Food for thought


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)

 
If you recall, few posts ago I featured Romans 12:1, about offering our BODY as a living sacrifice.

In the following verse – Romans 12:2 – Paul highlights the role of the MIND in keeping us on the straight and narrow so we may “live a beautiful life” (Romans 12:2, The Passion Translation).

Here, to reflect on:

Romans 12:2 three ways

NIV UK
Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test
and approve what God’s will is –
his good, pleasing and perfect will.
 
J.B. Phillips
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould,
but let God re-mould your minds from within,
so that you may prove in practice
that the plan of God for you is good,
meets all his demands
and moves towards the goal of true maturity.
 
The Passion Translation
Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you,
but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit
through a total reformation of how you think.
This will empower you to discern God’s will
as you live a beautiful life,
satisfying and perfect in his eyes.

If you’d like to explore further, follow this link to all English translations of Romans 12:2 on biblegateway.com.

More food for thought

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV UK)

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.
Romans 8:5 (NIV UK)

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 (NIV UK)

From the blog:
The Gift #3 : Re-minder

Daily prayer

Jesus,
by your Holy Spirit,
keep my mind firmly set
where you want it to be focused today.

by Judy Allen, from Five steps to renewing your mind

Offer your bodies


(Photo: Lindy Twaddle)
 

“I urge you, brothers and sisters,
in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and pleasing to God –
this is your true and proper worship.”

 
Romans 12:1 (NIV UK)
 

A prayer

O Living God,
we who are partly living,
scarcely hoping,
and fitfully caring,
pray to you now
to make us fully alive.
Give us the vitality, awareness and commitment
that we see in Jesus Christ,
through the power of his death and resurrection.
We ask this in his Name.

John V. Taylor

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #46

Body talk


“rejoice with those who rejoice”  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
A while back our evening ladies Bible study group spent about 3 months studying the different dimensions of the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23)

One of my lasting memories of this series is trying to discern the body posture that is best associated with a specific dimension of this multi-faceted fruit. Joy, for example, requires loose-fitting clothing, so you can move and extend your limbs; patience is a quiet, expectant trust; kindness is close, attentive other-centredness.

We experience and express these qualities in our bodies and in responding to the ‘body talk’ of other bodies around us.

Paul writes in Romans 12:15:

“Rejoice with those who rejoice;
mourn with those who mourn.”

It’s quite easy to recognize the body postures that express these extreme emotional states. Sadly, strong emotions in others can form a barrier. Paul says, be brave and seek connection under all circumstances. And take advantage of occasions like weddings and funerals, natural opportunities for us to connect with others in their joy and sorrow and so strengthen bonds.

Not all ‘body talk’ is that obvious, but God has given us His Spirit, as well as eyes, ears, minds, hearts and bodies as antennae. Be curious. Be open to learn.

 

Pray for discernment to understand ‘body talk’ – both our own and the ‘body talk’ of the people around us – and pray for discernment and courage to respond appropriately, graciously and generously.


A prayer

O God, the source of our common life,
when we are dry and scattered,
when we are divided and alone,
we long for connection, we long for community,
Breath of God, breath on us.

With those we live beside,
who are often strange to us,
whom we may be afraid to approach,
yet who have riches of friendship to share,
we long for connection, we long for community,
Breath of God, breath on us.

With those we have only heard of,
who see with different eyes,
whose struggles we try to imagine,
whose fierce joy we wish we could grasp,
we long for connection, we long for community,
Breath of God, breath on us.

With those we shall never know,
but whose lives are linked with ours,
whose shared ground we stand on,
and whose common air we breathe,
we long for connection, we long for community,
Breath of God, breath on us.

When we are dry and scattered,
when we are divided and alone,
when we are cut off from the source of our life,
open our graves, O God,
that all your people
may be free to breathe, strong to move,
and joyful to stand together
to celebrate your name.

by Janet Morley
from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, #495

Sabbath rest


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 
To draw this month’s theme of “work” to a close, a post reflecting on work’s counterpoint: the Sabbath.

Built into the rhythm of the universe is “Sabbath rest”, a holy rest that we are invited to participate in on a weekly basis.

The primary source for this blog post is Barbara Brown Taylor’s chapter on Sabbath – “The Practice of Saying No” – from her book, An Altar in the World.

May these reflections awaken in us all a fresh appreciation and hunger for “Sabbath rest” as a way of life.

Two “therefores”

The invitation to “Sabbath rest” has two formulations in the Bible, one linked to creation and the other to the exodus out of Egypt.

“For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:11)

“Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.” (Deuteronomy 5:15)

The two candles that observant Jews light at the start of their weekly Shabbat meal represent these two “therefores” – rest and freedom.

Lighting the two candles sets the tone for the rest of the day: “made in God’s image you too shall rest” and “made in God’s image you too are free”. (Barbara Brown Taylor, An Altar in the World, p. 131)

A Sabbath vision

After exploring the benefits and challenges of setting aside one whole day a week when “More God is the only thing on my list” (ibid, p. 126), Barbara Brown Taylor writes,

“… I think it is good to have a Sabbath vision, even if it seems impossible to you right now. Here is mine, which you are free to borrow while you are envisioning your own.

At least one day in every seven, pull off the road and park the car in the garage. Close the door to the toolshed and turn off the computer. Stay home not because you are sick but because you are well. Talk someone you love into being well with you. Take a nap, a walk, an hour for lunch. Test the promise that you are worth more than what you can produce – that even if you spent one whole day being good for nothing you would still be precious in God’s sight – and when you get anxious because you are convinced that this is not so, remember that your own conviction is not required. This is a commandment. Your worth has already been established, even when you are not working. The purpose of the commandment is to woo you to the same truth.” (ibid, p. 138-9)
 


 
To close, a prayer – quoted by Barbara Brown Taylor in her book – that captures some of the gift and the tension that is Sabbath, celebrated sunset to sunset on a weekly basis.

A prayer: Welcoming Sabbath

Our noisy day has now descended with the sun beyond our sight.

In the silence of our praying place we close the door upon the hectic joys and fears, the accomplishments and anguish of the week we left behind.

What was but moments ago the substance of our life has become memory; what we did must now be woven into what we are.

On this day we shall not do, but be.

We are to walk the path of our humanity, no longer ride unseeing through a world we do not touch and only vaguely sense.

No longer can we tear the world apart to make our fire.

On this day heat and warmth and light must come from deep within us.

 
from Gates of Prayer: The New Union Prayer Book (Weekends, Sabbaths, and Festivals), ed. Chaim Stern, p. 245
 

In the school of prayer with Brother Lawrence


Roof garden in inner city Rotterdam  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 

While reflecting on the theme of work, I was reminded of Brother Lawrence – a role model for us (as for previous generations) of what it means to “make your life a prayer” (1 Thessalonians 5:17, The Passion Translation).

Brother Lawrence was a Carmelite monk working in a monastery kitchen in Paris in the seventeenth century. He wrote no book but his papers, together with accounts of conversations with him, were collected after his death and published. The English translation was given the title, The Practice of the Presence of God.

Here are two excerpts:

“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer, and in the noise and clutter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquillity as if I were on my knees at the Blessed Sacrament.”
       from the Fourth Conversation

“But when we are faithful to keep ourselves in his holy presence, and set him always before us, this not only hinders our offending him, and doing anything that may displease him, at least willfully, but it also begets in us a holy freedom, and if I may so speak, a familiarity with God, wherewith we ask, and that successfully, the graces we stand in need of. In time, by often repeating these acts, they become habitual, and the presence of God is rendered as it were natural to us. Give him thanks, if you please, with me, for his great goodness towards me, which I can never sufficiently admire, for the many favours he has done to so miserable a sinner as I am. May all things praise him. Amen.”
       from the First Letter


Two simple prayers

Drawing inspiration from Brother Lawrence, Ann Lewin writes:

Brother Lawrence believed that it was important to relate all his life to God, work and prayer alike. …

We have to establish the habit of remembering that there is a connection between God and ourselves wherever we are …
now is the time we meet with God.

Two simple prayers are enough to carry around with us: ‘Thank God’, and ‘Lord have mercy’. These are the responses we can make to all the circumstances of our lives, for God is concerned with the painful experiences and the hard questions just as much as with the joys and delights.

from Seasons of Grace by Ann Lewin, p. 28-29


Digging deeper

The Practice of the Presence of God  (Audio version | PDF)
by Brother Lawrence

The devotional life of Brother Lawrence
article by Robert M. Johnston

Four Lessons about Faith & Work from Brother Lawrence
article by Dr. Andrew Spencer

A ministry of dirty dishes
article by Perry Engle


Benediction

(inspired by Exodus 3)

Go out into the world to join God
      in the work of love, of peace, of justice.
Take in the breath of life.
Take off your shoes.
Know that you are ever in the presence
of the Holy and Living God.
Go in peace. Amen.

— written by Joanna Harader, and posted on her Spacious Faith blog.


Other blog posts in the “In the school of prayer” series:

In the school of prayer with Angela Ashwin
In the school of prayer with Anselm
In the school of prayer with Ann Lewin
In the school of prayer with Eddie Askew
In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints

The work of our hands


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Here is a prayer of blessing for workers of all kinds, written by Carol Penner, with a unifying theme of hands – strong hands, capable hands, practical hands, determined hands, artistic hands, loving hands, Christ-like hands.
 
This is the first post in our new series, “Work”.

 


A prayer

Bless the work of our hands, O God.

Bless the hands that work the land;
hands that move earth, plant seeds and harvest,
hands with callouses and dirty fingernails, strong hands.
 
Bless the hands that use machines;
hands that drive cars, trucks and forklifts,
hands on computer keyboards, capable hands.
 
Bless the hands that make things;
hands that manufacture and create,
working wood and metal and plastic, practical hands.
 
Bless the hands that clean;
hands that wash, mop and scrub,
hands that know what to do with soap, determined hands.
 
Bless the hands that make music and art;
hands that play instruments and hold paintbrushes,
hands that are creative tools, artistic hands.
 
Bless the hands that care for people;
hands that cook and feed, heal and nurture,
hands with a gentle touch, loving hands.
 
Bless the hands that are generous;
hands that give away money and food,
hands that are always trying to be empty, Christ-like hands.
 
Bless the tiny, baby hands.
Bless the strong adult hands.
Bless the hands that are folded in prayer.
Bless the hands that are lifted in praise.
Our hands do the work of your hands,
O God our Creator.  Amen.
 
by Carol Penner, from leadinginworship website


From the blog:
Theme: Sharing in Jesus’ ministry (PRAYER SHEET)
Theme: Do not lose heart (PRAYER SHEET)

See the Index for more links

Light on my path


 

The psalmist says, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” (Psalm 119:105)

Here are some light-bearing Scripture verses and a prayer. Hopefully there is something in this selection to encourage you and help light your way.


And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.

 

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

 

To God belong wisdom and power;
counsel and understanding are his.
He reveals the deep things of darkness
and brings utter darkness into the light.

 

The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

 

Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God.

 

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

 

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light.

 

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

 

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble.

 

The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

 


Light for the Path

(based on Psalm 119:105-112, 18, 34)

Your Word, O God, is a lamp for our feet
and a light for our journey.

When everything around us is dark, and we can see no light at all,
may the light from Your Word show us the way to go.

When the future is uncertain, and we can’t see what lies ahead,
may the light from Your Word show us the way to go.

When we feel abandoned or betrayed, and have no one to turn to,
may the light from Your Word show us the way to go.

When we are tempted to do what we know is wrong,
may the light from Your Word show us the way to go.

Open our eyes to see the wonderful truths in Your Word.
Give us understanding,
that we may keep Your law,
and put it into practice in our lives.

Amen.

 
from re-worship.blogspot.com


From the blog: see also on a journey, theme for August 2017.

In the school of prayer with the Celtic Saints

 
To all saints, i.e. anyone who is within the Body of Christ …

For many decades now, Celtic Spirituality has been a hot topic, latterly also in my life.

How grateful I am that I was brought into contact with this ancient but holistic faith tradition through ministries like the Iona Community, the Northumbria Community and Abbey of the Arts. The themes and prayers of the ancients and those who seek to follow in their footsteps continue to inform my spirituality and my ministry.

 


Celtic Christianity: a brief introduction

from 2000 Years of Prayer compiled by Michael Counsell, p. 71

“For many centuries the Celtic race occupied and ruled most of Western Europe. Their religion seems to have included a recognition of sacredness in many places, in the events of nature and of daily life, and this continued when they converted to Christianity. Many of their prayers and songs have been passed on by word of mouth and only written down in the [19th] century. Anglo-Saxon invaders drove them into the Celtic fringe of Brittany, Cornwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland, but heroic Celtic missionaries spread the Christian faith, among them St David in Wales, St Patrick in Ireland, St Ninian among the Picts and St Columba from Ireland to the Scots in Scotland, whence it was taken into northern England. The monasteries became great centres of learning, and distinctive artistic styles emerged in carved crosses and illuminated manuscripts. The practical nature of Celtic Christianity led to Pelagius, a British or Irish Celt of the fourth or fifth century (whose Gaelic name was probably Morgan), being branded a heretic by St Augustine. Yet Celtic Christianity has enjoyed a revival in the twentieth century.”

Key features

A blog post on third-space.org.uk features this helpful list:

1.  Monasticism / Living in community
2.  Sacramental principle
3.  Creation affirming
4.  Contemplation and mission
5.  Understanding of time
6.  Hospitality
7.  Spiritual warfare
8.  Trinitarian belief
9.  Love of learning
 
Check out the blog post to explore these characteristics in more detail.

Spiritual warfare: also see the post on encircling prayer.
Trinitarian belief: also see 3 Prayers to the Sacred Trinity.

Let us pray

In closing, here are 3 Celtic or Celtic-inspired prayers with references to our theme of the month, “Light”:

Canticle

Christ, as a light
illumine and guide me.
Christ, as a shield
overshadow me.
Christ under me;
Christ over me;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Be in the heart of each to whom I speak;
in the mouth of each who speaks unto me.
This day be within and without me,
lowly and meek, yet all-powerful.
Christ as a light;
Christ as a shield;
Christ beside me
on my left and my right.

from Northumbria Community Morning Prayer

God of the saints, hear us

That we may remember always those who have gone before us,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may be inspired by the noble works of old,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may seek to follow the example of the saints,
God of the saints, hear us.
That the church may stand for truth and justice,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may be unafraid to proclaim the gospel,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may lead others to worship you,
God of the saints, hear us.
That we may bring your light to dark places,
God of the saints, hear us.

from The Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayer by David Adam, p. 134

A blessing

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.
And the blessing of God almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
rest upon you and remain with you always.
Amen.

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

In the light of His coming


(Photo: Irene Bom)

 

Here are Paul’s words of encouragement and exhortation to his friend and partner in the gospel, Timothy, taken from the Amplified Bible:

 

I charge [you] in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, Who is to judge the living and the dead, and by (in the light of) His coming and His kingdom:

Herald and preach the Word! Keep your sense of urgency [stand by, be at hand and ready], whether the opportunity seems to be favourable or unfavourable. [Whether it is convenient or inconvenient, whether it is welcome or unwelcome, you as preacher of the Word are to show people in what way their lives are wrong.] And convince them, rebuking and correcting, warning and urging and encouraging them, being unflagging and inexhaustible in patience and teaching.

2 Timothy 4:1-2 (Amplified Bible, Classic edition)

 

Of course, our calling might be very different from Timothy’s. What words of personal encouragement and exhortation might Paul write to us in the light of who we are and God’s call on our lives?


Commission & Benediction

Go now like those prepared for the Lord to return.
Cease to do evil, learn to do good;
seek justice, rescue the oppressed.
Give freely to those in need
and let your treasure be in the things of heaven

And may God not be ashamed to be called your God;
May Christ Jesus find you attentive and well prepared;
And may the Holy Spirit give you the assurance
     of all that has been promised to you.

We go in peace to love and serve the Lord,
In the name of Christ. Amen.

 
by Nathan Nettleton, posted on LaughingBird.net


Note:

Sorry you haven’t heard from me in more than a week. I was away on holiday in Edinburgh. Since my return I’ve been working intensively on the 40-page anniversary booklet for the 375th Anniversary of the Scots International Church Rotterdam, getting it ready for printing in time for the commemoration service on 16 September 2018. I’ve entitled the booklet “Looking Forward Looking Back”.


 

The blessing of light


“Shine like diamonds”  (Photo: Irene Bom)

 
This is the first post in the new series, “Light”, a recurring theme in the Bible, from the first chapter to the last.

A prayer

In his book, The Open Gate, David Adam has a section entitled “Candle prayers”. Here is one that works both as a morning prayer and an evening prayer.

Creator of light,
the blessing of light be upon us –
the blessing of daylight,
the blessing of sunlight,
the blessing of Christ light.
Scatter the darkness from before us
that we may walk as children of light.

 
from The Open Gate: Celtic Prayers for Growing Spiritually
by David Adam, p.28


See also:
Morning prayer #1
Evening prayer #1
Evening prayer #2
Theme for April 2018: Shine