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Divinely Edited

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn my relatively short writing career the key necessity of editing has been indelibly impressed on my mind. I find it’s so easy to get carried away in the euphoria of creating a new piece that I rush to publish long before it’s ready for public consumption, only to discover glaring mistakes, embarrassing omissions, or just plain clumsiness and insensitive wording. I witnessed this phenomenon, too frequently, in other aspiring writers during the period when I posted work to the ‘Triond’ website. To be brutally honest, I reckon my grandchildren could produce better pieces than much of the garbage I came across there !

Good writers painstakingly and drastically edit their work – often consuming more time in doing so, than in laying out their original ideas. They comb over a document/screen again & again, searching for improvement, for clarity, for that elusive phrase. This business of communication certainly requires discipline – a special attention to detail, accurate spelling, sound punctuation, finding that suitable word, correcting the propensity to verbal diarrhoea, and on …

A few years back I wrote a poem entitled, “The Poet”, attempting to capture this editorial element of writing:

Embryonic notion begets

passionate outpouring

as thoughts and emotions

tumble out in free-fall

rambling ‘cross mental screen

like spider’s silky thread.

~~~

So work begins

of engineering words to fit,

as firmly embedded nails

hammered into place.

Finely honed and

precisely fashioned parts.

~~~

Finding that exact nuance

and perfect imagery

turning over every phrase

experimenting with new style

pushing through tormenting pangs

of self-doubt and dissatisfaction

~~~

Pressing through Venetian-like

waterways of agony

be-numbing brain cells,

‘til birthing a living expression

with exultant exclamation:

“It’s a poem”

~~~

As Communicator Par-excellence, the Divine Spirit intends my life to be part of the rich tapestry of His communication, bearing witness to His creative and redemptive genius – a tapestry which includes natural creation, human history (particularly that of the Jewish people), Holy Scriptures (specifically the life & ministry of Jesus Christ), and the Church Militant (the living Body of Christ on the earth today).

St Paul writes to a church that he founded: “You are our letter … known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ … ” indicating that followers of Jesus are a visible expression of God – of His grace, love, truth, holiness, justice – and sent by Him within an estranged world with a vital message of reconciliation.

For this reason God is patiently committed to editing my life – adding what is necessary, and removing what is superfluous – through a process theologically known as ‘sanctification’. How often have I experienced the divine eraser, rubbing out a potentially fatal character flaw, or the Spirit’s quill inserting a fresh understanding with a living word – fully focused on enabling me to be more Christ-like. There are no short-cuts to this process, which carries on incessantly, often in the background, in my sub-consciousness – yet, nevertheless, is a thorough and a fruitful operation of God within me.

Many years ago I came across a simple, though profound, piece of poetry which carries a similar idea. It’s entitled “The Gospel According To You”. I believe there are various versions, but this one, attributed to Arthur McPhee, encapsulates the message very well:

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Are read by more than a few,
But the one that is most read and commented on
Is the gospel according to you.

You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day
By the things that you do and the words that you say,
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true,
Say, what is the gospel according to you ?

PERSONAL PRAYER

“Merciful Father, as I turn to You again and again, may transforming grace saturate my life, so that I may reflect something of the awesome glory of Jesus Christ, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bringer of freedom, and may those around me be influenced to follow You, by what they see and hear. AMEN”

Honouring A Friend

In appreciation of my friend and ministry colleague, William, who arrived ‘home’ safely on Thursday 6th March 2014 … you will be missed.

William & Alison

Worthy warrior of your matchless king

Inspired by Spirit and by written Word

Living out the Good News you proclaimed

Leading by example, devotion and passion

Imparting generous deposits of faith

Ardently loving your wife, family and friends

Motivating those you touched to reach for more

~

Praying fervently, faithfully, expectantly

Rangers supporter, through thick and very thin

Exercising evangelistic and prophetic gifts

No-nonsense approach to vexing problems

Thinking outside conventional boxes

Initiating new things in a breakthrough spirit

Courageous through adversity, with humour and faith

Enters into Emmanuel’s ‘Hall of Fame’

The Weaned

Meditation on one verse of a Hebrew Song prompted this two-bit poem:

But I have calmed and quietened my soul, like a weaned child with its mother;

like a weaned child is my soul within me.” – Psalm 131:2

~~~

Denied …

Luscious founts of

daily sustenance

Unfailing cornucopia

of suckling consolation

… withdrawn

 ~~~

Aggrieved …

tempests of self-assertiveness erupt

howling gales of tyrannical tantrums

an Atlantic of self-pitying tears

… ignored ?

 ~~~

Pacified …

pitiful sobbings cease

stillness slowly falls

as silence spreads her wings o’er

… the weaned

~~~

http://molesky.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/baby-sleeping-in-mothers-arms.jpeg?w=677&h=452

~~~

Withheld …

Tangible tokens of

divine favour

Even Daystar’s

radiant beams

suddenly

… Beclouded

~~~

Scandalized …

infantile pique lashes out

with rational accusings:

‘unfair’ ‘uncaring’ ‘abandoned’

soul screams

… unattended ?

~~~

Becalmed …

consciousness awakens to

the silence of a ghostly whisper

in trusting, inner depths of

… the weaned

~~~

Breathing Under Water

I was sent this remarkable piece the other day, and had to share on here,

as one learning to breathe under water

~~~~

I built my house by the sea.
Not on the sands, mind you;
not on the shifting sand.
And I built it of rock.

A strong house
by a strong sea.
And we got well acquainted, the sea and I.
Good neighbors.
Not that we spoke much.
We met in silences.
Respectful, keeping our distance,
but looking our thoughts across the fence of sand.
Always, the fence of sand our barrier,
always, the sand between.

And then one day,
- and I still don’t know how it happened -
the sea came.
Without warning.

Without welcome, even
Not sudden and swift, but a shifting across the sand like wine,
less like the flow of water than the flow of blood.
Slow, but coming.
Slow, but flowing like an open wound.
And I thought of flight and I thought of drowning and I thought of death.
And while I thought the sea crept higher, till it reached my door.
And I knew, then, there was neither flight, nor death, nor drowning.
That when the sea comes calling, you stop being neighbors,
Well acquainted, friendly-at-a-distance neighbors,
And you give your house for a coral castle,
And you learn to breathe underwater.

by Sr. Carol Bieleck, RSCJ

~~~~

http://www.howitworksdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/breathe.jpg

~~~~

Retreat Reflection

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Meet some very special people – Lance & Sue Blake – with whom I spent a wonderful 48-hours, at their Fenland Hermitage, in south Lincolnshire. Their calm devotion, warm hospitality, infectious humour, attentive hearts and gentle guidance imbues the whole place with a holy stillness.

Quickly I felt at home (evidenced, according to Lance, by wearing my slippers in the Chapel !)  finding abundant space for prayerful reflection, in an atmosphere which called to mind a hymn-writer’s description: “the silence of eternity, interpreted by love”.

Conversation with these delightful folk flowed freely, giving the distinct impression I could share anything, and be heard lovingly, respectfully and non-judgmentally. And joining in the set periods of prayer in the Chapel was thoroughly uplifting (consisting of a simple liturgy followed by a period of silence for contemplative prayer).

Much time was spent in the high standard, modern, 2-bedroom ‘barn’ conversion – (self-contained, with self-catering facilities) – where I savoured the quiet to think, to pray, to read (Richard Rohr: “Falling Upward: A spirituality for the two halves of life”)  & to journal – at will.

Uppermost in my meditations for some weeks has been the life-stage of ‘weaning’ referred to in Psalm 131 “I have calmed and quietened my soul like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me” and this developed even further during these days. What a trauma – for child and for mother. What an appropriate analogy of baby believers experiencing first time withdrawal of God’s ‘felt’ blessings. What storms of self-assertiveness ! What howling gales of tyrannical thought blow through the soul in such a process ! What un-spiritual tantrums & rages  !

~~~~~

But, moving on … the Fenland Hermitage is situated within easy reach of the Willow Tree Fen, a nature reserve run by the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust. So, armed with camera, I walked to the reserve, along the Macmillan Way, beside the River Glen – spending an hour or so engaging with the natural beauty of that area … and here’s a little sample for your delectation (click on a thumbnail to enlarge).

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Back to base … beside which is the Willow Field containing a grass Labyrinth (not to be confused with a maze). This I was invited to walk under Lance’s gentle direction – being especially encouraged to enter it with a specific question – and as it happened, one sprang quickly to mind. I must confess, however, that I had no expectations whatsoever on setting out on this journey. Indeed, during the early stages I experienced deeply cynical thoughts – viz. “How silly for a 62-year old to be walking round a grass path on a cold January afternoon in the middle of nowhere” and again, “This seems oh, so meaningless”. Chillingly that developed further into: “I wonder if that’s what my life amounts to … meaningless-ness !”

Thankfully the ‘mood’ changed dramatically on reaching the centre, where I was immediately transfixed, as it were. With mind stilled but alert, with heart becalmed but open, thoughts downloaded thick and fast – thoughts of God as the centre of life – of God being my centre – there at the core of my being. (Remarkably, this flow included a distinct ‘answer’ to the question I’d taken into the Labyrinth, too). In those moments I found myself offloading much mental baggage, and freshly embracing God, His Will, and the Cross – the biblical idea of ‘dying to self’. There came with this a deepening sense of renewing grace. You may understand that I didn’t want to leave that place in a hurry – but eventually tore myself away and returned,  with lighter heart, fleet of foot, to the end of the path. Lance had indicated that the Labyrinth represents a journey from God, to God – with Him at the centre. Finding this to be so after such initial disbelief only serves to magnify the divine mercy and mystery.

Photo: Sue Blake walks the Labyrinth (taken from the Fenland Hermitage website)

http://www.fenlandhermitage.co.uk/attachments/Image/Small-.jpg?template=generic

A long period of solitary reflection followed this experience, continued into a relatively sleepless night, where I laid for hours dwelling on what had occurred, allowing it to wash over me and considering the implications. God – my centre – awesome, liberating – flooding me with a new sense of the Father’s love, acceptance and peace, (like being born-again again) which no human words can adequately express – but as we say up North: “it’s better felt than telt”

One of the Hermitage’s prayer leaflets states: “Prayer is like watching for the Kingfisher: All you can do is be where he is likely to appear, and wait. Often nothing much happens. There is space, silence and expectancy, no visible sign – only the knowledge that he’s been there and may come again. Seeing or not seeing does not matter – you have been prepared. But sometimes when you’ve almost stopped expecting it, a flash of brightness gives encouragement”

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Methinks, I caught a ‘fleeting’ glimpse of the Kingfisher

So, thank you Lance & Sue – for sharing your home, your love, your selves so readily, and so freely, with one who was previously a stranger, but who now has two hermits among his friends.

Here’s a link to their website, along with my heartfelt recommendation:

www.fenlandhermitage.co.uk

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