Heart to heart

Knowing with your heart

If we can’t imagine our own deepest desires, then we can’t understand Jesus’s desire for us. Perhaps we know that God wanted to create us and save us, but unless we experience our own desires, we can’t feel the intensity of the desire of the God-man Jesus for us. St Augustine said that “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”

The spiritual classic the Imitation of Christ says, “His glory and beauty are within you, and he delights in dwelling there. The Lord frequently visits the heart of man. There he shares with man pleasant conversations; welcome consolations, abundant peace and a wonderful intimacy.” We can only know this with our heart.

What does it mean to know with one’s heart? We are so used to knowing with our mind that we have to pause and remember experiences of knowing with our heart.

I can remember an intense experience of the heart. I had taken my wife and daughter to Paris and we arrived very early in the morning. We walked down to the Place de la Concorde and I happened to look at my daughter’s face (she was 20 and this was her first time in Paris). She had a radiant smile of wonder on her face as she looked around. My heart swelled in me and practically burst with happiness. That is what I mean by knowing with the heart.

I encourage you to remember experiences in your own life where your heart was filled with happiness and joy. That will give you some faint idea of how Jesus’s heart is filled with you.


Higher and deeper

The key question in the 21st century

In the 20th Century the human race ascended and descended higher and deeper than ever before. We discovered the origins of the cosmos at the quantum level and our own origins in the evolution of DNA– and we went to the Moon and killed more humans in wars than ever before. To me this raises the question, why do we not explore our own depths as far as we can reach in our knowledge and imagination, to understand who we are and why we do these things?

I think it has to do with our mindset.

Many thousands of years ago, human self-consciousness arose in the course of evolution — and we began to ask questions about our origins and future. We invented writing and libraries to capture and store our answers to such questions. Gradually we developed philosophy, science, art and religion. The scope of human knowledge and understanding grew to the point that, in the early 21st century, no one person can hope to understand everything. It seems that most people now simply live in the present and don’t reflect on the heights and depths. A very common mindset seems to be “I can’t understand everything so I may as well live as best I can in my local situation. At least I can get my head around that.” That mindset is closed to the heights and depths and, in  a profound way, impoverished.

Why is it important to change this mindset to one which values exploring and reflecting on the deepest questions about the heights and depths?

I can give my answer but it’s much more important for you to think about your own situation and attitude towards the heights and depths. I attempted to answer that question in my latest book Once I Was Lost. You can read a summary at my Amazon site: Click here.

We and they

Love and compassion

I have a friend, a lovely woman who is a self-proclaimed atheist. She is caring, gentle and compassionate. Yet she and I see and experience the world in very different ways. I live in the continual presence of God, who works in my life and is shaping me into what I am (but not yet fully) — a son of God. My friend lives in a human-centric world where everything is determined by how men and women act and treat each other. In her world, you become a better person by striving to improve yourself. She makes a genuine effort to be the best person she can be.

The temptation is to think in “we” versus “they” terms about such people. This doesn’t make sense to me.

What does Easter mean?

If one thing is clear in the Bible, it’s that Christ the God-man died and rose again for all people. As the saying goes, “God didn’t make any second class people.” Every human being is lovingly created by God. So the first point is God loves my friend as much as me, regardless of her beliefs.

Secondly, Jesus went to great pains to associate with the non-religious people of his day: non-Jews, flagrant sinners, everyone. He did this so that all his brothers and sisters who followed him would see absolutely clearly that there is no “we” versus “they” in God’s kingdom. In fact he strongly criticised the strongly exclusive religious people of his day who held such a we/they view.

Lastly, like the two men walking on the road to Emmaus, many of us “religious” people haven’t yet met Jesus. We keep walking, putting one foot in front of the other, hoping to see him. Our faith tells us Jesus is risen! Jesus is Lord! But he remains largely hidden from us. Are we so very different from people like my friend who haven’t seen God ? (especially in religious people and their churches?)

Easter is the time when our joy in knowing the meaning of the profound truths of the Cross and the empty tomb should lead us to embrace all the people walking along with us. To see that every human being is doing the best they can right now,  hoping (perhaps very incoherently) to encounter the living God. Our joy is what marks us as Easter people. One of my greatest joys is my confidence that Jesus is walking along side of people like my friend, even if she can’t yet recognise him.



Christians and Muslims

A compassionate perspective

I took a taxi to a doctor’s appointment in Double Bay a few years ago. As so often happens in Sydney, the driver had an accent and I asked him where he originally came from. “Yemen, twenty years ago.” We chatted about how great Australia is then I asked him if I could ask him a serious question. “Yes, of course.” I asked him if he experienced prejudice against Muslims here in Sydney. “Sometimes but those people don’t know what they are doing.” He had a forgiving attitude towards people who didn’t wish him well. I told him I was a Christian and that we both worshipped the same God, meaning God the Father. He agreed. When we reached the destination, I tried to tip him and he refused. Pointing at his heart, he said our conversation had been enough gift.

The same God?

Perhaps it shocks you when I say the Muslims and Christians (and Jews for that matter) all worship the same God. Actually I’m just following Jesus’ example when he said to the Samaritan woman at the well, “Woman believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain or in Jerusalem.” [John 4:21] We Christians believe in the Trinity and that Jesus and the Holy Spirit and God the Father are one God, and three persons. Jesus / God is including the Samaritan woman (someone outside the boundaries of orthodox religion, Judiasm in this case) in the act of genuine worship. It seems clear to me therefore that Muslims who worship One God are included in Jesus’ prophecy.

Why do we Christians find this so hard to accept? There is a long history of enmity among the three religions who worship the One God. (Just as there is a long history of enmity among the different branches of the Christian religion.)   The Muslims call Christians ‘infidels’ and Christian think of Muslims as people who don’t acknowledge the truth about Jesus. Yet the taxi driver and I both readily admitted we worship the same God. Are we woolly-headed or naive? Is it my duty to convert him so he believes in Jesus? Many Christians say “Absolutely! Otherwise he won’t get to heaven” and base this on biblical verses such as “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” [1 John 5:12]

The man from Yemen and salvation

As a very simple definition, being saved is being found worthy to live with God forever in heaven. God alone decides who will be saved, balancing his justice and mercy. God will decide whether the man from Yemen is saved. To say that God cannot save the man from Yemen is to deny God’s infinite love and power. The church nurtures and sustains the faith of Christians and is our mother and our teacher, for which we must be forever grateful. The Catholic Catechism puts it this way: “We believe the church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the church as if she were the author of our salvation.” [Catechism, Article 169] So salvation is a mystery lost in the depths of God and not some automatic entitlement of Christians, who must strive to be saved even though they are members of the church. If we Christians must strive to climb the mountain of God, so must every human being. Which leaves the question about the man from Yemen and salvation.

The most honest answer I can give about his salvation is I don’t know. Only God knows. But I hope the man from Yemen is being carried in God’s hands, and somehow I believe that he is. Years ago I was very worried about a man who was dying and wasn’t a practicing Christian. I was very anxious about what I must do to “save” him. I went to church and heard the story of the Roman Centurian who came to Jesus to get his help for his sick servant. When Jesus turned to go to the Centurian’s home and see the servant, the Centurian said these famous words, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only speak the word and my servant will be healed.” Jesus was amazed and said, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith. Many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. . .” [Matthew 8:5-13] After hearing this, I suddenly heard very clearly, “Don’t worry, I have this man in my hands” and was very peaceful after that.

I think that my experience says that if we are meant to be involved in someone else’s salvation, God will let us know and also tell us what we must do. If we feel urgency to save people, we must pray so that we can distinguish our own ideas about what obligations we have as a Christian from what God’s is calling us to do in his plan of salvation. As I talked with the man from Yemen, I felt his faith and peacefulness as a servant of God the Father. Must the man from Yemen be baptized to be saved? The Catholic Catechism puts it this way: “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.” [Catechism, Article 1257] In other words, if God called me to bring the man from Yemen to the Christian faith, to “assure his entry into eternal beatitude” [Catechism 1259] I must cooperate with God’s grace to do that. But he is in God’s hands and God can find his own ways to bring him home. I assume for many Muslims and Jews (and other good people without faith in the one God) that is within his merciful and just plan of salvation.


Why Taste and See?

We live in a time of awesome change!

In just three generations, human understanding of ourselves and the cosmos changed tremendously. So have our notions of God, religion and spirituality. We need a  spirituality for the 21st century – a mixture of what will never change and what must change. Our purpose is to awaken what the human perspective is today about spiritual reality, and why it is important in human life. 

The three generations I refer to span the years 1880 until the present: 

My grandfather (1880 – 1970) He was born into a world that was basically unchanged for over 100 years. He was a farmer his whole life. There were only trains and horses, although he had a Ford after awhile. No electricity, no radios, and on his farm no indoor plumbing. He ploughed 60 acres with a team of horses until he retired as a farmer in 1960 at 80 years old. When he was in his 80s he flew to Washington DC to visit my family, and the year before he died, man walked on the moon. He practiced the Methodist religion his entire life and probably never heard the word “spirituality.” 

My father  (1908 -1989) He was born on the farm but left home in 1926 to work then go to university. He experienced flight, telephones, electricity, radio (after he left home), two world wars (he served as an army officer in the second one), women’s equality and civil rights (he worked as an investigator of hospital civil rights violations for the federal government). He didn’t practice any religion and also probably didn’t know anything about spirituality. 

Me (1937 – present) I was born in a urban environment and have lived in cities my entire life. During my lifetime, I saw the rise of global computing and communications, rapid travel and multi national business, all of which is now called globalisation. The population of the world has more than tripled during my lifetime. The ‘have nots’ have begun to demand justice from the ‘haves.’ I worked at NASA for six years and was on the project that took the first images of the entire earth from 40,000 km away. The knowledge of the immense age and size of the cosmos, and the fundamental structure of quantum matter/energy/gravity became commonly known. What human consciousness is, how everything is evolving, and the design of DNA began to be understood by some people. The emphasis on religion declined in western nations, and some notions of spirituality began to take shape in some people. 

The vast majority of people today have a 19th century understanding of God and religion, and little or no understanding of spirituality and the reality of the presence of God. This is probably not their fault. Religious knowledge and education could not keep up with the pace of change in human knowledge. In fact, until very recently most religions saw science as the enemy of religion. 

It is important to understand that there are three fundamental ways for humans to understand reality . . .all of which can begin to understand God. The way of science can understand what can be measured in reality, whose theories can be shared and proven. The way of art can sense and describe deeper aspects of reality, and communicate these intuitions in sounds, images or words. The way of spirituality can also reveal deeper aspects of reality beyond art, and lead individuals to a sense of God’s presence. (Only revelation can attach meaning and truth to spirituality.) 

We  hope in the Taste and See website to expose you to all three ways of knowing reality, and point towards ways to integrate this knowledge with the Christian religion.


Cosmic Story

An astounding perspective

In the last 100 years we have learned how immense the cosmos is. We can now see into the distant past back to the beginning of time and space — 14 Billion years ago. The earth itself is only 4 Billion years old, and human beings have only walked the earth for about 150,000 years. But what of the spiritual beginning, the spiritual “big bang”?

Complex human ideas about the spiritual dimension began to take shape in an era called The Axial Age (800BC through 300BC). There was a worldwide awakening of spiritual interest, with figures such as Confucius, The Buddha, Zoroaster, Plato and others exploring the spiritual dimension. In the 1000 years after that Jesus and Mohammed also focussed on the spiritual dimension.

Christians believe that Jesus not only thought and taught about the spiritual dimension. He was God, and created all dimensions including the cosmos and heaven. His followers listened to him and created a story of reality as emerging from and returning to God.

Today, with our scientific knowledge of the immensity of the cosmos, some Christian thinkers have begun to tell the story of creation and the purpose of the cosmos in a new way, combining science and the truths in the Bible into an astounding perspective of what God is up to.