Creating Encounter in Colour: Blue Pool

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Come lay yourself down on this lilo of leisure, close your screen-weary eyes and float to somewhere lostly deep. The pool is azure punctured with zaps of lightning sun, refracted zig zags of gold lapping at the lapis lazuli tiles. All is Mediterranean wonder and bright cobalt ceramic.

Feel the celestial coolness below you, imagine how the floor of heaven must feel to feet of bronze coming home after walking the earth on a summer’s day. Let your soul right itself, a Spirit levelled horizontally as you recalibrate your centre and plumb the depths in your mind’s eye. All other measuring can be released as the foolishness it is, attention given to cool turquoise surrounding you with softly undulating mammatus clouds of water, ripples kissing your sun-drenched skin and imparting life to arid places.

text © K Dibbens-Wyatt  Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter: Fishing

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Personally, I’m not a fan of fishing, I am a vegetarian and I find angling a bit cruel – even though many people have told me the fish don’t feel anything, I’m not so sure. So I was a little surprised when I asked for a subject for the creating encounter blog today and God said “fishing.”

A lot of the men in my life love fishing. My Dad went fishing with his own father, in a boat made by him, and those times are some of his best memories. It was a time of closeness and bonding. Sharing that experience out in the middle of a lake was somehow calming and tender. And though my brothers all went fishing with my Dad when we were young, I don’t remember ever being asked. It was clearly a male activity, done to get out of the “female” space of home. Odd really, the things we are conditioned to think. I’m sure lots of girls and women enjoy fishing, but certainly in those days, and even a little now, we didn’t get invited to the party.

It’s rare for people to just sit and be still in nature whilst doing nothing. We are not able to just “be” and so having a fishing rod with you at least gives you an excuse for sitting quietly. Fishing can also be a good excuse for some alone time. Another thing we don’t get enough of. My husband used to take himself off fishing as a child, and sit reading, with no bait on his hook, just to get some peace and enjoy some solitude. These quiet places can be full of encounter with God.

Jesus’ first four disciples were fishermen, although doing it for a living of course is something quite different. Fish seem to have an important role in the lives of him and his friends, not surprising when they lived near to the Sea of Galilee, and so close to the Mediterranean. Jesus knew where all the best shoals were, which fish happened to have just swallowed several coins, and how to multiply just a few of them into enough to feed a multitude. It was also what he was given as his first post-Resurrection meal, and what he cooked the disciples for breakfast on the beach the day afterwards.

When Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James and John to follow him, he told them he would make them “fishers of men,” and of course the early Church used the fish as a symbol of their faith.  Perhaps he knew even then that some of those to come after would catch heavy nets full at revivals and altar calls, and others would do their fishing (as I prefer to) sitting with just one fish at a time, allowing it space, getting to know it, and letting it swim its own way in the current of the gospel. There are lots of ways to encounter God, to tell people his Good News, and to become closer to him near to those creatures who have learned to live, move and have their being in something much greater than themselves.

Text © Keren Dibbens-Wyatt Photo from Pixabay

Creating Encounter: Silence and Stillness

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Silence, or even quiet, is a hard thing to find these days. If you are trying to cultivate more of it in your life in order to find out what lies beneath all the hubbub, you have your work cut out for you. One of the few benefits of being chronically ill and unable to have a job is that I have time, and I have some precious stillness. I think it is impossible to enjoy silence unless you are still, and probably vice versa as well. If you cannot still or quiet your own mind or worries, or even keep your own body still, you are not going to experience real depth in silence or anything else.  And if you have noise all around you, it is going to be very hard to become truly still.

Both are needed for some kinds of God-encounter. I believe after practising contemplative, centring and listening prayer for fifteen years, that it is very much worth the effort. And to begin with, it is hard. We have a lot of barking dogs, boisterous neighbours and traffic where we live, so quiet is a delicious relief when it comes. I’ve needed to create artificial silence using earplugs, and learnt to keep my body in a comfortable position where it is not going to constantly distract me. I used to be able to use a prayer stool for this, but my health has deteriorated, and I now have to pray sitting up in bed.

There are always going to be distractions of course, there are worries and to-do lists and spouses and children and there are aches and pains and that awful nagging guilt that you should be doing something useful, rather that sitting in stillness and silence with the maker of the universe. But in truth I’m not sure that you could find anything more useful to do with any sliver of your time.

Before we truly begin to listen, to see and hear, in encounter with God, these two things need to become part of our routine.  Until they are, life is just a constant stream of chatter, chores and pressure. Yes, as we have already talked about, we can encounter God and be in his presence in all activities, but there is also a need for what we might call “quality time” with God if we want the relationship to grow, and indeed I think out of this flows the ability to reside in him at all other times.

Carving out time and giving him our full attention requires some discipline, but there is no better way to begin to resonate with the frequency of that still, small voice.  The gentle whisper of God needs us to be listening and focussed.  This is, of course extremely difficult for parents or carers of young or disabled children, who take up every waking moment. I think God gives special dispensation where it is needed, pouring out his grace upon us. But determination and desire does pay off. Susanna Wesley (mother of Charles and John) used to take a few minutes to pray, putting her apron over her head. When the children saw the apron was up, they knew to give her that time.

I started with five minutes a day, and gradually wanted more and more.  Never once have I thought, I wish I hadn’t bothered sitting with God today, I could have got so much else done! Of course, the point of this series is to help us understand that there is a multitude of ways to pray and to encounter God, but to “be still and know that I am God,” that is, in my opinion, the best starting place.

Text and artwork © by Keren Dibbens-Wyatt