‘He makes me lie down in green pastures…’

I’m not sure whether this is just me, but I have began this week so weary, tired beyond that which sleep can remedy. Earlier in the week I picked up my camera and put on my wellies to walk, pray and meet God, in need of a refreshment which only comes from God. I felt I needed the extra encouragement of somehow seeing God.

God is so gracious and God allowed me to see that Divine, holy presence with me, with us….

‘Presented to Denton village by Edwin and Iris Cawley 2000’

…In the gift of a bench which so many sit on and gaze out to the beautiful view across the fields, alone or with others.

…Within the complexity of creativity, where spider’s webs house the refreshment of the early morning dew.

…Within the refreshing nourishment which God provides for all creatures.

…Peeking through the fog as rays of sun bringing warmth to the day.

…And in the colours of the changing, falling, leaves highlighted by the sun reminding me of the beauty to be found in endings as well as beginnings.

It was a truly wonderful walk with God, and has sustained me well since. I realised that I had not made time to walk with God for a number of months!

How about you? In the difficulties of our daily lives amidst a pandemic, when did you last walk with God? Or where have you encountered God over the last few days?

“He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul.”

Psalm 23

To Contemplate…SINCing with God

This morning I was at BBC Radio Leicester with Rupal Rajani taking a look at the papers for the day. It was a real joy to do this. Amongst the news we were talking around the topic of wellbeing, something we are all becoming more aware of in our lives. Rupal asked me what contemplative photography was, and asked for an example; it struck me that I haven’t blogged about that, despite it being the focus of so much of what I do write about! It is something that I just got on and did, and have come to take for granted. Yet, it is something which has such a positive impact on my wellbeing, and something of an oasis in what is so often a hectic state of being.

DSC_0068

It is a way of being in the world, or a way of noticing the world, which comes from a stance of stillness. The contemplative seeks to go deeper within themselves in order to see what is right in front of them – which they look at but rarely actually see.

DSC_0090

It is a practice which is like meditation, but I would call it meditative prayer, as I am seeking to draw closer to God; Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer. I begin by closing my eyes and focusing only on my breathing – I ask God that I might breathe in the breath of God, and I breathe out gratitude for this moment in time, firmly transfixed on exactly what I am doing right now. How often do we do that? How often are we only focused on one thing?

DSC_0097

For me the intention is always to see through God’s lens or, more specifically perhaps, see glimmers of God in the place where I find myself and in the people who are nearby. I seek to capture images of God as Divine Light, here with us now.

DSC_0079

It might be something about the way they are focused…

DSC_0052

Or that Divine Light shining through…

DSC_0024

It might be that my attention is taken by difference and diversity. Whatever I notice I trust that I have noticed that, from the attentive stance I began with, because God wants me to see something.

Within my curacy my ‘formal’ training largely takes place through supervision and the opportunity to notice. One of the most helpful questions my Training Incumbent asks, and I notice myself asking before her now, is ‘what do you notice?’ The answer should never be a single sentence, because if we are truly noticing, that will involve what we see (and I mean really see, rather than what we are looking at), what we hear, how we feel, how others around us react, what that says about how they feel and how that impacts on how we feel.

Where in society do we have this space to reflect though? Our heads are filled with so much noise as we race from one thing to the next, before getting home in time to fulfil all that people need us to there, going to sleep and getting up and continuing the loop the next day. An article in The Guardian this week reported on a study undertaken on European robins found that their behaviour was affected by human produced noise. The bird song, when interrupted, had missed information and caused the bird receiving the information to act more aggressively, or give up too easily. Both of those responses seem all too familiar to me when I feel under pressure.

Contemplative photography is a way of relieving that pressure one drop at a time, and also a way of preventing the pressure from building up again to the same degree. I use the method of:

  1. Still the heart
  2. Intentionally seeing through God’s lens
  3. Noticing how what I am seeing is making me feel and noticing anything that God is saying through that
  4. Contemplating or sitting with some of those ideas and feelings
  5. After ‘SINCing with God’ in this way, prayerfully returning into the world, slightly transformed by the experience

DSC_0012

Sometimes I end up taking a photograph of what I have seen, sometimes I use a photograph previously taken, sometimes there is no photograph, and that is the real rub of this – it is not about taking photographs, but receiving photographs (as Christine Valters Paintner writes about in Eyes of the Heart) as they are revealed by God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer – after all, it is God’s lens that I am seeking to look through!

 

Beholding!

I have begun a journey with a book titled Eyes of the Heart – this is an eight week journey into contemplative photography. This is something that I have almost instinctively found and begun to develop independently, but it is marvellous to read about how someone with a very similar heart to my own has made sense of using photography as a form of prayer.

This week focuses on beholding aspects of life. There were two main meditations to complete: the first to take 50 photographs of an item that you are familiar with and; secondly to limit yourself to one photograph a day which truly beholds a shimmer of God  in our world. It has been amazing to have such a focus on my contemplative prayer, and I chose to behold my pen.

After taking the first 20 or so photographs, I wondered how I was going to find 50 photographs to take of such a small object – I think it was shortly after this that the beholding really began. I started to think where and how I used my pen, and photographed it with those items as well. I also began to think about my relationship with my pen – I often feel that my writing is divinely inspired and I wanted to find a way to depict that divine meeting the material in some way. I began to play with shutter speeds and focus of lens, and it produced some pictures that I really felt brought that divine inspiration to light. Equally I thought about my own emotions when trying to write: sometimes there is flow, other times impatience, others still there can be a lack of inspiration.

By the time I had got to 50 photographs, it felt like I was just getting started! Here is a selection of the photos – 50 seemed a few too many. What do you see when you look at them? Is it just a photograph of a pen, or do you see more to it? Could you try this meditation with something which is important to you? Good luck if you do!

CSC_0082CSC_0076CSC_0087CSC_0088CSC_0107CSC_0033CSC_0115CSC_0069