Making, making, making

 

Back story

I shared a version of this poem during the Away Day I led at the Scots Kirk, Lausanne earlier this month. It was so well received the group decided to include it in our presentation during Sunday worship the following day.

I’ve since made contact with the author, Wendy Videlock, and got permission to share it with you too. (Thanks, Erica, for giving me the idea.)

You can hear Wendy Videlock reading the poem on Emerging Form Podcast #51 (from 13:30).
 


Poem

 
On Hearing Yet Another Someone Say
they Haven’t Got a Creative Bone in their Body

And yet you’ve spent your entire life
creating — you’ve spent your life
                 making —
making dinner, making drinks,
making fire, making
the cut, making amends,
making fun,
making the team,
making money, making
lemonade

of lemons, yes — we spend
our whole lives making —
making decisions,
making peace,
making war,
making mistakes,
making a call, making some
       kind
               of sense of it all —

we can’t help but spend our lives making,
       making music, making choices,
making strides, making up

for lost time,
making hay, making haste,
making promises and progress,
making love, making
history, making
predictions, making
productions, making
light

of the situation,

we make space,
we make friends,
we make magic, we make trouble,
we make mountains

out of molehills,

we make tea,
we make tracks,
we make use, we make do,
we make way, we make curds,
we make words, we make waves
we make meaning —
       we are born

into this world and are made

(when we’re not humans being)

for making, making, making.

 
~ from Wise to the West by Wendy Videlock, used with permission

 

How do we know?


 

A quote by Madeleine L’Engle to ponder:

It is a frightening thing for many people to let go, to have faith in that which they cannot completely know and control.
      But how do we know?
      We’ve lost much of the richness of that word. Nowadays, to know means to know with the intellect. But it is a much deeper word than that. Adam knew Eve. To know deeply is far more than to know consciously. In the realm of faith I know far more than I can believe with my finite mind. I know that a loving God will not abandon what he creates. I know that the human calling is cocreation with this power of love. I know that ‘neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, not things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
      But in this limited world we tend to lose this kind of knowing, and this loss has permeated our fiction as well as our prayer.

 
~ from Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art, p. 173
 

Desire and transformation


 
 
Jan Richardson writes,

Loving is always risky, because we cannot enter into it without being changed. Altered. Transformed. In the face of this, we might well ask, Do I really want this? Do we really desire to be so undone?
 
Loving is never just about opening our heart. It is about being willing to have our heart become larger as we make room for people and stories and experiences we never imagined holding. It is about being willing to have our heart become deeper as we move beyond the surface layers of our assumptions, prejudices, and habits in order to truly see and receive what—and who—is before us. It is about being willing to have our heart continually shattered and remade as we take in not only the brokenness of the world but also the beauty of it, the astounding wonder that will not allow us to remain the same.

 

~ from the paintedprayerbook.com archives
 


A prayer

O Lord, I do not know what to ask of you. You alone know what are my true needs. You love me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs, which are concealed from me. I dare not ask for either a cross or a consolation; I can only wait on you. My heart is open to you. Come to me and help me, for your great mercy’s sake … I put all my trust in you. I have no other desire than to fulfil your will. Teach me how to prayer; pray yourself in me.

~ written by Metropolitan Theodore Philaret of Moscow (1553-1633)
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #80
 

In the school of prayer with Terry Hinks

 

Here are some extracts on the topic of prayer by Terry Hinks from his introduction to Luke’s Gospel in God’s Embrace: Praying with Luke.

 
 
I’ve also included the prayer inspired by his reflections on the disciples’ request in Luke 11:1, ‘Lord, teach us to pray’.
 


I

Prayer as struggle – “It is likely that as we ‘progress in the spiritual life’, or rather think that we do, we again and again need to become beginners asking ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ …  Again and again we will need to ask the Spirit to stir us from complacency (or despair) and to return us to that persistent determined prayer that Jesus describes in his parables (Luke 11:5-13, Luke 18:1-8), that alertness and strength required for the kingdom life (Luke 21:34-6).”   (p. 25)

II

Prayer as celebration – “Prayer will involve struggle, repentance and lament and will require courage, persistence and humility, but it cannot rest within this sphere alone. It must open out into joyful praise of the one who has done great things, is doing great things here and now and will do great things in the time to come.”   (p. 31)

III

God’s embrace – “We have been trained to analyse, organise, dissect, manipulate and control the reality that we see around us. Yet these tools that are so useful in many areas of life (from scientific research to cake baking) serve us poorly in our relationships with other people, let alone to the divine mystery that created us. Treating everything as an object degrades life. If prayer is the attempt to manipulate and control an object – getting God to do what we want – it will fail. If prayer is a relationship then all kinds of possibilities develop. The aim ceases to be getting God to do something for us; the aim becomes conversation and embrace.”   (p. 35)

IV

A pattern of prayer – “The constant pressure on us is to go for a quick fix in prayer and to fail to recognise the patience and persistence required to wait on God and to listen. Quietening our minds and stilling our bodies is an important part of preparing to pray – that going into your own room and shutting the door that Jesus describes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:6). But prayer is never simply down to us. It is not some anxiety-ridden striving after the Invisible, but a conversation with One who knows our needs and our hearts …  Prayer is a meeting of human boldness – the persistence to continue to speak to God whatever we may feel – and God’s grace – the patient loving kindness of God for us all, come what may.”   (p. 38-9)

 


A prayer

(inspired by Luke 11:1-4)

Lord, teach us to pray
with the whole of our being,
      bodies stilled and centred,
      minds focused on your way,
      hearts warmed by your grace.

Lord, teach us to pray
with the whole of your people,
      connecting to your followers
            of every time and place,
      connecting to your Church in all its varied faces,
      connecting to the world with all its joy and agony.

Lord, teach us to pray
in the power of your Spirit,
      as children of one dear God,
      as brothers and sisters in Christ
      as sinners forgiven and forgiving.

Lord, teach us to pray
      to you,
      in you,
      this moment,
      this life,
      this eternity.

 
~ by Terry Hinks,
from God’s Embrace: Praying with Luke, p. 91
 


From the blog
In the school of prayer with Angela Ashwin
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints
In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew
 

Continually curious

 

A quote by poet and scientist, Lewis Thomas, to inspire us, and a call to worship to further focus our thoughts and prayers.

 


… the loveliest thing about being human

Reality’s ability to continually baffle us with what we don’t yet know, and our willingness to continually plumb the unknown for new truth and beauty, even as it baffles and terrifies us, is the loveliest thing about being alive. Being alive together, as members of this boundlessly inquisitive and imaginative species, is the loveliest thing about being human.

 

 


Call to Worship

We worship the God who inhabits our world
and indwells our lives.
We need not look up to find God,
we need only to look around:
      within ourselves,
      beyond ourselves,
      into the eyes of another.
We need not listen for a distant thunder to find God,
we need only listen to the music of life,
      the words of children,
      the questions of the curious,
      the rhythm of a heartbeat.
We worship the God who inhabits our world
and who indwells our lives.

~ posted on the Presbyterian Church USA website.
 

Courage … with joy


Paper mosaic  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame, “for the joy set before him”. (Hebrews 12:1b-2)

 
John Chrysostom, a great fourth-century preacher in Constantinople, also speaks of joy in connection with our suffering for Christ’s sake:

“When we suffer anything for Christ’s sake, we should do so not only with courage, but even with joy. If we have to go hungry, let us be glad as if we were at a banquet. If we are insulted, let us be exalted as though we had been showered with praises. If we lose all we possess, let us consider ourselves the gainers. If we provide for the poor, let us regard ourselves as the recipients. Do not think of the painful effort involved, but of the sweetness of the reward; and above all, remember that your struggles are for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 


A prayer

Transform our memory, Lord, so that whenever we encounter suffering for your sake, we will recall all the saints who have gone before us whose courage and faith brought us this far. Amen.

from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Enuma Okoro, p. 193
 

Walking the labyrinth


Iona Weekend labyrinth at Dopersduin (NL), outlined in flour

 

The labyrinth may be a set path, but it does not offer a set experience. Instead, it offers a door that anyone may go through, to discover realities that meet each person where each most needs to be met.

​– An Altar in the world, Barbara Brown Taylor

 
The labyrinth in the photograph was created by Mineke during an Iona Weekend organised by the Dutch Iona regional groups in mid-September 2021.

Mineke is a pastoral worker at a psychiatric hospital in The Hague and is currently involved in establishing a labyrinth (maybe two) on hospital grounds. During the weekend Mineke led a labyrinth workshop, offering participants the experience of walking a labyrinth and getting their feedback on her design. Weather conditions were very favourable, and the labyrinth, outlined in flour, lasted till well after we all left Dopersduin.

I was leading a collage workshop at the time, so I couldn’t take part in Mineke’s workshop, but I was curious and later visited the labyrinth with Mineke and my friend, Margriet (seen here in the photo), and took some photographs.

Unique to Mineke’s design is the option to take the longer way round or move straight to the centre. It’s also easy to follow the longer route as many times as you like before exiting.
 


 
Here is a longer excerpt from Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, An Altar in the world, also on the subject of the labyrinth as a spiritual practice.
 

Not everyone is able to walk, but most people can, which makes walking one of the most easily available spiritual practices of all. All it takes is the decision to walk with some awareness, both of who you are and what you are doing. Where you are going is not as important, however counterintuitive that may seem. To detach the walking from the destination is in fact one of the best ways to recognize the altars you are passing right by all the time. Most of us spend so much time thinking about where we have been or where we are supposed to be going that we have a hard time recognizing where we actually are. When someone asks us where we want to be in our lives, the last thing that occurs to us is to look down at our feet and say. ‘Here, I guess, since this is where I am.’

This truth is borne out by the labyrinth – an ancient spiritual practice that is enjoying a renaissance in the present century. For those who have never seen one, a labyrinth is a kind of maze. Laid out in a perfect circle with a curling path inside, it rarely comes with walls. Instead, it trusts those who enter it to stay on the path voluntarily. This path may be outlined with hand-picked stones out-of-doors or painted right on the floor indoors. Either way, it includes switchbacks and detours, just like life. It has one entrance and it leads to one center.

The important thing to note is that the path goes nowhere. You can spend an hour on it and end up twelve feet from where you began. The journey is the point. The walking is the thing.

from p. 56

 


 
More on labyrinths

 

The Holy Other


 

 
Annie Dillard, writer of Holy the Firm and other books of non-fiction and poetry, said in an interview with Philip Yancey:

I often think of God as a fireball – friendly – who rolls by. If you’re lucky you get a slight glimpse of him.

 
from Open Windows by Philip Yancey, 1985, p. 30
 
 


Let us pray

Lord God Almighty, may we revere and serve you, forsaking all other would-be gods.

Loving God, you hear our prayers: You live among us.

Holy Trinity, one God, you are so powerful that the highest heaven cannot contain you. Neither can our churches, our hearts or our world hold you fast. Nevertheless, hear our prayers and pleas this day, for your love is far greater than our needs.

Loving God, you hear our prayers: You live among us.

Holy Spirit, comfort the brokenhearted among us with your promise of redemption and resurrection, for we believe we shall live forever in the house of the Lord.

Loving God, you hear our prayers: You live among us.

Arm us with your might, Lord God, else we will be defeated by evil. May your truth, peace, faith and holy Word guard us, inspire us and embolden us to be your people.

Loving God, you hear our prayers: You live among us.

Lord Jesus Christ, help us take no offense from your difficult teachings. You are the Holy One of God, and the Heavenly Father bids us come to you in faith.

Loving God, you hear our prayers: You live among us.

Lord God Almighty, this world delights in producing weapons of war. Forgive us our fear of one another, teach us to trust your Son, and bring peace to the hearts of all people.

Loving God, you hear our prayers: You live among us.

Among us are many counting on your goodness and mercy for hope and healing. Hear us as we name them _____.

Loving God, you hear our prayers: You live among us.

The love of God has won.
The new life has begun.
Amen.

 
~ written by Paul Sauer, and posted on re:worship
 

In the school of prayer with Michael Mayne


 

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! And that makes all the difference.

 
To quote Michael Mayne from Alleluia is our Song: Reflections on Eastertide, “Our struggles haven’t ended, nor has the world changed, because it is Easter Day. And yet because of Easter, everything has changed, all is different, because we have met Jesus and he has said ‘Peace be with you!'” (p. 13)
 
I first discovered Michael Mayne through his book, Learning to Dance. As with so many of his books, it is peppered with quotes from books that shaped him. This Sunrise of Wonder, written as a series of letters to his grandchildren, is no different.

 

Here are some extracts from This Sunrise of Wonder, from a chapter on prayer entitled “Prayer as giving attention to God”.

For the most part I let Michael Mayne speak in his own voice, with references to a mystic or two, for good measure. Check out the quotes in context to learn more about his influences.

 


I

“My value lies in the fact that I am my unique self, that no-one else who has ever lived, or who ever will, can be in exactly my relationship with God, or reflect his love back to him in exactly the same way. … ultimately that’s what life is about: it’s about learning to stand in your own space and discerning in its unfathomable depths a power greater than yourself who invites your attention; and not simply your attention but your love. And it is that kind of giving attention that we call prayer.” (p. 279)

II

“There is in each of us a Self that lies deeper than our conscious ego, that still point of your being where you are most truly you, so that the journey of prayer is largely a journey inwards. Not that prayer is self-analysis. Quite the reverse: it is a way of becoming detached, or escaping at least momentarily from the constant clamour of self. It is the way we begin to shift the centre of living from self-consciousness to self-surrender. … Prayer is about learning how to become still, open and receptive to the now, the present moment in which alone God is to be found.” (p. 280)

III

“St John of the Cross, a sixteenth-century Spanish mystic, said that the heart of prayer is giving ‘loving attention to God’; and certainly the starting point of prayer is to realize that it is not about words (or not much of the time); it’s about listening. It is about becoming still, remaining still, waiting, not being afraid of silence. … Birds, painting, music, books, people: we have to learn to go at their pace and tune to their wavelength. What we receive is related to what we give. Giving attention to God is no different, though much harder. For we are so used to doing that learning to be is like learning a foreign language. And we mustn’t expect to feel much. Feelings are not what count. What counts is simply being there.” (p. 282)

IV

“Jean-Pierre de Caussade was an obscure eighteenth-century French priest who wrote anonymously a book called Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, and the heart of it lies in the phrase by which it is best known: ‘the sacrament of the present moment’. He begins with the New Testament assertion that God’s nature is unchangeable love, that he loves us at every moment of our lives and ‘can no more stop loving us than the sun can stop radiating heat.’ It follows, he says, that if God’s loves come to us at every single moment then he is with us in the moment that is now. If we don’t find God in the actual world around us, and in ourselves at this moment, then we can’t expect to find him in our so-called ‘spiritual’ times of prayer. Therefore it is to this moment, and to this moment alone in all its singular nowness, that we should give our attention, so ‘that every moment of our lives’ becomes ‘a sort of communion with the divine love’.” (p. 286-7)

V

“I have never seen this day, all it contains, before and I shall never see it again, nor will I ever again be exactly the self I am now. It is quite literally the only way we can know God, in the here and now and by living this moment fully. It is also, of course, the only hope we have of ever changing how we are, with the possibility of redeeming the past or affecting the future. ‘This is the day that the Lord has made,’ says the Psalmist, ‘let us rejoice and be glad in it.’ … If I am even to begin to live like this (and the kind of prayer I have spoken of is the most effective way of learning it), then two things are necessary. First, that I really do come to know at gut level that I do walk through the world as one who is loved, whatever may be happening to me, and that every moment, even the worst, can be used by God. And, secondly, that I learn to give attention to each moment as it comes – this person to be seen (repeat, seen), that tricky letter to be written, this humdrum task to be done … and that is difficult, and most of the time we forget. But that, and that alone, is how we are called to be. Not that we are called to do, but how we are called to be. Attention givers. For that, when you think about it, is not a bad definition of love.” (p. 288-9)
 

Some practical advice

“You can’t sit still if you are uncomfortable. … Only when the body is at ease is the mind at ease. … How you breathe is also important. Stillness is achieved by the stilling of our agitated restless minds and bodies. Most of us breathe much too shallowly most of the time, engaging only the upper part of the lungs. So it’s good to begin by very gently giving attention to our breathing for a few moments, until we are breathing in and out in a smooth unbroken rhythm and our body is calm and centred.” (p. 283-4)

“Because our mind is so full of thoughts and sensations the quiet repetition of a word or familiar phrase is one of the simplest and most effective ways of practicing the presence of God. Words like ‘Abba’, the word Jesus used to address the Father, or the words, ‘Come, Lord Jesus’, or the Psalmist’s ‘Be still, and know that I am God’. There is the Jesus Prayer which has been said for centuries and is one of the greatest treasures of the Orthodox Church, the words, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner’. … It is repeated, quietly and slowly, over and over again as a way of bringing us to be in God’s presence with no other thought than the wonder of God being who he is and us being who we are. … To say such words, repeatedly, means that they gradually become part of you and may then well up from within you quite outside your formal times of prayer. … But perhaps best of all is to take the Lord’s Prayer. It does not really matter if occasionally you get no further than the opening two words, provided your understanding of the words ‘Our’ and “Father’ is a fraction deeper as a result.” (p. 285)
 

quotes from This Sunrise of Wonder by Michael Mayne, 2008 edition
 


 
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