Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Sharing love; seeking prayer

The tide of immigrants arriving on our shores grows daily.  And whilst we may be concerned about our small island becoming dangerously overcrowded and the social systems we're privileged to enjoy becoming stretched beyond their limits, we mustn't ever lose sight of the reality that these are people fleeing from frightening, hopeless situations and this is the world's worst refugee crisis since World War II. And who amongst us could put hand on heart and say we wouldn't do the same if we were in their shoes? These are our brothers and sisters from foreign lands.  They are our new neighbours, arriving on our shores with nothing; nothing but hope.
I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink, I was homeless and you gave me a room, I was shivering and you gave me clothes,    ...   Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, you did it to me.
Matthew 25.35-40 MSG
Those of us who work as writers can only do so in trust, never knowing how God will use the words He gives us.  Forty copies of 'Whispers of Love' recently winged their way down to Kent after a friend of a friend requested some to share with the many illegal immigrants whom they are offering Christian support to.   A tiny contribution in the midst of a massive tide of need. 
When was I lost and lonely and you told me about Christ? 
Please pray for the refugees who have found their way here, whether illegally or not, for those reaching out to offer love to them and for all who seek ways of resolving this escalating crisis of wounded humanity.  Warsan Shire's powerful poem, "Home is the barrel of a gun", expresses better than I ever could the horrors that drive these people to risk everything and to push themselves beyond their absolute limits of endurance.  Listen to it - it will touch you deeply.  Listen to it - and let it change you.
And if you're a Christian writer with a few spare books stacked in your garage that you'd be happy to donate, please get in touch.
Please pray ...
On the personal front, the last few months have been a difficult season of supporting my father through serious ill health and a rapid decline into advanced dementia.  It has been painful, stressful, demanding and exhausting; and has taken its toll on me.

Watching the colours of autumn unfold reminds me that all of creation speaks of the importance of fallow times, just as all of scripture speaks of the importance of Sabbath.  After much prayer, I am
following medical advice to take a 3 month sabbatical in order to restore and renew myself for future ministry.  Unfortunately this has meant taking a difficult decision to withdraw from two retreat leading commitments this autumn. To all who had booked into 'Undeserved Grace' at Penhurst and 'Prepare to Welcome Him' at Shallowford I extend my love, prayer and apologies.

Please pray that rest and renewal will enable me to return stronger to all that God calls me to, bearing new fruit in due season.
May our healing, renewing God be with you all.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Spirit's Flow

When we're open to the flow of the Spirit in our lives, truly remarkable things can happen: in brief, exciting moments the possibility of the Kingdom of God as a living, breathing reality can be glimpsed. 

Penhurst focal point
It's so hard to be open to that though, isn't it, and the presence of the Spirit can feel very elusive sometimes. 
In treasured moments though, during the preparation and leading of the recent Mystery & Glory retreat at Penhurst, that presence was evident.

The combination of glorious spring weather, in the thin place that is Penhurst, a gathering of very special people, and the awesome touch of the Holy Spirit made for some wonderful moments - moments of creativity, of healing, of surrender and of life-changing commitment. 

New songs were written, new poems & liturgies emerged, and art work, prayer and stillness led to reflection and insights.   Thank you to all who prayed Jill, Viv and I through that retreat:  your prayers were a crucial part of it all.

On a country walk yesterday, I came across a little waterfall that was choked with debris.  The water was still cascading over it but the water would have flowed so much more powerfully if that debris hadn't been clogging up its path.  It made me think that we can all too easily impede the flow of the Spirit in our own lives when we allow them to become over-cluttered.

Many new ministry opportunities have begun to open up for me recently (for which I give huge thanks) and I know that I need to carefully discern where the Spirit is leading me next.   So, after a busy few months of retreat leading, time now for me to do a bit of debris-clearing in my own life   ...   and time for some rest, restoration and deep prayer before the Retreat Association Conference in June.

Please pray that I will have a clear sense of what my priorities should be for the future   ...   or at least, for the next step!

As to future diary dates; my next healing retreat will be taking place at Penhurst in September.  If you're interested in this, or know of anyone who might be, do book up early as it's likely to be popular.  I'd love to see you there: come and experience the wonderful, undeserved grace of God.

Thank you.  May you all enjoy the blessings of Springtime and may you live in the Spirit's flow.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Easter thoughts

It's been a busy time over here!  Far too busy for a natural contemplative, but sometimes the seasons of our life are like that.  I've had three events in the last few weeks, and now I'm preparing to co-lead a retreat at Penhurst in two weeks time.
The themes and narratives of these events are very fresh in my head and impacting me as we approach Easter.  And the question I keep returning to is, "what difference would it make in our lives if we knew ourselves  ...   really knew ourselves  ...  to be deeply loved?   ...   and if we could accept that to the point where it transformed every situation?"  For the message in the mystery of the cross is surely that - that we are loved beyond our imagining.  The hard part lies in accepting that and surrendering ourselves into the ultimate safety of that truth.  In the midst of whatever chaotic or difficult circumstances we find ourselves in, God is working His purposes out  ...   and they are purposes woven in a tapestry of love.
This painting, 'Forgiven', by Thomas Blackshear, has always moved me.  Last weekend I explored with a local parish some thoughts about 'the man with the hammer', the Roman soldier who drove the nails into Jesus' flesh.  And I invited them to ponder the thought that the one who wielded the hammer was actually one of the first people to be washed in Jesus' blood, as it spurted from his wounds.  "This is my blood", Jesus had said, only the night before, "shed for the forgiveness of sins".  I wonder if those words echoed  in Jesus' head as he watched his blood covering the Roman soldier? 
What a powerful thought. ..  that's how much we are loved.
Thank you for your continuing interest in my ministry and for your support in so many ways.  Please pray for stamina, inspiration and balance as Jill & I prepare for the upcoming retreat, on the themes of Mystery and Glory.   And please pray for Viv, who will be joining us to lead an art activity.
And as you journey through Easter, may you see glimpses of God's glory, and may they change you in radical, life-giving ways.
Easter Blessings to you all   xxx

Friday, 20 February 2015


As tulips and daffodils begin to poke their bright green shoots through the frost-carpeted earth, and signs of new life awaken everywhere, I have a very real sense of moving forward from a dark winter period into a hope-filled springtime.  This has been a challenging few months for me, with my usual rhythms of living and working having needed to be set aside in order to support my ageing father through some significant health crises. 
Having just returned from a few days away, preparing for a retreat on pondering the mystery of the questions that life throws up, the word uppermost in my mind is "surrender".  When we can surrender all that's happening (or not happening) into the hands of God, in total trust that He is using everything - even this - for an ultimately good purpose, then it becomes easier to stop wrestling with the unanswerable questions and to find peace and health in the midst of the storms.
If you'd like to explore this theme a little more, in company with Jill Hoffman and myself, then come to Penhurst in April and join us on a creative retreat.  Between now and then, I'll be leading two day events, one for Cheadle Deanery and the other for the parish of Acton Trussell & Bednall.
For now, I'm immersed in preparation for these events, together with peripheral work on some other emerging projects.  As I juggle many things, the number and complexity of which have the potential to overwhelm me, I surrender all this into the hands of the One who is in control and pray for inspiration & energy in my preparations and balance & health in my living.  If you could join me in this prayer, that would be good!
Please pray also, in the same vein, for my co-leaders, Jill and Viv ( who is facilitating an art activity on the Penhurst event).  Please pray for an improvement in Viv's health. Pray too for Mary Fleeson, as she completes the design work on our joint book project.
Thank you for your continuing interest and support.
May you know the blessings of God's springtime and be at peace in the mystery.