Feeling at home with God

Frodsham Parish HallEach month, on the last Saturday, the church that I attend has a quiet morning in our Parish Hall. Today we had a visitor from our local Roman Catholic Church - a lady called Pauline Furlong.

One thing she did was play some music for us, including this beautiful song:


Come as you are, that's how I want you,
Come as you are, feel quite at home
Close to my heart, loved and forgiven,
Come as you are, why stand alone?
Picture from www.allposters.co.uk Item #: 1829726
No need to fear, love sets no limits,
No need to fear, love never ends,
Don't run away, shamed and disheartened;
Rest in my love, trust me again.

I came to call sinners not just the virtuous,
I came to bring peace, not to condemn,
Each time you fail to live by my promise,
Why do you think I'd love you the less?

Come as you are, that's how I love you,
Come as you are, trust me again,
Nothing can change the love that I bear you;
All will be well, just come as you are.

Come as you are, that's how I want you,
Come as you are, feel quite at home,
Close to my heart, loved and forgiven,
Come as you are, why stand alone?

- Deidre Browne


What wonderful words. "Why do you think I would love you the less? - Nothing can change the love that I bear you."

When we believe that, deeply in our hearts, then we are at home with God.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So - for a few moments - let yourself be at home with God.

Somewhere quiet, somewhere safe, somewhere where you can sit and talk with God openly and lovingly.

Imagine that place now and in your mind's eye put yourself there...

... and simply enjoy being in the presence of someone who loves you completely - just as you are.
Loved, treasured and accepted - just as you are.
Spend a little time just being loved and loving in return...

And if it feels appropriate, now simply say to God whatever is on your heart...

... and hear God's reply to you, his loved one.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And may God's blessing be on you, now and always.
Come as you are, that's how I love you,
Come as you are, trust me again,
Nothing can change the love that I bear you;
All will be well, just come as you are.

Gravity in Lent

My apologies to my readers for not updating this blog earlier. A much loved nephew of mine died at the weekend after two years of fighting cancer. He was 33 years old. So I have been a little preoccupied, to say the least. He was a wonderful man - funny, serious and committed, all at the same time - and he will be missed enormously.

And now its Ash Wednesday already. Actually, Lent feels an appropriate time for me to be entering just now. There is a gravity about Lent that has echoes with how I am currently feeling.

I have decided to do two things this Lent:

1. I am going to follow the Tearfund carbon fast and have made sure I don't neglect it by getting daily emails with the current day's suggested action. The action for today is this:


Day 1
Remove one light bulb from your home and live without it for the next 40 days. This will decrease your energy use and act as a reminder of what you are doing during Lent.


Now, I love light. I have a tendency to get gloomy thoughts during the days of winter, and I compensate by putting on lots of lights. So, for me, this will be an interesting fast. I am currently sitting in a hotel bedroom, so I have simply turned off one of the lights I would usually have on. When I get home - mmmm - which bulb shall I remove?! Perhaps I will be keen and remove two!

2. I am following an on-line weekly retreat called Days of Deepening Friendship. It gives a spiritual exercise for the week - something I will enjoy and, hopefully, learn from. Again, I have registered to receive emails so that I do not miss any week.

Note: If you wish to follow Reflections by email, you can enter your email address in the blue sidebar where it says 'Subscribe to Reflections by email'.

I wonder what others are doing for Lent? Giving something up? Doing something extra? Nothing? I would love to hear your answers in the comments to this blog.

One final thing - I have begun to twitter - on behalf of Reflections. You can find my twitterings - or 'tweets' - on the Reflectionsblog homepage. Please let me know if you tweet and I'll start to follow you. Are some of you completely bemused, now? Then just give it a go!

With my prayers for a challenging and rewarding Lent.

Imagine you are there, sitting on the ground, listening to the expert. Listen and dwell on his words:

And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

Pray then in this way: ,Prayer for Peace from allposters.co.uk  Item #: 1369907

Our Father in heaven
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.
For if you forgive others their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you;
but if you do not forgive others,
neither will your Father forgive your
trespasses.


Jesus' words from Matthew Chapter 6
Poster from http://www.allposters.co.uk/ Item #: 1369907

I am rubbish at intercessory prayer! It’s one of those things at which I’ll never be a natural. – unlike a friend of mine who slips into it so naturally that she recently took to drawing lots as to who she would pray for that day!

No, seriously - her list of people for whom she felt drawn to pray was so lengthy and taking up so much of her not inconsiderable prayer time that a very wise acquaintance of hers (not me) suggested that she wrote them all down on separate slips of paper, put them into a ‘hat’ and draw out a set number each day. Well, drawing lots is very biblical (Joshua 18.8-10, amongst others).

I think that I am on one of my friend's pieces of paper – that’s a lovely thought! So if you have a similar problem, that’s one idea to consider.

I’ll never have that particular problem. Random, wandering thoughts and nodding off are mine! So the next few posts on this blog are for those who, like me, struggle a little with the whole area of personal intercessory prayer. Now, there seem for me to be three particular areas of difficulty:

• Who/what to pray for?
• How to pray for them?
• Why pray for them?


As you might guess from the previous story of my friend, this particular post on the blog is going to concentrate on who or what to pray for.

Talking of friends, I had another friend (sadly, relatively recently deceased) who used an easy method for deciding who to pray for on any particular day. At the back of his diary was a single-sided monthly planner and he simply divided into each of the thirty-one days the names of people or situations that were on his heart – and, lo and behold, he had a personal prayer diary. Now, don’t be facetious and ask me what you would do in February!

I have a personal organiser, so I have decided that I am going to create an electronic version of my friend’s prayer diary. I’ll let you know how I get on with it.

A third friend (my friends are being very useful today) describes how he allows himself to hold one person before God in prayer and then simply ‘bounces’ from there to another person who comes to mind or is associated in some way with the previous person. Because I tend to think in straight lines (that’s why I’m in IT) I suspect that, if I tried to intercede that way, I might just pray for the same few people over and over again each day. But if you are a creative person who thinks in spreading networks or pictures, then this might work very well for you.

Some people pray through the news – bringing each situation to God as they listen or watch. You could do the same thing with a newspaper. Perhaps you have some tips you can share for deciding on the group of people/situations for whom to pray, and how you split them up over the days (if, indeed, you do split them).

Well, that’s covered some of the ‘who’ and what’! So.... coming soon to a blog near youhow we intercede for others.

With my prayers for my band of readers. (Now where shall I put you all in my electronic diary?)

The poem by Edwina Gateley in my previous post set me thinking...
...thinking about the maternal nature of God's love.

Now, before some of you rear up or start bristling, I'm not about to say that God is female. But there again, I'm not going to say that God is male, either. Personally, I believe that God transcends gender - God encompasses both the perfect male and female characteristics - after all, how else could God create women and men?

And I promise that I will base some future posts around the paternal nature of God's love! But for now, because it is in the forefront of my mind, I'd like to think of some of the ways in which the Bible talks about the feminine side of God - and focus on one Bible passage in particular.

If you want to do some homework, then you might choose to look up these references in the Bible.

Deuteronomy 32:18 ...the God who gave you birth
Psalm 22:9&10 ...God as midwife
Isaiah 42:14 ...God crying out like a woman in labour
Isaiah 49:15 ...God compared with a nursing mother
Isaiah 66:13 ...God like a mother comforting her child
But my favourite passage on this subject has to be Psalm 131. Now you can approach this psalm in one of two ways (probably lots more, but I'm keeping to the things I know!). You can use the psalm to do a 'lectio divina' type of meditation - mulling and savouring. Or you can be more kataphatic and take your imagination for a little exercise - you can visualise being the weaned child at its mother's (God's) breast. I particularly like the fact that it says a 'weaned' child - not a colicky, fractious newborn, but a child who can smile, laugh and respond to its mother.

I once did a meditation based on this psalm when I was on a retreat at St Beuno's - curled up in a lovey comfortable armchair. It was a wonderful time of prayer for me and I will always remember it.

Enjoy the psalm.
Psalm 131

A song of ascents. Of David.

My heart is not proud, LORD,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
or things too wonderful for me.
But I have calmed myself
and quieted my ambitions.
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

Israel, put your hope in the LORD
both now and forevermore.


Picture from www.allposters.co.uk Item #: 927500


Many blessings
 

I have just had a very busy week - but my mind kept coming back to my blog - even when it should have been on other things! I think I am getting addicted!

But busyness has its penalties and, as a result, I am a little short on material at the moment. So I thought I would share with you a poem I have recently read. I love the writings of Edwina Gateley. My previous spiritual director pointed me in her direction, so I'm 'passing it on'.

This poem, called Train, can be found in her book Growing into God
ISBN 1-58051-080-9.


Train

Sitting on the subway train
shuddering its way
through the city of Chicago,
I saw the gang graffiti,
defiant and bold,
painted on the warehouse walls -
words of anger and violence -
screaming at the blank eyes
of innocent passengers
mindlessly staring out
through grubby windows.
And there,
in bright red,
surrounded by gang symbols,
four words stood large and bold:
"I LOVE YOU, MAMA."
My heart grieved
for unspoken story,
for the angry son who,
in the midst
of an act of rage,
remembered he loved him mama
and needed to tell
the world.
I hurt for his mama
the other woman,
who wept and prayed
that her son, so well beloved,
would be safe,
that her God,
ridiculously,
miraculously,
would raise him up
whole and healed.
And in the train, rocking,
I dreamed with her,
that God slipped through
graffitied walls and,
hot with a mother's love,
plucked up
and raised so high,
so gloriously,
the son
she loved so well.


 
 

How about some feedback?

To help me in writing future posts, please would a few of you out there give me some answers to these questions?


Of the meditations that have been on this site so far, do you have a favourite? (I've made the site archive in the right hand column a bit easier to navigate if you want to remind yourself!)

Do you like bits of theory/theology thrown in?

Are you an 'apophatic' or 'kataphatic' sort of pray-er? Or have you absolutely no idea what I'm talking about?!

P.S. If you're an 'apophatic' type of person you might like to try looking at the following site:

Centering prayer (Upper Room)

Well, you probably won't get everyone to agree exactly on a definition - but let's take a fairly traditional Christian approach.

You can think of ways of prayerful meditation as falling into two distinct groups:

   - kataphatic (from Greek: 'with images')
   - apophatic

Odd words, eh?

Kataphatic prayer uses images - symbols, ideas, experience. Ignatian spirituality tends to be kataphatic - using imagination, words and pictures (inner or otherwise).

Apophatic prayer uses no content - it involves emptying ourselves of images, ideas and sensations. Carmelite nuns are expert in apophatic prayer - the still, centering prayer.

Lectio divina - which the last two posts have been about - tends to straddle both traditions - kataphatic and apophatic. It depends really on how you use the scripture passage that is chosen.

Of course, we're all different, and it's good to try different ways of prayer to discover which approaches suit us - or even, suit us in particular circumstances. That's what this website is about, really. Exploring tried and tested ways of praying in order that we might grow in spiritual maturity and awareness of God.

Anyway, enough of boring theory! Let's have a bit of practice! Shall we try a bit of apopathic meditation for a change?!! It's probably best to read the next passage through once or twice before doing this - you might want to close your eyes!

But first remember that, in this type of prayer, the aim is not to achieve a void, but a 'being with' the living God.
Now, are you in a quiet, still environment?
Are you in a comfortable position?
Then, let's begin!

Be still, let your body and your mind calm down from the busyness of the day...

Relax each of your limbs in turn:
   - right leg...
   - left leg...
   - right arm...
   - left arm...
Feel your limbs getting heavier as they relax...

Now, allow your pelvis and your tummy muscles to loosen. Feel your weight in your legs and hips. And as your muscles begin to unwind, be aware of your thoughts and feelings becoming calmer too.

Next, move your attention to your chest and then move up to your neck and shoulders. Notice the big muscles there - sense them, feel them - you might want to move them - and then allow them to soften and lengthen...

Now for your face muscles - feel the muscles around your mouth, around your eyes, your jaw muscles, your forehead... let them loosen and become softer...
Allow your scalp and your temples to let go of any tension or tightness they are holding...

You are feeling calm and still.
Stay like that for a minute or so...
Calm and still...

Then...
...focus on your breathing - feel your breaths coming from deep in the pit of the stomach. Don't worry about the speed or regularity - just breathe comfortably and deeply from deep inside your tummy...

Now, on each in-breath say the words, "My God",
and on the out-breath just be with your God.

After 5 or 10 minutes allow yourself to become aware of the room/space around you. And ask God to help you to continue to stay aware of God's presence in and around you as you 'come back' to your usual everyday awareness.


Now, share your thoughts with God as one friend to another.

And the blessing of God remain with you throughout the rest of your day/night.
Amen.

A little light relief

Cartoon courtesy of www.reverendfun.com

Picture from www.reverendfun.com

Copyright Gospel Communications International, Inc - www.reverendfun.com

Picture from ciao.co.uk

Wikipedia contains a useful article on Lectio Divina.

The only 'nit' I would 'pick' with it is that it talks about putting aside a time of one hour each day to pray in this way. Now, that seems to me OK for nuns and monks, but for your common-or-garden working wo/man that appears to be a trifle ambitious!

But let's look at what Wikipedia says. It talks about how the method of Lectio Divina has traditionally been described as having four parts: Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio and Contemplatio. All of these together making a "Feast on the Word".

So now you see why chocolate is particularly appropriate! This is how I see it in, er - well, chocolatey terms -

Lectio
Reading the passage: taking a lovely bite of the chocolate - nice and slowly...m.m.m.m....

Meditatio
Mulling over part of the passage: letting that wonderful chocolate melt deliciously and slowly in your mouth!

Oratio
Opening to God in a conversation: telling God how fabulous his chocolate is - then moving on to an intimate chat.

Contemplatio
Loving, wordless focus on God: just resting with God with that lovely 'satisfied' post-chocolate feeling!

Would you like to try it with another passage? Perhaps Psalm 23?

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff—
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
Picture from Allposters.co.uk Item #: 4592529
Peace be with you.