The Annunciation Trust

to help you discover the God you already know

Year: 2019 (page 1 of 6)

Distraction

A few years ago I was at a day conference with Silence in the City. It was a hot summer’s day. I was due to meet up with a couple of people later. Towards the end of the talk, both people sent texts begging off because of the heat. I was irritated. I do not understand being unable to cope with the heat. Just deal with it!

I had a discomfiting revelation the next day. I was at a meeting in a church in the City. There was so much noise: the interminable roar of traffic and the beeping of reversing trucks; the wearing whir of air-conditioning; the repetitious patronising announcements on public transport. I struggle with noise. I get steamed up. I just want some silence!

Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence …

TS Eliot, Ash Wednesday V

Noise is my kryptonite. The ‘discomfiting’ revelation was an equation: my response to noise is like their response to heat, and if I can’t cope with noise I must allow them not to cope with heat. I could show a little kindness. We each have our bêtes noires.


I stayed at Montserrat in Spain for three nights at the end of September. The landscape is beautiful and impressive. The monastery and basilica are beautiful and impressive too, but they are a production. A steady stream of coaches brings tourists. I went to the basilica several times during my visit. It was impossible to find a quiet place to pray. There was an incessant flow of people making a noise, milling around, chatting, taking selfies, ordering each other about, and squeezing past where I was sitting. I could not settle to prayer. I grew irate.

And then, by grace, I realised I had a choice: I could indulge the fury or I could pray. I chose to pray. I chose to see this as an opportunity to practise being centred, focused, present, and attentive in the midst of continual disturbance. I chose presence over anger. A non-distracted, non-anxious, centre grew in my chest.

[For more about choosing presence over anger, read this.]

An image of a boulder in a fast-flowing river came (by grace) to me. The river is rushing along and making a lot of noise about it. It is exciting and attention-seeking. The boulder is unperturbed. The river has to find a way around.

[Read this to learn how to practise being like the boulder, intent of being, while everything around it is calling for attention.]


We are assaulted by claims on attention: distraction is the means and the end of consumerism. Moreover, I choose distraction over what is most important to me. I tend towards the quick and easy entertainments and tasks that give a short-term lift, rather than more satisfying undertakings requiring greater effort and concentrated attention over a longer time. I want to choose what to attend to, or I fear I will never do anything properly and never really live.

[For help choosing what to do next, read this.]

[Syndicated from thisbody.info.]

Preemptive strikes upon the Divine

Stop asking God for what you think you want.

What God is waiting for is not a right conclusion to a matter but for our suppleness in falling into His hands for Him to work in us.

Benedicta Ward, Discernment: A Rare Bird

When I ask people what they say to God, they often tell me they ask God to change their, or other people’s, attitudes, behaviours, and situations.

A manager asks God for more patience (with her difficult colleagues).A mother worries about her adult children’s standing with God and prays God will make them come back to church (which bores them stupid).
A man feels guilty that he feels angry towards his husband (who never helps out at home) and asks God to help him be kinder.
A vicar (who is harried by a demanding congregation) asks God to help her enjoy visiting the sick.
A city dweller (who is fed up with the frenetic lifestyle and noisy, dirty streets) asks God for help to find a place to live in Cornwall.
I’m feeling a lot of fear at the moment (more on this another time). I want God to stop me being afraid.

This is the pre-emptive strike. I make my request before giving God an opportunity to comment: “I know what is wrong. Please sort it out.” Not that I think I know what I need better than God does; rather, I fend off being vulnerable with God.

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A training day in Gloucester for spiritual directors

Where is God?
Where is God?

“Where is God in all this?”

I am running a training day tomorrow for spiritual directors entitled, “Where is God in all this?” It is being hosted by the Gloucestershire Ecumenical Community of Spiritual Directors (ECSD).

Here is the blurb:

“Where is God in all this?” is a question much-beloved of spiritual directors. However, if God is “in all things” then this question makes no sense. What is the purpose of this question? What are we really asking? What are better ways of addressing this? These questions get right to the heart of what spiritual direction is and what makes it different from other listening disciplines. This day will explore how we we might ask about God with those who come to talk with us.

The God we seek is here. As spiritual directors, our craft is to live this. On this day we will pray together, explore our notions of God, play with our craft, and seek courage to practise Presence.

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What shall we do?

This year I have started out trying to live all my waking moments in conscious listening to the inner voice, asking without ceasing, “What, Father, do you desire said? What, Father, do you desire done this minute?”
It is clear that this is what Jesus was doing all day every day. But it is not what his followers have been doing in very large numbers.

Frank Laubach, Letters by a Modern Mystic (p. 4)

What shall I do? What is the best thing to do? How shall I make best use of my time? These are perennial human questions.

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Feeling moved

I’m recently returned from a stimulating visit to Finland, where I met up with some old friends and made some new ones. Looking back on my days there I am aware of a number of moments that touched me deeply. I visited an art exhibition ‘Silent Beauty’ which I liked very much, and there was one painting in particular that stopped me in my tracks when I first saw it. I’ve learnt that when that happens I need to pay attention. So I stayed looking at the picture for some time, and then came back to it later. There were no postcards of it for sale, so, with permission, I took a photograph of it, and have been looking at it a lot since. My experience is that when something touches me in this way, God has something to say to me through it, and so its been with this picture. There were other moments in Finland that had a similar effect, they all happened unexpectedly, as is usually the case. I attended a St Thomas Mass on the Sunday, a Mass for Doubters, and was so moved on several occasions that I was close to tears. Since returning home I’ve been mulling on why that happened and what God might be saying to me. Experience has taught me that the obvious answer is not always the deepest one, and I keep mulling.

What is going on when this happens: this finding myself unexpectedly touched deeply? I reckon that its my soul, the divine spark within me, recognising something significant before my head and heart do, and alerting me to it. It takes time for the rest of me to catch up, and for my mulling gradually and often slowly, to reveal the wisdom that’s waiting. This inner divine spark is within everyone of us and we cannot put it out. We can ignore it but not extinguish it. If we nurture and trust it then then it will burst into flame and transform us. This is the God within each of us. The God Whom to some degree, we already know. And this God is regularly drawing our attention to whatever it is that we still need to learn and grow.

I had a wonderful and fascinating conversation with my friend David last night, during which I was sharing this thinking with him. We were talking about prayer, and I was suggesting that the process I was describing is in fact prayer. I reckon that prayer is whatever nourishes our relationship with God, and what I was describing certainly does that. On reflection it occurred to me that this is a lot more than that. It is one way that I pray, but if it is initiated by my soul, the God within me, then it is also God praying in me. God and I are joined in this process: we are praying together: prayer is a co-operative activity.

David went on to say that one of the ways that he prays is through playing the piano. He is able to express feelings through music that he would be hard put to express in words. Sometimes he isn’t playing what other people have composed but the music wells up from within him and he simple plays it. He played me a recording he’d made of one such piece of music, and I was very moved by it. I have come to know him quite well, and it sounded like his soul speaking, which of course, I now see, is God praying through him. He and God praying together through the music that flows through him. Amazing! What a gift.

And there’s more. When I’m moved my other peoples’ music, be it classical, jazz, or rock, then it’s my soul, the divine spark in me, being moved, by God having prayed in other people through their music. And the same is potentially true of all the arts, indeed its potentially true when all of us are being creative, however that might be expressed, which is why honouring our creativity, however modest we may think it, is so important. Its co-operating with the God within us, and together creating something beautiful.

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