Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Power of the Printed Word





I was sitting in the chair at the hairdressers the other day dozing quietly while he clipped away thoughtfully at the back of my head. Suddenly he surprised me with the question 'have you read any of the works of Thomas Merton?' Now being more used to discussing the weather with my hairdresser, or the latest football results, or the state of the fishing this season, my surprise bordered on the amazed. 'No, I haven't' I replied thruthfully 'but I am reading a book called Wounded Healer at the moment which was written by another Catholic philosopher and teacher, Henri Nouwen.'


Now before you get carried away with your respect for the erudition of my affaire de coiffure let me hasten to say that the conversation did not dwell too long on religious philosophy but it did give me a brief opportunity of sharing matters of faith with my friend. What interested me in all this was that he told me that his uncle had posessed a volume of Merton's works for years with it just sitting on his shelf. Recently, my haircutting friend had borrowed it and surprise surprise, found it contained some very interesting stuff which is having a profound effect on his outlook and world view. The power of the printed word.


I am really encouraged by that, and hopeful that my own book Braving the Storm (www.bravingthestorm.com) will have a similar, lasting effect. It is due to be published in May, and will come out simultaneously in the UK, the USA and India. It's the story of my 10 year battle with the extreme pain and life-threatening consequences of pancreatitis. It tells of those things which have been found to hinder and those which have helped the daily task of overcoming. Jeff Lucas, who did the foreword for me, said: 'Eric tells the truth about pain. There’s no gloss, fluff, hyper-spirituality or clich├ęs. The absence of them all makes me grateful, for slogans sting like salt on an already deep wound when you’re suffering. You won’t find slick answers in this book, or a satisfying, ‘they all lived happily ever after’ ending. What you will find is words that are written in blood, sweat and tears rather than just ink. You’ll look into the heart of a fellow traveler, who must have been tempted to slam the door once and for all in the face of a God who calls Himself good. Here is warm hope, honest empathy, faith that is gritty and authentic.'


So here's hoping that this book will live on long after I leave this earth, and that it might just speak when my own voice is silent. Perhaps some hairdresser or taxi-driver or doctor or person in pain might just find that these words were printed just for them. If they do - if even one does - the ten years will not have been in vain.


Monday, April 09, 2007

All is not as it may Appear


We are really being blessed with great weather in Guernsey at this time, and the island is showing off in all it's Spring-time beauty. It seems as though nature has just come alive with colour, scent and activity. The sea is spectacularly blue and inspiring, both in the good weather but also when the wind blows - as it often does with great energy.


I can't help thinking, though, about the amount of human need there is here, despite all the wonders around us. The calling I follow gives me insight into what goes on, not just behind people's curtains, but even deep within their hearts and homes. What exists there is just the same as the world over. Wherever you have people you have problems, and heartbreak, and sorrow and pain. One of the earliest memories that I have of the period that I have worked here is of walking on the beach early in the morning on the east of the island, where the sun rises gloriously over the outlying islands of Sark and Herm, and suddenly I came across the body of a young woman lying dead on the beach. She had taken her own life (it later turned out) in that place of incredible beauty and peace. So much outer calm, yet such inner turmoil.


From that day I have determined not be too charmed by the quaintness and beauty of island life, but to work hard at sharing with others the good news that Jesus offers an inner peace, a spiritual calm, that is not dependent on our outward conditions. I am grateful for the place in which I live and work, but I know that what really matters is my relationship with God and all that flows from that.


'You will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is steadfast because he is trusting You'.