Thursday, 14 March 2019

Enhancing your Easter worship

I don't know about you, but I'm a bit of a magpie when it comes to collecting helpful quotations, images and poems.  Maria Kondo could have a field day decluttering my office.  It goes with the territory of being a retreat leader and a writer, I guess.  In my world, I find I can never have enough new and different resources; things which spark my imagination and bring new insights.  And I guess that's true for those of us who lead worship too.  Different perspectives are always helpful when we're opening up the scriptures.

So, if you're still looking out for poems or meditations to enhance your Easter services, I might have the answer. The Gift of a Cross is just such a resource.  With seventy meditations, following Jesus from his triumphal entry into Jerusalem through betrayal and crucifixion to death and resurrection, this will enable your listeners to explore the story of the cross from the inside out.

Copies are still available from here at the knockdown price of £3.50.  I'd love to send you a copy.
You can get a taste of my Easter meditations on my poetry page 

     They hardly noticed
     the blood splashing red onto earth
     as the dice
     rolled, tumbled
     and bounced over dusty ground;
     the Christ
     above them:
                   Extract from 'Jocular Game'

     Have a truly blessed Easter.


Thursday, 7 March 2019

Where would I have stood?

Anam Cara, on their album 'Peace and the Spirit' have a beautiful song entitled, 'Where would I have stood?'.  It's a good question to ask ourselves and it enables us to see the gospel stories through a different lens.  What was it like to be there?  How might I have reacted?

The stories become so familiar that we easily forget that Peter, Mary, Judas and all the others where in so many ways just like us, living alongside Jesus and yet nevertheless often struggling to make sense of his teachings.  They made mistakes like us, felt shame and joy like us, often found it hard to understand what was going on, frequently questioned what Jesus was doing.

If we could speak to them today how might they tell their story?  Many of the reflections in my book, The Gift of the Cross, attempt to answer that question.  If you'd like to look at the Passion narratives from a different perspective, you can get a copy of the book here.  For a limited time, it's on special offer at £3.50, with free postage.  I'd love to let you have a copy - especially today: World Book Day.
 An extract from 'The Rooster'  ...

         No, no Master,
       not I:
       I'll never deny you.
       You'll always have my loyalty.
       He'd turned my life around, you see,
       this man.
       I used to be a fisherman:
       a hard life, that was.
       And now here I was
       following him   ...  ..

For an even more immersive experience of being face to face with Jesus, you might like to try meditating with my Pathways to Healing CD, available on my shop page.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Pivotal Moment

'Sacrifice' by Lindsey Attwood
            I've got
            the strongest feeling
            in my bones
            that this
            is a pivotal moment in history
                                  ...   ...
                                           Extract from 'Insight'


We're generally only aware of pivotal moments, moments in the past which made a significant difference to the future, after the event.  Jesus' death on the cross was surely the supreme pivotal moment, the 'hinge point of history', as Max Lucado describes it.  It was the event which brought fulfilment to Jesus's words that he had come to "set the people free" (Luke 4:18) - by enabling them to be forgiven from all that crippled them; guilt, remorse, shame, everything!

What a gift!  What a pivotal moment!  
the bright hot glow of flaming torches
fuelling the atmosphere of tension
but, the agony of the earlier Gethsemane moments
Jesus reflected
only calm acceptance:
his coming death
his very reason for living.               Extract from 'Arrest'

Jesus struggled with his calling at Gethsemane (and who wouldn't have done?) but he ultimately faced the cross with calm acceptance.  But how hard it can be for us to accept what Jesus has done for us - and to live into the freedom of forgiveness and new life.

How pivotal Calvary is for our own lives depends to a large extent on how deeply we allow ourselves to engage with the reality of all that it involved.  Imagining ourselves inside the story, as if we were actually there, can be extremely powerful and the meditations in 'The Gift of a Cross' could act as a springboard to help you to do that.  If you haven't picked up a copy yet, it's available here.  I've reduced the price to £3.50 because I'd love you to be blessed by it.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Special Offer for Lent

Are you  ...  wondering how to journey prayerfully through Lent?  ...  hoping to have a fresh look at the Easter story?  ...  wondering what it was like to be there, alongside Jesus, in those days leading up to his death?  ...  looking for new resources for this Eastertide?  ...   wanting to buy someone a meaningful Easter gift?
Look no further.
I'm pleased to make available my Easter book, The Gift of a Cross, at half the usual price and with free postage.
It's available here at the special knock-down price of £3.50.
Here's a taste of the contents ...
                   And heaven
                   held its breath.
                   A living, human cross
                   hung heavy
                   at the still, mute
                   turning-point of history
                                           ...   ...
                                           Extract from 'And Heaven Held Its Breath'
Where else can you buy seventy meditations for not much more than the price of a cup of coffee?
Go on  ...  treat yourself this Easter!

Saturday, 9 February 2019

Intentional Engagement

Is it just me, or does clock time seem to speed up as we get older?  How quickly we seem to move from Christmas to Easter.  We have barely recycled the tree and tidied up the decorations before the Easter eggs are on the supermarket shelves.  And it can feel like that too in our Christian calendar.  A passage of time which took 33 years in Jesus' lifetime compresses itself into a few short months in our annual celebrations and reminders of His life.

That's why Lent can be so significant.  Initially conceived as a period of fasting prior to Easter, echoing Jesus time in the wilderness, this 40 days of reflection is an important opportunity to engage deeply with Christ's passion.  Without it, we're in danger of leaping joyously into the new life of the empty tomb without fully embracing the sacrifice and the cost of the cross.

It's about much more than giving up chocolate.  It can be a life-giving time.  Instead of asking 'what are you giving up for Lent?', perhaps a better question would be 'what are you intentionally adding in for Lent?'.  
I'm giving away my book, The Gift of a Cross, at half price - a snip at £3.50, and I'll even pay the postage for you.  Why not get yourself a copy and use it as a companion on your Lenten journey?  You can buy it here.

Easter's coming; let's prepare for it deeply.


Friday, 18 January 2019

Mary Oliver

It’s with much fondness and a deep appreciation of her gift to the world that I learned this morning that Mary Oliver died yesterday.  A fellow poet, though so much more accomplished at her craft than I, she gave us poems that explored the simple wonders of the natural world in ways that left you in awe of the Creator.  You knew, beyond all doubt, when you read her words that she understood the meaning of 'the gift of the present moment'; indeed, she brought that present moment vibrantly alive.

In her poem, The Summer Day, she writes, 'I don't know exactly what a prayer is', and yet through her writing she leads us to the answer.  If the ability to observe the world with such reverent awe is not the deepest of prayers, then I don’t know what is.  A joyful celebration of nature, her work is infused with a deep spirituality, whilst remaining beautifully simple and very accessible.  She has left a wonderful legacy.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
For me, her words capture the importance of fully living each moment in this wonderful, amazing universe that we are privileged to exist within. They inspire me, they help me to pause before creation, and they return me again and again to her question:
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
Mary Oliver;
headed home, like her beloved wild geese, January 17th 2019

Sunday, 6 January 2019

Accidental Grace

I'm thrilled to share with you the news that I've just signed a contract with Kevin Mayhew.  My book of reflections on the psalms will be published in the autumn.  

This is a book I never intended to write but which, curiously, seemed to write me as I prayed my way through the psalms. I wonder if God sometimes does His best work when we ourselves think we have nothing to give?  Accidental grace and unexpected blessings characterised what looked as if it would be an otherwise fallow year.

Nothing could have prepared me for how my convalescence would change me.  It's impossible to pray the Book of Psalms from start to finish without being significantly impacted by the experience.  I mined the depths of these ancient scriptures and unearthed their treasures. And I revisited the whole of my life along the way.  I worked through incredible heartache and immense joy, through deep angst and profound gratitude, and through every possible emotion in between.
I wrestled many times with mystery, struggled often with unanswerable questions, and pondered on the awesome, but often elusive, love at the heart of this messy, broken world. The process was profoundly moving and deeply healing and I look forward to being able to share the fruits of this time through this new book.

Accidental grace. 

Unexpected blessings. 

God can use all things - yes, all things - for good.

So this is my New Year prayer for you: however hard or challenging life might be feeling right now, may God weave his awesome grace and unexpected blessings into the year that lies ahead for you.