I have great difficulty with people who say ‘God told me this’ as if he whispered every instruction into their ear. My experience is more subtle. I’d say it’s a feeling that comes over me or a nudge/signs.
When God wants my attention he lets me know. I may have been trying things one way but he has other ideas and all I get is frustration because it won’t go my way. Even now I fight him! Often I doubt him! That’s okay too. My view is that if a faith won’t let you question things it’s not a faith it’s a dictatorship. Christianity encourages you to question and if you read Psalms (my favourite book) you’ll see that doubts, fears, anger, frustration, joy and praise are all there. Every human emotion is expressed in these verses including rants at God!
According to the Bible God knows what’s best for us though sometimes I wonder if I will ever understand God! All I know is that sometimes opportunities/situations have a way of coming back time and again. If I dismiss it once it reappears maybe a week, months or even years later – a sort of reminder. An example. I had a letter from an ex-Curate from my church. He knew I was interested in learning more about my faith and while he was at my church he’d suggested I could run a Bible Study group. I said I had no experience/qualifications. He said I didn’t need any! I didn’t follow that up. This time, in the letter he mentioned a course run by Southwark Diocese in Biblical and Theological Studies that he thought it would suit me. My kids were young and going up to London once a week at tea time was impractical. Besides I still felt that it would be beyond me, that I’d struggle and fail. Basically, I was scared and didn’t have the courage to do it but God had other ideas. Later I took some courses with the Open University as a way into study which I enjoyed followed by a full first year Humanities course which was an enormous challege but I succeeded. This was good grounding because about a year later I saw the Biblical and Theological course advertised on the church noticeboard and this time I knew the time was right. God got me there in the end and he is still working in my life.
The other experience I had was when my father was dying. I’d prayed for healing but in the end I couldn’t see my father suffer any more. It was selfishness on my part. When I came back from the hospital I was in despair. I remember sitting on the stairs howling and finally asking God to let my father go if this was his will. Suddenly I felt very calm and it was as though God had wrapped his arms around me in comfort. Shortly afterwards my mother rang to say my father had passed away.
Whenever I doubt I remember this incident and it gives me hope. God has his own timing for things but he always listens. Perhaps I am wrong when I dismiss others then they say God told me to do this or maybe it’s just the way they relate this to others. I’ve never heard God’s voice but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe he’s there. I know he leads me, not always where I want to go, but I’m sure it’s where I am meant to be even if I can’t see it yet!
The week before last I went along to the Christian Resources Exhibition held at Sandown Park in Esher, Surrey. This has become an annual trip for me and was my third visit, though in fact I went twice in one week this time. The first time I attended an all day siminar entitled Ways to Pray with six speakers on different spiritual ways into prayer. The mornng began with Heather Fenton on pilgrimage and its roots and history, followed by a talk by Ann Persson on Praying with Rublev’s Icon of the Trinity including a short meditation. The morning ended with Kevin Scully (vicar of a church in London) on Urban Spirituality. I was interested in learning more about Icons because I had been a bit dismissive of them in the past, thinking them a bit idol-ish! In fact they are not, they are a ‘help’ into prayer, much like a candle or a piece of music or a holding cross to still the mind. There is a lot more to it than that and more than I can hope to explain here, but I bought Ann’s book (Circle of Love) which I’ve read and became caught up in how the icons are made. Being appreciative of art I was fascinated by the technique and method of preparing the surface before anything is drawn/painted.
Kevin’s talk made me think too and he suggested that in our busy life we could pray for patients and crew of an ambulance passing, memorising lines from the Bible to use when stuck on a tube train unable to move between passengers, a bit like using arrow prayers. Trying to find quiet times isn’t easy and when you manage it, it’s bliss, but God is there in everyday things and our prayers should be there too.
There was about twenty five minutes in which to eat some lunch and I went and sat in the grandstand overlooking the race track. The view from there is amazing and you can see Wembley Football Stadium. There is so much green and its’s quite peaceful (a little different from race days). After lunch there was a talk by Alison MacTier of the Retreat Association on quiet days – the different types, what to expect, longer retreats and there was a short meditation. Simon Barrington Ward then presented a talk on Praying the Jesus Prayer giving his personal experiences and thoughts which were sincere and enthusiastic. Finally, Ann Lewin spoke on Julian Spirituality which I’d wanted to know more about. I bought two of her books – one a five session study and the other was a book of prayers and poems.
In all it was avery good day. I had a little time to wander round the stands at the main exhibition but I went again a few days later and met a friend there for a more thorough look. We saw a performance on stage in the Arts Theatre and came away with lots of leaflets, and in my case a few more books! There was different siminars running over the four days covering everything from Bible study to youth ministry, arts , IT, leadership and organisations who help persecuted Christians. I come away inspired!
Recently finished reading A Brief Guide to Judaism. There was much I already knew but a heck of a lot I didn’t, like how many times a day Jews pray. It reminded me that Muslims pray five times a day. What do Christians do? Well, most of us may not have specific prayer times (some may say we only pray on Sundays!) but most Christians will have some daily prayer time – morning or evening or both. Some may pray over a meal. But it got me thinking about structure of prayer time. Convents and Monastries have had set times for prayer such as those based on the Benedictine order of Matins (just after midnight), Lauds (just before dawn) Prime, Terce (9am), Sext (noon), None (3pm), Vespers in the early evening and Compline at bedtime. However, I am not sure if they still stick to all the set times today (not being an expert – someone enlighten me!) but the monks at Worth Abbey in Sussex do meet six times a day to pray. A little structure is a good thing and maybe Christians can learn a thing or two from this. I’m intending to follow up on this and see where it leads.
The fact that all three major faiths have set prayer times in common is something to be celebrated. The ways these faiths pray, the words and/or symbols used are very similar. The name used for God may be different but they are all directed to the same creator!
Dr Who was, as always, GREAT last night. I’m a big ‘Whovian’ and was intrigued with last night’s episode in which the Tardis came to life through a human being. There was something quite spiritual about this episode but that is not unusual. Dr Who is full of allegory and symbolism and though written by atheists, uses themes of ressurection whilst the Doctor continually lays down his life for his friends. The doctor has always had an unusual relationship with his Tardis. This ship is like our life. The Doctor is reliant upon it to get from one place to another and often to get him out of situations. The Tardis is a friend – he talks to it, shouts at it and adores it (he names it ‘Sexy’). Finding the Tardis come to life through a human adds a new dimension to the series. They size each other up and find they know each other intimately and now they can speak face to face. There is a deep personal realtionship here and when working together they have overcome all manner of trials.
Three lines from last night’s show have stayed with me. I think the first line came from one of the Doctor’s companions (Amy). She said to the Doctor ‘You just want to be forgiven’ and the Doctor replied ‘Doesn’t everyone?’ How true is that!! The more profound lines come in a dialogue between the Doctor and the Tardis. She (the Tardis) is telling the Doctor that she never fails to get him from place to place. He says something on the lines of ‘But not always the place I want to go,’ to which she replies ‘But always to the place you need to go.’ Silence.
In life I find this too – I want to go one way but the road is blocked. Obstacles get in the way. It is as if God is saying ‘this is not your road’ and he takes me somewhere else – not necessarily where I want to go but where I need to go – where I should be.
In Dr Who last night when the Tardis leaves the body of the woman it inhabited and gone back to its home(after Doctor and Tardis have won the day) the Doctor is sad. As he sets off again he asks quietly of the Tardis ‘Are you there?’ I often ask God if he is there as sometimes it seems he has ‘left the building’. But yes, he is there and like the Tardis he is taking me on another journey. The ride will probably be bumpy but he knows the way.