Pots and plants


Geraniums in my kitchen garden
 

A meditation

How hard it is to know
when the pot is too small for the plant.
Some plants need to be contained, held very close.
Others cannot be crowded.
I don’t know when I myself am too pot-bound,
lacking courage to be replanted,
to take the shock of new soil,
to feel into the unknown and to take root in it.

This drying out, this self-crowding
sneaks up on me. It seems I must always feel
a little wilted or deadened before I know
I’m too pot-bound.

This african violet must first be cut
and divided. The knife goes through the root.
The white flesh exposed and moist
looks as if it is bleeding.
It must have soil immediately
so the plant won’t die.
Then water. Water taken in from below.
This water must seep up into the plant
by infusion. Then comes the waiting
as the shock registers.
Days and weeks of waiting.

It will be months before a new leaf appears.
Perhaps the plant won’t make it.
So it is when the time comes for me to be cut
and divided so as to grow again.

Help me to see this not as a problem
but as a process. Help me surrender
to the growth that only comes with pain,
with division, with helplessness, with waiting.
Especially the days and weeks of waiting.

 
from Being Home: A book of meditations by Gunilla Norris, p.32-33


From the blog
Full of air
Ask and receive
In the school of prayer with Michael Mayne
 

Walk the walk


Canal tour in Paris, while waiting at one of the sluice gates  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

He has told you, mortals,
      what is good
      in His sight.
 
What else
      does the Eternal
      ask of you
but to live justly
and to love kindness
and to walk
      with your True God
      in all humility?
(Micah 6:8, VOICE)

 
 
 
Take time to meditate on this verse and consider how you might put it into practice in the particulars of your life and relationships, including your relationship with the one True God-with-you, who loves you and knows what is good and what is good for you.

No doubt, there will be things to confess and put right, as well as new prayer-inspired, prayer-supported initiatives as your move forward.
 


From the blog
First love
The last may be first
In the school of prayer with St Francis of Assisi
 

Crossing the threshold


Stolpersteine – in memory of a Jewish family who used to live here
 

Meditation

Many times today I will cross over a threshold.
I hope I will catch a few of those times.
I need to remember that my life is, in fact,
a continuous series of thresholds:
from one moment to the next,
from one thought to the next,
from one action to the next.

Help me appreciate how awesome this is.
How many are the chances to be really alive …
to be aware of the enormous dimension
we live within.

On the threshold the entire past
and the entire future
rush to meet one another.

They take hold of each other and laugh.
They are so happy to discover themselves
in the awareness of a human creature.
On the threshold the present breaks all boundaries.
It is a convergence,
a fellowship with all time and space.
We find You there.
And we are found by You there.

Help me cross into the present moment –
into wonder, into Your face:
that “now-place,” where we all are,
unfolding as Your life moment by moment.

Let me live on the threshold as threshold.

 
~ from Being home by Gunilla Norris, p.14-15


More meditations by Gunilla Norris
Table grace
Full of air
 

The empty cup

 

Meditation on the cup of emptiness

Hold the empty cup in your hands.
Look at all the room the cup has for filling.
Picture the inner part of yourself.
Notice how much room there is for filling.
Hold the cup out before you in the gesture of a beggar.
Ask God to fill you.
Arise, go and slowly pour something in your cup (coffee, tea, water).
Come back and sit down.
Receive and enjoy the contents of the cup.

 
excerpt from The Cup of Our Life: A Guide for Spiritual Growth by Joyce Rupp, found on spiritualityandpractice.com
 


A prayer

God help us to live slowly:
To move simply:
To look softly:
To allow emptiness:
To let the heart create for us.
Amen
 
by Michael Leunig
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #624
 


 
From the blog
From a grateful heart
Wonder-full psalm
From parched to satisfied
 

mud mud mud


Baked mud: tiled floor in “Auditoire de Calvin”, Geneva  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Faith and Love in the First World War by Anne Richards and the Church of England’s Mission Theology Advisory Group is a compilation of reflections and prayers, “looking at little things which affected the lives of all who were involved [in the First World War], friend and enemy alike.”
 
Themes included: mud, rats, lice, poppies, cigarettes, daughters, ghosts, guns, wire, gas, shrapnel
 
 
Excerpts and a prayer from the entry on MUD:

 

When we repeat the lines from Laurence Binyon’s famous poem … ‘at the going down of the sun and in the morning/we will remember them’ … we should remember the pain, cold, wet and mud and what those conditions do to the human spirit. Mud forms part of the spiritual landscape of the First World War, representing destruction, dirt, pain and soul-sapping work. When carefully tilled fields and entire landscapes turn to featureless mud it is like the undoing of creation and a foretelling of death.

It was possible to drown in the mud of no-man’s land. If wounded soldiers fell into the mud, they might well asphyxiate before they could be reached. Mud was therefore also the enemy, lying in wait to claim you. Yet mud was also what kept you safe in the trenches …

So if we ‘will remember them’ we should remember what it is like to live on the edge of life and death in the mud, the soil of God’s good creation, sheltering you, but also ready at a moment’s notice to become your tomb, to turn you, wet and dirty, back into the mud itself.
 


Prayer

God of the earth, God of dirt and mud,
at the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember all those who endured
the cold, clinging wet and fluid soils.

We will remember the tilled fields once white for harvest,
the stands of trees, smashed to pieces,
the landscapes of human toil and habitation,
reduced to ruin, the spoil heaps of waste.

We will remember the mud-sounds of war,
the buzzing of bees that are bullets, zinging into soil,
the wet explosions, fountain splatters of earth,
the strange sucking and gurgle of submerged deaths.

God of the earth, God of the lost and buried,
help us to value your good soil, to tend it, plant it,
restore what is broken and ruined to its beauty,
and when we wash the dirt from our hands, remember them.

 
Source: www.churchofengland.org
 


 
From the blog
In the school of prayer with St Francis of Assisi
Desert wisdom
The wells of salvation
 

Embrace the cities and towns


York Minster  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

Here’s a thoughtful meditation by Ann Bell Worley, based on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7, Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles headed for the city of Babylon.

The meditation is taken from the Cities and Towns issue in a series of publications on faith and ethics produced by Baylor University (and available for free download).


Meditation: “Babylon”

Not simply an evil territory
     or a dirty word,
     as we are prone to believe.
But a place where God’s people were sent
     in exile
     on purpose
     on mission
         to offer their culture
     to the culture there
     in love.
For God so loved the world.

Like Israel in exile, still we hope
     for our homecoming in the city of God,
     where there will be no more tears.
Let us hope not
     in closed communion
     in isolated sanctuaries
     apart from the Babylon-world.
Rather let us hope
     in the fullness of God’s love
     in the life of the cities and towns
         where we work
         and love
         and worship
         and play.
And remember
     that God so loved not only us,
         but the world.

Let us hope for Babylon
     as we hope for ourselves.
Let us embrace
     its people
     its buildings
     its streets
     and fill them with the beauty
         of God’s temple.
Let us hope
         with doors wide open,
     welcome the city in
     and pour ourselves out.
For God so loved the world.
 

~ written by Ann Bell Worley, copyright © 2006 The Center for Christian Ethics. Posted on the Baylor University website.
 


… more on Cities and Towns

Other subjects included in the Cities and Towns issue:

  • Dysfunctional Cities: Where Did We Go Wrong?
  • Citizens of Another City
  • The New Urbanism
  • Saint Benedict in the City
  • Crate and Castle
  • Cities and Towns in Art
  • Salt in the City

… and loads more on Faith and Ethics …

Check out the Baylor University’s Christian Reflection Project for materials on other areas of life where faith and ethics intersect – to inform your thoughts and your prayers. Also a great resource for group discussions.

Note: Besides articles, there are also study guides provided, for example this one on Consumerism.
 


 
From the blog

Prayer prompts
Sola gratia – Deo gratias
Sabbath rest

 

In the school of prayer with Ignatius of Loyola


Signs used in the 2018 Good Friday service in Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
I recently wrote this little song inspired by a good day in Zacchaeus’ life, as recounted in Luke 19:1-10:

You see me in all my shame and glory
I hear you speak my name
What joy! my Lord and Saviour
to meet you face to face
I am changed from the inside out
by your gift of grace.

The Examen

One spiritual practice that helps us reframe our experience – both the shame and the glory – is called the Examen, a contemplative prayer developed by Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuits.

The basic format

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions.
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges.

(Source: www.ignatianspirituality.com)
Visit the website for a more detailed outline.

Consolations and desolations

Here are some practical guidelines, taken from Gary Neal Hansen’s chapter on Ignatius in his book, Kneeling with giants: Learning to pray with History’s Best Teachers.

“In … the examen, we focus on the task of discernment by examining what Ignatius calls the ‘motions of the soul’ – the inner nudges that draw us toward God or away from God. He calls these tuggings ‘consolations’ and ‘desolations’, things that give a sense of the gracious presence of God or the seeming absence of grace, the absence of God.

The process is quite simple: we give thanks to God and quiet our hearts to reflect on the past day or week. In God’s presence, we bring to mind both the consolations and the desolations, in prayerful silence or writing them in a journal. We ponder their significance. We close with a prayer thanking God for being present in our experiences, offering ourselves to God anew. … the examen can be done individually or as a gentle, conversational way to pray with a friend or in a group. It can be especially helpful for married couples who want to pray together … It is also a delightful way to deepen prayer with children.” (p. 104)

 
More practical guidelines, this time from Chris Heuertz’ book, The Sacred Enneagram:

“The heart of the examen uses memory to explore the day searching for a ‘consolation’ – a moment, memory, or experience in which we felt God moving toward us or in us. Our consolation can be something as mundane as our first cup of hot coffee in the morning, something as sweet as an interaction with a child we love, or something as profound as a personal eruption of grace (such as receiving forgiveness from a friend, noticing growth in our faith journey, or realizing in a deep way that we are loved). Whatever the consolation is, once it is discerned we allow ourselves to be held by it, listening to what God may be trying to say to us through it. This step of the prayer also invites us to find the courage to search for a ‘desolation’ – a moment, attitude, or experience in our day in which we found ourselves moving away from God’s love and presence. Perhaps it’s those voices in our head – shame, guilt, doubt, regret, disappointment, or fear – that we mistake for the voice of Love. The person who hurt us isn’t the desolation, but rather the resentment we might feel toward that person; the family member who constantly annoys us isn’t the desolation, but rather our impatience with them; the painful memory we’ve tried so hard to forget isn’t the desolation, but rather our inability to receive healing for it. Whatever the desolation is, we acknowledge it as an invitation to grace so as not to be overcome or overwhelmed by it.” (p. 230)

 


Tip

Go to the Index for more posts in this series, as well as other series.

Summer-friendly spiritual practices


‘Strangers you meet on the street can turn into good neighbours’  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Have you considered activities like meeting people, gardening, swimming and journaling as a spiritual practice?

 

Incidentally, this is the 150th Prayer Matters blog post. Thank you for sharing in the spiritual practice that is this blog.

 

Gretchen Champoux … on gardening

Gardening connects us to life’s natural rhythms, the gifts of each season, the wonder of creation and the natural world. For me, gardening and gratitude go hand in hand … I can’t help but experience the garden. When I do, I am pulled to the present moment so much so that I can paradoxically lose sense of time — especially if I’m digging away!

https://www.asacredjourney.net/
 

Sharon Salzberg … on swimming

I thought of meditation when Willow described her experience (swimming laps). When she slowed down and focused only on the movement and the effects it had on her body, she was able to let go of the doubts, fears, and comparisons in order to experience what the body presented to her at that moment. The experience of being buoyed along in the water, of her muscles moving through it, was a pure sensation of being alive, once she got her comparing mind out of the way.

https://onbeing.org
 

Austin Kleon … on journaling

When I write in my diary, I often try to start with Nicholson Baker’s advice:

If you ask yourself, ‘What’s the best thing that happened today?’ it actually forces a certain kind of cheerful retrospection that pulls up from the recent past things to write about that you wouldn’t otherwise think about. If you ask yourself, ‘What happened today?’ it’s very likely that you’re going to remember the worst thing, because you’ve had to deal with it – you’ve had to rush somewhere or somebody said something mean to you – that’s what you’re going to remember. But if you ask what the best thing is, it’s going to be some particular slant of light, or some wonderful expression somebody had, or some particularly delicious salad. I mean, you never know …

 
https://austinkleon.com
 


From the blog
Up to us – on the joys of a walking holiday
 

Full of air

 

I’ve had Gunilla Norris’s book, Becoming Bread, on my bookshelf for years. Paging through it – the first time in years – I found this meditation inspired by the rising process where the yeast “breathes out” carbon dioxide that is trapped in the dough, expanding and so transforming it.

 

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and hid in a large tub of flour until it made all the dough rise.” (Matt 13:33b, NCV)

Rising

Here in the bowl
is warmth and time to rest.
The dough is set apart and covered.

Here in the bowl
the rising starts
and creeps up the sides

reaching into time,
into space … into possibility.
Dreams are like this,

full of air,
going ahead of us,
wanting to take us

beyond the rim
of our horizon,
wanting to lift us out

of where we are.
Dreams are like this … unfolding
a moment at a time,

expanding us, breathing us,
demanding something new,
wanting to take shape.

This is also dangerous
for there are dark dreams, terrible
dreams. And the ones where

love asks the impossible from us.
Can this be the restlessness
of God? Are we being dreamed?

 
from Becoming Bread by Gunilla Norris, p. 45-46
 

2017: Advent Joy #7


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

THE JOY OF THE ASSURANCE OF GOD’S LOVE IN CHRIST

Romans 8:31-35  (The Voice)

31 So what should we say about all of this? If God is on our side, then tell me: whom should we fear? 32 If He did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over on our account, then don’t you think that He will graciously give us all things with Him? 33 Can anyone be so bold as to level a charge against God’s chosen? Especially since God’s “not guilty” verdict is already declared. 34 Who has the authority to condemn? Jesus the Anointed who died, but more importantly, conquered death when He was raised to sit at the right hand of God where He pleads on our behalf. 35 So who can separate us? What can come between us and the love of God’s Anointed? Can troubles, hardships, persecution, hunger, poverty, danger, or even death? The answer is, absolutely nothing.

Reflection

Fanny Crosby’s hymn, Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine, is well-loved. Our congregation sings its uplifting melody and inspiring words with gusto. What is it to have the assurance of our faith? Assurance in Christ is a work of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life which gives the believer confidence in the truths of the gospel.

Someone who has assurance in Christ may not have led an easy Christian life. They are likely to have wrestled with Christ’s gospel, asked hard questions of the scriptures and faced challenging times and seasons in life. Assurance is a sign of Christian maturity that gives the believer the level of respectful assertiveness needed to share the gospel in words and action.

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul writes about assurance in the Christian life, commenting on his confidence in God’s sovereign work and how it impacts the life of the believer: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).  Paul then confidently reminds them that nothing – absolutely nothing – can separate them from the love of God.

What will such confidence in a Sovereign God and perfect Saviour do for us? As you ponder this, let God fill you with deep peace and joy.

Praying the psalms

6 Often at night I lie in bed and remember You,
meditating on Your greatness
till morning smiles through my window.
7 You have been my constant helper;
therefore, I sing for joy under the protection of Your wings.
8 My soul clings to You;
Your right hand reaches down and holds me up.

Psalm 63:6-8 (The Voice)

 

XTRA XTRA XTRA
Church of Scotland Advent Calendar
Journey daily with characters in the Nativity through video, reflection and prayer

 

TIP … from the blog
In a joyful vein:
The Gift #8 : Adoption