This popped up on my memory this week as we built a coracle to celebrate 30 years of marriage. It seems apt as they are quite hard to get the knack of sailing and that is how it feels to me in this season. I am trying to get ready for a future that is not clear! I love the Brendan story, a Celtic Saint who let the Holy Spirit guide his coracle. I continue to pray to be led and guided but know I need to do my part in building too.
In my world view I tend to say it is the Holy Spirit who is the source of my intuition and one of my challenges is to respond to these intuitions particularly when they invite me to do something outside of my comfort zone. Believing something I cannot articulate is a frustration and can be really hard when it happens within the context of corporate discernment and you cannot quite give a reason for what you feel. This quote was in a magazine I was reading in a coffee shop, I appreciate the way that I come across random things that make me think and reflect but reading and coffee is always a good combination!
We had a message on Facebook this week from a friend who described something that had happened to her and was wondering what it was. The wisdom that she was given was that it may well be the work of the Holy Spirit. The next day I was catching up with some of my reading and came across this in a journal article in Practical Theology and it reminded me again of how significant that element of my spirituality was. I will forever be grateful to a Church Army student named Graham who gave me a copy of Nine O’Clock in the Morning which set me off on a journey exploring a new dimension of spirituality for me.
Donal Dorr writes this:
To sum up, inspiration from the Holy Spirit is a share in the ‘life-breath’ of God, which comes to us as a free and unpredictable grace. Because it is truly divine we cannot express it adequately in any single phrase. We can, however, describe various ways in which it finds expression:
It often comes as a new insight or vision, or a deep understanding and wisdom, or a vivid conviction of some truth.
It frequently finds expression in a new spiritual energy, commitment, zeal, eagerness, the healing of psychological and spiritual wounds or addictions, and the bodily endurance which comes as a grace to keep one going when ordinary human resources have been exhausted.
The Spirit also inspires deep feelings and sensations such as wonder, awe, joy, sorrow, love, trust, fear, strength, fragility and hope.
Reference: Donal Dorr The Holy Spirit as Source, Power and Inspiration for Spiritual Practice. Practical Theology 10(1) March 2017 5-19.
A second Tuesday with a discipleship conference, this time on learning in theological education. Again a day which left me with lots to reflect on, one of those more questions than answers ones!
Some of the questions we reflected on were:
What are the hallmarks of transformational learning? This we looked at through the lens of accessibility, imagination and how learning can be transformational.
How do we do learning so that we are accessible to the Holy Spirit?
Who is doing the forming or transforming?
What will learners remember a year on? The two sessions I have had most comments on are when Paul and I do Myers Briggs and in my early years in CYM when I taught group work theory through clips from Friends!
I through too about my own educational experiences… Those who have heard me talk about my shame research will have heard a story from primary school that profoundly impacted me (negatively). My A level in Sociology inspired my desire to work on the margins and in education. My undergraduate dissertation taught me how changing constructs of concepts impact policy and practice…
More pondering to do…
Often photos do not do justice to real life, this is one of those. It is a picture of the beach at St Andrew’s and the wind was causing the loose surface grains of sand to blow along the beach in beautiful patterns. It reminded me of the work of the Holy Spirit. This is one of those seasons when I am spending a lot of time reflecting on what the Holy Spirit is saying and doing in various parts of my life, it is a waiting period, a growing in trusting God season, a hoping time.
Charismatic spirituality is important to me – it has been part of who I am for around thirty years and I feel that I am still growing in my knowledge of the Holy Spirit. She is a companion to me and helps me to pray, particularly when I have no idea what to pray. That doesn’t mean that every day I am on a wonderful spiritual high – there are days where I struggle to connect and feel the distance rather than the closeness. I love the honest of Henri Nouwen and this prayer at Pentecost summarizes for me some of the dissonance I sometimes feel when I read the story of Pentecost in Acts:
Listen to my prayer. You promised your disciples that you would never leave them alone but would send the Holy Spirit to guide them and lead them to the full Truth.
I feel like I am groping in the dark. I have received much from you, and still it is hard for me to simply be quiet and present in your presence. My mind is so chaotic, so full of dispersed ideas, plans, memories, and fantasies. I want to be with you and you alone, concentrate on your Word, listen to your voice, and look at you as you reveal yourself to your friends. But even with the best intentions I wander off to less important things and discover that my haert is drawn to my own little worthless treasures.
I cannot pray without the power from on high, the power of your Spirit, Send your Spirit, Lord, so that your Spirit can pray in me, can say “Lord Jesus,” and can call out “Abba, Father.”
I am waiting Lord, I am expecting, I am hoping. Do not leave me without your Spirit. Give me your unifying and consoling Spirit. Amen.
From Henri Nouwen Jesus a Gospel Marynoll: Orbis, 2001, p.132.
Today we celebrated the church’s birthday at Hodge Hill Church with balloon’s, party poppers, bubbles, candles and birthday cake. I (Sally) shared at our all age service and reflected a little on what the church might look like if she grew up fulfilling the potential of her birth. So looking at the story in Acts 2.1-21 I came to the conclusion that the church would have
Lots of languages – so church should be about God bringing people from all different nations and cultures into a full and equal relationship with their God – no superiority of one tribe over another…
Lots of difference – so we don’t need to all be the same we can be who God made us to be – we are all part of God’s family, we are not clones, our diversity is to be celebrated not lamented…we all belong
Lots of the Holy Spirit – so we expect to see the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit manifest in the church. I talked today far more about the fruit than the gifts as it seems to me in a world full of so much conflict that if we lived out lives where the fruit of the Holy Spirit flourished then there may be a little less conflict in the world…
I finished with this which I found on Jan Richardson’s amazing website the painted prayerbook and each time I read it something fresh resonates and I am encouraged again that the Holy Spirit is at work in our world today, I just need to look, listen, watch and join in.
This Grace That Scorches Us
A Blessing for Pentecost Day
Here’s one thing
you must understand
about this blessing:
it is not
for you alone.
It is stubborn
do not even try
to lay hold of it
if you are by yourself,
thinking you can carry it
on your own.
To bear this blessing,
you must first take yourself
to a place where everyone
does not look like you
or think like you,
a place where they do not
believe precisely as you believe,
where their thoughts
and ideas and gestures
are not exact echoes
of your own.
Bring your sorrow. Bring your grief.
Bring your fear. Bring your weariness,
your pain, your disgust at how broken
the world is, how fractured,
by its fighting, its wars,
its hungers, its penchant for power,
its ceaseless repetition
of the history it refuses
to rise above.
I will not tell you
this blessing will fix all that.
But in the place
where you have gathered,
Lay aside your inability
to be surprised,
your resistance to what you
do not understand.
See then whether this blessing
turns to flame on your tongue,
sets you to speaking
what you cannot fathom
or opens your ear
to a language
beyond your imagining
that comes as a knowing
in your bones
in your heart
that tells you
this is the reason
we were made,
for this ache
that finally opens us,
for this struggle, this grace
that scorches us
toward one another
the blazing day.
© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com
One of my birthday cards was an apache blessing:
may the sun bring you new energy by day,
may the moon softly restore you by night,
may the rain wash away your worries,
may the breeze blow new strength into your being,
may you walk through the world and know its beauty all the days of your life.
My friend wrote inside the card about how we are having too much rain at the moment! Rather than the rain washing away our worries it tends to be causing more with flooding and transport disruptions. With pictures of people being blown over by the strong wind the new strength being blown into our being seems either apt or a reminder of how refreshing a breeze can be!
I love metaphors which draw on natural images and am very mindful of how Jesus used illustrations from the world around him when he told parables. However, metaphors always have limits and the weather at the moment is perhaps showing them up or offering a new angle on them. If I think about the Holy Spirit as a wind (John 3.8) then I can resonate a little with the notion of gale force winds as there have been times when the Holy Spirit has blown with such force in my life that elements have been destroyed and need to be rebuilt but the destruction was not experienced as negative, disconcerting perhaps, but it was the trigger for a new phase of life. If I think of the idea of rivers of living water (John 7.37-9) and reflect on the story I heard on the radio about how water tables are filling up and from that new rivers are emerging that only appear when this happens. While the reality of this is challenging and tragic for those who are impacted the image this offers in relation to the work of God is for me inspiring and encouraging. Much of ministry can feel like rain – we do it and it sinks invisbly below the ground but one day we see a sign of all that watering we have done and new life springs up in someone or somewhere – and perhaps we forget all that has gone before that has caused it but hopefully we give thanks to God that the springs of living water, the water available to those who are thirsty is now being drunk.
As swimmers dare
to life face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all surrounding grace.
Denise Levertov (English born American poem)
Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon Life Prayers San Francisco: HarperSanFranciso 1996
Sometimes when I preach I hear myself say something that I need to hear! That may sound a little bizarre but when I have a framework I sometimes find things coming out of my mouth that I had not planned to say and realize that I need to hear that! On Sunday it was about honouring God’s name as I talked about the Lord’s prayer.
One of the things I got onto was wearing a dog collar when driving – Paul’s advice is definitely don’t and I can see some merit in that if I find myself switching lanes at the last minute on an unfamiliar road and someone looking across and seeing the dog collar and having the choice of criticising my driving because a) I am a Vicar or b) I am a woman or perhaps even both or ideally neither! More seriously one of the things that struck me again was how I am a witness and how in some contexts I find myself in people may draw conclusions about God and or Christianity based on my behaviour. I try not to let that be a pressure and most of the time it is not as I do seek to live and act in a Christ like way although tiredness, lack of food and a range of other things make that tricky at times!
I have played golf a couple of times recently with people I had not met or don’t know well and I try and stick with the principles of being gracious and generous – not always easy when you are quite competitive but not necessarily very good. Paul commented to one of the sponsors of a match we were playing in about the lovely spirit of the event – that to me is very important, God’s spirit was apparent as a group of clergy gathered together.
Another thing I said I needed to hear was talking about forgiveness and how some of us are more prone not to forgive others and others not to forgive ourselves. The Didache (early Christian writings) recommends that we pray the Lord’s prayer three times a day – that would be an effective way of trying to make sure I dealt with sins with God rather than getting uptight with myself about them. But if I am going to do that I need to do it prayerfully and reflectively rather than quickly while my mind is elsewhere. So this week I am trying to live day by day from the message on Sunday – and in a funny way am encouraged that I can hear God through my own sermon when it is being preached as the Holy Spirit inspires me at the time rather than in advance!