Guide us, O Lord,
When we have lost our way.
When we are stumbling from one path to another
Because we took our eyes from your lights on the path.
When we are no longer certain of our direction
Because we are confused about the purpose of our journey.

Guide us, O Lord,
When faced with an abundance of options
We are paralysed with the fear of failure.
Having fallen in love with holding out for the best opportunity
We have forgotten to be thankful for the freedom of choice.
And in our efforts to do your will
We have forgotten that burning bushes are not an everyday occurrence.

Guide us, O Lord
When we boldly dare
To renew our search for your lights on the pathway.
When in following your word
To the pathway of holiness
We shall find the gateway of the narrow path

We ask you to remind us of our identity with You;
And to guide us in re-imaging our future
In strength, courage, hope and love.

This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ

I first read this 9 years ago. It's been one of my favourites ever since and I've even written a re-mix or two and re-post it nearly every year. It was most likely written by Francis Drake over 400 years ago (apparently the poetry buffs are still arguing about it). As we get into the stride of 2020 it seems important to pray and ponder it again.

A Francisan blessing:

May God bless us with a restless discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
So that we may seek truth boldly and love deeply within our heart

May God bless us with holy anger
At injustice, oppression and exploitation of people,
So that we may tirelessly work for justice, freedom and peace among all people

May God bless us with the gift of tears
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation or the loss of all they cherish,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and transform their pain into joy

May God bless us with enough foolishness
To believe we really can make a difference in this world
So that we are able, with God's grace, to do what others claim cannot be done

There's just something about blessing and benediction that gives me goosebumps. I think its got something to do with witnessing a love that calls down all the good things from heaven on behalf of someone else. So when I read this take on the beatitudes this week I wept - its just too beautiful. By Nadia Bolz-Weber:

Because, what if the beatitudes aren’t about a list of conditions we should try and meet to be blessed. What if these are not virtues we should aspire to but what if… the sermon on the mount is all about Jesus’ seemingly lavish blessing of the world around him. So maybe Jesus is actually just blessing people, especially the people who never seem to receive blessings otherwise.

I mean, come on, doesn’t that just sound like something Jesus would do? Extravagantly throwing around blessings as though they grew on trees? Because I like to imagine Jesus here standing among us saying:

Blessed are the agnostics.

Blessed are they who doubt, who aren't sure, who can still be surprised.

Blessed are those who are spiritually impoverished and therefore not so certain about everything that they no longer take in new information.

Blessed are those who have nothing to offer.

Blessed are the pre-schoolers who cut in line at communion.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. You are of heaven, and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are they for whom death is not an abstraction.

Blessed are they who've buried their loved ones, for whom tears could fill an ocean.

Blessed are they who've loved enough to know what loss feels like.

Blessed are the mothers of the miscarried.

Blessed are they who don't have the luxury of taking things for granted any more.

Blessed are they who can't fall apart because they have to keep it together for everyone else.

Blessed are those who still aren't over it yet.

Blessed are those who mourn. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are those who no one else notices: the kids who sit alone at middle school lunch tables, the laundry guys at the hospital, the sex workers, and the nightshift street sweepers.

Blessed are the forgotten.

Blessed are the closeted.

Blessed are the unemployed, the unimpressive, the under represented.

Blessed are the teens who have to figure out how to hide the new cuts on their arms.

Blessed are the meek. You are of heaven and Jesus blesses you.

Blessed are the wrongly accused, the ones who never catch a break, the ones for whom life is hard, for Jesus chose to surround himself with people like you.

Blessed are those without documentation.

Blessed are the ones without lobbyists.

Blessed are foster kids and special ed kids and every other kid who just wants to feel safe and loved.

Blessed are those that make terrible business decisions for the sake of people.

Blessed are the burned out social workers and the overworked teachers and the pro bono case takers.

Blessed are kind-hearted football players and fundraising trophy wives.

Blessed are kids who step between the bullies and the weak.

Blessed are those who hear they're forgiven.

Blessed are the merciful, for they totally get it. 

Full post from Nadia here: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/nadiabolzweber/2014/11/some-modern-beatitudes-a-sermon-for-all-saints-sunday/

Friends. Here we are. A new dawn. A new day. Feeling good?

Whatever your thoughts about the year ahead, may grace and peace and love and joy and hope surround you and overflow from you.

May you find joy in loosening your sail to the wild wind of the Sprit.

May your good hair days far outnumber the bad ones.

May your roots grow down ever deeper into the soil of God’s love for you - may you know how wide, how long, how high and how deeply you are loved.

May you abide well.

May your eyes and heart be open to wonder and awe.

May you be amazed and perplexed.

May your trains never be cancelled or delayed.

May you choose joy, even on the days that grief is the weight you carry.

May your queues for brunch always be short.

May you be forever changed by all the good gifts around you.

May you know you have the shoes you need for your journey and the strength and grace to match your day ahead.

May your celebrations be abundant.

May you be bold enough to tell the Rogers at work to stop mansplaining your actual job to you.

May you be brave enough to say yes.

May you be brave enough to say no.

May you be hopeful enough to keep asking.

May you stay with the hard and holy things with brazen/bold/barefaced/shameless/unabashed/audacious/unashamed hope.

May your community be wide and deep and rich in all the good things.

May your joys abound.

May your children sleep through the night.

May your children return safe from the night.

May sabbath guide your days and lead you to better rhythms of life.

May you never carry your sorrows alone.

May you know life in all its fullness.

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Grace, peace, love and hugs x x

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Are you ready? Are the Chestnuts roasting on an open fire? Is Jack Frost nipping at your nose? Are yuletide carols being sung by a choir?

Confession: I am not feeling the Christmas vibes this year. Not at all.

I’ve tried. But mostly all I can think about is the 7 different types of vegetables that need preparing and then the turkey the size of a small child that needs roasting (sidenote - since when so we need to eat 7 TYPES OF VEG ALL IN ONE MEAL?!)

And so, please, be gone from my presence with your Christmas jumpers. No, I will not watch Love Actually. Stop talking about how many mince pies you’ve eaten. And for the love of mulled wine, stop singing Mariah and Bublé and the Fairytale of New York.

I am done. I do not care. Resting Grinch face has been activated. Take your Christmas filled joy far far away from me.

As the poet once said: Bah! Humbug!

And yet, I still stopped to listen to the brass band playing Christmas carols at Waterloo Station.

And I still bought a Poinsettia - because I am my mother's daughter afterall and is it even Christmas without one?! #plant-lady-is-the-new-cat-lady

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Because despite the fact it seems like most of the world is on fire and it's people crying out for liberation, there is hope enough for a weary world to rejoice.

Because actually, being a Grinch in the face of all the hype grounds me in reality that Christmas is a celebration of life-giving radiance breaking through the darkness in the unlikeliest of ways. Christmas is a celebration of pain and suffering and cries for liberation not going ignored. Christmas is a celebration of hope.

Celebration is not just a way to make people feel good for a while; it is the way in which faith in the God of life is lived out, through both laughter and tears. Thus celebration goes beyond ritual, custom, and tradition. It is the unceasing affirmation that underneath all the ups and downs of life there flows a solid current of joy." Henri Nouwen

Because Immanuel. God is with us.

God is with us in joy and sorrow and everything in-between. Some days that’s the very thing getting me through the day. Other days I'm not even sure what it means. And so, when all the world is an altar, and joy and sorrow are intermingled, we break bread, pour wine, feast and celebrate.

And then even my weary Grinch heart finds a glimpse of hope, and reasons to rejoice enough to shed a few tears in the middle of Waterloo Station when the brass band play O Holy Night – it gets me every time.

Immanuel. God is with us.

I hope you have a Christmas of joy and peace and laughter. And if your heart is weary, I hope you can somehow see your way through to find reasons to rejoice.

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2019 will go down in The Chronicles of Rachel as the year I embraced the spiritual practice of letting my hair down in the wind and was (mostly) unashamed to have The Messiest Hair Of Them All.

"Regarded properly, anything can become a sacrament, by which I mean a visible sign of an inward spiritual connection." Barbara Brown Taylor

Big hair don't care, has pretty much become a daily mantra - because if you say it enough times it becomes true, right?

But I'm learning that regarded properly, letting the wind run riot with your hair can become a spiritual practice, by which I mean a visible sign of an inward spiritual connection. And fortunately, thanks to London city planners and tube network designers, London is FULL OF WIND TUNNELS, which means plenty of opportunities for practice.

You see, for someone who has vehemently avoided letting the wind run riot with her hair pretty much her entire teenage to adult life, for someone who is never seen without a hairclip either in her hair or about her person, for someone who's hair goes from 0 to 60 in 3.5 seconds, letting the wind run riot with her hair is No Small Thing. It means days of hassle dealing with frizz so big my hair can no longer be crammed under my hat -  A NECESSARY ACTION IN THESE DAYS OF INCLEMENT WEATHER.

But letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me that I’m not in control of everything and actually, if I trust in the God of All The Things like I say I do, then I can survive not being in control.

Letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me that the Spirit goes where it will, wild and uncontainable.

Letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me that sometimes life is more fun when you let it get a little messy.

Letting the wind run riot with my hair reminds me to be thankful for the good hair days and all the other seemingly everyday things I fail to notice (though lets be real, good hair days are a rare miracle these days).

Letting the wind run riot with my hair makes me laugh and laugh and laugh - because who could fail to be amused by the sight of Rachel with Wild Hair. Sorry, not sorry to anyone who's had to be seen with me post channelling my inner Pocahontas.

edcfd79ef74a13a49ef59689c3178d59--disney-cruiseplan-disney-princessTurns out, letting the wind run riot with my hair is one of the many pathways to joy.

Turns out, regarded properly, anything can become a sacrament. Here's to embracing the Wild Hair Days!

Where could a little paying attention and regarding properly lead you to a spiritual connection?

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Hello my friends, beloved reader,

What can I say, its been a while. How have you been? I love your new haircut by the way, I’m thinking about cutting/dyeing mine too. Any suggestions?

Did you have a good summer? I know, what with allll the beautiful autumnal leaves and allll the Sunday afternoons eating apple crumble and custard, summer seems but a distant memory right now. But it would feel rude to jump back in without the obligatory small talk. Also, I do genuinely want to know - how was your summer? Although, in truth, I’m becoming more and more convinced that who we’re becoming is a far more important question to consider than how we’ve filled our time. Last week, The Google reminded me that its been two years since I was asked who 50-year-old Rachel will be. I’m as certain about the answer now as I was then:

50-year-old Rachel is a wild hippy with flowers in her hair.

What I didn’t realise was that I’ll also turn more and more into my mother with each and every passing year week day. Case in point – I can’t help but fill my phone with allll the photos of alll the beautiful flowers I see. What will I do with allll these photos I hear you ask?

ABSOLUTLEY NOTHING.

They will sit in The Cloud from now until infinity and beyond, taking up valuable digital space and probably contributing toward the melting of the ice caps and deforestation of the Amazon.  My mother’s phone is full of photos of such flowers.

But seriously though, how pretty is this flower? The sources that be tell me it’s a Dahlia. Who knew?!
But seriously though, how pretty is this flower? The sources that be tell me it’s a Dahlia. Who knew?!

But anyway, back to Wild Rachel - you'll find her barefoot, with the sun on her face and the wind in her hair, singing and dancing her way through the day and gazing at the stars by night.

Wild Rachel lives wholehearted and vulnerable. She laughs with no fear of the future because she has lived success, love, joy and laughter, she has tasted defeat, failure and heartbreak, and yet, she firmly holds that God is good all the time, and that all the time God is good - that is her song and she continues to sing it come what may.

She has finally accepted that it is sometimes OK to lose games and has unleashed her competitive spirit, so watch out anyone in opposition.

Wild Rachel not only believes in miracles but expects to see them daily. She has seen the immeasurably more and lives life amazed and perplexed. She throws caution to the wind and errs on the side of love and whimsy.

She drives a car that runs on cooking oil. And she takes a tambourine to church.

Not to sound like a 1950's housewife or anything but Wild Rachel finally owns a KitchenAid and it is her pride and joy (Holla at me KitchenAid crew, you know who you are).

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#goals

Wild Rachel will have finally learnt to bake bread, sew her own clothes and crochet a granny squares blanket. She is also an expert forager and knows all the phases of the moon.

She watches the sunrise every morning because being a daily witness to light breaking through the night embodys her hope that the people walking in darkness will one day see a great light.

P1020102Wild Rachel loves her people with the fire of a thousand suns and will fight unto the death for all the things she holds true.

Wild Rachel does not care what other people think, atleast, she does not care if they think her foolish or crazy or a wild hippy with flowers in her hair but she hopes that when they look at her life they see one overflowing with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithful, gentleness and self-control - a life that points to the fount of every blessing.

Her fridge is always full and the cake tin replenished daily. Sorry not sorry, but Wild Rachel will never invite you over - You are always welcome and there is always space for you at the table, just turn up already. On the flip side, chances are Wild Rachel will just turn up on your doorstep and make herself at home.dave-lastovskiy-127581

Wild Rachel does not fear failure and she does not fear disappointment.

She is not afraid to cut off all her hair to both save the planet the burden of producing her hair products and to save time (also, her Nan will kill her if she ever gets dreads).

She is not afraid to make decisions based on faith and not fear, the kinda decisions that don't seem to make much sense to the world at large. In fact, 50-year-old wild hippy Rachel is not afraid of anything - expect spiders, they will always be terrifying.

Truth be told, I'm not half as much Wild Rachel as I could be right now, but there's still time . Any thoughts on who you want to be? I'd love to know - the kettle is on and a freshly made pistachio cake is cooling on the counter so what are you waiting for?  Come over aready.

I am constantly reflecting and all the joys and sorrows of last year, trying to drag out another lesson to make all the blood, sweat and tears seem worth it. About this time last year I was holed up in an old convent in Cornwall, wondering why on earth I’d thought a silent retreat was a good idea. It was one of the toughest weeks of my life - right up there after the death of Grandparents but slightly before that one week when I was 15 and convinced that all my hair was falling out and I'd be completely bald by 17 (THE TEARS).

But, je ne regrette rien. Especially after I read this and realised why it had been much harder than I'd expected:

In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding; no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me—naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived, broken—nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something.” Henri Nouwen

In that week of solitude I was stripped of scaffolding - no friends to talk to, no social media to update, no work to attend, no music to sing and dance along to and no books to transport me to far away lands. I didn’t have to check in with my people and see how their week was going, I didn't even have to decide what to cook. All that was left was the truth of who I was without all those things to validate my worthiness of life/time/attention/love or distract me from the lack of it.

Naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, deprived and broken.

And yet, I've realised that that place of nothingness can be the birthplace of freedom. Because in that place, God holds a banner over us for all the world to see proclaiming that we are loved and we are valued - despite all things we would rather hide and all the things we are too ashamed to even acknowledge.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing, we can do to earn God's love or make God love us more - not pray our way there, not read our Bible more, not attend church more, not go to The Gambia and not even give away our very last Rolo. You are worthy, simply for being you.

Without realising, I'd let a notion of earning worthiness creep in and set conditions around something that has always been extravagantly wild and free. Who I am without my scaffolding is enough. Who you are without your scaffolding is enough. Nothing from your past can change that, nothing in your future can steal that; not our fears for today or our worries about tomorrow. Whether we are high above the sky, in the deepest ocean or on a silent retreat, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus.

Being rooted and grounded in God's unwavering love for us in our place of nothingness can give us the power and confidence to live free from fear - of the judgement of others, of tomorrow, of the valley of the shadow of death, of loneliness, of looking like a fool and yes, free of even the fear of Brexit. Life in all its fullness transforming nothingness into a place of JOY - you know the place - beautiful sunrises over the mountains, a fridge full of lemon tart (made with fairtrade lemons and no palm oil, obvs and dancing for joy along to your favourite 90s pop and 00s indie rock songs.

I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your heart as you trust in him. May you be rooted and grounded in the soil of God's marvellous love. And I pray that you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high and how deep God's love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great we will never fully understand it.

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By and large, what human beings want is resurrection without death, answers without doubt, light without darkness, the conclusion without the process." Richard Rohr

I have a confession. I did not want to go to China. If anyone had given me a good reason to stay home I would have willingly taken it. And if anyone has suggested I come home early I would have joyfully packed my bags and skipped to the airport singing songs of thanksgiving and freedom.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted to go in theory. I just didn't want to go in actual I’ll-have-to-live-this real life. It was nothing but the grace of God along with the prayers and enthusiasm of my people that got me packing my bags and on the way to the airport.  I knew  it would be a challenge and I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle it. But I also knew there was a high chance of seeing some things and learning some lessons that could very much change my life. I very much wanted the conclusion without the process of having to live through the difficult things.

Day one – “Alright, here I am. What am here to learn?” I was pretty confident that if I could figure it out as soon as possible then the rest of the trip would be much much easier.

By and large, what human beings want is resurrection without death, answers without doubt, light without darkness, the conclusion without the process.

We want the miracle of something coming back to life but without it having to actually die first. We want to know the result for certain but without ever wondering if its right. We want to fully appreciate goodness but without ever experiencing the pain. We want the end result but without having to work for it.

And right now I could add – we want the joy of risk but without the leap of faith, we want knowing that we can handle the routine of the 9-5 and slot back in to normal life (whatever that means) without having to actually do it. No, just me on that one?!

And why do we want these things? Because dealing with death, doubt, darkness and the process can all be so desperately difficult. We only have one wild life and who wants it to be filled with difficult things?

But the truth is, we never have to face any of those things alone. God is with us every step of the way in dealing with all these things and more. God prepares a feast for us right in the very presence of death, darkness, doubt - we are invited to sit at the table, in the presence of God and celebrate, even with our enemies banging on the door, baying for our blood and reminding us of our ever increasingly urgent to do lists.

O Lord, let me enter into your presence, and there taste the eternal, timeless everlasting love with which you invite me to let go of my timebound anxieties, fears, preoccupations and worries.” Henri Nouwen

Is this not what it is to abide? To enter into the presence of God and let it remove all of our timebound anxieties, fears, preoccupations and worries? To keep our eyes on Jesus and abide with God through the tension of dealing with death, doubt, darkness and process.

So if, like me, you've found yourself battling through, hang tight - the table is set and the bunting is up. There's a feast prepared in your honour and God is waiting in anticipation for you to take your place at the table.

Come, have a seat, everything is ready for you.  Abide well.

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