I first met Julia in a bar in New York. We chatted over cocktails but it wasn’t till she came for tea at mine when she was back in London that I got a sense of how special this lady is. Julia is luminous. She is a truly unique and brave woman and I can only sit here in amazement as she carves out this unique path – dedicating her life to sharing presence with others. Watching her path has been inspiring and although I miss her as she travels so much, I do look at the way she has thrown herself so fully into this way of life and it makes me look more at where I am hesitant in my own life. She nudges me to be more courageous with the stand I am prepared to take for what is important to me.
So without further ado, I am very grateful that Julia agreed to be our second guest blogger, #throwingthenetopen on the Why, What & How of their practice and I hope you enjoy…
On another note, Merry Christmas Eve x
Since I can remember, I’ve understood certain things about God and heaven. But my journey with God began for real five years ago when, inspired by Laura’s passion for meditation, I did a Vipassana retreat in Sri Lanka. There, God opened my eyes to His love and to the power of forgiveness – and before long I found myself (somewhat cross-culturally) doing a Christian Alpha Course in a church back in the UK, where I got acquainted with Jesus as my best friend and with the great and glorious Holy Spirit. Discovering spiritual community led me out of my old career path in the corporate/ academic world into working with the homeless, theatre directing, acting, personal tutoring – as I pursued emotional healing and a deeper understanding of relationship. Gradually, the aspect of the Trinity which seemed most distant to me – the heart of the Father, of that universal Creator-King who happens to be my own adoring Daddy – has started to become an encompassing reality in my life.
Several years and many adventures later, I am currently writing a book on transformational Christian community, or ‘Kingdom Family’, based on my recent travels in Africa and Asia. This coming January, I am moving to Sierra Leone to put everything I’ve learned in these past years about Presence-based living into practice and to build missional community with a bunch of visionary, servant-hearted pioneers.
Why do you have a practice?
God is much nearer to us than we often dream or imagine. A playful analogy: place a hand next to one of your cheeks for a moment, with palm facing inwards and almost touching your face. Feel the warmth, the slight tingle of its hovering proximity. Now take your hand away and turn your head in the direction where the hand was. Stepping into His Presence and entering into the extra-dimensional realm of His kingdom can be as easy as this turn of the head.
I practice the art of abiding in God’s Presence because when I am in my most present and conscious state – in those times when I feel most free from external pressures, past memories and future expectations – I discover that intimacy with Him is all I crave. If God is a tree of life, I want to be a branch on that tree. If God is a life-giving river, I want to swim in deeper. If God is a loving father, I simply want to curl at His feet, call Him ‘Daddy’ and hear Him whisper His secrets. Since God is Spirit, I want the inhale and exhale of my breath to resonate with His frequencies, as naturally as the two syllables of one of His most ancient names – Yah Weh, which means the “I am.”
What is your practice?
My practice is cultivating God’s indwelling presence, learning to flow in His anointing. Presence and anointing are one. ‘Shekina’, which literally means ‘dwelling place’, is an ancient Hebrew word that came to denote the glory of God’s indwelling presence. The Hebrews of Old Testament times entered into custom-built tabernacles to experience His tangible presence – to dance, sing and shout praises in the shekina glory of God. Christians began to practice the art of becoming living tabernacles, operating continuously through Presence/ divine anointing. For me, being a Christian consists, in essence, in walking as Jesus – the ‘christos’ or ‘anointed one’ – walked with the Father. He allowed the anointing of Holy Spirit to teach Him how to behave and only did what He saw His Father doing. Rather than copying His actions, I practice living as He lived: out of a place of intimacy and connexion, in the experiential knowledge that I am a daughter of God.
How do you practice?
For me, it boils down to practicing relationship. Finding out what He loves, what is close to His heart, what He wants me to do or pray at a particular time. Discovering how He made me, learning how to just be with Him and to love others out of the overflow of His love for me. This happens through conversation, and through simply feeling his heartbeat in a thousand different ways. There is no expertise involved, only sensitivity and a deepening capacity for trust. My tangible experience of God and of the spiritual realm tracks the empirical realities of quantum physics, or at least the little I know of them. Yet even if I were to become an expert in this area, it would always come back to a person to person encounter. Quantum physics and the myriad stories told by artists echo and confirm what my heart already knows. The eyes of my heart see how He moves. When I am in step with Him, I feel His anointing. If there are walls in my heart that have been caused by fear, betrayal and distrust, I experience painful loss of connexion. When walls appear or surface, I rely on dialogue and confession to restore intimacy. It can be tempting at times to take the easier route of protecting myself through self-imposed rules or even a set of personal disciplines that harden my persona and legitimise self-sufficiency. However, allowing myself to be seen and submitting to the process of change are choices that always deepen the covenantal bond of love and trust.
When & where do you practice?
I love the words of Brother Lawrence, a 17th century Carmelite mystic who served his community for thirty years as a cook and cobbler: “The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were upon my knees before the Blessed Sacrament”. I’m learning to practice hosting His Presence wherever I go and in every instant. I have to say though, I generally find it easier to hear His voice clearly while I am swimming in the sparkling waves of the ocean at sunset than when I am in a busy kitchen! My daily times in ‘the secret place’ with Him, and those unexpected moments when He calls me away as if on a private date, are precious because they allow me to cultivate the responsiveness and maturity required to interact with Him in more chaotic environments. And I love celebrating the markers in the year that are like important anniversaries for Him such as feast days in the Hebrew calendar, and times like Christmas – when the wonder of ‘God with us’, of Him choosing to make himself as helplessly vulnerable to our needs and desires as a newborn baby – is revealed and magnified.
For more details of the community Julia is a part of, click here.
Before you go, both of us would love to hear about your journey in the comments below – what is your practice? Why do you do it? You never know, you may just inspire another…