Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

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Pooh Bears and Lilies

I've been missing from this blog for some time now. I have not forgotten about it or lost interest in it, I think I have simply entered a period of listening rather than speaking in terms of spiritual, philosophical and ethical matters. This is also reflected in my presence at Quaker meeting as I've found myself not giving ministry, finding fulfilment in hearing the words of others and attending to things such as making the tea & coffee afterwards.

I have also reached a point in my working life where I am due to leave my position and move to another, one that I feel may prove very different and, I foresee, has the potential to eventually take me down a new path with regards to my work with young people - and people in general. As such I have a very strong sense of 'winding down' and have recently spent time, quite casually, putting together some short advice articles on my experiences to date (here and here) - they do feel very much like memoirs.

Last week a Friend who I haven't heard ministry from before stood to read the following from Advice and Queries:

"Every stage of our lives offers fresh opportunities. Responding to divine guidance, try to discern the right time to undertake or relinquish responsibilities without undue pride or guilt. Attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness."

She then went on to speak how she has never felt comfortable leading a march, or even participating on one, but rather has felt her calling to be the one who quietly and gently provides food for the marchers. (There is perhaps a lesson in this also for our politicians as we consider how to support Syria - that our contribution should be humanitarian not political.)

This chimed very much in sync with my recent reading of The Tao of Pooh, an entertaining as well as enriching book, which looks at different approaches to life through the eyes of Taoism and the Winnie the Pooh characters. It seems an odd premise for a book but somehow works.

"While Eeyore frets ... 
...and Piglet hesitates 
...and Rabbit calculates 
... and Owl pontificates 
    ...Pooh just is."

The author Benjamin Hoff talks through the basic outlook of Taoism whilst making observations of Western cultures and habits. I found myself laughing aloud at certain points whilst at the same time feeling critiqued.

It's tuned me very much into the fact I have spent the past few years in a kind of turbo mode of seeking, striving, planning, building - doing, doing and more doing. It has been a time of tremendous growth but perhaps now has come a point where I spend more time simply breathing and appreciating.

This is not as easy as it sounds, for in not-doing there is a well-exercised nervous twitch to try get us going again - borne out of guilt and fear. I spoke to a colleague recently about another colleague (his partner) who left our place of work within the past year for a less pressured role, "How is she getting on now? You did say she was struggling when I last asked..." He replied with, "Well, in the first six months she basically struggled with the spare time on her hands. I likened it to an addict in cold turkey and then recovery and we kind of approached it in that way..." 

He then went on to relay a story about a plumber who built up a multi-million pound business in London and then deliberately stopped despite the encouragement from others to expand further, noting that for all the more riches that more frenetic work could bring - and we can define those riches in various ways - his next goal was certainly not to become 'the richest plumber in the graveyard.'

To tie all this back into Christian thinking, we see these themes in 1 Corinthians 12 with Paul's advice on different kinds of ministry - and that those who may appear weakest, perhaps we could also say most inactive, are often providing something of great value. We also see this in Jesus's advice to consider the birds of the skies and the lilies of the field.

There is something to be gained, and given to those around you, from practicing this kind of faithful stillness - even if it is just for a little while, now and then.

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