Monthly Archives: April 2013

God Hunting – Solitude (2)

This last week I have tried to use my quiet time wisely, though often I fail miserably.  Last week I visited my brother in Sussex for the day so I had a nice train journey there and back to just sit and relax.  I can’t say that I consciously thought about God during this peaceful journey but I did contemplate his world. Coming home the fields were full of tiny newborn lambs and there were pheasants and rabbits.  The trees also drew my attention, how they grow in such wonderful roundness (I don’t think all trees do and I’m hopeless at variety but these trees did have a certain completeness to them).

Everything was green and spring is late this year but the railway banks were covered in some pretty yellow flowers.  Some fields were still awash in water.  I always marvel at the views from the train as I travel deeper into Sussex.  I feel myself physically relax.

I have been reading Quiet Spaces from the Bible Reading Fellowship.  I’ve just taken our a year’s subscription (book issued three times a year) because I find the themes, articles and prayers useful and thought provoking.  I was reading about praying alone and how to make time and a place, perhaps taking a walk, popping into a church or using a comfy chair at home.  This is what I do.  I sit on the settee before everyone is up, but sometimes I do get interrupted.

The little book which is sub-titled a creative response to God’s love helps me to see things differently.  Sometimes it prompts me to write or try something new.  It is very different from a normal Bible Study reading notes and it speaks to me.

To end I’m posting a video clip about Holy Island which I was able to visit a few years ago (this is not my video!).  St Cuthbert lived here but even so far away from civilisation people still came to visit.  He then moved to the Farne Islands close by. Still he could not escape visitors!  Finally, he moved out onto another island further into the ocean to  live a solitary life.  This video also has excellent music by Enigma – what more could you want!

 

God Hunting – Solitude (1) Quiet Day

Solitude – you either crave it or fear it!  This is the subject of the penultimate chapter of Jo Swinney’s book God Hunting.  I have been looking forward to this so I guess you can tell that I’m a believer in solitude.

Jo was not looking forward to this one but at the end even she felt there was something in it.  She mentions personality and that everyone is different on their spiritual journey.  She talks about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator which I know a fair bit about.  I’ve blogged about it here before and have attended two courses.  Jo is an ENFJ (extrovert, intuitive, feeling, judging) – I’m INTJ (introvert, intuitive, thinking, judging).  What difference does this make?  Well, Jo is the first to admit that she can’t keep quiet for very long – likes to chat rather than be silent.  I’m the other way round!  This bodes better for me in this activity!  However, she feels and I think – that is to my detriment because I analyse everything, it takes me longer to switch off.

Anyway, the first thing I did when I saw this chapter coming up was plan (ah…another of my excellent attributes which comes under ‘judging’).  As I’m going on holiday soon I decided I’d have to fit in a visit to somewhere before that where I can switch off for a day (no time for a longer retreat yet).  I looked in my diary and found I did indeed have a free day coming up.  Immediately (before I had time to waver….I do that) I filled in the booking form and sent a cheque off to The House of Prayer which is located reasonably close by.  I have known about this place for several years and have wanted to visit and now at last I would.

I went on Thursday last week.  Things didn’t start well – I had my son’s girlfriend staying, I overslept and had an hour to get ready and leave.  Left my good map at home and had to ring hubby from the station because his missed off a bit of the route!  The road seemed to be double backing on itself and I was worried I was going the wrong way so I asked a lady walking her child and dog and she was most helpful.  I was going the right way after all.  I finally arrived and had to ring three times before someone heard me but I was there.  Once inside the lady gave me a quick guided tour of the upstairs – prayer room, toilets, kitchen and she showed me into a bedroom which was to mine for the whole day!  I was astounded.  It had a nice desk and chair and an easy chair by the window which overlooked the garden (misty and wet but you can’t have it all!).  That was it.  Alone for the day.  I made a cup of tea and sat down in the chair by the window and suddenly the relief of it all brought tears to my eyes.  I wasn’t expecting that!

I’d taken with me that day a Bible, notepaper and pen, a prayer diary I regularly use and the book On Holiday with God by Sue Pickering which I had used before on a quiet day in London and Prayer Rhythms for Busy People (Pocket Companion) by Ray Simpson (from the Community of Hilda and Aiden).  I began with morning prayer from that book and smiled when I came to the reading from Isaiah 56: 1-8 which speaks of God’s house as a house of prayer – the name of the place I was in that day! There was a booklet in the room entitled Growing Into Silence which is produced by the Jesuit Society and it spoke about The Big Silence which had been on TV a few years ago (ordinary men and women tried out living in silence for 8 days!  Very interesting programme, great viewing.  You can still catch it on YouTube split into about 10 parts.  Anyway I read through the book at intervals and made a list of websites and books mentioned to look up later.

Throughout the day I spent in prayer, visiting the prayer room, meditating and resting.  I chose my themed for the retreat from the book On Holiday with God.  The resources in this book are really good and always make me think.  The book contains prayers and I used these and those from Ray Simpson’s book throughout the day.

At lunch time I sat in the dining room next to the kitchen on my own and ate my packed lunch.  The building itself is beautiful.  Rather full of corridors as all old buildings but some beautiful windows on the stair case, very light and airy.  Do look at the ‘gallery’ on their website and you will see what I mean.

There were some books in the bedroom and I cannot pass books by without taking a look.  One was by Henri Nouwen entitled With Open Hands which was all about praying and another by Thomas Merton entitled The Waters of Silence which talked about the early days of monasticism.  When reading part of Henri Nouwen’s book he was talking about the busyness of life and how we are never silent.  This was written in the 1970’s and now we have added mobile phones and ipods to the equation.  These days we probably get up with music or TV, plug ourselves into ipods to travel to work.  At work there are colleagues to chat to, emails to reply to, phones to answer etc.  Lunch time it’s the canteen, pub or café and the same on the return home when we fall onto the settee to watch TV or use the computer.  Where do you find that silence?  It isn’t easy but it can be done.  If you want it badly enough you can find it.  I have found ways of getting it, though sometimes even those plans are interrupted and don’t work out.  Yesterday I was lucky.  I had a silent trip back to the station (without getting lost!) and when I got home no one was in.  Bliss!  How often does that happen to me – not much, I can tell you.  I was so hungry that I cooked a quick meal for myself and almost managed to eat it without being disturbed.  I didn’t use the internet or my computer at all and I managed to round off the day by night prayers in bed with Ray Simpson!

The day was peaceful and relaxed and I cherished it.  For me it’s the mind I have difficulty switching off.  I can go without chat, music, etc. but my mind is constantly trying to anyalise (even what I’m feeling!) but I did get there in the end even for several minutes at a time.  Actually, I did much better than usual.  Also I knew more or less what to expect and I had planned in advance so that I had books and paper to turn to.  I thought I might write but I didn’t.  I didn’t actually want to.  In the afternoon the sun finally came out and the bedroom was flooded with warmth and I stretched out in my chair and enjoyed the feeling of sun on me.

 

Just For Laughs – Wednesday

A little Christian poetry

I’ve been doing a bit of writing today and when I’m not here I am posting poems on another blog I write as I am taking part in the National Poetry Writing Month (NaPoWriMo).  I was messing around with ideas to get me writing and decided to use the random word prompt.  The booklet nearest to hand just happened to be  one from a Christian organisation and so I thought I’d share with you what I wrote.

The random words were:

Willing                  runners                               Eucharist

Afternoon           creation                              channels

In Communion

I was a runner for God

willing to be his servant.

 

I was his creation

and when I celebrated

 

the Eucharist was transforming,

he in me and me in him;

 

that afternoon

the channels to my Lord were open.

©2012 hcw

And a plea – does anyone know how I can stop WordPress using two line spaces when I press return?  The poem should be single line spaced.

God Hunting – Worship (2/3)

ImageSince I was last here the corporate worship side of things has been in overdrive.  During Holy week I attended a Maundy Thursday service (believe it or not this is the first time I’ve done this since becoming a Christian.  I’ve always put this one off).  This is where the vicar washes the feet of some of his parishioners (I didn’t offer myself for this).  The service is interesting because as always I like to know what is going on!  I can’t switch off that inquisitiveness in me.  It is a moving service but I am wide eyed watching everything.  At the end the church is stripped of candles, altar cloths, any sort of adornment.  Some people sit in vigil until midnight in the Lady Chapel.

The next morning I went on the silent walk of witness with people from other churches in my town.  We walked from one church down the high street (holding up the traffic) and congregated outside the local Methodist Church for a short service.  It was bitterly cold but the service was lovely.  In the afternoon I then attended a service called The Veneration of the Cross.  Again this is new to me. The Passion of Christ is read out. At one point everyone is invited to come forward and lay a flower or fruit at the cross which symbolises  the Tree of Life. I took some flowers from my garden.  After the services we went into the hall for refreshments of Hot Cross Buns with cheese (a delicacy from the north of England and rather nice).

Finally, I attended the Easter Sunday morning service which had all my favourite Easter hymns.  On Tuesday I was also at a ‘said’ Eucharist service for the women’s group I run. So I have been at church rather a lot!

My personal worship was harder.  I did a little more art and writing, listened to some worship songs and continued to try and learn those Bible passages.  I’m almost word perfect but I still have trouble with the Chapter numbers and verses and I wonder if that’s because I have a ‘number blindness’.  I’ve always struggled with numbers.  I nearly gave up but I am still trying.  I’ve only managed to add one more verse to the original seven but I really can’t see me getting much further.  Facts just don’t seem to go in this way.

Last time I said I would share some of my writing with you.  What I originally wrote wasn’t much good but I later wrote something that came out of some meditation and this I will share with you.

The Meeting

I meet Jesus for coffee.

We sit at a table overlooking my favourite beach.

I love it here, I say.

He smiles.  You like my work? He waves he arm across the vista.

You made a pretty neat job of it, I laugh.  Then more seriously, I wish people didn’t keep messing it up…your world.

That’s what people do, mess up.

Just as well we’ve got you!

Jesus looks at me.

And you, you need to spend more time with me.  You run around with your schedules and I sit here waiting.

Did he have to bring that up? I am silent for a while mulling this over.  Sorry, I’m not much of a friend, I say guiltily.

Jesus puts his hand on my arm. Just remember, I miss you.

Wow!

I sit back and watch the sea.  The tide breathing in and breathing out.

Jesus clasps my fingers and we hold hands across the table.

I close my eyes. I feel the sun on my face.  He’s right.  I don’t sit with him enough.  My busyness blots out his voice.

Forgive me?  I ask

Jesus laughs, Always.

*********

I am intending to move on to the next chapter of the book next week as my time dictates how to handle this one and I need to bring it forward one week.  I will be looking at solitude.