Thoughts from the Vicarage 24

Good morning everyone

Another beautiful morning greets us. Thank you, dear Lord, as we wake, thankful for the gift of a new day, for shelter, for water and food to meet our needs. Words often used at Morning Prayer – simply being thankful to our creator, our Lord as a prelude to our petitions is so important.

Today’s thoughts are all around this theme of thankfulness and prayer.

Even through a window I do trust that we are all able to appreciate the season. I am completely over excited by the range of birds visiting our bird feeders at present! And of course, being amongst nature, in the natural world is simply so good for our mental and emotional wellbeing, not to mention our spiritual wellbeing!

Of course, it is our first Springtime here in the Valley so I think I am allowed to be a little excited and thankful! Thanks to Christine’s tip off I’ve discovered masses of wild garlic, sadly near the end of the season now. But how wonderful has been my harvesting as I have foraged through the woods!

Prayer, lament … ‘pray as you can, not as you can’t’

Yet, in amidst all this we need to take care that we don’t gloss over the challenges, the sadnesses, the questions and the often critical need that is so prevalent. We may rightly want to call out, to scream, to cry to God. The psalmists are fine examples to us of this lament. Yes, of course those same psalmists sing the praises of God in his creation … yet they lament and groan just as many of us are doing at present. I like the saying of a mystic writer, ‘pray as you can, not as you can’t’ … because sometimes even finding the words is a struggle and all we find to pray is a jumble in our head, or perhaps words from a psalm, a poem, some music but that will do.

‘God is grateful when we remember him’ wrote Julian of Norwich. If that’s the case then God will also be happy that we turned up at all, even if we don’t get the satisfaction of knowing that we have been swept away in some great mystical rapture. God will be there, even if we’re all over the place.

Being all over place – reminds me of Zoom …

as we read in Matthew 18:20 ‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them ‘and whether you are with us in Zoom (!) or in spirit the wonderful truth is that the prayers of the faithful are joined throughout this world and with a great cloud of witnesses and that God is with us … However, our stumbling words, our thoughts, our cries may be at any time please be assured that God is with us.

If you are interested, we join together at 8.30 am for Morning Prayer and 8.30 pm for Compline or night prayer. If you need help do just get in touch.

Being thankful in our homes …

If you are feeling you’d like some prayer support please don’t hesitate to ask – Christine will be holding the prayer list this week and is happy to take your call.

Knowing that some of our shared resources are forwarded far and wide I am adding a delightful prayer resource. It was originally intended for children but I have heard a few adult friends using it as a way in which to focus in an alternative manner in prayer at this time.

Isaiah 32:18 speaks of God providing for us and keeping us safe. ‘My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest’. You may like to use the safety of your house as a place to pray for some of those in the world who are struggling at the moment? As you’ll see, you are invited to both give thanks and pray as you enter each room in your home.

Prayer reflection as we remember the Emmaus Road …

In his life on earth, Jesus had transformative encounters with people like the disciples on the road to Emmaus. No one – politicians, the vulnerable, the bereaved, harassed parents – left his presence unchanged. Jesus is risen and alive now. Can you imagine spending time with him? Gemma Simmonds on prayer under lockdown is writing a daily refection this week https://www.stpauls.co.uk/learning-faith/adult-learning/daily-reflections/pray-as-you-can-not-as-you-cant-reflections-for-the-second-week-of-easter

Today’s was especially helpful in which she writes of the Sacrament of the present moment and of our bodies at prayer. I commend it to you and share it here.

We come with a body attached. This means that our bodies matter when it comes to prayer. We can’t ignore our body. We are our body, so how our bodies are will affect our prayer. This can be difficult when our bodies are feeling less than well or are full of impulses and feelings that don’t make for quiet contemplation. Those of you joining in Morning Prayer and Compline may recognise that.

The first thing to do is to acknowledge how our body is feeling. When we settle down to pray it matters to settle down physically. Catching our breath is the first step, and it may be that we need to spend a few minutes simply breathing and relaxing into a regular rhythm. This can help us to become aware of tension carried in some part of our body: the knitted brow, the hunched shoulders, the clenched fists.

At the beginning of prayer God invites us, ‘be still and know that I am God’. As we settle into regular breathing and relax physically, we can become aware of sounds around us. Post lockdown it’s possible to hear nature all around us. Just becoming aware of being alive in a world full of life is prayer in itself.

How does it feel to be still and know that we are alive and that God is present even if that presence is a mystery to us? Simply being aware of it, staying in the moment, savouring the sense of it is prayer. One writer has called this ‘the sacrament of the present moment’. A sacrament is a sign which makes real what it signifies. Living in the present, savouring it and holding it before God is real prayer.

And if you are a visual person … Pandemic Beatitudes

may be helpful to focus your prayers. They are drawn in the form of cartoons but have a profound message for us to contemplate and use in our prayers.

And please do keep praying … for those who are sick or frightened, for those finding isolation especially difficult, for those who are having to rearrange a wedding or a baptism, for those who are discovering that funerals look very different at the moment with only immediate family able to attend, for those who are at work keeping vital services going and in the Health Service, for the risks we are asking them to take on our behalf.

And finally …

If you find yourself needing a chat, a prayer or simply a virtual cuppa please remember to make contact with a friend, someone, even myself! And if you are feeling a bit wobbly at the thought of another few weeks of lockdown I’m sure you are not alone. We will get through this together, by supporting one another, by staying safe and staying at home.

In a spirit of thankfulness and prayer do enjoy your exercise time today, perhaps explore a different route – take a photo of thankfulness, share it, pray as you go and give thanks for this beautiful valley. I’m hoping to get the last pickings of the wild garlic for more garlic pesto and, if the Vicarage chef has time we may even have cheese and wild garlic scones… talk of being thankful!!

Belinda church mouse

has just scampered in via the Vicarage gates to say 2 things! She’s very pleased to say that there are free booklets for you to pick up from the Vicarage gate as you go by on your daily exercise – do take one or two for yourself or pass one onto friends. They are 40 days of reflection on the Lord’s Prayer with a short reflection on a bible reading and an invitation to ponder upon each line of the Lord’s prayer and how it can help us to grow in faith.

She is also of excitement as she’s on her rest break aka holiday from Friday for a whole week! Poor soul I have yet to disabuse her that there is no need to pack a case – it’s going to be Costa del Vicarage … ! Apparently, she’s still going to be out and about but won’t be carrying my collar and will pop up at other moments … and of course our lovely Christine is on hand, well, at the end of the phone.

Belinda is sad. She won’t be writing her Thoughts but, never fear, I’ve just told her ‘some people may need a rest! …

Wherever you are do keep in touch with another, ask for a hand if you need one, and however you are feeling please be assured that you remain in our thoughts and prayers, meanwhile, God bless you and all for whom you pray,

Julie