Finding God, or to express it better, cultivating a relationship with God has been a bit like trying to find Nemo in a vast wilderness. Finding church fellowship and finding myself was the easy part. Finding the place where and how God wants me has been fraught with difficulty, it isn’t easy swimming against the tide.
Having been afflicted by multiple traumas has tested my faith to its limits. But my journey towards restoration in this season has needed more than what I have been able to do humanly. Knowing that I can not do this work independently of God has been revelatory and liberating. Knowing that I can partner with this amazing God has helped me to deepen my faith in a way I once thought inconceivable – how could I know what I did not know?
Increasingly, I liken it to falling in love, or the birth of a new baby. It is a love that is unconditional, unimaginable and it is available to one and all. It is like a whole new dimension. It has to be experienced since no amount of intellectual power can bring this into being. For me, a good news story hinges not so much on one event but the unraveling of this new dimension, a new way of seeing, a new way of being. “Wearing God’s glasses”.
I have no right to happiness but I do have the right to be the full expression of my self, the multi layered, gifted and messy version of me that I am co authoring and co creating with God. It is not so much about finding but surrendering and yielding to God’s will. A prayerful and meditative disposition is helping me to foster grace and humility. This requires a vow of commitment. It is an act of human and spiritual discipline. Not just on a Sunday, not just in response to enfolding events but in every breath, every thought, every dream, every decision and every action. By yielding to God in prayer and in service, God finds you, God finds me, God finds us. Abba Daddy finds us in those moments and in those lives when we each peer into heaven. Little Nemo was never truly lost but in his wandering and in his wondering, he grew into himself. A loving, spirit filled child of God.
These sentiments are, at this point of my journey, best captured in this beautiful piece of music: https://youtu.be/rwLHr9vNwcQ God sometimes speaks to me through the medium of music and other languages. The lyrics in this exquisite video are helpfully shown in Spanish and English. I hope this good news story will bring you comfort, strength and inspiration to those that pray for and seek it.
I Am With You.
To those of us who have strolled through fertile corridors,
And wondered how this world came to be,
Her sounds of freshness greet each passing action,
The sweet air restores lustre to my being,
As animal world springs to life to remind us of her glory.
Hindered by another world that waits impatiently to consume me,
Tainted; burdened by mankind’s greed and folly.
Tired and exhausted am I from frantic urban pace,
Its squalid queues, smells and other crimes,
Lead thee to yet more broken hearts.
Like lemmings bruising down the highway,
Only for yet more wasteful starts.
From that Monday-Friday drudgery they call modern ‘living’,
Thereof breed hedged cities, malls and urban sprawl,
Nurturing city satellites for headless urbanites to brawl.
Uproot them for rural splendour,
So once again, creatures of God can freely crawl.
The garden lawn, clean shaven and freshly mown.
Reflects the shadows of birds,
From where they’ve skimmed and fancifully flown.
An audacious pair of Robins red,
Dance before me, by their nesting bed.
Under dead grass, the top now revealed,
The moist green grass it once concealed.
Is that what lies under my skin?
Burgeoning youth trapped within.
I rest my head amongst evergreen,
To taste a life not yet forseen.
The trees and bushes we must control,
Else darkness clouds the lawn’s green soul.
For sun and shadow creep from one end t’other,
Shifting light across Earth, our Mother.
Through the course of just one summer’s day,
We see past, present, and then,
Come what may.
9th June 1998
Do you remember the beach?
Exploring the shoreline for treasure.
You picked up a seashell
And through its cavernous opening
You were invited to explore the ocean’s mystery.
Its dreams unravel a mythical journey
Exciting the infant’s imagination.
This magical story unfolds in your palm
As you gazed out at its vastness.
At that precise moment;
There you are.
Have you ever listened to the voice of the ocean?
Today, her cries grow louder.
Tormented echoes are being sent
Through rising currents
And her aquatic kin;
The dolphin and the whale.
Their ancient and peaceful rhythms disturbed.
From the depths of the ocean
Comes a message
Vociferous in emotion.
On those gallant white horses
Rides a pseudo exclamation.
Toxicity slithers in the ether
Poisoning the soul within her.
Carried by her majestic waves
Sent to overpower prosperity’s slaves.
Trading madness for stillness
We add to her illness.
In man’s haste to consume
She will slowly subsume.
Humanity and insanity
An approach we must trade
Else the portent of Armageddon
Will be horrifically played.
Deafened by greed,
Man is hurtling
Toward death and destruction.
Do not be deceived.
‘Prosperity’ is a seductive dark cloak
Worn by the devil.
Rising tide of danger.
Swollen by melting ice.
Extinction will be the price.
The planet is in pain
Through drought and rain,
Let us pray
For her watery spirit.
And that those cries
Don’t grow too faint.
Should icy blood drip from her poles
The ocean’s new chorus to the cosmos
Save all Our Souls.
When you cannot listen to the ocean
You are not.
7th December 2000
A place in my heart,
Where common land marks the start.
The lone beech tree almost hidden,
Around it, tracks have been ridden.
The bank of trees standing nearby,
And dappled light from the summer sky.
From the roadside to the field,
A good many memories does this track yield.
My dog’s musings still echo.
As do picnics, walks and other assorted capers.
I can still walk lightly through the glade,
From the dawn of spring
through mid winter and evening shade.
22nd February 1998
Oh beautiful moon child,
Sleeping in the Agean sky.
Comforted by a silky
Revealing light through its
Lighting up a path to a
Cavernous and serene.
Tonight, home to our dreams.
6th October 2000
I write this having undergone a considerable period of writers block and also having had some time to reflect upon the ongoing discernment process. The weekend at Worth North (15-16th March 2003) meant a return to my student stomping ground in sunny Wolverhamtpon. Amazingly, every retreat and pilgrimage I have ever gone on in my journey towards God has been accompanied by clear blue skies. Startling, given the fact that these have included visits to Ireland, Canada, France, Hungary as well as my native England. The weekend itself was loaded with significance. In addition, it was sandwiched mouth-wateringly between two EUFA Cup fixtures involving Liverpool and Glasgow Celtic, the Cheltenham Gold Cup and Saint Patrick’s Day. Events that seemed to perfectly reflect my journey out of a large Irish family. As the Anderton household was full to brimming, I stayed with an old student friend in nearby Penn. Shortly after my arrival on Friday evening, myself, Leigh & Emma, plus Kayla (the dog) headed off to the local park for a stroll. At the park’s entrance, Kayla was set free to enjoy the evening sun amongst her friends. Now Kayla is of fine hunting pedigree. Strong race-like proportions and 7 ½ stone of pure muscle. Indeed, she would not have looked too out of place at Cheltenham! Kayla’s popularity has ensured that both Leigh & Emma have settled well into the local neighbourhood. As the evening progressed, dogs and owners started to emerge from all directions. Each of the characters seemed to play out some form of canine ritual. The most prominent character took the stage, in the wings of his owner, Ms X. In contrast to Kayla’s thoroughbred credentials, this dog was the scruffiest mutt imaginable. There were certainly no pretensions of grandeur. His name was…wait for it…Clive!? Not Bouncer, Muffin, Minxy or Flopsy (grand names is the dog’s world), but Clive. The resemblance between owner and dog was striking, both sporting wild and voluminous grey hair. They even shared a gregarious nature, though just stopping short of being on first-name terms. While Ms X gave us a detailed running commentary on the prevailing canine antics, it soon became clear that the human part in this ritual was secondary. Everything and everyone was in relation to the canine. I was no more than Kayla’s master’s friend. I was the man with no name. At this point, a reality-check kicked in of Anthony De Mello proportions. Words like bonkers sprang to mind. Poor old Saint Francis would have been turning in his grave. Mercifully, given the surreal nature of the proceedings, the spectacle was interrupted by one aloof owner and disinterested dog. Both of them managed to circumnavigate the crazy gang. They were bit–part players in this play, and I was a spectator. Eventually, the dogs ran out their legs. This was a blessing, as it seemed Ms X had small talk down to a fine art. We took the setting sun’s cue and hastened into the Wolverhampton sunset and back towards human society.
Saturday morning started soon enough, awoken by a bright spring sun. With time to spare before lunch at Worth North, the pooch posse re-assembled and converged on the park. Who appeared from nowhere but Clive and Ms X. They were joined by another dog called Linda and Mr X (Junior). The ritual duly commenced and dogs arrived from all directions. A stocky little black dog played fetch with Junior, or was it the other way round? Junior was the conductor of this unruly ensemble.
At this stage, I felt vicariously acquainted with half of Penn’s citizens, albeit through their respective dogs. It was one of those profound ‘Only in England’ moments. As time wore on, I developed a plausible conspiracy theory about Clive’s faction. I believed they were creatures of the park. They walked the neighbourhood only to create the pretence of normality amongst the dog-walking fraternity. My train of thought was now going like the proverbial clappers, faster and more efficient than GWR you might say. The next stop was the White House lawn in Washington DC. An image emerged of George W Bush and his trusty canine companion. Suddenly, the man that many have come to revile post Kyoto and 9/11 had a human face. Now GW Bush and I are a long way from being on backslapping terms, but the image prompted me to ponder the canine influence on human society. How often do dogs provide comfort to the sick, elderly and lonely? It reminded me of a quote I read somewhere recently. “To each dog, man is Napoleon, hence their eternal popularity”. However, we can also use dogs, coveting them to attract others. At the other extreme, they can become devices or barriers in the way people use cell phones, newspapers, books and computers to shield fear and insecurity. Devices that affect our capacity to form meaningful relationships, and ultimately, to reach intimacy.
So how does this comedy have any bearing on discernment within the Lay Community? Do we want our values to be God-centred, or dog-reversed? Do our four-legged friends have an inner life, surrounded by their kennel enclosure? A life that contrasts with their outer world, amongst their soul chums in the park. I wonder if their wilder cousins and ascendants retreat to the inner world. Is there a place under the stars where they can dream of suburban domestic bliss? Do their domestic cousins, by contrast, dream of freedom in a vast fertile wilderness? A place where each dog finds peace with their inner puppy. Where they can fulfil their dog-given potential. How I strive to be in Clive’s (not Wayne’s!) world. There is a certain darkness in this inner world, which can seduce you. The symptoms of which can lead to lethargy and introspection. My Celtic ascendants seemed to understand the contrast between these worlds very well. They become clearer in those beautiful places that enjoy the caress of pure blue skies. In places like Worth Abbey and Glendalough, these contrasts become manifest. The contrasts are acted out in each of our journeys, and are being played out dramatically during the Lay Community’s and my own discernment process.
Note: No animals or humans were hurt or offended during this production.
Spring is the time to jump up and dance,
For nesting birds and courting romance.
We dispose of the old and bring in the new,
So April showers can sweep on through.
May’s blossom shines like city lights,
To precede a season of milder nights.
Summer sets sway and nature reaches peak,
Carnivals or quiet fields for lovers to seek.
Across the land, the sun sets late,
Parks fill up with joy that people create.
In search of the sun, we explore other lands,
To meet the ocean and its soft golden sands.
Oh for Autumn and its rustic charm,
Harvests are yielded in farm after farm.
Crisp leaves gently fall into the street,
Providing comfort under aching feet.
Warm days yet colder nights embrace the nation,
Signalling the bird world’s annual migration.
To winter-time and Christmas tide,
Animals hibernate and people hide.
Cosy evenings spent at fireplaces,
Inviting rapport by warming our faces.
A seasons of seasons from time to time,
Where frozen and mild days fall out of line.
31st May 1997