Showing posts from 2016

Short Meditations on Topics of a Spiritual Nature

Love is the Law
The law of God is love. Utter obedience to the law is what God requires, that's the standard, this is what God requires of us. When we love one another with full and genuine hearts we fulfil the law of God.

1 Peter 2: 5 And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests.

The assertion of Christianity is that when our lives are really joined, when our lives are shared with one another in genuine care and affection, then we become a holy temple. A house, built of living stones, where God dwells. That when in spirit and in truth we live as one people, then the power of love amongst us is literally unstoppable. From amidst us can rise a perfect and divine love. And love is not weak, love is strong.

From 1 Peter 2: 9 You are royal priests, a holy nation, belonging to God.

Building this, making it real amongst us, is the work of the heart. As a Royal Priesthood it is our duty to enforce the law, to make real t…

A Jewish Love Story

This is an emerald and diamond ring worn by my mother Nina Foord. In this photo her hands are still a bit "raw", a side-effect of the chemotherapy she has just completed after a successful operation on bowel cancer. It has not been my mother's best year but she has pushed through it with dignity and determination.

The ring was made by my great-great-grandfather who was a Prussian Jew and jeweller to the crown Prince of Prussia.

This ring was made as an engagement ring for my great-great-grandmother. It was lost during the holocaust, then somehow (we don't really know how) it made its way back to my grandmother after the war.

My maternal grandparents were German Jews who escaped Berlin to the UK just before the Second World War started. Jewish lineage is inherited through the mother, which makes me, along with Kate Biddlestone and David Foord, Jewish. This is part of our story.

Almost all of my grandparents' family were murdered by the Nazis during the war, exce…

Certainty and Faith

I've slightly changed my mind on certainty. Descartes' conclusion was "I think therefore I am": the *only* certainty is "I Am". 
So that is certain, but beyond that we must abandon certainty as the basis of knowledge and our interaction with the world. We must be willing to live with uncertainty. Interestingly, modern physics teaches that uncertainty (and chaos) are fundamental properties of the universe. 
When certainty has gone, what you're left with is something like "degree of confidence". This is very like the scientific method, developing models of how the world works knowing that they are incomplete and at least partially wrong (you probably can't be right, but you can aspire to be less wrong). Always be willing to be wrong and evaluate new experiences and ideas in the light of what you already know. 
A phrase I prefer to "degree of confidence", but which some people find problematic, is "the measure of your faith".…

Discipline, Rules and the Law of God

"Woe to you teachers of the law". A familiar phrase for Christians. Woe to you who teach law. Woe to you who preach rules.

"Woe to you" is a curse, from Jesus. There will be woe.
Those who would make Christianity into a religion of rules (as has successfully been done for generations) want everyone else to be as dead inside as they are. This is why Jesus said of them:
You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. If you think I'm wrong and my opinion annoys you, there is an easy remedy. Prove me wrong! Be more full of life, more loving, kinder and more alive than me. And I'll like it!

I want to learn from the alive, the loving, the giving. I won't learn from the dead though. Don't be dead, please. You don't have to.

In life, at the moment, I am mostly doing exactly as I please. This seems to be working out, I am stronger and more able to love than …

Nicotine, Physical Awareness and Singing Lessons

I've never been a very physically aware person. From a young age it was clear that I wasn't very physically gifted but that I had an extraordinary mind, so I devoted all my psychological energy into academic achievement and understanding - at the cost of empathy, social understanding and physical awareness. I focused on what I knew I could be good at and ignored the things I found difficult.

It turned out this wasn't a particularly good life strategy and a very painful decade, directed by some unfortunate external experiences and a great deal of very bad personal choices in the light of those experiences, forced me to learn empathy and character strength.

One of the things that surprised me about mindfulness meditation (an exercise of the psyche) was that it forced me to start to become more physically aware. In order to bring full focused attention to the breath I have to deliberately relax my body, including letting go of tension that I just hadn't been aware of. A ve…

The Problem of Evil and Jacob Böhme

Conventional Christianity does not have an acceptable answer to the problem of evil. 

Typical Christian doctrine attributes evil to the fall of man and the devil, a consequence of Satan's hubris and a deceived humanity's free will. This current travail is therefore a consequence of a fallen creation. But, we are working towards the dawning of the New Age where Christ returns and creation is perfected with no possibility of sin and evil.

So, if that state of nature is possible, a perfect creation with no possibility of sin and evil, why did the all powerful creator God not start with that? Why go through all this awful horror and pain to get there? Conventional Christian doctrine offers no real answer to this beyond the "ineffable" (or inexcusable as some may say...) will of God. 

When Christians pretend to have all the answers people tend to see right through them.

Recently a dear friend told me about a German Christian mystic who used alchemical terms for his writing, …

An Evolutionary Spirituality: Goodness out of Chaos

The ideas in this article are an attempt to reconcile science, psychology, religion and philosophy. A lofty, perhaps too lofty, goal and an extension of the ideas I was reaching  for in "Evolutionary Spirituality: A Personal God".

Modern physics tells us that uncertainty and chaos are fundamental properties of the universe we inhabit. Evolution tells us that, in regards to life, change is driven by randomness. Specifically changes are the result of random mutations. Which changes persist is not random, but the driving mechanism is random and chaotic. Evolutionary biologists will tell you that success, fitness, is not "progress" (which they would say is an illusion) merely the accumulation of random changes that are more fit to survive in specific environments and circumstances.

Yet given the arc of history (and human culture as part of history) it looks and feels like progress is being made. I think the reason for this is that on average, what we see as more "…

Magnificent Woman

So, this is probably highly sexist but it's a small peak into the inner workings of my strange psyche. Sorry.

I notice that I have certain "labels" that I use to express how I feel about certain people, and I do this much more frequently for women than I do for men. I don't really know why but I don't *think* it's a particularly bad thing. I mention this now because whilst meditating I just thought of a new one and a handful of women it applies to (names withheld to protect the magnificent).

Here are the labels I use (obviously a one dimensional summation of someone's character, a gross generalisation of any individual and all generalisations are wrong):
A good person (speaks for itself)A capable person (implies good but adds skill and capacity for getting things done)An impressive person (implies capable but with great skill or capacity)A formidable person (implies impressive but with a stronger element of fierceness)A magnificent person One of my greate…

Stop Searching for God

God is love. Love is all around us. That's God! Stop searching for God and search for love. And bam, there he is. Everywhere! So close. He was there all the time. In everyone you meet.

In the love of a mother for her children, in your family. So love love. Worship love. Adore love. Love the love of your friends, love the love of your family. Hold it as sacred and precious. That's God! And when you love love, it grows! And the darkness simply cannot hold.

And fuck other people's rules, other people's ideas of what you have to do to know God. Fuck it all. Just love love.

I'm a bit hard to cope with, so full of intensity. I salute those who manage to get close, I love you all! With a fierce and passionate love if you'll let me.

God wants us to be happy. Unhappiness is not his plan. But you don't find lasting happiness by searching for it. Pleasure, happiness and certainty - none of these things do you find, in their fullness, by seeking them. They're all …

Soul Healing Part II: Empathy

In "Soul Healing" I looked at the process of soul healing (finding psychological wholeness) for the individual; allowing your personality to "unfold" through a determination to face yourself. In this article I explore the edges of some "technical" aspects (practical techniques) for bringing soul healing to others.

Being able to help one another psychologically is one of the promises of faith. Bringing soul healing is a great confirmation of the reality of our faith, "Crossing the Soul Gap" as I term it, but also potentially a beautiful way of being able to make a positive difference to people's lives, always treading carefully of course.

I'd like to discuss two aspects of soul healing, and they're both based on empathy. These techniques have at their heart "just being a decent human being". The motivation must always be genuine love, it can only work within a relationship of trust, and you never go anywhere uninvited. All …

Dancing With The Other Foot

From time to time I like to see things from a different point of view, I think it's very unhealthy to only live inside a single worldview and be unable to understand how other people think and see the world.

For a brief time, for about two years twenty years or so ago when I was at university, I was an atheist. A few years later one of the most precious times in my life was working in London with a group of wonderful people, most of whom were thoughtful and loving atheists. I feel like I understand the atheist mindset, and it's a point of view I have a lot of sympathy with. Atheism is one perfectly rational and reasonable response to this messy world that seems to be ruled by consistent (if chaotic) physical laws. My own personal experiences have led me to a different worldview but I don't blame anyone for coming to different conclusions. Something I love about new atheism (I don't love everything about it) is its fierce rationality, its refusal to be duped. "Pro…

Objective Value in Art

I recently visited the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and got embroiled in a conversation on the value of art, and in particular the value of modern art. This is an age old question, and more specifically this question: does art have (can art have) objective value, or is its value purely subjective? Surely the value of art resides in the effect (the affect) it has on the observer, so the value of art is by very nature a subjective thing.

Art has value if it produces a worthwhile affect (including whether or not we like it), if it moves (or resonates) emotionally with the viewer, if it stimulates the viewer to intellectual thought, or if the art provides some commentary on society, humanity or the world around us (does the art "speak to us"). Modern art attempts to do this in abstraction, by removing recognisable representation of the world it can (potentially) speak to a deeper part of us than merely the conscious and rational mind. Abstraction can (in theory) evoke primal fee…

Soul, spirit and will

Watchman Nee described humans as "tripartite", consisting of spirit, soul and body.

This is a particular framing of the human condition, a way of thinking about and understanding ourselves. There are many other alternative (or complementary) ways of framing the human psyche: Freudian psychology, Myers-Briggs, the four humors and so on. Their value is in how useful they are, do they help us understand ourselves? Any particular framing may be more or less useful than another, at best they're all approximations of the truth rather than "truth" themselves.

The division of psyche into soul and spirit is an understanding I find genuinely useful. Your spirit is who you really are. You are a living spirit, you have a soul. To understand that things like memories and emotion are part of us, but they don't define us both helps explain who we are and can be freeing. Your memories, your past, don't have to define you - you have memories but they aren't "y…

It's alright to be you

There has been a lot of exploration and rediscovery of God as father in my church recently. I've had my own experience of this and, as the cliche goes, it came through observing my own children.

A few days ago I was at the dentist and standing outside watching my son, Benjamin, bimble around. I know my son, who is just over one years old, and I know that his heart is full of malevolence. I know just how wilful and naughty he is, just how much of a handful he is going to be in the coming years.

Despite knowing all of this I delight in him. Watching him potter around fills me with delight, the mere fact that he exists makes me happy. I love him just as he is, just for being him.

It struck me that this is what it means that God delights in his children. I often experience God as love, as a fierce and strong love, but to feel personally loved by God is a bit different. I've often suspected that although I know God loves me, really he loves some perfected version of me - loves wha…

A Varied Life

I've been homeless, in prison, at Cambridge university, worked at a London startup, been an atheist, lived in Christian community, travelled, written a book.

I've taken an extraordinary amount of drugs to the point of madness.

I've learned Tai Chi and meditation from a Buddhist community. Spent nearly a year in Romania living with Romanians.

I taught myself to program. I've spoken to an audience of thousands at conferences and been a keynote speaker in India and New Zealand. I've written code used by millions of software developers.

A varied life and I'm not done yet. And I'm still (more and more) convinced that the only thing worth a damn, the only thing to live for (more important than believing the right things) is to love.

But love fiercely.

A Biblical Worldview

The substance of Christianity has to be knowing God, otherwise our faith is nothing more than dead religion. As the bible is our only record of the life and teaching of Jesus it is rightly seen as the foundation of Christianity. Exactly what role to give to the bible, and how to understand it, can however be contentious topics, not least because views on this topic are very personal and deeply held.

For many Christians their faith requires a "bibilical worldview", seeing and understanding the world through the lens of scriptural teaching. A friend of mine recently posted a link to an article by Pastor Rick Warren on this very topic to facebook:
Preaching Truth Courageously to Culture Here's a quote from the article:
Everyone thinks about the world through a particular lens, or filter. We refer to this filter as someone’s “worldview.” And in our post-Christian culture, most Christians have a non-Christian worldview. In other words, a big part of our preaching assignment…

Forward Blog: Childlike Faith

The Jesus Army "Forward Blog" published an article of mine on finding childlike faith:
Forward Blog: Exploration of the HeartIt’s been said that the longest journey is the distance from head to heart. Actually I think this is wrong, it’s quite a short distance; but the road only goes one way and it’s in the other direction. Christianity, our faith, is an exploration of the heart not the head. God is love, so how could it be anything else. The head can understand what the heart finds, and it can guide the search, but you just can’t make your heart believe what the mind thinks unless you really find it.
If our faith is based mainly on what we know, God can seem small and distant. No matter how powerful and amazing God is in our minds, when we pray it’s to the God of our heart. If what we’ve found of God is small, if our faith is small, then God seems far away.
It's been said that the longest journey is the distance from head to heart. Actually I think this is wron…