Draw aside – return refreshed
Psalm 116 The Message (paraphrase by Eugene Peterson)
Draw aside – return refreshed
Psalm 116 The Message (paraphrase by Eugene Peterson)
|1-6 I love God because he listened to me,|
listened as I begged for mercy.
He listened so intently
as I laid out my case before him.
Death stared me in the face,
hell was hard on my heels.
Up against it, I didn’t know which way to turn;
then I called out to God for help:
“Please, God!” I cried out.
“Save my life!”
God is gracious—it is he who makes things right,
our most compassionate God.
God takes the side of the helpless;
when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me. 7-8 I said to myself, “Relax and rest.
God has showered you with blessings.
Soul, you’ve been rescued from death;
Eye, you’ve been rescued from tears;
And you, Foot, were kept from stumbling.” 9-11 I’m striding in the presence of God,
alive in the land of the living!
I stayed faithful, though overwhelmed,
and despite a ton of bad luck,
Despite giving up on the human race,
saying, “They’re all liars and cheats.”
|12-19 What can I give back to God|
for the blessings he’s poured out on me?
I’ll lift high the cup of salvation—a toast to God!
I’ll pray in the name of God;
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it together with his people.
When they arrive at the gates of death,
God welcomes those who love him.
Oh, God, here I am, your servant,
your faithful servant: set me free for your service!
I’m ready to offer the thanksgiving sacrifice
and pray in the name of God.
I’ll complete what I promised God I’d do,
and I’ll do it in company with his people,
In the place of worship, in God’s house,
in Jerusalem, God’s city.
Draw aside – return refreshed
Godspace retreat 2021
Prompts for a response to psalm 116
You have around 30 minutes today to respond to the psalm in whatever way you like – draw, write, compose, be still, take a photo…. I hope you will take the psalm home with you and want to come back to it and respond with more time at your disposal. Use this room, the chapel, the oratory, the garden. Here are some suggestions that may help you, today or on another occasion;
Does this seem an odd place to talk about something so pragmatic as how we deal with the end of lockdown? On the contrary, if a desert bush could burn with God’s fire for Moses, so we may find this time of (partial) deconfinement filled with God’s holiness. It is up to us.
We can react as circumstances change. That is probably what most of us have been doing, unable to predict or to prepare for the next stage. Or we can pray and reflect so that we are ready to respond as God’s people to each change that comes our way.
So here are some questions and issues to pray about and to reflect on so as to help our thoughts:
What wonderful words Sonja wrote last month! So encouraging and so true! Yet I wonder how many of us read them with hesitation: ‘this can’t apply to me’ ‘I just need to sort my life out and then God will love me’?
So I want to explore the things that come between us and God. I’m not an expert, there are plenty of good books. If you need help in this area please don’t keep it to yourself but reach out, to a minister, a spiritual companion/director, a friend.
Often we feel there is a burden but we don’t know what words to apply to it so as to sort it out, so here are some questions (and the vocabulary) I find helpful for ‘teasing apart’ my blockages:
Finally, it can be very difficult to own up to things that are wrong, that we would rather sweep under the carpet. I am encouraged by a friend’s saying: if you look a sin in the eye it can’t stab you in the back!
Spiritual poetry for Godspace
Does poetry belong on a website dedicated to helping us find God? Yes, I believe it does. Not all poetry of course, but much of it, whether specifically Christian or not, can act as a text to help us meet with God, give us a vocabulary when we do not know what to say, help a group to share an understanding. (You may like to use hymn and song lyrics in the same way). A poet can be a fine companion with whom to journey, a mentor who can draw us on to help us express something wordless in ourselves, to see something new.
Background to list:
The following are some of the poets I’ve come across from the last 200 years (roughly speaking) whose words I and others have found helpful. Of course not all their poetry is ‘overtly religious’ and what speaks to one person may not speak to another. But these names may give you a starting point to put in your search engine or to leaf through the shelves of a bookshop. Sometimes I’ll mention a particular poem I believe worth considering. Finally I’ve mentioned some specific works from poets whose work I do not generally know, but which I think could be helpful. There is plenty more and I hope you will send me your ‘finds’ so that I can share them here.
In no particular order:
Denise Levertov, her religious poems are gathered in the collection ‘The Stream and The Sapphire’, charting her journey to faith.
Michael Symonds Robert eg Mancunian Miserere
T S Eliot: His ‘Journey of the Magi’ is a fascinating and fantastic example of imaginative contemplation, telling the back story to an episode in the Gospels
Rowan Williams: He likes to be described as ‘not a religious poet but a poet to whom religious things matter enormously’. ‘Advent calendar’ is specifically Christian and good for pondering in season.
U A Fanthorpe: Her ‘BC:AD’ is a tremendous meditation on the meaning of the incarnation.
Leonard Cohen: His modern psalms in his ‘Book of Mercy are fascinating, true cries from the heart of a modern Jew to God.
Chris Southgate: who catches in his writings ‘intimations of the sacred’.
R S Thomas (1913-2000)try ‘Folktale’ (about prayer), ‘Raptor’ for when your God is too small, ‘The Bright Field’ at all times!
Mary Oliver She is described as ‘a mystic of the natural world, not a theologian of the church’. Her way of describing nature can help us learn to look carefully. Try ‘The Journey’, ‘Wild Geese’ ‘If I wanted a boat’.
Gerard Manley Hopkins, complex, often difficult to understand, he forces us to slow down.
Wendell Berry, like Mary Oliver, a mystic of the natural world, try ‘The peace of wild things’.
Some random poems:
Ted Hughes ‘March morning unlike others’ a meditation on the beauty and frailty of the earth.
Christina Rossetti ‘Remember’ a reflection on death and on how it separates friends
Zbigniew Herbert ‘Pebble’ how to meditate on one seemingly dull object!
Louise Gluck ‘Vespers’ one way of speaking to God.
e e cummings ‘I thank you god for most this amazing day’ ;a lovely expression of joy.
Dates for this year: Lent for the year 2021 starts on Wednesday, February 17th and ends on Thursday, April 1 with evening prayer on Holy Thursday, which is then followed by the three days of Easter..
Role of Lent : The season of Lent lasts for forty days (not including Sundays). It is a time when Christians reflect and prepare for the celebrations of Easter. Some people fast, eat frugally or give up treats following the example of Jesus, who fasted for forty days in the wilderness. We recommit to Christian practices such as prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and reconciliation to prepare to enter the mystery of Easter. Through these practices, we deepen our commitment to the Christian life and prepare to renew our baptismal promises.
Suggestions for observing Lent consider your motive, once we realise why we are intending to do something for Lent we are more likely to find the right thing. For instance does one of these describe your aim: to prepare for Easter and the renewal of Baptismal promises; to follow the example of Jesus in the wilderness; to use this time to train yourself in discipline (perhaps regardless of the particular discipline); to grow in your faith?
You may then like to consider:
Daily prayer: increase or redefine your commitment; join with others (many churches and religious communities are offering some form of morning and evening prayers).
Your own church: find out what they are offering
Books: It is getting late for ordering in English from the UK, but you might find other resources, or be happy to start late. There are many, some with daily readings, some with weekly readings. A sample
may be seen at https://www.eden.co.uk/easter/lent-resources/books/ A particular suggestion is from the Lutheran Gayl Ramshaw ’40 days and 40 nights’. Or you may want to commit to reading a spiritual classic.
SSJE (society of St John the Evangelist, Anglican monastic order in USA) : offers a weekly email including a video on prayer at https://www.ssje.org/2021/01/06/come-pray-lent-2021/ They invite you to join the brothers in online prayer, but since they are in an American time zone that is not generally practical!
glasgow ignatians, https://www.iscglasgow.co.uk/lent2021.html this is an on-line/on an app offering of readings reflections, music and art, plus a weekly meeting with others following the course for support. N B I am interested in hosting a group on a monday lunchtime so it is suitable for those still working as well as others. Please let me know by friday 12 feb if you would like to join by leaving a comment.
the abbey of the arts has https://abbeyofthearts.com/programs/online-classes/lent2021/ Journey with the Desert Mothers and Fathers (Lent 2021) an online mixture of live sessions, reflections, videos
https://www.churchofengland.org/resources/livelent-2021-church-resources-gods-story-our-story involves book, and app. The theme is evangelism and witness.
Through the year, our mood changes. As the days get longer we spend more time outside. The snow may create an especially playful expression.
Our walk with God also changes with the season, whether that is the Church’s seasons from Advent to Easter, or the calendar season from sowing to harvest.
Our prayer life may also reflects those seasons.
Here we offer you some resources that may help you, beginning with Lent. Bear in mind that we cannot read/view everything before posting it, we do not necessarily know the quality of the teaching or the theology behind it. What you use is your responsibility.
We do not have the resources for reviews, but if you send us details of any books or links to other material we may consider including it in the future.
There are many ways of approaching Scripture. We may have to free ourselves from the ideas we were brought up with, to allow God to meet us in Scripture in a different way.
The other key word here is “imaginative”. We are often happy to bring God our mind and our sight, but imagination seems to be about ‘making things up’. Just like every other aspect of ourselves, our imagination can be offered to God and He can work though it.
Imaginative Scripture reading is about entering into a story to allow God to meet us there. The best way to explain it is to give an example.
The calling of Nathanael John ch1 vv43-51 For the purpose of this story you are going to put yourself in the place of Nathanael. Begin by reading the passage through a couple of times, so you have the picture in your mind, then go through the passage in detail, slowly, with yourself in the place of Nathanael:
43 Take time to enter the story, the location is vague, where would you have Jesus be? In your home country, in countryside or town, field or road?
44-45 Philip is someone who has met Jesus and now comes to share Jesus with Nathanael. Who might play/have played the role of Philip in your life?
46 Is your reaction to the news of Jesus to doubt? Healthy scepticism or a cynicism you need to overcome?
47 Yet you go to Jesus and He sees you coming. Where are you? Imagine it for yourself. In a country lane, in a busy street or a quiet, deserted place? Is it indoors or outdoors? Choose a place, and imagine it, with Jesus there, waiting for you. What can you see? What can you hear? What does the place smell like? Imagine the feel of the ground under your feet as you walk towards Jesus. Hold on to this moment, how does He look at you? What is in His eyes? Then He speaks; how would Jesus describe you? Listen carefully to Him rather than yourself, it might surprise you!
48 Dialogue between you and Jesus, what questions would you like to ask Him – this is a safe place to do it. What answer does He give?
49 From what Jesus has said, Nathanael recognises who Jesus is. What are you learning about Jesus from this encounter?
50-51 Jesus does not leave things there, He goes on to talk of ‘greater things’ and promises them to Nathanael. What greater things might Jesus be leading you towards, promising to you?
For an example from Mark (the woman with the haemorrhage) and more teaching about this see https://blog.bible/bible-engagers-blog/entry/ignatian-contemplation-how-to-read-the-bible-with-your-imagination
For an example on utube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTyoBg6aO9I
For the New Year I’ve been musing on an ancient image, a garden as analogy for my soul. You might also find it a helpful way to explore your soul/spirit/sub-concious/secret identity.
Gardens are not common in the Bible but they certainly existed, from God planting the first one in Gen 2:8. The garden as an analogy of the soul comes with the Prophets: for example Isaiah takes the garden as an illustration of a bad life in ch1:30, Jeremiah uses it for a good life in ch 31:12.
So if you accept the value of the analogy, what might we find in a garden that helps us to explore our soul?
There are many other parallels between the garden and the soul, these are just a few for starters. These images can be explored in words or pictures. Do let me know your thoughts.
There is always a danger with prayer that it becomes too cerebral, word-based, even academic, so this page is a chance to think of other ways of praying, ways of using other parts of ourselves. We do not often get to know friends by talking non-stop: how do you grow in friendship? Adapt the same methods to communicate with God, to pass time with Him, even to waste time with Him!
Walking: why not take a walk with God? Go through the woods and praise Him for the beauty, go through the town and intercede for the people you pass.
Gazing: The first way of contemplating is to look at God, gazing in awe, wonder. It may be considered in terms of those who contemplated the Christchild at the nativity (shepherds, magi, the Holy Family, animals). It is opening the being to God whilst maintaining inner silence, taking time to be alone with Christ.
Painting/drawing: both looking at painting and doing it for yourself, either to encourage yourself to look at something fully, or to paint free style and to see what comes up. An example of looking at a painting: https://www.pathwaystogod.org/feast-all-saints?mc_cid=a9145f1b9e&mc_eid=a6924bfe19
Dance: westerners are often particularly bad at using their bodies in worship and prayer, but it can be very liberating, our bodies can express things our tongues cannot say. Find a quiet place, with no one watching, use music if you want, reach out to God.
Writing see elsewhere for journalling, but consider also poetry, free expression, writing a letter to God.
Music. The human voice is a wonderful instrument for prayer, but think also of percussion and other instruments, of non-Christian music. Could learning to play the clarinet be for you a spiritual discipline?
Audio – a simple option, but we take in Bible stories differently if we hear them. Many of the older parts of the Old Testament originate from an oral tradition rather than from the written word. So why not try listening? There are many audio Bibles (David Suchet’s NIV is I think the best known and very good), Bible Gateway https://www.biblegateway.com/ has some audio versions. You might like to sit back in peace, take your audio gear for a beautiful walk, knit, iron or carve wood whilst you listen! Keeping the hands/body busy can help the mind concentrate.
Christian massage – Letting a (trained!) fellow Christian touch you in a way that ‘restores, reconciles, reassures, forgives, heals” (Henri Nouwen).