Dying to live

Let me make this clear: A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain died.

The person who loves his life and pampers himself will miss true life! But the one who detaches his life from this world and abandons himself to me, will find true life and enjoy it forever!

If you want to be my disciple, follow me and you will go where I am going. And if you truly follow me as my disciple, the Father will shower his favour upon your life.

John 12:24-26 The Passion Translation

A wise word:

In becoming more,
we need to learn to let fall
all
but the power and the presence
of God with and within us.

The true measure of greatness
is our self-giving;
and the way to true life,
sacrifice.


Attentive

At every moment God seeks entry into your heart. He gives you the opportunity to be part of his kingdom. You are offered the opportunity to live in the kingdom of light, the very kingdom of God, or to go your own way and walk on still in the darkness.

Why do you not choose? Why not leave the darkness and walk in hope? Leave your loneliness and learn to walk with God.

David Adam ~ The Path of Light

I have been guilty this year of neglecting attentive prayer.

I have prayed. Oh, have I prayed. Yet, as I look back over the year I realise that it has all been productive prayer i.e. prayer for a my purpose.

Wisdom.
Patience.
Healing.
Forgiveness.
Rest.
Guidance.

Prayers for my needs.
Prayers for the church.
Prayers for the world.
Prayers during pastoral visits.
Prayers from the lectionary.
Prayers for the pray-ers.

I have prayed. Oh have I prayed. And God has been faithful.

God has been there for me. In a big way. But in my busyness, I have often only been half present with my wandering thoughts and divided attention.

There have been, it seems, so many things more pressing than attentive prayer – with the result that I have dislocated myself from the divine presence; placed myself in hell by attending to all the pressing things (even the really good and noble things) before attending to the presence of God that is my hope and my redemption.

So, this morning, as I lay quite still upon my bed, I affirmed that “the Lord is here” and gave myself up to the silence. At which point, my stomach rumbled. Loudly. And the neighbours’ dogs began barking. And Little Cat hopped up to purr a happy hello.

“The Lord is here,” I muttered again and again, as if it were a wish – no, a command! – rather than a reality.

My stomach gurgled. The dogs a little further up the street took up the call. The garbage truck passed by. And Little Cat curled up against my side, a warm and welcome lump of love …

… which is when I felt it. Like soft light through wind-stirred leaves, God embraced me. And my soul smiled.T

The Lord is here.
The Lord is.
The Lord….

Star-gazing

As part of our journey during the Season of Creation, the Loop has created space for our community to encounter God in earth, humanity, sky, mountains and through the blessing of animals in different ways.

This past Friday, we enjoyed the quiet out in Uranquinty, simply staring at the stars and drinking in the silence as we contemplated the wonder of the God who knows them – and us – all by name.

Many thanks to Ruth Kerr who wrote the reflection below for the evening and has given me permission to share it here:

Stargazing

 

 

Quote: Trinity

“What the doctrine of the Trinity is telling us is that God is fundamentally a relational being…

The Father, Son and Spirit live in conversation,
in a fellowship of free-flowing togetherness,
and sharing and delight –
a great dance of shared life
that is full and rich and passionate,
creative and good and beautiful.” 

Baxter Kruger

Time

9FFE2BAF-EEAA-4D1B-A294-738F260E4149We style it up
Or dress it down;
Take it seriously
Or play the clown;
Adjust the strap,
Turn the dial;
“Easy to program” –
For a while ….

We count them off,
The minutes and hours;
Pretentious masters
Of infinite powers.

But when our hearts stop
And the ticking goes on,
Our mourners will gather
To sing a new song:
“Gone too soon …”
“All in God’s time …”
“What a waste of a life!
I won’t waste mine!!!”

The King is coming
Like a thief in the night;
Are our eyes on the time
Or looking out for his light?

A Woman’s Creed

In preparing for my last session in our “From Queens to Prostitutes” course in Women’s Month, I came across this powerful and moving creed by Rachel C. Wahlberg from Prayers & Poems, Songs & Stories Ecumenical Decade: Churches in Solidarity With Women. May it help you to draw closer to the God who created you as “Beautiful beloved” as it has me.

***

I BELIEVE IN GOD
who created woman and man in God’s
own image
who created the world
and gave both sexes
the care of the earth.

I BELIEVE IN JESUS
child of God
chosen of God
born of the woman Mary
who listened to women and liked them
who stayed in their homes
who discussed justice with them
who was followed and financed
by woman disciples.

I BELIEVE IN JESUS
who discussed theology with a woman
at a well
and first confided in her
his messiahship
who motivated her to go and tell
her great news to the city.

I BELIEVE IN JESUS
who received anointing from a woman
who rebuked the men guests who scorned her
I believe in Jesus
who said this woman will be remembered
for what she did
minister of Jesus.

I BELIEVE IN JESUS
who healed a woman on the Sabbath
and made her whole
because she was
a human being.
I believe in Jesus
who spoke of God
as a woman seeking the lost coin
as a woman who swept
seeking the lost.

I BELIEVE IN JESUS
who thought of pregnancy and birth
with reverence
not as punishment
but as wrenching event
a metaphor for transformation
born again
anguish-into-joy.

I BELIEVE IN JESUS
who spoke of himself
as a mother hen
who would gather her chicks
under her wing.

I BELIEVE IN JESUS
who appeared first to Mary Magdalene
who sent her with the bursting
message GO AND TELL.

I BELIEVE IN THE WHOLENESS
OF THE SAVIOR
in whom there is neither
Jew nor Greek
slave nor free
male nor female
for we are all one
in salvation.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
as she moves over the waters
of creation
and over the earth.

I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY SPIRIT
the woman spirit of God
who like a hen
created us
and gave us birth
and covers us
with her wings.

 

Dancing with Love

“May I have this dance?” you ask, holding out a hand that shaped the moon and set the stars in place.

“I’d be honoured,” I reply, offering my grubby digits a little timidly.

You bow gracefully. I curtsy self-consciously.

As you weave your fingers through mine and pull me close, your arm wrapping snugly around my waist, I whisper solemnly, “I’ve got two left feet; just so you know.”

“Then stand on mine,” you offer without hesitation.

Feeling a little foolish but completely disinclined to prove myself an utter fool, I do.

Your footing firm, with me secure, you start to step, to dance, to swirl

To swirl and twirl across the floor
Until the bounds of room – no more;
the proper crowd left out of sight
for rapturous breadth of starry night;
the scent of earth upon the air,
the chirp of crickets, everywhere …

Beyond the cobbled paving stones,
Into the forest overgrown,
Where beneath the scent of oak and pine
I twirl still with my Love Divine.

As I close my eyes,
take a deep breath,
and rest my head
upon your chest,
your twirling footsteps start to slow:
there’s nowhere that we need to go.

So here we stand and step and sway;
May it ever be this way!

* Artwork by Kendra Halterman

Breathe

A guided meditation for sensitising people to the Spirit of God with and within them… to be read slowly with periods of silence between paragraphs.

***

Make yourself comfortable. Lie down or sit in a comfortable position – body relaxed, heavy, relying on the support of the floor or a chair, feeling the connection points, the texture beneath your skin, the tension in your muscles ….

Close your eyes and listen to the sounds outside the room – of traffic passing by; people rushing around on errands, chatting on the phone, laughing with friends; of birdsong and wind in the trees … picture in the myriad of sounds the whole world around you.

Now shrink the big world outside and focus on what you hear immediately around you – people getting settled, shifting … breathing, breathing, breathing.

Focus on your breath – breathed into your nostrils by the very God who made you and gave you life …

And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.
Genesis 2:7

Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. Acknowledge the breath within you – a breath which without we would return to lifelessness like the dry bones of the valley …

Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: as one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath … all go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.
Ecclesiastes 3:19-20

Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. How easily are you breathing? Do you feel short of breath, harassed, hurried, unwell? Are there places in your life that are dry and dusty, even dead?

Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. Allow He who makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; who sends lightning with the rain; who brings out the wind from his storehouses (Psalm 135:9) to reach into life with a creative energy and active power that may be invisible but is surely felt – like the breeze rustling amongst the trees, or the wind whipping up the waves on a once-calm sea.

Now a wind went out from the Lord and drove quail in from the sea. It brought them down all around the camp to about three feet above the ground, as far as a day’s walk in any direction. All that day and night and all the next the people went out and gathered quail. No one gathered less than 60 bushels.
Numbers 11:31-32

Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. Let your body relax more deeply beyond the chair or the floor that holds your weight into the certainty of God’s creativity and activity at work in your body, in your life.

Let the wind of God blow away the dust and dirt that has settled within you during this long day, the words of doubt or discouragement that still linger, the worries that drift over and over within your mind …

Let it carry to you in gentle whispers what you need to nourish your soul and restore your strength and remind you Who it is that made you and to Whom you belong. Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly.

Breath. Wind. Ruach – the Hebrew word used in the Old Testament to describe them. A feminine noun; the gentle, yet powerful, touch of God.

Breath. Wind. Ruach.

Yet there is another word too:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the “Ruach” of God was hovering over the waters.
Genesis 1:1-2

Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. Feel the Spirit of God with and within you.

God grabbed me. God’s Spirit took me up and set me down in the middle of an open plain strewn with bones. He led me around and among them—a lot of bones! There were bones all over the plain—dry bones, bleached by the sun.

He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Master God, only you know that.”

He said to me, “Prophesy over these bones: ‘Dry bones, listen to the Message of God!’”

God, the Master, told the dry bones, “Watch this: I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”

I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling! The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them.

He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’”

So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! 

Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. Not just breath, but ruach – Spirit. God’s Spirit touching the tired, aching places. God’s Spirit knitting together the fragments and compartments into which we break ourselves, our time, our lives, our day. God’s Spirit expelling lifelessness and monotony for movement and real life. God’s Spirit filling us with possibility …

Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly.

And in the days that lie ahead, when life is tiresome or troubling, when people have pushed you to your breaking point, take a breath with the awareness that you invite in each inhalation something more: the Ruach of God. Turn your face towards the wind and open yourself up to the gentle caress of God.

God’s Spirit within us. God’s Spirit around us. God’s Spirit in me. God’s Spirit in you.

Breathe in deeply. Breathe out slowly. And when you are ready, arise alive with energy and vision for the life and work that God calls you to.

Jonah: a story about calling

This whole situation stinks -worse than three day old air in the belly of a fish.

I don’t want to be here. I never did. But God has pushed me to this place.

I tried to be reasonable. He told me to get up and go, so I did. My own way though, to my own destination.

But God was not happy. He threw me into the deep end. Literally. The people I was travelling with picked me and threw me overboard into the stormy sea.

I felt myself sinking. I cried for help but there was no one for God had abandoned me. The water pressed in around me. I could not breathe. It was cold and dark and I did not know which way was up or down. My lungs began to burn, my body to cry out with the need to breathe. This was it – the end. No sound. No hope. No future.

And then God saved me. In the most inconvenient way. From the space of the wide open ocean and the safety of my ship God put me into the darkness and stink of a great fish’s belly; into the darkness and the stink of my disobedience and the results of my sin. The only light for me in that dark place was the truth that God had spared me and a passion for sharing that truth began to burn in my heart.

So now I am here. I am here because God’s love pursues me – across oceans, to the very depths of the sea; even in the darkness of death God’s love pursues. Through sharing my story others can know that God’s love pursues them too – especially when they feel like life is squeezing them into a sardine tin.