40 Day Journey’s End: Day 4

It seems strange to be writing about my first 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich, after leading the Friends of Julian of Norwich Lenten Bookgroup this year, but nevertheless, here I am doing just that. I have been organising with the trustees of The Friends of Julian of Norwich how we intend to continue the journey, since several people who attended the lenten course requested more. The format of Continuing the Journey will be more as I made the journey myself the first time, taking a week to pray with the material for each day of Lisa Dahill’s book, just like the 19th Annotation of The Spiritual Exercises. The Zoom meetings for Continuing the Journey will be on the third Wednesday of the month, starting in September, so watch out for more details here and especially on the Friends of Julian of Norwich website and newsletters.

Day 4 of the 40 Day Journey continues the contemplation the hazelnut:

The first is that God made it, the second is that He loves it, and the third is that God preserves it.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill
Ripening hazelnuts
Ripening hazelnuts by Evelyn Simak is licensed under CC-BY-SA 2.0

And Julian asks:

But what is that to me?

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

For me, the phrases that stood out when I first prayed with this material were:

…God is the lover…there can be no created thing between my God and me…He has made me for this…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

The first phrase connected me immediately to the Song of Songs. This particular book from scripture was the focus for my prayer on retreat in the summer before I started my Spiritual Direction course. It had a profound impact on my life, and my active engagement with the book lasted for a least two years. I’m still not done with it yet, but suffice to say it was the trip switch for a great deal of upheaval in my life. The Song of Songs is a love poem which can be understood as the relationship between God and the Church, or the relationship between God and the individual soul. To pull this phrase from Julian’s writings here connected me to God’s desire for me and my desire and longing for God. It became more personal and more intimate:

God is my lover.

The “no created thing” became “nothing” and I wanted nothing to get in the way. I wanted to let go of every inordinate desire I had and I started to name them, to recognise the habits and behaviours that dissipated my spiritual energy. As I imagined God pulling me closer to Him, I could feel that His desire for me was irresistible and I asked Him to help me remove or overcome all those things that get in the way. To know deeply that He has made me to love Him and to be loved by Him – this outpouring and knowing was the grace of this prayer for me.

… have not God’s rest in their hearts and souls;…and in which there is no rest…

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

With the inordinate desires that swam before my eyes like a conveyor belt in “The Generation Game”, it resonated with how Julian described the effect of the “wordly business”:

It was all about my tendency to overwork, and I have written about that before. It is very interesting to read about this now that I am living with ME/CFS! The drive to work, to have a career and to be successful in it, the drive to perfectionism – in this prayer on Day 4 of the journey I recognised how these things were getting in the way of my being close to God. And yet, at the same time, in response to one of the questions to ponder that Lisa Dahill asks I wrote:

Both wordly investment and allegience to God can be lived simultaneously – and the balance is prayer.

beautiful beauty blur close up
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The questions to ask ourselves regarding our work, and our relationships, to my mind are:

Am I doing the work that God wants me to do?

Am I loving well those I am in relationship with?

On pondering the meaning of “substantially united to God”, I noted:

To be substantially united to God is a grace given by Him. We might orientate our lives so that we connect with Him as much as possible but He is the one who gathers us up into Himself in that eternal moment.

It reminds me of something that struck me years ago when I read “The Cloud of Unknowing“:

For were the soul not strengthened by its good endeavours, it would be unable to stand the pain that the awareness of its own existence brings.

The Cloud of Unkowing

The grace of this prayer knocked me to the floor and it was only the first prayer with day 4.

My second day praying with the material started with the last four words of the passage given and then moved onto the psalm fragment (Psalm 46:9-10):

…He is true rest.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich edited Lisa E. Dahill

Be still and know…that I am God.

Psalm 46:10
sportive woman with bicycle resting on countryside road in sunlight
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

St. Ignatius invites use to converse with God “as one friend speaks to another” and the conversation with God at this point in my prayer was intimate and loving.

I am your rest.

You are my rest.

I am the God that heals you.

I am the one to make the wars to cease within you, the one who burns the shields with fire.

You are my love, my treasure. In all of creation I love you more.

When I asked how that could be, His response was:

You are precious to me, you are my treasure.

St. Augustine has said:

God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

St. Augustine

Julian’s revelations about the hazelnut made me feel just as St. Augstine describes. I was warm and surrounded by light, and the people I love most in the world were also surrounded by light. We were protected and safe. I visualised myself as Leviathon, God’s own creature, another image of myself from another retreat.

I imagined myself flowing easily from fire to water and back to fire again, without any conflict between the two, or restriction in the movement from one to the other. For me, these represent the active and contemplative sides of my personality – how appropriate to be writing this in the 16th week of cycle C in the Lectionary, where the gospel reading is about Martha and Mary! I first sought out a Spiritual Director because these aspects of myself were in conflict. In the earlier stages of my deepening journey, I believed that the purpose was to live with them in balance. This mandala was my realisation that integrity was not about getting the balance, but in being able to flow from one to the other without resistance. I guess it is the living simultaneously worldy investment and allegience to God.

Overwork and the drive to get things sorted “once and for all” is a place where I need to be open to the healing, restorative love of God. The sense of not being able to get it all done (in time) creates a sense of panic in me, and of not being good enough.

How poignant it is for me to read those words now. Even then, the other part was also there:

I experience God as my true rest when I consciously spend time in contemplative prayer -then my head slows down and the war within me ceases.

I share the desire with Julian for there to be nothing between my God and me. The deepest desire of my soul is to have the freedom to be who He would have me be. I find myself reading back through my prayer journal now and being inspired again by the graces I received then.

You can find a guided Lectio Divina prayer with the material for Day 4 of the Journey here or as a Podcast on my channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality.

Looking the Gift Horse in the Mouth

I’ve been thinking a lot about my mum recently. Probably because the family have now got the house cleared, cleaned and ready to sell. My eldest came back from Scotland last weekend with some things for us from my mum’s house, including the piano, which has gone to my youngest. My mum will well pleased with that arrangement I imagine. My mind wanders to a story that she repeated many times to me in the last few years of her life. She struggled a lot with restless legs and it meant she often had poor sleep and spent the small hours “walking the floors” as she described it. She had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart – her name was Margaret Mary, like mine, so no surprises there I guess. She was constantly speaking to Him through the many pictures around the house, and one of her favourite prayers was, when driving into a car park:

Please Sacred Heart, find me a parking space.

Photo by MART PRODUCTION on Pexels.com

One always opened up immediately no matter how busy the car park was, I kid you not. It happened so consistently that other members of my family, who do not necessarily believe, use it when they cannot find a parking space! Sure, we can argue about coincidence and patience and whatever rational explanation you like, I’m just telling you what I’ve witnessed. Anyway, I digress – back to walking the floors. One night, after about a week of broken sleep, when she couldn’t stand it anymore, she turned to her picture of the Sacred Heart and challenged Him with words to the effect of:

Don’t tell me to offer it up and to think about everything you went through! You only suffered for a day, I’ve been going on like this for a week and I can’t stand it any more!

An honest prayer, even though I think she believed herself to be disrespectful. She had the sense of God laughing in response and the restlessness disappeared, allowing her to get a good night of sleep.

Within this context, I also found myself reaching this point of:

Enough already!

regarding my own health condition – myalgic encephalomyelitus (ME/CFS). I described before how I had accepted it as a gift, and an answer to my prayers arising from the desire to live more slowly: to realise that it is the cure for my workaholism, because I was not going to let that go on my own. It’s been nearly eighteen months since I got sick, and then failed to completely recover from it. My first experience of chronic fatigue lasted thirteen months and then I got well. Maybe subconsciously I was holding onto the belief that that would happen again, especially with all the ways I am being proactive and that my energy does improve when I look after myself. But that is unlikely to happen this time…it is for life, not just for Christmas, as they say. In football, it is the last ten minutes of the game, when you are so very tired because you have given it all you have, but you have to dig even deeper to keep it going to that final whistle…you don’t want to lose the match at this point! It is where I am on my journey with ME/CFS and with God. I’ve accepted this gift horse and I’m looking in its mouth and not liking what I see, maybe even struggling with it sometimes, and I know that those dark clouds of despairing or anxious fear are swirling around in the distance. It’s like the Battle of Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows where they createe a defence bubble around the school that keeps Voldermort’s army at bay, but it starts to dismantle as the dark forces continue to attack it. I’m in Hogwarts, protected, but watching that protection begin to disintegrate.

There is another image from my prayer that plays alongside this one though: I’m sitting in the deep calm of the storm, leaning against Jesus, as it all swirls around above us. Both of these images for me are spiritual consolation. It might seem strange to say that about the first image because I mentioned fear, but when we apply some useful discernment questions here it will show what I mean.

Where is it coming from?

Where is it leading to?

In the Hogwart’s image, even in the midst of a community taking a stand against evil and working together for the common good, I am relying on my own magic power to protect me from the forces of darkness which are driving me into spiritual desolation:

I call desolation…as darkness of soul, turmoil of spirit, inclination towards what is low and earthly, restlessness rising from many disturbances and temptations which lead to want of faith, want of hope, want of love. The soul is wholly slothful, tepid, sad and separated, as it were, from its Creator and Lord.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans. Louis J Puhl S.J.

I may be in the quiet centre of the dome, but without God, with only our own power, the safety shield crumbles and the darkness comes flooding in and I am afraid and overwhelmed. In my imagination I oscillate between both images. In the storm image, I am leaning on Jesus and the quiet centre is more than quiet, it is serene and safe. It is spiritual consolation:

Winter storm over the Northeast (night time thermal image)
Winter storm over the Northeast (night time thermal image) by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC-BY 2.0

I call consolation every increase of faith, hope and love, and all interior joy that invites and attracts to what is heavenly and to the salvation of ones soul by filling it with peace and quiet in it creator and Lord.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans. Louis J Puhl S.J.

For me, to flip between these two images is no accident. It is like being shown desolation and consolation side by side in similar, but different images. Ignatius says of being in desolation:

When one is in desolation, he should be mindful that God has left him to his natural powers to to resist the different agitations and temptations of the enemy in order to try him. He can resist with the help of God, which always remains, though he may not clearly perceive it.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans. Louis J Puhl S.J.

I do not believe that this desolation is where I am, although I can definitely feel the pull of it at times and I am guarding against it. The second image of the storm is explicitly inviting me to lean on Him, to discern the movements of spirits within me, to not try to rely all on my own strength or determination. And so I come back to the Principle and Foundation of the Exercises and the room of indifference:

Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honour to dishonour, a long life to a short life. The same holds for all other things.

The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius trans. Louis J Puhl S.J.

The essence of looking a gift horse in the mouth is to see its age. I guess the discouragement in doing so is in finding out that we have been given an old nag – a negative judgement of the gift. Where does it lead? Ingratitude. What if we were to accept the gift horse as a gift, regardless of what is in its mouth? I learned from the Spiritual Exercises that sorrow is a grace: uncomfortable for sure, but grace nevertheless. So, I’m looking at what spiritual desolation and spiritual consolation look like in this space and as I acknowledge my swirling emotions, I imagine myself in the quiet of the storm leaning against Jesus. I am not praying for healing from ME/CFS because I recognise it as the gift of healing of workaholism that I asked for so fervently and for so long, and believe me, that has not gone. Instead, I am praying for indifference in those “enough already” moments and serenity when I see those swirling dark clouds, knowing that He is here with me and I am leaning on Him.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 40

Lenten Book Group 2022 | by The Friends of Julian of Norwich

Apologies for the late post today.

Prayer material and guided prayer

Extract from Revelations of Divine Love in the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 40

Reading: Revelation 21:5-6

Psalm 30: 11-12

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 40. Guided prayer.

The guided prayer is also available as a podcast on the channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality

A suggestion was made during our introductory and orientation session that for some people, journaling might not be the best way to review their prayer. I commented that Praying in Colour might be a good alternative – it is what I intend to do. I have written about it before and if you would like to read more about it, you can find that information here.

Thank you to everyone who has been following this journey.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 39

Lenten Book Group 2022 | by The Friends of Julian of Norwich

Apologies for the late post today.

Prayer material and guided prayer

Extract from Revelations of Divine Love in the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 39

Reading: John 15: 9

Psalm 36:7-9

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 39. Guided prayer.

The guided prayer is also available as a podcast on the channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality

A suggestion was made during our introductory and orientation session that for some people, journaling might not be the best way to review their prayer. I commented that Praying in Colour might be a good alternative – it is what I intend to do. I have written about it before and if you would like to read more about it, you can find that information here.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 38

Lenten Book Group 2022 | by The Friends of Julian of Norwich

Prayer material and guided prayer

Extract from Revelations of Divine Love in the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 38

Reading: Isaiah 45:8

Psalm 48: 14

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 38. Guided prayer.

The guided prayer is also available as a podcast on the channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality

A suggestion was made during our introductory and orientation session that for some people, journaling might not be the best way to review their prayer. I commented that Praying in Colour might be a good alternative – it is what I intend to do. I have written about it before and if you would like to read more about it, you can find that information here.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 37

Lenten Book Group 2022 | by The Friends of Julian of Norwich

Prayer material and guided prayer

Extract from Revelations of Divine Love in the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 37

Reading: Isaiah 62:1b-3

Psalm 143: 10

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 37. Guided prayer.

The guided prayer is also available as a podcast on the channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality

A suggestion was made during our introductory and orientation session that for some people, journaling might not be the best way to review their prayer. I commented that Praying in Colour might be a good alternative – it is what I intend to do. I have written about it before and if you would like to read more about it, you can find that information here.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 36

Lenten Book Group 2022 | by The Friends of Julian of Norwich

Prayer material and guided prayer

Extract from Revelations of Divine Love in the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 36

Reading: 2 Corinthians 4:8-10

Psalm 143:3,9

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 36. Guided prayer.

The guided prayer is also available as a podcast on the channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality

A suggestion was made during our introductory and orientation session that for some people, journaling might not be the best way to review their prayer. I commented that Praying in Colour might be a good alternative – it is what I intend to do. I have written about it before and if you would like to read more about it, you can find that information here.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 35

Lenten Book Group 2022 | by The Friends of Julian of Norwich

Prayer material and guided prayer

Extract from Revelations of Divine Love in the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 35

Reading: John 15:15

Psalm 27:4

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 35. Guided prayer.

You can still join the Lenten book group making this journey by signing up here.

The guided prayer is also available as a podcast on the channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality

A suggestion was made during our introductory and orientation session that for some people, journaling might not be the best way to review their prayer. I commented that Praying in Colour might be a good alternative – it is what I intend to do. I have written about it before and if you would like to read more about it, you can find that information here.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 34

Lenten Book Group 2022 | by The Friends of Julian of Norwich

Prayer material and guided prayer

Extract from Revelations of Divine Love in the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 34

Reading: Song of Songs 7:10

Psalm 85:8

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 34. Guided prayer.

You can still join the Lenten book group making this journey by signing up here.

The guided prayer is also available as a podcast on the channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality

A suggestion was made during our introductory and orientation session that for some people, journaling might not be the best way to review their prayer. I commented that Praying in Colour might be a good alternative – it is what I intend to do. I have written about it before and if you would like to read more about it, you can find that information here.

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 33

Lenten Book Group 2022 | by The Friends of Julian of Norwich

Prayer material and guided prayer

Extract from Revelations of Divine Love in the 40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 33

Reading: 1 John 4: 18

Psalm 34:9

40 Day Journey with Julian of Norwich: Day 33. Guided prayer.

You can still join the Lenten book group making this journey by signing up here.

The guided prayer is also available as a podcast on the channel: Sunflower Seed Spirituality

A suggestion was made during our introductory and orientation session that for some people, journaling might not be the best way to review their prayer. I commented that Praying in Colour might be a good alternative – it is what I intend to do. I have written about it before and if you would like to read more about it, you can find that information here.