Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I have been thinking about God. I often want to use the words "the sacred", "the sacred one" or just "presence" instead of "God". Our reading of or reaction to the word "God" is very narrow and it is used with a lot of limiting baggage. (e.g. An assumed gender) I have been reading a book entitled "The Future of God" by Samantha Trenoweth. It is a series of chapters on different peoples' experiences of "God". What would I say about my experience? I want to share one aspect of that.

I have a friend who is involved in the education field and provides professional development for teachers. In 2007 she wrote a research report and in it was the following example of something she did in her classroom.

"I have used the notion of speech as a thinking tool to good effect in my classroom, helping students to develop their inward dialogue. At the beginning of the year students are encouraged to bring a small stuffed toy to school which lives in their desks. I have my own on my desk. This is my thinking buddy. I model thinking out loud to my thinking buddy, asking it questions about the next step in the task or in my learning. I model my thinking buddy talking back to me. The students spend a week or so using their thinking buddy in the same way out loud, encouraging them to ask themselves a question, therefore thinking things through fully, before they approach the teacher or a partner for help. The next step in this process is to turn the dialogue inwards. The students still look at their thinking buddy to ask the question, however now it is in their heads. The last part of the process is to put the thinking buddy inside the desk or take it home and have the student imagine their thinking buddy and carry out the internal dialogue."
(An 2007 Efellow report by Jane Nicholls. Jane's blog site http://www.ictucan.blogspot.com/ )

I experience God as my internal "Ultimate Thinking Buddy". This is not to say that he is just in my head, but to say and celebrate that he is there. The apostle Paul quoting Greek poets said, "In him we live and move and have our being."

I recall a TV documentary about a race across the Australian Outback by two endurance athletes and an older Aborigine man. The athletes had modern technology, the older man "listened to the Spirits of the land" and did exceedingly well. John Seed, a proponent of "Deep Ecology" lies on the floor of the forest and asks questions of "nature", and senses guidance. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had a "guide" who put her in touch with God's ways and directions. Another tribe of people have a "Grandfather Spirit" who is present where there is honesty and disappears amidst lies. All these are experiences of the sacred, the God in whom we live and move and have our being. This is often how I experience God.

Yesterday I had to facilitate a tough meeting in a secular setting. I sat there focused on the people, their pain, seeking to love them and guide them through. I found myself spouting wisdom, insights and questions that totally surprised me! That is often how I experience "God", uncanny assistance in the midst of a loving helping encounter. In spite of a very tiring difficult situation I felt fully alive, as if something bigger than myself was working through me in this situation. I recall conducting a wedding at the brewery. I was there in front of people wondering what I was doing trying to conduct a religious ceremony in a brewery, amongst this bunch of people. I mysteriously sensed the "presence" alongside, reminding me that "he" was there and something good and deep was happening. Another time I was sitting on a box in a flat, drinking awful coffee, breathing secondhand tobacco smoke talking to three alcoholics and wondering "why me?" Again "the presence" emerged saying "because I am here". Thoughts emerge, answers float to the surface, urges to do something, like do a post on the blog, are all nudges from this sacred "presence". Some may be sceptical. Some may say its the collective unconscious or some other explanation. All I know is that when I am open to love there seems to emerge a sacred presence who guides, prompts, encourages and nudges. "God" is not watching "from a distance", but very much a part of me. I am reminded that in John's account Jesus promised a "helper to lead us to truth". In John again he says that when we obey (love) "the Father and I will come to you." I think John was giving testimony to these very real experiences of "company" on life's journey. "God" I experience as a "Thinking Buddy" in the journey of life. I have another friend, Jeff May, who had a poster above the door of his flat as you left. It read, "May the peace of God disturb you!" .... I am pleased to be disturbed again and again by my "thinking buddy", God.

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