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Here

I’m dedicating this new piece to all my friends in the Manna Community, on this special “Vision Day”

~~~~~~~~

Here I am

not there in the past:

neither basking in success

nor bemoaning failure

Here, now

longing, attending,

waiting, listening

~~~

Here I am

not there, in the future:

neither hoping the best 

nor fearing the worst

Here, now

trusting, surrendering,

receiving, being

~~~

Here I am

not there distant:

neither lagging behind

nor running ahead.

Here, now

Repenting, aligning, 

changing, clinging.

~~~

Here I am

in this moment

calling His Name

touching His heart

Here now

available, vulnerable,

malleable.

~~~

Here I am

not where I would be

should be

or could be

Yet knowing

I am deeply loved

as I am, by I AM

 

 

 

 

A Chaplain Prays

In May 2011 I was greatly honoured when asked by the incoming Mayor of Brigg, Cllr. John Kitwood, to act as his Chaplain during his mayoral year. I came across these Ten General Principles, and with the approval of the Mayor used them at monthly Full Council meetings during that year. Here I reproduce both principles & prayers, with the hope that they may provide some with a guide to praying for those in authority.

~~~~

Praying The Ten General Principles of

The Relevant Authorities Order 2001

The Secretary of State has, by order, set out 10 general principles

which are to govern the conduct of Members

and certain co-opted Members of local authorities.

These are as follows:-

  1. Selflessness – 27th June 2011

“Members should serve only the public interest and should never improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person.”

Prayer: Almighty God, we are grateful for the trust placed in us by the people here, and being fully aware of our human propensity to be self-centred and self-seeking, we humbly ask You to give each one of us a true spirit of servant-hood, in order that we may selflessly serve our community, without paralysing fear or inappropriate favour. May this humble spirit be very evident in our deliberations today, and guide us in the making of good decisions, which will enhance life within this town.

We offer this prayer through the Lord, Jesus Christ – the supreme example of selflessness – as we bring to you the words He taught us:  Our Father …

  1. Honesty and Integrity – 25th July 2011

“Members should not place themselves in situations where their honesty and integrity may be questioned, should not behave improperly and should on all occasions avoid the appearance of such behaviour.”

Prayer: God of holiness & truth – as You require of us honesty in thought, word and deed, we turn now to You for grace to enable us to live as those who will stand to account, both before You and also before the people whom we serve. As frail human beings here today … forgive our sins, our shortcomings, and our failures, remove the sin that corrupts us & grant us sorrow of repentance that brings release. In Your kindness and mercy strengthen us so that we may turn from all that is evil, and commit ourselves to what is good and right in Your sight. So may we prove worthy of the trust placed in us by this community, and exercise our responsibilities with due diligence and unquestioned integrity.

For You have saved us by the cross of your Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. who taught us to pray, saying: Our Father …

  1. Objectivity – 26th September 2011

“Members should make decisions on merit, including when making appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards or benefits.”

Prayer:  Sovereign Lord, Creator & Sustainer of all … since the people of this community have entrusted to us responsibilities for making judgements and taking decisions which affect them in so many ways, we humbly come to you today, asking for insight and wisdom, in the fulfilling of those tasks at all levels of this Council’s work. Especially when faced with tough decisions, which may go against our personal preferences or even popular opinion, we ask that you will enlighten the darkened areas of our minds, so that we may decide and act always within light rather than shadow. Grant to us the discernment which results in effective decision-making, for the good of this community.

And graciously be with us in our discussions this evening, through Jesus Christ, our Lord – who inspired us to pray for the coming of your righteous rule: Our Father …

  1. Accountability – 24th October 2011

“Members should be accountable to the public for their actions and the manner in which they carry out these responsibilities, and should co-operate fully and honestly with any scrutiny appropriate to their particular office.”

Prayer:  Merciful God, who knows the hearts of all people, enable us to live and conduct ourselves in the light of Your divine scrutiny, and to be constantly mindful that we are here as representatives of the people of this community, who will in time pass their own judgement upon our time in office. Specifically, may all our discussions this evening be conducted with dignity, sincerity, courtesy…and may the decisions we reach be in accord with Your Will, and for the common good of this community, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who taught us to pray with confidence for the advent of Your Kingdom: Our Father …

  1. Openness – 28th November 2011

“Members should be as open as possible about their actions and those of their authority, and should be prepared to give reasons for those actions.”

Prayer: All-knowing God, from Whom nothing is hidden, rid us of guile, duplicity, dishonesty, and those deficiencies, which may bring the office of Councillor into disrepute. Enable us to live and act with integrity and transparency, especially in reference to those who have entrusted us with public office. May we never resort to making decisions from a self-serving motivation, which conflicts with the public interest, but send your Spirit of wisdom and servant-hood to each of us, guiding us in our discussions, decisions, and subsequent interactions with those we seek to serve. Help us to continue making a difference in our community, even as we pray for the coming of your righteous rule on earth in the words that Jesus taught us: Our Father

  1. Personal Judgement – 19th Dec 2011

“Members may take account of the view of others, including their political groups, but should reach their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in accordance with their conclusions.”

Prayer: Gracious God, as You have given to us the faculties of thought, reason, and evaluation, so that we may arrive at our own judgements & decisions, we humbly ask that You enable us to maintain integrity by nurturing those gifts for the good of this community & those we serve, refusing to succumb to any pressures to become what we are not, or to align ourselves with those points of view which may compromise our personal values, merely for the sake of personal promotion or that of others. In remembering the reason for this season, we give you thanks for Your Christ who judged it worthwhile to lay aside personal reputation in order to identify with our human plight, and thus enhance our human condition. And in remembering, we pray as He taught us for the advance of Your Kingdom among us: Our Father …

  1. Respect for Others – 23rd January 2012

“Members should promote equality by not discriminating unlawfully against any person, and by treating people with respect, regardless of their race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. They should respect the impartiality and integrity of the authority’s statutory officers, and its other employees.”

Prayer: Mighty God, as we consider the wonderful diversity of humankind, we are grateful for making us uniquely different. We recognise that variety can sometimes become the source of friction and division, especially when we fail to discern that to be different is not necessarily to be wrong. Enable us therefore to live in appreciation of all our fellow men, and ever to choose the path of respect over the way of bigotry and prejudice.

Specifically we pray for the Clerk and assistant Clerk to this Council and all others in our employ, thanking you for their constant service and asking that they may be constantly strengthened to carry out their duties with dignity and integrity.

We ask these things with confidence as we bring all our prayers to you in the prayer which our Lord Jesus taught, saying: Our Father …

  1. Duty to Uphold the Law – 27th February 2012

“Members should uphold the law and, on all occasions, act in accordance with the trust that the public is entitled to place in them.”

Prayer: Lord, God of mercy and fidelity, you made a new and lasting pact with men and sealed it in the blood of your Son. Forgive the folly of our disloyalty and help us keep your commandments, which are good & right, so that in your new covenant we may be witnesses of your faithfulness and love on earth, and sharers of your glory in heaven.

We hold in our thoughts our Town Mayor and his wife at this time of difficulty. Be merciful to them – strengthen and sustain them in your grace.

And guide us in our deliberations this evening, that with courtesy and due respect we may make decisions for the benefit of our community

And finally, let us pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom among us, in the words taught by our Lord: Our Father …

  1. Stewardship – 26th March 2012

“Members should do whatever they are able to do to ensure that their authorities use their resources prudently and in accordance with the law.”

Prayer: Bountiful God, we acknowledge that You have enriched our lives with spiritual and material blessings innumerable. With Easter fast approaching we recall that You did not spare Your own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, consequently through Him making many benefits available to us. Now, we express our gratitude for enabling us to serve the people of this community, and ask that we may do so with humility and integrity, as faithful stewards of the resources placed into our hands, and that we may use those resources wisely and justly, for the good of this town, and for the honour of Your Holy Name.

We hold those of our community before you who have experienced bereavement, or may be battling with health issues of any kind. We offer these our prayers through Jesus Christ, who taught us to pray: Our Father …

  1. Leadership – 23rd April 2012

“Members should promote and support these principles by leadership, and by example, and should act in a way that secures or preserves public confidence.”

Prayer: Holy God, we’ve become painfully aware, in recent years, of the consequences of those elected to office failing to live up to these principles, and bringing reproach both upon themselves and on their office, which they’ve greatly demeaned.

We know the weaknesses that lie within each one of us, and that power at any level is also accompanied by danger. We therefore ask for your grace to strengthen us with the ability to continue working on these matters of integrity and moral rectitude. Let us exemplify the kind of servant leadership, in order that those who tend to look on with suspicion and cynicism, may see in us a consistent example of not merely talking the talk, but also of walking the walk. May we, as members of this Council, live out these principles of selflessness, integrity, honesty, and accountability in such a way that the trust of the public will be both secured and maintained at all times.

So enrich our discussions this evening with wisdom, judgement and mutual respect that we may see the advance of Your Kingdom among, for which we pray with confidence in the words taught by our Lord, Jesus: Our Father …

AND FINALLY … 21st May 2012

A man named Job, living thousands of years BC, had 7 sons & 3 daughters. The sons took turns to host parties, always inviting their 3 sisters. After each party Job went through a ‘ritual’ of purification on behalf of his children, in case they’d sinned against God, or perhaps cursed him in their hearts. At the commencement of another mayoral year I wish to offer prayers of penitence on our behalf, concluding with the Lord’s Prayer …

Prayer:  Almighty God, we come to You with due reverence and humility, acknowledging before you our many imperfections; and that we have sinned against you in thought, word and deed. We ask for forgiveness where we have wronged you, others and even ourselves in the past 12 months, and chose to release the gift of forgiveness to all those who may have wronged us. Cleanse us from all impurities of mind and spirit, so that we may be fully prepared to serve anew during the coming 12 months.

We pray for the outgoing Mayor, Cllr Kitwood, thanking you for his service over the last 12 months, and asking that your favour and strength will continue to be evident in his life. For all who have served on this Council, for our Clerk and assistant clerk we give you thanks, and ask for your ongoing strength to fill their lives. For our newly appointed Mayor, Cllr Carl Sherwood we ask for a year that will be crowned with your goodness and mercy. Asking all these blessings through Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we pray also with confidence for the coming of your Kingdom: Our Father …

 

 

 

Nails And Wood

18 years of Jesus’ life are summarised in 13 words, by Luke in his Gospel:

“Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them”.

Here’s a moving perspective I found in my readings the other day:

NAZARETH – Joseph & Jesus

At key moments he would sense the call of something more

His greatness would be felt in further realms than this.

Strange choice of fosterage for a future king,

to be a trusted, patient elder brother

and learn this happy and hard working, hidden life.

And Joseph taught him all he knew:

to give his best, do small things with great love,

seen or unseen, complete each task, say, ‘it is finished’.

Still, it seemed strange apprenticing for a Messiah

to have familiarity with nails and wood !!

~~~~~

‘From The places of the house that John built readings by Andy Raine
in Celtic Daily Prayer Book 2: Farther Up and Farther In published by Collins. Used with permission.’

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Rain Break

My early morning ‘reflections’ were disturbed today by the sound of heavy rain on the lounge window, prompting me to re-locate into our large conservatory, where I sat and simply listened for over an hour, as the torrential downpour beat upon the polycarbonate roof – what a noise and stark reminder of the power of natural forces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This unexpected distraction (?) provoked a series of thoughts about rain and spiritual outpourings – the subject of much debate and discussion in churches and at conferences during my time in church leadership. 

INTERRUPTION

My starting point has to be what actually happened this morning.  The interruption to my devotions brought awareness of how much I’d gotten into a routine (not necessarily a bad thing) of sitting in quiet reflection on God and on Scripture . It then occurred how often natural rainfall does disrupt our human plans and programmes. As a cricket lover I’m conscious how “rain stopped play” heralds the weather’s unwelcome interference in a game’s flow. Again, our British summer frequently brings a catalogue of planned events (e.g. galas, fêtes, barbecues, picnics etc.) which have to be cancelled due to inclement weather conditions. One thing all this highlights, for me, is our love of being in control, and the frustration we experience at being incapable of controlling the elements.

Is there not a similarity here that applies to ‘spiritual’ outpouring ? Does not the history of Christian ‘revival’ suggest this is the case, with ‘divine interventions’ tending to interfere with normal human plans and activities, and proving quite unwelcome in some quarters, even to the extent of producing strong resistance and opposition (remember the physical attacks made on persons and properties in the early days of Methodism). It is no less true in ecclesiastical life today, as so much time, energy and finance is directed towards controlling plans, programmes, and, sadly, even people. Frankly such a state of affairs does need disturbing by divine interventions, methinks.

INVIGORATION

A second strand of thought then took shape – how the rain invigorates both the earth (bringing refreshment, enlivening and enriching the soil and the existing plants with its nutriments, and so facilitating growth) AND the environment as a whole (e.g. high humidity or pollen counts may sharply reduce as an after-effect of a quick shower) in a kind of ‘cleansing’ process.

I’ve found that a ‘stifling’ atmosphere can develop within some ‘church’ groups, which is most discomforting and incompatible with a genuine worship experience and with kingdom living. Some congregations suffer from high doses of legalism, professionalism and dogmatism, in which the human spirit finds it hard to breathe, let alone flourish. Here there is desperate need of fresh outpourings of the Spirit of God, to purify the environment, to restore creativity, to bring the nutriments and gifts which together promote healthy life.

INSPIRATION

A third line of thought emerged concerning how our Scriptures are replete with this beautiful metaphor. Parallels between natural and spiritual ‘outpourings’ are very evident. Rain is usually indicative of divine blessing. A great Harvest Psalm proclaims: “You visit the earth and water it, You greatly enrich it … You water its ridges abundantly … You make it soft with showers, You bless its growth“. There’s also a rich promise made to the Jewish nation, for instance, that “if you walk in My commandments … then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce …

The link is frequently made in the prophetic writings between natural and spiritual rain, none more so than in Joel’s inspired vision of “the age of the Spirit”. Foretelling a change in fortune for his beleaguered people, Joel announces that God “will cause the rain to come down to you – the former rain and the latter rain (i.e. seasonal rains) …” In the next breath the prophet goes on to speak of a universal down-pour of the Holy Spirit, announcing: “… I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh …” Centuries later these words are taken up by Peter, the apostle, in defining events in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. Peter affirms: “THIS is what was spoken by the prophet Joel…” and goes on to explain: “…being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, HE (Jesus Christ) poured out THIS which you now see and hear“.

So, Pentecost was an opening of Heaven’s Windows, and we’re left in no doubt that the ‘gift’ (or outpouring) of the Holy Spirit is available to all, as Peter continues: “…the Promise is to you, and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call.” Now, although we cannot control spiritual seasons any more than we can natural seasons, we can at least ‘position ourselves’ in heart and attitude by seeking God and by asking Him for rain – “Ask the LORD for rain in the time of latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give showers of rain …

Friends, it’s raining hard across the world … and now is not the time for umbrellas !

 

 

 

 

Aspiration

At times like this I want to be:

 ~~~

Rooted firmly

drinking deeply

nourished daily

life-giving flow

seasonally fructiferous

vigorously foliate

endlessly flourishing

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