Friday, 28 October 2022

This Brother of Yours — a new Hawk & Dove book

This summer I wrote two new books, beginning a second series of St Alcuins (Hawk & Dove) novels.

The first of the two is called This Brother of Yours, and has just come out. The second one, Brother Cyril's Book, we aim to have out in February. 

The new series is being published through Amazon's publishing programme, for our own little publishing imprint called Humilis Hastings, because I've made the choice to part company from traditional publishers and just publish my work simply and personally. I've linkified the pic for you, to the UK Amazon Kindle store. The paperback is here on Amazon UK and here on Amazon US.



This Brother of Yours is about pathways of healing, and is also a meditation of sorts on Jesus's story of the Prodigal Son. What is often overlooked in that story is that there are two brothers needing help, not just one. The brother who stayed faithfully at home needed to learn how to loosen up a little, as much as the prodigal needed to find his place in the family once again. It's a story about what it really means to be at home, to find your place, to belong.

In the new books I'm writing, I am trying to address some particular characteristics of the readers of my stories. Many of my readers are carers at home, or for other reasons seeking to explore ways to look after people and work on relationships. They come to St Alcuins to find encouragement, companionship and a light on the path. I hope these new books will add something helpful. 

Some of my readers are neuro-divergent, or have responses shaped by experience of trauma. For the readers, any level of threat or tension is unbearable. I've deepened my already existing practice of crafting stories is which the threat and tension and effectively non-existent — they are just gentle, a safe place to go.

And so many of us now find it difficult to get through a whole book; relating online has increasingly accustomed us to much shorter blocks of text. Books have come to seem more chewy and daunting that they used to. So I'm writing now in short, divided chapters that give you a book easy to pick up and put down. You can stop and start without losing the thread because there is no plot complexity; the stories are built around encounters and conversations that accumulate to create a narrative arc.

I hope you enjoy this style of writing, but I'm telling you about it partly to warn that if you enjoy nail-biting drama then these may not be the books for you!

Wednesday, 23 February 2022

To find me

Friends, I think it likely I shall not write here much any more.

If you want to correspond with me privately, leave your email address in a comment. No comment publishes automatically, and I receive email notification of all comments. So I can then delete your comment to protect your privacy online, but contact you via email.

It's a good idea to just say a little about who you are and why you want to be in touch — otherwise I might think you are a carpet salesman or someone scamming me for money or one of those men who want to tell me they are a general in the American army and I am very pretty. Obviously I'd just bin any such overtures without further investigation.

I am on Facebook too (Pen Wilcock), so you can stay in touch with me there. I usually have privacy settings that mean you can't send me a friend request unless you are already friends with one of my friends, but you can always message me on Facebook and let me know you want to be friends, and (unless I think you are a carpet salesman or "a general in the American army") we can take it from there. 

It helps me to have an idea who you are. At the moment I have changed my settings to let old friends from here find me there, and I've been getting friend requests from women whose pages have very little information — not even a face to their profile and no sign of much or any activity, and I feel a bit "hmm" about letting them in. If you message me and say "hi it's me, I came from your blog", that quiets down my uh-oh meter.

Blessed be. 

Sunday, 6 February 2022

Last thoughts from our Candlemas retreat

 Our actual last meeting was a Eucharist. We craft the liturgy specifically for the circle gathered on that occasion, so I think I won't share it here. 

But here are a few bits and pieces from our afternoon sharing today, and our closing Eucharist.


We had a poem that I can't put here for copyright reasons, but linked to it was this music, Délibes Flower Duet.


And this prayer by Grace Garner  


God of the wild wind and the unconquered sun,

We lift our voices to you in prayer and praise.

Blessed be your holy name in all the earth!

May your righteousness roll down like rain

And wash all the dirt away, leaving us fresh and clean,

Sparkling with your glory.

God of the good earth and the solid rock,

We plant our feet in faith and stand sure in your love.

You are the touchstone upon which we rely,

Certain of your justice and your faith which endures.

Standing on this holy ground, just as we are,

We receive your grace once again.

Through Jesus Christ, our Saviour and our friend, Amen.


This short thinkabout was part of our Eucharist.

Here's the text of it:

[I apologise for the sudden Great Awakening Light that illumines halfway through the video (!) 

It was an accident — but oddly, happens at the precise moment I was talking about leaving a light on in the porch. I contemplated re-recording, but my opportunities of uninterrupted quietness are very few, so I just left it. I hope you can work with it as it is.]


In the opening greeting of his first letter to Timothy, Paul describes himself as “an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Saviour and of Jesus Christ our hope.”


There’s also a passage in Hebrews 6 (v.19-20 NIV), that speaks about entering the Holy of Holies — the presence of God:

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.”


From these texts the concept of “certain hope” entered Christian thinking. 


It seems counter-intuitive — surely the whole thing about hope is that it isn’t certain, because it hasn’t happened yet. There’s an outcome we hope for, but it might not happen.


Certain hope, the basis for absolute trust, is how we express the rock-solid reliability of Jesus.


The Campfire Church, our small and informal faith community set up to offer encouragement during the Covid lockdown, has on the cover picture of its main page the words: 

“Certain hope in uncertain times — a light left on in the porch — church on the way.”


Because Jesus is our living hope, offering us a hope that is certain, part of our calling as his followers is to be a sign of hope for other people, help them keep hope live.


We are called to be a light left on in the porch to show the way home — a sign of hope that there even is somewhere to come home to, and that they have not been forgotten.


I encourage you to take a few minutes, at some point, to watch the very funny and affectionate video of the abbot of Plum Village’s Upper Hamlet, Brother Phap Huu, talking about the great Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh — it’s in among our Afternoon Activities, and I’ll make an extra post linking you to it at the end of our time together, as well.


He spent a while as Thich Nhat Hanh’s personal assistant. He calls him “Thay”, which means “teacher”, and he said the quality he most admired in Thay was that — no matter what happened — he steadily radiated the sense that everything was going to be okay.


Thich Nhat Hanh was Vietnamese and first came to prominence because of his peace activism during the Vietnam War.

He wrote this poem, called “For Warmth”:

I hold my face in my two hands.

No, I am not crying.

I hold my face in my two hands

to keep the loneliness warm—

two hands protecting,

two hands nourishing,

two hands preventing

my soul from leaving me

in anger.


So the sense that everything would be okay, that he radiated, was not rooted in external circumstances, but was rooted in faithful spiritual practice and discipline. He held his light steady, and so he became a source of hope and comfort and reassurance to others, no matter what was going on around him. In times of turbulence and uncertainty, they could look at Thay and feel that everything was going to be okay.


You see the same quality in Julian of Norwich, whose words “all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well” still find us and comfort us and lift us up. And Julian was an anchoress — the calling of an anchorite was to anchor the Light in and to the particular place where he or she lived.


It is, to my mind, one of the loveliest aspects of our calling as people of faith; to recall others to the certain hope that — no matter what happens around us or to us — everything is going to be okay.


It’s the light we leave on in the porch. The reminder of home.




At the end we had this blessing, and then this as our time together came to an end.






Thinkabout, discussion and midday prayer from Journey into Light, The Campfire Church Candlemas retreat on Facebook.

 #1 GATHERING




Lovely to see you. Welcome.


I wonder if you’ve spent the morning quietly at home, or if you went out to church in the neighbourhood where you live. I hope it’s been a good morning for you.



#2 READING — John 4.1-7


Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptising more disciples than John — although in fact it was not Jesus who baptised, but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee.

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”



#3 PRAYER (traditional Indian)


Lead us from the unreal to the Real.
Lead us from darkness to light.
Lead us from death to immortality.
Peace, peace, peace unto all.
May there be peace in celestial regions.
May there be peace on Earth.
May the waters be appeasing.
May herbs be wholesome,
and may trees and plants bring peace to all.
May all beneficent beings bring peace to us.
May thy Law propagate peace
all through the world.
May all things be a source of peace to us.
And may thy peace itself, bestow peace on all
and may that peace come to me also. 

Amen.



#4 A SONG from Plum Village buddhist monastery: “No Wait”



#5 THINKABOUT & DISCUSSION — 

LETTING YOUR LIGHT SHINE — Grace Garner on the practice of authenticity


#5 THINKABOUT — 

Grace Garner on LETTING YOUR LIGHT SHINE

(For the best results I recommend you to listen to the video rather than just read the text, unless it is unrealistic for you to do that on the device you’re using.)


Jesus said:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16.)

 

Being authentic takes courage; it’s risky, and it may hurt. Most people, most of the time, are performing a version of themselves that they think is socially acceptable and likeable. From childhood, we have accrued the learned behaviours that shape our public personas. Most (probably all) of us are used to biting back the feelings we have been taught are unwanted. Some of us seek to disguise weakness. We hide the things we are afraid will make us unlovable in the eyes of others. It may be to the good that we don’t cast about our judgements, our churlish remarks, and our ill-considered opinions! But, while we should consider others, hiding in a closet is suffocating. To reveal our authentic selves, to speak with candour and sincerity, to assert our boundaries with conviction, to acknowledge the root of our feelings and not take the feelings of others as a personal attack; these are all part of living authentically and allowing our light to shine.

 

In Walt Disney’s animated film of Beauty and the Beast, there is a moment in which Belle prepares to offer herself in place of her father to his unknown captor. Peering at the shadowy figure, she says, “Step into the light.” And the Beast does, allowing himself to be seen by a stranger for the first time in years, revealing to her his monstrous condition. This is the first step on the journey which ends with Belle’s love rescuing and redeeming the Beast, dismantling his selfishness and bringing him back to his princely form once again.

 

The Beast is a literal monster. In the fairy tale, it’s his monstrous personality given physical form by the fairy who curses him. And it’s true that we all have aspects to our nature that are unpleasant to others and may drive people away. Our opinions will not be palatable to some people. The way we behave or speak or dress may be distasteful to them. People may disapprove of your lifestyle, your sexuality, your religious beliefs, your choices and your boundaries. If they know who you really are, they might not want to be friends with you any more. This is the first pain and the first freedom of authenticity.

 

Among my circle of friends, it’s the ones who’ve experienced serious or long-term ill-treatment and abuse at the hands of others, who have decided they don’t have time any more to cater to other people’s mores. They would rather live authentically and only be friends with those who will accept them as they are. No longer jumping through hoops to perform for the preference of others frees up your time and energy to do things that matter to you. And it may drive away some people, but it will bring to you the people who are a better fit for you anyway.

 

We don’t ever have to stop striving for good, but we cannot love ourselves without accepting who we actually are, rather than who we wanted to be. Trying to pretend or to force ourselves to be something that someone else expects of us, in denial of our nature, is ultimately a form of self-hatred and self-rejection. I’m not saying we don’t need to make an effort to be good to others; rather, that extending grace to ourselves over the things we are ashamed of is a necessary step if we are ever to heal from these things, whether through accepting or changing them. A thing that is hidden is not gone. To repair something broken, we must bring it into the light.

 

When we cast light on what is really going on inside us, not only does it allow us to do the self-work necessary to our health, but it may be a gift to others in ways we did not anticipate.

 

I want to give you three examples from my own life.

 

First of all, I am an inveterate swearer, with a wide-ranging and eyebrow-raising vocabulary. I don’t think it’s a bad thing, but for years I avoided swearing on Facebook out of deference to those who feel differently. One day, I admitted to a Christian friend that I swear a lot. So does he, he told me. This led to conversations about his feelings of anger and impatience, things he’d done in the past and the shame he felt about them. We have both retained our respect for other people’s boundaries in regard to swearing, but feel better for knowing we’re not the only ones. The harder it is to reconcile our church lives and the rest of our lives, the further divorced our faith becomes from our daily practice. When Christianity drives people to work against their human nature to achieve a standard of perfection that reflects something they do not really feel, it is then failing to witness to Christ’s message of grace.

 

So I began to relax online and stop filtering so much of who I really am. People who don’t like it are able to get away from my Facebook posts if they wish. And I am sure I have friends who dislike and disapprove of the language I use; but I am no longer editing myself to fit their purview, for the sake of a difference of opinion, because I am not lesser than the people who judge me.

And now other Christians know they can let their guard down with me, and that they will be accepted and need not be ashamed of themselves. They will receive no merits or demerits on my account.

 

Secondly, I am a person who is hopelessly disorganised. In church and volunteering, I used to habitually say yes to things others asked of me that I thought I should be able to do. I ignored my struggles with time management and organisation, and how much of my time was already filled with things that didn’t take so much time for other people. I was also ignoring my undiagnosed neurodiversity and not allowing myself the grace to recognise my own disability. As a result, I would constantly let people down by failing to do what I’d agreed to.

 

Once I started admitting that I could not take things on, I stopped being given work that I couldn’t do. It is hard to say openly that you can’t do something, for reasons that people don’t really understand or accept. It sounds like won’t, not can’t! Not everyone will understand. But the result is that now, when I do say yes, it is to things that I can manage and am good at. This improves everybody’s lives far more than the constant failures did, while ensuring that the jobs that need doing get picked up by someone who is capable of more than an empty promise!

 

Thirdly, quite late in my life, I have started being more open about being bisexual. It is easy to hide behind straight-appearing privilege as a bisexual person in an opposite-sex marriage. Speaking up in a church context was scary, but lent strength to those who had had less choice, and perhaps opened some minds a little. But when one of my cousins posted online about her girlfriend, how scared she had been to tell her family, and how relieved she was when they were accepting, I realised that she didn’t know about me. Had I been more visible, her life would have been made easier. I began speaking up online, surprising myself with how scary it can still be. And when I did, the messages started coming in, from other queer women who were too scared to admit this fundamental aspect of themselves to the world; who had thought they were alone.

 

So, authenticity involves the courage to be seen, the courage to be vulnerable and the courage to set boundaries. It is a kindness to ourselves and to others, in fulfilment of the commandment to “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.” When we are willing to admit our mistakes and failings, and to forgive ourselves, it is a tacit extension of safety and compassion from ourselves to others.

 

Christianity is the story of not being alone with our condition. Jesus is the Emmanuel, God with us; the Word made flesh, to live alongside us and participate in our suffering.

 

Jesus is authentic. Seeing him, one cannot be deceived because there is nothing false about him. In the gospel stories, demons recognise him and run. Teachers of the Law try to catch him out but find that he always has an answer, derived not from clever studiousness but from authentic connection to God. In babyhood, Simeon and Anna recognise him as the one they have been waiting for; seeing him crucified, the Roman centurion declares him the son of God; Thomas, wracked with grief and doubt, recognises the risen Christ in the painful baring of wounds.

 

We are children of God, created by him, who have received the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. In accepting and loving ourselves, we attune ourselves more truly to the heart of God, and make ourselves available as witnesses to the Light. Not trying to be perfect, not hiding who we really are, but endeavouring to live authentically in accord with what God says to us and not by a legalistic, fundamentalist, spiritual BMI chart that tells us which people fall into the acceptable range and which do not.

 

In the story of Beauty and the Beast, the Beast allows himself to be seen after years of hiding away. As Beauty grows to love him, he also grows to love her. Setting her free, and accepting his lot without demanding anything of her, he allows her the choice of returning to him. And, in receiving her love, he realises that he is loveable. It is Beauty’s love that transforms the Beast, the figure that formerly hid in darkness; and when he transforms, it is in a blaze of light.



#6 — We draw our time to a conclusion with a prayer of Thomas Merton


My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.


I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.

And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.


I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.

And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,

though I may know nothing about it.


Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.


I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


Amen.


 


Sunday early morning prayer from The Campfire Church retreat on Facebook, 'Journey into Light'

 #1 GATHERING


Good morrow, friends! I hope you slept well. Wes Hal!



#2 PRAYER


In this day, beloved Lord Jesus, set me free.


From confusing paths where I can no long see a way out

Set me free

From old resentment and guilt and shame, the shadows of the past

Set me free

From habits I have struggled to break and failed, so many times

Set me free

From the clinging superstitions and prejudices of inadequate religion

Set me free

From fear that stops me taking risks

Set me free

From nostalgia and attachment to baggage weighing me down

Set me free

Above all

From the fear that you will let me go, the dread of losing you

Set me free

May I be as confident, optimistic, and full of laughter and generosity

As you intended me to be

From the beginning.


Amen






#3 SONG 

The Lord’s my Shepherd (Stuart Townend)



#4 PRAYER (by Grace Garner)


Bless your holy name, O God.

Bless the darkness, bless the light,

Bless our feet upon the road,

Bless our camp all through the night.

Bless the fire and bless the wind,

Bless the water and the stone.

Bless the people and the land,

Bless the country and the town,

Bless the foolish and the wise,

Bless the young ones and the old,

Bless the clay you made us from,

Bless the treasure that we hold.

Bless our circle here today,

Bless us, each and every one,

And blessed be you, the One in Three,

Mother, Holy Spirit, Son.

Amen.


God who makes the seed and blows it on the wind;

Who sends the rain and the sun to grow the tree,

Even in the shady valley and the mountaintop;

Send holy water through my roots to bring life into me.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen.


#5 PSALM


Cai Thomas sings Mozart's Laudate Dominum.

Saturday, 5 February 2022

Saturday Compline & cocoa (from The Campfire Church retreat Journey into Light)

 #1 GATHERING

Welcome, friends.

Please take your place in this community of love and prayer

as night falls and we close the day together

and travel into silence.


 

#2  PRAYER


God of all life

God of the darkness as of the light

God of the unseen world as well as the visible

You see in the darkness

You speak hope into our uncertainty

And strength into our vulnerability.

As the day ends and we make ready to go to bed

Under the gathered clouds and the stars

Under the moon sailing above us across the sky

Under the protection of your love and power

We entrust ourselves to you

We place everything into you hands.

God of Earth and Heaven,

We are yours.


Amen



#3 SONG


Giving it all to you — Geraldine Latty



#4 REFLECTIONS TO THINK ON

 

The British Isles were first evangelised by Columba’s monks from Iona.


They got a long way.


Where I live, in East Sussex, there were inaccessible and resistant pockets that Augustine of Canterbury’s missionary activities in the 6th century never managed to reach. There’s a saying in Sussex, “We won’t be druv,” and that applied to religious conversion as well as everything else. 


But the monks of Iona got through, which is why when King Offa gave a portion of land in East Sussex to the glory of God in perpetuity, the deeds reference Celtic, not Roman, Christianity.


One wise and gentle tactic of the Iona monks was to establish Christian practice alongside the Old Religion, rather than tossing out or discrediting the spiritual path the people had always trod, based on the round of the agricultural year and the seasons of the light.


So, for instance, they settled the feast of the Incarnation, the birth of the Infant Light of the World, just adjacent to Yul (which means “the turn”), at the deepest and darkest, coldest, most forlorn time of year. Into our darkness the living light is born, bringing us hope. Jesus wasn’t born in December, he was born around September — it’s not a birthday celebration. It’s the monks showing the people of the ancient Celtic world, by juxtaposition with their established ceremonies, the meaning of the Gospel.


And they didn’t rival or displace or push aside the ceremonies of the Celtic wheel of the year; they just placed the new stories and observances next to them, so people could see the similarities and understand the teaching.


The festival of Imbolc runs through from the evening of February 1st to the evening of February 2nd — because the Celtic day started at sunset — and the Christian feast of Candlemas is placed alongside it on February 2nd. 


Imbolc was one of the fire festivals, so the monks made Candlemas a time when, as the days were lengthening now and the light was getting stronger, everyone could bring a candle from home to the church for a festival of light. They made that connection between Jesus and light — the Gospel teaching that Jesus is the light of the world.


And Imbolc is also the time for cleaning your home, and the clear, lucid February light shows up all the dust and cobwebs; it’s time to sweep out the house. And it’s Brigid’s tide — protector of the home — when the celebrations, making use of water and milk, have specifically feminine connections. Like visiting the holy wells; the ancient Celts saw wells (springs, water sources) as the opening of the womb of the earth, like waters breaking when a child is born. The neck of the cervix is call the os, and there’s a place in Yorkshire called Osmotherly after the holy well there — the womb opening of Mother Earth.


So the Christian feast of Candlemas set alongside the festival of Imbolc was made a celebration of the purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary after childbirth — which would have been 40 days after Jesus was born.


It speaks of welcoming the growing and strengthening light, of purification and cleansing, of the ways of women and the home.  As we’ve heard from Grace, the word Imbolc may have its origins in the Irish word for “in the belly”, and refer to the time of quickening felt by the mother; some people suggest it comes from the word meaning “lamb’s milk”; and there is a suggestion that it’s linked to a time of ritual cleansing and purification. So it became the time to think of the stirring of spiritual light within us, or of Jesus the Lamb of God as a young child at the breast of his mother — or of the purification of mother Mary after the birth of her baby Jesus.


There is so much to think of here, capturing the holiness that we touch when we connect with the Earth and her seasons, with the ordinary rhythms of life and humanity, with the simple tasks of sweeping the house and washing ourselves ad feeding our children.


This, thought the ancient Celts and affirmed the monks of Iona, is where we find God — or where his Light finds us.



#5 PRAYER FOR THE WORLD


Watch now, dear Lord, 

with those who watch or weep tonight,

and give your angels charge over those who sleep. 

Tend your sick ones, O Lord Christ, 

rest your weary ones,

 bless your dying ones, 

soothe your suffering ones, 

have mercy on your afflicted ones, 

shield your joyous ones

 – and all for your love’s sake.



#6 CLOSING PRAYERS


O Trinity of love

You have been with us at the world’s beginning

Be with us till the world’s end

You have been with us at our life’s shaping

Be with us at our life’s end

You have been with us at the sun’s rising

Be with us at the day’s end.     (Iona)


God be in my head and in my understanding;

God be in my eyes and in my looking;

God be in my mouth and in my speaking;

God be in my heart and in my thinking;

God be at mine end, and at my departing.    (The Sarum Prayer)



 


Saturday late afternoon prayer (from The Campfire Church retreat Journey into Light)

 At our retreat gathering on Facebook, the heart of this meeting was a conversation sharing the thoughts from our individual and separate time through the afternoon, which I can't add into this post. You can put your thoughts in a comment if you'd like to.

Here are the prayers we shared.


SATURDAY EVENING PRAYER


#1 GATHERING


Welcome! How lovely to see you. 


One of my favourite things is watching people come in and take their place in the circle around the campfire — familiar faces and people who are new to me.



#2  REFLECTIONS ON THE AFTERNOON


How did your afternoon go? Did you get outside for a walk? Did you read something, or make something, or watch something? Did inspiration come to you? 


What happened today?



#3 READING


Jesus said

‘Come unto me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls – for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.’



#4 PRAYERS 


I am here in the name of Jesus Christ

A safe place to be.


The Lord is my light and my help

Whom then shall I fear?


The Lord is the strength of my life

Of whom then shall I be afraid?


Thou shalt keep them in perfect peace 

whose minds are stayed on thee.


My prayer rises in peace like the smoke of incense 

unto the presence of divine love.

as the earth keeps turning, turning through space,

and night falls and day breaks from land to land,

I think of people waking, sleeping, sleepless,

being born and dying, one world, one humanity:

and I bless this round world with God’s peace. 



#5 SONG


“You will be found”


Because sometimes the morning light finds your heart at midnight.


 





Saturday midday prayer and thinkabout (from The Campfire Church retreat Journey into Light)

 #1 GATHERING


Hello again, friends. 

It’s lovely to see you.

We’ll begin properly in 5 minutes, but how are you doing? Everything okay?


Remember to set your notifications for each Event to “All”, as it’ll help you keep up. If you “Like” each post as you see it, that will let me know how many people have caught up to where we are.

If you refresh your page every now and then, that can overcome the problem of posts getting stuck and failing to arrive on your page.



#2 A READING:


The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.  Then he said to them, “You must come away to a quiet place all by yourselves and rest awhile”; for there were so many people coming and going that they hardly had leisure even to eat.   So they went off in a boat to a quiet place where they could be by themselves.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                   (Mark 6.31-32)


#3 PRAYER


Thank you, God of all things strange and wonderful

for the internet that allows us to be together

and by ourselves

at the same time.

Thank you for the comfort and encouragement

of each other’s company.

Thank you for the quietness of solitude.

Help us to find, gratefully, time to breathe and be.

Help us to settle quietly into you company.

Help us to centre ourselves in you.



#4 SONG — “Jesus be the centre”



#5 THINKABOUT  

LETTING LIGHT IN (honesty and transparency in public and private life).


You’ll probably get the best out of the Thinkabout with the video, but in case that’s difficult for you, or you like to read as well as listen, I’ll give you the full text below.


 

I once took a funeral for a woman whose name was Lark. An exceptionally beautiful soul, she had been a devotee of Sai Baba and her life was conditioned by the spiritual principles she believed.


Sitting with her family as we talked through what would be appropriate for the ceremony of blessing upon her onward journey from this life, I listened to them describe how she had lived and who she was. One of her daughters said that, in making choices and deciding which way to go, Lark thought we should always look for the path the light shines on. I never forgot that, and it has stood me in good stead.


Light. What is it like? What is its nature, what are its properties?


Well, an obvious one is that you can see through it swell as seeing by it. Light isn’t thick or lumpy like porridge or bread, it’s like lemon juice or a precious gem. It’s transparent, and it illuminates and reveals.


What does that mean for the choices we make and the discipline we practice?


In our private lives, walking in the light means honesty and authenticity. Grace will be unpacking that for us tomorrow morning — what it might mean to be our authentic selves. 


Looking for the path the light shines on in our everyday lives also implies paying attention — living simply and quietly so we are not plagued by confusion and distraction, we are then free to bring our full attention to whatever needs our help or participation or contribution in the present moment. Then we will arrive with heart and mind prepared at the now reality of what life is asking of us today. Our calling requires us to refrain from entanglement and overcommitment, to give ourselves breathing room and space; otherwise we’ll find ourselves making mistakes and grabbing the first thing that comes to hand, choosing what is expedient instead of what will create hope and health for our body and soul (and other people’s too), or being carried along by the tide.


Not everything in our lives is purely personal and private, though. There is always a relational community dimension, which then widens out into the public sphere. We have a contribution to make, and this is a responsibility we  cannot evade.


How is it expressed?


It’s there in our personal relationships. In my own life, I’ve been a preacher and a writer and a pastor and a chaplain, but I’ve noticed that the people I have most influenced are those who have lived with me. I’ve seen our path drawn into accord and commonality. My second husband, Bernard, was very angry with the church when we got married; he thought religion was a power game. It is, of course, but there’s more to it than that, and during the brief time we were together before he died, he came to understand how the cross sits at the heart of creation, holding all things together, the starting point of the new and living way. He made his peace with Jesus, and in the last weeks and days of his life he was able to plug into the light and strength of Jesus. It sustained him and carried him home. That was better than dying angry and defeated.


In our personal relationships, it is wise to choose as friends those who enable others to shine — someone who radiates light, not someone who absorbs it for their own aggrandisement. Someone who lights up the room for everyone, not someone who insists on hogging the spotlight. Humility. Encouragement. Generosity. Responsibility. That’s what we’re looking for, the path the light shines on.


The light we shine is also expressed in our consumer choices, and in this time of urgent ecological threat, it’s important that we stand firm in accepting this responsibility. Living simply is critical here because we’re dealing with the minutiae — what shop we buy from, what food we pick, which fabrics we choose for our clothes, how we heat our homes, what transport we decide on; oh, my Lord, there is so much to consider, and all of it matters. Living simply gives us space to think it over and enquire.


Again, we look for the path the light shines on, pick out the thread the light shines on, and take that way. We take the trouble to ask questions, and we flow with the answers that remind us of the life of Jesus.


In the political sphere, as voters, we also have choices to make. Anyone who says politics has nothing to do with religion is talking through the back of their neck — politics is how we express our organisation as community, there is no more obvious way of loving our neighbour as ourselves.


Party politics is not so much the issue here as the presence of light. There are different methods and systems for running a country; some of them are better than others, but most of them are beneficial and effective in the right hands.


In our political affiliation, the thing to attract us should be not so much the traditions we trust because they’re familiar — voting the way Dad voted — as the life the light shines from and the path the light shines on. We should be looking for the soul, the life, that reminds us of Jesus. We should familiarise ourselves with the New Testament and look for a good match.


As political voters, we can look out for honesty and transparency in a politician’s life and conduct, look for consistency — do they practice what they advocate? We can look at how they treat others: light reveals and illumines, it doesn’t conceal or suppress.


If we see subterfuge and deceit, our vote should never be cast there. Nor should we cast our vote where we see greed or exceptionalism or hubris or frivolity. We are looking for the serious and sober life, for something that will bear the searching of light. “My burden is light,” said Jesus; and we are looking for the life that is carrying the light, like his.


There is also artificial light, and we have to be wary of that. There are the floodlights and footlights created by marketing and promotion — the sort you can buy with money to make a showman look good. We have a responsibility to note the use of that kind of illumination and set it to one side; it’s something people do, but it’s not what we’re looking for.


We are looking for the light that comes into the world to enlighten all humanity, the living light that shines from the way of Jesus and can shine as a lantern in our hearts, enabling both ourselves and our fellow travellers to see which way to go.


At this season of Candlemas when light strengthens and illumines the house,  finding every nook and cranny and showing up what’s there for what it really is, may you be rinsed and lit up, may you receive the light and glow, may you be blessed with clarity and insight, may you put your finger on truth, may you find the path the light shines on for you.




#6  REFLECTION


Remember the clear light,

The pure clear white light

From which everything in the universe comes,

To which everything in the universe returns;

The original nature of your own mind,

The natural state of the universe unmanifest.

Let go into the clear light, trust it, merge with it.

It is your own true nature, it is home.


~ The Tibetan Book of the Dead