Author: Bess Brooks

Prayer – a varied landscape

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Our lovely Bernese Mountain Dog has something wrong with her paw!  It’s nothing serious but she is limping a little, and daily walks are confined to half-hour jaunts right now.  But even in her present difficulties, we can open our front door and explore surprisingly varied countryside for 30 minutes.  Our circuit covers cobbled pavements (not ideal for sore paws!), peaceful wooded areas with soft undergrowth, a steep tarmac-ed path near a very loud motorway and then open fields. So, we experience a variety of mini- landscapes within a short distance of where we live.

On our walk through the woods today, I started to make connections between these shortened dog-walks and my prayer-life over the past *** years. I realised that prayer could be described as a varied landscape too, in some ways.  So many different ways of praying or being with God.  And times when it is smooth easy-going, and times which feel distinctly bumpy or arid. 

One of the many possible ways of “categorising” prayer is to make a distinction between silence and sound.   Particularly, the sound of the human voice. I am someone who often enjoys silent meditation.  But there are times in life, when I am tempted to use the silence to turn inwards and to dwell on the difficult things around me, I actually need words, specifically other people’s words.  And I have benefited hugely from daily prayer apps such the one produced by the Church of England (“Daily Prayer”).  I’ve been lifted out of myself and oriented towards God by participating in the creative blending of spoken Scripture, corporate prayer and music.

Perhaps you are “the other way around” at the moment.  Life is very busy – there is a lot of noise of different kinds and you don’t want more spoken words or sound, particularly.  You would love the chance to spend extended time with God in silence. 

If this is you, why not join us on our summer retreat this year?

It’s from Thursday 25 August 2022 at 19h00

to Sunday 28 August 2022 at around 16h00

at the Centre Spirituel Ignatien La Pairelle

25, rue Marcel Lecompte

5100 Wepion (Namur)

http://www.lapairelle.be

The retreat, which is open to all Christians in Belgium aged 18+, offers space to spend a long week-end with God using the theme “walking by the river”. It will largely be in silence (with input/suggestions for guided prayer from the leaders – Sonja, Ann and myself).

If you’d like more information, go to the Events page and choose Future Events.

Maybe see you there?

Bess

Summer silent retreat: Walking by the River

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We warmly invite you to join us on our summer silent retreat, “Walking by the River”, which will take place

From Thursday 25 August 2022 at 19h00 (no dinner provided that evening)

To Sunday 28 August 2022 at around 16h00

This retreat, open to all Christians in Belgium aged 18+, offers space to spend a long week-end with God using the theme “walking by the river”. There will be a maximum of 16 participants, including three leaders. The retreat will largely be in silence (with input/suggestions for guided prayer from the leaders).

Those leaders are Bess Brooks and Sonja Stark (St Paul’s, Tervuren) and Ann Milton (Holy Trinity, Brussels).

The price is 175 euros which includes:

  • overnight accommodation in ensuite single bedrooms (couples sleep separately on the retreat) on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights
  • all meals on Friday and Saturday, and breakfast and lunch on Sunday
  • tea, coffee, water throughout
  • print-outs of texts used for guided prayer, if any

Booking opens 14 June. If you are interested, please EITHER leave a comment below OR email drawaside@godspace.eu and we will send you a booking link

Other practical Information

Address:

Centre Spirituel Ignatien La Pairelle

25, rue Marcel Lecompte

5100 Wepion (Namur)

http://www.lapairelle.be

If you don’t have a car or want to drive with someone, please email drawaside@godspace.eu AFTER BOOKING YOUR PLACE FROM 14 JUNE and Bess, Sonja or Ann will try and put you in touch with other participants (this can’t be guaranteed).

Arrival & departure time

Please arrive between 19h00 and 19h30 on Thursday evening.  NO dinner is provided that evening so please eat before you come.

Our first meeting starts at 20h00 on Thursday evening.

We end around 16h00 on Sunday afternoon.

To bring (intended to be a helpful list, not exhaustive)

  • Sheets and pillowcase for single bed and towels (you have your own bathroom!!).  Please note: SHEETS and not a duvet cover.  The pillows are usually square – you might wish to bring your own pillow and pillow-case in you prefer something different
  • Journal/notebook and pen
  • Bible
  • House shoes
  • Your medication (no pharmacy close by)
  • All toiletries
  • Comfortable clothes and walking shoes (the spiritual center is in a nice area where there are many opportunities for walking)
  • Appropriate outdoor clothing e.g. sun-hat, raincoat etc.  You will benefit from time outside whatever the weather
  • Your own snacks if you have allergies/ intolerances, or you want something special to snack on
  • Books and other activities as you wish, but don’t bring too many! Remember that you will also need time just to be with God without distraction and to pray.

(Optional, depending on your own interests):

  • Artist’s sketchpad and pencils
  • Camera (or mobile phone with integrated camera)

Questions

Please let us know if you have any questions.  EITHER leave a comment below OR email drawaside@godspace.eu and one of us will answer.

We are looking forward to this special time we will have together

Bess, Sonja and Ann

The Inner Garden Programme Leader Version

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10.00Welcome, coffee, orientation in buildingAnn
10.30Introduction to the theme of the dayAnn
10.45Prayer (including stilling exercise)
We enter into silence
Bess
11.00Imaginative exercise “What does my garden look like at the moment?”Sonja
11.30Time for personal reflection “Different aspects of my garden”Sonja
12.40Feedback session
(Further item if needed – e.g. prayer to be a garden)
Ann
13.00Lunch (eaten together in silence)
13.30Centering PrayerBess
13.40Lectio Divina using Proverbs 3 5:10Ann
14.00Time for personal reflection
“What would I like to grow in my garden?”
“Where shall I find the seeds?”
Possibly also using prayer to be a garden
Ann
15.15Coffee
Group reflection “Bringing our gardens together within the gardener-ship of God”
Bess
15.30Feedback formsSonja
15.45Time to prayerfully reflect on the day
We come out of silence
Ann
16.00END

Please note:  there might be slight changes of timing and content to the programme on the day itself

The Inner Garden Programme for Participants

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10.00Welcome, coffee, orientation in building
10.30Introduction to the theme of the day, and time to quieten ourselves
10.45Prayer
We enter into silence
11.00Imaginative exercise “What does my garden look like at the moment?”
11.30Personal response
12.40Feedback session
13.00Lunch (eaten together in silence)
13.30Midday Prayer
13.40Lectio Divina using Proverbs 3: 5-10
14.00Personal response
15.15Coffee
Group reflection “Bringing our gardens together within the gardner-ship of God”
15.30Feedback forms
15.45Time to prayerfully reflect on the day
We come out of silence
16.00END

Please note:  there might be slight changes of timing and content to the programme on the day itself

Midday Prayer

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Except where otherwise stated, the material used is from Midday Prayer, A New Zealand Prayer Book, He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, published by the The Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, https://anglicanprayerbook.nz, accessed 13 August 2021.

I am assuming the word “labours” to include all kinds of work, including what we are doing here today

Pausing at midday

O Christ our rest,

We pause amidst the labours of this day,

to remember the best reason for our labouring.

We labour, O Lord, as stewards of your creation,

and of stewards of the gifts you have apportioned to each of us

for the good of all.

Bless then the works of our hands

and minds and hearts, O God,

that they might bear fruit for your greater purposes.

May our work this day be rendered

First as service to you, that the benefits of it might be eternal.

Receive this, the offering of our labours, O Lord.

Amen.[1]

Let us be at peace within ourselves.

Silence

Let us accept that we are profoundly loved

and need never be afraid.

Silence

Let us be aware of the source of being

that is common to us all

and to all living creatures.

Silence

Let us be filled with the presence of the great compassion

towards ourselves and towards all living beings.

Silence

Realising that we are all nourished

from the same source of life,

may we so live that others be not deprived

of air, food, water, shelter, or the chance to live.

Silence

Let us pray that we ourselves cease to be

a cause of suffering to one another.

Silence

With humility let us pray for the establishment

of peace in our hearts and on earth.

Silence

May God kindle in us

the fire of love

to bring us alive

and give warmth to the world.

Lead me from death to life,

from falsehood to truth;

lead me from despair to hope,

from fear to trust;

lead me from hate to love,

from war to peace.

Let peace fill our heart,

our world, our universe.

Committing the afternoon to God

Shape our thoughts, O Lord, by your truth,

Even as you shape our hearts by your love.

Now grant us strength and grace, O God,

sufficient for the rest of the day,

that we might move through its unfolding

in humble obedience to your will,

in sensitivity to your Spirit

and in joyful expectancy of your coming kingdom.

May the light of that eternal city

Illuminate our hearts, our paths, our vision

Through these next hours, O Lord.

Amen.[2]


[1] Douglas Kaine McKelvey, Every Moment Holy, vol. 1 (Nashville TN: Rabbit Room Press, 2017), 6.

[2] Ibid., 1:8.

The Gardener-ship of God

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We have largely talked about our own gardens today but they don’t exist in isolation.  My garden is drawn together with all other gardens under the gardener-ship of God. (John 15:1 Jesus said to his disciples: “I am the true vine and my father is the gardener…”).

Questions/thoughts for reflection.

My garden joins onto other gardens….. Whose?  Think as widely as possible.

What are my relationships like with those people?  Do any of those relationships need tending (think about mending/strengthening/boundary-setting)?

Could there be things about my garden that affect other people’s garden’s (positively or negatively)?

And vice versa…..?

How do I imagine all these different gardens brought together under God?

In what ways, if any, does this change how I view aspects of my own garden?

A Thanksgiving for Gardens

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God of grace, in the story of creation, you made the earth a garden and entrusted it to us to till and to keep, a place of peace and beauty where we could walk with you. In the story of redemption, the one who died for us was buried in a garden, and there you raised him up to greet us with new hope and risen life. In the story of the Church, you tend us as a garden, a place of careful pruning and abundant harvest, where we can work with you. Meet us, we pray, today and in all the gardens where we go for nourishment, refreshment and prayer, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

© Anglican Church of Australia

Prayer to be a garden

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From: You Are Made New

Cultivate joy, Holy Spirit, make my heart into your garden. Dig deeply, dig boldly, and dig freely. I resolve to put nothing in the way of Your cultivation. Weed and prune my heart as You desire. Water and cultivate my soul as You desire. Tend my heart as You please.

Cultivate love,

Cultivate peace,

Cultivate patience,

Cultivate kindness,

Cultivate goodness,

Cultivate faithfulness,

Cultivate gentleness,

Cultivate self-control,

Cultivate poverty of life,

Cultivate chastity of heart,

Cultivate obedience of mind.

Root out what does not belong in the garden of my heart, and use whatever tools You desire.

Root out the weeds of selfishness, that tempt me to keep my fruit for myself.

Root out the weeds that hide deep below the surface, the weeds I am afraid to expose to Your Sunlight.

Root out the weeds of vanity, that desperately seek the light of the world, only to wither.

Root out the weeds of fear, that keep me from even planting myself in Your soil.

Root out the weeds of worldly cares, which choke Your fruitfulness in me.

Prune the branches of my heart, of the genuine loves that must be separated from worldly and selfish clingings.

Prune my commitments and give clarity of where You desire for me to serve.

Prune my words, that my mouth may be used only to build up Your Kingdom.

Prune my desires, that I may seek to be cultivated by You always.

Prune my whole life, that by abiding in You and bearing fruit, I may prove to be Your disciple.

Amen.

Twitter/twitter and the art of noticing

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A prayer taken from the Church of England’s Morning Prayer, Monday 28 February 2022

Blessed are you, creator of all,
to you be praise and glory for ever.
As your dawn renews the face of the earth
bringing light and life to all creation,
may we rejoice in this day you have made;
as we wake refreshed from the depths of sleep,
open our eyes to behold your presence
and strengthen our hands to do your will,
that the world may rejoice and give you praise.
Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
All Blessed be God for ever.

after Lancelot Andrewes (1626)*

When time permits, I like to start my morning gazing out of my kitchen window over the neighbouring fields, mug of coffee in hand.  It gives me the chance to welcome the sunrise at different times of year and to notice the changing seasons (or the inter-mingled ones?!) and their effect on the local landscape.  Above all, it’s a moment to admire last year’s bird-nests still visible in the largely barren trees and to enjoy the swooping of various flocks onto the fields beneath.  And, sometimes, I even see a buzzard hovering over potential prey below.

I mention this because I’m so aware of the companionship which birds provide, day in, day out, whatever our human circumstances.  (And also of my rather poor, sporadic attempts to learn more about our feathered friends  – the subject of several NYRs over the last few years!).  I’m writing this as we continue to negotiate “living with Covid” and in the immediacy of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  Perhaps it seems very trite to mention the birdsong which greets the dawn and continues throughout the day.  But the cheerful-sounding “twitter” which accompanies our lives (and, frankly, seems “out of joint” some of the time depending on what’s happening!) reminds me of our inter-connectedness with the whole creation, and that each new morning will reveal something of God’s love and mercy. Regardless of how dire the current circumstances might seem, either personally or on a world-wide scale (see Lamentations 3: 22-23 written amidst great difficulty). And it all starts with a cup of coffee and taking time to notice…..

****

How can it be Lent again ? Last year, I enjoyed the gift of meditating on a piece of artwork for most of the 40 days – a new experience for me.  But this year caught me napping slightly and searching for a way in which to prepare for the events of Holy Week and Easter.  I found a personal answer in a different kind of Twitter where I noticed a thread on Lent and the various ideas that people had for reflection during this special period.  In recent years, I’ve always valued the concept of taking something on, trying something new, rather than giving up chocolate or alcohol, or whatever, for certain length of time.  And I noticed a suggestion which really appealed.  The idea is simple: set aside 10 minutes a day to sit in silence in your garden, on your balcony, in your local park, on a random bench, or to look out of your office window. And to really notice the birds around you. Their colours, songs, behaviour…..

Appreciate them for themselves, as a way of (re)connecting with God’s wonderful creation, as a way of reflecting on the Creator Godself and on the forthcoming events, as a way of simply being silent and collected before God without “purpose”.

So, I am grateful to the person who posted this on Twitter (whom I’ll leave anonymous for now) and I hope this is a life-giving practice for some of you this Lent.

Finally, a well-loved bird poem for you to enjoy….

The Eagle

Lord Alfred Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;
Close to the sun in lonely lands,
Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
And like a thunderbolt he falls.

*https://www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-in-daily-prayer/morning-prayer-contemporary-monday-28-february-2022

Day Retreat – “The Inner Garden”

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When:                Saturday 26 March 2022

Time:                  10 am to 4 pm

Where:               Les Fraternites du Bon Pasteur, Rue au Bois  365 B, 1150 Brussels

Who:                  Everyone, men and women, aged 18+, maximum of 12 participants

Cost:                   15 euros to cover room hire and coffee,        BRING OWN LUNCH

Bring:                 Bible, notepad and pen, or equivalent, LUNCH

Leaders:             Bess Brooks (St Paul’s), Sonja Stark (St Paul’s), Ann Milton (Holy Trinity)

Questions?:       Leave a comment below, or email drawaside@godspace.eu and one of us will answer

Space within a small group setting to consider your inner life in our current circumstances using the analogy of a garden.

What’s growing in your garden at the moment? 

Does anything need attention? 

What might be flourishing in 6 months’ time? 

Consider these questions with guided scripture readings, meditation and suggestions for prayer. The full programme is given below. A large part of the day will be spent in silence.

Booking open from 15 February via this link https://stpaulstervuren.churchsuite.com/events/rd1nokew

We look forward to meeting you there.

Bess, Sonja and Ann

The Inner Garden, Saturday 26 March 2022, Programme for Participants

10.00Welcome, coffee, orientation in building  
10.30Introduction to the theme of the day, and time to quieten ourselves  
10.45Prayer We enter into silence  
11.00Imaginative exercise “What does my garden look like at the moment?”  
11.30Time for personal reflection “Different aspects of my garden”  
12.40Feedback session  
13.00Lunch (we eat our packed lunches together in silence)  
13.30Centering Prayer  
13.40Lectio Divina using a passage of scripture relevant to the theme  
14.00Time for personal reflection “What would I like to grow in my garden?” “Where shall I find the seeds?”  
15.15Coffee Group reflection “Bringing our gardens together within the gardner-ship of God”  
15.30Feedback forms  
15.45Time to prayerfully reflect on the day We come out of silence  
16.00END  

Please note:  there might be slight changes of timing and content to the programme on the day itself