Bright and beautiful


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Did you know? Cecil Frances Alexander’s hymn, “All things bright and beautiful” (published in 1848), was inspired by the words, Maker of heaven and earth, from the Apostle’s Creed. I’ve included the lyrics and a video below.

But first, an intergenerational story of creation (Genesis 1-2) from the Kairos Canada website told in gestures and words. May it brighten up your day.

 

The Story of Creation

In the beginning, the world was dark, and there was no shape.
(Put hands over eyes and shake head “no.”)

God moved over the water.
(Move arms left to right in front of body.)

Then God spoke and said, “Let there be light.”
(Cup hands around mouth.)

And there was light!
(Arch hands over head like you are making a big sun.)

And God said, “This is good!”
(Make a “thumbs up” sign.)

God separated the day from the night.
(Push arms away from sides of body.)

God separated the heavens from the earth.
(Push one arm up and one arm down vertically away from body.)

God separated the water from the land.
(Push arms away from front of body as if pushing something away from you.)

And God said, “This is good!”
(Make “thumbs up” sign.)

God made plants to grow.
(Squat down, put hands and arms together over your head, and slowly stand upward and reach high.)

God made the stars at night.
(While hands are still high over head, open hands and fingers wide, and wiggle fingers.)

And God said, “This is good!”
(Make “thumbs up” sign.)

God made the fish in the sea, and the birds in the air.
(Put hands together, fingers closed, and move them like a fish tail swimming; then put arms out at sides and flap like a bird.)

And God said, “This is good!”
(Make “thumbs up” sign.)

God made animals on the land.
(Let children imitate different animals they know–bunnies hopping, dogs barking, etc.)

And God said, “This is good!”
(Make “thumbs up” sign.)

Then God made people in God’s own image.
(Smile and point to self, then look to heavens.)

God said to the people, “Take good care of my world!”
(Point finger and shake it in front, as if shaking it at someone.)

And God said, “This world is good!”
(Make “thumbs up” sign and have all say “This is Good!”)

 
~ posted on KAIROS Water Worship Service and on re:worship

 


 

All things bright and beautiful
by Cecil Frances Alexander

Refrain:
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flow’r that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

 


 
From the blog

Prayer sheet: Part of creation
A new nature
Summer-friendly spiritual practices
 

In the school of prayer with Pádraig Ó Tuama


(Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

From 2014 to 2019, Irish poet, Pádraig Ó Tuama, led the Corrymeela Community, Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organisation.

Drawing on the spiritual practices of the community, in 2017 he published Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community. Here are some excerpts on prayer from the Foreword, and a prayer celebrating the gentle gifts of morning.


Prayer is …

Prayer is a small fire lit to keep cold hands warm. Prayer is a practice that flourishes both with faith and doubt. Prayer is asking, and prayer is sitting. Prayer is the breath. Prayer is not an answer, always, because not all questions can be answered. (p. xi)

No prayer is perfect. There is no system of prayer that is the best. … Henri Nouwen said that the only way to pray is to pray; the only way to try is to try. So the only way to pray well is to pray regularly enough that it becomes a practice of encounter. (p. xii)

We turn to prayer in days of joy, and days where our world shows – again – that it is wrapped in the circle of conflict. We turn to form, we turn to old words because sometimes it is old words that hold the deepest comfort and the deepest challenge. … in a time of trauma, God is given a name by the traumatized. In a time of joy, God is named by the joy of our hearts. In a time of confession, God is named as light. In a time of rest, God is the soft dark that enfolds us. (p. xix)

Prayer, like poetry – like breath, like our own names – has a fundamental rhythm in our bodies. It changes, it adapts, … it sings, it swears, it is syncopated by the rhythm under the rhythm, the love underneath the love, the rhyme underneath the rhyme, the name underneath the name, the welcome underneath the welcome, the prayer beneath the prayer. (p. xx)

The world is big, and wide, and wild and wonderful and wicked, and our lives are murky, magnificent, malleable and full of meaning. Oremus*. Let us pray. (p. xx)

 
*Oremus: Latin for ‘Let us pray’
 

from Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community
by Pádraig Ó Tuama, p. ix-xx
 


A liturgy of the morning

On the first morning God said: ‘Let there be birds.’ And God separated voice from voice; and in some voices, God put a song, and the song sang to the land, and to the light, and to the light on the land, and when the people heard it, the morning had begun. The first morning.
And God said that it was Good.

On the second morning God said, ‘There will be dreams from the night that will need the light of the morning.’ And so God put wisdom in the early hours. The second morning .
And God said that it was Good.

And on the third morning, God said: ‘Let there be a certain kind of light that can only be seen in the morning.’ And God created gold, and dew, and horizons, and hills in the distance, and faces that look different in the light of the morning, and things that look different in the light of the morning. The third morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the fourth morning, God said, ‘Sometimes the day will be long. Let there be warmth in the morning, let people sleep for some mornings, and let the rest of the morning be good.’ The fourth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the fifth morning, God said: ‘There will be people who will rise early every morning, whose day will begin in the night, by the light of moon and stars; they will see the sun rise, these early risers.’ And God put a softness at the heart of the dawn. The fifth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the sixth morning, God listened. And there were people working, and people struggling to get out of bed, and there were people making love and people making sandwiches. There were people dreading the day, and people glad that the night was over. And God hoped that they’d survive. And God shone light, and made clouds, and rain, and rainbows, and toast, and coffee, places to love the light and places to hide from the light. Small corners to accompany the lonely, the joyous, the needy and the needed. The sixth morning.
And God said that it was Good.

And on the last morning, God rested. And the rest was good. The rest was very good.
And God said that it was very Good.

 
from Daily Prayer with the Corrymeela Community
by Pádraig Ó Tuama, p. 65-6
 


Digging deeper …

 


 
From the blog
Prayer sheet: Called into community
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints
To Emmaus and back
 

3 Prayers for my soul


Bumble bee feasting on catnip, Wydale Hall, Yorkshire  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 

Addressing “my soul” is common practice in the psalms. Here are some examples:

Psalm 42:5
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
      Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
      for I will yet praise him,
      my Saviour and my God.

Psalm 57:8
Awake, my soul!
      Awake, harp and lyre!
      I will awaken the dawn.

Psalm 103:1
Praise the Lord, my soul;
      all my inmost being, praise his holy name.

Psalm 116:7
Return to your rest, my soul,
      for the Lord has been good to you.
 


To supplement your soul-speak, here are three prayers to engage and nourish your soul.


Pierce My Soul with Your Love

 
Lord Jesus Christ,
pierce my soul with your love
so that I may always long for you alone,
who are the bread of angels
and the fulfillment of the soul’s deepest desires.

May my heart always hunger and feed on you,
so that my soul may be filled with sweetness in your presence.

May my soul thirst for you,
who are the source of life, wisdom, knowledge, light
and all the riches of God our Father.

May I always seek and find you,
think about you, speak to you
and do everything for the honour and glory of your name.

Be always my hope, my peace, my refuge and help
in whom my heart is rooted
so that I may never separate from you.

 
written by Bonaventure, 13th century, posted on re:worship
 


Expecting Miracles

 
Dear Lord,
Help me to expect miracles.
Help me to get past the borders of my eyes,
the roadblocks of my mind,
the narrow door of my heart.
May my soul embrace
the mystery of Your magnificent love!
May my heart rejoice
over the unexpected and undefined!
May my mind and body sigh
with the sheer awe of it all. Amen.

 
by Leonard Sweet, posted on Preach the Story.
 


Devoted to You

“Preserve my life, for I am devoted to you;
save your servant who trusts in you.”  (Psalm 86:2)

 
To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul:
Guard my life, O Lord, for I am devoted to you;
Guard my heart, O Father, for I love you with all my choices;
Guard my mind, O Jesus, for I fix my thoughts on following you;
Guard my body, O Spirit, for I give it to be your temple;
Guard my relationships, O Trinity,
      for I centre my conversations on you.
Hear my prayer, O Lord.

To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul:
I offer my eyes to you, O Lord, to behold your beauty;
I offer my lips to you, O Father, to speak your praises;
I offer my ears to you, O Jesus, to listen to your words;
I offer my steps to you, O Spirit, to follow your movements;
I offer my life to you, O Trinity, to honour you alone.
Hear my prayer, O Lord.

 
by Bill & Kristi Gaultiere, posted on Soul Shepherding
 


 
From the blog
Check the index for more prayers in the “3 Prayers” series, and much more besides.
 

Guest post: Reflections on the word ’embrace’


“to love and to cherish” by Ian Evans-Boiten   (Photo by Willem Wilstra)
 

On the Feast of Pentecost 2019 I (Irene) was privileged to take part in the dedication service of a Christian retreat in the south of France, Colomba le Roc. Located a few kilometers from the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, Colomba le Roc is run by Rev Joanne Evans-Boiten and her husband, Ian. Here Joanne shares some reflections on the word “embrace”.

Joanne writes,

A few years ago I was asked to do a talk about my experiences as a pilgrim on the way to Santiago.

No talk nowadays is complete without plenty of pictures and so I chose some photographs taken on my journey. However, I missed a suitable illustration to express the welcome I had felt at times, particularly in moments of difficulty. So I looked on the web and googled “welcome, pilgrim”.

One photograph in particular stood out. It was of a man, arms wide open and a big smile on his face. The picture did not just say “welcome”. It said “Welcome. I am so glad you are here – I have been waiting for you.”

To me, that is what the word “embrace” is about in the first place: arms wide open as a sign of welcome. A welcome that is as non-judgmental, as loving, as that of the Father in the parable of the prodigal son. (Luke 15:11-32)

But these same arms are also cherishing arms that protect; arms like the wings of a mother hen who covers her chicks when they are in danger and who is willing to give her life so that they may live.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

 
 
Celtic Christians used circling prayers as reminders of God’s protecting embrace. This prayer by David Adam from his book, Tides and Seasons, was written in that tradition:

Dressing Prayer

This day I bind around me
The power of the Sacred Three:
The hand to hold,
The heart to love,
The eye to see,
The Presence of the Trinity.

I wrap around my mortal frame
The power of the Creator’s name:
The Father’s might, His holy arm,
To shield this day and keep from harm

I cover myself from above
With the great Redeemer’s love.
The Son’s bright light to shine upon me,
To protect this day to eternity

I pull around me with morning light
The knowledge of the Spirit’s sight.
The Strengthener’s eye to keep guard,
Covering my path when it is hard.

This day I bind around me
The power of the Sacred Three

by David Adam, from Tides and Seasons: Modern prayers in the Celtic tradition, p. 11

 
May God’s embrace empower us too to welcome and protect those who need it most.
 


 
From the blog
Circle me, Lord
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints
Up to us
Welcome ~ embrace
 

Welcome ~ embrace


 

The Welcoming Prayer

Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment,
because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions,
persons, situations, and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition,
person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God
and the healing action and grace within.

Amen.

 
by Father Thomas Keating, posted on www.spiritualityofconflict.com.
 


 
From the blog
Prayer sheet: Called into community
Do this remembering
In the light of His coming

Embrace the cities and towns


York Minster  (Photo: Irene Bom)
 
 

Here’s a thoughtful meditation by Ann Bell Worley, based on Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7, Jeremiah’s letter to the exiles headed for the city of Babylon.

The meditation is taken from the Cities and Towns issue in a series of publications on faith and ethics produced by Baylor University (and available for free download).


Meditation: “Babylon”

Not simply an evil territory
     or a dirty word,
     as we are prone to believe.
But a place where God’s people were sent
     in exile
     on purpose
     on mission
         to offer their culture
     to the culture there
     in love.
For God so loved the world.

Like Israel in exile, still we hope
     for our homecoming in the city of God,
     where there will be no more tears.
Let us hope not
     in closed communion
     in isolated sanctuaries
     apart from the Babylon-world.
Rather let us hope
     in the fullness of God’s love
     in the life of the cities and towns
         where we work
         and love
         and worship
         and play.
And remember
     that God so loved not only us,
         but the world.

Let us hope for Babylon
     as we hope for ourselves.
Let us embrace
     its people
     its buildings
     its streets
     and fill them with the beauty
         of God’s temple.
Let us hope
         with doors wide open,
     welcome the city in
     and pour ourselves out.
For God so loved the world.
 

~ written by Ann Bell Worley, copyright © 2006 The Center for Christian Ethics. Posted on the Baylor University website.
 


… more on Cities and Towns

Other subjects included in the Cities and Towns issue:

  • Dysfunctional Cities: Where Did We Go Wrong?
  • Citizens of Another City
  • The New Urbanism
  • Saint Benedict in the City
  • Crate and Castle
  • Cities and Towns in Art
  • Salt in the City

… and loads more on Faith and Ethics …

Check out the Baylor University’s Christian Reflection Project for materials on other areas of life where faith and ethics intersect – to inform your thoughts and your prayers. Also a great resource for group discussions.

Note: Besides articles, there are also study guides provided, for example this one on Consumerism.
 


 
From the blog

Prayer prompts
Sola gratia – Deo gratias
Sabbath rest

 

Bend down low


Artwork, Gorinchem Museum  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Our theme for July is EMBRACE.

May you know the embrace of God today, and draw others into the circle of embrace by your prayers and by acts of loving kindness.


A Prayer for Others

Lord Jesus Christ,
when you walked on dusty roads
or sat by glistening waters,
you met people where they were.

When you bent down low
to touch the leper,
or raised your eyes to touch Zacchaeus’ heart,
heaven and earth were met.

And so our prayer today is that our world will know
your healing touch
and your forgiving heart.

That those who have been hurt
by insincere actions
and damning words
will hear your healing voice.

That those whose lives are filled with dark thoughts,
or unimaginable fears,
will know your peace.

Walk beside those who are close to giving up hope
and where life seems to have no point;
where people struggle to make ends meet
and fear the bailiffs’ knock on the door.

May children living in sewers
or tending AIDS-racked parents
feel the touch of a caring hand
and an end to injustice and fear.

And may all who weep and mourn,
or feel abandoned and unloved
turn towards your voice,
move towards your arms
and hear the whisper of your presence
in the long hours of night.

Inspire us and encourage us to bend down low;
to embrace those for whom society has no time or patience.

Raise our eyes upwards to see the struggling patient
and the exhausted care giver.

And where young and old stumble and fall,
may we be there to offer support,
that all will know your love that transcends all others.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Amen.

 
— written by Reverend Eleanor Macalister, and originally posted on the Church of Scotland’s Starters for Sunday website. Reposted on re:worship
 


 
From the blog
Prayer sheet: Good shepherd
Blessed assurance
Prepare a way

Wonder-full psalm


(Photo: Irene Bom)
 

Here is an active prayer by Roy DeLeon, inspired by Psalm 139, a truly “wonder-full” psalm and one of my favourites.

 
 
Note:
Roy DeLeon’s book includes drawings for the different poses, but the written “instructions” should be graphic enough to get you praying with body, heart and soul.

 


An active prayer

inspired by Psalm 139
 

O God, you know when I am happy;
Inhale: Express your joy with a smile coming from your heart and radiating out through your hands and feet.

You know when I am in the gutter.
Exhale: Sag your body down, depleted of energy, drained of life.

You know well the choices I make
Inhale: Lift up your arms.

And the paths they lead to.
Exhale: Bring your arms down toward your front foot and check the path you took today.

Your thoughts go beyond my reach;
Inhale: As you breathe in, reach up.

Your depth beyond all thoughts.
Exhale: As you breathe out, reach down, letting your head dangle freely.

I open my eyes, and there you are.
Inhale: Look up toward God in the heights.

I look inward, and there you are.
Exhale: Close your eyes and feel your humanness.

Thanks for your wonderful gifts.
Inhale: Count your blessings and give thanks. Smile.

Because of you, I am wonder.
Exhale: Smile. Radiate God’s joy.

 
from Praying with the body: Bringing the psalms to life by Roy DeLeon, p. 94
 


 
From the blog
Summer-friendly spiritual practices
Fearfully and wonderfully made
walk, run, soar

The Spirit does wonders


(Photo: Irene Bom)
 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Romans 15:13 (NIVUK)

 


Prayer to God, the Spirit

O God,
You are Spirit;
You are wind;
You are breath.

You meet us in the wonders of creation,
in the awe of wonderful things,
in the terror of fearful things.
You blow among the fallen leaves,
the broken branches,
the whining pain
and the whirlwinds of delight.

Your wind gently touches our brow
with comfort and caress;
your forgiveness raises us to life;
your challenge disturbs our tidy piles
and spreads opportunities before our eyes.

Gentle Spirit, breathe on us your life.
Strong Spirit, open our closed doors to your compassion;
Universal Spirit, inspire us to sing and sigh for justice;
Spirit of Jesus, teach us to walk,
to work, to pray, to live, to love,
your way.

Awaken our dreams,
expand our visions,
heal us for hope,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

 
written by William Loader and posted on www.staff.murdoch.edu.au
 


From the blog
Rejoice in the Lord always (Prayer sheet)
Take heart
3 Prayers to the Sacred Trinity

Proclaim the wondrous


Garden at Colomba Le Roc Retreat, France  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

But you are a chosen people,
set aside to be
      a royal order of priests,
a holy nation, God’s own;
so that you may proclaim
the wondrous acts
of the One who called you
out of inky darkness
into shimmering light.

 

(1 Peter 2:9, The Voice)

 


Literally part of “a royal order of priests”

Pentecost weekend I had the privilege of representing our Presbytery at the dedication service of Colomba Le Roc Retreat – a truly ecumenical celebration.

 
As part of the “Blessing of Colomba le Roc and all present” at the end of the service, I used this benediction by David Adam:

Benediction

The Father of many resting places grant you rest;
The Christ who stilled the storm grant you calm;
The Spirit who fills all things grant you peace.
God’s light be your light,
God’s love be your love,
God’s way be your way.

The eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit
shield you on every side.
Amen.

 
from The Open Gate: Celtic Prayers for Growing Spiritually
by David Adam, p.112
 


 
From the blog
Body talk
Prayer sheet: Called into community
Show me the way