Tag: spirituality

Inspiring Paintings: Like a Child 

Inspiring Paintings: Like a Child 

This amazing painting by Giotto captures the dramatic moment when St. Francis of Assisi (on the right, naked) throws off all his clothes in protest to his father (being restrained on the left), who was a rich merchant.

Francis says that he will from now on only follow his “heavenly father” (you can see the hand of God at the top of the painting).

I love the expression on the bishop’s face (who covers up Francis), the children front left who are caught up in the drama without really understanding what is going on, the onlookers, who probably also weren’t exactly sure what was going on apart from a domestic row, and the way Giotto uses the building to highlight the conflict between the two parties.

I wrote this poem about this moment in Francis’ life, captured so beautifully by the painting:

The bishop holds him

like a child

.

And in his nakedness

we see our own condition

.

Without impressiveness

without pretence

.

Open

to grace.

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My Spirit Drinks Deep

Another phrase

Finds me out

.

Just a few

Words are enough

.

For thought

To be inspired

.

And my spirit

Drinks deep

.

From the waters

Of life

.

That never

Run dry.

.

Inspired by Psalm 1, this poem comes from “Songs of Gladness, Songs of Pain”,  a modern rendering of twenty-nine different Psalms, ancient texts that speak of human struggle to understand and relate to God.

Like the Psalms, these poems seek to understand evil and violence in the world, searching for peace and meaning, searching for joy and gladness in the midst of pain.

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“The Lord is My Shepherd”, and Lectio Divina

Most people know the words – “The Lord is my shepherd” – but lectio divina helps us go deeper into them.  It is a way of dwelling thoughtfully, meditatively and prayerfully on a word or two at a time.

What image do you have of a “shepherd”, for example?

It’s not an easy job, I imagine.  It must take great perseverance to shepherd sheep in all weathers and to look after newborn lambs at all times of night.  A shepherd is a carer.  A shepherd is determined.  A shepherd must have great love for his flock.

The first words are even more challenging.  Who is “The Lord”?  God, obviously!  But do you think of God as a “Lord”?  And what would that mean for how God relates to people?  If he is our “lord”, then what are we?  Perhaps the image is like the shepherd image – it is an image of care.  It’s also an image of authority – like the shepherd, of course – which is more challenging, especially to some cultural beliefs about human autonomy and freedom.

Is “The Lord” my shepherd?  Is he mine?  That’s the word – “my”.

The meditation has taken us deeper into the first five words of the psalm.

Have you ever tried lectio divina? It is an amazing method of reading and praying, and you may, like me, find you start seeing and learning things you never dreamed possible!

You can read the whole of Psalm 23 here.

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The Spiritualities of Christianity – Psalm 1…continued

The practice of Lectio Divina (prayerful reading) encourages us to dwell on individual phrases and words.

I have found this such a revolutionary way to read, because it opens up meaning in totally new ways.

Psalm 1 begins like this:

“Blessed are they who have not walked

in the counsel of the wicked, 

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.”

It’s a powerful start, with that shocking word “wicked”.

It reminds me that evil exists, that people are not always just “ill” or “misinformed”. 

It reminds me that we can find destructiveness even in ourselves.

And it reminds me that in each of our journeys, every day, we have to face dilemmas about where we “walk”.  Will we walk in the way of the wicked, or will we walk another way?  And what is that other way?  How do we know it?  Where does it lead us to?

“Blessed are they who have not walked

In the counsel of the wicked.”

Which “counsel” do I listen to?  There are voices in the world, voices in the media, voices inside me sometimes urging me one way or another.

How can I resist “the counsel of the wicked”?  How will I find the strength? What will motivate me to persevere on a different path?

Perhaps sometimes it is just laziness:

“nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the assembly of the scornful.”

It is easy to linger over things we shouldn’t linger over…Especially if no-one is looking!

It is easy to sit back…Especially if we are in an “assembly” of others being scornful and critical!

And yet there is something positive in these words.

“Blessed…”

That word “Blessed”.

What does it mean to you?  What does it mean to me, to be, and to feel “blessed”?

There is something about how we choose to live our lives, something about how we choose to walk, how we choose not to linger, how we choose not to scorn.  There is something about avoiding all these pitfalls, that leads somehow to blessedness.

How can we discover that blessedness?

What journey will we take?

And can reading The Psalms help us on our journey?