I trust you are all well. I am doing very well and continuing to improve. Now able to speak – although I can’t raise my voice in anyway and there is still little or no power in it. I went to a music practise in The Chapel this evening and was able to play my clarinet and saxophone. It was fantastic! A single note can express a thousand words and it was just soo special to be able to lose myself in the music. I may have been limited in the words I spoke – but boy, did I feel a release in playing and praising God.
I think I have overdone it yesterday and today, though. So will be careful tomorrow Feeling tired and drawn tonight, but was really encouraged by a card I received from a friend today – MNB! What a blessing.
I have my appointment for my test results and to discuss what happens next – Thursday 19th November at 10:45. But I have real peace about the outcome, as you know and am looking forward to seeing the consultant and asking when I can start public speaking again. My prayer would be that I can talk using a good mic in December, but I will absolutely follow their advice and guidance.
The wonder of solitude.
Don’t you feel a tug, a yearning to sink down into the silence and solitude of God? Don’t you long for something more? Doesn’t every breath crave a deeper, fuller exposure to His presence? It is the discipline of solitude that will open the door.
Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, Page 134.
Those of you who know me well will know that there has always been a very strong contemplative part to my spirituality. I’ve been committed to spiritual disciplines such as meditation, simplicity and times of solitude for years. Lectio Divina, an ancient form of prayer, has been part of my daily practise for over twenty years and Celtic spirituality and practises are very important to me. I think that is one of the reasons that I have really enjoyed this extended time of silence and prayer and solitude. Rather than being a time I have feared, it has honestly been a time I have enjoyed and cherished. Think of it like getting the chance to spend some quality time with your very best friend, doing the things that you really enjoy, and you will begin to get the sense of how this time has felt for me. Physically painful and in many ways uncertain, yet at the same time intimate and special and wonderful and warm and strong. I’ve felt like I have been taking a walk in the autumn leaves, kicking them with my father. Again, if you know me, you will understand how powerful that metaphor is. In the garden and grounds around where I live there are hundreds of trees and at the moment there are literally thousands of leaves on the ground – despite my friend Freda’s best efforts to clear them! Almost every day I walk round the grounds here and spend time with God – just kicking leaves. I did it today – and it was great. I felt like a tiny little boy being watched by a very big, very strong, very interested Father. Today I just spent a little while running around the grounds and kicking leaves – literally! If someone had walked in they would have thought I was a bit off the wall (no funny comments please) but I have never really been overly concerned what people think about my relationship with God. At one point, it was so intense that I was convinced that there actually was someone behind me watching me and laughing. I stopped and thought about turning round – but decided not to. The feeling was so intimate, so special, so personal that Ifelt like I didn’t need to turn round, like to do so would be to rob this very special moment of faith and intimacy of its faith element by needing to see Someone whom I knew to be there anyway. God watched me kicking leaves today – because He always does. Today wasn’t a special day, I was just in the place where I felt Him more today – and we all need those moments.
I don’t know if any of you have been watching the Children in Need specials about celebrities travelling round the world in 80 days? Last night’s programme featured John Barrowman and Mylene Klass. They stopped off in Arizona and spent some time with people who thought they channelled aliens! One of the things they did was some meditation, to try and ‘make contact’. Of course they didn’t and both Mylene Klass and Barrowman chatted about it afterwards. But Klass was moved by the fact that these people took time to stop, to listen and to focus their thoughts and centre themselves. She said she had NEVER done that before – she’d never taken time to stop, to be alone with her thoughts and her feelings. She’d never allowed herself the luxury of solitude and stopping. So today I prayed that for each of you – that you would discover some space and power in solitude.
Thank you for solitude. Help us today to find mini-retreats that last a second, or a minute or an hour. In the midst of commuter trains, at office desks, in busy business meetings and with children screaming for their dinner, help us to discover a different beat and to live in the music of a different melody. Help Your people to avoid the temptation of filling every moment with ‘doing’ because the fear of ‘being’ makes them hide from You. Loosen the grip of the demand of the moment, replace the tyranny of the urgent with the beckoning of the important. With threatening letters on their desks, negative voices in their heads and harsh hands reaching to grab their peace, provide a moment of solitude.
Give Your people a glimpse of the warmth of aloneness with You. Help them to remember that the absence of others never equates to Your departure. When spouses have become distant, friends are far away and help seems impossible, remind them that in the silence and the solitude Your Spirit rests. God, in whose hand our very breath is, let solitude become a rod of strength for Your people today. Strip away the props and the facades and the unnecessariness of things and ego and stuff and demands and replace them with a solid, stake-in-the-ground assurance that Your are watching us.
Help us not to try and hide from You. when we stitch clothes together with fig leaves of pride and power and control, call out our names in the heat of the day. Let us hear the words that penetrate beyond our excuses and calendars – call out to us in the moments of our hiddeness – Malcolm, where are you? And give us the grace to respond. Take away the wrong fruit – blackberries included – just for a moment and enable us to bear fruit that will last.
Thank you that there is so much more of You to know, to experience and to discover than we can ever begin to understand. Take Your people on a journey to a new place, a deeper place – where the leaves on the ground become a playground for us. Let leaves of regret become tokens of redemption. Let the autumn colours of unfulfilled hopes become the ochres of a fresh new dawn.
As we stand knee high in leaves, alone with You in the silence, give us the grace to know that in that moment You are standing right behind us, with Your eyes twinkling with love and a smile on Your face because You love us and take joy in us. And give us the faith to stop – and not feel the need to look behind, but instead the complete assurance that You are where you have always been – and we do not need to prove it because we never need to prove You. You have proven Your love for us by an empty tree and an empty grave – we need nothing more.