Being Still … part last (I think)

So … I have now been back from retreat for a week.
Every evening my adopted new practice of saying Northumbria Compline has happened (I simply love the Monday night words!)  … even when waking at 2am on the sofa, compile was still said before going to bed!
Most days I have managed to do Centring Prayer, and obviously as an obedient Anglian Priest, Morning Prayer is always said anyway.

With these practices I am able to maintain perspective and continue in the vein of ‘all will be well’. I’m not quite sure what will happen, nor what the future holds. But I can believe that all will be well.

Sometimes practices adopted on retreats can be too demanding, or can be dropped too easily … I am hoping I have found a good balance here and early signs seem to be good.

A number of people have said to me that they could not do silence for any length of time, let alone 5 days.
I would say do not underestimate yourself.
Try meditating for just 10 minutes a day ….
allow God to find you
and you to find yourself
and see what happens.

and the pictures this time …. well that’s just to show off a bit with the medieval room!


Being Still …. part 3

So … hope!
Following the ‘Wednesday experience’ of what I can only call a release, baggage dropping healing experience I came across Julian of Norwich. Obvs not physically but in the form of a translation of her meditations by Brendan Doyle … a simply but profound version which I have had on the bookshelf for years but only really leafed through …. until this day.

I think it is quite natural that after a time of release which reveals a way forward that concerns can often come crashing in. Julian of Norwich’s words came for me at quite a key time during the silence.

I probably should explain a little that Julian wrote these words at a time when the populist option of God was a hard task master, someone that needed to be feared and who wanted to finish people for their misdemeanours. Julian radically said because all of creation was created by God, who is good, then all creation is good, and that God loved and wanted to hang out with all, rather than punish people for stuff that was happening on God’s watch anyway! There’s a lot more to it than that, but that is a short Rob translation!

In particular two of Julians meditations spoke to me …. these are ‘words’ that Julian believed she heard from God …. which have been left for us to ponder, meditate upon, and consider in our lives.

Obviously all meditations and messages from God are open to interpretation and will be interpreted differently by different people art different times in different locations. But … in my silence and slow reading, these two meditations kind of jumped out of the page and bit me on the arse! One with God seemingly dissing the idea that God’s plan and our hope for our lives are wildly different … and the other with God almost laughingly say ….it’s ok … all will be ok …. which resonates with one of Julian’s more well known meditations :

I can make all things well,
I know how to make all things well,
I desire to make all things well,
I will make all things well.
And you shall see with your own eyes
that every kind of thing will be well.

I don’t know why these came as a surprise to me … yet again.
Its;s easy to forget I suppose.
I guess as we work and get swallowed up by being involved in the pressing and unimportant not only do we lose sight of the ‘important’ in our lives, but we lose sight of the vision of reality that God wants people to have their heart’s desire … and the even bigger truth that God really is taking care of us.

rails 2Those two meditations that jumped out at me coupled with the ‘all will be well’ word gave a strong sense of hope on Thursday morning. On my afternoon walk I came across a level crossing, and I know it’s not entirely safe but I took a photo looking down the rails. From my previous two days of quiet coming across these rails seemed again to be prophetic in it’s meaning to me. A meaning that there seems a clear way ahead … it’s long, a lot out of focus, but clear direction and a certain knowledge of what could be ahead … and that ‘all will be well’. This picture of the rails speaks to me in a way that reminds me that over the last 6 months or so I had drifted from the core of who I was … as I look back I have ideas why, but to dwell there would be pointless, other than to learn from the experience. Returning to the core of me in the knowledge that all will be well is pretty liberating!

I started the week not knowing why I had gone for 5 days of silence. My first conversation with Sr Ruth saw me saying ‘I do not know why I am here, but I know I need to be’. By the third and fourth days the reasons for being there seemed so obvious!

All things are well.
All things will be well.
And all manner of things shall be well.

Being Still … part 2

IMG_2133At breakfast on Wednesday I saw this card.

The words resonated with me powerfully and helped me to authentically enter into a time of meditation in the form of centring prayer. 

The time brought up a lot of pain and ‘stuff’.
As referred to yesterday, it was a bit like walking through a dark tunnel, feeling slowly against the cold wet walls and edging slowly forward, each step quite difficult as I knew I would probably find an obstacle … but each step bringing something that I can only describe as ‘lighter’ as I was able to let go of ‘stuff’ again ….
baggage that I have accumulated:
unreasonable expectations from others
even more ridiculous expectations of myself
losing sight of who is important
losing sight of who I really am
feelings of failure
trying to keep control
attempting to keep everything going
as stuff came up, tears flowed, I let go of that ‘stuff’ and carrying on walking

Meditation using centring prayer, for me, usually lasts around 20 minutes.
I was kinda surprised when I opened my eyes to see that an hour and ten minutes had passed. I don’t think I’ve ever been that silent for so long … not even when asleep! I don’t tend to have major God experiences … but this was one!

hopeAfter this deep experience with what I would call God I sat pretty quietly in my room for another 20 minutes or so before then going for another walk with the camera. As I walked, following my map, I cam across this single poppy which I saw as a massive sign of hope. Interestingly, ‘HOPE’ is the word in metal letters that I have displayed in my living room. It’s an important word for me. It’s one of those words that gets who I wish to be as well as describes how I want to be and also helps me look to the future.

That afternoon I saw Sr Ruth who looked at me and said, ‘Oh wow … something has happened … you look totally different!’ We chatted about the experience and how I felt quite a deep inner sense of calm (a cliche if ever there was one!) which I am still able to hold on to a week later. For me, it was both encouraging and exciting to hear Sr Ruth’s immediate comments … and incredibly helpful to hear her honest feedback to me.

It has been a while since I have been properly still.
Being still allows us to listen to what is going on.
Being still allows us to hear, to realign, to remember what is important.
I aim to make ‘being still’ part of my daily rhythm of life.

There is more …. particularly on the hope thing … maybe tomorrow!

in to the silence …

doorwayI’ve not blogged for a little while.
I’m conscious that I have said that a lot over the last year or so.
I don’t mind saying life has been hard, particularly over the last few months with the sudden death of my younger brother, amongst other things.
I have, and am, travelling the interesting road of grief and encountering all it’s joys, heartbreaks and confusions.

Now for the first time in a little while I believe I am re-finding me.
Which I think is an example of good God timing … sometimes I marvel at my stupidity and surprise over such things.

Before the summer I had booked my annual retreat at West Malling Abbey.
I had planned for 5 days of silence with some direction at the start of each day.
August was not the right time to take that retreat … it would have meant coming out of retreat and travelling straight to Weymouth to take my brother’s funeral. So, I and the sisters, decided it was not the best time and we re-arranged it for this coming week.

So … this week, from today, I will be intentionally entering into 5 days of silence.
I have a book or two to take which I may or may not read.
The only plan I have is to place myself in front of God …. and … well … just wait to see what happens.
The ‘standards’ will be joining the sisters for the times of monastic office and starting each day with my meditation, but other than that there is no plan.

Am I worried about being bored with my own company  – maybe!
Am I concerned that God won’t show and that  I will experience nothing – definitley!
Am I thinking this was a mad idea – certainly!
Am I just scared at the whole thought of this now that it is here … well, YES!

But … I believe passionately about entering into silence.
It may be scary,
it may be hard,
even painful ….
but I believe that it is in the silence,
when we allow the crap of the world to be filtered out,
when we ‘dull’ the impact of whatever the crap is
when we cut ourselves off from ‘stuff’
that we hear from ourselves
(which is ok if we hold to being created in the image of God stuff!)
and from our creator.

I don’t believe that God only speaks in the silence
I believe God is constantly speaking, constantly calling, constantly loving.
I realise though, that as is the case with the important people in my life
that in the plethora of noise around
I don’t hear properly
or maybe am even too afraid to listen.

That stops today
for now
as I wait
and allow God
to find me
and me
to find God

Please pray for me if you do that thing
if you don’t  … then happy unicorn thoughts and blessings are ok too

I’ll see you on the other side!



My Erised

Mirror24 men on retreat was a great time. I came away knowing I am very privileged and cared for by this great group of friends.

It was good to catch up with my (old) friends and have time together to reflect and time alone to pray. The convent in Nympsfield is one of those places where it is pretty impossible to be distracted. There is no wifi signal. There is no mobile phone signal. Well .. that’s not strictly true I did manage to get a signal by walking to the top of the hill, climbing up a tree and stretching my phone up in the air as far as I can. That gave me one bar of reception now and again.

Due to its relative remoteness I find silence is very easy to achieve here … and so I spent a lot of time in silence before God. I used the Jesus Prayer a lot; so as well as reading I spent a lot of time in silence before my Creator God. In that silence God seemed to transform some fears into hopes and some longings into dreams. Most of all I seemed to receive two things:
God seemed to remind me of promises and I had this great sense of God simply saying ‘trust me’.
God also reminded me that he called me as me and so a little bit of remembering who I am started to happen. It was nothing like a mirror but the best way of describing this feeling was like standing in front of God who was a mirror. maybe a better illustration would be the Mirror of Erised from Harry Potter. It seemed as well as reminding me who I am, that God was reminding me what I longed for most. Maybe I will share that at another time when I am happy to make myself a little more vulnerable and ‘feel’ the grace of my readers!

Trust seems so simple to do in theory .. and yet I find it so difficult when the world and stuff I have ‘learned’ (and maybe need to unlearn) crashes back in on my life.
But i guess trust is hard, gritty and involve pain … I don’t know … but to trust connects with my vulnerability writings earlier in the year. The other side of the trust coin is vulnerability, as we inevitably have to open up ourselves to be let down.

Anyway … a great few days where I was blessed by friendship and challenged by God…. thank you.

4 men on a retreat

retreat 020From tomorrow (Wednesday) for the next few days I will be on retreat with some good friends I used to work with in YFC. Four men on retreat is going to be a great few days.

So … until Friday I will be enjoying the benefit of the Marist Nuns in Nympsfield, from the collective wisdom of my three friends, and from the evening ale of the Rose and Crown.

Following that I will be helping to lead some of the sessions at the MSM residential at sanctuaryAylesford Priory.

So … taking my new monasticism label seriously … i’m looking forward to be amongst two monastic communities over the next 5 days. That means this blog will be quiet …. there may be some reflections during the next week.

On retreat

Today is the day of our ordination rehearasal after which we travel to Crowhurst Christian Centre for our retreat until Saturday when we return to join our families for lunch at a reception with Bishop Brian before then moving to the cathedral for the service at 3.00pm.

It all seems to have come around very quickly.

I’m not sure if I will be able to blog at Crowhurst so I don’t know of they have wifi. Nevertheless I will be reflecting while I am there on the ordination service and what priesthood is about and how it is different to being a deacon.

Please hold my family in your prayers while I am away – and I look forward to seeing some of you on Saturday or Sunday.