Unnoticed beauty patiently waiting

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A walk with deliberate attentiveness….

Twisted sillouettes against the blue.
Two creeper branches reaching for the sky,
tendrils finding each other in mid air.
Butterflies flitting between the grasses,
some autumny orange and some bright white.
Surprising strong waft of sweet wild jasmine,
hidden in the undergrowth.
The soft feel of a furry leaf,
like a mouses back.
The spikey rough touch of bark.
So many different bird sounds,
once I tune in,
chirps, chattering, squawks,
some low and regular
and some a high melody on top,
every so often catching a glimpse of their source.
Round droplets of dew on leaves, sparkling with light, swiftly disappearing.
Amber beads of sap
hanging from split rough bark,
attracting busy lines of ants.
The liquid gold smells sweet, strong and medicinal.

Simply switching senses on
and slowing down.
Attentiveness with great rewards.
Beauty that goes unnoticed is still beauty,
quietly waiting to feed our souls when seen.

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Holding Safe

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I come to you
holding my truth,
my emotions,
my heart.
Holding them
with kindness and compassion,
without judgement,
not squashing them in shame.
Even the emotions
that seem ugly,
even those I wish weren’t there.

As I bring them to you
I allow you to hold me,
to meet me
in the place of my honesty,
to listen to me
with care and gentleness.

I don’t want to (or need to)
stay in these emotions for ever,
they are not my whole truth.
But for now,
they need to be heard
and held with kindness,
as you hold me
in my honest truth.

 

Clay sculpture and poem by Hilary Murdoch 2018 

Words of encouragement change lives

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Wow this is just incredible.

I know I shed a tear easily but I shed one with this… the beauty and power of love and encouragement spoken even to a stranger, just so beautiful. More of this in the world please.

Let’s not just leave it to this lady. Who could you write an encouraging note to?

A Blessing and Reflection for This Time of Year

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I came across this beautiful blessing written by a friend of mine. It brought a few things to mind that I thought I’d share as some starting points for reflection. You may want to use this to look back and look forward in this time between Christmas and New Year, or if you find a moment in January to sit down with a journal. Maybe you could even take a day out for a retreat?

A Blessing

May all that has got lost in you, be found again
May your path be lit by stars as you renew your journey tonight
May the voices you hear echo the love of the angels (‘do not be afraid’) and may your words to yourself be ever so gentle
May you receive the gifts you have sought but more importantly, may you be reminded of the gift you have been to many this year
May your life be observed with eyes of beauty by those who surround you
May you be strengthened with attentiveness as deep as Mary’s for her child
May you know that there is One who watches all your new births and all your growing.

May you be blessed this Christmas and may God’s shalom be within, around and above you through the new year.

By Philomène Luyindula Lasoen

Reflections

  1. Do you feel anything got ‘lost‘ in you in 2017 that you’d like to regain in 2018? Talk to God about it and ask him for the strength and grace needed to make the decisions or changes you need to make, to find what’s been lost.
  2. Reflect on your journey through 2017. Maybe scribble the year as a path or road through the landscape of the highs and lows of the year – did the path go through a dark forest? – did you conquer a high peak? – did your path cross with the paths of others at significant points? (Don’t worry if you can’t draw, you don’t need to show anyone, just scribble!) Talk to God about what was good along the path, thank him. Talk to him about what was hard and ask him what his words of comfort and encouragement are into each situation. Where are you now on the path? – is there a fork in the path? – are you looking for signposts? – what signposts have you seen already? – what’s alongside the path at this point?
  3. As you look towards 2018, how do you want to ‘renew your journey‘? – What are your hopes and dreams for the year ahead? Talk to God about it, what does he want to say to you about the year ahead, what comes to mind as you are still? What is his invitation to you for this year? Is there a word or phrase that pops into your mind? Write it down.
  4. Think about the voices you hear in your head, how you speak to yourself – do you hear words of love/care or of shame and criticism? Could you speak to yourself more gently and lovingly? – taking the lead from how God speaks to you and thinks of you – with kindness?
  5. What are you fearful/nervous about for 2018? How would things change if you heard the echo of the angels, relaying God’s message to humankind ‘Do not be afraid’? Talk to God about your fears and let him speak to you about how he sees each situation. How would it feel if you knew you were facing each situation with Emmanuel (‘God with us’) alongside you?
  6. What gifts have you received in 2017? – acts of kindness, experiences? Who were the people who’ve been a gift to you in 2017? Can you write them a note to thank them? How have you been a gift to others in 2017? Are there any specific people you hope to be a ‘gift’ to in 2018? What would that involve?
  7. Who has observed your life with the eyes of beauty in 2017? Who has ‘really seen’ you and appreciated you for who you truly are? Have you seen people with the eyes of beauty? Is there anyone you’ve judged or dismissed? Can you ask God to help you to see them with new eyes, to see the beauty that he sees within them?
  8. Have you been attentive to the beauty and good in the world and others in 2017? What have you noticed? Have you been attentive to the brokenness of the world, the things that break God’s heart? What have you noticed? Can you choose to be more attentive in 2018? What will help you to do that? Ask God to give you eyes to see as he sees.
  9. How have you grown and changed in 2017? What have you learnt?
  10. What new birth and growth do you want to ask God for in 2018?

Stifled grief

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Stifled grief of any loss, not just a death but a divorce or lost job or home, isn’t helpful. It needs to be processed and takes time, self care and also care and understanding from those around.
I’ve heard from a lot of people after reading the book ‘The Bear Who Stepped Up’, (which I wrote about my friend who passed away and his wife’s honest grief journey) that it was refreshing to be reminded that we need to allow ourselves and each other the space and time to grieve and not to rush it or force ourselves or others to ‘get on with life as normal’ because it’s not normal. People showing honest grief seem to be rushed into medication and be seen as having a problem (not that medication can’t be helpful for some). People are just uncomfortable with pain, in themselves and others, and would rather squash it than let it out. But squashed pain is more dangerous as it’ll just pop up later in more challenging ways.
I found the book ‘When the Heart Waits’ by Sue Monk Kidd especially helpful in allowing space for those dark times and allowing and seeking healing and growth in those times.
I came across this article, ‘Stifled Grief, How the West has got it wrong’ and found it so helpful. Please read this not only if you have grieved a loved one but even if you haven’t, so you know how to walk alongside those who have.

Come as you are

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Charcoal drawing Copyright Jonathan Griffiths

 

This beautiful drawing really caught my attention at the Grahamstown Arts Festival last year. It got me thinking. It’s become a metaphor image for an ongoing conversation with God for the past year.

The story it depicts is of a lady ‘who had lived a sinful life’ who gate crashed a dinner party where Jesus was being entertained by men from the religious elite. She crouches at Jesus’ feet and weeps, washes his feet with her tears, dries them with her hair and pours precious perfume on them.

If you just imagine the scene for a moment. This was a posh dinner party, people keen to impress the ‘teacher’. People putting their best foot forward, trying to sound intelligent. The best dishes were out.

Everyone knew that this woman stood out like a sore thumb. They were shocked that Jesus was letting her touch him. Doesn’t he know what kind of person this is?! They were trying to ignore her but she was making that difficult.

Can you imagine… the noise, the weeping, the mess, the snot. All over Jesus’ feet. The disruption, the intimacy and the disrespect is shocking. Imagine how horrified and offended everyone was.

Everyone apart from Jesus. He doesn’t seem to mind at all.

In fact he turns to the religious guys and asks ‘do you see this woman?’ and then commends her. He compared their hospitality and welcome of him to hers, and she comes out top in his opinion.

I’ve been thinking. The implication in his question ‘do you see this woman?’ is that he sees her. He sees her and receives her in all the mess of her raw emotions, snot and reality.

So often when I’m feeling in an emotional mess I want to sort myself out before I come to God. But this image and story has so powerfully spoken to me about Jesus’ ability to cope with, even welcome, my mess.

He is more able to meet us deeply if we come to him honestly where we are at, rather than presenting where we think we should be. If we are pretending to be somewhere we are not, he can’t meet us there.

So I’m trying to come to God as I am. I am using journalling to tell God the reality of how I feel, rather than trying to resolve it or fix it before I come to him. It’s wonderful to experience what it feels like for him to ‘see me’ and love me in the midst of where I am. It’s been freeing and so comforting.

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The drawing is based on Luke 7:36-46

The artwork is by Jonathan Griffiths and is available for sale if anyone is interested.

You can contact him on jonathanlloydgriffiths@gmail.com

Shifting Sands

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On a cloudless day

the low autumn sun

warms my cheek

lights up the edges of the grass stalks

and casts deep shadows

in shallow footprints.

The waves distantly rumble

a dog bark echos

a bird silently circles over the breakers

others chirp intermittently

from the reeds

chatting back and forth

between the dunes.

Dunes shift.

Sometimes gradually

sometimes in just one storm

but they are not secure territory.

Sometimes I’m painfully reminded

that I’ve built my house on sand.

Again.

And it’s shifting.

Why am I surprised?

It’s happened before

it’ll happen again.

The shocking reality is

it’s all sand.

Home, friends, family, work, health,

which country I’m in

which home I’m in

what I’m doing

what people think

which people I can depend on

which people I’m close to.

It’s all sand.

Why should I be surprised

when it shifts?

It’s all sand.

I like to think it’s rock

if it hasn’t shifted for a while.

I set up camp

stake my home out on the dunes

try to reinforce them

steady them.

But man-made stabilization

of naturally shifting processes

always eventually fails

and sometimes makes

the shift more devastating

when it comes.

And the rock?

I wish there were more available

but there’s only one.

And sometimes I ignore it.

It seems so much more natural to build on sand.

The default.

I’m sorry for mixing up

sand and rock.

Expecting things that are inherently shifting

to be stable

and not trusting and putting weight on

the inherently stable.

I need to move my home,

my place of inner security

from sand to rock.

And fast.

The sand is shifting.

Why should I be surprised?

It’s all sand.

“..like a foolish man who built his house on sand..” Matthew 7:26

“lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” Psalm 61:2

© Copyright Hilary Murdoch 2017