By Carol Dixon —
God in the heart of a snowdrop
Sometimes my faith is fragile, God,
as frail as a snowdrop.
Help me to be so earthed in you
that I can stand firm,
weathering the winter of the soul,
nodding defiance in the storms of life,
bending with the winds of change,
not breaking, bowing my head
in reverence to you, my loving God,
who causes me to dance for joy
and, in companionship with others,
give glory to you.
I wrote it one January on the anniversary of the death of my mother (who died 44 years ago this year) when my faith in God, who I had believed in from childhood, was shaken to the roots. Despite having a beautiful 6-month-old daughter, I felt desolate and bereft, even of God. Then one day, I saw a tiny snowdrop rising up from the darkness of the frozen earth, defying the bitter cold of winter and I felt the tiny stirrings of faith again rising in my frigid heart, beginning to melt my unbelief through the broken heart of God, who gave his life so that death would never defeat love.
I wrote the prayer years afterwards but the feelings that stirred all those years before remained with me, warming my heart in times of adversity, much as the Easter hymn ‘Now the green blade rises’ reminds us of God’s unfailing love (verse 4).
‘When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Your touch can call us back to life again,
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been,
Love is come again like wheat that springs up green.’ (J.M.C. Crum)
Today, the snowdrops started blooming in our garden and I thought of my prayer again and of God’s wonderful love at the heart of all things.
by Christine Sine
I am a strong believer in our call to be creation keepers and earth stewards of this beautiful world in which God has placed us. I am delighted by it but also saddened by what is happening to it.
For the last month the focus of my morning prayer has been a barren garden dotted with seeds, feathers and dried out eucalyptus leaves – a stark reminder of the scorched earth of not just Australia but of so many parts of the world where God’s beautiful creation has been stripped away, polluted and destroyed. My heart aches as I read about the devastation from fires in Australia, flooding here in Seattle, earthquakes in Puerto Rico and droughts in Africa. Sea levels are rising and already threaten low lying island nations. Our world is in peril and as we head towards Lent this year I have been challenged to make this my focus and invite you to join me.
Part of what convicted me was the gift of For the Beauty of the Earth from Chalice press which I plan to use this year as my Lenten devotional. Second was the reminder that on April 22 we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and as you can imagine it has started me thinking about what I already do, small though it may be, to fulfill my role as a creation keeper and what more I could do. My third stimulus was reading that the Archbishop of Canterbury is challenging Anglicans around the world to celebrate a Green Lent. Then I looked at the pile of books I am putting together for a new writing project on restoring the rhythms and seasons of life and I knew this had to be my focus this year.
What a lot of rich resources there are out there. I have grabbed a few of the best for the Lenten season and thought that you might like to join me in this reading and in practices I am thinking about for Lent (and hoping that our small community will also participate in.) And if you wonder where to start look over this list on Green Lent by Dianne Sheper
Reading For Lent
In his encyclical Laudato Si: On Care For Our Common Home, Pope Francis calls us to see that the unprecedented destruction of ecosystems we are visiting upon the earth is rooted in urgent spiritual and moral questions, and requires from us a spiritual and moral response. I think that Lent is a season for identifying with the poor and it seems to me that there is no better time to consider our impoverished earth and what we can do to bring back its beauty than this.
I am currently reading Spiritual Ecology: The Cry of the Earth a collection of essays on creation care from a variety of perspectives that I am finding both encouraging and convicting.
The signs of wonder are all around us, from the simple mystery of a sunrise to the laugh of a child. So too are the signs of desolation we have created – the rubbish we scatter on our streets, the toxins in our water, the species we have depleted. And amidst both the beauty and the desolation is the cry of the Earth, the suffering of this most generous being who gives us life and sustains us. (i)
The suffering of the earth is as real as the suffering of the poor on whom the burden of the crisis falls most heavily; we must (Pope Francis) tells us hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. The earth herself, burdened and laid waste, among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor. (Spiritual Ecology (ii-iii)
At the same time I am skimming through Spiritual Ecology: 10 Practices to Awaken the Sacred in Everyday Life . This little book by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and Hilary Hart, the editors of the book above, has some great suggestions on practices that help to connect us to the earth and to the world around us – nothing beyond your reach – like walking and breathing exercises (You can probably see why I like this as these are practices I already do regularly).
To contract some of these challenging books I am also reading Morning Altars: A 7 Step Practice to Nourish Your Spirit Through Nature, Art and Ritual. This is my most cherished and inspirational find of the last month. It not only has gorgeous photos in it, but spells out a wonderful reflective process for how to wonder, wonder, and create out of the natural world around us.
A few others I am leaving (at least trying to) until the beginning of Lent are:
Wild Hope: Stories for Lent from the Vanishing by Gail Boss and David Klein. This is one I have not looked at yet but it has been recommended by several friends.
From Nature to Creation: by Norman Wirzba who suggests Christians start by developing an imagination for the world as created, sustained and daily loved by God. If we call the earth a nature or the environment it loses it sacred presence – returning to the use of creation as a description of our glorious earth restores our sense of connected to God in and through it.
The Rebirthing of God by John Philip Newell in which we are encouraged to move back into relationship with everything else that is of God. I read this several years ago and realize it is time to revisit it.
God’s Good Earth: Praise and Prayer for Creation by Anne and Jeffery Rowthorn is a great resource for prayers and liturgies for creation care during this season.
Spiritual Practices for Lent.
A couple of years ago I posted these Ten Simple Ways to Help Heal The Land and Sustainability One Yoghurt Jar At a Time which I have just prayerfully re-read as I think about what I should do this year for Lent.
Here is what I am hoping to institute the following practices for Lent:
- Be thankful and enjoy life – this advice from Chief Oren Lyons in Spiritual Ecology really resonated with me. The place we start in Lent is not with cutting back but with being thankful. “Thankfulness inspires respect” he says. If, each day we express thankfulness for one aspect of creation – the rising of the sun, the wind in our hair, the grace of birds in the air, the beauty of flowers and of passersby in the street, then our respect for creation grows. On top of that we realize how intimately connected to creation we are.
- A plant based diet. I remember several years ago when we were in Lebanon during Lent and had lunch with an Orthodox priest and his wife. They presented us with a lavish meal but restricted themselves to the traditional lenten diet of lentils, beans and rice. Tom and I are discussing how we can implement this at least partially during Lent (not planning to give up milk in my tea and coffee though)
- A carbon fast This free download gives some great ideas for a carbon fast. I plan to focus on one each week rather than one each day so that I don’t get overloaded.
- Seed planting. This is not really a new practice for me. We grow at least 50% of our own fruit and vegetables on our urban lot and Lent coincides with prime seed planting season in Seattle. Strangely I have never really made a conscious connection between these two practices – this year I plan to probably by planting tomato seeds inside at the beginning of Lent and greens outside at the end of Lent (still thinking about how this will be lived out)
- At least two car free days a week. We work at home so in some ways this is not difficult for us but again it is the conscious decision to walk, bike or take public transport that I need to instill into my thinking. We have three supermarkets within a mile of us. Walking rather than driving to these is an option, and possibly like my mother I need a wheeled shopping trolley to make that easier.
- Spring clean and refuse to use plastic where possible. Lent was traditionally a season of spring cleaning as a symbol of our inner need for cleaning and I think that getting rid of plastic as much as possible from our lives is one way to symbolize the change of thinking that we want to adhere too. And of course it is not just things like plastic bags, plastic storage containers, or plastic cutting boards that we need to think about getting rid of. Micro plastics are ubiquitous in our world and though the jury is still out on how harmful they are there are some concerning reports that we need to think about. And Microplastics occur in everything from tea bags to fleece garments and cosmetics. So it might be time to buy only natural fibers and cut back on cosmetics or research those that do not contain Microplastics.
As a community we are also thinking of some earth friendly practices that we have not yet instituted – solar power and rain wise gardens are some to consider. Our church recently installed rain wise gardens and water cisterns to
Last week we updated our Lenten and Easter resource lists and there are several other suggestions for creation keepers to consider during this season. Here are a few others that my not have made the list.
- Creation Care as a Hopeful Spiritual Practice for Lent Devotional by Lynne Baab is a great resource to consider
- Carbon fast
- Ten Simple Ways to Help Heal The Land
- Getting Rid of Plastic One Yoghurt Jar At a Time
What Is Your Response
What are you considering doing for Lent this year? How could you incorporate your care for creation into these practices?
More Resources for Lent and Easter
We also wanted to let you know that we have now updated all our Lent and Easter resources for 2020. There are general resources, ones for families with kids, music, suggested devotionals and a number of FREE resources. So check them out
NOTE: As an Amazon affiliate I receive a small amount for purchases made through appropriate links. Thank you for supporting Godspace in this way.
by Christine Sine
This unpacking of the Lord’s Prayer is both challenging and exciting. It is refreshing not just to revisit some of the interpretations that bloggers to Godspace have submitted in the past but also to re-read some of the books on prayer that it has reminded me of.
First I love his definition of prayer
Prayer is co-operation with God. In prayer you align your desires, your will, your life to God. You and God become agreed on life desires, life purposes, life plans, and God you work them out together. That is prayer. Prayer is not trying to get God to do your will. It is the getting of our will in line with God’s will.(Sunday week 29)
Reading further I was particularly struck by his reminder of the corporate nature of the language used in the Lord’s Prayer. This is not a prayer that we can pray alone or live out alone. The language is “our” and us. Jones comments:
There is a qualifying word to Father, the word “Our”. That “our” determines the nature of religion. Suppose it had been “my”? That would have changed the nature of religion. Instead of being social and we-cntred, it would have been individual and I-centred. That would have started us off wrong, the whole prayer would come out wrong. That word “our” means a shifting of the emphasis from me to the Father and to my brothers (and sisters).(Tuesday week 29)
My interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer for today came out of my meditating on these words.
Not mine alone but stretching beyond family, race, class, and religion,
Reaching to everyone everywhere.
The One who takes responsibility for us as family,
The One who cannot do anything but the loving thing,
Hallowed be your name.
May we reverence in thought and word and deed your name, your character,
May we see as holy the very nature of who you are.
Your kingdom come,
Your kingdom of peace, justice, wholeness and abundance.
May it come because we seek it above all else,
And put it in our prayers and in our actions where Jesus did,
first in consideration and allegiance.
Your will be done,
Your will for my life desires, life purposes, life plans,
Your will for kingdom life to be revealed,
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
Not bread for me alone but for everyone, your entire human family
Not bread for the rest of my life but for today,
For we know that when we seek first your kingdom,
all these things – food, clothing, all we need- shall be added,
As and when we need them.
And forgive us our sins,
Forgive us our desires for luxuries that make others do without necessities,
Forgive us our holding onto tomorrow’s bread that should be shared today.
Forgive us as we forgive others, not resenting what they have, who they are,
how you have gifted them,
Lead us not into temptation but away from evil,
Guide us, all of us, until evil is not longer a temptation for us.
For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory,
You still rule, now, in our world today,
You rule with kingdom power and kingdom glory.
By Lilly Lewin
I spent last weekend at the Opryland Hotel, creating a Sacred Space prayer experience for the Warmth in Winter Conference. I’ve had the honor to curate a Sacred Space for WNW ( the annual winter conference for Methodist students and leaders) for the past eleven years. This year our theme was SEEN...Jesus sees us! We are SEEN by Jesus …with love and compassion and with honor. And as we realize we are SEEN by Jesus, then we are able to SEE others with love, honor and compassion too.
I need the reminder today that Jesus truly sees me, SEES each of us! I need to remember that Jesus sees all the things around you and me, and all the horrific suffering happening in our world. Honestly, I haven’t been doing very well with all the pain of this week. I’m feeling the weight of the blindness and fear of our elected officials. I am saddened by deaths of immigrants deported from our country rather than allowed to seek asylum. There is still destruction and devastation due to fires in Australia and earthquakes in Puerto Rico, just to name a few of the painful heavy things that are weighing on me. BUT TODAY I AM SEEN! Today, You to are SEEN by Jesus!
PSALM 56:8-11 NRSV
You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record?
Then my enemies will retreat
in the day when I call.
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
in the Lord, whose word I praise,
in God I trust; I am not afraid.
PSALM 56:8 THE MESSAGE
You’ve kept track of my every toss and turn
through the sleepless nights,
Each tear entered in your ledger,
each ache written in your book.
PSALM 56: 8-11 New American Standard Version
You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book?
Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
In the Lord, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man do to me?
In the SEEN Sacred Space we had a SEEN in GRIEF STATION. At this station we had two ways to respond to our grief and sorrow. First, we wrote down our pain and prayers of grief in a large blank book. Second, we poured water from a pitcher into a beautiful vase to represent all the tears we’ve cried and all the sorrow we have, giving these to Jesus to hold. Here is the Station:
BEING SEEN In GRIEF & LOSS
Being seen and SEEING JESUS in the midst of Grief and Loss
Jesus wants to you to know you are SEEN and loved even in your Grief and Sorrow.
Even in Loss,
Jesus is with you!
There are many hard and painful things happening in our lives.
“Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.”
ACTION 1:Write your prayers of Grief and Sorrow in the Book
Know that Jesus sees them already.
Allow Jesus to hold them for you!
POUR SOME WATER in the Jar
Allow this water to represent your tears. Know that God is holding them and God sees them! Talk to Jesus about your pain as you pour in the water.
Allow this water to represent your tears.
Know that God is holding them and God sees them!
Talk to Jesus about your pain as you pour in the water.
Jesus SEES you in your pain and is holding you close.
You might be feeling pain or sorrow this week too. Find a beautiful vase or simple jar to hold your tears. Pour water into the vase or jar and allow Jesus to hold your tears for you. Give your heaviness to him. Or Write down your pain and grief and give that to Jesus in a letter. Let Jesus love you and hold you today.
Your grief may be heavy. Your tears may be many. Know that you are SEEN and loved deeply by Jesus in even in your grief.
Featured image by my friend Artist Amy Poole , London
©lillylewin and firstname.lastname@example.org
By Carol Dixon —
Last year when I was exploring the Lord’s Prayer for a service I was leading in a small church with elderly members in rural Northumberland we had a wonderful time sharing various versions of the prayer during the service.
As it was near Pentecost we said it together in various languages – French, German, Spanish and even Swahili as one of the families had learned it when they lived in Africa. I tried it in my halting Swedish which I am still struggling to learn. Sadly the lady who was fluent in Italian was on holiday. We said it together with a pause at the end of each line (to accommodate the differing lengths) and afterwards one of the people who had chosen to read it in modern English remarked that it was lovely to have time to think about the words. It also gave us a flavour of the variety of languages heard on the first day of Pentecost.
Later in the service I shared two other versions with them, one based on my reflection on some thoughts by Thomas Moore in his book ‘Writing in the sand’ and the other a translation from the Aramaic, both of which are below.
The Lord’s Prayer (By Carol Dixon based on Thomas Moore ‘Writing in the sand’)
Our Father of the heavens – source of the universe,
Father of all things across all galaxies, and loving parent of us all on Earth,
May we understand who you really are,
May the vision you have for each of us be realised,
May your deepest desires for each of us be fulfilled;
Feed us with the Bread of Life –
Ordinary food and drink to satisfy our hunger and thirst,
Spiritual sustenance to fill our souls and spirits;
Forgive us for the times we fall short of your loving ideals;
And keep us ever mindful of our need to forgive those
Who hurt us as freely and completely as you forgive us;
Keep our feet on the path you have set for us
So that we do not stray from your way of loving;
And deliver us from the demons that bedevil us
Personally in our own lives, and globally in our world;
For you have shown us a new way of living –
A kingdom we can inhabit wherever we are
And whatever circumstances we find ourselves in –
The kingdom of your powerful love, and peace, and glory,
Each day of our lives and throughout eternity. Yes!
Our Father (trans from Aramaic by an unknown writer)
Our cosmic Father from whom the breath of life comes
Who fills all realms of light and sound and resonance.
Your heavenly domain approaches.
May your light be experienced in utmost holiness.
Let your will come true in the universe (all that vibrates)
As on earth (all that is material and dense).
Give us wisdom (understanding assistance) for our daily need.
Detach the fetters of fault that bind us
As we let go the guilt of others.
Let us not be lost in superficial things (common material temptations)
But let us be freed from what keeps us from our true purpose.
From you comes all the working will – the lively strength to act.
This song beautifies and renews itself from age to age
Sealed in trust faith and truth. (Amen)
I also discovered this lovely version of it from YouTube:
All this inspired some of the people to try writing their own takes on it later. Maybe you would like to as well?
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need.
Forgive us for doing wrong,
as we forgive others.
Keep us from being tempted
and protect us from evil.
The kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours forever. Amen.
By Ash Knepper–
Psalm 46:10 says “Be still and know that I am God.” It’s such a beautiful verse and we all know it so well. But it’s such a hard concept in practice, isn’t it? How often have you managed to be still and just know that God is God and all the wonderfulness that such a reality encompasses.
It’s a really hard concept for most of us to cover our mouth and say nothing in our current situations, to not try to intervene, but instead simply sit in God’s presence. It seems counter product on all fronts. Most of us want to act, do, resolve, and SPEAK right now. But God wants to teach us to close our mouth, hold our tongue, wait patiently on Him, to be still and know that He is God.
At times it seems to be one of the most challenging commandments the Lord gives us. In the midst of the chaos, in the midst of the pain, in the valley of valleys, in the heart of the storm, when our heart is breaking and fear is overpowering, when we feel we’re drowning beneath the waters—that’s when He wants us to stop, to meditate, to give it all to Him. To pour out our heart to Him…. and that’s it. Surrender everything, let go of control, leave at His feet and then turn our eyes to Him, and Him only, and sit and savor His presence, give Him the glory, rest in the fact and KNOW He is God!
Sometimes it seems nearly an impossible task—especially considering some of the circumstances some of us might be enduring. Yet it’s what God wants from us. In fact, it’s more than that, it’s what He knows we need.
So often my mind is running in a thousand different directions, so many thoughts, so many concerns, so much anxiety…
Be still, Ash, shut your mouth, quiet your heart, stop running to your husband or your friends, stop complaining, nagging, worrying, slow down, breath, BE STILL, Know that I am GOD.
Pour out your concerns and your worries, your anxieties, your hurts that aren’t healed, your problems that aren’t being fixed, your absolutely unknown future, lay them at Jesus’ feet and trust that He’ll take them all up in His mighty hands and that He’ll make you into a better person, a better wife, a better follower of Him. He’ll solve your problems and ease your fears, He’ll sort out your future and heal your broken heart… You need only to trust that if you be still, if you pour out your heart before Him and seek out no other fix in your own strength, if you stop and wait in the quiet… He will meet you.
He’s the answer to everything you’re struggling with.And that’s what comes from obeying this command—from being still enough to hear His very presence—it’s the realization that He IS God. There is nothing too big for Him, there is no distance His love can’t reach, His heart is for you not against you, His plans are good towards you, to give you a future and a hope. He is a good, good Father. He’ll never leave you nor forsake you. And the happiest place you’ll ever find yourself, the place where you’ll feel the most safe, the most loved, the most free—is in His presence. When you let go, releasing the concerns of your life and set your eyes on the One who calls you Beloved. The one who is God.
Ash Knepper is an American novelist who writes Christian romance novels. She grew up in Europe and later moved to the Middle East with her husband where they did humanitarian work. Upon moving back to America she dedicated her time to writing books that would encourage and inspire people in their walks with the Lord. Ash currently lives in Seattle with her husband and son. You can follow along with Ash on Instagram @the.kneppers
By June Friesen —
Dare to Dream
Ah – Could it be? Really? God could it actually be a reality?
Believe? What a real struggle it is to believe.
Faith: It is the antidote to apply?
God – you give visions and challenges that are way beyond believing –
That are somehow unexplainable – but then explainable – – –
Yet when one dares to sit with you – Wow!
The Spirit prods and probes within –
Causing one to actually dream the impossible –
Yet reality within responds asking: “How can this be?” much like the mother of Jesus.
Lord to have faith like Mary, and respond, “I am your servant Lord.”
God, as I embrace the wonder of each sunrise and each sunset as well as the wonders around me,
May it be the beginning of embracing new wonders within me today.
Ecclesiastes 5:2-4 (NLT)
“Don’t make rash promises, and don’t be hasty in bringing matters before God. After all, God is in heaven, and you are here on earth. So, let your words be few. Too much activity gives you restless dreams; too many words make you a fool. When you make a promise to God, don’t delay in following through, for God takes no pleasure in fools. Keep all the promises you make to him.”
Often times it is easy to make quick comments/promises to God. Sometimes it is to appease someone who continually nags us with ‘if you just followed God.’ Conditions and results are often added on to this phrase whether to make the one saying them feel good or hoping to make the one hearing them, feel good. Or one may hear and/or say something similar to this, “If I/you just prayed more, if I/you just read the Bible more, if you/I did this or that, didn’t do this or that…”
Often times what happens is we get so too encumbered with words, meanings and ideas whether ours or someone else’s. I would like to give this challenge today – look at the wonders around you today but not only today – rather every day. Ponder what God is revealing to you, saying to you, challenging you to move towards.
Dare to dream…..dare to fly…..dare to make a new beginning….dare to ____…
GET HIGH ON GOD!
And you will fly like a bird on wings!