Daily Verse – Struggle.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

Ephesians 6:12 NIVUK

In this verse the Apostle Paul is teaching, and reminding, believers that our world and lives are more complicated than we think.

Before becoming believers we were purely physical beings and existed in a world of physical situations and challenges.

Now, as believers, we have had the spiritual connection, which Adam and Eve originally possessed, put back into place through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

This spiritual ‘refit’ brings us to a new life but a life which also has it’s own unique set of circumstances.

When I read through this verse this morning I got stuck on the ‘struggle’.

The Greek word used is palé and occurs only in this verse in the whole of the New Testament.

Translated mostly as ‘struggle’ it derives from the word ‘pallo’ which means wrestling or to wrestle.

Often our struggles are very much like a wrestling match. We are in the grip of an issue or problem and we are trying to pull away or overpower the ‘thing’.

I am reminded again of the story of Jacob wrestling the Angel of the Lord, mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Verse.

Jacob saw and understood our lives/world is much more complicated than we often care to consider.

We can struggle creatively as well.

Creativity is a mental and physical experience.

Even creatives who are not believers will refer to their practice as often being a spiritual process.

Recognising and making connection with the spiritual can still mean we struggle or wrestle – with doubts, with processes, with realising that physical form of the mental idea.

If we wrestle like Jacob we will become stronger in our spiritual lives and creative practices.

Daily Verse – Walking with the Wise.

Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Proverbs 13:20 NIVUK

In this recent technological era we can gain unparralleled access to the very best people in our field of interest.

Most of them even do Masterclasses to teach you everything they have learnt on their journey.

We are often told in the marketing blurb ‘they have made the mistakes so now you don’t need to’.

According to Proverbs, however, this will not make us wise.

We are instructed to walk with the wise – hō·w·lêḵ – to go along with, keep pace with, to be conversant with.

Rabbi’s like Jesus did not just ‘teach’ in the synagogues, as we might here a preacher in a pulpit, but every footstep, every conversation, every gesture, even the way he ate his meals, would be observed by his disciples and imitated.

A teacher’s wisdom was the sum of every part of them, physical, spiritual, and thought.

Literally, walking in the footsteps of those wiser than ourselves in our field of interest, creativity, spiritually, or our work, will help us to become yeḥ·kām – to be wise in word, action, or thoughts. This word only occurs three times in the Old Testament, with all of them occuring in Proverbs.

I am not suggesting that we ignore every bit of wisdom which isn’t given to us in person – as much as I might like it, I cannot take a walk with Claude Monet if I want to paint ponds – but we should perhaps make more of an effort to form relationships/friendships – mentors – where we can experience their gifts in proximity.

Find a mentor/teacher and howlek them!

Daily Verse – Matthew 7:24

Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. Matthew 7:24 NIV

There are two principle teachings of Jesus about ‘hearing’ his/the word – the sower and the seed and this contrast between two builders.

Everyone who hears – the Greek akouei which occurs in this single instance in Matthew’s Gospel – is to give an audience to, or make a point of listening to. It also relates to understanding and being reported.

Jesus taught throughout his ministry that his words and actions were not just to be treated as an academic teaching but to be acted upon. All throughout his ministy the parallels are drawn between the words of the religious leaders and the actions of Jesus and his disciples.

Here, again, the distinction is clear.

Those ‘who do’ – put them into practicepoiei meaning to make or do – are like a builder who build his house on the rock.

It is hard not to think here of Peter – Petros – and the word used here is the femine form – as the rock upon which the church would be built.

Jesus must be emphasising further the ‘action’ he expects from us all but also the disciple’s example of someone who didn’t always get it right, as we may not do.

Hearing Jesus’ words requires us to take action and in doing so we are on a sure foundation despite the storms of life which are inevitable.

Daily Verse – Revelations 7:9

You Version

The Book of Revelation is a rich source of information and complicated.

In today’s verse I am just concentrating on a few words.

A multitude out of every nation and tribe and peoples and tongues.

Ochlos – a crowd, a multitude, like the people surrounding Jesus as he entered towns and villages.

Ethnos – out of every nation, but usually used to denote non-Jewish people. These people at the Holy City are not the people of Israel but the people of the gentile nations. Foreigners, brought to God through their faith in Jesus Christ.

This point is further emphasised with the words, tribe, people, and tongue.

There are so many things which differentiate us. So many ways of looking at others as different.

Different and differences can be good and part of God’s diverse world.

But there is one thing which can easily unite us – faith in Christ.

Until then we should help point the way and look for as many ways as we can to stand together as nations, and not stand apart.

Art, music, writing, dance, and other creative endeavours can all help build communication and message, until we all stand together.

Daily Verse – 1 Peter 3:15

https://www.instagram.com/p/CNUkBuwrD4P/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

The word which jumps out in this verse, when you read the Greek Interlinear version, is that ‘answer’ is written as ‘defence’.

We are to always be ready to give a defence of the hope we have in Christ.

The word for ‘defence’ in Greek is apologian and only occurs in the New Testament 3 times: 2 Corinthians 7:11, Philippians 1:16, and here in 1 Peter 3:15.

According to Strong’s definition, the word means to give an answer for oneself, to be a clearing of self, or a defense.

The religious hierarchy was very anti the 1st Century Church – remember its actions had led to the leader of The Way – Jesus – being crucified. Saul of Tarsus had led the Judaic witch-hunt of the post-Resurrection followers.

As the Word of God spread out into the Gentile communities there were many other debates and challenges to this new faith. The Book of Acts provides sufficient examples of Paul having to defend his faith.

We are still being challenged to ‘defend’ our faith.

Sometimes this is in the face of violence and persecution, but for most of us it is in the form of the unbelief of those around us and a society which is increasingly humanistic in tone.

Peter challenges us to have our ‘defence’ for our faith in the hope of Christ.

What is your apologian?

What is it in your life, day in and day out, which convinces you to be a follower of The Way of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Art for the Day.

#Good Friday

https://www.instagram.com/p/CNHyWdTLgQY/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

This is from my Instagram account.

I’ve always loved art and always bemoaned ‘I can’t draw’.

This self-fufilling prophecy has worked for all of the years following a drawing I did of a Police motorcycle in Primary School, aged about seven!

During this latest lockdown I determined to ‘give’ art a go again and worked on my iPad.

I have loved every minute of it.

Not everything has been great but I am really loving the peace of creating the art, no matter what the outcome is.

I Hope you like it.

The Way After – Day #8

Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Puente La Reina to Estella – 21.8km.

A steady walk along dirt roads in an undulating landscape.

That’s how we expect life to be.

There will be some more difficult uphill walking and some summits to look out from.

There will be some easier down hill walking and some hollows where it is difficult to see ahead.

Part of making any journey easier is having the right tools.

When Sando and I used to go winter mountaineering in the Cairngorms, we took some extra tools – ice axe and crampons.

It is difficult to describe walking up a the steep side of a mountain in snow with just crampons and your ice axe for extra purchase. Ropes are not always needed.

When there isn’t any snow, the same route is difficult even with ropes.

Along the way you meet people with more tools than you.

And you may have different tools to them.

Sando had the tools of being relaxed. Able to immediately see any difficult situation in a humorous way. He broke the ice of tension easily

Like peregrinos on the Way, you may walk with some people for a short time or most of the route. You may just rest and share food or water, or wine! You may chat about the small things of life or the large questions which come to us all eventually.

Sando never asked why him in anything. 

We never questioned why he developed a brain tumour. 

It was there and he had a life to be lived.

He hoped to see certain milestones with his family.

Perhaps there was a little more impatience for some of these milestones to come more quickly than otherwise might have been the case.

The destination for this day’s journey is Estella.

Development of this town began in the 11th Century after a shooting star led people to a cave where they discovered a statue of the Virgin Mary. The town quickly grew as did its reputation, soon being known to travellers as ‘Estella la Bella’, Estella the beautiful.

Look out for what is beautiful around you.

The Way After – Day #7

Pamplona to Puente la Reina – 23.8km.

A steady route up to and down from Alto de Perdon, at 790m. 

In medieval times there was both a Basilica with a pilgrim hospice and a hermitage there. Today there are forty windmills along the skyline generating electricity.

There is also a metal sculpture of peregrinos on their ‘way’. This was erected by the energy company who put up the windmills.

The inscription for the installation translates as ‘where the way of the wind meets the way of the stars’.

A common adage urges us to reach for the stars. Reaching for, isn’t grasping however.

Wind is often a symbol of change or positivity – the winds of change, a chill wind blowing, or a fair wind, a warming wind.

The Greek words for the Spirit of God are ‘pneuma hagion’ and ‘pneuma’ can also be translated as breath or even wind.

In Camino lore, Santiago’s – St. John – bones were discovered after shepherds saw stars fall into a field.

This image of the wind meeting the stars is to me a ‘thin’ place. A place where the boundary between the spiritual and the temporal are so close they practically touch.

The Romantic poets of the 18th/19th centuries believed that when they walked out into nature they were drawing closer to their imagination and creativity, because they were close to their Creator.

There are periods of life where we draw closer to God.

Perhaps it is better put that we are more acutely aware of how close God is to us during these periods of time.

Many of mine and Sando’s exploits were outside – closer to nature – for me closer to my God.

Looking back it is easier to see where the wind met the stars.

We walked. We trekked. Through mud. On firm ground. Through rain. In sunshine.

We appreciated the opportunities we had and they were a frequent source of remembrances and tall stories.

One of the last ‘events’ we marked was travelling out to a particular cafe which we always frequented in October, as part of a wider group trek.

Due to the virus the trek didn’t happen but we gained a small window with which to strike out for the cafe part.

It was just the two of us. His health wasn’t great. We still treated it like old times. 

Sando cried – but I’m sure that had more to do with the fact that they had sold out of his favourite steak pie!

The Way After – Day #6

Today’s route is from Zubiri to Pamplona. A distance of 21.1km.

Famous for the Festival of San Firmin and the ‘running of the bulls’, the city is the largest place and population along the Camino route.

San Fermin, or Saint Fermin, is one of the two Patron Saints of  Pamplona – the other being San Francis Xavier – who died in 303AD. One legend has it that his death was due to being dragged along the street by a bull, but this was unlikely to have been in the city itself.

Just before entering Pamplona is a village called Villava. 

This was the birthplace of five-times Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain.

He was a huge cycling hero of mine, along with Laurent Fignon and Gianni Bugno.

During or after his initial treatment – I can’t remember which – Sando got bitten by the ‘Brompton Bicycle’ bug. I couldn’t work out if he was more taken by the idea of the bike folding up or that there was a bag to put it in?

He had a number of forays out upon the roads once he had purchased one, but his pinnacle was taking part in a Brompton race in London.

It may not have been running with the bulls in Pamplona, but it was certainly more technical than motor racing with a Le Mans-style start, which in this case was unfolding your bike before setting off on the route.

He may not have won, but neither did the ‘bulls’ catch up with him.

He had made it past that first Christmas – which had been given to him as an event which he was unlikely to celebrate – and he fully intended to stay ahead of any further medical predictions.

His was ‘on the Way’.

It may not have been the route he had been expecting to travel, but he did not hesitate in passing through Pamplona and continuing the journey.

The Way After – Day #5

After the shock of the first day out of St. Jean and into Navarre, the second day’s walk is a respectable 22.3km, but mostly downwards in direction.

As with life, difficulties seems to rise steeply before you and behind one peak, another comes into view, so level or downward routes are never truly that. Hidden away on this route are a couple of steeper little summits.

In creativity these little kinds of path is often referred to as ‘the dip’.

You set yourself at your new endeavour with enthusiasm and action. The beginning is steep, but everything is focused and prepared. Initial difficulties are taken in your stride.

Then ‘things’ ease off. You start to gain success. Your efforts are paying off. So you relax a little. Ease back.

This is the dip.

Suddenly the road rises up in front of you again.

You feel less prepared. The effort to continue seems to be disproportionate compared to the start.

Some even quit.

The most common form of greeting on the Camino is ‘Buen Camino’ or good way.

In medieval times the common pilgrim, or peregrino, greeting was ‘ultreia’ – further onward – which would be answered with ‘et suseia’ – and further upwards.

This reflects the spiritual side of the peregrino’s journey – in walking further you gain higher spiritual awareness and reward – but it is also a life lesson – keep moving forward and you will experience and gain more.

After the dip there is the rise, but the rise doesn’t have to be an obstacle but a pinnacle of achievement.

Sando’s initial diagnosis was definitely the route out of St. Jean. We met that with joie de vivre, energy for the path ahead, and a healthy amount of fun at his expense. We did tell him that he wouldn’t be treated any differently, which he appreciated and needed.

Sore feet, aching backs and shoulders, with a sense of foreboding at those little peaks along the next part of the route, certainly kicked in as his treatment was begun.

The radiation therapy and the drugs clearly did have an impact, but Sando’s common response to our greeting of ‘how are you doing?’ Was ‘I feel fine.’

This led us to the theory that there was another ‘Sando’ out there who was continually going back to his doctor and complaining of really not being well, in a case of swapped test results for the two of them.

Sando certainly tried hard to convince the nurses that he really did feel ‘fine’ every time they came towards him with needles for blood, or drugs to fill him up.

Just 3.2km into the route for the day is the town of Burgete. Here the writer Ernest Hemingway wrote his novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’ in just eight weeks in 1926. In a note to his editor he wrote that the book was less about the ‘Lost Generation’ as Getrude Stein had referred to those lost or scarred by the Great War, but more about ‘the earth that abideth’ which is referenced as an epigraph.

Visit any church or cathedral and you easily gain a sense of those people whose footsteps yours join with, and many who have walked the Way of St. James make this comment also.

Sando felt this was true in his own pathway. He was one of many who had brain tumours and he was acutely aware that many others would follow.

The majority of people who have brain tumours are children.

I am sure we mentioned that quite a bit also.

Sando would have agreed with Hemingway (referring to his characters) that – he – they were ‘battered but not lost’.