Keeping Advent.

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Advent has to be one of the best times of the year. It is full of so much expectation as we wait for Jesus. I couldn’t wait and so I decided to make a seasonal section in my journal, which looks particularly charming under my new fairy lights.

This year I’m marking Advent in several different ways.  Processed with VSCO with a6 presetThe more traditional way being with an ‘homemade’ advent calender. Last year me and one of my sisters found these advent houses that you can decorate. So we each decorated one and then we filled the others with goodies for each day. Needless to say I think this is a tradition that will stick around for a little while. She has gone a little bit overboard this year (as you can see by the big crate of presents) But it makes a different to the usual chocolate advent calender. And the fact that it was put together by my sister (with a little help from mum) makes it even more special. I’m also looking forward to seeing how my sister reacts to all of the things that I put in her advent calender!

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Westcott has its own advent wreath, and it shone so brightly at last nights Compline. I do dabble in going to Compline at the Chapel, and we have a different setting for Advent. So I think I’m going to make it a goal to pick up Compline during Advent.

Its partly so I can enjoy the Advent wreath, and partly so that I can remember to be thankful at the end of each day. Which is something so easily lost in all the commercial gratification of Christmas.

I think we forget that Advent is also a penitential season like Lent, and although there isn’t as much emphasis on fasting or giving up things its a good time in which to try out new spiritual disciplines.

The last thing I am going to do is to be taking part in a Bible journalling challenge called ‘Advent Illustrated’. 2015-11-28 04.09.38 1.jpgThe basic premise is that there is a different prompt for each day and you allow the spirit to move you to illustrate that passage.
Bible journalling is quite a new concept, particularly in England. I have always been one to draw or highlight or make notes in my bible, so this whole thing isn’t unfamiliar. I usually fall down on those things which require a daily commitment, so it will be interesting to see if I can keep up! Thankfully there are ‘grace days’!  If you are interested there is some more information about Advent Illustrated here.

 

 

 

I hope that whatever you are doing this Advent that it would be a time of growth as we journey towards the coming of Christ.

Wishing you all a very blessed Advent,
Peace and Joy.

The place of art within Spiritual Journaling.

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Quite often one of the biggest responses I get from people when I try to tell them about spiritual journaling is that they feel that they couldn’t write everyday. My answer is usually ‘Why does it have to be words?’

There are so many times in which I find that words don’t quite cut it. Either I cant find my own words and so I need to borrow some from scripture or worship song lyrics. Or I cannot cope with the medium of words at all and I need to express what is going on with my relationship with God in art. To some people this might seem like such a strange concept and to others it will open up some new dimension about their relationship with God that they haven’t thought about before.

For the most part I think we are okay with the idea of liturgical art. Art that conveys an idea of God that helps us to connect with Him, whether they be through icons or more contemporary mediums. But rarely do we find that creating art is seen as a spiritual practice. Particularly when it is ‘free flowing’.

The joy of spiritual journaling is that there are no rules. What we do in our journals is completely between us and God. Therefore there shouldn’t be any expectations about what our journals should look like. Some people find it easiest to journal just through words, and that is great. But for me personally, I have found introducing creativity and art into my journaling one of the best things I have done.

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This is from one of the first journals I kept in 2009.

My own journey to prayerful artwork began with bible verses and worship songs. If I liked a verse/lyrics that I had heard in church or elsewear I would write it down in my journal. Then I started to decorate the page and adorn the words until eventually it started to become more and more elaborate.

It doesn’t mean that I always will do things with paint. Often I still find myself going back to my favourite pen and just frantically writing words.  I just want to get across that if you are interested in journalling then there is no need to self impose rules. Its your journal, its for you. Once you realise that it is all about what you need and want it to be then it becomes so much more of a freeing exercise rather then a chore.

 

I have very little artistic talent, so much so that I often use pictures from magazines ect as inspiration. But it does take alot to realise that things dont have to be perfect. There is the odd occasion where I will get really frustrated with myself and tear a page out of my journal, but I always regret it.

2015-11-18 02.07.33 1.jpgI suppose I am also aware that there is some stigma around spirituality and art. In that some people can see it as something almost contemptuous but generally I find that those people are very happy to have a conversation with me about my artwork and have usually changed their opinion afterwards.  I have always been of the belief that you must do the things that help you connect with God. And if that is through journaling and art then great and if not then that is also great. We need to show some kindness to our brothers and sisters in Christ who use will use both deeply liturgical or unusual forms of prayer also.

 

I hope that if you are interested in journaling/ prayerful art that you will take this as some encouragement to go for it! Remember that there are no rules and that it is purely to benefit your relationship with God.

 

Peace and Joy.

Changing of seasons.

Things have been in a very weird transition this week. We are in week 6 (I think!) and so the essays are really kicking in, but also is this sense of community and bonding.

We started this week by celebrating All Souls. We had an evening mass where we remembered by name the souls of our friends and loved ones. It was such a tangibly moving experience in a way that I don’t think I expected to feel. I’ve been to All Souls services before, but this one felt particularly moving. The fact that the whole community came together to bring on their hearts all those people who have touched their lives, its just so moving. Its not just about reading those names off of a list. Its about remembering all that those people were.

Unfortunately this past year saw the passing of my brother-in-law. Keith was such a huge part of our family that I don’t think the implications of his death really hit me until that moment in chapel when all the names were being read. He was one of the biggest supporters of me and my vocation, and he died just a few days before I went to BAP. Its not just him that I miss, but everything he was. The thing that got me the most in that moment was thinking about how he wont be at my ordination, and that he will never be able to take the mickey out of me for wearing a dog collar. But All Souls reminds us that we have this hope in God, a hope that will never be taken away from us. This constant hope is the hope that keeps us going, even in the face of adversity.

TIMGhis week also saw our College Festival. It was so good just to be able to sit and have a proper dinner with some of the other ordinands and just relax. The Festival fell on a Thursday which is a normal community day anyway but there was such a nice buzz about the place. Honestly, who doesn’t love an opportunity to dress up and have a nice dinner?

I feel like I probably say this every week, but I am just so thankful for my friends within college. Spontaneous walks that turn into evenings drinking gin and talking about all things theological are just what I need. With the fact that as a college we are so sunk into the liturgical season it can really take some getting used to. So the fact that I know a few 2nd and 3rd year ordinands really helps when I have silly questions.

It just seemed so strange to have this big celebration in the middle of a week where we are trying to be so still and remember. It also felt a bit weird to try and emotionally adjust to the different days, like the changing of the seasons. There is some talk about ‘Kingdomtide’ or whatever season we are in currently, and I think it probably just feels confusing to me when there is already Christmas things appearing in the shops. Perhaps I’m just trying to work out quite what this season means in the context of being an ordinand.

In the foyer of Westminster College they have this bible that is always laid open. On some of the pages it has typographic verses. This one caught my eye when I went in this week. Its the same words that my friend used for the blessings at his first mass this past summer. That verse reminds me so much of the summer just past and how radically different life is now. God just seems to be placing Himself in those little things, so that when I forget about what I’m here for he gives me a gentle nudge – like seeing that verse open in the Bible.

As Fr Robert said at mass this morning ‘Things never go in the way that we expect them too. But God is in control of it.’ He is there in our sorrow and remembrance of those who have passed before us. And He is there in our celebrations and fellowship with one another. In the same way that we remember not just the names of those souls, but all that they are- we also give thanks to God. We give thanks to God not just for who He is as our Lord and Saviour, but also as our Father, Friend and Guide. The best bit about it is that God is so vast and beyond our understanding that we will never stop learning about who He is. Just when we think that we have a grasp on what is going on, God does something to nudge us in a different direction and to take us to places we didn’t expect to go.

Peace and Joy.