Monthly Archives: January 2013

God Hunting – week 4 Prayer

Oh dear!  Not done too well with the last week which was about unceasing prayer  – being in the presence of God as Brother Lawrence wrote about.  The other thing Jo Swinney was going to do was write in a Journal.  I think I’ve decided that a routine is better for me because although I did think about God more it was not enough and I didn’t do any journalling.  I’ve done it in the past and sometimes I’ve found it very useful but I (and this will sound like an excuse)  just don’t have the time right now.  I am up to my eyes in writing for various things in my life and I feel as if I am juggling too many jobs.  So this last week felt like a week off! Having said that I am continuing to use a Bible study book called Explore which I am finding a great help and I haven’t missed a day even when I’ve not had time in the morning I have taken it to bed with me.  I am also still using the Rita Snowden prayers before I go to sleep.

The course I am taking, Religious Order Then and Now, is also having an affect on me as I see how each Order lives.  Going to the places where they live has much more of an impact than just reading about them.  There is something going on inside me even if I am not sure what it is!

So what have I learnt from a month of trying different prayer methods?  The big one is that routine is the answer.  Without it I waver and let things drop.  All I have to do now is find the right routine method for me.

I have now moved on to the next part of the book which is about Fasting.  The author has dismissed food (she was pregnant when she wrote the book so a food fast was out of the question).  Cutting out certain foods I think is a bit of waste of time – I don’t drink coffee or alcohol and giving up chocolate wouldn’t be a big thing for me as I can go weeks without it normally.  One year for Lent I became a Vegan (I am already a vegetarian) which was tough when out.  Only choice for food is jacket potato and beans (luckily I like that!).  It was turning vegan for Lent that made me give up milk for good.  I found I hated the taste of it afterwards.  I do still have the occasional yogart, and a little cheese.  I often take my own milk with me but sometimes I forget and will take a little ordinary milk but I prefer not to.  So being vegan, while harder, is something I have done before but might be worth doing again.  The other things Jo will fast from are hot drinks, sugar, media and reading fiction.  It is the last one I am doing now, for this week.  I have a huge non fiction book I am reading which fits in with one of my courses,  However, I am missing a good story!  I get moody.  I’d have liked to try giving up books altogether but I need to read this.  I’m not sure what I will do for my other three fasts.  What I’d like to try is no computer for one and no TV for another.  Both will be almost impossible.  The TV is on a lot in our house.  I have a hubby at home during the day and he likes to watch TV.  It would mean spending all the time in the bedroom which is not practical!  Computer, well I never take it with me on holiday or use any other computer to access my emails when I’m away.  I like to be free!  But at home right now I am busy typing stuff up, assignments, reports and I have to email orders.  The only thing I could do is restrict myself to only those things I have to do and stop using Facebook and the internet for a week.  It’s the only way I can see it working.

I guess I’m much more the type who would prefer to do something extra in Lent. I need to think about this fasting idea a bit more as I am not sure what else I can give up.  Watch this space!

Week 3 of God Hunting – Prayer

Week Three has finished.  My thoughts:

Reading morning and evening prayer did become a bit mechanical.  I did manage to do it every day and there is certainly something about a routine that seems to suit me but the format is not right for me.  I hated having to flick back and forth to find the right Psalms and Bible readings.  Sundays seemed different and I couldn’t find the right prayers so left those out.  But it’s not all bad.  Sometimes there was a glimmer of ‘something’ and it has made me think about finding a routine that suits me.  I may consider the Celtic equivalent.  I’ve noted down the name of a book which might be more to my liking.  Having got into some sort of routine I returned last night to a prayer book I have used from time to time which is by Rita Snowden – More Prayers for Women.  In it there is a prayer for morning and one for evening for each day of the month, plus a Bible reading.  At the back there are more specialised prayers for different occasions/needs.

Going through this book is a way for me to find what works for me in bringing me closer to God.  There are many new things to try.  I now have one week left on the subject of prayer and I will write about that soon.

 

God Hunting – week 3/4

Week Two of God Hunting has been a complete struggle due to  late nights, bad sleep so getting up late and having no time left with peace and quiet.  All round, not a good week and best forgotten about!  Sometimes it’s like that.  I just move on and hope things improve.

Week Three has now started and this week Jo Swinney has taken up the challenge of The Divine Office – morning and evening prayer.  Now all I have is an old Alternative Service Book which was either my mum’s or dad’s (my brother has one too) from 1980 which does have morning and evening prayer.  I guess this is the right thing.  I looked it up but it is so confusing as I have to find the right Psalm for the morning (and evening) and the right readings from the Bible each time.  Last night was a fiasco as I flitted back and forth.  It was all rushed and I didn’t feel it meant anything.  However, this morning was better as by now I had bookmarks in various places so I could go to the relevant places easier. I also had time to read it slowly and I did feel that something had clicked.  Jo says that she found the ‘corporate’ wording difficult and that I can  sympathise with that.  Sometimes I change the ‘we’ to ‘I’ in prayers so they are more personal.

I can see that having set times and set prayers/readings can be helpful and bring a focus to the day.  If I manage to keep it up for the week I shall be very pleased. I have in the past used a Celtic method based on morning and evening prayer, so this isn’t totally new to me.  I could probably do with some stability (I need it!) so this will be good for me.

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I am attending a course at adult education entitled Religious Orders Then and Now.  I am enjoying it so much as we get to visit various religious orders ‘on location’ around London.  Our first visit was to Eailing Abbey yesterday.  I am blogging about that on my other blog which I write ‘for the other side’, namely Blogger (where I first began my blogging days).  Posts will be mixed up with a lot of other stuff as this is a general blog and covers all sorts of things in my life but if you would like to read it you can find it at http://www.heather-stuffandnonsense.blogspot.com

 

God Hunting – looking back on the first week of prayer

Looking back on my first week using the God Hunting book I am pleased that my prayer time has settled down a little.  On the third day I was able to calm my thoughts right down and stop my mind going off in all directions, at least for a decent amount of time.  I needed a little help to get there so I consulted the book to see how Jo was managing and she mentioned a book she had been reading called Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ by Jeanne Guyon in which she talks about using a phrase from Scripture to still the mind.  Jo used ‘You, God, are my God’ , Verse 1 of Psalm 63.  That seemed a good one to me so I used it too and it really did help.

My prayers were mainly for family and friends but I incorporated some other prayers from books and from a prayer diary I use.  I also decided to read a portion of the Gospel of John every day using The Message translation as this is the translation I know the least and might bring out something I haven’t been aware of before.

Moving on to Week Two Jo is now using intercessionary prayers and ordinary prayer (making the fabric of my life into prayer).

Have I felt close to God?  Umm, not really but I think I’ve been ‘away’ a long time.  I am just pleased that I am more relaxed during my quiet time and sit in his presence, whether or not I feel him. It’s a start!  However, this morning there was a disruption to my quiet time.  I was really tired and slept in longer than usual which meant everyone was up too quickly for me.  I managed some prayers and Bible reading but not the ‘beholding God – focusing’ part.  Once gone that time just doesn’t come again round here!  I thought I might use my bus journey to focus but whatever I thought about (can’t even remember!) it wasn’t God.

The Examen at the end of the day I do find useful, it helps me to settle at night. On the occasions I miss doing it, I do it the following morning.  It is still useful to look over things of my life that way.

God Hunting – following in the footsteps of Jo Swinney

It’s a new year, the time to start new things  or to develop old ones, so this January I am going God Hunting!  This is the title of Jo Swinney’s little 128 page diary of spiritual discovery to get to know God.  From the beginning I feel at home with her.  She talks about busyness and how we can fit in things we really want to do but someone never find the time to be with God.  There is always an excuse.  How true!!

The aim of this book is to look at one spiritual discipline a month – prayer, fasting, Bible, worship, solitude and simplicity and then write about it honestly.  Jo invites the reader to walk along side her, to read and follow afterwards (hoping to avoid the pitfalls she encountered), adopt the plan and tailor-make for yourself, do it alone or with another/others or simply read it and give it away and not change a thing, which she says would be a shame.  I agree.

So, I am trying to walk along side Jo as she sets off on her spiritual journey and enters the thorny subject of prayer.  Jo admits to praying ‘on the go’ – a lady much like myself!  However, Jo does pray at other times – with friends, with her little girl etc.  I have to admit that my prayer life has taken a complete nose dive in the last year, boosted up a little in Advent but failing again.

Week One and Jo is concentrating on praying simply, beholding the Lord (entering the presence of God by faith and keeping focused) and at the end of the day asking two questions  ‘For what moment today am I most grateful’ and ‘for what moment today am I least grateful.’

Late yesterday afternoon I gave prayer a go, along with ‘beholding the Lord’.  I found if difficult.  I lit a two candles and sat trying to relax.  For a split second I did feel something, then it was gone and my mind wandered all over the place.  I put on a CD of Celtic music as music does relax me.  Immediately I felt calmer and the sounds took me back to a retreat I attended eighteen months ago but I still couldn’t focus.  I blamed the time of day (I usually have my quiet time first thing in the morning) and hoped for better.  I did manage a quick prayer but I couldn’t stop my wind wandering.  It’s like when you try to sleep and your mind is flooded with all sorts of things – things that have happened during the day, things to do the next day, worries and silly stuff that has no right being there!  In the end I became frustrated, told myself ‘at least I have tried and practice makes perfect!’ and gave up.

I had hoped for better this morning but no.  I am finding even the basics a struggle right now.  I haven’t read Jo’s description of her first week yet, whether she experienced anything similar.  I will report back on this at the end of my first week and compare notes!

(Examen – the two questions at the end of the day – were more successful and quite useful!)