Refreshing our Spirits in Advent
(a reflection based on a creative art exploration workshop run by Melitta Bosworth and Katy Low)
by Melitta Bosworth
Posted 13 December, 2015
The Advent setting in the image below includes part of a tree that blew down in the storms earlier in Spring. I have been walking past this bit of wood for months wondering how I might use it. Of late it struck me as being rather ‘womb-like’, which seemed to fit with ‘the preparation for birthing’ of this season. As I wait in anticipation: what does God desire to birth in me this Christmas?
The purple path indicates an invitation to journey - slow down, relax, and find a more playful, reflective space; and to notice how you are in body, heart, mind, soul and spirit.
Deep within your soul
There is a knowing place
A sanctuary where gifts are nurtured.
Enter that sacred space
Spend time there tending your gifts
There in the chapel of your heart
You will become a gift to be given.
Preparing for a workshop strikes me as a birthing process: a gestation of ideas, a holding, a carrying, a walking with, sometimes awkwardly, and not quite knowing what will emerge… and can be a mix of celebration and strong emotion in the outworking. The desire held for the group was that they might create a sense of themselves as an ‘Advent window of hope’ – and maybe ponder their place in the Christ project … just a small desire then!
Each participant was given the gift of an angel’s wing and a reminder of God’s care. The five colours offered in the workshop - purple, yellow, red, turquoise and green – represents each area we were exploring: body, heart, mind, soul and spirit.
To begin to find a sense of belonging and grounding as a group, we created a mandala…
Later we offered music and mark-making to connect with ourselves.
“The idea of moving to different rhythms is to offer the opportunity to reconnect to your natural vitality, for anything that is stuck cannot breathe and stagnates, whereas that which moves and breathes can grow and blossom. Finding freedom in your movement. ... ‘is an expressive, enjoyable meditative and transformational way of connecting with your own sense of purpose. This process leads us to find our own stillness.’” (adapted from Gabrielle Roth)
Not everyone was able to find freedom to move. Reflecting now, I consider again that part of exploring our gifts often includes encountering some of our limitations and vulnerabilities; but that is part of the flow, different aspects of the arts free us in different ways.
Through creating individual fabric designs, focusing on the processes and discoveries, what emerged was the richness of the gifts we already are and maybe some clues as to what we are being invited to develop – opening a window of wonder!
How am I already gifted in these areas?
How can I care for each of these parts?
What have I discovered?
What am I waiting on?
What are the possibilities?
To close the workshop, we brought all the cloths together creating an image of the Advent window that this little group became.
The final invitation as they set out to return to their different homes was to continue embellishing their cloths as they journeyed through Advent.
Not everyone was able to celebrate which saddened me and reminded me that this is also true of this season.
‘Body, heart, mind, soul and spirit brought together into a balance or an awareness creates the potential for something new to be birthed.’
If you can celebrate the gift you already are and ponder God’s potential within you, that seems to be refreshing and in keeping with the spirit of waiting in anticipation during Advent.
Melitta is the art facilitator at The Bield, an artist, and practices as a spiritual director and a Person Centred Counsellor. She is a member of the Epiphany Group. If you would be interested in hosting a creative art exploration workshop in your area, please contact Melitta through The Bield. For more information about her work, see her website.
THE PRESENT OF ADVENT
by Claire Starr
posted 6 December 2015
As I wait, I see the horizon far off,
Sparkling in the sun as it dangles in the sky,
The horizon, so far away,
Yet, soon, it ebbs this way.
The horizon calls to the eyes,
A temptation to focus away from now,
As I look out and to the future,
The present ebbs and flows and disappears.
The Christmas that sparkles
Focusses the eyes on things to be done,
The anxiety of remembering,
The pressure looms and clouds the present.
And, in doing so,
Christmas is lost, the truth missed,
The Love birthed into mess
To reveal the Truth of Love.
Yet, to see, as I stand on the edge of December,
The present Advent,
The eternal moment of now,
Is to sail the waves of Love
And prepare a place for the Incarnate God
In the darkness and mess of my heart
My soul, my life.
How can God love so much to come here?
To this planet we call home
To this tiny planet in the eternal,
Yet so loved that God comes
And shines forth the Love that will be rejected.
Look now upon here, the eternal moment
Live this moment in its fullness
And it will never end, Love never ends
Gaze upon I AM
Claire Starr is a member of the Epiphany Group. She practises as a spiritual director, tutors on the Growth in Prayer & Reflective Living course and is one of the founders of ‘Play & Pray’ – a creative workshop for babies and toddlers and their primary carer (usually, but not exclusively, their mum).
You might also enjoy: ‘haphazard by starlight’ by Janet Morley – a poem a day from Advent to Epiphany.
Waiting in Hope
by Rachel Inglis
posted 29 November 2015
Waiting isn't easy.
Waiting in hope is impossible - without the grace of God.
Waiting in hope is one of the great themes of Advent. Each year at this time I read 'A Time of Waiting: Images and Insights' by Anne Thurston, which is an exploration of waiting and longing, hope and expectation. Using poetry and visual art to explore the unfolding Advent story, Thurston touches on many facets of waiting: being surprised by grace, being given breathing time, letting go, and knowing when to listen and when to speak.
I ask myself today what am I waiting and longing for as we approach the end of what feels like a very turbulent and disturbing year in the world.
Well, I'm longing for the leaders of our world to understand that responding to violence doesn't bring an end to it, but merely gives birth to more destructive violence.
I'm longing for the refugees whose homes and lives in Syria have been shattered will find a place of safety and security.
I'm longing for justice and truth to be the hallmarks of the way we live our lives.
I'm longing for humankind to honour and care for our beautiful and fragile planet.
I'm longing for the 'Word to be born in me again' (Meister Eckhart)
Strangely, this feels like consolation to me. Sure, it's not a happy, bubbly, jumpy up and downy kind of consolation, but more a deep-down, heart-sore kind of consolation. St. Ignatius would call it consolation because it draws me into God's heart. Whereas desolation would mean waiting without hope, when I become strident and critical and completely miss what God is doing quietly, deeply in the world.
What are you longing for - in yourself, in those you love, in the world?
What do you hope for this Advent?
Over the next three weeks, I've invited three friends and colleagues from the Epiphany Group to share what Advent means to them and where they see hope in the world.
SECOND WEEK OF ADVENT: Claire Starr 'The Present of Advent'
WHEN LIFE GOES PEAR-SHAPED…
by Rachel Inglis
posted 8 November 2015
Some days I find myself wondering why on earth I got up that morning!
I had one of those days recently – a lost favourite earring, a ‘spirited’ exchange with a driver who gave me a fright when he took what I felt was an unnecessary risk and who then was in turn bullying and patronising towards me, someone I was due to meet got the time wrong and so the meeting was cancelled and I felt I’d wasted an afternoon, a fruitless half hour trying to replace my free bus pass I’d lost (and then subsequently found ….. OK, so I’m now conforming to stereotypical ‘confused OAP’!).
So, what does St Ignatius say about such days when desolation is heaped upon desolation?
First, he says, that’s life. Each day will have its shifts and movements from desolation to consolation and back. Maybe I allowed myself to focus on the desolation to the exclusion of noticing and appreciating the consolation? During that same day I’d met up with a good friend who listened to my woes without judgement and full of compassion.
Second, he says, learn from desolation, it can teach us lots about ourselves. I got mad with the driver, which is my habitual reaction to fright. I could have told him gently that he’d given me a fright which could have given him the opportunity to respond with more grace.
Third, he gives helpful advice on how to move from desolation to consolation. And much of it feels counter-intuitive, to me at least. So … this is my interpretation of St. Ignatius’s advice.
When in desolation:
- Remind myself that I am loved by God – (who knows me better than I know myself).
- Don’t mope, but talk to God about how I feel, being honest.
- Reflect on how and why I moved into desolation - is there an attitude or behaviour pattern that keeps tripping me up?
- Remind myself that ‘this too will pass’ and the desolation will lift.
- Don’t take any major decisions, and especially don’t go back on decisions made when in a good place.
When Autumn Leaves ....
by Rachel Inglis
posted 15 October 2015
I love autumn; it’s my favourite season. Something about the ‘season of mellow fruitfulness’ just delights me.
I enjoy the leaves turning from green through bright yellow, to burnt orange and flame red. It feels like the last hurrah before winter comes and the plants fall silent.
‘You often talk about letting go’ a friend said to me recently. I’m wondering now whether that is connected to my love of autumn; the time when trees ‘let go’ of their leaves. As I write, I am looking out of the window and can see burnt orange leaves gently floating downwards. There is something in that scene that speaks to me both of generosity and trust.
I love the generosity in the act of the trees letting go of what is dying to make space for new life and growth the following spring. I think I read somewhere that if the dying leaves didn’t fall it would hinder new growth coming. There’s something sacred about the act of trees letting go of what is dying to make space for new life. It speaks to me of trust in the faithfulness of God.
Letting go isn’t an easy discipline. Some of it is downright painful, closely associated as it is with loss and death.
But it is part of life and living. Parents learn to continually ‘let go’ of their children as they develop gradually into the person they are becoming. Friends learn to ‘let go’ of aspects of their friends that are being transformed and to relate to them in new ways. We learn to ‘let go’ of images of ourselves and of God that are no longer true or helpful.
The things I feel I’m being called to let go of at the moment are –
- seeds of ideas that are floating around in my mind but maybe haven’t yet found their time.
- saying ‘I can’t do that’ and embrace that I am being called into new things that will stretch and grow me.
- hurtful things said that are much more about the other person than about me.
Are there things that you are being called to let go of?