I have just been to a very moving Anglican Choral Eucharist service which was a wonderful way to begin Lent. I thought I'd share with you a prayer from the liturgy which I found particularly helpful:
For these forty days
you lead us to into the desert of repentance
that through a pilgrimage of prayer and discipline
we may grow in grace
and learn to be your people once again.
Though fasting, prayer and acts of service
you bring us back to your generous heart.
Through study of your holy word
you open our eyes to your presence in the world
and free our hands to welcome others
into the radiant splendour of your love.
When we are marked with ashes, it is a sign of the spirit of penitence which we retain throughout the season of Lent. Ashes are also a symbol of our own mortality and remind us that we are but dust, and to dust we shall return.
Yesterday was Valentine's Day, which can leave many of us feeling excluded. I must say that I much prefer the more inclusive tradition in the US, because any of your friends, male of female can wish you a happy Valentine's Day and send you cards. I still have a lovely rose which doubles as a pen, which my Texan friend and her husband gave me some years ago. And that is the nature of God's love, too - it is totally inclusive and binds us together through each other.
When I was writing Celtic Treasure, the poem that most moved me was this personal reflection on the nature of God's love:
For love is of God.
It's the life force shaping all creation.
The very essence we breathe.
For love removes boundaries eradicates prejudice crosses divides
Our life is characterised by love: We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4 :19
Many years ago now, I gave up my well paid job as a secondary school teacher so that I could focus on the ministry I believed God was calling me into. I've had to trust in God to provide for all my needs, financial and otherwise, which has been a challenging but life-changing journey. Like the Celtic Christians, I've learned to appreciate the simple things: the beauty of a sunrise, the gift of light, water, heat and health. And I've repeatedly seen God's love and care in the small - the detail of life.
In our consumerist world, I was encouraged to read an amazing article about a millionaire, Karl Rebedeer, who has given away his whole fortune to charity, because it was making him miserable. He has sold his luxury houses, gliders etc and is moving into a small wooden hut in the mountains and says he feels "free, the opposite of heavy." I've printed the link below. It makes interesting reading. To quote him:
"My idea is to have nothing left. Absolutely nothing. Money is counterproductive - it prevents happiness to come." "More and more I heard the words: 'Stop what you are doing now - all this luxury and consumerism - and start living your real life. I had the feeling I was working as a slave for things that I did not wish for or need.'" I was just listening to the voice of my heart and soul. The entire proceeds are going to charities he set up in Central and Latin America."I increasingly got the sensation that there is a connection between our wealth and their poverty." (The Daily Telegraph) Millionaire gives away fortune which made him miserable
Those of you who read my personal blog 'Holy Smoke' or connect with me on Facebook will know that I'm on a diet. Well it's not that sort of 'thin place' I'm talking about today, but it does tie the two blogs in rather nicely!
I describe a 'thin place’ as somewhere where the veil between heaven and earth is thin. A place heavy with the presence of God, where it is easier to pray, talk and to listen to God. When I visit such places, it’s like stepping into a warm bath. It’s as though all my worries and the heaviness of living in this world, falls off. I can relax and begin to breathe again. Often, in these places, there is little or no cell phone reception or Internet access - a blessing in itself! Suddenly I become unchained, unshackled.
Novelist, Mary DeMuth in her memoir 'Thin Places' (Zondervan 2010) describes thin places as, '..snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where, if we pay very close attention, we might just catch a glimpse of eternity.....They are aha moment, beautiful, realizations, when the Son of God burst through the hazy fog of our monotony and shines on us afresh.'
Many of the thin places I love to visit, like Lindisfarne, have monastic roots, where there has been a daily rhythm of daily taking place across maybe sixteen centuries or more. What an awesome thought. No wonder these places are special!
What is your experience of 'thin places' and how do they affect you?
The Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Reverend Alan Harper, OBE, delivered a lecture on the Celtic Heritage of Armagh in St Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh on Monday 1st February, St Brigid's Day, organised through the Centre for Celtic Spirituality, Armagh. Archbishop Harper was previously an archaeologist and worked on the last excavation of Navan Fort. You can read a transcript of this lecture (which is quite complicated & involved) by clicking on the link below:
I especially like this quote from his closing statement: 'Celtic Ireland was never accomplished as the Romans would have said “by force of arms”. It was accomplished in the name of God through the apostolic ministry of men like Patrick.'
Yesterday was St Brigid's Day. St Brigid is an inspiring women and one mentioned in Celtic Treasure. So I thought I'd share with you a brief description of St Brigid taken from the Northumbria Community's wonderful new website:
St Brigid was inspired by the teaching and preaching of St Patrick from an early age. In her late teens she decided that she wanted to give her life to Christ and to become a nun, much to her father's disapproval. Whatever her father's thoughts of her, Brigid was a generous and deeply faithful woman who could never refuse the poor. She freely gave away her father's possessions, milk and flour to anyone in need. Eventually Brigid's father became so frustrated with her that he decided to sell her to the King. They journeyed to the castle, and while Brigid waited at the castle gates for her father to negotiate with the King, a beggar came along asking for alms. Brigid at once gave him her father's jewel-encrusted sword. On hearing of this the King declared that he could never buy Brigid. 'She's too good for me' he said, 'I could never win her obedience'. Her father realised that the place for Brigid was a convent.
Brigid led a group of women who had also decided to become nuns, and she asked Bishop Mel to bless their taking of the veil. The Bishop saw the Spirit of God descending on Brigid and called her forward. Laying hands on her, he said, 'I have no power in this matter. God has ordained Brigid.' Mel then proceeded to read the rite of consecration for a Bishop over Brigid.
In 470 Brigid founded the Abbey at Kildare, a double monastery for monks and nuns. She became famous for many things, but most of all for her hospitality and welcome.
God bless our food; God bless our drink. And keep our homes and ourselves
in Your embrace, O God.
(Click on the link to the Northumbria Community in my Blog List to see their new website and blog.)