Friday, 27 June 2014

Very personal Psalm 139

At my retreat at the Community of All Hallows last month, Sister Sheila encouraged me to read through Psalm 139 (verses 1-18) again. I sat in the sunshine, slowly reading, and as I did so it seemed God asked me to turn the words around so that He was speaking instead of the Psalmist......

Juanita,
I have examined you
and I love you. 
I love you at rest and in action;
I love all your thoughts.
I walk with you in your journeying
and stay with you in your resting;
I have walked all the paths you take.
I have heard all the words you speak.
I guard you closely behind and before,
and my arms are always around you.

Where could you go to escape from my Spirit?
Where could you go, that I am not?
I am in your highest praises, your greatest joys,
and I am in your darkest places, your deepest fears.
I am in your Light Days,
and I am in your Dark Days;
my Presence fills even your Grey Days.

I it was
that called you into being.
I imagined you
and breathed you into life.
I rejoice that I made you!

And all is for Love - I love you!
Shout it from the hilltops - I LOVE YOU!
Whisper it to the trees - I love you!
Sing it
dance it
write it
roll in it
spin in it
revel in it - 
I love you!
I love you!
I LOVE YOU!

And I always will.


http://thetruthshineswithin.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/Jump-for-joy-2-cartoon-image.jpg

Now, dear reader, go back and read it again, but put your name at the beginning!  




Monday, 23 June 2014

To Elizabeth

Some thoughts on the eve of the feast of the birth of John the Baptist....

Were you anxious, Mother Elizabeth?
Barren all those years, yet now - miracle of miracles - pregnant!
At your age!
All those years of scorn and pity from the other women,
all those years of self-torment and self-blame:
"The scriptures say the good man will be blessed with many children,
so what have I done wrong?
Or is it my husband, Zechariah, who has sinned? 
Is God punishing us by withholding life?"
But, no, Elizabeth,
God has a very special job for you and your husband!
You are to give birth to the Messenger,
the Herald,
the Way-Preparer.
Your tiny son, kicking in your womb,
will bring the dawn of the new age,
a new covenant, between God and the world - 
yes, the world! - 
not just your own people, the people special to God,
but all peoples because, 
at last,
Israel is ready to learn that all peoples are God's.

So here you are, on the eve of the birth,
pacing around,
panting with pain,
coping with the pangs of the coming birth.
Are you afraid that your old body will not cope,
when even young women labour so?
Do you fear you may die in the process?
Yet, like all mothers-to-be, 
you probably feel it will be worth it,
that your own death doesn't matter,
as long as your child is born safe and well.

I wonder what Zechariah is feeling?
Mute, he cannot easily share his concern for you.
Tensely sitting with the other men,
left out of Women's Mysteries,
waiting for God's miracle to be born.

And what of your cousin, Mary?
She, too, carries a Miraculous Child -
one more amazing than anyone can imagine!
When she visited you in your sixth month
you felt the Quickening of life recognizing Life.
How you both rejoiced!
Has anyone thought to tell her and Joseph
that your child is on his way?
How glad she will be!
And how many questions she will have to ask
of what it is like to give birth!

Ah, Mother Elizabeth, bear with the pain,
for it will all be worth it 
when you hold your special child in your arms!
Rejoice, Mother Elizabeth,
rejoice!
For the herald of your Saviour
is soon to be born!


Image by Google search  http://www.bible-people.info/mother_and_son2.jpg

Monday, 2 June 2014

Let Your God Love You!

I have recently returned from an individual guided retreat at All Hallows Convent, Ditchingham. I have visited All Hallows a couple of times before, staying for a few days each time, joining the Sisters for worship and a midday meal. It is a place of peace and of welcome, and I felt at home there from the very first visit; indeed I wrote in my journal that I could hear God singing from the roof there, like a Chaffinch or a Robin!

We were greeted with tea and cakes, and with a beautiful little vase of wild flowers in our rooms. After tea, we maintained silence (except for worship, and for chats with our guides) until breakfast on the last day. It was tricky remembering to show the day to day civilities by gesture instead of in words, but  there was a real feel of Companions On The Journey Together with us retreatants. And, my goodness, did we make up for it with chat at that last breakfast!  ;-)

Each day we met our guides, talking together, sharing together and going away with Bible readings or other quotes to think upon. We then prayed, meditated or thought in silence; in our rooms, in the communal living room, with the baby bunnies and red-legged partridges in the gardens, or as we walked the beautiful country lanes around there. We read, we stitched, we knitted, we slept, and we just allowed God to reach us as He wanted to.

Sister Sheila was my retreat guide. At the first meeting, she gave me a poem/prayer that really hit deeply, so I thought I would share it here. I don't know who wrote it, but will gladly acknowledge the author if I ever find out! Here it is:

Be silent. Be still.
Alone: empty before your God.
Say nothing.
Ask nothing.
Be silent.
Be still.
Let your God look upon you.
That is all.
He knows.
He understands.
He loves you
with an enormous love!
He only wants
to look upon you
with his love.
Quiet.
Still be.
Let your God
love you!




Image from Google Images search http://www.care2.com/greenliving/its-official-meditation-cures-stress.html

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Set my people free!

Prayer for Prisoners


Oh God,
Who sent your Son
To set the captives free,
Have pity on those who are trapped
In their minds -
The depressed,
The addicted,
Those with dementia;
Break their bonds,
Gracious Lord,
And set them free.


Image found by Google Images http://www.superstock.com/stock-photos-images/1830-2070

Thursday, 24 April 2014

My Jesus, my Jesus...

Have just been to see a local production of "Jesus Christ, Superstar" - need to express my feelings.


'My Jesus!
My Jesus!'
That's all I could think
as I watched them act out His story.
Took me by surprise, that "my" - really personal.
Hadn't realised how much I love Him!

I tend to pray more to the Father
than to a personal Jesus.
Yet this deep, deep feeling
erupted from within me,
burst out from my heart - 
"My Jesus! My Jesus!
They're hurting my Jesus!"

As the tears rolled down my face,
it changed to
"Oh God, oh God, oh God!"
Like an echo of Jesus'
"My God, my God, 
why have you forsaken me?"

When Peter touched 
the chained Jesus' hand,
begging His forgiveness for betraying Him,
how I wanted to touch Him too,
to tell Him how much I love Him.
My Jesus.
My Love.

I could turn this into a sermon
about touching Jesus' hand
in every act of love,
every person we reach out to;
but, right now,
all I want to do
is to kneel at His feet
and tell Him I love Him.

My Jesus, my Jesus,
my Love  x x x



Image via Google images, http://tammynischan.blogspot.co.uk/2010_10_01_archive.html

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Mary Magdalene reflects

Happy Easter everyone!!

There have been some really moving services in my church this Holy Week and Easter Day. I have been truly humbled by God's presence there, and in the people present (who, after all, are the real church, not the building!). 

On the evening of Easter day, our curate, Zoe, read some pieces from "Reflective Services for Lent, Holy Week and Easter" by Nick Fawcett, and I was blown away! 

Anyone who knows me knows how much I enjoy reading stories aloud - a legacy of over 25 years of teaching in Primary schools - and so I have tried to record one of the reflections for you. In this piece, Nick puts himself in the place of Mary Magdalene, about to tell the disciples the good news that Jesus is alive - if they'll believe her! (N.B. I had to turn the sound up fairly loud when I replayed it. I'll have to get advice from my technical brother on how to improve the sound quality!)

video


Image found by Google images search from https://www.lds.org/liahona/2003/06/jesus-is-risen?lang=eng

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Drama Queen 2

This is what I originally wrote in my journal about the Dramatic Gestures, which I unpacked for the last blog post. Says the same kind of thing, but slightly differently.

To give up the Dramatic Gestures -
not because it's WRONG or SINFUL
(The spirit of Blame and Self-hate),
but because it's Not Necessary
(The spirit of Realistic Love):
I don't need to do these things
to gain God's love,
because God loves me already.
I cannot buy God's love with 'holy gestures' - 
nothing I do,
or give up,
can make God love me 
any more than He already does.
And nothing I do or say,
or don't do or say,
can make Him love me
any less than He already does.

God loves me.
Full stop.
Not dramatic exclamation mark,
or capital letters,
just quiet full stop;
nothing more needs to be said.


Pic by Google Images search  http://pastorcarolmora.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/jesus_love.jpg

Monday, 17 March 2014

Drama Queen!

I have to confess to having a weakness for the Dramatic sometimes.
I think it stems from all the stories of heroes/heroines I have read and loved since I was a child - you know, fairy tales, fantasy stories, King Arthur and his knights and all that. Of course, when you read these you naturally cast yourself as the Noble Knight On A Quest or the Wise Lady Dispensing Wisdom or the Beautiful Princess Admired By All. When I became a Christian I read stories of saints and martyrs and, naturally, saw myself in those roles too - the Tragic Martyr Who Bravely Held On To Her Beliefs No Matter What. There I stand, on top of the high place, wind blowing my long hair and long skirts, looking nobly, determinedly, (but humbly) into the face of danger, the sun making a halo behind my head, swoon, swoon!

Well, this is all very well when you're little, or when you're reading the book, but what about Real Life? Ah, now that's where the problems begin!

I look back on my life and realise how often I have made the same Dramatic Statements.  
My family will be familiar with the usual ones:

I'M NEVER CUTTING MY HAIR AGAIN!!  
(Biblical Nazarite, Amish, or historical reasons. But, after a year or two, I get fed up with long hairs all over the floor and in the bath, and the amount of time it takes to wash and dry.)

I'M NEVER EATING CHOCOLATE/SUGAR AGAIN! 
Which is sometimes expressed as..
I WILL EAT HEALTHILY FROM NOW ON!  or  
I WILL RESPECT MY BODY!  
(Yes, a very hoary chestnut, that one, never maintained beyond a week or two!)

When I gave up teaching, I realised I had the freedom to try out my pipe dreams...

I WILL GROW ALL MY OWN FOOD, AND BOTTLE/PRESERVE IT MYSELF!  
(But I only like gardening in certain weathers - not when it's too hot, too cold or too wet.)

I WILL LIVE WITHOUT ELECTRICITY!
(Except in Winter when I get cold and the lack of light triggers my S.A.D. - and when I want to use my laptop, or the microwave...)

I WILL BE A NATURE RESERVE WARDEN!
(See note above about weather.)

I WILL GIVE ALL MY TIME IN SERVICE TO OTHERS!
(Until I'm exhausted and then feel resentful.)

I WILL PRAY 4 TIMES A DAY, LIKE NUNS DO!
(But they live in community, to support each other; and they don't need to cook all their own meals or go shopping.)

I WILL GET UP AT DAWN EACH DAY!
(But this goes completely against my body clock.)

All very laudable statements, but none of them are realistic. Of course, when the Grand Promises get broken, and the Dramatic Gestures can no longer be sustained, I end up swooping down from the mountain tops down, down to the very depths of guilt and self-hate, wallowing in my supposed awfulness...

I'M A TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE PERSON!

HOW CAN GOD EVER LOVE ME?

I AM THE WORST OF SINNERS! 

Guess what? These are Dramatic Gestures too - and they're just as unrealistic as the other ones!

So why do I do it? 
Mostly it comes from a desire to be a good person, to please God. I am trying to earn God's love, to win respect from other people and, yes, sometimes I suspect I'm showing off a bit too! (Sorry!)

But, when you look at it, this all stems from insecurity, from a lack of belief in God's love for us. It's so hard to really believe and accept that God actually loves us just as we are. We don't have to earn it. We don't have to buy it. God really, really, REALLY loves us!

So, from now on, I'M GIVING UP DRAMATIC GESTURES! 
Oh, wait, that's another D.G. isn't it?! Hmm... let's change it... I pray that God will help me to live more realistically, to trust Him more, and believe in His love.

*cue sweeping strings and triumphant brass...*


Friday, 7 March 2014

Catching up

Gosh, such a long time since I've written on here! I've been meaning to write all the hundred and one things I've thought of since last August but, somehow, other things take priority and time just slips away. And now, where do I start? Which of those 101 things do I begin with? Hmmm....I’ll start by giving you some very belated news.

Last July, I became a Companion of Julian of Norwich. This is a worldwide group of people, lay or clergy, who wish to follow Julian’s teachings in their lives. Companions try, as best they are able, to:

·        reflect the unconditional love of God in their response to others and to themselves

·        exercise compassionate empathy in their daily lives

·        meditate and intercede for the world for at least 30 minutes a day

·        seek spiritual nourishment from regular study of Julian’s “Revelations of Divine Love”

·        make at least one visit to the Julian Shrine in Norwich during their lifetime, if possible

We make these promises annually and, as I only live about 45 minutes away from the Shrine, I made my promises there. It was a beautiful, moving occasion with nine of us, including my Mum and Daughter, in the tiny little room. Canon Beryl, my Rector and one of my sponsors, led the short service and Daphne, the other sponsor, read the Bible reading I had chosen (1 John 4:7-12). We sang, unaccompanied, Be Thou My Vision, and Liz Thomas, a Companion, presented me with a certificate, badge and medallion. There were other Friends of Julian present too, including Sister Pamela from All Hallows Community, who provide hospitality for visitors to the Shrine. (And, indeed, tea and cakes afterwards!)
Here are some piccies:


 Me, with Canon Beryl and Daphne.


My beautiful daughter is on the left, 
and my wonderful Mum is next to me, on the right of the picture.

Incidentally, I made the purple dress I am wearing, rushing to finish it on time. Since the fabric frays easily, I later had to reinforce the seams to make up for the short cuts I had taken!

I think that will do for this post - hopefully will post another of the 100 things left soon!

Blessings to all who read this!  x x