Author: Bess Brooks

The gentle art of receiving a gift – a practice for Lent?

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white gift box beside green leafed plant

This Lent, a couple of members of Godspace are participating in the online Lenten retreat Knowing Jesus organised by the Ignatian Centre for Spirituality (ICS), Glasgow, UK.

A couple of weeks ago, Ann and I were talking about our (then) forthcoming involvement.  One of the features of the retreat is a daily email containing, among other things, a painting on which to reflect.  I mentioned to Ann that I wasn’t an artist myself, had little knowledge of drawing and painting and had never really meditated on a painting before.  “I suppose it is a skill I could learn” was how I expressed it.  She replied, “Or, perhaps it is a gift you could receive”.

Her answer made me think and resulted in my daily practice during Lent (so far!) of sitting before the emailed picture and, first of all, remembering that it is the artist’s gift to me and to the wider world.  Before I think about its “message”, the colours and other aspects of composition, and whether I “like” it or not, it is a gift.  My first response is to be thankful and then, decide, like any gift, how I am going to receive it, enjoy looking at it and/or use it.

I don’t normally think about receiving a gift when I contemplate a pattern of behaviour for Lent but it strikes me as a useful idea.  In the last few days, gifts have popped up all over the place – a compliment paid, a walk with a friend in the context of our restricted lives, an unexpected turn in the weather….. and, of course, the ICS Lent material itself which specifically reminds me  to ask for a gift each day, the desire of my heart at that particular moment.

And so, I am practising in my own way.   I think of the painting as if it were a wrapped Christmas present under the tree waiting to be opened, explored and enjoyed.  I click on the picture with anticipation.  What is in it?  What does it say about the love, character and knowledge of the giver?  I take time to  “open” the painting and to be thankful for it. I look, with my amateur’s eye, at colour and composition; I try to identify the symbols used; I particularly notice the people, their position and mood, their relationships to one another – is there someone with whom I particularly identify?; the artist’s gestures of humour or odd detail.  Above all, I try and think about what God is saying to me through this gift – about me, my life, Jesus.

It is a different practice, gently receiving a daily painting, to my more usual one of giving something up or establishing an extra routine which is “good for me”.  But I think it is a helpful one in this particular moment of restriction and (necessary) control of so many aspects of our lives.  And, for me,  it provides a basis for newly encountering the ultimate gift of God to us expressed in the Good-Friday to Easter Sunday weekend that lies ahead.

Enjoy opening your own gifts today…..

Lent course info posted today!

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Christ painting

We’re excited to have posted details of our participation in the ICS Lent Course 2021 “Knowing Jesus” ! Click on the Events page and then choose Future Events for more information on how you can join in!

Photo by Jon Tyson Unsplash

Lent 2021 Knowing Jesus

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Christ painting

Godspace invites you to participate in an ONLINE Lent course run by the Ignatian Spirituality Centre (ISC), Glasgow, UK, on the theme of Knowing Jesus.  The course runs from Ash Wednesday (17 February) until the first Sunday of Easter (11 April).  You will receive a daily email inviting you to spend a short period of time of your own choosing in daily prayer, scripture reading, reflection, enjoying art and music, plus an online weekly meeting with 6-10 others to discuss the impact of the course. ISC (and Godspace) do not charge for this course.

For more information, and to sign up for the course, please go directly to https://www.iscglasgow.co.uk/lent2021.html and subscribe there.  If you’d like to join a “local” online lunchtime meeting on Mondays, 13h05 to 13h50 CET, facilitated by Godspace leader Ann Milton DO NOT FILL IN THE SECTION ABOUT JOINING AN ONLINE GROUP ON THE ICS SITE.  Instead, please let Ann know you are interested by leaving a comment below.  Ann needs to know numbers by the end of Friday 12 February so please don’t delay 😊.

Launch of godspace.eu website today!

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black champagne bottle beside champagne flute

Welcome to the new godspace.eu website, launched on 25 January 2021! We offer prayer resources for all, a monthly blog on which you can reflect over the following few weeks and details of our Silent Retreats and other prayer events which take place in Belgium this year. Please visit our site regularly to keep yourself updated.

Bess, Sonja and Ann

Walking as Spiritual Exercise

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person in black coat walking on sidewalk during daytime

Walking can be a profound way of spending time intentionally with God, of slowing down, of putting down some of life’s daily pressures and reflecting more on the Divine. Advice on this subject is plentiful but the following could be one way of experiencing this practice, which begins with being fully present when you walk:

  1. Choose a route to take and note the amount of time you have available. The route can be anywhere, urban or rural, or anything in between (a part in a city centre and so on).
  2. Intentionally commit this time to God and try to prepare yourself by consciously deciding to let go of the many things buzzing round your head.
  3. Start walking and resolve to focus only on the walk, and on your body doing that walk. Try not to focus on the worrying or demanding thoughts that pop into your mind.
  4. Be aware: of your breathing, of the way your body moves, of the feel of the pavement or ground beneath your feet.
  5. Broaden that awareness: notice the sights, sounds, smells around you.
  6. At the end of your walk-time, pause for a moment – give thanks, notice what the experience has been like for you and commit that into God’s hands.

This is simply an initial exercise. If you’d like to know more a very helpful, short, book on this topic is “Every Step a Prayer” by Thomas R Hawkins, which is full of practical suggestions on making the most of this fundamental human activity as a way of spiritual discovery. You might also find “God Walk: Moving at the Speed of Your Soul” by Mark Buchanan with its emphasis on walks as different kinds of spiritual practice – walking as prayer, as pilgrimage, as friendship and so on – very useful.

Jesus Prayer

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This way of praying has been used by Christians for centuries as a way of cleansing and opening up the heart and mind to God.  

I have found the following practice useful:

  1. When you first try out this way of praying, find a quiet space, free from distraction and a way of sitting that allows you to concentrate.   However, after practising for some time, you may find that this approach to prayer becomes second nature and you can pray like this in all kinds of situations.
  2. Being by relaxing tour body and gently breathing in and out at your own pace.
  3. Commit the following phrase to memory:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.  (Some people find it meaningful or helpful to use a slightly longer phrase:  Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner. I leave this as a matter for your own choice). 
  4. Set a timer for two to three minutes.
  5. Say the phrase silently in your head.  Adjust your breathing (slow it down if necessary) to fit the phrase in the following way:
    IN: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God
    OUT: Have mercy on me (a sinner).
  6. Concentrate on attentiveness to God – gently notice disruptive thoughts but let them “float on by” and don’t judge yourself for lapses in concentration. Simply return to your pattern of breathing and repeating the phrase in your head.

Centering prayer

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Centering prayer is one way of  moving away from, or beyond,  “conversation with God” and simply responding to the desire of your heart for deeper communion with the Divine.  When we practice centering prayer, we intentionally make space to seek and find God in silence.  Centering prayer is drawn from the long history of Christian contemplative prayer, including the practices of the Desert Fathers and Mothers in the 3rd century.  

There is no single “right way” to pray like this but we have found the following suggestions helpful.

  1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be distracted and a way of sitting, kneeling, lying that allows you to concentrate.
  2. Have a timer, and pen and paper (or their equivalent) to hand.
  3. Spend a few moments relaxing your body and mind.  Breathe in and out gently at your own pace.
  4. Choose a positive word or very short phrase (sometimes called the “sacred word”) as a way of symbolizing your consent to the Divine presence and action within you, and of your own desire for closer communion with God.  It can be any positive word or short phrase with which you feel comfortable and that reminds you to be present to God.  Some examples might be: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Abba, Father, Mother, Comforter, Love, Listen, Peace, Mercy, Let Go, Silence, Stillness, Faith, Trust, Holy, Glory. 
  5. Set your timer initially for two or three minutes maximum. Breathe in and out at your own natural pace and repeat the word or phrase silently in your mind as a way of focusing on God.
  6. It is perfectly normal to have all kinds of thoughts pop into your head as you try and concentrate like this.  Don’t start judging yourself, or characterise yourself as a “bad pray-er”, or “no good at this sort of thing”!  Simply let the thought float away and bring your attention back to your sacred word again.  Occasionally, a thought is so urgent or relates to something so vital that you wont be able to concentrate further until you make a quick note of it – hence the need for pen and paper.
  7. Sometimes, you start meditation with a particular word or phrase and you discover after a minute or so that it feels like the “wrong” word for that moment.  Simply stop for a while, choose another word or phrase that feels “right” and carry on.
  8. When the timer goes, ask yourself – did that feel like an appropriate amount of time?  Too short, too long?  Adjust the amount of time accordingly for the next occasion, but don’t set yourself impossible targets – 10 minutes is a good target to aim for eventually.
  9. A note of caution – this kind of prayer is simply a way of being open to God.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t feel anything in particular and it is not about having a “successful” , or a “good” prayer time.  It is about your availability to God’s presence.

Silent Retreat August 2021

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After such a complex year, perhaps you feel in need of spiritual relaxation and refreshment?  Godspace is offering a silent, group retreat in English in August 2021 in the peaceful surroundings of La Pairelle, Namur https://csilapairelle.be/.

Stay in the well-appointed Emmaus retreat house (each bedroom has its own ensuite bathroom) and benefit from an extended period of silence together with teaching on prayer and meditation in a small group setting (around 15 people in total per retreat).  Please note that couples stay in separate bedrooms on retreat. 

Put the dates in your diary now

Thursday 26  to Sunday 29 August (begins 7 pm Thursday evening)

BOOK EARLY TO AVOID DISAPPOINTMENT

Numbers are very limited for each retreat, around a dozen participants plus leaders.  So, do book early to avoid disappointment.  Booking for the August retreat opens later this year (please revisit the website for details) and all information will be on the website then.

COVID-19 REGULATIONS

As with any event this year, we need to be extremely aware of the relevant COVID-19 regulations in place at the time and any retreat will be conducted in accordance with these. In exceptional circumstances, we might need to rearrange or postpone a retreat.

St Paul’s Tervuren

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Godspace is an initiative supported operationally by St Paul’s, Tervuren.

Godspace works under the St Paul’s umbrella, in collaboration with Vineyard, Brussels, and Holy Trinity, Brussels, hence our work is ecumenical by nature.    Our retreats are open to those of all faiths or none, on the understanding that all three retreat-leaders are Christians and the retreats are run from a specifically  Christian perspective.

St Paul’s Tervuren https://www.stpaulstervuren.be/

Vineyard Brussels  https://www.vineyard-brussels.be/

Holy Trinity  https://www.holytrinity.be/

The content of this website might not always reflect the views and practices of St Paul’s Church as a whole.

Day Retreat Saturday 10 April 2021

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After such a complex year, perhaps you feel in need of spiritual relaxation and refreshment?  Godspace is offering a day retreat in English – time away for inner reflection.

Day Retreat Saturday 10 April 2021.’The Garden’. A few hours of prayer, reflection and time to be still, from 10am to 1pm, combining prayer input and sharing on zoom, with time for you to be away from the screen.

COVID-19 REGULATIONS

As with any event this year, we need to be extremely aware of the relevant COVID-19 regulations in place at the time and any retreat will be conducted in accordance with these. In exceptional circumstances, we might need to rearrange or postpone a retreat.

Register by filling out this form:

The Garden Registration