Tag Archives: growth

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.

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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

Looking back, Looking forward… A New Year Reflection

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New Year: a good time for reflection.

A good time for looking back, to see where you’ve come from, what you are grateful for and what you have learnt.

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And a good time for looking forward, to be intentional about where you are going.

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For the past few years I’ve taken a day or half day out, on my own, sometime in January to reflect and have found it incredibly helpful. You don’t have to go away to reflect, an hour or two in a park or coffee shop may be sufficient for you. You can write in proper grown up sentences, or scribble and spider diagram in colourful scrawl, whatever you like (I personally prefer the latter). I have shared below a few questions for reflection that might be helpful.

I’ve written before about the value of stopping to reflect. If you are looking for a place to go on a retreat in the UK this is a useful site. In South Africa there are also many retreat places but one I particularly love is Volmoed, near Hermanus. Two books I have found really helpful for retreats have been ‘May I have this Dance’ by Joyce Rupp and ‘Landmarks’ by Margaret Silf.

LOOKING BACK 

1.       Gratitude

What are you grateful for?… all the little and big things that have been special to you in the past year, the people who have been kind, the unexpected treasures, the beautiful things you have seen in nature and in people, the ways you have grown and changed…

2.      Challenges

What were the challenges and difficult things? – List them and think about how you feel about them now. For each of them spend time reflecting on whether you have learnt anything through it, or grown through it… is there anything good that has come from it? For some of the challenges you’ve listed you may not be able to see any good from it yet, that’s fine, you may see it with hindsight later.

3.      Learnings

What were the themes of what you have learnt about yourself, others, life and God?

Are there particular words or a phrase that sums up the year?

If you want to, talk to God about the things you’ve written down

–          thank him for what you are grateful for and what he’s teaching you

–          talk to him about the challenges… ask for his help and healing and thank him for where there is good that’s come even from difficult things.

LOOKING FORWARD:

 1.      Fears

What are you fearful/nervous about?

2.       Hopes and Dreams

What are your hopes and dreams for the coming year?… in different areas of your life… home, friends, family, work, community, spiritual journey. Are there any changes you need to make or actions you need to take this year to move towards these hopes and dreams?

3.      Invitation

What positive growth do you feel you are being invited into in the coming year?

If you want to, talk to God about the things you’ve written down

–          Tell him about your fears, tell him how you feel. Release each thing, situation or person to God, placing it in his hands and choosing to trust him in each area.

–          Share your hopes and dreams with him, invite him into each of the areas of your life. Ask for his help in the areas of your life where you know you need to make a change.

–          Talk to him about his invitation and what he wants to do in and through you this coming year – choose to step into the new year with him, to see his good plans come about.

The Vine – ‘less is more’ (Fruitful Insights #1)

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I’ve written a post about fruitfulness and productivity which is a kind of introduction to these ‘fruitful insights’ posts.

When I first visited South Africa in 2007/2008, I spent my first ever summer Christmas with my close friends, the Koch family. They lived in a house surrounded by vineyards, which belonged to his father before him. They grew the grapes to sell to the Franschhoek cooperative. I was there in January, on the eagerly awaited and carefully timed first day of harvest and I went out with the others to pick grapes.

Enthusiastically, I approached a healthy looking vine with lots of green growth, expecting to find juicy grapes. But lifting the plentiful foliage I found, to my genuine surprise and disappointment, tiny little bunches of scrawny half formed grapes. Definitely not worth picking.

I tried that a few times and found the same. Later I went to a sparse looking vine with hardly any green growth. I didn’t think it looked very good and wasn’t expecting much but as I looked below the low branches I gasped at the humungous bulging juicy bunches underneath. That seriously taught me to judge the fruit by the amount of activity/visible green branches!

I think God knew that I needed to see this visually for the truth to really sink in.  I had been reflecting on Chapter 15 in the book of John in the Bible which talks about God being the vine and us being the branches; about how we need to remain in him to have life to the full and it also talks about how pruning is needed for fruitfulness. I had also been reading a little book called ‘Secrets of the Vine’ by Bruce Wilkinson. One of the themes in the book  was that ‘less is more’ – that often, as excessive activity is pruned back, our fruitfulness can increase.

This hugely challenged me at the time, having just left a very busy, ‘productive’ season of my life, living and working in London, doing business consultancy for 6 years and heading into a period of 6 months when I wasn’t ‘working’, almost for the first time since I went to school. I was tired and I didn’t feel my life was very fruitful. That first 6 months in South Africa didn’t feel very ‘productive’ and yet looking back on it I could recognise that it was probably one of the most fruitful seasons of my whole life: both in what God was doing in me and also what God did in others through me.

That insight from the vine was extremely well timed for me.

Sometimes we are so ‘busy’ with productive activity and rushing around that we may not see the opportunities for fruitfulness under our noses. Or we may not have the space or time for others, for ourselves, for God; the space that is often needed for deep fruitfulness to happen. Sometimes we need to be intentional about creating that space, and even saying no to some things in order to do that.