to help you discover the God you already know

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Here am I

This past Lent I sensed that my life was at a turning point, so I set myself the task of wondering what straws in the wind might give me a sense of the way forward that God was pointing me to. There were a number of ideas that had energy in them, some I’ve had for some time, others were new, but when I reflected on them afterwards they seemed to hold together as a whole. If these things are true what else do I need to know?  All that remains is to grow in my trust of them.

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It started with the gift of some whittling knives, that I used to strip the bark from sticks, revealing something beautiful, which in turn connected me with ancestors who’d worked with wood, one 40,000 years ago. I made a holding cross for myself, and then many holding crosses that I gave away, before being led to create a prayer stick also for myself. It’s been an adventure of exploration, and maybe it still has ways to go?

One of my daughters gave me some whittling knives as a Christmas present. I was not sure what to do with them. People usually make carved wooden spoons, and even little wooden figures, but I was sure that that would be beyond my skill. I had been looking for a long time for some simple creative hobby that would involve using my hands, and that might have a contemplative dimension to it. I have tried several possibilities but nothing felt right. Maybe wood carving could be the answer? I didn’t know how but thought I’d explore the idea and see where it led.

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Clemency Burton-Hill

I quoted Clemency Burton-Hill from her excellent book ‘Another Year of Wonder’ in a recent post entitled ‘Year of Wonder’ [the title of her previous book]. In it I quoted some lovely words of hers for the beginning of the year. Both her books offer a piece of classical music, together with a short introduction, for every day of the year. For me they’ve become treasured spiritual resources. So much so that I have to quote her again. Recently she introduced a piece of music in the following way:

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Our Temptations

We are each called to incarnate some aspect[s] of God in our life, that is our calling, our vocation. It will be what brings us fully alive as a son or daughter of God.  Moreover whatever we incarnate of God, being ‘of God’, will be eternal.  It will be at least part of what of us exists beyond death.

Often we will be able to identify the moment when we recognised this vocation, knew what it is that we’re called to incarnate. Jesus had one such a moment at, or just after, His baptism by John in the river Jordan.

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Spiritual Conversations

I’ve been blessed with two very good spiritual directors over the years, but I struggled when the last one died. It was probably not a bad idea to have a break for a while, but finding a new one, someone who would encourage, stimulate and challenge me spiritually, proved depressingly difficult.  Then, one evening, sitting smoking my pipe in my shed I was listening to a podcast in which the American poet Mary Oliver was being interviewed. I was gripped, listening to Mary talk about her life & her poetry. ‘That’s what I’m looking for” I thought “I’m looking for spiritual conversations not a spiritual director.”

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In the Beginning

I’ve become a grateful fan of Clemency Burton-Hill and her book ‘Year of Wonder: Classical Music for Everyday’ ever since I bought a copy several years ago. In it she offers a piece of music for every day of the year, and a brief commentary that helps to open up the piece chosen. Linked with her playlist on Spotify, its been an important part of my daily prayer ever since, introducing me to music much of which was not familiar to me. God speaks powerfully through music.

Imagine then, my delight with the publication of a second volume this year ‘Another Year of Wonder’ which I eagerly acquired. Her choice for January 1st was a piece by J.S. Bach and in her commentary she writes:

“What a thing it is, [at the beginning of the year] to embark on an entire new journey around the sun. Simultaneously the most normal and predictable thing in the world, yet, if you really think about it, kind of a miracle”.  

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Christmas is coming

The culmination of Advent with the coming of Christmas calls us once again to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

John’s Gospel talks of Jesus existing with God from the beginning, before being incarnated as a human being, and of then returning to be with God after His death & resurrection.

This is the pattern not only for Jesus but for every human being. 

We each come from God and at our birth enter into this world carrying with us ‘memories ‘ of the Home whence we came.

We are each called, as Jesus was, to incarnate some aspect[s]of God into our world: it is our vocation, our calling. It’s almost certainly not something overtly religious, and it may be something you consider quite ordinary, but its what, deep down, you know you are meant to do and become, and it is what brings you fully alive.

There needs to be discernment to avoid the mis-use of our vocation. We will find ourselves tempted to do so as Jesus was.

Whatever we incarnate of God, being ‘of God’,must therefore transcend death. It is what we take back Home to God, as gift, when we die.

Its not enough simply to celebrate God’s incarnation in Jesus this Christmas. As Evelyn Underhill wrote “The Eternal Birth must take place in you.” The challenge is to be open to God incarnating Godself in our own lives, in whatever particular way we are called to.

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