Saturday, 3 February 2018

Every Step a Prayer

Carrie Newcomer has a song entitled, "A Shovel is a Prayer".  In writing about it she says -
“I believe that prayer is very personal and intimate. It happens in small, private moments, in songs and whispers, in humor, grace and the conversations that can only be had at the quiet end of the table."
The song contains some beautiful lyrics, among them:  "a baby is a prayer / when it's finally asleep / a whispered, 'Amen' / at the end of the day"  and  "a friend is a prayer / when they bring over soup".

Recovering, as I am, from a knee replacement operation just over two weeks ago, I have thought of those words often.  In the early days, post-operatively, I felt quite unable to pray in my usual ways and yet was deeply aware that, in a very real sense, every step and every moment was a prayer; every visitor and every card a prayer too.  Feeling powerfully upheld by the prayers of others, I also came to realise how important it is to have people 'standing in the gap' prayerfully for us at particular times in our lives.  My thanks go out to all those who have prayed me through this time and are continuing to do so: you are making such a difference!
As I settle now into the rhythms of my convalescence I am beginning to pray my way through the psalms each morning, inspired by Ian Stackhouse's book, "Praying Psalms".  Reflecting and writing with each psalm, I'm  finding it a powerful way to start the day.  And who knows? ... this might become another book  ...  every step, every stroke of the pen, every tap of the keyboard ... a prayer.

What might be an unexpected prayer for you today?

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Rumours of Joy

On my poetry page, you'll find some new poems for the season.  Do go and read them and enjoy.  One of the poems, 'Ragamuffin Rumours', attempts to capture something of the rumours which must have rippled around Bethlehem when a bunch of excited shepherds started to share the news of what they'd seen.  The story, told and re-told in scripture and through our annual nativity plays, is now so familiar to us that sometimes it hardly makes an impact.  But to the folks of Bethlehem it must have seemed beyond belief, questionable gossip of the highest order.

The poem ends with the words, "can't possibly be true".  I wonder how many shoppers in our Christmas markets would make the same response; how many people today feel the reality of Jesus seems beyond belief? 

John Betjeman puts the question beautifully, in a verse from his 'Christmas' poem:

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Became a Child on earth for me?

Let's take a pause in our preparations to dwell in the incredible nature of those questions and in the truth of the answer. And as we rejoice in our Christmas celebrations, may we let the wonder of that truth ripple out in love to others, especially those for whom this season is a painful time.

Have a deeply Happy Christmas - one that's full of love and laughter and a host of holy moments.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Pathways to Healing CD - Available now!


I am pleased to announce that the first CD in my new Pathways to Healing series
is now available!

Not so much a CD to be listened to as a CD to be experienced,
this meditative recording has the possibility of taking you  
to a profound healing encounter with Jesus;
providing a truly immersive experience.
Based on scripture, it combines
narrative poetry and guided meditation
with prayerful questioning and relaxing ambient music,
bringing the gospel story alive for each individual.

It is a CD to be experienced: quietly, expectantly, deeply,
a CD to take your time with;
a CD to pray with;
a CD which is in itself a prayer.

A valuable resource for individuals, churches and other groups.
Please do share this news and order your copy here

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Surrendering to the Spirit

I've been thinking a lot about 'surrender' recently, since I led a retreat on that theme for the local Franciscans.  And on this Pentecost weekend, I am reminded of a poem that I wrote several years ago when I led a retreat for the lovely folks of Twydall.   You can read it on my poetry page here.  What an amazing, empowering experience Pentecost must have been for all those early disciples, to have power coming upon them and flowing through them in such visible, obvious ways.

It's not always so easy for us to harness the power of God, is it.  And sometimes it flows in gentler, less obvious ways. But notice how others are blessed by the small things you say and do; be aware of those times when you feel given the right words for the conversation you're in; or recognise with thankfulness unexpected moments of peace that indwell you, in spite of the turbulence of your life.  In all those, and a myriad other ways, the Spirit still lives through us today.
One of my prayers, day by day, is that I won't frustrate the work of the Holy Spirit.  I'm sure that I do, countless times, but I'm trying to surrender more and more and to say, "not my will, but yours be done".
One of the ways that helps me to develop that attitude of surrender is to immerse myself in stillness. And when I'm drawn into busyness, into seasons when I feel there just aren't enough hours in the day, or chaotic times when a sense of overwhelm threatens to engulf me; it's exactly then, when I feel there is no time for stillness, that I need to prioritise silence and to ring fence it.  And then I seem to be able to free up the channel for the Spirit to flow.
So I make no apologies for the silence on this web page in recent months.  It's been a season of challenges and I have needed the space.  Sorry if you've missed me.

I'm delighted to announce though, that one of the fruits of that time has been the bringing to completion of the first CD in my new Pathways to Healing series.  That CD will soon be available through this website, and hopefully other outlets too. It brings together prayers, narrative poetry and imaginative contemplation; all very much in the style of my retreat leading and all enhanced by the beautiful music of Sally Hosken.  I hope it will be a valuable resource for anyone seeking to know the healing Jesus in a deeper, personal way.

Thank you to you all for your amazing support, both prayerful and financial; that too, is the work of the Spirit.
May the Spirit of Pentecost bless you all and stir new dreams and new possibilities in your heart. 

Friday, 3 February 2017

God's Jigsaw

I sometimes think that discerning what God is up to is a bit like being given just a few pieces of a complicated jigsaw, and no straight bits!   At the home were I stayed last week, a huge unfinished jigsaw lay on a table in the lounge, challenging people to put the next piece in. Over the course of the weekend, it became for me a metaphor of the Body of Christ.
Let me explain.  Along with Sally, a gifted musician, and Julian, an experienced sound recordist, I was down in Cornwall recording the first of my meditation CDs.  It was a rich and rewarding experience and the project taught me a lot about the Body of Christ.  It was a perfect example of how we all have different gifts which, when we work together, can produce something so much bigger than the sum of the individual parts; just as, when the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are the perfect fit for each other we begin to see a bigger, more vibrant picture.
So the CD recordings are underway!  I am in awe of how God brought together such talented and Christ-centred people to support me. The recording of the first CD was completed during three days in Truro.  It's been a busy month, during which I've slept in 6 different beds and travelled well over 1,000 miles.  And having sat behind a microphone for the best part of three days, I now have a very healthy respect for radio and recording artists!
Thank you - to all who prayed us through the recording process - to Sally for her anointed playing, her very hard work, and for her determination to make the recording the best that it can be - to Julian for his generosity, his immense technical skills and for keeping us all calm under pressure - to Fenella for keeping us well fed and well rested - to Audri for her creative ideas and enthusiasm for the related artwork - and to an anonymous supporter who blessed me with a relaxing stay in a top notch hotel afterwards.
Please continue to pray for Julian, as he now performs the complex technical task of editing all that we've recorded.  Please pray for Audri, as she goes into hospital for a planned operation.  And please pray for me as I now change focus for a while and turn my attention to preparing some retreats.  My next event will be a retreat for a group of Franciscans, at the end of the month.
And in the meantime, if you come across any jigsaws, just remember  ...   we're each a unique and important piece in God's Grand Jigsaw and the Kingdom comes closer when we all fit our different gifts together!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Pregnant with Potential

New Years Eve.  For most of us it's a pivot point; a time when, if only for a moment, we dare to dream that things can be better, happier, more fulfilling than  before - that we can somehow make a better job of our lives.  It's a time of hope; a hope so exciting that we celebrate with spectacular fireworks.

So, I wonder what are your hopes for this New Year?

For me, it heralds a slight change in direction as I begin to bring to fruition my long-held dream of producing recordings of healing meditations.  After many delays, rehearsals have begun and we will be in the recording studio at the end of January.  Meanwhile, there's much to be done in terms of the logistics of production and marketing of this new resource.  In short, January is going to be exciting but challenging!  Please do pray for us.  Please pray for good health for all involved in this project, for Sally as she practices and arranges the music, for Julian as he hosts us in the studio, for necessary rehearsal time to be given, for support to emerge to navigate the unfamiliar territory of the production process, for financial decisions to 'add up', for Audri who will create the CD covers and inserts, for good travel conditions between Stafford, Guildford & Truro, for the anointing of the Spirit over us, and for every aspect of the project to flow with holy ease.  And please pray protection over us too. 

But, to return to that question: what does the dawning of the New Year mean to you? 

As the last remnants of glitter and pine needles are swept away, we emerge on the cusp of a new year; a year pregnant with possibility - just as Mary was.  Called to be the God-bearer, Mary was invited to become pregnant with a possibility far beyond anything she could imagine.  And all she was asked to do was simply to be available; available in all her vulnerability and questioning.  And God did the rest.
And maybe that's one of the messages of Christmas: God invites each one of us to host the Incarnation ourselves, in our time and our place.  He calls each one of us to be open and available, and willing to let Him live out His divine purposes through us.  So simple.  So challenging.  Such a privilege.  

Will we take up the challenge?

My prayer for each one of us, at the dawn of this New Year, is that we will be open to the God who loves us beyond our imagining and that He will guide us into the unique and individual way that He wants us to make His presence known in the world.

Happy New Year to you all!

Friday, 25 November 2016

Letting go


As the calendar inches towards December 1st, I wonder what the run up to Christmas brings to mind for you?  And where does 'Advent wonder' and 'Advent waiting' fit, in your response to that question?
In a world teetering on the edge of the frenzied consumerism that characterises Christmas here, I find myself pondering once more the simplicity of 'less', the blessings of 'being content' and the importance of 'letting go'.  I am as prone to get caught up in the cultural expectations of the season as the next person, but God has been teaching me that in the midst of what I don't have, I actually have enough.  in Him, I have all I need.

Like many people, for years I have found Christmas to be the hardest time of year; a deeply painful season to somehow be negotiated and 'survived' until I could breathe a sigh of relief on the other side of it.  But this year, through the kindness and skill of others, God has shown that He has different dreams for me than the deeply emotional dreams that I've been clinging to.  I have learnt about 'letting go'  ...   about surrendering every situation and every dream to God.  It's His world after all; His Kingdom that is somehow being birthed through the action of His Spirit in us.  And Jesus' entire ministry was a model of letting go. Jesus said:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains alone;  but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”

Ignatian spirituality teaches the importance of detachment, by which is meant - the place where we have surrendered to God the outcome of our hopes, fears, and worries, and we trust God enough that no matter what happens, “God’s grace will be enough for me.”.  And Peter Scazzero, in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, speaks of detachment as "the great secret of inner peace".  
After some skilful and compassionate grief therapy, I have finally been enabled to approach this special season with peace, and the expectation that God has good things ahead. And this year, I intend to approach the season of Advent with gratitude; gratitude for the blessings I do have, instead of regret for the things I don't have.

Mary Oliver, in her poem, Mornings at Blackwater, writes 

What I want to say is
that the past is the past,
and the present is what your life is,
and you are capable
of choosing what that will be,
darling citizen.

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.

And live
your life.
Are there any expectations or fears that you need to let go of in order to embrace the season of Advent in an attitude of simplicity and peace, wonder and expectation?  ...  in order to fully 'live your life'?
May God show you the answer to that question  ...  and may you have the courage to take the first step.
Have a richly blessed Advent as we prepare to celebrate the Incarnation.