The beginning of lockdown unleashed a burst of creative energies inside of me, which really helped me to process the tremendous stress and uncertainty we were facing. You see, my husband lost his job due to the pandemic and began volunteering at a local NPO. We had plans that were forced up into the air and together with the world at large, are having to face the unknown one day at a time.
At a stage in the process, I found the wells of creativity drying up. I found myself entering a cocoon. I feel change shaping a new awareness. I feel myself trying to figure out the way forward, while healing the past, and at the same time discerning how to be present in the now with peace and trust! And it is here that I am trying to cultivate some daily practices to use as rhythms to help navigate these passages of great uncertainty.
Some of the variety of RESOURCES (I use the free version in all of these apps) that have been helping me have been:
Hallow app: hallow.app/share/SUU78V
- A Catholic-based app with a number of daily meditations to choose from. Under the Dailies section, you can try the Daily Gospel, Meditation, Examen. They have made the entire “Stuck at Home” Praylist freely available.
- Today’s Meditation is available freely on a daily basis with a quote and beautiful artwork to accompany. Their courses “Stability in Shaky Times” and “Peace in Political Uncertainty” are available free for the moment.
- Nature backgrounds with peaceful sounds, Bible readings, and several free meditations to listen to along themes such as 6 Days of Soultime, Hope in the Storm, Scripture for Comfort, Scripture for Peace.
- Bible reading app, read or listen to scripture, choose from thousands of themed devotionals.
- Daily meditations along different themes and many themed meditations to listen to in the freely available version. Also, you will find long meditations on Youtube at Abide Sleep Meditations:
- Daily meditations with music and scripture plus questions for personal contemplation.
- Daily meditations with scripture readings and questions for reflection.
- Movement, stretching, at home exercises and health.
- An app we use together with our children – you can set times for a centering sit that is accessible for younger pray-ers.
- Create your own music playlist of choice, listen to thousands of songs, discover new music in the genre of your choice.
One of the areas this time of uncertainty has brought to light is a feeling of “out of control”. When the universe of stars, expanding matter and inexplicable wonders is pointing us to putting control beyond self, to the Great One who made it all, and who continues to make and create our…life…plans…dreams…desires…and hopes. Even when they seem to be at a dead-end.
I have to remind my heart of these things… that it is never too late and there is never a day of impossible with God. That Thomas with all of his doubts was the only person Jesus invited to engage in a personal encounter with his wounds, placing his hand into the side and wounds made by nails and a sword. With an invitation…to believe. In Jesus we will discover places inside of ourselves as yet unexplored if we take up the invitation with a simple yes and find that courage in the eyes of children does in fact exist within ourselves. A simple yes in the eyes of God is a wonderful thing.
For those of you who would like to pursue centering prayer with your children, here is some of our experience:
We began activating times of listening prayer with our girls around the beginning of 2019, starting at ages 6, 8 and 10. We use the Centering Prayer app by Contemplative Outreach and choose a beginning prayer, a start sound of birdsong, or singing bowl etc. and then silence of, at first, 3 minutes, now we’ve moved to 4 minutes, it closes with a sound of your choice and then I close with a scripture before our time of sharing which I record on my phone.
Firstly, I encourage each of the girls to choose a word they would like to hold in God’s presence such as joy, peace, grace, love etc. to begin the time of prayer with a focal point.
Then, I encourage them to ask Jesus, What would you like to share with me today?
It’s as simple as that, and what started out as a bit of a challenge (to sit still etc.) has now become an expected rhythm and practice. How wonderful to know that we do not have to wait until we are old enough to read, or have a quiet time, or sit through a sermon… to have a relationship with God. Everyone can have a conversation with Jesus.
Each of the girls gets a picture, which is where I encourage them to ask Jesus for the interpretation. They get words from Jesus that encourage them and all of us. A simple sentence or two mostly together with a symbolic picture. About their identity, or a comfort, reassurance, or prophetic hope.
Early on in our times, my one daughter had a vision. She saw a priest kneeling at an altar with a living lamb on it. A knife had fallen from his hands onto the floor.
I said, “Do you see that Jesus is saying you don’t need to make a sacrifice to pay for your sins, because the perfect Lamb of God has already taken your sins away when He died for you on the cross! You don’t need to work to be good for God! He has done it all for you! He loves you so much!”
Even when we feel grumpy and don’t feel like it, we have come out uplifted and encouraged as we share this time together.
I say to the girls, find your own comfortable spot, with no distractions, and close your eyes. That’s it and it takes all in all about 10 minutes.
Jesus overheard them and said, ‘I want little children to come to me, so never interfere with them when they want to come, for heaven’s kingdom realm is composed of beloved ones like these! Listen to this truth: No one will enter the kingdom realm of heaven unless he becomes like one of these!’”
Matthew 19:14 TPT
‘This is what I will do in the last days—I will pour out my Spirit on everybody and cause your sons and daughters to prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will experience dreams from God.'”
Acts 2:17 TPT
by Tom Sine
Recently, we posted an article sounding a warning that recession next is going to hammer Gen next unless we take steps to expand options for Gen Z!
This is a wake-up call that the Pandemic Recession is already having a much more devastating impact on our black and brown neighbors than any prior economic crisis in US History according to the Washington Post.
Waking Up to a Growing Economic Divide
The most current report on the Pandemic Recession to this point reveals that “Hispanic Americans saw the steepest initial employment losses and still have the most ground to catch up to reach pre-pandemic employment.”
The recovery is also spread unequally. “White Americans have recovered more than half of their jobs between April and February. Meanwhile, Black Americans have recovered just over a third of employment lost in the pandemic.” The wealthy have experienced little pain from this recession and many of them could help finance major job training opportunities.
In 2019, before this recession began, “the median income for white families was $69,000 compared with $40,300 for Black families and $40,700 for Hispanic families.”
This Pandemic recession is widening the gap further between white, Black and Hispanic families. Research shows that some of greatest burden of this recession has fallen on mothers. They have become part or full time teachers as well as trying to work. Too many these days are also struggling to provide enough food for their children.
“’There are very clear winners and losers here. The losers are just being completely crushed. If the winners fail to bring the losers along, everyone will lose,’ said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.”
With so many of us, our neighbors, and their families struggling to survive, we need all of our churches to wake up to this opportunity for compassionate creativity. In these turbulent times, it is essential all our churches to join those congregations to shift their attention from a little token charity to creating new forms of serious neighborhood empowerment.
Churches Shifting From Token Charity to Neighborhood Empowerment
As churches are struggling with all the issues about how to gather and meet, there are a few churches in recent years who are part of an epidemic of imagination. A growing number of congregations, who are no longer meeting in their sanctuaries, are activating their church kitchens. They are using their kitchens to prepare school lunches for kids in their community whose families are among those who are struggling to get by.
In recent years, I am discovered a growing number of churches that were choosing to move from a little charity to serious neighborhood empowerment in times like these. For example, a few years ago, the Colonial Church in the Twin Cities sold some of their property for $2 million dollars and wanted to find creative ways to make a real difference in their community. So, they took 20% of the income from the sale to launch ways to achieve real neighborhood empowerment called: Innové that I mentioned in an earlier post. Essentially, Innové was a very imaginative invention to bring lasting change to the lives of those in their communities. It offers a concrete way that many churches could shift from token charity to serous empowerment in this pandemic recession.
Innove was an innovative approach that begins by inviting young people in the Twin cities and their ideas in social change-making to an annual contest. Each year, the winning team was given money from the property sale to help them launch. They also had a support team of business professionals from the church who volunteered their time to help them launch.
The first year winner was Leah and her launch team. They became increasingly concerned that major sectors in the poorer neighborhoods were “food deserts”, where there were virtually no grocery stores. Those that did exist were often very expensive with no fresh produce. Leah and her team used the money they received to purchase an old school bus. That was the beginning of the Mobile Market. They filled their bus with a selection of reasonably priced food and fresh produce. With the help of their business support team, they not only successfully launched but they purchased 3 more buses. The last time I heard, many people in underserved neighborhoods in the Twin Cities were very grateful for Leah and her team of young innovators for this highly valued social innovation. (Taken from “Live Like You Give A Damn: Join the Changemaking Celebration” by Tom Sine)
Could your church join those congregations that are creating ideas for local change-making in your neighborhood? Your church might even come up with innovative job training programs to enable all of your neighbors particularly focusing on those of color to become employed again. Can you imagine the lasting difference your church could make in the lives of your neighbors as we all struggle to find our way out of this harsh Pandemic Recession? Do share any examples your church creates. We would love to share some of the new ventures you are creating with our other readers.
I think I remember last time,
you didn’t hear my prayer,
so I hesitate to trust.
Sometimes, when we have done
all we can,
we need you to carry the rest,
without spilling a drop.
But sometimes, even you,
let it overflow.
And so I ask,
what are the odds this time
that I can bend you
to my will?
And yours, is just too large
a pattern to discern.
But I will try to pray,
trusting you will hear.
My friend reminds me of
a glass half full,
that half full is enough.
Perhaps the best prayer in the end
And a half full glass
will not spill a drop,
though we might pray
for water to the rim.
Ana Lisa de Jong
Living Tree Poetry
For more poems for Ana Lisa de Jong, check out the free downloads available in our store:
When you pray, what are you praying for? This struck me the other day when I was reading an article about the Spanish flu epidemic that happened 100 years ago. In the article, it said that after two years of people dying, the virus became less virulent and people just got used to the fact that every winter there would be deaths from flu. But what stuck me was the article said “then there were the 1920s”.
I was also reminded of the first time I heard John Mulinde speak. He said how in Uganda the prayer warriors prayed out the awful dictator, Idi Amin, only for the vacuum that his demise caused leading to an even greater dictator to take his place. His message was that we should be careful when we pray and not pray out something or someone but pray in something or someone so there is no vacuum.
But to pray something “in” we need to see God’s vision. As my husband reminded me, “without a vision the people perish”. What is the vision of God for the future? Not just for our churches, individual or corporate, not just for the UK, but for the whole world. What is God saying that it should look like?
As I said in “Revivals!” blog, in the past when revivals have come pubs, cinemas etc have closed down, but our economy now depends very much on the hospitality industry. Those who work in hospitality are the ones who spend the money there, and who rent rooms and flats, buy clothes, etc, etc. I do not believe we can just say “God’s got a plan.” I believe there is power in prayer and that we need to be praying in that God-given vision. But first of all we need to be asking God what that vision is.
I’m afraid at the moment I don’t know what it is, but (and here’s a book plug) I am hoping that when I receive Tom Sine’s book ‘2020s Foresight:Three Vital Practices for Thriving in a Decade of Accelerating Change‘ there will be things in there that will help we to see what God is planning, and how to pray into that.
Yes, I do believe God can drop in the world vision as we seek it but I do also believe that we need to study, see the signs and get confirmation. Am I willing to put in the time? Are you willing to put in the time? Or is it just easier to pray out what we can see now like the virus/economic crash/dysfunctional governments/etc? If we do what will fill the vacuum?
Above photo taken by Diane Woodrow, used with permission: St Winifred’s churchyard, Gwytherin, Conwy. The old stones in this photo are from early, possibly pre-Christian times linking the old and the new.
Original post taken from Aspirational Adventures, used with permission.
by Christine Sine
For the last few days, Tom’s and my morning walk has been through a fog-shrouded landscape. As we did so, we talked about our respective experiences of fog from our childhoods. For both of us, the fog felt embracing and comforting, a welcoming presence of closeness and comfort.
You’re my place of quiet retreat and your wrap around presence becomes my shield as I wrap myself in your word. (Psalm 119:114 TPT)
This was part of the reading that I came back to after that first fog-shrouded walk and it seemed to describe exactly what I had experienced. The fog can be a place of quiet refuge for me. Sounds are muted. Sights are distorted and perspectives change. Familiar horizons disappear and the path ahead is unsure.
When I walk in dense fog, I don’t look for the horizon, I keep my eyes on my feet and the next step I need to take so that I don’t trip and fall. Every now and then I look up searching for signposts that help me know I am still on the right path but I need trust to believe that the horizon is still there. I also search for the sun shining palely through the mist hoping that it will help orient me so that I can see my way.
It reminds me of what our world is currently experiencing. Uncertainty, murky horizons, unsure steps ahead but if we look around, we see that the fog we seem to be living in is actually God’s wrap around presence that can provide a place of quiet retreat. Our eyes should be focused not on the horizon of the future we cannot see, but on the next step God is asking of us. All we need to look for is that next step which will stop us tripping or falling. As in a real fog, we need to trust that the horizon is still there and will once more appear when the light of Jesus the Son shines brightly through the mist.
Then when the fog clears, it often reveals a bright and glorious day. In fact, I think that there is a special brilliance to a landscape that has been blessed with the gift of morning fog. That revealing moment is probably my favourite moment of fog filled day and I wait in expectation for the glory it will reveal. So I wonder what will that moment look like when the fog we are living in lifts? What are we hoping for?
I love this imagery and throughout the day have found my thoughts returning to its embracing and reassuring message. As the sun has emerged, I find myself rejoicing in its warmth and its loving embrace, but I am also filled with an inner warmth that the comforting embrace of the morning fog generated.
We often confuse fog with smog. In fact, when I went looking for information on the benefits of fog, all that my Google search connected me to were articles on the detrimental health impacts of smog. When life is uncertain and the horizon is obscured ,we think it is bad for us, when God is really saying, “I am your place of quiet refuge, my wrap around presence is your shield.”
What Is Your Response?
Sit prayerfully in the presence of God. Take some deep slow breaths in and out. In through your nose, out through your mouth. Sense it flowing into your lungs, and throughout your body into the places where uncertainty and fear have made your muscles tense. Relax your shoulders, your forehead, your jaw and anywhere else where tension resides for you. Recite the scripture several times:
(God) You’re my place of quiet retreat and your wrap around presence becomes my shield as I wrap myself in your word. (Psalm 119:114 TPT)
Now, close your eyes and listen to the music below. Imagine the embracing wrap around presence of God’s comfort surrounding you. What do you feel God is saying to you in the midst of this?
Here is the contemplative service in the style of Taize from St Andrews Episcopal Church in Seattle
A contemplative service with music in the style-of-Taize for the Eighteen Sunday after Pentecost.
The Rev. Richard C. Weyls, prayer leader, with music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers.
Permission to podcast/stream the music in this service obtained from One License with license #A-710-756 with additional notes below.
“Bring Your Peace” – words and music by Kester Limner, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY) “The Lord is My Light” and “Surrexit Christus” are songs from the Taize community – copyright and all rights reserved by GIA/Les Presses de Taizé.
“This is My Father’s World” – lyrics from the public domain by Maltbie Davenport Babcock, 1901. Alternate arrangement by Kester Limner, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY)
“Kyrie for June 21” – Text and music by Kester Limner and Andy Myers, shared under the Creative Commons License, Attribution (CC-BY). www.saintandrewsseattle.org
by Carol Dixon
Every October, an ecumenical prayer fellowship I belong to, The Companions of Brother Lawrence* celebrate St Francis-tide by meditating on the life of St Francis and thinking about what he might teach us today that is relevant for our time.
St Francis was born into a rich Italian family and was destined for great things as a soldier but, after a sudden illness while still a young man, he had what nowadays is referred to as an ‘epiphany’ moment, his whole outlook changed and he turned his back on his rich-boy roistering lifestyle and embraced poverty and humility, to become a ‘soldier for Christ’, dedicating the rest of his life to helping the poor and destitute, in whom he saw the face of Jesus. He recognised God’s presence everywhere, in everything – from the tiniest flower hidden in a rocky cleft to the glorious sun, giving life and warmth to all as the hymn whose words are attributed to him, ‘All creatures of our God & king’ reminds us. He also wrote a poem of praise, rejoicing in all God’s riches. (I later wrote a song based on the words – music available from email@example.com)
You are holy, Lord, the only God,
and your deeds are wonderful.
You are strong, You are great,
You are the Lord most high,
You are almighty, Holy Father,
You are the King of heaven and earth.
You are three and one, Lord God, all good.
You are the supreme God,
Lord God, living and true.
You are love, You are wisdom.
You are humility, You are endurance.
You are rest, You are peace,
You are joy and gladness.
You are justice and moderation.
You are all our riches,
And you suffice for us.
You are beauty, You are gentleness.
You are our protector,
You are our guardian and defender.
You are courage,
You are our haven and our hope.
You are our faith,
Our great consolation.
You are our eternal life,
Great and wonderful Lord,
God almighty, Merciful Saviour.
A few years ago, we were invited to reflect on this poem of Gerald Manley Hopkins which, like the writings of St Francis, can reawaken our wonder and awe of creation and can help us re-capture something of the enormity of God the creator-God’s extravagance, huge generosity, holiness, beauty, strength & tender love.
The world is charged with the grandeur of God
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings. (G.M.Hopkins)
Some thoughts for reflection:
charged – electrical force – energy
Where have you experienced the power of God? Where do you see God’s huge creative energy?
shook foil – sudden flashes of light.
Ask God for inspiration. Notice what surprises you today.
why do men then now not reck* his rod? (*‘reck’ from ‘reckon’)
Reminiscent of the Shepherd Psalm – ‘your rod and staff keep me on the right path’. A day to confess our own forgetfulness of God – our part in a world oblivious of God.
all is seared with trade, bleared, smeared…
Time to ponder our exploitation of the planet, confess our failures and pray for better industrial and commercial practices.
nor can foot feel, being shod
What does it feel like to be barefoot? When do you feel most vulnerable?
nature is never spent
Recall the delight of the changing seasons. What do you notice today?
the dearest freshness
Pray for renewal: for hope to be renewed and for unexpected delight for yourself and others who may feel dry or weary.
the Holy Ghost….broods with warm breast,,,
Thank God for his loving nurturing. Pray for the life of God to be reborn in you.
Another hymn based on a prayer of St Francis is Make me a channel of your peace – this version by Daniel O’Donnell is accompanied by a children’s version of some of the incidents in Francis’s life:
A closing thought from Brother Lawrence:
Remember to think often of God, day and night, in all of your tasks, in all your religious duties, even in all your amusements. He is always at your side…. Do not forget him. Think of him often. Worship him all the time. Live and die with him. That is the Christian’s lovely task, in a word, our calling. If we do not know it, we must learn it.