I met Roy Gregory many years ago when we were both members of a group of spiritual directors in Soul Space at Greenbelt. He was the Pastor of Ashley Church in St Albans. We became good friends. He was responsible for setting up The Annunciation Trust web-site, and became our web master. It was his idea that led to he and I editing “The God you already know”. We’ve stayed in regular contact ever since.
The other day I received an email from him, which I’d like to share:
Dear Henry, I was reminded today what a friend wrote on our church notice board recently: “ I have been feeling a little stressed and grumpy as things are very busy at school but then I remembered a humorous prayer that you may be familiar with and it made me smile. My dad wrote it out by hand and kept it by his bedside and I now have it as a memory.”
With Roy’s permission, and that of his friend, I share that prayer:
SO FAR TODAY I’VE DONE ALRIGHT. I HAVEN’T GOSSIPED. I HAVEN’T LOST MY TEMPER. I HAVEN’T BEEN GREEDY, GRUMPY, NASTY, SELFISH OR OVERINDULGENT. I AM VERY THANKFUL FOR THAT. BUT IN A FEW MINUTES GOD I’M GOING TO HAVE TO GET OUT OF BED, AND FROM THEN ON I’M PROBABLY GOING TO NEED A LOT MORE HELP. AMEN ‘
lands on waiting earth
looks up to the fading glow
she pulls the curtains on
I recently came across a quotation of John Henry Newman, a Roman Catholic Cardinal, which I recognised as having truth in it. He wrote:
No revelation can be complete and systematic, [because of] the weakness of the human intellect; so far as it is not such, it is mysterious … The religious truth is neither light nor darkness, but both together; it is like the dim view of a country seen in the twilight, which forms half extricated from the darkness, with broken lines and isolated masses. Revelation, in this way of considering it, is not a revealed system, but consists of a number of detached and incomplete truths belonging to a vast system unrevealed.
I like his image of revelation as “the dim view of a country seen in the twilight……consisting of a number of detached & incomplete truths belonging to a vast system unrevealed” very much. We only see little bits of the bigger picture, yet they are enough to evoke trust, and to give us a sense of what we don’t see.
Yesterday morning was a busy one, and after lunch I was looking forward to relaxing in my shed with a pipe and the chance to finish a novel. But once my pipe was lit I had a change of heart: reading wasn’t right. I played some music and instead sat and mulled. It’s a favourite occupation of mine. It’s definitely not thinking, rather it’s allowing my mind to wander freely wherever it will, a sort of intuitive wandering. Sometimes nothing very much happens, often seemingly nothing at all. But yesterday to my surprise, I found myself mulling about my funeral service. I feel in good health, there’s no sense of urgency, but family members have been encouraging me for some time, to write something down as a guide for when it’s necessary. I’ve put it off, had no idea what to write, but yesterday unexpectedly, and quite out of the blue it became clear to me and a first draft was on the page in no time at all. I have no rational explanation for why it happened thus. The moment just seemed right, and the ideas flowed freely.
I’m going to wander well outside my areas of competence here, armed only with my curiosity and intuition. I’m going to do so because there are several areas of enquiry that have been engaging me, some of them for some time, and I’m beginning to wonder whether they might be connected.
Astrophysicists suggest that around 5% of the universe’s mass is made up of ‘baryonic matter’, matter we can touch with our hands & witness with our eyes & instruments; a little over 68% is presumed to be made of ‘dark energy’ an enigmatic force that seems to be accelerating the ongoing expansion of the cosmos; the remaining 27% is thought to be made up of ‘dark matter’, the particles of which wholly refuse to interact with baryonic matter, so we have no means of detecting it save through its perceived gravitational influence. It emits no light or energy, but is fundamental to everything in the universe, anchoring all structures together. Without it galaxies, planets, our earth and us humans would not exist, yet we know nothing about it. The particles thought most likely to be the constituent of dark matter traverse our livers, skulls and guts in their trillions each second. Its thought that they were created in sufficiently vast quantities in the seconds after the birth of the universe to account for the missing mass. Scientists reckon that to prove and decipher the existence of dark matter, would require us to acquire a whole new way of knowing everything.
As a counter to the turmoil depicted in my last piece, I have painted a view of Godrevy lighthouse and beach on a beautiful calm day. It is a very spacious beach, about three miles long, and the tide goes out a long way, revealing golden wet sands that reflect the sky and landscape. It all invites me to stop, and be…to ‘Breathe Peace’ in my body, mind and soul.
I use the Insight Timer app every day to support my own prayer practice and discipline. I highly recommend it. I have begun putting my own guided prayers on this platform to add a contemplative Christian presence. I’m chuffed to bits to learn that my Prayer for sleep is being featured on Insight Timer today. You can find it here.
After writing about finding the gift in Covid19, I unexpectedly found myself sensing that perhaps I should go on and share the opening section of my current pattern of ‘prayer in the morning’? But I felt reluctant to do so. It’s personal and I’m not sure if it’s appropriate to share something quite so personal. Its what has emerged for me having decided 18 months ago to explore my priestly ministry outside the constraints of the institutional church, and wanting to anchor that exploration in my own pattern of prayer in the morning. In doing so I’ve brought together resources that have spoken to me over the years. So it is very personal. I make no apology for that, but it does mean that it might not mean very much to anybody but me. I am certainly not offering it with the assumption that it’s something that others would feel comfortable using. On the other hand, I’ve learnt to trust these unexpected ideas that come to me, and so after a bit of mulling I’ve chosen to trust this latest one. I do so in the spirit of wanting to encourage others to explore what might be helpful for them their prayer in the morning, rather than assuming that there’s an ‘off the shelf option’ that will be a good fit. There might be, but there might not. If not, then maybe you, like me, already have much of what you need already: the wisdom and resources acquired so far on your journey. It’s a matter of putting them together into some sort of shape, and then using and refining it as you go. Trust that a pattern will emerge that will nourish and challenge you.
I wrote a short piece for the London Centre for Spiritual Direction‘s May newsletter. Then a few days later I was invited to give a reflection at a Holy Communion Service on Zoom. I used the original piece as a springboard to engage with the scripture. Here is the delivered product.
This time of plague is a desolation for many: loss of work, loss of income, loss of health, loss of life; traumatic, dangerous front-line work; and decimated support services. Those of us not so endangered still suffer desolation. There is overwhelming uncertainty: where will we be next year, or next week!? How are we to live now? What is God’s call now?