It has been an ‘action-packed’ week. Last weekend I was preaching in the lovely city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, ministering to a godly group of Nazarenes on the Newtonards Road. It was great to be in another part of the country in the company of people who love God’s word, who love to worship and who know what it is to pray. Really good weekend. After that, a few days in the Lake District with my family and then for me, this last two days, a solo retreat on Lindisfarne and in North Northumberland at St Cuthbert’s Cave.
There are a great many things on my heart and mind and I could think of nothing better than to give God the best part of two days quiet to speak in one of the places I love to go and find some stillness. And speak He did. Not in a ‘turn left, then take the third right and a fourth left’ kind of way. I think God is interested in that kind of direction, but I think he is more interested in the direction of our hearts, devotion, holiness and the pattern of our lives and attitudes.
It was important for me to ‘look at me heart’ as I prepare myself for the Order of Saint Leonard service next Saturday, as I look again at reaffirming my ordination/commissioning promises. I followed a solo retreat guide fashioned after the spirit an discipleship of Cuthbert, exploring his commitment to worship, prayer, intercession, spiritual warfare and ministry and servant leadership to the people God gave him. Sitting with the wind battering me on St Cuthbert’s Island, I felt both at the same time the pressure of the ‘moods’ of being in Christian leadership and the strong power of the Holy Spirit.
So, these last few days the wind, the sea, the birds, the sun, the tide and the land have been my teachers and it was a privilege to join with them all in worship and enjoying the presence of God with them. Before I came home, I celebrated a simply bread and juice communion at Cuthbert’s Cave. The rock was the altar, the trees raised their arms in prayer and the birds sang the song they’ve been given. The sun provided a gentle warmth as the wind invoked memory of the Spirit’s origins and direction, going where He pleased.
In it all, I recognised that the past is behind and the future isn’t guaranteed in the way we think. What we have, as a gift of radical grace, is the gift of the Present Moment. Now. Today is God’s moment to catch the breath of his Spirit, to align our spirits heavenward, and to take each step with Christ as he leads.
All that seemed right to do before climbing back into the car, was to get out my whistle and offer these words and this tune to the High King of Heaven.
- Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
- Be all else but naught to me, save that thou art;
- Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
- Both waking and sleeping, thy presence my light.
- Be thou my wisdom, be thou my true word,
- Be thou ever with me, and I with thee Lord;
- Be thou my great Father, and I thy true son;
- Be thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.
- Be thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
- Be thou my whole armour, be thou my true might;
- Be thou my soul’s shelter, be thou my strong tower:
- O raise thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.
- Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise:
- Be thou mine inheritance now and always;
- Be thou and thou only the first in my heart;
- O Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure thou art.
- High King of Heaven, thou Heaven’s bright sun,
- O grant me its joys after victory is won!;
- Great heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
- Still be thou my vision, O Ruler of all.