Releasing the Spirit …

As we approach Advent and Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus yet as sure as eggs are eggs we will also be on the path which leads us into a deeper understanding of God . We have celebrated various Christian festivals in recent weeks All Souls day, All Saints, day and concluding with Remembrance Day

As a young 18yr old student nurse, one of my first jobs was to prepare the body of a person who had recently died. The sister told me to talk to the person as though they were still here, then tenderly touch and wash them.

After washing, we wrapped the body in a white sheet, tightly…and it has been this image that has stayed with me all my life … the image of being encased, ‘womb like’, waiting for something to happen … the physical body in a state of slow decay.. Yet the spirit being released …soaring to its final destination… to be a new creation

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I have never seen a soul take flight… yet I have felt what is like to be so overwhelmed with awesomeness that my inner body responds in wavelike motions… it’s a though my Spirit is wanting to reach some ‘outer part’ that I can only glimpse at… yet she can see and feel the Creator God more intimately than I can.

There will be opportunity to reflect on the birth of Jesus through the following weeks, yet I think the final word needs to be with the image of the Spirit soaring to merge with essence of God who is Creator, Redeemer and Comforter… what a happy occasion that will be. !!

The song is one I remember singing as young child, then I heard it sung again in Jamaica at a graveside during my ministerial training … the image of a bird, the Spirit flies to be be in completeness and oneness with God.

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Life is like music

I love the thought of the created world living in harmony with each other … yet at times we want to go it alone. As Passion Week approaches, the crowds are rich in song and praise, yet all too quickly Jesus will be alone.

When life is joyous and fulfilled, it is as though we are one with our Creator God, when the orchestra of life is rich, a full bodied tone reaches out and fills our soul … yet there are other times when our life is like a solo oboe player, playing a soulful tune…waiting for the instruments of life to re-join the music.

I wrote this prayer a number of years ago to remind me of the joyous praises as Jesus enters Jerusalem, the loneliness as the week progresses, then returning to the hope and euphoria of the resurrection.

O God,

You made the world.

In creation we see the wonder of your handiwork… the animals, and rolling hills.

In our humanity we see, we feel , we sense your presence

Surrounding us, embracing us, and sustaining us.

In this creative atmosphere,

An artistic process occurs.

You call us…A Voice …a melody …a song .

You become the conductor to a wonderful symphony .

The sweet solo song of the Lark ascending from earth to sky.

The musical notes of our conversation with each other.

The excited and enthusiastic melodies of the ultimate joy

In knowing you are near and guiding us.

Creation and humankind come together in harmony,

To sing a chorale of unity and wholeness.

Where our song is sweet and our spirits soar at the very sound of you.

You are the conductor, the composer …of all that is.

However, Lord

There have been times

When we want to go it alone.

When we think we can create and compose

A sweeter and more distinctive sound.

We have listened to our own voice.

Clashing noises have been heard.

Our pride and self-centredness create disharmony,

And we find ourselves alone.

The grand symphony has gone

And the loneliness of individuals hearts wander aimlessly,

Longing to be re-united,

with the harmony of creation , humankind and you.

O God

Forgive us our arrogance

Forgive us our pride

Forgive us for destroying the harmony of others.

In the silence, let us ask for forgiveness.

Lord,

Thank you for your forgiveness and

healing our wounded spirits

Thank you for enabling us to join the orchestra of your creation.

Where voices, hearts and spirits can mingle together

Until we become a permanent member of your eternal musical creation…. Amen

What a privilege !

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I am always humbled when I conduct a funeral. I think it is such an honour to be there with relatives and friends as they ‘hand over’ the person that they have loved and cherished over many years to God.

However, it does need reinforcing that God never leaves us, and ‘Time’ as we understand it, is all too precious. However in God’s ‘Time’, life and death merge into a cyclical time, not linear. God is present with us in this life and also continues to cherish us through into the phase of our journey… the circle of existence. We are all part of the essence of God, so when we journey through to the next part of our existence that we call heaven, I like to think that the Spirit of God that dwells within us, merges with the perfect essence of God, which we call Love, and therefore we become a new creation.

We are changed and transformed into something that radiates God’s love even brighter than before. I am not so bold as to think that I know what heaven is like, however as I Christian, I believe and have hope,  that we have a new beginning surrounded by the Grace and Love of God; that I am reunited with all my friends and relatives, whatever their colour, gender, race or creed. ‘For there is nothing in this world or the next that can ever separate us from the Love of God’. What a privilege to have faith!!

God who is Love,

Enable us to recognise your Spirit within others

So we may look into their eyes

and see your love radiate back to us

So we may feel the pain,

and hold your hand

So we may speak word of comfort

And show you that we care

What a privilege and blessing it is

to have you in our lives

Amen   

Advent ….Seeking the ‘thin places’ where earth meets heaven

The statement would be do you prefer Christmas or Easter?It’s a little like that joke, which came first the chicken or the egg.You see you cannot have Easter without Christmas, and you cannot have the meaning of Christmas without the impact of Easter.

Christmas, and more importantly Advent is about waiting to find that special place where God creeps bedside us, where he slips into the world. Advent is a time to prepare for that moment, and in the gospel of Matthew Jesus states, we should be ready and prepared for the moment.

Can you remember when Jesus came and crept in beside you ?

I can recall many instances this year where God slipped in beside me. You see advent is not so much about the arrival, but the journey we take to arrive at that, moment. It is important that we travel, spiritually, emotionally and some physically through the seasons in search of that ‘thin place’ where God is waiting.. I say thin, because we may miss it.

‘Thin places’, where earth and heaven merge even for a short time are all around if we are prepared to look.

As a nurse I remember a women who was dying , she did not welcome visitors, but she would always want a chair pulled up next to her bed. Everyone was really concerned that she deterred visitors and even refused visits. Her room was always one of peace and tranquilly, yet none of us could work out why until she told us. She said that she imagined that all her family and friends who had gone before her were sat close, very close to her, and Jesus sat there too, talking and laughing with her.

Are we prepared to look for the thin places and find God?

In Advent, many people seek a mountain top exhilaration, and excitement of the Christmas season, however you may feel it has been an uphill slog for quite a while. If you have been ill, unemployed, bereaved, disappointed and especially at Advent we remember those people who have been affected by the HIV/AIDS Virus…  yet it is in the mundane and ordinary where God shows his face, I want to recall two such incidences that I have met God in a thin place .

For me Zambia is a place where I have always felt God presence, not in the wealth, for there is little wealth, but in the poverty. I have been truly blessed to meet God in the thin place, that veil of a place between heaven and earth , the heaven showing the reality of God’s love ,and the earthly poverty of human selfishness and greed . At home I have a pot, a clay pot, similar to the clay pot recalled in Jeremiah, where God breaks a pot and then puts it back together. The pot was given to me by Maria , an elderly Zambian lady who lives in the bush. In her I see all the hope for her family, the joy of her grandchildren and the pain of living with a deadly Virus, HIV/AIDS. She has brought up her 13 grandchildren, as her children have all died of the virus. In that pot… she holds her dreams, her hopes for the world she lives in , she hold the pain, and suffering , but she also hold the love and peace of God , and she waits… she knows she waits with God.

Yet in her face, I have meet God,

her eyes crinkled with joy of motherhood,

and yet eyes that have cried so many tears,

her skin and hands rough from working the land,

are the hands that held me in warmth love and genuine affection.

As I looked at Maria, I truly felt the love of God enfold me through the pain of her living.

Secondly, on a dark August night, I undertook a 24 prayer vigil at church. As I waited patiently for the hour and minute  hand to move around , a wonderful thing happened, I felt a peace,  a tranquillity, an unhurried presence , where I rested in God’s presence.My calling a minister was affirmed that night , where as a looked a mirror to aid my prayers , I stared at my reflection and  felt God say to me  you are my daughter with whom I am pleased.

Our calling through Advent  is to stand firm to our promise and our calling as disciples… to be faithful to God and all that God asks of us.  As you stand on the brink of waiting for God to creep beside you, remember that God delights in you, and for you who wait and stay alert….. glorious things will happen .

We are always waiting for what God would want of us, and God creeps besides us in the ordinary and the mundane.God may present an opportunity, a thin and spiritual place may occur and he will see who is awake and who is sleeping !!! As we light the Advent candle each week , I pray that God will continue to lightened our journey, not just as individuals but as people who are committed to serve and to allow Jesus to serve you, through the many people who work in his name

Which statement do you prefer, Easter or Christmas, don’t forget that you cannot have one without the other, you cannot have the waiting without the result.