Sunday, 19 October 2014

Undeserved Grace

When asked for a title for a healing retreat, almost a year in advance, I chose the phrase 'Undeserved Grace'. Because it seems to me that that's what healing, forgiveness and all the gifts of God are - pure, undeserved grace.

This title is resonating hugely with me right now, because I have been swamped by God's unexpected grace in recent months.  A number of people, nearly all previously unknown to me, have either come forward or been introduced to me to support my ministry in various ways.  So many exciting introductions have taken place that I've almost lost count of them.  I am quietly excited and deeply humbled.

In particular, I have been deeply blessed by the precious gift of a prayer stole which was gifted to me by 'Loose Threads', a group of creative Christians who make prayer stoles and similar items and then donate them to whoever God lays on their heart.  The stole is beautifully made and authentic in its Jewish detail and I have no doubt that it will bless my healing ministry enormously.  Already it is blessing me as I pray and from the very first time I used it I felt the presence and power of the Spirit in tangible ways.  We speak of particular locations being 'thin' places   ...   this is most definitely a 'thin' shawl.  Give thanks for the ministry of Loose Threads and please pray for that group as they continue their generous creative ministry.

Mary with some of her artwork at the CRE
A visit to the Christian Resources Exhibition a couple of weeks ago enabled me to meet up with Mary Fleeson who will be completing the design work on my new book when she has time.

Please pray for Mary and her husband Mark as they strive to balance the demands of their young family alongside their call to serve God through this beautiful ministry.

As autumn unfolds and the nights draw in, this is a season of quiet reflection and preparation for me as I consider the various projects and retreats that I am committed to in the coming year.  This will include retreats, quiet days, a couple of conferences, a CD recording project, the possibility of a contract to write verses for Christian cards, and possibly another book (or two).

Please pray for me as I pray and prepare for the year ahead.

And finally, if you have the opportunity to see Simon Callow in the production of 'The Man Jesus' which is touring the country, I encourage you to GO.  It's an outstanding one-man performance by a hugely gifted actor, portraying  very movingly the man, Jesus, through the perspective of those around him. I loved it!  Do go if you can.

Thank you for your continuing interest in and support for my ministry.  May you know all the blessings of this season and may you experience God's undeserved grace in abundance.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Encounters with Jesus

Many people did indeed encounter Jesus on two recent retreats in the beautiful prayer-soaked setting of Penhurst Retreat Centre.  Firstly, a group of people met to experience 'His Healing Touch' through imaginative contemplation with the scriptures.  And secondly, a group of very creative people (creative in the areas of music, writing, art & drama) met to inspire each other and meet with Jesus through 'Encounters with Jesus', a retreat led by Jill Hoffmann and Jane Richardson.

It was a privilege to be involved in both events - leading the first and participating in the second.  Give thanks for the healing that began on both retreats and pray that it is sustained.  Please also pray for Peggy, whose husband passed away whilst she was on my retreat.  And thirdly, give thanks for the way God touched lives and inspired creativity on the 'Encounters with Jesus' retreat.  Jill and I will be leading further retreats at Penhurst next year.

Opportunities continue to unfold to enable the recording of healing meditations onto CD.  Give thanks for the doors that God is opening.

And my new book, Deeper, is now one step nearer to publication.  The first draft of the design, with illustrations, is now completed.  Please pray that others who now need to be involved with this project will be able to find the time to do so.

Finally, it feels as if it's time for some reflection.  I'm sensing that God is drawing me to review all my thinking around healing.  A book recently recommended to me has been the catalyst for this pondering. 'Blue Sky God', by Don MacGregor, is an excellent, well-researched book which explores the connections between current scientific knowledge and emerging Christian viewpoints, whilst also respectfully embracing and drawing out links with other spiritual traditions.

The book resonates deeply with my own contemplative and healing experiences, addressing many questions that I have sat with for a while.  More importantly, I sense it may profoundly impact how I approach the ministry of healing in the future. 

In short, I feel challenged to spend further time with this book and to explore further the possibilities that it raises.  As autumn approaches, I shall be spending time doing just that, as well as revisiting my healing meditations in preparation for publication / recording.  I also hope to be able to bring 'Deeper' to print.   I'll be back retreat leading in the new year.

Please pray for me as I do this.

Thank you for your continuing interest and support.  May you all enjoy a relaxing and refreshing summer, or, if you're in the southern hemisphere, a trouble-free winter.  And may God come close.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Upcoming Retreat - His Healing Touch

A little cat adopted me recently.  He kept appearing patiently on my doorstep after his owner moved into a care home.  He would literally tap, tap, tap on the glass with his paw and then wait for me to let him in.  The curious thing is he never wanted to be fed - he simply wanted company, it seemed.  And I very soon got used to having him around, brushing up against my legs, purring contentedly as I stroked him, and gradually establishing his very own place on the sofa!

I knew I couldn't keep him long term, so with some reluctance I found someone else to love him.  And that was the top and bottom of our short relationship really - that cat simply wanted to show me he loved me, and he wanted to know I loved him.

And isn't that true of God? 
We can make God very complicated, but He simply wants to shower us with His love.  That's what the coming of the Kingdom is all about.  God longs with all His heart to bring us 'fully alive' with His love, and when we're able to receive that love, it brings healing.  That doesn't always mean a physical 'cure', though sometimes it does. Only this week, a friend of mine received significant healing through prayer after having the misfortune to be seriously trampled on by a cow. But healing can be on many other levels too.  And I truly believe that when we open ourselves to God's love, at some level we receive profound healing. 

If you'd like to join me, I'll be offering an opportunity to explore God's healing grace at the beautifully peaceful  Penhurst Retreat Centre.  The retreat is entitled 'His Healing Touch' and runs from 13th - 16th July.  There's still a few places left.  We'll be praying and meditating with the healing scriptures, and opening ourselves to God's healing presence.  Why not come if you can?   Or perhaps you know someone else who might be blessed by this?
Thank you to all those who continue to support my ministry both prayerfully and financially - you are very much part of all I do.  Please pray for divine inspiration as I prepare materials for this event.  And please pray that God will draw to the retreat those whom He wants to be there.  And of course - pray that healing will flow!
I'll let you know how it goes   ...

Monday, 12 May 2014

Continuing the Journey

It shouldn't surprise me, but do you know   ...   it always does.  I'm talking about the way God has a habit of bringing across our path exactly the people we need to meet, at exactly the right time!  A recent conference impacted me more than I could ever have imagined it would, and those unexpected encounters were a large part of that.
The Continuing the Journey conference brought together a diverse group of Christians, all of whom were involved in some form of caring role - counsellors, psychotherapists, retreat leaders, pastors, spiritual directors, art therapists, etc  ...   and some folks with several of those hats on.  It was an opportunity to share our stories and (as it said on the advert) to 'explore the tension between world and church, nature and grace, current psychology and Christian theology'.  And it changed me.

One of the most beautiful gatherings I have ever been to, within the framework of first class speakers and varied and interesting workshops, the conference managed to also honour the value of shared silence and opportunities for deep reflection.  It also honoured the importance of laughter! And a deeply thoughtful, reflective and contemporary rhythm of worship held the whole in a holistic embrace that carried us through the journey. 

After an extremely stressful and demanding seven months, during which all my writing and ministry had been put on hold, I arrived at the conference jaded and exhausted.  I felt as if I simply couldn't see a way forward.  It was only on my return home that I realise how deeply affirming, and in many ways life-changing, the week had been.  I am now in a peaceful place, once more deeply assured in my calling, and have re-established the contemplative rhythms that had been seriously eroded by circumstances.  And, for me, when those rhythms are in place then I am more able to follow the Spirit's promptings and somehow life just 'flows'. 

A tiny Herb Robert flower, which I walked past every day of the conference, spoke into my heart.  Each time I paused to admire it, climbing its way up the stonework, I realised that in that location, between the path and the wall,  it only became all it was capable of being by holding on to those things that helped it to grow.
There's a lesson for all of us in that!

So  ...   give thanks for the God of unexpected encounters, for the Creator God who speaks through his creation, and for those who facilitated a brilliant conference.  Please pray too that connections that were made there will bear fruit in God's good time.

On the personal front, the pressures are now easing as my father settles comfortably into the care of others.  Thank you to those of you who have prayed us through this time.  Finally, I can pick up the threads of the various projects that I laid down last October.  Please pray for me as I do so.

Thank you.

May God surprise you in delightful ways as you continue your own journey!

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Still Points

I remain more and more convinced that we all need still points in our days.  In this busy, media-driven world we need down-time; we need stillness to sustain our mental health.  And, for those of us who would express it that way, we need silence to be more deeply aware of God.

'Be still   ...   and now that I am God',   writes the psalmist.

A recent retreat at Elterwater Park has restored and renewed me after some difficult and hugely demanding times.  My time apart was a perfect antidote to the stresses and responsibilities that have dominated the past few months as I have needed to care for and support my increasingly frail father.

And what a gem of a find Stillpoints @ Elterwater was: a beautiful, remote country guest house, nestling amid the glorious Lake District fells, where Lesley and Neil McCririe offer superb God-centred hospitality and, for those who would like it, the opportunity to make an individually guided retreat.  Not a conventional retreat house as such, the house operates primarily as a B&B, but other than at breakfast times the house is deliciously quiet. Surrounded by love, I enjoyed homely touches, 4-star meals, beautiful countryside, a relaxing log fire, deep stillness, a discerning guide in Lesley  ...   and God   ...   all seasoned with friendship and a level of TLC above and beyond the call of duty.  It was a deeply healing time.  And I returned home well rested and with new God-given perspectives on the difficult situations that currently surround me.  In short, I was reminded of why I remain passionate about the value of retreats.  Give thanks for the ministry of Lesley & Neil and for a very restorative retreat.

And so to an apology.  Many of you will know that I have had to temporarily step aside from various projects and to postpone some planned retreats.  Frustrating though this has been, I think sometimes God calls us aside from what may be a fruitful ministry in order to incarnate something equally good, but different.  And this seems to be His call to me at the moment.  So, for now, I shall follow His leading to devote the next few months to the needs of my seriously ill father.  After that, as he settles into the care of others, I hope to be resuming my current ministry.  In the meantime, I would very much value your prayers.

Thank you for your continuing support in so many ways. 

May moments of stillness weave themselves into your days and draw you deeper into God.

And if you might benefit from an experience of a first-class guided retreat, check out Stillpoints @ Elterwater  -  I guarantee you won't be disappointed!