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Posts Tagged ‘Prayer’

Today’s title is actually ‘stolen’ from a lovely book by Joyce Rupp that takes you on a daily journey of spiritual growth.  I’ve had this book since the week of guided prayer that I enjoyed in June of last year.  My Prayer Guide, Margaret, suggested it to me as a means of something to continue with after our time together had come to an end.  Over a period of six weeks Joyce uses the image of a cup in its various guises to teach us something about our spiritual selves and our walk with God.  The open cup, the broken cup. . .  you get the meaning.  I bought the 1997 version of the book second hand because I loved the cover and the woodcut prints, but it’s available in a lovely new version too and I’ll put the links to that at the bottom of this post.  I didn’t actually use it last year but I picked it up a week or so ago and it’s been part of my morning ever since.

Part of the joy of this book is that you have to choose a mug or a cup to travel with you, I have a thing about mugs 😀 .  I chose the cup that I use the most, my ‘Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’ mug. wuthering_heights_mug_new2_grande It’s not the prettiest but it is my favourite and it’s the one that’s with me most often when I’m praying and spending time with God.  I was sitting this morning with my chosen cup [full of lovely frothy coffee I might add] after my prayer time and reflecting on today’s entry which is about what the cup can teach us.  In the past I have often felt that ‘life’ got in the way of my relationship with God.  That having to leave for work or do the school-run were distractions that, quite frankly, irritated me because they disturbed my link to the divine.  As I looked at my cup I realised that although it has sides that contain and hold my spirit safely, it is also portable, allowing me to transport it with me into my daily life.  Influencing what I do, how I think, how I react.  Touching all those who enter my life, however briefly.  Faith does not have to be reserved for those quiet and often brief moments alone in prayer, at church or in the car.  Faith is ‘portable’, a 24/7 gift that is infinite and omnipresent so it doesn’t suddenly stop when we leave the house or speak to someone.  I know now that I was wrong to feel so frustrated by the interruptions of ‘life’ coming between me and God, because my life IS my relationship with God and it’s meant to be shared.

Blessings to one and all.

Sharon xx

Links as promised . . . I am not sponsored by any of the products linked below.

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Amazon.com

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Barnes & Noble

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Amazon.co.uk

The Cup of Our Life, 2012 ed ~ Eden.co.uk

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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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“Place your hope in God alone” [RoB Chp4, v.4] ~ the words at the end of my Lent devotional today.

Having sat and watched the shocking news footage about the earthquake in Japan and the numerous resulting disasters faced by it’s people I can only do just that, place my hope in God alone.  I am praying for all the people in Japan who have been affected and for those worldwide who have loved ones there.  Praying also that the fallout of this natural disaster will not cast it’s net too wide as many countries wait to see if the Tsunami warnings issued for coastal countries in the Pacific will become a reality.

May God be with them all.

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Amazing site….

I found this amazing site today [thank you Sr M xx] so I thought I would link it here and share it with you all.  Click on the picture to visit…I will also link it at the side of my blog…

There is so much on it and all totally free of charge.  If you’re looking to improve your prayer life, move closer to God, study and meditate on the gospels or another part of the bible or looking at a short or long term bible reading plan then this is the site for you.  It’s very easy to negotiate and also supplies you with an online journalling facility to record your thoughts, prayers and progress as you move through the resources available.

I have to say that I’m seriously impressed with it ~ one of the best online resources for christian study whilst improving/deepening your relationship with God.  It also encourages you to look at yourself and EXAMEN your own spritual journey.  Very inspiring!!

Any feedback on what you think would be most interesting so do leave a comment if you take a look or sign up to use it. xx

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I have recently been set the task of noting the times when I feel closest to God [or alternatively the times when I can’t feel Him at all?].  This task has been at the forefront of my mind for the last couple of weeks and, as with anything that you ‘have’ to focus on, suddenly a huge blank is drawn and God appears to have packed up and left for two weeks in the Bahamas.  Great!!  I’ve been left wondering whether I’m going to have any positive ‘sightings’ to report when I have to discuss this next Tuesday ~ it was all looking a bit negative until……..

….Wednesday just gone [16th June] I had a very early [8.30am type of early ~ ouch!!] appointment at the Breast Care Clinic here in MK for an emergency mammogram.  Now, I don’t need to describe in great detail why I was there ‘cos I’m sure you all know as a largely female based readership.  Do not alarm yourselves, this was purely as a means to rule out the dreaded C before other tests/treatments can go ahead.  So, I arrive promptly and walk into a clinic full of women only to realise that I was the only one there on my lonesome.  Everyone else had their mother, daughter, partner, friend or husband with them for support.  I hadn’t been at all worried until that point but suddenly I was just a bit shaken and wondered for a moment what if?……………

I sat down and as always chose a seat where I could people watch.  I’m terrible for doing that and seem to subconsciously choose a vantage point where I can see everyone in the room if at all possible, be it a pub, restaurant or waiting room.  I gathered my thoughts and cast my gaze around the room.  I was hit by a very humbling scene ~ the room was full of faces filled with sadness, fear, anxiety, trepidation.  From those who came in support there were comforting looks of love and affection, sending quiet courage to those in need.  The silence was deafening as no one really spoke but the silent conversations were perfectly audible and oh so clear.  Suddenly I could see God everywhere ~ in that look of love, that comforting touch of one hand in another, that arm around the shoulder, in the warm smile of the nurse who called the names and in the parting kiss as the women were led away one-by-one for their respective treatments. 

Could everyone or indeed anyone see/feel God there as I did??  Or were they [understandably] blinded by their fear??  For me that fleeting moment of fear as I’d entered the clinic had brought God clearly into view and left me able to see Him making himself available to all those in need there that day.  I was instantly reminded me of this passage from this post

“You see, our problem is that we imagine it is we who have to look for God and so we easily lose heart and give up.  In truth, it is the other way around ~ God is always looking for us.  The mystery of faith is that we pursue God only because God has first put this urge within us.  It is God who gives us the grace to seek him but all along we are being sought by God.”      Bible Alive, Lent 2010: p36

So, I have my answer I think ~ the times I’m closest to God are the times when I actively seek Him because He is always there just waiting for me to [re] turn to Him.  Yes, He is there in the quiet times and those times of perfect, unspoilt beauty such as the first snowfall or a glistening rainbow but, let’s be honest here, it’s easy to feel close to Him then when all around is just feeding your spirit with good things.  It’s in times of angst and difficulty that He tends to be less obvious.  Prayer should not be a last resort when all around is chaos, it should be our first line of defence.  I too would do very well to remember that.

Just to add that I was given the ‘all clear’ and discharged from the clinic.  I left there feeling very blessed and have prayed fervently for all those who quite obviously were not so fortunate that day.  May God be a tangible presence in all their lives.

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Please pray….

…….for my dear Mum who has been rushed to hospital with heart problems.  I’m not clear quite what’s going on yet but it appears to be quite serious.

Dear Lord please be with mum and those who are caring for her.

Bring her peace and comfort from her fear and pain.

Touch the lives of all those who suffer and worry today.

In Jesus’ name

Amen

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One year on……Jim xx

 

To you we look for mercy, Lord,
To you we lift our minds and hearts;
Your rising from the dead gives hope
As our dear brother now departs.

You gave you life for us who sinned,
You hung upon the Cross in pain,
And meekly bowing down your head
You died that we might heaven gain.

With outstretched arms you beckon us:
“In meekness and humility
Take up my yoke, ‘tis sweet and light.
Your souls will then find rest in me.”

You conquered hell and death, O Lord,
And heaven’s gates you opened wide,
Console us in our present grief,
May we at death with you abide.

Our brother’s body now does sleep
In peaceful rest, but may his soul
Through grace your Vision now enjoy,
Your wondrous majesty extol.

Amen

  

I am the resurrction; I am the life; to believe in me means life, inspite of death, and all who believe and live in me shall never die.

 

Hymn and Benedicus Antiphon taken from the Office for the Dead, Benedictine Daily Prayer

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Ethan. . . . .

This week my little lad has been diagnosed with asthma.  I think that’s quite sad really.  He’s only 4 and although there are far worse things that he could have wrong with him I’m feeling a little down at the thought of a liftetime of puffers and blowers ahead of him.  Maybe he’ll grow out of it!! 

I have had my suspicions for quite a few months that he’s heading this way and looking back over the last couple of winters I can see a distinct pattern forming.  He gets a cold for 48 hours, coughs for six weeks plus afterwards or just gets a random cough out of nowhere that gets ten times worse during exercise, when eating very cold food like ice cream or at sudden environmental temperature changes.  Apparently this is typical EIA, Exercise Induced Asthma. 

He is now the proud owner of various inhalers, spacers etc all times two, one lot for home and the other for school.  Oh and two specially named and decorated boxes to store it all in, carefully personalised with stickers by Ethan.

So my prayer this week is for all the children of the world with asthma and for all the people who care for and worry about them.  May God touch all their lives and bring them peace, comfort in their distress and healing. 

We are so very lucky in the west that asthma is not often life threatening but I’m sure that in less well developed countries it’s a very different story when you can’t just pop to the doctors for a replacement inhaler or to the local hospital for a spell on the nebuliser.  Remembering also that as Ethan is a child we don’t have to pay for all this equipment and medication.  I know for a fact that one spacer alone is £13.50 and we have two.  I hope that I never moan about our NHS without first remembering how priviledged we actually are in the UK.

The image is taken on 4th March this year which was World Book Day ~ Ethan is dressed as ‘Long John Silver’, yo ho me hearties.  All his class had to dress as a book character so this was taken before we left for school.  He had a great day!!!

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