In the second week of our photography challenge I was aiming to see the world through God’s lens – I often try this prayerfully, and get captivated by small details, rather than overly concerned with aspects which frustrate or dishearten me…my heart has been absolutely gladdened by the simple things this week!
The Examen Prayer is an ancient way of meditating on the day or week that is past, and nurturing an attitude of gratitude for the blessings that God has granted, as well as acknowledging those people or situations that weigh heavily on our hearts.
I invite you to find a comfortable place to sit, and move inwards with your breath. Ask God that you would feel that constant peaceful presence of God-with-us as you breathe in the Holy Spirit and breathe out anything causing you anxiety. Focus on your breaths for a few moments, and remain present in the sacredness or holiness of right ‘now’….
Move on to remember before God any moments which you feel grateful this week; an unexpected phone call from someone, a smile from a neighbour, a letter, someone’s gratitude to you after you had helped ease their burden in some way…even the stillness, calm, rest of this moment.
From this place of gratitude, replay before God your week, noticing those people or situations that weigh heavily on your heart. Pay particular attention to those, and hold them out in your hands before God in your minds eye. Allow yourself to ponder, ‘what is it about this person/situation which particularly concerns me?’ Again, in your minds eye, letting God know exactly what it is that concerns you, put the person/situation into God’s hands, watching as God tenderly holds them….
Go back over the week, asking that God draw your attention to those times or situations where you harbour a sense of regret or remorse for how you responded or handled things…ask for God’s forgiveness and mercy….
Finally, allow yourself to think over the coming week before God, pondering on what you expect to be coming up, or what you are worried about as it approaches. Trusting that God is always with you, ask for God’s guidance and peace in the coming week. Know that with God:
“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”Julian of Norwich
Finish your time of prayer with these or other familiar words:
May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen.
What better activity for a wet and dreary Saturday afternoon than to visit a Shinto Shrine? Having been in Tokyo for just a week, working through the jet lag for most of that, I was keen to get out and about.
Slightly surprisingly, we weren’t the only people who had this idea, and the weather was little distraction for most.
But why Meiji Jingū, why this day, why in the rain? Is this about belief, tradition, or something else? In the midst of the busyness of Tokyo life, whether or not Shinto traditions are followed, is there some sort of peace and calm to be found in such a place of pilgrimage?
What draws people to leave their Ema or prayer requests under the divine tree?
Is it really possible to claim that belief in God is on the decline, when people pilgrim from all walks of life, from all stances of belief, to remember those whom they love before the divine?
Could we be doing more to help those who are seeking the light?
Is it possible that such a divine light can be found in many places, if only we were more open to see? In the hands and feet, eyes and ears of one another?
For me, Godly encounters are not in churches, jinjas or temples; though the peaceful, holy presence can be so tangible. Rather, when the rain trickles down my face, and I am amongst something of God’s divine creation – then I feel most alive to the presence of the living God.
Over Epiphanytide there is a custom to bless the home with a prayer and chalking in the year and initials of the wise men who journeyed over a long distance to meet the Christ-child. This custom is about welcoming the Christ-child and the unknown visitor into your home.
Using the blessed chalk (I still have some if anyone local needs it), mark the lintel of your front door (or front porch step) as follows:
20 + C + M + B + 18 while saying:
The three Wise Men, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar followed the star of God’s Son who became human two thousand and eighteen years ago. May Christ bless our home and remain with us throughout the new year. Amen.
Then offer the following prayer:
Visit, O blessed Lord, this home with the gladness of your presence. Bless all who live or visit here with the gift of your love; and grant that we may manifest your love to each other and to all whose lives we touch. May we grow in grace and in the knowledge and love of you; guide, comfort, and strengthen us in peace, O Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.
“And let thy feet millenniums hence be set in midst of knowledge”
It seemed like a simple question, and yet I was frozen on the spot…how could I answer? It wasn’t the kind of enquiry which might result in a request of some sort, but rather an extension of “how are you?”
As I walked out into the city the next day, on my day off, I ways struck by this street art, which for me depicted the hands of God breaking through, drawing me to rest. Busyness is such a complex concept – but do we dare to not seek it?
Most of this week I have accompanied a parish retreat with the Community of Saint Mary the Virgin in Wantage. It is always a privilege to take time out of the busyness of life, but even more so when supporting others in that. It has been a wonderful opportunity to explore or embrace a focus which allows for concentration on finer details of God’s calling, where everyday parish life encourages a bigger picture approach.
Very often I have found that the destination is the journey itself, observing the intricacies of God’s character through the beauty of creation can only leave us in awe of God as creator, redeemer and sustainer. That awe leads us on.
As well as becoming more centred on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and focusing on the importance of the Eucharist as a spiritual meal through which we are transformed into the likeness of Christ, I began to experience the cross in a new way.
I was drawn to this particular cross which rested above the altar. Right at its heart was the world, the whole world, drawn in by one huge final sacrifice. Having also been afforded the luxury of reading Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality by Tim Stead, and putting some of that into practice, I began to notice the absolute comfort which came from this powerful symbol, which represented the sacrifice given for the whole of creation through the death of Christ on the cross – and it’s that simple! This is such good news…do we always present it in this way?
Try focusing on one small object or symbol that you feel drawn to – where does it take you?
The Little Ribbon Tin
As my eyes fixed on the little ribbon tin
Transfixed on the beautiful, paled pattern
I wondered who, before me, had it chosen
Whose fingerprints had been embellished
by the vibrant colours here once settled
on this worn, mesmerising, little ribbon tin.
How long ago had they walked the earth
What sort of person, was there any mirth
vibrance and creativity or more of a dearth
of all that we respect, admire and hold dear
How did they come to lose it, through fear
disregard or death perhaps…and thenceforth?
And what was the purpose of this beautiful
receptacle, before it became slightly dull
Did it always house ribbons, always so full
or was it sat empty? Money, buttons or tea?
Bills, cotton, sugar or another commodity
Something meaningful or insignificant, little…
Where and when did it originally come alive
Somewhere familiar or foreign, with a vibe
clearly oozing opportunity, vitality and life
A world far from our time and knowledge
Yet one which may say much about dredge
and call us to be content with what we have.
And these hands, have they been embellished
Or rather influenced, shaped and moulded?
Positively, gently…maybe abused, oppressed
With expectation; demands to be, say and do
Things fitting for a woman, to have and to hold
Still content to be contained and constrained?