Friday, 1 July 2022

Encounters with Jesus


Gathered around an image of Jesus in the kitchen, a group of nine people, strangers who had become friends, meditated on what it would mean to be aware of Jesus’ presence by our side when we returned to our own homes.  

We were nearing the end of a powerful week, enfolded in the beautiful hospitality of Penhurst Retreat Centre There had been tears, laughter, praise and lament, and an honest and vulnerable level of sharing that had enabled healing to flow.  Mostly though, there had been Jesus, tangibly with us throughout.

 

Through worship and stillness, image and symbolism, and gentle imaginative meditation with the scriptures, people opened their hearts to meet with the Healer. Sailing away with him in the boat, crying out to him in the storm, sharing breakfast with him on the beach and reaching out to touch the hem of his robe: we encountered Jesus in all those places and more.

 

We experienced what it meant to truly live into those words;

 

Come to Me,
all you who are weary and burdened
and I will give you rest.                          Matthew 11.28

 

It was a privilege to lead the week and Jill Hoffmann and I will be leading a similar one at Penhurst in October.  We’d love to share the experience with you.  Why not book in and join us?  

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Saturday, 16 April 2022

The In-Between Day


Don't you just hate it when someone tells you the end of a story before you've got there yourself?  But of course, that's the situation which we find ourselves in on this day; the in-between day, the day between the horror of the cross and the joy of Jesus' resurrection.  We know the end of the story: with two thousand years of hindsight, we know that this remarkable story is paradoxically Good News. 

No one at Golgotha could have imagined that yesterday. For those who fled the scene, for Mary at the foot of the cross, for the ones who had laid his body in the tomb, it was all very different.  

The Day After, the day that the church now labels Holy Saturday, that day was a day of deep shock and unimaginable grief.  An unexpected and completely senseless ending of an era that had held such amazing promise.  A day of unanswerable questions.  A day of the deepest possible loss.

It was over.  

I wonder what were the strongest images imprinted on the minds of those who had lived through that Friday?  What were the scenes that replayed in their head with technicolour precision?  What were the strongest flashbacks of the day?  The sounds that echoed through their nightmares?  What were the awful memories which would stay with them forever?


The day after that awful Friday, that Saturday in Jerusalem, was lived out in the kind of shock that fills the body with tensions and numbs the mind in fear and disbelief.
  The kind of shock that defies description. The kind of shock consuming all whose lives and loved ones have been shattered by undeserved horror.  

The kind of shock being played out for millions of Ukranians today.

However, you choose to spend your Easter, please enjoy its wonderful blessings.  But please don't race on too quickly from Good Friday to Easter Sunday.  Something of the enormity of the crucifixion risks being lost if you and I do that.

Take some time to wait ... to wait in the mystery.  Take some time to ponder ... and pray. 

Pray for those who even today bear Kingdom scars.


Image credit: Wintershall Passion Play, 2022

Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Rhythms of Rest


I'm so grateful for the rhythms of rest that are built into creation.  What a different world it would be if the darkness of night and the renewal of sleep were not part of our lives. In the animal kingdom, it seems to me that every other species lives in such natural rhythms without question. But, in today's pressured and 'always switched on' world, we humans are becoming different.  This is even true compared to how our parents lived just a generation ago.  Technology is changing us, and not always for the better. It is increasingly driving us and seducing us to push beyond our natural limits, to fail to honour the rhythms of sleep and rest and the renewing nature of simple down-time.

Deep rest is important.  It's built into our world and we override it at our peril. Simple rhythms of 'work, rest and play', as the Mars bar advert used to say, help us to function at our holistic and healthy best.  And they certainly enable our clear thinking and creativity.  Which is why I'm about to take a sabbatical.  I'm fortunate to be taking time out from daily life to steep myself in rhythms of prayer and rest.  And hopefully the outcome will be not just a renewal of my mind and body but also some productive writing.

Virginia Woolf once famously said, "a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write". 

Through the kind financial support of friends (thank you - you know who you are), coupled with the generous hospitality of Penhurst Retreat Centre and a significant donation from the Coverdale Trust, those requirements named by Virginia Woolf have come together for me.  I am embarking on a short sabbatical which I hope will enable me to make significant progress on a new book about inner healing. It will be a working sabbatical, if that's not a contradiction in terms, but not a driven one; an easing back into rest and prayer so that creativity can flourish.

I realise that not everyone can take a big chunk of time out of their life in this way. But we can begin with small chunks.  On the cusp of this new year, it's worth asking yourself the question - 

what one thing can I change or let go of to free up time for a little more deep rest in my life?  

Give some thought to that question.  Your health will thank you for it.

For now ... I'm going under the radar for a while.  I'll be in that 'room of my own' at Penhurst.  I'll see you when I'm on the other side.

=

The Coverdale Trust supports artists in the task of forming and transforming culture from a biblical and Christian perspective.  I am indebted to them for their support in my current project.

 

Friday, 31 December 2021

At the Turning of the Year


I've often wondered how different it must feel to celebrate Christmas in a place where December 25th falls in the middle of a beautiful summer.  Barbecues on the beach for Christmas? Instead of chestnuts roasting on an open fire?  (Does anyone do that these days?)  In the grey, dull days of winter a sunshine festive season can feel very tempting.  And yet. ...

 

And yet maybe there's something strangely appropriate about celebrating the birth of Jesus in the midst of deep and dismal days.  

For that's why He came: 

to bring Light to the world, to lift our spirits from all that feels hard and difficult.  He came to bring hope, and healing and new life.  


Our Christmas celebrations in the UK coincide with the winter solstice, the tilt of the earth's axis which gives us the longest night of the year.  As the earth continues on its orbit and this moment passes, the darkest days of winter are quite literally behind us.  Brighter days are coming.  What a beautiful metaphor for the birth of the baby at Bethlehem. 


However hard circumstances have been and continue to be for you  ...  

Happy New Year!  

 

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Christmas: A Time To Be Tender


We're here again: at that time of year when suddenly Christmas seems to be racing towards us, however ready or ill prepared we feel to welcome it.  It will come.  It will come soon.  It always does. The date in the calendar is utterly dependable. And, in a year when there has been much to celebrate and much to mourn, it will usher in a time of mixed emotions.

I'm writing another book at the moment, about finding emotional healing with Jesus.  (I'll share more about this in the New Year). Inevitably, it's colouring my thinking as I 'people-watch' throughout this season. I can't help wondering what we don't see as we meet and interact with others in the run up to Christmas.  What might lie behind the smiles and laughter?  How many struggles birth themselves in tears behind closed doors?

Christmas is a time like no other, when our mind catapults itself into memories of other Christmas celebrations (or disasters) and before we know it we are back in the feelings that characterised those times.  Unknown to us, they have been quietly storing themselves away in the cells of our bodies, hiding away for just this moment.  Powerful and pivotal experiences always do that.  They become part of us.  And where there have been significant losses in our lives the Christmas season is all the more poignant.

For me it's the first rendition of the familiar festive tunes that awakens the memories of other Christmas seasons, both good and bad.  Beneath the tinsel and the glitter and the happy romanticised vibes of the seasonal soundtrack there often lies deep personal pain and longing.  And whilst we may be skilled at hiding that from others (we are, after all, now experienced mask-wearers) there is wisdom in acknowledging it.  We need to carve out space to give our tender feelings permission to 'be' and to cradle them with love.  Our lives, and our Christmas experience will be the better for having done so.

So, above all else, be kind to yourself in this season, whatever that means for you.  Breathe. Reflect. Take slow moments with the Jesus whose birth this season is all about.  Rest in His love and let Him anoint your feelings with healing, hope and peace.  Walk through the season with Him. And, regardless of the perfect images zooming into your life through your screens, celebrate the season in the way that's most helpful to you.


I wish you joy and happiness this Christmas.

And I pray blessings and peace on any pain or fears 

you are quietly and bravely carrying.  

Be kind to yourself.  

And be kind to others.


Click here for a poem that you might like to make your own: 

Headlong to Christmas

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Saturday, 3 July 2021

Encounters with Jesus

Rachel Held Evans got it right when she wrote:

This is what God's kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there's always room for more.

Over five days recently, a bunch of those oddballs (sorry folks!) gathered around the tables at Penhurst Retreat Centre because we were hungry for more of God.  And through silences, prayer, music and meditations, our small group of 21st century disciples opened ourselves to the presence of God and met with Jesus in tangible ways.


The combination of music, silences and scripture-based meditations enabled people to meet with Love in their deepest vulnerabilities.  And that is when healing happens.  The peace and very special hospitality and beauty of Penhurst sustained us through the challenges.  People spoke of profound encounters with Jesus and a tangible awareness of his presence with them.  It was a blessing.  It was a joy. It was holy.

We reflected with a woman at a well, a wedding at Cana, a cripple by a pool, disciples casting nets, the challenges of the pandemic, and so much more.  And time and time again, Jesus led us into deeper levels of healing, renewed sources of strength and deeply gifted insights.  It was a very special time of retreat and it was a privilege to be joined by Jill Hoffmann in facilitating it.  There was laughter and tears, fellowship and solitude, beauty and prayer.  And through it all, God wove His threads of healing.

We'll be leading similar 'Resting with the Healer' retreats at Penhurst next year, in June and October.

We'd love to have you with us.


Saturday, 17 April 2021

Unlock With a Healing Retreat


So we're finally unlocking!

In the dark days of lockdown you may have longed for this moment. But I wonder how you feel about it now? Whatever your answer is to that question, that's fine. As someone wisely said, we've all been in the same storm but we've not all been in the same boat.

One thing that is clear, however, is that the pandemic has taken its toll - on all of us. And most of us are more tired than we perhaps acknowledge. There will be wisdom in emerging gently, rather than at a run; taking time to acknowledge our losses and notice how the past year has changed us. And then placing all our cares and wounds, our hopes and longings into the healing hands of God.


There's no better way to do that than resting in a peaceful place and soaking in God's healing love.

So why not join me on a restorative 'Resting with the Healer' retreat in the beautiful and nurturing environment of Penhurst Retreat Centre. There are still a few places left and you can find more details on their website.

I'd love to have your company.

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