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Posts Tagged ‘Ignatian’

It’s a Tuesday morning.  School run done and car parked, I hurry up the path to my house.  Key in the door whilst shoving with one foot only to be met by a happy Honey Basset blocking my way in.   Whilst fussing her I’m hit by the lovely smell of fabric softener; clothes drying in the house, too cold outside today for anything to dry on the line.  I walk to the radio left on in the kitchen for the aforementioned Basset, and hit the Off button.  Silence! 

Coat off.  Washing-up away.  Load of washing in and set to wash, all in the space of about five minutes.  I have to be careful not to get engrossed in domestics or, before I know it, they’ve become a procrastination, a means of prevarication, a distraction.  I’ve been doing domestics since 5.45am this morning so everything else can and should wait because I need to pray. 

Matches in hand I head for the lounge to light my prayer candle which sits in my plain but beautiful St Beuno’s candle holder on my altar; I only have to look at it to be instantly transported back to that beautiful place.  I grab this month’s Magnificat and begin.  I stand in front of my altar to pray Morning [Lauds] prayer.  Evening prayer [Vespers] can happen anywhere, in my bedroom, in the car outside school, wherever the opportunity presents itself.  I pray Compline [Night prayer] in bed usually, if I can stay awake.  I am lucky that I have the time to devote to this practice at the moment.  Not working might mean less money but it has the huge benefit of being able to spend more time with God.  After praying I make myself a latte and settle down with this year’s edition of Sacred Space to study today’s gospel.  It’s a time to reflect, to talk to God and just be.  Listening.  Waiting.  [eta Sacred Space for 2019 is out now ~ click the link in the side bar >>>]

Now, in an ideal world every day would be just like today.  However, some days life takes over and prayers are missed or don’t happen at all and that’s just the way it is.  But ideally I like to be able to spend time in prayer every, single day.  Even if it’s just once for a few moments. 

Pray, I hear you ask?  Why would you do that?  It’s not Sunday, you’re not at Mass so why?  And this is a really valid and sensible question and one I’ve asked myself a lot over the last few years.  Why do I feel the need to pray daily?  Have I always done so and does it do any good?

First I feel the need to explain that I am driven to pray every day, it’s a need, a desire, almost a necessity.  If I don’t do it I miss it, something just doesn’t feel right, I feel empty and a bit lost.  As I said before, prayer doesn’t or can’t happen every day, some days I’m just either too busy [not always procrastinating with domestics but running errands etc] or quite simply too lazy.  I don’t give myself a hard time if I don’t get round to it because that’s pretty pointless.  However, I have the intention to pray every day; morning, evening and night with Mass thrown in if I get there.  It’s an act of fidelity.  The definition of fidelity is:- ‘faithfulness to a person, cause or belief, demonstrated by continuing loyalty and support.’  Prayer is me being faithful to God.  As I said somewhere else, it’s a bit like being married.  You are faithful to your husband or wife because you love them and you [want to] show that love through acts of fidelity which can be anything from a hug, a loving word, a gift, washing the dishes…anything done in love for another.  So, back to the question why do I pray?  Because I can’t not, it’s that simple.

Have I always done so?  No, absolutely not.  Certainly not in those early days but in the last few years it’s become a habit that I can’t break.  It ebbs and flows according to employment and commitments but it never completely stops.  It really is a way of life now and is vital to maintaining my faith and my relationship with God.  As my faith has grown and matured, so has my prayer life.

What isn’t always obvious to those ‘looking in’ is that this relationship is a two-way thing.  I am faithful to God and He is faithful to me.  “For the son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matt 20:28 NIV  I’m not sure what I feel about Christ serving me [that was actually a question in last Sunday’s gospel study] and I suspect that’s a post for another day, but in any event this is relationship of equals.  I can sense that all of the time.  I show up and God is always there, never late, never awol, constant and reliable.  He comforts, strengthens and guides me.

Does prayer do any good?  Hmm well that’s tricky and I can only answer for myself and from my own experience.  Firstly, it doesn’t do any harm that’s for sure and it can be very cathartic.  I try to keep a journal of personal intentions and people/situations that I pray for and I can honestly say that I often go back and find that 90% of them will have been answered.  I also find that during unstructured prayer or silent contemplation I often receive the answer to a problem or have a sense of peace about an important decision or difficult situation.  It’s nothing tangible but it’s undeniable and it’s happened too many times to be a fluke.

So, who can pray?  Well anyone obviously.  Those of faith or of no faith.  There are no qualifications required.  Anyone can talk to God, anywhere, at anytime about anything.  It really is that simple.  You don’t need all the structure and books that I use.  I use those things to keep me focussed and accountable but I also have unstructured times when it’s just me and God.  Prayer is not a ‘one size fits all’ thing.  It’s unique to each person to pray as they feel.  Sometimes, it’s just a word thrown heavenwards.  An arrow prayer launched towards God in a moment of desperation or difficulty.  It’s quite simply a conversation with God where you get to say what you want or just sit and listen with the ear of your heart.  

God bless. . .

Sharon xx

You might also like this previous post = “What is prayer?”

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between-you-and-god1

So, following on from yesterday’s post about church and possible reasons why people do or don’t attend, I thought today I’d write a little about my relationship with ‘church’ and how that has changed over the years.  Yesterday’s post might make some people wonder why I go to Mass [church] at all if I rarely find or ‘hear’ God there so I thought an explanation was in order.

Naively I always thought that people of faith just went to church and that was that.  Easy!  They might attend a church they always went to with their family or they might find a new one if they moved, but either way it seemed pretty clear and straightforward.  Hmmm lol the reality turned out to be a little more tricky than that.  To recap I received my Calling in June of 2006.  I didn’t live in MK then, I lived out near Banbury, in a little village called Sulgrave.  For three years after my calling I remained purposely non-denominational.  Partly because I was unsure what the next step was and partly because, in the May of 2007, I moved to MK.  Once here I tried lots of churches and denominations on for size.  I’d mostly worshipped in Anglican ‘pointy spire’ churches as a teen and in my twenties, which encouraged me to give that a go here.  I also tried the Quakers, the charismatic evangelical Happy Clappys and the Baptists.  All were lovely, all were welcoming but none felt like Home.  

2008 found me still without a spiritual home but there had been some defininte and persistent nudgings from God towards catholicism which horrified my mother who was a lapsed, pre-Vatican II, cradle Catholic.  Taught by nuns and raised in “fear for her immortal soul with the distinct possibility of burning for all eternity in the fiery pit”.  You can see her point but I felt things had possibly moved on by 2008 surely?  They had indeed, I found an amazing Priest in Fr J, told him I was a divorcee and he told me, “God meets you where you’re at” and before I knew it I was attending Mass every Sunday and yes, finally I felt I’d found my spiritual home.  During the Easter Mass of 2009 I was received into the Catholic church, it was beyond wonderful!!  My mother didn’t attend. 

All sorted you’d think wouldn’t you?  Well things change, priests you didn’t realise you relied on so much move to another parish.  You listen to dogmatic people and read dogmatic literature which tells you that divorced catholics aren’t allowed to take Holy Communion.  You doubt yourself and before you know it you’re not enjoying Mass anymore.  You stand there feeling a fake and a fraud.  You try a new parish and all seems fine but eventually Mr Nagging Doubt comes back and starts pecking away at you again.  Let me be clear, no one in my parish ever said anything negative or unkind to me, it was all about my own self-doubt and feeling like I should ‘come clean’ which is ridiculous given that I’d ‘come clean’ at that very first meeting with Fr J.  Admitedly there were some priests that I felt wouldn’t have given me the time of day but, for the most part, all the clergy were lovely and supportive.  What I didn’t realise was that this was between me and God, not me and the Church. 

Fast forward to 2017 and the death of my mother in the July followed by the life-threatening complications after my surgery at the end of October, and suddenly there were more emotions flying around than I could deal with.  I certainly wasn’t up for the weekly self-imposed emotional torture of Mass.  So I stopped going and the certainty about my choice of denomination plummeted.  Not so much a crisis of faith, more a crisis of denomination.  If anything, my faith and relationship with God improved rapidly and drasticly once church was removed from the picture.  That was when I realised that church, instead of enabling and facilitating my relationship with God, was actually hindering it massively but I didn’t understand why and was still too all over the place emotionally to even begin to work it out.

In early 2018 I went back to a few of the denominations I’d tried before.  I also went to Mass very occasionally, but never in my own parish, only where no one would know me.  Nothing felt right anymore and I was very lost at this point and quite sad that I’d got it so wrong.  In early June ’18 I found myself on the St Beuno’s website looking at retreats, I still can’t remember what prompted me to do that. [my photo’ at the head of the page is one I took of St Beuno’s at sunset]  It was one of those moments when everything aligns; I had the money, despite it being close to the retreat there was still a space, it fitted with Simon’s schedule, I bought the very last train ticket for that day…it just all fell into place effortlessly.  Clearly meant to be. 

That weekend was truly fantastic and marked a huge turning point. I would do it an injustice to try and talk about that here so I’ll save it for another post but suffice to say I had an amazing Spiritual Guide in Helen and I left there feeling back on-track and with a promise to be put in touch with a Sr who lived locally to me here in MK so I could talk further about my issues with attending Mass.

True to her word I had an email from, and consequently a meeting with, the aforemetioned Sr M who was just lovely.  Such a down to earth, compassionate lady with a super twinkly smile.  Very intouch with real life and she put me straight very quickly.  What the Catholic Church teaches and what happens in reality and practise are not always the same thing.  Reading a lot of dogmatic literature can be damaging.  My relationship is with God first and foremost and the church second.  The church teachings and the recent papal apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia clearly state that it’s down to your personal conscience regarding receiving Holy Communion at any time.  In my heart I think I knew all this but it was so good to hear someone actually say the words.  I felt lighter suddenly.  We also discussed the possiblity of Mass and, at her suggestion, I would try a different parish still close to me but not with people that knew me, a fresh start.  It also offered weekday Mass which was super handy for me as Sundays are often homework heavy and, if Si is on-shift, that just leaves me to help Ethan if he needs some support.  I do like a plan!!

This feels like the perfect place to leave part one.  I will carry on tomorrow. 

 

Sharon xx

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cloisters 5Awwww it’s the most beautiful day here in sunny Milton Keynes, UK.  The kind of lovely day that I’d like to wrap up in pretty paper and send to you all so you can share it.

I make no apology for banging on about prayer in my last two posts, it’s something I feel I need to, ‘get down on paper’ if you follow me.  Sometimes you just need to write things down to make them stick. 

I went to the taster session on Tuesday evening, as a forerunner to our, ‘Week of Guided Prayer’ which starts in June.  It was all I knew it would be and much more.  I signed up then and there and paid the small donation.  I came all home full of anticipation for what I’m thinking will be a wonderful week.  It’s certainly a fabulous opportunity, a bit like being on an individually guided retreat but at home.  Perfect!

I found myself craving that silent, peaceful place that a retreat provides.  It isn’t necessarily a ‘real’ place, more a state of mind really.  A silence that comes from within so that, even in a busy street, you can be silent and still on the inside.  Since giving up work in December I’ve created a lot more silence in my daily life.  I’d always been a Radio 2 kind of girl, a constant murmur of background chatter and music; but of late even that has been turned off. 

I watched, ‘The Big Silence’ [further reading] yesterday to remind myself what it’s all about and how difficult it can be for some people to just settle into the silence.  That was me a few years ago, struggling to be at peace without a TV or radio to fill in the blanks, now I crave that silent time because I know that God is there in the silence. 

We’re using a book called, ‘Patterns of Prayer’ by Eugene McCaffrey, OCD at the Carmelite contemplative prayer group that’s just started in my parish.  It’s the most wonderful little book, the kind of book that makes you want to read each page over and over to soak in all that it has to say.  It speaks to me on so many levels.  Anyway, I wanted to share a small part of it with you as it’s relevant to this post and Eugene puts it so much better than I can:~

Silence

Silence is an essential condition for listening.  Prayer is born in silence, a still receptive silence that enables one to hear the deep vibrations of the spirit.  Silence is our way of helping God so that he can help us.  We try to be still, conscious of our own poverty and of our own need to hear and to receive.  Silence is much more than an absence of words or noise, much more even than just being quiet.  Rather, it is a response to our whole being reaching out to grasp the word of life.  It is an alert and attentive receptiveness to “hear the word of God and obey it” [Luke 11:28].  Like the boy Samuel, we cry out with our whole heart, “Speak, for your servant is listening” [1Samuel 3:10]. pp28-29

Earlier in the book it says that it takes two to pray [p26] and I think we often forget that.  We are not alone in that moment, God is with us, always.  But we need to listen and in order to hear Him we need to be silent.  As Fr Christopher Jamison says in, ‘The Big Silence’, “Silence is the gateway to the soul, and the soul is the gateway to God”.

Peace and blessings

Sharon xx

 

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Prayer Basket

My Prayer Basket

Following on from my last post on my different types and methods of prayer, I thought a quick post on barriers to prayer might be prudent.  I often hear people say that they just don’t have time for prayer, that life just gets in the way.  I sympathise because I can be the master of prevarication regarding a lot of things and prayer is one of them.  I’m terrible for finding household tasks to do before I start the one thing I SHOULD be doing.  “I’ll just hang the washing out, and then I’ll pray.”  “I’ll just prep the veg for tea, and then I’ll pray.”  You can replace the word, ‘pray’ with any of those things that you continually put off, we all have them.

I know that sometimes I feel that my house should be spotlessly clean and tidy before I sit down and do the things I enjoy doing, so that can drive my desire to leave prayer/bible study until the end of my chore list; I love it so much that I almost feel guilty for taking time out to do it when the vacuuming still needs doing and the dog wants a walk.  I’m getting better at prioritising prayer but I’m also mastering the art of praying whilst working.  More on that in a minute.

For me another barrier was that I thought I had to speak in a formal way during prayer, scripted prayers, thees and thous etc.  This is really not what God wants, he just wants us to open our hearts to Him and speak as we would to a friend.  As the saying goes, it’s not how you pray that matters, it just matters that you do.  Don’t let formality come between you and time with God.

I’ve always wanted to be the kind of person who gets up at sparrow’s fart and puts in half an hour with God before the day even starts….hmmmm.  Now, those of you who know me, know that I already get up at silly o’clock in the morning [5.30am usually] so let’s be honest here, any earlier and it’d barely be worth even going to bed at all lol.  I hit the ground running and don’t draw breath until Ethan’s at school at 8.30am.  So, I’ve compromised and I set my alarm for ten minutes earlier than I need to be up and I give that ten minutes solely to God.  No books, no rosary, no trappings at all; just God and I chatting and getting ready for the day to come.  I always ask for his strength and guidance through the day ahead and He always tells me He loves me. 

Praying whilst working;  The other trick to prayer is to remember that you don’t have to be on bended knee with a breviary in your hand or at church when speaking to God.  He’s with us all the time, ALL THE TIME!!  So, when you’re stood there washing the dishes…pray for your children;  when you’re hanging out the washing….pray for your spouse;  when you’re cooking the supper….pray for international causes.  You get the picture.  I pray in the car on my way home from dropping Ethan at school.  I pray for the people on my prayer list during that journey…I turn the radio off, throw a glance at the passenger seat to make sure Jesus is there [He always is], and away I go.  I’m sure other drivers think I’m on my hands free kit lol.  I don’t need it, I have a direct line to God.

If you enjoy praying scripture, you can pick out one of your favourite verses, write it on the back of your hand [size limits allowing 😉 ] and every time you catch sight of it during the day you will automatically send it up to God. 

Post-its around the house are great too.  Short, arrow prayers can be stuck in strategic places ~ on the back of the toilet door, on the fridge, on your dash board. 

There is absolutely a place for scheduling time to spend with God in prayer.  However, we are all victims of our own success and life has become ridiculously busy and complex.  So yes, on the days when you can find half an hour to sit down with God, go for it.  For me, that time is usually after the school run.  I come in, put the kettle on and put away the dishes while it’s boiling.  Make a pot of tea and while it’s brewing I fold the washing.  Then I grab my favourite mug and my prayer basket and it’s my time with God….and I stick with it until I’m done.  I don’t put a time limit on it, I just do it until I feel complete.  This doesn’t happen every day but I try to make sure it happens as often as possible.  Fridays and Sundays I’m at Mass in the morning anyway but on the other days I just do my best. 

Ah, and that’s another thing that I’ve found helps enormously, my prayer basket [see photo’ at the head of this post].  Having everything I need in one place and totally portable is perfect.  No scrabbling around looking for my bible or rosary, no frantic search for my pen…there it all is ready to grab and go.  So, what’s in my prayer basket?  Hmm, more than you think lol.  My CTS bible;  Sacred Space Prayer Book, 2016;  Just Calling bible study series [Book 1] and relevant note book;  Trusting God Day by Day devotional by Joyce Meyer;  A Year of Mercy with Pope Francis [beautiful book regardless of whether you’re catholic or not];  Patterns of Prayer by Eugene McCaffrey [equally delicious and the book we’re using for our Carmelite prayer group]; notebook listing people to pray for; two more notebooks [hmmm possibly too many notebooks lol although they each have a purpose, honest]; pink, blue and purple pens; my rosary beads; regular prayer beads; post-it’s and bible hi-glider pens.  Yep, all of that fits in my little basket.  I don’t use all of it every day and I do switch things in and out depending on mood/need.  But it stops me using the excuse that I don’t have what I need to be with God.

I think the only thing I need to add now are some links to my favourite online sites that I use for prayer and bible study.  I don’t use them often but they’re a Godsend [no pun intended]and if that’s more your bag then they’re fantastic, especially for on-the-hoof prayer: ~ Pray as you go ~ I use this on my phone’, particularly the Examen at the end of the day.  Sacred Space which I mentioned in my last post.  Ignatian Spirituality ~ a beautiful site covering all aspects of Ignatian prayer.  WordLive ~ this is more of a bible study but another great site nevertheless.  Daily Reflections-Alive Publishing ~ distinctly catholic but hey, horses for courses.  Joyce Meyer also offers a daily devotional under the, Everyday Answers tab on her home page.  So, there should be something there to suit everyone.  Quite a diverse list.

I really hope this helps you if you’re struggling to find time to be with God.  If nothing else just sitting silently in His presence is perfect, you really don’t need ‘stuff’.  If you have a young family, just resting in His presence for a few moments may be all you can do.  And on those days when you don’t manage anything other a quick apology towards heaven for not having prayed at all, don’t worry, tomorrow is another day and God is faithful and knows the intentions of your heart. He loves you regardless. 

I’ll pray for you today, in case you don’t manage to ~ may you be blessed beyond your wildest dreams, may you feel the love of God surrounding you as you go through your day xx

Sharon xx

[ps links in pink, as always]

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rezar-pray-spanish-english

Lent this year was a time of huge change and transition for me.  A time of spiritual growth.  I was so lucky not to be working because this gave me the time and space to indulge in Lent completely.  Sadly, I had a flu type bug over the actual Easter weekend so missed all those beautiful services but you know what,  Lent was such a blessing that nothing could put a dampener on the joy it brought me.

So, coming out of Easter-tide [although, we’re still officially in the season of Easter until Pentecost which falls on Sunday 15th May this year] I’ve been left with my mind heavily focused on prayer.  God seems to be leading me down a prayerful path by opening many doors to prayer filled opportunities.  A Carmelite prayer group has just started at my local church, we’re meeting once a month to spend time in contemplative prayer.  This is challenging but beautiful. 

I’ve also been lucky enough to secure myself a place on a, ‘Week of Guided Prayer’ which is being organised and offered by our local church partnership.  This is such a fantastic opportunity and I feel so blessed.  I get to meet with a Prayer Guide for around half an hour each day for a week, there are no words to express how much I’m looking forward to this.

I’ve just acquired myself a copy of, Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2016 which was suggested to me by the lovely Sister who is the Pastoral Administrator of our parish at the moment.  It’s a book I’ve considered for the last few years but have always used the online version found HERE.   When she suggested it I kind of wasn’t surprised.  God has a way of bringing these things to our attention if we’re refusing to see the obvious.  It’s just the most perfect devotional prayer book for me, very thought provoking and relevant.

With all this focus on prayer I’ve been thinking about exactly what prayer is and what form/s it can take.  It’s a question I’ve been asked a couple of times recently.  I’ve discovered this is a huge subject because prayer can be so many things, it has so many facets.  It’s also unique to each person because we are all so different with myriad needs.  I can’t speak for others so I’ll just describe my own experiences of prayer. 

Whether it be the comforting recital of the Our Father during Mass or a handful of Hail Marys during the week, structured prayers have an important part to play.  They bring me a feeling of peace and familiarity [often taking me back to my childhood] and, no matter how many times I say them, they bring something different each time.  They are a safety net when all else fails and I have no words of my own.  Also praying scripture, particularly the Psalms, can be a wonderful expression of prayer and devotion.  There’s a Psalm for every mood and every situation.

Private intentions and petitions are another important facet.  Praying for the needs of others and ourselves.  I’ve begun to keep a book of people and causes to pray for because otherwise I’m worried I’ll forget.  The list is long….and forever growing. 

There are those arrow prayers that I fire heavenwards throughout the day.  Maybe just, ‘Jesus, help me’ or ‘Bless this person, Lord’.  These are small, but mighty.  Acknowledgements that Jesus is always close, always on hand to guide and encourage.  We just have to reach out to Him.

In our monthly contemplative group, prayer is silence….it’s listening…..it’s being at one with God.  Listening is a very important part of prayer and something that people often forget.  They can be so busy with a ‘shopping list’ of people and personal needs [which are important] that they forget to just listen. . . . to just ‘be still and know that I am God’. [Psalm 46:10]  Remember, prayer is a two-way street, God also has things He would like to say to us, to ask of us.  ‘Listen with the ear of you heart.’ Rule of Benedict, Prologue.

I also do a lot of Ignatian Contemplation where you place yourself within a scene or event in the bible, usually from the Gospels, and imagine what you can hear, see, smell, taste and feel…you put yourself in that place, lose yourself in the story.  Imagine that you’re there with Jesus in the boat as he calms the waters….  It’s a truly amazing way to pray and it has revealed some amazing insights to me, and God has spoken right into my heart during some of these exercises.  As an alternative to this I sometimes just imagine that Jesus is sat opposite me at the table in my kitchen and we have a conversation.  This is a very simple act but totally mind blowing at times. We’ve had some great chats, Jesus and I. 

Back in August 2009 I wrote the words below ~ I found them today and they are still relevant: ~ 

Prayer is unique to each individual

It’s that hurried word on waking or a constant all-day dialogue.

It’s half an hour of liturgical trawling through the Breviary.

It’s that conversation with the ‘no one’ beside you at the table or in the car ~ it’s our faith that makes that ‘no one’ a someone!

It’s just a thought ‘thrown’ God’s way.

It’s a heartfelt plea on the back of despair or a word of joyful thanks at a beautiful moment.

Prayer does not have to be words, it can just be silence.  It’s a two-way street and that silence can be filled with listening.

Most of all prayer, in whatever form, is an act of fidelity to God.

On the face of it, not much has changed since I wrote this, but yet everything has changed because I have changed.  There are a lot of echoes of what I still do today but it all feels very different.  A lot more authentic somehow.  I particularly like the reference to prayer being an act of fidelity to God.  Our way of demonstrating our faithfulness to God. 

In an ideal world my whole life would be my prayer, to be ‘always in His holy presence’ and keep ‘a loving gaze on God’. [Patterns of Prayer, McCaffrey OCD p19]  It is something to aspire to.  

Sharon xx

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simplicity

I like to think I live a simple life but in reality what does that really mean?  This is something that I’ve been pondering extensively during Lent this year.

I’ve said before that we, as a family, try to be frugal in what we buy, the things we use, while looking closely at our needs versus wants.   We very rarely buy clothes, we wear what we have until it falls apart.  We grow a few fruits and veggies in our little garden and we try to only buy things that we really need, things that we’ll actually use [so not taking advantage of a bogof offer just because it’s there].  This avoids wasting resources and money.  We have this beautiful planet to care for so we each need to try to do our bit, and I suspect that very few of us actually do all that we can.   Surely it’s all relative though right?  What I see as frugal, someone else might view as actually quite extravagant.  It’s also dependent on where you live, here in the UK my life is relatively simple and non materialistic; drop my lifestyle and my little house into the slums of Calcutta however and I’d be living like a queen in comparison.  There is a selfish element to our frugality too, the less money we need the less pressure there is on us to earn huge amounts so we can take simple jobs and work to live, not live to work.

Does living out a life of simplicity just stop at what we buy though?  My lifestyle would probably seem really boring to those looking in, however we view it as simple, not boring and we live this way through choice.  We rarely go out socially except very occasionally with immediate family.  We neither of us smoke and I don’t drink except for a cheeky cider on special days.  Our idea of heaven is to be at home together, so going out is not all that enjoyable for us.  We are both real home birds and although not anti-social by any means, we tend to keep to ourselves. 

As a couple, our whole approach to life is quite simple; slow down, enjoy the moment, appreciate what’s around you even if it’s howling wind and teeming rain.  I love listening to the wind howling and the rain lashing the windows, especially if I’m just drifting off to sleep.  If you’re busy rushing around [which is unavoidable sometimes] then it’s really easy to miss those simple beauties. 

What about simplicity of thought?  From a faith perspective I have also found it really useful to keep that simple to.  After all God simply asks us to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and [very importantly] love ALL others as ourselves.  I’ve noticed that this only becomes tricky when I allow other stuff to get in the way.  Things from my past, things that are man-made and not God given, expectations of society etc.  All of these can create a very negative thought process in me which takes up way too much head space.  While I’m busy doing the, ‘I’m not worthy’ number on myself I’m not being the woman that God wants me to be.  So, I’ve learnt to keep it simple; to remember God loves me, that He sent His son to save me[us] and that His mercy and grace are freely given through faith and love.  It really is that simple.  People want to make it more complicated but seriously, it really isn’t. 

I’m a bit of an Ignatian woman at heart, and I love the simplicity of their charism, primarily to, ‘Find God in all things’.  He’s there in the beauty of the Mass, he’s there in the amazing sunrise, but he’s also there while you’re washing the dishes or sorting the laundry.  It’s simple, you walk with God, He walks with you….all the time and everywhere, not just on Sunday and not just in church.  That fits nicely with my other favourite saying by Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love.”  Let’s be honest, that’s most of us.  We’re not all going to be doing earth shattering deeds each day, not all going to be saving lives or finding a cure for cancer.  However, we can all do those simple small things, smile at someone in the street, chat to the person next to you in the queue, hold open a door, hold a friend’s hand while they share a sadness or a worry.  These are not big things on the face of it, but to the old lady who sees no one all day your smile or friendly word is everything, your friend will never forget that time you spent listening to them with love and concern.  These are HUGE things to them but they’re simple to us.

 

On the face of it, living a life of simplicity probably doesn’t seem very exciting or worthwhile until you look closely at who benefits from it.  If we slow down, lift our faces to God and give our hearts freely to all those around us then everyone we meet benefits.  We benefit too from the lack of stress and self-imposed pressure.  The planet benefits because, hopefully, we give back more than we take.  I love this way of living.  In this fast-paced materialistic world I need to be reminded of who I am, where I’m going and why I’m going there.  Simplicity in life and faith is the perfect foundation for that.

Sharon xx  

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My bible and prayer book in my room at my last retreat…..

Just a quick few lines to let you know that I’ve already started the Ignatian Retreat I mentioned in my last post.  I couldn’t wait until I finished work this Friday.  I was looking through the retreat links for Week 1 and couldn’t help myself :D. 

So this week is about looking back over our lives in a ‘photo album of my life’ kind of way, using mental images.  Rather like doing the daily Examen but of my whole life rather than just at the end of each day.

It’s quite a tricky exercise to do as I have some parts of my life that I’d rather forget or at least not look too closely at, but that’s the same for most people I’d imagine.  Parts you’re proud of, parts you’re not so proud of, happy memories and desperately sad memories.  I’m assuming it’s all part of the process.  We’re also supposed to note if God felt close during any of these moments or whether He appeared to be totally absent.  It may be that, with the benefit of hindsight, we realise that God was in a given moment, but at the time we felt very alone.

There are various prayers and readings to accompany this exercise and we’re encouraged to journal as we go, which I have been doing [I love a written journal 🙂 ].

I’ll keep you all posted. . .

Here’s a rather pertinent Psalm to keep you going…

Psalm 139(138) Domine, probasti

1 O Lord, you search me and you know me,
2 you know my resting and my rising,
you discern my purpose from afar.
3 You mark when I walk or lie down,
all my ways lie open to you.

4 Before ever a word is on my tongue
you know it, O Lord, through and through.
5 Behind and before you besiege me,
your hand ever laid upon me.
6 Too wonderful for me this knowledge,
too high, beyond my reach.

7 O where can I go from your spirit,
or where can I flee from your face?
8 If I climb the heavens, you are there.
If I lie in the grave, you are there.

9 If I take the wings of the dawn
and dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
10 even there your hand would lead me,
your right hand would hold me fast.

11 If I say: “Let the darkness hide me
and the light around me be night,”
12 even darkness is not dark for you
and the night is as clear as the day.

13 For it was you who created my being,
knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I thank you for the wonder of my being,
for the wonders of all your creation.

Already you knew my soul
15 my body held no secret from you
when I was being fashioned in secret
and molded in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw all my actions,
they were all of them written in your book;
every one of my days was decreed
before one of them came into being.

17 To me, how mysterious your thoughts,
the sum of them not to be numbered!
18 If I count them, they are more than the sand;
to finish, I must be eternal, like you.

19 O God, that you would slay the wicked!
Men of blood, keep far away from me!
20 With deceit they rebel against you
and set your designs at naught.

21 Do I not hate those who hate you,
abhor those who rise against you?
22 I hate them with a perfect hate
and they are foes to me.

23 O search me, God, and know my heart.
O test me and know my thoughts.
24 See that I follow not the wrong path
and lead me in the path of life eternal.

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