Monday, 19 December 2011

The Ache of Loneliness Continued: Grief & Suffering

The Ache of Loneliness Continued: Grief & Suffering

No person on this earth is immune from suffering and grief, it is part of human life as is joy and love and of course mystery and wonder. Everyone has experienced the loss of someone they have loved with all their heart. If we have not, then we have never truly loved; if we have never truly loved, then we have never fully lived. This sounds like the worst kind of suffering of them all.

While life may well be simple it is not always easy. M Scott Peck began his seminal book “The Road Less Travelled” with these words: “Life is difficult."

"This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

Life is awry, there is pain and suffering in life and no matter how hard we try this cannot be avoided. Modern day attitudes to grief and death highlight this growing immaturity. We live in a death denying culture that so often wants to rush people through grief and sorrow to some imagined place at the other side of the rainbow, where there is no pain. Oz does not exist! Sorrow and suffering are conditions that we must acknowledge and accept. They cannot be simply let go of and thrown in the bin of life. Not only can they not be thrown away it would wrong to do so and disrespectful to those we have lost and claimed to have loved. Where is the love in this?

In trying to flee our suffering we actually intensify the pain. Herman Hesse saw the truth in this when he said:

“Love your suffering. Do not resist it; do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.”

It is this aversion that causes the suffering within the suffering. It is this that causes much of what so many people describe as the loneliness of modern life. In trying to suppress our pain all we succeed in doing is cut ourselves off from the joy of life. While life may well be difficult and does involve grief and suffering, it does not have to involve “the suffering within the suffering”. Life itself is not suffering. We need not be identified by our suffering.

Eckhart Tolle suggest that we create needless suffering when we blame others for all our personal pain. He claims that the habit of blaming and cultivating outrage, anger, resentment and other negative emotions, what he names as our “pathological ego”, is what blocks us from knowing the truth about ourselves and the human condition.

He explains that although we do suffer, we are not our suffering, it is not our whole identity. The trouble is that we can become trapped in it and then it identifies all that we are. He calls this the “pain body”. He claims that we can step outside of it, but not by simply ignoring the pain and hoping it will just go away.

There are other forms of suffering that can never be justified. We should not simply passively accept all forms of suffering. Dorothy Soelle rightly criticised the claim that suffering is justified because it was the only way to achieve Salvation or Nirvana. As she said

“No heaven can rectify Auschwitz”.

She did not believe that suffering was ordained by God. Instead she saw God within the suffering. For her God suffered with humanity. For her salvation was achieved through experiencing God within humanities suffering, not as a result of it. She saw God as being in solidarity with the victims of oppression in human society. Therefore in her view to fully experience salvation is to work for liberation of the oppressed and to end man made suffering, not passively endure it. 

What is required is a compassionate response to suffering.

Compassion means to suffer with. We can learn to be with others in their suffering and with ourselves in our own. The opposite of compassion is apathy. To be apathetic to the suffering not only of ourselves but also that of others is the worst kind of hell any one can suffer from, it’s inhuman, it creates our loneliness and it creates our isolation.

To suffer with is to experience compassion and of course to grieve is to love.

Forrest Church claimed grief is not really about death at all but more about life and the courage to love. Grief is truly about love and therefore it is not an end point, it is not a land of sorrow and regret in which we become lost, but a bridge that leads us back to life from death. He claimed that grief is so intensely powerful that it has the capacity to lift up our lives to the most sacred of moments and remind us what really matters. That said it loses its power if the grief is suppressed or silenced or neatly packaged and sanitised. Life is not neatly packaged so why on earth should we expect grief to be?

When grief is allowed to speak its truth it does so powerfully. It is personal in its power to change individual lives and it is also universal as it will visit all who dare to love what is mortal.

 I agree with Forrest’s belief that the choice is not between love and death but between a life lived in fear of love, because of the reality of death and loss, and a life lived courageously with love despite death’s presence.

Love and grief have the power to change us forever. 

As Forrest has reminded me once again, from the grave, the purpose of life is not to avoid grief and death. Instead the “purpose of life is to live in such a way that our lives will prove worth dying for by the love that we leave behind.”

Saturday, 17 December 2011

The trees in winter

The trees in winter

I was travelling through the Derbyshire hills the other day, on my way to the Nightingale centre at Great Hucklow. I spent most of the journey simply staring out of the window and taking in the beautiful winter scene. The fields were white with snow and sheep. I also noticed the lonely winter trees, stretching out from cold pale ground.

There is something very beautiful about the trees in winter. These lifeless stick like sculptures stretching out from the ground are stripped right down to the bone. They look vulnerable and exposed, but they are not. By next spring life will have returned and I know this scene will be very different. If I travel this way then I will see the new lambs and the rolling fields, separated by dry stone walls and the trees will once again be bursting into life.

I am enjoying this winter, I have a new found sense of appreciation for it today. This is because I am able to empathise with it. I feel that I have been stripped of some unwanted and unneeded skin these last few weeks; I feel that some of those barriers that block me from life, from love, from God have been removed; I feel that I have been opened up once again. Now some may see this as making myself vulnerable, well I have no problem with that. Life is a vulnerable experience; you cannot be protected from it. Actually by trying to protect myself from life is to actually live in fear and I do not believe that this is living at all. I know that my attempts to protect myself in the past have only ever made me feel increasingly lonelier and cut off. I need to feel the cold this winter, to truly experience it. I need to feel bare and stripped at times because I know by doing so I am preparing myself for the new birth of the new year and the coming of spring; I need to prepare myself for the pink snow that I use to see falling from the cherry blossom in the courtyard at Luther King House. But first I must feel the cold and not fear it. It’s funny I don’t seem to mind the cold this winter, in fact I’m actually enjoying the fact that I can feel it. I know that I am alive and by golly do I want to be alive.

I have been talking an awful lot about the coming of light these past few weeks, this is of course in celebration and appreciation of Advent. I have also talked about darkness and the “ache of loneliness”. Well now I am beginning to question myself. Is the dark all bad? Should we fear it? I am not wholly convinced that we should, it has its place in the circle of life, just as much as the light. The winter Solstice will soon be upon us. This year it will fall on the 22nd December. This is the shortest day of the year, in terms of daylight hours of course. Every day last 24 hours, obviously. This shortest day marks the end of the descent into darkness and the beginning of the new light.

In Hinduism, which has recently celebrated its own festival of lights, the Deity most associated with darkness is Kali. On the surface she is seen as destructive, she drinks blood and wears a chain of skulls. Seen literally she would have to be viewed as monstrous and terrifying. This though is not what this icon is about, at all. There is something much deeper going on in the imagery. It is a mistake to get lost in the metaphor, this is true of all religious symbolism by the way. “Kali” in Sanskrit is the feminine word for time. In time we all die, it is a fate that cannot be avoided, no matter how clever we think we are. She is black, not because there are racial undertones here but because death is a mystery; we cannot know what will happen to us when we die. Kali represents the mystery of life and death and the continuing cyclical relationship between the two.

This is an image that seems particularly pertinent during the winter when everything has died off. The ground is hard and the trees are bare and generally speaking people’s moods seem a little lower. This though is not something that we should fear, in fact perhaps it should be celebrated. Everything that lives and grows, including we humans, needs to lie fallow for periods of time. We need this because we need to rest and regenerate. The leaves that fell from the trees in the autumn are now regenerating in the soil. By spring this will lead to new life. It is the death of these leaves that actually makes new life possible.

We need not fear the dark it is both regenerative and nurturing. Darkness symbolises the holy, just as much as the light. There can be no Easter without Good Friday. To ignore the darkness or to try and flee from is to ignore elements of the Divine revelation in life itself. There is nothing in life that is beyond the range and reach of God. These words from Psalm 139 always come to my mind when I think of darkness and light.

7 Where can I go from your spirit?
   Or where can I flee from your presence? 

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there;

   if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there. 
9 If I take the wings of the morning
   and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, 
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
   and your right hand shall hold me fast. 
11 If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me,
   and the light around me become night’, 
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
   the night is as bright as the day,
   for darkness is as light to you. 

Advent truly is the season of darkness and light. Both of these qualities offer vital religious insights and both are worthy of our reflection during this sacred season. In the symbol of Yin and Yang, we see clearly the relationship between the light and dark. Where the whiteness of Yin is most dominant we see the seeds of Yang emerging and where Yang is more dominant we see Yin emerging. You see the light and dark give way to one another, they complement each other. You cannot have one without the other. Neither is beyond the reach of the Divine either, for they are both a like to this universal love. I do not believe that God would reject anything or anyone. This is not the way of love.

This year I am learning to appreciate the cold bareness of winter. Yes I am celebrating the coming of new hope and light, but not by ignoring the dark. I need the dark, I need to be stripped bare at times, I need to lose this skin that sometimes I feel so imprisoned in. I need to let the new life within me spring into being and thus allow my soul's recycle to continue.

I now understand how important it is to really feel the cold at times.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Myth & Mystery: Glad Tidings of Reason and Fact

Myth & Mystery: Glad Tidings of Reason and Fact

From “Lifecraft” by Forrest Church from the chapter “A Mystery Story”

"Reckon the odds. That we should even exist staggers the imagination. Then take it back further, back to the ur-paramecium. All of us are connected genetically to the beginning of life and kinetically to the beginning of time. The universe was pregnant with us when it was born. I find this far more amazing and inspiring than most theological reflections. Simply being here - my having written, your reading - is a miracle. Consider my awe at the underwater world on the Great Barrier Reef, how impossible is was to be blasé in the presence of a giant clam. We should never be blasé when reflecting on the creation or our place in it. As it is written in thirtieth chapter of the book of proverbs,

Three things are too wonderful for me;
four I do not understand:
the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a woman.

Physics, anatomy, biology, and psychology can begin to decode such mysteries. Yet knowledge has its limits. Quoting an academic study, novelist Saul Bellow observed “that an average weekday New York Times contains more information than any contemporary of Shakespeare would have acquired in a lifetime.” That includes Shakespeare himself. The Times is a fine paper. I read it every day. But for all its information, it only hints, and then only occasionally, at what Shakespeare knew so very well: that the beauty of the bird, the symbol of the snake, the courage of the pilot, and the wonder of human love will always be touched by mystery."

Oh I do love Forrest Church...he speaks to my condition...

I was round at a friend’s house the other night, we were just chatting away about a few things that we as adults see as being so important. My friend has a six year old son and during our rather serious conversation his son burst in with incredible excitement. A tooth had fallen out and obviously he wanted to show it to his dad. I am told that the going rate for a tooth these days is £5 and a set of football cards. It seems that the global recession has not yet impacted on the tooth fairies. A little later he burst in again this time desperate to show something he’d received on his laptop. It was a personalised video message from Santa Claus. Santa addressed him by name and was in possession of a great many details about his life, He had pictures too. Santa discussed how my friend’s son had been behaving for the last few months. At the end of the message Santa told him to be nicer to his brother.

It was an absolute delight to hear this little boy asking when his brother would be home, as he wanted to give him a hug. It was beautifully magical just getting lost in this family's little world, if only for a short time. I had gone to the house to help someone, spiritually I suppose, I had gone to teach. That said I left feeling I was the one who had learnt a lesson and I was one who had received the greatest gift; the gift of joy and wonder; the gift of seeing life through the eyes of a child. A priceless gift if ever I have received one. We can learn so much from children.

They do indeed bring “Glad tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy”

Sophia Lyon Fah’s is so right when she says that every night a child is born is a holy night. For in every child is that wonderful gift of potential. It is important to always remember that we did absolutely nothing to deserve the gift and privilege of being born; we truly had no say in it, it is a gift freely given. What we do with the Grace that is life itself though is another matter all together. This we do have some say in, but we did absolutely nothing to deserve it.

We are now well and truly into the Christmas season. The music is being played in the coffee shops and the other shops too no doubt. I am yet to venture into the other shops and can only vouch for what is being played in Cafe Nero in Altrincham. The adverts are everywhere. The season of Christmas re-runs has already begun. As has the bah humbugging. I heard a bit of it the other morning from a friend. A friend who always makes me chuckle when I sit with him. He makes me chuckle because he reminds me of the cynical guy that I was a few years ago, I was the emperor of scepticism. This was back in the day when my brother would call me Alan Rickman. This was because I reminded him of the character he played in Galaxy Quest, I used to be a real ranter back in the day. And yes Christmas really was a humbug. The awe and wonder at the mystery of life that I had once possessed had become covered by a cloak of cynicism and bah humbug.

Advent is about preparation. Now I used to be someone who was well prepared for misery, I sought it out in actual fact. You may well say I was utterly addicted to it. I certainly worshipped it. What I am becoming increasingly aware of is that I now have to make myself equally prepared for joy. This is my focus at the moment to open myself up as much as possible to the joy that is there in life. This will not take away the pain and disappointment that is there in all our lives. That will hit me just has hard as it always has. That said it will not have the same impact as it once did, because I am also working on preparing within myself a nest, a home, for the joy that is present in life, in love, in mystery. I am learning not to dwell on my troubles, because I keep remembering the lessons that the children I have known in my life have taught me. This advent for me is about preparing for joy and magic and mystery.

A friend recently sent me this play on the Christmas carol “God rest thee merry gentlemen”, it was written by the Unitarian Universalist minister Rev Chris Raible. He is playfully mocking himself and our tradition for its idolatry of reason. Reason and fact aren’t everything. There is more to humanity, and to life itself than we are ever capable of seeing and knowing. True humility always leads to a greater openness to new and wonder filled experience.

"Glad Tidings of Reason and Fact" by Rev Chris Raible

  God rest ye, Unitarians,            
  Let nothing you dismay!             
  Remember that there is no proof     
  There was a Christmas Day            
  For Christmas really started as     
  A pagan holiday.                    

  Oh, glad tidings of reason and fact, 
  Reason and fact. 
  Glad tidings of reason and fact. 

  No wise men travelled from the East, 
  The journey's far too long. 
  There were no shepherds in the fields, 
  The time of year's all wrong; 
  We don't believe in angels; 
  That rules out the angels' song!    


  We're too sophisticated to 
  Believe in tales so old. 
  We know that human avarice means 
  Too much bought and sold; 
  We only celebrate because 
  This season is so cold. 
Now I will not argue with the factual accuracy of the words, but is this really what the Christmas story is about?  Is it really about what actually happened or didn’t happen all those years ago? Does this really bring glad tidings of anything? Does it help us to live better lives, to offer love and compassion to one another?
Advent is about preparing us for the coming of hope that can be found in a humble birth of a lowly child in a lowly stable. A child with incredible potential and yet who is rejected. Isn’t this a universal tale? Doesn’t it speak of all of us at times? There is more to the Christmas myth than the historical accuracy or inaccuracy of the Biblical accounts. In fact to get lost in detail of what did or didn’t actually happen is to miss the whole point of the story. It sounds as ludicrous as those medieval theologians who argued over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. Is that what really matters? Surely there is more to the story than reason and fact. Gosh I’m starting to sound a bit like Alan Rickman again.
Joseph Campbell taught that myths such as the nativity story are actually metaphors for human life. That they are eternal and universal tales that can teach us about our lives right here right now. He believed that by understanding these mysteries we can begin to understand who we truly are and what life is all about.
Carl Jung taught that these myths originate within our “collective unconscious”. He said that we each have a conscious level that we are aware of in our waking moments (this is what is operating now as you read this blog, or at least I hope it is, are you still awake?). Beneath this is our personal unconscious level, our closet. This is where we store memories, experiences, desires, fears, urges, compulsions etc. It is here that our personal “stuff” is stored, which from time to time we dip into. Some of this stuff is beautiful and some of it is terrifying. This is the domain of our devils and demons.
Jung described our “collective unconscious” as our “collective closet”. He uncovered common themes, symbols and motifs while working with his patients and he noticed that these same themes, symbols and motifs were also to be found in the religious stories and myths. From this he concluded that these common myths and stories are part of humanity's “common closet”. These myths are drawn from a common human well of memory and thought and that they teach us about ourselves and the mysteries of existence. The problem today is that when we hear the word myth we equate it with an untruth, a lie, instead of seeing them as revealers of deeper universal truths. As Campbell observed, to view them as lies is to actually get “stuck in the metaphor” and to fail to see the deeper universal truth that is being revealed.
Why these are imprinted into our human consciousness I cannot answer. Richard Dawkins talks of the evolution of the meme (pronounced like cream) that these ideas, tunes, catchphrases and stories are just past on down the line to help us cope with life. He sees the myths as untruths as lies, as I once did and my friend in the coffee shop still does. Today though I see more; there is something in the corner of my life that I cannot quite see and yet I can experience, so long as I don't get stuck in the metaphor.

Yes the reductionist can dissect life and understand the minutiae but by doing so they can still miss out on its beauty and true meaning. You see the truth is the more we know, the more we realise how little we can ever know and so the mystery grows. I suppose it is here where the magic is and where the God of my misunderstanding is discovered, in the unknown and unknowing. This power is both redemptive and it is divine. It brings out our heart and it brings out our soul. By opening myself up to the unknown I have discovered the hope and joy that I had once lost and I have found the peace that passeth all understanding.
So yes this advent I am preparing myself for the coming of hope, love, peace and joy. I invite you to come and join in too.

Come Christmas come...most needed of seasons.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

Do you believe in angels? Do you believe there is something good in everything you see?

Do you believe in angels? Do you believe there is something good in everything you see?

There are messengers of love and hope all around us. The real problem is that we just don't see it and just don't believe it...Do I believe in angels? I see them everywhere...Do I believe that there is something good in everything? I cannot fail to see it, If I would but open my eyes.

I love the following story is say so much about how even people of great faith can fail to see the blessings right in front of their eyes...I see angels everywhere...

A terrible storm came into a town and local officials sent out an emergency warning that the riverbanks would soon overflow and flood the nearby homes. They ordered everyone in the town to evacuate immediately.
A deeply faithful man heard the warning and decided to stay, saying to himself, “I will trust God and if I am in danger, then God will send a divine miracle to save me.”

The neighbours came by his house and said to him, “We’re leaving and there is room for you in our car, please come with us!” But the man declined. “I have faith that God will save me.”

As the man stood on his porch watching the water rise up the steps, a man in a canoe paddled by and called to him, “Hurry and come into my canoe, the waters are rising quickly!” But the man again said, “No thanks, God will save me.”

The floodwaters rose higher pouring water into his living room and the man had to retreat to the second floor. A police motorboat came by and saw him at the window. “We will come up and rescue you!” they shouted. But the man refused, waving them off saying, “Use your time to save someone else! I have faith that God will save me!”

The flood waters rose higher and higher and the man had to climb up to his rooftop.
A helicopter spotted him and dropped a rope ladder. A rescue officer came down the ladder and pleaded with the man, "Grab my hand and I will pull you up!" But the man STILL refused, folding his arms tightly to his body. “No thank you! God will save me!”
Shortly after, the house broke up and the flood waters swept the man away and he drowned.

When in Heaven, the man stood before God and asked, “I put all of my faith in You. Why didn’t You come and save me?”

And God said, “Son, I sent you a warning. I sent you a car. I sent you a canoe. I sent you a motorboat. I sent you a helicopter. What more were you looking for?”

There are angels all around us bearing gifts of love and compassion, they are truly heaven sent. The problem is we just do not see it or we cannot believe it.

Last week I attended an interfaith friendship circle at the home of Michael Jackson, no not the recently deceased prince of pop, but a local solicitor. Michael has been practising Buddhism since the early 1970’s, is married to a Jewish woman and also attends and leads a meditation class at the local Anglican Church. He is a great example of religious pluralism in action.

Michael led a conversation on Buddhism, his personal experiences with it and his understanding of the tradition. It was an enjoyable evening and we shared a lively discussion. I have been listening to a lot of different Buddhist recently and each time I seem to hear a different take on it. This happens in all walks of life and in all faith traditions I suspect, I know it is not unique to Buddhism.

During the conversation Michael talked about the Buddha finding enlightenment under the Bodhi tree and his experience of doubt and confusion as to what he ought to do about it. Michael described how a Brahmin Angel descended from the heavenly realm and spoke to the Buddha and told him that he must go and teach what he had learnt. For some reason it was this part of the discussion that made me sit up and really listen. Mohsin, a Muslim, also took particularly interest. I suspect that this is because Mohammad had experienced a similar encounter. He saw the arch angel Gabriel by the Lote – tree. I had never heard a Buddhist talk about angels before, nor have I heard a Brahmin Angel described before. The Brahmin is the Hindu word for the Divine. I was a little puzzled by all of this, it certainly got me thinking.

I have been thinking about angels ever since, both in the religious traditions and in ordinary everyday life. If angels are messengers from God, then surely we can all meet them in our everyday encounters. I have come to believe that the Divine speaks through everyday life. As one of my favourite hymns goes “God speaks to us in bird and song , in winds that move the clouds along , above the din of toil and wrong, a melody of love.” I think the problem is not so much whether angels exist or not, it’s that we are just not aware of them. We don’t see them and we don’t hear them because they are everywhere. We cannot see the wood for all of the trees.
Angels are of course central to the Christmas story. At this time of year we are surrounded by them. Just go to virtually any primary school up and down the land and you will see little boys and girls dressed as Angels, somewhere in the background. No they don’t get the central lead roles, but they are there quietly and serenely watching over the main players.

The Hebrew and Greek words for angel (malak and aggelos) simply means “messenger”. In the Christmas story it is the Arch Angel Gabriel who delivers the news that Elizabeth will give birth to John the Baptist and that Mary will soon be carrying Jesus. These are both described as miracles as Elizabeth cannot have children and Mary is a virgin. Gabriel appears again to the Shepherds and it is said during the Easter story too. Within the Judea-Christian tradition angels are seen as the deliverers of the “good news”. The Jewish scriptures are littered with individuals encountering angels. In some of these accounts it is suggested that not only are these angels delivering a message from the Divine but may well be God itself. They are sometimes referred to as “the angel of the Lord” and not just simply an angel (by the way another memeber of the Altrincham Interfaith Group is called Ann Angel and yes she is).

Angels are found in other traditions too. In Islam they are depicted as messengers of Allah. Belief in angels is one of the six articles of the Islamic faith. The Baha’i faith depicts angels as beings who have been released from the bondages of self and become endowed with the attributes of the spiritual and are therefore revealers of God’s Love and Grace. In Zoroastrianism angels are not messengers of the divine but are instead associated with different aspects of the divine creation, in this sense they are similar to the Hindu Deva’s. Zoroastrians also believe that each person has their own guardian angel.  Angels or their equivalent are found in many other traditions too, both ancient and modern.

It is untrue to see belief in angels is not some relic from the past that has been dismissed in the modern age. I have met many people who talk of their belief in angels and who claim to have encountered them in their lives. When they do talk of angels I suspect that they are not talking about some winged genderless character such as is depicted in art of even in films like “Dogma”, although I know that some are.

In 2009 a survey by the economist revealed that 55% of Americans believed in angels. The same survey revealed that only 39% believed in evolution; 36% believed in anthropogenic global warming; 34% believed in ghosts; and 34% believed in UFO’s. A similar survey in Britain revealed that 34% of the population expressed a definite belief in angels, as messengers of God. Similar results can be found in surveys conducted around the world. Many people believe in angels. some people who do believe in angels express a disbelief in God. Many of those who say that they believe go further, claiming that they have actually encountered angels in their lives.

What can be made of all of this? Well I personally have too much respect for humanity to merely dismiss these claims. I hope I never mock people for what their honest reflection on their own life experiences have taught them. Personally I am not aware of encountering angels in the way that some people describe them, either today or in ancient times. Therefore I find it difficult to believe in angels in a literal sense. That said when they are described as a presence that either watches over us or as a messenger from God, then I can say that I am constantly experiencing them. I certainly hear messages of peace and goodwill increasingly in my life, even during the hardest of times. These guardians and or messengers do not have to have wings or halos. Nor do they have to live in some celestial realm. They are here amongst us, right here right now.

I have come to know the lure of Divine love, I have experience of the Divine constantly offering itself to me and believe this is happening to all life. I believe that God or at least God’s love is constantly speaking in and through life waiting for a response. If I pay attention to what is around me, I know that I am surrounded by angels. I see them in ordinary everyday life; people carrying messages of love to one another, people who are sent to rescue one another. I have witnessed it in the world I inhabit and I see it in my daily interactions. That said I also see darkness too. I see people turning away from love and hurting one another. Maybe we do this because we cannot or will not listen to the messages of love trying to burst into our lives.

I have also heard about these angels in the conversations I have with ordinary everyday people. I am not just talking about acts of kindness here, but also moments when something has spoken to directly to people and they felt guided and led at important moments in their lives and as a result have responded appropriately. I offer a prayer of thanks for every single one of those messages of love that people have shared with me. Thank you.

I believe that there is that of God in each and every one of us, we are all made from the same stuff and we all return to it in the end. God to me speaks through life. Therefore all of life is potentially a messenger of the Divine. We just need to be open to the love within life and respond to it in order to experience and express it and pass it on to others. We certainly need it.

We encounter angels in our lives each and every day. They are here among us; they are in our homes and in our communities.

We are all sent by God. We are all God sent. We are all messengers of that Divine love.

The language of the heart is universal. It can break through any barrier. The key is to listen for it and learn to express it and to let love have its way.