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
 

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
 

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

Consolation joy


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

(Psalm 94:19, NIVUK)

 


A prayer

How can I tell of such love to me?
You made me in your image
and hold me in the palm of your hand,
your cords of love, strong and fragile as silk,
      bind me and hold me.
Rich cords, to family and friends,
music and laughter echoing in memories,
light dancing on the water, hills rejoicing.
Cords that found me hiding behind carefully built walls
      and led me out,
love that heard my heart break and despair and rescued me,
love that overcame my fears and doubts and released me.
The questions and burdens I carry you take,
to leave my hands free – to hold yours, and others,
free to follow your cords as they move
and swirl in the breeze,
free to be caught up in the dance of your love,
finding myself in surrendering to you.
How can I tell of such love?
How can I give to such love?
I am, here am I.

 
by Catherine Hooper
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #177
 


 
Recommendation
 
I’m thoroughly enjoying Ingrid Fettell Lee’s book, Joyful.
Check out her website, Aesthetics of Joy, for details and additional resources.
 

On dust and glory


(Photo: Albert Goedkoop)
 

As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust dust dust

 
(Ps 103:13-14)
 


From Ash Wednesday to Easter and beyond

A reflection
 
 
Remember
that you are made of dust
and you will return to dust.
Remember too
that we are made in the image of God –
male and female,
old and young,
white and all persons of color
and geniuses
and people with attention deficit disorder.

It’s a strange and confusing combination,
this dustiness
and this freedom to love
and to be selfish
and to be afraid
and to know hope
and joy
and wonder.

I don’t need to know all the answers,
but I’d appreciate help remembering
that the Cross and the Resurrection
add a new dimension
and a new promise.
I remember this:
When we “Do this” in remembrance of Him
the dustiness
and God’s image
and my history
walk together,
led by His hand into life.
My life.

It’s a strange business,
this combining of
dust
and
glory.

 
by William Maxwell. Posted on www.inthecourtyard.com
 


 
From the blog

5 earlier references to Psalm 103:
From generation to generation
Forget not
From a grateful heart
Theme: The greatest is love
Forgiven and forgotten
 

Leaving the desert behind


Wanderlust, Paris  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

It was my privilege, as newly appointed moderator of the International Presbytery, to conduct the communion service at our Presbytery meeting in Paris this past weekend.

Here is a transcript of my reflection on Joshua 1:1-9.


Only be strong and courageous

I regularly listen to a podcast called Creative Pep Talk. Here is God giving Joshua a pep talk at a crucial, threshold moment in his life and in the life of his people. And, I suppose, this is my pep talk to you and to my own soul.

Joshua got a sneak preview of the Promised Land 40 years earlier, as one of the 12 spies, and he and his friend, Caleb, returned with glowing reports, admitting it wouldn’t be easy but with God’s help nothing is impossible.

Sadly – tragically – the other 10 spies were anything but strong and courageous and they sowed a spirit of fear and unbelief.

Joshua stayed true to his convictions all through the wilderness years, faithfully serving Moses as his assistant and spending time with God, getting to know Him better.

With Moses gone and the Promised Land back on the agenda, it was time for a leader with a different personality and skill set. A warrior leader, strong and courageous, to inspire his people (this time round) to be strong and courageous too.

‘Be strong and courageous, Joshua,’ God said (v. 6). ‘Only be strong and courageous’ (v. 7). ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened or dismayed’ (v. 9). ‘As I was with Moses,’ God said, ‘I will be with you; I will not fail or forsake you’ (v. 5). ‘The Lord your God is with you wherever you go’ (v. 9).

To paraphrase: ‘Be strong and courageous, Joshua, because you are not alone. If you continue to trust me and obey my commandments, there is nothing to fear. I’ve got your back.’

Earlier in Deuteronomy 31:7-8 God used Moses to encourage Joshua with these self-same words. This time God encourages Joshua in person with wave upon wave of loving affirmation, so the words sink in.

We can all do with more courage and encouragement – especially when we are tempted to give up, worn out by the wilderness years; or when we’re on the threshold of something new and risky; or when we face wave upon wave of opposition as we venture forward to make the Promised Land our own.

Let me encourage you today.

Whatever ‘strong and courageous’ means in your context, be strong in the Lord and courageous. For ‘God did not give us a timid spirit, but a spirit of power and love and sound judgement’ (2 Timothy 1:7).

And let us encourage one another as we boldly move forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us (Phil 3:12).  Amen
 


Call to worship

(inspired by Jeremiah 31:7-9)

Praise God!
For God is gathering His people together.
From near and far we come together—
the wounded and the whole, the weak and the strong—
seeking God’s presence,
God’s forgiveness,
and God’s direction for our lives.

by Christine Longhurst, re:Worship
 

Worthy of trust


Spring willow  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

I love this passage from Paul’s first letter to Timothy. It’s peppered with good, true and beautiful words like “promise”, “value” and “deserves”. To accompany the reading, a blessing by Jan Richardson, inspired by the story of the Roman Centurion who demonstrates uncommon trust in Jesus.

 

Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labour and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Saviour of all people, and especially of those who believe.

1 Timothy 4:7-10 (NIV UK)

 


Only Speak the Word

A blessing inspired by Luke 7:1-10

You might not have guessed
how far this blessing
can travel.

But it is worth believing
that it is built
for crossing distances
for stretching itself
for making its way
without hesitation
to the place
where it is needed most.

Only believe—
or, failing this,
latch onto someone
who will believe
for you,
who will ask
on your behalf,
who will plead
for this blessing
to come.

Trust one who knows
with a certainty
fierce as fire
that this blessing
will find its way
to you,
that it will treat
miles and time
as nothing,
that it will push through
each boundary,
cross every border,
pass through
all obstacles
to reach you.

Trust that these words
know the path
into your anguish,
that in your ache
they will become balm
and in your pain
they will become soothing.
Trust that they will be for you
a sweet
and stunning
peace.
 
by Jan Richardson, posted on paintedprayerbook.com
 


 
From the blog
Fearfully and wonderfully made
 

Blessed assurance


Graffiti on graffiti  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
 
Assurance is one of the synonyms for trust (noun).

Searching for assurance on re-worship.blogspot.com I came across many references to Words of Assurance (of forgiveness), often used in the service after a time of confession.

Here are some words of assurance written by John Birch – assurance that goes a lot deeper than feelings alone as it is based on the character and love of God.


Confession and forgiveness

(A moment or two of quiet where we might make our silent confession to God)

‘Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against him.’
(Romans 4:7-8)

 
For your embracing love
a Father’s love
a Mother’s love
The love that sees our failings
and forgives us
The love that sees our joys
and embraces us
The love that knows no ending
or beginning
The love that could die for us
and did
We bless you.
We bless you!

— written by John Birch, and posted on http://www.faithandworship.com/


From the blog:
Forgiven and forgotten