Your first reaction reading this may be “Oh no, are we talking about grief and loss… again!?”
Life has seasons, stages and phases. For there to be anything new, old things always have to end, and we have to let go of them. Goodbyes and Hellos are a normal part of our life. We may have even been more confronted with loss during these difficult 18 months of Corona.
Rick Warren said recently that we will be seeing a tsunami of grief because of the many losses people have been going through.
In our first Godspace event which took place after a long Corona related break last Saturday (28.8.2021) we invited people to write their own psalm of lament, to look at the losses, questions and unfiltered emotions and to write a prayer of “truth-telling”.
Many psalms are psalms of lament. We can see how the psalmist pours out his heart to God. Very often the psalm ends on a positive note, with a declaration of who God is for him. The psalmist reflects on God’s character and starts to worship God.
We also meditated on Psalm 116 during our retreat. This psalm has 3 time periods: the psalmist looks back to the past (vv1-5), he roots himself in the present (vv6-1) and then he looks to the future (vv12-19).
I realized once again the importance of dealing with the hurts and disappointments of the past. If I do not give this a priority, my present and therefore also my future can be affected in a negative way. It is difficult to relax and rest as it says in v 7 if undealt issues are present in my life. I may carry the hurts and disappointments into the future. Healing doesn’t mean the loss or hurt did not happen. It means that it no longer controls us.
I recently started to think more about Jesus’ life on this earth. I have been inspired by The Chosen, a TV drama based on the life of Jesus of Nazareth (you can watch it on YouTube or on the free “The Chosen TV” app).
He was truly human and had feelings of loss like we do. I never reflected on the many goodbyes Jesus went through during his life. He felt the emptiness that comes with deep loss. He also had to learn to let go. This is such a huge comfort for us.
Jesus had to say goodbye to almost 30 years of security. He had to say goodbye to his friends, his family, his work, his favorite places in his home town.
Lament is a special form of prayer. It is defined as, “A passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” It is usually associated with some form of loss. The prayer of lament is a prayer of truth-telling.
So many of us have had to say goodbye to so many things immeasurably in the past 18 months, and we don’t think of these things as worthy of grief, but they are. We’re grieving a way of life.
What piece of either local or global Corona-news has affected you the most in past weeks/months?
What have you lost in this time?
What did you have to stop doing in this time?
What did Corona interrupt in your life?
What control did you lose?
What plans/dreams did you have to let go of?
What has changed in this time? (Personally, in your family, in your community, in your country, globally.)
The features of Lament
Psalms of Lament are normally addressed to God, offering a complaint
Psalms of Lament are not overly concerned with how one ‘should’ be feeling but rather pouring out the feelings that are actually inside of us. They are going to come out in some way in your life, so this is a healthy way to appropriate them and bring them to God (offered with unfiltered emotions and language)
Lament format Psalm 142 – A Psalm by (….your name)
1. Start by addressing God
2. Then own graphic emotions, thoughts, expressions, feelings, pain – can be very messy. Include people you blame or are angry at, for this Corona-time.
3. Clear/definite turning point (BUT)
4. Expressions of forgiveness (forgive others or confess your own sins)
5. Expressions of faith and hope in God. Declarations of who God is (his character)
6. Choice to Worship. (What is God saying to you personally?)
7. Then pray/sing your Psalm of Lament to God.
Your lament may also include
Questions you want answered
Concerns regarding your own thoughts. The lies that you believe, for example. The confusion that you struggle with. The anger and frustration that you are experiencing.
The sin/abuse/brokenness that you endured/are enduring and the acknowledgement of how it affected you (and is currently affecting you).
How this has affected how you see Him. (If you feel distant, tell him. If you don’t know, tell him that.
“Grace is God’s acceptance of us. Faith is our acceptance of God accepting us.”
I friend just sent me a message “know that you are loved’! It is so nice to hear these words especially if they are sincere words. During Corona it can be easy to feel unloved, isolated, lonely, overwhelmed, insecure, inadequate, scared and even hopeless. Maybe you have recently felt rejected, ignored or judged by a close friend, family member or colleague.
God created us with many needs: basic needs like air and water and emotional needs of being loved, affirmed, comforted… Our deepest need, whether felt or not, is to be accepted. And not just by anyone. But to be accepted by God.
Most of us spend our entire lives trying to earn acceptance. We want to yearn for it from our parents, peers, partners in life, people we respect, and even people we envy.
God, by His grace, affirms and accepts us completely! He welcomes us with all our insecurities. Acceptance is God’s gift to us. Our acceptance was guaranteed at the point of Jesus dying for us. Jesus is the reason God accepts us unconditionally. We cannot earn God’s acceptance. We cannot merit it by our behavior or performance.
“Even if my mother and father abandon me, the Lord will take care of me” (Psalm 27:10 GW). He will never forget about or abandon us! He will never run out of mercy! He will never change! We are in a time of huge changes. It is so good to know that He is the stable rock on which we stand.
Knowing we are accepted by God is the best way to draw closer to Him, to know we are accepted and much loved! Anything we could ever have been accused of is nailed to the cross! He is not judging us!
We must choose what we believe: what others say about and to us, or what Jesus says about and to us. He loves us unconditionally and accepts us as we are.
Every day, all through the day, we are invited to receive His acceptance.
I recently experienced rejection from friends I trusted and was reminded of Jesus being betrayed by Judas. He still washed his feet knowing what Judas was going to do. We will experience people not accepting us. We cannot be and are not defined by other people’s negativity or rejection of us.
How would my life be different if I would be able to totally embrace and internalize this truth? I need to practice this truth! I am invited to see myself in Him as myself as God’s beloved!
When we are accepted by God, and we understand this in our souls, our life changes. We find contentment, joy, and peace. We find life.
In a TV interview a few years before his death, Billy Graham was asked what he would do over if he could do things differently. In his inimical way, he said, “I’d spend more time in meditation and prayer.”
Definition & Origin
Mindfulness is a research-based practice that involves both dedicated meditation time and present-moment awareness in everyday life.
Charles Stone refers to it as Holy Noticing, being fully present and mindful in each moment God has given us. Stone defined mindfulness as the art of Holy Noticing, noticing with a holy purpose, God and His handiwork, our relationships, and our inner world of thoughts and feelings.
God models this pattern of noticing because He is a Perfect Noticer. Nothing in our lives is too small or insignificant for Him to notice. He knows the number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30). He noticed the Hebrews groaning under Egyptian bondage (Exodus 2:25). He notices our pain, our joys, our heartaches and our happiness. The psalmist writes, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Psalm 56:8 NLT).
Some Christians are slightly sceptical of mindfulness because they perceive it to be of purely Buddhist origin. Yet, “Holy Noticing” is a centuries old Christian practice and we would like to to encourage Christians to reclaim it.
For example, in the last few decades, scientific research has discovered that exercise is good for you. Exercise is exercise, though. We don’t split it into secular exercise and Christian exercise. It benefits Christians and non-Christians alike.
There is a long tradition of contemplative prayer and biblical meditation in Christianity.
Christian mindfulness practice is rooted in the most basic witness of Jesus: God with us, right here, right now. Jesus proclaims, The reign of God is at hand! here, now available for all, if we pay attention. Or, as Jesus says, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear. If we are mindful. To live out the reign of God requires mindful lives, intentionally aware in each present moment of God’s life and mission in the world. Christian mindfulness, then, is an anchoring practice, a way to abide in Christ…
However, does God’s Word support and does Christian history illustrate Christians using some of these techniques as tools for spiritual growth? Yes. It’s a lost spiritual discipline that believers should reclaim. And well-known Christians are embracing practices like mindfulness.
Like anything, mindfulness can be misused. However, it doesn’t automatically contradict the Christian faith. We just need to make sure we approach it in a wise, biblical way.
It’s important to remember that our ultimate goal is not to use mindfulness simply to make us feel better—because science has discovered that it does just that—but rather to make us more like Christ (see Romans 8:29; Ephesians 4:13; Galatians 4:19).
There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness. It helps us to relax, to de-stress, and to become aware of our own thoughts. They draw our gaze towards God.
Christians counselors use mindfulness in a Christ-integrated way as a therapy tool. They believe mindfulness can be compatible with a biblical worldview — as long as it’s rooted in Scripture and focuses on connecting with God.
Christian mindfulness is a tool God uses for our healing and growth
Mindfulness training has been associated with the following benefits:
50% reduction in depression relapse rates over 12 months
50% reduction in general psychiatric symptoms
70% reduction in anxiety
44% reduction in medical symptoms
God created our brains to respond to these mindful practices in several positive ways.
Our neuro-pathways are rutted with conditioned reactions and responses. Mindfulness practice rewires these rutted neuropathways, creating new ones. These actual physical changes in our brains and bodies begin to mark our lives in concrete ways.
Christ-Centered Mindfulness Techniques
Secular mindfulness is horizontal. In other words, you pay attention only to yourself. However, that approach contradicts Scripture’s teaching to have the mind of Christ and evaluate everything in light of our vertical relationship with God and Jesus.
Christian Mindfulness or Holy noticing—noticing with a holy, God-focused purpose—means noticing your
Body: being aware of your physical body states and sensations;
Relationships: assessing the health of your relationships;
Environment: taking notice of your current surroundings, including sights, sounds, smells, and God’s creation;
Afflictive emotions or Affect (a general term for emotions):acknowledging how you’re currently feeling;
Thoughts: being conscious of your current thoughts;
Heart: paying attention to the state of your spiritual life and the Holy Spirit’s whisperings or impressions on your heart; and, to tie it all together,
engage: engaging the world like Christ, practicing holy noticing in the mundane, the everyday, the ordinary.
Another mindful grounding technique is to focus on your breath. The breath is commonly used as an anchor in mindfulness, because it’s always there. To also connect with God’s presence, breathe with a prayer. This exercise is useful any time you’re feeling a bit anxious and you need a way to come back to the present.
Simply focus on your breath as you breathe normally. Thank God for each breath, then start to repeat a two-word prayer in your mind.
Breathe one word in, and one word out. If you want to, extend your breaths to be longer and deeper. Deep breathing helps you relax and calm down.
Choose a two-word phrase from Scripture or a phrase that you feel He is teaching you. For example: “Trust God.” “God’s grace.” “Jesus’ love.” It can be any phrase that will help you connect with God as you breathe deeply.
You can also read a Bible verse and find a two-word phrase. For example, take a Bible verse like: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5 NIV) and breathe the phrase, “Trust, Lean.”
Or take a rich verse like this, and choose two of God’s characteristics:
The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. ~ Psalm 18:2 NIV
For example, breathe in “my rock” and breathe out “my fortress.”
Use this breathing exercise any time that you need to stop and anchor your mind in Christ.
Pause to appreciate natural beauty.
God’s creation is all around us, and pausing to notice it is an opportunity to see His handiwork and praise Him for it.
The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. ~ Psalm 19:1 NIV
Even when we can’t go on vacation and immerse ourselves in nature, we can still appreciate natural beauty in the everyday moments of life. If you spend most of your days inside, at home, work, or school, plan to look out the window or go outside for a few minutes. Simply notice and observe what your senses show you. What colors and shapes do you see in the sky and the clouds? Can you hear, or feel, the wind blowing? Do you see flowers or tree branches moving in the wind? Can you see or hear any animals or birds?
When you notice these details, say a prayer of gratitude to God. Thank Him for creating this beautiful world, and for expressing His own characteristics through nature (see Romans 1:20).
Here are some other ideas to mindfully appreciate the beauty of God’s creation, even if you don’t have much time:
Watch the sunrise or sunset and notice the colors.
Keep flowers or houseplants wherever you spend the most time in your home.
Go outside at night to look at the moon and stars.
Listen to the birds chirping in the morning.
Notice the weather and the changes in the clouds.
Mindfulness of Domestic Chores
Pick an activity such as ironing clothes, washing dishes, vacuuming floors, and do it mindfully.
For example, when ironing clothes: notice the color and shape of the clothing, and the pattern made by the creases, and the new pattern as the creases disappear. Notice the hiss of the steam, the creak of the ironing board, the faint sound of the iron moving over the material. Notice the grip of your hand on the iron, and the movement of your arm and your shoulder.
If boredom or frustration arises, simply acknowledge it, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to what you are doing.
Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to your current activity.
Seldom was I able to more deeply work through and engage with a bible passage as at the silent retreat. Tom
It was my first silent retreat experience. I’d recommend it as great taster course as 24 hours silence is already a lot for a beginner! To be honest it was sometimes uncomfortable but there were many more positives than negatives and I enjoyed sharing the experience with a group. I enjoyed the fact that everyone had the freedom to choose which group sessions to attend and how to spend their time but there was a structure to the weekend. The location was beautiful and the booklet we used was stimulating and well put together Stephen
For a first-timer at a silent retreat, everything was clearly explained, well organised with an excellent ratio between group sessions and alone time in a beautiful location … and the sun shone the whole weekend. It far exceeded my expectations and the time with God was so very precious. Looking forward to a return visit if dates allow. Miriam
So 2018 was the shorter 2 day retreat: A taster (so good) leaving me wanting more. Sheila
The retreat for me was an opportunity to really slow down and to explore different ways that God might speak to me. Jonathan
A very relaxing weekend in beautiful surroundings with a lot of freedom on how to spend your time. I enjoyed the guided meditations, the prayer stations and meeting God in a very personal way. Karen
The silent retreat was a wonderful experience for me! A true opportunity to stop, listen and reflect – a luxury in our busy world! And I could even spoil myself a bit – with no schedule, good food and beautiful nature – all of these did well to my soul. Can’t wait for the next one :-)! Veronika
A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.
Proverbs 11:28 (The Message)
The Prayer of Examen
The Prayer of Examen is a daily spiritual exercise designed by the Spanish monk Saint Ignatius of Loyola [1491-1556], the founder of the Jesuit movement. He encouraged fellow followers of Jesus to engage in the practice for developing a deeper level of spiritual sensitivity and for recognising and receiving the help of the Holy Spirit. At the heart of the practice is an increasing awareness of God’s presence and the Holy Spirit’s movement throughout the day.
This Prayer is primarily an exercise in remembering, and noticing God in experiences and encounters from the past 24 hours. The beauty of the practice is its simplicity; it is more a guide than a prescription. The purpose is to increase awareness and sensitivity, not to finish or accomplish a task.
The examen of conscience is the process of inviting the Lord to search our hearts to the depths of the psalmists words in Ps 139:23-24, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” We uncover those areas that need cleansing, purifying and healing
Find a quiet space, where you won’t be disturbed, turn off your phone (or any other distractions), and sit comfortably. Allow yourself to relax and soak in a moment of silence before you begin. Many people light a candle.
The prayer length can vary, based on the time you want to put into it, but can generally take place in about 10-15 minutes. Evenings are generally best for this type of prayer, as your day will still be fresh on your mind.
Ignatius provides a simple five-step routine for our daily Examen:
1.PRESENCE: become aware of God’s presence
As you sit in silence, renew your awareness of God’s love for you as your one true and perfect Father. Now place your hand on your heart to remind you this exercise is more about feelings than facts.
Try to make yourself attentive to his presence and ask the Holy Spirit to guide your heart and mind as you pray.
2. GRATITUDE: review your day with gratitude
The whole day was a gift from God. How is he looking upon you now? How has He loved you? How has He graced you?
Review your day from beginning to end—identifying and being thankful for God’s presence throughout. Process your day’s high and low points. (Ignatius called these moments of Consolation and Desolation)
Allow big things and small things to arise—everything from the gift of my faith, to the gift of my marriage, to the easy commute to work today.
Recall things that were life-giving. Respond to God in joy for his presence and love for you.
You look back at my day and ask the Lord to point out to you the moments when you have failed in big ways or small. You take a sobering look at the mistakes you have made this day.
However, before doing so, you ask God to fill you with his Spirit so that the Spirit can lead you through this difficult soul-searching. Otherwise, you are liable to hide in denial, wallow in self-pity, or seethe in self-loathing.
You are reviewing your life from a place of love and acceptance. In other words, you’re not trying to earn his approval or acceptance (and you never could)—but because Christ has gained acceptance for you, you have the pleasure of responding in gratitude to his grace.
4. SORROW: Ask for forgiveness and healing
If you have sinned, you ask God to forgive you. You ask for help to get over it and move on. You also ask for wisdom to discern how you might better handle such tricky moments in the future.
Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?
Take what has been shown to you, look forward and prepare for the Lord’s grace and love for the coming day.
You ask God to show you how tomorrow might go. You imagine the things you will be doing, the people you will see, and the decisions you will be mulling over. You ask for help with any moments You foresee that might be difficult.
Example of Prayer of Examen
I get into a comfortable position, I let my muscles relax and mind quiet down. I take a deep breath and ask God to make his presence known around and in me. I feel this presence and soak in it
I ask God to reveal all the gifts and graces he has given me today, from the big ones (life, safety, love) to the small ones (a good night’s sleep, a phone call from a friend, a compliment). I thank God for each of these gifts.
I ask God to fill me with his merciful love. I ask God to be the leader of this prayer time, rather than brooding or obsessing over myself or the day
Going hour by hour, I review my day. In my imagination, I relive each significant moment of my day. I linger in the important moments and pass quickly over the less relevant ones.
I continue thanking God for the gifts I find in my day. I pause at any of the difficult moments of my day. I pay attention to any missed opportunities when I could have acted in a certain way but didn’t.
When I find moments in which I was not the person I was called to be. I ask God’s forgiveness. I try to sense his healing mercy wash over me
I ask God to show me, concretely how he wants me to respond or what he wants me to do tomorrow. I ask God to show me what kind of person he is calling me . I resolve to be that person and ask God for his help.
I ask myself if there are any last words I wish to say to the Lord.
I close with one or two of the following gestures. I make the sign of the cross, bow or say an “Our father”
Lection Divina is a very ancient art – it is a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.
This ancient practice has been kept alive in the Christian monastic tradition, and is one of the precious treasures of the Benedictine monastics and oblates. Time set aside specifically for lectio divina enables us to discover an underlying spiritual rhythm in our daily life. Within this rhythm, we discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationships to the Father, and to accept the embrace that God is continuously extending to us in the person of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.
An Excerpt from The Ladder of Monks by Guigo
“Reading seeks for the sweetness of a blessed life, meditation perceives it, prayer asks for it, contemplation tastes it. Reading, as it were, puts food whole into the mouth, mediation chews it and breaks it up, prayer extracts its flavor, contemplation is the sweetness itself which gladdens and refreshes. Reading works on the outside, meditation on the pith [soft inner part of a feather or a hair; the essential part, core, heart]: prayer asks for what we long for, contemplation gives us delight in the sweetness which we have found.”
HOW TO PRACTICE LECTIO DIVINA
“… the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe” (Deuteronomy 30:14)
Lectio Divina means “sacred reading” and has four stages.
The method of Lectio Divina includes:
moments of reading (lectio),
reflecting on (meditatio),
responding to (oratio) and
resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God
with the aim of nourishing and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine. Note that the time frames listed below are only suggestions. Individual steps might take you more or less time.
Get Ready (3 minutes)
Find a place where you can be quiet and undisturbed.
Invite the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Choose a brief passage of Scripture.
Quieten your heart, sit in silence, and ask God to meet you as you encounter God’s Word.
Invite the Holy Spirit, who inspired the Bible, to make its message clear to you and speak to your heart.
Read (lectio) (3-5 minutes)
the scripture passage through one time without hurrying and without stopping. Spend a few minutes in silence after this first reading.
Reflect (meditatio) on the passage (3-5 minutes)
meditate and reflect on any words or phrases that attracted you or caught your attention. Think about it/these and consider what meaning it/they might have for you.
Begin to repeat that phrase, sentence or one word over and over, allowing the word(s) to settle deeply into your heart.
As you continue to meditate and reflect during the following steps, listen to God and allow God to speak to you.
Respond(oratio) to the Passage (3-5 minutes)
Read the text a second time.
Pay special attention to any memories or emotions that the word or phrase stirs up (for example, anxiety, fear, comfort, joy, longing, peace).
Then listen for a personal invitation rising up from your experience of prayer so far. Consider the word or phrase and what it has evoked for you in memory, image, or feeling – what is the invitation? Is this invitation a summons toward a new awareness or action?
Ask God to show you why God caused a word or phrase to catch your attention. What is God saying to you?
Tell God about what you are hearing or feeling or about how the passage has affected you.
Take time to sit and listen for God’s response.
Rest (contemplatio) (5 minutes)
Read the scripture a third time
Quietly rest in the presence of God. This is called contemplation. Simply offer God a few moments to be together. Be with God, resting in the one-of-a-kind, unconditional love that God has for you.
Return to the Passage.
As you go through your day, keep returning to the passage and your reflection on it.
Find ways to integrate the word into your life.
QUESTIONS RELATED TO LECTIO DIVINA
1. Which word or phrase has caught my attention?
2. What is my response to that word or phrase?
3. How does this apply to my current life circumstance?
4. What do I sense God inviting me to in this reading?
Sue Pickering in her book “Spiritual Direction: A Practical Introduction”introduces another way of experiencing Lectio Divina
She encourages people to choose a ‘key moment’ they want to explore using the suggested fourfold lectio divina process.
Lectio: ‘Reading’ the event or contemporary image that has taken our attention, taking time to explore our initial response to the ‘key moment’.
Meditatio: Thinking, reflecting, exploring, making connections, for example with scripture, with what we know of God through our experience or through what we have been taught or seen in others, with our own situations including our questions, struggles and joys.
We listen for the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit who knows what we need to be asking ourselves!
Oratio: ‘Talking’ to God about what we are discovering about God and about ourselves through this event/image/‘key moment’; responding to God with our whole selves, our feelings and our imagination, our bodies and our minds.
Contemplatio: Resting in the love of God, letting ourselves open to the Love which waits to enfold us, consenting to the work of the Holy Spirit within us.
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