Chased by the Lindisfarne Goose

When I was a lad, between the ages of around 8 to around 14, I used to be dragged across the Scottish border into Northumberland to go on holiday.  Might seem nothing to you, nor even to me, but back in those days it was MILES AWAY!  We couldn’t afford the petrol to go further!  And for my mother, who isn’t a traveller at all, it was still too far.  Year after year after year.  Somehow we expected it to be ‘warm down there’ and yet its probably further north than where we lived on the West Coast of Ayrshire.

chased fieldThere is one story that we always tell of our holidays there. We had gone to Lindisfarne…Holy Island, just the once!  (We didn’t stray far from the Haggerston Castle Holiday Park).  We had parked in the car park and walked towards the centre of the village, and taking the path down past the pub towards the boatsheds, we entered a field (pictured) full of geese.  We walked along the little path for a while until one of the geese started for us.  It chased us all the way back up the field and over the gate as far as we could go.  Terrified!

Thats our story of being chased by a Wild Goose on Lindisfarne.  My mother still tells it.

In those younger days my life was difficult, I don’t want to labour that point, but things weren’t happy.  Quite apart from the Wild Goose, into my early teenager years I was aware God was chasing me in a real way.  From a completely non-Christian family,  at 13 I received a Gideon’s Bible from school and whilst others threw theirs away, I kept mine.  And I remember reading the Sermon on the Mount in my first or second year in High School and after reading a little passage each night, then saying ‘God help me.’  I had no idea how that crying out to God would begin to change things.  Surely enough, he started placing people in my life who would lead the way to the Cross.

Now, here I am 20 years later more or less chasing the Wild Goose TO Lindisfarne…in pursuit of the Spirit.  I go up there when I can. I feel the roots of the place, the celtic cradle of Christianity in the north, has much to give me and I wonder if in some sort of way, the prayers of the saints of that place linger on through the years.  Or did some modern saint watch the whole episode and pray a prophetic prayer?

I don’t know.  However, as you’ll be realising by now, the spirituality of Lindisfarne and the Northumbria Community, of which I’m gradually becoming more a part of (looking to be a ‘novice’ with them from August), is feeding my soul this season and it feels like coming home.

What kind of God are you pursuing?  Rather than being a tame deity, fenced into a field, he is wild.  He can’t be boxed up in a church, movement or denomination.  His Spirit blows where it pleases, and from where he comes, we don’t always know.  This one thing I do know is that he invites us into the pursuit and it is in the pursuit of God that God finds us and turns our chase into a dance.

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Small Boat, Big Sea

I enjoyed an evening out with some of the men from Trinity down on the Tyne followed by a lovely meal. I was there just as an extra occasional ‘hanger on’ to that particular men’s LifeGroup who occasionally organise the odd trip and meal out.

After looking at some old Victorian steam powered Accumulator tower (don’t ask!), we had a brief time of worship: a spoken prayer for those who live, work and spend leisure on the Tyne followed by the writing of prayers on rice-paper before wrapping it around stones and catapulting them into the Tyne.

‘Setting sail’ has been a common recurring theme in my Christian life, particularly in the last 10 years of ministry’ having been located near the coast and in some cases, on river ports like the Avon in Bristol or major sea ports like Aberdeen. In Bristol, one of our church’s stated aims was to ‘pilot our communities into the safe harbour of Jesus’, an appropriate vision for a church in a former pilot harbour port.

coracle-2As I’ve read more on the lives of the Celtic Apostles of Northumbria and Scotland, the more I’ve come across stories like that of Brendan et al, who would often set sail from Lindisfarne in tiny coracles, small boats big enough for one person, and just be carried out by the tide until they reached land and found others who still needed to hear the gospel of Jesus proclaimed to them.

We all have built into us that sense of quest and adventure and I think if we never actually gain that sense of pilgrimage or journey into our spiritual lives, we remain within the safety of what we build for ourselves – what Richard Rohr describes as our ‘personal salvation projects’…the lives we build for ourselves in the belief that our survival is the main thing when we are actually called to so much more.

Earlier in the day I was reflecting on this:

‘If anyone comes to me without leaving his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple’. – Jesus in Luke 14:26

What a tremendous challenge those words are. They really ask: in your journey, have you dared to move beyond the ‘home’ setting of your own making….have you sensed the real call to discipleship which calls us to lay down out most common assumptions and the things that could hinder us from a full-hearted devotion to Jesus?

My prayer this evening was: Lord, continue to carry me beyond the safe harbour of what I know. Give me all I need to set sail. Help me to follow.

Call of the Wild Goose

wildgooseSo, on holiday I had plenty of time to read a couple of books which was fantastic.  I’m doing a lot of reading around monastic spirituality and I’m really benefiting a lot personally by shaping my days with a rhythm of work, prayer and mission.  Its not perfect, family life isn’t always easy to predict, but most definitely feeling the benefit.

I read, again, Ian Adam’s book ‘Cave, Refectory, Road’ which really is a fantastic read.  It spoke to my desire for rhythm, but also for simplicity and for ‘living simple so that others can simply live.’  Regardless of people thinking I’m weird and stupid, I’m thinking through the processes of simplifying my wardrobe, decluttering, getting rid of excess stuff and also continually on the look out for ways to share what we have with other people.

I also read ‘The Pilgrim Way’ by Ray Simpson of the Community of Aidan and Hilda, a new-monastic group with a mother house in Lindisfarne.  Interesting to read of their 10 ‘way markers’ for living Christian life and particularly interested in their commitment to accompaniment by a ‘soul friend’ – someone who acts as a sounding board to aid in ones discipleship.  I believe that much ‘pastoral work’ needs to take this form rather than the sometimes ‘coddling’ stuff that goes in the shape of pastoral work.  Something to work through more anyway.

Probably most profoundly having an impact is beginning to read Richard Rohr’s ‘Falling Upward’ which is page after page rich in some deep stuff to process.  I identify very much with what he writes about the process moving from one half of our lives to the other.  He doesn’t speak chronologically, of course, but spiritually.  I certainly think much of the change of direction in my life in recent years has been this shift from the ‘basics’ we grow up with and that give us a foundation, to the place where that stability gives us the freedom to grow wider, express differently and help us embrace honest doubt, uncertainty and Mystery alongside a confidence in the God who calls us.  I have much further to travel, but so thankful for the journey, regardless of the painful moments.

All of this really speaks into my ongoing spiritual and vocational discernment.  We’re very happy at Trinity and have no plans of our own to move on outside the agreed contracts that we have, yet my mind does turn to the longer term future and we continue to seek God for how it will all pan out.

The highlight of my holiday was the fact that nearly every day over in the Lake District, I had a Wild Goose fly over my path in some form or other…a bird that Celtic Christians readily identify with the Holy Spirit:  his unpredictable, untameable, even unsettling call, influence and leading.  Trusting as always that when the call comes we’ll know it loud and clear.  This is the life of a turasaiche!

Prayers of a Turasaiche

celticdailyHaving been discipled in the Salvationist tradition, extempore prayer was the pattern.  We were taught, encouraged to make up our own prayers.  That is great….more than that, there was a culture of ‘praying out loud’ so that made connecting with others in prayer a bit easier.  There is also a good ‘spiritual warfare/intercession’ gene in there, and that is useful too.

I then became familiar with the charismatic movement and was more than delighted that the Holy Spirit delighted to give the gift of praying in tongues and that, again, became a powerful worship/prayer way.  Also, praying the bible, which is fantastic.  I think its probably through the 24/7 prayer movement and through mixing with folks at Urban Expression and Northumbria Community that I’ve come to find a home in a different place, prayer wise.

The journey getting there, however, was a painful one.  First, it was the trauma of a community like Torry and the things we continually saw around us.  The normal words, prayers, ways, seemed redundant although I know it was me who felt redundant, not the prayer.  And from there followed a great deal of what I can only describe is silence.  I simply sat silent before God.   And that helped.  But I also became aware that prayer is not so much for me to ‘change God’ (as if I could), but that prayer was mainly to change me, to bring me into a new place.

Then I started to do the unthinkable for me…I started using a daily office.  Written prayers that I’d always write off as an empty substitute for empty spirits, I didn’t even enjoy reciting the Lord’s Prayer in public.  But honestly, bad experiences of that sort of thing had put me off.

In an attempt to start articulating words and aligning my heart towards God, I started to pick up a variety of resources.  The first one I picked up was actually the Prayer Book of the United Hebrew Congregations…a Jewish prayer book.  And I found such resonance with my own soul in those prayers they literally moved me to tears.  Just beautiful.  Especially the Amadah…such a beautiful prayer.  I found a love there to for the Shema….’hear oh Israel, the Lord you God the Lord is one’, and that scripture started to find its way deep into my soul.

The next from there was the Celtic Daily Prayer from the Northumbria Community.  This came alive to me particularly through association with some of its folks, but partly through the honest and simple words.  Each of the offices can also be sung, which I find helpful for memory and for the days when I feel like I want to sing out.  I use the Northumbrian offices most frequently.

Also, I came across a breviary (short cycle of prayer) from a neo-monastic community in the states called ‘Missio Dei’ called the Missio Dei Breviary which is inspired by the Anabaptist and Fransican traditions which really fed into my primitive Salvationist vibes with its earthy commitment to the teachings of Jesus, holiness and Good News for the poor.  I use that on occasions…it has four separate weekly cycles, so you can dip in.

So, having got the bug for that sort of thing, I picked up Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and Shane Claiborne’s work, ‘Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals’ which I like for its wide rootedness in a wide load of praying cultures, but which didn’t quite hit the spot.

I’ve recently picked up the Benedictine Handbook, and the fornightly cycle of daily prayer in there has a different character (mainly Psalms and Scriptural Songs based), but there is a real heart to it.

What all that has done for me is to awaken my spirit to God’s Spirit, even when I don’t feel like it or don’t know what to pray.  Extempore, warfare, intercession, tongues, all still there. But as daily ‘bread and butter’ character forming prayer, a rhythm is so very useful and beneficial.

Oh, and there is nothing more special than praying with people who also are moved, shaped and inspired by the same office as you are.  When I go up to the Northumbria Mother House and share in Midday prayer, its like coming home, it really is.

Anyway, just putting that out there.  Some of those resources may be helpful to you in building a sustainable prayer life that will help turn your heart towards God.

Holy-Days

empty-handsI’m so grateful, after a busy lead up to Easter, to be having a couple of weeks holiday.  I feel so in need of it.  Yes, on the one hand, Trinity provides a challenge to anyone who’d seek to give leadership to it, but on the other hand its always more of a challenge to give leadership to myself.  Easter itself, however, was great…many powerful and challenging moments, fresh dedications to discipleship and a few people pledging their allegiance to Jesus maybe for the first time.  Praise God.

So, I hope for some holy days…by that I mean days with time for reflection, quiet, reading, and working a few things out in my own walk of discipleship.  With regards my own discipleship, I’m still working at creating a framework for my own discipleship – to use a technical term, a ‘rule of life’ – built on the three key aspects of ‘Loving God, Loving Others, Making Disciples’.  I shared the beginning of that work a while back, but seeking to take more time over it.  I’m also hoping that what arises may be helpful to others and provide a bit of a pathway for others seeking a similar thing.  You never know, maybe even a small band of folks who might like to commit to it.

So basically, looking at ways to express ‘centring on Jesus,’ ‘sharing life with one another’ and ‘living a missional life’.   Its a season of quiet ‘vocational discernment’ and exploration to re-shape my path as I move on through my 30s …

Incidentally, if there are individuals interested on what I’m working on and who want to share in the formation of this ‘rule’, please get in touch through all the usual places (blog/facebook or my personal email which is turasaiche(at)gmail.com).