Sharing sacred space

A few years ago, I started one of my sermons with the words “prayer is simply coming before God as you are.” Then I kicked off my shoes … and savoured the feeling of new-found freedom:
~ in my preaching,
~ in my prayer life,
~ in my innermost being.

These days, most of my prayer time is spent in the sacred space of my study which is full of family photos, little love tokens that my children have crafted and collected for Mothers’ Days and birthdays, journals and art supplies, flowers from the garden and lights from precious people, and Bible stories which change with the seasons and ground me in my continuing journey into the wide open spaces of God’s grace and glory.

This sacred space is truly a physical expression of my interior life – of all that I love and dream of and value – into which I can retreat for a little silence and solitude ….

Lately, however, there has been a constant stream of “intruders:”
~ from “Little cat” who plants his not-so-little bottom on my wheel of the year and stares out into the garden before coming to rub his nose against mine,
~ to big galumphing Mumford who “sneaks in” with his eyes averted and lies down peacefully at my feet, snoring contentedly,
~ to our rather hyperactive Rory who lies against me on the soft carpet, tongue out, feet up in the air, forepaws touching together as if imitating a posture of prayer,
~ to Big and Little who first peek in to see what I’m up to and, on being invited in, put their heads on my prayer cushion and talk with me in hushed voices about the deeper things that don’t often get discussed amidst the noise and nonsense of the dinner table and – if I’m very lucky – give me a decent cuddle before getting back to the “business” of the day ….

Yet, rather than interrupting my prayer life, this sacred time has become even more precious to me with the realisation that it’s not just mine. The light and the calm and the love in this little space has made others feel welcome. And when they enter in, they are different. And when they’re with me, they’re part of the prayer. And when we leave, we carry the love and the peace and the joy of the Lord with and within us.

O God-who-bids-us-welcome,
You meet us at the door,
show us to the circle,
sit beside us on the floor.

The candles dim around us
in the glory of your smile
as You weave for us a story

and we wonder for a while

at how tenderly You love us
and hold our hope, our pain, our care,
as we gather in Your presence
in the sacred space of prayer.  




Day Nine: Expand Your Borders

Psalm 27
Isaiah 26:7-15
Acts 2:37-42

I love the opening verse to Psalm 27 from The Message:

Light, space, zest—
that’s God!
So, with him on my side I’m fearless,
afraid of no one and nothing.

Light,
space,
zest …
… that’s what life with God is all about.

Would you use those three words to describe your sense of life as it is at the moment – especially with the holiday season so nearly upon us?

Or can you relate more to the image of vandal hordes riding down upon you; devouring your energy, your time, your money, your peace of mind?

Perhaps you are particularly conscious at the moment of the bullies and toughs putting pressure upon you in subtle and not so subtle ways to conform to their plans or desires or schedules at this busy time of year at the expense of your own heart’s longing.

Maybe the words “enemy” or “wicked” bring to mind a distinct face despite your best attempts to love your neighbour as yourself.

Quite possibly the Psalmist’s reference to parental abandonment might trigger feelings of loneliness or neglect quite contrary to the proclaimed love and peace of the Christmas period.

Light,
space,
zest,
a level road to walk on,
a smooth path at our feet …

… this may not look at all like the life that you are living but it is the life that God longs for for you:

a peaceful and whole life where we can linger unhurried in God’s presence and find certainty and security far from the noise of the world and the buzz of the traffic and the clamour of our “it’s-never-enough-you’re-never-enough” culture …

… where who God is and what God’s done are all we ever want; and the rest of it – well, the rest of it unfolds and falls into place as we seek to live with a deep and abiding sense of the sufficiency of God’s presence to see us through all things.

As the prophet Isaiah (in chapter 26:15) speaks of God’s glory in enlarging the nation, in expanding the borders of the land, he offers a prophetic vision not only of the love of God breaking through the geographical and cultural boundaries of the nation of Israel but of Christ coming in order that you and I might have life to its fullest ….

Light, space, zest,
a living that is larger than our current experience of life ….

And it all begins by replying to that whisper in our hearts, “seek God!” with the whole-hearted response, “I’m seeking him right now!” (Psalm 27:8).

Those in the early church deliberately allowed God to enlarge their life experience by devoting themselves to times of teaching, fellowship, meal-sharing and prayer (Acts 2:42).

They reveal an intentionality about seeking God from which we can learn if we truly long for a life full of light, of space, of zest.

Begin to think about moments in this season and the year ahead in which you can express your longing for God.

You may want to protect some space by putting into your year plan and diary times that you will intentionally seek God’s presence and linger in God’s light.

From the wilderness to wide places

The focus this Sunday within the Season of Creation series is on the wilderness: those barren, uninhabited, often dry, and inhospitable areas; areas which scientists tell us are actually expanding due to human activity and the burden that the every-increasing human population is putting upon the Earth’s resources.

The Earth is becoming a dry place in which to live – both physically, and also spiritually.  Just as the soil is losing its moisture and, subsequently, its diverse and protective vegetation, so too are many of us losing the nurturing and refreshing sense of God’s presence due to our increasingly hectic schedules.

Isn’t it ironic that the very desire for a better life, for the fulfillment of God’s promises of fullness and abundance, drives us at a frenetic pace into a place of scarcity and exhaustion – a place where we wonder at times how we are even going to survive the next few days, let alone the next couple of years?

It is here, in the wilderness, that the lament of the prophet Joel makes sense to us:

The fields are ruined, the ground is dried up; the grain is destroyed, the new wine is dried up, the oil fails.  Despair, you farmers, wail you vine growers; grieve for the wheat and the barley, because the harvest of the field is destroyed.  The vine is dried up and the fig tree is withered; the pomegranate, the palm and the apple tree – all the trees of the field are dried up.  Surely the joy of mankind is withered away (Joel 1:10-12).

Yet, it is when we feel this way; when we have reached the point of realising that our own energy and effort is insufficient for securing our happiness, that our reserves have dried up and our joy in living has slipped away, that we can truly be open to the whispered invitation of God:

I’ll lead you to a spacious place; I’ll rescue you because I delight in you. (Psalm 18:9, paraphrased).

The wilderness is not something that exists out there, outside of us.  It is what we create within us when we let the pressure to perform and the desire to succeed erode away at precious time, important priorities, and the truth that God is always present with us.

The invitation this week is to allow God to call you from the wilderness into a wide place where you are open and attentive to God’s grace and tender care.  As you walk with God in the wideness may your joy be awakened, your strength restored, and your spirit refreshed.