I completed the Abbey of the Arts 12 days of Give me a Word 2021 and am glad that I continued to the end. For the first 6 days, see my blog entry on 6th January. This is the following 6 days.
I have been drawn into silence and solitude (something I have always valued and let slip). I was also reminded of the need to bring every aspect of my life under Jesus’ authority, for His kingdom to come in every part of my life.
Reading through the ‘Monk Manifesto’ or rule of life suggested by The Abbey of the Arts, I was drawn to No. 5. “I commit to bringing myself fully present to the work I do, whether paid or unpaid holding a heart of gratitude for the ability to express my gifts in the world in meaningful ways.” I receive a stipend, not a wage, but nevertheless I was drawn to the word unpaid and thought of the household jobs I fail to do. I have never been house-proud nor one for cleaning unless I have to. Very much guilt driven. But I do find satisfaction in having done some cleaning and I do like the house to be clean and tidy. I just find other things more pressing and more enjoyable. I have too many things and need to de-clutter.
I was reminded of Brother Lawrence’s wisdom. For Brother Lawrence, “common business,” no matter how mundane or routine, was the medium of God’s love. The issue was not the sacredness or worldly status of the task but the motivation behind it. “Nor is it needful that we should have great things to do. . . We can do little things for God; I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before him, who has given me grace to work; afterwards I rise happier than a king. It is enough for me to pick up but a straw from the ground for the love of God.” This is, I feel, part of the Lord’s building the house theme…. I know this is not what the scripture is referring to, but nevertheless, Jesus should be Lord over every aspect, including housework.
On 8th Jan the task was to go for a contemplative walk with a camera (phone) and be open to your word to show itself. I was open for my word to be something other than Jesus. At my morning prayer time I had been reminded of the put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters picture and so was not surprised that the first thing that really spoke to me was the road sign of a child holding an adult’s hand. I want Jesus to hold my hand through life, and especially where there is no safe pathway.
I had thought I might go on my usual route around the lake, but when I had reached the centre of the village I felt drawn to turn left, not right. And so I was walking out of the village on a country lane not knowing how far I would go or where I might turn off. I felt drawn to go down by the River Dove and when I saw a huge puddle in a field of a growing crop I was reminded of the need to look at the bigger picture not the puddle and muddle of life. I made a short film of this reflection and put it on Instagram.
As I passed a discarded beer can I realised that I too felt crushed and trampled on. As I got to the weir in the river, the beauty of the water’s movement drew me to it. I thought about how life can be smooth and uneventful and then suddenly over we go and get churned up, tossed about like the water. However it soon settles down as the river continues its journey. We need to see life’s difficulties within the bigger picture of their place in our life’s journey. I made another short film for Instagram.
I continued following the river as far as I could go and then turned back. I felt peaceful. When I got to the beer can again I thought about picking it up but knew it was a long way till I would get to a bin and did I really want to carry it? No I didn’t. But I knew I should do my bit. When I saw a discarded black poo bag (unused) I picked it up and used it to carry the can in. I the proceeded to pick up various other bits of litter as I continued my walk home.
Just as I got to the point of being able to carry no more I came across a discarded plastic bag from a loaf of bread. God is like that – just as we feel we can’t carry on, he shows us the way. No trial in life is too great
1 Corinthians 10:13 No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.
So I continued homeward picking up litter as I went. And I came to realise that I had been carrying someone else’s emotional rubbish for at least the last 4 weeks. We often carry other people’s rubbish. They throw it at us and we catch it (or we pick it up) and carry it, gradually getting weighed down by something that isn’t ours. The ‘pastoral encounter’ that had upset me in December had been weighing me down and I had been thinking that I was a rubbish priest, no good as a vicar. I had experienced transference, as it is called in professional counselling jargon. Someone had thrown a lot of anger, frustration and hurt at me. and I’d caught it and held on to it. I asked Jesus to help me dump it. As I put the physical rubbish in the bin outside church, I let go of the emotional rubbish. I am not a rubbish priest – I’m not perfect and I make mistakes but that doesn’t mean I’m rubbish.
I decided to do a creative piece using the photos in my prayer and art journal, to continue working through what Jesus had revealed during this walk and ensure that I really had dumped the emotional rubbish in the bin on the cross. I imagined the bin being on a cross, like an old fashioned street lamp that has the sticking out bits of metal near the top.
This is the page I created. I may continue to decorate around the writing, but I probably won’t. It has served its purpose of enabling me to work through an issue. It will remain as a reminder and if I find I’m in a similar position again I can use it to aid my prayer.
The Give me a Word 2021 continued by inviting me to consider deepening a spiritual practice or something that will help me connect with my word – which was still Jesus. I will continue with silence and solitude, contemplative walks and being joyfully creative. Plus I might pursue making housework as prayer. We were also invited to chose a spiritual writer who would help in this deepening connection with our word. I decided to re-visit Henri Nouwen partly also because I want to think about the eucharist as we are once again in lockdown and I am presiding in an almost empty church with people on-line receiving spiritual communion.
Finally, we were invited to write a 7 word prayer and a poem about our word.
My prayer to Jesus, God’s Word and my word for 2021: Jesus, my soul’s lover, hold my hand.
My Haiku poem:
Jesus, Son of God
teacher, healer, redeemer
is with me always
An Acrostic Cinquain poem:
Saviour for all people
Unique perfect man, Son of God
My final poem is almost a sonnet. It will need more work to make it absolutely correct with 10 syllables in each line.
I consider the Son of God, Jesus
who was with God before time began
took flesh and became one of us
to live on earth as a man
Jesus taught us how to live
by example and puzzling parable
so we could love and forgive
and be the best ‘me’ possible
Jesus’ death and resurrection
offers us forgiveness of sin
and knowing His peace and love within
It never ceases to amaze
that he is with me always
I hope that you also know Jesus’ presence with you and that your walk with him deepens in 2021.