Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons yesterday…

‘Pay attention

Be astonished 

Tell about it’

  • Mary Oliver 
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Cornish Capers

Thanks to my great friends, Ben and Hannah Dunnett, with whom I had a lovely meal and catch up last night, I was persuaded to jettison my plan to walk the cliff path between Perranporth and St Agnes, scheduled in my mind for this morning. Instead, I parked my car at Pentewan, on the south coast of Cornwall, and hiked to Mevagissey, via Helligan, then back along the cliff path to where I had started. Wow, wow, wow! What a glorious day I’ve had. I feel utterly spoilt and blessed by all that I have enjoyed, nay revelled in, of the natural works today. I feel intoxicated by all that the Divine has, and still is, accomplishing and I give thanks with all my heart. 

I have also just finished ‘The Santiago Pilgrimage’ by Jean-Christophe Rufin and that has further whetted my appetite for the Camino next week. My word for April is ‘attentive’ and I’ve had no problem in being mindful or aware of what has been going on around me today, but what totally blows my mind is, ‘but what have I missed too?’ There is always far more going on in us and around us than we realise. Creation is teeming with life, colour, variety and energy constantly and it all points us beyond ourselves and yet also to ourselves because ‘in him ALL things hold together’. 

 

WIJD?

I reached the end of my 8 week cycle of ‘The Daily Office’ by Peter Scazzero a few days ago. I felt a bit sad because I’ve really established it as a part of my daily rhythm and I’ll be starting again next week after a short break. Highly recommended. In the Bibliography to TDO though, I came across a reference to Leighton Ford’s ‘The Attentive Life: Discovering God’s Presence in All Things’. I have always enjoyed Leighton Ford’s writing and I have a deep respect for him and his pioneering of the Arrow Leadership Programme. He is also a passionate mentor of younger leaders. I downloaded ‘The Attentive Life’ onto my kindle and…I CAN”T STOP READING IT!! I love God’s timing and the way he has brought this great book to my attention in the month of April, when the ‘word’ he just happens to have given me is attentive/mindful!

Here’s a taster:

‘This way of living—of listening and responding to the words of Jesus—is not just a matter of learning what Jesus said, or even asking the well-known question WWJD: what would Jesus do? It is a way of opening myself to ask WIJD: what is Jesus doing? The apostle Paul certainly knew what Jesus said, but he quoted Jesus directly only three times. It was the word of Jesus living in him that changed him. To paraphrase another writer, I know the transforming power of Christ not only because once he said to his disciples in an upper room, “Love one another as I have loved you” but because now he is loving through me by his Spirit living in me.’

With just three weeks to go until Paul Swann and I walk 100k of the Camino de Santiago, my prayer is to be much more of a pilgrim than a tourist through life generally. I wrote in my journal this morning, ‘Abba, please help me to notice. Amen’ I want to be more aware of what is around me, what’s going on and what Jesus is doing in the present moment. As prep for the Camino I’m also reading Jean-Christophe’s ‘The Santiago Pilgrimage’ and I read this recently and it made me think…

AF5DF9FE-CAEB-4F07-8025-FE1D3ED7AEA0.jpeg

From Richard Rohr today

Inner Light

Friday, March 23, 2018

I have the immense joy of being a [human being], a member of a race in which God became incarnate. As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we all are. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun. —Thomas Merton

You are the light of the world. . . . Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. —Matthew 5:14, 16

A mystic—like Merton, Francis of Assisi, Julian of Norwich, John Duns Scotus, and many others—is one who recognizes God’s image and likeness in this human being, in this creature, in this moment, and from that encounter with the sacred comes to see God everywhere and always. The mystic cannot help but love and have compassion for what is right in front of them. God’s indwelling presence—in every created thing—is inherent and cannot be earned or destroyed.

And my view in my mentor, Jim’s house as I wait to have my breakfast…

Cornwall, Cloisters, Calligraphy and Camino…

On Monday morning this week, I was all set to drive to Cornwall, ensconce myself in a small retreat cottage, walk some cliff paths and visit my very great friends, Ben and Hannah Dunnett for a meal and catch-up…but the weather forecast put paid to all that and I’ve had to postpone it all after Easter. I don’t like last minute changes of plan. I’m inclined to sulk when that happens. Big time. Then I turned in my journal to some notes I had made earlier that very morning from my reading of The Daily Office:

‘Grant me courage Father to embark on the unique journey you have crafted for me. By faith I surrender my need and desire to be in control of every event, circumstance and person I will meet today. In Jesus’ name, amen.’

…and here I was, about an hour later, feeling the grumpiness descending because I could not actually ‘control’ what my week was going to look like. I now had a choice. I could either allow my ‘false self’ (more about that in another post!) to have its way, or I could walk forward into the prayer I’d prayed and be expectant that God was actually in control. I am pleased to report that I chose the latter course of action and what a blessed few days I’ve had.

About a 12 minute drive from the front door of Chapel House is Glasshampton Monastery (http://www.franciscans.org.uk/where-we-are/retreat-or-stay/glasshampton-ssf). I had not heard much about it before, but having decided I needed a Plan B for this week, I rang them up and they said they could take me. So off I toddled and I believe I found a ‘treasure in a  field’ (see Matt 14!). The five brothers who make up the community there were so welcoming and hospitable. I found the whole 48 hours such a great time, as I read, prayed, journaled, dined (in silence) and embraced the five times a day prayer rhythm that the Society of St Francis observe. Wonderful. Thank you God for ambushing my grumpiness and leading me along a different path to what I had expected this week.

GlasshamptonMonastery

As you will know I have also planned to do a Calligraphy course during my sabbatical and I was able to see that realised last Saturday, at the Bevere Gallery in Worcester, with a very skilful teacher, Rachel Murgatroyd. To be honest, I’d have paid the money to just sit and listen to Rachel talk about the ‘art of penmanship’ with such enthusiasm and passion. She raved about the ink, the nib, the mindfulness and slowness required. I was converted on the spot and at the end of the 2.5 hours I felt like I had the skills and confidence to start actually practising it. I am now an evangelist for Calligraphy! On reflection, it was so inspiring to meet someone who believes so much in what she’s doing. It was contagious. She had thought of everything. Her welcome (as above!) was so warm and welcoming. She’d prepared thoroughly. Amazing refreshments were organised. What a lesson in how to do things properly…

Also this last week, Paul Swann and I booked our flights for the Camino de Santiago. We fly on Sunday 29 April and return on Monday 7 May. All the accommodation is also booked and we’re very excited about it. Please pray that we are able to build up to walking about 10-15 miles a day, comfortably! Personally, I have a bit of a way to go yet!

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!

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