Day 2 of prayer and painting retreat

I awoke before 5am with the hymn O Come Down O Love Divine on my mind:

1 Come down, O Love divine, 
seek thou this soul of mine, 
and visit it with thine own ardour glowing; 
O Comforter, draw near, 
within my heart appear, 
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing. 

2 O let it freely burn, 
till earthly passions turn 
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming; 
and let thy glorious light 
shine ever on my sight, 
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming. 

3 And so the yearning strong, 
with which the soul will long, 
shall far outpass the power of human telling; 
for none can guess its grace, 
till Love create a place 
wherein the Holy Spirit makes a dwelling.

United Methodist Hymnal, 1989

At the 8am communion we are told that it is St Barnabus Day. His name means the encourager and that is what I feel God has called me to do (amongst other things) and partly why I offered to be part of leading a retreat. Today’s gospel from St John: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit —fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (John 15:16). I want the Father to continue working in my heart, to be more spirit filled, kindle in me the flame of the Holy Spirit so that I may bear much fruit. And part of the fruit will be ministering to others through my experience of art, writing and of course prayer.

I did an initial sketch of the heart in preparation for a later painting. And then I painted the chalice and patten we used. It had belonged to the 92 year old priests’ father who used it in the First World War. There was also a small silver dish used as a font. I sketched that, not quite as successfully. I was using a new water brush and water colour crayons – a new technique for me.

Then this afternoon, after a windy walk by the beach with Terry, I got down to painting. I wanted to combine the concept of a heart of stone being turned to flesh with the flames of the Holy Spirit. I still need to put some words on it on the background.

A work as yet untitled, and not quite finished, combining the idea of God taking a heart of stone and making it flesh and the hymn Come Down O Love Divine: O Comforter, draw near, 
within my heart appear, 
and kindle it, thy holy flame bestowing. 

During a conversation with another person on the retreat, the topic of different bible translations arose plus the old language of the Book of Common Prayer. An example he gave was the word ‘preventing’ as in one of the old prayers. I looked it up online and read this: “in contemporary American English Prevent means to keep something from happening. When it comes to God, we human beings, I most especially, do practically everything to keep God at a far distance, to prevent him from doing or saying anything. As Paul writes, “No one seeks God” (Rom 3:10). Seeking God would mean finding him, and that would be catastrophic. And so, rather than seeking, we prevent him.

But preventing used to mean to go before. It was the word Christian thinkers used to describe God’s work of regeneration, the changing of stubborn, hardened, grumbling stone cold hearts into slightly less stubborn and moderately less grumbly hearts of flesh.  This Preventing Grace is how the Father draws sinners to repentance and faith in his Son Jesus.  And it is also how God continues to carry us throughout our lives,  preventing us by grace, so that we, despite our efforts to prevent him, remain with him to the last day.

Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works, begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name, and finally by thy mercy obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ Our Lord.” (Book of Common Prayer 1662)

How apt, I thought, in connection with the stone heart. I love the line: God’s work of regeneration, the changing of stubborn, hardened, grumbling stone cold hearts into slightly less stubborn and moderately less grumbly hearts of flesh. (

I pray that my heart will continue to become less grumbling and grumpy but I do fear there are times when I am changing into a grumpy old lady!!!

During our evening sharing time, we had been asked to bring 2 piece of scripture or poems we couldn’t live without. Difficult to decide, but I chose George Herbert’s Love Bade me Welcome.

Love bade me welcome. Yet my soul drew back 
                              Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack 
                             From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
                             If I lacked any thing.

A guest, I answered, worthy to be here:
                             Love said, You shall be he.
I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
                             I cannot look on thee.
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
                             Who made the eyes but I?

Truth Lord, but I have marred them: let my shame
                             Go where it doth deserve.
And know you not, says Love, who bore the blame?
                             My dear, then I will serve.
You must sit down, says Love, and taste my meat:
                             So I did sit and eat.
Source: George Herbert and the Seventeenth-Century Religious Poets  (W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1978)

However, someone beat me to it. So I said I was going to suggest that we lost look at Rublev’s icon of the Trinity as that reminds me of God’s welcome. So I chose to share some of Isaiah 43 plus my reflection upon it.

The reason it is important to me is that I had a miscarriage in 1991 and was quite new to church. A lady came and visited me and just sat with me – she didn’t try to make things right, but held me in her silence and understanding. I learnt a lot about pastoral care from that visit. She had brought me a plant and in it was a card with some of Isaiah 43. It has been true. God has brought me through many trials. I read both suggesting that they put their name in place of Jacob and Israel:

But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,

Meditation on Isaiah 43:1-8

Be still and know that I am God
I am the God that cares for you
I made you and delight in you
Come and be still with me

I called you by name and you are mine
I have brought you through many waters
and I will carry you through more
Do not be afraid for I am with you?

You do not need to know where I am leading
Trust and obey each step of the way
and I’ll take you into fullness of life
in me are your peace and security.
(C) Elizabeth Jones

My second choice for sharing is actually two poems written as a summary of a retreat in 2007 on the Welsh Coast in a retreat house called Noddfa, which means place of safety. It hadn’t been an easy retreat and I had gone through many emotions and received healing. As I looked at the stones it the chapel I was reminded of the big things in life and the small – they are all important and part of who we are, making up the mosaic of our life. The two poems came to me while I was standing on the beach on the last day as I was reflecting on the retreat.

Praise the Lord O my soul
Let everything within me praise his holy name.
Standing on the rock of my salvation
I know your promises hold true
to be with me always,
in all places
whatever my mood.
How often though I stand in one place
and expect you to come to me
in the old familiar ways
when you want to do something new.
Standing still,
watching the ebb and flow of the sea
the waves of your love recede
with each rolling one
you seem further away
So I move forward
on my pilgrimage of faith
to stand in the waves of your love.
O God you are my rock
my fortress, my God in whom I trust
and you brought me to Noddfa
refuge, sanctuary – a safe place.
And I wondered – is God in this place?
From near and far we’ve gathered here
to learn
to laugh
to listen
to God my mother
Jesus my brother
Holy Spirit my friend.
Tears of sorrow and sadness
tears of pain and anguish
I have let flow
and in the calm after the storm
and Healing Grace.
The tide’s going out
my retreat draws to an end
and – just when I think I have the measure of you
I’m surprised by a wave of your love
it reached me
lapping at my feet
not engulfing but caressing me
teasing out the woman
you’ve made me to be.

Now I know – God is in this place!

(C) Elizabeth Jones

Boulders, stones, pebbles, sand.
The waves crash over them
each one
wearing away
slowly – imperceptibly refining.
And from the sand a fine cut glass crystal is made
twinkling in the sun’s rays
speaking of life’s celebrations
high days and holidays.
As the ebb and flow
and sometimes crashing waves
of your healing love
break down the boulders and stones of our lives
healing the hurts and scars
transforming our memories
into the fine sand of our souls
that you take and make
into the crystals we are
twinkling in the Son’s rays
speaking of His death, His life
high days and holidays!

(C) Elizabeth Jones

It feels as though it’s been a long day. Time to relax, do some knitting and settle down for the night. Tomorrow we will be painting people!!!! Eek!!!!

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