Deadheading is for the Birds

I don’t usually upload two posts in a day but this is an exception – tomorrow’s post is being uploaded early because tomorrow my blog is moving and I will not be able to add content. Hopefully those of you who visit the blog will not notice any changes – except that by the end of the day there should no longer be advertisements at the end of the posts. If you do have problems please bear with us – we hope that the change will make it easier to expand the resources available on the site and give us more freedom in what types of files we are able to upload. The url will change to but if traffic will continue to be redirected from the old site.  So with that preamble….

Dahlias in the garden

Yesterday morning I shared about spirituality and gardening in a class at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. It was a beautiful morning and we were able to wander in the local pea patch for part of the time. Beautiful dahlias are still in bloom and the fragrance of roses wafted on the air. Rosemary, thyme and oregano waited to be crushed in hands to share their fragrance as well. But in the midst of the beauty there was also brokenness and death. Giant thistle seed heads ready to blow away on the wind. Piles of dead leaves, and much to our disgust dirty syringes and broken bottles.

thistle head

Our instinct was to  pull out the dying plants, deadhead the summer blooms and “tidy up”. We don’t like untidy spaces and we like even less, the brokenness it sometimes uncovers. We wanted to throw away the syringes and pretend that the brokenness of the city had not invaded this tranquil space.

But is that really what we should be doing? Evidently those untidy and seemingly dead flowers are an important source of nourishment for the birds over the winter. And the corners full of dead leaves provide warm hiding places for insects, frogs and other garden animals.

Maybe the brokenness of our world has a purpose too we speculated. Perhaps as the birds find nourishment from the seemingly dead flowers, we too find nourishment in the midst of the death and brokenness of our souls. And maybe those “dead leaves” are good places for us to hide too so that we can be protected from the wounds still too painful to bear. If we clean them up too quickly before they have done their winter work maybe our lives will suffer.

We grow closer to God in times of sorrow and heartache then we do when everything is going well. We find healing more rapidly when we recognize and face our pains and brokenness then we do in the height of “summer” when everything in our lives seems as sunny as the weather.

This wander in the garden provided some encouraging and challenging lessons for me. I know there are still broken areas in my life that I would love to tidy away right now. And as I look at my loved ones and my friends I see places in their lives I would like to tidy up as well. But God says be patient, make sure you nourish and protect them until God says it is time to tidy up.


Making Sacred Memorials from Our Memories.

Rock of remembrance

Thinking about All Saints Day has, not surprisingly brought back memories of my mother. This morning images of her last illness flooded in, triggered by looking at my rock collection, which I often use as a focus for prayer. My hands moved unwaveringly to my rock of remembrance. Running my fingers over its bands of light and dark bound seamlessly together into a solid whole, made me think – joy and sorrow intertwining in my life to make me whole.

Recalling memories like this is important for our own health and healing. I see myself again back in the hospital beside her bed – laughing and crying with her, telling her I love her, reading to her about Scotland the home of her ancestors, reminiscing about our childhood, sharing photos, praying and just sitting quietly beside her my heart aching as she journeys through these last challenging days.

Other events triggered memories this last week too. At the St Francis Day celebrations at our church the vicar prayed for stuffed animals, not something I would ever have thought important. However this time it had me in tears. One of my nephews had given my mother a stuffed dog – Spot – for a previous hospital trip and Spot provided amazing comfort through her final illness. She died with it in her hands.

Memories of those we love and those who have impacted our lives last forever. We can never replace what has been lost, but as we make new connections and new meaningful relationships, these memories help shape us into a new reality. Instead of denying our feelings, our memories help us listen, change and grow into the future.

Celebrations like All Saints Day are important times not just to remember those that have gone whom we loved and who shaped our lives, but also to reflect on how they continue to shape and grow us.

All Saints Day can convert memories into sacred memorials, markers along the way of our own journey. They encourage us to remember the acts of God in our past and the intimate moments of love we have shared. This is one important way that we connect to the acts of God in the present and learn to trust and hope for the promises of God in the future.This is a good time to ask yourself: Am I living true to the character and integrity of those who challenged, mentored and shaped us? What new ways might God prompt me to change as a result of their influence?

Other People’s Words by Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Today’s post is by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and a newly released memoir, Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis.


A friend tells me she has no words left. I get it. Oh, do I get it. She tells me she doesn’t even have words to pray. I get that, too. I’ve been there more times than I can remember, when the words just won’t come, when I stare out the window at the blue or the gray or the black sky, wanting to pray, and I have no words.
I’m there now.
I sit at my computer, staring out the café window at the blue awning of Ken’s Market and the yellowing birch trees beyond it and the clouded sky beyond them, and I’m supposed to be writing a post about prayer, and I have no words. I spent them all on my book.

What do you do when words fail you? What do you do when you can’t pray?

My friend who’s run out of words tells me that for the better part of a year, her prayer life consisted of reading Streams in the Desert day after day after day.

And I realize that I do that, too—turn to others’ words when I don’t have my own. It’s why I’m such an avid reader, and why I own so many prayer books. When I can’t generate words of my own, I simply read the words of someone else. If I have enough energy, I ingest them. These days, I don’t have enough energy. So I just murmur the words on my lips or send them silently from my eyes to my brain. It feels so…not enough.

But I’ve been here before, so I’m learning that this weary wordlessness will pass and that keeping the faith is not a matter of generating anything at all, not emotions, not passion, not desire, not even words. It’s a matter of faithfulness. Hence, faith.

So I open Daily Strength for Daily Needs, and I read these words of Julian of Norwich:

He showed me a little thing, the quantity of a hazel-nut, lying in the palm of my hand, as meseemed, and it was as round as a ball. I looked thereon with the eye of my understanding, and thought, “What may this be?” and it was answered generally thus, “It is all that is made.”

I marveled how it might last; for methought it might suddenly have fallen to naught for littleness. And I was answered in my understanding, “It lasteth, and ever shall: For God loveth it. And so hath all things being by the love of God.”

In this little thing I saw three properties. The first is, that God made it. The second is, that God loveth it. The third is, that God keepeth it.

For this is the cause which we be not all in ease of heart and soul: for we seek here rest in this thing which is so little, where no rest is in: and we know not our God that is all Mighty, all Wise, and all God, for He is very rest. God wills to be known, and it pleaseth Him that we rest us in Him. For all that is beneath Him, sufficeth not us.

And I trust (sort of) that God will hear these words on my lips and know that I want to believe them, want to ingest them, want to make them mine, even though I’m feeling listless and stale and oh so tired. I want to find my rest in God. I do. Because I am that tired. I want to know God loves me. Because I am that vulnerable and small right now, a mere hazel-nut of a human being. I want to believe that God made me. Because the voice of materialism hisses in my ears, trying to tell me that I am dust, no more, no less, and certainly not God-breathed.

And so I read Mother Julian’s words, again and again and again. I have no words of my own. But I have hers. And since we are both in Christ, we are the same body. Her words are my words, the cry of my heart, the longing of my soul, the prayer on my lips.

For anyone who finds no words to pray, there is a wealth of riches in our heritage as Christians. I highly recommend Daily Strength for Daily Needs and Streams in the Desert as well as The Book of Common Prayer and Phyllis Tickle’s three-book series The Divine Hours. All have Scripture, prayers, poetry, and prose to feed your starving soul during those times of spiritual drought that we all encounter from time to time.

A Prayer by Teresa of Avilia

This beautiful prayer was posted on Light for the Journey by Micha Jazz this morning – enjoy

Santa Teresa de Avila, pintura vidrio en Convento de Santa Teresa. From from the Wikimedia Commons.

Monday is here and so an appropriate prayer for the week from St Teresa of Avila, the great Carmelite reformer and nurturer of St John of the Cross.

I am Thine, and born for Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Sov’reign Lord upon Thy throne,
Endless Wisdom, One and Whole,
Goodness that does feed my soul,
Good and great, One God alone:
Vile Thou seest me, yet Thine own,
As I sing my love for Thee.
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Thine I am, for Thou didst make me;
Thine, for Thou alone didst save me;
Thine–Thou couldst endure to have me;
For Thine own didst deign to take me.
Never once didst Thou forsake me.
Ruined were I but for Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

What, O good and loving Lord,
Wilt Thou have this creature do?
This Thy slave, a sinner too,
Waiting till she hears Thy word?
With Thy will in close accord,
Sweetest Love, I come to Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Take, O Lord, my loving heart:
See, I yield it to Thee whole,
With my body, life and soul
And my nature’s every part.
Sweetest Spouse, my Life Thou art;
I have given myself to Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Let me live, or let me die;
Give me sickness, give me health;
Give me poverty or wealth;
Let me strive or peaceful lie.
Weakness give or strength supply–
I accept it all of Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Fame or shame I may be given;
Chasten me or make me glad;
Comfort me or make me sad;
Send me hell or grant me Heaven.
Sun, with veil forever riven,
I have yielded all to Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Teach me, if Thou wilt, to pray;
If Thou wilt not, make me dry.
Give me love abundantly
Or unfruitful let me stay.
Sov’reign Master, I obey.
Peace I find not save with Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Give, I pray Thee, wisdom true,
Or remove it all from me;
Plenteous years I fain would see;
Years of drought and leanness too.
Days of light and darkness through,
Send me where Thou’d’st have me be:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

If in ease Thou’lt have me lie,
I accept it for Thy love;
If my constancy Thou’lt prove,
May I suffer till I die.
Tell me, sweetest Love, I cry,
How and when to die for Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Waste or fruitful land be mine,
Tabor’s joy or Calvary’s Cross.
Job be I, with pain and loss,
John, and on Thy breast recline.
Sterile stock or fruitful vine,
As Thou will’st it, may I be:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Joseph, captive once in chains,
Rule in Egypt over all.
David, held in cruel thrall,
Soon a crown and kingdom gains.
Jonah suffers direst pains;
Then is cast up from the sea:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Let me speak or hold my peace,
Rich or barren as Thou wilt;
Let the Law proclaim my guilt
Or the Gospel give release.
Let me joys or pains increase.
All my life I live in Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

I am Thine, and born for Thee:
What wilt Thou have done with me?

Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

A Prayer for the People of Kenya and Pakistan

Micha Jazz of the Contemplative Network posted this prayer on Light for the Journey yesterday. May it remind us of the heartache suffered over the weekend by so many in Kenya and Pakistan. May it stir within us a deep desire for peace and a longing for God’s world where violence and war will no longer exist

Let us join our prayers for the people of Nairobi tonight.
Let s pray for peace and comfort for all those facing bereavement in Nairobi. Let us also pray for the perpetrators and their families. Lord have mercy.

Kikuyu Peace Prayer

Praise ye Lord,
Peace be with us.

Say that the elders may have wisdom and speak with one voice.
Peace be with us.

Say that the country may have tranquillity.
Peace be with us.

And the people may continue to increase.
Peace be with us.

Say that the people and the flock and the herds
May prosper and be free from illness.
Peace be with us.

Say that the fields may bear much fruit
And the land may continue to be fertile.
Peace be with us.

May peace reign over earth,
May the gourd cup agree with vessel.
Peace be with us.

May their heads agree and every ill word be driven out
Into the wilderness, into the virgin forest.

God Awakens the Dawn with Light

God awakens the dawn

God awakens the dawn

As I sat in the presence of God this morning the sun was rising. The mountains outside my window were tinged with red and the setting moon glowed in the light of the pink hued clouds.

Moon setting in the dawn light

Moon setting in the dawn light


This is one of the delights of the shortening of the days at this time of the year. In summer I am unaware of this awe inspiring slow change from dark to light. But this morning as I watched the changes I was was overwhelmed by the faithfulness of God – light always follows darkness, dawn will always come and often, as I experienced this morning, the longer the period of darkness, the more spectacular the breaking in of God’s light. 

Setting moon tinged with morning glow

Setting moon tinged with morning glow

So often we rail against the darkness. We feel depressed because God’s presence is hidden in our world and in our lives. The coming of dawn reminds me that God’s light is never far away. It will break in to every darkened night. And the bright globe of the moon this morning reassured me that even in the midst of darkness God’s light shines. 

God's light shines even in the darkness

God’s light shines even in the darkness

I must confess that I did not get to the reading of scripture this morning, or to my usual prayers. All I could say to God was thank you, thank you, thank you and within my heart the joy of God rose like that light giving sun. May it do the same for you this day. 

Are All Christians Hedonists?

Art by Emmanuel Garibay Used with permission

Art by Emmanuel Garibay Used with permission

Last week I shared this quote from Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks:

It is as though the materialism that has a death grip on this culture has taken our spirituality as well. Most of what’s called spiritual is actually humanistic if you think about it. People don’t want the adventure of God on his own terms or for his own sake. They want a better world, a happier life, better relationships and all the trimmings that go along with it….. We’re urged to seek God because this human good will come of it. People don’t realize “because” implies that the end is the human good and Truth (God) merely the means” (19)

It keeps coming back to my mind. How often do I pray because I want something from God, rather than because my heart aches for deeper intimacy with God? How often do I use God as the excuse for my own self centred agendas?

Some prayers are so obviously hedonistic they make us squirm when we hear others talk about them – praying for a parking place, or going on a Jesus spending spree where we expect Jesus to guide us to great bargains. But others are more subtle. Even desiring healing of loved ones can have a self centred purpose, after all illness and death disrupt our lives physically, emotionally and sometimes spiritually. If God healed more frequently life would be so much easier.

Or perhaps we want to see people in Africa fed and freed from starvation. We hate those images of starving children, their pain and suffering disrupts our lives. Yes, some of our response comes from the compassion of God welling up from within, but for many the uppermost emotion is: If God would just do something I would not have to respond and I could get rid of my guilt and once more feel at easy in my comfortable materialistic lifestyle. Sometimes these emotions reside in our subconscious rather than conscious minds, and as long as we are too busy to reflect on why we want something to change we are never aware of our self centred motives.

One of the commonest excuses I use and that I hear others use for not taking adequate time for God or with others is: but I enjoy what I am doing. I love my work. Unconsciously what we are saying is – My personal need for satisfaction in my work takes priority over my need to spend time with God.

Sometimes we even rope God into the equation – there is so much need God must intend me to burn myself out by responding to that need. The underlying subconscious thought – without me God cannot answer this need. 

And then there is the excuse – But I have to feed and house my family. Again a very true statement and one that has many of us up at night consumed with anxiety. This believe it or not is one of those legitimate prayers. In the Lord’s prayer we regularly say Give us this day our daily bread. The problem is that we don’t expect God to provide bread for today we expect provision for the next 10, 15 or 20 years and we want to see where it is coming from NOW.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that we don’t save for the future, though that is a way of life that some are called to, but sitting in the place of discernment, trusting that God will show us what we need to know now in order to provide, does not come easily to us. And we get uncomfortable because God might make it very clear that some of what we want for the future – like second homes, bigger cars and expensive vacations – may not be in God’s best plan for us. Even our desire for a bigger church, better paying job or higher profile ministry may not be in God’s plan – especially not if it takes time away from our number one priority – seeking God not for what we want but for what God wants – intimacy with us in every moment of the day.

What would our lives look like if we spent more time seeking God for God’s sake alone? How would it change our priorities, our time management, our use of resources? How would it affect our friendships? These are some of the questions I continue to grapple with. I hope you will take time to grapple with them too.

The Big Question – A Response from Micha Jazz

Micha Jazz of the Contemplative network and St Cuthbert’s Oratory wrote this response to my post yesterday The Big Question We Never Ask. I didn’t want it to get lost in the comments and decided to repost it here. Micha is a long committed associate of MSA. We have journeyed together through many joyful and challenging experiences, learning from each other and helping to shape each other’s faith.

Micha and Jayne Jazz

Micha and Jayne Jazz

I find that what you speak of is in fact a learning that emerges through life alone. I dislike the way my youthful enthusiasm and excitement in finding Christ carried with it the ‘oughts’ and ‘shoulds’ that were the unseen, though larger part, of the iceberg of evangelical Christianity that provided my portal into Narnia.

Whilst I was initially amazingly successful within that evangelical, charismatic construct initially, I very slowly came to realise that in fact it was consuming me – my time, my energy, my resource and my imagination. The opportunity to step out and back that the unanticipated sickness of my lovely wife, Katey, provided, in fact enabled me to begin to search for the God who might lay behind the superficial survival faith I had embraced and also preached and taught to many others as both evangelist and church pastor.

Suffice to say the journey was challenging, not least because God was interested in my wasting time with him whilst I was constructed through education, cultural context and Christian church experience within England, to work out my faith, yet without either fear or trembling. I was over familiar in my approach to God, without realising God was in fact a stranger to me – whilst unbeknown to me, II was fully known by God and that was enough as far as God was concerned. Step one, learning to rest content solely in being a sinner loved by God.

So what a journey began, one that required years of unlearning and personal deconstruction, mostly in the private space, all against the painful background of accompanying Katey in her walk with progressive multiple sclerosis until her death in 2008. In this time, usually fighting, often angry and always making judgments, I also discovered what it means to be still and to know my creator.

This story continues – utilising the liturgy of the hours daily as a core rhythm of waiting on God – whilst learning to paddle in the shallows of the contemplative life. I now long to learn to swim and recgnise that God carries me out of my depth – always and only to be found in the depths of his love. For me to live is indeed Christ yet I cannot yet say my heart does not hanker after conformation to the world I knew and have significantly left rather than transformation to live in God’s world, God’s way enjoying the God-filled life.

The journey continues – the story unfolds – the narrative is crafted.

Earth Day Meditation.

Earth day is coming. I find myself constantly thinking about the wonder of God’s creation as is reflected in this meditation prayer.

Earth prayer.001

The Sounds of Silence.

Learning to Listen

Learning to Listen

As part of my current spiritual disciplines I am reading April Yamasaki’s book Sacred Pauses. I am thoroughly enjoying her book which has many similar themes to my own Return to Our Senses.  This morning’s reading was her chapter Becoming Quiet, in which she talks about the gift of silence a great theme to contemplate on as we approach Lent.

In Scripture and in our own personal experience, we know that silence can actually communicate a lot. Sitting silently holding the hand of someone who is dying can communicate comfort. Standing in silence after a long hike up a mountain may say something about the breathtaking effort it took to get there as well as about the breathtaking beauty of the 360-degree view. (40)

She goes on to explain that there is no place so silence that it is completely without sound. In silence we are able to listen beyond everyday sounds for God. This was the phrase that really attracted my attention this morning. What are the sounds beyond the everyday noises that are the sounds of God? Once we have stilled the distractions of busyness, conversation, music and traffic what remains? These in some ways are the sounds of God.

The sound of breathing which is the breath of God passing into and out of our bodies filling us with life and love and energy.

The sound of our heartbeat pumping the life blood of Christ into every cell and fibre of our being, renewing, restoring and refreshing our bodies so that we can do and be all that God intends.

Even the sound of those little unconscious movements of hands and feet, of muscles flexing and tendons stretching, that remind me I am alive, a miracle of God’s creativity and expression.

These this morning are the sounds of God for me. The sounds that shout aloud in the place of sheer silence reminding me that God will never leave nor forsake me.

What are the sounds of God for you this morning?