vision …

October I finally got around to starting the Pioneer MA with CMS. For some reason I have not said anything about it here …. but early signs are that it is going to be an amazing course. Certainly the lectures are stimulating and my new pioneer MA friends are a great and creative bunch of people. I’ve been wanting to do the for a while, and now seems to be the right time.

For our first model we are looking at leadership. I’ve learned masses about different leadership models … and my head is sinning a bit as I get to grips with the idea of writing an essay. Yes … with the idea of writing one .. not actually writing one just yet!

I’ve resonated and been challenged by a lot of what we have covered so far …. but I really REALLY love this quote from Cameron Harder’s ‘Discovering the Other‘:

assetsIt’s not the leader’s job to cast a vision or imagine a future for the congregation or community. Ideas emerge as people listen to each other and talk to each other. The leaders task is to facilitate, coalesce and connect ideas, to catalyse and stimulate the development of vision.

I guess I love that because that is what I try to do. That is kind of my preferred style of leadership. Obviously you can’t get through life leading like that because some things need short sharp decisions, like crossing the road at a safe time.

But back to this quote I love ……  discuss …. should / does vision come from one person called ‘the leader’ or does it come a process where it is stimulated in discussion and interaction … or is it a bit both/and ….. or something completely different?

Being Still … part last (I think)

So … I have now been back from retreat for a week.
Every evening my adopted new practice of saying Northumbria Compline has happened (I simply love the Monday night words!)  … even when waking at 2am on the sofa, compile was still said before going to bed!
Most days I have managed to do Centring Prayer, and obviously as an obedient Anglian Priest, Morning Prayer is always said anyway.

With these practices I am able to maintain perspective and continue in the vein of ‘all will be well’. I’m not quite sure what will happen, nor what the future holds. But I can believe that all will be well.

Sometimes practices adopted on retreats can be too demanding, or can be dropped too easily … I am hoping I have found a good balance here and early signs seem to be good.

A number of people have said to me that they could not do silence for any length of time, let alone 5 days.
I would say do not underestimate yourself.
Try meditating for just 10 minutes a day ….
allow God to find you
and you to find yourself
and see what happens.

and the pictures this time …. well that’s just to show off a bit with the medieval room!


Being Still …. part 3

So … hope!
Following the ‘Wednesday experience’ of what I can only call a release, baggage dropping healing experience I came across Julian of Norwich. Obvs not physically but in the form of a translation of her meditations by Brendan Doyle … a simply but profound version which I have had on the bookshelf for years but only really leafed through …. until this day.

I think it is quite natural that after a time of release which reveals a way forward that concerns can often come crashing in. Julian of Norwich’s words came for me at quite a key time during the silence.

I probably should explain a little that Julian wrote these words at a time when the populist option of God was a hard task master, someone that needed to be feared and who wanted to finish people for their misdemeanours. Julian radically said because all of creation was created by God, who is good, then all creation is good, and that God loved and wanted to hang out with all, rather than punish people for stuff that was happening on God’s watch anyway! There’s a lot more to it than that, but that is a short Rob translation!

In particular two of Julians meditations spoke to me …. these are ‘words’ that Julian believed she heard from God …. which have been left for us to ponder, meditate upon, and consider in our lives.

Obviously all meditations and messages from God are open to interpretation and will be interpreted differently by different people art different times in different locations. But … in my silence and slow reading, these two meditations kind of jumped out of the page and bit me on the arse! One with God seemingly dissing the idea that God’s plan and our hope for our lives are wildly different … and the other with God almost laughingly say ….it’s ok … all will be ok …. which resonates with one of Julian’s more well known meditations :

I can make all things well,
I know how to make all things well,
I desire to make all things well,
I will make all things well.
And you shall see with your own eyes
that every kind of thing will be well.

I don’t know why these came as a surprise to me … yet again.
Its;s easy to forget I suppose.
I guess as we work and get swallowed up by being involved in the pressing and unimportant not only do we lose sight of the ‘important’ in our lives, but we lose sight of the vision of reality that God wants people to have their heart’s desire … and the even bigger truth that God really is taking care of us.

rails 2Those two meditations that jumped out at me coupled with the ‘all will be well’ word gave a strong sense of hope on Thursday morning. On my afternoon walk I came across a level crossing, and I know it’s not entirely safe but I took a photo looking down the rails. From my previous two days of quiet coming across these rails seemed again to be prophetic in it’s meaning to me. A meaning that there seems a clear way ahead … it’s long, a lot out of focus, but clear direction and a certain knowledge of what could be ahead … and that ‘all will be well’. This picture of the rails speaks to me in a way that reminds me that over the last 6 months or so I had drifted from the core of who I was … as I look back I have ideas why, but to dwell there would be pointless, other than to learn from the experience. Returning to the core of me in the knowledge that all will be well is pretty liberating!

I started the week not knowing why I had gone for 5 days of silence. My first conversation with Sr Ruth saw me saying ‘I do not know why I am here, but I know I need to be’. By the third and fourth days the reasons for being there seemed so obvious!

All things are well.
All things will be well.
And all manner of things shall be well.

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
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!

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!