Monthly Musings: February favourites

February has come and gone and summer has left us in its wake. It’s been a full month, so I thought I’d just share a few of my favourite things from February.

  • BookBurial Rites by Hannah Kent. I’ve been a little late to the party on this one since it’s taken me two years to finally get to it. At Adelaide Writers Week in 2014 I had the pleasure of hearing Hannah share a little of the background to writing the book. This is a beautifully written novel based on real events in northern Iceland in 1829. Agnes Magnúsdóttir was the last person to be executed in Iceland, convicted for her part in the murders of two men. As she waits for her execution date Agnes is sent to live with District Officer Jón Jónsson, his wife and two daughters on their farm. I actually listened to the audiobook which was wonderfully read and made it much easier to cope with the unfamiliar Icelandic names. I was transported into the story, the characters drawn with empathy and insight. This is a book that will stay with me for a long time.
  • Music – Audrey Assad’s new album Inheritance was released this month. A combination of wonderful hymns and original songs, I’m having trouble picking a favourite song. Some lovely versions of beloved hymns such as “Be Thou My Vision” and “It Is Well with My Soul” notwithstanding, there are two beautiful original songs (“New Every Morning” and “Even Unto Death”) which have been an accompanying me as a daily soundtrack in the last week or two. I’ll let you choose a favourite for yourself:


  • Prayer Sunday – this year at church we are beginning a new practice of devoting one worship gathering per month specifically for prayer. This month we focussed on the presence of the Lord, and I was delighted see how we embraced the invitation to be in prayer and silence with each other. One thing I asked people to consider were the ways in which they feel closest to God, and I shared the images below, inviting them to notice which ones they felt most drawn toward. It was wonderful to hear people sharing the different ways that they feel God’s presence with them. It may not surprise you to know that one of my favourite ways of connecting with God is to spend time out in nature – I love the invitation of a bench in a park or garden. Which images resonate with you?

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  • The Fringe Festival – Think circus and jazz in a 19th century barroom and you might have a small idea of what to expect from “Scotch and Soda.” Mind-boggling feats of balance, acrobatics, trapeze artistry, and hi-jinks, accompanied by a lively group of jazz musicians. A fun time was had by all.

When you need fresh inspiration for adoring God in prayer

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to say, how to adore God in a way that doesn’t sound trite or rehearsed, or like we’re simply going through the motions. Sometimes we need a little help. One great way is to read scripture, and pray out of our response to it. But there are other ways of creatively meeting God in prayer.

Recently I was leading prayer at church and I brought along a few objects to provide a little inspiration. Feathers, stones, gift tags, sprigs of rosemary and some crocheted hearts.

Prayer Inspiration

I invited people to come and take one or more of the objects and to spend a few minutes listening and reflecting on what God was showing them about himself or about what he has done. Then I invited people to pray their responses aloud.

It was wonderful to see how the Lord used those ordinary items to inspire fresh expressions of adoration to him.

For myself I chose a stone and a heart. As I held them in my hand I was reminded that God is my Rock, that Jesus is the precious cornerstone and a sure foundation. I was reminded of how much he loves me. The two items side by side reminded me of how God removes the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh.

Have you ever tried anything like this? If not, consider collecting one or two ordinary items from around your house or garden.

Spend a few minutes holding an item in your hands. Pay attention to what it feels like – smooth or rough, soft or hard – feel the weight of it in your hand. Notice the colours, patterns and the details. If it has a scent (like the rosemary we used) then smell it. You may want to rub it between your fingers or bruise it to draw out the fragrance. If your item is edible you might want to taste it.

Whatever you notice, whatever the Lord shows you, use that to reflect praise and adoration back to him.

If you try this out, or if it’s a normal practice for you, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please share in the Comments.

Monthly Musings: January

It’s a little late to be wishing you a Happy New Year, and yet this is my first post for 2016 so I’ll say it anyway. Happy New Year. I hope it’s been a good start for you, and that you’ve had opportunity to rest and relax over the summer break. I confess it feels a little odd to be reflecting when the year has only just begun and it seems that things are only just beginning to unfold and yet to fully emerge. Still, here are a few things to share from January. I hope to be posting more regularly over the coming months.

  • Christmas holidays were a wonderful time to catch up on sleep and a pile of books, but I also needed to get outside. I took a walk in one of my favourite places, the Mount Lofty Gardens, and reminded myself of the wonders of spending time in out in nature.

Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens - walking trail-wmk

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  • Thanks to a couple of handy YouTube tutorials I learnt how to crochet hearts, and spent an evening making a small pile of them. Once I got the hang of it they were quite simple and enjoyable to make.

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  • I came across a wonderful quote on prayer from Richard Foster in his book Prayer: finding the heart’s true home. This is something I want to sit with and ponder for a while until it really sinks into my heart and not just my head.

Real prayer comes not from gritting our teeth but from falling in love.

  • One of my favourite genres of fiction is historical mystery, and this month I finally read the first book in C. J. Sansom’s Matthew Shardlake series. Dissolution is set in the context of the dissolution of Catholic monasteries in England during the reign of King Henry VIII. The history was every bit as fascinating (and frightening) as the mystery.

 

Monthly Musings: December

December is a month that feels different from any of the others. It is a month for completion and a month for preparation. A month for celebration. As work and school is finishing for the year for many, there are also preparations for Christmas celebrations and summer holidays.

A month for rest and relaxation. A month where we rush at the start to slow down at the end. There’s a reason why it’s called the Christmas rush, but once Christmas Day is over, there’s permission to rest and relax, to enjoy the summer.

A month for reflection and anticipation. To reflect on what the year has taught us, and to anticipate what the new year will bring.

This year the most popular blog post on Flourish! was actually one from a previous year. With every ending comes a new beginning seems appropriate for New Years Eve, so I want to share it with you again:

Endings and Beginnings

Whatever endings you are facing today, whether you’re feeling happy or sad, exhilarated or terrified, relieved or just plain tired, may new beginnings be fresh air for you.

May your every breath be blessed.

Now, and in the year to come.

Monthly Musings: November

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Where has the year gone? No really, where has it gone? November seems to have passed by at the speed of light. What to say about it?

My nephew started walking and celebrated his first birthday – in that order. Woohoo! There’ll be no stopping him now.

I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer. About what it means and what it looks like. What it means for me. What it means for the church. Recently I came across this wonderful description of prayer by Michael Hollings and Etta Gullick*:

The important thing about prayer is that it is almost indefinable. You see, it is: hard and sharp, soft and loving, deep and inexpressible, shallow and repetitious, a groaning and a sighing.

A silence and a shouting, a burst of praise digging deep down into loneliness, into me. Loving. Abandonment to despair, a soaring to heights which can be only ecstasy, dull plodding in the greyness of mediocre being – laziness, boredom, resentment.

Questing and questioning, calm reflection, meditation, cogitation. A surprise at sudden joy, a shaft of light, a laser beam. Irritation at not understanding, impatience, pain of mind and body hardly uttered or deeply anguished.

Being together, the stirring of love shallow, then deeper, then deepest. A breathless involvement, a meeting, a longing, a loving, an inpouring.

Watch this space, because I still have a lot to learn about prayer and I’d like to invite you along on the journey with me.

This month I also discovered the rose garden and the labyrinth at the Waite Aboretum. The first time it was filled with people and children. This last Sunday I returned and was able to walk the labyrinth on my own, the birds singing in the trees my musical accompaniment.

And I was reminded of the joy of thanksgiving, especially in the company and community of others.

*quoted in A silence and a shouting: meditations and prayers by Eddie Askew.

What has November looked like for you?