walk … don’t run

overcastabI have just returned from an amazingly relaxing time in Cornwall with some good friends. I had some plans for things to do, but actually when I got there found myself to be pretty exhausted and simply happy to be in a good place with good friends.

I spent a lot of time looking out of the window … the view in the photo shows why. I still find I can endlessly watch the sea and become immersed in its movement, as I regularly did as I was growing up in Weymouth. I find even now that I can easily lose myself to the extent of not hearing others when we they talk to me, something that Sarah often teases me over! Clearly, for me, proximity to the sea is something like a thin place.

This time while in Cornwall I was reminded of these words from Rob Bell: (thanks Graham)

Walk, don’t run.
That’s it.

Walk, don’t run. Slow down, breathe
deeply, and open your eyes because there’s

a whole world right here within this one. The
bush doesn’t suddenly catch on fire, it’s been
burning the whole time. Moses is simply moving
slowly enough to see it. And when he
does, he takes off his sandals. Not because
the ground has suddenly become holy, but
because he’s just now becoming aware that
the ground has been holy the whole time.

Efficiency is not God’s highest goal for your life,
neither is busyness,
or how many things you can get done in one day,
or speed,
or even success.
 
But walking-
which leads to seeing-
now that’s something.
 
That’s the invitation for every one of us today
and every day, in every conversation, interaction,
event, and moment: to walk, not run. And in doing
so, to see a whole world right here within this one.
Walking and seeing a whole world, slowing down enough so that I can see that the ground urlI walk on is holy is amazingly easy to do in a place like Cornwall, with friends, while resting and gazing at amazing scenery and beautiful sunsets.
But back in Gillingham it is harder.
The ground here is no less holy than that bathed in the glorious colour of a sunset. It’s no less Godly because it’s harshness is sometimes painful to the eye. Maybe we, I, simply don’t always acknowledge the holiness of the paving slabs because I don’t slow down enough to see. It may not be a thin place, but it is a holy place, holy ground.
I guess my prayer needs to be something like …. ‘Lord, teach me to walk, so that I may see.’

holding what gives us life

gathering logoOn Sunday the gathering gathered once more.

I deliberately planned a simpler time together as I was aware of new people joining over the last few weeks and wanted to allow more time to be able to chat more and get to know each other better as we ate cake and drank coffee.

As well as sharing communion in the gathering style we did the examen together as a group and then shared as much as we wanted to in different size groups, mainly family units. People seemed to be engaging and sharing quite well.  I find the examen useful and think its appropriate for all ages.

I like the use the examen regularly, s it helps me to identify God throughout my day, and yesterday I introduced this using Sleeping with Bread. The introduction to our gathering examen may be found here. This also explains the title of today’s post.

On reflection … the gathering yesterday was one of the most life giving moments of my week. Tonight, I shall sleep holding that thought.

our journeys so far

Yesterday the gathering got together. We had a very thoughtful, and sometimes challenging, time as we considered our personal journey’s, which for all of us (as with everyone) are a mixture of highs and lows, joy and sadness, fun and scarey. The group that planned yesterday did so skilfully, enabling us to have this time for reflection and questioning.

For the next few months the gathering is following what will be a very heavily adapted version of of Essence, a course looking at spirituality from SJI. Essence aims to give an ‘experiential introduction’ to Christianity. As a course it seems to take a lot for granted which is why we are heavily adapting it for our needs…. to be more ‘gathering like’ in giving people opportunity and space to explore and discover. It’s particularly relevant for the gathering as we value and accept very much the concept of ‘all being on a journey’ and all being in the right place on the journey while all being at different place on the journey.

We listened to Psalm 23, we drew or created images of parts of our life journey using lego or chalk/paint/crayon. At the start of out time together we were asked to illustrate our life story using 5 or 6 beads with a willingness to share what one of the beads represented. Each ‘life’ was then placed around a central table and, for me, showed the strength of how coming together caused our journeys to become connected in some way.

Personally, this simple activity gave me an opportunity to think about what I have in my life, and how rich my life can be if I only take the time to remember. By that I do not mean material stuff; but rather the quality of experiences, the beauty of people I have got to know, the strength of relationship of family and friends.

Next month the gathering will be looking at ‘the journey within’ as we think more about our identity and image. If that sounds interesting to you … feel free to join us … Sunday 8th July, 3.30 for 4.00pm.

patient trust

Last week I met up with Sister Diane, my spiritual director in Edenbridge. After we had chatted Sister Diane thought this  reading from Chardin would be helpful; I share this as I think it connects with the ‘waiting’ stuff I shared at CMS and in my last post:

Above all, trust in the slow work of God

We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end withour delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of progress
that it is made by passing through
some states of instability —
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually — let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and cirsumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

the sweeps dream

Sweeps came and went. The weather meant that the festival was a bit of a wash out with last minute cancellations and the accompanied lack of hoped for business for local traders. There was definitely a lot less visitors around than there have been in previous years which is a real shame as this is an excellent festival to come to.

The lack of numbers at the festival meant that there were less people walking past the Dekhomai stand but the positive flip side of this meant that we had more time to listen to people. I will remember this Sweeps festival as being marked by the sheer privilege I have experienced as I have been invited into personal lives alongside the great feeling of inadequacy I have felt as I have prayed, asking God to meet with these lives.

I personally wanted to push out and try something new at this years Sweeps and have been thinking and working a lot on dreams; in particular asking myself the question ‘could God still be talking to people through their dreams?” I have done some prayerful research of God speaking through dreams in scripture alongside psychologists interpretations of common dreams. Did you know, for example, that a common dream is being found naked in a public place; apparently the ‘common’ interpretation is that the person is living a lie and worried about being exposed. I have always found dreams quite fascinating.

To cut a long story short, I decided to offer ‘dream discussions’ at this years festival. I felt ‘dream interpretation’ was quite a major claim for a bunch of amateurs to be able to make… but I also have a real belief that, actually, if people are dreaming and that if there is a meaning from God then those people, really must be able to understand the dream for themselves and how it applies to them. If that were not true, then there would be little point God using this method of communication with people!

I have had a good number of dream discussions over this weekend. They were amazing. No two were the same but as we chatted together and I prayed remarkably people were able to focus on their dream and gain some understanding. I have started to wonder now whether those that do receive dreams simply need to take time out to think about them, and that is what we seemed to be doing over this weekend at the festival.

The team from all over the diocese worked brilliantly this year, and it was great working with you all … our visitors and guests were also a joy to work with  -thank you. Once again, Sweeps has been a highlight of my year.

 

dickens and decks

so … that was Dickens, when we saw an amazing 19000 people pass through the cathedra! That’s quite a few!!!

The team I worked with were excellent, and at times we had people queuing for hand or foot massages and Jesus Deck readings. The experience was such a humbling privilege as we engaged with many people on various levels from talking about the beading, to joking about Christmas, to praying for some form of healing.

One person I will remember for a while was a distressed person shaking with fear who needed help. We simply prayed for God’s peace and this person became calm almost instantly which shocked her and her family. It was a delight to see.

The weekend has again left me with far more questions and frustrations than answers. I guess the main frustration is how we seem to just scratch the surface with most of those 19000 choosing to walk past the stand, many even refusing to make any form of eye contact. I wonder whether a part of that is a fear of not wanting to engage with something of the ‘unknown’.  My question, which I guess is closely connected, is why God seems to connect with some people and not others.

Other questions which came up which I’d like to investigate sometime revolve around the whole idea of what people think they are doing in their actions. One of the team, Nathan, was reflecting on people lighting candles and asking what, in their mind, are they doing or trying to do? It’s an interesting thought as we heard people use language like ‘pray properly’ and ‘make a wish’   and ‘thats for uncle Albert’. The action of lighting a candle is certainly helpful, and thousands were lit this weekend, but it is interesting maybe to consider what is actually happening here for various people.

Anyway … the weekend is over, the Dekhomai stand is packed away, we continue with Advent and welome Christ into our lives again …

 

Dickens Dekhomai

This weekend is the Dickens Festival again in Rochester when thousands of people descend upon Rochetser from all over the country, and even the world, to ‘celebrate’ Dickens and his works.

WE expect around 8000 people to pass through the cathedral today and amongst our normal services and carol services we also attempt to engage with people again this year through our Dekhomai (greek translation: ‘the welcoming place’) as part of our Benedictine tradition of hospitality.

Today we will be be offering Jesus Deck readings, Prayer discussions, prayer for healing, hand and foot massages, the making of prayer beds, blessings as well as simply a place to chat. In other parts of the cathedral there are opportunities to light candles for people you may wish to remember.

So … if you are in the cathedral today … be one of the 8000 and pop in. Please say hello – even if it looks like we are busy it would still be great to say hi. If you can’t make it over the weekend, please hold those working in the cathedral in your prayers and especially those on the Dekhomai stand who seek to be a blessing and a help to those who come to us.