Julian of Norwich

julian1Born in 1342 into uncertain times – two plagues within twenty years, which halved the population of Norwich, and England in the middle of a thirty-year war with France. She was deeply religious and earnestly prayed for three things – an experience of the passion as if she had been there, a near death encounter at age thirty, and thirdly, the gift of three wounds, contrition, natural compassion and a longing for God. Whilst the three wounds were a constant prayer she seems to have let the other two go until they came to pass in the her thirty-first year.

In early 1373 she succumbed to an illness that took her near to death and having received the last rites all expected her to die. She remembered her requests for an experience of the passion and near death encounters and experienced two days of visionary encounters centred around the love of God as well as themes of redemption, God’s mercy and sin.

It is thought that after this experience that Julian withdrew to live as an anchoress in seclusion and prayer in two rooms attached to the main body of the church of St Julian in Norwich, with a maid to assist her. She had three windows in her room – one facing the street, in the commercial quarter of Norwich, where people could come to ask for her advice, one where she could look into the church when services were held and one where the maid brought food and water and took out the waste.

When I visited the church I was really impacted by the enduring presence of God in the small room she had lived in. Here was an unknown, illiterate woman who taught herself to read and write and who had amazing encounters with Father, Son and Holy Spirit over a two-day period. She divided these encounters into sixteen ‘Showings’ and spent the rest of her life, forty years or so, meditating, reflecting and writing in what some describe as a circular fashion, going ever deeper to discover more of the heart of God.

She was a contemporary of Chaucer and was the first woman to write a ‘book,’ a spiritual treatise, in the language of common people and is acknowledged as the “first lady” of written English – as significant to prose as Chaucer was to poetry.

Her spirituality and theology, deeply rooted in daily life and experiences, were counter-cultural with the church in a dire state and most people focussed on avoiding going to hell, the Inquisition and the stamping out of heresy in full flow. Her message was entirely positive focussing on God’s grace as she encountered the love of the Father through Jesus by the Hoy Spirit. This love is shown continually towards all He has made –

“In this vision he showed me a little thing, the size of a hazelnut, and it was round as a ball. I looked at it with the eye of my understanding and thought, “What may this be?” And it was generally answered thus: “It is all that is made.” I marvelled how it might last, for it seemed it might suddenly have sunk into nothing because of its littleness. And I was answered in my understanding, “It lasts and ever shall, because God loves it.” (Revelation 5)

And it was the reason for the Showings –

“From the time I first had these revelations I often longed to know what our Lord meant. More than fifteen years later I was given in response a spiritual understanding and was told: “Do you want to know what our Lord meant in all this? Know it well: Love was his meaning. Who showed it to you? Love. What did he show you? Love. Why did he show it to you? For love.” (Revelation 86)

I am inspired by her example, she followed where He led even though it was against the tide and denounced by the established church, sustained by the love of God.

Women of a Certain Age

Excuse the pun! We are both in our fifties and just publicly marked the beginning of cyfeillion-friends on a warm and windy sunny afternoon on Whitford Beach. Grateful for the company of friends and missing those who couldn’t be there it was a joy filled time of special moments and significance. For me a feeling of having taken a step into something that has been buried deep within me for decades, only now to emerge, tentatively, into a new creative space.

Following on from this, we are beginning of a series of blogs where Karen and I will focus on women mystics through the High to Late Middle Ages, some sites we have visited and some we have read about – the purse doesn’t stretch to globetrotting these days! These women had an impact in their time and still speak today, their legacy – inspiration that spans generations.

Background
The High to Late Middle Ages (1000-1500AD) were uncertain, with socio-political and spiritual turmoil including the break-up of feudalism, the rise of capitalism, the break up of Catholicism, national disasters and a release of new religious movements.

Some felt the church’s fallen state (usury, gluttony, lust for riches and sexual excess amongst the priests) was due to acquiring property and the church had ‘unchurched’ itself, they believed, in the fourth century when Constantine gifted Western Europe to St Sylvester.’[1] This resulted in restorationist movements seeking to return to an expression of faith in line with the first century apostles’ principles. This ‘rage for apostolic poverty’ was characteristic of the Middle Ages and resulted in men and women leaving their positions and possessions so that they may more perfectly follow Christ. Some did this alone, others in small groups, others in conjunction with or in cooperation with established, cloistered religious orders, and some became the beginnings of new religious orders. The most well known is St Francis and his pursuit of the vita apostolica – The Apostolic life.

Between 1100 and 1400 women were to find new roles within the church and society. Traditionally their choice was either “man [marriage] or the wall [monastery]” and as they were not allowed a position of leadership within the church structure they took on a prophetic role – particularly the Beguines (alongside the movement amongst lay men, the Beghards).

The Beguines were the first specifically women’s movement birthed out of the revival in the thirteenth century and some say a female response to St Francis’ vita apostolica. Despite the dire state of the institutional church there were many ordinary people who had a clear and vivid faith and wanted a way of life that matched the purity of their desires. These women were not nuns, they were lay people, nor were they attached to a specific order as convents at the time were often the repository for rich families’ unwanted children or you had to come form a certain strata of society and pay a dowry to get in! Mostly prominent in Northern Europe, some lived at home some with others, some dedicated themselves to prayer, some combined prayer with acts of mercy. They were self-supporting artisans and craftspeople and thought to be forerunners of the active orders of religious women – think Mother Teresa – who lived, worked and ministered to the world and not in cloistered convents.

That’s a very broad backdrop to the lives and influences of some of the women we will look at. I feel a particular resonance with these women particularly the mix of their creativity, spirituality and community engagement. I am keen to learn more from their experiences and how they made an impact in their communities and beyond.

[1] Abraham Van Luik, Lessons from a Women’s Movement in the High Middle Ages

Marking the Moment and Moving On

It’s been quiet on the Cyfellion front over the last 6 months or so as I have been focussed on managing the final renovations of Antioch Centre and the Ail Gyfle-Second Chance social enterprise workshops here in Llanelli as well as handing on some roles and responsibilities. All good stuff and am very pleased with how its all looking. Some rest over the last few months and experimenting with a new, more relaxed rhythm has left space for looking forward.

We would like to mark the beginning of the next stage in the journey of cyfeillion-friends with some prayer, worship, and communion so this is an invitation to join us if you are able and would like to stand with us. You won’t be signing up to anything but we would appreciate your company and prayers as we begin to explore some new landscapes

Place : Whitford Beach, Llanmadoc, north Gower
Date : Saturday July 1st
Time : 12pm

We will head back to the caravan for a light lunch so if you are coming could you message or email me on debchapman@btinternet.com

Beth Ydyn Ni’n ei Adael ar Ein Hôl?

Dyma air gan Arthur Burk, Sapphire Leadership Group ac efallai y bydd yn cyseinio gyda rhai ohonoch. Mae trawsnewid yn amser dyrys, ac er mwyn i bethau weithio’n dda mae’n rhaid i bawb sydd ynghlwm weithio arno; gan symud yn fwriadol mewn gras ond eto rhoi lle i’r pwyntiau hyn o gyfathrebu coll, hen ragdybiaethau, y gwrthdaro rhwng yr hen a’r newydd gan ddal ymlaen er mwyn i bawb sydd ynghlwm symud i le newydd. Mae ei ysgrifau’n procio’r meddwl a gobeithiaf y bydd hyn o gymorth gyda’r siwrne.

“Llwyddodd ein seminar yn Innsbruck ynghylch trawsnewid i dorri’n ddwfn i’r tir. Un cysyniad a gafodd gryn ergyd oedd yr hyn yr ydych chi’n ei adael ar ei ôl yn ystod trawsnewidiad.

Mae yna sawl stori glasurol.
-Pedr, Andreas, Iago ac Ioan yn gadael eu busnesau.
-Mathew yn gadael ei swydd gyda’r llywodraeth.
-Abraham yn gwrthod gadael ei deulu tu ôl i gychwyn.
-Duw yn ei orfodi i adael Ismael er mwyn canolbwyntio ar dymor Isaac.
-Bu’n rhaid i Noa adael cannoedd o berthnasoedd ar ôl.
-Roedd gwraig Lot yn gadael y ddinas tu ôl iddi’n emosiynol.
-Gadawodd Paul gynulleidfaoedd bach newydd ar ei ôl heb fugail.

Un o’r trawsnewidiadau sy’n gafael fwyaf yn emosiynol o ran gadael pethau ar ôl yw arestio’r Iesu, ei dreialu a’i farwolaeth.

Nid oedd un o’r apostolion yn gwybod digon eto. Ni allai un ohonynt ddeall ystyr na gwychder y digwyddiadau erchyll a oedd ar droed. Ni allai’r tri gorau hyd yn oed aros ar ddihun yng Ngardd Gethsemane.

Ond roedd y dasg a roddwyd i’r Iesu yn sensitif iawn i amser. Ni allai fod unrhyw oedi. Ni allai aros i esbonio unwaith eto. Ni allai hyd yn oed fynd ag un neu ddau gydag Ef. Roedd yn rhaid iddo gerdded i ffwrdd wrth dair blynedd o fuddsoddiad dwys a symud i mewn i’r tymor nesaf ar ei ben ei hun yn llwyr.

Mae pob un ohonom wedi gwneud llawer o drawsnewidiadau. Ar gyfer y cyntaf, sef ein genedigaeth, roedden ni’n cael ein tynnu’n ffyrnig o’r lle fu’n cynrychioli heddwch, cysur a diogelwch i ni trwy gydol ein bodolaeth. Ni fyddai modd dychwelyd, dan unrhyw amgylchiadau.

Yna byddem yn torri i ffwrdd yn barhaol oddi wrth yr unig ffynhonnell bywyd yr ydyn ni wedi ei adnabod erioed – llinyn y bogail. Ni fyddai’n cael ei roi yn ôl, dim byth.

Y cynllun oedd i ni ffynnu mewn amgylchedd gwahanol o freichiau cariadus a gwelyau diogel, ac i dderbyn ffynhonnell maeth newydd – llaeth.

Mae’r rhan fwyaf o fabanod yn llwyddo i wneud y trawsnewidiad hwn yn iawn. Maen nhw’n gallu gadael beth sydd angen ei adael a derbyn yr adnoddau ar lluniad newydd, gan barhau gyda thymor gwahanol iawn yn eu bywydau ar y tu allan.

I rai, mae trawma’r trawsnewidiad gymaint eu bod yn gwrthod eu mam, gan roi’r bai arni hi am darfu arnynt. Pan gynigir y fron, mae’r baban yn gwrthod. Pan gynigir cariad, mae’r plentyn yn ei wrthod.

Yn y diwedd, mae gwrthod derbyn y trawsnewidiad o’r hen i’r newydd yn gallu bod yn niweidiol iawn i’r plentyn.

Mae’r un peth yn wir i ni.

Gall y ffaith fod ein trawsnewidiad o un tymor i’r nesaf wedi bod yn llawn trais, anghyfiawnder neu gywilydd wneud i ni fod yn obsesiynol ynghylch unioni’r cam, yn lle chwilio am yr adnoddau newydd sy’n perthyn i’r tymor newydd

Gall y ffaith ein bod wedi colli cymunedau cyfan a oedd yn brif ffynhonnell i’n bywyd emosiynol wneud i ni hoelio’n sylw gymaint ar y gwacter yn ein bywydau nad ydym yn pwyso i mewn i’r tymor newydd – a gwahanol – y mae Duw yn ceisio ein symud i mewn iddo.

Gall ffyrnigrwydd y ffordd y tynnwyd yr hen ffynonellau cymorth ariannol i ffwrdd oddi wrthym ein cadw rhag derbyn math arall a gwahanol iawn o gynhaliaeth yn y tymor newydd.

Yn drist iawn, yn aml rydyn ni’n gwneud trawsnewidiad yn llawer mwy anodd nag y mae angen iddo fod trwy roi’r bai ar y diafol am hyn neu’r llall yn lle edrych ymlaen a cheisio gweld yr adnoddau newydd y mae Duw wedi eu gosod yn eu lle.
Efallai y byddai’n werth i chi edrych yn ôl ar rai o’ch trawsnewidiadau yn y gorffennol i weld os allwch wneud heddwch â’r hyn yr oeddech I FOD wedi ei adael ar eich ôl.

Gan Arthur Burk
Mawrth 2017″

What do you leave behind?

This is a post from Arthur Burk, Sapphire Leadership Group and it may resonate for some. Transition is always a tricky time and doing it well takes work for everyone concerned; intentionally moving in grace and allowing for these points of missed communiciation, old assumptions, the clash of old and new yet holding on to move through to a new place for all involved. O often find his writing thought provoking and hope this helps with the journey.

“Our seminar in Innsbruck about transition plowed some deep ground. One of the concepts that landed with a jolt was the issue of what you leave behind during a transition.
There are many classic stories.

-Peter, Andrew, James and John left their businesses.

-Matthew left his government post.
-Abraham initially refused to leave his family behind.
-God forced him to part ways from Ishmael in order to focus on Isaac’s season.
-Noah had to leave hundreds of relatives behind.
-Lot’s wife was to emotionally leave the city behind.
-Paul routinely left tiny, new congregations behind with no pastor.

One of the most emotionally gripping transitions involving leaving things behind was Jesus’ arrest, trial and death.

None of the apostles were up to speed yet. None of them could grasp the meaning or magnificence of the ghastly events about to follow. The three best could not even stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane.

But the task Jesus had to do was utterly time sensitive. There could be no delay. He could not wait to explain one more time. He could not take even one or two along with Him. He had to walk away from three years of intense investment and move into the next season absolutely alone.

All of us have made many transitions. The first one, birth, involved our being violently yanked from the place that had represented peace, comfort and security for all of our existence. There would be no return under any circumstances.

Then we were permanently cut off from the only source of life we had ever known – the umbilical cord. It would never be put back.

The plan was for us to thrive in a different environment of loving arms and safe beds, and to avail ourselves of a new source of nutrition – milk.

Most babies make the transition OK. They are able to leave what needs to be left and to receive the new construct and new resources, carrying on with the very different season of life on the outside.

Some are so traumatized by the transition they reject their mother, blaming her for the disruption they have experienced. When the breast is offered, the child refuses. When love is offered, the child rejects it.

In the end, the refusal to accept the transition from the old to the new can be hugely detrimental to the child.

The same is true for us.

The fact that there has been violence, injustice or shame involved in our transition from one season to another can cause us to become obsessed with making right the wrong, instead of looking for the new resources that belong in the new season.

The fact that we have lost entire communities that were our primary source of emotional life can cause us to become so fixated on the emptiness in our lives that we do not lean into the new – and different – community in the new season that God is trying to transition us into.

The harshness with which the old sources of financial support were ripped away from us can keep us from receiving an alternative, very different form of sustenance in the new season.

Tragically, we often make a transition much harder than it really needs to be by relentlessly blaming the devil for this or that, instead of resolutely looking forward, seeking to find the new resources God has put in place.
It might be worth your time to revisit some of your past transitions and see if you can come to peace with what was SUPPOSED to be left behind.

By Arthur Burk
March 2017″

Restoration Man by Deb Chapman

This came out of my prayers this morning ….

Restoration Man

Twirl, dart, weaving wagtail dance
lifted high on wings of angels.
Swoop, dive down, down
into the deep blue,
rising, falling, singing
as we surf the winds of heaven.

Love unbounded,
arms outstretched
draws fragile earth in chest
holds, and hovers there.

From the belly of the dawn
strides Restoration Man.
Dazzling brightness,
blinds with sight
of all that we could be

 

Oil when you need it!

It’s been a while since I posted . It’s been a busy December as we prepared for our 5th Christmas Lifeshare celebration – a day where we support families in the community by providing a free party with Bouncy Castle, craft, LEGO, Santa’ Grotto and toys, 2 course meal and Christmas hampers to take home. Around 40 – 50 volunteers are involved and between 130-150 adults and children come to enjoy the party. We work with local schools, health visitors, social workers, supermarkets, town and county councils to pull it off.

It’s a real privilege to support families at such a pressured time of year but I was personally struggling in the week before the event. My capacity has been low for a while and I wasn’t sure I had it for the challenges of the week ahead where curve balls can come from any direction. So, I sent a prayer request out to the Antioch community and felt the grace land on me physically – no tantrums or melt downs materialised from me or anyone else!

By the Friday I was wilting again. I had to leave the guys to set up on the Friday as I attended the funeral of a close friend’s mum, which was a special time and on returning to the Centre chip butties for lunch were very welcome. Finishing touches sorted and we were all set for the following day. I was alone so I put on my favourite worship song of the moment “Explode my soul” (I particularly connect with the refrain “Explode my soul, explode with praise, what He promised is what He gave”) and lay down in a particular spot by the hatch in the Main Hall. It’s where we usually have bread and wine and from time to time an angel can be seen standing on that spot.

In yielding to Him I became aware of being surrounded by angels carrying buckets of oil which they then emptied out all over me – a release of fresh oil. As I allowed the oil to soak through me I was reminded of the time I spoke on the parable of the 10 virgins earlier in the year (drew a lot on Brad Jersak’s piece) and the thoughts that to those listening to Jesus oil was symbolic of mercy and to receive fresh oil, to renew your lamp and keep it burning Jesus encouraged us to go into the marketplace and do acts of mercy. Think I was experiencing the reality of that word!

The fruit of that encounter was that I sailed through Saturday, coped with the stressy bits and have felt an increased capacity as I recover. In sharing this I am not advocating doing more when you actually need to rest – there are natural laws that need heeding. But I am grateful for His intervention in supplying what I needed to not simply survive something, but to come through in good grace and experience the joy of a job well done! It is true that blessed are those who are merciful for they shall receive mercy