Monthly Archives: March 2020

Tuesday 31st March 2020

Day 35   Don’t just do it, pray it!

 Praying the mantra, as I have repeated a number of times in these reflections, is about inviting God’s loving presence into the whole of our day. That presence is already there but through prayer we connect with it more deeply, and allow our awareness of that presence to grow and deepen. We live with this incredible treasure that for much of the time we forget is there and the mantra reminds us of it.

We often feel isolated and alone when we face the world and it often gets on top of us. We live life thinking that we are ill equipped to deal with the daily hurdles and obstacles that life often brings our way, and feel inadequate when dealing with them. But we are not alone and we all have an incredible source of love and strength to draw from.

A great saint form the 15th Century, Teresa of Avila, once said that all our troubles come from making the mistake of living as if God were absent, when God is in fact incredibly close. The energy of God’s presence, love, mercy and grace is constantly flowing through our lives, we simply have to be open to it. We don’t do anything alone we do it with God, for God, and in God’s strength.

This is what it means to live prayerfully. We make our whole lives a prayer, from making the tea in the morning, to making important decisions during the day; from feeding the pets, to dealing with what the day brings. It is all lived in the context of prayer, for God, with God, and in God’s strength. Of course very few of us are spiritual giants and most of us will regularly forget and find ourselves living as if God is absent. That is ok. We should not beat ourselves up over it (see yesterday’s reflection); when we find ourselves doing this we stop, smile, say our mantra and remember the great treasure within us.

One of the main reasons that many people struggle to maintain a regular prayerful practice is because we feel inadequate at prayer and become disillusioned. We often feel our faith is not strong enough. Christ says to us “Don’t worry, I do the praying for you, I do the praying within you.” Keep it simple. A short mantra you return to again and again will keep you open to this prayer, this inner treasure, in the course of daily life. And when we forget, we smile and begin again.

……………………………….

I trust the mystics when they say:
Sit on your prayer stool and you sit with God.
Be still, be silent, and your soul will awake.
Breathe in, breathe out, the Holy is that close.
Walk in the woods, on the hills, in the valleys,
And God’s sacred energy flows through your veins.
That even in crowds on busiest street,
We all walk around shining like the sun.
I so rarely glimpse what the mystics all know
But I trust what they see and my heart is aglow.

++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 29

 In today’s primary reflection I quoted Teresa of Avila, who says that we make the mistake of living as if God were absent; she also said we often prayer as if God were absent as well. It is so true, certainly for me. We meditate, or pray, seeking God’s presence, trying to sense God’s presence, as if God needed to be found. In my early days of Christian faith the church I belonged to often spoke of us finding God, finding Jesus; as if Jesus was absent and needed to be tracked down. Teresa of Avila reminds us that God is right there, wherever we are; so close that we often miss him because we are busy looking further into the distance. We can be so busy looking, searching, that we miss what is right under our very nose. Only recently I spent about 20 minutes trying to find my car key, blaming other people for moving it, going through pockets, turning my study upside down; only to find I had them in the pocket of the jacket I was wearing! We do the same thing with God, we go in search of God’s presence, wondering why we can’t seem to reach God; when God is there right beside us, before us, behind us, and within us all along.

When we meditate we simply have to accept that God is present, that we don’t have to seek God’s presence, because we are daily living within it. It is we who are often absent, seeking God elsewhere. I sometimes think God taps us on the shoulder and whispers, “just look in the mirror!” God is right here. Just sit still, pray the mantra, move your beads, and breathe God in, and out.

Monday 30th March 2020

Day 34   Drawing down God’s Love

Prayer draws down the great God into the little heart and drives the hungry soul up into the fullness of God.”

So wrote the 13th Century nun, Mechthild of Magdaburg. Here we see prayer described as a two way flow between God and the soul, and the soul and God. It is a flow that is constantly there, it is not dependent upon us remembering to pray, our ability to pray, or even our desire to pray. Prayer is God’s gift to life, a flow of holy energy that constantly connects us to God, there is nothing we can do that can damage this holy relationship. As another great teacher of prayer, Julian of Norwich, wrote in the 14th Century:

How we should rejoice that God dwells in the soul!
And yet, how much more that our soul dwells in God!

Our daily prayer is a joining in, or becoming conscious of, this great stream of prayer, love, mercy, and grace that is flowing deep within us, and allowing it to impact on our daily lives; and begin to transfigure our created self. Not only that, prayer also helps to begin to transform our own perception of our created self. We are often self-critical of ourselves and become very exasperated with who we are. We seem to make the same mistakes over and over, we try to be different, but find it so difficult to change and find ourselves regularly falling back into old habits. Like St Paul we do not understand our own actions, we find ourselves not behaving the way we want to behave, but doing the very things we wish we didn’t. (Romans 7:15). Opening ourselves to God’s mercy and grace we slowly begin to accept ourselves more, and to be gentler with our faults and weaknesses. Learning to trust that God loves us as we are and is patient with our failings, we can begin to cultivate that same attitude to ourselves.

Praying our mantra when we find ourselves being self-critical and judgemental reminds us of God’s endless patience, love, and understanding; and encourages us to develop that same patience and love towards ourselves.

……………………………

I had a sense of being watched,
Gazed at intently;
Not with any kind of judgement,
But with curiosity.
Why do you keep staring?
I asked
What are you looking for?
I am watching myself emerge
– Was the response that came –
I am watching myself grow,
Waiting to see the beautiful flower.

+++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 28

 Meditation and prayer as often been described as gazing at the presence and love of God. But one thing the great mystics of the church teach us, like Mechthild and Mother Julian, mentioned in the primary reflection today, is that prayer is just as much about God gazing at us. St Francis of Assisi also knew about this when he wrote: “What a person is in God’s eyes, that they are. Nothing more, and nothing less.” We are what we are in God’s eyes. God looks upon us with eyes of love and loves everything that he or she sees. We usually look at ourselves with a critical eye, and we see what we look for. God looks with the eyes of love and sees exactly what God looks for. Another great mystic of the Christian Faith, St John of the Cross wrote: “When you regarded me (looked intently at me) your eyes imprinted your grace upon me.” When God looks at us, gazes upon us, God’s grace is imprinted upon us because God sees his/her own image – nothing more and nothing less.

When we meditate. When we sit still, pray our mantra, move our beads, breathe in, and breathe out; we sit before God, exposed on the cliffs of the heart (see meditation reflection 25), and allow God to gaze lovingly upon us and imprint divine grace upon us. We may not be aware of it, we may struggle with our gazing upon God, but God does not struggle with gazing lovingly upon us. Guess what? God does all the work!

Sunday 29th March 2020

Day 33   The Hidden Self

 There are two dimensions to who we are. There is what I think of as the created self, and there is the hidden self. The created self is what we see and understand about ourselves. The created self is made up of our ancestral genes, life’s experiences, traumas, joys, our upbringing and all the breaks and knocks that life has brought our way. It is also influenced by certain choices we have made in life, though even the choices we make are often determined by life’s experience.

The hidden self is the beautiful Soul created by, and at one with, God. The Buddhists call it our Original Face; St Paul calls it our Hidden Self: May the Father in his infinite glory give you power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong. (Ephesians 3). It is our true selves hidden in Christ. The spiritual journey is about becoming more and more open to that hidden self, where God’s fullness dwells; and opening our created selves to allow that holy presence to shine and to become a greater influence in our lives. The Anglican solitary, Maggie Ross, talks about our lives becoming transfigured; when the hidden self grows strong our whole being becomes transfigured through love.

That hidden self grows strong through prayer, the flow of Christ’s Presence in our lives. The praying of the mantra is a wonderful way of keeping our hearts open to that flow of prayer and for our hidden self to begin to emerge in our daily lives and activities. Bit by bit it allows us to begin to respond to what occurs, to what life brings our way, prayerfully through love; rather than merely reacting to it through our old created responses. The problem is that it is easy to go through life thinking we are only our created self, unaware of this beautiful hidden self that is waiting to flower and flourish. Prayer is about allowing God to reveal it, and to help us to see ourselves in each other in all our fullness.

I always think that praying our mantra acts like a magnet that draws out that hidden self, and allows God’s grace to help it grow stronger and increasingly influential in our lives. We need to be reminded constantly that we are much more than we believe we are, the mantra is a powerful way  to do this.

                                                        …………………………..

This morning as I knelt in prayer
I sensed, rather than heard,
God speaking my eternal name
in the very depths of my being.
Like a vibration, a pulse,
the resonance of a tuning-fork.
My soul quivering into focus
and revealing dimly, as through a veil,
a momentary glimpse or glance
of my original face and feature.
Both name and face
have faded into the mists
of space and time –
But now I know I am more than this.

++++++++++++++++++

Refection for Passion Sunday – Lent 5

This Sunday is the 5th Sunday of Lent and is commonly known has Passion Sunday. It is the Sunday in Lent when we really begin to shift our focus on to Holy Week, which begins next weekend with Palm Sunday. Last Sunday was the celebration of Mothering Sunday, and this Sunday calls us to begin to change gear as we move our attention to the events of Holy Week and Easter.

Of course, this year all that is very different for us. Last Sunday, when the church should have been full for Mothering Sunday, public worship was suspended, and the best we could do was to spend a little time in church outside of worship, though most were being advised to stay indoors. This Sunday we are in an even stronger lock down and our churches are completely closed to the public. It is one of the strangest times that most of us will have experienced.

Having missed our worship on Mothering Sunday, and knowing we will not be able to attend church during Holy Week and Easter, feels sad and depressing. Along with that we are hearing so many stories of people acting selfishly, of things getting worse, of how long all this might last etc. These are very trying times indeed.

But if there is one thing that the Holy Week and Easter message gives, it is hope. God can create incredible love out of a seemingly dire situation, and it is very important at this time for us to hold on to that hope; and to share stories of hope. The gloom hits us in the face every time we turn on the Television and watch the news, or read, or listen to it. But beneath the gloom there is hope, there is love, there is good news.

In the Gospel reading I have sent out in this mailing, Jesus reminds his listeners that he has been sent to proclaim good news, to proclaim liberty, to open our eyes, to set us free from despair. There is good news in the midst of all the bad, there is hope in the midst of the gloom, there is light in the midst of the darkness. Jesus encourages us to open our eyes and hearts to see.

I have heard and witnessed a number of stories in our own community that has made my heart sing. People going out of the way to help others, small acts of kindness that have made a massive difference to people. We need to focus on such moments and celebrate them – because in them God is speaking to us. God is sharing all the sadness and sorrow with us, but is also pointing us to the hope and light that lies beyond.

I want to share one story that a member of my congregation shared with me. They were short on loo roll and, of course, it was in short supply in our shops. While out and about they spotted some and went to buy it. At the till they realised they had not brought enough money with them to pay, but a complete stranger in the queue bought it for them. Life is not all doom and gloom there is much to celebrate and say thank you for. There is the Good News that Jesus reminds us of. It is happening right here, right now.

You may remember a few years ago we did a Lent course on Gratitude, and I encouraged you to keep a Gratitude Diary, and to write in it something each day for which you are thankful, some Good News you have witnessed or experienced. I encourage you now to keep a Gratitude Diary during this current difficult period. Every day write something in it, just one thing that has made your heart glad, given you hope, encouraged you, and got you through. Make sure you read it at night just before you turn in for sleep, and end the day on a joyful, thankful note. It is not about pretending that these times are not difficult and hard, but that there is love, joy, hope, and the grace of God in the midst of it.

 

 

 

Saturday 28th March 2020

Day 32   If you want to give God a laugh

 If you want to give God a laugh tell him your plans! So sang Mike Scott of The Waterboys. Life is extremely unpredictable, full of change, full of the unexpected. It can be frustrating at times, painful and difficult. And yet, the unpredictability of life can also throw up a lot of joy and wonder. I think that line from Mike Scott’s song is a reminder to us to sit lightly to how we want life to be, and be open enough to adapt to life’s chances and changes. A way of doing this is by learning to see the funny side of things, and not to take ourselves too seriously.

In my study I have a wooden image of the laughing Buddha, who sits on my desk, with his big round belly, grinning from ear to ear. Sometimes it feels like he is laughing at me when I am getting frustrated and throwing my toys out of the pram because things are not going as I want them to; once I lighten up he is laughing with me. There is also a beautiful image of Jesus Laughing that was painted in the 1970’s by a Canadian, Willis Wheatley, which is just full of joy. Such images as these remind us that the ability to laugh at ourselves and join in divine laughter is an important gift in life.                                                                     One of my favourite poems is by the Persian poet, Hafiz, which is simply this:

 God and I have become
Like two giant fat people
In a tiny boat.
We keep bumping into each other
And laughing!

A Christian mystic once wrote: “God told me a joke, and seeing God laugh has done more for me than any scripture I will ever read!” Learning to participate in the joy and laughter of God can help us navigate through the unpredictability of life.

Getting into the habit of praying our mantra throughout the day is a wonderful way of remembering not to take ourselves too seriously and, when we discover that we do, to join in the laughter of God. The Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, also encourages us to smile when we pray our mantra. He calls it mouth yoga!

……………………..

If you want to make God laugh,
And it is quite easy to do, so I’m told:
Applaud your progress
Make known your plans
Say “I’ll change”
Put trust in self-discipline
Believe you’re in control
Be convinced you are right.
If you want to make God laugh
There are many opportunities –
God often gets the giggles.

+++++++++++++++

Meditation 27

 I never tire of mentioning my laughing Buddha, as I did in today’s primary reflection. I have had him a long time, he has become a valued friend. All he does is sit there in my study and grin and at me from my desk, but in that he does everything. The Buddha is probably the ultimate icon of meditation, sitting there serenely, regally, in perfect pose and stillness. I have a number of Buddha icons around the place. But my favourite is the Laughing Buddha with his is big belly, his big round face, and enormous grin. It is easy in meditation to take ourselves too seriously, to get cross with ourselves, to expect things of ourselves that we should not be expecting – like any kind of competence! On the rare occasions while meditating I begin to think “I am doing quite well at this today” I almost immediately hear laughter. It is not laughter at me, but laughter with me, a laughter that pricks that silly bubble of pride. While I am busy trying (and failing) to be serene and Buddha-like in my meditation, I sense God is poking me in the rubs with a grin saying: “Lighten up, it’s not about a beautiful pose, it’s about us sitting and enjoying the moment together.” A laughing Buddha is good meditation companion.

Friday 27th March 2020

Day 31   God is Part of our Busyness

I remember once, many years ago, going with a friend to hear Gerard Hughes speak about silence and prayer. He was very popular at the time as he had just written a well-known book called “The God of Surprises.” I remember leaving the talk feeling inspired and encouraged, and was surprised when I got outside to find my friend was fuming! “All this talk of silence and stillness” he said, “as if God were not present in noise and busyness.” In a sense he was right, it is easy to put so much emphasis on God being present with us in silent and still moments that we forget that God is just as close to us in the more hectic moments of life as well.

I am a big believer in creating still and quiet moments in life to tune in to God’s presence with us; in the appendix to these reflections there are reflections on meditation and finding moments of stillness in our lives. But the whole point of stillness and silence is to help us to become more aware of God’s presence in the activity and experiences of daily life. It is important to guard against any idea that God can only be truly experienced in silence, because we encounter God’s presence daily in the ordinary, everyday experiences and events of life. God is, indeed, very much a part of our busyness. Jesus did not spend his whole life in quiet retreat; although that was a part of his life, Jesus was very busy and active for much of the time.

That is why my mantra has become such an important way of praying in my life. It can be prayed in moments of quiet and stillness, but can be just as effective in the ordinary daily round of life. The simple fact is we are all made differently. Some of us need more silence, stillness and solitude in our day, it is part of our make-up and personality. Others like to keep active, to be doing things, to meet with people, and socialise more. Praying the mantra is a lovely way of being aware that God is part of all these things. God is present with us in silence and stillness, and God is with us in our interaction with others.

The mantra is a reminder that it is all an opportunity for prayer, for connecting with the prayer of Christ that flows through the whole of life.

It is not simply about times of prayer, but living prayerfully.

…………………………………….

She had walked many
miles, suffered much pain, she
was hot and weary. Reaching her
destination of pilgrimage she
sat outside the shrine and removed
the shoes from her aching
feet, and closed her eyes.

A priest coughed, she looked
up  that pious face which
said to her: “Is it comely,
madam, to point ones dirty
feet toward such a holy
shrine where the One True
God is present and worshipped?”

She was not fazed by his
stern face, nor cowered at
his pompous speech and
thinking, but looked directly into
his eyes, saying: “Point me, good
man, in the direction God is not, and
I shall gladly point my filthy feet there.”

+++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 26

 The Mustard Seed

 Where shall we begin? Asked disciple of Saint,
panicking at size of their task.
In response the said Saint did not hesitate:
“Doing small things with love is what’s asked.”

“But then what?” He cried, still daunted by facts,
and Saint paused for effect and then smiled:
“Then more small things, until task is complete”
is what the Saint replied.

“The mustard seed,” said Jesus to those who would hear,
“is the smallest of seeds so they say,
yet grows into shrubs in which birds build their nests,
and shelter and rest in its shade.”

“Faith as small as a mustard seed
moves mountains, builds kingdoms” said he.
Where to begin? How to go on?
With small things and great love, both agreed.
~

When we talk meditation we are talking mustard seeds. Small beginnings, small steps, small seeds. We do not have to worry about where it will all end that is in God’s hand. We do not have to worry where those small steps take us – God will be our guide. We do not have to worry about whether this seed grows into a small bush or a mighty oak – God is the gardener, not us. All we have to do is make small beginnings, take small steps, plant small seeds. That is all. And then what? More small beginnings, more small steps, more small seeds. That really is all. I will go on repeating it until I am blue in the face (because I need to keep hearing it!) God will take care of the rest.

Thursday 26th March 2020

Day 30   Follow Me

 The Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, reminds us that Jesus did not say worship me, but follow me. The church often puts far too much emphasis on worshipping Jesus and far too little on following him, so do we as individual Christians. It is much easier to put Jesus up on a pedestal and offer our worship and devotion, than it is to do what Jesus asked us to do, which is to follow. “Whoever follows me will have the light of life” John 8:12. Jesus simply set out to carry the light of God’s love into life, and calls us to do the same.

It so easy to separate what we do on a Sunday morning from what we do the rest of the week. Someone I was talking to once referred to coming to church on a Sunday as “doing my ‘God bit’ for the week.” And they were serious; their ‘God bit’ was important to them, they rarely missed Sunday church. The only thing is, it bared very little relation to what they did the rest of the week, and how they lived their daily lives. They thought that God would be fine with it because they did their Christian duty on a Sunday. If we are honest, many of us can think a little bit like that.

Yet, the simple truth is that what we do on Sunday morning is only a fraction of what it means to live a Christian life, a vital bit, but a fraction nevertheless. Jesus does not call us to worship him, but follow him; and that has a massive impact on how we lead our lives, how we act, how we think, how we speak, how we serve, and how we love.

Being a Christian is a calling to “be Christ” in our world and “live Christ” in our daily lives. Our times of worship are vital because they are times that help equip us for our calling in life. Our times of worship and prayer are about opening us to Christ’s Presence so we can carry that presence into our daily encounters.

Our mantra is a constant reminder throughout the day that we are called to follow Christ, to be Christ, and to live Christ in each moment of the day. It sounds daunting, but we have to remember that it is not our responsibility to take Christ into daily life, Christ is already there. Our responsibility is to follow Christ there, be open to Christ’s presence in each moment, and allow that presence to inspire us and guide us.

…………………………………….

A Sabbatical Encounter

Let down your nets for a catch
one more time, He said.

I have toiled many years,
I am tired, I need a change,
can’t I stop? I pleaded.

He stood on the shore, His face
sympathetic but resolute.
One more time, he said gently,
one more time. Trust me.

Something shifted at that point;
a fresh resolve began to emerge.
One more time, I said,
as our eyes and smiles met.
And I cast my net one more time.

+++++++++++++++++

Meditation 25

 A favourite poem of mine, by Rainer Maria Rilke, begins “Exposed on the cliffs of the heart….” When we meditate that is exactly what happens, we become exposed on the cliffs of the heart. That is why  many find meditation so difficult to keep up, it exposes us for who we are. We cannot meditate for any period of time without realising our weaknesses, our vulnerabilities, the strange thoughts and fantasies that go through our head. When we attempt to enter the realm of silence, we find ourselves exposed, naked, with nowhere to hide. We should not fear this nakedness and exposure, it is not the real us but the persona we have created; the persona needs to be exposed before we can discover our true selves. We do not like being exposed, open and vulnerable, but that is part and parcel of also being exposed to God, in whom we discover our true selves. As we meditate we will be confronted by our stranger, darker, nature but, we should not be discouraged by it. It may make us think we are useless at meditation, it may make us feel useless at being a decent human being; but we have to remember that this persona is not who we truly are, and this part of us has to be exposed and healed before we can find our true selves in God. So don’t despair, don’t give up; be willing to hang on the ledge of the cliff of the heart and be exposed, for then we are also exposed to God. Remember, any judgement only comes from our created persona and not in any way from God, who simply loves us with a love that is unconditional and eternal. So hang in there, pray your mantra, move your beads, breathe in and breathe out; and know you are loved.

Wednesday 25th March 2020

Day 29   Wave of Prayer

 Yesterday’s reflection explored prayer as putting up the sails to catch the wind of God’s Presence and allow it to carry us and guide us. A similar image is of prayer being a wave emerging from the ocean that is God. Like surfers on the sea, we have to connect with that wave of prayer and allow it to help us journey through life. We also have to be open to where that wave may lead us.

The early Celtic monks, who first brought the Christian faith to these shores, literally put themselves at the mercy of the oceans waves. Many of them set out from Ireland, Brittany or the Scottish Isles, and they would set sail on the ocean on their small boats called a Coracle. They would say to God: “I am at your mercy, wherever you take me I will go.” Then wherever the waves took them they would minister to the people there.

As those Celtic monks learned to trust and go with the flow of the waves of the ocean, so we need to learn to trust and go with the waves of prayer. Far too often we try and do it the other way around; we try and manipulate the waves of prayer, or we row against the current. We turn to prayer to support our action and decisions we have made, rather than allow our action and choices to flow from the wave of prayer running through our lives. I am no sailor or swimmer, but even for me it seems an obvious thing that the ocean supports us better when we seek to go with its flow rather than try to manipulate it.

To allow our actions and choices to flow from the wave of prayer it needs to be the bedrock of our daily life. We need to learn to recognise its flow and align ourselves with its current, so that action flows from prayer rather than prayer merely supporting action.

Praying our mantra at regular intervals during the day, even if only for a few seconds at a time, can help us set our sails to catch God’s breeze, and surrender our lives to God’s wave.

The Benedictine monk, Lawrence Freeman, says that our moments of prayer define our life, and the way we pray is the way we live. May we allow our daily prayer to define our day; praying a mantra is a simple and effective way to learn to do that.

………………………

It’s hard not to drown
When you imagine you are swimming
Thomas Merton
~
You have to trust the water
Become attuned to its tides
Surrender to the current
Be sensitive to its call.
For it is the ocean that carries you
And you don’t control its ebb and flow.
To believe it is down to your prowess
Is to misunderstand the way of grace –
It’s hard not to drown
When you imagine you are swimming.

++++++++++++++++++

Meditation 24

 “It’s hard not to drown when you imagine you are swimming”. I love those words of Thomas Merton, when I first read them they struck me as so true. When we are confident that we are in control of things, that we know what we are doing, that we have it all sussed; it is then when things often come crashing down around us – I know this from bitter experience! I have said it a number of times in these reflections, and I will no doubt keep repeating it: when we sit to meditate we have to let God do the work and try to get out of the way. The minute we think have got a handle on it we can be well assured that we certainly have not.

Meditation is about surrendering our lives to God’s Holy Breeze, as todays primary reflection reminds us; surrendering to the waves of prayer and allowing them to carry us where they will. We get frustrated and disheartened with meditation because it does not go how we planned it to go. We get frustrated because we don’t quite seem to ever get it right. Well, the simple answer is to stop making plans about how it should go, and stop being concerned about getting it right. I say it is the simple answer, but it not easy to do! We are too used to planning and controlling life, trying to make it be like we want it to be. Prayer is the process of learning to let go, surrender, give up on our own plans and ideas, and trust with where the waves of God’s Loving Presence may take us.

No matter how hard we try in meditation (and I have tried over the years, believe me) we cannot control and dictate the path we think it should follow. It is down to God’s grace. We simply have to remind ourselves, again and again, that our part is to sit as still as we can, pray the mantra, move the beads, breathe in and breathe out. That’s it. The rest we have to, slowly but surely, learn to leave with God.

Tuesday 24th March 2020

Day 28   Putting Up the Sails

“And suddenly there came from heaven a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire place.” So the coming of the Holy Spirit was described in Acts 2:2. God’s Presence is often described as a wind or breeze flowing through life in all the spiritual traditions. The 19th Century Hindu holy man Sri Ramakrishna said that: “The grace of God is a wind which is always blowing. All that you and I have to do is to put up our sails and let the wind carry us across the sea of life.”

Our prayer mantra is the sail we put up to catch the breeze of God’s grace and presence, and allow that presence to carry us across life’s ocean. Our prayer mantra is a sail that catches the breeze of the Prayer of Christ that blows through life. Far too often we work against life’s circumstances, fighting them, doing battle with them, instead of simply putting up the sails and allowing God to negotiate us through the currents that run through life.

True prayer is an act of surrender to God’s presence and love in life; it is an act of trust that God’s grace will carry us and hold us in life. But it is so difficult to surrender to the breeze of God’s Holy Spirit and grace, it is so difficult to simply trust where it will take us. We do not like not being in control; we want to be the ones to pull the strings and dictate outcomes. To relinquish control to another, even God, is one of the hardest things in life. Prayer, at its heart, is a reminder that we cannot and do not rely on our own strengths and skills, and that life is about letting go and allowing God to carry us in the flow of love, mercy and grace.

Jesus knew this, which is why he prayed: “Not my will, but thy will be done.” Our Lady Mary knew it, which is why she prayed: “Be it into me according to thy word.”

Each Good Friday our worship begins with the priest lying prostrate before the altar; it is an act of surrender on behalf of all, to the love, mercy, and grace of God. It is one of the most beautiful symbols of prayer because, in the end, what else can we do when we come face to face with such love except surrender to it?

The mantra is a prayer of surrender, a prayer of simply putting up the sail to the wind of God’s Holy Presence in life.

……………………………………….

Shocking!
After all these years to discover
I’d got it the wrong way around
all together.
An interesting beginning
to a Tuesday morning.
All this time I have been trying
to surrender to You,
only to find that it is You
who has surrendered to me!
Completely.
Utterly.
Nothing held back.
I should have known,
it is the only way that
surrender to You
becomes possible.

++++++++++++++++

Meditation 23

 I wrote the above poem one Tuesday morning immediately after my time of meditation, when it suddenly struck me during prayer that this was not primarily about me giving myself to God, but God giving His/Herself to me. I try to tune in to God at meditation, and in each moment of the day, but the awareness hit me that God is continually tuned in to me. God does not have to make a conscious effort to be present to me, God just is – always has been, always will be. I don’t know about you, but I find that mind blowing.

There is a big difference between knowing that God is tuned into me, has surrendered His/Her Divine Presence to me, than the thought that God is watching me. I was brought up with the image that God was constantly watching me, checking if I was doing what a good boy was supposed to do. There was very little joy in the thought that God was watching me, I was constantly afraid of what God was thinking. But now I have come to experience that God is not watching me, like a detached judge weighing up my pros and cons; but has become a part of me, an intimate loving presence that gives me value and worth.

In meditation we may struggle to be present to God, but God is fine with that because God is always present to us; and it is because of that we can relax and allow prayer to take its course and slowly but surely draw us in. All we have to do is keep placing ourselves in its flow.

Monday 23rd March 2020

Day 27   Fertilising Daily Life

Prayer brings nourishment and fecundity to daily life. Life without prayer lacks the vital ingredient to make it truly flourish and grow. In a previous reflection I mentioned Brother Lawrence who was set to work in the monastery kitchen. It was a mindless and dull life for him at first, a life he strongly resisted. The change came when it was fertilised with prayer, it then came alive with purpose, meaning, and wonder. Tasks that before were just mindless repetition he was just intent on getting done, became a means of joyous communication with the Presence of God, of Holy Communion.

Jean Pierre de Caussade, in the 18th century, coined the phrase: The Sacrament of the Present Moment. This is what prayer does, it makes each moment of life a sacramental moment, moment of grace, a moment of Holy Communion. The Prayer of Christ flows through life, fertilising it with holy love and divine purpose. When we are open to that prayer, become a part of it, and allow it to become a part of us, life changes and becomes alive with the presence of love and communion. Our joining with this prayer brings meaning and purpose to all our daily routines and commitments. Our joining with this prayer gives life an intimacy and immediacy that makes even the most mundane tasks an opportunity for profound connection. The mystics of all the religious traditions have all daringly spoken of this connection as making love with God and life. It is to experience a sense of intimacy and immediacy with God and life.

The praying of a mantra is a wonderful way of making this connection with the Prayer of Christ that flows through life, and helping us experience the intimacy and immediacy of God’s Presence in our daily tasks and routines. Just pausing a moment to pray our mantra before beginning our next task places it in a different context; in the context of divine interaction. Prayer is not just a time of formal devotion, prayer is life lived with the immediacy of God. Taking a shower, drinking tea, working at the computer, mowing the lawn, doing the shopping, whatever we are engaged in, is all prayer if we are open to God’s immediate and intimate presence. Our mantra helps us to do that.

……………………………

When You visit
I am often distracted.
Like Martha, I flit about
here and there,
rather than being still,
enjoying your presence.
You whisper tenderly,
embrace lovingly,
pour upon me
undivided attention.
But I drift away
and am only partially present.
I long to hold You
in the center of my being;
to be a space
where Your Beauty dwells;
to be the canvas
on which Your Image emerges;
but I guess it is too much
for me to bear.
I disappear into
the banal and superficial,
and then return
to find I have missed You.
Oh, but the fragrance You leave behind,
the fragrance You leave behind.

++++++++++++++

Meditation 22

 In today’s reflection on praying a mantra in daily life I wrote of Jean-Pierre de Caussade’s beautiful phrase “the sacrament of the present moment”. All of this praying stuff is really about one thing: knowing God is with us in the present moment; knowing that there is not a moment that passes that is not shared with God. Whether our prayer is meditation, praying a mantra in daily life, chatting with God while having a cuppa, praying through reading the scriptures, or saying set prayers, whatever way we pray it is all about meeting God’s Presence in the present moment, in every moment. It is so easy to compartmentalise life, to divide it up into work, leisure, worship, prayer, etc.

But true prayer teaches us that life is all one. We do not have times that are spiritual and times that are ordinary, because everything is spiritual, everything is about God. Our times of prayer are not our spiritual moments in the day or week – they are reminders that every moment in the week is spiritual because we live, work, play, and pray in the continual presence of God. Everything is an extension of our prayer, and flows back into prayer.

That is why when we meditate; when we stop, sit quietly, be still, breathe, and say our mantra, it does not matter if it is only for a short while, because the remainder of the day becomes a continuation of that prayer. What that short time of meditation does is remind us to be aware of God’s Presence in all that is to come, and allow the day to be continual moments of Holy Communion. Our times set aside for prayer are a prequel to living each experience in life prayerfully. Just a few minutes of meditation can change the course of the day dramatically.

Sunday 22nd March 2020

Day 26   An Extension of Eucharist

While the mantra has become my primary method of prayer, it is not by any means the only form of prayer I use. The mantra will fit in and around any other way you find useful to pray. I still have set prayers I use at various times during the day; first thing in the morning, at night, and often at other moments in the day. The Daily Offices of the church, prayers of blessing, reading scripture, are all ways of praying I use at various times. It is just that my mantra has become the key thread that runs through the day and is the prayer that is most available to me.

I wrote in a previous reflection that I use my mantra as a preparation for worship; it is also a continuation of that worship, an extension of the Eucharist. I believe that the Eucharist is the central and primary prayer of Christian life. It is in celebrating the Eucharist together that truly opens us to the Prayer of Christ that resonates within us and within our world. The Eucharist is the prayer that calls us together, unites us, feeds us, and sends us out to share Eucharist; to share God’s love and Presence, with our community and world. We are not just called to celebrate Eucharist, and receive Eucharist, but also to live Eucharistically – to be living sacraments of God’s love in our world. To live prayerfully is to see everything we do, everything we are involved in, everything we experience, to be extension of the sacred moment we share together at the Eucharist. It is to begin to learn to live each moment in Holy Communion – with God, and with those we are called to share our lives.

The praying of the mantra has become for me a symbol of this sacred extension of the Eucharist. All prayer is this, but the mantra is a simple way of reminding ourselves of the sacred task we are called to participate in through our commitment to Christ; to live and share the bounty of Eucharist.

It is important that we do not compartmentalise our times of worship, to see them as separate times to the rest of our lives. Our worship feeds our life and life feeds our worship. Praying my mantra helps me to keep that connection.

………………………………….

I drink from your cup
So freely.
“The blood of Christ” they say,
“Amen” I respond
And drink.

“Can you drink from the cup I drink?”
You ask.
I pause to think which cup:
The cup of sorrow?
The cup of joy?
The cup of need?
The cup of plenty?
The cup of service?
The cup of humility?
The cup of cost?
The cup of abundance?

“Yes” you say
And look deeply
Into the very core
Of my soul.

I hesitate.
You smile.
“The cup of grace”
You say,
“The cup of grace.”

++++++++++++++++

Mothering Sunday 2020

I would prefer to be writing a sermon for Mothering Sunday, but find myself instead writing a reflection to send out to you on the first Sunday that worship has been suspended because of the coronavirus. These are difficult times and are causing a lot of anxiety for many. In many ways Mothering Sunday is an appropriate Sunday for this to begin. Sharing motherly love and concern for each other at this time is essential for all our well-being.

When I was a child I went through the most difficult time of my life health-wise. I had a kidney disease, which at the time nobody was sure how to treat. It was a very difficult and worrying time for my parents. I was in hospital for long periods of time, and my mum took the biggest brunt of that. She never missed a day’s visiting and was always there from when visiting started to when it ended; even when I was in Leeds Infirmary, a long way from my home near Bridlington, she was there. She stayed with my Aunt who lived closer to Leeds, and negotiated complex trains and buses to get there. To add to the difficulty she was not particularly healthy herself at the time, she had cataracts on both eyes which could not be operated on because of a blood disorder she suffered from. So she was doing all this with extremely poor sight. But that is a mother’s love for you, it goes beyond the expected, it is at times heroic, it is unconditional. In this way it mirrors God’s love, which is why Mothering Sunday is such an important festival in our year, it reminds us of the love that knows no barriers.

In these difficult times we need more than ever to reflect a mother’s love to each other. To be there for each other, to go beyond the norm in watching out for each other, and in serving each other. We have many vulnerable people in our community who will be pushed to their limits in the days ahead, as we all will. It is important that we all know that we are not alone that we are part of a wider family, a caring community, and that we matter and are loved.

May God bless us and inspire us with motherly love as we pull together and support each other in what is to come; even if it can only be by phone or sending each other cards. And, just as importantly, may God help us to have that same love for ourselves and do what we can to keep ourselves as safe as possible also. Emailed up dates will continue during this time, and I hope you will also help me keep up to date with what is happening to you and others so we can best embrace each other and find strength in each other. Most importantly, as a church we may not be able to meet together at this time, but we can pray together. As long as I remain well I will offer daily prayers at 9.30am, and compline prayers 8pm, in church; and celebrate a Eucharist on a Wednesday and Sunday morning. Please try and pause for a while, wherever you are, and join me in those prayers and let us hold one another before God in love.

The prayers I will use in the morning and for Compline can be found on the church website linked to this blog, and also on previous correspondence sent out.

It is easy to get caught up in focussing only on the negative at this time. It is easy to get angry with many who are shopping selfishly. But I have witnessed many people who are serving, loving, caring and reflecting God’s Motherly love. Let’s place our focus and attention on that, and allow it to be our guiding light.

May God bless you, and surround you with peace and love at this time.