Tag: Joyce Smith

Listen to Silence

 My friend Joyce’s latest Tweet is of a Great Crested Grebe enjoying the silent stillness at Fishers Green.

The quotation she has chosen is by the Poet, Rumi – Listen to the Silence, it has much to say. As Christians enter the season of Advent once again, this is an appropriate prayer.

Jalaludin RUMI (1207-1273) was born in Balkh, Afghanistan which was then on the edge of the Persian Empire. In what sounds familar, the family was forced to flee from the invasion of the Mongol armies led by Genghis Khan. They settled in Turkey, at Konya, where Rumi lived for the rest of his life.

Here he began to write the poetry which was to influence so many, not least today. It is said that he is the most widely read poet in the English language.

God and Love are major themes in his work and combined with that is the communication we have with the Divine through Silence.
Many of his poems end with reference to silence. Coleman Banks, a scholar, poet and author of a number of works about Rumi says:
Rumi devotes a lot of attention to silence, especially at the end of poems, where he gives the words back into the silence they came from.

Rumi once wrote:

Close the door of words
that the window of your heart may open.
To see what cannot be seen
turn your eyes inward
and listen, in silence.

He maintained that Silence is the language of God. All else is poor imitation.

At the beginning of Advent we are invited to reflect and pray about the coming of God, as Rowan Williams puts it, as child, at Christmas. We do it liturgically through the Advent season by thinking in turn about the expectations of the Patriarchs, the Patriarchs, Prophets, John the Baptist and Mary but our reflections are bound up with our own expectations too. Advent is a time when we are invited to ponder God’s loving meaning for us. This is an invitation into silence. Being still so that we may know more truly and more personally who God is.

The problem is that we have to try and do this in a conflicting world which has differing values.

At the moment we are being assured by our Government and certain parts of the press, that Christmas is being saved. What I think that means is that the myth of a Christmas, driven by capitalism and the manufacture of a feel good factor, is being saved. I have considerable doubt that our Prime Minister and Government are the right people to bring any kind of salvation let alone a Christian one. (I also await the headlines that the Government is also saving Hannukah, Diwali, and Eid !)
I prefer to keep Salvation as a prerogative of God, in His Incarnate Son.

Another theme of Advent is that of Waiting. This brings excitement to the expectation. We are looking forward to celebrating the absolute joy of God’s  love which pours over us in the Christ-child of Bethlehem.

And our waiting is essential for our understanding of what that means for our world, our christian communities, ourselves. It is the poet R. S. Thomas who gave us the phrase: The meaning is in the waiting.

As the story of the birth of Jesus unfolds once again, we have to wait and watch and be still in case we miss what God is trying to say to us. We have to take Rumi’s words and act on them, Listen to the Silence – it has much to say.

In our busy, madly self-absorbed world, the Holy Family slip in at the silent pinnacle of the night. The stillness contrasts so much with the clamour of all those who speak but don’t listen; of those who write without thinking; of those who hurt and anger others into a position of mistrust. Our country and society are full of empty words and ill thought out solutions which change frequently and which endanger the world’s vulnerable.
Too many words!  Too little reflection!

So follow Rumi:

Close the door of words
that the window of your heart may open.
To see what cannot be seen
turn your eyes inward
and listen, in silence.

Those who listen and are still, even by snatching a few minutes, will hear the loving whisper of God. He has much love to share with us.

The Great Crested Grebe understands this. That is why she is still.

[Mr.G.]

As ever, Thank You, Joyce.

For those who would like to hear more from Rumi, try Rumi, Bridge of the Soul.’
(journeys into the music and silence of the heart poems translated by Coleman Bark with an introduction by him) published by HarperOne

Helping each other

My friend Joyce sent me this tweet.

I came across this little story recently and when Joyce sent me her tweet of the two pigeons I thought it had a message.

What Joyce observed was that One of these wood pigeons landed on the bird feeder tray and tried to eat, but was having difficulty because the tray became unbalanced and was lopsided. When the second pigeon arrived, however, the tray was perfectly balanced and they could feed together!”

Here’s the story:
Once there was a small boy who belonged to a poor family. One day, he was crossing through the forest carrying some wood. He saw an old man who was very hungry.  The boy wanted to give him some food, but he didn’t have any food of his own.  So he continued sadly on his way.  Further on, he saw a deer who was very thirsty.  He wanted to give it some water, but he didn’t have water for himself.  So once again, he went on his way ahead.

Then he saw a man who wanted to make a camp but he did not have wood. The  boy asked his problem and realized that this time he could help. He gave the wood he was carrying to the man. In return, the man gave him some food and water.  Quickly, he went back to the old man and gave him some food and gave some water to the deer. The old man and the deer were very happy.  The boy then went happily on his way.

However, one day the boy was in the forest again and fell down a hill.  He was in pain but he couldn’t move and there seemed no one there to help him.  But, the old man who he had helped before saw him and quickly came and pulled him up the hill.  He had many wounds on his legs.  The deer, to whom the boy had given water, came and saw his wounds. She quickly went into the forest and brought some herbs.  After some time his wounds were covered.   All were very happy that they were able to help each other.

Acts of kindness and care have a way of making the world a better place. A place where, by helping and sharing with each other, becomes a more caring and happy place. Let’s learn from the pigeons, the boy, the old man and the deer. That would, I am sure gladden God’s heart.

[Mr G]

Our Need of God

My friend Joyce has sent me another lovely Tweet of a Robin who visited her garden recently and brightened up her day.

TURNING BACK TO GOD

We live in an ‘instant’ world where Internet technology has made it possible to find answers to many questions and seek information about many things. Social Media is both a blessing and a curse.
People find it so easy to wage war on others without any sense of responsibility. It is hard to seek and find redress when things have gone ‘viral’. Glib comments which pour from news media and gossip papers that masquerade as newspapers, damage lives.
Also, in our instant world, it is so easy to make decisions without pondering the consequences.  Governments sometimes do this and regret it later!
Whereas, in a genuinely civilized and democratic society ideas are celebrated, debated, refined and honed, before becoming offered and accepted, we tend to rush in where, as they say, angels fear to tread.

One hopes that those in conference in Glasgow at COP26, may be more restrained and shy away from instant decisions which may lack substance.
A Conference which is seeking solutions to the problems besetting the world needs to be considerate, filled with kindness, respectful of all participants, including (and perhaps especially) those witnessing on the fringe of the Conference. Many are very knowledgeable including David Attenborough, Prince Charles and Greta Thunberg. There’s a lot of expertise around which must be heard. We must be encouraged in our hope for a better world, a safer planet and a deeper understanding of Creation, how it works; how it can’t work, and, most importantly who our Planet is for.

We have much to pray about right now.

So what has this all to do with the little Robin?

Well, first of all, it has no seat at the Conference table, yet it is representative of the whole of Creation. Though it has a beautiful and melodious voice, it will not be heard at COP26, nor will other parts of Creation.
When God made us ‘Stewards’ of the earth, He had a hope that we wouldn’t exploit our beautiful Planet nor the lovely and diverse people who populate it along with the amazing and vast varieties of creatures, plants and all that makes our world so tremendous.

The Conference in Glasgow will hardly celebrate that because it is gathered to make reparation for all the destruction each generation has made. At least, in theory!
I doubt there will be much Penitence, which brings me back to the Robin.
Who is apologizing to him/her for what we are doing to his/her habitation and freedom? Who will admit to the creatures the Robin represents that we have been sucking the life out of Nature, the world they inhabit alongside us.

So the other reason the Robin is important to us is in the words Joyce has chosen from Psalm 40.

“I waited patiently for the Lord,
He turned to me and heard my cry.”

R.S. Thomas, in one of his poems said, The meaning is in the waiting.’
The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, said that it is important to distinguish between what is ‘urgent’ and what is ‘important’. That takes patience and discernment.

If at COP26 we only deal with the Urgent – and all our proposed solutions deal just with that, then we may miss what is important.
What will change our world is if we get the Important right.

And what might this Important be?

I am going to say that it is rooted in returning to the One who is the Creator of the world and the Universe. Too vast a concept? Then how about this to meditate on:

He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.

The moment we step away from the mess we are making and turn again to the Lord for help, we are moving from despair to hope and from blame to Praise.
We turn towards our Loving God and try to put our Trust in him.

Happy are those who make the Lord their Trust. Says the psalmist.

The Robin may well teach us how to Trust
It trusts that God in Creation will sustain it.
It sings for all of the Natural World (of which, actually we are part).
It knows its need of God.

What really worries me is – how true is that of the human race?
Does humanity know its need for God.
The important work is for us who do know our need of God to open others to trust in Him
and in His love for the Earth and all in and on it.
It really will make a difference.

This is how the Psalm ends.
With a slight amendment, I offer it as a prayer.

May all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually,
‘Great is the Lord!”

For truly, you are our help and our deliverer
Come to us and help us, O Lord our God.

[Mr.G.]

Pausing in solitude

Another offering from my friend, Joyce Smith

In various forms, the saying: A picture is worth a thousand words, holds a truth. One carefully taken photo can hold us spellbound, our hearts touched.
Joyce Smith’s offering here, of a Grey Heron, pausing in solitude among the beauty of autumn colours is one of those photographs.

It stills us and invites us to sit, pause from whatever we are doing or from things that worry or make us anxious. This can move us into a prayer pause. We let God touch our lives and remind us that whatever is occupying our thoughts, God is holding us.
Change the direction of our thoughts and we will know this. The Heron seems to be sure.

All this photo needs is a prayer. Here is one by George Appleton.
It is one of my favourites.

QUIET HEARTS

O Spirit of God,
set at rest the crowded, hurrying, anxious thoughts
within our minds and hearts.
Let the peace and quiet of thy presence
take possession of us.
Help us to rest, to relax,
to become open and receptive to thee.
Thou dost know our imost spirits,
the hidden unconscius life within us,
the forgotten memories of hurts and fears,
the frustrated desires,
the unresolved tensions and dilemmas.
Cleanse and sweeten the springs of our being,
that freedom, life and love
may flow into both our conscious and hidden life.
Lord, we lie open before thee,
waiting for thy peace,
thy healing,
thy word.

[Mr G]  with thanks to Joyce.

P.S. St Bruno was the founder of the religious order known as the Carthusians