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….

Paying attention: a prayer of confession

In response to Isaiah 40:21-31

O True Light,
our Constant Companion,
we confess that we have not always paid attention to the signs of Your presence with us;
that, often, we have failed to grasp the immense gift of Your eternal love.
We spend our days scurrying after the insignificant and insubstantial –
worrying about how to get by,
how to compete
how to get ahead,
how to move on,
how to afford what we have,
how to get more,
how to find balance,
how to juggle it all
until we are burnt out, exhausted,
wondering where You are
and why You’ve lost track of us.

Great God who marches out an army of stars each night,
counts them off, and calls them by name,
forgive us for our foolishness
and set us in the firm foundation of Your faithfulness.
Remind us that You have not overlooked a single one of us,
nor a single moment of our circumstances.
As we wait upon You now, give us fresh strength
to persevere,
to hope,
to flourish
in Your presence
and through the power of Your love.
Amen.

Day Thirty Three: In Spite Of

Psalm 110
Proverbs 3:1-12
James 4:11-17

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how often
God’s power,
God’s presence,
God’s purpose,
is made manifest in spite of,
rather than because of,
me ….

I know, as Christians, we are called to be light to the world
as we walk in and with and through the Light of Life;
I know, as God called me into ordained ministry,
it was with the command to watch my life and doctrine closely that those who listened might be saved;
but I also know that countless people have experienced the church as a hurtful and unwelcome place,
and that, many times, my own service has been offered from a space of brokenness, exhaustion, distraction, and/or poverty.

The grace of today’s Scriptures
is that God continues to be God
in spite of …

… external circumstances that threaten to overwhelm
or destroy us:

“You were forged a strong scepter by God of Zion; now rule,
though surrounded by enemies!
(Psalm 110:2) …

… our fickleness and forgetfulness:

But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline; don’t sulk under his loving correction.”
(Proverbs 3:11) …

… our preoccupation with our own life plans and the accumulation of power and possessions:
“yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
(James 4:14) …

… our words – so concerned with pride and judgement rather than peace and affirmation:
But who are you to judge your neighbour?
(James 4:12b).

Time and time and time again,
we get it wrong; we let what is happening around us detract from or destroy what is happening within us; we fail to live up to the purposes for which we were forged; we commit, as James points out in verse 17, the sin of knowing what is right but neglecting to do it.

But being good – and, in turn, good ambassadors of the Gospel – does not begin with the best of intentions or a to-do list of right behaviours.

It starts with and is sustained by an intimate friendship with God
(see Proverbs 3:5-6)
who will make straight our paths,
and speak through our poverty,
and transform our tiredness,
and use our brokenness,
and receive our “sorrys,”
and cover our inadequacies and excuses,
and correct us when we head off
in the wrong direction …

… and the very evidence of God’s power, presence and purpose at work in spite of all of this is precisely the light
– the lifeline –
that others need in the midst of their own struggles.

Trust God today
with where you feel weak,
or broken,
or tired,
or inadequate,
or distracted.

Feel His/Her favour resting upon you in spite of everything else that is happening in and around you.

Receive the gift of healing, of nourishment, of peace. 

Day Fifteen: The Song of The Spirit

Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11
Luke 1:46b-55
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8,19-28

Over the second week of Advent, we encountered a God who longs to break open the way of Right and Whole living for us and to lead us into the light, the space, the zest that life with God is all about.

It may seem increasingly difficult to hold onto the gifts of sufficiency, hospitality, and eternity that we have received as our footsteps quicken with the countdown to Christmas but our daily Scripture readings urge us to keep seeking the Son; to take a breath with the Spirit in the midst of the busyness …

… and remember that the Good News of God with us is the promise of God’s power and presence transforming the ordinary, the every day; even the busy day into blessing ….

This week we awaken to the song of the Spirit:

bursting forth from the prophet Isaiah – a powerful proclamation
of good news to the poor
and healing to the heartbroken;
of freedom to the captive
and pardon to all prisoners;
of comfort to those in mourning
and favour to the least …

… the exaltation of a young virgin’s troubled heart set free to glorify the Lord and rejoice in God, her Saviour, for showing such care to a humble, simple servant and making her the most fortunate woman on earth …

inspiring the apostle Paul to write during times of imprisonment and persecution to be joyful and give thanks in all that happens …

truth-telling through John the Baptist concerning the Light that was coming into the world so that all could be clean, new, free.

The song of the Spirit:
… an overture of love thrummed by the morning’s sunrise,
accompanied by mountain-creaks and river gurgles,
the cheeky chirps of the blackbird in the garden,
the wind’s playful passage through the trees …

… an invitation to discern through
the cacophony of car horns, the press of people, the agenda of tasks, the juggling of roles

crotchets of compassion,
minims of mercy,
breath marks and breaks,
caesura (in which time is not counted),
accents of grace …

… an ancient melody full of promise and  of longing, which is finding fulfilment even in this present moment.

Read again the words of Isaiah (61:10):

“The Lord makes me very happy;
all that I am rejoices in my God.
He has covered me with clothes of salvation
and wrapped me with a coat of goodness,
like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding,
like a bride dressed in jewels.”

Sit for some time in silence, becoming aware of the Spirit with and within in ….

Then, when you are ready, write your own song of praise beginning with the words, “The Lord makes me very happy; all that I am rejoices in God. He has ….”

From Advent to Epiphany

For many, Christmas has – at best – a tenuous connection to the Christ child.

Some Christians refuse to celebrate the season because of the pagan practices that have influenced it and/or its historical inaccuracy. Others really struggle with how to keep the season centred around the coming of Immanuel in the midst of our frenetic, consumer-driver world in which the perfect present is more important than our simple presence.

Yet I am amazed each year at how, in spite of declining membership in most parts of the world, churches fill up on Christmas Day with people for whom hearing the remarkable story of God entering into our life in the vulnerable form of a baby boy is an essential part of their family tradition.

It’s a special time; a moving story about the unimaginable love that God has for the world finding expression in the the fragile relationship between a young virgin and a carpenter who are far away from the support and shelter of home in the days before a miracle is birthed – all under the threat of a jealous king who will do anything to solidify his power.

It’s a story best understood in the context of those dangerous times, and within the seasons of Advent and Epiphany in which we express our commitment as Christians to watch and to wait for the Coming King in the midst of our own struggles and difficulties.

When the mountains tremble is a contemplative journey through this season which seeks to open our eyes to the power and presence of God – not in spite of the trouble and the tumult all around us, but in the very midst of it.

Based on the daily readings from the Revised Common Lectionary which we often shy away from (who doesn’t prefer stories of bemused shepherds and worshipping angels to warnings of judgement and destruction?), each day offers the invitation to remember where we’ve come from, give voice to how we’re really feeling, wrestle with some of the deep questions we may not often ask, and wonder with God about where we’re headed.

Some weeks – the first in particular – are more cognitive; while others are more experiential. Some are structured around becoming still; others around getting moving in a particular way. Some of the meditations may feel incomplete and will be returned to in a new way a little further on in the journey, while those left open may be the beginning of a new journey of wonder for you entirely.

It would be helpful to keep a journal over this time; not so much to record the answer to every question you may encounter in the readings (which is not at all necessary), but to jot down a summary of each day’s experience or a particular line or verse that stood out for you, to write out a prayer response to God, to return to your own questions and wonderings as the old year makes way for the new.

If you have subscribed to this blog, you will receive notification of each day’s post beginning on Sunday, the 3rd of December 2017, and concluding on Saturday, the 6th of January 2018. If not, you can do so on the home page or visit as you’re able.

May the One for Whom we Wait
bring us rest and restoration
in what is so often a worn and wearying season
and open our eyes to the signs of His-Her Presence with us,
always and in all things.

Yours, in Christ,
Yvonne

 

“I am with you”

But the Lord says, ‘Zerubbabel, be brave. Also, Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, be brave. And all you people who live in the land, be brave,’ says the Lord. ‘Work, because I am with you,’ says the Lord All-Powerful.
Haggai 2:4

Without God at the centre of our lives, we are merely going through the motions of being alive: nothing is good enough; nothing truly satisfies; nothing is of lasting significance.

Yet it seems to fly in the face of human reason and instinct to stop scratching for survival in order to first establish God’s place and trust that all else will unfold in place. There seems to be within us some unspoken yet commonly-held belief that we must work, and then God will reward and bless us; yet in springing into self-centred, self-determined action we deprive ourselves of the blessing of God’s presence in every choice, in every action.

Can it be that we are keeping ourselves in places of drought and scarcity by not comprehending fully the wealth and extravagance of God’s simple promise: “I am with you?”

“I am with you,” links us to thousands of generations of people brought through wilderness and barrenness, exile and slavery through God’s presence and activity so that we can know with certainty what God makes possible.

“I am with you,” gives us the courage to face all that the day may bring – despite our fears and hesitation – in the knowledge that when we are weak, God is strong.

“I am with you,” harnesses all of the power and creativity of God in our work, connecting us with vision and energy and purpose.

“I am with you,” invites us to a present experience of the future promise of the full glory of God’s reign and peace: heaven on earth, here and now.

May you know this day, the immense blessing of the Lord All-Powerful, the God of Angel Armies, with YOU.