Archives for category: Uncategorized

As we consider a world in which the post WWII consensus is collapsing through age and inability to engage with the fruit of globalisation, we will do well to consider how nature abhors a vacuum.

Many in the church, especially Protestatnt Reformed and Roman Catholic, have a tendency to lean in the direction of conservatism, yearning for the stability of the past ahead of embracing the challenge transition offers with its many uncertainties.

If ever there was a destabilisation of the political, social and economic order it was through the incarnation of Jesus and the words he spoke. Often summarised as speaking truth to power, we sadly shrink away from the most obvious consequences of living and speaking in such a way. For Jesus it meant his destruction by the establishment and so the price tag has been set.

Maybe, the failure even of the Confessing Church in Germany to live by the woirds of Jesus in the turbulent years following the election of Hitler, often concerned more with internal conflict and disagreement than the main game played out across the world at the cost of thousands of innocent victims. Read, reflect as I am myself and consider how it is you live, in your innermost thoughts as much as by your public declarations.

“The role of the Christian churches in Germany from 1933 to 1945 raises many troubling questions about the perceived lack of action on moral issues. Many people wonder if Nazi atrocities might have been reduced or prevented if the Churches had done more to protest what was going on. This essay will look at the role of the Confessing Church during the Nazi regime to see what role it played. By studying the events of this time period that involved the Confessing Church, it can be shown that the Confessing Church did resist the Nazi government efforts to subvert it and, by preserving the truth of Christianity, prevented the total apostasy of the German Evangelical Church….”.

Farewell to Shadowlands

(This essay was written for History 285.6, University of Saskatchewan, 8 April 1999)

The role of the Christian churches in Germany from 1933 to 1945 raises many troubling questions about the perceived lack of action on moral issues.  Many people wonder if Nazi atrocities might have been reduced or prevented if the Churches had done more to protest what was going on.  This essay will look at the role of the Confessing Church during the Nazi regime to see what role it played.  By studying the events of this time period that involved the Confessing Church, it can be shown that the Confessing Church did resist the Nazi government efforts to subvert it and, by preserving the truth of Christianity, prevented the total apostasy of the German Evangelical Church.

The history of the structure of the German Christian churches goes back to the sixteenth century.  After the Peace of Westphalia…

View original post 6,081 more words

Advertisements

cloud_unknowingWe had a wonderful retreat day  in pursuit of the Cloud of unknowing.

A journey of exploring those attachments that might unnecessarily tether us and leave us earthbound even as our Spirit within yearns to discover and explore more of the life of God. Attachments that are both positive, yet run  the danger of obscuring God, and also negative in that they deceive us and delay our movement deeper into God’s heart of grace and full acceptance.

We faced the questions that for so long had remained unexpressed, carried as a burden weighing us down, invisible to all but ourself and God. And then took time in silence to consider such attachments and found creative ways to respond to the degree we felt able to on the day, whilst carrying the insights away to continue our meditation in the days to come.

We each sensed a sobering sense of God’s immanence and, whilst we dared to face ourselves in the questions God presented, we equally experienced an increased sense of God’s acceptance and peace in that God accepted us questions and all.

As ever such a privilege to journey with others as we waited and watched before learning to walk with less of a limp.

Keep in touch, we are a community that offers hope and sustenance to one another in the Way.

St Cuthbert’s is first and foremost a prayer house. We pray the rhythm of morning and evening prayer. We meditate with Lectio Divina. We contemplate with breath prayer and centring prayer. Indeed we also train people in the ways of prayer, meditation and contemplation. This latter through day retreats, longer journey’s of personal reflection and teaching points.

We receive many requests for prayer by email, letter and over the phone. Our pledge to hold someone in prayer for five consecutive days after which we pray as and when they come to mind. Today Premier phoned as a reader of Voice of Hope wanted to chat about a situation. I phoned back and spoke with Pauline, whose daughter, Sarah, has an MRI scan on Wednesday this week as the neurologists think she has Multiple Sclerosis. Pauline wanted to chat because of my own journey accompanying Katey through her battle with MS.

What comfort might I bring? It is a frightening consideration, and as with Katey whose mother also had MS, but of the remitting/relapsing type and lived a long life, so Pauline’s mother had also had MS. Whilst I don’t think it is officially listed as genetic, it does appear to run in families.Pray-Together

Listening to Pauline, her fears, her pain, her despair all stirred again within me. I empathised with her situation, more difficult as she suffered from fibromyalgia, constant pain throughout the body as well as severe fatigue. I sought to encourage and support her, whilst affirming as good her very human reactions. God knows us as God made us. We can never disappoint God – he knows us through and through. I also explained the journey ahead remains as yet unknown, so it is best not to imagine the future, especially ahead of any final diagnosis. We are to travel by faith, even as the very reality of our pain and despair ground us and suck all hope from our heart.

This is a journey we must make as community. Sadly too few churches it appears are capable of walking at the pace of their slowest, so keen are they to run ahead toward imagined future possibilities. God invites us to live well with what we have together, not to constantly be scanning the horizon for what lies ahead. Pauline, like so many in her situation, has a shrinking fellowship circle, unable to make church meetings that often and therefore increasingly isolated.

So in a spare moment pause and pray for Pauline and Sarah, together with Sarah’s husband Jeff. Also consider how many of the wounded are in your fellowship circle or have you, as I so often have, left them in your wake as you pursue God in the future at the expense of the Christ in your present?

candles

Royal Foundation St Katherine's. Founded by Qieen Matilda 1147

Royal Foundation St Katherine’s. Founded by Queen Matilda 1147

Yesterday I led through our London Retreat at the beautiful and peaceful Royal Foundation of St Katherine’s (RFSK). A mixed and diverse group saddled up their camels and journeyed with the Magi to Bethlehem in search of a revelation of Christ.

Having taken time to still and centre ourselves through a prayer exercise, our journey was divided into three parts. Initially we wrestled with the Magi as they considered their inner sense of call to pursue a star. Not any star but an unknown star that they interpreted as a portent of God’s presence and invitation. The wrestling was over the issues of attachment that so often thwart our inner desire to pursue Jesus. A price to pay when choosing to step away and letting go in the hope that just maybe their, and our, deepest hopes of a King above all Kings might exist and now be manifest in the earth.

We took time alone to consider what the nature of such attachments might be for the Magi and then risked all by inviting God to reveal to us those things we are attached to that only root us in a space that God is moving on from and inviting us to follow him. To take hold of more of God, we always have to let go of more of ourself, our preferences, all those aspects that give the greatest apparent security to our life.

Saddled and on the move we entered the desert. If the Magi journeyed from Babylon, with the average daily distance a camel map_magimakes of 25 miles, it would have taken them 20 days. However, an apocryphal Syriac text suggests that the Magi might have come from the Land of Shir in what is today N.E. Iran, a far greater distance. Desert (the word literally means abandonment) was a place of terror as well as a place of blessing. It was into the accursed wilderness the Scapegoat was despatched, yet it was within the desert that Israel discovered the provision of God in their wanderings. Desert is a place of discomfort and privation; a place where we are face up to who we really are; a space that is empty and expansive, where we are fully exposed, nowhere to hide, and where we need to find God. In that desert our resolve for God is fully tested. The desert always lies between the intention to discover God and the reality of a fresh revelation. We took a long time as individuals to sit within the desert and explore our greatest fear whilst considering how far we were willing to journey into the desert

Finally we emerged from that desert and with what reservations? This was a singularly challenging hour where we each sought deeper encounter with the Lord. We noted the desert is truly the Way of God.

In conclusion to our day, and recognising we did not journey alone but as a community, we sat together in small groups and explored the worship of the new born Christ by the Magi through Lectio Divina. We were reminded that scripture tells us that the Magi returned by a different path, and we left to explore the new path God had opened for us.

Slides and notes (PDF) are available from this retreat if you email the Oratory. The next retreat is on February 24 in Woking at St. Columba’s House, a short walk from the railway station and parking is available. On that retreat during Lent, we shall walk with Jesus in the wilderness and confront those things that tempt us most exploring God’s way of enabling us to deal with temptation and our darkest fears.

angelico_Magi

Collecting the laundry from the washing machine, as I folded and put away the clothes I noticed a hole in recently purchased pyjamas. My immediate reaction was disappointment with these now torn pyjamas. I had chosen them and liked both the soft cotton, always primarily a kinaesthetic person, as well as the colour and pattern. I had also wondered at the time of purchase about spending money on actual pyjamas when for so long I’d just used old T Shirts and jogging bottoms. However, I had found these were too hot to sleep in.

The pyjamas worked a treat. Cool and comfortable, I enjoyed wearing them. However, I was surprised at my emotional response which lay somewhere between crestfallen and frustrated, on

Holy hole

Holy hole

discovering this hole. After all they remained perfectly fit for purpose. It reminded me again of how easily we become possessive of ridiculous things and also how we find it difficult to move away from finding some level of identity in what we wear. I know how I feel comfortable, yet also carry some internal imaging software that links my self esteem to how I perceive I look.

Before we moved last year, we recognised there was to be a lot of downsizing. The biggest challenge to me, one that preceded the decision to move by quite some years, was God’s request that I dispense with my library of near on 3000 books. Again the challenge came at the level of identity and security. I had an eclectic taste, yet felt I might address any subject since I had a richly resourced library to run to. It was about my security and my intellectual pride. I argued long and hard with God and it took about ten years to reduce that library to the 200 books that have travelled with me, all related to my work in Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Prayer. What’s more God reminded me of the grace I had so willingly accepted, a grace that was freely given, and so I was directed to give all these books away through charity shops.

One of my biggest challenges is learning to travel light on the earth with God. It has been a struggle to discover my identity is completely and solely realised in God. The projections I like to bring to the world are no more than extensions of a bruised ego, by which I seek acceptance through appearance and performance. Learning that I am always no more or less than a sinner loved by God, to quote the Ancients, is tough when in my head I may aspire to be so many other identities.

When visiting Sr Margaret, one of my Franciscan teacher’s in Spiritual Direction at the Franciscan International Study Centre, and recounting this story, she asked, ‘And did you find greater freedom once you’d managed to give your books away?’ I’d not considered that question, yet she was right. I was no longer bound by my intellectualism, a need to know stuff for its own sake, and relieved not to have walls of bookshelves staring down on me, many of which I had never read. There was also a far greater lightness in my spirit as I reduced my investment in things and the material hold the world exercised over me eased another notch. In fact I recognise I sit so much more lightly to things and finance than at any earlier stage in my life, and this is indeed a level of freedom and with it peacefulness that I’d craved and now have found in far greater measure.

So I was surprised at the level of my emotional response to my torn pyjamas. My first instinct to replace them was substituted by a commitment to use them as a meditative reminder of the truth that life is full when lived in the presence of the Divine, and not enhanced in any way by the material world of consumer goods that so easily entraps us. Also that I am myself holed and in need of grace to navigate each day I live in relationship with myself, whilst being generous in my acceptance of others.

Epiphany is the great reveal, that moment when Jesus is revealed as the light to the nations. Magi arrive at his manger and discover the God of Gods for whom they had been searching.

Dom Robert Hale

Dom Robert Hale

I love the Chronicle of Robert Hale, a Camaldolese monk. I am attracted to this contemplative expression of the Benedictine way even though I am by instinct a Franciscan. I have enjoyed his reflection this Epiphany. He speaks how the Magi had consistently to look up to the light in order to discover Jesus. He was not in the obvious place where one might seek a king, in this case Jerusalem. This was a city with a long tradition of honouring God yet latterly was compromised through Herod the Great, the Roman appointee as King of the Jews. Human appointments are never an appropriate replacement for a God appointee. The Magi, having consulted Herod, an indication of their station in life since they enjoyed access to so powerful a leader, were guided to Bethlehem, literally ‘House of Bread’. Here they discovered the true Bread of Life, source of perpetual nourishment.

Throughout their search they had to keep their eyes gazing heavenward, whilst negotiating the challenges of walking across a wilderness, a journey that probably took a minimum of twenty days given a camel’s pace of twenty five miles a day.

I am reminded that seeking Jesus requires that we keep our eyes focussed upon the light that is leading us, that we avoid distractions that promise much (such as Herod starsand his court) whilst expecting the discomfort arising from embarking on any journey where we’re required to leave the known and the comfortable in search of what we as yet do not know. Robert’s encouragement is for us all as he writes, “...today we need to muster up our Abrahamic faith and set out, not for the fortress cities of our own lives and time, but for our own Bethlehem, to be nourished by the Living Bread“.

So this is my reflection today, and I trust yours too, as we together set out into a fresh year. Opportunities and temptations there will be many yet I want to ensure I keep looking to the Light and discovering fresh nourishment from the Living Bread, revealed anew this Epiphany.

Everyone struggles with Prayer. We’re all invited to engage in ‘Daily Moments of Reflection’. Another way of saying this is that we choose to give a generous portion of our time to prayer and contemplation. It’s about deliberately wasting time with God for the fourfold purpose of,

* Developing our intimate friendship with Godencounter-with-God

* Acknowledging that throughout our daily life we seek to prioritise God and his Kingdom purpose

* Recognising our dependence upon God for our life and well being

* Encountering the presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit personally and together with others.

The majority of people when asked if they pray, will respond in the affirmative. Yet, for me, and for many, this positive response to a direct question was for many years merely the answer I felt was expected, rather than the reality, and I was a little ashamed at how impoverished my encounter with God was in practice. For many years I struggled with prayer. I found the process a challenge with my mind wandering and discovering I carried within myself a weight of expectation that had somehow taken root within me.

Consequently, I dragged myself to prayer reluctantly, prayed from a misplaced sense of duty and felt guilty when I didn’t pray.  The word ‘enough’ tormented, not least because enough is an imprecise measurement and a source for nothing greater than condemnation. And who amongst us would find much enthusiasm once we knew we stood condemned?

I remember in Youth for Christ (YFC), as I trained youth workers, I would ask, ‘what are the six most important things to impress upon a new believer?’ Invariably the first three were prayer, reading the bible and joining an active church. The next three reflected the individual’s theological preferences! Later in that same session, having moved on in the teaching, I asked what were the six most difficult aspects of the Christian life each person in the room experienced. No surprises it was usually prayer, bible reading and church attendance. It was not lost on any one of us that what we demanded of new converts was something we personally struggled with! Somewhat unkind and unrealistic.

My second observation in YFC was that I very quickly found ‘doing God’s work’ far more enjoyable than ‘seeking God’s face’ in prayer. I organised evangelistic concerts throughout the UK, ran school and campus missions, led summer camps etc. Many found faith in Christ, I loved the profile and sense of ‘getting God’s work done’ yet sadly stopped seriously seeking God as a consequence. I was too busy fulfilling my ministry and getting God’s work done! Eventually burnt out with exhaustion I was forced to take six months out. Six months in which to evaluate what went wrong! Cut off from the source of spiritual refreshment and renewal, I simply ran out of my own resource.

I was a natural communicator and organiser and drew upon my natural gifts to make projects happen. These projects gave the impression of God’s kingdom being established, yet they were mere projections of myself; what I imagined was God’s will and God’s way. Of course they were exciting and very tangible. So many people were able to participate in them and they appeared to reveal God’s hand at work in our world. These projects were not bad, and indeed many good things happened. However, I sustained them, and I was now drained and exhausted. I knew God, yet hadn’t fathomed how to engage and live out of the heavenly resources available to me. I did not know how to make my way into God’s presence. I had the theory yet lacked any meaningful practice. Practice that would require listening to the words of others, learning from their experience and working at establishing an effective life of prayer for myself. I didn’t particularly relish it; however, I knew I needed it. A journey started out of that period of exhaustion. A journey that was long in the making, and one that I shrank back from on numerous occasions.

barrenOf course a journey, as has often been said, begins with a single step. Mine was to step away from my insatiable appetite for platform, profile and personal affirmation. Whilst at the same time taking a step towards God, a step that carried me deeper into the wilderness. I had my own demons and temptations to face, identify and resist through the guidance of God’s spirit. So began what has been to date an eighteen year adventure, travelling deeper into the wilderness whilst simultaneously discovering God has personality and presence as my friend. The wilderness is a lonely place and often times it destabilises me as I observe so many worthy activities of which I am not a part. However, I choose to remain faithful to this road I am on, completely uncertain of where it might lead me.

 

I love this blog from ‘The Balanced Wife‘ on reflections from a passing year. Of all the activities we associate with entering a new Calendar year (for the Church year began with the arrival of Advent) the idea of a personal Examen is never high on any of our lists.

I hope this might provoke and inspire us to take some moments to review 2014 and capture the learning which may enable us to prove stronger and more whole in the year ahead. We owe such kindness to ourselves and those we shall meet in the months ahead.

Let us have your reflections here in the Oratory so we can pray with you.

19 lessons from 2014:

1. I’m way less in control of anything than I thought, and that’s a good thing.

2. My opinion of myself affects my life much more than other people’s opinions of me.

3. Time spent connecting with people is time best spent.

4. I can genuinely love people who think differently than I do.

5. Sometimes, friendship isn’t about my fulfillment and happiness.

6. Leave some dead air and long pauses in conversation. It gives people the extra beat they need to get the nerve to say what they’re really thinking, ask for help, or take some other act of relational courage. Or it’s just a little awkward, which never killed anyone, and you avoid being the friend who never shuts up.

7. There’s comfort in knowing how much you don’t know.

8. A regular decluttering isn’t good just for your closet, but your soul.

9. Perfume is the fastest way to feel put together and a little fancy.

10. If you do the best you can where you are with what you have, you don’t have to live under the pressure of comparison.

11. The work people see isn’t more valuable than the work only my husband or no one sees.

12. It’s fun to laugh with people, but it’s a sacred honor when they let you see them cry.

13. Mixed motives are human. Just because I know that I’m helping someone partly to help them and partly to feel better about myself doesn’t mean I shouldn’t help.

14. I don’t need to make something of myself. He has given me a place and begun a work in me that requires my faithfulness and work, but not my anxiety.

15. My mental health depends on exercise.

16. Instead of trying to prove that I’m worthy of respect and friendship and love, what if I set out to prove that He is?

17. I am not the root or solution to any of my friends’ problems.

18. Change is possible but it usually comes slower than we’d like and looks different than we thought.

19. God is more interested in our character than our comfort.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/d0e/50481011/files/2014/12/img_0100.jpg

David and Liza Cooke

Well we’ve made it through another year. There have been challenges and joys and also lots to reflect upon.

Christmas Party (2)Like many of you we’ve had the office party and the Diocese is now on leave for the celebration of Christmas. The office staff all gathered at the home of Rose, who really is the heart of CBR, and there we feasted on what she had prepared for us: plain and pilau rice, fried chicken, roasted potatoes, mixed vegetables and chapatti.

Tomorrow we will drive down to Nairobi to catch a series of flights which will take us to New Zealand to spend Christmas with our daughter Lucy and her husband Dino. David hasn’t seen them for almost three years and he’ll finally meet his grandson, JayJay, who will no doubt have changed out of all recognition since Liza last saw him!

So we won’t be updating the blog again until…

View original post 82 more words

The third and final stage in Meditation & Contemplation ensure that we regularly encounter God. We are invited to live the flow of encounter and embrace. Crafted by God’s love, each one of us is a unique expression of the Trinity’s love and life, itself a picture of the eternal God’s embrace. We take time each day in encountering God to engage with the One who sustains all life. In such encounters we seek to discover more of the truth and reality of God ourselves. We become refreshed and re-energised.

Such moments clarify our call and strengthen our resolve in following closely in the footsteps of Jesus. Embraced by The Lord, we return to incarnate, or ‘flesh out’ the reality of love’s embrace throughout the earth.

The only way God was able to communicate his love to humanity was through incarnation. Stepping from his eternal encounter and embrace within the Trinity, Jesus literally squeezed himself into a human body, and chose freely to live among us. At first hand women and men, old and young, poor and rich, encountered the very reality of God in person. Eventually executed for no greater crime than loving people, Jesus’ arms were stretched out upon a crude wooden gibbet in readiness to embrace a lost and broken humanity, including both you and me.

In like manner we are now invited and commissioned to return from that Divine embrace, our Meditation & Contemplation, and live out a life of love in serving others, emancipating those oppressed by circumstances beyond their immediate control, and through such acts of service extend God’s embrace to those living at the margins of our society, be they down the street or around the world.

Take time to encounter God often: prayer is itself active engagement for good in a fracturing world.

Please write your reflections to stcuthbertsoratory@gmail.com.

IMG_0379.JPG

%d bloggers like this: