Tag Archives: God Hunting

God Hunting – Simplicity (3)

This last week I have been looking at contentment as part of the simplicity chapter in God Hunting.  On the whole I would say that I am content.  I certainly don’t dwell on having the latest gadget, a huge house or tons of money.  I have always had a dream of owning a house by the sea – a holiday retreat but we all need dreams as long as they don’t become obsessions.  I’d also like a bigger kitchen and wish we had two rooms downstairs instead of the one (which was two rooms knocked into one before we moved in) but we get by and yes we could probably have a kitchen extension – we must be the only one in our road without one – but it only bugs me when two many people are in there at the same time (two is crowd!), Christmas (juggling plates and dishes) or we need an appliance fixed (if the washing machine goes wrong the repair man won’t have room to pull it out to get to the back and don’t think about turning it!  When we installed it we had to take all the drawers out of the units and the nobs off the cooker to squeeze it through – I was nearly in tears.  Next time it will have to be a slimline one – standards are too big).  Still at least I have a home and a washing machine and when you think about it I am so much better off than many in the world who have no home, little food and unclean water. Even here in the UK there are many sleeping on the streets and families struggling to get by each day.

We don’t tend to buy new things just for the sake of it – we wait for the old ones to break.  I watch house programmes on TV where they go and say ‘this kitchen needs a complete overhaul’ and I think why?  It looks perfectly okay and is bigger than my kitchen!  We have become pulled into the fashionable house  syndrome changing everything every few years.  The only thing I envy is how tidy some people’s homes are and no one here seems to realise how the ‘mess’ upsets me.  When things are tidy I feel more relaxed and that’s part of my personality, that it does affect me, but no one else understands and that gets to me at times and so my discontent is really down to the untidiness of those I live with and sometimes I long for a room to escape to which is totally mine and has no one else’s junk in it.  I don’t see how I can change that so I just live with it and I’m not sure that this comes into the discontent category but where else do I put it?

We did once consider moving but when we looked at properties we realised the third bedrooms, which is very small in ours, were actually smaller than what we already had!  We couldn’t afford much anyhow so we decided to stay where we are.  We shall probably be here forever as I have no real desire to move elsewhere.  If the kids EVER move out I might even get a room for myself!

 

 

 

God Hunting – Simplicity (2)

Time Management – ah now there’s a good one.  How do you spend your day?  The conclusion I came to doing this exercise is that it was much easier when I was working because my day was structured and time tabled.  Now I am at home things tend to drift.  I have perhaps two fixed activities (apart from church) during the week that I attend but even they can be flexible if something else comes along!

So my week plays out like this – I look in my diary for the coming week to see what I have on and everything else fits around that.  Sounds good but often things still don’t get done.  I do have (baring interruptions and holidays etc) my quiet time first thing in the morning.  This can be anything from five minutes to half an hour or more depending on time/circumstances.  Then usually there are chores to do but I often leave them to the last moment.  Take last week, my brother was coming for the day – I was still hoovering when he arrived!  This week, tomorrow night actually, I have a meeting here and the lounge looks like a bomb has hit it again!

Then there is my writing – I don’t have a structure to that (apart from regular blogging).  It’s all too random.  I start good – pick a day – great it works.  But this schedule slips AGAIN.  I find excuses not to do it even to the point that housework comes top of the list (I must be desperate!).  So the whole time management things is a mess.  I once tried organising menus for dinner each night.  Great, again it worked but again it slipped to the stare in the fridge and pray for guidance strategy.  (Actually the meal plan would not work now with everyone on different time schedules in this house).

So I need help.  I need to pray about this one.  Lists – that a good idea.  Tried it…..for a while.  All these work but I don’t keep them up.  I wonder if it’s because my personality baulks against things that pin me down to times and schedules.

On the other hand, and to the other extreme, I can be well organised.  I run a church group and the programme is sorted and out in advance.  All plans for trips and holidays are sorted to the fine detail and I rarely arrive anywhere late even when I do leave it a bit late starting out, that’s because I hate to be early and have to hang around.  I hate waiting!  I’ve overcome that one now by taking a book to read.  My patience was stretched once when I turned up to the van Gogh exhibition without booking a ticket in advance and had to wait two hours in a queue to get in.  I knew if I left I would not return so I had to stick it out and I had no book and no music to listen to!

People say I am patient but I don’t see it because I don’t think I am.  Or maybe I hide my impatience well!  Anyway, I suppose I am organised in the important things in life, the keeping of everyone’s doctors and dentist appointments, kids school stuff and my own paperwork while looking messy is reasonably in order.  When I worked my desk would always be tidy by the end of the day and I hated it when I came back from holiday and found the drawer in a mess where some temp had been misusing my stationery!  First job – tidy!

Even though my kids are now officially adults I still seem to be organising them – reminding them of appointments, checking what time they leave and most annoyingly (my Mum used to do it so I’m just passing it on) saying things like ‘aren’t you taking a coat?’

Simplifying my day would be good – to plan everything down to the last detail would make it all so easy, but no, where is the spontaneity in that?  Okay, I would like to be a little better at getting jobs done in the house.  I guess I know one of reasons I let things slip in this regard – I don’t like doing them!  I sometimes try a ‘do and reward’ strategy.  If I clean the bathroom, wash up and go shopping I’ll reward myself with ……whatever it is that I want to do!  This also works, but guess what…..that idea slides too.  There is no hope for me.  God has his work cut out sorting this one out for me but nothing is impossible with God.  Now do I wash up or surf the net?  Answers on a postcard please!

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.

 

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.

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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.