Lent 2023 RSVPs
This is where I’ll upload your RSVP responses to Lent 2023! Please send your RSVP to me, when invited. Don’t try to upload your own responses here. Sometimes I need to edit for clarity or length. Thanks so much!
To view the third window onwards, please click here!
I wanted to share a picture from a night’s snowshoeing adventure with my wife this week. It was definitely a siejaku moment – under the full moon, in a Montana valley known as “the valley of the hush.” So appropriate! We thought of the Lenten community – faces we’ve not seen, yet a togetherness of faces all turned toward the moon. The mountains in the background are the wilderness area behind our home (the Mission Mountains Wilderness). The shadow is of our tipi, cast by the light of the moon. Roger A
Oh my, how ‘Show Up’ resonates with me.
I have been a Reader for 25 years in the same parishes. I have just quietly and stoically carried on pretty well under the radar most of the time because of my status and no support to become more prominent.
My husband was the theologian in our home and in the church I had few opportunities to be more prominent because of the limited role of a Reader. The role I found for myself was as a pastoral priest, a pavement priest in my encounters with ordinary people in everyday life. Also the two roles Readers can exercise, funerals and running short courses.
I guess my vocation has been to show and live and bring others to follow the Jesus way just by coming along side anyone who crosses my path with love and compassion. I can say this because the fruits of 25 years of quiet faith and perseverance create that Christ like habit. Absolutely not a badge of perfection – but a commitment to Christ lived to my best ability and in trust.
I am still a Reader pto but even more unseen. I think I can call this “showing up”. I do know from the gratitude I have quietly received that I have brought Christ to those to whom I have encountered in my ministry.
Thank you again, I was so deeply moved. Caroline H
Lenten moon in Oxfordshire! Victoria B
Thank you Brian for reminding us that he is the God who sees, as per this video. Gail P x
(Also sent by Colin D, who says: this video, ‘The God Who Sees’ – I found it moving.)
I’m a little jet lagged after a recent trip to Ontario, Canada, so I was wide awake at around midnight last night. Much to my surprise, after a very cloudy and snowy day, I noticed that moonlight was streaming through the window. I had just re-read our lenten reflection ‘The Moonlit Trail’ and followed the thread of rsvps when I came across the suggestion of Erland Cooper’s song ‘Hoxa Sounds’. I immediately went to listen to it (I love his work – so evocative of his childhood home of Orkney, directly across the firth from where I live). The combination of many enriching and thoughtful words in our Lenten series so far, the peaceful music, and the view of the glowing snowy landscape and shining moon in the night sky filled me up. Soon afterwards I fell asleep. Monique S
Here are my five little pictures which tie your emails in with where I have been and what I have seen in the last week. Thank you for the inspiration!
Day Six: When I consider your heavens – Awe Inspiring
Day Seven: The Small but Monumental Gesture – God’s Touch
Day Eight: Filled to the Measure – Take Time
Day Nine: Words in Love – siejaku – Calm in Chaos
Day Ten: The Moonlit Trail – Lenten Moon
Just looked outside – the most beautiful crystal clear sky and an enormous full moon. It blows me away when I reflect on the fact that Jesus stood under the same moon. Sue W
The moonlit trail on my lake tonight. God bless all my fellow travellers. Joy H
The Japanese siejaku sums how I would like to be amid everything that life brings. I’d love to find that tranquility amidst the chaos and I’m sure a calmer and a more mindful perspective on life would be a bonus. That does not seem to be how I’m wired much of the time! But there are moments of tranquility – I too have a magnolia, the deep pink blossoms are stunning, watching starlings really enjoying the fat balls (haven’t seen starlings for ages), taking time to gaze out of a train window and seeing the most intense rainbow (everyone else in the carriage looking at their phones!). I sense that a gift of our Lent trail is the encouragement to be attentive to the God-given possibilities in the moment – to experience God’s peace even if it is just for a little while. Elaine Col
Once again, I am so enjoying being a part of the community and your ‘Blazing trail.’ So much has spoken to me. Today’s reflection on breathing and connecting with the light of dawn brought to mind the words of the contemporary worship song:
You give life, You are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, You restore
Every heart that is broken
Great are you Lord
It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise
We pour out our praise
It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour our our praise to You only
Great are You Lord.
Thanks and blessings, Sue du P
Here is the amazing trail magic I came across on my Lenten trail, a group of magnificent stags watching me from the Forest. It was one of those moments when time stood still and I was just filled with awe – such a privilege.
I feel so privileged to share this Lenten Trail with the community too. I have not been connected to a church community for many years but my faith is strong, and the connections I find through your daily reflections and the community RSVPs are very special and inspiring. Thank you so much. Lucy P
I’m focusing on two practices, this Lent:
1. Less Labelling (of people);
2. More Loving Kindness (myself and others).
I loved this maverick Daffodil from when I was out with Digby, my dog (the little tail) last week! Ian Mac
As a counterpoint to all the lovely photos and drawings of snow drops, I offer a drop of snow – well, actually, Friday night it was more of a dumping! The next morning I put on my snowshoes and stomped around the untrodden neighbourhood, and suddenly realized I was “blazing a trail!” I loved physically embodying what we’ve been thinking about this Lent! So, no way-markers of snow drops or magnolia buds here – yet! Sending grateful thanks and big hugs from Canada –Nancy : )
The full moon was wonderfully clear and bright earlier this evening in Wiltshire. Thank you for the reminder and encouragement to soulfully stop, look and ponder. An unexpected surprise. Marian C
As I walk this blazing trail I find myself in a liminal area – with many changes in my life to try and sort out: not exactly ‘zugunruhe’ – as of the fabulous skeins of geese which fly frequently overhead – but I do know it is time for change. Wonderful words of Thomas Merton, that we do not need to know precisely where we are going, but to recognise and embrace them with courage faith and hope, just as Liz’s lovely Ukrainian guest is doing in Tel Aviv
And yes, what really stirs me and reminds me of God’s presence is the huge, bright moon I gazed at last evening, or the glorious sunset I photographed early in February, or these exquisite iris which have been in flower for weeks or the opening bars of the St Matthew passion(‘Tarab’) so I cling on to these ‘waymarks of the soul’. Thank you, Brian, for yet more beautiful and thought-provoking reflections. Jan B
I really enjoyed reading about the swallows having perhaps started their migration from South Africa and the sense of being connected with fellow ‘travellers on the trail’. Until a couple of years ago we lived in the Cotswolds and eagerly watched for the swallows arriving in early summer. I also read in the set reading this morning from Jeremiah 8: “Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration (but my people do not know the requirements of the Lord). No swallows spotted near where we now live in Derbyshire but looking for signs of new growth in the garden every day! Margaret C
“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God”. Eph 3v17-19
That verse you quoted and your words Brian resonated with me. After my sister lost her house in a fire at Christmas last year, and her husband to cancer three months later, she started using as her profile a photo of the gingko biloba that stood near the terrace in front of their former house. As a family, we had had many happy meals under its shelter but when spring came last year, one half of it, the one that had taken the brunt of the fire, seemed dead. My sister said this was how she felt after all the loss… and I said to her I felt that part was not dead but dormant, delayed, recovering…
In the following months, as she started her walk of faith, God inspired me to pass on His messages for her through collages. This is one of them. I tried to express through it the abundance of Life and Spirit in God’s Creation (that you are teaching us so well to take in Brian). It is indeed beyond measure, and I want to believe It will renew my beloved and brave gingko biloba…
My brother living in England sent me this picture of the morning sunrise. I love the fact that we see the same moon and sun no matter where on this blessed earth we live. Which led me to the realization that I see THE SAME MOON that Jesus did. Not a different moon, but the same moon. Of that I am in awe!! Suzanne W
I enclose photos of two of my waymarkers on local walks. I have nicknamed the first oak “dancer” because of its twisting limbs (which are particularly visible in winter) and the second one the “Easter oak” because we watched the sun rise behind it on Easter morning during lockdown. Continued blessing to all in the community. Susanne I
This Lent trail continues to see me on a journey retracing my steps “home”, but with it has come an unexpected feeling of unease with how so much of what was once familiar now seems strangely different and in places unrecognisable. Prompted by Brian’s reflection on “Words of Love” I came across an Irish word “aduantas” (pronounced ah-dwon- tez) which means a feeling of unease at being in new surroundings. How wonderful that this seemed to convey my feelings exactly and has already enabled me to find a deeper expression of what I face right now. So much so, that this word led me to a song by Sara Groves, “Painting pictures of Egypt” and a “Tarab” moment as the music and lyrics resonated through me. Here are a few lines from the song…
“It’s not about losing faith
It’s not about trust
t’s all about comfortable
When you move so much
And the place I was wasn’t perfect
But I had found a way to live
And it wasn’t milk or honey
But then neither is this …
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt
Leaving out what it lacks
The future feels so hard
And I don’t want to go back
But the places they used to fit me
Cannot hold the things I’ve learned
And those roads were closed off to me
While my back was turned.”
This Lent is a detached, lonely experience for me so far; reading all the RSVPs is like watching spring flowers emerge in other people’s gardens but not my own. However, I accept the ebb as I wait for the flow and look for moonrise. Rachel T
It’s so hard to slow down, but I’m really trying! Another week of being inspired and challenged on the blazing trail has passed, and this time (unlike during Advent) I’m listening to the Friday Live at Five (albeit catching up) and to all the music you send. And sitting still to breathe and listen. Right now I’m listening to Kathryn Scott & experiencing tarab… and yesterday was deeply impacted by the concept of teng, which spoke right into many years of my/our experience. A profound meditation. Thank you. And the early flowering blossom tree that overhangs our garden has come out, heralding spring and bringing hope. HOPE! And I have such a sense of travelling with fellow pilgrims… Anita C
I was filled with joy by Sharon’s news of the swallows leaving South Africa! How amazing that these tiny birds (maybe weighing no more than 4 tablespoons of sugar) fly a journey of 6,000 miles here and back each year! I shall be scanning the skies in hope of a sighting, in the days after the Paschal full moon on 6 April. This poem, by Robert Louis Stevenson, really captures the sense of how the northern and southern hemispheres are somehow connected by this extraordinary migration
Swallows Travel to and Fro
Swallows travel to and fro,
And the great winds come and go,
And the steady breezes blow,
Bearing perfume, bearing love.
Breezes hasten, swallows fly,
Towered clouds forever ply,
And at noonday, you and I
See the same sunshine above.
Dew and rain fall everywhere,
Harvests ripen, flowers are fair,
And the whole round earth is bare
To the moonshine and the sun;
And the live air, fanned with wings,
Bright with breeze and sunshine, brings
Into contact distant things,
And makes all the countries one.
Let us wander where we will,
Something kindred greets us still;
Something seen on vale or hill
Falls familiar on the heart;
So, at scent or sound or sight,
Severed souls by day and night
Tremble with the same delight —
Tremble, half the world apart.
There is also a lovely song about swallows on the lovely ‘Spell Songs’ compilation, about their leaving rather than their coming. Trevor P
I took this picture on 8th April 2020 of the full moon peering at me through a tree. As a child I believed that the moon followed me home on dark evenings, like the watchful eye of God, keeping me safe. I have always found that thought very comforting and to this day I love the beauty of a full moon, especially at this time in our faith walk. Tracy B
I would like to gift the community with a mediation I have recently released to mark the beginning of Lent. It is called Encounter in the Desert:
I have been struck by tw coincidences (or are they God-incidences?) this week. I’ve just started to read The Saltpath, prompted by you and this Lenten series, and then on Sunday we were catching up with Rick Stein’s Cornwall (Series 3 Episode 2) and I was excited and delighted to see Raynor Winn and Moth with their Cornish cider farm!
Then I finally got round to typing up a poem I wrote just before Lent whilst leading a Quiet Day based around John 4 and The Retreat Association’s Icon of the Woman at the Well (https://www.retreats.org.uk/icon). I had completely forgotten that I’d called it “Boundary-crossing God”, and it took me back to last Tuesday’s email
Both thirsty in the midday sun,
you from the heat
and her from vulnerable circumstance,
One boundary already crossed,
you cross one more.
‘Give me a drink,’
Expecting to be alone,
her threefold surprise deepens:
You ask her to share her cup!
You play on words:
your “living water”,
more than running stream,
is life itself.
exposing your insight
perhaps for the first time ever,
feels truly seen
by this Jew? Rabbi? Prophet?
Yes, this Christ,
The One who tells all things.
Now full to overflowing
she leaves behind her water jug and shame
to share her joy
and, crossing boundaries of her own,
‘Come see the man who told me everything I did.’
meet me in my vulnerability.
Fill me again
so I may leave what holds me back
and go crossing boundaries too.
Soulful Waymaker (a few lines from my journal) –
This morning I stood beside our “Pink Tree,” I do not know her official name, but today I feel she should be known from now on as, “Soulful Waymaker.”
We have shared many a grey morning, me sensibly dressed for work, she in her dainty spring finery. We have stood together in times gone by, as I have prayed for release from a deadening job, while she lifted her pink festooned branches to the sky.
Today we stood once more in the early grey light, my heart weighed down, hurting for another, full of teng. The difference this time, is a warm kitchen awaits and I am free to journal my feelings.
Pink Tree, Soulful Waymaker, you have pointed to spring once again, and to Hope. Chris S
It isn’t often that you miss the main act by
sleeping into it; as the curtain rises
Blue hued pink lights open, on bare-branched skies
Long shadowed actors swoop and fly onto the main stage.
A chorus opens. A golden globe rises.
Welcomed by daffodil’s hurrah
Bird-boxes await gifts
Bare-branched skies into bud
As oaks lay down another ring
Blossom-dipped, oak-mulched path
The world walks on, with us
I found this poem by Christina Rossetti when preparing for a Lent Service. It spoke powerfully to me.
It is good to be last not first,
Pending the present distress;
It is good to hunger and thirst,
So it be for righteousness.
It is good to spend and be spent,
It is good to watch and to pray:
Life and Death make a goodly Lent
So it leads us to Easter Day.
May you live a life without measure,
May you find space and time,
May you spend the afternoon …
… and take it with you –
because for God, a thousand years is like a day!
May you be filled with the measure of all the fulness of God.
What a feast you gave us on Monday. Reading about Siejaku brought back a memory immediately of a place and time when I was surrounded by chaos, panic and fear. I stood with my back to an iron fence as the crowd rushed and pushed by me and waited till it was safe to go back home. I had been and was afterwards unusually calm and I am not a brave person. I had not asked for it or expected it. Whatever, I felt grateful and amazed.
Perhaps siejaku is sometimes a gift from God as well as being something we can bring from a regular practice of tranquillity with God. The Father certainly gave Jesus a complete siejaku as he rested in the storm tossed boat. Jackie W
A word from another language that has helped enrich my expression of life and faith these past few days is the word ‘sukkah’. I am reading through Leviticus and was struck by one of the Festivals called ‘The Festival of Shelters’ (Immerse, The Reading Bible). Other translations call it the Festival of ‘booths’ or ‘tabernacles. Looking into it, I’ve learnt that the Hebrew word is ‘sukkot’. A ‘sukkah’ is singular and is a temporary hut constructed and used during the week-long Jewish festival. It symbolically commemorates the time God provided for the Israelites in the wilderness. Sukkot is considered a joyous occasion and is referred to in Hebrew as Z’man Simchateinu (the time of our rejoicing).
The ‘sukkah’ itself symbolizes the fragility and transience of life and one’s dependence on God. I identify with the ‘sukkah’ as since Covid, I have been ‘unsettled’ and have moved 10 times as my life was turned upside down. I have decided that whenever I eventually find and move into a permanent place to call ‘home’ I will call it ‘Sukka’. Like the Israelites, I am learning how fragile and transient life is and how I need to depend completely on God and my home called ‘Sukka’ will be my constant reminder, plus it will certainly be a ‘Z’man Simchateinu’, a time of rejoicing for me! Laura S
Brian, your description of the word ‘mangata’ reminded me of a simple textile piece which I felt inspired to create from reading John O’Donohue’s blessing Bennaucht. Jane W
I spent a few days last week in Northern Ireland with my daughter’s family. They have a neurodiverse child – life is SO hard. I am so admiring of her patience and love for him. So I was very moved when reading about ’teng’ – my heart hurts for her just as God’s heart hurts for all in pain. Marjorie A
Tarab: I was bitterly disappointed to miss the northern lights. A bad case of FOMO 😱. Then I felt I had lost my capacity to experience the awe that transports beyond what is physical, and makes me feel the embodiment of love and joy. My daughter sent me a link to this piece of music and bingo! I was touched to the core of my being, and welling up big time. This is it – Hoxa Sound by Erland Cooper. Helen Sk
With today’s email I’m reminded of the Message version of a verse in the Bible: “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace” when Jesus says watch me and learn from me… When you encouraged us to put our hand on our hearts recently, on YouTube, I tapped the heart’s rhythm out on my heart with my palm, echoing my own heart’s beat back to it. It was strangely comforting and grounding! Helen H
I love the idea of waymarkers of the soul! During the months of lockdown, we walked a regular three-mile track and watched for the changing way-markers as the seasons turned – the place where the wood anemones grow, where the crows nest, where we smell the honeysuckle, silver birch glade, where the deer hide, where we hear the cuckoo, the brambles for our blackberries … so much more soulful and nourishing than “after half a mile”!
I’m still watching for my first brimstone butterfly, waymarker of the Spring! Thank you for such a rich trail, Brian. Sue R
After reading about tarab I listened to Karl Jenkins’ Benedictus from The Armed Man. Wonderful!
Also experienced confelicity watching my lovely daughter-in-law opening her birthday presents 😊. Thank you, Brian. Helen S
My walk on Friday took me to that place of awe. The church & reservoir are man-made, yet I was struck that even in the best & most beautiful plans of human kind it is God’s creative breath that brings the awe. Di W
Last week (on my retreat) I experienced teng. I stood at the foot of this simple cross where there are three nails in the place of Jesus’ hands and feet. I was so overwhelmed that tears ran down my face as I realised just how much I do not deserve the sacrifice Jesus made for me.
But God very quietly assured me that I am all He wants me to be. The pain he must feel for everything I am not, but the love He shows because He is who He is… There are no words to describe how powerful the experience was (and continues to be) but teng goes some way towards it. Thank you! Kate P
I really enjoyed reading the words of love. I identified with them all but particularly confelicity – which made me think of my mum who died in October. She was always so delighted with other people’s happiness and shared in their joy. I hope I have inherited that!
I have been watching our pair of great tits take a bath in the garden. We topped up the water as it was getting low!! I felt such joy and thankfulness in this simple pleasure. How important it is to take time to be still and watch. Susan L
Zugunruhe. A friend shared with me yesterday how the lobster sheds its whole shell as the inner part grows too big to be contained. That inner part is covered by a new softer skeleton which needs time to harden.
I have been thinking about the journey of leaving the carapace of life to enter the new stage of death, not as an abrupt switch but a growing towards it. Jesus gave us the gift of trail blazing this way before us.
The other day I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing up. I was miserable from pain in my hip, when suddenly a flock of long-tailed tits swarmed into view. These busy, round bodied, pink and black little birds were every where, on the bird feeders, drinking from the water, eating from the bird table! They captivated me. Without a window between us I could have touched them; I watched until, as a flock away they flew, and my pain was forgotten. One of those gift-from-God moments that takes us out of ourselves and lifts hearts and spirits. Deo gratis. Gay H
A ‘seijaku’ moment yesterday – it wasn’t a vintage morning in our household with cross words spoken before work and school. As I stood by the kitchen window, a goldfinch caught my eye. Then there was another and another until TEN goldfinches were dancing about on the bare branches! It was an awesome sight and a reminder about the tranquility amid chaos. A tangible moment of calm and of God saying ‘I am here’. Trudy T
This weekend, I walked my go-to walk a little more slowly and with my eyes and heart open. The bench is called ‘Bernard’s Bench’ by the farmer whose land it sits on, because my Dad used to mend it and sit on it during his daily walk.
I took a photo of my way marks. I particularly love the oak tree and have, many times, dozed leaning against it in the warmth of the sun. I imagine generations of farm workers have done the same as they rested during and after their work. I wonder what stories that tree could tell. Tim P
Such especially powerful and beautiful words today. I sense teng in the Transfiguration, that incredible revelation of divine glory. That the disciples’ and our minds will be renewed and that God’s glory and presence within us will lead to our transformation into Christlikeness. Complete love, yet sorrow too, that the journey isn’t always easy and sacrifices take place. Yet our destiny is to be like Him and with Him and in Him, and Him in us! Simon M
On the day you talked about awe, I had had a rough night and wasn’t feeling good. I was away from home and that morning I wandered down to a beach near where I was staying. It turned out to be home to a seal colony, with seals lined up on the beach and flopping about in the water! It was an awe-inspiring sight, and lifted my spirits. Ben H
Reading about shibui made me smile. It reminded me of when my Mum who, when in her eighties, was still managing to live alone with home help. Mum was never one to obsess in the mirror. However, I had noticed that she was beginning to make the occasional comment about how wrinkled her face had become!
One day, the lady who provided home help was accompanied by her young grandson. After their visit, the carer turned to the wee boy and asked, “Did you enjoy your visit with Shirley today?” His delightful response: “Oh yes, Grandma! I think she is just BEAUTIFUL”
Your final words in reflection 9 reminded me of the big challenge of seeing other people as God does. Today, for each person in front of me, God is saying “This is …………. whom I love”. That can be an extremely challenging truth for me!’ Ian W
I love the word ‘tarab’ and your phrase ‘bass-note yearnings. I can feel what that’s about. I’ve been reading Bono’s autobiography (so profound in parts). Last night happened to be a passage about Adam Clayton’s bass line in the song ‘Vertigo’ – and how his bass lines have even registered on the Richter scale!? Philippa P
Follow Me, Carol.
The trail has twists and turns ahead.
A foot in plaster,
Six weeks to recovery.
Immobility, patience, trust.
But many blessings along the way:
Kindness, care, comfort of friends.
Time to rest, breathe deeply and enjoy
Miracles, mobility, resurrection.
I hadn’t heard of Shibui before but it was exactly what I needed to hear today! Thank you. Here’s a poem I wrote in response:
An early morning glance catches the looking-glass reflection,
A wince, a sigh, a step away, a hand wipes the damp, questioning eyes.
But slowly, gently, we’re drawn again, glass and soul, face-to-face.
“Shalom, Shibui,” I whisper, “Shalom.”
These are the eyes that stay open with the weak and the fearful late into the night.
These are the love-lines drawn by laughter and pain, happiness and horror.
This is the mouth that forms words of comfort and peace.
These are the cheeks that redden too easily when I must speak out.
This is the hair that missed the appointment because a child was sick.
This is the face that sometimes holds too much.
“Shalom, Shibui,” I whisper, “Shalom”.
And there’s another voice from a cross on a hill;
That battered face, torn and broken, looks into the mirror of the world and murmurs
“Because you’re worth it.”
Traumatropic growth on a local yew. Best wishes and thanks for the current Lent series. Louise A
It was so interesting reading your reflections on awe and music in particular. We’re huge fans of Nick Cave and following your reference to him I would just mention his album called Ghosteen, which was written following the death of his son. It’s an ethereal and moving work and really helped me during the time of the pandemic when we were so saddened at the loss of friends – I did, and still do, listen to it frequently in my car and it seems to carry healing to the soul. I’d recommend it to anyone who may be grieving.
It was through music in 1982 that I finally discovered the beauty of being in a relationship with Jesus and having a grounding faith to carry me through each and every day – the good and the sometimes not so good perhaps. Reading today of the Arabic word ‘Tarab’, it seemed perfect for the awe and power I feel when listening to The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins and I shall definitely add the word to my vocabulary.
Meg M (Anglesey)
I loved your ‘waymarks of the soul’ on Friday. I took a short break from a hectic weekend to enjoy a hilltop walk past some of my favourite spots to sit or stand overlooking Winchester: a bench encircled by crocuses and daffodils, catkins on trees, a bush with a long-tailed tit emerging. I looked over the city and the several places I know where communities are ‘rooted and established’ in Christ’s love, including two churches which give a warm welcome to dozens of refugees and asylum seekers every week. It’s a place where, following your suggestion of an earlier series, I say ‘wow’ to so many instances of God’s grace and so many things and people to be grateful for.
All the best, Bob L
What a great series! Thank you very much. My response for today:-)
Centre point of love –
Bitter sweet, good pain, heart breaks
Open. Light floods in.
For me, part of “Go!” means feeling released from the judgements (both internal and external) that hindered me from making and creating.
Here’s a trio of grid collages that I made last week, representing Earth, Fire and Water. I intend to complete the set with Air!
Blessings, Jo C
When I first saw the pictures (in the RSVPs) from the tunnel of art, I noticed Psalm 91.1 with the giraffe. This morning I looked again, and realised ALL the pictures had passages on (I can’t read some that are on the car). I wonder how many other delights God has sent and I have missed.
I have attached a picture from my journal. God bless! Angela M
I have been on this road a long time.
It has had its ups
Wrong turns and dead ends
U-turns and hair-pin bends
Steep climbs and gentle rises
Wild descents, yelling all the way …
It has been lived always
Seeking Your presence
Sometimes feeling Your absence
But always trying to follow
Stumbling, fearful that I might fall
Even turning back a while
Here we are
You and I
Blazing our trail
How do you do that?
You have always been there
Whether I knew it or not
Come, let’s go
Don’t be afraid
I am with you.
I always was.
I love words, I love their meanings and especially new words to learn today. Perhaps I can add another African word “Ubuntu” – an ancient African word meaning humanity to others. It is often described as reminding us that “I am what I am because of who we all are.” The five key values of Ubuntu are: survival, solidarity spirit, compassion, respect, dignity. Maybe closely related to the fruits of the spirit.
The word “Zugunruhe” is apt for me today. For the past week on my early morning walk with my dogs, I have watched hundreds of swallows as they swoop filling their tummies. They have been at the same spot for the past 7 days. Today they are gone and not one in sight. I can only presume they have started their massive trek up north migrating to warmer climates. It never ceases to amaze me how creation is just so perfect, especially when we were shown those incredible pictures of the Northern Lights last week.
There is a lot of dark time in South Africa to view the sky and sunsets. ‘Load shedding’ results in having no power for sometimes eight hours a day, but the sun still sets majestically, and it rises with colour which no artist could ever capture. Sharon S
Today’s reflection touched my heart in the deepest part of my being as I listened to the song “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”, and remembered my own experience with the reality of teng. It was a time in my life when my only daughter was choosing to rebel against God in her lifestyle and my dear mother was battling cancer. I experienced what has been described as the “dark night of the soul.”
On a silent retreat God broke through my sorrow and revealed to me the truth of the words of this same song – how love and sorrow went hand in hand to the Cross.
This revelation delivered me from hopelessness and despair to a new found strength and ability to understand the suffering of Christ and apply this revelation to my own grieving heart for my beloved daughter and mother. Without a doubt this was the most profound and liberating spiritual moment of my life. Thank you for bringing it back to the forefront of my mind and heart. Kathryn C
I was inspired by seeing Jupiter and Venus last Wednesday evening, silently reaching out to each other in “the kiss”. Like a tender wordless gesture. I thought of Gustaf Klimpt’s painting ‘The Kiss’, a tender embrace.
When I said the words aloud on Friday evening, “You are my beloved” (and my name) , I imagined God giving me a tender kiss. Then I noticed the illustration on the front of my Bible, Michael Angelo’s ‘Creation of Adam’, and the two hands of God and man reaching out towards each other. So I wrote this poem:
The clouds are kissing the mountains
As rain is kissing the soil
Sunlight is kissing my skin
As waves are kissing the shore
Jupiter is kissing Venus
As moonbeams kiss the sea
Kiss me Spirit and quiet my soul
Kiss me Spirit and I will be whole.
Here’s a part of a poem that came to me at the weekend, along with a quote from Kusuke Koyama which I return to often!
Blazing the Lenten Trail
just as you are,
created from dust,
mindful that to dust you will return.
Where will this trail lead?
Where will be “the end”?
Take each step mindfully, soulfully,
walking at the speed of love. *
Enjoy, savour, reflect, respond.
Pray without ceasing –
an awareness of God
within you, around you,
at every moment.
welcoming whatever you may feel,
whatever you may see,
whatever you may hear,
whatever you may taste,
whatever you may touch –
for that is where some deeper meaning
of each slow step, each lingering moment,
may be found.
Accept the message that each encounter offers you.
Receive it, with thanks …
* Kosuke Koyama: “Love has its speed. It is a spiritual speed. It is a different kind of speed from the technological speed to which we are accustomed. It goes on in the depth of our life, whether we notice or not, at three miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed the love of God walks.”
A recent art project on doors reminded me that “In my Father’s House there are many mansions”.
I’m also thinking about flawsome and of the scripture “My strength is made perfect in weakness.” This led me to finding potential beauty in some of our “deadly sins”:
Pride – rejoicing in God -given talents;
Greed – the desire to be fulfilled though often in the wrong way; really being hungry for Love;
Envy – a longing for what we would like to manifest in our own life;
Lust – a misguided passion/ longing for connectedness.
Awe and wonder
I marvel at the robin who visits my bird table.
Always impeccably dressed
with never a feather out of place
except for a few weeks each year when, amazingly,
new feathers grow.
He flies in, fixing me with bright eyes,
balancing on crazily slender legs which
look as if they should snap on landing.
Praise God for creating and sustaining him
and all living things, including me.
The word that carried straight into my heart and soul this morning is the first, confelicity. Wonderful to rejoice for others, but how much more difficult to be free of any “nibbles” of envy that can accompany it. I can think of envying friends with more children, grandchildren, better health, a bigger house, a long-term partner… the list could go on! Thank you for shining a light in places that are not solely bright. A spiritual discipline for Lent definitely.
I just want to say how much I am enjoying being part of your series and this group. I joined a little late but am in awe of the responses shared in RSVP last week! Such beautiful words. I was so much in awe that I worried: What can I bring? I feel so inadequate, so moved by others’ fluency. And then I heard: “Come just as you are. You are enough.”
Thankyou, all, for being you. Jo dG
When I read ‘Aurora Awe’ last Wednesday, I was transported to Rome last September when my daughter and I were just crossing the Tiber and this magnificent sunset unfolded. We stood transfixed and I felt a ‘wild’ and ‘spiritual’ awe: ‘the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world.’ (Dacher Keltner). And (to more or less quote Brian), I was taken beyond my small self, my soul stirred and reached for deeper communion with God and creation.
Sunset on Ponte Garibaldi
As we stood on the bridge at sundown,
bathed in the ebbing warmth of the setting sun,
the changing colours in the sky
created an impressionist painting:
white fleeces with whispers of pink;
soft rosy streaks
blending with mauvy hues;
glowing pink becoming fiery peach;
an apricot flume.
The glassy reflection in the water
mirroring the Parasol Pines
that frame the Roma landscape.
As my husband and I walked in our local park we came across this “trail magic”. Waxwings feasting on the bright red berries of a Rowan tree. Alison M
I loved the words in the reflection today. In the ‘trail mix’ afterwards, I looked for the word I was most drawn to – ‘flawsome’ – as you invited me to, and found it missing. God reminded me that he removes our flaws – so perhaps they have disappeared (at least in His eyes)! ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us’ (Psalm 103 v12). Alice D
Your comments on words put me in mind of an image I use with my students, above. Martyn S
Thank you for this Lent series thus far – so helpful.
A little Trail Magic from the Father: February’s rare warmth called out the Red Admiral alighting for one breath, wings outstretched, on the pure delicacy of a snowdrop. Capturing a moment of hope, beauty, fragility, resilience entwined. Thank you. Jo G
I’d love to recommend this short but profound podcast episode from poetry unbound:
Poetry Unbound | Naomi Shihab Nye — I Feel Sorry for Jesus
The poem uses humour and lightness to talk about our very human desire to “own” and “know” Jesus. It does seem fitting for this season of Lent as it ends with a response of being silent for Jesus, which I took to mean listening with humility and awe. The poem is beautifully read by Pádraig Ó Tuama followed by some reflections, and then re-read. Lovely! Emma L
I loved the words today!
My past weekend in London seems to collide with them:
I sat on a deck chair in the Van Gogh Immersive experience and watched little children, chasing the fish and sunflowers on the floor.
Their delight made me feel delightful too. (Confelicity)
As I sat in a coffee shop in London, enjoying my coffee and book, I looked out the window, the busyness of London,
But I felt that siejaku.
As we captured photos of our time in London,
I see the age in our faces in the photos (shibui).
We have and we are living full lives.
Watching the band Hundred Reasons on Saturday night and looking around and seeing the pure euphoria of the moment.
The music filled with nostalgia and meaning as all the fan sing along.
Tarab, for sure.
And at lunch on Sunday as my friend spoke about his life and shared about parenting and how he loves his girls and what they as a couple do for them,
I can’t help but think of Teng. That describes it well!
God, thank you that you are in the ebb and flow of my life. Darrel H
Sabbath Community on the Levels
The sound of
Simultaneous wing beats
From countless starlings above.
The sight of
A tiny wren
Sneaking in through gaps in the hedge.
Strong tree trunks by the riverside
With bare arms held high
Brave dusky pink wild flowers
Along the bank
Daring to risk the still cold weather.
Lines in the distant lanes
The whirring of wheels
Hundreds of cyclists
Calling cheerful greetings
A lone jogger
Too focused to speak.
A lady cyclist
Riding the opposite way
Laughing at “the Tour de France”
On this Somerset Sabbath morning.
The man walking with his spaniel
Enjoying the occasion
The woman walking slowly with crutches
I am particularly struck today by the Japanese word ‘siejaku’ and the idea of finding calm within the chaos. Interestingly, this is half of a prayer poem I wrote over the weekend.
Take my agony
And give me anchor.
Take my worry
And give me wonder.
Take me brokenness
And give me beauty.
Take my hiddenness
And give me honesty.
Take my crisis.
And give me calm.
Take my darkness
And give me dawn.
Take my envy
And give me empathy.
Take my vulnerability
And give me victory.
Take my fear
And give me faith.
Take my grief
And give me grace.
Take my loss
And give me love.
Take my tears
And give me trust.
Amen. Jane S
There has been so much on this journey that is as jewels on the path. As an immigrant I have been particularly touched by the ideas about crossing borders and belonging. Lots of excitement in being “open to the New” but equally challenges regarding “belonging“. It’s not always easy to feel at peace or at home on the other side of the border.
Several people have written movingly about the couple caught in adultery and how Jesus rescued the condemned woman. But I am left uncomfortable with the ending of the story. I do not think Jesus would have sent her away and neither do I think she needed to be told not to sin anymore. That message feels more appropriate for the stone-wielding men.
So I imagined a different ending, something like this …
JESUS: They’ve all gone, you can go too.
JO: Thank you sir, but where can I go? They put down the stones in their hands but their hearts are not changed. They have gone, but I am still the guilty one, the condemned one. Perhaps it would have been better if they had stoned me? At least then it would’ve been over.
JESUS: I know and feel your pain and your fear. And I see the cloud of danger that surrounds you. If you’d like it you can stay with us a while.
JO: Thank you sir. You are kind and you understand. But I’d have to return sometime …
JESUS: Stay as long as you like – those who come to me, I will never drive away. And to be honest, it would be fabulous if you could stay a long time with us.
My turn, while we’re paused. My friend sent me this, and I haven’t stopped laughing since … Brian D
Here I am
Here we are.
We read ‘The Aurora Awe’ at the park, on our morning walk, and looked up from the phone as we finished … to see this. Neville P
Thank you for introducing me to CS Lewis’ The Inner Ring – that wonderful metaphor of trying to fill a sieve with water! In my journey towards Belonging this aptly describes my attempts to ‘belong’ (looking for love in all the wrong places) while in fact leaving the real me unattended. So instead of avoiding my ‘Temptations’, which are like false signposts on the Trail, I can kindly identify my own: giving up, acting out, isolating, not taking the humble choice, fighting reality instead of giving it to God, not asking God for what I need or want, getting angry when Im afraid, forgetting to trust God utterly adores me. All this and more is held under the Aurora Sky – my little inner house-cleaning a very small contribution to making the world a brighter place. A hand squeeze to everyone today. Joanna P
I am so enjoying being back on the trail in this community! Today I have been in London for a meeting of the Anglican Religious Communities in England committee. Afterwards I was walking towards Waterloo with one of the Franciscan brothers from Hilfield when he suddenly said, “Is that the tunnel with the street art?” We turned off our route and went through the tunnel (Leake Street). And, at the far end were blessed by these. Philippa M
It’s lovely to be part of your Lent journey again. Here are a few responses from the first week.
Day One Here I Am – Ready for the journey
Day Two Trail Magic
Day Three Drops of Hope
Day Four Go!
Day Five Belonging.
A reflection on day 1: Jesus in the desert.
I sit in a sand dune crater, protected from the bitter sea wind, and stop to reflect on your wilderness. Around me a kind of desert.
What would be on your mind as you faced into your wilderness, your desert.
Behind you, 30 years of a microcosm of our world: the petty squabbling, political rivalry, oppression and brutality, the fragility of life, the presence of death, all that is good and bad about family, community, nation.
The struggles of women, the poor, the sick, the hypocrisy of religion, of ego. As you started into that wilderness, that desert, you would have behind you the full knowledge of privilege and poverty side by side, the vulnerability of subsistence living, the joy and pain of living on the edge of survival, together in community. Would you be burdened by your calling to transform such deeply entrenched human problems?
And as I gaze into the distance I see beyond the furthest dune, a patch of green, and a tree on the horizon. And I am reminded that you could see beyond the wilderness, to the garden, the place you would sweat blood, be left alone to contemplate the hardest of all callings. Perhaps that tree though, would remind you also of the garden beyond, where one day all will be reconciled, made new. The promised land.
‘He was on his way to God, and he was taking the whole world with him.’
Last week Diana Butler-Bass, in one of Richard Rohr’s daily emails, quoted this from Meister Eckhart:
“There is a journey you must take. It is a journey without destination. There is no map. Your soul will lead you. And you can take nothing with you.” I read this while I was on a train journey with a definite destination in mind! But thinking about our trail, often we are all so goal oriented even in Lent – we must do this, give up that, etc, as we head towards Easter. And because of this I so often miss the God-possibilities and God-nudges along the way. Letting my soul lead along the trail feels both exciting and somewhat unnerving! Elaine Col
Re: Monday’s reflection and the invitation to put ourselves in the shoes of the woman caught in adultery. It struck me, in doing so, that as the various accusers gradually melted away, the woman herself probably had the chance, had she wanted to, to make herself scarce. After all, Jesus was looking down, writing in the dust. He wasn’t watching her. But she stayed rooted to the spot. Somehow, something about his quiet authority kept her there, waiting to hear what he would say next. And her staying meant that she heard his words of release. Marian M
This Lenten journey is perfect for me and in such good company. It’s the next stage of a pilgrimage I started 8 months ago. I have had healing miracles along the way with chemotherapy and major surgery. I’m recovering brilliantly from all of that and tomorrow am starting prescribed medication for the long term. When I listened to Mike Smith’s Open, the beauty of the words had me sobbing. They were exactly what I need to help me further along my healing journey. I look forward to the journey ahead with you all. Helen S
‘The Heart of Belonging’ chimed with something in the foreword of Emma Ineson’s book Failure (the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book for this year). She writes: “There is a maxim known as Kanter’s Law, after the Harvard Business School professor who developed it: ‘In the middle, everything looks like failure.’ In the middle, in the liminal place that Christians inhabit, before the coming of Christ in victory, a lot of things might look like failure to us.” She then goes on to explain that not even the most spectacular disappointments and failures are the end of the story, which is written by God and enacted through the coming of Jesus, his ministry, death and resurrection.
I want to belong
Cross sacred and dangerous
Help me in with love
Many thanks, Trevor P
Regarding your words, “Pray for the courage to bring your God-given self to each situation you face today with courage and love. Pause before stepping through a doorway, or indeed crossing a border, to remember, and to whisper “Here I am” with assurance and humility.”
You’re never too young to absorb this spiritual and philosophical welcome – I’ve been singing versions of the finger-song with my two-year-old granddaughter all day! Inspired by: ‘Baby finger, baby finger, where are you? / Here I am, here I am! How do you do?’ and developed to include everyone and everything in sight:
Hello granny, hello granny, where are you?
Here I am, here I am! How do you do?
Hello Mimi, hello Mimi, where are you?
Here I am, here I am! How do you do?
Hello boots, hello boots, where are you?
Here we are, here we are! How do you do?
Thank you for inspiring my Examen of a toddler-led day! Liz S
I am travelling on an Indian train surrounded by Indian families while I read today’s message (The Heart of Belonging) and it deeply resonates. I feel connected, calm and content in this colourful country and having spent the morning at Buddha’s place of enlightenment, it strikes me very much how we are all coming from and to the same place of inner peacefulness and outward kindness no matter the cultural roadmap we follow to get there. Blessings and Namaste intertwined, interwoven and integrated feels blissful … Claire U
To quote you, Brian, from earlier this week: “Awe lifts you into a greater place or story, one in which the ego is mercifully relieved of its duties.” I was moved by that word awe, and was reminded of two things I read/ heard in the last couple of days.
First, from a book I’m reading I Am an Island by Tamsin Calidas: “It is strange how the skies have the power to stir our deep ativistic instincts, drawing on our ancient impulses… to bring some deeper spirit alive. For a second I feel I have been here in this moment before… ’I know this land’, my heart whispers, and time feels suddenly such a blink and yet simultaneously expansive.”
And from a book called The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd: “The mountain is one, and indivisible. All are aspects of one entity, the living mountain, the disintegrating rock, the nurturing rain, the quickening sun, the seed, the root, the bird, all are one”.
I wonder how Jesus felt alone in the harsh wilderness, all comforts removed, was he lifted into a greater place and story? Did time lose its meaning and relevance? Was he able to silence his ego? Did he gladly become one with his own creation? Annie P
My husband took this photo outside our house two nights ago. “The heavens declare the glory of God “ (Psalm 19)!
Trail Blazing … beginning with the end in mind … Thomas Merton’s words, ‘You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going…’ – there is much to ponder over on this year’s Lenten Trail. Thank you, Brian. Anne M
I am on my first ever retreat at the amazing Sheldon Centre in the Teign Valley (highly recommended!). It is a silent retreat and your series is the perfect accompaniment, so thank you. Each room has a different photo of the surrounding countryside and guess what was on my door… A Blazing Trail!! I love how God speaks to us 🙏🏻 Kate P
I’ve been in awe of the snowdrops as always. I wrote this poem (or rather it was written through me spontaneously) whilst painting them some years ago. Sylvia L
Here is a poem inspired by words from the Ash Wednesday sermon by Tess Kuin Lawton you shared with us yesterday. It may not be the final draft but I share it as it is. I wrote it on my phone sitting in the hospital canteen (my Dad is still very poorly).
WHAT GOD CAN DO WITH DUST
Mould us lovingly and then
remember always that’s all we are
our dry bones
Shake it off His feet
when He is not welcome
mix squishy mud
for blind eyes
Draw up endless
shelters of forgiveness
though our shame
Wash it off His followers’ feet
kneeling in it
to massage filthy toes
at the end of the travel-grimed day
Be blood-sweat-caked in it
on his agonized way
to die for us
Stir up the ultimate dust-storm
in the wake of His rising
tread with us on our roads
from ashes to glory.
Thank you so much for your sustaining emails.
Blessings, Sarah S
I have just made this. ‘It is better to light a candle …’ Betty F
‘The Heart of Belonging’ is the most timely and appropriate message for me. It meets me precisely where I am with light, hope and a door into the next moments and decisions I have to make. I had extra-ordinary ups and downs last week, coping by living in each moment and saying “Here I am God, ready for whatever is next.” Yesterday, thinking about Jesus writing in the sand and his look and his love for me was so very helpful. Today before I read your email I was asking about my choices and boundaries. Now have clarity about a key boundary and about where I do, and do not, belong. Thank you. Jonathan R
Having belonged to a church community all my life, I now find myself outside, partly due to circumstances and changes in my beliefs which make me feel uncomfortable with church as I’ve always known it. Recently on holiday in the Lake District I saw many storm-damaged and uprooted trees. They spoke to me of myself, the need to find community and a sense of life beyond the storm. I wrote this poem. Today’s email with your words about belonging reminded me of it.
Nothing is as it was
Storms thrashed my branches
Ripped around my solid trunk
Shook me until my roots loosened
Soil and rock crumbled away
Until I was uncovered to the elements
Nothing to cling to
Wild air flowing through my roots
Moved to an unknown place
Ripped and thrown over
Roots and branches snapped
Crumpled beneath as I fell
Left where I crashed.
I’d always looked up
Reached for the skies
Now I touch earth, mud, stone
Flattening everything in my wake.
My roots cling in desperation
They find a new direction
Pushing down, re-anchoring
Those left exposed gather moss
A thick layer of earth remains
Giving shelter, home to others
Gradually I push up shoots
Reaching upwards again
Branches reform at odd angles
Microscopic creatures busy themselves
Finding new spaces
Fungi clings, recycles my brokenness,
Birds find sustenance
Lichens find new areas to settle
I am reclothed,
Wrapped in gentle mossy softness.
I have found there is another way
After the turmoil, the destruction.
I am forever changed
Will never stand as I once did,
Some branches grow tall
Pushing up again, reaching high,
In my being I am what was and what now is.
Once I grew instinctively
Until thrown down
When I had to learn again
A new way to be.
Am I less because I fell?
Or am I more because I have fallen
And yet still flourish?
Have I let go of life?
I’ve learned that life flows
Even after destruction
Pouring outwards, re-rooting,
Finding ever more ways to be.
Thank you for your emails and this community which is very precious to me. With love, Audrey J
As apprehensive as I was about starting this Lent series, with the busyness of life, work and teenagers (!), I have felt far from God since Christmas and thought this would be a good time to spend finding my way back. I have been surprised, with so much to do in my ordinary life, just how much time I have found to simply be.Thank you. Trudy W
Belonging vs fitting in really struck me. Off work with covid, I’ve caught up on some TV I’ve been meaning to watch – Inside Our Autistic Minds, presented by the amazing naturalist Chris Packham.
I was moved to tears by a young woman called Flo, who told her story of having to mask her behaviour in order to ‘fit in’ to society’s expectations, and of how much harm it did her, and how exhausting she found it. She shared her experience by making a film. She wanted her mother to have a better understanding of what this felt like, as she felt she had to mask even in front of her mother. After they watched the film together, they hugged and cried, and Flo’s mum told her she loved her daughter exactly as she was. A little echo of the divine mother’s accepting love for us, unmasked. And an incredible challenge to me (who works in education) to try to change our environment so autistic people can belong as they are rather than trying to fit in. Vicky W
Listening to Mike Scott’s “Open” touched me, especially the words “saying yes”. I have just said “yes” to a challenging situation which is going to stretch me. I was surprised at the joy I felt stepping out into something beyond me, that will need God’s grace and hopefully I will see him at work. So, I must also be saying yes to risk and being blessed. There I was on Thursday morning saying “Here I am” – offering myself to the path ahead as you suggested in front of one of my favourite trees in our nearby wood. Not knowing what that would mean for my continued journey with God. And, then I felt free to say “yes” soon afterwards. Jackie W
I just want to say how delighted I am to be part of this journey and to thank you SO much for introducing me to Mike Scott and his song Open – it catches my heart every time I hear it. Elizabeth G
I’ve found the practice of saying my name out loud to Jesus incredibly moving. I imagine Him being there and listening to me. It brings Him closer. It always brings a lump to my throat, which tells me it’s striking my core. Thanks for a great series so far, Janet M
My friend Betty and I walked together this afternoon and we both picked up a pebble, reflected and through it into the stream. My heart flowed with the loving forgiveness of “God’s Grace“ and this was mirrored in the flowing rhythm of the river. All is forgiven now: “Go.” Louise F, Derbyshire
Two things have made this Lent (which we always mark) different. The first is a thirst to encounter and become more like Jesus on a whole new level… born of a real desperation about so many things in our global village, from the main war (& the many wars) to the C of E, to the groaning of all creation expressed in earthquake, cyclone (we were in NZ for that!) storm and drought. And an intense longing to see the Holy Spirit out-poured in our land as well as at Asbury!
The second was excitement and anticipation about joining you again. I love It! I love the trail idea, the journey. Noticing. Today I go to prison (bereavement counselling) so I cross a border. I love these poor, wounded young men. I pray that God will use my tiny drop in the ocean of suffering.
And the snowdrops… JOY! Thank you so much Brian. Anita C
Thank you for this amazing blazing trail! I’ve been reflecting on “starting with the end in mind”. What does the Lord require of me on this blazing trail thorough Lent? To act justly and to love kindness and to walk humbly with God along the trail. I am particularly drawn to that verse from Micah 6 and to a trail-end image of being so filled to the measure with God’s loving kindness that it spills out – as in Ephesians 3:17-19: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God”. Julia S
The wonders of new birth, new beginnings, the start of a wondrous journey … These beautiful snowdrops encapsulate that for me. To paraphrase Thomas Merton: recognise the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment; and embrace them with courage, faith and hope.
The Lenten journey ends with the glory of Easter, but only God knows the precise path we’ll take over the next six weeks. Savour, observe, listen, abide, rest in His perfect peace and presence. Simon M
I’m not sure if this is a poem, as I’ve never really written poetry, but these are my few words at the start of Lent:
Here I am – waiting, pausing, being.
Mindful that the end is your eternal presence.
And eternity starts now.
Onwards, as a hopeful presence.
Hope filled by your presence.
I’ve carried this small rock in my pocket for so long. I’m not sure why, it just felt right to offer it up at the start of this journey. Jojo
l have had this song in my head, from the Disney movie Pocahontas. Here is an extract of the lyrics that really resonate with me in the context of the “Blazing Trail”:
You think you own whatever land you land on
The Earth is just a dead thing you can claim
But I know every rock and tree and creature
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name
You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew
Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
Or asked the grinning bobcat why he grinned
Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind
Can you paint with all the colors of the wind
Come run the hidden pine trails of the forest
Come taste the sun sweet berries of the Earth
Come roll in all the riches all around you
And for once, never wonder what they’re worth
The rainstorm and the river are my brothers
The heron and the otter are my friends
And we are all connected to each other
In a circle, in a hoop that never ends
How high does the sycamore grow?
If you cut it down, then you’ll never know
And you’ll never hear the wolf cry to the blue corn moon
For whether we are white or copper skinned
We need to sing with all the voices of the mountain
We need to paint with all the colors of the wind
Here is a link to an (official) recording.
This week I’ve returned to some pictures taken casually in my phone on a series of rainy days. There is something about each tiny jewel that catches the breadth of the sky and the land , almost in-noticed in promise of beauty to come. Alex L
It’s wonderful to be back with you, Katharine and everyone else for this Lenten journey! My contribution for week one:
learning to tread
step by step
into the unknown
holding His guiding hand.
Blessings, Claire P
Your quote from the Celtic saying has stayed with me: “Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” It resonates with “the Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it”. As I walk the Trail of Lent, I hope to bring that candle of God’s love with me to lighten all darkness, without and within. Alison A, Ashtead
Hello, Brian and everybody – it’s so good to be back as part of this amazing community again. Thank you, Brian, for your great reflections so far, and for “Live at Five” on Friday, which I caught up with afterwards on You Tube. Here is my journal page for yesterday’s wonderfully encouraging reflection. And below, the words of John O’Donohue’s ‘For Belonging’.
May you listen to your longing to be free.
May the frames of your belonging be generous enough for your dreams.
May you arise each day with a voice of blessing whispering in your heart
May you find a harmony between your soul and your life.
May the sanctuary of your soul never be haunted.
May you know the eternal longing that lives at the heart of time.
May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within.
May you never place walls between the light and yourself.
May you allow the wild beauty of the invisible world to gather you,
mind you, and embrace you in belonging.
Much love to all, Hazel R
This lovely poem below by Jan Richardson is for the beginning of the journey of Lent. It feels very pertinent, and seems to fit alongside your fist post about beginning with the end in mind. Marian C
Beloved Is Where We Begin (by Jan Richardson)
If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.
Do not leave
who you are:
named by the One
who has traveled this path
Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.
I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from the scorching
or the fall
of the night.
But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.
I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.
I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
whisper our name:
(Taken from Jan’s book Circle of Grace)
My reflection for the start of Lent: The Trouble with trying to Fast. Eddie G
I wanted to share some artwork I created recently. I wanted to portray someone “emerging”. The word “tumult” came to me and I was reminded of the old hymn “Jesus Calls Us O’er The Tumult Of Our Life’s Wild, Restless Sea.” Listening to the hymn again, the words LOVE ME MORE and FOLLOW ME are repeated and this is the title I gave to my artwork. I felt God reminding me to love Him more each day and to keep following Him despite the tumultuous lives and circumstances we find ourselves in. We can emerge from the tumult. Jane S
Speaking of ‘trail magic’ made me remember the time I was on one of Brian’s autumn walks around 2012. I was asking God to clarify the call I was hearing to the way of St Francis with the Third Order Franciscans. On that day I met two others also exploring this path and our conversations were the answer to prayer I needed.
I have now been a professed member of TSSF for several years which is a profoundly important aspect of my spiritual journey. “To become generous channels of the goodness & mercy we’ve received” also reminds me of the prayer attributed to St Francis, “Make me a channel of your peace.” Susan B
This weekend I have been very moved by the response of Dan Walker, the TV presenter recently involved in a serious bike accident. He holds no blame to the motorist; is sympathetic to how the motorist must be feeling; thanks him for staying around until medical help arrived and uses the BBC news report to let him know ‘I’m going to be ok.’ When further comments emerge about who/what is to blame for this and similar accidents, Dan again dissolves the judgement and does so in a way that is not remotely critical. Dan, thank you and may you be blessed for the model of Christian grace you offer to all of us. If you haven’t read the article, it’s here. [Trigger warning from Brian – there’s quite a graphic picture of Dan’s face]. Sandra F
I saw this beautiful sign of hope this morning. A butterfly in February – such beauty! I heard God whisper “Go, I do not condemn you.”
At this time when many are struggling, I feel so uplifted by the song Lord from Sorrows Deep I Call. May you be blessed by the picture and song as we go forward together free from condemnation. Susan L
Having carried my stone for a while along the River Lune in Kirkby Lonsdale I dropped it in this beautifully peaceful stretch of the river – praying that I would ‘Go’ forward in the same way throughout this Lent – even if ‘things’ get tough. Marjorie A
Trail magic for me when I travelled for three days on the French route Camino, heading for Santiago de Compostela, the city of stars, in Galicia, northern Spain. When my wheelchair battery faded or the ground was too rough, there were always travel angels nearby to assist. What a joy and a blessing for all, helpers and the helped. Fiona E
Never have the first words of a series hit me so hard: “Begin with the end in mind.” Lent 2023 coincides with downsizing from our home of 40+ years to an apartment (“flat” to you!), with our house sale and move happening after Easter. Not surprisingly, my mind is wildly preoccupied right now, so I am ever so grateful for these quiet moments each morning. It’s wonderful to be back with you and the community. Special thanks for each day’s treat of “trail mix!” (I look first for the “chocolate,” just as I do when hiking!) Sending hugs and blessings from Canada – Nancy : )
Nothing is Wasted
A major feature of my living room is a glass fronted log burner. I love it! And the previous owner of my house loved it too. On one occasion when I met up with him, he sat me down and gave me detailed instructions about how to care for this log burner. The thing that stuck in my mind was when he told me that to keep the glass looking clean and bright, the trick was to use some of the ash from the fire with a bit of water on a rag or kitchen towel and rub hard. I was more than a bit sceptical. How could something so dirty and essentially just rubbish turn out to be this magical cleaning agent?
But he was right. It is like magic. It struck me the other day as I sat down to rub away with the previous night’s ashes once again, pondering the fact we were approaching Ash Wednesday, what was it that God was saying to me about His ability to use what I might consider to be the rubbish and remnants of my life. Things that I might consider to have been big mistakes, things I might be ashamed of and to be honest, things I might feel are only fit to be put on the rubbish heap of life. In Isaiah 61.3, the Bible talks about God giving us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, representing His ability to use his redemptive power in our lives. Each time I clean my log burner now I think about the amazing fact that nothing is wasted in God’s eyes – even things that I consider to be the biggest mistakes of my life, God can redeem and use for good. Janet C
I’m back in London today, having moved away from the area last year. I’ve walked beside the Thames here countless times, but don’t think I’ve ever seen the river so low. No matter how familiar the trail might seem to be, there is always something new to see and discover. Looking forward to this year’s Lenten journey! Phil S
I too was intrigued by the ideas about dust that Canon Tess introduced. How does the Christian idea of dust as the basic material of physical life contrast with Philip Pullman’s presentation in his stories? Dust there is seen by the Magisterium (Church) as sinful. It is not true but could be quite a problem to some readers, especially young people. As you say, Jesus does not condemn the woman as sinful but releases her to new life. Sally H
Dust! I was reflecting on dust in the lead up to Ash Wednesday and this poem came to me one evening:
I am glad that I am but dust,
Lovingly crafted and shaped,
Known from eternity,
Formed to play my part
In God’s eternal story.
I am glad that I am but dust,
Lovingly crafted and shaped,
To trust my creator God,
And enjoy the work of his hands
As I care for his bounteous earth.
I am glad that I am but dust,
Lovingly crafted and shaped
Now redeemed by my Saviour’s love
And his deathless death for dust,
Sacred dust, known from eternity.
I am glad that I am but dust
Lovingly crafted and shaped,
To reach out with loving arms
And offer my Saviour’s love
To all I meet on the way.
I am glad that I am but dust
Lovingly crafted and shaped
With the Spirit’s breath within
Bringing life to lifeless dust,
Life that one day will leave this dust behind.
Treasured and loved
By the God who created me.
I wrote a Lent song based on Psalm 51:12:
Restore to them the joy of your salvation.
Redeem them, O God.
Pour out your Holy Spirit to sustain them for good.
Grant them a willing spirit to obey you as Lord.
(The “them” can be replaced with “us” or “me”.)
I went to my first ever Ashing service, and the attached artwork and song grew out of the experience. It started off as a personal prayer, but then became a community song. I have sung it as “them” when praying for both Ukraine and Russia on the anniversary of the invasion; I have sung “us” for the churches in Petersfield and the people in the town in general. I can imagine it being sung in a round by a group of people. Blessings to the whole community, Susanne I
PS My friend Natalie is currently translating my ideas into music so that other people can pick up the song if they want – I would be happy to send the music sheet to anyone who is interested.
Thanks so much your amazing reflections. I found today’s very useful. Here is the beginning of my journaling page for Lent this year. My choice of photo in the middle is the hope of good things to come, as well as the journey of Lent. Michaela T
Brian, your ‘Trail Magic’ reflection brought to mind an example of spiritual help which led me unexpectedly, wonderfully, miraculously to a Treasure trail! It inspired this haiku:
Week of guided prayer.
Trail to true Treasure.
Many thanks, Stella P
Let go! Anne D
The tale of the adulterer is one of my favourite Bible passages. Many time I have put myself in the position of the woman and how absolutely terrified she must have been. I also put myself in the position of everyone in the story. For example, what about the man she was with? There is no mention of him. Had he fled? Or was he standing at the back of the crowd holding a large rock himself? Kindsight comes to mind. Learn from the past but don’t let it burden you down. Know that through the grace and love of Jesus that we are forgiven and not condemned. We are free to Go! To go well! Ian M
I’m really enjoying your insightful Lent reflections and the idea of trail magic. We had an amazing conference at our church this weekend called ‘Equip and Ignite’ and this resonated so much with your theme of Blazing a Trail! I came away with a new hunger for Jesus and some much needed emotional and spiritual healing. I’m so looking forward to walking on more of this trail together – with Jesus, with you and with this wise and creative community. Jeanette P
I have just returned home to the UK after living in the United States for the past four years. So much has changed, the familiar now seems strangely unfamiliar and picking up where I left off seems somehow unwise. So I begin this Lent journey on a trail that is leading me back along a path I once came and my hope is that I will find new markers and maybe even a trail angel that will enable me to find new ways ‘home’.
Retracing my steps
In need of some trail magic
To show me ‘The Way’.
My RSVP is the gratitude I felt when out walking the other day. I was feeling quite ‘blue’, but seeing this daffodil pushing through the still mulching forest floor sprung me into life once more! Many thanks for bringing us together again. Miriam M
Thank you for your thoughtful, challenging, encouraging blazing-trail reflections so far, and the opportunity to be part of this ‘blazing trail’ group! Gillian M
Lent this year came to mind as ‘flower opening’ and Mike Scott’s song ‘Open’ feels like my trail for this time. Just returned from a first time in Thailand and being a stranger in a very different place is a kind of wilderness where I had to turn over each day to God. Miracles flowed. I am taking time to reflect. Joanna P
Putting myself in the woman’s shoes this morning – after receiving all the blame and shame from society for a relationship which, after all, took two, I am now being asked to leave the man I love. Perhaps my own husband, whom I never chose to marry, doesn’t treat me well, and in a society so full of judgement and hypocrisy this was the only place where I found genuine affection. Now a stranger has just saved my skin, but if my one true love was “sin” I can’t pretend I don’t feel somewhat condemned. “Go …” but where? Alice F
There is nothing that touches my heart more with joy and hope in February than the sight of little wild crocuses. Such trail blazers of what is to come!
Moon-white blouses, green-frilled skirts.
Hope filled lighthouses.
So grateful and excited at the start of our blazing trail Lent series – thank you Brian for your faithfulness to keep on keeping on. Today’s reflection, ‘Go’ was beautiful to me as it synchronised wonderfully with my own reflection yesterday: Isaiah 61 speaks of a crown of beauty instead of ashes.
Wow! As Jesus said to the condemned woman GO, how beautiful to imagine on her head a crown 👑 of beauty instead of ashes. Thank you. Linda dP
I was struck by the beauty of these snowdrops on Saturday; that it was only when I was down ‘in the dust’ that this view came. When Jesus invites me to sit with Him in the dust, on the trail this Lent, He will open my eyes to His perspective. What a glorious thought! God bless. Di W
I stood watching sunrise last Thursday morning … softest pastel shades of pink and blue unfolding, and I saw trails across the sky and the emerging cloud formation as being an Angel with outspread wings. It took my breath away! It was, for me, a glimpse of the Glory of God and the promise of His journey with us on the trail ahead through Lent. Thank you. Sue W, Cambridge