Wondering Wednesdays – praying for the day

I read this prayer by Tess Ward yesterday, it feels like a prayer for everyday at the moment as I look to have a little more grace with my broken shoulder!

O Great Spirit who knows the routes of all, walk the unknown path with me this day. Past the maps edge, where all landmarks cease, here be dragons: give me courage to meet them. Embolden my vision that I may deeply see. Embolden my steps where I fear to tread. Strengthen my resolve when overwhelm threatens. Equip my soul when I face them head-on, that my love may know because it has dared. Fill me with compassion to befriend all that frightens. Inspire my faith that through brave adventure, I may trust you more as I set out beyond the signs. Stoke the fire in my belly that I may live my light passionately and see things more off-road as I continue my journey this day. Amen.

I know I need grace to learn what this season holds for me and prayers like this help frame it.

From Celtic Wheel of the Year, Tuesday in April.

Advent Honest Christianity: Your very flesh shall be a great poem




Not sure I have ever thought of the Incarnation, the birth and life of the human Jesus as a poem. The following poem encourages me to reflect in such a way.

Love the earth and sun and the animals,
despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy,
devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God,
have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown,
or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons,
and with the young, and with the mothers or families,
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words ….

This not quite the beatitudes or the Narzareth manifesto but there are some resonances with the mission and life values of Jesus. There are many phrases that I think bring fresh perspectives, which ones struck you; hate tyrants, dismiss whatever insults your soul?

Many of us are frustrated by those who deny covid-19 or its severity. Some of us struggle with those who believe the conspiracy theories. How should we treat such people? I was asked how things were at the hospital, I said many are frustrated with deniers when we see so much evidence, such pain. My approach is to act graciously and gently with such folk, for who knows why they believe such things. It seems ungracious to imply what I am doing is “stand up for the stupid and crazy”. Today we call out people’s behaviour, not personalised labelling. But our frustrations are real.

Whatever irresponsible behaviour happens to us, injustices we observe, our response is never helped by personal hatred or even despisement, but always a gracious poem of incarnational patience and love. Yes, I know it hurts, but that is perhaps how Heaven felt with the sacrificial gift to us.

Preface to Leaves of Grass (excerpt)
Walt Whitman

Peace and hope for our times,
Paul




Wondering Wednesdays – writing to…

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

I blog because writing helps me to think and sometimes I don’t know what I think until I have finished writing. Thus my twice weekly blogging is a bit of a discipline to keep me in the writing groove. I can write a blog quickly, but can still procrastinate when I am writing something more substantial. I am trying to write something on spiritual practices at the moment and I have gathered material, thought about structure but not managed to actually begin to craft what it is I want to write.

I find books about writing encouraging as I realise that others feel like me and yesterday evening I revisited one – Love letters to writers by Andi Cumbo-Floyd. Here are a couple of extracts that spoke to me:

If you believe writing helps you think better, feel better, be better, understand better, know better, breathe better, then it’s not wrong to do it. You are not wasting time or being selfish. You are caring for yourself. And that matters (p45 on Kindle).

I have learned that a real key to writing is discipline, a regimented putting-of-the-butt-in-the-chair. I don’t believe in inspiration. I believe in hard work, in showing up, in facing the page as often as possible to get the writing done. But I also believe in grace. I believe that it’s far more detrimental to my mental health if i walk around on the days I don’t write feeling shameful about what I haven’t done. I know that shame is too heavy a weight to bear when I need lightness to create. I am certain that no good (and almost no writing) comes from feeling weighed down by what didn’t happen (p28 in Kindle).

What do you need to write?

Honest Christianity: Don’t give room for everything

NRAI have been reminded half way during lent of the New Year’s resolution I made this year.

“Lord, fill my heart with so much grace that the devil must flee when he sees me coming. Amen.”

As I have reflected upon times of temptation, weakness and struggle, I have slightly changed my thought to

“Be so gracious to everyone, so it does not give the Devil room to enter”.

I have found this to be a very helpful focus when I am tempted to respond negatively in a situation, or to somebody.  With so many sad and tragic situations at home and around the world, it is easy to slip into a seemingly justified aggressive response.  Grace is the only response even to injustice and evil, even it is accompanied by protest and appropriate challenge .

Let’s not be hospitable to everything this lent.

Honest Christianity – blinded by your grace

stormzy
This is the name of a song I heard for the first time this week. It was not on a Christian station but on afternoon Radio 2 – what an inspiring way to describe the essence of our faith. Our undeserved but God’s amazing, unbounded, unlimited generous loving kindness and goodness.

Honest Christianity is sometimes a risky Christianity, to encourage a lifestyle, mentality that could be misconstrued and take advantage of God’s liberty. Not to live under law but in the freedom of the Spirit, to know we will always be forgiven. Risky but our unique relationship with our God. Finding the right way to describe this has been the challenge of song and sermon writers over the centuries, blinded indeed
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OuTuGS3hXtM Watch the song here…

I’m blinded by your grace
I’m blinded by your grace, by your grace
I’m blinded by your grace
I’m blinded by your

Lord, I’ve been broken
Although I’m not worthy
You fixed me, I’m blinded
By your grace
You came and saved me
Lord, I’ve been broken
Although I’m not worthy
You fixed me, now I’m blinded
By your grace
You came and saved me
…….
I said a prayer this morning
I prayed I would find the way
To another day, I was so afraid
‘Til you came and saved
You came and saved me
And the rain was pouring
‘Cause the sun faded away
Now I’m in a better place
No longer afraid
Blinded by your grace
You came and saved me
I said a prayer this morning
I prayed I would find the way
To another day, I was so afraid
‘Til you came and saved
You came and saved me
And the rain was pouring
‘Cause the sun faded away
Now I’m in a better place
No longer afraid
Blinded by your grace
You came and saved me
(Stormzy)

Amen and Amen

Wondering Wednesdays – on random words of encouragement

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Yesterday I got an unexpected email from a student with some really encouraging feedback from my teaching that day. We do an exercise that takes me a long time to prepare every year but it is a vital element of the task. I was so blessed.

At a recent Northumbria group meeting we had space to reflect on our rule and rhythm of life and one of the things I wanted to do was a monthly random act of some sort and I am keeping it up. I would have liked to have said weekly but I might forget and it could turn into a should and that would lose a dimension of being an act of grace.

Honest Christianity – grace is always greater

Prodigal
This is a quote I re-read from one of my favourite writers this week on retreat. It is from Henri Nouwen’s book about the prodigal son. He explores the story from the perspective of the prodigal, the father and the stay at home son. It is a classic and will always speak afresh or anew to me when I pick it up again.

When we think about how God thinks about and treats us, it is helpful for our mental and spiritual wellbeing, to remind ourselves that God’s goodness, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, generosity, is always for us, available and accessible even when our lives are not what they can be. As Paul asks us shall we continue to sin that grace abounds (Romans 6.1), we answer no, but we do, we remind ourselves that we do live in the benefits of greater grace.

Read or reread the book, you will be inspired by God’s favour towards us.

Wondering Wednesdays – recipient of grace

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You know when you volunteer to do something and it sounds so very simple! Well I did that and it was so very complicated! All I offered to do was be a signatory on a bank account for a charity I am a trustee of – I had forgotten how all the regulations had changed. I needed to prove who I was, I gathered all my information and went off to the post office and was told that they didn’t offer that service although their website says they do! I finally managed to find a day where I had time to visit a lawyer to get them to endorse photo id and a utility bill. I was immensely blessed when told that there would be no charge as it was for a charity!

I appreciated that Zoe had the autonomy to do that for me, not all organizations allow their staff to exercise grace in such a way, there are rules and regulations that have to be followed. It happened the other week too when I had made a mess of a rail booking, the lovely person at Virgin made it work for me without charging me extra! On both those occasions I was full of gratitude and felt immensely blessed. I get frustrated some times at work that I do not have the autonomy to make gracious decisions in response to things that students have or have not done, there are regulations and fairness to consider. But there are days when we all benefit from a bit of grace.

Honest Christianity – random acts of kindness, pale imitation of grace?

Random acts of kindness

What are our reflections on how we have lived this year and how we want to live next year? Acts of kindness will always be a positive conducive way for us to individually and corporately live. To be spontaneously nice to people is always a good thing to do but is
it good enough? Should we have a greater intentionality in our acts of kindness? Should it be a perpetual action rather than just a random one? This is how I understand grace, it is not random, it is continuous, perpetual, for all time…

Christmas, the birth of Jesus, when God became a human being, a vulnerable baby, is not a random idea and action, it was an intentional, considered response to a problem, a need, the situation the world was in.

If we are considering any new year resolutions then perhaps one might be to set our minds, spirits and actions to be intentionally generous. Wishing and hopefully contributing to you having a gracious new year.

Honest Christianity – wasteful grace?

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There is a wonderful story in Mark 14 where a women anoints Jesus with costly perfume. As I read the story again this week, I was struck by the phrase, “She did what she could” (verse 8). What a wonderful thing to be said of any of us. There is no sign of striving to impress Jesus or the others with him. She does not seem to know the significance of this gesture, she does what she can. But this doesn’t stop her from being misunderstood, but is this not the common sign of the essence of honest Christianity, grace. Did Jesus understand before she did it, did she understand? She was faithful in the next step. Grace is sometimes
misunderstood as a waste, the pouring of this oil was seen as an obscene waste.

What can we do to portray honest Christianity for 2015? Do what we can, simple generous acts of graciousness. Do what we can, do what only we can do. If we are accused of it being wasteful then maybe it might be grace.