Being Still … part 2

IMG_2133At breakfast on Wednesday I saw this card.

The words resonated with me powerfully and helped me to authentically enter into a time of meditation in the form of centring prayer. 

The time brought up a lot of pain and ‘stuff’.
As referred to yesterday, it was a bit like walking through a dark tunnel, feeling slowly against the cold wet walls and edging slowly forward, each step quite difficult as I knew I would probably find an obstacle … but each step bringing something that I can only describe as ‘lighter’ as I was able to let go of ‘stuff’ again ….
baggage that I have accumulated:
unreasonable expectations from others
even more ridiculous expectations of myself
losing sight of who is important
losing sight of who I really am
guilt
feelings of failure
trying to keep control
attempting to keep everything going
as stuff came up, tears flowed, I let go of that ‘stuff’ and carrying on walking

Meditation using centring prayer, for me, usually lasts around 20 minutes.
I was kinda surprised when I opened my eyes to see that an hour and ten minutes had passed. I don’t think I’ve ever been that silent for so long … not even when asleep! I don’t tend to have major God experiences … but this was one!

hopeAfter this deep experience with what I would call God I sat pretty quietly in my room for another 20 minutes or so before then going for another walk with the camera. As I walked, following my map, I cam across this single poppy which I saw as a massive sign of hope. Interestingly, ‘HOPE’ is the word in metal letters that I have displayed in my living room. It’s an important word for me. It’s one of those words that gets who I wish to be as well as describes how I want to be and also helps me look to the future.

That afternoon I saw Sr Ruth who looked at me and said, ‘Oh wow … something has happened … you look totally different!’ We chatted about the experience and how I felt quite a deep inner sense of calm (a cliche if ever there was one!) which I am still able to hold on to a week later. For me, it was both encouraging and exciting to hear Sr Ruth’s immediate comments … and incredibly helpful to hear her honest feedback to me.

It has been a while since I have been properly still.
Being still allows us to listen to what is going on.
Being still allows us to hear, to realign, to remember what is important.
I aim to make ‘being still’ part of my daily rhythm of life.

There is more …. particularly on the hope thing … maybe tomorrow!

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Being Still … part 1

DSC_0087The first two days of the retreat were hard work.
I’m a fairly active person and turning all my technology off and using just real books and …. space … took a day or so to adjust to.
I was quite surprised how quickly I forgot about my phone … and I didn’t take my iPad so I’d already forgotten about that!

On the first day it will surprise you all to learn that I procrastinated so much it took hours to get down to sitting quietly in my room … after making coffee, going for  walk, adjusting the bed covers, wandering around my chapel, looking out the window … the list could be endless.
I wanted to settle down, but everything inside of me seemed to be screaming no!
I guess an inbuilt distraction / protection mechanism.

Just about this time I had my first meeting with Sister Ruth.
Sister Ruth is the current Guest Sister and amazing in that she has lived in Malling Abbey for 51 years. This was a lady whose very presence brought calm …. I sweat …. Sr Ruth has pure calm pouring out of her pores!

We chatted for a while about ‘everything’ and she gave me Psalm 46 to mull over for the next 24 hours, particularly :

Be still and know that I am God. 

It was hard to sit with that.
Being still was an incredible challenge.
As I did start to ‘still’ I noticed stuff ….
Stuff like …
I was totally exhausted by the summer events
I felt alone
I felt rootless (I went to Weymouth to see my brother and if I went now I wonder what I would do as I still felt I had some ‘connection’ to my hometown)
I felt heartbroken
I felt angry at my procrastination in my own life
I had lost important people
I was carrying a lot and knew I needed to drop it and let go
At that time it was hard to see how to actually do that in a meaningful and real way.

DSC_0104That afternoon the walk I went on with my camera brought me across this tunnel by surprise.
I felt it was prophetic in a way … in that there was light at the end of the tunnel …. but to discover what that light looked like necessitated  walking through that dark tunnel …. a metaphorical tunnel for me in my situation maybe that I assumed was going to have some pain attached to it

and it did …..
and I walked through it
but that part of the story
is for the next blog ….

It’s noisy!

So I have returned from retreat.
It was a powerful time and I will write about that in the coming week …

I was ‘homed’ in the Thomas Beckett Room, which is a Tudor room above the gatehouse and from the visitors book I saw this room has also homed two Archbishops of Canterbury in the last 20 or so years along with a great variety of lovely ad interesting people. I also loved it as I got to bath in a cupboard! (If you are that interested I have posted videos on twitter!)

IMG_2121I followed the daily offices with the sisters as shown on the timetable in the pic …. it was a pretty awesome experience to sit back and listen to sung prayers and engage with God in a  different way.

My day followed a loose routine guided by the offices apart from Lauds … instead of Lauds I decided to say Morning Prayer in my room and join the sisters for Eucharist at 730 am. This worked well for me.

After Eucharist was a silent breakfast, I then read before mediating using Centring Prayer which got me to another office and then lunch. After lunch I went on meditative walks with my camera. Sometime in the day I met with Sister Ruth who had given me Psalm  46 to hold onto, particularly ‘be still and know that I am God.’

Those word have held me over the last week, and they continue to hold me now.
As I said above, throughout the week I will share more.
Although there is one thing I have noticed since leaving the Abbey …. you lot are flipping noisy! 😉

in to the silence …

doorwayI’ve not blogged for a little while.
I’m conscious that I have said that a lot over the last year or so.
I don’t mind saying life has been hard, particularly over the last few months with the sudden death of my younger brother, amongst other things.
I have, and am, travelling the interesting road of grief and encountering all it’s joys, heartbreaks and confusions.

Now for the first time in a little while I believe I am re-finding me.
Which I think is an example of good God timing … sometimes I marvel at my stupidity and surprise over such things.

Before the summer I had booked my annual retreat at West Malling Abbey.
I had planned for 5 days of silence with some direction at the start of each day.
August was not the right time to take that retreat … it would have meant coming out of retreat and travelling straight to Weymouth to take my brother’s funeral. So, I and the sisters, decided it was not the best time and we re-arranged it for this coming week.

So … this week, from today, I will be intentionally entering into 5 days of silence.
I have a book or two to take which I may or may not read.
The only plan I have is to place myself in front of God …. and … well … just wait to see what happens.
The ‘standards’ will be joining the sisters for the times of monastic office and starting each day with my meditation, but other than that there is no plan.

Am I worried about being bored with my own company  – maybe!
Am I concerned that God won’t show and that  I will experience nothing – definitley!
Am I thinking this was a mad idea – certainly!
Am I just scared at the whole thought of this now that it is here … well, YES!

But … I believe passionately about entering into silence.
It may be scary,
it may be hard,
even painful ….
but I believe that it is in the silence,
when we allow the crap of the world to be filtered out,
when we ‘dull’ the impact of whatever the crap is
when we cut ourselves off from ‘stuff’
that we hear from ourselves
(which is ok if we hold to being created in the image of God stuff!)
and from our creator.

I don’t believe that God only speaks in the silence
I believe God is constantly speaking, constantly calling, constantly loving.
I realise though, that as is the case with the important people in my life
that in the plethora of noise around
I don’t hear properly
or maybe am even too afraid to listen.

That stops today
for now
as I wait
and allow God
to find me
and me
to find God

Please pray for me if you do that thing
if you don’t  … then happy unicorn thoughts and blessings are ok too

I’ll see you on the other side!
Sssshhhhhhh!

 

 

a great day

DSC_0415I love days like today ….
a long day ….
full of a variety of things
where I am doing a lot of the  stuff I feel I am ok at and that energise me
rather than those draining things that no one likes to do …

The day started in school as I chatted to parents about baptism while on ‘gate duty’.
After having a cup of tea with a member of staff, I rushed off to our secondary school to take the Harvest service …
Did this little trick as part of my talk from my friends at Mission Magic:

It seemed some of the staff and students were pretty impressed as I had a lot of good feedback … and it was fun with a great Harvest message … bonus!

I then rushed to another school to have chat with a member of staff as well as do some self esteem work with a pupil …. before then popping home to prepare food for tonight’s Agapai.

As I knew we had new people coming tonight to Agapai I played safe and produced a vegetarian dish and sorted some stuff in the bread maker … and then I made it back to the secondary school for the prospective Year 7 Open Evening. Here I had some great conversations with current students, staff and prospective new parents.

Finally I got home after 7 in time to finish the meal for tonight Agapai and take the bread out of the bread maker! Tonight we had a great chat, we shared a little of our stories and passions … we had new people … and we ended by praying for each other before sharing some bread and wine with a few of the words from the Northumbria Community’s Eucharist liturgy.

I feel so flipping energised!
The day has flown by ….
… but I feel I have done some of the stuff I was created to do today
So today is a good day
Not perfect … as some things and some people are missing …
but a good day …. and tonight … I am content with that.

Tonight I will be finishing my day with tonight’s Northumbria Community Compline:

The peace of God
be over me to shelter me,
under me to uphold me,
about me to protect me,
behind me to direct me,
ever with me to save me.
Amen 

 

vulnerability again!

logo2A little while ago I was persuaded by my good friend Anna to join Sion College … who have a strap line of ‘supporting the education and fellowship of church of England clergy in London’.

Each month Sion College hosts seminar suppers amongst other things. I really enjoy the chance to meet new people, and old friends, and engage with some great thinkers and practitioners…. and eat good food and drink wine!

At the last Sion Supper, we listened to Hilary Ison speak on ‘Priesthood and Leadership’ and I found myself, once again, resonating with a lot of what was said.

I found myself sitting up and tuning in quite intently (despite the abundance of red wine) when Hilary said ‘priesthood is about the quality of presence’. I love that phrase,

Quality of Presence

and it sums up what I wish to do and be as a priest …. to be present …. really present …. really and fully present to those that I meet with and come across. I believe wholeheartedly that great quality of presence, where you have time for one person, and totally devote that time to being with them, to showing them they are worth your time and, even more, communicating through that presence that you are actually wanting to be with them, not just being there because you have nowhere else to be. Sometimes I have got that so wrong … and I have learnt the hard way that when that happens massive genuine regret doesn’t cut it! Sometimes quality of presence with strangers seems to be a lot easier than quality of presence with people that really matter on a personal level to me. I wish I could do so much better on that.Unknown

Hilary went on to say that we needed to have the confidence to reclaim the priestly role of being present with both God and people which inevitably needs a massive level of vulnerability.

There comes that word again!
It seems I cannot get away from it.
May I refer you again to Brene Brown’s TED talks on vulnerability

She went further to say that when working with others, leaders of presence needed to be confident in their wait … in holding ‘negative anxiety’ (which occurs when things are taking a while to happen) … the vulnerable bit coming in the holding of that anxiety (both personal and communal) as they wait for God to act and for vision to emerge.

Sometimes that can be hard when the pressure is on to deliver results, or increased numbers or maybe even to do something very different …. but as painful as it is …. bearing that vulnerability of presence when needing to balance tensions of anxiety and waiting for God to reveal a plan is really the only thing to do. Maybe that can be easier to do when we remember that church is family and community, rather than business with business ways of working.

But …
the vulnerability if that waiting and holding …
anyone else wish God would sometimes just be that teeny weeny bit quicker tho ….. ?

 

 

radical & obscene … that’s my God!

Luther-posting-95-theses-560x366-2Every term or so the ‘clergy / reader team’ of the East Greenwich Parish get together for a theological discussion which someone at the previous get together agrees to lead. Last year I ran a discussion on Eucharist while other shave looked at salvation and other great topics to get us talking.

 

Today Tim led us as we considered Luther and the Reformation with Tim asking us to think around two pretty interesting questions:

(1)  What do you consider to be the most significant or relevant of Luther’s ideas for you personally in your spiritual life/walk?
(2)  What do you consider to be the most significant or relevant of Luther’s ideas for the people of the Parish of East Greenwich in 2017?  (You may have different thoughts for our different Churches)
For me, for both questions, there is one over-arching answer that I believe I have centred my ministry on.
Obviously having the bible in the ‘vernacular’ is key and central and has been important.  I spend a lot of time thinking around language to use in the various settings that have to teach the Bible.
Way at the top of the list, however, for me is the theme that ‘salvation is a free gift of God’. By this I believe that to mean that we can do nothing to earn salvation. We can do nothing to change how God views us. God created us, loves us, and … well kinda loves to hang out with us!
When I have met with people in the hidden places that I spoke of yesterday, so many of them have felt that they are not good enough for God. Others have felt that what they have done simply means they are condemned by God. Still others have tearfully said to me that they are too insignificant for God to even notice.
My believe my role as a missioner, as a servant, as a priest …. is to tell people the truth … that God flipping loves them, that they are totally acceptable … and not that God is only interested in them but that God id actively looking out and searching for them … continually and without fail.
I have seen people literally ‘grow’ when they have heard, really heard, those true words of acceptance.
Sometimes it seems to me that the church and christians have forgotten this radical grace and acceptance that God offers. I remember having a conversation with a colleague a few years ago in pub theo (how I miss pub theo!) as we chatted around his view that there was a need for a person to change their behaviour to follow God and my response that if we have to do something then that is not ‘grace’ or free salvation. WE went around in circles and the truth is somewhere in there.
The fact, and I use that word deliberately, that acceptance, salvation, or whatever term we wish to use, from God is totally free is, quite frankly, a crazy notion.
But it’s true.
It’s crazily radically mad.
It’s pretty offensive to some.
It’s obscene to others.
Maybe that’s why I love it so much …. I follow a God, The Creator, incarnated in Jesus Christ … who is a God that obscenely radically totally unequivocally offensively accepts those God has created.
I think that’s a God worth following!