A Journey of Thankfulness.

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In a previous post I discussed what I did to set up a new Spiritual Journal and that his year I was going to use it to set myself a challenge. Now that we are over half way through the year, I was just reflecting on how its been so far and what I hope for the rest of the year.

At the beginning of the year when I started a new journal, I set myself the task of practicing more thankfulness. Each day I would record the thing that I was thankful for. Sounds like a simple task right? But actually saying thank you and being thankful is not as easy of a journey as it sounds.

Starting out with a blank canvas for month it seemed quite daunting. What would the month look like when it was finished? Could I allow myself to be thankful for the same thing multiple times in the month? Should I fill in days that I miss afterwards? Would putting rules and restraints on it remove the purpose?

When we come to God in prayer we tend to get into the habit of using our prayer life as a wishlist for God. Its easy to sit down and start listing all the things that we wish were different before recognising the things that are going well.  It isn’t a bad thing for us to bring our needs and concerns to God, but it is easy to lose sight of the things that God is actually providing for us. In this modern world we are always looking out for the next thing that will improve our lives. We want to see results quickly, we cant wait for the light to turn green of its own accord, we have to wish it. We should slow down, and realize that things run on God’s timing and not our own.

I decided that this would work best if I just went with the flow. I wasn’t going to get annoyed at myself if I missed some days. Journaling within its self is a discipline that I can only manage if I keep it undemanding. Over the first month, I found that the thing I was most thankful for was the people around me. I know that sometimes I do forget just how blessed I am with all my friends, so it felt right to document those people in my journal. 2016-07-30 07.30.52 111I can even remember what happened that day with those people.

It also taught me to be thankful for theological college and for all its weird and wonderful things. The start of the second term felt hard. Going back after the Christmas break was like being thrown right back into it. I had a Hospice placement almost as soon as we started back which really made me think about thankfulness.  Some of it is also about seeing the things within myself that other people do. I often don’t just give myself enough credit for things like preaching a good sermon. Those things are important to be thankful for too. Whats the point of having these gifts if they are not utilized and used with gratification.

Thankfulness is not an easy task. Sometimes it is very difficult. Our personal difficulties and the sadness of life can become overwhelming, and there were/are days that I struggle to be thankful.  Some months have been left almost totally blank. But that is why thankfulness is a journey. It is one of the things within my relationship with God that I will always be working on.

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God continues to surprise me with this challenge, and I will probably carry on this new discipline into my next journals. Thankfulness is something that I will continue to journey on. There will never quite be enough thankfulness within me to compare with the love that God gives us all, but hopefully with this new discipline I can get a bit closer.

 

Peace and Joy.

 

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When things are unfinished…

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetIt was beautifully foggy as we made our way to Morning Prayer this morning. We are drawing to the end of the term I’ve been reflecting on how time quickly has gone. When I first started going through the vocational process, I was determined to get out there as quick as possible. After being here for almost two terms, I now think that I am happy to have my 3 years. Theres just so much you learn, both in quick ways and the things you learn over time.  A whole picture of a person being formed to be a priest in the service of God. When I think about it like that, I am not sure I will ever be ready. But hopefully by the grace of God I will be better formed leaving here then I was when I came in.

In our formational classes, formally known as ‘Life and Service’ we’ve been going through a module on preaching. Preaching is a big part of what a priest does in church, so it is only right that we have been trying to help each other become better preachers.  As a class we’ve been peer reviewing each others sermons which has lead to a great deal of bonding and encouragement. Processed with VSCOWe don’t often get the opportunity to hear people preach. Ordinands tend to preach on attachment and by default that means the rest of us are busy too. It has been such a blessing to hear the message that has been moving through other members of the community.  This week has also seen the first time I have preached at my attachment church. It’s been a little while since I last preached, and that time didn’t go very well so I was quite nervous. Preaching is also something that we experience often as ordinands. Just being in church services a lot means there is a lot of hearing people preach. This combined with a class of Ordinands talking about what makes a good or bad sermon means that I’ve become quite self conscious about how I preach. This I suppose can only be a good thing. I dare say that even once I am ordained (God willing) that I will still be working on my preaching technique.

This week has been a good mix of work and play. I made it to the ever-so-slightly daunting University Library this week. Being able to successfully navigate the endless corridors and stacks of books was a simple victory in the battle against the academic workload.   My Wednesday Dungeons and Dragons  game also reconvened to much silliness and joy. Screenshot_2016-03-01-21-53-16I now play DnD on two nights. On Mondays I play with a group of friends from my local board games club and we take it in turns to run  a series of sessions- commonly called GM’ing. (I begin my turn in  GM’ing on Monday.) On Wednesday I play DnD with a group of people from various places. We all know each other though our GM, and we use an online platform called Roll 20 to play our games. This group has been running since September, and after having a small break to try a different role play platform we have returned to our original campaign.  I don’t think I ever realised just how fun DnD is. I always saw it as the top level of nerdom, and that it was uncool. Thankfully shows like Critical Roll, Acquisitions Incorporated and Temple of the Lava Bears have shown that DnD is something that all can engage with.Its been such an important part of what has kept me sane this term, and I’m hoping to continue with these groups long into the future.


 

For some reason I always end up starting posts and then never finishing them!
Term has finished and the tridium has begun. I’m spending some time relaxing at home with the family enjoying the rest of Holy Week at my home church.

A very joyful easter to you when it comes.

 

Adventures in The Offices.

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When someone is ordained they make a canological obligation to pray daily. For most deacons and priests this takes the form of an Daily Office. Coming from the Jewish tradition of saying ones prayers at certain times of the day, it means that the life of a priest (or even a lay person) is embedded in prayer. This ensures some variety and seasonal change for those who are saying it. Ensuring that not only do they not get bored that hopefully they are also fed throughout  the liturgical year.Prayer is something that is difficult for anyone, but hopefully the offices are something that can sustain you in even the difficult times.

By living in community at theological college it is expected that we will attend Morning and Evening prayer within college during the weekdays. As many of the community know, I have really struggled with saying the Offices. This is not just in a ‘I can’t be bothered to go’ kinda way. But even if I am physically there, I cannot say the words. Its not that I have a problem with the words, but it’s hard to constantly find them spiritually nourishing. ABM_1395091188This isnt a unique feature of what we currently use (Common Worship) this is something I have found with all of the various forms of Daily Prayer that I have discovered. Through various stages of my Christian life I have encountered everything from the Franciscan Daily Office to the Catholic Divine Office. Thankfully though, most forms of Daily Office leave time for your own intercessions, so even if it feels as though the words are tough, you can add your own in. There’s a certain misery that comes from being in a room full of people whose heads are bowed in prayer when all you can think about is how this isnt working for you. It can almost feel as if you are broken, that you can’t ‘pray as well’ as the people around you. Prayer is something that is very personal and always in flux. Many people find that their prayer life goes in ‘seasons’, and in this current season my internal self is kicking against the structure of the offices. For whatever reason that may be, and I’m not sure that I need a reason.

It’s important to feel as though the offices are building for you, even if the structure isnt working. I got into the habit of spending time journalling in the chapel before evening prayer. That way I could both spend time with Jesus in a way that suited me, but I could also feel more engaged by the time the community joined me to pray. Processed with VSCO with f2 presetThis worked really well for me for a while, and then the boundaries between pre-evening prayer and evening prayer started to blur and I would use my journal in the offices. I used a form of doodling prayer that was introduced to me by my spiritual director called ‘Praying in Colour‘. For me it combined two of my great loves, prayer and creativity. It was a way to carry those people who I had brought with me into prayer, and pray for them in a way that I felt gave them the time and thought they deserve. This was my attempt at reclaiming the time that we give to the offices in a way that felt spiritually nourishing for me. Even if I wasn’t joining in with the same words as the people around me I was determined to keep going to the offices. I would take my Daily Office book, journal and pens and either ‘Pray in Colour’ or meditate on a line from one of the Psalms. This worked really well, but then I began to become self conscious that I would be distracting to those around me. A problem quickly solved by sitting at the very back of the chapel amongst the late comers, and those carrying small babies in slings. Although I was very happy to still be at prayer in this way, I still couldn’t decide why it didn’t feel quite right.

The thing that I hadn’t really clocked along this way is that community prayer is as much about prayer as it is about the community. A good friend of mine mentioned to me that actually half of the reason she gets out of bed in the morning is to be apart of this community of prayer. We are so blessed that we have the opportunity to be able to say our prayers in this way- it is the foundation of our lives here. I hadn’t even thought about it in this way before. I was so concerned that it was all about me and my relationship with God that I forgot about how the community functions. The good thing about the Daily Offices, is that even if you are physically alone in reciting them, that you can be sure there is a community of people praying the same words as you. The function of the offices is not always to leave us with a warm fuzzy Jesus feeling, but to serve as a platform to which we can explore all sides of our spirituality. In the same way that we go through Psalms of lament and  Psalms of thanksgiving, so do we go through those same seasons in our prayer.

It is silly to think that the Offices will always function for us in the same way, because for some of us it won’t. Whatever we are feeling towards the Offices -or even prayer in general, it is important to recognise those feelings and give them to God. Now in those mornings where I am particularly grumpy with the Offices I say a little prayer to God. ‘God, I’m here today and have dragged myself in ankles trailing. But my heart is eager to be found in you and I pray that you will accept this Office for what it is- a recognition of the fact that I need you.’ I need to pray because I need Jesus. And I need the Offices because even when I feel like I can’t pray there is a community of people who are doing it on my behalf, even if they don’t know it.

I can still be found in Morning Prayer doodling amongst the whispering chanting of the Psalms. Now I know that the people around me need me, and I them- and that we all need each other and Jesus. In this community of fellowship and prayer that even if I am not able to speak the words, that simply by being present I am engaging with something bigger than all of us.

Peace and Joy.

Back to bloom.

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I always find that the beginning of the year is a bit funny. Everyone goes back to work after Christmas and it feels like there isn’t much to look forward to. It becomes a bit of a struggle to get through the dark days without much in the way of signs of spring.

The community has been rocked slightly by departure of one of our number and I think the effects are really being felt. Processed with VSCO with f2 presetThere is weird sense of things just not being right. You can tell it when we say the offices. There is a lack of the community togetherness that we once had. And it’s hard to be a part of.

Living in community is hard anyway, so it is even harder when people just aren’t feeling it. This feeling of unsettlement hasn’t been helped by my own spiritual struggles.  Its nothing too drastic, but just enough to make everything seem hard. When your prayer life is a bit of a mess everything else just seems to be a struggle. It has really made me appreciate how much we will need to be fed by our prayer lives in our future ministries.

We are (as I type this on Shrove Tuesday) on the cusp of Lent. And honestly, I can’t wait. Lent is the opportunity to really dig deeper into ones relationship with God.  Not that we should be using Lent as an excuse to fix whatever we think is broken with our relationship with God. But the season of penitence really helps us to appreciate the Allelujah when it finally does come at Easter. I think that’s why I’m so eager to get into the messiness of Lent, because I know things will only get better. Once I am told that I am dust then it is only a matter of time before we celebrate the resurrection.

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From the reading that we heard at evening prayer today,  the stand out line was ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’ John 3:30. In order for us to grow in a deeper relationship with God, we need to let go of the things that get in the way. Thats why we fast, so that we let go of the things that have become entwined with our being. Only then can our lives start to be filled with God. I’m excited for Lent to start because I’m unsettled and I need to begin emptying myself of these things that keep me from a fuller relationship with God.

Without the darkness we cannot appreciate the light. Without disruption we cannot begin to live in harmony again.
Without Lent we cannot call ourselves an Easter people.

 

Whatever your Lenten observation may it be a time that is filled with the spirit and helps you to deepen your relationship with Christ. See you at the Allelujah.

Peace and Joy.

Blessed are the cracked.

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On day 2 of the ‘Art, Faith and Mission’ intensive lead by Rev Ric Stott, we were asked to take some materials out into the environment and let that inspire us to create something. The whole idea was to let the environment say something to us that only that place could.

Processed with VSCOAs I was walking down the road I stopped by this telephone box. The first thing that I noticed was that the window pane was smashed. The second thing that I noticed was the sticker on the back wall that said ‘Call The Sun’.  I’m not sure what quite stuck me about this whole thing, but it was almost as if the person had smashed the window in order to reveal what was in the back. The wordplay between Sun and Son also struck me. Shouldn’t the sticker read something like ‘Call your son’. The Sun of course could mean the newspaper, but it’s difficult to tell. Inside the box there was rubbish and leaves in a big puddle. The poor telephone box felt forgotten and unloved.

My first idea was to have something over this broken pane with a ‘peep window’ that would let you look inside, so you could see the sticker. I realised only then that I forgot to take any tape with me, so that wouldn’t really be possible. Processed with VSCOI still decided to take the middle out of the paper, then I held it against the back wall of the telephone box and just started to draw on it.

It wanted it to feel like it went on further, as if the back of the telephone box was also broken. I did the rays coming out from the words and then did the darker frame which was supposed to represent another thing that had been broken. As I started highlighting the ‘glass’ in white I thought of the sudo-beatitude ‘Blessed are the cracked, for they let in light.’  Thats what the broken window felt like. It felt like it was drawing you into see what was on the back wall. It felt like it was broken in order so that the light would shine through it and illuminate the words.

Thinking about these words, I knew that I wanted them represented in some way.Processed with VSCO I am constantly watercoloring scripture or famous quotes, but without watercolours I was a bit lost. My original idea was to write the words on the already existing paper I was working on. I quickly dismissed this idea because I didn’t want to ruin it. (This probably says something about me.) So I wrote it on a bit of paper. Luckily by this point I had found some small sticky notes, that I used to stick the paper to the wall. But stepping back and looking at it, it didn’t seem quite right.  The words overshadowed the image I had created. I liked the way it all drew you in, but the quote detracted from the image which was what I wanted the focus to be on.  Also it frustrated me that I couldn’t do my best calligraphy with mediums I am completely unfamiliar with.

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So I ended up rewriting it several times before I was happy. I realised I was putting too much effort in just trying to make the work look pretty. The whole point was to make the words speak for themselves. So I decided to put the words on the front of the telephone box so that it drew people in. The whole process of doing art inside a telephone box was also interesting. In a way it gave me a protective little box to work in without noticing how many cars were going past. (Even if it was slightly waterlogged, and I did drop my chalks/charcoal into the water. )

Thinking about it theologically I think that for anyone walking by they might not think about God. Although the words might conjure up some image of the sermon on the mount for people who know it. I think anyone can take from it what they want. That is the point of art I think. At least I think thats what the point of the exercise was. When we put art into the world, whether secular or spiritual it will mean different things depending on who sees it.

Reflecting on it now I still am not sure what that whole process meant. All I know is that I followed whatever I felt the Spirit was urging me to do.This was much outside my normal artist comfort zone. For one I normally keep all my art for myself, and very rarely let people see it. So to leave this in this space felt weird, yet right to me.

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Much of the credit I owe to Rev Ric Stott. Partly for the ‘task’ of going out there and creating something and partly for giving me the supplies which let me do it.

 

Peace and Joy.

Newness.

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I’ve always loved the balance between light and dark during a Sunset. There’s something so enchanting about all the colour that lies behind the silhouetted figures. Its also the promise of something new that I think is so reassuring. The sun will set and there will always be a new day.

As we’ve moved into a new calendar year, we have also moved into a new term at Westcott. Everything feels very settled now, and I’m glad to be back at college with my fellow ordinands. It seems that everyone has had a good restful break, and I’ve felt the immediate benefit of having the Chapel back in the normal routine.

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I arrived back in college a week before term. I had all sorts of placmenty things to do.  I’m still on ‘attachment’ at Little St Marys, which has been such a blessing.  Somehow I’ve managed to avoid serving during my first term on attachment, so this Sunday I found myself serving at both services.

I sat in awe of this years crib. (The photo doesn’t do it justice.) Well crafted, with it being situated infront of the Tabernacle. It spoke so much to me about the Incarnation. And these beautiful gold threads just hanging over the manger as if to give hints of how God’s presence would have hung in the air. It was just beautiful. As Advent finished and we’ve moved into Christmastide (?), its really got me thinking about the symbols and art we use. Especially because I did Advent Illustrated, its just made me think about my art and how that feeds me spiritually.

Starting a new journal (Which I did on the first) always ‘sets me back’ a little. I begin that whole process of allowing myself to use the new book. Processed with VSCO with f2 presetDespite this, I am really enjoying the new challenge I set myself of writing down something I am thankful for everyday. I had a really good time with my boardgames friends over the weekend, and I think I can sometimes take those things for granted. Sometimes we need to be reminded of what a blessing these things are. By being away from stuff, we learn to appreciate it all over again. Like starting again with my journal, it’s like a new chance to start over and appreciate the gifts it is giving me. This too is also true of the incarnation, each year we get to receive that gift all over again.

This doesn’t mean that we should just allow ourselves to fail just because we know we are covered by grace. Like looking after flowers, we get as much out of it as we put in. If we tenderly look after our relationship with God then we will be rewarded with the beauty of God springing up in our lives.

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by Rev Ally Barrett

Today was the feast of the Epiphany, were the Magi meet the incarnate God for the first time. I cant even imagine what it would have been like to come face to face with God in the form of a baby. It still amazes me that God came into the world as something so innocent and pure, and even those Magi with all of their wealth realised that meant nothing.

After mass this evening, where the Epiphany chalk was blessed, we gathered as ‘staircasemates’ and did the blessing together. It was dark so we couldn’t really see- someone got a torch, and none of us really knew what we were doing. It just felt like such a holy moment. There was laughter as we struggled to work out what needed to be written first, but God was there. He was there in the rededication of our ‘home’ and in each one of us as we have seen the face of God in a manager.

This season is all about ‘refinding’ our blessings, or even finding them for the first time. I hope that whatever those blessings are that we remain thankful and remembering the source of all of them. God who came to us as a babe, who even the Magi adored.

With prayers, peace and joy this Epiphany.

The last few days. #adventillustated

These are the last few entries of Advent Illustrated.
It’s been an interesting delve into Bible Journaling. I think I am doing to do more bible journalling, but keep it to its own Bible. All of my Advent Illustrated entries have been in my normal day to day bible, so thats probably why they have been quite reserved.

I missed a few days intentionally because doing something like this everyday means that I’d end up with less space on my page.

I’ll be doing some more Bible Journalling in the future for sure! I hope you enjoyed Advent Illustrated!

Peace and Joy.