Advent 2022 RSVPs

This is where I’ll upload your RSVP responses to Advent 2022! 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!

First Window

My circling prayer:

Vulnerabilities exposed, feeling sense of loss, pressures mount, yet hope is like a candle shining in the darkness – come Jesus, opening up to kindle your fire within – Trusting you for Joy, Peace and Hope ->

Neil KB

The circling reminds of this Anglican Rosary (which I bought from St Paul’s cathedral). It is divided into four quarters, and I find it a great help when praying. Janet B

I have just spent a little while thinking about today’s message and turning thro’ the points of the compass. It was such a lovely experience to think of the different areas of the world, to pray for them and for friends living there as well as members of our community. A real blessing. Thank you. Irene W

Sunset and moonrise … and as we turn together I am reminded of this beautiful Shaker hymn:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we will not be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

Liz H

I have done a few small pictures in response to your first few reflections:

1 Poise (Himalayan Birch)
2 Kindsight – Kindness with hindsight (Just One Leaf)
3 Gratitude (Thank you for the plum tree until recently outside my window)
4 Encircled (after Andrei Rublev, after Ivanka Demchuk)

Sarah Y

Gail P

I nearly did not sign up to this year’s Advent series for various reasons. On the evening before the series started (I had not long signed up!) I found myself suddenly moved to practice standing on one leg as I brushed my teeth. I have no idea where this idea came from – maybe a while ago I had read it was good for me somewhere, but this is not something I had been in the habit of doing. Imagine my surprise when I opened your first email – I am definitely meant to be on this journey this year. It’s time to build resilience and some deeper roots I feel. 

As I sat on a rock looking out across Christchurch Bay yesterday I was reminded of how close I feel to God there. To me the curve of the bay felt like an embrace. The sea was still, the rhythm of the small waves at its edge like gentle breaths, and the twilight shades of grey across land, sea and sky did not feel drab, sad or dark. They just added to a calm sense of waiting – such a blessed moment after (as many have had) such a tumultuous year.  As I walked home some words came to me which I plan to build into an Advent circle :

  Resting
     Relaxing
     Recovering
     Reviving
     Restoring

Thank you Brian, as always for your wisdom and guidance through this season. Lucy P

It took me a while to find a circle that wasn’t just about relentless doing, on and on.  But I waited and found a gentler rhythm. My circle poem: “Newness and presence and challenge and stillness and change and peace and growth and rest, and…”

Thank you! Rachel R

I thought I would share the photo I took of my advent candle. It reminds me of how even the smallest of lights can interrupt and dispel the darkness. Well worth reflecting on. Jane T

Dr Stephen Covey often used the compass as a leadership tool. I truly savor the way you’ve shared it for meditation. He often talked about how essential it is to know our True North because life is going to keep taking us off course. Ah, the truth. We are broken and need our Lord.

Dichotomies. Triggered, unresolved pain is the theme showing up in Advent so far, as well as extraordinary victories.

I teach the type of work you’re sharing this Advent to college students. Thank you for the dynamic inspiration – tapping into our parasympathetic system is a powerful way to ground in with who God has made us to be. Jenna R

One leaf left! But also the buds and promise of new life and the next season. Our young apple tree seems to be illustrating the circle of life this morning. Allie D

In our WhatsApp group of “Fellow Traveller” we share our responses to your daily email. And this was one of the images shared – a simple Christmas decoration from Homebase and yet it holds so much significance! A flowing circle within the Trinity – and with the red berries and greenery even more symbolism to facilitate a deeper dive into this season of new beginnings. Gill B

I have noticed feelings of dread that always seem to envelope me at this time of year. All the business of presents, cards and social gatherings etc fill me with alarm and then I read this differentiation between belief and faith: ‘Belief is clinging to, whereas faith is letting go.’

Like that last leaf hanging on, I have been clinging to the belief that the Christmas season means all that busyness – whereas I need to let go and let God renew my mind and expectations, and allow his thoughts and all-encompassing love to fill me afresh. I want this to directs me, rather than my ego, others’ expectations or anything else. Lord have mercy and help me to let go! Thank you Brian, and all of this wonderful community. Jill M

Poised between ‘the vivacity of what was’ and ‘the vitality of what is to come’. 

We have just moved home, from a large family home stuffed with stuff and memories, to a small bungalow and now, in the process of passing on so much. It has been hard but this phrase fills me with strength and hope and joy in what lies ahead. Thank you so much. Jane L

I’m over excited and emotional about Advent, primarily because of what kindsight has taught me. I have been able to lay down many burdens in front of the Lord Jesus; things I’ve held onto for years. They are now in the past and vivacious learning points, giving me vitality for what’s to come. Ian M

Amen! God’s mercies are indeed new every morning!

Blessings, Christine P

My simple circle:

               waiting
kingdom           Advent
              watching

(kingdom … waiting … Advent … watching …)

I hope to play with the idea some more! Philippa M

I use an Ignatian prayer each day which, paraphrased, starts –

‘Good morning God. Thank you for my beating heart and breathing lungs, which have given me yet another day in your creation. Please may I live as heaven on earth…

‘I pray just for these 20 hours. Please free my thinking and feelings and the thinking and feelings of others from all forms of self will, self-centredness, dishonesty and deception. May your Spirit guide me in times of doubt and indecision.’

The whole prayer can be found on the website God in All Things, ‘The Morning Examen’. Caroline H

‘Dormant … emergent … manifest … evanescent…’

Ian W

My south tree. Life has been so full of dizzying change over the past couple of years and it is so helpful to re-anchor in this community and in the steadfast love of God. I stood on one leg and released all the unknowns. Thank you for the words ‘the vivacity of what was’ and ‘vitality of what will be’. A much needed still point releasing faith and hope for the year(s) ahead. Katie K

POISE is such a helpful way to start the day. Smile, drop the shoulders, breathe out slowly … Thank you! Sue L

When I awoke yesterday and drew back the curtains there was a shaft of light on the horizon – evidence that we might look forward to a day that may have the smallest hint of sunshine. Here is where I ended up – searching for a single leaf – finding that our beautiful, strong, resilient oak is still holding onto its leaves, and a single leaf on a different tree later on my walk. As I stopped within an almost perfect circle of field mushrooms to look towards the west, two geese heading south flew directly above me. Some days are just perfect… and I thanked God for that moment. Sarah Jane G

The timing of the reflection on kindsight was uncannily providential. While driving later that Friday to spend the weekend with my family in York, I made a terrible error of judgement that could have resulted in motorway carnage. Mercifully it didn’t. My natural instinct is to berate and condemn my foolishness – ‘you stupid woman!’. So much better to look back with kindsight and ask ‘what can I learn?’ – and I have learned and will approach that intersection of motorways differently in the future. I don’t know what protective forces were at work but I receive the grace of coming through unscathed with thankfulness. Janet

I did the compass point turning prayer today, in the stillness of the frost-covered garden. Now the sun has just risen over the hill behind us, visible in the gap between our house and the one next door. Powerful, flooding the land with light. Later today we will light the advent candle, counting down the days. However, as much as a countdown to Christmas, we are counting down to the solstice, from which point we know that the days will lengthen, the sun will rise earlier, and its point of rising will move further east. But it is the same sun! And it is there even on days when clouds and rain hide it. So too is God … Peter L

My RSVP is a prayer I penned after leading early morning Communion last Sunday:
 
My dearest friends,
May the Advent darkness enfold you this winter morn,
May you find it here, in the womb of this ancient church.
May this candle flame flicker the tantalising glimpse of what’s to come
And may this holy host preserve your body and soul unto everlasting life.
Amen.

Janet N

I’ve particularly enjoyed thinking about ‘poise’ – it’s a work in progress for me but I have found both the practice and the concept helpful. Seeing this ‘violin playing, singing tightrope walker’ during a short stay in Bath on Day 1 of the series made me smile – the ultimate in poise! Rachel F

This is my circle poem, which can be started at any new sentence on the circle. Written yesterday, then today you used the words of the psalm I had based it on! Karen L

The embodiment of prayer in our two hands that you reminded us of in the YouTube helped cement something I shared last time from Hildegard of Bingen, flying with two wings of awareness being vital – one of joy and one of sorrow. Embracing both together physically, as well as acknowledging the thought mentally, enabled a deeper realisation to sink in. Thank you and Philip Roderick for the prompt. Rae M

‘Thank you’ to the kind gentleman who bought us water. Six years ago, naive and on our first ever long-haul journey, we had a three-hour stopover in Istanbul Airport. With only an English £20 note for emergencies, we found ourselves unable to purchase a drink. As we walked away, a kind gentleman ran up behind us with two bottles of water saying, “Please have these on me. Let it not be said that you went thirsty in my country”. Sandra F

A circle prayer (not actually in a circle) or can be read from top to bottom or bottom to top! 

Trust
When will I learn 
That God is faithful 
When will I learn God is always good
When will I learn
Trust

Denise T

Day 1 inspired me to write a poem:

Today is Thursday,
Bin day.
In the darkness of this cold winter morning, clouds mostly obscure the magnificent stars
As I fumble to sort paper from metal from plastic
The meagre cloud shrouded stars hint at a magnificent universe.

Today is Advent, unassuming
No bright guiding star to light my way as I carry the debris of life up my steep path
And leave it, like an offering beside the desolate road.
A lone dog walker passes by, the light of their torch moving purposefully, the only clue to their presence.

And I descend, free from my burden, back home.
Later the sun will rise, all pink and breath taking. A wonder. 
But this is the same sky, grey and unassuming. 
Waiting for the fullness of time. 
Today, this morning, is full of hope. 

And in the busyness of these morning jobs
I forget this is a special day.
My daughter wishes me a Happy Advent and I rush to find the calendar which each year the children, now almost adults, still squabble over ‘who gets to do Jesus.’ 
And I remember, the same grey sky hosted a breath-taking wonder only two nights ago, 
As we stood to admire Mars and find Jupiter all aglow, and a fireball shooting star made its way slowly, burning horizontally across like a slow miracle.

And even now this same sky is beginning to glow. 

Charmaine H

I looked up from my reading and saw this reflection of my lamplight in the TV screen. ‘You are not alone’ it said to me. ’I am with you always’. Sue W

In post-war May I came, and Spring I’ve ever loved.
Into this troubled, crazy world
Around and round along the years I journeyed 
enjoying nature’s maze,
But searched to fill the gaping hole of emptiness with endless 
questionable fun.

Yes, oftentimes you touched me with gentleness and grace; healed my young poorly body and mended teenage bones when crushed.
And yet I closed my ears and eyes and messed up many times.

And seasons came and seasons went and still this fool was blind. Until one night in ‘82 a voice so loud and clear pierced my heart with love that hurt,
And healing words that carried me that painful autumn …

And through the seasons ever since I’ve danced and sung for joy encircled in your embrace – at last complete 
as both ends meet.

Meg M

Wonderful to be back in this community again! My RSVP for Advent so far: ‘Learning to find strength in gentleness…’ Claire P

Here is my little circle of words, which I think just about works wherever you start it! Michaela T

My latest thoughts about Advent have been inspired by a gospel imperative and a defensive lapse at the World Cup!  Be Awake!

By the way, I love the concept of ‘kindsight’. Blessings to all! Eddie G

My circle poem: ‘Emmanuel ever flowing dance of love God with us’. Elaine Coll

As I looked out at the almost bare magnolia tree near my house, I realised with joy that now there are no leaves left, I have a much better view of all the many birds that queue up in it each day to wait for their turn at the feeders! Sylvia C

I’ve been beset by a virus so my energy and creativity have been squeezed – but pondering on kindness, and reflecting on that delicious word kindsight, have been restorative. Here’s a brief Tanka type poem:

Kindness, kindsight:

Warm, gentle, dew-soft. 
Encircles and embraces. 
Lifts spirits sky high.
Accepting human frailty
shines soul-light into one’s past. 

Coral S

The Trinity flowing in a joyful, loving circle dance is such a wonderful picture. Sometimes exuberant and other times slow. The amazing thing is they invite us all to join and have room for all. Jackie W

There are many example of ‘Circle Prayer’ in the Celtic tradition. Here is an example:

‘Circle me, O God, Keep peace within.
Keep turmoil out.
Circle me, O God. Keep strength within.
Keep weakness out.

There is a beautiful example of ‘Circle me, O God‘ on You Tube – it is a lovely spoken and sung reflection.

I got so much from the mantra:

‘O God, gather me to be with you
As you are with me now.’

Prayers and fond good wishes. Vincent M

Today I realized that my “last leaf left” is gone. I’d only seen it from my bedroom window, when sitting in bed, and strangely couldn’t spy it when outdoors. On the weekend, I’d thought about taking a photo, but didn’t. After initially lamenting my inaction, I’m applying “kindsight”, telling myself to act on those impulses in future and not postpone. And since I didn’t get a photo, I especially appreciated Sue R’s lovely painting and haiku. I love being part of this Advent community!  : )  Nancy-in-Canada 

Like Brian, I have also been spending these past months learning to find my balance by practising exercises while standing on one leg. It’s been a very wobbly experience that has required every part of me to focus – but its been so worth it as I have gained much from it, both physically and mentally. I sense this is providing a picture of the Advent journey ahead – a wobbly start but hoping to find stability and a sense of balance. 

Lord Jesus 
It’s been a wobbly start.
May this time enable me to refocus, 
To find poise,
And to find my balance.
Even when it feels like there is only one leaf left

Amen.

Kate S

The Christian Celts were very trinitarian and it is said that they celebrated not just the first and second coming of Christ, but three comings!

The First Coming, Incarnation (past), the Second Coming, Christ with us by his Spirit (now, present), and the Third being his return (future). 

They therefore had three Lent periods of preparation ahead of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, which went in a circle/cycle.
 
I loved Brian’s thoughts on “the vivacity of what was is married to the vitality of what will be.’
 
I wonder – does that leave us engaged to the vulnerability of what is,  whilst we wait between the first and third Advents, but with the second advent present to help as we cycle and circle? Paul B

Thank you, Brian, for four wonderful reflection so far. Here are my journal pages for two of them. Love to everybody – greatly appreciating being back together for Advent! Hazel R

Linking in with today’s lovely, thought-provoking reflection: on Saturday I visited Salisbury and saw this sculpture; titled Turning Point, from T S Elliot’s poem Burnt Norton: “At the still point of a turning world.” Phil S

Each day in Advent this year I’m responding to a saying I read somewhere a while ago. “The grey line (twilight) travels around the world like a silent wave, never ending, ruled by the turning of the planet moving around the sun. The time when dreams and flashes of inspiration are at their strongest.”I am reminded always of your encouragement to look out and ponder at twilight!

Today I responded to perichoresis, so thank you for this day’s inspiration. I love the idea of circle dancing with the Trinity and with all of our lovely Advent family! Celia J

When I first spotted the flowering sunflower a few days ago, my first response was: “It should not be here. Another evidence of climate change!” It is easy for me to see what is wrong with the world and to add to the stories of gloom and doom, but God has nudged me recently to tell transformation stories instead. So here it is:

There is a sunflower blooming under the leafless oak tree outside our front garden.
It had a tough start in life. Her seed had fallen under a west-facing well-established and imposing tree. Not much sunlight to be had to encourage its growth – yet it grew anyway.
Not as fast and not as tall as other sunflowers, but it now has its moment of glory.
It speaks of hope, perseverance and, yes, poise.

Blessings to everyone in the community. It’s so good to be back. Susanne I

A colour wheel of flowers. “God’s love for us is an unbroken circle.”

Suzanne H

Fallen leaves. Rosie A

‘changing world, contented life, changing world contented life, changing world’ (in a circle!). Brenda T

Having lost my hearing temporarily my other senses are heightened!

‘Oh Lord, how shining and festive 
is your gift to us, if we only look and
see.’  Mary Oliver

Blessings, Sue T

I painted this large canvas a little while ago but felt it was relevant to ‘Join the circle’. The painted flowed instinctively and for me it represents the continuous flow of the Holy Spirit and the circle of life. Judith H

I don’t normally do the art and other creative things you suggest because I don’t see myself as creative in that way. This year, I’ve decided to try everything you suggest and to leave the rest to God who doesn’t mind if I’m not Turner or Shakespeare! Let’s see what happens! Tim P

I have been keeping a good watch on the skies and the moon despite much cloud here at times. The moon is gloriously bright. Here is the early morning Advent sky! Jan B

I really enjoyed the circular poem practice. I did a slightly different take on it, but wrote these words freestyle!

‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was cooking fish over hot coals – which is my favourite way to eat fish – and even though the Word already had fish on the grill he said to the disciples ‘Come, bring your fish’  and though their fish were really his fish because through him were all fish he still asked the disciples to add their fish to the grill – I don’t know if it was to make them feel useful or more likely because Jesus needs his friends to join him to create a feast of a full Galilean breakfast, and then the Word came: ‘Come, have breakfast.’’ Alexia H

My mother passed away peacefully in October. God answered our prayers in His provision. I am learning to gather up daily blessings even on days when I feel overwhelmed. I am reading Jesus Calling each day, which belonged to my mum. The idea was suggested that at the end of the day you gather each blessing and find you have a beautiful bouquet. It is amazing what you find. Susan L

Your beautiful reflection today reminded me of the years I went circle dancing in Guildford and also of the picture I have of the stone circle, Whanganui Bay, Lake Taupo, New Zealand. On the back I have written on it in a circle a quote from John Donne (1572-1631) which appeared in the Communion Book at my last church in Guildford (Holy Trinity):

‘God’s love is like a circle; and a circle is endless. Whom God loves, he loves to the end; and his end is, not that he should cease to love them; no: his end is, to love them still.’

Elsie H

My advent began unexpectedly in aching grief and anger. The lack of light felt crushingly lonely and bare. From a distance I acknowledged your thoughts on poise and kindsight but couldn’t touch thankfulness. Early Sunday morning on a chilled misty beach, I sat with two friends. We shared communion, then as seasoned swimmers we faced the winter sea. Somehow I was found. In the silent nourishment of the bread and ‘wine’, poised and thankful, I entered with strong strides the cold but gentle waves. Now this morning, in kinder compassion, I think perhaps all is not lost. Jojo C

My circle: ‘Renewal and fullness and thankfulness and rest and …’ Lois E

You encourage us each day to take time to breathe and smile. Here is my poem written in those first moments of acknowledging presence:

Stretch

You are my peace, 
I breathe you in,
As my heart becomes becalmed
I am, at once, disarmed
By your through a glass darkly face
And I stretch into the vast,
Unfathomable space
That you are.

Sue H

A lovely, inspiring Advent already! Thank you. Here are some words!

4th:
Jesus arrived there
And became one, among us
Jesus is here, now.
 
5th:
Alive today to live in today to live for today to live out today.

Jonathan R

Here’s a haiku inspired by “one leaf left”! Sue R

I love watching Strictly Come Dancing, so wonderful to think we are invited to dance with the Trinity! Joy H

The harder I try to make Advent a calm season the busier it seems to get. May God protect our Time with Him. Sue W

What have I noticed during the first few days of Advent? The light coming up over the horizon behind our house. The vapour trails are a double edged puzzle – people going off on wonderful adventures or too much air pollution? Also a clear rainbow – a wonderful sign of HOPE. Marjorie A

Thank you Brian for today’s reflection, packed full of joy. I love the circle poem ideas, which I could use for my Renew Wellbeing gatherings. What came (caim!) to mind was the Caim (or circling) prayer. For instance,

Circle me Lord
keep comfort near
and discouragement afar.
Keep peace within
and turmoil out.
Amen

or,  make up one up! ps: For Stormzy fans:  ‘A Stormzy Special’ was filmed at Abbey Road, and is available on BBC 1 catch up (first aired 15 November 2022). Sue C

In terms of ‘thank you’ … A few weeks ago my grandson, aged 16, was on the bus to college, when a young woman got on, but the driver said that her pre-paid card didn’t have any credit (she assured him it had been topped up that day). So she was told to get off. Apparently she was distraught as she needed to get to work. My grandson got up, asked what her fare was, and paid the required £2.10. Needless to say, we are very proud grandparents! Shirley M

Just catching up on the first three of your series. Serendipitously I took this photo on Thursday! The sunlight was shining through and with such a beautiful back drop of the blue sky, the leaf was a golden beacon hanging in the air! Simon B

Here’s my circle poem. Diane R