I have been ‘simplifying’ my den…

I filled this wheelbarrow twice this morning and there will be at least another two…JMPYgRnfQJu5fsAz8kWnlQI have started the process of ‘simplifying’ my den and that is involving chucking out a lot of books that I shall never look at again because a) I no longer agree with them (!), b) I do not want to pass them on to anyone else, c) I don’t want anyone else to have to do the job!!  Now, there might be a few (maybe) that I shall wish I’d kept, but hey ho!

(NB If anyone out there decides to chuck my own book out in due course, feel free)

Many of the books are in my possession because I like buying books and they appealed to  me at the time and were probably recommended during some talk or other at Spring Harvest etc. I have also inherited some weighty inspired looking tombs and (honesty time!) I like the look of them on my shelves and like to think they might impress people. Pathetic, I know, but hey ho again!!

When and if I buy any more books (and feel free to hold me accountable on this) I hope and pray that I will be discerning, actually read them and that they will water my soul. At the moment, I have a voracious appetite for Richard Rohr, Thomas Merton, Wm Paul Young, Bran Zahnd, Brad Jersak, Mary Oliver, Teresa of Avila and a whole host of contemplatives and mystics, so I wonder where that might lead…?!

Once again, I find God in all things (‘Everything makes soup’, as the Italians say) and as I reflect on this simplifying I note…

  • My spiritual journey is dynamic, exciting and in a different place to 10, 15, 20, 30 years ago. I used to say that I became a Christian in July 1984; in reality, I am still becoming one and I need to remain ‘on my toes’ for the the next steps…
  • Letting go, shedding, simplifying, chucking out that which no longer brings us joy is good for the soul – its a fantastic feeling, actually!
  • I need to pray regularly that God will keep me from being more concerned about what something looks like than what is really going on in my heart.

To be continued…

PS You will be forgiven for trying to pick out some of the titles. Ha!

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PS

  1. God has also said that its not just about me simplifying, but also about him simplifying me! Yikes!
  2. Here’s a quote from Henri Nouwen that I’ve just read that makes me go, “BOOOOM!”

Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace. There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant (“ turn stones into loaves”), to be spectacular (“ throw yourself down”), and to be powerful (“ I will give you all these kingdoms”). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity (“ You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone”). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter—the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self…. In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make…. The task is to persevere in my solitude, to stay in my cell until all my seductive visitors get tired of pounding on my door and leave me alone.  — Henri Nouwen

‘One of the most exciting and terrifying things in the world is a blank piece of paper’ Paul Bradbury

QvEzbcnvRGqslx8FeL5GcwI wrote this quote in my journal a few days ago, having read it again in ‘Stepping into Grace’, in large letters and I’ve been jotting down my thoughts ever since! I think it sums up how I have felt over the last two weeks since starting my sabbatical. It has slowly but surely dawned on me that I need to establish a different kind of rhythm to my days and to my weeks, but this 6 months does feel like a very precious gift of time and I’d value your prayers.

As I prayed on 7 Feb, I felt God say 2 things:

  1. You cannot expect to change your rhythm in a few days. You are trying to break a habit that you have had for over 30 years ie seeking my identity in productivity. It will take time, but we’ll collaborate and work on it together
  2. We’ll take the best of what works well for you, but meld it with new ways I will show you and let’s work on it together.

There does seem to be something of a theme here!

It has been helpful to have the word ‘simplify’, that I felt God give to me a few weeks ago, to hold over everything in the last fortnight and I have been applying this to many practical areas in my life, not least of which is my laptop and phone! I have successfully culled my Inboxes and I am now using only one Inbox to access and respond to emails. It is a private address and not widely available. I have also ‘come off’ Social Media and that has been a surprisingly easy adjustment, I’m pleased to say. Emma will be managing my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, but exclusively to keep the momentum going on the promotion of my book.

One aspect of my weekly rhythm is to have a ‘Walking Day’. Paul Swann and I actually booked our pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago yesterday and so it is crucial that I build up to be able to walk at least 10k per day, comfortably. Here is the section of the route shall be walking: https://www.macsadventure.com/pdf/camino_frances_sarria_to_santiago_8_days_brochure.pdf

I decide that I would do a hike today along the River Severn near where we live and so I planned my route but got lost! Not the first time. I was away 4.5hrs and walked about 7.5 miles. Not a lot, I know, but its a start. I have ‘The Divine Dance’ by Richard Rohr on Audiobook and I was listening to it as I walked, so the time actually flew and there was so many occasions when I thought I was going to explode with joy! Great stuff, I heartily recommend it to you.

As a wee treat and because it was lunchtime, I also treated myself to a spectacular meat pasty  from a certain local farm shop! I know how to live : )

Daily Office, Weds 7 February

I woke feeling out of sorts this morning, but I spent some time in prayer and was then led to read from The Daily Office by Peter Scazzero. I am going to build this into my rhythm.

Be Free for God

‘I have a need of such clearance as the Savior effected in the temple of Jerusalem a riddance of clutter of what is secondary that blocks the way to the all-important central emptiness which is filled with the presence of God alone.’ Jean Danielou

Question to Consider How would you describe “what is secondary” in your life, the thing that might be “blocking the way” to experiencing God?

Prayer

Lord, help me to see how much I lose when I lose you. My perspective on my life and all of life gets distorted when I don’t make space for you, obscuring your love for me. Your love is better than life, and truly I long for more tastes of that love. In Jesus’ name, amen.

‘Weep with Me’

Strange to write again, I know, the day after my last post, but can’t help it after such an outstanding and heart stirring time at the Rend Collective gig in West Brom last night. Came away wanting to listen to more of their stuff and find out more about them.

This song knocked me sideways…

Lord will You weep with me

I don’t need answers all I need is to know that You care for me,
Hear my plea
Are you even listening?
Lord I will wrestle with Your heart, but I won’t let You go

You know I believe
Help my unbelief

Yet I will praise You
yet I will sing of Your name
Here in the shadows, I’ll lift up an offering of praise
What was true in the light is still true in the dark,
You’re good and You’re kind and You care for this heart
Lord I believe you weep with me

Part the seas
Lord make a way for me
Here in the midst of my lament I have faith yes I still believe

You love me
Your plans are to prosper me
You’re working everything for good even when I can’t see

You know I believe
Help my unbelief

Yet I will praise You
yet I will sing of Your name
Here in the shadows, I’ll lift up an offering of praise
What was true in the light is still true in the dark,
You’re good and You’re kind and You care for this heart
Lord I believe you weep with me

That was the week that was…

So…it has been quite a week, well two weeks actually, in the ramp up to me starting my sabbatical and including my 60th birthday celebrations. I feel so thankful for the love and affirmation that I have been shown.

Here are the verses that were on the book mark on the top of my cake…

Isaiah 41:10

‘So do not fear, for I am with you;

So do not be dismayed for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’

Proverbs 2:10

‘For wisdom will enter your heart,

and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.’

Psalm 140:4

‘Keep me safe, Lord, from the hands of the wicked;

protect me from the violent,

who desire ways to trip my feet.’

Psalm 121:6-8

‘the sun will not harm you by day,

nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm –

he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going

both now and forevermore.’

And a quote from St Therese of Lisieux this morning, to get me going…

‘Holiness does not consist in one exercise or another, but it is a disposition of the heart, which renders us humble and little in the hands of God, conscious of our weakness, and confident, even daringly confident, in his fatherly goodness.’

 

 

Freedom

I went to visit a friend who lives down the road on Friday. I was with him for an hour and came away really refreshed and affirmed, as the sabbatical looms! He knows how to ask good questions! He is also sensitive to the Holy Spirit and he had two things to share:

  1. He saw the sign ‘FREEDOM’ over my head! Now, whilst I have not felt particularly trapped, when he said the word, my heart jumped in my chest. He went on and encouraged me to be free to…

         – Try new things and not feel held back by anyone or anything

         – Visit a monastic order and see what God’s doing there

         – Dream dreams…

         – Relax and enjoy it!

       2. He said that I have clenched fists as I hold on to things as they have been and that  I need to open my hands to be receptive to what God might want to give me in the future.

 

Interview

Our Vicar, Rich Johnson, interviewed us last Sunday morning about Sabbath and Sabbatical. Here it is: http://www.allsaintsworcester.org.uk/talks/ Practicing the Way of Jesus (2). There are is a set of (brilliant!) slides too: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/55a6400fe4b0062f1359e218/t/5a5f4176f9619acff15ffa0f/1516192120813/Practicing+the+Way+of+Jesus+%282%29+-+Slides.pdf

 

Sabbatical Wisdom

Here are a couple of extracts from some reflections on Sabbaticals by my friend James Lawrence, who has recently taken his third…

‘The focus of a sabbatical is rest, renewal and recreation. The whole point is that there isn’t necessarily a great ‘project’ to do, but rather a great deal of space and non-pressured time to ‘be’. Believe me, this is far more scary than a study break. It isn’t that there aren’t things that will be done on a sabbatical, but rather that there is an absence of pressure and the need to do ‘something’.’

And…

Some top tips

‘I asked some friends for their top tips on sabbaticals:

  • Leave enough space for pleasant detours or surprising turns.
  • Eliminate deadlines, the need to do things.
  • A specific focus for study or reflection can be helpful, but should not feel like work.
  • If you are married/have children, consult with your family and build in special time for each of them.
  • Change a few small things. For example, the time you get up in the morning, the shape of your journal (even the pen you use), your pattern of exercise, domestic duties.
  • Try to pray in a different way to your normal pattern.
  • Take time to identify possible sources of funding and apply far enough ahead.’

Give it up for The Larks!!

If you’re an early riser like me, you’ll enjoy this…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08zcbtz

I’m Here. Where Are You?

Early-bird poet Ian McMillan investigates why some people are happiest being early and others are content to be late.

Ian often arrives hours early for a performance and the thought of being late brings him out in a cold sweat. Infuriated at being repeatedly kept waiting by his tardy friend and fellow performer, composer Luke Carver Goss, he tries to find out why people have such different ideas about what being on time means.

Luke and Ian share their experiences of timekeeping to try and understand each other’s approaches to punctuality – and end up writing a song, “I’m Not Late, I’m Running Late”.

Ian also talks to social psychologist and author Oliver Burkeman, another early bird, about whether he should be irritated by being kept waiting – or more forgiving. Oliver says no-one is late or early by accident – it’s always revealing of a deeper need.

Perhaps Ian runs on “industrial time”, a throwback to his industrial roots. This was when the clock began to rule the working day instead of the sun and – according to Katy Belshaw, curator of industrial heritage at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry – when people began to talk not about time passed, but about time spent.

Ian shares his strong emotions about the possibility of being late with psychotherapist Sarah Carson, who questions him about his past to find out where his fear began. Finally, Ian sets himself the challenge of meeting his friend Luke on time – not early or late, just exactly on time. But how will this make Ian feel?

A Pennine production for BBC Radio 4.