Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sacred Space

10 Minute Daily Retreat - Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani (No. 230)

But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward youMatthew 6:6 

Susanna Wesley, the mother of the famous preachers John and Charles, gave birth to nineteen children and lived in a tiny house. The only place she could retreat to pray was the corner of her kitchen. Her children knew that when she sat there with her face hidden behind her apron, woe betide anyone who disturbed her. This was her sacred space.

The word, sacrosanct, first came into use around the 15th Century. It virtually disappeared from everyday English for a few hundred years, making a comeback in recent times. It is derived from two Latin words: sacro 'by a sacred rite' and sanctus, 'holy.'

I've heard it applied to routines, places and personal values. Web designers use it to refer to the 'white space' on the left hand side of webpages.

In today's reflection, Jesus gave a beautiful image of the sacrosanct ritual of prayer. Like Susanne Wesley, we don’t always have our own room to disappear for quiet time. Sometimes we have no option but to capture a scripture or an image and withdraw into a sacred space inside ourselves, while in the 'marketplace'.

Like any relationship, if we rely solely on those adhoc moments we might find we make minimal progress. Creating a 'sacrosanct' approach to prayer fosters a deep relationship between ourselves and God.

I light a candle to pray. It's a reminder to myself and others that I'm unavailable to face distractions.

I also light my candle to write. This defines the sacrosanct ritual I attach to writing. Applying the discipline of prayer to writing enriches my writing. Applying the discipline of writing to prayer enriches my prayer.

Are there sacrosanct moments in your own life? Perhaps you have exercise routines, settling routines with young children, house and garden chores, study?

Can you apply the value you place on one of those moments to develop your prayer? Or apply your sacrosanct approach to prayer to enrich your life in one of those other precious moments?

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Beloved: '...your love is better than wine.'

10 Minute Daily Retreat - Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani (No. 229)

2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
For your love is better than wine,
3     your anointing oils are fragrant,
your name is perfume poured out;
    therefore the maidens love you.
4 Draw me after you, let us make haste.
The king has brought me into his chambers...

7 Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
    where you pasture your flock,
    where you make it lie down at noon;

I tapped impatiently on the steering wheel, waiting for the church car park to clear. It had been a long, hot Service and I felt totally washed out. The sermon had urged us to seek an experience of spiritual renewal. There was nothing fresh about my spirit. Physically tired from long shifts, mentally drained from study and emotionally wrecked from house sharing, there was little room for spiritual growth.

In my naivety I didn’t recognize this very place as God's watering hole. My voiceless surrender that my search for Him was way too hard opened a spiritual door. 

In the confines of my beat up old car, something very deep stirred in my spirit. This was a 'before and after' moment. There are theological terms for this experience. I prefer to call it my falling in love moment.

Did my spirit ever again experience the dry thirst of the 'before'? Absolutely. The glimmer of first love dulls as we face life's hurdles.

In today's verses from Solomon's Song of Songs, the Beloved is fresh with new love. She's bursting at the seams to tell us how amazing her Lover is. Yet the verses end with the Beloved asking the Lover to take her someplace else.

Perhaps she no longer experiences Him in her everyday life. After a time she loses sight of Him completely. She calls out, asking where she can find Him.

We're no different. There are times when we fail to hear God's voice in the quiet of our prayer. We can be tempted to give in, saying He's not there. It's in those moments that we need to reflect and believe in God's Word:

'Then when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me, you will find me; if you seek me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says the Lord…'Jeremiah 29:12-14a

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Broken Hearts

10 Minute Daily Retreat - Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Margaret Kirchner (No. 228)

My heart is ready, God
My heart is ready;
I will sing and make music for you.

‘My doctor is discussing palliative care.' Mary looked at me with sadness in her eyes. My friend had just had the worst news and all she could think of was how it would affect me.

'He says I only have a year to live,' she said, but my mind had already blanked out in denial and her words washed over me. Tears welled in my eyes as my mind already was changing the details. Maybe the doctor was mistaken. I left in a daze.

Three weeks later I got the phone call. ‘Mary is in the hospice and is failing fast.'

Her bed has been pushed out in the garden in the shade of a leafy tree. An impossibly blue sky stretches overhead and friends gather to pray and say farewell.

Sadness overwhelms me. We support each other, wondering why life has to be like this.

She slips into unconsciousness. We hold her hand and sing her favourite songs. We even dare to smile a little though our hearts are breaking.

A gifted vocalist, Mary exited the conscious world in the same way she had thrived in it, amidst singing and music.

Mary's heart was ready. We witnessed God's final note on Mary's page.

We, her bereaved friends, pray. We give thanks. For we know that with the same infinite care, our Lord God brings healing to our broken hearts.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Celtic Skin

10 Minute Daily Retreat - Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani  (No. 227)

'The sun has played havoc on your Celtic skin.' Dr Raju tilted her head.
I'd never considered myself a member of the Celtic clan before. For a moment I felt I had been plucked from their midst and deposited into my current, sunburnt, country.

'The cream will irritate, redden, wrinkle, blotch and burn your skin,' she muttered as her hand swept across her script pad, 'but it will halt the changes to your cells and prevent skin cancer.'

She pulled the page off the pad and swung around to face me. 'Twice a day for four weeks and I'll review in three months.'

I push through the glass door and the sun blinds me. Celtic skin. Hazel eyes. I fossick around in my handbag, and retrieve eye protection. Fabulously designed to filter out UV, wrap around the sides of the eyes and fit over prescription glasses. If only I had discovered these decades ago.

Celtic skin. Well suited to the grey, protective clouds of the British Isles.
I slide my freckled, wrinkled hands into my fingerless gloves and shove on my wide brim hat.

In 1969, along with another 80,000 immigrants from the UK, our family responded to TV ads promising days of endless sunshine in Australia. Missing from the Ads, and the dictionary, were terms such as basal cell carcinoma, ultra-violet rays and SP Factor 30 +. Perhaps we wouldn’t have splashed baby oil on our backs and cooked ourselves on the beach. We thought calamine lotion would fix it all.

I had travelled to the farthest limits of the sea, but even here He had guided me, protecting me in His right hand. The skin condition I had developed can turn into cancer. Dr Raju's ointment promises healing and I thank God His hand guided me to seek her out. 

If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.