “And Finally” section at the end of its news bulletins. This would tell of a heart warming story. There is “The Good News Network” and similar publications that try to publicise good things in the world. So, there are pockets of folk trying to spread the good news, but they are rare.

There is sadness in this world, but there is also beauty, love, compassion, courage too. It’s just a shame that most of the modern media no longer believes that this sells.

The News of the World may well have gone the way of the Dodo and the dinosaur but what it traded on is still going strong, stronger than ever it would seem.

Perhaps the real problem is that we have come unreceptive to the good news. Maybe we no longer have ears that hear. Maybe we find it hard to take in the good news and just as importantly share it, become it, nurture it and let it flower and grow. We do this by not only our good deeds, but also let others see it.

As Hildegard of Bingen said:

“A person becomes a flowering orchard. The person that does good work is indeed this orchard bearing good fruit. . . . Whatever humanity does with its deeds in the right or left hand permeates the universe.”

Let us prepare the ground for the good news, let’s create the beautiful garden and let it bare fruit.

In “The Parable of the Sower” Luke 8: vv 4-8 Jesus tells the crowd that the sower threw seeds on the path that were trampled on and eaten by birds; while other seed fell on rocky ground where the roots were weak and therefore the plants withered and died; still others fell on thorn and the thorns grew up and choked the plants; finally some fell on good soil where they thrived and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing...a hundred fold.

Let us prepare the ground for the “Good News”, let it flower and grow. Maybe we need to find new ways of sharing the good news.

The great sages such as Jesus and Buddha spoke in parables in attempts to help people get to the deeper meaning of their message. They wanted the ears that heard to wrestle with what was being said and therefore come to a deeper understanding.

I believe that in this parable Jesus is telling his followers that in order to hear the good news you need to become receptive to it. As I have said many times before I believe that every one of us has the potential for deep compassion as well as the potential for hatred and extreme selfishness. The key is to feed and develop that compassionate aspect of ourselves and then we can indeed impact positively on the world in which we live. I do believe that the kingdom of heaven is within all of us, as is hell for that matter and that we can indeed build that kingdom here on earth; or we can build our own living hell here on earth. It really is down to how we all live our lives. “The Parable of the Sower”, “The Good News Network” the word’s of Thich Nhat Hahn, little conversations throughout our day, smiling at the person that you pass on the street, passing on a good turn given to you can indeed lead to some kind of chaos theory of love and compassion. It is time to start spreading the good news of the decent and ordinary and not just talk about the notorious.

Start spreading the “Good News”, we can change our world today.

I’m going to end with the poem “So” by Leonard Nathan

It’s a poem addressed to each and everyone one of us. We who live ordinary lives, not the famous or infamous, the notorious. We ordinary people who create the “Good News”. We are the most important people in the lives of others. We influence through our ordinary daily interactions. There is always something deeply meaningful and effective that we can all do in our ordinary lives and it can make all the difference. Let’s start spreading the “Good News”

“So?” by Leonard Nathan

So you aren’t Tolstoy or St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.

You’ve been given just the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice, and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.

Please find below a video devotion based on the material in this "blog spot"