February Writing 2021

February 1st

From Frances

Based on Isaiah 43

Now you’ve asked me to be your guide, you will know that we tread the path of life together. That means, for you, there will be a new way, a new normal, a new experience. We will be so team spirited that those meandering paths in life will seem straight and the landscape flat to walk on. I will be your shelter, your living water, your nourishment for life’s journey. You can look back, but it will offer you so little reward that you will want to face forward and move forwards. The view will fulfil you completely. Your perception will be clear. No matter what lies ahead, you will know that all is possible with me. You will not need to be afraid. You will see families, friends and nations come together and be reconciled. Enough of this ‘walking solo’. We will have a community focus. I am doing something new. I am bringing a new desire for unity, a new perspective to treasure and you will all want to remain responsible for its care, because you will see that I care for you with a love that is deep, strong, and unquantifiable because of its magnitude.

You know that, like many before you, you have had eras of your life that have left you dry and wanting. You have walked those desert paths! All life tries to protect itself from the rays of the sun, the piercing sun, that burns as though it has doubled in size and intensity. In your desert era, you tried desperately to escape from it but there was no shelter and no way to progress pain free. On those desert paths, walking, hopping, or running burns underfoot, scolds and forms sores on your skin. Anything and everything made your own desert era worse and there was nowhere and no way to hide, though you tried. Desert travel turns the sensations of thirst and hunger into close enemies. Your own desert experience made enemies of your own mind, body, and soul. You endured the valleys of life’s arduous paths whilst being chained to false hope for better times ahead. Those times were like deceptive paths of promise that are steep, rocky, and dangerous to climb. In that time of your life, you longed to see a fresh landscape heralding better times ahead because you felt your life was at stake.

But you can be reassured, pilgrim, your life is safe because I am the author of life. I do not deal death in the way people often understand death. People understand death as an end, as if life is finite but I am without beginning or end and I work outside of time. My time is in the eternal era of ‘everlasting’. You are my creation and life, your life, doesn’t end. Your life is precious to me because I formed you. As your creator, we will always have an indelible connection. There isn’t even anything I would give you up for. I have everything and you are treasured part of my everything. There’s no one I would give you to. Why would I give you to someone or something that I have created, that I already own? I wouldn’t even want to put you under someone else’s authority. To do so wouldn’t make any sense. What would be the point of giving you to someone who would not love you as I love you? I would never part from you because my love and compassion for you is perfect and insurmountable.

So, let’s talk while we walk this journey called life . . .

©Frances Burton


February 17th

Ash Wednesday

As memories of pancakes vanish
the Lenten offering awaits
for bowed heads and contrite hearts.
Humanly torn crosses lie dismantled,
echoing past and present human conflicts,
along with self-made, bewildering human pain
that numbs and paralyses the mind.
But those crosses are blessed,
purified by God’s cleansing fire,
igniting the promise of growth to come.
Blended by drops of healing, Holy oil.
Ready to be used as a witness
to God’s great forgiveness and everlasting Love.
Strengthened with a million uttered prayers
from every race and nation,
And outstretched helping hands,
so that we can live with renewed strength –
in God’s Faith, Hope and Love

Helen McNichol


February 22nd

A reflection from Frances:

The Lord is the Greatest Creator

The Lord is the greatest creator and we are full of joy.

Built into the laws of the universe,
hope can be found in disaster
and we are included so we can bring hope
and light up love as the answer.

Integral to the laws of the universe,
growth is seen in unforeseen places
and deep inside we thirst to thrive
and do the unexpected.

Innate within the laws of the universe,
We can find peace in discord and separation,
and we are included so that we can bring
accord and reparation.

Inherent in the laws of the universe,
There is a pure source of patience,
And we are included so we can resource
patience in static situations.

The Lord is the greatest creator and we are full of joy.

Reflection on Psalm 126 verse 3 by Frances Burton


 

January Writing 2021

January 17th

Two reflective pieces of creative writing from Helen:
‘Thoughts during a Cold Spell.’

A Changing World

We went to bed with temperatures falling,
and awoke to a changed, white, still World,
reminiscent of Winter coverings
in closed holiday homes.
And a bleary-eyed sun struggled to shine,
but ice-encrusted grass blades rose up,
ready for moral combat.
Piles of dormant, brown, Autumn leaves –
transformed into jewel-decked treasures.
The robin puffed up his feathers,
as we put on another jumper,
and found our protective clothing.
The elderly stayed at home,
while youngsters slide on ice with glee.
Motorists muttered quietly
as they scraped away the clinging frost,
to give them clearer vision
What are our homeless thinking?
Will they survive another night?
With God’s help and strength we will survive
to face and help a changing World.
Helen McNicholl.

Thoughts on a late afternoon Winter Walk

Thoughtfully I kicked my way
through motionless leaves,
fallen from resting trees.
Suddenly a breath of the Holy Spirit
sent the leaves flying and twirling.
A glorious resurrection before my eyes,
filling my heart with hope and joy.
Words from long ago were remembered;
uttered by a ‘wheelchair bound’ Joan.
“Oh Joy, when I’m in God’s Kingdom
I will walk, run and dance again.”
Do we try to dance to your tune God?
A seagull was perched on an old telegraph pole,
an avian refugee from coastal parts,
sampling Birmingham’s kind inclusiveness.
Was he dreaming of distant waves,
beating against rugged cliffs and ledges,
which once were home and company?
Or was he just thinking
‘I am King of the Castle’ ?
Who reigns supreme in our lives?
Gazed in wonder at the day’s last trumpet call,
overwhelmed by the colours of the setting sun.
How often have we missed the vision –
working late, pulling curtains?
Silhouetted, stripped trees were standing proud,
Their pure shapes visible for all to see.
No disguise or pretence.
Has Advent de-cluttered us?
The warmth of home beckoned
like the stable long ago welcoming shepherds.
Thank you Lord that you welcome all
to the home of your heart.
Helen McNicholl.


November Writing 2020

November 10th

Crossing Over

The evening was closing in
with shadows lengthening
As Jesus found a boat
and a willing crew of disciples
for a gentle crossing, so they thought.
How often do we hope for calm,
when all can be shattered in an instant?
Suddenly a storm raged all around them,
sending up mountain high waves,
like man-made dreams and plans,
only to crash and swamp the deck.
The wind tearing at clothes and hair,
control of thought and mind gone.
All that remained was dreaded fear,
A human, untamed inner instinct –
But our Saviour heard their cries of…

HELP

The same cry that echoes now
through a hundred million prayers.
In a world of unknown certainties
His answer, the same forever.

BE STILL

Listen to my words
I am here at all times
With Fatherly love and understanding
to lead you though unknown waters,
and cross you over to a safe shore,
here and now, and into eternity.

©Helen, November 2020


 

October Writing 2020

October 19th

God’s Gifts

One morning an engulfing, mysterious mist
scattered pearls over grass and webs,
heralding the passing Summer.
Awakening us to a bountiful, God-given Autumn,
resplendent with His promised gifts,
and the work of human hands.

The oxygen-giving heroes of trees and bushes
start wearing newly coloured robes
of yellow, gold and earthy brown,
While others burst into flaming reds,
enough to stop the World
and take away our breath.
Remembering the God-revealing burning bush
and past evening ‘fire-side watching’,
seeing glowing pictures and dreaming dreams.

Leaves begin to crave a rest.
Twist, float and tumble down to Earth,
covering all before them
with magical, mosaic-like patterns.
There are popping, flying, scattered seeds
for birds and animals alike.
Hidden, stored and eaten in plenty.
Will that industrious squirrel
ever find his hidden treasure?

Parent weary birds rest,
Restoring and preening battered feathers,
while others escape from Winter’s unknown forecast.
Bees make a last search for nectar pure and sweet
in flowerbeds, fields and heather-clad hills.
Barns filled with life-giving grain
to sustain our daily needs,
and humans gather bulging goodness
from across our land.

The agonising cry of the fox
echoes through the air, searching for love.
While human tears fall for answering prayers,
and our hearts sing silently.
God, may all be safely gathered in
for everyone across the World.

© Helen McNicholl October 2020


October 7th

Falling?

A ripe rosy apple has fallen from the tree
It lies alone, glistening in the rain-soaked grass until
A small brown black slug slides across the skin looking for
A place to enter and spread the rot
Like the doubts and anxieties entering my thoughts to spread discontentment
Shall despair takes hold?
No!
I remove the slug
I wash the apple clean then
Like Eve I invite you to share it.

© Barbara Rolison, Kingdom Arts, 2020


 

September Writing 2020

September 21st

Two pieces of writing concerned with this month’s theme of New Beginnings.

Starting Afresh

We left behind
the steep wooden stairs,
the wilderness garden
with the rosemary bushes
and the pale pink roses
against their stately arch.

Some regrets, Yet God gives us strength
for today and for all that tomorrow brings,

We had to refurbish the new bungalow
new carpets, new curtains, new kitchen
with primrose yellow paint throughout.
Everything new, fitting in our belongings
to make it a home.

Still some regrets, Yet God gives us strength
for today and all that the future brings.

Two years on we are settled in.
White roses grow on brickwork
near the front latticed window.
Rosemary, geraniums and lavender flourish.
No regrets only pleasure and joy
at creation human and divine.

While still God loves us; His compassion fails not.
He carries us beyond our future into eternity.

©Rosemary Orr, September 2020

Beginnings: Taste, Touch and See

There is something exciting about New Beginnings.

Like opening a new untouched book. Or starting a new page of a journal to write in. Running my hand over the clean page and smelling the freshness of paper. Or tasting that new bread recipe straight from the oven. Taste, touch and see beginnings.

What about opening the curtains and watching the new dawn break and sun begin its journey on a new day. Another Covid-19 lockdown walk early in the morning. When the mist still lingers between the trees and the leaves are changing colour as they begin their journey towards letting go. Dying that they may help feed new life. Amazing nature. A new day begins…. Beginnings, Taste, Touch and See.

So many changes, changes bringing new challenges and stretching our inner resources to embrace new beginnings as we learn to let go of the old ways of being, doing and living. Beginnings, Taste, Touch and See.

Life is filled with beginnings and endings. A time and season for all things. This world is forever changing. Yet it reminds me of the Truth. There is One who was at The Beginning of all things.

In the beginning was the word, And the word was with God. And the word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

There were those who had seen Him. Touched Him. Smelt Him and tasted of Him. They wrote. “That which was from the beginning, which we have seen and heard. We have looked at and our hands have touched. This we are telling you and want you to know”. New beginnings are stirring and bringing new ways of living, doing and being.

So now we continue to have a new challenge in Kingdom Arts of how to connect, to share and express ourselves to each other….to fellowship in a new way. Let’s remember it’s all about Him. The One who helps us, who never changes and remains Faithful to His word. A new day, a new way. He is our beginning and He will be there at the end. Never changing.

Shefali September 2020


September 15th

Two pieces by Rosemary Orr

Conquest

We chose the rocky beach,
having walked too long
on strands of silk,
down avenues of lush green.

Now we needed a challenge,
stumbling across stones, boulders,
slipping into pools of slime,
dense murky algae.

We chose the rocky beach
pockmarked our feet,
but we had been somewhere,
leaving not just footprints
in the sand.

God’s Garden

Garden of deep peace
nestling in strong sunlight.
Here we pray for strength,
for encouragement in difficult times.
Nearby daffodils and cowslips
rustle in the cold wind.

The garden is empty
save for the two of us.
We drink some orange juice,
then the early Spring sun
bids us slowly depart.


September 8th

David New has continued to ponder the theme of creation from previous months and has called to mind trees from various periods of his life that have been significant for him:-

REMEMBERED TREES

Seven stately Ash
marked the path that ran
beyond the end
of my childhood garden.
Gentle southwest winds
rustling the branches
“had language for me.”

Pollarded willows
edged the banks
of the old mill stream
while we lazed
in the water-meadow field
with vetch and buttercup and buzzing bugs,
eating double-decker sandwiches.

Towering Elms
crowning the hill of
Beckenham golf course
with trunks too big to be hugged
even by us two boys.
Alas the nineteen sixties
swept them all away!

Golden pendules of Laburnum
overhung the pavement
from garden fronts
of suburban brick-box homes;
brightening up
the daily walk to school.

One big Chestnut tree
covered the corner
of the school playground.
Elegant white candles in the spring;
Abundant summer foliage;
And in the autumn,
Conkers galore.
Overwhelming generosity
from the Creator.
And all for fun!

Bright white slender trunks
mark the parking lots
for fossil-fuelled family cars.
But tiny dancing leaves
are no match
for the carbon-footprint need.
Yet still the white bark shines.

David New 2020


 

August Writing 2020

August 8th
Dandelions

Paradoxical dandelions appear everywhere,
so often not wanted or admired.
Torn up by despairing gardeners,
long roots clinging on like expert mountaineers,
creating chaos on manicured lawns.
But those who really look…
‘What beauty! A joyous, uplifting colour,
like home-spun golden cloth’,
adding piquancy to salad bowls,
and vitamins to spur us on.
But they have the last laugh,
as ‘blown clocks’, they fly with ease
to pastures new in mischievous glee.

©2020 Helen McNichol

God’s garden

The harebells ring out their news,
the Summer is on the turn.
Wild rose petals fall like confetti
Letting the hips fill with goodness.
Bird’s-foot-trefoil and the heather
Ooze with luscious tempting nectar,
ready for the magic touch of bees
turning their harvest into liquid gold.
Children love the clinging cleavers,
sending laughter ringing through the air.
‘He loves me, he loves me not…’
Swinecress mysteriously powders our motorways
like the waves at their native seaside.
Foxgloves sway in the breeze,
oblivious to their future hearty cures.
The honeysuckle’s perfume fills the air,
to join the myriad of other scents
from Earth’s flowering garden.
Along with healing herbs and thoughts,
and ripening nuts and berries,
creating nature’s patchwork quilt.
Resplendent in colour, beauty and form,
to fulfil God’s everlasting gift.

©2020 Helen McNichol


 

July Writing 2020

July 28th

Three short pieces by Rosemary Orr

Prayer

Let me sow peace with wisdom in these difficult times, Let me sow ardour with love in the hearts of all mankind. Give me dignity and patience as I walk life’s winding path, spreading Your blessings to others, keeping us in Your loving arms.

High Street Antics

It’s May and the sun burns on my face.
Four pigeons approach. We watch.
They strut past, flying on to rooftops, then joined by gulls clamour and cry. Shortly a toddler drops a sandwich on the ground. The birds peck then devour playing hockey with the crumbs, soon swooping into currents of warm air.

Returning to Worcester Cathedral, open for prayer in Lockdown.

The yellow stickers on the marble floor like the entrance and exit signs mark social distancing: no longer a holy huddle praying, three of us strangers yet pilgrims, aeons apart in bright sunlight as candles flicker. Ahead the candlestands, by the altar a trinity of light, love and prayer, beckon, and as we leave their flame reverberates in our now warm hearts.

© Rosemary Orr July 2020


July 19th
Everyone Matters

God, You are the Holy Three in One.
We arrive into this chequered World,
a blessed threesome,
man, woman and soul combined.
Different in colour, creed and custom,
but all washed with Your inclusive love.
Who makes the parting of the ways?
The placing into groups.
False valuation of ability and grace.
Unequal sharing of goods.
Disabilities harshly labelled.
Sightless eyes, never seeing beyond the colour.
Quick fire of insults and jeers.
Lack of understanding and passion.

Help us to blend our skills,
fulfilling the need for each other
in equal cooperative measure.
The intertwining of respect and love,
with a mixing of talent and ideas,
and rejoicing in changing ways.
Filling the World with vibrating music
of creative difference.
Being part of each others growth
in a fairer, God driven World.
Sharing His life-giving blood with everyone
so that the lamb can lie down with the wolf
in hope and peace
within a fruitful, caring union.

© Helen McNichol July 2020


 

June 2020 Writing

June 24th
Psalm 104 v 14

He makes grass grow for the cattle, and plants for people to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth

I have been helping to clear an allotment of all the rubbish dumped on it.

As I read the above verse I think before good things can grow and we can plant, the ground must be prepared.
I have collected bags and bags of rubbish that need to go to the tip, which I visited today.
It took 1½  hours in the queue before I got to the actual tip. When I was emptying the bags into the crusher, I had the thought that I am so thankful that there is no queue to wait to see God before I can tip out all the internal rubbish in my life and in my thoughts.
As I watched the rubbish, that had been stopping any plants from growing on the land, go into the crusher I thanked Jesus that He does not treat us as our sins deserve; and God has promised that He will not crush us, and a bruised reed He will not break; and I wondered why we wait so long to bring our rubbish to him, where we don’t have to wait, or to queue, or keep a 2 metre distance or wear a mask, and He is never shut or closed.

If we give him our rubbish, our mistakes and messes, then the soil of our lives can produce crops and fruit that God plants and creates and cultivates. I am thankful

© Shefali Hollis
Ordinary Time, can it be?

Thousands dead,
Masks covering faces and fear,
Children stopped in play,
Distances kept,
Church bells silent.

But it is still God’s time.
Lifting hope heavenward,
Blessing the help from every hand,
Recharging praying lips,
The ever presence of Divine love.

Always God’s time.
Keeping alive His Holy Flame,
Stirring hearts with Good News,
Spreading true love across the World,
Now and into Eternity.
© Helen McNichol  June 2020

June 12th
Creation

We hear the words:
Keep your distance, keep your distance.
But our Triune God is saying,
“Come Closer, Come Closer”.
We must listen to His calling,
see His image in Creation,
letting His World vibrate
through our hearts and souls.
Encased within His constant
Love and Care.
Feel the wonder of the sky above us.
a vision of God’s greatness,
an ever-changing backdrop,
with an array of many colours.
Clouds to test our weather people.
A platform for the birds,
to swoop and glide in blissful freedom.
Each day a touch of God’s mystery.
At the breaking of the day,
and the closing in of night.
With stars and moon to lead the way,
His promise of day and night.
Often a scene of our dreams,
and a longing for eternity.
Oceans move around our land
flavoured with the salt
of Holy wisdom,
a cleansing for our souls.
Home for a thousand, thousand
gifts from God.
Sometimes waves lap gently
stilling the soul,
or crashing storms pounding the rocks,
like the power of the Holy Spirit.
Oceans are fed by rivers large and small,
God’s life-blood for the world,
filling arteries of all creatures and plants,
sustaining life and growth.
Embracing Earth with colour,
aroma, purpose and love.
God you are the fulcrum of all life.
Help us to come ever closer
to your unbounded Gift,
nurturing it with healing hands
and God-driven listening souls.

© Helen McNichol June 2020


June 11th
Psalm 23v4
‘Even though I walk through the valley of death, I will fear no evil, for your rod and staff comfort me.’

When there’s
Incessant irritation, incurable illness, or isolation, when
Nights of nonsensical notions nudge and seem never-ending, we
Tire and tread the tumult with thundering terror, as if
Obligated.

But
Tending a new timely thought can become a turning point.
Heavens help and honesty, heaves humanity out of hell. There is an
Encourager, an essential eternal energy which eases the effort, by exposing and excluding evil.

Listening to this light, our life can be full of love.
Inward instinct identifies with this illumination. We
Glimpse glory, grasp a germ seed of grace and grow. In my
Heart, I hope for this harmony throughout humankind where
Triumph over tumult is touched like treasure and trusted as truth.

Frances


June 1st
God’s World

Inspired by Psalm 104

In my head I hear His voice
“Look at the wonders I created”
Rest, breathe, my Spirit is here with you.

Birds sing of God’s bounty, sheltered from the wind; hopping along the lush borders of silver green, ever watchful.
Beyond the holly hedge the sheep, constantly grazing, respond to the ever-present bleat of lambs calling them to succour.
Rest, breathe, my Spirit is here with you.

Flashes of sapphire from water tumbling over rock; bubbles in a tranquil pool where a robin drinks perched on the very edge
Golden carp undulating below the lilies in crystal water surface.
The screech of a peacock disturbs the calm.
Rest, breathe my Spirit is here with you.

Children shout, call, shriek in joyful play.
A mower buzzes far, far away and nearer still the bees.
The scrunch of gravel beneath an arbour; where the smell of damp earth mingles with light, fragrant scents from the fallen petals: crimson, scarlet and rose lie with a sprinkling of pine needles.

The warmth, glories and colours of the world.
All of these touching the senses as I listen
Rest, breathe Rejoice! For my Spirit is here with you.

© Barbara Rolison Kingdom Arts May 2020

Thought for The Day

During the lockdown many of us are working in our gardens, tidying and planting. I’m sure this work is still going on in church grounds throughout the land too.

I hope we can all feel God in our lives during this time of confinement during which many of us are going through hours of solitude…….time alone when gardening too and it occurred to me whilst toiling in the garden, Jesus is a gardener, a gardener of our souls.
He plants the seed of our faith, waters and feeds us thus nourishing us through his teachings, he even prunes our souls if we go astray, then rejoices in watching us bloom into Christian people and just like all flora every one of us is unique and special to him.
I hope this helps to make gardening less arduous for you, knowing that what you are doing for your garden Jesus is doing for you!
Happy Gardening!

Scarlett Hemming

May 2020 Writing

May 18th

If you haven’t read it already, do look at the May 16th entry ‘An Epistle of Hope’, before you read this:

Appendix (to ‘An Epistle of Hope)


Sunshine all day long
The stars in the night sky glow
Heavens diurnal course visible through my bay window
Birdsong in the garden
The lawn an Eden green
Everywhere our Fathers springtime pattern can be seen.
Dainty aubretia follows daffodil trumpets
With colourful roses soon to bloom
Winter is behind us now
At last we are through the gloom
Summer’ s pinks and blues, Autumns copper and gold to inspire and amaze us
But soon the winter light will be upon us
So what?
Our Fathers love will protect us
We watch the rolling of His divine seasons
And know that we are part of Gods perfect plan
No need to reason.
Flesh and bone to foliage and flower
All alike and all a show of Gods heavenly power
I will sing of the Fathers love and glory as long as I live
Our beautiful and bountiful Earth
Praise the Lord O My Soul.

Scarlett Hemming


May 16th

This is a parody of Psalm 23, written for today’s audience during lockdown:

An Epistle of Hope
The Lord Is My Shepherd I shall not want
He makes me lie down in the sunshine of my own garden
He leads me through the stillness of the lockdown
He restores my soul
He leads me in right paths for his name’s sake
Even though I walk through the darkest valley that is Covid 19
I fear no evil
For you are with me
Your rod and staff, codeine and paracetamol comfort me and aid my recovery
You prepare a table before me
Despite panic buying in the supermarket
You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me through the lockdown and all the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
My whole life long.
Scarlett Hemming May 3rd 2020

May 13th
Pentecostal Flames 2020

The rowan froth of white blossom
Will become luscious red berries
Ready to NOURISH our hungry birds
And fill the jelly pots.

The quiet inconspicuous holly flowers
Slowly CHANGE to red iridescent jewels
To deck the homes at Christmas
Heralding our Saviour’s birth.

When raging winds blow
They send wild rose petals flying
Then bulging red hips will grow
Full of God’s RECHARGING food.

The red awakening azalea bush
Is ready to burst forth
In a blaze of blinding colour
Remindful of that burning HOLY bush

Our churches are silent and dark
But the people sing and PRAY
Serving God in a hundred different ways
Greeting the glowing RELEASING Pentecostal flames.

© Helen McNichol, May 2020


May 2nd
Then and Now

Thomas stood outside the door

His head still spinning and aching
with echoes
of that Day

The cruel, unknowing, inflamed crowd,
Shouting,
“Crucify, crucify.”

Women stifling cries of anguish.
People locked in houses,
wracked with fear.

Children with little understanding
filled with future
nightmares.

The driving of the hideous nails
Hammers for building
Not execution

He crept away like Pilate and Judas

But he was in denial, total disbelief
They could not kill his Saviour there on
Calvary

Still at the door, he remembered that word

“Come”

He entered the room
All eyes on him, the doubter
But His Lord’s voice reached his ears
His throbbing head and shaking body calmed
Jesus drew him close, and lovingly led his hands
to feel the water from His side
baptising him once again,
giving peace to his soul.
The healing hands and feet
Filling his veins with
New Life
and Strength to Live Again

—oooOOOooo—

May that miraculous spiritual love
and understanding surround us all
giving us strength to live anew
in faith and hope near to God
Now and into the Future

© Helen McNichol


Two pieces of creative writing from Frances

Luke 10:38-42 New International Version (NIV)
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I Broke the Rules

I’m stuck in a gender twisted society.
But I need to break free.
If scripture was open to me,
I’d sing, “Let me sit at Divine feet
because God’s Word edifies me.”

I must wait ‘til a man reads it to me,
And interprets the Word thoughtfully
through the lens of masculinity.
Naturally, I just sit an’ listen, silently.
But honestly,
I hurt in this “male-female camaraderie”.
Hebrew? Right- just lines to me.
Learning isn’t a woman’s right, you see.
So, I try to commit it memory.
See, my culture has many faces.
Prophets n’ kings in high places:
Adam, Abraham, David, Shem.
Many, many men.
And I’m not saying men of God don’t speak to me –
They do! That’s the point, you see.
I’m a woman who wants to wrestle with theology,
And hear a voice, my voice, with God’s, in harmony.

Who else holds this view, secretly?
Am I the only one? Quite possibly.
Cos, even if we united for our liberty,
Women know, we can’t change society.
I thought, if people knew, they’d slander me,
Ha. They’d say, “Rebel Lady Mary?
You overstep social boundaries.”

Have I prayed for one opportunity?
For a chance to be me, really ME!
Yes – obviously.
Did you hear my plea?
God? Did you really hear me?
Cos, I tell you faithfully,
I never thought I’d see the day,
when I’d have a chance to say,
that not one male head
wanted my cooking, my cleaning,
or held me back from my Hebrew bread!
See, I sat at Jesus’s feet quite openly,
He got me … and my sister-family.
He was and is God to me.
And it’s transformed me.
I radiate his Holy charity,
cos’ I know scripture accepts women like me.

See, I’m a woman whose dreams came true.
I sat with the men
Who meditate ‘em scriptures through
And what’s more, I learnt from a man
who gave me my voice, my platform.
Time stood still and I … I forgot my female form.

Look, I know my story sounds unlikely
But I broke the social rules for all to see.
I’m left with questions buzzing incessantly,
What kind of God encourages rule breakers, like me?
Even speaks of a love that rises higher than conventionality?
And he said …?
Well … isn’t it plain to see?
I broke the rules and he set me free.

Frances Burton

 

Acts 1v14 : “Mary the mother of Jesus stood with the disciples joined together constantly in prayer.”

Praying from a Dusty Floor

My son, Jesus, was executed in a brutal act between religious leaders and the government. The horrors I saw were still vivid in my memory on the day I met the disciples. I hadn’t been able to sleep for days. My jaw and neck muscles were tight and sore with the pain of grief but when we prayed together, even the memories that engulfed me in terror faded along with my worries about the future. The fact that we had all managed to meet there, without being caught and strung up in front of some unofficial council, didn’t seem to be a co-incidence.

No longer sensing the poison of the last few weeks, I sat down opposite the door, leant against the wall and closed my eyes. I began to feel the benefits of rest. I felt held and supported by all of Jesus’s companions around me – we who knew him so well and knew he was a holy man both in the eyes of God and the public. How could I be drawn into such stillness when raw images of his death on the cross had been torturing me? It was an experience that is beyond my comprehension.

That time of prayer was like a meeting with the depths of existence – with that which all things come from, are sustained and will return. By God’s grace, in prayer we began a new journey. It was like receiving a gift and we received it. We said ‘yes’ to it. It reminded me of the moment I said ‘yes’ to giving birth to Jesus. It was the same sense of acceptance.

Everyone’s prayers reached a point beyond words or song. Intuitively, we knew that one person’s words would not be meaningful to the rest of us, so we automatically settled into silence. Every one of us received something different from the silence. Our words could not express what was happening. We all rested on Jesus’s teaching which pointed us to what we needed now – the experience of praying together in communion with God and one another.

There was no sound but from the family in the room underneath us. I began to realise the beauty of everyone in the room … each person created, sustained and loved by God. I think we all saw each other in a new way that day. Any personal boundaries which had divided us turned into a recognition of human vulnerabilities – and we could love one another because we saw ourselves as we really were, all frail and in need of love. I blessed everything I could hear, the donkey braying, a boy who had just started crying and his mother who I could hear consoling him.

For a brief second or two, I opened my eyes and looked around. I noticed how the sheer fear etched onto their facial expressions had fallen away, as if we’d all just escaped a whirlwind of living hell. In my own way, silently to God, I started telling him my nightmares. I was completely honest: the crowds, the Temple, Pilot, Judas, the cross, the way he forgave them on the cross. It all came out until my mind fell silent and I felt peace, rivers of peace.

I began listening internally now. I wasn’t listening for a voice. It was as if I was waiting for the sweet sounds of a flower bud to open. I cast a quick eye onto the door. Only half an hour previously, I’d wanted to be in total darkness and had chosen a place where I could see for myself that no one was entering the room to harm us. But within that short amount of time in prayer, my need for security and blackness was already diminishing. There was a small amount of light, shining through the crack under the closed wooden door and I was pleased it had managed to get through – like a glimmer of hope. The warmth of the sun had penetrated the room and seemed stronger than my need to hide – and actually that felt good. The light picked up the dust on the wooden floor planks.

Nowhere in the world would there be this beam of sunlight shining on the dust on this wooden floor. In a flick of a thought, I saw myself as part of it all. Together, we merged into one and my sense of self disappeared. We shared the same creator. I felt eternity was ingrained within me, the others in the room, the sunlight and the dust and it made me feel intensely alive, as if I was both less and more than I normally am.

Although I didn’t want this moment to end, my mind jumped back to when John and I were at the cross of Jesus. The last thing he said to me was, “Woman, here is your son,” and “John, here is your mother.” Jesus wanted me to have a home, someone who would be family to me – who understood what life had been like and what our faith would mean. The pressure of the past began to catch up with me again and I felt as though I’d lost the deep peace I’d been blessed with just moments before.

At that point, I remember my eyes beginning to fill with tears and I prayed, “God help! Your peace is running away. I can’t hold onto it.” I poured out to Him how those last words sounded and how it felt to lose a son, branded a criminal and God heard me and His peace stayed me in that moment and comforted me in my anger. I know I am never alone nor could I be ever alone. “Love your neighbour,” my son had taught us. “Love your neighbour” and “God is love.” All three necessary, all three one and the same.

I glanced around the room again. There was Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. There God was in each of them – the love of God, expressed in infinite variety! And, I knew too that the love we have for others would also be expressed in infinite variety.

Instinctively, I asked for God’s blessing on each one of them and when I asked for his blessing on myself as well, I felt a deeply nourishing warmth in my heart and mind and soul. I knew that we, as a group, were going to heal, relieve suffering, be peace-makers, cultivate justice, preach and teach. We were going to continue what Jesus started. And in that moment, I knew what my role would become.

I am a woman of prayer and I desired an inner path – a life where each day would rise and return to silence, where each moment of silence would surround all those who followed a life of love for God. My sense about what our future would involve evoked a question, “Where do we start?” But I made no attempt to answer it – for it was not my answer that I needed to wait for. I let the question float in the air of that upper room.

The hours felt timeless and complete, still, strong and reassuring, like a boat’s anchor in a turbulent sea. I can clearly remember how I didn’t want this time to end but it did of course. And everything that happened afterwards was the fruit of this time of prayer.

Since then, we have had many times of trial and we have lost sight of that experience at times too. When that happens, we are honest with each other and we re-group and rest until we can forgive ourselves of anything that stops us being in communion. We pray to God that the challenges in our journeys won’t become overwhelming. Even the smallest of negative thoughts can have tremendous power to rock us by building fear within us along with an increasing feeling of powerlessness. We all have those times and we are not alone. From that perspective, humans are not so different from each other. The disciples and I have found that coming to God, as open and as honestly as we can helps us. We do so as often as we can. It allows us to open up to a deeper and more fulfilling truth, which is that we are an unspeakable mystery at one with God. We know that our lives are fleeting, as fleeting as the position of one of those specks of dust caught in the light on that wooden floor.

Frances Burton

Based on a book by Simon Small entitled: From the Bottom of the Pond – The forgotten art of experiencing God in the depths of the present moment


April 2020 Writing

April 21st
Reflections on our world

In the blessing of the morning
Early shafts of sunlight stream through the branches.
Reflections on the watery surface ripple in the slightest breeze
A draft that flutters the leaves and causes petals of cherry blossom
to slowly drift onto the canal and float.
The piercing cry of moorhen and louder trills of the blackbird
whose chorus hails the new day.
A glimpse of hawthorn soon to open in fragrant white billows.
My senses are alert, all is hushed and I am stilled
In this moment of quiet solitude
I thank God.

© Barbara Rolison, April 2020


April 15th
Be Still and Know that I am God

I’ve heard they’re coming today,
They’re passing through our village.
I wonder, if I prepare some food, will they come and eat with us?
I could get the best dishes out,
I could cook something special,
I could put a clean cloth on the table,
I’ll sweep the floor, and dust around.
So much to do, So little time.

I hear voices, Are they here already?
I’ll run and meet them.
Jesus, Jesus, would you come to my house today?
Come and rest awhile. Join us for lunch.
So you’ll come? It won’t take me long to get the food ready.

The Master enters the house. He sees Mary.
Martha busies herself with preparing lunch.
But Mary sits at Jesus’ feet.
She listens to his every word.
Fascinated by the stories he tells,
The truths he reveals, the love he expresses.
Transfixed by his presence, her heart is at peace.
Caught up in the moment, her anxieties slip away.

“Lord, Lord, don’t you care, Mary’s not helping me!
She’s left me to do all the work by myself.
She just sits there as if there was nothing to do.
It’s not fair. I am doing all this on my own!”

“Martha, Martha. It’s ok. I am with you such a short while.
So little time to share with you the truths of the kingdom.
Truths that will sustain you in the days ahead.
You have such high expectations of yourself
For everything to look right, — to be just so.
Mary has opened her heart as she has listened to me.
She has received my love. She has given me her time.
She has been filled with eternal truth
No-one can take that away from her.”

So, I reflect,
And I see within myself two very different parts.
The one -full of agendas, things to do, people to see.
The other-longing for his presence, His peace.
Am I free to choose, which one will I be today?
Will I rush and stress, exhausted with self-imposed deadlines and expectations?
Or will I slow down, will I sit at his feet, and listen to His will for me?
Peace, perfect peace.

Ruth Campsall
Luke 10: 38-42


April 2nd
A renewed Resurrection

They nailed Him to the cross
With companions on either side
Storm clouds grew darker
Earth preparing to break apart
Birds flying unsettled
Scattering for shelter
Woman’s tears falling silently
From horror-struck bodies
The soldiers tossing lots
For ill-gotten gains
The braying fickle crowds
Thinking they knew best
But the sacrificial forgiving Jesus
Poured love on all he saw
He stretched out his hands
To believers and questioners alike
His feet pointed to God’s created earth
The land he knew and loved
His head so near the God
He worshipped and adored
There on the cross
Man and God were one.

Can we in this world’s crucifixion time
Become one with God
Reflecting His Holy teaching and caring
Drawing nearer to each other
Crossing divides of hearts and bodies
Honouring our diverse planet
Helping healing and new growth
Letting the rhythm of his words
Beat through our hearts
Washing away our fears
Replacing tears with hope
Lord hear our prayers
And lead us to a renewed resurrection
Under the shelter of your
Everlasting Love.

©2020 Helen McNicholl

 


Easter Garden Haiku