ADVENT 2020: HOPING FOR BETTER DAYS

November 28, 2020 by

It is something of a surprise that Advent has newly arrived. Yet, I think we really need it this year, of all years. I am grateful that the readings for the First Sunday of Advent, are sombre in nature and not too overbearingly joyful. We certainly need hope in the face of this difficult, Covid-wrought year. We need a quiet, solid, courageous hope that will lead us step-by-step into the dawning of a light we long for so much. The Gospel from Mark 13:33-37 reminds us to “Stay awake!” I pray that we can stay alert as we look for signs of hope. I pray that we can bring hope to others this Advent.

Ordinary acts of kindness

November 5, 2020 by

There is a great service here in Liverpool called Bulky Bob. They will come to collect any unwanted bulky items from your house, strip them down and either repurpose or recycle them, then selling them at a very low price. As you can imagine, they get all sorts of junk to collect!

This morning two men called to pick up an old freezer that someone had dumped outside our back gate. The two men who arrived were great! They were simply doing their job, but their attitude made my day – cheerful, helpful, kind-hearted. These things are the stuff of life!

Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love.”

Gandalf the Grey in The Hobbit

The privilege of giving retreats

October 23, 2020 by

Here in Yogyakarta we are currently in the process of giving several days of guided prayer to a small group of people. It is such a huge honour to be asked to guide someone’s prayer. The grace of God is evident at all points and in all those taking part in any way. I am filled with gratitude at being able to take part in such an amazing ministry.

PRAYERS NEEDED FOR OUR FRAGMENTED WORLD

October 9, 2020 by

There is so much to pray for these days: Covid19 continues to threaten us in almost every part of the world; a number of major world powers stand against each other; many countries are torn apart by division and conflict and every single day countless millions of children, women and men know what it is to suffer. I am sure that we are all praying for people we know, perhaps there are many people we are praying for by name. As we pray for our world, for needs too many to name, let us do what we can to draw the fragments closer together

Not everything can be saved

September 15, 2020 by

For an optimist the idea that not everything will turn out fine is a challenging one. I am constantly looking for new ways round situations, trying to develop, include, grow, or save. I can’t help getting involved!

Recently I watched the David Attenborough documentary ‘Extinction – The facts’ it was not easy viewing, but is also a ‘must see’. It highlights the current global situation in which hundreds of thousands of species live on the knife edge of extinction. The scale of destruction and the enormous change of attitude and action needed at local, national and international levels is staggering, and clearly, not everything can be saved. However, there was something striking in the tone of this program – so much IS lost – so much WILL BE lost – but there is still HOPE. All is not lost.

Hope differs from optimism in this way. Optimism can be squashed by the harsh reality – what is there to be optimistic about? Hope, on the other hand, reminds us that there is time and that time is NOW, it reminds us that even the smallest person, the smallest and weakest community group, can make a difference. We need to see things differently.

Not everything can be saved. But much can.

FINDING GOD IN ‘ON-LINE’ MEETINGS

September 3, 2020 by

In the time since our lives have been dominated by COVID19 many of us have had to hold a great variety of meetings using social media. It never failed to amaze me at the way we were able to meet across thousands of miles thanks to the gift of the internet. I recently took part in a group in which some of the participants were at home, others were at work and several others were sitting in a cafe drinking coffee. The sharing was deep and heartfelt despite the unusual circumstances in which it took place. From time to time someone would pass through the scene moving from room to room or, in the case of the cafe, from table to table. I had a strong sense of the presence of God and was grateful that God could be found in so many different places.

Weeping with and praying for Beirut

August 6, 2020 by

We greeted the news of the terrible explosion in Beirut with shock and deep sadness. Lebanon is already stretched at full capacity in dealing with Covid-19 even as infections continue to rise. How tragic now to mourn almost one hundred and forty lives lost, perhaps more, and to deal with more than five thousand injured people. We weep for you and pray for you dear people of Beirut.

Speaking a new language in our Covid19 world

July 19, 2020 by

We are all getting used to the challenge of living the strange ‘new normal’ that is allowing us to plot a delicate chart between everyday life and Covid19. Our new way of interaction consists of things like face masks; hand sanitizer; social distance; work from home and a good deal less close interaction. I have found myself reflecting on how things have changed having recently crossed the globe in order to return to my community. How well ‘social distance’ expresses it – we have been forced to keep our distance, to be more formal in the way we relate to each other, to be masked and sterile. If we are not careful our new normal could turn into a new strangeness, or worse still, a mutual suspicion. This strikes me as extremely sad. I have discovered that there are ways to bridge this distance and that it is still possible to communicate a smile and a friendly demeanor. We just have to try a little harder and make more effort to communicate that we are still friendly and personable. I think it’s worth it for all of us, for the sake of healing and for the sake of the future.

Some thoughts on discernment – 1

July 1, 2020 by

I have recently been running a series of online workshops on discernment and thought I might share some of the thinking and concepts. If you are interested in joining this series follow the link to sign up: Online Discernment Workshop

What is Discernment?

It is hard to sum up in just a few paragraphs! There are many books written on the topic and many different perspectives. Within the church the word gets used in a variety of different ways. (We use the language of discernment to mean particular life choices; or sometimes people talk about being ‘in discernment’ as though it is about the process of formation for religious life or priesthood.)

What I am writing about is not that time of choosing a state of life (although that may be part of it), but rather something of the personal relationship between ourselves and God.

This personal relationship with God is a real relationship, and one which brings with it joy, delight, attraction, responsibility and choice as it deepens. This movement or Desire towards God is at the heart of discernment – we are talking about orienting our life towards God in a way that brings us a deep inner sense of connection and joy.

Any re-orientation of our life will involve decisions and choices – perhaps when we are looking at discernment it is important to see the centrality of everyday choices in shaping our lives. We make many choices every day – some we recognise as significant, others seem minor, but we never really know until much later which will prove to be significant – the time I leave the house to go for a walk might determine a chance meeting; the comment I make in a conversation might affect someone else’s decisions. Life is not made up solely of big decisions, but of many everyday occurrences in which God is present.

Entering more deeply into this relationship with God involves the choice to orient my life in such a way that I can respond more freely to God’s prompting. St Ignatius, at the start of the Spiritual Exercises proposes the Principle and Foundation; a recognition that every moment, every conversation, every experience is a gift and an opportunity for encountering God, and I am invited to respond.

The Principle and Foundation

The goal of our life is to live with God forever.

God, who loves us, gave us life.

Our own response of love allows God’s life to flow into us without limit.

All the things in this world are gifts of God, presented to us so that we can know God more easily and make a return of love more readily.

As a result, we appreciate and use all these gifts of God insofar as they help us develop as loving persons. But if any of these gifts become the centre of our lives, they displace God and so hinder our growth toward our goal.

In everyday life, then, we must hold ourselves in balance before all of these created gifts insofar as we have a choice and are not bound by some obligation.

We should not fix our desires on health or sickness, wealth or poverty, success or failure, a long life or a short one.

For everything has the potential of calling forth in us a deeper response to our life in God. Our only desire and our one choice should be this:

I want and I choose what better leads to God’s deepening his life in me.

George Floyd: We hear you, we are listening and we will learn

June 11, 2020 by

Along with countless others around the world I was shocked, distressed and outraged at the tragic death of George Floyd. Calls for justice and calls for change echo from person to person, from city to city, and from country to country. To say ‘Black lives matter’ is to understand that all lives matter and, at the same time, to acknowledge that some lives need protecting more than others. George Floyd’s life was cruelly taken too, too soon. His death has called us all to account and to stand on the side of those who suffer because of discrimination, racism and injustice.