A new book on the doorstep!

This morning, I was nursing a head cold in my own style – sitting on a bench in the sunny bit of the garden, wrapped up in a large blanket, and reading poetry. I thought I heard our postie so I pottered round to the front of the house, and saw this white envelope on the doorstep.

It’s always exciting opening something with the publisher’s frank on it, and this was very exciting! It’s the first copy of my new book, and BRF have done a lovely job of it. It’s a good size and weight in the hand, and the type and paper are crisp and clear. It’s a lovely thing. It’s particularly strange when something that began as a rather nebulous set of thoughts and hunches and feelings progresses through various birthing stages until it is an actual physical object you can hold in your hand. Wonderful! The joy of it seems to have lifted my coldy symptoms remarkably effectively – I hope it lasts!

The very physical bookness of the book has now been realised. I hope that those thoughts and feelings which have crystalised into the content may be equally real and tangible and helpful to those who read it. I’ve had a quick flick through and read a few snippets, too, and all seems well. The late amendments have gone in very efficiently, including an extract from one of the The ‘Mary, at your feet’ poems I had a yen to include.

You can pre-order it on most internet bookshops, and it should be available to order in high street bookshops in the New Year – but it might be worth asking before that just in case some distributors are ahead of the game. The publication date is 18th January 2019.

Here are a few online suggestions, in case you would like your postie to deliver one for you, too:

BRF – the publisher

Waterstones

Amazon UK

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

New Publication Date, and Autumn Quiet Spaces – it’s here, but shh..

 

 

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It’s always exciting to get a parcel from Marston Book Services – they deliver from my publishers, and, ridiculously, I am surprised – what could it be?  Sometimes, there is a foreign language edition I didn’t know was coming out, and sometimes, it’s work I did a while ago and have forgotten.

This time, it’s Quiet Spaces for the third quarter of the year.  September, that isn’t too hard to think about, but Christmas? Really? Shh, I don’t want to think about that yet…..
I wrote a series of meditations on the carol See, amid the winter’s snow  to take us through the busy days of the Christmas celebrations.  It seems impossible to imagine there might be snow again – now, when it’s so hot, when the skies look like maybe, at last, a rainstorm is coming.  But there we are, this is the time for ordering a copy ready for the Autumn.  Have a look at the link to see what else is in there.  It’s full of good things.

 

Also, the same publishers have given us a date for Jesus said “I am”, and you can read more, and also register to pre-order, on their website.  You should also be able to do so at your local bookshop, or the usual online places including Amazon.
The publication date is Friday 18th January 2019.  It’s quite exciting!

 

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We have a publication date!

Some of you kind readers may remember that I’ve been working on a book over the past year or so – exploring the I Am sayings of Jesus.

I am delighted to be able to share with you that it will be published on 19th October, 2018.  The publisher, BRF, has kindly put an early page up on its shop, although I do not think you can order it yet – I’ll let you know when that is possible.

The title is, “Jesus said, “I am” – finding life in the everyday”

As we get nearer to October, I’ll tell you more about it, and hopefully share some of my work with you.  But, to give you some idea – in each chapter I spend some time exploring and reflecting on a part of John’s gospel, trying to immerse us in what was going on for Jesus at the time, and how that might connect to us and our lives now.  Then, I go on to offer suggestions for our response.  There are some questions to prompt thought or discussion, but also creative exercises, social engagement, things to do as you go about your day, prayers for personal or community use…  It’s about how we live, and how we have life.
I hope to give you some examples soon.

It has been taking me a while to do this, so thank you for your patience, and I look forward to sharing more with you soon.

Writing for Christmas in August – See, Amid the Winter’s Snow……

 

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Walter Launt Palmer

 

One of the strange and rather wonderful things about writing for a devotional publication like Quiet Spaces  is that you sometimes find yourself doing things at times that feel out of step with the world outside your window.  So, now, in August, I am thinking of the cold and dark of midwinter.  Today, it is very rainy indeed here in Suffolk, and not at all summery, which nearly fits…

I decided to base my meditations on the simple and profound carol, “See, Amid the Winter’s Snow”, by Edward Caswall.  I am finding it a very moving  process, and am looking forward to whatever will emerge from it.
If you feel like some unseasonal listening, you could try the following, which are currently playing on repeat in my house.

 

Happy Post – Quiet Spaces and Otley Hall

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So, today our lovely post person, Wendy, delivered a small parcel containing the new issue of Quiet Spaces from BRF.  There is still time to order your copy here.

My contribution is on the Book of Esther, which seems appropriate in our rather turbulent political climate, when many feel powerless.   Below is an extract from this edition, one of the more studious ones, which invites us to consider power and its uses.  We are reminded that God has a special regard for those who are powerless.

The Golden Sceptre
    Thematic Reading

Power is an inescapable theme of Esther – yet however absolute it seems, it has cracks.  The extent of this nation’s power, stretched from India to Ethiopia,  is laid out in the first sentence, and the first chapter is a study in egotistic powerplay. The nobles and subjects are simply audience, and woman’s beauty is degraded in this sordid charade. What matters is that the various appetites of the king are sated, and that all dance to his tune.
The Bible is a most unusual book in that it is a collection of stories from the bottom.  It is the perspective of slaves, invaded peoples, younger sons, and the defeated.  Even in its brief glory under David and Solomon, Israel was not a mighty nation like this.  The New Testament, too, gives us the perspective of the excluded and marginalised.  Jesus is a servant king, so different from Xerxes (NIV).
It is easy to forget this, as we look back at history through the lens of a powerful Christendom, with a powerful church.  It is easy to forget that God calls us to be a people under God’s shepherding, and that Jesus knelt at his followers feet.
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Consider some of the passages below, reflecting on any situations where you may be in a position of power – even in something as everyday as buying things.

Ezekiel 34
John 10:11-18
Jeremiah 31
Hebrews 8:10, 10:16
1 Samuel 8-9 (esp 8 v6-9)
Luke 20:46-47
John 13:3-17

Are there ways you can honour and serve people in positions society may regard as inferior today?  Can you bless people you normally overlook?
You could make some  “Thank you” or “Bless you” cards to give to people you encounter.

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Wendy also brought a letter from Otley Hall containing some of the lovely feedback from last Wednesday’s Quiet Day.  Thank you to all who came – it was very special to share the day with you. Thank you all so much.
I hope you had a good Easter.

 

An Advent “O”, and Quiet Spaces

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I am making some preparations for Christmas, following on from my previous post on experiencing the darkness, the waiting, of Advent.  As I’ve been doing bits about the place, I have had Malcolm Guite’s “O” sonnets in my mind, and also the ancient songs on which they are based.

I unwrapped my old twig wreath, to see that it is even less of a circle than in previous years.  But, as I turned it round, I saw it as an “O”, which seemed just right for today.  The most famous of the “O”s is O Come O come Emmanuel, which sees good for a wreath, a sign of welcome.  I thought of all the welcomes of Christmas – from Jesus in a manger,  to friends and family who come to the door.

As I was thinking this, Wendy our post person came with a little parcel containing these

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The latest edition of Quiet Spaces   My contribution is some meditations based on Emily Dickinson’s poetry.  I so enjoyed doing that – but I had forgotten that it hadn’t come out yet!
So, there are twelve poems, or extracts of them, by ED, followed by a meditation, a creative response, an application to take into your day.  They work as daily meditations, or combined to form a quiet day or group activity.  I’m quite excited about returning to them, with an

O

 

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Contemplative Prayer – The Cloud of Unknowing

One of the joys of working for Quiet Spaces is that the meditations you write months ago seem to come back when you need them.  So this morning, the latest edition arrived in the post, reminding me of a prayer practice that had slipped away.

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For this issue, packed with good things, I wrote a series of meditations and explorations of The Cloud of Unknowing. The 14th century text is an extraordinarily rich resource for anyone interested in contemplative prayer. It feels very necessary and timely to me right now, and with the Archbishops’ initiative for a week of prayer before Pentecost, I am finding it helpful  to look again at this way of praying.
The Cloud seeks to remind us that God is above our knowledge, but accessible in love. It asks us to wait, to lose our discomfort with “unknowing”, to be prepared to be in what can feel like a cloud.  We are often afraid of mystery, and sometimes prefer knowing to loving, so this type of prayer calls for humility, and patience with ourselves.  It seems to deepen our ability to connect.

Here is my first suggestion to begin – it may help if you are following the week of prayer.

You may wish to establish a pattern for contemplative prayer.  For example (you could)  turn off technology, find a place, light a candle, do some steadying breathing.  Begin with this verse:

“My soul thirst for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?”
Psalm 42:2

Calm your mind.  Let go of thoughts. Focus your loving attention on God, who is always present. Stay in the stillness, the silence, for as long as you can.  When your mind wanders, try again.
“Lift up your heart to God with humble love”
The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 3

This act of prayer begins with the act of lifting up your heart, and directing your loving attention, to the source of love.

The Cloud of Unknowing is well worth reading. It is broken into small sections, which helps slow down the process and make it less about mastering a technique, or gaining knowledge, and more about entering into presence.
Penguin classics have an excellent version, and you can also access an online version here