Tag Archives: beauty

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?
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Falling Leaves

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A poem written by Joyce Rupp, which I have adapted and added to, based on the concepts in Joyce’s chapter on autumn in her book ‘May I have this dance?’

To constant accompaniment of birdsong
The leaves fall down
From wide oak and high ash
They twirl to the ground,
Dancing the autumn death dance
Beneath the great blue sky.

The leaves seem glad at the going
(Is there something I don’t know?)
Sparkling in the mellow sunlight
Their gentle rustling filling the air

One, then another and another
On they skim down from above
Bedding the forest floor before me
With comforting crunches as I step

This gigantic sea of dying leaves
Does not smell of sorrow or sadness
Rather the earth is ringing with joy
As the leaves make music in the wind.
It is not a dull grey scene
But one bursting with colour
And with beauty
If you have eyes to see it.

Why is this dance of death so lovely?
Why do the leaves seem so willing to go?
They don’t want to hang on to the bitter end
To be broken down and discoloured
They want to be released
Still beautiful
Shortly after the fullness of summer.

The leaves are subtle reminders
That we are asked to let go
To be thankful for what’s gone before
To release with love
And to find peace
Even in the face of death.

Nothing is wasted in nature
The fallen leaves generously give
Life and nourishment
To the new growth
Just as we who remain living
Can draw goodness
From all that those departed gave us
If we nourish that goodness
It can bring growth in us.

Autumn is a season of death
But also a time of thanksgiving
For the abundant harvest that’s been.
Winter then brings times of quiet reflection
Clarity and stark beauty
And both pave the way for the new life
And new growth of Spring.

Opening

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Like a tight bud, inside a green sheath
Like a tap firmly twisted shut
Like a door, locked and bolted
Like the hard packed soil after winter
My heart and spirit can be closed
Guarded, protected, safe
Layers of resistance
Wanting everything planned, controlled, tied up
Hiding in the comfort of the known
Fighting the call to growth and change
in my desire for security
Stuck in fixed expectations
Clinging to what I believe is unchangeable
Not wanting the status quo disrupted
Suspicious of others motives
Defensive, holding myself back
Easily offended, disgruntled, anxious
Critical and finding fault
Feeling angry, prevailed upon, misunderstood
Afraid of being hurt
Afraid of what people may think
Afraid of getting it wrong
Seeing the worst not the best
Noticing the mud not the gold
Like hard packed soil
So hard that the life giving rains can’t soak in

Like a blossoming flower, opening to the warm sunlight
Like a tap turned on, water free flowing
Like a door flung wide, to welcome in
Like soil, ploughed and turned over, ready for watering and planting
My heart and spirit can be open
Open to awe, to wonder, to surprise
Eyes to recognise God in my everyday
Receptive to love
Ready for change and growth
Eager for transformation
Open to my own emotions of tears or joy
Believing I can change and rise above my past
Seeing potential in others for growth and healing
Seeing situations with eyes of hope, things as they can be
Quick to praise and affirm
Deep security that’s unshakable
Welcoming the new, the different
Willing to step into the unknown and seemingly insecure for a season
Releasing my preconceptions
Letting go of my own agendas
Listening, expectant
Constantly amazed by the beauty in life
Seeing joy beyond the challenges
Heart open to a touch of God in places I didn’t expect to find him
Unthreatened by questions that seem to have no answer
Choosing to trust
Like soil, ploughed and turned over
Open to be watered by the surprising grace of God

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If you are in the mood for reflection read on…

In your life
Where have you been closed?
Where have you been open?
What has the fruit of that been?

Where do you see signs of growth, hope and change in you life?

Are there areas where you are resisting growth, change or something new?

Do you want to be more open in any of those areas?

How can you be more open in different situations and relationships in your life?

This coming week, maybe we all can practice having eyes to see joy, surprise, hope and beauty in the everyday.

————–

These are my thoughts after reading the ‘Watered Gardens’ chapter in a wonderful book of reflections by Joyce Rupp (which I highly recommend) called ‘May I have this dance’.

 

All poems and original writing on this blog are Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2013

For you, a blessing

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I’m re-posting this from Elora Nicole, because I thought it was beautiful.

Stop for a second.

Breathe in deep. Close your eyes. Open them again.
See the beauty in the every day.

Know that the Creator lives and moves and breathes within you.
So those dreams? Risk them.
Those words? Write them.
Those hopes? Believe them.

Sink deep into His embrace.
Know He’s on your side
fighting
dreaming
pursuing
loving

And in these moments, these every day moments, may you see glimpses of the Divine
shimmering against the mundane
wiping out to worry, crashing against those brick walls

Embrace those waves of freedom, child.
leaving words and hope in their wake.

Always look for the beauty,
the trail of magic dust left behind from the Spirit’s touch
Breathe this in daily –
hourly

drawing strength from particles bubbling up like effervescent promises.

Beauty in imperfection

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Photo: BBC/Reuters

This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel had to wait on the gangway of her plane after she landed in Prague, while soldiers adjusted the red carpet.

That amazes me, it actually made me chuckle, and I even caught myself with a racist thought. Particular European nations do seem to have perfectionist tendancies. Isn’t it worse to make her wait than to have a slightly crooked carpet?!

And yet maybe it’s not so far from my own actions sometimes: missing the point of what’s important, in order to get something ‘just so’?

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A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault.  ~John Henry Newman

He that will have a perfect brother must resign himself to remain brotherless.  ~Italian Proverb

You see, when weaving a blanket, an Indian woman leaves a flaw in the weaving of that blanket to let the soul out.  ~Martha Graham

Ring the bells that still can ring, Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack in everything, That’s how the light gets in. ~Leonard Cohen

Imperfection is Beauty – Marilyn Monroe

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. (The Bible, 2 Corinthians chapter 4, verse 7. New Living Translation)

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Reflecting on a passage in the bible which speaks about ‘treasure in jars of clay’ comforts me about not only the inevitability but also the beauty of imperfection. If a jar of clay containing a light is perfect then you don’t see the light much. If the jar is cracked and imperfect then the light shines through. The ‘treasure’ in me is the life, light and power of Jesus. I’m ‘cracked’, imperfect, and so it’s clear that who I am and any good that comes from me is because of the light inside, not because of me. And that’s a good thing.

In fact another snippet from the bible goes even further – God saying: “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) When I am feeling weak, having come to the end of myself – to the end of my own strength and ideas, it’s often at that point that I realise I can’t do it alone and invite God into the situation, and he shifts the whole thing around. Then I know I can’t claim the credit, it was clearly Him not me. That’s when his strength is able to work more freely and be seen even better through my weakness. So maybe some falability, weakness, imperfection is a good thing?

So much of what happens around me and so much of what I do is driven by a fear of failure, a fear of getting things wrong, a fear of letting people down, a fear of what people will think. But letting go of that fear is making me more free, more able to live life to the full. And when I get things wrong and let people down, I have to swallow my pride and say sorry, admit that I am not perfect and live with it (I’m not good at that but I am trying to learn). And then there is room for the light to shine out rather than a perfect uncracked pot to be celebrated.

Do you ever let a fear of failure hold you back? What might happen if you started to let go of that fear?

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“Congratulations!  You’re not perfect!  It’s ridiculous to want to be perfect anyway.  But then, everybody’s ridiculous sometimes, except perfect people.  You know what perfect is?  Perfect is not eating or drinking or talking or moving a muscle or making even the teensiest mistake.  Perfect is never doing anything wrong – which means never doing anything at all.  Perfect is boring!  So you’re not perfect!  Wonderful!  Have fun!  Eat things that give you bad breath!  Trip over your own shoelaces!  Laugh!  Let somebody else laugh at you!  Perfect people never do any of those things.  All they do is sit around and sip weak tea and think about how perfect they are.  But they’re really not one-hundred-percent perfect anyway.  You should see them when they get the hiccups!  Phooey!  Who needs ’em?  You can drink pickle juice and imitate gorillas and do silly dances and sing stupid songs and wear funny hats and be as imperfect as you please – people like that are a lot more fun than perfect people any day of the week.”  ~Stephen Manes, Be a Perfect Person in Just Three Days!

Does “anal-retentive” have a hyphen?  ~Anon

Beauty revealed

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When I first arrived in my new Cape Town home, I really didn’t much like the plants in this garden – too many spikes, cacti and succulents. They seemed aggressive, harsh, not beautiful. I wanted to see more colour, more flowers, a softer beauty. I contemplated planting roses and other flowers. Until someone pointed out they are not indigenous.

That stopped me in my tracks.

I felt shamed by my unintended horticultural imperialism. De-valuing the unfamiliar and imposing my perception of beauty. Tempted to change it and dominate it, before I had really seen it and known it.

So I sat with it as it was. And watered it.

After a few weeks I now see more beauty and more flowers.

Maybe the flowers were there before and I didn’t see them, only seeing them now as my eyes are accustomed to this garden, its particular indigenous beauty, having stopped subconsciously but arrogantly expecting it to look like an English garden. I can see the beauty in the shape and structure of the African non-flowering plants too – different to the colourful, showy, soft beauty of flowers, but beautiful none the less.  

Or maybe some of the flowers have bloomed since we arrived, as we have watered the garden and loved it.

I think it’s been a bit of both.

Forgive me, my African friends for my ignorance and arrogance. I am learning.

Not wanting to stretch a point but this has made me think. Maybe the plants aren’t so dissimilar to us. Showing our beauty to those who truely see us, who care and nurture. Beauty seen in difference as the lens of expecting familiarity is removed.

On the train

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People say

Maybe you shouldn’t

use the train.

Others say

it’s fine.

Detailed safety advice

is given.

On the train

amongst ordinary people

the perceived atmosphere

of fear and suspicion

the sea of stern faces

seems impenetrable

until it is shattered

by a simple smile

offered

and returned.

The walls come tumbling down

and I feel safe.

Who would have thought it’d be

such a powerful demolition weapon.

To initiate the exchange

can take a little courage

can seem a risk

but the reward of the inevitable response

far out-weighs the cost.

Cameos of humanity:

old ladies chattering

wearing woolen hats despite the heat,

a man with two small children squirming,

someone casually flicking through a paper,

a teenage girl playing music,

a man with a crutch and a red Liverpool cap.

For each, a smile is all it takes

to connect humanity to humanity.

I like taking the train

with the beautiful people of Cape Town

none of them ordinary

each of them precious.

Photo credit: Rudi Novem

All poems and original writing on this blog are Copyright © Hilary Murdoch 2012