Friday, 3 February 2017

God's Jigsaw

I sometimes think that discerning what God is up to is a bit like being given just a few pieces of a complicated jigsaw, and no straight bits!   At the home were I stayed last week, a huge unfinished jigsaw lay on a table in the lounge, challenging people to put the next piece in. Over the course of the weekend, it became for me a metaphor of the Body of Christ.
Let me explain.  Along with Sally, a gifted musician, and Julian, an experienced sound recordist, I was down in Cornwall recording the first of my meditation CDs.  It was a rich and rewarding experience and the project taught me a lot about the Body of Christ.  It was a perfect example of how we all have different gifts which, when we work together, can produce something so much bigger than the sum of the individual parts; just as, when the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle are the perfect fit for each other we begin to see a bigger, more vibrant picture.
So the CD recordings are underway!  I am in awe of how God brought together such talented and Christ-centred people to support me. The recording of the first CD was completed during three days in Truro.  It's been a busy month, during which I've slept in 6 different beds and travelled well over 1,000 miles.  And having sat behind a microphone for the best part of three days, I now have a very healthy respect for radio and recording artists!
Thank you - to all who prayed us through the recording process - to Sally for her anointed playing, her very hard work, and for her determination to make the recording the best that it can be - to Julian for his generosity, his immense technical skills and for keeping us all calm under pressure - to Fenella for keeping us well fed and well rested - to Audri for her creative ideas and enthusiasm for the related artwork - and to an anonymous supporter who blessed me with a relaxing stay in a top notch hotel afterwards.
Please continue to pray for Julian, as he now performs the complex technical task of editing all that we've recorded.  Please pray for Audri, as she goes into hospital for a planned operation.  And please pray for me as I now change focus for a while and turn my attention to preparing some retreats.  My next event will be a retreat for a group of Franciscans, at the end of the month.
And in the meantime, if you come across any jigsaws, just remember  ...   we're each a unique and important piece in God's Grand Jigsaw and the Kingdom comes closer when we all fit our different gifts together!

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Pregnant with Potential

New Years Eve.  For most of us it's a pivot point; a time when, if only for a moment, we dare to dream that things can be better, happier, more fulfilling than  before - that we can somehow make a better job of our lives.  It's a time of hope; a hope so exciting that we celebrate with spectacular fireworks.

So, I wonder what are your hopes for this New Year?

For me, it heralds a slight change in direction as I begin to bring to fruition my long-held dream of producing recordings of healing meditations.  After many delays, rehearsals have begun and we will be in the recording studio at the end of January.  Meanwhile, there's much to be done in terms of the logistics of production and marketing of this new resource.  In short, January is going to be exciting but challenging!  Please do pray for us.  Please pray for good health for all involved in this project, for Sally as she practices and arranges the music, for Julian as he hosts us in the studio, for necessary rehearsal time to be given, for support to emerge to navigate the unfamiliar territory of the production process, for financial decisions to 'add up', for Audri who will create the CD covers and inserts, for good travel conditions between Stafford, Guildford & Truro, for the anointing of the Spirit over us, and for every aspect of the project to flow with holy ease.  And please pray protection over us too. 

But, to return to that question: what does the dawning of the New Year mean to you? 

As the last remnants of glitter and pine needles are swept away, we emerge on the cusp of a new year; a year pregnant with possibility - just as Mary was.  Called to be the God-bearer, Mary was invited to become pregnant with a possibility far beyond anything she could imagine.  And all she was asked to do was simply to be available; available in all her vulnerability and questioning.  And God did the rest.
And maybe that's one of the messages of Christmas: God invites each one of us to host the Incarnation ourselves, in our time and our place.  He calls each one of us to be open and available, and willing to let Him live out His divine purposes through us.  So simple.  So challenging.  Such a privilege.  

Will we take up the challenge?

My prayer for each one of us, at the dawn of this New Year, is that we will be open to the God who loves us beyond our imagining and that He will guide us into the unique and individual way that He wants us to make His presence known in the world.

Happy New Year to you all!

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.