Tag Archives: sleep

August 25: The truth about a camp

 

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Pattie said that morning, ‘Do you know the opposite of Faith? It’s certainty.’ Perhaps, in a ‘naught for your comfort’ way, certainty belongs to hope – or deep hope against hope – rather than faith?

But this passage from Roger Deakin’s inspiring book, Wildwood – A Journey Through Trees (Penguin 2008, p 14) makes Pattie’s case very well. The writer is describing sleeping in a shed in an orchard on an August night.

To sleep half a field away from the house, tucked into the hedge, with an open door facing south into the meadow and plenty of cool night air, must surely add very much to the chances of sleep.

…There’s more truth about a camp than a house. Planning laws need not worry the improvising builder because temporary structures are more beautiful anyway, and you don’t need permission for them. There’s more truth about a camp because that is the position we are in. The house represents what we ourselves would like to be on earth: permanent rooted, here for eternity. But a camp represents the true reality of things: we’re just passing through.

And as Saint Francis would say, welcoming Sister Death: Laudato Si’ !

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July 27: Portraits in a Mirror.

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The silence in the lounge continued. No one said a word. They all

seemed to be staring into the distance or searching for something to

gaze upon.

Yves Rivière’s face was depressingly sad. His expression was one of a

person stuck in an empty shell, a person who holds an unfamiliar

sorrow within and a shame unrecognised. Everyone in the lounge

felt it. As if thinking aloud, they revisited the part they played in the

whole issue.

If you were there and could just look at each of their faces, your

heart would be broken. They all exchanged painful glances with

moist eyes. The lounge felt cold with a quality of sadness. Every eye

was tearful. It was a desperately solemn sight to behold and even

more painful to retain in the memory.

Yves kept staring at the portrait of Felix hanging over the

fireplace. To distract himself from his emotions, he reached out to the

book on the walnut tea table next to Florence. The book was entitled:

Portraits in a Mirror. The words on the very first line on the first page

were:

There were four poems …

Yves gently took his eyes off that page and I think he dropped

the book suddenly on the floor, I am not entirely sure. Letting his

gaze fall on the floor, he bowed his head in shame. One feeling was

reawakened in him: guilt.

Meanwhile in the bedroom, tucked in their cot, the twins: Flora

and Felix seem to have stopped crying.

It starts to rain.

The End

VE

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16 June: A very happy First Communion

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Another story from Fr Andrew SDC.

My poor consumptive girl made a very happy First Communion last Friday. I sat for about an hour yesterday with her poor little weary head on my shoulder while I read and prayed her to sleep. She cannot lie back, because she has consumption in the throat, but to lean up against someone is her best chance of getting a tiny doze. I should think another week would see her in a better world … She told me she has never been so happy before, so that is another bright shining payment from our divine Lord for work in his vineyard.

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10 May : From Fear to Love

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In love there is no room for fear, but perfect love drives out fear [1 John 4.18]

Fear is disabling. It makes us shrink from the risk of trust. It closes us off from relationship. Fear binds us in a narrow life. The work of God’s Spirit is to lead us from fear to love. But how can we co-operate with the Spirit and overcome those fears that hold us back from wideness of heart?

Name your fear

When I was a small child I was afraid of the dark. I couldn’t sleep. I imagined I could make out the shadowy outline of a gorilla in the darkest corner of the bedroom – not the best inducement to sleep! Then one night inspiration came: I named my gorilla ‘Charlie’. Somehow I wasn’t afraid of ‘Charlie’ in the same way as my looming, nameless gorilla- shaped terror. Sleep came more easily, and in time Charlie no longer seemed to be around. It helps to pin down just what it is you fear so that you can see it for what it is. For example, ‘if I try something new I will inevitably fail’. Naming your fear helps in beginning to address it: ‘I own I am afraid of this, but I don’t have to be held by this fear’.

Share your fear: Fear becomes magnified in size when we seek to hide it from others. Share your fear with someone you trust.

Look at where your actions take you

The inner voice of fear bids us be ‘safe’ but this safety is often illusory. Choosing the safe can lead us to be more trapped than ever. The pattern often repeats itself – so be aware of it. There are other responses we can make that will help us in the longer run to be happier, less constrained and more confident in our ability.

Don’t listen to discouragement:

In his advice to spiritual guides Ignatius Loyola notes how when we seek to overcome our fears and move to a greater trust in God, what is damaged and closed to the Spirit within us will ‘harass, afflict with anxieties’ and ‘put up false obstacles’. On the other hand the voice of the Spirit within is heard in ‘every interior joy that calls and attracts’ us towards wholeness, freedom and generous self-gift. Fear drives us, whilst the Love that is God invites.

One exercise that may be helpful is to divide a piece of paper into two columns. In the left column write down what the inner ‘voice’ of fear says. In the right column write down in answer what, in better moments, you have sensed God saying to you…’you are worthy, capable…there is a future for you…’

Act your way into a new way of thinking

If we wait until we feel total trust and freedom before we step out of a fearful pattern of behaviour we may wait a long time! But if we dare to step out when Love calls, ignoring the voice of fear, then trust and self-belief will grow.

Stay in the moment, for ‘now’ is where God is.

The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today’

[The Red Queen in Lewis Carroll’s: Through the Looking Glass]

Fear usually concerns what has happened in the past or what might happen in the future. All our capacity to be gratefully present to the gift of ‘now’ and to work creatively within it is stripped away. Yet ‘now’ is where God is. Even if the worst we can imagine did happen, God would be within that ‘now’. Jesus invites his worrying disciples to ‘consider the ravens…consider the lilies, how they grow’. It’s impossible to ‘consider’ what is before us if we’re somewhere in the past or future. Jesus advises: be present to what is. Spend a minute or two giving all your attention to the sounds you can hear – voices in the street, rain against the window – listen to the texture of these sounds rather than getting tangled up in what they might signify. Or, absorb yourself in what you can see – the lines on the desk in front of you, the movement of clouds in the sky. Slowly you will find your heartbeat slowing. In this breathing space, God ‘is’.

Go with the flow

The movement from fear into love is a movement of the Spirit. It is like a stream we launch our boat into and then the current takes it along. It takes effort and courage and persistence to go with this flow. But the flow is love, and this love is life.

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Advent

dawn

that long solemn moment called Before –

Before the dawn, when deepest darkness reigns,

I rise from sleep in blackest night once more

content without sun’s reassuring flames.

 

I like to be awake to see the mild

rays begin – gently – lifting the sleeping night.

Just so, the father lifts the sleeping child.

Just so, their advent fills my sky with light.

SJC

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11 May, Wednesday: God’s Wonderful Railway?

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I wrote disparagingly of commuters the other day; at least those who deplored being on the train to work. Today, I was in that number, when the saints go snoozing in; even sitting on the floor I snoozed. But the train got me to the end of the line: ‘our last and final destination’ as a guard on the Manchester to London run likes to announce.

I was now awake enough to start composing this mea culpa in my head!

To paraphrase John Betjeman, the saviour of St Pancras station:

The old South-Eastern Railway shakes,

The old South-Eastern Railway spins –

The old South- Eastern Railway makes

Me very sorry for my sins.

(See his ‘Distant View of a Provincial Town’).

Sometimes in life we are carried along, all but willy-nilly, all but unaware of who is next to us, where we are going, of anything but our own fatigue, depression or pain. Though we may not acknowledge it, at such times other people make life possible: our families, the shop workers who are the last link in the food chain that begins in farms across the world; the driver and guard on the train.

Just as the Mancunian guard’s announcement can elicit a prayer that we will reach a last and final destination more humane and divine than London Euston, so we can give thanks for the food we eat and the many people who make that meal possible. Such prayers hardly need words or thought. I suggest that if we dig out a smile and a friendly word for the train guard or the checkout worker, we can hope that at journey’s end the Lord will not have to dig too deep for a smile and friendly word, even if we have snoozed half way to heaven, missing many delights and many opportunities as we go.

MMB.

*Betjeman was writing of a journey on the Great Western Railway, ‘God’s Wonderful Railway’ to Bristolians! The picture shows a GWR engine at work in the South East on the Kent & East Sussex Railway.

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Abraham and the JWs

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Abraham was still on my mind, when I met our Jehovah’s Witness Missionary. I wanted to suggest that Abraham was not a spotless paragon, but that God still worked out his will through him. Not that I was trying to paint the Patriarch as wicked.

When I mentioned Abraham’s deceit, letting the Kings think Sarah was not his wife, my spiritual sparring partner countered: ‘But he had to do this because Sarah was so attractive, she could get from the Kings what they had and Abraham did not, and Abraham would not lose his head’.

As ever, I came away frustrated that discussion did not happen at all. The uncertainty factor implicit in discussion – neither of us may be completely right, both of us could learn from our conversation – was unwelcome.

Indeed uncertainty can be hard to live with. But Abraham surely lived with it:

Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. (Genesis 12:1-2)

Abram’s leaving home to cross the desert, was a true act of faith, I agreed, but God is the most active one in this whole story.

My encounter did one good thing: my wife was sleeping after her night shift and was not disturbed by the rappiest knock our door ever undergoes!

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