The meditations I have put on this site so far have been heavily influenced by a type of Christian spritiuality referred to as Ignatian - after Ignatius of Loyola, who wrote about the method of contemplating/meditating on the scriptures by using our imagination.

Ignatian spirituality is the spirituality of the Jesuits - it was Ignatius and nine of his companions who founded the Jesuit order (The Society of Jesus) in 1540. Today, many people - not all in the Roman Catholic church and not all belonging to the Society of Jesus (well, you can't if you're a woman!) - use Ignatian spirituality to enhance their own walk with God.


If you're interesed and want to read more, try these:

The Way of St Ignatius - Margaret Hebblethwaite - Fount - ISBN 0 00 628101 X
The Ignatian Workout - Tim Muldoon - Loyola Press - ISBN 0 8294 1979 9


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
But now I want to explore other areas of Christian spirituality. The Society of Jesus grew from an older monastic tradition that was Benedictine - after St. Benedict.

One of the classic methods of prayer that Benedictines use is called Lectio Divina - pronounced - lekt-see-o di-vee-na. It means Holy or Spiritual reading and is a way of 'praying the scriptures'.

Sometimes, I think that in our busy 21st century world we have a tendency to live in our heads – thinking. We're busy. There's lots going on and we have lots to think about. So sometimes it's good to try and move away from living in our heads - and to deepen our awareness and our sensing of the world around us and of God’s presence in that world.

The blocked passage below comes from the Bible. This is how you might approach it using the method of Lectio Divina:
Read it through once slowly. Then read it again – slowly. And perhaps, even a third time. S...l...o...w...l...y!
Maybe part of the passage - a word or a phrase - seems to be more significant to you than another. Choose the word or phrase that speaks to you the most. Or, perhaps, it's the whole passage!
Whatever it is, now repeat this word/phrase - s-l-o-w-l-y - several times.
As you repeat it, try not to analyse it – don't do a mental Bible study on it. This is a time for savouring, not studying. Think of a piece of rich chocolate that you have popped into your mouth (I hope you like chocolate!). It is slowly melting and filling your senses with that delightful - m-m-m-m... well, chocolatey sensation.

Picture from freefoto.com

So, just continue to repeat the word or phrase over and over - slowly savouring it in your spirit. Just let the sense of it fill you, feed you, delight you.
Here's the passage - from Isaiah chapter 56.

Thus says the Lord:
Maintain justice, and do what is right,
for soon my salvation will come,
and my deliverance be revealed.
And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants —
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord God,
who gathers the outcasts of Israel,
I will gather others to them
besides those already gathered.

Now, how was that for you? Tell God in a short conversation.

Fruit of the Spirit - GodTube clips

Just for fun:

Young people are the same the world over...

... and one for the kids.

"The Christian life should resemble a fruit tree, not a Christmas tree.' - John Stott

Picture from freefoto.com

I’d like you to humour me and imagine yourself as a tree – a fruit tree, in fact. Now you may find the idea ridiculous or perplexing - but why not just humour me for a few moments and try it out?

You are a fruit tree and you have just finished blossoming and now you are actually in fruit. I wonder what sort of fruit tree you have decided that you are? Are you an apple, a pear, a plum? Or something more exotic? I’m sure Freud would have a field day with our choices – but that’s not why I have suggested this little flight of fancy. No, I'd like to suggest that you use this image as a springboard for a prayerful meditation.

Because I'm not present to read this to you, you will need to read the following block of text through once or twice to get the idea and then I suggest you close your eyes and just picture it - let your imagination fly!

Imagine you are a fruit tree in God’s garden.
It’s early morning – the sun has risen and is bathing everything with a lovely glow.
Jesus walks into the garden and you see him as he walks along slowly, stopping to look at his plants and trees.
Then - oh - he is looking at you! Your leaves are a golden-green in the sunshine. You look healthy and you are bearing young fruit in your branches.
Jesus smiles at you and you feel his loving attention, his pleasure in you, his delight in you.
Listen now… Jesus is saying something to you.
Be quiet and listen to what he says.

Try not to read this next bit until you have done the meditation above!

Now you are yourself again - no longer a tree - but we've not finished yet. Just give your imagination one more work-out!

Picture from freefoto.com
This time, imagine that you - as yourself - are walking in God’s garden with Jesus – companionably and contentedly browsing round the garden.
You both stop before a fruit tree.
Its leaves are a golden-green in the sunshine.
It looks very healthy and it is bearing young fruit in its branches.
You smile at Jesus and you talk together about the tree.
Be still for a moment and imagine your conversation with Jesus.

You might perhaps finish by thanking God for the time you have just spent - not washing up, not doing work, but just relaxing in God's presence.

If this way of praying feels strange to you, don't worry - using the imagination in prayer is an age-old method.

So far on this site I have concentrated mainly on Ignatian and Benedictine spirituality. I will still be putting on posts about both of these types but I also intend to extend this and consider other aspects of the subject so, hopefully, this will eventually be a useful resource for all aspects of Christians spirituality.

I have in my mind a categorisation that I shall use for this, which I have listed below. If you would like to suggest changes or additions to this, please do.

By historical type of spirituality:
Ignatian
Benedictine
Franciscan
Celtic

By denomination:
Roman
Orthodox
Anglican
Methodist
Baptist

By style:
Catholic/sacramental
Evangelical
Silent
Non-church

Over the next months/year, I intend to write about each of these or else ask someone (particularly for the denominational ones) to write a guest blog for me.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Have you had your five a day today? I think most of us must know by now that the minimum recommendation for portions of fruit and vegetables in one day is five (in the UK anyway. I believe - but am not sure - that the recommended amount in the USA is seven). So... have you had your five today?

Picture 'Fruit of the Spirit' from Allposters.co.uk


...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control

Galatians 5:22

Now, have you had your five of those fruit today? Or perhaps even more importantly, have your branches produced five of those fruit today for others to enjoy.

I believe we all have a mix of fruit on our branches. There may be plenty of good, healthy pieces of fruit up there, but probably lurking around are also a few bad ones - or, at least, fruit that initially looks good but has a bad bit somewhere that will need cutting out. The fruit of the Spirit - the good fruits - are the result of the inner workings of God in our lives - of the Holy Spirit's presence within us. How will we know what people are like? By the fruit that they produce.

Perhaps, like me, you'd like to change the balance of fruit in your branches? How can we increase the amount of good fruit and decrease the amount of bad fruit? Well, an organic gardener would probably say – you have to start with the soil.
Good soil, good fruit.

We need our roots to be growing deeply in nutritious, life-giving soil. God's soil of relationship, prayer and meditating on our scriptures. And that does take a bit of effort sometimes! We need to be willing to grow our roots into the deep, fertile, divine soil of God's loving presence - we have to be open to God.

So, let's get fruity!! Let's learn to be more open to God.


... Meditation coming soon to finish this off ...

One of the things I love about Ignatian spirituality is the encouragement to use our imagination in prayer. God has created us as whole beings - our imagination is just part of the person that we are - and part of God's creation. And we can use our God-given imagination to help us to grow in our spiritual lives. The Jesuits call this 'imaginative contemplation'. It is a way of meditative praying that can help to open us up to God.

This method of praying is used mostly with Gospel passages. This is how you might use it with one of the Jesus stories.

Find a quiet spot and read your chosen passage through a few times in order to familiarise youself with the story, but try not to learn any of it by rote. Ask yourself some questions: where was this happening; who was there; what sort of noises would I have heard; what would I have experienced had I been there.

Now close your eyes and allow the scene to unfold in your imagination. As the story unfolds, allow yourself to be in the scene as though your are one of the people there. Perhaps you speak or are spoken to? Go with it!

When you have finished, take a little time to thank God for your time of prayer. And you might find it helpful to jot down some notes to remind yourself later of your prayer time.

We all need spirtual food, but with the frenetic pace of life these days we sometimes neglect our spiritual health. Well, let's face it, we sometimes neglect our physical health and that's probably simpler to take care of.

We are used to 'Fast Food' and 'Ready Meals' and for a busy person these can often be a boon. Is there a spiritual equivalent? Below are a couple of links for busy Christians who tend to 'graze' for their spiritual food rather than have a sit-down meal. I find them very useful - I hope you do too.

Short verse for the day from Taize

Pray as you go - download an mp3 for your player and listen at your leisure.

Frodsham Cafe Church

Frodsham Cafe Church posterOn Wednesday we embarked on a new venture in Frodsham. We started Frodsham Cafe Church - to be held in Costa Coffee each Wednesday evening from 6pm till 7pm. Costa in Frodsham are open on Wednesdays till 7pm, so we are sharing the premises with the occasional punters they get in at that hour of the day - we have the back half of the shop!

There is always excitement and apprehension at the start of anything new, but the evening went extremely well - plenty of people, plenty of laughter, plenty of good coffee and plenty of warm friendship.

We have a set of values:

Welcome -
Everyone is welcome - whether you have any experience of church or not
Warmth -
Warm drinks, warm atmosphere, warm friendship
Words -
God has good words to say about how to live - real conversations about real issues in real life

.. and each week we will have Cafe News on the tables to (hopefully) provoke some thought.

The thought for this week was summed up in the "Cafe Qs":

- How can we meet people today on their own territory?
- Can we be ‘church’ in Costa Coffee?
- What, exactly, is church?


Have you any thoughts on these?

From Luke chapter 10

Now as they (Jesus and those following him) went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.’

One of the things I love about Ignatian spirituality is the encouragement to use our imagination in prayer. From St Beuno's website.comOn a retreat at St Beuno's in Wales I was asked to read the above passage from Luke and, having read it through a few times in order to familiarise myself with the story, to then close my eyes and allow the scene to unfold in my imagination. As the story unfolds, I was to imagine myself in the scene - either as myself or as one of the people in the story.

You might like to try doing this. It is very informative - from the person you choose to be in the scene, to your interaction with Jesus (if any) and your response to Mary and/or Martha (of course, you might be one of them in your imaginative prayer).

Go on - give it a whirl - what have you to lose?
From asbojesus.wordpress.com

Words from Aelred of Rievaulx (who lived 1110-1167)

As long as we need to eat and drink we shall need to tame our flesh with watching, fasting and work. This is Martha's role. But in our souls there should also be Mary, that is, spiritual activity. For we should not always give ourselves to bodily efforts, but sometimes be still and see how lovely, how sweet the Lord is....You should in no wise neglect Mary for Martha; or again, Martha for Mary. For if you neglect Martha, who will feed Jesus? If we neglect Mary, what use is it for Jesus to come to your house, when you taste nothing of his sweetness?

Other interesting links along these lines:

Ways of Praying

St Beuno's on YouTube: