This is where we’re continuing the Lent RSVPs, from window 3 onwards.
To navigate back to the first RSVP page, just click here.
A note from Liz H about her Ukrainian guest Milana
Our Ukrainian guest Milana will be 18 on Easter Monday. As this lovely community knows, she is without either parent or family in this country.
She will celebrate with five friends she has made in college. Please do remember her as she enters adulthood, and pray in hope for a brighter future for her and her family and friends.
Thank you 🙏 Liz H
Your reflection on listening reminds me of training some years ago given by the Acorn Healing Trust. They suggest that we should listen to God, listen to ourself, then listen to others. We can listen to God speaking through his creation, our fellow pilgrims and our life experiences. We can listen to ourself, dealing with prejudice and ego and setting these aside. We are then in a position to listen to others. This is not just a sequence but an ongoing cycle. When practiced it can become second nature, leading to loving active listening; a precious ministry to those who receive it. Philip B
your span bigger than a house
teach me to root deep
so that the tracery of my branches
dance in the storm.
Blessings, Miriam M
In English this means: ‘to talk is a need, to listen is an art’. Listen well today! Sylvia L
I’ve spent time this morning with a skeleton leaf and found my attention held by its strange mix of fragility and strength.
I wrote a few words to sum up the experience:
Golden threads glow amongst the green.
Scared to break it but compelled to pick it up.
Lacy fragility masking a soft, yielding strength.
This leaf can be moulded, curled, held, carried.
Authentically leaf, somehow more, not less.
Pocket-sized piece of space and possibility.
Thank you for all your recent reflections, very much appreciated.
With such a feast, and where do you start ! It’s been a rocky road uplifted and challenged daily by your emails – thank you Brian, and everyone. Remembering can be painful and the temptation is to block it out but following your link back to The UK Blessing, I was not only blessed but inspired to share the link with a number of friends. The response was just beautiful. One friend responded with “How amazing you chose to send this today. I am full of anxiety over an imminent trip to Brazil … I feel old … vulnerable for long distance travel but unavoidable. After a fitful night’s sleep, worrying, thinking negatively, I woke, opened your post and was appropriately reminded that ‘he is before us and behind us in our coming and our going.’ Oddly I heard it during the pandemic. I thought it was no more than nice … but today it really did do what it sets out to do …. bring a blessing!“
Having read your email today and been so uplifted and challenged by the Chinese symbolism of listening, I just want to say a million thanks for a brilliant Lent series with so many treasures and much work to continue the trail ahead! With love and heartfelt gratitude. Sonia P
Here is my haiku offering for a tree:
Gorgeous birch above
Mysterious life below.
Perfect silver whole.
Love, Caroline C
Finding space for grace.
I am a county councillor and this week I attended a local authority training course on “chairing skills”. The trainer referred to the challenge of chairing a meeting when debates get heated and referred to the following quote:
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” (Viktor Frankl)
I love this quote and it perfectly describes what Brian refers to in “The Jesus Space” when he talks about how Jesus “took the heat from the moment” with the woman caught in adultery. The next time we risk getting caught up in a fractious argument – whether in a Council chamber, the workplace or the home, let’s find the space to demonstrate grace. Dylan R
What a wonderful ‘word’ faced us this morning! Clear and concise – listen! How special to find that in so many different disciplines, the same message comes across… this whole person listening. I have a print of a beautiful fresco, high up on a wall in an Italian Benedictine church. It is by Pietro Annegoni, depicting the Prologue of The Benedictine Rule. This shows ‘Listen’, a young lad with his hand behind his ear, so as to hear better, which also reminds me too of traditional Russian icons. The iconographer paints (writes) a well defined ear, and a closed mouth. From one end of the world to the other we are encouraged to ‘Listen’ with heartfelt attention. Kate RS
I was very touched by the idea of making more space. I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed by the problems in the world and in our country. The idea of creating a still space from which to step into the rest of the day was very helpful to me. To be able to engage with the world’s problems while maintaining that inner peace is definitely something to aim for. Thank you everyone for your beautiful reflections. Judy B
Thanks for your lovely reflection on the nature of space, which has echoes in a chapter from my forthcoming new book ‘The Universe Provides’: Spaces.
Blessings to you and all, Eddie G
Thank you, Brian, for the life-giving space you open to us each morning! One of my best-loved quotes from Colossians 1 in “The Message”…
“…so spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe, animals and atoms, people and things, get properly fixed and fit together into vibrant harmonies…”
So much “vibrant harmony” sounding through this Lent Community. Bless you all! Sue R
How resonant, ‘Hear to Love’! Last Sunday I travelled for a Quiet Day with my Hopeweaver Community and focused on the listening Mary gave Jesus (John 11). Here is the result. Thank you for Blazing the Trail. Jan C
At the entry to Sculptures by the Lake, there are boards pointing out what to look out for, seasonal activity of flora and fauna, etc. It included this:
I didn’t do it. Yet. Hoping we have a warm, sunny day soon! Paula K
Thank you for all your reflections so far. I haven’t RSVP-ed til now … but today I am being brave and replying 😊
On Friday I wrote out all of Psalm 104 from the Message. The words were beautiful to go over, but also challenging. My cynicism was so close when writing “earth is supplied with plenty of water”; “You make grass grow for the livestock”; “the deep, wide sea, brimming with fish past counting”. Surely this was true once, but not now that humans have so damaged the earth, maybe irreversibly. But am I underestimating God? If I’m to read the psalm not as a nice historical poem but as truth for me today, I must trust that he does provide… for all creatures. And trusting doesn’t mean falling into apathy, but fighting with renewed hope for the future of our “wildy wonderful world” !
‘Hear to Love’ – This is miraculous, thank you Brian. I am in Liverpool to head up an event which has been six months in the planning. It is going to be a very full day, but it is going to be full of people, travelling, gathering, all wanting to be deeply heard in some way. As I get ready, it is so helpful to pray, to do all my readings, to enjoy your email, have a cheeky listen to that beautiful new I Still Haven’t Found – and to be aware of birdsong through the open hotel window. Rachel T
Thanks so much for highlighting Earth Hour, Brian! For some reason it hadn’t been on my radar until your email, so I set aside that time to have one of the last fires in our fireplace before we move next month. Candles and oil lamps helped set the mood, and my husband ended up teaching me how to play backgammon by candlelight! How good and how simple and how soul refreshing that time was! And how easily I could have spent that time “doing” vs. “being”. Thank you for reminding us to take those moments and enjoy them as the gifts they are. Hugs and blessings, Nancy-in-Canada (where the snow is slowly receding and we can now spy snowdrops!)
I came across another inspirational blind young pianist, 18-year-old Anastasios, who has been living homeless in this country for the last two years. Despite having a brain tumour as a toddler and being given months to live, he is alive and vibrant today although his limited vision is increasingly reduced.
Both he and Lucy sent a surge of joy in me that, remarkably, stayed all day, and I was buzzing into the night. Two blind people who see, see so much more than we do. When Brian describes how when he hears someone play at a piano at railway stations – ‘my soul stirs to hear a spark of creativity, notes of joyful humanity drifting in the crowds, lifting us’ – I suddenly understood the powerful connection between the sense of joy that I experienced and my soul being stirred.
So what do you see?
I see a muddy puddle.
Can’t you see its rippling energy.
I see an untidy room.
Can’t you see the creative patterns of disorder.
I see skyrise flats and offices.
Can’t you see the light dancing on the window panes.
I see a crowd of rowdy football fans.
Can’t you see the buzz of excitement in the air.
I can only see the angry person.
But can’t you see the untold stories in their eyes.
I can only see the hopelessness.
But can’t you see ‘hope springs eternal’.
I can only see the darkness.
But can’t you see the light within.
I can only see the destruction.
But can’t you see beauty nestling in its depths.
Lucy can see the beauty in her unseeing
through the sounds and silences she paints on the keys, echoing in her entire being.
And Anastasios can see the beauty in his unseeing
as his soul surfs on the patterns of sounds
he creates in his head and plays with his heart.
I just wanted to share this:
Bathing in sunlight and abundance of blossom,
My soul stirs.
And dive …
Through the shallows and the midlands
To the depths.
Fountains of living water well up from within,
(Some words inspired by my uplifting experience at RHS Wisley of ‘blossom bathing’ by this beautiful fountain with diver poised, where I paused to reflect on the powerful imagery and my Lenten journey thus far!).
God bless you Brian, for the richness of your daily reflections, which have taken me deeper and thank you to the online community for all your inspiring creative responses. With much appreciation, Jenny T
Thank you for the reminders in this journey to find the stillness and space. Kabir (15th-century Indian mystic and saint) wrote this invitation:
A Great Pilgrimage
‘I felt in need of a great pilgrimage
so I sat still for three
and God came
I have been pondering how the questions I am asking can either expand or shrink my sense of spaciousness. Since my day retreat at Waverley Abbey on Saturday, I am experimenting with changing my question “God, what do you want me to DO?” to “God, what do you want me to KNOW?”
It may be that there IS something for me to do. On the other hand, the question also leaves room for just being… PS: Other good questions that were mentioned by Jill Webber were: “God, what are You doing in this place/situation?” and “God, what would please you?” Blessings, Susanne I
As ever l have loved your meditations and also the community’s contributions, especially some stunning art work – what gifts. Here’s my Haiku from yesterday:
Step aside a while
Into a place of Presence,
A space just to be.
With thanks, Jane M
I love the thoughts on Jesus Space yesterday. I wrote 2 haiku verses:
Space to be, to learn
To watch the Master take us forward
Into freedom that is eternal.
Walking at His slow pace
Gives time to see what is important
As we watch and learn.
Have a good day, everyone. Susan L
Hello, Brian and everybody. Thank you for another week of wonderfully inspired reflections and RSVPs. Here are a couple of recent pages from my journal. With much love, Hazel R
Having read your book, Less is More before the beginning of Lent, it seemed the perfect time to rethink the balance of things in my life and what would help me to find that sweet spot, that still point, which is like the pause at the top of each swing of a pendulum, where we are truly present to ourselves, others, and God. So I wrote the following lines as I thought about balance.
Less is More
Less meat…. more veg
Less wine… more water
Less TV… more reading
Less sitting… more walking
Less shopping… more recycling
Less plastic… more paper
Less acquiring… more reusing
Less clutter… more space
Less blindness… more noticing
Less busyness… more stillness
Less noise… more silence
Less distracted… more present
Less taking… more giving
Less loneliness… more community
Less sadness… more laughter
Less masking… more honesty
Less thinking… more feeling
Less doing… more being
Less despair… more prayer
Less mind… more soul
Less me… more God.
Wow, so much to reflect on the nature of space – very special. Here is my contribution to the Fifth Window.
Warm branch, gold lichen.
Sunning area for bees.
Many thanks, Stella P
I shared a leisurely soul full walk with a friend yesterday.
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.’ Psalm 104 [MSG]
My photo is of Ouse Fen – the skies were full of birdsong and a sense of coming alive. Gillian M
I love this thought on space – absolutely brilliant to think of Jesus in his space like this.
Not sure if the skies are clear where you are (it’s been tipping down here!), but if it’s clear at sunset, take a look towards the west as there is an alignment this evening of Jupiter, Venus, Mercury, Uranus and Mars with the crescent moon. Would be lovely to see it.
Blessings, Tracy B
Thank you for your inspiring emails again. Here are my pictures this week:
Day 21 – One Tree (an amazing magnolia tree I pass most days)
Day 22 – Creativity (God’s creativity – the waxing moon on my evening walk)
Day 23 – Wild and Wonderful (a purple magnolia nearby)
Day 24 – Here and Now (being in the moment – focusing on the spiraea in my garden)
Day 25 – Space (a vinca in the park – the space between all the parts of the flower)
Thanks for the journey this Lent. After reading the Jesus space I had some time to sit still, and my heart filled with gratitude for what Jesus did for us. So here is the prayer I wrote:
Thank you Jesus for all you did for us,
For the space you made so you could really see us as we are.
Thank you for the rejection, despair you experienced and the countless times you were ridiculed and misunderstood.
Yet it never once stopped you from going all the way for us and creating space to carry all our pain suffering and sin.
As you stood in that silent space before Pilate, the innocent lamb of God you had us in your thoughts.
The highest point of the Camino on the blazing trail to Santiago de Compostela is where an iron cross marks holy ground. A cairn of rocks pointing to heaven where pilgrims place a stone to symbolise whatever burdens, intentions or prayers they want to lay down at the foot of the cross. Sacra-elemental, these stones cry out for something beyond our earthly understanding. At this place where the winds of the Spirit blow and skylarks sing and swirl upwards to accompany pilgrim prayers, there is Jesus space to listen and be still. A place where spiritual compasses are reset towards God, before the zugunruhe impulse carries pilgrims forwards again towards the shrine of St James in Santiago. Jean L
As I sit in my prayer chair sneezing and spluttering I have rediscovered the blessings found in the lockdown years. As a single person with limited Internet access, I initially suffered from loneliness in the isolation – but in this Jesus met me and my relationship with Him deepened. After three years I’d lost some of that intimacy with Jesus, but the cold has given me space to rediscover that depth and a sense of His peace. Thank you, Lord. Eleanor B
Todays reflection reminds me of an experience I had in a garden. Quite unbidden, in the still space, this poem was written:
It comes suddenly
Gentling me into stillness
Vibrations change, rearrange
Beauty is the lever
Conceiver of Love
Peace and tranquillity reign,
Releasing the darkness –
The pain of separation,
Filling the heart,
No longer apart –
But a part of Creation
I have been writing a poem at least once a day since last week’s prompt. Here are a few selected stanzas!
Celebrate Saint Patrick, listen:
Dwarf daffodils sweep across the rising verge.
A stream of primroses dribbles down a precipice
beneath a blackthorn;
blossom at a distance as a wrap of snow.
Stop, amazed on the rush home.
Weeds wedged into cracks
at the foot of a high wall
in need of repointing.
Beautiful leaf symmetry in rosettes:
dandelions and thistles.
Bach lives between the notes,
Between his composing moment
And my listening moment
Between the performers and me.
I could not stop.
I had to kiss
an amelanchier flower bud
preparing to open.
You have given us so much encouragement to try things, and I’m seeking to follow that lead. But one thing you have said that has irritated me a little (although I understand why you have to say it) is your suggesting we take action “if it’s safe to do so”. I don’t think Jesus ever said these words – so I took up my pen:
The first Voice – outside the wilderness.
“Never go into the wilderness;
Of course, you will not gain a new vision, but you will stay safe.
Never go out at night;
Of course, you will never see the stars, but you will stay safe.
Never set out on the blazing Trail;
Of course, you will miss out on adventure, but you will stay safe.
Never ever fall in love;
Of course, you may well be lonely, but you will stay safe!!
Never follow the Son of God,
Of course you will miss the fiery water of life, but you will stay safe.
Never listen to angels;
Of course you will become deaf to heavenly music but you will stay safe.
Never open your heart – you must be in control.
Of course, you will only live a small life, but you will stay safe.
Stay indoors, keep busy, avoid other people, do not read books or listen to the wild cry of the geese.
Of course, your life will be sterile, but it’s so important that you stay safe!”
A voice crying in the wilderness:
“Courage! No risks, no adventures! I do not promise you safety, but I do promise to stay with you and to bring you life“.
Which is the voice of the Lord?
I still dip in to the Narnia books – my copies are over 50 years old! When the children ask whether Aslan is safe, the reply is “no, but he is good“. And later he is described as “not a tame lion“.
PS: Special thanks to Sharon, Katy et al in South Africa for sending us the swallows. Please tell her that they have arrived in the Netherlands. I saw them yesterday at this Lake. Mick L
Here’s my RSVP response. It’s a haiku written in lockdown about a solitary little fir tree living in the midst of the concrete surfaces by the Lagan river in Belfast and I remembered it as I read your reflection on trees in urban settings. It was a little pool of life.
One fir tree softens
the concrete surfaces by the
river. Just one!
Blessings and thanks, Janet M
I woke up to this early morning sunrise, 6 am. I love the clarity of the open sky space between the clouds and horizon line, and that small blue sliver of sea.
I am recovering from a concussion and it’s forced a spaciousness that I could not have planned or predicted. I need to allow for space in my mind and not fill it with too much concentration on anything, over-thinking, planning, or worry. Hard, and yet necessary for healing. The latter slows down the healing process. Full rest for as long as is necessary is what the doctor ordered! So I’m doing my best.
When I can, I read the Lenten reflections (in bite sized chunks), and have really appreciated listening to Friday’s Live at 5. I loved today’s ‘fragmented thoughts’ on the subject of space and the idea of yielding.
I’ve also been enjoying the music of Max Richter’s ‘Sleep’ in this time of recovery, as well as his ‘Blue Notebooks‘ which seem relevant to this morning’s sunrise, and contribute to that feeling of spaciousness, taking my mind off of other things that I’m not meant to be thinking about! (The photo is a silhouette of Freswick Castle, in Freswick Bay in the north of Scotland.) Monique S
Such riches in your words this week! Thankyou. Today we travel for a month or so to our little place by the sea in the Netherlands and yesterday, amid all the preparations and multitasking (!) I was reminded to be present in the moment. I took time out to potter in the garden, enjoying the warm sunshine and all the spring flowers opening their joyful faces to the sun – and the first honeybees feasting on the nectar. And the day felt so much calmer.
And today, reading your thoughts as I sit drinking tea, I am reminded of the silence before an orchestra starts to play and then at the end of the piece, before applause. That collective stillness, an intake of breath, allows the beauty of the music to deepen and establish itself in our souls. God’s stillness surrounds and infuses his creation.
Blessings to you all. Jo dG
Thank so much for your reflections. Here is my short offering for today:
Warm wishes, Jane S
‘He has brought me out into a spacious place… he rescued me because he delighted in me’ (2 Samuel 22. 20). One of the best things about Jesus is that he gives me space, to be, to breathe, to dance (if not physically then mentally!) – true freedom. Helen H
Lucy’s story is deeply moving isn’t it. I appreciate you are not taking responses now, but this 10-minute piece with Lucy and her teacher is wonderful! Liz H x
My garden, May tree,
Tiny green leaves sprouting,
Bright, fizzing, alive.
The tidal flow
The blossomed bough
Birds busy in the hedgerow
All speak of Spring
And grace to us
The beauty of Creation.
PS A friend sent me this – the Tree Song – I hope you all enjoy.
Thank you for your amazing series!
Serena – my tree!
My back against your bark – bliss.
I’m late this year in all sorts of ways. But this photo, after this afternoon’s rain shower, inspired me to play with some words.
On my way
Bumpy road this Lent.
But pothole puddles cast light.
Shall I stop to splash?
With thanks as always, Rachel R
These are some lines from a poem based on Psalm 1, by Malcolm Guite, from his book, “David’s Crown” –
‘Come to the place where every breath is praise,
And God is breathing through each passing breeze,
Be planted by the waterside and raise,
Your arms with Christ beneath these rooted trees,
Who lift their breathing leaves up to the skies,
Be rooted too as still and strong as these.’
I found these words so inspiring. Catherine T
I keep reading and re-reading these few lines, so here’s my offering to my fellow travellers, from the beginning of ‘Stones into Bread’ by Malcolm Guite:
‘The Fountain thirsts, the Bread is hungry here, the Light is dark, the Word without a voice.
When darkness speaks it seems so light and clear. Now He must dare, with us, to make a choice.‘
This is my contribution… it has been a tough few weeks but I’ve been holding on and was inspired to create this. My reminders for the trials along the trail.
Bless you so much for your daily emails. Liz A
Your thought, Brian, of cracking the concrete surface of life open to let the light in, reminded me that at the Festival of Tabernacles, those building a shelter – sukkah – leave gaps open to the sky to be able to see the stars. What a tangible way of reminding ourselves not to shut God out! Marian M
The Lenten journey is longer than the Advent one, and passes through more difficult terrain, including as it does the wilderness, which you have written so well about as a place of strength. This last week has been more difficult in terms of finding time to contemplate & soak up the symbols and signals of spring. But oh how my spirit soared on a walk in a park on the outskirts of Vienna – yes! – & then this morning in my home park! Many beautiful trees in both, but my ‘own’ tree overhangs my garden, & has ‘seasoned the pavements and polished stones with something like snow.’ Such a beautiful line to describe such a beautiful thing…
Thank you again for the companionship of the blazing trail… I haven’t been so Lent conscious for many a year!. Gratefully yours, Anita C
Lost on the trail
Mothering Sunday, church now empty, time for home.
A lone, yellow daffodil lying in the roadside mud.
Gently I pick it up and place it with my church posy.
Back home, a rinse of the mud-spattered petals and a
deep drink of water with the posy flowers, all together now in a special vase.
But why my sadness to see this flower, beauty marred, lost, abandoned?
And why my joy to rescue and restore it?
Perhaps a tiny increased understanding of “Rejoice with me, for I have found… “.
Blessings, Stella P
I’ve been able to get my head into gear more today 🙂 and managed to write a haiku.
Silver birch my friend
My winter skies you enhance
Birds rest… and I watch.
While looking at the tree in my garden I also picked these flowers to bring into the house 🙂Hilary M
The wonderful poem of Joyce Kilmer on Trees: “poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree”. Marietjie T
The delights and gifts from God just keep flowing through your/our wonderful Lent pilgrimage together. What joy and depth of sharing in this Spirit-filled community.
I took this photo about nine years ago in a pub garden near Tenbury Wells. The memory of the almost miraculous determination of this beautiful, tiny lobelia flower growing amongst so much stonework is so strong in my mind. It belongs in our minds with the lone trees growing in the cities – reminders of God’s determination to show his love and beauty wherever we find ourselves! It has just struck me that there is an extra poignancy with the positioning of where this little flower was growing … by a well! Does this link with Jesus’ love and grace shown to the woman at the well?!
Thank you Brian, and everyone in this wonderful Lent community! Jane W
I love trees. When I walk along the river near where I live, I greet them as friends. It has been known, when no one is looking (!!), for me to stand by an oak, wrap my arms around it and receive a living hug. Here is a painting I did as an illustration for one of my poems. So I thought I would send a picture rather than a poem this time, and let the image speak its peace to the wonderful Lent Community. Love, Sue H
This is a collage I made last year, inspired by you, of the apple tree in my garden. I photographed it as it blossomed. I fell in love with that tree and even started talking to it and stroking it. In the autumn I thanked it for its apples. Now, I’m not a pantheist but I’m sure God appreciates me appreciating his creation and provision. Today I saw that buds are emerging again. New life is coming. I gave my tree a pat! Karen L
I hope you don’t mind another. I’ve not sent much to the RSVPs this year and two thoughts came today that I actually had time to write to you about.
This one is a poem inspired by Brian Bilston’s poem Refugees, and also because I’ve been listening to the Shamima Begum podcast series on Radio 4 for the last 10 weeks. The podcast is superb and definitely worth a listen. Mercy or Fear?
I decided to try and write a poem in the style of Brian’s, about Shamima. I’m not sure how successful it is but I thought I’d share it with the community. You have to supply your own punctuation because it will be different, and go in different places when you read the poem backwards.
She joined a regime
Thought it was Utopia
Really a Dystopia
The so-called Calliphate
The Islamic State
We can’t abide
A jehadi bride
Torture and fear
Against women like her
It’s a crime
She is paying
The price for her decision
To the shores of Great Britain
Her children were sacrifices
On the altar of Isis
Her mental state
Trashed by the so-called Calliphate
Have no pity
Why should we
(Now read the poem backwards)
I have decided to pray, every day (if I can remember) that Jesus will help Shamima. Karen L
The cherry blossom
abounds this Spring morning
Lit by warm sunshine
Thank you for this Lent’s compass point prayer/meditation – so helpful.
It’s a tree that’s been catching my attention for the last few days. There’s a willow growing close (probably too close) to our house and I have a fantastic view of its branches from my upstairs study window. I’m not generally well-disposed towards this straggly unbeautiful tree because it sheds its fluffy catkins all over the garden in spring and its leaves in autumn, but last Friday against a grey sky it was as if it was lit up with pale yellow fluffy bursts of colour. The blue tits are loving it and I am learning to appreciate it too as I watch the yellow turn to white. I may feel less charitable when the garden is covered in brown catkins but that is for the future – for now it is glorious.
Wabi sabi willow
Soon to be discards
Tiny yellow explosions
Love and prayers, Philippa M
The blossom trees are so lovely at the moment. I am going through an incredibly hard time after the loss of my Dad last week, and particularly missing my daughter now who lives so far away in Japan. Two heartfelt haiku came to me this morning as I looked out of my kitchen window at the tree in our front garden. The first one speaks of the poignant semi-comfort of knowing that the treasured Japanese blossom seasons are well underway, while our French trees are also beginning to unfurl their beauty. The second one is a lament for my Dad as spring breaks out everywhere except in my heart.
Each of us standing
under our own blossom tree
our hands reaching out
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I mourn your absence
as pale pink almond blossom
trembles in the breeze.
Jean Watt’s ‘Lent’ poem, which you shared earlier in the series, made a profound impact on me. You spoke about meeting God in nature this week, in trees or watching the stars in the evening and journeying through the landscape…. so I painted this sky and seascape and wrote the words with a calligraphy pen. These words, to me, are a ‘blazing trail’, and every time I look at them I feel calm and relaxed and ‘in tune’ with that universal truth about the Love of God, visible and available to all, through Creation. I pray that all who struggle may find that peace which passes all understanding. Blessings,
On a guided walk in London on Saturday, we were taken to some of the ‘secret gardens’ – hidden oases amongst the concrete, steel and glass of the city’s skyscrapers and office buildings. In one garden stood a magnificent tree and the guide explained how the buildings around it had been designed to accommodate the tree with its arching branches. One building had a sloping wall, another concave glass windows, leaning in to allow room for the tree to grow and spread. What a triumph of nature and how wonderful for those who work in the city to find a little sanctuary to be rested and refreshed. It was definitely ‘A One Tree Show’! Sue R
There is a mature willow tree in the public gardens outside our flat, which offers me (and often, my very young grandson) shade and a beautiful distillation of light, when looking up into its green/grey leaves in the summer. Just now, it is surrounded by crocuses and daffodils! It means a lot to me – hence this haiku…
Willow tree swaying,
Shimmering wings enfold me,
Many thanks for leading us into some beautiful places. Juliette M
Wowee – trees, glorious trees! This has to be yet another inspirational day. Only last Thursday I bought this amazing book filled with trees painted by artists old and new with accompanying texts and quotes. A must buy!
My children and I planted acorns years gone by in our chalky garden and this little tree outside my study, which I can look at as I type, just about hangs in there. Apologies for not writing a haiku but a tanka instead (five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables, seven syllables, seven syllables) as I needed more lines!
Our little Oak tree
Gnarled limbs, straggly, bare. Forlorn face, drabby, shapeless. Patchy lichen coat. Scarf-draped in pearly raindrops. encircled by sunshine girls.
Hello Brian and Everyone
Rising up, rooted, reminded me of a Rilke poem and I’d like to share the last verse:
I seek you, because they are passing
right by my door. Whom should I turn to,
if not the one whose darkness
is darker than the night, the only one
who keeps vigil with no candle,
and is not afraid –
the deep one, whose being I trust,
for it breaks through the earth into trees,
when I bow my head,
faint as a fragrance
from the soul.
(Book of Hours tr. by A Barrows, J Macy) Christine C
We are lucky to live in the countryside, so our trees are often very old, like this beautiful oak. It invites us to come close, to sit on or beside it, sheltering under its leaves from sun or rain. I often think of how we now know that trees communicate with each other underground and support each other. This tree must have witnessed so much – I wonder what it whispers to the others?
Love and blessings to all, Jo dG
A haiku for an urban tree
Seeking the joy of
Freedom to breathe, your blossom
Reaching for the sky.
Philip N (deep in the Norfolk countryside!)
Sophie Hacker : Ekstasis
An image that speaks to me of the wonderful link that is prayer between earth and heaven. It also reminds me of a tree… Roots going deeper and crown soaring upward to heaven. This postcard has sat on my shelf in our study for many years acting as a reminder to me of ‘what it’s all about’ and never fails to give me an ‘uplift’. Deep speaks to deep. Sue W
I was struck by the wonder of a magnolia tree that was not yet flowering while walking on Sunday. I wrote this:
Wrapped in velvet jackets
Yet, wait – look
A tiny sliver of colour appears
Waiting to burst
Into the light
That waits to receive
And bathe it in warmth
We too are held
For the Light that
And beckons us
Wrinkled grey green trunk
Massive twisted mossy branch
Vibrant leafless oak
I have been reminded of a blazing trail that a donkey took through the streets of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, walking on a carpet of palms and cloaks. How easy it would have been for the donkey to think – it is all about me. It reminds me that where our Saviour leads is not about me, it’s about the one I carry.
Loving the journey. Linda dP
Today’s reflection reminded me of this short poem I wrote.
WHERE THE CONCRETE BREAKS
As you walk along
Looking at the ground
The greyness of the concrete
Sometimes gets you down.
But if you have the time
To take a slower pace
A splash of colour
May hit you in the face.
Look out for the growth
Where the concrete breaks.
Never fail to notice
Early signs of change.
A dandelion poking through
As a sign of hope.
The promise of new life
When you need it most.
When you’re feeling ‘grey’
But never give up hope
For a brighter day.
I took this photograph last summer of a flower poking through a gap in a wooden fence. Jane S
to the process
I have probably shared this piece several times during previous Lent seasons (ever since God taught me this lesson on a visit to Mottisfont in spring 2019), but it never seems to lose its relevance. Today it was helping me to accept that it will take longer than I anticipated for my knee to completely heal from a close encounter with the pavement almost four weeks ago. Healing will come, but I need to be patient and take it one step at a time.
It also strikes me that the saying holds true when thinking of the changing of the seasons. Come March, I usually get fed up with cold nights and other reminders of winter, but spring will unfold in its own time and at its own rhythm, so I want to accept that spring’s unfurling cannot be forced, rushed or stopped either.
Blessings to everyone in the community, Susanne I
On Tuesday, I went up to Guildford Cathedral to see the the sculpture the Knife Angel (which is in place until 31 March). The face and hands of the Angel are so expressive – pained & in agony – and standing before the sculpture I imagined the Angel asking us “Why? Why do we persist in being so destructive, towards the world, each other and ourselves? When there is a better way to be?”
I have selected some words from Enuma Okoro’s poem A prayer for when we’ve lost our way again (from A Rhythm of Prayer, edited by Sarah Bessey:
Merciful God help us find our way again …
Remind us that your Way is the way of returning …
We know that our ways are not your ways.
And we thank you for this.
Help us trust your ways over our ways…
Place your wounded hands upon our broken hearts and turn us towards you.
The Compass Prayer was not working for me. Having to focus on breathing and changing direction and reading the text all at the same time 😱. Then in a eureka moment I recorded myself reading the text, in time to the breathing in and out. So I can listen as I breathe. What a great way to start the day. Thank you Brian for this Blazing Trail. Helen S
I keep being told that I’m doing too much but the Lord keeps me going. However, He has been emphasising that I do need to make time to stop and rest. This has been a recurring theme and he’s given me poems on this theme, one of which I include here, written this week. This community is so, so special and blessed, so many thanks for keeping it going. Bless you.
Choosing to stop
The gentle ticking of the clock
The rhythmic purr of the cat snuggled close
The finding of space for stillness and silence
A wonderful gift from God.
A time to stop, to just listen and be
Still the rush and clamour of endless thoughts
Of things to do and life to live
A special time with God.
To stop and think, to thank and bless
To remember His love lavished blessings
To lift to His throne the needs of others
A blessed time with God.
To rest in His presence
Drink deep of His love
To recharge the batteries
To go on with God.
I’ve circled back round to the idea of being dust; and Martyn Joseph singing about “stumbling on the way“. And my own feeling of there being such a difference between my aspirations and the reality. So I threw a few words together. I’m not sure it even qualifies for the title “poetry“ – more thoughts, stitched together …
I’m on my way.
I’m weak and I’m fearful and I’m anxious; indeed I am only dust along the way.
I want to be a lion, strong and courageous. I want to be a stallion, running swiftly.
I’m only a mouse or a frog, or an ant. No one. A speck of dust.
I want to be a hero, burning up the miles.
I stagger and I struggle to even get on the way.
God grant me the grace to stumble and stagger and limp along the way.
And thanks be to God for the companions that help me on my way.
Some more little pictures for you!
Day 16 Halfway there – stop and be still (and appreciate the cherry blossom trees before it’s too late)
Day 17 New mercies every morning (winter jasmine on my way to work)
Day 18 – Waiting patiently (for the magnolia buds to flower)
Day 19 – Equinox (sunny primula in the garden)
Day 20 Hearing from God (in the beauty of the magnolia flowers)
The trail continues and I noticed last week that the silence within me was a cry of sorrow, a lament that I hold at a challenging time while acknowledging the faithfulness of Father in times past, trusting in His grace for the present, and waiting patiently for Him to answer as I look towards the future with hope.
I hadn’t listened to ’40’ for decades, yet on Friday it gave voice to those feelings for me. It may not be a new song but I am singing it in each new day as I wait (& I cant think of a better song to hear while on ‘hold’!). Di W
Another wonderful week of thoughts, ideas and help for our way forward. I was delighted when last Wednesday you chose again to focus on Walter Bruegemann’s ‘This Wednesday’. I love that poem, the way he turns Easter into a verb; and have spoken of it many times since last year. But this year, as you pointed out, it was indeed special, a half-way house in so many ways.
Here, not particularly dazzling in the way of weather(cold, grey and drizzly) but there are always ‘dazzles’ to seek and find! I returned last night from three days in Cumbria and opened my curtains today upon the magnolia stellata in full dazzling bloom! It is such a precious idea, to treat each new day as special,unique and to be treasured. I must practise that ! Thank you again so much. Jan B
Today, you and Bono have reminded me of the time God did come to me as a little old lady. I was at Den Hague Station in the Netherlands waiting to meet someone for a business meeting. At the time my mother was ill with throat cancer. As I stood there, I recall being distraught and pushing myself to think, what else could I do to help her? How could I make things better?
Then I noticed a little old black lady walking directly towards me from a far corner of the station, where there wasn’t obviously an entrance. She was staring. I will never forget her eyes. She walked right up to me and asked me something in Dutch. I defensively explained I didn’t speak Dutch. She then said, “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus?” A little stunned, I answered “Yes!”
Then I almost felt her look inside me, not just at me, as she proclaimed: “Then praise the Lord!” She turned and walked off into the crowd. In fact, within moments I lost sight of her, as if she’d disappeared. In an instant, she had broken my thoughts and I quickly realised it wasn’t what I could do for my Mum but all about what the Lord could do that counted. Did the Lord send one of His Angels to challenge me? I still believe he did. Ian M
Yesterday the indigenous community in Burlington celebrated spring with an art walk and the unveiling of this beautiful statue titled “Conversations and Stories” in front of the museum facing Lake Ontario.
I walked alone, but near the sacred fire I met a young Iranian family celebrating their own New Year walking by the lake. I explained the gathering and invited them to join – guests, just as I am a guest on this land. We shared soup together and my heart was full. I wrote this poem:
Share stories, sing songs,
share spoonfuls of Three Sisters Soup,
Sculptures speak truth;
sacred fire blazes, sun shines.
Young and old
From here and there,
Now gather as one.
(Three Sisters Soup is made with corn, beans and squash, the three foods planted together by many Indigenous People for sustainable land use.)
I am so glad we have been doing the clasping hands prayer/practice again. I am finding it comes to mind – and action – whenever a stressful situation or potential disagreement comes up. It’s a very powerful and peaceful bringing together of the two ‘sides’ in the love of God. Miriam M
I am so grateful for the blessing of your daily inspiration and prayerfulness and that of this wonderful community. I want to contribute. I know I am by being here! I say this to the Lord daily: “Here I am.” Things are often beyond words at the moment with glimpses of hope and light in what has felt for weeks like a bleak wilderness situation due to health and family issues that often feel overwhelming.
So thank you to you all for being there and a blessing in my life. God bless you all. Love, Sue T
Yesterday you talked about the threshold of Spring. Perhaps for six weeks or more we have been able to see signs slowly coming and now it is here and is becoming unstoppable. I am sensing that I am moving towards a new season in my life. Watching for the signs helps to accept the challenge of a threshold. In John O’Donohue’s book you mentioned, he encourages us that, “No threshold need be a threat, but rather an invitation and a promise.” Wow, I need to get my head and heart round that and ask some good questions. Jackie W
I was inspired to write a poem after listening to Martyn Joseph’s song ‘On My Way’. I had the impression of this community being on a physical pilgrimage, walking with one purpose, to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, to get a better understanding of his journey to the Cross. Mixed up in that is the joyful anticipation of the return of the swallows, their own pilgrimage, and the reminder that summer will come, as will the resurrection of Jesus on Easter morning.
I hear the sound of footfall on the road
Before me and behind
We’re on our way.
I hear the sound of drumming in the wind
We walk this trail together, one in mind
We’re on our way.
The young ones run to get there soon,
Us older ones will rest at noon
The little ones will stop and play
But we all keep walking through the day
We’re on our way.
I sense the sound of many wings
I look to the sky as my heart sings
I wait in hope and joy and love
For the swallows to fill the sky above
They’re on their way.
I feel our bodies closer now
I see the sweat upon your brow
I hear your breathing, weary sigh
We walk as one as we draw nigh
We’re on our way.
It’s almost dusk, we pause to rest
“Remember Me”. It’s not a test
Our Lord is here, we walk with Him
We walk again as light grows dim
We’re on His way.
At last we know we’re half way there
We’re tired now, our loads to bear.
“Be still” He says, and “Put them down,
now help each other to the ground.”
We’re resting now …
We’re on His way.
As we all gathered for Live at Five last week, I already had U2 going around my head and heart and wanted to share this version by the wonderful Daniel Lanois of the timeless, ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For’.
The musicians, all over the globe, contributing separately to the whole, in glorious connectedness to remember the disappeared, moves me every time and it came to mind as we connect from all points of the compass at 5pm on a Friday through Lent. Come, Holy Spirit – I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. Rachel T 🙂
I wanted to share just a few photos of our trip to The Lake District – such wonder of God’s kingdom in which I feel truly blessed! We had quite a few Snowy Saunters! Louise F
This poem arrived as I was thinking about your email on my journey home from the optometrists; my eyes were helped to see more clearly!
Spring Equinox 2023
Struggling to live in this moment.
Friday’s moments return again and again;
anxiety and resolutions.
Struggling to live in this moment.
Grandchildren school run at three,
Beef in beer for tea ready at five.
Stop, amazed on the rush home.
Weeds wedged into cracks
at the foot of a high wall
in need of repointing.
Beautiful leaf symmetry in rosettes:
dandelions and thistles
Dandelions, parachutes flown.
Thistles, no sign of flowers.
Moments to come, moments gone.
The compass prayer crumpled
In my pocket for four days
Why am I waiting for the right moment?
Here is the best place
Now is the right time.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Go well, and may you flourish and thrive. Jonathan R
I have been thinking about us being dust/ash in God’s hand and how he brings us alive. “Beauty from Ashes.” The painting is of a vision God gave me last year, but your devotions have caused me to get the painting out, and put it where I can focus on who I am in Christ. I’m really loving this lent series … thank you. Georgina B
I’m loving this at the moment – Grace by Kae Tempest. Jojo C
Hello, Brian, and thank you for another wonderfully inspirational week! Here are a couple of recent journal pages. With much love and many thanks to all, Hazel R
I was blessed today by the words about hearing God in different places. I wrote a poem about the pass “Lecht” in the Scottish Highlands, and some of it goes:
Today: a rain-filled murky dusk.
Water sluicing over the road
Wind buffeting the roof of the car
The wiper’s wup-wup only adds
To the deepest sense of peace.
Here one talks with the Most High
Like he was sat in the passenger seat
Listening to what I say,
Nodding sagely, making mental note,
To fix this situation, bless that person.
I am, He says, the God who hears.
Best wishes, Nick H
The other night I went to a spring concert featuring the senior choir and the orchestra of Churchers College. They sang “The Heavens are Telling” from the Creation by Frank Joseph Haydn. It was magnificent especially sung by a mass of young voices and soloists.
As we have been thinking about creation and awesomeness and it is Mothering Sunday this weekend, I just wondered whether a link would be an uplifting joyful celebration of praise and thanksgiving on our Blazing Trail. Caroline H
Good evening Brian, and THANK YOU so much for today’s devotional. I was so blessed to be in Donegal where the wind was blowing, the sun was gleaming and the waves were breaking, while I was able to leave my footprints 👣 on the sand and build a kiln of rocks – so blessed to be filled with God’s sacra-elemental grace, from the inside out. Shelley W
Apologies for Absence
My apologies are truly sincere Lord,
I know, you know, I’m absent too often.
Minutes of the Last Meeting
I recall those minutes so fondly,
The minutes resting in your love,
The minutes that silently slipped into an hour.
Oh, the matters that persistently arise!
Those creeping, seeping matters must wait for a while.
Pause in your presence.
Relax in your presence.
Smile in your presence.
Breathe in your presence.
Any other blessing?
As we walk this Lenten Trail with God and with one another, I’m reminded of Psalm 119:105: ‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’.
This morning, I got to wondering whether there might be a subtle distinction between having ‘a lamp to my feet’ and ‘a light to my path’. When I think of the former, it seems as if God is only shining a light on the next one or two footsteps. With the latter, it is as if God’s direction along the path ahead is more clearly illuminated. Blessings, Claire P
So many more inspirational and insightful words from you this week, Brian, and from many other writers. And how brilliant and revealing was the poem about Refugees by Brian Bilston. Two days’ reflections particularly resonated with me: one, how very important it is to listen well and ‘with both ears,’ with humility. I found Rich Villodas’ three ‘movements of the heart’ deeply challenging but an excellent goal to aim for. As a child, I always loved the story of Samuel as he listened to God’s voice in the temple and I shall try to remember this way of listening.
The other reflection which struck me forceably on Monday was The Speed of Love – I am always in a hurry, always trying to fit one more thing in, and I need to show down, to learn ‘ruthlessly to eliminate hurry’ from my life. I shall keep on trying to find the slow-paced speed of Love. Thank you so much Brian for this Blazing Trail through Lent. Jan B
I am thankful for these moments of wonder this week as I walk a challenging trail:
– Purple violets nestled at the base of a huge bare oak tree.
– Vivid cerise patches as soft furry magnolia buds start to open.
– Iridescent turquoise and orange of a kingfisher on David Attenborough’s new Wild Isles series.
– The joyful giggles of a one-year-old playing hide and seek.
– My six-year-old granddaughter telling me to look at the beautiful colours as the sun set.
Trail mix. A favorite walk of mine. I hadn’t been up there for a while, what a treat it was, peaceful and a glorious light in the late afternoon. I live in the Scottish Highland. Thank you Brian for inspiring me to get out! Anne M
I visited St Mark’s church in London just before the beginning of Lent, which was ravaged by fire recently. I was struck by the impressive outer shell of the church still intact. But I had first been struck by a luminous Mimosa tree standing at the corner. What intrigued me most was that the tree and the phoenix that I refer to in my poem each symbolise hope. It reminded me of Day 3 in the Lent series when Brian referred to the first anniversary of the Ukraine conflict. I do believe these sentiments can apply to St Mark’s church too and be symbolic of all destruction.
‘ … I believe we can honour every act of goodness arising from the ashes of this conflict – and be inspired to ‘give goodness its own speech’ through hopeful actions of our own, be they big or small, seen or unseen, as we continue our way from the ashes of Ash Wednesday, deeper into Lent.’
I also believe that the sacra-element of fire discussed in today’s theme is evident even in the devastation of this church where it reveals the powerful presence of life that emerges and re-emerges and gives one hope. Having exchanged emails with the vicar, I sense that the church’s body of people is still alive and vibrant and re-emerging ever stronger.
Glowing light among the charred churchscape.
Mimosa tosses her golden curls,
Wafts her sweet fragrance,
Hope of something new
emerging from the rubbled remains.
Phoenix will soar, blazing ever brighter
from the hollow shell.
Bearing souls centuries deep.
Bringing new life,
Birthing sweet young souls.
Here are my small pictures for this week:
Day 11 – Show Up (blue tits show up on a snowy day)
Day 12 – The Way of Listening (I sometimes hear the goldfinches but rarely see them!)
Day 13 – Being Lifted (the sparrow being lifted by the wind)
Day 14 – The Speed of Love (a slow look at hellebores with a friend)
Day 15 – Sacra-elemental (the elements)
Thank you. Sarah Y
I love this idea of “Sacra-elemental.” I connect on many levels, living in the wilds of Montana.
Several years ago we had close friends on our property, wandering the acreage to find the best place to set up our tipi (prayer house). We all arrived at the same spot and knew it was right. Just about then, a massive rainstorm moved in, the skies opened and the rain came down in buckets.
Our natural inclination was, “We better hustle back to the house.” But my first nation friend, Larry Littlebird, said to me, “Roger, come sit with me.” I thought, “You have to be kidding!” But I knew he wasn’t. He smiled and the rain came in buckets.
We sat together in that storm, not talking, just experiencing together. My (wet) rear-end touching earth, my body soaked to the core. It was beautiful. I was, and am, grateful for the sacra-elemental time.
I took this photo some years ago, on Lindisfarne. It now lives on our fridge door, a daily reminder of cold wet feet, a serene beauty and the need not to stop on one spot for too long!
A tragic incident, two weeks ago, has caused us to look back in ‘teng’ (love and sorrow), and ‘siejaku’ (tranquility in chaos). ‘The long walk in the same direction’ is make possible by the ‘way marks’, following the steps of Jesus on the wilderness, and lovely reminders which you bring us each early morning. So thank you Brian and everyone else walking along the way as well! Kate RS
Your message on International Women’s Day to ’SHOW UP’ really spoke to me. It encourages me to keep showing up even if I cannot answer the question of ‘who will move the stone away?’ The women with the spices did not need a committee/meetings/regulatory approval to figure out the solution to the problem, they just Showed Up for God knowing He would be there to meet them.
I find it so profound and moving that Hagar – a WOMAN – gave God a new name! How did I not know this before? Church structures have historically not been kind to women but the Bible is truly a source of inspiration. My new mantra is ’show up for God’. Kim D
I’m usually a slow walker, taking in the sights as I daily amble along the foreshore. Every day is different, no matter what the weather, tide in, tide out, sun sparkling, clouds, rain, nothing stops me, and often I will talk to God along the way. Most days I will walk my 5000+ steps. Yesterday however, the wind got behind me and hurried me along, so much so that I gained 21 heart points on my exercise app (almost unheard of!). How I laughed!! A moment of sheer joy!
Thank you to all who RSVP, your contributions are so heartfelt, I learn so much. Thank you too Brian for your gentle input and enabling. Blessings to all, Celia J
Thank you, Brian! My Lent 23 collage emerging … Michaela T
Looking out for signs of new growth to capture with a camera certainly slows down any walk and lifts the heart to praise. Here are a couple of things I spotted on the walk back from church. Common at this time of year, but beautiful every year. Jackie W
I went for a sacra-elemental three-mile walk today to feel the Earth beneath my feet. It’s a walk I’ve done many times. I purposely chose it because I usually race around it in a bid to beat my previous record. But today I slowed down to the speed of love. I stopped from time to time, remembering the phrase from your wonderful book, Spiritual Intelligence, where you say: ‘Stop to notice and you’ll start to notice’.
I stopped on a footbridge over the railway line and observed the trains travelling at speed but, in a funny way, not rushing, with their drivers calmly in control. I stopped to notice the extravagant beauty of a bed of crocus’, vibrantly dressed in purple with their petals stretching towards the sun and shouting of the glory of our creator God. I stopped by a duck pond to observe the cheeky moor hens without a care in the world but who have all they need, provided by God. But I also stopped to talk to an elderly neighbour who told me of his wife being rushed to hospital. I noticed the pain and anguish in his face. The deep distress in his eyes. Above all, I noticed the grace and love of Jesus in all these things. Ian M
From an old Going to Ground video, Andrew Rumsey read this beautiful quote from St Anselm of Canterbury. I just thought it so comforting:
“Come now, insignificant man, fly for a moment from your affairs, escape for a little while from the tumult of your thoughts. Put aside now your weighty cares and leave your wearisome toils. Abandon yourself for a little to God and rest for a little in Him.” Annabel R – (Brian’s note – you’ll see I borrowed one of these lines via Annabel for today’s reflection.)
A sacra-elemental scene today… (love this word!). Phil S
Morning, Brian! Your ‘sacra-elemental’ reflection was just perfect – earth, wind, fire, and water – I copied so much of it into my Lenten journal! And then I opened the RSVPs and the first one I saw was Marion Cl’s absolutely wonderful “soul/sole walk” collage and loved it!! I’m now inspired to make something similar for my neighbourhood (and I’m not artsy crafty!). What a wonderful way to start my day! As always, thanking you and the community for so much food for the soul. Sending hugs and blessings – Nancy-in-Canada : )
I love the serendipity that seems to always accompany our Lenten or Advent journeys. Yesterday, my “nonbelieving” partner sent me this picture. It chimes so well with your ideas of sacra-elemental. (It seems unclear whether Shakespeare actually said this, but no matter!) Mick L
Sacra-elemental. This is extra-ordinary. Thank you very much. A response:
I walked with a friend on Sunday,
We talked about the sacrament received that morning.
We did not agree,
yet had been made one in the bread and wine.
Different, necessary elements
like my five seed, three flour loaf with olive oil.
Open your senses to experience sacra-elements.
We are entired* into the universe.
* inspired by WH Auden “Christ’s body is made entire in us as we receive Communion”
Thank you so much for this series. I am so sorry that our load-shedding schedules in South Africa have prevented me from being present to Live at Five, but nevertheless, I enjoy watching later!
Your reflection on viewing the elements as sacred is very meaningful to me. I love to find places which you describe as those in which earth and heaven meet, and where the invisible grace of God abounds. Certainly, “our cups runneth over” with the goodness of God. As spring emerges in the north, Easter in the south is one of glorious autumn colour. I took this photo on a recent visit to a friend’s farm, where my experience of siejaku was to revel both in the music of expansive silence, and of God’s love flooding toward me. Kay R
“The Speed of Love”
I awoke Monday knowing that we had a funeral to attend of a very dear friend. As I focussed on God I felt Him say, “Don’t rush.” Then I opened Brian’s email and it was all about eliminating ‘hurry’. The journey to the funeral was less than an hour, so my husband was going to give us one hour. So I suggested to him that we leave earlier. He added 15 minutes. I then said, “I do not want to race against time”. We agreed to giving ourselves 1 1/2 hrs. We didn’t have any hold-ups on the way and arrived only 10 minutes before the funeral time. The hearse was there already. Even if we’d have added 15 mins to the journey, we may not have made it in time. We were all relaxed, due to not rushing; I wonder how different our day would have been if we had not taken the element of hurry out of our day? Thank you Brian, a timely reflection. Georgina B
Daffodils on Monday:
Bent from the wind’s outrage
Lifted from that place of brokenness
Carried to a place of safety
Refreshed with the water of life
Rescued, their glory restored
Haiku written while tempted to be frustrated in a slow shopping queue on a busy day… inspired by your thoughts on not rushing and being present.
Tins, fruit, veg piled high
Bottles clink as belt judders
I chose the slow till.
Charmaine H 😀
I love today’s thought about the grace of God being reflected in the earth, wind and fire. God isn’t the wind, the earth, the fire, but as the WORD he created them and they reflect his glory, character and grace.
Last week I spent in the snowy north west of Scotland and enjoyed some
of the glory of God, as Gerard Manley Hopkins puts it:
‘The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Blessings, Andy C
Random thoughts from washing day.
Powerful, mighty wind as I struggle to peg washing onto the clothes line, using extra pegs, you remind me of the times in my life when God’s Holy Spirit has been all I could cling to.
Powerful, mighty wind as you fill the pillowcases on the clothes line you remind me of how we can be filed with the Holy Spirit. I pray to be filled.
Powerful, mighty wind as you spin the rotary clothes line around with such speed, I pray to be driven and empowered by the Holy Spirit to share my faith with those around me.
What a gift when something so “everyday” gives us insights into the power of the Holy Sprit.
Thank you Brian, I just love the word sacra-elemental. I speaks to me. Gay H
Slowing down to notice the beauty all around me. Louise R
Hello, Brian, and thank you for another week of wonderful reflections – and, everybody, for the amazing RSVPs. Hazel R
Reading ‘the Speed of Love’ nourished my soul: “as we fall in step with love, and let it lead us on”. Wow, that line!
I wonder if we ever find courage to slow down and love without knowing in our core, how lovable we are. I’ve heard many sermons on loving our neighbour and no sermons on loving ourselves. “How bold one gets, when one is sure of being loved” (Sigmund Freud). Jojo C
It wanted to share this poem by Malcolm Guite from his Parable and Paradox anthology, called Christ Among the Refugees. I was so touched by the Brian Bilston poem and it brought the Guite poem to mind. Jane W
So many thoughts arising! Quaker Advices and Queries, especially no 36: attend to what love requires of you, which may not be great busyness.
Poems, in particular TS Eliot (my go-to): Prufrock, Journey of the Magi, the Wasteland, Ash Wednesday … All these and more are reflections of Eliot’s personal progress towards Christianity; as such they have always resonated with me.
Robet Frost: Stopping by Woods On a Snowy Evening, Fire and Ice.
And songs: ‘One more step along the road I go’, ‘Simbiyah’ (I first heard this on a music site when teaching; a great favourite with young pupils and not so young staff).
And much is owed to my friend Lynda, who is so sympathique and suggested an outing on whim to a less familiar branch of our local garden centre. Seems innocuous , but a joy to have colour, coffee and conversation! Jane C
Walking yesterday through that silvery late winter late-afternoon light in the muddy fields near my home, I suddenly came across this glorious yellow dandelion and fresh new nettles. I was struck by this promise of nature’s bounty and how God provides for us: fresh nettle tops make delicious soup, dandelion leaves can be used for salad. Even in this season of mud and wet, God’s goodness to us abounds. And I was silent and still, hearing his whispers to my soul in the wind and the swirling fieldfares above me. We are blessed. Jo dG
Here is my offering for this Lenten period. I appreciate the writing is a little small but hopefully folks will get the gist of my soul map. Someone may recognise the feet from a previous series..?!
Many thanks to everyone for all the beautiful and rich contributions, it is indeed a feast and I am needing to peruse the material in stages!
Go gently, Marion Cl
‘The Speed of Love’ was a timely reminder to me. I had my morning planned out – nothing too time-critical, but I knew what I wanted to achieve. Then when I was returning home having been out to the bank and shops I met my next door neighbour’s daughter. It was clear she wanted to chat and, while I was thinking how to extricate myself quickly, I remembered the challenge to ‘eliminate hurry’. We chatted for about 20 minutes and, I believe, it was timely as she wanted to talk about the burden of caring for her elderly parents; I pray I was able to bring some love to her day. Thank you! Lyn R
Today I needed to feel restored after a stressful time last week. I didn’t handle it too well and made some poor decisions. You encouraged me to slow down and notice. I love buying veg at our local roadside stall. As I was the only person there, I was able to look at the details of the fruit and veg. What variety – God’s creation to rejoice in and later taste. Looking at the photo now, I’m reminded that He also created such a variety of people – all different. I pray a blessing on the people I met last week (and everyone here!). Brenda T
Last Wednesday’s reflection on “the God who sees me” really resonated with me. I was struck by the question, “Who will roll away the stone?” God responded to the faithfulness of the women and the stone was moved for them. I have been pondering stones that sit between us and Jesus and trying hard to spot where I might be able to ‘move away the stone’ for someone else. Thank you again for this Lenten trail with all its treasures and vistas! Marian M
Thank you SO much, today, for your timely prompt to slow down, to walk the pace of Love. I’m reminded of your phrase “No need to rush”. I’m SO glad our Beloved is NOT the harried parent, pulling us along to the annoyed tones of “hurry UP!”. No wonder we’re encouraged to become like little children, who, naturally attuned to eternal time, delight; moment by moment – in the Kingdom of God. Sue R
For the past couple weeks a woman I don’t know has been making an effort to sit with me at church service (even moving after she has already chosen a seat before I arrive). She’s a talker, and difficult to end the conversation with. I have been actively attempting to avoid and/or get past her at the end of service to hurry out the door to nowhere specific!
This Sunday, during the service I slowed down enough to contemplate our conversations and consider her as a person of God. Perhaps the Spirit has put her in front of me for a reason, and perhaps next Sunday I’ll ask her to come have a cup of coffee with me after service.
Your devotional today is so pertinent for me. Thank you! 🙏🏻 Suzanne W
A few more Lenten thoughts to share with this wonderful community: From Dust we Came. Eddie G
A regular way-marker on my local walks has been a walled garden, made available to the public during lockdown, and has remained so.
The high stone wall shelters it from cold winds, a sanctuary from the outside world. I like to sit quietly, feeling sheltered, safe, watching the seasons change, the birds, the growth.
Recently I visited after a hard frost followed by a thaw, which has caused part of the wall to collapse into the lane. The gaping hole triggered a reaction in my soul, feeling like a breach in my defences. So I wrote this poem.
Lord, forgive me
for locking you out.
The you in others all about
that would long to dwell
in my home, my heart.
Forgive me for keeping the others
I don’t know them
they don’t know
what I’ve been through
that I have nothing to give.
I fear what they might see
that I am less
than I appear to be.
But as I’m trying to hide
you come closer
sit by my side.
you are all that I need
just as you are
Come now, and dwell in my love
sit and have tea with me.
I choose you
your loving heart
You are enough.
‘If you remain in me
and I in you
you will bear much fruit.’ “
Blessings, Annie P
Slowing down is something I find so hard. If I’m not busy with something I look for a way to make myself busy. More like a “human doing” than a “human being”. It’s exhausting! I find this poem by Donovan Leitch very helpful. Helen S
This Lent, I am in a wilderness season and your reflections are a life-line. Particularly the word Teng, Michael Gungor’s beautiful song and the amazing Refugee poem. My offering for the community is a small and simple poem:
God sees me
God sees the one I love
He knows our anguish
He knows where we wander
Love, Caroline C
After listening to “The Armed Man” online for the first time after recommendation from Lent course members, my husband John and I were blessed to hear it performed live at a benefits concert in Petersfield on Saturday. During the performance, the choir also sang the encouraging and uplifting “Deep Peace” by Elaine Hagenberg – YouTube. Suzanne I
Thich Nhat Hahn, the Buddhist peacemaker, wrote ‘If your steps are peaceful, the world will have peace. If you can make one peaceful step, then peace is possible… Peace is every step’.
He said we should walk as if we were kissing the earth with our feet! Thank you for the reminder Brian, to slow our steps and be mindful. Liz H
Your reference to an ‘inner landscape’ led me to pose myself a question: ‘what terrain would I be walking on now, if my spiritual trail-blazing was played out as a walk outdoors?’ Immediately I could picture a family walk we had enjoyed last winter in the Peak District. Towards the end of the circular route, we came to a large expanse of deep mud. With no other route in sight and our children too tired to turn around and walk back, there was no choice – we had to walk through it. The mud was deep and slippery. Our boots and trousers quickly became caked. Some of us clung to a flimsy fence, carefully skirting along the edge of the field. Those with larger strides were able to leap from one stepping stone to the next (presumably laid by kind walkers who had trodden this path before us). Right in the middle of this mire, our nine-year-old’s welly boot became stuck… leading initially to some panic, and then some giggling as we set about retrieving it! Eventually we all made it to the gate and were glad to be on a dry stony path.
The phrase from Psalm 40 comes to mind: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” And I pray: ‘Lord, where I’m slipping around in the mess of my fear, worry and overwhelm; come and be my helper. Give me the determination to walk this section. Guide me, lift me up, set me on firm ground again. Remind me of your love and faithfulness. Thank you that we don’t walk these difficult sections alone.’ Ellie D
Your reflection this morning reminded me of something I had been touched by some years ago, this song by Godfrey Bertillon – but I had fallen back into old ways! Thank you for the mention of God’s Rhythm in today’s reflection. Sue W
In January 2022, 75 male asylum seekers were placed in a hotel in my home town. Through a charity I volunteer with, I have had the joy of getting to know some of the men while providing clothes and other items to meet their needs. The Brian Bilston poem reminded me of a conversation between two young girls, one the daughter of a volunteer. Her friend said, “Did you hear there are lots of men in the hotel? My mum has bought me a panic alarm.” The other girl replied, “Yes I did hear that, my mum bought them new underwear and socks.“ May we all have open hearts to those in need around us. Alison M
Thank you so much for the inspiration and Godly presence you are bringing through the Lent reflections. Here is a photo of moonrise over Clanfield (Oxfordshire) last week as you inspired us to view.
It is just one of so many elements that glimpse the breathtaking beauty of our Creator’s work. As Carlos Castaneda writes: “For me there is only the traveling on paths that have heart, on any path that may have heart, and the only worthwhile challenge is to traverse its full length – and there I travel looking, looking breathlessly.”
The quote was written as part of his “Teachings of Don Juan” – however I hope it’s not too big a leap to use this as a reference to the beauty and wonder of our faith journey with our Lord! Ian S
‘Slow down, not too fast
When Love comes make it last –
When Love comes, it’s never an everyday thing …’
Perhaps, contrary to the song, we can make it an everyday thing! 🙏(Something else to turn” upside down!). Sylvia L
I am finding all this Lent’s reflections so helpful, but in another way I am still in ‘Filled to the Measure’. Some thoughts:
Rooted in a sheltered enclosure
Lovingly and minutely tended.
Then comes the moment to
Become established in a wider space,
Seeking out water, drinking deeply,
Growing in stature day by day
As my pre-ordained blossoming
Comes to life.
So, may I rest in the mystery of the immeasurable fulness of God.
I also found myself at one of those “pinch points” – the very long and slow-moving supermarket queue. The woman in front wanted me to join in with her criticism of someone taking too long to pack her bag, and I tried to remain non-commital. But thinking of my own irritation and perceived inconvenience at the wait, I realised that these are like small seeds that can lead to complaint, discord, and the capacity for conflict and war within us all. So today’s reflection was ultra-timely for me! Thank you. Miriam M
Reading ‘The Speed of Love’ this morning, I am immediately reminded of taking my mum to see the bluebells at our local woods a few years ago. As we walked back to the car, I was focused on walking and getting mum home when she said that she needed to stand still to catch her breath. As I stood, I saw what looked like a small child’s toy wedged on a branch just yards away. As I looked, I saw it move ! It was a Little Owl. Quietly I pointed it out to mum, fearful she would miss this amazing sight. We both watched until it flew away. If I had continued at my pace that day, I would have missed this amazing gift from God. Susan L
Sometimes unexpected things happen that might need awkward conversations, or we need to come out of our comfort zone and put ourselves in a place of seeming vulnerability in front of others (in my case an online presentation at work). But I know the assurance and certainty of God’s presence, and that His perspective is always the right one and His love does the lifting.
I’ve been inspired by geese: Canada geese on our local pond and barnacle geese on the television. They travel, settle and soar again, a cycle of majesty and grace. May we be comfortable with our own cycles, knowing that’s what He has laid out for us too. Simon M
I have had this line going round my head all weekend. It’s from the Snow Patrol song, Chasing Cars:
“I need your grace
To remind me
To find my own”
Your stories of finding grace this morning reminded me that we need God’s grace to find our own.
The whole song is worth a listen, as it could be interpreted as someone finding the time to ‘waste’ with God. Taking time out … although I’ve never really got the bit about chasing cars around my head! Thanks, Karen L
Catching up with the amazing RSVP’s took me several days, as I wanted to savour them. What a feast! Here is my RSVP:
When I could not find you
You were not lost,
You were always here;
When I could not see you
You were not hiding,
You were always walking towards me;
When I could not hear you
You were not silent,
You were always whispering my name;
When I could not take another step
You did not wander off,
You were always waiting for me;
When I lost heart
You did not give up on me,
You were always making a way.
I found this and thought it fitted well into todays reflection. Jane B
Thank you for the reminder to eliminate hurry today – your own examples really resonated with me. I read John Mark Comer’s book last year and it had a great impact, but it’s so easy for hurry to creep back in (ironically!). Here’s my offering for this week – I’ve been so enjoying seeing the emergence of spring and was particularly drawn this weekend to the blackthorn that I see daily on my morning walk:
Haiku for this blazing trail
Way marker for this springtime
Lead me to Jesus.
Thinking today about eliminating hurry reminded me of this simple poem I wrote during lockdown. It can also be read from the bottom up, if you know what I mean! Thank you.
With your health.
Each step you take.
Each choice you make.
In all you do.
Through your day.
As you pray.
In your God.
In His love.
Warm wishes, Jane S
It is unfamiliar
This lack of words
This shut mouth,
but open heart and mind
I sit before you, with you
Alone, but not lonely
Companioned in peace
With nothing to say
Yet a gentle desire
Warming my soul
Teach me to listen
Yes I have often asked
That blessing. And here it is.
A stranger met, becoming a friend.
Unfamiliar but promising
A deeper understanding
A deeper love.
So I wait.
Oh Jesus, you invite us to an Upside Kingdom.
A different sort way of life.
A one that is wholesome and in fact “not so upside down”.
The world tells us: Hate your enemies, love your friends.
You say: Love you enemies, love your neighbour, love yourself.
All are welcome!
The world says: Let me see, then I’ll believe.
You say: Believe, then you’ll see.
The world says: “It’s a dog eat dog world.” 😳
Stepping on people as rungs on the ladder of success…
You say: Give people a helping hand up that ladder.
The world says: You can only read poems from the top down.
You say: Sometimes we need to read them from the bottom up.
Thank you for Upside-down Kingdom.