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.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Spirit's Flow

It's always been a problem for me.  Many years ago, during my career, a colleague gave me a key ring.  On it was the question, "Exactly which part of the word NO do you not understand?"
I am reminded of this as I sit now with an overwhelm of ministry invitations and possibilities, attempting to discern a way forward within an increasingly clear calling to a simple, contemplative lifestyle. It's a tough one.  But it's an important question in the context of my own personal soul care.  To ignore the question would be hypocritical when I spend much of my ministry helping others to find steps into freedom and health.
I am having to take some tough decisions.  Currently I am inundated with invitations to write, to lead retreats and to do spiritual accompanying – far more than I can possibly say ‘yes’ to.  So I’m very much in a process of discernment about a way forward.  What is emerging quite clearly at the moment is that retreat leading is without a doubt my primary calling, and that God is also bringing an increasing number of others to my door for me to be alongside.  Related to all of this, the production of meditation recordings feels significant.  So I have a growing sense that I may have to lay down my publication projects for a while until a more fallow season emerges. 
I remember a wise Spiritual Director once saying to me that discernment is not usually about choosing between a good path and a bad path but is more often about making a choice between two equally good possibilities.   These words, about noticing how God is moving, impacted me during a recent evening prayer -
Life is about connecting with the flow of the Spirit
and surrendering to it,
allowing ourselves to be carried by it.

which reminds me of a favourite little poem,
Fluent, by John O'Donohue -
I would love to live
like a river flows,
carried by the surprise
of its own unfolding.

Whilst it grieves me to lay down the writing projects, it feels as if this is not where I should be giving my attention right now.  It feels like a sacrificial laying down, in order to allow myself to be carried along by the surprise of what the Spirit is unfolding in this season.  I hope all those who are patiently awaiting the 'next book' will understand.
Finally, thank you to you all for your prayerful support in recent times.  I have been very aware of prayer upholding during the last month as I have journeyed back to health after my recent accidents.  I'm happy to say that I am now over the worst and getting stronger day by day.  Thank you.  May God bless you all.

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Spirit's Anointing

Jill Hoffmann and I have just returned from leading a 'Resting with the Healer' retreat at Penhurst. And what a privilege it was.  There was an immense anointing of the Holy Spirit and healing flowed in powerful ways; both emotional and physical.  A group of previous strangers grew close as we surrendered to God's love.

Thank you to all who prayed us through that retreat: your prayers continue to be an integral part of my ministry.  And let no-one be in any doubt that Jesus does still heal today (unfortunately though, not, on this occasion, the retreat leader's cracked ribs)!
I will be returning to lead at Penhurst again in September 2017.  In the immediate short term I will be taking some sabbath space in order to 're-charge with God' and to consider priorities for the future.
For now though, I find myself pondering "what makes somewhere a 'thin place'?", for Penhurst Retreat Centre truly is. I think the simple and obvious answer is 'prayer'; sometimes the faithful prayers of many people over many years. But I'm not sure that it's just that.  Whilst touring the islands of the Inner Hebrides recently I remember experiencing moments where a place in nature could feel 'thin' and I suspect that was much more about me, the observer, being deeply present in the moment.  A thin place can undoubtedly be an environment where the God of love and healing can more easily break through.  Combine that with a willingness to be present to the Spirit's flow in an open and receptive way and wonderful things can happen.
Let us all pray more deeply for the Holy Spirit's anointing on all we do.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Soul Care

To all who connect with me on a regular basis - an apology for my absence over the last few months.  There have been reasons.  Two long periods of ill health and, in between, a very special pilgrimage. 
It wasn't all bad. For a month, I travelled 2,000 miles around Britain with a visitor from New Zealand.  Our tour took in some beautiful scenery and stunning wildlife. We spent time in some really 'thin places', enjoyed some amazing experiences, traced Joy's family roots on the islands of the Southern Hebrides, and felt the closeness of God along the way.  A true pilgrimage, in every sense of the word. 
And, as all good pilgrimages do, it changed me.  It changed me in many ways, but the question I came home with is "How can I intentionally live in ways that enable me to become my best self?". I had an immediate opportunity to reflect on that when, after that hectic and happy time travelling, I was frustratingly hit by a nasty illness that laid me low for almost a month.  Officially, it was diagnosed as a virus, but I suspect it was as much about my body forcing me to have a period of complete physical and mental rest - a time perhaps when my soul needed to catch up.
There's a significant relationship between soul care and healing, isn't there: something I'll be exploring in my upcoming retreat at Penhurst.  When life gets out of balance and we neglect those things we need for our own wellbeing, the body frequently responds with dis-ease. Good soul care can sometimes contribute to our healing.
 A quick update on my other projects.  I am currently searching for a new illustrator for the Deeper book, CD recording will now hopefully begin in the autumn, and various other writing projects and opportunities remain in embryo.  In August I will be joining with the Order of Jacob's Well for their annual gathering before heading to Sussex to lead a 'Resting with the Healer' retreat.
For now though, I'll be pondering that question:  how can I intentionally live in ways that enable me to become my best self?  Think I'll start by stepping up the soul care.   How about you?

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Depending on God

Sitting on a bench outside a hospital, whilst my 91 year old father underwent an operation, I felt God speak to me loud and clear through an ambulance. 

The phrase "HIGH DEPENDENCY" seemed to leap out at me from the side of the vehicle.  A question jolted me out of my prayerful daydreaming.  How highly did I - or do I - depend on God?  Of course, I'd like to think I do.  I often say that I do.  But is that the reality of my life?  Aren't there many times when I try to do things my own way, somehow hoping that God will give His consent to my dreams and plans?  It's so easy, I find, to get carried away down a path that may have started with a God-given signpost, but then meandered imperceptibly into one where I'm stumbling along in the undergrowth, no longer depending on God's direction. ... and then wondering why it doesn't quite work out.
All this preamble is by way of sharing with you the news that several of my projects are either in limbo (waiting in a lay-by, as it were) or have unfortunately hit a dead-end.   So here's a summary, for your prayers -
  • The Advent book is still sitting on a publishers desk, awaiting a decision - please pray that it will ultimately be a 'yes'. ...  and preferably before Advent!
  • My CD recording project is also currently in limbo, awaiting an opportunity to experiment with the musicians who've expressed an interest in supporting me - please pray that we will soon be able to pencil in a date.
  • And the collaborative book project with Mary Fleeson has unfortunately folded, due in part to the pressures on the Fleeson family.  Please pray for Mary and her family as they seek to find a good work / life / health balance.   Please also pray for me - that I will be given the wisdom and inspiration to know how best to now take this manuscript forward.
And finally - and most important - please pray that I may once again root myself in that deeper prayer life which enables me to have a high dependency on God.
I'm off to the Continuing the Journey Conference next week, and very much looking forward to its beautiful balance of worship, wisdom and fellowship - and to the opportunity to rest and reflect - and to maybe surrender a little more into that elusive dependency.
And yes thanks, Dad came through the operation well. 

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Resurrection Love

Blue Jesus: Windermere Centre website
I can hardly believe that it's Easter already.  Is it just me, or does everyone else also think it doesn't seem five minutes since Christmas?
This being National Poetry Day, here's a short and sweet post just to wish all my friends and supporters blessings beyond measure at this Eastertide.  And if you should be looking for any poetry resources to aid your devotional times, do take a look at my poetry pages, where you'll find lots of Easter resources.
I have been conspicuous by my absence of late, I know.  For those of you who may be thinking I've gone to ground   ...   you're right!  I've been hiding myself away to concentrate on preparing scripts and related materials for my upcoming CD recording project.  Things rarely go according to plan, do they?  We aren't as far forward as I had hoped to be by this stage, but we're well on the way and I'm pleased with progress so far.  Please pray that all that is necessary to now complete the project will fall into place with holy ease and at the right time.

So  ...   as Spring awakens here in the northern hemisphere   ...   and as our thoughts turn once more towards the hinge-point of history at Calvary   ...   that moment which Max Lucado calls "the dawn of heaven's dream"   ...   may you all have a peaceful and blessed Easter.  May the Crucified-and-Alive-Again Christ impact your faith journey in new and deeper ways and may His resurrection love shine out through you. 
Have a glorious Easter!

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Godly Serendipity

These words recently rang true for me:
If we let go of our corrosive, mistaken presumption that we are somehow responsible to supervise the work of God and instead allow ourselves to be humbly and easily used by God, we soon become more supple, able to bend gently, easily to forces much larger and wiser than ourselves, and taste each new surprise as an opportunity, a blessing, a delight. Then, the magnificently impossible Kingdom of Heaven is ours. 
Wayne Muller, A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough

Renewed and refreshed from my sabbatical, I am now embarking on a project to bring my healing meditations to a wider audience, recording them onto audio media.  This has been on my heart for so long that it has always felt like "my" special project.  As I look at the way the Spirit has moved though to draw around me all the people and resources to now enable this to happen, I believe it to be a work of God in which I am simply playing a small part, alongside a talented team of people who were previously unknown to me.  Godly serendipity has been at work!  Give thanks for this and please pray for all involved in this project, that the Spirit will flow through us and between us to create something of real value. Please pray too that all the practical details of a dispersed team working together will be easily overcome.
We begin recording in early March.  In the meantime, there are various logistics to be considered and scripts to be adapted and rehearsed alongside the musicians.  As I work on preparing scripts to record from, I am beginning to realise that recording something onto CD is quite different to delivering a meditation to a group of people that one is, at some level, interacting with in the Spirit.  Please pray that I will be given wisdom to know the best way to present things.
To give space for the above, I won't be leading any events before May this year, but there are meanwhile two books in the pipeline.  An Advent manuscript is currently sitting on a publisher's desk, awaiting a response, and I very much hope that the long awaited 'Deeper' will become available later this year.  Please pray that both of these books will get into print.
In all of these things, I am acutely aware that God is the one taking the initiative; in bringing together the right people at the right time, in anointing people with various complementary gifts, and in birthing the flow of creativity.   May all we do be for His glory.
Thank you for your continuing interest in my ministry: I very much value your prayers .
Do watch this space.  ...

Saturday, 2 January 2016


New Year's resolutions.  They're a very cultural concept.  And I'm all in favour of them.  Let's face it; most of the resolutions we make are in some way about self-improvement and that can only be good, both for ourselves and our world. And maybe we need this annual point of reflection to give our lives a new focus; a kick-start into a better way of living. But don't you find it interesting that we use this arbitrary single moment on the earth's journey round the sun to mark the time when we collectively think about how we'd like to change? 

This is also the time of year, I find, when I meet so many people who speak of Christmas with words like, "all over for another year".  And whilst I understand that as a response to letting go of the additional stresses that the season can bring (and sometimes I use that phrase myself), at another level it saddens me.

Haven't we just missed the point of Christmas if we say that? The underlying story of all our Christmas celebrations is that baby in the manger.  And though that event also happened at a particular once-in-history moment in the dance of the planets in the cosmos and in the earth's traverse around the sun, its consequences live on.  As that baby grew to be a man, He revealed the full extent of God's remarkable gift; that through his Spirit, we too have been given the means to birth Him in our lives. 

Emmanuel: God is with us.  God abides in us.  Now that's a cause for celebration!

So whether our Christmas has been lively or lonely, stressful or peaceful, painful or joyous; let's remember that each and every day is an opportunity for a new beginning - and that the Spirit of Emmanuel resides within us, inhabiting us with His love and His grace, and fully able to empower us for whatever lies ahead.  God is the God of new starts; so every day can be a New Year's Day with God. 

Thank you for your continuing interest in my ministry.  And profound thanks to all those friends and retreat spaces who hosted me, and to those who supported me prayerfully and financially, during my recent Sabbatical. There are too many to name, but you know who you are - thank you!  I am about to embark on an important new project, which I'll share more of soon.

Meanwhile ...
I wish you all a deeply blessed, Spirit enabled year in 2016. 
May you know the reality of the presence of Emmanuel in your life.